The Cold War shaped our history from the close of the Second World War. It was a power struggle between the United States and the USSR, which at one time engulfed the whole globe, in what may be termed ‘bi-polarity’ (i.e. a country has to either belong to one camp or the other.) Ever present was the threat of nuclear destruction and, for this reason, the Cold War never took on the proportions of open war.
This little-known documentary contains rare and compelling footage of Greek villages and Greek partisans during World War 2. It also interviews male and female partisans who survived a series of international betrayals. In 1940 Mussolini attacked Greece from its colony of Albania. The attack was repulsed and the Greeks conquered one third of Albania in their counter attacks. At the time, Greece was Britain's only ally against Nazi Germany in Europe. (France Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Luxumbourg had all been conquered.) Four years later, Britain savagely turned on the same heroic Greeks who had resisted the Italians and subsequently fought against their Nazi German-allied occupiers. It was only possible for the British to succeed because the communist ELAS-Partisans trusted the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
After they landed in October 1944, the British pretended to arrest former Greek collaborators and saved them from furious Greek crowds in Athens. The former collaborators were 'imprisoned' in a hotel overlooking the central Athens. During one of the protests by Athenians against the British, the 'arrested' former collaborators opened fire on the Athenian crowds, killing many.
This provoked a ferocious fightback against the British by the ELAS-Partisans. So fierce was their fight that the British were forced to get reinforcements from the Italian front and from Belgium, where they were fighting the German Ardennes offensive. However, the communist Greek KKE, under Stalin's orders, then agreed to completely disarm and return to their homes in the suburbs of Athens and elsewhere. This was under the pretext of recognising the British puppet forces as the legitimate national Greek army.
In the suburbs of Athens many former ELAS fighters became victims of gangs of former collaborators. Many ELAS fighters were imprisoned by the British and their puppets.
In 1946 those ELAS fighters who had fled to the mountains, and many more, who had escaped from Greece, restarted the civil war against the Greek dictatorship. From 1946-1948 the ELAS partisans (who had changed their name to the Democratic Army). With heroism and brilliant leadership, they outfought superior numbers of government forces, with many from the government forces defecting to the Democratic Army. However, the Greek Government started to overcome the Democratic Army, now with the aid of United States military 'advisors' and the CIA, and from the same source, the provision of war planes capable of dropping napalm, a fearsome new weapon of the time. The Democratic Army was further hamstrung by instructions from the KKE leadership to engage in conventional warfare rather than guerilla warfare, thus enabling the government to more effectively use its numerical and logistic superiority against the Democratic Army partisans. The fighting ended in 1949, when the last of the Democratic Army partisans fled across the border into Albania. From Albania, many were granted 'exile' in the Soviet Union.
Seemingly, as a pychologically understandable response to the smearing of Russia by the corporate presstitute media, and now US President Donald Trump, many otherwise well-informed and insightful alternative journalists, who oppose the corporate newsmedia, find it necessary to defend the conduct of the dictator Josef Stalin (1878-1953) with spurious rationalisations.
An example is Tell Trump the Soviet Union didn’t invade Poland in September 1939 by the Saker.
The argument put by the Saker is:
By September 17, 1939, when Soviet troops crossed the border, the Polish government had ceased to function. The fact that Poland no longer had a government meant that Poland was no longer a state.
In fact, the Polish army and air force fiercely resisted the Nazi invaders. The army and the residents of Warsaw held out until 29 September.
Had the Red Army not invaded 12 days earlier than the surrender of Warsaw, and had France and Britain ended their 'phony war' and launched a real military campaign against Germany, can we presume that Poland might not have been able to triumph against the invaders? At the very least, had Russia not invaded from the East, the price paid by Nazi Germany would have been so high as to greatly reduce Nazi Germany's prospects of winning the subsequent Battle of France in 1940.
The following has been adapted from a post in response to Tell Trump the Soviet Union didn't invade Poland in September 1939 (788/2017) | The Vineyard of the saker.
The Saker rightly objects to the criminal actions by the Polish government and its NATO allies on the world stage right now in 2017. However, humanity's fight against the Washington warmongers and their Eastern European vassals, is not helped by the Saker's apparent whitewashing of the cynical conduct by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in the early years of the Second World War. Whilst what the Saker writes of Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, is true, their betrayal of Czechoslovakia in September 1939 is dwarfed by the effect of the subsequent Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
After the signing of that pact, the Soviet Union effectively became an ally of Nazi Germany. As Nazi Germany conquered Poland, with the help of the Soviet Union, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France, then tried to subdue Britain with aerial bombardment and U-boats, and then prepared to invade the soviet Union, the German war economy was supplied with raw materials from the Soviet Union.
Whilst what the Saker writes about the treachery of the Polish Pilsudski government and most of the Western democracies prior to 1 September 1939 is true, this cannot excuse the even more cynical conduct of Stalin after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August 1939 and his subsequent blind trust in Hitler right up to the launch of Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941.
This also ignores the fact that Britain under Churchill, tacitly supported by America under President Roosevelt (FDR),  continued to fight Nazi Germany. FDR's support of Britain and the Soviet Union was contrary to the wishes of many of America's wealthy elite.
Stalin's trust in Hitler was so blind that he even ignored warnings by German Communist Richard Sorge (1985-1944), who worked at the German embassy in Tokyo, at least one defecting German soldier (who was shot for his trouble), and by American intelligence, that Nazi Germany was preparing an invasion.
Had Stalin heeded these warnings, then surely the scale of the Red army's military disaster prior to the battle of Moscow in 1941 could have been considerably mitigated.
Instead, Stalin refused to pass on the warnings to Red Army commanders whilst the Soviet Union continued to send, by rail across the border, much of the raw materials, needed by Nazi Germany to both continue its war against Britain and for the coming invasion of the Soviet Union. Raw materials were sent right up until the morning of 22 June 1941.
Unfortunately, the vast tragedy did not end at Moscow in December 1941. Before Nazi Germany was finally vanquished in May 1945, 25 million Soviet citizens, by one rough estimate, were to lose their lives.
By his treachery and misjudgement, Stalin, more than any other individual in history, made possible the triumph of Hitler's Third Reich. Only the terrible sacrifice of tens of millions of people people, including the 25 million lost by the Soviet Union, prevented that.
 Churchill is a paradoxical figure. In October 1944, in contrast to his legendary defiance of Nazi Germany during the 1940 Battle of Britain, he cynically betrayed (with Stalin's collusion) the Greek ELAS fighters who had heroically resisted Nazi Germany. They were tricked into disarming, whilst Greeks, who had collaborated with the German occupiers, were rearmed. (See the Greek Civil War, The Kapetanios (1973) by Dominique Eudes.)
 Most of America, including the wealthy elites, opposed the entry of the United States into the Second World War on the side of Britain and the Soviet Union. Many of the wealthy elites opposed war because many were sympathetic to Nazi Germany. On the other hand, ordinary American workers were rightly angry about the loss of 117,465 lives in the pointless First World War. However, FDR understood that, unlike the case in the First World War, humanity had a real stake in the outcome of the Second World War.
To overcome public opposition to war, FDR and some of his top military contrived to provoke Japan into launching a 'surprise' attack on Pearl Harbour. This is described in Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor (1999) by Robert Stinnett.
This would be one of very few instances, if not the only instance, in history, where humanity had a stake in a political leader successfully pulling off such a Machaevellian stunt. Had FDR not been able to bring America into the war, the Soviet Union would most likely have lost and its vast stock of natural resources would have been made available to the Nazi German war machine. Nazi Germany and its vassal states would then have been able to rule over a unipolar world.
 Any year 8 student of German would know that 'Sorge' is (roughly) pronounced 'sorga' and not 'sorj', as I originally thought.
 I personally doubt that a country, even as large as the Soviet Union, could have continued to resist Nazi Germany if even more lives had been lost. In comparison, between December 1941 and August 1945, the United States lost 419,400 lives fighting Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Japanese Empire. Whilst that is a terrible loss of life, it is still an order of magnitude less than 25 million lost by the Soviet Union.
