(36 year cycle)
The present Saturn/Neptune cycle started very recently in March 1989 and reached its outgoing square (+90 degrees) in June 1998. The Opposition occurred in August 2006 and the incoming square ( +270 degrees) will occur in November 2015. (The next cycle will commence in 2026).
What might the cycle mean ?
We have given the generic meaning of this cycle as ‘The Implementation or restriction of collective ideals’ – in other words ‘converting ideals into practice’ or ‘preventing ideals from becoming reality’. Whereas the Neptune/Pluto cycle signifies how collective idealism in the form of religion, philosophy and long term societal goals becomes completely transformed and whereas the Uranus/Neptune cycle signifies how innovative intellectual, technological or aesthetic ideas get taken up as ideals, the Saturn/Neptune cycle deals with how ideals which have been created, written about, voiced, discussed or debated start getting actually adopted or put into practice – or are prevented from that happening.
In the Saturn/Uranus cycle we looked at how a new mindset sweeps away the Status Quo, in this cycle we look at how ideals become the Status Quo. Here we shall be looking at the conjunction for clear indications that new societal ideals make their first start to becoming accepted as the norm. Throughout history this conjunction would not so much coincide therefore with the beginning of restructuring, overthrow and later dissolution of the established order but with the early manifestation, the struggle to get adopted and the widespread acceptance of new ideals or ideologies.
PRECISE SYNCHRONICITY WITH RISE AND FALL OF COMMUNISM
In this chapter we shall demonstrate the precise synchronicity between the Saturn/Neptune cycle and the birth, growth difficulties, peak of influence, terminal crisis and death of Communism as a global ideology. At the 1846 Saturn/Neptune conjunction the Communist Manifesto was published. At the 1989 Saturn/Neptune conjunction the Berlin Wall and the USSR crumbled. Sceptics may be justified in seeing this as a coincidence. But as we shall see when the 1882 and 1917 conjunctions, which came in between. fit the pattern, the cycle begins to gain considerable credibility. Historians need to check out this extraordinary 143 year long match between communism and this cycle. See separate webpage titled ‘Communism’.
THE START OF A NEW CYCLE
CONJUNCTION Feb 1988 to Dec 1990 (exact in March, June & Nov 1989)
The 1989 Saturn/Neptune Conjunction, allowing for a 10 degree orb, extends from February 1988 to December 1990. It coincides with two major implementations or activations of collective ideals on a world scale.
COLLAPSE OF SOVIET UNION
Firstly, the eruption of democracy that leads to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. It will of course be immediately evident that another cycle conjunction – that of Saturn/Uranus in 1988 – also coincides with the collapse of the Soviet Union and is covered on that cycle’s webpage. If you are interested in the precise month by month detail of the collapse you need to look at the Jupiter/Saturn cycle and the Jupiter/Neptune cycle as the collapse also coincided with both their opposition stages.
A DUAL OPPOSED CONJUNCTION – A THRESHOLD OF TRULY LONGTERM SIGNIFICANCE
It has been stressed in the Introduction that when two outer planetary conjunctions coincide the double combination of whatever is being finished and whatever is starting is so powerful that it seems to synchronise with developments of major world significance. When a double outer planet conjunction coincides with all three outer planets – Saturn, Uranus and Neptune being opposed by Jupiter something of truly longterm historical importance seems highly likely to happen.
But we need to separate out the effect of the two cycles. The Saturn/Uranus cycle shows how a totally new mindset (ideas rather than ideals) sweeps away the established order – in particular socioeconomic structures and institutions. The Saturn/Neptune cycle is concerned with the rise and fall of ideals and ideologies like democracy or socialism. Although in the case of the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989 the failure of communism as an ideology and the overthrow of the economic and social system of the Soviet Union seem like one and the same thing, at other points in history the chronologies of institutions and ideologies can be quite separate – the history of Christianity is one obvious example.
SOUTH AFRICA – ABOLITION OF APARTHEID
The second major implementation of collective ideals on a world scale is the abolition of apartheid. 1988 sees simultaneous elections to black and white councils in South Africa for the first time, 1989 sees the South African Law Commission call for the abolition of apartheid and in February 1990 after 30 years the central legislation of apartheid – the Separate Amenities Act – is abolished. And Yes, this development, like the fall of Soviet Communism, does equally correlate with the Saturn/Uranus conjunction – apartheid as an ideology and the South African political system both fell – though the apartheid key events lie closer to the exact 1989 Saturn/Neptune conjunction than the exact 1988 Saturn/Uranus conjunction.
IDEALISTIC PRESSURES BUILDING FOR DECADES NOW RELEASED
Both the forces of social democracy in Eastern Europe and the pressures against apartheid in South Africa are rooted in a long struggle for human rights. The pressure of new ideals had been building for decades in both regions but it was here in 1989 that they both started to get implemented.
