The Guardian talking sense on Skripal?

Finally – a link to a Guardian story – that I can wholeheartedly recommend. (Almost wholeheartedly – there is an anti-Putin aside based on a social media story about Putin confusing a video of US fighting the Taliban with Russian forces fighting ISIS – the writer probably doesn’t understand how documentaries are filmed and that using footage that can be talked about but which may not be the actual footage referred to would be a normal part of making a documentary film – there is no doubt that Russian forces have engaged with ISIS so the comment is off the point).

With that small caveat aside Alexey Kovalev makes the key point. It seems now that either the Kremlin authorised the Skripal attack – or it was an attack by some branch of Russian intelligence and this organ is not on the same page at all as the Kremlin in terms of political and diplomatic strategy for Russia. Neither is a good situation – the latter probably much worse than the former for the West.

Alexey Kovalev is a Russian journalist. He works in Russia. (Once again  confirming that it is quite possible to be a critical journalist and work in Russia).

Update

The UK government has said:

We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today – just as we have seen throughout – they have responded with obfuscation and lies. [1]

This is a crude lie. British propaganda. The British government has “asked” nothing. From the very start they pointed a loaded gun at the Russian government and said “confess or… confess”. This point-blank approach would have removed any room for manoeuvre that the Kremlin had at all. One effect of this pressure could (we are still in the realms of speculation) have been to make the Kremlin feel that they should back up whoever did this since they had nothing left to lose. Though this theory can never be tested.

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/uk/438362-skripal-salisbury-foreign-office/

 

 

 

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Guardian propaganda watch – fake news on Russia

The Guardian seems to be obsessed with criticising Russia. This is strange in itself. The Guardian is a UK newspaper. Its readership have no democratic say over what happens in Russia. They do (in theory) have a democratic say over what happens in the UK. There is plenty wrong in this country that one would have thought that a liberal democratic newspaper would want to concentrate on. But for some reason the Guardian wants to cover a lot of screen space criticising Russia instead.

There probably is plenty to criticise in Russia – if you want to. This is why it is all the more surprising that the Guardian ‘journalists’ who write on Russia have to consistently make up stories. Why do this? That they do this (and this website has demonstrated that they do this  time and time again) gives away what is going on. They aren’t even criticising Russia from some kind of real, genuine, indignation. They just want a straw-dog to shoot down.

This is typical example; a story about the head of Russia’s National Guard who has released a video in response to claims by the nationalist “anti-corruption” blogger Alexei Navalny of corruption in tendering by the National Guard. In the video the head of Russia’s National Guard, Victor Zolotov, refers to the age-old tradition of fighting a duel with someone who insults you, and, in this context, offers to fight Navalny on the mat or in a boxing ring.

The article is standard Guardian fare. It stops short of outright lies (mostly they avoid outright lies) but is spun in such a way to support the fixed narrative on Russia. Zolotov is described as a “close ally of Putin”. He obviously is a connection but the point of mentioning this, which isn’t really relevant to the story, is to tarnish Putin. The report by one of the Guardian’s propagandists in Moscow (that these people can live there and write this propaganda quite freely undermines half the narrative on the ‘harsh media climate’ of course) omits the context in which Zolotov made his comments – the tradition of the duel. Without this context it does appear as a “bizarre rant”. Since “bizarre rant” is the preferred story they omit the details which give the video a more coherent meaning.  The “investigation” by Navalany, referred to by the Guardian, appears, in his own words, to depend solely on looking at the website of the National Guard (where tenders are openly published, as government tenders are in the UK).  [1] Finally, the Guardian mentions that protesters have been detained in recent political demonstrations against recent pension reforms. (Not really relevant to their non-story about Zolotov but it is all part of the anti-Russia narrative so it finds a home here). This is true; people have been detained. But, as is standard in how the Guardian reports on protests in Russia, they omit the fact that people have been arrested on a proper legal basis. In Russia there is a law, (passed by an elected government), that it is an offence to hold a rally if the authorities have not given permission for it to go ahead. This may be a somewhat more authoritarian law than we are used to in the UK, (though police here also take a robust attitude to policing demonstrations where the organisers have not cleared it with the police), but that is the law in Russia. The protesters have been arrested for breaking Russian law. All this will be known to Andrew Roth in Moscow, but he chooses, for whatever reason, to omit it and instead promote a false narrative on Russia. As for the police “using batons on people who are in their teens and early twenties”. Gosh, Andrew, have you never attended a political demonstration in the UK? Hey ho; the police here use batons as well – and against people in their “teens and early twenties”.