I won't try to explain here, what I believe are the reasons for this enormous disparity here but I reject any notion that it is due to any inherent inherent inferiority of the Soviet peoples as much of the Eastern Front war porn, written since 1945 says, both explicitly and implicitly.
There is a popular argument against communism that accuses Soviet communists of murdering more people than the Nazis. This argument refers to the deaths that resulted from Joseph Stalin's orders. However, the argument fails when you try to find out which communists performed or agreed to Stalin's murderous purges. Because nearly all of the founding communists assumed to have been complicit in these mass murders were themselves murdered by Stalin during the purges.
If the communists that led the communist revolution were mostly murdered by Stalin, how can communists be held responsible for Stalin's crimes? I don't believe that the people who helped Stalin murder the original members of the Bolshevik Party Central Committee can properly be described as communists. They were wiping out communists, under Stalin's orders. Stalin posed as a communist but was deadly to communism.
Of the 21 members of the 1917 Bolshevik Party Central Committee, apart from Stalin himself and Trotsky, who was to be murdered in 1940 under Stalin's orders, only two others were still alive or not imprisoned by 1938. Those two were Alexandra Kollontai, who was serving as an ambassador to Sweden, at the time of the 'show-trials' of 1937. These show trials were to provide a legal justification for the murder of anyone whom Stalin considered to be a threat to his rule. Matvei Muranov, who had supported Stalin's usurpation of power in the 1920's, was the only -other survivor. Stalin's purges happened at every level of society and within the army.
If we look at this evidence, we find that the claim that communists, whether the 1917 Russian Bolshevik Party or their allies in Germany, killed more people than the Nazis that they fought against, is a baseless smear against the very people who might have prevented the slaughter of 70 million people between 1931 and 1945, had they lived.
Much of this has been forgotten due to the long-term corruption of the Trotskyist movement. People claiming to be Trotskyists have themselves become corrupted to the point where, ironically, many are now rioting in support of yet another attempted Maidan-style coup against President Donald Trump and in support of Hillary Clinton.
Not to be confused with Stalin's purges, were the executions carried out on the orders of those in command of the Red Army, during the 1917-1921 civil war, in which the Soviet Republic was fighting for its existence against the internal counter-revolutionaries, who were backed by about 13 foreign armies. Some historians opposed to the Russian Revolution use this to claim that Stalin's brutality was characteristic of communism from its inception, but this was civil war and the scale was not comparable to that of Stalin's purges.
 Historians who support the Russian Revolution tend to understand Stalin as having begun as a sincere communist but to have become corrupted by the privileges of power.
If Russia and the
United States led
Roosevelt, had not
the heroism and
sacrifice of the
Russian people may
not have prevented
a Nazi victory.
The RT#fnHl1" id="txtHl1"> 1 news service funded by the Russian government is a beacon of truth in a world of deceit of the corporate mainstream newsmedia. Had RT been around earlier, it is much less likely that the fabricated pretexts for war against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan would have been accepted and those wars could have been prevented.
Yet, for all its valuable contributions to truth and democracy, many of the journalists and reporters at RT still have considerable gaps in their understanding of the history of the 20th century and of the part played by the Soviet Union. (This article has been promoted from a comment here, owing to some important points it makes. It is not intended to detract from important commemorations in Russia of lives lost in the final battles in which Russia was victorious over Hitler and thus rid the world of WW2 Nazi threat.)
British historian Richard Overy, when interviewed by Oksana Boyko on the Worlds Apart episode of 7 May put a somewhat flawed view about Nazism and Communism. Whilst she was able to challenge a number of Richard Overy's claims, she left others unchallenged. One was Overy's assertion that Josef Stalin was a brilliant and inspired leader who led and inspired the Soviet people to victory over Nazi Germany.
Order The Kapetanios (1772) by Dominique Eudes from Monthly Review Press for US$20.00 + postage.
I think the ABC Radio National program, Rear Vision, (see inside) owes to the Greek people and to its Australian audience to tell the truth about Greek history. The account of the Greek Civil War (see Appendix 1) is untrue. The Greek Communist Party led the resistance to the German occupation and had overwhelming support of the Greek people. In 1944, the British tricked the Communist partisans into disarming whilst they secretly re-armed those who had collaborated with the Germans against fellow citizens. They were able to do this because of the betrayal of the Greek Communist Party and the unquestioning support for Stalin by the Greek Communist Party. The Greek Communist Party abused its support from the Greek people to convince then to lay down their weapons. The result was a massacre of the most patriotic Greeks by former German collaborators whilst the British looked on. At this time, the heroic partisan leader Aris Velouchiotis was murdered by collaborators. He died in the knowledge that the Greek Communist Party leaders that he supported had denounced him as a traitor for refusing to lay down his arms.
This was originally posted to the ABC Radio National Rear Vision website on 17 July 2011 as a comment in response to a documentary "Greek Tragedy". This article was originally posted to candobetter, but not on the front page, on 14 Nov 2014. See also: IMF vs Greece: History of the Greek Civil War (part iii) and Episode 055 (6/12/14 - 25 min) of Sputnik by George Galloway on RT.#fnGCW1" id="fnGCW1txt"> 2
One of the placards at the mass Greek protests in October 1944 against the British read: "The Germans are back".
Patriotic Greeks could have so easily beaten the British and the former German collaborators in the war of 1944 and the subsequent civil war from 1946-1949 if they were not so appallingly misled by the Greek Communist Party (KKE).
For a truthful account of the Greek Civil War please read "The Kapetanios - Partisans and the Civil War in Greece, 1943-1949" written in 1973 by Frenchman Dominique Eudes. Copies can be order from The Monthly Review Press, "Alibris, or Amazon
Update, 31 dec 2014: The transcript of the program, copied from the ABC Radio National page, to which the above is a response, has been moved to this page. An excerpt is below in #appendix1">Appendix 1 - JS
#appendix1" id="appendix1">Appendix 1: ABC Rear Vision's "Greek Tragedy" misleading account of the Greek Civil War
"Greece fought the Italians and then the Germans during World War II and when the war ended in 1945, a bitter civil war between communists and anti-communists, ultimately won by the right, created social tensions that would last in Greece for the next 30 years. Dr David Close is a historian in the School of International Studies at Flinders University."
David Close: "1945 was Year Zero in Greece, like in much of Europe, because under the German occupation everything had been destroyed: the whole economic system, the physical infrastructure, the political system. The Germans had encouraged a growing civil war, as well, which got worse in the few years after the war. The driving force was a pro-soviet communist party, which grew very powerful under the German occupation, because it dominated the Resistance. And the opposing forces were backed first by the British and then by the Americans, and American backing enabled them to triumph in the end, so they won a decisive victory in 1949."
James Sinnamon's comment: The principle 'driving force' of the Greek Civil war was not the Greek Communist Party (KKE). It was the British Army led by General Scobie and Greeks who had collaborated with the Nazi collaborators.
Josef Stalin had instructed the KKE to welcome his British allies as liberators and to follow their instructions. After they landed the British demanded that the partisans disarm. The Greek Communist Party leaders did their utmost to ensure that resistance fighters disarmed. For its part, the British army protected former collaborators from a vengeful Greek population, claiming to have put them in custody, whilst secretly re-arming them.
This made possible the bloody civil war which was won by the fascists. This defeat caused Greece to remain a dictatorship for more than three more decades. As Nana Mouskouri explained tonight on Q and A, parliamentary rule was not re-established until 1975.
Appendix 2: Other pages about the Greek Civil War
#GreekCivilWar Twitter pages.
