Globetrotter

Cuba launches diplomatic tour in an increasingly multipolar world

On November 27 morning, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, walked into a voting station in the Playa neighborhood to vote in Cuba’s municipal elections. He had landed in Havana an hour earlier from an intense tour of Algeria, Russia, Turkey, and China.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The tour, which started on November 16, was both a journey into the past of the nonaligned world that Cuba played an integral role in building and an essential step into the future toward the establishment of a multipolar world. Each stop also served as a reminder of the strong relationships based on cooperation and mutual respect that Cuba has been cultivating since 1959. Undoubtedly, the Cuban Revolution and its internationalism placed Cuba on the map and gave it an outsized role in world politics.

Yet this tour took place against a complex backdrop. The country’s recent economic and financial situation has been characterized by crisis since the intensification of the United States blockade under former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, with the imposition of 243 unilateral sanctions and the inclusion of Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism list. Add to this the impact of COVID-19 over the past three years, several natural disasters, and a series of unfortunate accidents that have negatively impacted Cuba.

Díaz-Canel also traveled abroad to explore with Cuba’s strategic partners the state of multilateralism and development in a rapidly changing world in the wake of the war in Ukraine, NATO aggression, and the growing fragility of U.S. hegemony. Cuba’s achievements and potential, despite being besieged, served as the basis for discussions during the tour relating to areas of mutual interest such as renewable energy, biotechnology, health care, communications, and industry.

During the tour of these countries, several new agreements were signed that pointed to a desire to help Cuba. From offers of setting up renewable energy power plants to more regular oil shipments and plans to modernize Cuban industries, it’s clear that Algeria, Russia, Turkey, and China do not want Cuba to fall under the weight of Washington’s sanctions regime. “It is obvious that sanctions have an effect on the fact that our relations remain below their true potential,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pointed out during a press conference with his Cuban counterpart in Ankara on November 23.

This 11-day tour ended in China, where perhaps the most challenging yet essential conversations were held. Under the weight of an intensified U.S. blockade and severe limitations to its foreign currency reserves, Cuba has been unable to service its debt with China. “There is enormous sensitivity in the Chinese leadership, particularly in President Xi Jinping,” commented Díaz-Canel afterward. “There is an express will in him, even with indications in official talks, that a solution must be found to all of Cuba’s problems, regardless of the problems with the debt.” Against the United States’ efforts to restrain Cuba, Díaz-Canel asserted how China is “betting on the development of the country based on the cooperation that they can give us.”

Author Bio: Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

'The ax always falls on the most vulnerable': Pakistan demands debt cancellation and climate justice

Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18.

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North.

“The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters.

By the first week of September, pleas for help were giving way to protests as survivors, living under open skies and on the sides of highways, were dying of hunger, illness, and lack of shelter.

Parts of the Sindh province, which was hit the hardest, including the districts of Dadu and Khairpur remained inundated until the middle of November. Meanwhile, certain areas of impoverished and predominantly rural Balochistan, where communities have been calling for help since July, waited months for assistance.

“Initially the floods hit Lasbela, closer to Karachi [in Sindh], so people were able to provide help, but as the flooding spread to other parts of Balochistan the situation became dire,” Khurram Ali, general secretary of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), told Peoples Dispatch. “The infrastructure of Balochistan has been neglected, the roads are damaged, and dams and bridges have not been repaired.”

The floods precipitated a massive infrastructural collapse that continues to impede rescue and relief efforts—more than 13,000 kilometers of roads and 439 bridges have been destroyed, according to a November 18 report by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Pakistan.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch in September, Taimur Rahman, secretary-general of the Mazdoor Kissan Party (PMKP), said that the government had been “unable to effectively provide aid on any large scale, or to ensure that it reached where it was supposed to go.” This has also led to the emergence of profiteering, as gangs seize aid from trucks and sell it, Rahman added.

In these circumstances, left and progressive organizations such as the AWP and PKMP have attempted to fill the gaps by trying to provide people with basic amenities to survive the aftermath of this disaster.

Cascading Crises

On September 17, the WHO warned of a “second disaster” in Pakistan—“a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change.”

The WHO has estimated that “more than 2,000 health facilities have been fully or partially damaged” or destroyed across the country, at a time when diseases such as COVID-19, malaria, dengue, cholera, dysentery, and respiratory illnesses are affecting a growing share of the population. More than 130,000 pregnant women are in need of urgent health care services in Pakistan, which already had a high maternal mortality rate even prior to the floods.

Damage to the agricultural sector, with 4.4 million acres of crops having been destroyed, has stoked fears of impending mass hunger. In a July report by the World Food Program, 5.9 million people in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provinces were already estimated to be in the “crisis” and “emergency” phases of food insecurity between July and November 2022.

At present, an estimated 14.6 million people will be in need of emergency food assistance from December 2022 to March 2023, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Malnutrition has already exceeded emergency threshold levels in some districts, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.

Not only was the summer harvest destroyed but the rabi or winter crops like wheat are also at risk, as standing water might take months to recede in some areas, like Sindh. Approximately 1.1 million livestock have perished so far due to the floods.

This loss of life and livelihood has taken place against the backdrop of an economic crisis, characterized by a current account deficit and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Then came the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As part of its attempt to resume a stalled $6 billion bailout program with the fund, Pakistan’s government imposed a hike in fuel prices and a rollback on subsidies in mid-June.

“The conditions that the IMF placed on us exacerbated the inflation and cost of living crisis,” explained Rahman. “They imposed on Pakistan tax policies that would try to balance the government’s budget on the one hand, but on the other really undermine the welfare of the people and cause such a catastrophic rise in the cost of living that it would condemn millions of people to poverty and starvation.”

By the end of August, the IMF had approved a bailout of more than $1.1 billion. By then, Pakistan’s consumer price index had soared to 27.3 percent, the highest in nearly 50 years, and food inflation increased to 29.5 percent year-on-year. By September, prices of vegetables were up by 500 percent.

“We went to the IMF for $1.1 billion, meanwhile, the damage to Pakistan’s economy is at least $11 billion,” said Rahman. The figure for the damages caused due to the floods now stands at $40 billion, according to the World Bank. “The IMF keeps telling us to lower tariff barriers, to take away subsidies, to liberalize trade, make the state bank autonomous, to deregulate private capital and banking, and to balance the budget,” he added.

“The ax always falls on the most vulnerable,” Rahman said. “Over half of the budget, which in itself is a small portion of the GDP, goes toward debt repayment, another quarter goes to the military and then there’s nothing left. The government is basically bankrupt.”

“The advice of the IMF is always the same—take the state out, let the private market do what it does. Well, look at what it has done: it has destroyed Pakistan’s economy. … Imposing austerity at a time when Pakistan is coping with such massive floods and the economy is in freefall is the equivalent of what the British colonial state did during the Bengal famine—it took food away.”

Pakistan will be forced to borrow more money to pay back its mounting debt, all while IMF conditions hinder any meaningful recovery for the poor and marginalized. The fund has now imposed even tougher conditions on Pakistan to free up $3.5 billion in response to the floods, not nearly large enough to address $30 billion worth of economic damage. The conditions include a hike in gas and electricity prices as well as cuts in development spending.

It is in this context that activists are demanding a total cancellation of debt, and climate reparations for Pakistan.

The Global North Must Pay

Between 2010 and 2019, 15.5 million Pakistanis were displaced by natural disasters. Pakistan has contributed less than 1 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, but remains at the forefront of the climate crisis.

Delivering the G77 and China’s opening statement at COP27, Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram emphasized, “We are living in an era where many developing countries are already witnessing unprecedented devastating impacts of climate change, though they have contributed very little to it…”

“Enhanced solidarity and cooperation to address loss and damage is not charity—it is climate justice.”

In its February report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged that “historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism” have exacerbated vulnerability to climate change. Yet, even as the Global South faces an existential threat, the Global North actively impedes efforts toward redressal.

“Reparations are about taking back [what] is owed to you,” environmental lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam told Peoples Dispatch. “As the climate crisis grows… this discourse [of reparations] is going to get stronger. It’s not just going to come from Pakistan, we will hear it from places like Afghanistan where people don’t have the infrastructure and are freezing in the winter… We’ll hear it as the Maldives and the Seychelles start sinking.”

While this struggle plays out globally, there is also justifiable anger within Pakistan over the government’s failure to prepare for the crisis, especially in the aftermath of the deadly floods of 2010.

“Everyone anticipated that this monsoon would be disastrous, and the National Disaster Management Authority had enough time to prepare,” Ali said. “However, there is nothing you can find that [shows what] the NDMA did to prepare for these monsoons. In fact, they do not even have a division to take precautionary measures.”

Holding the government accountable for its lack of preparedness, which might have contained the damage, is crucial, Alam said. However, given the sheer scale of the impact of the climate crisis on the Global South, talking about adaptation has its limitations. As Alam stressed—“There is just no way you can adapt to a 100-kilometer lake that forms in the middle of a province.”

Activists are drawing attention to infrastructure projects the state is pursuing, and how they put the environment and communities at risk. “As reconstruction takes place it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Alam said.

“The projects that are affecting riverbeds and other sensitive areas are the development projects themselves,” Ali said. He pointed out that development often takes place on agricultural or ecologically sensitive land such as forests, adding to the severity of future crises.

“It is a very dangerous situation now because imperialist profit-making is devastating the climate, affecting regions that are already maldeveloped. We are living under semi-feudal, semi-colonial conditions in Pakistan, with a strong nexus between the imperialist powers and the capitalists, all making money off our misery,” Ali stressed.

“We have no other option but to fight these forces; there is no other option but a people’s revolution.”

Author Bio: Tanupriya Singh is a writer at Peoples Dispatch and is based in Delhi.

Is Russia fueling France's troubles in Mali?

On November 21, 2022, Mali’s interim Prime Minister Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga posted a statement on social media to say that Mali has decided “to ban, with immediate effect, all activities carried out by NGOs operating in Mali with funding or material or technical support from France.” A few days before this statement, the French government cut official development assistance (ODA) to Mali because it believed that Mali’s government is “allied to Wagner’s Russian mercenaries.” Colonel Maïga responded by saying that these are “fanciful allegations” and a “subterfuge intended to deceive and manipulate national and international public opinion.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Tensions between France and Mali have increased over the course of 2022. The former colonial power returned to Mali with a military intervention in 2013 to combat the rise of Islamist insurgency in the northern half of Mali; in May 2022, the military government of Mali ejected the French troops. That decision in May came after several months of accusations between Paris and Bamako that mirrored the rise of anti-French sentiment across the Sahel region of Africa.

A new burst of anti-colonial feeling has swept through France’s former colonies, where the debates are now centered around breaking with France’s stranglehold on their economies and ending the military intervention by French troops. Since 2019, the countries that are part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa have been slowly withdrawing from French control over their economies (for example, in 2020, the French officially announced that for West Africa, it would end the requirement for countries to deposit half their foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury through the old colonial instrument of the CFA franc). According to a story that circulated in West Africa and the Sahel—given credence by an email sent by an “unofficial adviser” to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—one of the reasons why France’s then-president Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was because the Libyan leader had proposed a new African currency instead of the CFA franc.

France denies that the reason for this tension with Mali is due to the new anti-colonial mood. The French government says that it is entirely due to Mali’s intimacy with Russia. Mali’s military has increasingly been establishing closer ties with the Russian government and military. Mali’s Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara and Air Force Chief of Staff General Alou Boï Diarra are considered to be “the architects” of a deal made between the Malian military and the Wagner group in 2021 to bring in several hundred mercenaries into Mali as part of the campaign against jihadist groups.

Wagner soldiers are in Mali, but they are not the cause of the rift between Paris and Bamako. The anti-colonial temper predates the entry of Wagner, which France is using as an excuse to cover up its humiliation.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Ten suggestions for Brazilian President-Elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Dear President Lula,

When I visited you (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) in prison on August 30, 2018, in the brief time that the visit lasted, I experienced a whirlwind of ideas and emotions that remain as vivid today as they were then. A short time before, we had been together at the World Social Forum in Salvador da Bahia. In the penthouse of the hotel where you were staying, we exchanged ideas with Brazilian politician Jacques Wagner about your imprisonment. You still had some hope that the judicial system would suspend the persecutory vertigo that had descended upon you. I, perhaps because I am a legal sociologist, was convinced that this would not happen, but I did not insist. At one point, I had the feeling that you and I were actually thinking and fearing the same thing. A short time later, they were arresting you with the same arrogant and compulsive indifference with which they had been treating you up to that point. Judge Sergio Moro, who had links with the U.S. (it is too late to be naive), had accomplished the first part of his mission by putting you behind bars. The second part would be to keep you locked up and isolated until “his” candidate (Jair Bolsonaro) was elected, one who would give Moro a platform to get to the presidency of the republic later on. This is the third phase of the mission, still underway.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

When I entered the premises of Brazil’s federal police, I felt a chill when I read the plaque marking that President Lula da Silva had inaugurated those facilities 11 years earlier as part of his vast program to upgrade the federal police and criminal investigation system in the country. A whirlwind of questions assaulted me. Had the plaque remained there out of oblivion? Out of cruelty? Or to show that the spell had turned against the sorcerer? That a bona fide president had handed the gold to the bandit?

I was accompanied by a pleasant young federal police officer who turned to me and said, “We read your books a lot.” I was shocked. If my books were read and the message understood, neither Lula nor I would be there. I babbled something to this effect, and the answer was instantaneous: “We are following orders.” Suddenly, the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt came to my mind. To be a sovereign is to have the prerogative to declare that something is legal even if is not, and to impose your will bureaucratically with the normality of functional obedience and the consequent trivialization of state terror.

This is how I arrived at your cell, and surely you did not even suspect the storm that was going on inside me. Upon seeing you, I calmed down. I was faced with dignity and humanity that gave me hope for mankind. Everything was normal within the totalitarian abnormality that had enclosed you there: The windows, the gym apparatus, the books, and the television. Our conversation was as normal as everything around us, including your lawyers and Gleisi Hoffmann, who was then the general secretary of the Workers’ Party. We talked about the situation in Latin America, the new (old) aggressiveness of the empire, and the judicial system that had converted into an ersatz military coup.

When the door closed behind me, the weight of the illegal will of a state held hostage by criminals armed with legal manipulations fell back on me once again. I braced myself between revolt and anger and the well-behaved performance expected of a public intellectual who on his way out has to make statements to the press. I did everything, but what I truly felt was that I had left behind Brazil’s freedom and dignity imprisoned so that the empire and the elites in its service could fulfill their objectives of guaranteeing access to Brazil’s immense natural resources, privatization of social security, and unconditional alignment with the geopolitics of rivalry with China.

The serenity and dignity with which you faced a year of confinement is proof that empires, especially decadent ones, often miscalculate, precisely because they only think in the short term. The immense and growing national and international solidarity, which would make you the most famous political prisoner in the world, showed that the Brazilian people were beginning to believe that at least part of what was destroyed in the short term might be rebuilt in the medium and long term. Your imprisonment was the price of the credibility of this conviction; your subsequent freedom was proof that the conviction has become reality.

I am writing to you today first to congratulate you on your victory in the October 30 election. It is an extraordinary achievement without precedent in the history of democracy. I often say that sociologists are good at predicting the past, not the future, but this time I was not wrong. That does not make me feel any more certain about what I must tell you today. Take these considerations as an expression of my best wishes for you personally and for the office you are about to take on as the president of Brazil.

1. It would be a serious mistake to think that with your victory in Brazil’s presidential election everything is back to normal in the country. First, the normal situation prior to former President Jair Bolsonaro was very precarious for the most vulnerable populations, even if it was less so than it is now. Second, Bolsonaro inflicted such damage on Brazilian society that is difficult to repair. He has produced a civilizational regression by rekindling the embers of violence typical of a society that was subjected to European colonialism: the idolatry of individual property and the consequent social exclusion, racism, and sexism; the privatization of the state so that the rule of law coexists with the rule of illegality; and an excluding of religion this time in the form of neo-Pentecostal evangelism. The colonial divide is reactivated in the pattern of friend/enemy, us/them polarization, typical of the extreme right. With this, Bolsonaro has created a radical rupture that makes educational and democratic mediation difficult. Recovery will take years.

2. If the previous note points to the medium term, the truth is that your presidency will be dominated by the short term. Bolsonaro has brought back hunger, broken the state financially, deindustrialized the country, let hundreds of thousands of COVID victims die needlessly, and promised to put an end to the Amazon. The emergency camp is the one in which you move best and in which I am sure you will be most successful. Just two caveats. You will no doubt return to the policies you have successfully spearheaded, but mind you, the conditions are now vastly different and more adverse. On the other hand, everything has to be done without expecting political gratitude from the social classes benefiting from the emergency measures. The impersonal way of benefiting, which is proper to the state, makes people see their personal merit or right in the benefits, and not the merit or benevolence of those who make them possible. There is only one way of showing that such measures result neither from personal merit nor from the benevolence of donors but are rather the product of political alternatives: ensuring education for citizenship.

3. One of the most harmful aspects of the backlash brought about by Bolsonaro is the anti-rights ideology ingrained in the social fabric, targeting previously marginalized social groups (poor, Black, Indigenous, Roma, and LGBTQI+ people). Holding on firmly to a policy of social, economic, and cultural rights as a guarantee of ample dignity in a very unequal society should be the basic principle of democratic governments today.