However this is not to suggest that at a Saturn/Neptune conjunction all emergent collective ideals will begin to get implemented. Other ideals will simply become activated – they will manifest in speeches, articles, books, demonstrations and will attract new and minority support, but their implementation will come later in the cycle or indeed in a subsequent Saturn/Neptune cycle. Nor, as we all know only too well, does it follow that the implementation of ideals will be necessarily true to what the ideals stand for. All ideals go through a cycle of acceptance and implementation as they encounter the dead hand of the established order or the cold touch of reality. Several examples at the time of the 1989 cycle conjunction will bear this out.
A MOVE TO OPENNESS & TOLERANCE ?
The first example comes in China with the upsurge of democratic protest leading to the Tiananmen square massacre. Just after the Saturn/Neptune conjunction comes into orb in February 1988, the 7th National People’s Congress is held – the conference is marked by a new openness and tolerance of debate and dissent. Meetings and panel discussions are broadcast the same day and Chinese and foreign journalists are permitted to attend the panel discussions. Dissenting statements are widely publicized in the Chinese press. A spirit of reform rules. The State Council gets restructured and streamlined and many ministries are converted into business enterprises. But as before in China’s modern history moves to openness and tolerance are not always what they seem
FALUN GONG SECT
At this very time the Falun Dada, a meditation & exercise sect of Buddhist origin, changes to become the more popularly accessible Falun Gong. This insignificant event is destined to later cause a major upheaval in Chinese society. By 2000 it will have grown to attract as many as 20 million new followers and have been ordered by the government to be suppressed as an “evil cult.” It will be interesting to see what happens to this cult at the cycle Out square.
TIBET – WORST VIOLENCE IN 30 YEARS
At the same time on the edge of Chinese territory in March 1988 riots take place in Lhasa, the capital of Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibet). Calls for “independence for Tibet” and expressions of support for the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, are made. Although Chinese authorities condemn the riots, their initial response is moderate. However when the rioting spreads to neighbouring Qinghai Province, where there is a sizeable Tibetan minority, the authorities resort to tougher measures – such as military force and numerous arrests – in what will develop in 1989 into the worst violence in Tibet in 30 years.
TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE
Then on April 18 thousands of Chinese students demanding democracy try to storm Communist Party headquarters in Beijing. A few days later tens of thousands of people crowd into the capital’s Tiananmen Square supporting the students who are waving barriers demanding greater political freedom. On April 27 150,000 students and workers calling for democracy march, cheer and sing as they take over the square. On May 13 some 2,000 students begin a hunger strike. On May 17 more than a million people swarm into central Beijing to express support for the fasting students. On May 20 China declares martial law in Beijing. By May 23, as some military leaders vow to refrain from any move to suppress the student protest, hundreds of thousands across China march demanding the resignation of premier Li Peng. Then on June 3, only weeks before the 2nd exact Saturn/Neptune conjunction, Chinese troops storm Beijing and crush the pro democracy movement – firing into the crowd in Tiananmen Square they kill hundreds of people. In a never to be forgotten image a lone man stands defiantly in front of a line of tanks until friends pull him out of the way. A week later large scale arrests take place and eight people are sentenced to death.
EXACT CORRELATION OF THE START AND END OF THE CRISIS
On January 10 1990 Chinese Premier Li Peng lifts Beijing’s 7-month-old martial law – stating that by crushing pro-democracy protests the army had saved China from “the abyss of misery.” In May 1990 the government releases 211 of the arrested protestors. Please note the exact correlation of the crisis with this cycle – after this date there are virtually no reports of further unrest in China and by December 1990 the cycle conjunction has gone out of orb
The nascent democracy and human rights movement in China is an example of collective ideals getting activated but not implemented – the student demonstrations are ruthlessly crushed. If the movement is to correlate with this cycle we should expect something significant to happen to it at the outgoing square in 1999 and for that to maximise at the time of the opposition in 2009/2011. Given the nature of the events at the Conjunction these developments are likely to be restrictive. Indeed it appears likely to take the following Saturn/Neptune cycle starting in 2026 for democracy to make any significant advance in this huge and economically dominant country.
NEW DRIVE FOR PALESTINIAN STATE AS HAMAS FOUNDED
The cycle conjunction closely matches the beginning of a new drive to achieve the ideal of an independent Palestinian state. This happens on different levels. First, on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza protestors clash fiercely with Israeli forces. Second, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) declares a Palestinian state – in time abandoning the call for the destruction of Israel and apparently renouncing terrorism. Yet, third, at the very same time the Hamas Islamic Brotherhood is founded which at this time clearly advocates the destruction of Israel. We would expect this mix of activation of ideals at the conjunction to be seriously challenged but advance at the time of the out square in 1999 and to maximise at the time of the opposition in 2009/2010.
The First Intifada, the original Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories, begins in the Jabalya refugee camp on 8 December 1987, a few weeks before the Saturn/Neptune conjunction comes into orb. It quickly spreads throughout Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The action primarily takes the form of nonviolent civil disobedience though there are also general strikes, boycotts of Israeli products and refusals to pay taxes. However it is the Palestinian demonstrations that include stone-throwing by youths against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that come to define the Intifada in the media.