#fnGCW1">1#fnGCW1txt"> ↑ The Greek Civil War is discussed in the first half of that episode of Sputnik. In that segment Galloway interviews Judy Cotter, a British woman, who as a student activist in 1973, courageously helped Greek students being imprisoned and tortured by the Greek military junta. That was the same junta which came to power in 1944 as a result of the betrayal of the resistance fighters in 1944 by Stalin and Churchill. The above article was also posted as a comment on Jan 2014 to Sputnik.
The text printed below was originally printed as an appendix to the article About the Greek Civil War. That article was my response to the ABC Radio National program of 13 July 2011, "Greek Tragedy". - JS
Appendix: Transcript of "Greek Tragedy", 13 July 2100
ABC Europe correspondent [archival]: And with that the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Filippos Petsalnikos, declared the vote passed 155 in favour, 138 against, the government winning the right to introduce tax rises for the lowest earners, to shed 150,000 jobs in the public service, and to cut salaries by 15%. Restaurant and café owners who were collecting 13% in GST will now have to add 23%, making the cost of a cup of coffee in Greece 10 percentage points more expensive overnight.
Keri Phillips: The Greek government is deeply in debt. Since the beginning of last year, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been negotiating with Greek political leaders -- agreeing to lend Greece enough money to keep repaying its debts, while forcing it to find ways to reduce its spending.
Hello, Keri Phillips here with Rear Vision -- on ABC Radio National, online and by podcast. Today we'll look at the origins of Greece's excessive national debt. How did this modern European nation of just over 11 million people come to owe over three hundred and thirty billion euro?
Although for much of the period before the recent global financial crisis Greece enjoyed respectable economic growth, you don't have to look far back to see a country ripped apart by international conflict and internal division. Greece fought the Italians and then the Germans during World War II and when the war ended in 1945, a bitter civil war between communists and anti-communists, ultimately won by the right, created social tensions that would last in Greece for the next 30 years. Dr David Close is a historian in the School of International Studies at Flinders University.
David Close: 1945 was Year Zero in Greece, like in much of Europe, because under the German occupation everything had been destroyed: the whole economic system, the physical infrastructure, the political system. The Germans had encouraged a growing civil war, as well, which got worse in the few years after the war. The driving force was a pro-soviet communist party, which grew very powerful under the German occupation, because it dominated the Resistance. And the opposing forces were backed first by the British and then by the Americans, and American backing enabled them to triumph in the end, so they won a decisive victory in 1949.
Keri Phillips: Yanis Varoufakis is a Greek economist from the University of Athens.
Yanis Varoufakis: By 1949 when the civil war ended, Greece was a divided nation, a nation in disrepair; an economy that had broken down completely after 15, 20 years of continuous warfare. A rural area that produced a massive exodus of migrants, many of whom ended up in Australia as our listeners already know. Yet in the early 1950s growth came to the country in the form of the ubiquitous Marshall Plan, which was a godsend. Not only did it stop starvation from spreading its tentacles throughout the country, but in addition to that, it created the circumstances that led to the development of nascent industry, industrial sector, which then proceeded in the 1960s to create circumstances that can lead the historian to describing Greece in the 1960s as a developing economy.
David Close: There was an economic miracle in Greece. It enjoyed the highest rates of economic growth in the western world for 25 years after the end of the civil war. And after about seven or eight years this growth became self-sustaining. It didn't depend on United States investment anymore.
Keri Phillips: What was going on in the society in an economic sense?
David Close: Industry grew enormously and much of the agricultural population migrated to cities, to higher productivity occupations in cities. The Greek-owned merchant fleet grew to be the largest in the world by 1970, so this was the era of Aristotle Onassis and Niarchos and others who in the end invested heavily in Greek industry. So those were just some of the components of growth. The pace of growth grew greatly under the military dictatorship of 1967 to 1974. The military dictatorship favoured big business, especially the ship-owners, and that was good for growth although bad for social equity.
Keri Phillips: A coup in 1967 had been followed by seven years of military rule. By 1974, when democracy was restored under the conservative New Democracy Party led by Constantine Karamanlis, the global oil shocks were already being felt by the Greek economy.
Yanis Varoufakis: When the oil crisis hit in '72, '73, the Greek economy realised, society realised to its consternation that the industrial miracle that had been built in the 1950s and 60s was so to speak built on sand, and with the first tremors of the international economy, the global crisis in the 1970s, it began to collapse. It was built on the basis of a clientalist relationship between an extremely authoritarian right wing regime that emerged from the civil war, with a very small number of well-to-do upper middle class families that were extremely well connected with the regime. On many occasions the same families had in their midst politicians and businessmen alternating between government posts and being captains of industry. The economy was protected from competition from the outside with large tariffs. It was the combination of the oil shock of the 1970s and the opening up of the Greek economy following the first stirrings of globalisation and, in particular, trade barriers were being lowered during a period that led to Greece's entry into the European Economic Community. So the industrial miracle of the '50s and '60s suddenly had to face up to the twin facts of increasing costs and increasing competition.
Keri Phillips: Almost immediately following the restoration of democracy in 1974, the New Democracy Government under Prime Minister Karamanlis had applied for membership of the European Economic Community -- the precursor to the European Union. Many in Greece saw membership as a means of protecting their fragile parliamentary democracy and encouraging economic development. But Yanis Varoufakis says that there was no way that Greek industry was going to be able to survive Greece's accession to the EEC in 1981.
Yanis Varoufakis: From 1976, 1977 onwards there was a frenzy of activity by panicking government to save the industrial sector that had been so painfully put together in the previous decades. There were a number of steps. One step involved in fact nationalisation of certain banks like the Commercial Bank of Greece, and also state subsidies, through those nationalised banks, of the industrial sector. The idea was that liquidity should be provided to the struggling industries to keep them alive, in order to come up with some ideas as to how they could be rendered competitive.
By the end of the 1970s, 1981 in particular, there was a change in government. The Socialist Party came to power with a program of large-scale nationalisations, but it never managed to put its program into action, simply because of the fact that they actually went bankrupt. So it had to take them over. It was not a question of putting in place their policy; they just inherited all these factories: textiles, even armaments factories that failed, and the government had to take them over and run them and finance them. So suddenly Greece, which had a very low public debt to GDP ratio, one of the lowest in Europe, suddenly started facing an increasing, escalating, accelerating debt problem.
Keri Phillips: Did the Greek government borrow the money to nationalise and keep those factories going?
Yanis Varoufakis: Indeed. And that lasted for about four or five years, during which the first socialist government, Pasok government, of Greece, between let's say 1981 and 1985-6 struggled to keep those factories alive. Unfortunately they did not introduce any serious management skills to these factories. They were being run on the basis of traditional featherbedding, favouritism, appointing their own party members and trade unionists on boards. It was a slow-motion accident unfolding in front of our eyes. First we had the private sector failure of the 1970s and then we had the public sector failure of the 1980s. And the result was the beginnings of the mess that Greece finds itself in today.
Keri Phillips: During the 1980s, the right wing governments of the New Democracy Party gave way to those of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, better known as Pasok, under Andreas Papandreou. All those who had been on the losing side in the civil war, long excluded from both political power and economic participation, suddenly got a windfall.
David Close: Yes, that's right. All those associated with the losing side in the civil war had been excluded from power, and so when they mobilised politically and finally came to power themselves in the 1980s through the Pasok party led by Andreas Papandreou, that's the father of the present prime minister, they had a chance to make amends, to compensate themselves for their long years of exclusion. The result was that the public service grew to an extraordinary extent, regardless of financial consequences. Now this was a traditional feature of the Greek state, that it was too big and very inefficient and penetrated by political parties. This dates back to the origins of the Greek state in the early 19th century, but it had been greatly accentuated under the political right after the civil war, and then further accentuated by Papandreou's Pasok regime in the 1980s. Andreas Papandreou took it to unheard-of lengths. He increased the size of the public administration and the spoils system to a quite crazy degree. In about the six months before the general election of June 1989, for example, about 90,000 people were appointed to the public administration, with no reason and no qualifications. So while he was trying to introduce a welfare state, he was undermining the efficiency of the public service that was needed to make a welfare state effective. It was a contradictory policy which could only end in disaster.