4. The international context is dominated by three mega-threats: recurring pandemics, ecological collapse, and a possible third world war. Each of these threats is global in scope, but political solutions remain predominantly limited to the national scale. Brazilian diplomacy has traditionally been exemplary in the search for agreements, whether regional (Latin American cooperation) or global (BRICS). We live in a time of interregnum between a unipolar world dominated by the United States that has not yet fully disappeared and a multipolar world that has not yet been fully born. The interregnum is seen, for example, in the deceleration of globalization and the return of protectionism, the partial replacement of free trade with trade by friendly partners. All states remain formally independent, but only a few are sovereign. And among the latter, not even the countries of the European Union are to be counted. You left the government when China was the great partner of the United States and return when China is the great rival of the United States. You have always been a supporter of the multipolar world and China cannot but be today a partner of Brazil. Given the growing cold war between the United States and China, I predict that the honeymoon period between U.S. President Joe Biden and yourself will not last long.

5. You today have a world credibility that enables you to be an effective mediator in a world mined by increasingly tense conflicts. You can be a mediator in the Russia/Ukraine conflict, two countries whose people urgently need peace, at a time when the countries of the European Union have embraced the U.S. version of the conflict without a Plan B; they have therefore condemned themselves to the same fate as the U.S.-dominated unipolar world. You will also be a credible mediator in the case of Venezuela’s isolation and in bringing the shameful embargo against Cuba to an end. To accomplish all this, you must have the internal front pacified, and here lies the greatest difficulty.

6. You will have to live with the permanent threat of destabilization. This is the mark of the extreme right. It is a global movement that corresponds to the inability of neoliberal capitalism to coexist in the next period in a minimal democratic way. Although global, it takes on specific characteristics in each country. The general aim is to convert cultural or ethnic diversity into political or religious polarization. In Brazil, as in India, there is the risk of attributing to such polarization the character of a religious war, be it between Catholics and Evangelicals, or between fundamentalist Christians and religions of African origin (Brazil), or between Hindus and Muslims (India). In religious wars, conciliation is almost impossible. The extreme right creates a parallel reality immune to any confrontation with the actual reality. On that basis, it can justify the cruelest violence. Its main objective is to prevent you, President Lula, from peacefully finishing your term.

7. You currently have the support of the United States in your favor. It is well known that all U.S. foreign policy is determined by domestic political reasons. President Biden knows that, by defending you, he is defending himself against former President Trump, his possible rival in 2024. It so happens that the United States today is the most fractured society in the world, where the democratic game coexists with a plutocratic far right strong enough to make about 25 percent of the U.S. population still believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was the result of an electoral fraud. This far right is willing to do anything. Their aggressiveness is demonstrated by the attempt by one of their followers to kidnap and torture Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, right after the attack, a battery of fake news was put into circulation to justify the act—something that can very well happen in Brazil as well. So, today the United States is a dual country: the official country that promises to defend Brazilian democracy, and the unofficial country that promises to subvert it in order to rehearse what it wants to achieve in the United States. Let us remember that the extreme right started as the official policy of the country. Hyper-conservative evangelicalism started as an American project (see the Rockefeller report of 1969) to combat “the insurrectionary potential” of liberation theology. And let it be said, in fairness, that for a long time its main ally was former Pope John Paul II.

8. Since 2014, Brazil has been living through a continued coup process, the elites’ response to the progress that the popular classes achieved with your governments. That coup process did not end with your victory. It only changed rhythm and tactics. Throughout these years and especially in the last electoral period we have witnessed multiple illegalities and even political crimes committed with an almost naturalized impunity. Besides the many committed by the head of the government, we have seen, for example, senior members of the armed forces and security forces calling for a coup d’état and publicly siding with a presidential candidate while in office. Such behavior should be punished by the judiciary or by compulsory retirement. Any idea of amnesty, no matter how noble its motives may be, will be a trap in the path of your presidency. The consequences could be fatal.

9. It is well known that you do not place a high priority on characterizing your politics as being left or right. Curiously, shortly before being elected president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro stated that the important distinction for him was not between left and right, but between politics of life and politics of death. The politics of life today in Brazil is sincere ecological politics, the continuation and deepening of policies of racial and sexual justice, labor rights, investment in public health care and education, respect for the demarcated lands of Indigenous peoples, and the enactment of pending demarcations. A gradual but firm transition is needed from agrarian monoculture and natural resource extractivism to a diversified economy that allows respect for different socioeconomic logics and virtuous articulations between the capitalist economy and the peasant, family, cooperative, social-solidarity, Indigenous, riverine, and quilombola economies that have so much vitality in Brazil.

10. The state of grace is short. It does not even last 100 days (see President Gabriel Boric in Chile). You have to do everything not to lose the people that elected you. Symbolic politics is fundamental in the early days. One suggestion: immediately reinstate the national conferences (built on bottom-up participatory democracy) to give an unequivocal sign that there is another, more democratic, and more participative way of doing politics.

Author Bio: Boaventura de Sousa Santos is the emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. His most recent book is Decolonizing the University: The Challenge of Deep Cognitive Justice.

A war we can no longer ignore: Why the waters are running red in Africa’s Great Lakes region

In early November, foreign ministers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’Apala, and Rwanda, Vicent Biruta met in Luanda, Angola, to find a political solution to a conflict that has been ongoing in eastern DRC for decades. The foreign ministers agreed that the “peace roadmapagreed to in a July meeting had to be implemented. Angola’s President João Lourenço shuttled between Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the DRC’s President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi in his role as the African Union’s “mediator in the crisis” between Rwanda and the DRC.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Meanwhile, the M23 rebels—backed by Rwanda—have expanded their attacks in the DRC. In retaliation, the DRC expelled Rwandan Ambassador Vincent Karega. The M23 with the assistance of Rwanda troops captured Kiwanja and Rutshuru, two towns in the DRC’s North Kivu province. Rwanda argues that it was the DRC that violated agreements leading to the fighters being reinstated.

In August, a leaked report from the United Nations showed that Rwanda had backed the M23. It was difficult for Rwanda to deny the details in the report, particularly after U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood, alternate representative for special political affairs, told the UN Security Council that his government calls “on state actors to stop their support for these groups, including the Rwandan Defense Forces’ assistance to M23.” The M23 is a recent entrant into the wars in the DRC’s eastern provinces, which have been ongoing since the early 1990s. A UN report from August 2010 details several hundred violent incidents that took place in the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003, with “deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people”; one estimate, based on studies conducted in 2000 and 2004, suggests that more than 3 million people have died in the conflict since 1998.

In June, the DRC allowed the East African Community to send troops into its eastern regions, as long as the Rwandan military was not involved in the intervention. Through this agreement, troops from Burundi and Kenya arrived in eastern Congo. This has caused alarm. Carina Tertsakian of the Burundi Human Rights Initiative told the Associated Press, “It is no surprise that Burundi is the first country to offer troops. Burundi is a direct party to the conflict, so cannot be viewed as a neutral actor. It therefore seems unlikely that their deployment will end the insecurity in the area.”

Former DRC presidential candidate Martin Fayulu told Deutsche Welle recently that he is distressed by the lack of international attention to this conflict. “Ukraine is having a problem,” he said, and the widespread media coverage has brought the world’s attention to that. “[W]e are having a problem in Congo, but nobody is condemning Rwanda. Why?” Perhaps, it has to do with the cobalt, copper, lithium, and the trees of the rainforest, precious resources that continue to be exploited by the rest of the world despite the carnage that has afflicted Africa’s Great Lakes for the past 30 years.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

The West is using COP27 to shift blame to poorer nations: Private greed prevails over humanity’s survival

COP27 has begun in Sharm el-Sheikh. Although the Ukraine war and the U.S. midterm elections have shifted our immediate focus away from the battle against global warming, it still remains a central concern of our epoch. Reports indicate that not only are we failing to meet our climate change goals, but we are also falling short of the targets by a large margin. Worse, the potent methane greenhouse gas emissions have grown far more rapidly, posing as much of a climate change threat as carbon dioxide. Even though methane lasts for a shorter time in the atmosphere, viewed over a period of 100 years, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

The net result is that we are almost certain to fail in our target to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. And if we do not act soon, even a target of 2 degrees Celsius is hard to achieve. At this rate, we are looking at a temperature rise of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius and the devastation of our civilization. Worse, the impact will be much higher in the equatorial and tropical regions, where most of the world’s poor live.

In this column, I will address two issues. One is the shift from coal to natural gas as a transitional fuel, and the other is the challenge of storing electricity, without which we cannot shift successfully to renewable energy.

The advanced countries—the U.S. and members of the European Union—bet big on natural gas, which is primarily methane, as the transition fuel from coal. In Glasgow during COP26, advanced countries even made coal the key issue, shifting the focus from their greenhouse emissions to that of China and India as big coal users. The assumption in using natural gas as a transitional fuel is that its greenhouse impact is only half that of coal. Methane emissions also last for a shorter time—about 12 years—in the atmosphere before converting to carbon dioxide and water. The flip side is that it is a far more potent greenhouse gas. Its effects are 30 times greater over a 100-year period than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. So even a much smaller amount of methane has a much more significant global warming impact than carbon dioxide.

The bad news on the methane front is that methane leakage from the natural gas infrastructure is much higher, possibly as much as six times more—according to a March 2022 Stanford University study—than the advanced countries have been telling us. The high methane leakage from natural gas extraction not only cancels out any benefits of switching to natural gas as an intermediary fuel but even worsens global warming.

There are two sets of data on methane now available. One measures the actual leakage of methane from the natural gas infrastructure with satellites and planes using infrared cameras. The technology of measuring methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure is easy and cheap. After all, we are able to detect methane in exoplanets far away from the solar system. Surely, saving this planet from heat death is a much higher priority! The other data is the measurement of atmospheric methane conducted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. estimates that 1.4 percent of all natural gas produced in the U.S. leaks into the atmosphere. But the March 2022 Stanford University study using cameras and small planes that fly over natural gas infrastructure found that the figure is likely to be 9.4 percent—more than six times higher than the EPA’s estimate. Even if methane leaks are only 2.5 percent of natural gas production, they will offset all the benefits of switching from coal to natural gas. “Clean” natural gas may be three to four times worse than even dirty coal. At least in the hands of capital!

The EPA does not conduct any physical measurements. All it uses to estimate methane emissions is a formula that involves a number of subjective factors, along with the number of wells, length of pipelines, etc. Let us not forget that there are many people in the U.S. who either do not believe in or choose to ignore the fact of global warming. They would like to take a crowbar to even a weakened EPA, dismantling all measures to reduce global warming.

The impact of methane leaks can be seen in another set of figures. The World Meteorological Organization reported the biggest jump in “methane concentrations in 2021 since systematic measurements began nearly 40 years ago.” While WMO remains discreetly silent on why this jump has occurred, the relation between switching to natural gas and the consequent rise of methane emissions is hard to miss.

The tragedy of methane leaks is that they are easy to spot with today’s technology and not very expensive to fix. But companies have no incentive to take even these baby steps as it impacts their current bottom line. The larger good—even bigger profits, but over a longer time frame—does not interest them. They aren’t likely to change unless they are forced to by regulatory or direct state action.

The cynicism of the rich countries—the U.S. and members of the EU—on global warming can be seen in their conduct during the Ukraine war. The European Union has restarted some of its coal plants, increasing coal’s share in the energy mix. Further, the EU has cynically argued that developing oil and gas infrastructure in Africa is all right as long as it is solely for supply to Europe, not for use in Africa. African nations, according to the EU, must instead use only clean, renewable energy! And, of course, such energy infrastructure must be in the hands of European companies!

The key to a transition to renewable energy—the only long-term solution to global warming—is to find a way of storing energy. Renewables, unlike fossil fuels, cannot be used at will, as the wind, sun, and even water provide a continuous flow of energy. While water can be stored in large reservoirs, wind and sun cannot be, unless they are converted to chemical energy in batteries. Or unless they are converted to hydrogen and then stored in either tank or natural storage in geological formations, underground or in salt caverns.

There has been a lot of hype about batteries and electric cars. Missing here is that batteries with current technology have a much lower energy density than oil or coal. The energy from oil or natural gas is 20-40 times that of the most efficient battery today. For an electric vehicle, that is not such a major issue. It simply determines how often the vehicle’s batteries need to be charged and how long charging will take. It means developing a charging infrastructure with a quick turnaround time. The much bigger problem is how to store energy at the grid level.

Grid-level storage means supplying the grid with electricity from stored energy. Grid-level batteries are being suggested to meet this task. What the proponents of grid-level batteries neglect to inform us is that they may supply power for short-term fluctuations—night and day, windy and non-windy days—but they cannot meet the demand from long-term or seasonal fluctuations. This brings us to the question of the energy density of storage: How much energy does a kilogram of lithium battery hold as compared to a kilogram of oil, natural gas, or coal? The answer with current technology is 20-40 times less. The cost of building such mammoth storage to meet seasonal fluctuations will simply exhaust all our lithium (or any other battery material) supplies.

I will not address the prohibitive energy cost—electric or fossil fuel—of private versus public or mass transportation, and why we should switch to the latter. I will instead focus on addressing the larger question of how to store renewable energy so that we can run our electricity infrastructure when wind or sun is not there.

Is it possible that a new technology will solve this problem? (Remember the dream of nuclear energy that will be not only clean but also so cheap that it will not need to be metered?) But do we bet our civilization’s future on such a possibility?

If not, we have to look at existing solutions. They exist, but using them means seeking alternatives to batteries for addressing our grid-level problems of intermittent renewable energy. It means repurposing our existing hydro-projects to work as grid-level storage and developing hydrogen storage for use in fuel cells. No extra dams or reservoirs, as the opponents of hydroelectricity projects fear. And of course, it means more public transportation instead of private transportation.

All of these existing solutions mean making changes on a societal level that corporate interests oppose—after all, doing so would require public investments for social benefits and not for private profits. Capital privileges short-term private profits over long-term social benefits. Remember how oil companies had the earliest research to show the impact of global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions? They not only hid these results for decades but also launched a campaign denying that global warming is linked to greenhouse gases. And they funded climate change deniers.

The contradiction at the heart of global warming is private greed over social needs. And who funds such a transition, the poor or the rich? This is also what COP27 is all about, not simply about how to stop global warming.

Author Bio: Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.

Africa’s forgotten colony in the Sahara

Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawi people have lived in five refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara. They named these camps after cities in Western Sahara: Ausserd, Boujdour, Dakhla, Laayoune, and Smara. In a straight line, Smara the camp is some 400 kilometers from Smara the city. But a sand berm, built in the 1980s by Morocco, makes the distance unassailable. At 2,700 kilometers, the berm is the second-longest military fortification in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Reinforced with ditches and barbed wire fences, artillery and tanks, guarded outposts, and millions of land mines, the sand berm partitions Western Sahara—separating 80 percent of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic—which is recognized by the United Nations as the last “non-self-governing territory” in Africa. In 1991, MINURSO, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, announced a plebiscite that would give the Sahrawi people a choice: independence or integration with Morocco. In April 1991, the Sahrawi people packed their belongings in boxes, choosing the former.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Seeking access to Western Sahara’s rich coastline, Spain first seized the territory after European colonizers partitioned Africa at the West African Conference of Berlin that took place from November 1884 to February 1885. By the 1970s, facing resistance from the Sahrawi people and increasing internal pressures, the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain agreed to hold a referendum on independence, which never took place. Spain eventually pulled out from Western Sahara. Meanwhile, to the south and the north, Mauritania and Morocco had set their sights on Western Sahara’s resources. In November 1975, despite a judgment from the International Court of Justice that neither Mauritania nor Morocco had territorial sovereignty over the land, Morocco sent 25,000 troops and 350,000 settlers to Western Sahara. On November 14, Spain signed the tripartite Madrid Accords with Morocco and Mauritania, effectively ceding Western Sahara to its invaders.

The Polisario Front, a national liberation movement formed in 1973 to oppose Spanish colonialism, now fought on two fronts. Supported by Algeria, it defeated the Mauritanians in 1978. But Morocco retained its control over Western Sahara—with significant backing from Western powers, including the United States and members of NATO. At the Museum of Resistance in the camps, the Polisario keeps weapons of war captured during its struggle—tanks, airplanes, artillery, and armored vehicles from Austria, Germany, France, Spain, the U.S., Belgium, and apartheid South Africa.

Morocco controls 80 percent of Western Sahara. In the other 20 percent, the Polisario Front governs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a state battling for recognition. Armed conflict continued until Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a ceasefire in September 1991 overseen by MINURSO. “I was just coming back from Syria, a young graduate, having lived my entire life within this liberation process,” Oubi Bachir, a diplomat for the Polisario Front, told me. “I discovered not just hope, but jubilation. Finally, we were going home.” The Sahrawi people packed boxes to take their belongings back to Western Sahara. But as the boxes gathered dust, jubilation turned to frustration. The independence referendum has failed to take place—and the possibilities for armed struggle only reemerged when Morocco broke the ceasefire in 2020. The Sahrawi liberation movement, Bachir said, was “built on the armed struggle as the dominating pillar of action. That was taken away with no practical process in its place.”