VIOLENCE BETWEEN PALESTINIANS
Violence between Palestinians is a prominent feature of the Intifada, with widespread executions of alleged Israeli collaborators. While Israeli forces kill some 1,100 Palestinians and Palestinians kill 164 Israelis, Palestinians kill an estimated 1,000 other Palestinians as alleged collaborators. Will inter-Palestinian violence surge at later stages of this cycle
In August 1988 Hamas publishes a manifesto calling for a holy war to create an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel. It challenges the PLO’s claim as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. The Hamas charter declares that all Palestine is Islamic trust land, can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and is an integral part of the Muslim world. Will Hamas play a key role at the cycle out square around 1998 and the cycle opposition around 2006 ? On 12 November 1988, the day before the cycle conjunction comes exact again the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the PLO meets and proclaims an independent Palestinian state – which is immediately recognised by Egypt and China.
PLO NO LONGER CALLING FOR DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL
In December 1988 after Yasser Arafat says he is renouncing all forms of terrorism, US President Reagan authorises the US to enter into “substantive dialogue” with the PLO. On 3 May 1989 Yasser Arafat announces that the PLO charter calling for the destruction of Israel has been “superseded” by a declaration urging peaceful coexistence of the Jewish state and a Palestinian state. In September 1989 Israel, following dozens of attacks on Israelis, outlaws Hamas as a terrorist organization. Before the cycle conjunction goes out of orb in December 1990 violence between Israel and Palestinians surges especially on October 8 when Israeli police open fire on rioting Palestinians on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, killing 17 – swiftly followed by a Palestinian retaliatory attack.
OUTGOING SQUARE April 1998 to July 1999 (exact in June & Nov 1998 and April 1999 )
Can we find in the relevant events and developments of the second half of 1998 and early 1999 serious challenges but significant advances to the developments we have cited above? Allowing an orb of approximately 10 degrees the period will extend from April 1998 to June 1999 and from end Nov 1999 to April 2000.
Firstly did the eruption of democratic ideals in 1988 that activated the collapse of Communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War encounter in 1998-99 a serious challenge which it subsequently shows signs of overcoming? Yes, the serious challenge to a democratic post communist Europe comes from an explosion of organised crime in Russia alongside brutal violence between Russia and Chechnya. The challenge does not simply focus on domestic Russian crime nor simply on Chechen separatism, but extends to a sweeping wave of Russian originated international crime together with the fact that Islamic fundamentalism becomes a key conflict factor in the Caucasus region generally.
SOVIET UNION – ORGANISED CRIME & CORRUPTION
RUSSIA THE BIGGEST MAFIA STATE IN THE WORLD
In 1994 the following public announcement was made “Russia is the biggest mafia state in the world, the super power of crime that is devouring the state from top to bottom.” Astonishingly it was made by the then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In 1996 the slaying of Oklahoma hotel executive Paul Tatum in a Moscow subway station extended the field of gangland shooting to international, especially American, business, which thereafter found it necessary to hire private security guards to protect its executives from extortion threats and roving assassins. Shootings rose close to a staggering 600 contract slayings a year !
50% OF RUSSIA’S ECONOMY CONNECTED TO ORGANISED CRIME
In 1997 Russian Academy analysts reported that during privatization 55 percent of the capital and 80 percent of the voting shares of Russian businesses had been transferred into the hands of domestic and foreign criminals. In short 50% of the nation’s economy was in some way connected to organised crime – including 40% of Russia’s private businesses, 60% of state enterprises and 50% to 85% of banks. The hold of organised crime over the Russian nation can be gauged by the following statement in 1996 from the Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee : “It is truly impossible in many instances to differentiate between Russian organized crime and the Russian state”
ECONOMY’S DRAMATIC COLLAPSE – INFLATION REACHES 40%
As 1997 turned into 1998 on the grounds of potential or actual corruption President Yeltsin fires billionaire Boris Berezovsky from his position as deputy secretary of the Security Council along with privatization chief Maxim Boiko and Federal Bankruptcy Commission chief Pyotr Mostovoi. At the end of March 1998 as the Out square begins Yeltsin fires prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for similar reasons and along with him his entire cabinet. At the same time the Russian economy goes into dramatic collapse.
The first warning comes in May 1998 when Russia triples its interest rates to 150% to stave off a run on the rouble and to establish some economic stability. In June the Russian stock market suffers dramatic falls. In July the IMF announces a $17.1 billion rescue package for Russia. In August Russia devalues its currency allowing the rouble’s value to drop by over a third. In September as news of the worst harvest for 45 years comes through, inflation reaches 40%. Autumn sees credit deals with the IMF, the US and Japan but by June 1999, as it defaults on a $900 million interest payment, the IMF is obliged to approve a further $4.5 billion financial package.
BELIEF IN A FREE MARKET ECONOMY HIT BY DISILLUSION
The April 1998 to September 1999 period, while the outgoing square is in orb, is close to representing Russia’s financial and economic low point, but the Saturn/Neptune cycle is not about economic boom and bust but about a challenge to idealism – by now the Russian people’s belief that a free market economy would deliver what years of state communism had not, had become totally and completely discredited. Disillusion had truly set in. As the US Speaker’s Advisory Group on Russia is to report (in early 2000) “in Russia there is ‘a growing popular perception that democratic political and market economic systems are merely code words for rapacious criminality.”