Keri Phillips: What did these people do? What were they hired to do?
David Close: Good question. Read newspapers, chatted to each other, twiddled their thumbs. This was an everyday experience for visitors to government offices or any government institution in the 1980s, to see masses of idle people sitting around chatting to each other and treating the public as the enemy. The worst of it was that the public got lousy service, as well as having to pay through their taxes for all these useless people.
Keri Phillips: When the leftists did get in to power in the '80s did they find themselves already with a substantial deficit?
David Close: Only a small deficit. Strictly speaking the financial lunacy began in the late 1970s. The last time Greece ever had a government budget surplus was in 1976. And then after that two-party competition intensified. The conservative regime in its last years found itself under increasing threat from Pasok, and so spent up big to try to win an election. Then Pasok continued the trend after that in the 1980s. And so yes, Pasok by the mid-1980s had to accept very big loans from the European Union, or the European Economic Community as it then was, and then had to impose harsh austerity policies as a condition for receiving the loans. So the beginning of this cycle of crazy expenditure followed by harsh austerity policies can really be dated to the mid-1980s. In 1985 there were large-scale riots and strikes in protest against the government austerity policies, and these have continued periodically ever since.
Greek protesters [archival]: This country is ours. Not for foreign bankers. From today there is no democracy in Greece because the parliament vote a program against the people, against the constitution, against the interest of 95% of Greek society.
Keri Phillips: Yanis Varoufakis says that governments were not unaware of the need to try to rein in public spending:
Yanis Varoufakis: Greek governments up until 2004 have shown a degree of rationality and acumen, in the sense that when public finances seemed to be running out of kilter they would hit the brakes and introduce austerity and rein the debt back. It happened in the late 1970s, it also happened in the 1980s with the socialist government of Andreas Papandreou, the current prime minister's father. It then happened again in the 1990s when there was a very serious -- perhaps the only truly serious attempt -- to rein in the public debt problem and, at the same time, to modernise the economy. And it was this period in the 1990s that effectively transformed Greece and gave at least an impression of a Greece that was ready for the euro and a Greece that was ready for taking its rightful place next to its European partners.
By the -- if you remember -- the Olympics of 2004, there was even evidence of managerial competence within the public sector and within the private sector. The country managed to pull off a quite impressive Olympics. Unfortunately it was all financed by easy money being borrowed by the Greek state. When that private money burnt out during the great financial crisis of 2008, Greece found itself in a big black hole.
David Close: The problem was that during the years of prosperity, from the time when Greece joined the eurozone in 2002, credit became very cheap, which was a new experience in Greece. Greece had achieved the remarkable feat, hitherto, of growing more prosperous without the benefit of low interest rates. But the era of low interest rates began from about 2000, thanks to the accession to the eurozone. Whereas private households managed to resist the temptation to become too heavily debt -- levels of private household debt remained low by western European standards -- governments could not resist the temptation. Instead of trimming their expenditure they took full advantage of the cheap credit now available from French and German banks. And so they let levels of public debt remain extraordinarily high when they should have been using the economic good times to bring them down.
Keri Phillips: The spigot of cheap easy money was turned off in the credit squeeze of 2008 and the global financial crisis hit Greece's main industries -- shipping and tourism -- hard. By the beginning of 2010, Greek government debt was estimated at 216 billion euro. In Ireland, it was reckless lending by private banks to fuel a building boom that effectively destroyed their economy. It was a different story in Greece.
Yanis Varoufakis: In Greece the banks, however unlikeable they might be, did not cause the crisis. Indeed they were very conservative. They had not been exposed to the toxic waste like the German banks or the French banks had been. They were actually running a quite tight ship. The Greek banks' problem, and the reason why now they're bankrupt, is because the economy has collapsed around them. And all the loans that they had given to households and businesses turned into bad loans. And all the Greed government bonds that they had invested in are suddenly junk bonds. So you know what they say -- oh well actually what Tolstoy wrote in the first page of Anna Karenina, 'All happy families are alike, but unhappy families are unhappy in their different ways.'
So Ireland, Spain, Greece, there are different circumstances that led to our collective woes, but now we are in this situation and we are suffering from exactly the same ill-effects, even though our starting point was very different.
Keri Phillips: And looking at the debt that the government has, who is this money owed to?
Yanis Varoufakis: It's owed primarily to banks. The majority of that is owed to big banks. A very significant amount is owed to German and French banks. The problem that France has in particular is that French banks own two of those Greek banks which are themselves owed money by the Greek state. In addition to the banks there are pension funds, so the whole pension system in Greece is teetering on the verge of collapse as a result of its dependence on Greek government debt.
Keri Phillips: At the time of the global financial crisis, many countries found themselves having to take on extra debt, often, as in the UK, to save their banks. Why was Greece's debt such a problem? Professor Kevin Featherstone is director of the Hellenic Observatory, part of the European Institute at the London School of Economics.
Kevin Featherstone: The problem is whether Greece can sustain the repayments on this debt level. You're right though, Keri, that at an earlier stage, if we think of 2008, the very beginning of 2009, the level of public debt in Greece was not that different from that of several other member states. And also it was not that different to countries outside the eurozone such as the UK and the United States. What became problematic was the level of maturing debt that Greece had at a time when Greece was also running up a large deficit at the end of 2009. So it's rather like the consumer having a large mortgage with the bank - but then many other consumers have large mortgages with banks -- but this particular consumer also suddenly announcing that its credit card debts have suddenly exploded as well. And so the judgment of the financial markets, and in particular the credit rating agencies, was that Greece, with such high debts and also now suddenly such high deficits of the government, was in an unsustainable position.
Keri Phillips: Why does the rest of Europe care if Greece cannot continue to repay its debts?
Kevin Featherstone: Because it becomes a collective problem in the sense that the effects of Greece not being able to pay its loans would have very negative contagion effects right across the eurozone. And especially in the context of 2009 and 2010 the level of debt that Greece had that was owed to banks in Germany and France, was very high indeed. So you might say, Keri, that Greece was a problem, but also that, for the rest of the eurozone, and particularly the governments in Berlin and Paris, ultimately they were faced with the dilemma: you either bail out Greece or you bail out your own domestic banking systems.
Keri Phillips: So is it the case, then, that now banks such as the banks in France and Germany are lending Greece the money to repay those same banks?
Kevin Featherstone: It is governments and the IMF, the so-called troika, so that a loan is being provided to Greece to enable it to pay its creditors. And its creditors, yes, are banks in France and Germany etc. In parallel to this, what's being discussed at the moment, at German prompting, is some mechanism by which the banks of Germany and France could be encouraged, arms twisted, to accept less than the amount that they had loaned. In other words, the German government is keen that foreign banks who lent to Greece in a rather risky fashion on too easy terms, that they themselves should take some kind of hit. But at the moment these things are still being discussed and negotiated.
Keri Phillips: Can you give us some sense of how much money Greece actually owes? What's the debt of the Greek government?
Kevin Featherstone: In relative terms at the moment it's judged to be approximately 150 per cent of its gross domestic product. That means that the debt level is one and a half times all of the economic wealth and economic transactions taking place within Greece as a system. Now clearly 150 per cent is astronomical and the fear is that this debt level will actually increase and may rise as much as 200 per cent. In other words, it's Greece owing twice as much as Greece is actually worth in economic terms.
Keri Phillips: So is there any way that Greece could ever repay such a debt?
Kevin Featherstone: There is no way that a country could repay that amount of debt in the short and medium term. But then the task is less than that. The task is simply to keep up with the repayments on a long term basis. So it doesn't really matter to the rest of the euro system so long as Greece can continue to repay its maturing debts at particular points in time. The problem becomes if Greece at any particular point is spending too much, so that its current deficit is excessive. And that then raises the questions of Greece going bankrupt, not being able to afford to cover its maturing debt at any particular point in time. But just like you and I and countless listeners have large mortgages -- a large mortgage in itself is not problematic. What becomes problematic is if the individual payments at any particular point are not being covered. And it's in the interests of the eurozone that Greece gets to a point where it can afford that maturing debt.