Imperialism in Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a rich land. It has some 72 percent of the world’s phosphate deposits, which are used to manufacture fertilizers. By the end of November 2021, Morocco reported revenues of $6.45 billion from phosphates, an amount that increases each year. Western Sahara’s fishing grounds accounted for 77.65 percent of Moroccan catches in 2018, representing the majority of its income from fishing that year. The European Union, too, operates a fleet in these waters. In 2018, a judgmentof the Court of Justice of the EU struck down the 2000 Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between Morocco and the EU as “incompatible with the principles of self-determination.” But the EU continues to act in violation of the judgment, funding highly destructive fishing practices in the occupied territory. Scientists warn that overfishing in Western Sahara is rapidly destroying a critical biodiversity hotspot.

Morocco and its international backers have their sights on two other resources abundant in the territory: wind and sunlight. In 2018, using German technology, the UK firm Windhoist built the 200 MW Aftissat wind farm in Western Sahara. Vigeo Eiris, a UK-French company that has been “investigating companies operating in occupied Palestine,” certifiedMoroccan energy investments on Sahrawi land. General Electric signed a contract to build a 200 MW wind farm in Western Sahara. Greenwashingits occupation in Western Sahara, Morocco uses the infrastructure in reporting toward its climate targets. Western Sahara Resource Watch estimates that the wind power plants in the territory could account for 47.2 percent of Morocco’s wind capacity and up to 32.64 percent of its solar capacity by 2030.

The People Bloom

“We call this the desert within the desert,” Mohamed El Mamun, a Polisario Front representative, told me on a drive between two camps. The sand is so salty, the water so scarce, that few things can grow. Yet in the five decades since the five camps have existed, the Sahrawi people have made great strides toward building a dignified society in them. They eliminated illiteracy. They built universal education and the infrastructure to extract and distribute water to the people. Mass movements ensure the participation of women, workers, and the youth in the project of liberation. Health care is free, and a small experiment in aquaponic farming promises to grow food in one of the most arid places on Earth.

The camps depend almost entirely on foreign aid, a resource that is rapidly depleting. As of November 10, 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Algeria mission, a key source of humanitarian assistance to the Sahrawis, was only 39 percent funded. The UN has warned that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict risks further eroding that support. Here, socialist internationalism plays an important role. In the Smara camp, Venezuela and Cuba built a school. The Simón Bolívar School is staffed by Cuban teachers. More than 100 Sahrawis have graduated from the school since it opened in 2011. Some of the alumni went on to study in Cuba, returning as doctors, engineers, and teachers. Nearby, a man who calls himself Castro established the Center for Education and Integration, which prepares children with severe disabilities to live a dignified life. Above its entrance, a sign reads: “Neither plants nor trees grow here, but people bloom.”

Author Bio: Paweł Wargan is an organizer and researcher based in Berlin and the coordinator of the secretariat of the Progressive International.

China's geopolitical inroads into Central Asia are coming at Russia’s expense

At the recent Commonwealth for Independent States (CIS) summit held on October 14 in Astana, Kazakhstan, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon expressed previously inconceivable remarks. His public admonishment of Russian President Vladimir Putin to treat Central Asian states with more respect showed the growing confidence of Central Asian leaders amid Russia’s embroilment in Ukraine and China’s expanding regional influence.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

After coming under Russian imperial rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, five Central Asian states—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—emerged independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.

While these countries remained heavily dependent on Russia for security, economic, and diplomatic support, China saw an opportunity in their vast resources and potential to facilitate trade across Eurasia. Chinese-backed development and commerce increased after the Soviet collapse and expanded further after the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013.

Billions of dollars in investment, access to Chinese goods, and opening up China’s enormous consumer market allowed Beijing to restructure Central Asian economies. Soviet-era gas pipeline networks, for example, traditionally forced much of the region’s natural resources to flow through Russia to access the European market. The Central Asia-China pipeline and Kazakhstan-China oil pipeline are just some of the newer pipelines built to transport resources to the Chinese market instead.

These developments have added to friction between Central Asian states and Russia. Disputes between Turkmenistan and Russia over gas prices and a mysterious pipeline explosion in 2009 saw Russian gas imports from Turkmenistan decline until they halted completely in 2016, upending Turkmenistan’s access to Europe. Turkmenistan redirected much of its supply to China for the next three years, before a rapprochement with Moscow in 2019 saw imports to Russia resume.

This affair demonstrated the economic opportunities China could provide to Central Asian states that were previously dependent on Russia. Competing Chinese and Russian attempts to supply Central Asia with COVID-19 vaccines was another demonstration of Beijing’s multifaceted approach to increasing its regional influence.

Sensing the inevitability of Chinese investment in revolutionizing regional economies, the Kremlin announced the “Greater Eurasian Partnership” in 2015. This partnership attempted to integrate the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of, with the BRI. Though this partnership has only been partially successful, Putin has sought to use Chinese investment to help develop Russia’s Far East.

Russia’s connections to the remaining Soviet political networks and military power in the region have allowed Moscow to contend with China’s growing economic edge in Central Asia over the last two decades. But the increasing international pressure on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine has suddenly upset the traditional “division of labor” between Russia and China in Central Asia. Though still a vital partner to Central Asian states, Russia risks losing greater economic and security ground to China in the coming years.

After cross-border trade between the EU and Russia and Belarus was reduced following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, China placed renewed focus on developing the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), or “Middle Corridor,” of the BRI. Instead of Chinese trade flowing from Russia into Europe, it is increasingly being transported through Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Turkey. The newly built Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, as well as other projects like the China-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan (CKU) railway, will further erode Russia’s importance to the BRI.

On September 14, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Kazakhstan on his first foreign trip since the pandemic began. His destination was symbolic—the BRI was first announced by Xi in Kazakhstan in 2013, and the country has fashioned itself as the “buckle” of the project.

Alongside signing economic deals during his visit in September, Xi vowed to back Kazakhstan “in the defense of its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” This contrasts with Russian political figures who have questioned the validity of Kazakhstan’s statehood in the past, including Putin. Xi then traveled to Uzbekistan to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on September 15 and 16 and signed deals worth $16 billion with Uzbekistan, dwarfing the $4.6 billion signed between Uzbekistan and Russia.

China’s auto industry has also increased its manufacturing presence and share of the market in Central Asia in 2022, as sanctions have hindered Russia’s production capabilities.

China’s growing military presence in Central Asia has similarly been a major concern for the Kremlin. Over the last decade, China has rapidly increased its arms exports to the region. And though China has conducted bilateral military exercises in Central Asia since 2002 in coordination with the SCO, in 2016 China held its first antiterrorism exercises with Tajikistan, and held the “Cooperation 2019” exercises with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, “marking the first time their national guard units had trained with China on counterterrorism.”

In 2021, Tajikistan also approved the construction of a Chinese-funded military base in the country near its border with Afghanistan—though China’s focus on Tajikistan is “linked more to Afghanistan than to Central Asia as a whole.” However, the use of Chinese private military and security companies (PMSCs) in Africa and the Middle East has also led to concern in Moscow that China’s PMSCs may expand further across Central Asia.

Moscow’s strained military situation became evident in September, when Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, both members of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance, engaged in deadly border clashes. While Russia and the CSTO were unable to calm hostilities, the leaders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan met on the sidelines of the SCO summit on September 16 to cool tensions.

Nonetheless, several factors inhibit China from eclipsing Russia’s geopolitical influence in Central Asia. Beijing has typically been hesitant to commit military forces abroad and continues to see the Russian military as an asset against instability in the region. The Russian-led CSTO intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022 showed the Kremlin was capable of stabilizing vulnerable national governments facing social unrest in the region, as well as cementing their authority and international legitimacy.

Russia also operates a military base in Tajikistan, while Kyrgyzstan hosts a Russian military air base. Kazakhstan’s large ethnic Russian minority, meanwhile, holds local economic and political power, and the Kazakh government remains fearful of a Russian military intervention ostensibly to protect them.

Additionally, Russia retains some economic leverage over Central Asian states. Russia conducts billions of dollars worth of trade with them annually and maintains several Soviet legacy projects that have bound Central Asia to it, such as common gas and oil pipelines, waterways, railway networks, and electricity grids. Central Asian states also have some of the largest annual remittance rates in the world, with the remittances from Russia to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan accounting for roughly 30 percent of their gross domestic product in 2021.

The Kremlin also has the ability to shape local perceptions of Russia through its dominant media and social media channels in Central Asia. But positive public opinion toward China across the region steadily declined between 2017 and 2021 for a variety of reasons, especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Many Central Asians are concerned over China’s “debt-trap diplomacy,” while large numbers of Chinese workers brought in to develop BRI projects in the region have resulted in deadly protests and clashes with locals.

Competition between China and Central Asian states over scarce regional water supplies, as well as China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, a Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim ethnic group, who “see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations,” have also damaged China’s ties in the region.

Evidently, China’s own obstacles and Russia’s lingering presence in the region have helped sustain the geopolitical balance in Central Asia. But mutual pledges by China and Russia to respect one another’s core interests, most recently repeated in June 2022, have contributed the most to preventing greater agitation in the region. While Beijing and Moscow are destined to compete in Central Asia, careful diplomacy will likely prolong their cautious cooperation.

Ultimately, China remains more concerned with Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the broader Asia Pacific region, while Russia is more preoccupied in its eastern and southern regions, most notably Ukraine.

Russia has so far borne the brunt of U.S.-led efforts to contain their foreign policies. But the launch of the U.S.-China trade war in 2018 under former U.S. President Donald Trump marked a serious turn in the U.S.-Chinese relationship, which has continued under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration (as well as the EU) has criticized and sanctioned China over its policies in Xinjiang, and most recently imposed significant technology export controls on China on October 7.

Heightened tensions with the West will draw China and Russia closer together. While Central Asia is where their interests collide the most, Beijing and Moscow will continue to avoid conflict there to focus on pushing back against Western power elsewhere in the world.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

Lula must save Brazil from savage capitalism, says Federal Deputy Juliana Cardoso

Juliana Cardoso is sitting in her office in front of a lavender, orange, and yellow mandala that was made for her. She has been a member of São Paulo’s city council since 2008. On October 2, 2022, as a candidate for the Workers Party (PT), Cardoso won a seat in Brazil’s lower house, the Federal Chamber of Deputies.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

She is wearing a t-shirt that bears the powerful slogan: O Brasil é terra indígena (Brazil is Indigenous land). The slogan echoes her brave campaign against the disregard shown by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s 38th president defeated on October 30, towards the Indigenous populations of his country. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, Bolsonaro vetoed Law no. 14021 which would have provided drinking water and basic medical materials to Indigenous communities. Several organizations took Bolsonaro to the International Criminal Court for this action.

In April 2022, Cardoso wrote that the rights of the Indigenous “did not come from the kindness of those in power, but from the struggles of Indigenous people over the centuries. Though guaranteed in the [1988] Constitution, these rights are threatened daily.” Her political work has been defined by her commitment to her own Indigenous heritage but also by her deep antipathy to the “savage capitalism” that has cannibalized her country.

Savage Capitalism

Bolsonaro had accelerated a project that Cardoso told us was an “avalanche of savage capitalism. It is a capitalism that kills, that destroys, that makes a lot of money for a few people.” The current beneficiaries of this capitalism refuse to recognize that the days of their unlimited profits are nearly over. These people—most of whom supported Bolsonaro—“live in a bubble of their own, with lots of money, with swimming pools.” Lula’s election victory on October 30 will not immediately halt their “politics of death,” but it has certainly opened a new possibility.

New studies about poverty in Brazil reveal startling facts. An FGV Social study from July 2022 found that almost 63 million Brazilians—30% of the country’s population—live below the poverty line (10 million Brazilians slipped below that line to join those in poverty between 2019 and 2021). The World Bank documented the spatial and racial divides of Brazil’s poverty: three in ten of Brazil’s poor are Afro-Brazilian women in urban areas, while three-quarters of children in poverty live in rural areas. President Bolsonaro’s policies of upward redistribution of wealth during the pandemic and after contributed to the overall poverty in the country and exacerbated the deep social inequalities of race and region that already existed. This, Cardoso says, is evidence of the “savage capitalism” that has gripped her country and left tens of millions of Brazilians in a “hole, with no hope of living.”

To Sow Hope

“I was born and raised within the PT,” she tells us, in the Sapopemba area of São Paulo. Surrounded by the struggles against “savage capitalism,” Cardoso was raised by parents who were active in the PT. “As a girl, I walked amongst those who built the PT, such as José Dirceu, José Genoino, President Lula himself,” as well as her mother—Ana Cardoso, who was one of the founders of the PT. Her parents—Ana Cardoso and Jonas “Juruna” Cardoso—were active in the struggles of the metalworkers and for public housing in the Fazenda da Juta area of Sapopemba. A few days after he led a protest in 1985, Juruna was shot to death by mysterious gunmen. Juliana had been sitting in his lap outside their modest home in the COHAB Teotônio Vilela. Her mother was told not to insist on an investigation, since this would “bring more deaths.” This history of struggle defines Juliana.

“We are not bureaucrats,” she told us. “We are militants.” People like her who will be in the Congress will “use the instrument of the mandate to move an agenda” to better the conditions of everyday life. Pointing to the mandala in her office, Juliana says, “I think this lilac part is my shyness.” Her active life in politics, she says, “kind of changed me from being shy to being much firmer.” There is only one reason “why I am here,” she says, and that is “to sow, to have hope for seeds that will fight with me for the working class, for women, during this difficult class struggle.”

Politics in Brazil is Violent

Lula will be sworn into office on January 1, 2023. He will face a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate that are in the grip of the right-wing. This is not a new phenomenon, although the centrão (centre), the opportunistic bloc in the parliament that has run things, will now have to work alongside far-right members of Bolsonaro’s movement. Juliana and her left allies will be in a minority. The right, she says, enters politics with no desire to open a dialogue about the future of Brazil. Many right-wing politicians are harsh, formed by fake news and a suffocating attitude to money and religion. “Hate, weapons, death”—these are the words that seem to define the right-wing in Brazil. It is because of them that politics “is very violent.”

Juliana entered politics through struggles developed by the Base Ecclesiastical Communities (CEBs) of the Catholic Church, learning her ethics through Liberation Theology through the work of Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns and Paulo Freire. “You have to engage people in their struggles, dialogue with them about their struggles,” she told us. This attitude to building struggles and dialoguing with anyone defines Juliana as she prepares to go to Brasilia and take her seat in the right-wing-dominated National Congress.

Lula, Juliana says, “is an ace.” Few politicians have his capacity to dialogue with and convince others about the correctness of his positions. The left is weak in the National Congress, but it has the advantage of Lula. “President Lula will need to be the big star,” said Juliana. He will have to lead the charge to save Brazil from savage capitalism.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Zoe Alexandra is a journalist and co-editor of Peoples Dispatch. She covers social movements and leftist politics in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Why support for Ukraine could dwindle in the final months of 2022

With the U.S. midterm elections looming and Europe’s economic situation deteriorating, the threat of reduced international support for Ukraine could limit Kyiv’s options heading into the new year.

Since February 24, 2022, Ukraine’s armed forces have successfully defended much of their country. But without American assistance, the Ukrainian military campaign would have likely floundered months ago. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has provided the lion’s share of military aid to Ukraine, alongside enormous financial and humanitarian assistance. With the U.S. midterm elections to be held on November 8, 2022, both President Joe Biden’s administration and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fear that these channels of support for Ukraine will diminish significantly.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The economic effects of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, such as higher energy prices, have taken their toll on American voters, and recent polling shows that U.S. support for the war is waning, especially among Republicans. According to Pew Research Center, the belief that the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine surged among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents from 9 percent in March to 32 percent in September.

While the U.S. economy is in a relatively good state compared to much of the rest of the world, Republicans have exploited domestic economic concerns to undermine Biden and the Democrats for months. And though many influential Republicans, such as Senator Lindsey Graham, continue to voice strong support for Ukraine, others aligned with the Tea Party and former U.S. President Donald Trump form the GOP’s increasingly vocal “isolationist wing.”

The influence of this populist group has been reflected in the growing split between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, with both of them recently sparring over the issue of Ukraine aid. In May, 57 House Republicans voted against the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, and during the middle of October, McCarthy warned that the U.S. is “not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.” With elections polls predicting a Republican House majority, future aid packages to Ukraine are likely to face greater GOP resistance.

Support for NATO and Ukraine among Trump-leaning Republicans has traditionally been low. Trump derided NATO throughout his 2016 presidential campaign and presidency, and his July 2019 phone call with Zelenskyy led to the first official efforts to impeach him. Florida Republican Governor and Trump ally Ron DeSantis was also comfortable enough to ignore calls to pull his state’s $300 million investments from Russia shortly after the war began.

Unfortunately for Kyiv, Democratic support for Ukraine has also fallen, according to the September Pew Research Center poll, as anxiety over the economy, access to abortion, and other issues have mounted. Another Pew Research Center poll from October found that the economy is the top issue for voters heading into the midterm elections. Biden’s explanation of rising inflation as “Putin’s price hike in gasoline” has only reinforced the notion in some voters’ minds that U.S.-led sanctions targeting Moscow and support for Ukraine have been partly responsible for their economic pain.