While 1998 sees the Russian State Tax service admit that 60% of the entire cash turnover in the Russian economy takes place in transactions hidden from the government, the main fallout of organised crime is not tax evasion but money laundering. In August 1999 the New York Times reports that as much as $10 billion dollars has been laundered from Russia through the Bank of New York with the knowledge and approval of several bank employees.
CREDIBILITY OF WESTERN INSTITUTIONS COMPROMISED
It is clear that in the period April 1998 to September 1999 it is not just the Russian people’s belief in the market economy that is challenged but the credibility and democratic legal principles of Western financial institutions. Furthermore if the critical privatization process which had put so much economic power into criminal hands had been carried out with direct assistance and guidance from the US government, there were at least grave misgivings as to the advice if not the actions of those American officials who had been directly involved.
EX KGB VLADIMIR PUTIN APPOINTED PRESIDENT
But if the Saturn/Neptune outgoing square correlates with these severe challenges is there any sign that by the end of 1999 these challenges are recognised and that steps are being taken to overcome them ? Yes, we shall see this in the election and actions of President Vladimir Putin. For in August 1999 President Yeltsin, having survived impeachment proceedings, dismisses his entire Cabinet and appoints Vladimir Putin as its second post-Communist president.
Putin’s background as a KGB Lieutenant Colonel and head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB’s principal successor agency, along with his declared intention of getting tough on organised crime, enhances his popularity and the acceptance by most powerful interest groups in Russia that he really does mean business. By the time of the cycle opposition in 2006 – 2008 will faith in some version of a state run economy be restored ? But could the medicine prove as unpleasant as the illness ?
SOUTH AFRICA – TRUTH & RECONCILIATION
What happens to South Africa and apartheid as the cycle out square comes into orb ? In July 1998 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission closes down after two years of hearings. The following month former President Botha is convicted, fined and given a suspended jail sentence for having ignored a subpoena to testify about apartheid atrocities in front of the Commission. In October 1998 the Commission’s 3,500 page report, based on years of testimony from the people who ran the 1960-1994 white-government and their victims, condemns both apartheid and the violence committed by the African National Congress. This was a significant challenge for Nelson Mandela’s government but the report’s impact appears to work out in keeping with the declared aims of the new government.
However in January 1999 democracy comes under attack. The leader of the United Democratic Movement party is shot and killed in Richmond. Later gunmen in the same town kill 11 people who backed the African National Congress (ANC) while in Cape Town a bomb explodes at the main police station wounding 11 people. It is the 3rd bombing in five months. Although in May the ruling ANC signs a peace pact with its arch-rival Inkatha Freedom Party, by August economic problems result in a one-day strike with thousands of state workers choosing to stay home from work and some 10,000 communications workers demonstrating in Pretoria and other cities. An estimated 100,000 workers join protest marches across the country calling for wage increases. Despite these problems Nelson Mandela manages to retire as president and pass control to his deputy Thabo Mbeki without any violence.
Mid 1988 sees two fresh developments in the emergence of political opposition in China. First, political dissidents set up five new branches of a banned political opposition party and second, people begin to post anti-government remarks on computer networks – signs that in China democratic ideals are gaining allegiance. However as the Out square comes into orb, the democratic human rights movement‘s progress begins to get side-lined by the attention focused on Falun Gong, the meditation and exercise movement whose estimated adherents number around 20 million though some estimates are as high as 60 million. In April 1998 some 10,000 people protest in Beijing on behalf of the right to practice the discipline of Falun Dafa, In July, the government begins arresting members of the Falun Gong along with some 1,200 government officials accused of associating with it and announces a ban on the spiritual movement. In December 1998 four alleged ringleaders of the Falun Gong are convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences. The size and fate of the spiritual movement manages to distract attention away from the broader issues of democracy.
WYE RIVER MEMORANDUM
Diplomatic and political developments in Palestine as the square comes into orb in 1998 appear promising. The Wye River Plantation talks in October 1998 result in an agreement for Israel to redeploy troops and release political prisoners. On the Palestinian side there is a renewed commitment to correct its violations of the Oslo accords including excessive police force, illegal arms and incitement to opposition in public media and education. The Wye River Memorandum signed on October 23 1998 is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement the earlier Interim Agreement of September 1995. Note that the agreement is signed one week before the 2nd exact Out square date November 1st. Note also that the agreement is not an understanding but a commitment to implement – exactly what the Saturn/Neptune cycle is about.
In May 1999 while Yasser Arafat, the Palestine leader, wins EU backing for a state within a year and the support of President Clinton for self-determination, Israel elects Labor party leader Ehud Barak as Prime Minister in a landslide victory based on rapid progress toward peace.