Keri Phillips: As a member of the eurozone, Greece retains the right to control its own borrowing and spending but it cannot lower its own interest rates to stimulate its economy, nor can it devalue its currency to make its exports more attractive. Although in theory, governments can always increase taxes to raise money, in Greece the tax office is part of the bloated, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy.
David Close: When tax departments are inefficient they find it easier to raise revenue from lower income groups than from the very wealthy. So any increase in taxation results in an increase in hardship for lower income groups -- which is one reason why we're having riots and strikes at this moment. The people that mostly pay the income tax are public employees whose income is known. Mind you, small businessmen get persecuted terribly. I have a brother who's a businessman in Greece, and he moans bitterly about persecution by the tax department. But I suppose that's because he can't hire expensive accountants and lawyers to deal with the tax department on his behalf. Large-scale business are much more successful in dealing with the tax department.
Yanis Varoufakis: The problem here is quite simple. The rich don't pay taxes. They find a way of avoiding it. And then the poor, feeling that it is quite a legitimate Olympic sport of sorts, try to avoid the taxman. So there is this highly dysfunctional relationship between the Greek state and the Greek citizenry. Of course the problem lies with the Greek state, because even in Australia, if you allowed people to get away without paying taxes, I suspect a very large number of them would do exactly that. So there is a chronic problem of underpayment of taxes, particularly by private sector entrepreneurs, who find ways of avoiding taxation. And then if you add to that the fact that Greece has a very high poverty ratio. The number of people who fall below the poverty line, even before the crisis began, was the highest in the eurozone. These people can't pay tax because they don't earn enough. And those who earn enough have ways, including off-shore companies, that allow them to avoid tax payments.
Keri Phillips: I guess it's impossible to know how much tax isn't being paid, but would it have been of a scale that could have made a difference to the situation Greece finds itself in now?
Yanis Varoufakis: I think so. I think it would have made a difference because there is a way of measuring it: you just compare the proportion of GDP that is collected by the taxman in Greece to the equivalent proportion in the rest of Europe, and it is about 40 per cent less. Having said that I have to add that if Greece had in the last 15 years shaped up, it would have got rid of the many malignancies that typify our social economy including tax evasion, but not just that: bureaucracy, corruption, lack of competitiveness and so on and so forth; these are real problems that the Greek economy has had for a very long time -- even if we'd managed to undo all those problems, Greece would still be in trouble now. It would not have been the first domino to fall in the eurozone. But it would have been the second or third or the fourth.
The reason why you are talking to me now is not because of the malignancies of the Greek state and the Greek social economy, it is because of the euro crisis. This crisis would have gone on and on even if Greece was a model citizen. Look at Ireland. Ireland did not have a problem with tax evasion. Ireland did not have a problem with a corrupt state. Ireland had one of the most dynamic corporate sectors in the world; it was the so-called Irish Tiger I believe it was called -- a nonexistent animal. And yet it finds itself in the dock, sitting next to Greece, being accused of bankruptcy. So the problem is systemic, it's got to do with the euro system, which was never designed to sustain the major shock of the great financial crisis of 2008.
Keri Phillips: And if you'd like to know more about the euro and the story of the eurozone, there's a program on the Special Features page on the Rear Vision website -- abc.net.au/rn/rear vision. You can also find programs about carbon tax and carbon emissions trading, if you'd like to see how these things have worked overseas. And if that's not enough, follow us on Twitter by searching for RNRearVision. The guests on Rear Vision today were Dr David Close from Flinders University, Professor Kevin Featherstone from the London School of Economics and Yanis Varoufakis from the University of Athens.
In 2014, the internet has made it possible for journal corporate media to
Anglophone press maintains depressingly low standard of reporting
The bias in Australian news reporting on Russia and the Ukraine is profoundly depressing. There is no responsible analysis of the role of the then 'opposition', with members now in parliament, and the use of snipers to fire at police and protesters alike in provoking President Yannukovych to temporarily leave the Ukraine. [Note I have removed the term 'resignation' because he has not resigned. I apologise for the confusion - Sheila Newman] #fnSubj2" id="txtSubj2">2 There is no acknowledgement of how elected President Yannukovych formally requested Russia's help - or it is mentioned as if it were specious. Although there was an election due within a year, Yannukovych was forced to flee in peril of his life by the forces that put the current illegal government in place. There is no acknowledgement of the validity of a 97% Yes referendum in Crimea to join Russia.#fnSubj3" id="txtSubj3">3 There is no acknowledgement that Crimea already had separate administration within the Ukraine and that the great majority of its population identifies as Russian. There has been an over-emphasis on how a minority group of muslims said they had avoided voting and now complain that their needs were not met by the referendum and an underemphasis on how many voted and what they voted for. Little or no convincing evidence has been given for slurs implying that the referendum was either not legal or not well-managed. There is no acknowledgement of the reasonableness and democracy in calling a referendum, which is an example the increasingly undemocratic Anglophone West would do well to follow. There is hardly any mention in the Australian and other Anglophone press that the parliament of Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov, whom Obama greeted in the Whitehouse almost instantly #fnSubj4" id="txtSubj4">4 and whose government Australia supports in East Ukraine, contains six members with severe fascist and Nazi affiliations, which kind of explains how the use of snipers was part of the campaign to get rid of the elected government. The increasing evidence of US and NATO aligned Western powers provoking the Kiev coup is not being covered in the Australian and other Western press. There is also no mention that President Yannukovych had offered to bring on early elections to give the opposition a chance to win government legally. There is a constant use of the adjective 'aggressive' to describe Russia's actions in going, on invitation, into a largely ethnic Russian Crimea which had voted to rejoin Russia, in a region where European power-grabs threaten hard-won agreements between the many diverse countries involved in recovering and transporting oil and gas out of the Caspian Sea area.
Oil and Gas in the Caspian region near Ukraine and Crimea
Most of all, there has been a glaring failure of Australian and US and other Anglophone news sources and governments to report that getting power over this region means getting power over major oil and gas reserves in the Caspian Sea and pipelines leading from its shared shores through several different countries with destinations as far as Britain #fnSubj5" id="txtSubj5">5 and China. That is why dividing the Ukraine up between Western Europe and Russia is such a big deal.
The Caspian Sea: History, political borders, rights to mine etc.
The Caspian Sea is the largest inland sea. "Geographically, it is a salt-water inland sea or lake covering about 375,000 square kilometres, bordered by the Elburz Mountains of Iran to the south and the Caucasus to the northwest. The Volga River flows into it from the north, forming a large delta near Astrakhan, but evaporation is sufficient to counter the influx, leaving it some 30 meters below world sea level. It is flanked to the north by Russia itself, followed clockwise by Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Azerbaijan. The three "-stans” gained independence following the fall of the Soviets in 1991. Dagestan and Chechnya, which are still Moslem provinces of Russia on the shores of the Caspian, are still seeking their independence, in a vicious campaign attended by many acts of terror. Under international law, ownership of the offshore mineral rights depends on whether it is deemed a lake or a sea. In the case of the lake, they belong jointly to the contiguous countries, whereas in the case of a sea they are divided up by median lines. The matter, which is no small issue, has yet to be fully resolved, but it seems in practice to be moving in the direction of the latter formula. It is worth noting here that Tehran, the capital of Iran, lies only 100km from the Caspian shore, so its role in the future of the region cannot be ignored." (Colin Campbell, "The Caspian Chimera," Chapter 5 in Sheila Newman, (Ed)., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, 2008."
Don't the Australian public deserve to know of the many geological reasons why this area is so politically fraught, instead of being subjected to incredibly superficial theories of ego and ethnicity, when any explanation is offered at all for territorial sensitivity in the region?