And on October 24, 30 members of the progressive caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Joe Biden urging him to hold direct talks with Russia and end the war. While the letter was retracted the next day, it further demonstrated Ukraine’s falling support with the left in the U.S.

Any significant drop in American assistance to Ukraine—the U.S. has provided more than 52 billion euros in military, humanitarian, and financial aid to Ukraine from January 24 to October 3, 2022—will severely impact the latter’s ability to defend itself. According to Christoph Trebesch, head of the team compiling the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s Ukraine Support Tracker, “The U.S. is now committing nearly twice as much as all EU countries and institutions combined.”

The UK has led major European efforts to defend Ukraine and is on track to train up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers on its own soil this year. But the UK is experiencing political destabilization following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September and the resignation of two prime ministers in under two months. These events have inhibited the British government’s ability to form a coherent foreign policy and expand its support for Ukraine.

Furthermore, the UK has its own disputes with the EU regarding Brexit and is unlikely to rally many of the EU states to join its efforts to support Ukraine without strong U.S. coordination.

The EU has sent billions of euros of financial aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, but far less humanitarian and military aid. Bilateral military aid from Ukraine’s most important EU suppliers—France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Poland—fell significantly since the end of April 2022, with no new military pledges being made in July. Large-scale European military assistance only resumed following the launch of the successful Ukrainian offensive that has reclaimed a large part of the territory since early September.

Yet around the same time (on September 5), EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that member states’ weapons stocks were “severely ‘depleted’” after months of providing Ukraine with arms, reinforcing perceptions of the EU’s inability to provide long-term military support to Kyiv.

On October 17, the EU formed its own military training program for Ukrainian soldiers. France declared it would train 2,000 on its soil, while other EU members will train another 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers. Though they are unlikely to match NATO-led initiatives, the latest round of EU sanctions against Russia, which were approved on October 5, demonstrate Europe’s commitment to keeping pressure on Russia.

A drastic increase in EU assistance to Ukraine and confrontation with Russia, however, remains unlikely. Poland, the leading member state advocating for these policies, was the largest recipient of EU funds between 2007 and 2020, and will not be able to coalesce the bloc for these purposes on its own. And with Europe’s energy costs mounting, the ability of the EU countries to maintain, let alone increase, their support for Ukraine may also soon come under much further strain.

As in the U.S., much of Europe’s political right-wing (as well as left-wing political elements) is already far less enthusiastic about maintaining support for Ukraine than the political mainstream. Citing economic pain at home, fueled in part by rising energy costs, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has led the continental criticism against Russian sanctions since the Ukrainian invasion. His enthusiastic reception at the August 4 Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, proves that these policies have not caused much concern in the GOP.

With the threat of reduced support from the U.S. and Europe, Ukraine’s ability to hold off Russia will weaken significantly in 2023. While most UN members voted to condemn Russia for its invasion, only Western allies like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have chosen to sanction Russia and aid Ukraine. This is unlikely to change, particularly if pressure from Washington and Brussels subsides.

Because the newly elected and reelected representatives in the 2022 U.S. midterm elections will not take office until January 2023, the Biden administration appears intent on using this window to build up its support for Kyiv. Lawmakers have begun discussing a $50 billion aid package for Ukraine that is expected to be finalized by January.

One problem with this strategy is that winter weather risks grinding Ukraine’s autumn offensive to a halt. Any potential Russian counteroffensive may wait until next spring, and Ukraine’s needs may have changed by then. Russia has shifted strategies throughout the war, including bolstering the use of artillery, Iranian drones, and other weapons. The first of the roughly 300,000 Russian reservists and volunteers are expected to arrive soon in Ukraine, allowing Russia to change strategies once more.

By then the war would be more than a year old, and U.S. public and political support would likely have fallen further. Having already provided more than 52 billion euros in military, humanitarian, and financial aid to Ukraine since January 24, 2022, Washington is unlikely to provide Ukraine with more large aid packages until the U.S. domestic economic situation improves.

It remains to be seen if Republicans win the House or the Senate. And if Ukrainian forces manage to regain a significant amount of territory from Russia over the next few months, then current levels of U.S. support could be mostly maintained even if Republicans gain control over either chamber of Congress. Nonetheless, Kyiv may be wise to prepare for one more extensive U.S. aid package and focus on maintaining support for current sanctions while appealing for greater help from Europe. While the Ukrainian armed forces may not mount any new major offensives for the foreseeable future, they may be able to prevent the Russian military from doing so.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

Protests in Guinea lay bare the greed of foreign mining companies in the Sahel

On October 20, 2022, in Guinea, a protest organized by the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) took place. The protesters demanded the ruling military government (the National Committee of Reconciliation and Development, or CNRD) release political detainees and sought to establish a framework for a return to civilian rule. They were met with violent security forces, and in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, at least five people were injured and three died from gunshot wounds. The main violence was in Conakry’s commune of Ratoma, one of the poorest areas in the city.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In September 2021, the CNRD, led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, overthrew the government of Alpha Condé, which had been in power for more than a decade and was steeped in corruption. In 2020, then-President Alpha Condé’s son—Alpha Mohamed Condé—and his minister of defense—Mohamed Diané—were accused of bribery in a complaint that the Collective for the Transition in Guinea (CTG) filed with the French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office. The complaint alleges that these men received bribes from an international consortium in exchange for bauxite mining rights near the city of Boké.

Boké, in northwestern Guinea, is the epicenter of the country’s bauxite mining. Guinea has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite (estimated to be 7.4 billion metric tons) and is the second-largest producer (after Australia) of bauxite, an essential mineral for aluminum. All the mining in Guinea is controlled by multinational firms, such as Alcoa (U.S.), China Hongqiao, and Rio Tinto Alcan (Anglo-Australian), which operate in association with Guinean state entities.

When the CNRD under Colonel Doumbouya seized power, one of the main issues at stake was control over the bauxite revenues. In April 2022, Doumbouya assembled the major mining companies and told them that by the end of May they had to provide a road map for the creation of bauxite refineries in Guinea or else exit the country. Doumbouya said, “Despite the mining boom in the bauxite sector, it is clear that the expected revenues are below expectations. We can no longer continue this fool’s game that perpetuates great inequality” between Guinea and the international companies. The deadline was extended to June, and the ultimatum’s demands to cooperate or leave are ongoing.

Doumbouya’s CNRD in Guinea, like the military governments in Burkina Faso and Mali, came to power amid popular sentiment fed up with the oligarchies in their country and with French rule. Doumbouya’s 2017 comments in Paris reflect that latter sentiment. He said that French military officers who come to Guinea “underestimate the human and intellectual capacities of Africans… They have haughty attitudes and take themselves for the colonist who knows everything, who masters everything.” This coup government—formed out of an elite force created by Alpha Condé to fight terrorism—has captured the frustrations of the population, but is unable to construct a viable agenda to exit the country’s dependence on foreign mining companies. In the meantime, the protests for a return to democracy are unlikely to be quelled.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power
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Is the US chip ban on China a declaration of war in the computer age?

The United States has gambled big in its latest across-the-board sanctions on Chinese companies in the semiconductor industry, believing it can kneecap China and retain its global dominance. From the slogans of globalization and “free trade” of the neoliberal 1990s, Washington has reverted to good old technology denial regimes that the U.S. and its allies followed during the Cold War. While it might work in the short run in slowing down the Chinese advances, the cost to the U.S. semiconductor industry of losing China—its biggest market—will have significant consequences in the long run. In the process, the semiconductor industries of Taiwan and South Korea and equipment manufacturers in Japan and the European Union are likely to become collateral damage. It reminds us again of what former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.”

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

The purpose of the U.S. sanctions, the second generation of sanctions after the earlier one in August 2021, is to restrict China’s ability to import advanced computing chips, develop and maintain supercomputers, and manufacture advanced semiconductors. Though the U.S. sanctions are cloaked in military terms—denying China access to technology and products that can help China’s military—in reality, these sanctions target almost all leading semiconductor players in China and, therefore, its civilian sector as well. The fiction of ‘barring military use’ is only to provide the fig leaf of a cover under the World Trade Organization (WTO) exceptions on having to provide market access to all WTO members. Most military applications use older-generation chips and not the latest versions.

The specific sanctions imposed by the United States include:

  • Advanced logic chips required for artificial intelligence and high-performance computing
  • Equipment for 16nm logic and other advanced chips such as FinFET and Gate-All-Around
  • The latest generations of memory chips: NAND with 128 layers or more and DRAM with 18nm half-pitch

Specific equipment bans in the rules go even further, including many older technologies as well. For example, one commentator pointed out that the prohibition of tools is so broad that it includes technologies used by IBM in the late 1990s.

The sanctions also encompass any company that uses U.S. technology or products in its supply chain. This is a provision in the U.S. laws: any company that ‘touches’ the United States while manufacturing its products is automatically brought under the U.S. sanctions regime. It is a unilateral extension of the United States’ national legal jurisdiction and can be used to punish and crush any entity—a company or any other institution—that is directly or indirectly linked to the United States. These sanctions are designed to completely decouple the supply chain of the United States and its allies—the European Union and East Asian countries—from China.

In addition to the latest U.S. sanctions against companies that are already on the list of sanctioned Chinese companies, a further 31 new companies have been added to an “unverified list.” These companies must provide complete information to the U.S. authorities within two months, or else they will be barred as well. Furthermore, no U.S. citizen or anyone domiciled in the United States can work for companies on the sanctioned or unverified lists, not even to maintain or repair equipment supplied earlier.

The global semiconductor industry’s size is currently more than $500 billion and is likely to double its size to $1 trillion by 2030. According to a Semiconductor Industry Association and Boston Consulting Group report of 2020—“Turning the Tide for Semiconductor Manufacturing in the U.S.”—China is expected to account for approximately 40 percent of the semiconductor industry growth by 2030, displacing the United States as the global leader. This is the immediate trigger for the U.S. sanctions and its attempt to halt China’s industry from taking over the lead from the United States and its allies.

While the above measures are intended to isolate China and limit its growth, there is a downside for the United States and its allies in sanctioning China.

The problem for the United States—more so for Taiwan and South Korea—is that China is their biggest trading partner. Imposing such sanctions on equipment and chips also means destroying a good part of their market with no prospect of an immediate replacement. This is true not only for China’s East Asian neighbors but also for equipment manufacturers like the Dutch company ASML, the world’s only supplier of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines that produces the latest chips. For Taiwan and South Korea, China is not only the biggest export destination for their semiconductor industry as well as other industries, but also one of their biggest suppliers for a range of products. The forcible separation of China’s supply chain in the semiconductor industry is likely to be accompanied by separation in other sectors as well.

The U.S. companies are also likely to see a big hit to their bottom line—including equipment manufacturers such as Lam Research Corporation, Applied Materials, and KLA Corporation; the electronic design automation (EDA) tools such as Synopsys and Cadence; and advanced chip suppliers like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and AMD. China is the largest destination for all these companies. The problem for the United States is that China is not only the fastest-growing part of the world’s semiconductor industry but also the industry’s biggest market. So the latest sanctions will cripple not only the Chinese companies on the list but also the U.S. semiconductor firms, drying up a significant part of their profits and, therefore, their future research and development (R&D) investments in technology. While some of the resources for investments will come from the U.S. government—for example, the $52.7 billion chip manufacturing subsidy—they do not compare to the losses the U.S. semiconductor industry will suffer as a result of the China sanctions. This is why the semiconductor industry had suggested narrowly targeted sanctions on China’s defense and security industry, not the sweeping sanctions that the United States has now introduced; the scalpel and not the hammer.

The process of separating the sanctions regime and the global supply chain is not a new concept. The United States and its allies had a similar policy during and after the Cold War with the Soviet Union via the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) (in 1996, it was replaced by the Wassenaar Arrangement), the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Control Regime, and other such groups. Their purpose is very similar to what the United States has now introduced for the semiconductor industry. In essence, they were technology denial regimes that applied to any country that the United States considered an “enemy,” with its allies following—then as now—what the United States dictated. The targets on the export ban list were not only the specific products but also the tools that could be used to manufacture them. Not only the socialist bloc countries but also countries such as India were barred from accessing advanced technology, including supercomputers, advanced materials, and precision machine tools. Under this policy, critical equipment required for India’s nuclear and space industries was placed under a complete ban. Though the Wassenaar Arrangement still exists, with countries like even Russia and India within the ambit of this arrangement now, it has no real teeth. The real threat comes from falling out with the U.S. sanctions regime and the U.S. interpretation of its laws superseding international laws, including the WTO rules.

The advantage the United States and its military allies—in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, and the Central Treaty Organization—had before was that the United States and its European allies were the biggest manufacturers in the world. The United States also controlled West Asia’s hydrocarbon—oil and gas—a vital resource for all economic activities. The current chip war against China is being waged at a time when China has become the biggest manufacturing hub of the world and the largest trade partner for 70 percent of countries in the world. With the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries no longer obeying the U.S. diktats, Washington has lost control of the global energy market.

So why has the United States started a chip war against China at a time that its ability to win such a war is limited? It can, at best, postpone China’s rise as a global peer military power and the world’s biggest economy. An explanation lies in what some military historians call the “Thucydides trap”: when a rising power rivals a dominant military power, most such cases lead to war. According to Athenian historian Thucydides, Athens’ rise led Sparta, the then-dominant military power, to go to war against it, in the process destroying both city-states; therefore, the trap. While such claims have been disputed by other historians, when a dominant military power confronts a rising one, it does increase the chance of either a physical or economic war. If the Thucydides trap between China and the United States restricts itself to only an economic war—the chip war—we should consider ourselves lucky!

With the new series of sanctions by the United States, one issue has been settled: the neoliberal world of free trade is officially over. The sooner other countries understand it, the better it will be for their people. And self-reliance means not simply the fake self-reliance of supporting local manufacturing, but instead means developing the technology and knowledge to sustain and grow it.

Author Bio: Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.

China’s path to socialist modernization

The Communist Party of China (CPC) held its 20th National Congress from October 16 to October 22, 2022. Every five years, the delegates of the CPC’s 96 million members meet to elect its top leaders and to set the future direction for the party. One of the main themes of the congress this year was “rejuvenation” of the country through “a Chinese path to modernization.” In his report to the congress, Xi Jinping, the CPC’s general secretary, sketched out the way forward to build China “into a modern socialist country.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Most of the Western media commentary about the congress ignored the actual words that were said in Beijing, opting instead to make wild speculations about the deliberations in the party (including about the sudden departure of former Chinese President Hu Jintao from the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the congress, who left because he was feeling ill). Much could have been gained from listening to what people said during the National Congress instead of putting words in their mouths.

Socialist Modernization

When the Communist Party took power in China in 1949, the country was the 11th poorest country in the world. For the first time since the “century of humiliation” that began with the British wars on China from 1839 onward, China has developed into a major power with the social situation of the Chinese people having greatly improved from their condition in 1949. A short walk away from the Great Hall of the People, where the congress was held, is the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, which reminds people of the immense achievement of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and its impact on Chinese society.

Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the CPC at the 18th National Congress in 2012 and was elected president of the People’s Republic of China in March 2013. Since then, the country has gone through significant changes. Economically, China’s GDP has almost doubled to become the world’s second-largest economy, growing from 58.8 trillion yuan in 2013 to 114.37 trillion yuan in 2021, and its GDP expanded at a rate of 6.6 percent per year during the same period. Meanwhile, the country’s per capita GDP almost doubled between 2013 and 2021, with China approaching the high-income country bracket. In terms of the world economy, China’s GDP was 18.5 percent of the global total in 2021, and the country was responsible for 30 percent of world economic growth from 2013 to 2021. China also manufactured 30 percent of the world’s goods in 2021, up from more than 20 percent in 2012. This adds to the decades of historically unprecedented growth rate of 9.8 percent per year from 1978 to 2014 since the launching of economic reform in China in 1978. These economic achievements are historic and did not come without their set of challenges and consequences.

While delivering the report at the opening of this congress, Xi spoke about the situation that the Chinese people faced a decade ago: “Great achievements had been secured in reform, opening up, and socialist modernization… At the same time, however, a number of prominent issues and problems—some of which had been building for years and others which were just emerging—demanded urgent action.” He went on to talk about the “slide toward weak, hollow, and watered-down party leadership,” pointing out that “money worship, hedonism, egocentricity, and historical nihilism” were the deep-seated problems in a development process that was “imbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable.” These are significant self-criticisms made by the man who has led the country for the past decade.

Corruption

A decade ago, in his speech at the 18th CPC National Congress, outgoing Secretary General Hu Jintao mentioned the word “corruption” several times. “If we fail to handle this issue well,” he warned, “it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state.” Xi Jinping’s first task after taking over as general secretary of the CPC was to tackle this issue. In his inaugural speech as the party head in 2013, Xi said he was committed to “the fighting of tigers and flies at the same time,” referring to the corruption that had spread from the high echelons down to the grassroots level within the party and the government. The party launched “eight-point” rules for its members in December 2012, to limit practices such as inconsequential meetings and extravagant receptions for official visits, and advocated “diligence and thrift.”