WEST BANK LAND CEDED TO PALESTINIANS
However on 2 June 1999 Palestinian leaders say they will not resume peace talks unless settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza is frozen. Despite this by September after US intervention, Israeli PM Barak and Palestinian Leader Arafat sign a new deal that cedes West Bank land to the Palestinians and sets up a timetable for peace. Israel releases 199 Palestinians from prison and transfers 7% of the West Bank to Palestinian control. It almost looks as if a breakthrough is happening. However on the eve of the final Israeli-Palestine peace accord in Netanya, Israel, three pipe bombs explode and 33 people are wounded while in Ramallah, Israeli security forces fire tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at stone-throwing Palestinians demanding the release of further Palestinian prisoners. The promise rapidly fades.
OPPOSITION June 2006 to July 2008 (exact in Aug 2006 and Feb & June 2007)
The cycle opposition stays in orb from 25 June 2006 to 3 September 2007 and from 22 March 2008 to 25 June 2008. What developments in this period might we expect if the ideals activated in 1988 such as democracy in Eastern Europe and racial equality in South Africa, human rights in China and territorial rights in Palestine reach a point of maximum fruition but where inherent contradictions appear ?
SOVIET UNION – ORGANISED CRIME
During this period not just crime but violent crime in Russia and by Russians elsewhere surges though at this very time there are signs that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin is finally starting to get a grip on corruption. Let us look at the fight against corruption first.
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION, JUDICIAL REFORM ?
In mid May 2006 Russian authorities are reported to have fired a string of high-ranking security and law enforcement officials in a shake up described as part of a Kremlin push to fight graft and cement control of key government agencies. On August 1 2006 a Moscow judge declares the giant Yukos oil company bankrupt. Valued in 2004 at some $30 billion it had been almost certainly fraudulently privatised for just $110 million and like other oligarchic run groups had frequently been accused of links to criminal organisations. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership the federal judiciary has been reformed but there are still plenty of allegations that senior government officials are able to take the law into their own hands.
One of the most controversial allegations is the criminal prosecution of the richest Russian, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the president of Yukos, for fraud and tax evasion. Many analysts see this as retribution for Khodorkovsky’s funding of political opponents of the Kremlin, liberal and communist. But other argue that he had actually been engaged in corrupting sections of the Duma (Russian parliament) to block changes in the tax code aimed at taxing windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion methods. As far as the Russian public are concerned oligarchs like Khodorkovsky are seen as thieves who have unjustly enriched themselves and robbed the country of its natural wealth.
The Yukos affair has been described as a turning point in Russia’s commitment to the rule of law in business and perhaps as a return to state capitalism or a non communist version of it. Putin is largely credited with good economic management – Russia’s GDP increases six fold during his presidency – fiscal reforms and a high oil price ensuring high capital inflows. He is also credited with increasing national salaries and substantially reducing poverty.
BUREAUCRATIC OLIGARCHY WITH TRAITS OF DICTATORSHIP
If that is the positive side of the cycle opposition for Russia it is more than outweighed by the negative. The severest critics concentrate on the unacceptable face of strong armed government. In July 2007, Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal writes: “Russia has become, in the precise sense of the word, a fascist state. It does not matter here, as the Kremlin’s apologists are so fond of pointing out, that Mr. Putin is wildly popular in Russia. Popularity is what competent despots get when they destroy independent media, stoke nationalistic fervor with military build-ups….. In December 2007, the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman categorises Putin’s regime as “the power of bureaucratic oligarchy” which has “the traits of extreme right-wing dictatorship — the dominance of state-monopoly capital in the economy”. On the eve of Putin handing over the Presidential reins to Dmitry Medeyev the Financial Times editorialises: “Mr. Putin will remain Russia’s real ruler for some time to come”
VIOLENT OLIGARCHIC CRIME MAXIMISES
But it is the maximisation of oligarchic crime that can be most seen as matching the meaning of this cycle stage. Indeed it is the worst sort of crime, violent killings, that characterises this period as no other does. On September 13 2006 Andrei Kozlov, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, is shot in Moscow along with his driver, by unidentified assailants. Officials suggest the attack was prompted by his efforts to clean up the country’s banking system. On September 30 Enver Ziganshin, chief engineer for Rusia Petroleum, is found shot dead at his country home.
And on October 7 comes the killing that attracts the greatest international outrage. Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, is shot to death outside her apartment building in Moscow. She is known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya and is about to publish a story about torture and abductions in Chechnya. Many suspect the hand of the state in the killing. A year later a lieutenant colonel in the security service and eight others are charged with her murder. Three days later Alexander Plokhin, the head of a branch of a state-controlled bank, is fatally shot in Moscow. Six days after that the business chief of Russian state news agency Itar-Tass is found knifed to death at his flat in central Moscow. Two days after that Dmitry Fotyanov, a mayoral candidate in Dalnegorsk is gunned down as he leaves his campaign headquarters. These all have the appearance of contract killings. Then finally on November 1 comes a killing whose method is so lethal that it is thought only through the direct involvement of Russia’s security agency could such a thing have come about.
