Geopolitics

In Praise Of Nationalism: The Only Defense Against U.S. Imperialism

A Brazilian viewpoint in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations on widespread NSA surveillance.

Is there such a thing as "friends" among nation-states?
Is there such a thing as "friends" among nation-states?
Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira*

SAO PAULO — When faced with the revelation that she had been spied on by the United States' intelligence services, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that "Spying between friends, that's just not done." Indeed, there are certain unwritten customs between friends that should always be respected, otherwise you lose that friend.

But are there such things as friends among nation-states? Or does every country consider the others as adversaries?

When I declare myself an economic nationalist, people are often surprised. Isn't nationalism an outdated ideology, they wonder? Do we not live in a global society in which nation-states are now irrelevant? These are questions that find their origins in the neoliberal and globalist ideology that dominated the world between 1979 and 2008, an ideology of a world without borders.

In reality, it was nothing more than a strategy for domination. In its quality as the imperial power of our time — or as our "hegemon," as its defenders prefer to call it — the United States propagated the theory of a democratic and friendly Western world that was facing some necessary "enemies." It used to be the Soviet Union (with some reason), now it is Russia and China.

The NSA spying is evidence of how absurd this theory is. It reveals yet again the nationalism of the American government. The United States focuses only on its own interests, that of its "national security" which justifies everything it does, and the interests of its big companies, on which its wealth rests.

Playing the game

When Edward Snowden (a "traitor," according to U.S. officials) revealed the widespread practices of American spying, the other countries — mostly Europeans, the supposed "close friends" — expressed their indignation. But they didn't actually do anything, unlike Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who cancelled her planned visit to the U.S. The Europeans didn't do anything, because they know this is how the game is played.

The rule of this game is that of the national interest, of a "realism" that justifies even widespread mass surveillance.

When the competition among nation-states takes place between equals, such an expression of realism is sufficient. But when it takes place between a strong nation and a weaker one, we need to talk instead of imperialism on the part of the dominating country, and the only way to counter it is nationalism — for the nation to unite in the face of pressure from the imperial power, and to not submit to the will of the powerful.

There is just one global imperial superpower today: the United States. The others are only regional powers. France is imperial with regards to North Africa and to the Middle East. Brazil and Argentina are imperial with regards to Paraguay and Bolivia.

The imperialism of some and the necessary nationalism of all doesn't mean countries shouldn't work together and build strong international institutions. The rule is not only to compete: It is to compete and to work hand-in-hand. But the necessary solidarity among human beings cannot be confused with dependence or submission.


*Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira is professor emeritus for the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, where he teaches economic, political and social theory.

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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