Meanwhile, a year after the launch of the “mass line campaign” by Xi’s administration in June 2013, official meetings were reduced by 25 percent in comparison to the period before the campaign, 160,000 “phantom staff” were removed from the government payroll, and 2,580 “unnecessary” official building projects were stopped. Over the past decade, from November 2012 to April 2022, nearly 4.4 million cases involving 4.7 million officials were investigated in the fight against corruption. Party members have been investigated. In the first half of this year alone, 24 senior officials were investigated for corruption, and former ministers, provincial governors, and presidents of the biggest state-owned banks have been expelled from the party and given harsh sentences, including life imprisonment.

Hu Jintao’s comments and Xi Jinping’s actions reflected concerns that during the period of high growth after 1978, CPC members grew increasingly detached from the people. During the first months of his presidency, Xi launched the “mass line campaign” to bring the party closer to the grassroots. As part of the “targeted poverty alleviation” campaign launched in 2014, 800,000 party cadres were sent to survey and visit 128,000 villages as part of this project. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China successfully eradicated extreme poverty, contributing to 76 percent of the global reduction in poverty till October 2015.

Beyond the party’s self-correction, Xi’s strong words and actions against the corrupt “flies and tigers” contributed to the Chinese people’s confidence in the government. According to a 2020 research paper by Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, the overall satisfaction with the government’s performance was 93.1 percent in 2016, seeing the most significant growth in the more underdeveloped regions in the countryside. This rise of confidence in rural areas resulted from increased social services, trust in local officials, and the campaign against poverty.

Right Side of History

At the 20th Congress, Xi Jinping reflected on the history of colonialism—including China’s “century of humiliation”—and the implications this would have for China going forward. “In pursuing modernization,” Xi said, “China will not tread the old path of war, colonization, and plunder taken by some countries. That brutal and blood-stained path of enrichment at the expense of others caused great suffering for the people of developing countries. We will stand firmly on the right side of history and on the side of human progress.”

Chinese officials routinely tell us that their country is not interested in seeking dominance in the world. What China would like to do is to collaborate with other countries to try and solve humanity’s dilemmas. The Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, was launched in 2013 with the purpose of “win-win” cooperation and development and has thus far built much-needed infrastructure with investment and construction contracts totaling $1 trillion in almost 150 countries. China’s interest in tackling the climate catastrophe is evidenced by its planting of a quarter of the world’s new forests over the past decade and in becoming a world leader in renewable energy investment and electric vehicle production. On the public health side, China adopted a COVID-19 policy that prioritizes lives over profit, donated 325 million doses of vaccines, and saved millions of lives as a result of this. As a result of its initiatives in the public health sector, the average life expectancy of Chinese people was 77.93 years in 2020 and reached 78.2 years in 2021, and for the first time, surpassed life expectancy in the United States—77 years in 2020 and 76.1 in 2021—making this drop “the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

China’s communists do not see these events without putting them in the context of the long process undertaken by the government toward achieving and ensuring their social development. In 27 years, China will celebrate the centenary of its revolution. In 1997, then-President of China Jiang Zemin spoke about the two centenary goals—the 100-year markers following the founding of the Communist Party (1921) and the Chinese Revolution (1949)—that “underwrite all China’s long-term economic planning programs and contemporary macroeconomic policy agendas.” At that time, the focus was on growth rates. In 2017, Xi Jinping shifted the emphasis of these goals to the “three tough battles”: to defuse major financial risks, to eradicate poverty, and to control pollution. This new congress has gone beyond those “tough battles” to protect Chinese sovereignty and to expand the dignity of the Chinese people.

The West must stop blocking negotiations between Ukraine and Russia

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. This war has been horrendous, though it does not compare with the terrible destruction wrought by the U.S. bombardment of Iraq (“shock and awe”) in 2003. In the Gomel region of Belarus that borders Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian diplomats met on February 28 to begin negotiations toward a ceasefire. These talks fell apart. Then, in early March, the two sides met again in Belarus to hold a second and third round of talks. On March 10, the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia met in Antalya, Türkiye, and finally, at the end of March, senior officials from Ukraine and Russia met in Istanbul, Türkiye, thanks to the initiative of Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On March 29, Türkiye’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, “We are pleased to see that the rapprochement between the parties has increased at every stage. Consensus and common understanding were reached on some issues.” By April, an agreement regarding a tentative interim deal was reached between Russia and Ukraine, according to an article in Foreign Affairs.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In early April, Russian forces began to withdraw from Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv Oblast, which meant that Russia halted military operations around Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. The United States and the United Kingdom claimed that this withdrawal was a consequence of military failure, while the Russians said it was due to the interim deal. It is impossible to ascertain, with the available facts, which of these two views was correct.

Before the deal could go forward, then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in Kyiv on April 9. A Ukrainian media outlet—Ukrainska Pravda—reported that Johnson carried two messages to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy: first, that Russian President Vladimir Putin “should be pressured, not negotiated with,” and second, that even if Ukraine signed agreements with the Kremlin, the West was not ready to do so. According to Ukrainska Pravda, soon after Johnson’s visit, “the bilateral negotiation process was paused.” A few weeks later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv, and following the trip, Austin spoke at a news conference at an undisclosed location in Poland and said, “We want to see Russia weakened.” There is no direct evidence that Johnson, Blinken, and Austin directly pressured Zelenskyy to withdraw from the interim negotiations, but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to suggest that this was the case.

The lack of willingness to allow Ukraine to negotiate with Russia predates these visits and was summarized in a March 10, 2022, article in the Washington Post where senior officials in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration stated that the current U.S. strategy “is to ensure that the economic costs for Russia are severe and sustainable, as well as to continue supporting Ukraine militarily in its effort to inflict as many defeats on Russia as possible.”

Long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, since 2014, the United States has—through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense—spent more than $19 billion in providing training and equipment to the Ukrainian military ($17.6 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022). The total annual budget of the United Nations for 2022 is $3.12 billion, far less than the amount spent by the U.S. on Ukraine today. The arming of Ukraine, the statements about weakening Russia by senior officials of the U.S. government, and the refusal to initiate any kind of arms control negotiations prolong a war that is ugly and unnecessary.

Ukraine Is Not in Iowa

Ukraine and Russia are neighbors. You cannot change the geographical location of Ukraine and move it to Iowa in the United States. This means that Ukraine and Russia have to come to an agreement and find a solution to end the conflict between them. In 2019, Volodymyr Zelenskyy won by a landslide (73 percent) in the Ukrainian presidential election against Petro Poroshenko, the preferred candidate of the West. “We will not be able to avoid negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said on a TV panel, “Pravo Na Vladu,” TSN news service reported, before he became president. In December 2019, Zelenskyy and Putin met in Paris, alongside then-Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron (known as the “Normandy Four”). This initiative was driven by Macron and Merkel. As early as 2019, France’s President Emmanuel Macron argued that it was time for Europe to “rethink… our relationship with Russia” because “pushing Russia away from Europe is a profound strategic error.”

In March 2020, Zelenskyy said that he and Putin could work out an agreement within a year based on the Minsk II agreements of February 2015. “There are points in Minsk. If we move them around a bit, then what bad can that lead to? As soon as there are no people with weapons, the shooting will stop. That’s important,” Zelenskyy told the Guardian. In a December 2019 press conference, Putin said, “there is nothing more important than the Minsk Agreements.” At this point, Putin said that all he expected was that the Donbas region would be given special status in the Ukrainian Constitution, and during the time of the expected Ukraine-Russia April 2020 meeting, the troops on both sides would have pulled back and agreed to “disengagement along the entire contact line.”

Role of Macron

It was clear to Macron by 2020 that the point of the negotiations was about more than just Minsk and Ukraine; it was about the creation of a “new security architecture” that did not isolate Russia—and was also not subservient to Washington. Macron developed these points in February 2021 in two directions and spoke about them during his interview with the Atlantic Council (a U.S. think tank). First, he said that NATO has “pushed our borders as far as possible to the eastern side,” but NATO’s expansion has “not succeeded in reducing the conflicts and threats there.” NATO’s eastward expansion, he made clear, was not going to increase Europe’s security. Second, Macron said that the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019—and Russia’s mirroring that—leaves Europe unprotected “against these Russian missiles.” He further said, “As a European, I want to open a discussion between the European Union and Russia.” Such a discussion would pioneer a post-Cold War understanding of security, which would leave the United States out of the conversation with Russia. None of these proposals from Macron could advance, not only because of hesitancy in Russia but also principally because they were not seen favorably by Washington.

Confusion existed about whether U.S. President Joe Biden would be welcomed into the Normandy Four. In late 2020, Zelenskyy said he wanted Biden at the table, but a year later it became clear that Russia was not interested in having the United States be part of the Normandy Four. Putin said that the Normandy Four was “self-sufficient.” Biden, meanwhile, chose to intensify threats and sanctions against Russia based on the claims of Kremlin interference in the United States 2016 and 2018 elections. By December 2021, there was no proper reciprocal dialogue between Biden and Putin. Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinistö that there was a “need to immediately launch negotiations with the United States and NATO” on security guarantees. In a video call between Biden and Putin on December 7, 2021, the Kremlin told the U.S. president that “Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia.” No such guarantee was forthcoming from Washington. The talks fizzled out.

The record shows that Washington rejected Macron’s initiatives as well as entreaties from Putin and Zelenskyy to resolve issues through diplomatic dialogue. Up to four days before the Russian invasion, Macron continued his efforts to prevent an escalation of the conflict. By then, the appetite in Moscow for negotiations had dwindled, and Putin rejected Macron’s efforts.

An independent European foreign policy was simply not possible (as Macron had suggested and as the former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev had proposed in 1989 while talking about his vision for a “common European home” that would stretch from northern Asia to Europe). Nor was an agreement with Russia feasible if it meant that Russian concerns were to be taken seriously by the West.

Ukrainians have been paying a terrible price for the failure of ensuring sensible and reasonable negotiations from 2014 to February 2022—which could have prevented the invasion by Russia in the first place, and once the war started, could have led to the end of this war. All wars end in negotiations, but these negotiations to end wars should be permitted to restart.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

How Europe is navigating its energy crises

A multifaceted response from Europe has so far prevented its energy woes from creating widespread social and economic destabilization. But with winter approaching, the crisis is far from over and risks are getting worse.

While European energy prices have eased slightly in recent months, stress continues to build across a continent that has long been dependent on access to cheap Russian energy.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Protests related to high energy costs have been held from Belgium to the Czech Republic in Europe. Fuel shortages have led to long queues to buy petrol at gas stations in France. The Don’t Pay UK movement has urged British citizens to enter a “bill strike” by refusing to pay energy bills until gas and electricity prices are reduced to an “affordable level.” Europe’s remarkably high energy prices have also fueled climate change protests across the continent.

European governments have resorted to diverse measures to manage the crisis. After the EU banned Russian coal imports, coal regulations were reduced in Poland, which has led to illegal coal mines being operated in the country. Aid packages, such as Austria’s 1.3 billion euro initiative, aim to help companies struggling with mounting energy costs. The UK “has capped the price of average household energy bills at 2,500 pounds ($2,770) a year for two years from October” and also announced a cap on energy per unit for businesses, charities, and NGOs in September.

Italy has shown considerable capability in diversifying its energy imports from Russia since the beginning of the year to reduce its dependence on the Kremlin. Under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italy began to increase its reliance on Russian energy, a process that continued even after his election defeat in 2011 and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

This reliance came to an abrupt end after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Italy signed natural gas deals with Egypt and Algeria in April and held additional talks with the Republic of Congo and Angola regarding energy supplies as well. In June, Italy also purchased two additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessels, adding to the three LNG terminals it already operates, to further diversify its natural gas (gas for short) supplies.

Not all countries, however, have matched Italy’s success of diversifying their energy imports. France declared it would cap power and gas price increases for households at 15 percent in 2023. But since more than half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors have been shut down for maintenance (Europe’s summer drought also prevented the water-based cooling systems of the French nuclear plants from functioning), France will struggle with mounting energy costs as well as upholding its traditional role as an electricity exporter to other European countries.

Like other European countries, Germany chose to nationalize some of its major energy companies, such as Uniper in September. In October, the German government proposed a 200 billion euro energy subsidies initiative. With gas storage projected to reach 95 percent capacity by November, Germany has also provided itself with significant protection.

But Germany lacks LNG infrastructure and remains vulnerable if Russia cuts off gas through pipelines completely. Currently, Germany is at level two of the country’s three-tier emergency gas plan, with the last stage introducing direct government intervention in gas distribution and rationing.

Because Germany makes the largest contributions of funds to the EU, its economic vulnerability poses concerning implications for the rest of the bloc. And in addition to suffering from gas shortages, Central European countries will “also suffer from the effects of gas rationing in the German industrial sector, given their integration into German supply chains.” Such uncertainty has blunted investment in the region, further compounding Europe’s economic issues.

These issues have underlined the perception that while Russian coal has been relatively easy to ban in Europe and Russian oil is slowly being phased out, Russian natural gas remains too important for much of the continent’s energy mix to be shunned completely.

Dozens of ships carrying LNG have been stuck off Europe’s coast, as the plants “that convert the seaborne fuel back to gas are operating at maximum limit.” High gas prices have meanwhile resulted in key industries across Europe that are reliant on the energy source to shut down, sparking fears of “uncontrolled deindustrialization.”

In addition to national strategies, European countries have pursued collective initiatives to confront the energy crisis. On September 27, Norway, Denmark, and Poland officially opened the Baltic Pipe to supply Poland with natural gas. On October 1, Greece and Bulgaria began commercial operation of the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline, which serves as another link in the Western-backed Southern Gas Corridor project to bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

On October 13, France began sending Germany natural gas for the first time, based on an agreement that “Germany would generate more electricity to supply France during times of peak consumption.” The European Council stated on September 30 that EU states will implement “a voluntary overall reduction target of 10 percent of gross electricity consumption and a mandatory reduction target of 5 percent of the electricity consumption in peak hours.”

Additionally, the EU continues to debate imposing a price cap on Russian gas to the EU, and the G7 countries and its allies agreed on September 2 to implement a price cap on Russian crude oil and oil products in December 2022 and February 2023, respectively.

Germany, however, has led criticism over the “proposal to cap the price on all gas imports to the EU,” stating that the EU lacks the authority to do so, alongside expressing concerns that gas providers will simply sell gas to other countries. Norway, traditionally Europe’s second-largest gas provider after Russia, also indicated it would not accept a cap on gas, and Russia stated it would not sell oil or gas to countries doing so either. The resulting restrictions in energy supply would likely further raise prices.

European countries also remain bound by their own interests, further undermining multilateral cooperation. Croatia, for example, announced it would ban natural gas exports in September. Many European countries have criticized Germany’s planned 200 billion euro subsidies plan for fear that it “could trigger economic imbalances in the bloc.” Germany, meanwhile, declared it would not support a joint EU debt issuance on October 11, only later agreeing to the measures out of pressure from its European allies.

In September, the UK accused the EU of pushing British energy prices higher by severing energy cooperation following Brexit. The U.S. and Norway have also been singled out by EU members for profiting off the current energy crisis.

Varying levels of vulnerability have resulted in some European countries breaking with the continental norm and negotiating with Russia. Serbia, which is not in NATO or part of the EU, signed its own natural gas deal with Russia in May, while Hungary drew the ire of Western allies by signing its own gas deal with Russia in August. Hungary was among the first European countries to agree to purchase Russian natural gas in rubles, stabilizing the Russian currency as sanctions were placed on the Russian economy. If the crisis worsens considerably, other countries may follow suit.

As Europe’s energy crisis has continued, many countries across the world have become increasingly wary. European demand for LNG and a willingness to pay premiums has meant suppliers are increasingly rerouting gas to the continent.

Though rich competitors like South Korea and Japan have been able to contend with European competition for LNG, it has caused shortages elsewhere. Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example, have struggled to secure their traditional LNG imports since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Blackouts in these countries have increased, causing them to resort to more carbon-intensive energy alternatives and prompting renewed talks with Russia over LNG imports and developing pipeline networks to supply natural gas to Asia.

Europe’s decades-long exposure to Russian energy means that its current energy crisis will persist for years. Even with predictions for a relatively mild upcoming winter, overcoming this energy crisis will require cooperation and sacrifice among European states—particularly if the war in Ukraine escalates further. While the West’s solidarity will be put to the test, poorer, energy-vulnerable countries will continue to fall victim as a result of the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

Environmental racism is poisoning America’s waters

The United Nations General Assembly recognized “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” on July 28, 2010. Yet, 12 years later, this human right is still out of reach for millions across the globe, particularly in the Global South. Even in the United States, which has the largest gross domestic product globally, poor and working-class people, and in particular Black and Brown people, are denied this fundamental right. In several cities across the United States, residents struggle with system-wide neglect of water systems and the failure of the government to provide access to what is arguably the most essential resource.

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

The Struggle for Water Is a Struggle Against Racism

Dennis Diaz, a resident of the public housing project Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, New York City, said that after he experienced nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and migraine headaches around late August and early September, he took preliminary tests that revealed he had been exposed to arsenic.

As early as August 4, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was alerted about cloudy water conditions at the Jacob Riis public housing complex. After apparently testing the water for E. coli and chlorine more than a week later, on August 16, NYCHA announced that the water was safe to drink. But after 11 p.m. on September 2, NYCHA revealed that there was arsenic in the water supply. According to an article in City and State, the city said that officials had known about the arsenic two weeks prior.