LITVINENKO RADIOACTIVE POISONING IN LONDON
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, meets a number of people including other ex KGB Russians at a bar in London’s Piccadilly. Falling gravely sick he is diagnosed with radioactive poisoning. Three weeks later he dies from the radioactive element polonium-210. It is alleged he may have been targeted for his outspoken criticism of former colleagues in Moscow. He had accused his country’s secret service agency of “staging’ apartment-house bombings in 1999 which killed more than 300 people and sparked the second war in Chechnya”. Before dying Litvinenko blames a “barbaric and ruthless” Russian President Vladimir Putin for being behind his fatal poisoning.
WAS HIS MURDER ORDERED BY RUSSIAN STATE ?
Certainly British counter terrorism investigators get a frosty reception from the Russian security services on their Moscow fact finding visit. A former Russian spy living in the US claims Litvinenko was murdered because of a report he had compiled with damaging personal details on a highly placed member of Putin’s administration. Although an alternative interpretation is later made that Litvinenko had been working for British secret intelligence service MI6, the likelihood that this murder was ordered by a Russian state agency or senior member of the government will not go away. This gets confirmation when the Russian prosecutor-general will not extradite to Britain the suspected killer Andrei Lugovoi, another former KGB member.
PUTIN’S REFORMS OFFSET BY ATTACKS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
During his presidency, Putin passes into law a series of fundamental reforms, including new economic and fiscal measures, new land and legal codes. But at the same time, his conduct in office has been questioned by domestic political opponents, foreign governments, and human rights organizations. He is accused of strong-armed leadership of the country; of instigating the Second Chechen War; of alleged violations of human rights and freedoms; of forcibly silencing his opponents; and of allegedly bullying former Soviet Republics. He has been especially criticized In the West and by Russian liberals for what many observers consider a widespread crackdown on media freedom.
VIOLENT CRIME – 18,000 MURDERS IN 2006 !
During this period a number of issues come to a head that question the ideals behind the launch of a post apartheid government in South Africa. Of course South Africa is having to cope with a growing AIDS crisis – the previous year it had been established that one in three deaths in South Africa was due to AIDS – in two provinces it was over 40% ! But the central issue is a major increase in the amount of violent crime – a staggering 18,000 people are murdered in 2006 – and an increase in the number and level of strikes. Finally both the prospective third President and the national police chief face the threat of corruption charges and in a newly multiracial society there is extensive violence against other African immigrants.
ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE WORLD
But it is the fact that South Africa has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for violent crime that matches the cycle stage most. In October 2006 Nobel peace prize winner, former Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu says South Africa faces a moral crisis in the shape of violent crime “People have turned freedom into licence and forgot that freedom has its obverse – responsibility and obligation”. “The country” the Archbishop adds “is sitting on a powder keg because the gap between rich and poor is widening”.
ZUMA FUTURE PRESIDENT ESCAPES CORRUPTION CHARGES
In September 2006 a judge dismisses corruption charges against Jacob Zuma after the prosecution says it is not ready to proceed against a powerful, populist politician who could be South Africa’s next president – the decision is reversed on appeal in November. In December 2007 delegates of the governing African National Congress cast their votes for party leader – Jacob Zuma defeats President Mbeki and moves into position to become president in 2009. However at the same time South Africa’s top prosecutor says he has enough evidence to bring corruption charges against Zuma. In October 2007 South African prosecutors obtain an arrest warrant for national police chief and Interpol president Jackie Selebi, on charges of corruption linked to a murder suspect. Ironically a few months earlier former apartheid law and order Minister Adriaan Vlok and his police chief Johannes Van der Merwe were both sentenced to 10 years in prison.
PUBLIC SERVICE STRIKES BRING CITIES TO STANDSTILL
In May 2007 tens of thousands of nurses, teachers and other public service workers take to the streets to press their demands for a 12 percent pay increase – by June it has been extended into an indefinite strike with police using stun grenades and water cannon on the more hardline hospital pickets in the city of Durham. On June 13 tens of thousands of public sector workers march on government offices across the country, escalating what will prove to be a three week strike and bringing the largest cities to a standstill.
NEUTRAL POLICY ON ZIMBABWE’S MUGABE CRITICISED
Perhaps of greatest world significance, many observers see an ultimate irony in South Africa’s stance on the major crisis in Zimbabwe. In March 2007 South Africa’s neutral policy on Zimbabwe comes in for criticism with Australia calling on premier Thabo Mbeki to pressurise President Robert Mugabe to quit. Many other countries are at least ambivalent about South Africa’s refusal to condemn Robert Mugabe’s harrowing and violent treatment of large sections of Zimbabwe’s population.
ANTI-FOREIGNER VIOLENCE IN A MULTIRACIAL SOCIETY
Lastly, also ironical in a new multiracial society, comes anti – foreigner violence. In January 2008 South African police raid a Johannesburg church late at night where hundreds of Zimbabweans have taken refuge, hauling people in pyjamas to a police station in scenes reminiscent of apartheid-era raids. South Africa’s main transport union thwarts the delivery of a controversial shipment of Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe, saying its workers will not offload the cargo.
In May 2008 in Johannesburg mobs kill at least six people and injure 50 in anti-foreigner violence. Zimbabweans, accused of taking scarce jobs and housing are the main targets along with Mozambicans – of whom 10,000 flee home to escape the violence. The South African army mobilizes to support embattled police trying to quell the wave of violence that has claimed 60 lives and displaced 16,000 people. On May 24 thousands of people march through Johannesburg, calling for an end to the xenophobic violence.