There is a fabulous and apocryphal geopolitical context to this vast oil and gas-bearing region that is the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Russia started the first pipeline there in the 1880s in Baku on the edge of the Caspian Sea, with a pipeline which carried kerosene a total of 835km to the Batumi, Georgia, a port on the Black Sea. It was the longest pipeline in the world at that time. Joseph Stalin actually led workers in the oil industry there.
"In the late 19th century Baku on the Caspian Sea was the site of a pipeline to the Black Sea, financed by Rothschild and Shell Oil. Joseph Stalin was a workers' leader there in an atrocious working environment. By the end of the Second World War, established easily accessible wells in the Caspian were less productive and, although the Soviet Union continued some new development there, including the building of off-shore platforms, it focused more on inland resources which did not require investment in offshore drilling equipment." (Colin Campbell, "The Caspian Chimera," Chapter 5 in Sheila Newman, (Ed)., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, 2008.)
Since the late 19th century this area has been the object of colonial exploitation and wars over its mineral wealth, with British and US exploration teams competing against each other and against Russia. President Trueman's duplicitous policies towards Russia and Ukraine are the subject of Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States series (book and films). (See interview of Peter Kuznik, Oliver Stone's co-writer on this material here.) The political behaviour towards the region by the US between the First and Second World Wars was eerily similar to its behaviour today.
These geopolitical features have bred extremely tough political survival behaviour in associated royal and elected governments. The toughness is expressed in authoritarian government and sophisticated international relations with commercial organisations, international finance and international governments. Since the first oil shock in the early 1970s, the oil-exporting countries in this region have attempted to shrug off colonial rulers and assert independence. The political countershock from the West has been to fight those attempts. Gaddafi led the formation of OPEC which coordinated the policies of the oil-producing countries, with the aim of getting a steady income for its member states in return for secure supply of oil to oil importers. His efforts assisted independence amongst member oil-producing countries and a world price for oil. There was a brief period when it seemed that the West might respectfully integrate the leaders of those Eastern independence movements and the oil producing countries, but draw-down on world oil resources, through increased demand and finite supply, ever more expensively accessed, has coincided with escalating aggression on the part of the west. Russia and China, for their parts, are acting defensively to secure their geopolitical links with their neighbours.
Pipeline-linked countries vulnerable targets
Most important in the new problems with Syria and Ukraine and Crimea, is access to pipelines conveying oil and gas resources from the Caspian Sea region through surrounding countries, which have strategic power and risks. The absence of reporting on this crucial aspect of East-West hostilities in the Western media makes the Western powers and their media promoters and corporate supporters look guilty and the populations of Western countries look uneducated and incurious. Coverage from the Teheran Times and Russia Today is far more reality based.
"The recent U.S.-backed coup that toppled the former government in Ukraine has been couched in the noble rhetoric of democracy, humanitarian intervention and self-determination, but a closer examination reveals an ugly underside of realpolitik whose motive is energy dominance. Like Syria, Ukraine has one of the key gas pipeline corridors coveted by the U.S. and its NATO allies that is still under the influence of a so-called R&D (resistant and defiant) country such as Russia.
To understand what is happening in Ukraine and Syria, and how Qatar and Azerbaijan are involved, we must briefly look at regional energy developments following the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. While the Persian Gulf is well known for its abundant energy resources, the Caspian Sea Basin also has seen oil exploration and production since the early 1900s however the U.S. and the West had scant involvement there before the end of the Cold War. Since the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the United States and Russia have engaged in fierce competition to control the energy resources of the newly created Caspian Sea littoral states." Source: "The last Argument of Kings," Tehran Times, March 18, 2014 by stratagem, http://www.phantomreport.com/pipeline-predicament-the-ukraine-syria-russia-u-s-gas-nexus"
Importance of who supplies China with gas
Russia's impending new contract to supply its neighbour China with gas for the next 30 years could be one of the things that caused Western powers to make desperate efforts at this time to get control of the Ukraine in order to influence oil supply contracts in the region. (Gazprom negotiations).
Supplying China has been an important goal of competing powers in the region because whoever supplies China has a very powerful friend. Even though contemporary oil-exploration is done by commercial corporations, states vie to develop and maintain relations with these companies. This need to dominate oil-exploration companies is likewise a major reason for US interference in South American and African politics and for South American states to make friends with Russian, Chinese and African states and their geo-exploration companies. Western powers are trying to destroy these alliances by using their own alliances which include supporting Israeli annexation of territories, amassing of arms, and Saudi Arabian attempts to religiously colonise free Arab states, like Syria.
We should all be trying to get along and to plan to downsize world economy in line with dwindling fuel resources, but half the world is doing the opposite.
State Politics and Fossil Fuel Depletion
There is no doubt that the world's industrial powers are encountering increasing trouble accessing affordable fossil fuel resources. All the signs are there: war, loss of democracy, environmental suicide.
A few years ago, the United States began using huge quantities of explosive material in order to crudely reopen old mines and start new ones in situations which it had not pursued before because of their inherent danger, pollution and landscape costs.
It is naive to accept the spin that the US puts on fracking for shale-oil and gas, by which it implies that it now has abundant fuels to supply growth indefinitely. The reality is that the U.S. has to spend more barrels of oil to get shale oil and gas than were ever required to get oil from wells. The reason the US is going after shale-oil and gas is because most remaining crude oil reserves are now very hard to get to, due to their inaccessible geological position and due to international political competition for these scarce resources. And getting shale oil and gas costs more than energy; it costs democracy and it has the capacity to ruin any resilience in the economy. See "Fracking Democracy". People are protesting across the US at how the government is permitting shale-oil and gas mines to take over their farms. They are afraid of pollution (notably of water), subsidence, and the truly awful scale of mining which is transforming landscape and politics, as well as air, soil and water, with massive emissions of carbon gases. Fracking has been banned in France, although the US-influenced EU is trying to overturn this, as it has overturned French law on use of hormone-based pesticides like Roundup and genetically modified crops. The Western powers have also tried to interest the Ukraine in giving them fracking rights in the Ukraine.
Profligate petroleum users have no place in the 21st century
Unfortunately Australia is unwisely following the United States style on fossil fuel recovery. The EU, which tended to have more conservative, longer-view plans, is at risk of being dragged into the same profligate style due to the growing influence of a US-influenced banking system on the EU and the debts which this has already caused in European countries.
Australia, the United States, and Britain, have all exhausted their petroleum reserves by pursuing policies of economic and population growth in the face of common sense. They have also used an expensive and inefficient commercial approach to exploring for and mining petroleum at home and abroad. As oil geologist, Colin Campbell, put it, western oil-explorers "had to pretend that every borehole had a good chance of finding oil" [in order to attract investors], whereas their Soviet counterparts, "were very efficient explorers, as they were able to approach their task in a scientific manner, being able to drill holes to gather critical information" - which meant that, due to being state-financed, they didn't have to sink lots of unproductive and costly wells.
Colin Campbell describes the difficulties of oil and gas mining in the Caspian Sea, explaining how the countries of the region exploited oil resources that could be more conventionally mined. Much of the oil and gas reserves there are, not only under the sea, but deep under the sea-floor:
"In the years following World War II, they brought in the major producing provinces of the [Soviet] Union, finding most of the giant fields within them. Baku [on the Caspian Sea] was by now a mature province of secondary importance, although work continued to develop secondary prospects and begin to chase extensions offshore from platforms. The Soviet Union had ample onshore supplies, which meant that it had no particular incentive to invest in offshore drilling equipment. The Caspian itself was therefore largely left fallow, although the borderlands were thoroughly investigated. Of particular importance was the discovery of the Tengiz Field in 1979 in the prolific pre-Caspian basin of Kazakhstan, only some 70km from the shore. Silurian source-rocks had charged a carboniferous reef reservoir at a depth of about 4,500 meters beneath an effective seal of Permian salt. Initial estimates suggested a potential of about 6Gb, but the problem was that the oil has a sulphur content of as much as 16 per cent, calling for high-quality steel pipe and equipment, not then available to the Soviets. Development was accordingly postponed. The fall of the Soviet regime in 1991 opened the region to Western investment. " (Colin Campbell, "The Caspian Chimera," Chapter 5 in Sheila Newman, (Ed)., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, 2008.