Diaz called New York “the greatest city in the world” and explained his frustration with the double standard that he feels local politicians allow to persist when it comes to quality-of-life issues between majority-minority neighborhoods like his own and wealthier, predominantly white residential areas. “Imagine if,” he said, arsenic was found in the water by residents in Manhattan’s “Fifth Avenue or Soho, or Williamsburg,” Brooklyn. “Maybe the outcomes would have been different for them. But for minorities in my community, we’re next to nothing to the politicians.” According to the 2016 data provided by NYCHA, 40 percent of the heads of the households living in public housing under the Housing Choice Voucher Program were Black, while 48 percent had Latin American ancestry.

The city of New York is now denying that there ever was arsenic in the water at Jacob Riis, claiming that the testing method “introduced trace levels of arsenic” to the sample they collected. But Dennis Diaz, who recently received his bloodwork results showing low levels of arsenic, is not convinced. “They’re lying,” he said while referring to the latest statement by the city officials. “They did it in Flint, Michigan, where they lied to them [the residents] for years. You can’t believe these people.”

Since NYCHA’s inception in 1934, New York City’s public housing has fallen into disrepair as the federal government drastically reduced funding for public housing in the 2000s. In 2018, 400,000 tenants sued NYCHA for squalid conditions. Also in 2018, then-U.S. Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman sued NYCHA for health and safety violations, exposing children to lead paint, and training NYCHA workers to “deceive” federal inspectors.

In Baltimore, water in the western part of the city tested positive for E. coli on September 5. Affected neighborhoods included the area of Harlem Park/Sandtown-Winchester. Authorities advised residents in these areas to boil water before use due to the contamination.

By September 6, the “boil water advisory” stretched across West Baltimore and into the surrounding southwestern Baltimore County. The neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park is 96.7 percent Black, within the 62.8 percent Black city of Baltimore. This neighborhood also has a history of police brutality. In 2015, Freddie Gray died due to injuries sustained while in police custody after he was arrested in the area. A medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicidebecause officers failed to follow safety guidelines.” In 2017, Harlem Park was locked down by police for nearly a week after a detective was murdered before testifying at a trial against other police officers. Some organizations questioned whether this action by the police was lawful.

Baltimore resident Rachel Viqueira was located in the boil water advisory zone. “While facing decades of underinvestment and neglect, these neighborhoods have simultaneously faced increasing racist police violence and surveillance,” she said. In 2020, Baltimore responded to the massive public protests surrounding George Floyd’s death by defunding the police budget by $22 million. But in 2021, Baltimore City increased police funding by $28 million. This not only canceled out the 2020 decrease but also tacked on an additional $8 million to the police budget.

“In Baltimore, and many other cities, the police budgets have ballooned at the expense of public investment in infrastructure, health, jobs, housing, and education,” Viqueira said.

Jackson, Mississippi, was under a boil water notice from July 29 to September 15. And from August 30 to September 5, the water stopped running for many of Jackson’s more than 150,000 residents, leaving public spaces like schools without running sinks or working toilets. Although water pressure has now been restored, the water remains contaminated.

Derykah Watts, who distributed water to Jackson residents as part of her student group Jackson Water Crisis Advocacy Team, said, “This is a reality that Jackson has faced for a very long time. I know growing up, I remember always hearing my mother say, ‘Oh, we’re on boil water notice this week, don’t use the water [straight from the tap].’”

Jackson is 82.5 percent Black, and this water crisis is only the latest in a chain of failures in the city’s underfunded water system. The roots of the water crisis originate in the era immediately following the racial desegregation of schools in Jackson in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Following desegregation, white residents left the city en masse. From 1960 to 1990, the white population residing in Jackson shrunk by 6,000. White departure meant that white residents, historically more well-off than descendants of Black people who were enslaved, would no longer constitute a large portion of the tax base for city funding.

Instead of finding concrete solutions to address the water crisis resulting from systemic racism, both the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi have been considering privatizing the city’s water supply following the crisis. “We’ve already seen how privatization of Texas’ electrical grid meant massive shut-offs of heat in the middle of a winter storm,” said local activist Bezal Jupiter. “People lost their power, people froze, and some people even died [as many as 246]. Do we want the same future for Jackson’s water system?”

A Water Crisis That Never Ended

The majority-Black city of Flint, Michigan, made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed that for two years, the state government had been covering up the fact that residents were actively being poisoned by lead in their water supply. Six years later, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said that the amount of lead in the water complies with state and federal standards, yet scientists insist that no amount of lead in water is safe. And as of April of 2022, the government was yet to replace 1,800 lead pipes.

“[Governments] will fund rich white communities for infrastructure upgrades, but they absolutely won’t do it for cities like Flint, Baltimore, and Jackson,” said Mitchell Bonga, a law clerk at Goodman, Hurwitz and James, a law firm that filed a class action lawsuit against former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his role in the Flint crisis.

‘They Could Have Done It All Along’

In the neighboring city of Detroit, which also has a majority-Black, low-income population, residents who cannot pay their water bills have been struggling against water shut-offs. “People can’t afford the water bill [in Detroit],” said local activist and Detroit resident Tharron Combs. “People sometimes owe hundreds of dollars in debt to the city for their water bill and when it gets shut off, obviously it’s a public health crisis.”

The city imposed a moratorium on water shut-offs for the pandemic, extending it through 2022. But although the mayor announced his intention to end water shutoffs “once and for all,” the moratorium will expire at the end of the year. “They actually put [shut-offs] on pause for the pandemic, which kind of exposed one of the contradictions of capitalism,” said Combs. “They could have done it all along, and just let people have access to clean water.

“[People] can’t afford their water, or their water is unclean when they can afford it. They don’t have access to food. And this is not a condition that’s really unique to Detroit. This is the case in really any major Black city in the country… Clearly, it’s environmental racism all the way down,” said Combs.

Author Bio: Natalia Marques is a writer at Peoples Dispatch, an organizer, and a graphic designer based in New York City.

Charting the rise of anti-French sentiment across Northern Africa

In November 2021, a French military convoy was making its way to Mali while passing through Burkina Faso and Niger. It did not get very far. It was stopped in Téra, Niger, and before that at several points in Burkina Faso (in Bobo-Dioulasso and Kaya as well as in Ouagadougou, the country’s capital). Two civilians were killed as a result of clashes between the French convoy and protestors who were “angry at the failure of French forces to reign in terrorism in the region.” When the convoy crossed into Mali, it was attacked near the city of Gao.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Colonel Pascal Ianni, French Chief of Defense Staff spokesperson, told Julien Fanciulli of France 24 that there was a lot of “false information circulating” about the French convoy. Blame for the attacks was placed on “terrorists,” namely Islamic groups that continue to hold large parts of Mali and Burkina Faso. These groups have been emboldened and hardened by the 2011 war on Libya, prosecuted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and egged on by France. What Colonel Ianni would not admit is that the protests that followed the convoy revealed the depth of anti-French sentiment across North Africa and the Sahel region.

Coups d’états in the region have been taking place for more than two years—from the coup in Mali in August 2020 to the coup in Burkina Faso in September 2022. The coups in the region, including the coup in Guinea in September 2021 as well and the two other coups in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), and another coup in Burkina Faso (January 2022), were driven in large part due to the anti-French sentiment in the Sahel. In May 2022, the military leaders in Mali ejected the French military bases set up in 2014, while France’s political project—G5 Sahel—flounders in this atmosphere of animosity. Protests against the French in Morocco and Algeria have only added weight to the anti-French sentiment spreading across the African continent, with French President Emmanuel Macron showered with insults as he tried to walk the streets of Oran in Algeria in August 2022.

Animosities

“The situation in the former French colonies (Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and Mali) is different from the situation in northern Africa,” Abdallah El Harif of the Workers’ Democratic Way Party of Morocco told me. “The bad relations between the regime in Morocco and France is due to the fact that the Moroccan regime has developed important economic, political, and security relations with the regimes of West Africa at the expense of the French,” he said. About the former French colonies along the Sahel in particular, El Harif said that “many popular insurrections” had taken place against the continued French colonial presence in these countries. With Morocco distancing itself from France, Paris is angered by its growing ties with the United States, while in the Sahel region people want to eject France from their lives.

Morocco’s monarchy has reacted quietly to the coups in the Sahel, not willing to associate itself with the kind of anti-French sentiment in the region. Such an association would call attention to Morocco’s close relationship with the United States. This U.S.-Morocco relationship has provided the monarchy with dividends: military equipment from the United States and permission for Morocco to continue with its occupation of Western Sahara, including the mining of the region’s precious phosphates (in exchange for Morocco opening ties with Israel). Each year, since 2004, Morocco has hosted a U.S. military exercise, the African Lion. In June 2022, 10 African countries participated in the African Lion 2022, with observers from Israel (for the first time) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Morocco, El Harif told me, “has enormously developed its military relations with the United States.” France has been sidelined by these maneuvers, which has annoyed Paris. As he left behind the jeering crowds in Oran, Algeria, President Macron said that he would visit Morocco in late October.

In the Sahel region, unlike in Morocco, there is a growing popular sentiment against the French colonial interference (called Françafrique). Chad’s former President Idriss Déby Itno, who died in 2021, told Jeune Afrique in 2019 that “Françafrique is over. Sovereignty is indisputable, we must stop sticking this label of French backyard to our countries.” “The French control the currency of these states,” El Harif told me. “They have many military bases [in the Sahel region], and their corporations plunder the natural resources of these countries, while pretending to combat terrorism.” When political challenges arise, the French have colluded in assassinating leaders who challenge their authority (such as Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara in 1987) or have had them arrested and jailed (such as Côte d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo in 2011).

Why Is Françafrique Over?

In a recent interview with Atalayar, France’s former ambassador to Mali Nicolas Normand blamed the rising anti-French sentiment on “the repeated anti-French accusations of Mali’s prime minister and the virulent media campaign carried out by Russia on social media, accusing France of looting Mali and actually supporting the jihadists by pretending to fight them, with fake videos.” Indeed, Mali’s prime minister before August 22, 2022, Choguel Maïga, made strong statements against French military intervention in his country. In February 2022, Maïga told France 24 that the French government “have tried to divide his country by fueling autonomy claims in the north.” Malian singer Salif Keïta posted a video in which he said, “Aren’t you aware that France is financing our enemies against our children?” accusing France of collaborating with the jihadis.

Meanwhile, about the accusation that the Russian Wagner Group was operating in Mali, Maïga responded in his interview with France 24 and said that “The word Wagner. It’s the French who say that. We don’t know any Wagner.” However, Mali, he said in February, is working “with Russia cooperators.” Following an investigation by Facebook in 2020, it removed several social media accounts that were traced back to France and Russia and were “going head to head in the Central African Republic.”

In an important article in Le Monde in December 2021, senior researcher at Leiden University’s African Studies Center Rahmane Idrissa pointed out three reasons for the rise in anti-French sentiment in the Sahel. First, France, he said, “is paying the bill in the Sahel for half a century of military interventions in sub-Saharan Africa,” including France’s protection of regimes “generally odious to the population.” Second, the failure of the war against the jihadists has disillusioned the public regarding the utility of the French project. Third, and this is key, Idrissa argued that the inability of the military rulers in the region “to mobilize the population against an enemy (jihadist),” against whom they have no real strategy, has led to this anger being turned toward the French. The departure of the French, welcome as it is, “will certainly not resolve the jihadist crisis, ” Idrissa noted. The people will feel “sovereign,” he wrote, “even if part of the territory remains in the hands of terrorist gangs.”

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Cuba: A tale of two hurricanes

Ernest Hemingway learned in Cuba that the best way to get through a hurricane is to have your ears tuned to a battery-powered radio and keep your hands busy with a bottle of rum and a hammer to nail down doors and windows. The American writer appropriated the typical jargon of Cuban meteorologists and fishermen who speak of “the sea” in the feminine and of the hurricane as a demon or evil sorcerer, and who, when a storm leaves the island, usually say that “it entered in the channel” or that “it crossed the land.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter and was first published on La Jornada.

From the clashes with the cyclones and the turbulent waters came that jewel of literature, The Old Man and the Sea, which made William Faulkner, another giant, exclaim that Hemingway had found God.

On an island located at the crossroads of the winds, it is impossible not to live with the culture of hurricanes that have existed in the Antilles since the most remote evidence of life, some 6,000 years before Christ. The Taínos, Indigenous Cubans, gave the phenomenon its name and drew a spiral to represent the hurricane, a rotating symbol of the wind, which could be embodied in a monstrous serpent capable of wrapping the entire universe in its body.

In both reality and mythology, the hurricane has produced “tremendous fantasies” alike, in the words of the greatest Cuban novelist, Alejo Carpentier, who was inspired by the passage of the 1927 meteor over Havana to write some passages for his novel Ecue- Yamba – O! The storm, Carpentier wrote, caused the movement of “houses, intact, several kilometers from their foundations; schooners pulled out of the water, and left on a street corner; granite statues, decapitated from a chopping block; mortuary cars, paraded by the wind along squares and avenues, as if guided by ghost coachmen and, to top it off, a rail torn from a track, raised in weight, and thrown on the trunk of a royal palm with such violence, that it was embedded in the wood, like the arms of a cross.”

There are no significant differences between that description and what we have witnessed again in Cuba. Hurricane Ian left three dead and more than 89,000 homes affected in the province of Pinar del Río, caused the destruction of thousands of hectares of crops, led to trees and street lighting poles falling everywhere, left the country in total darkness for hours and with thousands of stories that turn anything told by two literary geniuses like Hemingway and Carpentier into pale tales.

The destruction can have infinite variations, but the hurricane is one of the few things that has not changed in thousands of years for the people of the Antilles. Whatever it may be called and whatever maybe be the strength of its fury, both the ancient and modern worlds have considered it a living creature that comes and goes over time and is not always cruel. When the excesses do not occur, the waters and the winds cool the summer heat and benefit agriculture, and everyone is happy.

However, this will be the first time that such a well known and recurrent natural phenomenon passes through Cuba accompanied by another equal or greater destructive force that has been created artificially in the new digital laboratories and is capable of such an evil that our Taíno ancestors could not have foreseen it.

While gusts of wind of more than 200 kilometers per hour blew in the north of Pinar del Río, more than 37,000 accounts on Twitter replicated the hashtag #CubaPaLaCalle (Cuba to the streets), with calls for protests, roadblocks, assaults on government institutions, sabotage, and terrorism, and with instructions on how to prepare homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails. Less than 2 percent of the users who participated in this virtual mobilization were in Cuba. Most of those who made the call to “fire up” the streets in Cuba were connected to American technology platforms and did so while hundreds of kilometers away from the country that remained in darkness. Perhaps some on the island kept their battery-powered radio. Still, what millions of Cubans had in the palm of their hands was not a bottle of Hemingway’s rum but a cellphone connected to the internet (the country of 11 million inhabitants has 7.5 million people with access to social media).

Let’s do an exercise. Imagine this panorama: you are anguished with the here and now. You have no electricity and no drinking water. What little food you have bought with great difficulty and kept refrigerated will go bad in no time. You don’t know what has happened to your family that lives in the western provinces, where the damage is apocalyptic. You have no idea how long this new crisis will last. Daily life before the hurricane was already desperate due to the economic blockade imposed by the United States, inflation, and shortages being faced by Cubans. Still, you see on your mobile that “everyone” (on the internet, of course) seems to be doing well and has plenty, while thousands of people on social media (and their trolls) shout that the culprit of your misfortune is the communist government. Your only light source is the mobile screen, which works like Plato’s allegory of the cave: you sit with your back to a flaming fire while virtual figures pass between you and the bonfire. You only see the movements of their shadows projected on the walls of the cave, and those shadows whisper the solution to your desperate reality: #CubaPaLaCalle.

At no other time in history has an immigrant minority had so much economic, media, and technological power to try to sink their country with their relatives still in Cuba before even trying to lend a hand in the midst of a national tragedy. What Mexican who lives in the United States puts political differences above helping their relatives after an earthquake? Why don’t Salvadorans or Guatemalans who live abroad do it now that Hurricane Julia has devastated Central America.

It is unprecedented and unheard of that the hurricane of a lifetime, and the hurricane of virtual hatred can arrive simultaneously, but that is just what happened in Cuba.

Author Bio: Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a Cuban journalist and founder of the site Cubadebate. She is vice president of both the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). She has written and co-written several books including Jineteros en la Habana and Our Chavez. She has received the Juan Gualberto Gómez National Prize for Journalism on multiple occasions for her outstanding work. She is currently a weekly columnist for La Jornada of Mexico City.

Cuba in the eye of Washington’s hurricane

Hurricane Ian lashed at western Cuba on September 27, 2022. I waited desperately for a phone call from my friends in Puerto Esperanza, a small fishing village on the northern coast of Pinar del Río. Over a crackling phone line, my friends told me that the hurricane had ripped off the roofs of their houses and had cut their electricity supply. But they were safe. What comes next for them and their recovery from the loss and devastation caused by the hurricane is uncertain under the weight of a U.S. blockade that is now being overseen by U.S. President Joe Biden.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Since the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, the United States has been at odds with the island’s independent path. This led to the start of a blockade on all trading activities between Cuba and the United States in February 1962, and the continued imposition of the blockade has put maximum pressure on the 11 million people who live on the island. Cubans have been resilient while dealing with these sanctions, which is “the longest embargo in modern history.” However, over the past five years, the United States has tightened its blockade by putting in place 243 new sanctions, reversing the process of normalization that began under former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 (and culminated in Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016). Despite Biden’s campaign promise to ensure a more balanced foreign policy toward Cuba, compared to the approach followed by former President Donald Trump, Biden has increased pressure on the country.