MEDIA CRACKDOWN AND WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION
In China in mid 2006 there are several cases of media crackdown – arrest and prison await many who post articles on foreign websites. Indeed on 27 June a law imposing fines on media that report emergencies such as riots and natural disasters without official approval is announced. In September 2006 China announces detailed controls on the distribution of news by foreign news agencies, banning all content that violates its own tight restrictions. In December 2006 Chinese courts confirm lengthy prison sentences on writers documenting corruption and forced abortions. Shortly after this a senior party official admits that nearly 100,000 members of the ruling Communist party were punished the previous year for corruption. In June 2007 China’s state media said that some 550 slave labourers have been freed in the past month from brick kilns and other illegal job sites in central China where they were starved, beaten and forced to work 14 hours or more per day. Days later the government is forced into a nationwide crackdown on enslavement and child labour.
TIBET – LARGEST PROTEST AGAINST CHINESE RULE
However in March 2008 there breaks the strongest rights action of all. Protestors in Lhasa, Tibet set shops ablaze in the largest demonstrations in two decades against Chinese rule. Dozens of people die and damage is estimated at 280 million yuan ($41 million). In response Tibet’s government-in-exile demands the UN intervene to end what it described as “urgent human rights violations” by China. The Dalai Lama calls for an international investigation saying Tibet is facing a “cultural genocide”.
In the days that follow demonstrations against Beijing’s crackdown spread from Australia to Europe to the USA. China responds by calling the Dalai Lama a “wolf in monk’s robes” and says it is locked in a “life-and-death battle” with his supporters. China sends additional troops in and makes more arrests even as the Dalai Lama offers face-to-face negotiations with Chinese leaders. Official media warn against the unrest spreading to the northwest region of Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims have been bridling under Chinese control. The following day China attacks US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her meeting with the Dalai Lama, accusing her and other “human rights police” of double standards and ignoring the truth about the unrest in Tibet. On the same day 500 Uighurs protest in Khotan in the North western Xinjiang region – as China had feared.
On March 26 China announces hundreds of people have surrendered over anti-government riots among Tibetans and allows the first group of foreign journalists to visit the regional capital since the violence. However a group of monks protesting the absence of religious freedom disrupt a carefully orchestrated visit for foreign reporters to Tibet’s capital, an embarrassment for China. The deputy Communist Party secretary of Lhasa, says 800 protestors have been arrested while another 280 have surrendered.
WORLDWIDE PROTESTS ENSUE
In London thousands of anti-China protesters draped in Tibetan flags disrupt the Olympic torch relay – the same thing happens in Paris. On April 11 an indignant China says the US “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” when Congress passes a resolution calling on Beijing to stop cracking down on Tibetan dissent and to talk to the Dalai Lama. On May 12 a tragic earthquake with over 75,000 deaths diverts China’s attention as it tries to evacuate more potential victims. And, as the Saturn/Neptune opposition goes out of orb, please note that, apart from some Uyghur arrests, calm is now apparently restored in China’s border regions.
HAMAS NON-ACCEPTANCE OF ISRAEL & JEWISH SETTLEMENTS
In June 2006 the recently elected Hamas-led Palestinian government rejects a deadline to accept a proposal that implicitly recognizes Israel. At the same time Israel begins laying the foundations for Maskiot, a new Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank, breaking its promise on settlements to Washington. Hamas’s non-acceptance of Israel and the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory will remain the key obstacles to peace negotiations throughout the cycle opposition. This all takes place against a backdrop of bitter infighting between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement and a surge in the number of Palestinian rockets fired into Israel inviting a regular Israeli airstrike response.
BITTER INFIGHTING BETWEEN HAMAS AND FATAH
On June 12 hundreds of Palestinian security men loyal to President Abbas go on a rampage against the Hamas-led government, riddling the parliament building and Cabinet offices with bullets before setting them ablaze in retaliation for an attack by Hamas gunmen in the Gaza strip. On June 19 Israel’s defence minister orders a review of the route of Israel’s separation barrier to better reflect Palestinian concerns, a decision that could have significant implications for Israel’s future borders. On June 27 Hamas and Fatah, anxious to lift crippling international aid sanctions, agree on a plan implicitly recognizing Israel.
ISRAEL RESPONDS TO KIDNAP WITH MAXIMUM FORCE
But on June 25 Hamas had kidnapped an Israeli corporal and a day later in response Israeli tanks and troops enter southern Gaza while its planes attack three bridges and knock out electricity and water supplies for most of the 1.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops round up 27 Palestinian ministers and lawmakers from the ruling Hamas party. On July 8 the Hamas-led Palestinian government offers a truce but Israeli PM Olmert refuses until Hamas release the Israeli soldier. At the end of July 2006 Israeli troops withdraw from Northern Gaza. Then on August 25 in Jordan leaders of the Fatah party agree to form a unity government with the militant Hamas. (Aug 31 1st Exact Opposition date) On September 9 Israel ends its 10 week military operation which killed a reported 230 Gazans including over 60 children. The Economist magazine reports the operation has had no noticeable impact on militant activities.