A more cautious Soviet approach and the difficulty of access due to cold climate has meant that Russia has not used up all its oil and gas supplies. It has a good record of efficiency in the surrounding region. Due to the depletion of traditional oil reserves, the time has come when oil-exploration in these dangerous and icy regions nearby Russia will find finance.
Population policies and entitlement to fuel resources
We could go further and say that, as long as the Anglophone countries insist on growing their populations and their economies - which really means growing their need for energy resources and their output of pollution - and starting wars to fulfill these unwise policies of continued growth - they don't deserve what they are going after. We maybe should include India which, like Australia, as an ex-British colony, has all the problems of the Anglophone system where focused beneficiaries of population growth promote it in flagrant opposition to public opinion. The only obvious solution to the problem of finite resources can be to share remaining scarce resources equitably among polities which agree to stop engineering growth and demand upwards. That is a way to avoid continuing wars. In contrast to the rapid population growth in Anglophone countries and India, Russia's population is not growing fast and China has a responsible population policy.
Fracking and western sabre-rattling in this region
The reason for the civil war in Syria almost certainly lies in the growing desperation by the United States and Europe about maintaining large supplies of cheap oil, in competition with China and Russia, with Russia relatively well-situated geopolitically. The United States trumpets its successful recovery through fracking as a cover but, as explained above, anyone who knows anything about oil knows that fracking oil and gas costs far more oil and gas than earlier methods of retrieving oil and gas, but the industries and governments just aren't revealing how much.
The two inland seas, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea are the sites of major oil and gas exploration, although concerted exploration of the Black Sea is only just beginning, and expectations are modest.#fnSubj6" id="txtSubj6">6 The reserves in the Caspian, however, are enormous, but the question is how much can ever be accessed and mined. These reserves are deep, dirty, dangerous and nearly inaccessible deposits laced with highly poisonous hydrogen sulphide, however they are sufficiently important for commercial and government exploration to have persevered, leading to the construction of extremely long pipe-lines to transport gas across multiple countries, from Baku, Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey; from Baku via Russia to Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, thence to Western Europe. Accompanying the longest of these pipelines, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, which runs from Azerbaijan through Armenia and Turkey, to the South is Syria, Iraq and Iran, and, above them: Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, with Crimea just above Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. On the other side of the Black Sea is Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria. On the other side of the Caspian Sea from the Russian side are Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
The recent coup against the legitimate Ukraine Government has meant that Russia now has to consider building a very expensive new pipeline around the top of the Ukraine to avoid new incursions into its territory bordering on the Caspian Sea.
You can see from the map, "Proposed and actual gas pipelines," (Source: Wikipedia commons circa 2007 but still useful) how difficult it would be for Europeans to impose economic sanctions on Russia, for Russia is an important supplier of gas to the rest of Europe. This is likely to cause a split between America, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Australia, which do not have this relationship with Russia. The United States has, however, recently begun exporting shale gas to Europe, creating an impression that it has huge supplies and hoping to reduce Russia's income from and power derived from supplying Europe in the short term.#fnSubj7" id="txtSubj7">7 In the mean time, it seems the US is actually having problems supplying its own needs:
"U.S. Natural Gas Inventories
Natural gas working inventories fell by 74 Bcf to 822 Bcf during the week ending March 28, 2014. Colder-than-normal temperatures and a few late-season winter storms during the month resulted in increased heating demand, prompting larger-than-normal withdrawals. Stocks are now 878 Bcf less than last year at this time and 992 Bcf less than the five-year (2009-13) average for this time of year. Total stocks, as well as stocks in all three regions, are currently less than their five-year (2009-13) minimums." Source: Energy Information Agency, (EIA), http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/natgas.cfm?src=Natural-b1
#fnSubj1" id="fnSubj1">1. #txtSubj1">⇑ Sheila Newman's research thesis for environmental sociology, "The Growth lobby in Australia and its Absence in France" (pdf - 100,000 words plus) , was about differences in the way that Australia and France adapted their population, housing and environmental policies after the first oil shock. It contains an historical comparison of pre-oil shock oil-economics in both countries. Later she was co-editor for the first edition of Andrew McKillop and Sheila Newman, The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, 2006; and sole editor for Sheila Newman (Ed. and Author), The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, UK, 2008, which is a collection of her work plus scientific articles by nine scientists in disciplines ranging from particle physics through agriculture to environmental science and one economist. In 2013 she published, Demography, Territory, Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations, Countershock Press, 2013. [Paperback and Kindle.] The second in the Demography Territory Law series: Demography Territory Law 2: Land-tenure and the origins of Capitalism in Britain, is due for publication by June or July 2014 and asks whether the confluence of coal and iron in Britain caused its massive population growth, assisted it, or followed on from it, whether capitalism was inevitable and why it happened in Britain rather than elsewhere in Europe.
#fnSubj2" id="fnSubj2">2. #txtSubj2">⇑Ramazan Khalidov and Takeshi Hasegawa, "Ukraine Opposition Behind Snipers in Kiev According to a Leaked Phone Call, Modern Tokyo Times, March 6, 2014; "Recorded call reveals Ukraine opposition snipers, not Yanukovych, fired on protestors in Kiev," PR News Channel, March 6, 2014: "In the second leaked conversation regarding Ukraine in as many months, two top-level diplomats have been recorded discussing a potential bombshell in the crisis in Ukraine.
According to The Guardian, the 11-minute conversation between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet details new allegations that the snipers who killed protestors in the Ukrainian capital were not agents of former president Viktor Yanukovych, but rather agents of the opposition forces.
"There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet said during the conversation. [...] "Following the declaration, Paet went on to mention that the new Ukrainian government has heard the evidence, yet has shown no interest in investigating the claims.[...]"
#fnSubj3" id="fnSubj3">3. #txtSubj3">⇑ Mark Byrnes, "Crimea's Controversial Election Day," The Atlantic Cities, March 17, 2014.
#fnSubj4" id="fnSubj4">4. #txtSubj4">⇑ http://www.platts.com/latest-news/natural-gas/moscow/gazprom-says-expects-to-sign-gas-supply-deal-26644803 Matt Vasilogambros and Marina Koren, "White House: In Meeting With Obama, Ukraine's Prime Minister Embraces the West"National Journal.
#fnSubj5" id="fnSubj5">5. #txtSubj5">⇑ The Nord Stream gas pipeline takes gas to Germany, from where it is transported to Britain and other countries. I am not clear as to whether there are still plans to continue the pipeline underwater to Britain.
#fnSubj6" id="fnSubj6">6. #txtSubj6">⇑ The Black Sea has nothing comparable to the proven reserves in the Caspian Sea, but the need to find oil and gas is becoming so pressing that companies have taken out exploration licences for gas reserves they would previously not have bothered with. The Skifska natural gas field located on the continental shelf of the Black Sea was discovered in 2012 and there are other promising deposits offshore from Ukraine. "At the helm of the new energy diplomacy effort is Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources. The 85-person bureau was created in late 2011 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state at the time, for the purpose of channeling the domestic energy boom into a geopolitical tool to advance American interests around the world."
Putin's annual Q&A session 2014 (FULL VIDEO)
Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) led the Bolshevik insurrection of 1917 and subsequently became Supreme Commander of the Red Army. Joseph Stalin, who took power of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in the late 1920's and ruthlessly suppressed his opponents, ordered Trotsky be killed by an assassin in 1940.
For all of Leon Trotsky's momentous accomplishments in his own life, much of his legacy has, largely for reasons over which he could have had no control following his murder in 1940, not assisted the advancement of humankind.