There is plenty to write about in the UK – massive social inequality, laundering of public money to private corporations on an absolutely massive scale, use of solitary confinement as a routine punishment on teenagers in schools etc. etc. Are we being distracted from all this with these endless fake tales of how bad things are in Russia?

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/politics/438154-national-guard-navalny-duel/

Crude propaganda on the BBC

I don’t normally watch the BBC at all. I watched the news at 10.00 tonight.

It was a barrage of extremely crude propaganda.

The Swedish Democratic party has made gains in the Swedish elections. The party was repeatedly described as  “far right”. No mention of the huge demographic changes in Sweden in recent years brought about by immigration. I.e a party which has, inevitably, arisen in response to real social changes is sidelined by the BBC as “far right”.

Then on Syria. The report was said to have been made on the Turkish side of the border so we can assume that the footage of White Helmets ‘rescuing’ someone was provided by them. I didn’t see any disclaimers. No mention of the fact that the White Helmets are funded by the UK Foreign Office. The narration referenced the emotive statements about “more babies than terrorists in Idlib” made by  Britain’s UN representative. A political regime change project of the British state (the ‘White Helmets’) provide the pictures and the British representative at the UN the words. If this isn’t state propaganda what is?

Then onto North Korea. The BBC reports that ICBMs were absent from a recent parade. In a confused piece of language the reporter tried to make this gesture into something sinister – North Korea is hiding their missiles – but we know they are there. Then there is a claim that the BBC was “not invited” to the parade. Did they ask to go? Based on this non-invitation the BBC then rounds off its story with interviews with two North Korean defectors.

All this is silly and absolutely transparent propaganda. Probably worse than anything North Korea puts out.

Yet people swallow it ..

Monetizing everything

One of the features of capitalism is how it monetizes everything.

Classic examples are how the fashion industry and music industries have monetised teenage rebellion. The Yoga and health industries have monetised a trend away from unhealthy eating (promoted by the original food industry). Every attempt to break away is captured, monetised, packaged up and fed back to the people.

Therapy monetises social solidarity. Facebook monetises peoples’ interest in being social online.

The capitalists behind all these industries will say that of course these services/products are monetised. This is the only way that they get developed and delivered. There needs to be some money in it, they will argue. But this line misses out two aspects of the phenomenon. Firstly; it simply isn’t true. For example; open source software shows that it is possible to develop sophisticated and high-end products on a non-commercial basis. Secondly; what the proponents of these industries miss is how their packaged and extensively marketed service drive out the socially produced alternatives. Therapy, for example, doesn’t just offer a paid alternative to social solidarity for those unlucky enough not to find it in their lives; therapy infiltrates society and sends out the message that it, commercial psychotherapy, is the only viable form of social support. Therapy, in reality, constantly denigrates non-commercial social support. (Therapists often quite explicitly tell their clients that advice and support from friends is inadequate). Facebook, it could be argued, drives out non-online interactions. It also exploits a natural monopoly position in online social media; having got everyone signed up it now uses that as a huge base to sell data (anonymised or otherwise) to advertisers as well as persuading its users to buy advertising themselves. The boundaries between ‘friends’ and paid friends become blurred. But because Facebook occupies the monopoly position it is hard for a non-commercial alternative to develop.

It is true that capitalising a service can help it to become bigger and have more market leverage. It is perhaps not true that only a capitalised business monetising everything it touches is the only way to deliver or provide social services. Socially provided, that is non commercial, services may be healthier for people.  People feel they own them; their sense of agency is enhanced and they can participate creatively, democratically even, rather than simply as a manipulated consumer of the service. However; the capitalised services will use their market leverage to try to suppress social initiatives.

An example of this process happened in the development of education in 19th century Britain. Before education was made compulsory in 1871 a wide variety of schools existed. These schools included schools in working class districts where parents would pay small sums for their children to be taught  the basics. Literacy rates were growing. With the advent of mass compulsory schooling, paid for by compulsory taxes, the local initiatives were elbowed out of the market. Government action helped – for example by a campaign against outside toilets which forced many smaller dame schools to close down.

