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Peace & Socialism

Kayhan interview: Trump - 'the wise fool'

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1/ There is much talk of a third world war in the press these days. Francois Fillon, former French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, said there is a “global war” and that “French society as a whole must mobilize against Islamic totalitarianism”. Are these empty words?

1/ The threat of all-out nuclear war no longer hangs over us, but at present there are more than 30 wars/ conflicts in the world. Between 1950, when the Korean War started, and 2007, when the death toll in the Iraq war finally started to drop, there were 148,000 deaths per year from war. From 2008 to 2012 that figure dropped dramatically, to 28,000 per year. It could even be lower today.

Yet international tensions are at a high, and terrorist attacks continue. Many argue that WWIII has already started, perhaps on two fronts, with the Arab Spring in 2011 giving new life to Islamists, and with protagonists Russia and China lining up against the West.

European leaders wring their hands over Syrian refugees and Daesh suicide bombings, blaming this on Islamists. Fillon (Islamophobe Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister) is now blaming Muslims for "global war", but this scenario merely deflects attention from the underlying causes of war.

War and Peace Part II: Azerbaijan and Palestine

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Part I considered the remarkable similarities between Armenians and Jews. They both were socialist, then capitalist, adapting as the need arose. Both suffered genocides and achieved independence as fallouts from the upheavals of the 20th century.

Teflon imperialists

Which brings us to their remarkable ‘achievement’: to (almost) single-handedly occupy their neighbour’s territory, against all odds--and hold on to it--against international opinion, Armenia for close to 25 yrs, Israel close to 70 years. Armenia taking 20% of Azerbaijan, Israel 100% of Palestine. They both insist history bequeathed them those lands, and their tragic ‘holocausts’ justify their violation of international law to ensure their safety.

Both countries have lived this occupier lifestyle on a war footing ever since, and yet prosper even as their nemeses wallow in poverty and suffering.

The world mostly admires these plucky aggressors and has little time for either the Azerbaijanis or the Palestinians. It seems there is little solidarity in the Muslim world, or at least little effective solidarity.


War & Peace Part I: Armenia & Israel

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The world hovers on the edge of war, not only in Israel-Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, but in Eurasia’s ground zero, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are always on the cusp of a new outbreak of their unresolvable conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in the centre of the post-Soviet ‘republic’ of Azerbaijan.

Oil-rich Azerbaijan is lavishing its petro-dollars on beefing up its armed forces, assisted by--guess who?--Russia and Israel. It seems only a matter of time till a full scale explosion happens. It almost did in April, 2016,  when Armenian forces in Karabakh shelled civilian settlements and attacked Azerbaijani forces in retaliation for an Azerbaijani helicopter firing on Armenian military positions. 18 Armenian and 12 Azerbaijani troops were killed. Given Azerbaijan’s growing military teeth, it is unlikely the Armenians started this.

This is yet another intractable dilemma resulting from the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. Soviet borders were not carved out in the 1920s with western-style sovereignty in mind, and now many make no sense at all within the western legal framework.


Basic Income - International experience (Brazil, Namibia, Canada, India)

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Read the first part: Basic Income: Helicopter money

Founded in 1986, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) is the international NGO that promotes BIG around the world. It held its last conference "Re-democratizing the Economy" at McGill's Faculty of Law in 2014. A North American congress is being held in Winnipeg in May 2016 and its 16th congress in July in Seoul, South Korea. Its credo is that some sort of economic right based upon citizenship rather than upon one's relationship to the production process or one's family status is called for as part of the just solution to social problems in advanced societies.

We are half way there with welfare, various subsidies, unemployment insurance, pensions, but as more people join the "precariat", subsisting on part time work or permanently unemployed, the current ad hoc support network for this 'economic right' requires a people-centred radical reform. This is the logical conclusion of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976) which recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living.


Basic Income: Helicopter money

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About 10% of Canadians live in poverty. That figure is even higher in major cities, such as Toronto where the number of children living below the line is nearly 25%. In India, 22% of the people live in poverty. A "guaranteed annual income" (GAI) could wipe out this poverty at a stroke.

GAI (also BIG -- basic income guarantee) has been quietly mooted by both left and right since the 1960s. Economist Milton Friedman called it (approvingly) "helicopter money". What could be easier to administer, to end the most obvious source of social injustice, and which is welcomed even by most Canadians?

Leading politicians around the world have endorsed the idea. In India, several projects and modest universal Cash Transfers (CTs) have been implemented. All Green Parties from Europe to North America, the Scottish National Party, the French Socialists, all endorse it. Switzerland will hold a referendum in June. Finland will launch a trial in 2017, and is committed to implementation, as are several Dutch cities. Brazil implemented a Citizens Basic Income for all of its citizens in 2004, with positive results in terms of health and economic stimulation (and ensuring the reelection of President Lula da Silva).

Rising star of the European left, economist Yanis Varoufakis, founder of Democracy in Europe Movement 2025: In the 50s and 60s the dream of shared prosperity was that which gave hope. The basic income approach is capable of doing this as long as you can explain to them where the money will come from, that it will not be simply debt, that we are going to generate a lot more income and a chunk of it is going to fund this.


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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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