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Issue #1509      13 July 2011

Culture & Life

Voting with their feet

The spokespeople for capitalism who run Lithuania these days have certainly mastered the bourgeois art of double-speak (saying one thing while meaning something completely different). It’s also called lying.

They liken Soviet power to the Nazi occupation and persecute Communists for defending the Soviet record. Ironically, while the Lithuanian authorities equate socialism with fascism and use that as the basis for their persecution of Communists, they exalt those Lithuanian traitors who collaborated with the Nazis, rename streets in their honour and demolish monuments to the Red Army that defeated the Nazis and liberated the country from Nazi occupation.

The Marxist-Leninist political forces in Lithuania are forbidden by law from calling themselves “Communist”. They had to be content with calling themselves the Socialist Party of Lithuania (formed in 1994).

In 2009 that party combined with the Front Party (formed the previous year) to create the Socialist People’s Front (SPF). Algirdas Paleckis, the leader of the SPF, describes his country today as “a formal ‘democracy’ with developing features of a fascist police state”.

The economic policies of all the post-Soviet governments in Lithuania have been aimed at improving the lot of business at the expense of the people. As Paleckis says, “they have demolished or commercialised the education and health care systems, diminished the people’s spiritual life and widened the gap between people and state institutions.”

Most telling of all, however, is this comment by him: “The real tragedy is that nearly 500,000 of our country’s inhabitants, mainly young people, have left the Motherland to go abroad looking for work, cheaper and higher quality education, and a better life and secure tomorrow.”

That’s a lot of people from a small country, voting with their feet out of sheer necessity.

And a potent comment on the illusory “freedom” that Gorbachev and Shevardnadze thought was so superior to socialism.

Did you see the reports in early May emanating from oil giant BP about the resumption of their activities in the Gulf of Mexico? To the dismay of many people living around shores of the Gulf, BP’s finance director Byron Grote said, “We expect to be back actively drilling during the second half of the year.”

The company became persona non grata along the Gulf coast last year when an explosion and fire at its Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil rig sent tens of thousands of litres of crude oil gushing up into the pristine waters of the Gulf. The immediate effect was to destroy the Gulf’s shrimp fishing industry, wipe out tourism, and cause incalculable environmental damage.

Researchers still have no idea what the long-term effects of the widespread use of massive quantities of chemical dispersants will have on the region. The dispersants break up the oil slicks into lots of tiny fragments that sink to the bottom and become part of the food chain!

Shrimps and small fish, when pounded up and “processed” into seafood sticks have long been disparaged as “resembling by-products of the oil industry”. Apparently, in future they will be.

Meanwhile, huge balls of tar are still being washed up on beaches in the Gulf. The local fishing industry has not recovered and in fact may never recover fully. To Grote, last year’s disaster involving the Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil rig was just an unwelcome blip on his annual financial report, even if the company is facing billions in financial penalties.

The environmental damage is almost beyond comprehension, and BP’s name really stank in the US for a while. Even President Obama had harsh things to say about them. But there are big profits at stake here so BP has put its best PR people (and the promise of huge amounts of money in compensation) on to the task of reshaping public opinion.

Grote’s announcement would seem to indicate that BP at least thinks they have won that struggle, and that shortly BP will be back to business as usual.

Before the US openly sent troops into Indo China, it first sent in “military advisers”. They were US troops but they were not there officially.

Today, Britain, France and Italy have “military advisers” in Libya, helping the “rebels” in their efforts to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and install a pro-Western government.

Given Libya’s strategic importance (and the value of its oil and gas reserves), the US is in no rush to let the EU install the new government. One aligned with the USA would obviously be preferred in Washington.

However, while the White House maintains that no US ground troops are involved in the fighting in Libya, The New York Times reported last March that groups of CIA agents had been “working in Libya for weeks” as part of the effort to fight the Libyan army.

Conservatives, like the bully boys of the Fishing Party (whose only interest would seem to be their own pleasure) regard all measures to safeguard nature or the environment as interfering with their right to do as they please (and hang the consequences).

Their assault on marine parks and on any restricting of fishing is typical of their “I’m all right Jack” attitude.

In Britain, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has put no less than 278 laws – all of which were designed to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions – up for abolition on the grounds that they are “red tape” and a burden on business.

They include the Clean Air Act and the National Park Act. Greenpeace commented: “When did clean air and green jobs become a burden?”  

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