Social collaboration can provide non-monetised services. These services are more human than ones driven by the need to make ever increasing profits. However; it is true that they are not as ‘efficient’ as the commercialised services. By definition they lack the capital for full-on marketing drives. Governments, in the services of corporates, may legislate against them. The odds appear to be stacked against socially provided services and in favour of top-down services ‘delivered’ by government and corporates. This is how they want it.

Short of a socialist revolution – which has its own problems – it may be that a long campaign of changing peoples’ attitudes is needed.

More babies than terrorists

The UK ambassador, Karen Pierce, said there were more babies than terrorists in Idlib, and named the Syrian forces preparing to attack the region, promising that they would be held accountable if indiscriminate attacks on civilians went ahead.

This is from the Guardian report on the possible assault on Al-Qaeda positions in Syria’s Idlib province by Syrian government forces supported by Iran and Russia.

This if of course an example of the current wave of babyish (even bestial at times) emotionalism which is sweeping (and swamping) all areas of UK life. To talk about “babies” in this context is an attempt to make some kind of emotional point. To “go for the emotions” – the modern tactic used by therapists, marketeers and now, it seems, UN representatives.

It is almost too obvious to point out but there were babies in Basra, and in Baghdad when the US/UK launched operation “shock and awe”. And there were babies in Libya in 2011 when NATO stretched a UN resolution to the point of absurdity to wipe out the stable government of that country. And there were babies in Raqqa in Syria when the US bombed it to free it from ISIS (see: Guardian report by Amnesty International researchers about the civilian death toll there). But the UK’s UN representative won’t be mentioning those babies.

What can those who don’t buy the government narrative do but continually point out that it is entirely selective in its professed humanitarian concerns? How does Karen Pierce sleep at night?

The UK government’s strategy on Skripal

The actions of the British government (that is the “deep state” – the forces which don’t change with the merry-go round of elections) has from the start had a very clear strategy in relation to the Skripal case. To understand this strategy one has to understand the political and economic backdrop against which it takes place.

Since Putin came to power (as an elected President) Russia has been evolving a clear development strategy – on both the domestic and international fronts. Domestically – under Putin – the country has been pursuing a course of both social and economic development. For example; social services have been modernised, often in line with the highest of Western standards, corruption at the higher levels has been tackled, there are projects to develop economic infrastructure such as roads and rail, large nationalised industries have been partially privatised, foreign investment capital has been sought and welcomed. Much of this is absolutely in line with what Western capitalists want. True; there are some limits. For example, foreign investment in certain sensitive sectors is subject to special controls. And, while, some of the major state energy companies have been partially sold (Rosneft, Gazprom) the government has retained a controlling stake. The policy is clear and consistent: the country is being modernised (including in the sense of joining the international capitalist system) but it is being done in a way which is of benefit to Russia. It is not the unconditional surrender to international finance of the Yeltsin years. It is reasonable to call this state capitalism.

For Western finance capital all this is welcome but not enough. Western finance capital has a clear expectation of governments. They exist to make conditions for business better; they should act as the servants of finance capital. This is how governments in the West, for example the British government, understand their role. The Russian government does not see its role in the sense.

On the international front Russia again has a clear strategy. The policy is to take part in international institutions – the UN, the WTO, the OPCW and so on. They have even accepted the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights via their now (suspended) membership of the Council of Europe. (Though more recently and following what they would see as abuse of this process in e.g. the Yukos case, they have enacted legislation to allow them to reject European Court of Human RIghts judgements which go against their national interest). Russia aims to pursue its national interests within the framework of international law. They do not intend to follow the West in its abuse of international law. The Russian acceptance of the Western campaign against Libya in 2011 – when the West far exceeded its UN Security mandate and plunged Libya into total chaos – is probably the last time that Russia will go along with the West’s regime change operations. In Syria they quite correctly state that they and not the West are acting in accordance with International Law.

This, naturally, is a disappointment for the Western imperialists who would like to see Russia either join in with or at least submissively permit all their regime change operations all over the world. (Russia permitted the NATO bombing of Bosnia in the mid 1990s while Yeltsin was President).