Leon Trotsky's flawed understanding of the Second World War
After 1939, Trotsky crudely transplanted Lenin's essentially correct analysis of the bloody inter-imperialist war, otherwise known as the First World War, to the Second World War. This analysis held that no capitalist nation fighting in the Second World War was any better than any other. Thus, Great Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand were no better than Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and imperial Japan. Therefore, the duty of communists in these countries was to oppose their own government's war. (In Australia, this policy was carried out by the group known as the "Balmain Trotskyists" led by Nick Origlass (1908-1996) and Laurie Short (1915-2009))
However, Trotsky drew a distinction between, on the one hand, the "inter-imperialist war", between the fascist states and the western capitalist allies and, on the other hand, the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He still saw the latter as a post-capitalist "workers' state" in spite of Stalin's tyranny and, hence, humanity had a stake in supporting the Soviet Union.
So, whilst opposing U.S, participation in the war, Trotskyists, particularly in the U.S., supported the provision of aid by the U.S. government to the Soviet Union. A number of U.S. Trotskyists actually served as merchant seamen on the convoys which sailed through the perilous icy, U-boat-infested northern Atlantic waters to deliver cargo to the Soviet port of Murmansk.
Whether or not military action, by the U.S. Navy or Air Force, in defence of the convoys against or German U-boats or bombers would have constituted participation in the "inter-imperialist war", was not explained as far as I can recall.
Leon Trotsky's dismissal of non-Marxist political leaders
In Trotsky's world view, the only political leaders likely to be of any enduring worth, were those who fully embraced his program for world socialist revolution. Those who were not were reactionary or, at best, vacillating "petty bourgeoisie". Thus, in the Trotskyist world view, there was no merit to be found in U.S. President Franklin Rooseveldt and, or if he had still been around, President John F. Kennedy (JFK), Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Jim Garrison could have ended the Vietnam War far sooner than the 'anti-war' Movement
This 'line' was effectively carried out in the 1960's by those who wore the label 'Trotskyist'. JFK and Bobby Kennedy were dismissed by the far-left as no better than other capitalist politicians. They chose not to dispute the fraudulent Warren Commission, which held that the solitary gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered JFK.
Jim Garrison's attempts to prosecute the murderers of JFK, as told in Oliver Stone's movie JFK (1991) would almost certainly have ended the bloody Vietnam War long before 1975 had he got assistance from just a few of the many thousands of activists participating in the protest movement. As an example, it would not have been far less likely that JFK's murderers would have then been able to murder Bobby Kennedy just as he was about to win the nomination for President of the United States at the Democratic Convention in 1968. The Vietnam War would have ended on the day of Bobby Kennedy's Presidential inauguration in January 1969, if not before.
Whatever may have been the motivations of the leaders of this protest movement, the practical outcome was the prolongation, and not the ending, of that war. The consequences for the people of Indo-China were far more tragic than they need have been.
The illustration above, of the Virgin Mary, would be a good poster for promoting small families and women's rights to education. Detail from The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen by Master of Flémalle, (b. ca. 1375, Valenciennes, d. 1444, Tournai)
The Virgin Mary had a small family
This article looks at some statements and assumptions made by Daily Mail (UK) journo, Melanie Phillips, in what I would call a reactionary article, "Why do Green zealots think they can dictate how many children we are allowed to have?" (03rd February 2009)
The caption under a stock photo of a slim, attractive woman playing with a baby in a clean bedroom on a double bed, in "Why do Green zealots think they can dictate how many children we are allowed to have?" reads,
"The Government's 'green' advisor Jonathon Porritt said couples who have more than two children are 'irresponsible'".
Did he? Implicit in his remark, I think, was consideration of human impact on climate change and other environmental problems which threaten human survival.
Melanie seems to be taking this all down to the personal, when it is clear that Porritt is looking at a big picture.
"So the deepest green of them all turns out to be not so much a friend of the earth as an enemy of the human race."
Seems pretty amazing that she can accuse Porritt of being an enemy of the human race without being sued for defamation. She is equating him to a Hitler. Where is the evidence?
"Apparently this is all because people have to accept responsibility 'for their total environmental footprint'. That's what having children amounts to, apparently, in his mind. The blessings of a large family and the contribution this makes to prosperity and progress don't figure at all," she continues.
Prosperity and progress
Some of us don't believe in this idea of prosperity and progress which is supposed to accompany increasing populations and large families. To some of us it looks like we are all getting land-poor and that the rich excuse their high consumption (and large families of consumers) by pretending that it's all going to be shared... one day ... with everyone. Not much evidence that this is happening.
Instead, children are to be measured solely by their burdensome impact on the planet.
Is Jonathon Porritt really reducing children to this alone? Or is he making a valid argument about population policy needing to adapt to a fragile environment?
"What kind of sinister and dehumanised mindset is this? It is no coincidence that the country which comes nearest to Jonathon's ideal society is Communist China, which imposed a murderously cruel policy of restricting families to one child apiece. For the desire to reduce the number of children that parents produce is innately totalitarian."
It isn't innately totalitarian. It was normal in all societies to limit family sizes to within what their environment could comfortably support. Then the English speaking countries, from the 13th century, came to be known as the nation of orphans, because they dispossessed all but the first child, and contributed to a stock of landless labour, without the vote and without the right to refuse to labour for the landed. This socio-economic aberration was then exported throughout the British colonial world. This is what progress and big families in the same sentence really mean.
"Reproduction is humanity's strongest instinct", Phillips asserts.
I'd like to see her defend that indefensible statement. How about food, water and shelter? In every generation, large numbers of people have never reproduced. Why does she utter these baseless generalities? Oh yes, she is a mainstream journalist. That is her job.
"To seek to curb it is to interfere with one of our most fundamental freedoms and desires," she rants.
Hunger, thirst and land-poverty curb all our fundamental freedoms and desires, including procreation. Porritt is offering us a choice. Melanie Phillips sounds like she is defending ignorance and lack of choice. A dictatorship of unknown options.
Then Phillips starts to hurl mud hysterically at a man who simply urges us to choose a safe route through danger.
"To do so on the basis that Jonathon Porritt possesses unique insight into the needs of our world which is denied to the lesser mortals who inhabit it is not just monumental arrogance - it is also the delusion of totalitarian tyrants from Stalin to Hitler to Mao."
But Hitler gave out prizes to women who had the biggest families and Mao said that "Every child that is born has two hands to feed himself." Mao caused overpopulation in China. Hitler wanted space for Germany's population to grow. Is Phillips a professional ignoramus?
"But then the green movement is essentially totalitarian in outlook. It sees people as a nuisance which has to be controlled. Accordingly, green interference in our lives now stretches from turning the ordinary lightbulb into an endangered species, telling hospitals to stop serving meat on patients' menus, and sending round the garbage police if someone commits the crime of putting a tin can or plastic bottle into the receptacle designated for paper."
If we had not so massively increased our populations then perhaps people would not be so worried about consumption nor go round policing garbage.
This 'green movement' Phillips talks about must be some creation of the mainstream press. I'm an environmental sociologist and I find that the problem is that governments and big business force countries of the first world to have bigger populations, by breaking down their land-use planning laws, and their local democracies. Such alliances also mislead naive men and women into having children in the absence of security, by giving out small sums of money and fostering cornucopianism. Thus the demand is maintained for the endless suburbs that cover the nature that protects us from our own pollution. And denying other creatures even the right to exist, let alone have big families.
"Now," she writes, "by pointing out what he says is the population 'ghost at the table', Porritt has blown environmentalism's cover. For he is not some maverick sounding off. These views are mainstream within the green movement, and they are growing.
Actually, Melanie, the population of Britain and the English speaking countries is growing, and candobetter.org has blown its cover. Melanie Phillips sounds like a propagandist for growth and she is working for the corporate press, so she probably is. Have a look at http://candobetter.org/PropagandaWatch Melanie; it's a mirror.