Maximum Pressure

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Cuba was fortunate to have a robust public health care system and an innovative biotechnological industry. However, under Trump—and later Biden—sanctions put enormous pressure on Cuba’s ability to respond to the pandemic. As the number of Delta variant cases grew in Cuba, its only oxygen plant was rendered nonoperational due to the inability of the plant’s technicians to import spare parts because of the U.S. blockade. As thousands of Cuban patients gasped for air, oxygen had to be rationed. Washington refused to make an exception. Cuban scientists created five vaccine candidates; only after most Cubans were vaccinated with these vaccines did Washington make an offer of donating U.S.-made vaccines to Cuba.

Back in 2017, the United States said that the Cuban government had used sonic weapons to attack its embassy—a phenomenon called “Havana syndrome”—which was shown to be untrue. Nonetheless, it served as a pretext for the United States to freeze relations with Cuba. For example, tourism began to collapse, and the island lost revenue as more than 600,000 people from the United States stopped traveling to Cuba annually. The U.S. government’s sanctions under Trump led to Western Union’s seizing operations on the island in 2020, cutting off the ability of families to send and receive remittances. Visa services were suspended by the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and the largest wave of irregular migration since 1980 began as Cubans were forced to trek through Central America or across the Florida Straits to arrive in the United States.

Cubans suffered through this tightened blockade with the U.S. offering no respite. The gross domestic product of the country began to shrink as the government and other entities could no longer purchase food, medicine, and oil because banks refused to handle these basic commercial transactions.

Using Pain to Put More Pressure

On July 11, 2021, people across Cuba took to the streets to protest the difficult living conditions due to the scarcity brewed by the sanctions imposed by Washington. The U.S. government, from Biden to the lowest employee at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, did not waste any time before making a statement about the need to change the government in Cuba in response to the protests. They tried to spin the Cuban people’s protests over sanctions-related deprivation into an uprising for regime change, a core demand of a Miami mafia of Cuban exiles. The Cuban government was able to withstand that attempt by being as forthright as possible with the people about the range of problems that they face.

The year 2022 has not been any easier for the Cuban people. In August, the national energy grid began to suffer major signs of decay after years without repairs or renovations. Power cuts, a stark reminder of the “special period” during the 1990s when Cuba faced a similar power situation, have become ever-present from one end of the island to the other. Some provinces go without electricity for eight to ten hours. Then came the explosion of the Matanzas oil storage facility that left Cuba without urgently needed fuel and resulted in dozens dying while fighting the fire that raged on for five days. While Mexico and Venezuela immediately sent firefighters and equipment, the United States could only contribute with technical advice over the phone despite the call by U.S. activists, clergy, and intellectuals to provide more sizable aid.

Hurricane Ian’s assault on the island on September 27, 2022, has left behind devastation, with more than 50,000 homes damaged, Cuba’s tobacco crop deeply impacted, and its electricity grid damaged (although it is functional again for now).

Washington’s Rigidity

All eyes turned to Washington—not only to see whether it would send aid, which would be welcome, but also if it would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and end the sanctions. Cuba’s inclusion on the list had been a last-minute decision made by Trump as he was leaving the White House (despite Cuba’s recognized role in the Colombian peace process). These measures mean that banks in the United States and elsewhere are reluctant to process any financial transactions, including humanitarian donations, for the island. The United States has a mixed record regarding humanitarian aid to Cuba.

Rather than lift the sanctions even for a limited period, the U.S. government sat back and watched as mysterious forces from Miami unleashed a torrent of Facebook and WhatsApp messages to drive desperate Cubans onto the street. In Havana, a few hundred people spread across the city banged pots and pans and demanded water, electricity, and food. Foreign journalists eagerly expected scenes of heavy repression and mass arrests, but this time Cuba’s response was one closest to its political tradition. Leaders of the Communist Party began to arrive at protests to speak to the people. Angel Arzuaga Reyes, responsible for the party’s international relations department, while speaking of his experience in the Diez de Octubre neighborhood, said that in those tense moments, promises or immediate solutions couldn’t be made, but explanations and information could be given to all those protesting.

The Cuban people are not the kind to give up easily and have a history of resilience. Many Cubans are facing the crisis by laughing and fighting through it. Walking in Havana only a few days after the hurricane, the signs of recovery were clear. Brigades of electricians working nonstop reestablished power back in record time and volunteers have cleaned most of the city leaving very little trace of Hurricane Ian’s destruction. After his fourth visit to Pinar del Río since September 27, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, surrounded by an anxious crowd, said, “what we can’t do is surrender or remain with our arms crossed.” There is yet much to do, but Cubans are determined to overcome all obstacles that come their way.

Author Bio: Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

Why the global inflationary tsunami is made in the United States and not Ukraine

An inflationary tsunami is passing through the world economy, creating economic disorder—in some cases acute political crisis—in every country it touches. This is gathering momentum as the U.S., which is leading other Global North economies, attempts to control inflation by rapidly raising interest rates—forcing the Global North economies into recession.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The Global South economies have been thereby struck by a quadruple whammy producing still more severe stagflation, rising inflation, and slowing growth than in the Global North. First, rising U.S. interest rates force up the dollar’s exchange rate against the currencies of developing countries, increasing import prices that are usually set in dollars, thereby worsening inflation for these developing countries. Second, the dollar’s climb against the currencies of developing countries increases the cost in their currencies of repaying international debts, which are dollar-priced. Third, to attempt to prevent a very sharp fall in their exchange rates, and to try to prevent capital from flowing out of their economies into the U.S., the Global South countries raise interest rates—pushing their economies toward recession. Fourth, the Global North’s recession lowers the demand for Global South exports, putting further downward pressure on their economies.

Politically, this situation creates crises for several right-wing regimes in the Global South, but also adds negative pressure on the policies of progressive left governments and leads to the threat of “color revolutions.”

U.S. Inflation

The U.S. claims that this global inflation, and the downward pressure on living standards it creates, is due to the Ukraine war—and that therefore, countries should blame and unite against Russia. But a brief look at the facts refutes this claim.

The Ukraine war started on February 24, 2022, but U.S. inflation had already been rising sharply for nearly two years before that. U.S. price rises were 0.1 percent in May 2020, but by January 2022, before the Ukraine war, prices had risen to 7.5 percent—U.S. inflation rose by 7.4 percent before the war. In August 2022, U.S. price rises were 8.3 percent, a rise of only 0.8 percent since the war began.

More than 90 percent of the U.S. price rises took place before the Ukraine war. Therefore, it is important to think critically when the U.S. blames Russia for the worldwide inflation and the resulting reduction in living standards. The huge U.S. inflationary wave, which spread globally with only a two-to-three-month delay, since the U.S. is the world’s largest economy, took place before the Ukraine war. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board noted: “This isn’t Putin’s inflation… This inflation was made in Washington.”

What Caused the U.S. Inflation?

It is easy to explain in technical economic terms why U.S. inflation soared—it was analyzed as it occurred by U.S. economists such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. In May 2021 Summers warned: “We’re taking very substantial risks on the inflation side… The Fed’s idea used to be that it removed the punchbowl before the party got good… Now, the Fed’s doctrine is that it will only remove the punchbowl after it sees some people staggering around drunk… We are printing money, we are creating government bonds, [and] we are borrowing on unprecedented scales.”

The U.S. budget deficit rose to 26 percent of GDP and the annual increase in U.S. money supply reached 27 percent—both by far the highest in U.S. peacetime history. With a huge surge in demand taking place, and no major increase in supply, soaring U.S. inflation was inevitable.

What Was the Role of Inflation?

But more important than a technical explanation is understanding the social role of inflation. Inflation showed that demand was far higher than supply—putting upward pressure on prices of goods and services. So, with no increase in supply taking place, demand had to be cut back. The key social question was: Which U.S. spending would be cut?

Many U.S. reforms could be implemented by cutting demand and reallocating spending, thereby reducing inflationary pressures, while not reducing U.S. living standards—indeed, these reforms would improve U.S. economic efficiency and living standards. U.S. military expenditure is the highest in the world—more than the military spending by the next nine countries combined. This 3.7 percent of U.S. GDP spending could be reduced with no fall in U.S. living standards.

Equally, in 2020 U.S. expenditure on healthcare reached 19.7 percent of GDP—almost one-fifth of its economy. But the U.S. private healthcare system is very inefficient. The U.S. spends a higher proportion on health care as a share of its economy than any other economy in the world, but the U.S. life expectancy is only 77 years, compared to an average of 83 years in other high-income economies. The cost of private health care system in the U.S. comprises a higher proportion of the country’s economy for its citizens to live around six years less than comparable countries.

But reducing U.S. military expenditure, or rationalizing health care, would go against the vested interests of arms manufacturers and Big Pharma in the U.S., respectively. Reducing U.S. military spending would force a lessening of its aggressive overseas military policy. Rationalizing U.S. healthcare would entail a move toward a public healthcare system as more successfully used by other countries and would cut profits of big private healthcare corporations. The U.S. government’s vested interests in supporting arms manufacturers and Big Pharma means that no such actions will be taken.

But if no measures are taken against these vested interests, then the only alternative way to reduce spending is to cut working-class living standards. This is what happens during inflation. As John Maynard Keynes explained it is much easier to cut real wages by high inflation than by directly reducing money wages—it is a partially concealed cut and workers cannot negotiate with their employers over inflation levels.

The medium- and long-term inflation is destabilizing and must be controlled–normally in capitalism, this is achieved through recession. But short-term inflation is a powerful tool to reduce real wages which is what is happening.

The average U.S. money wages are increasing—in August they rose by 4.6 percent. But prices increased more rapidly—by 8.3 percent during the same period. U.S. real wages, therefore, fell, as they have every month since April 2021. In August 2022, U.S. real weekly earnings were 3.4 percent lower than a year previously.

But this inflation, which is cutting U.S. workers’ real earnings, spills out into the rest of the world creating a crisis in the Global South. U.S. inflation, therefore, attacks both U.S. workers and the rest of the world.

Author Bio: John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He is also a member of the international No Cold War campaign organizing committee. His writing on the Chinese and U.S. economies and geopolitics has been published widely online, and he is the author of two books published in China, Don’t Misunderstand China’s Economy and The Great Chess Game. His most recent book is China’s Great Road: Lessons for Marxist Theory and Socialist Practices (1804 Books, 2021). He was previously director of economic policy for the mayor of London.

How Iran and Turkey are joining Russia and China to bypass Western global influence

While far from an alliance, the SCO is increasingly utilized for managing Eurasian affairs without traditional Western mechanisms and organizations.

Held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, from September 15 to 16, the 2022 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Heads of State Council demonstrated that the SCO was continuing to evolve into a viable international political congregation independent from the West.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Beginning in the early 1800s, international organizations (IOs) began to emerge as modest arbiters of European affairs. But during and after World War II, new IOs established themselves as far more prominent actors on a global scale. The United Nations (UN), the Arab League, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and several other IOs were created to manage the affairs of their member states.

After the Soviet collapse, more IOs were created to manage the independence of new states, globalization, and regional cooperation. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), created in 1991, attempted to coordinate military, economic, and political policies between post-Soviet states. The European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU), created in 1993 and 2002, respectively, bound member states more forcefully to common economic and political norms. Other IOs, like the Arctic Council (1996) and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (2002), aimed to foster broader regional cooperation.

Most new international organizations meshed neatly with the Western-led liberal world order. But in 2001, the formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was formally announced, and it established itself as an exclusionary outlier. Originally known as the Shanghai Five when it was created in 1996, it included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, with Uzbekistan later joining when it evolved into the SCO in 2001.

The SCO was created partly to help coordinate a new era of peaceful relations between Moscow and Beijing and to manage their coalescing interests in Central Asian states. In addition, combatting the “Three Evils” of extremism, separatism, and terrorism were major priorities for the organization, which included data and intelligence sharing and common military drills among its member states.

Over time, the SCO began to embrace greater political and economic integration. Support for autocratic rule and limiting criticism of human rights violations set it apart from other Western-aligned IOs, with the SCO also overseeing the growth of joint energy projects, the fostering of trade agreements, and the introduction of the SCO Interbank Consortium in 2005 “to organize a mechanism for financing and banking services in investment projects supported by the governments of the SCO member states.”

But the organization’s most pressing vocation was facilitating a multipolar world order. Investing in an independent forum for economic, political, and military affairs outside of Western influence became a key component of Russian and Chinese attempts to reduce Western power in global affairs.

Russia and China have also developed complementary mechanisms to the SCO, which have helped decentralize its mission. Following the blacklisting of several Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in 2014, for example, the Kremlin approved the creation of the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) to replicate SWIFT and introduced the National Payment Card System (now known as Mir), while China created the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS).

These initiatives even proved attractive to states that were more aligned with the Western-led global order. India and Pakistan began SCO accession talks in 2015 and officially joined the organization in 2017. Despite relatively positive relations with the West, India and Pakistan have both faced Western criticism over human rights and democratic backsliding in recent years. India’s introduction of platforms like RuPay in 2012 and Unified Payments Interface, which eroded the traditional dominance of Visa and Mastercard in the country, also complemented SCO’s attempts to reduce Western economic preeminence globally.

At the 2022 summit of the SCO Heads of State Council, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev reiterated that the SCO was not an anti-U.S. or anti-NATO alliance. But the organization’s original motive to create a multipolar world was echoed in its Samarkand Declaration, the final declaration of this meeting, and continues to conflict with Washington’s attempts to maintain the U.S.-led world order. According to the declaration, the member states “confirm[ed] their commitment to [the] formation of a more representative, democratic, just and multipolar world order.”

This core stratagem continues to appeal to countries around the world. Alongside the leaders of its eight member states, the SCO invited the presidents of Belarus, Mongolia, and Iran as official observers to the recent summit. Having started its accession process in 2021, Iran signed a memorandum of understanding with the SCO to join the institution by April 2023.

The SCO would likely alleviate Iran’s sense of economic isolation stemming from Western sanctions, a sentiment shared by Iranian officials at the summit and something that was also noted back in 2007. Belarus has also found itself under increasing sanctions in recent years and enhanced its accession procedures to join the SCO in Samarkand.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Turkey were also invited to the SCO summit as special guests, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announcing that his country would seek full membership to the SCO. In 2012, Erdoğan joked to Russian President Vladimir Putin about abandoning Turkey’s EU aspirations if Russia would allow them into the SCO. Turkey’s renewed attempt comes at a time when its ties with the rest of the Western world are increasingly strained and could instigate other NATO states, and potentially the EU states, to join the SCO as well.

The SCO has also established strong relations with other IOs. Representatives from ASEAN, the UN, the Russian-dominated CIS, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) were invited to the 2022 summit. Notably absent were any representatives from the EU or NATO. Meanwhile, in 2005, the U.S. was rejected from gaining observer status, solidifying the SCO’s status as a bulwark against U.S. influence in Eurasia.

Like all major international organizations, the SCO faces systemic obstacles that hinder its effectiveness and long-term viability. At the recent summit in Uzbekistan, China’s Xi Jinping was welcomed to the country by his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Putin, however, was greeted by Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, highlighting Russia’s strained relations with many of the former Soviet states and the growing strength of Beijing over Moscow. Unlike in the CSTO and the EAEU, Russia is not the dominant actor in the SCO, and will increasingly have to contend with China’s predominant authority.

Disputes also remain between SCO member states. India and Pakistan, for example, are afflicted with an ongoing struggle over Kashmir. China and India have their own territorial disputes and have engaged in minor violent skirmishes since India joined the SCO. Additionally, deadly clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan erupted during the recent summit, while admitting Armenia and Azerbaijan, both of which are SCO dialogue partners, will only further increase the number of members currently locked in their own territorial disputes.

But the SCO has consistently portrayed itself as a vehicle to supervise these issues. The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met for talks during the summit to assuage tensions. And since 2002, the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) has encouraged military coordination between member states, with the Indian and Pakistani militaries conducting RATS drills in 2021. More drills between them are planned for October, and while they are aimed primarily at countering unrest from Afghanistan, they are also part of SCO’s attempts to manage relations of member states.

China and Russia have also agreed to “synergize” the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the EAEU to help mitigate possible tension between them, with both Xi and Putin meeting on the sidelines of the 2022 SCO summit and pledging to respect each other’s core interests.

The SCO member states clearly believe the organization can, and has greater potential to, effectively manage their concerns and regional affairs, and its appeal continues to grow. Besides the additional SCO dialogue partners (Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt were granted the status of SCO dialogue partners at the 2022 SCO summit. Myanmar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Maldives were also granted the status of dialogue partners.

Russian and Chinese influence will fall as more members join, which will also dilute consensus within the organization. But it remains a Beijing and Moscow-led initiative to manage world affairs and to demonstrate that the “international community” is not just the West. With almost half of the world’s population and a quarter of the global GDP, the SCO is increasingly becoming a representative of the Global South.