UN CALLS FOR END TO ISRAELI OPERATIONS IN GAZA STRIP
In September 2006 when Israel kills more Palestinians in the Gaza strip tens of thousands march to demonstrate their support for Hamas. In October Israeli forces are on the offensive killing nearly 50 Palestinians – by no means all of whom are militants. A further 35 are killed in early November – in one instance Israeli tank shells crash into a residential neighbourhood killing at least 18 people including eight children in their sleep. Hamas’s exiled leader Khaled Mashaal says a 2005 truce with Israel is completely finished. On November 17 the UN General Assembly calls for an end to Israeli operations in the Gaza strip. On November 25 Israel and the Palestinians finally agree to a cease-fire to end the five-month Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel. On December 23 Israeli PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas meet for the first time in 22 months. Feuding between Fatah and Hamas continues into 2007 escalating at the end of January into gunfights and mortar and rocket grenade attacks that kill some 35 people. (Feb 28 2nd exact Opposition date). Then on March 15 Hamas and Fatah form a long sought after unity government – immediately Israel states it will not deal with the new government.
HAMAS FIGHT AGAINST FATAH MAXIMISES
On April 24 2007 the armed wing of Hamas fires a barrage of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza toward Israel on its independence day, saying they consider it the end of a five-month truce with Israel. On May 17 Israeli aircraft strike a Hamas command centre citing the firing by militants of more than 50 rockets at the Israeli border town of Siderot. On June 7 the conflict between Hamas and Fatah erupts into a week long battle killing over a hundred and wounding around 500. Then on June 14 Palestinian President Abbas declares an emergency after the Hamas militant group effectively takes control of the Gaza Strip and removes Fatah officials. When Hamas fighters overrun one of the rival Fatah movement’s most important security installations, witnesses say the victors drag vanquished gunmen into the street and shoot them to death gangland-style. 14 are killed and 80 wounded in this battle. (June 25 3rd exact Opposition date) President Abbas goes on to swear in an emergency Cabinet and outlaw the militia forces of the Islamic Hamas movement. In response Israel’s PM Olmert promises to free 250 Palestinian prisoners and to improve life in the West Bank.
ISRAEL TRIES TO SHORE UP PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT ABBAS
On September 11 a Palestinian rocket explodes in an Israeli army base, wounding more than 40 soldiers as they sleep in their tents. It draws calls for a major military operation against the militants. Israel’s Security Cabinet declares the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” in order to cut off its power and fuel supplies – at the same time it votes to release 90 Palestinian prisoners in an effort to shore up moderate Palestinian President Abbas. On November 7 the watchdog group Peace Now says Israel is enlarging 88 of its 122 West Bank settlements despite an agreement to halt the spread of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory. On November 12 comes the bloodiest day of inter-Palestinian fighting since Hamas seized control of the Gaza strip in June. On December 3 Israel releases a further 429 Palestinian prisoners to try and strengthen President Abbas’s position. But the following day it says it is seeking bids to build more than 300 new homes in a disputed East Jerusalem neighbourhood. Then on December 11 Israeli tanks and bulldozers backed by attack aircraft move into the southern Gaza Strip.
MILITANT ROCKET ATTACKS MET BY AIR STRIKES
The year 2008 starts with violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah. Then as US President Bush makes a visit promising a Middle East peace treaty Israeli tanks and helicopters raid Gaza in the bloodiest day of fighting since Hamas took control of the territory. January continues with militant rocket attacks countered by Israeli air strikes. Then on January 23 tens of thousands of Palestinians on foot and on carts pour into Egypt from Gaza after masked gunmen use land mines to blast down a seven- mile barrier dividing the border town of Rafah – there is violence as Egyptian riot police try to control this incursion.
HAMAS TO ACCEPT PALESTINIAN STATE IF PRE-1967 BORDERS
On 1 March Palestinians call off peace talks with Israel after 33 Gazans are killed. The death toll climbs to 70 as Israeli troops, backed by tanks and aircraft, go after Palestinian militants. On March 31 Jerusalem announces plans to build 600 new apartments in Palestinian territory. Throughout April militant attacks lead to Israel sending in tanks, aircraft and troops. Former US President Carter announces that Hamas is prepared to accept the right of the Jewish state to “live as a neighbour next door in peace.” Hamas admits it would accept a Palestinian state provided it has the pre-1967 borders. However as if to deny this possibility on June 13 Israel confirms plans to build 1,300 more apartments in Palestinian East Jerusalem. Then on June 19 as the cycle opposition heads out of orb Israel Hamas announce a six month truce in a bid to end a year of fighting that has killed more than 400 Palestinians – but under 20 Israelis. How long will the truce last ?
The In square will be in orb from 9 November 2014 to 30 September 2017. The dates for the exact hits are 27 Nov 2015 and 18 June 2016 and 10 Sept 2016. This page will shortly be updated .