This is the context in which the British government’s response to Skripal should be understood. Both pillars of Russia’s political strategy are being attacked. On the international front it is essential to undermine Russia’s claim to be adhering to international law. Russia must be painted as a pariah state. Then, once again, the Western narrative that all its regime change operations are somehow legitimate humanitarian interventions can be reinstated without challenge. This is why the focus is so much on the chemical weapons aspect of the Skripal case. This is why the British government has dragged in the OPCW. The clear aim is to undermine Russia’s standing on the international stage. The second benefit of the Skripal case for the British government and the West is that it has provided the opportunity to enact more economic sanctions against Russia. Economic sanctions against Russia are a specific attack on the economic development policy of Russia, which we have outlined above. The message is clear and the Russians are intended to read it  – you can only take part in international capitalism and benefit from trade, investment and technology transfer if you submit politically to our rules. (Of course no one says that this is the message because Western publics would immediately realise that it is a cruel and unreasonable policy – this is why it is presented to Western publics in terms of a ‘punishment’ for ‘wrongdoing’).

The West is challenged by the progressive but nationalist policy of the Russian government. The West is actively trying to undermine this policy – by way of ‘regime change’ in Russia or otherwise. It is doing this by continually painting Russia as an international pariah and by unprovoked economic warfare. The aggressor is the West. As always. The Skripal case is being exploited by the current British government to further this policy of the West and to try to secure a leading role for Britain in the West.

 

 

 

 

Skripal

This is Craig Murray’s take on the recent Skripal case revelations (the naming of two suspects said to be working for Russian military intelligence).

His observant point about the timeline is interesting – based on the times now given by the police of the victims’ and suspects’ movements this leaves only a small frame between 12.00 and 13.15 on the day of the assassination attempt for the poison to have been applied to the “doorknob”.

It seems implausible that the would-be assassins turned up at a random time hoping that the Skripals would be out so they could calmly apply the poison to the doorknob and then leave. In the material presented by the police there has been nothing relating to other operatives or surveillance of the Skripals which could have helped the assassins know that the Skripals were out. We can posit then a meeting – the 2 would-be assasins met the Skripals on their doorstep. During this meeting they applied the poison to the door-knob. The meeting could have been by arrangement or not. (If not though surely the Skripals would have panicked having these 2 dodgy looking characters turn up on their doorstep unannounced – and called their MI6 handlers rather than popping into town for a quick coffee?). This modus operandi is similar to the assassination of Litvinenko – a meeting is set up and during the meeting the poison is administered.

We then have to assume that because of the method of administration – via a surface rather than direct application to the skin – the Skripals only came into contact with a tiny amount of the substance – which is why they were not killed.

If we follow this line of conjecture all we can suggest is that the Skripals were meeting someone / some people who they expected to look Russian and these people were their would-be assassins.

Do the revelations about these two suspects – who are said to have flown in from Russia – tell us who did it? Essentially no; all the three main theories (Kremlin ordered assassination; rogue elements in Russian intelligence and/or the mafia; a third-party state) remain in the running. The only theory which takes a slight dent from these revelations is the theory that the attack was staged by Ukrainian intelligence – as it would be quite challenging for Ukrainian intelligence to have sent two agents from Russia (and back again) with plausible fake Russian passports. If it was an unauthorised attack by Russian military intelligence that tells us that Putin is not in control (though of course we are continually told by the Western propaganda machine that Putin is fully in control). If it was a mafia hit then we might expect Russia to track down the perpetrators – why not? Of course the British position of trying to embarrass Russia by a series of media leaks rather than talking to them does not make it easy at all for Russia to say that it was done by the Russian mafia/unauthorised elements in their intelligence networks. – The British position – managed by MI6 and No. 10 – is aimed at extracting maximum political capital from this and trying to use it to discredit Putin personally. The British position – either confess you did it or confess to an unauthorised chemical weapons programme – has specifically closed off the door for Russia to admit that it was an attack by rogue agents – even if it was. Russia is only offered a single choice here – and all doors lead to the toppling of “Putin” – the main goal of the Western financial (“freedom”) elites at the moment.

In summary – we still can’t say who did it based on the actual evidence in the public domain. We can observe that the event is being used by No. 10 to try to attack and discredit Putin personally. To do this they are stage managing the media narrative in the British press. (This stage management of the ‘democratic’ media is a bit of an insult to the British public – but we know that these people have no conception of democracy so that is no surprise).