By pooling together other IOs into an umbrella forum, the SCO can further its goal of challenging the wider Western-dominated IO ecosystem and prevent Washington from setting the global agenda. This will require the constructive management of Russian and Chinese ambitions and the increasingly complex needs of more member states.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

All that pomp and pageantry for Queen Elizabeth II but no apology for colonial atrocities

Led by the royals, British colonialists committed every form of cruelty imaginable—those who suffered under the empire and fought it are angry over the homage paid to Elizabeth II.

How should we remember Queen Elizabeth II and her 70 years on the British throne? It’s perhaps better to consider after the media parade about her funeral is in the rearview mirror.

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

A number of people have reacted to the glorification of her rule, pointing out the British Royals’ direct connection to the slave trade, Britain’s colonial massacres, mass famines and its loot from the colonies. Britain’s wealth—$45 trillion at current prices from India alone—was built on the blood and sweat of people who lost their land and homes and are today poor countries. Lest we forget, the slave trade was a monopoly of the British throne: first, as the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading into Africa in 1660, later converted to the Royal African Company of England. The battle over “free trade” fought by British merchant capital was against this highly lucrative Royal monopoly so that they could participate in it as well: enslaving people in Africa and selling them to plantations in the Americas and the Caribbean.

According to western legends of the European Age of Discovery, co-terminus with Enlightenment, was what started it all in the 16th century. Explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Columbus, and Magellan went across the world, discovering new lands. The Enlightenment led to the development of reason and science, the basis of the industrial revolution in England. The Industrial Revolution then reached Europe and the United States, creating the difference between the wealthy West and the poverty-stricken rest. Slavery, genocide, land expropriation from “natives” and colonial loot do not enter this sanitized picture of the development of capitalism. Or, if mentioned, only as marginal to the larger story of the rise of the west.

Actual history is quite different. Chronologically, the Industrial Revolution takes place in the second half of the 18th century. The 16th-17th centuries is when a small handful of western countries reached the Americas, followed by the genocide of its indigenous population and enslaving of the rest. The 16th-17th centuries also see the rise of the slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas. It destroys African society and its economy, what Walter Rodney calls How Europe Undeveloped Africa. The plantation economy—based on slavery in the Caribbean and Continental America—created large-scale commodity production and global markets.

While sugar, the product of the plantations, was the first global commodity, it was followed by tobacco, coffee and coca, and later cotton. While the plantation economy provided commodities for the world market, let us not forget that slaves were still the most important “commodity”. The slave trade was the major source of European—British, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese—capital. Gerald Horne writes, “The enslaved, a peculiar form of capital encased in labor, represented simultaneously the barbarism of the emerging capitalism, along with its productive force” (The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, Monthly Review, April 1, 2018).

Marx characterized it as so-called Primitive Accumulation and as “expropriation,” not accumulation. Capital from the beginning was based on expropriation—robbery, plunder and enslaving of people by the use of force; there was no accumulation in this process. As Marx writes, capital was born “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”

The British Royals played a key role in this history of slavery and the so-called primitive accumulation. Britain was a second-class power at the beginning of the 17th century. Britain’s transformation was initially based on the slave trade and, later, the sugar plantations in the Caribbean. Its ships and traders emerged as the major power in the slave trade and, by the 1680s, held three-fourths of this “market” in human beings. Out of this, the Royal African Company, owned by the British Crown, held a 90% share: the charge for Britain’s domination of the slave trade was led by the British Royals.

Interestingly, the slogan of “free trade,” under which slogan the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created, was the British merchant capital wanting the abolition of the Royal Monopoly over the slave trade. It was, in other words, the freedom of capital to enslave human beings and trade in them, free of the royal monopoly. It is this capital, created out of the slave trade and outright piracy and loot, that funded the industrial revolution.

While slavery was finally abolished, in Britain it was not the slaves but the slave owners that were paid compensation for losing their “property.” The amount paid in 1833 was 40% of its national budget, and since it was paid by borrowings, the UK citizens paid off this “loan” only in 2015. For the people of India, there is another part to the story. As the ex-slaves refused to work on the plantations they had served as slaves, they were replaced by indentured labor from India.

To go back to the British Royalty. The Crown’s property and portfolio investments are currently worth 28 billion pounds, making King Charles III one of the richest persons in the UK. Charles III personal property itself is more than a billion pounds. Even by today’s standards of obscene personal wealth, these are big numbers, particularly as its income is virtually tax-free. The royals are also exempt from death duties.

In the three hundred years of the history of British colonialism, brutal wars, genocide, slavery, and expropriation were carried out in its name and under its leadership. After the industrial revolution, Britain wanted only raw materials from its colonies and not any industrial products: the slogan was “not even a nail from the colonies.” All trade from the colonies to other countries had to pass through Britain and pay taxes there before being re-exported. The complement of the industrial revolution in Britain was de-industrializing its colonies, confining them to be a producer of raw materials and agricultural products.

Why are we talking about Britain’s colonial past on the occasion of the death of Queen Elizabeth II? After all, she only saw the last 70 years when the British colonial empire was liquidated. This is not simply about the past, but that neither the British Crown nor its rulers have ever expressed any guilt over the brutality of its empire, and its foundation based on slavery and genocide. No apology for the empire’s gory history: not even for the massacres and mass incarcerations that took place. In Jallianawala Bagh, which Elizabeth II visited in 1997, she called the massacre a “distressing episode” and a “difficult episode”; not even a simple “We are sorry.” Prince Phillip even questioned the number of martyrs.

How do we reconcile the anger that people who suffered from Britain’s colonial empire feel about their leaders making a bee line to pay homage to the Queen? Does it not shame the memory of those who laid down their lives in the freedom struggle against the British Crown that India lowered the national flag to half-mast to honor the Queen?

One can argue that this happened long before Elizabeth II took over the Crown, and we cannot hold her personally responsible for Britain’s colonial history. We should: she as Queen represented the British state: it is not Elizabeth, the person that people want an apology from, but the titular head of the British state. That is why Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the son of Kenya’s world-renowned writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o said, “If the queen had apologized for slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism and urged the crown to offer reparations for the millions of lives taken in her/their names, then perhaps I would do the human thing and feel bad,” he wrote. “As a Kenyan, I feel nothing. This theater is absurd.”

Mukoma Ngugi was referring to the Mau Mau revolt for land and freedom in which thousands of Kenyans were massacred, and 1.5 million were held in brutal concentration camps.

This was 1952-1960; Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, very much in her lifetime!

Author Bio: Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.

How Cuba is dealing with Hurricane Ian's devastation

On September 27, 2022, a tropical cyclone—Hurricane Ian—struck Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Río. Sustained winds of around 125 miles per hour lingered over Cuba for more than eight hours, bringing down trees and power lines, and causing damage not seen during previous tropical cyclones. The hurricane then lingered over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, picking up energy before striking the U.S. island of Cayo Costa, Florida, with approximately 155 mph winds. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called it “one of the worst hurricanes to hit the area in a century.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said that this year will be the “seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.” Both Cuba and Florida have faced the wrath of the waters and winds, but beneath this lies the ferocity of the climate catastrophe. “Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Prepare and Relieve

Cuba, said the WMO, is one of the “world leaders in terms of hurricane preparedness and disaster management.” This was not always the case. Hurricane Flora hit the eastern coast of the island on October 4, 1963. When news of the approaching hurricane reached Fidel Castro, he immediately ordered the evacuation of the homes of people who lived in the projected path of the storm (in Haiti, former dictator François Duvalier did not call for an evacuation, which led to the death of more than 5,000 people). Castro rushed to Camagüey, almost dying in the Cauto River as his amphibious vehicle was struck by a drifting log. Two years later, in his Socialism and Man in Cuba, Che Guevara wrote the Cuban people showed “exceptional deeds of valor and sacrifice” as they rebuilt the country after the devastation caused by Flora.

In 1966, the Cuban government created the Civil Defense System to prepare for not only extreme weather events such as hurricanes but also the outbreak of epidemics. Using science as the foundation for its hurricane preparedness, the Cuban government was able to evacuate 2 million people as Hurricane Ivan moved toward the island in 2004. As part of disaster management, the entire Cuban population participates in drills, and the Cuban mass organizations (the Federation of Cuban Women and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) work in an integrated manner to mobilize the population to respond to disasters.

The day before Hurricane Ian hit Cuba, 50,000 people were evacuated and taken to 55 shelters. No private vehicles or public transportation was visible on the streets. Work brigades were mobilized to work on the resumption of electricity supply after the storm had passed. In Artemisa, for instance, the Provincial Defense Council met to discuss how to react to the inevitable flooding. Despite the best efforts made by Cubans, three people died because of the hurricane, and the electrical grid suffered significant damage.

Damage

The entire island—including Havana—had no power for more than three days. The electrical grid, which was already suffering from a lack of major repairs, collapsed. Without power, Cubans had to throw away food that needed to be refrigerated and faced difficulty in preparing meals, among other hardships. By October 1, less than five days after landfall, 82 percent of the residents of Havana had their power restored with work ongoing for the western part of the island (the amount of time without power in Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, is longer—a quarter of a million people remain without power more than two weeks later).

The long-term impact of Hurricane Ian is yet to be assessed, although some believe the cost of damages will surpass $1 billion. More than 8,500 hectares of cropland have been hit by the flooding, with the banana crop most impacted. The most dramatic problem will be faced by Cuba’s tobacco industry since Pinar del Río—where 5,000 farms were destroyed—is its heartland (with 65 percent of the country’s tobacco production). Hirochi Robaina, a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Río, wrote, “It was apocalyptic. A real disaster.”

Blockade

Mexico and Venezuela immediately pledged to send materials to assist in the reconstruction of the electrical grid on the island.

All eyes turned to Washington—not only to see whether it would send aid, which would be welcome, but also if it would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and end sanctions imposed by the United States. These measures cause banks in both the United States and elsewhere to be reluctant to process any financial transactions, including humanitarian donations. The U.S. has a mixed record regarding humanitarian aid to Cuba. After Hurricane Michelle (2001), Hurricane Charley (2004), and Hurricane Wilma (2005), the U.S. did offer assistance, but would not even temporarily lift the blockade. After the fire at a Matanzas oil storage facility in August 2022, the U.S. did offer to join Mexico and Venezuela to help the Cubans put out the fire. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossio offered “profound gratitude” for the gesture, but the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden did not follow through.

Rather than lift the sanctions even for a limited period, the U.S. government sat back and watched as mysterious forces from Miami unleashed a torrent of Facebook and WhatsApp messages to drive desperate Cubans onto the street. Not a moment is wasted by Washington to use even a natural disaster to try to destabilize the situation in Cuba (a history that goes back to 1963, when the Central Intelligence Agency reflected on how to leverage natural disasters for political gains). “Most people don’t shout out freedom,” a person who observed one of these protests told us. “They ask for power and food.”

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He co-edited, most recently, Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro (LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

South Africa's energy crisis continues to brew

At the end of apartheid in 1994, only 36 percent of households in South Africa were electrified, with almost all white households having electric power and most Black households having no access to electricity. Ten years later, more than 80 percent of households were electrified. This was an important achievement, albeit one that mostly left out the residents of the rapidly growing shantytowns across the country.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

But this progress came to a halt in 2007 when South Africa first began to endure “load shedding,” which is the cutting of power supply to different areas on a rotational basis. Load shedding, implemented when the state-owned electricity company Eskom is unable to provide power to the whole country and the electricity grid needs to be kept stable, seems to have reached a new nadir in recent days with most areas going without power for up to 12 hours a day. There have been warnings that total blackouts may be necessary.

Eskom has been unable to provide a stable supply of electricity for 15 years due to a lack of investment in keeping infrastructure up to date and its poor maintenance, a period of plunder under the kleptocratic regime of former President Jacob Zuma, and a longstanding state austerity program that has resulted in general disinvestment from state-owned companies.

The energy crisis has been very damaging to an economy already reeling from socially devastating deindustrialization, state austerity, and the increasing hold of political mafias over economic life. It has been estimated that load shedding has led to the economy losing R500 billion (just over $28 billion) since 2018, working out to about R1 billion per stage, per day.

South Africa has much higher rates of electricity connections compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, where about 90 percent of the children who are able to afford a primary school education attend schools that do not have electricity. But with load shedding causing power to be off for much of the day many people in South Africa can often face similar conditions to those living in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Given that South Africa is currently the most unequal country in the world, the deepening energy crisis further widens the gulf between the rich and the poor, with the latter being overwhelmingly Black and comprising a largely female population.

According to the latest reports, more than 30.4 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, out of a current population of 60.6 million. About 50 percent of the population lives on R1,335 a month, or approximately $75 a month. The basic cost of electricity for a low-income household is approximately between R1,100 and R1,500, which is already higher than what half the population subsists on. Along with widespread food insecurity, it is likely that the same population of more than 30 million South Africans also concurrently experience “energy poverty,” a term used to describe a situation in which electricity, gas, and other sources of energy bills make up a larger percentage of the household expenditure, making it difficult for South Africans to cover other costs such as food, rent, and clothing. Also, the reduced use of energy in households and workplaces has a negative impact on their physical and mental health. In shack settlements, the lack of electricity has long meant that people cook using candles and gas to light up their homes while living in cramped conditions resulting in regular fires, which are often devastating. With frequent load shedding, fires are now likely to become more common in other types of housing also.

Moreover, South Africa had the eighth highest murder rate in the world in 2020, and the fourth highest rate of gender-based violence in the world, according to 2016 figures. The increased hours of load shedding and the radical decrease of access to electrification will make this pervasive violence worse. A 2017 study carried out in Brazil on the socioeconomic impact of electrification found that it results in a significant decrease in gender-based violence due to better lighting in public spaces.

The burden of social reproduction has always largely fallen on the shoulders of women. Access to electricity can reduce this. An important 2021 study titled “Powering Households and Empowering Women” found that by freeing up women’s time poverty is reduced by creating opportunities for women and girls to develop livelihoods, enter the labor force, or focus on school. It can also reduce exposure to harmful indoor air pollutants, improve maternal health, and reduce gender-based violence.

Demand for the resolution of the electricity crisis has been one of the few issues that have helped bring the poor, the working class, and the middle class together. But, so far, the demands for the resolution of the crisis are not well organized and have been met with little more than platitudes by the ruling elites, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The African National Congress’s (ANC) commitment to neoliberal austerity has meant that there is insufficient investment in the state electricity company. Their only proposal is to move from state-owned coal-fired power stations, which are highly polluting, to privately owned renewable forms of energy. Currently, one of the best-placed people to benefit from this is the president’s billionaire brother-in-law, Patrice Motsepe, given his investments in renewable energy.

Trade unions in South Africa have insisted that while a move to renewables is welcomed, undertaking it via privatization will raise the costs of electric power for the poor and the working class and result in a bias toward serving the needs of the capitalists and the rich. They have proposed that renewables should be socially owned and managed.

The proposals from the unions have been ignored, austerity continues, and there has been minimal movement toward private electricity production. The situation is one of stasis.

Experts believe that very high rates of economically and socially damaging load shedding are likely to continue for at least the next three to four years. Many analysts have argued that this is likely to hit the ruling ANC very hard in the next presidential election, scheduled for 2024. A crisis in terms of electric power could lead to a loss of political power. With right-wing and xenophobic parties rapidly advancing, this is not cause for easy optimism.

South Africa will not move into the light until the social value of access to electricity is affirmed. The proposal by the trade unions for a shift to socially owned and managed renewable energy is the best option on the table. We need a solution that is for the majority and not the few.

Author Bio: Vashna Jagarnath is an academic as well as a political and labor activist. She is the director of Pan Africa Today (PAT), and she works in the office of the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). She also serves as the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) in South Africa.

Why there have been four straight years of nonstop street protests in Haiti

A cycle of protests began in Haiti in July 2018, and—despite the pandemic—has carried on since then. The core reason for the protest in 2018 was that in March of that year the government of Venezuela—due to the illegal sanctions imposed by the United States—could no longer ship discounted oil to Haiti through the PetroCaribe scheme. Fuel prices soared by up to 50 percent. On August 14, 2018, filmmaker Gilbert Mirambeau Jr. tweeted a photograph of himself blindfolded and holding a sign that read, “Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a???” (Where did the PetroCaribe money go?). He reflected the popular sentiment in the country that the money from the scheme had been looted by the Haitian elite, whose grip on the country had been secured by two coups d’état against the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (once in 1991 and again in 2004). Rising oil prices made life unlivable for the vast majority of the people, whose protests created a crisis of political legitimacy for the Haitian elite.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

In recent weeks, the streets of Haiti have once again been occupied by large marches and roadblocks, with the mood on edge. Banks and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—including Catholic charities—faced the wrath of the protesters, who painted “Down with [the] USA” on buildings that they ransacked and burned. The Creole word dechoukaj or uprooting—that was first used in the democracy movements in 1986—has come to define these protests. The government has blamed the violence on gangs such as G9 led by the former Haitian police officer Jimmy “Babekyou” (Barbecue) Chérizier. These gangs are indeed part of the protest movement, but they do not define it.

The government of Haiti—led by acting President Ariel Henry—decided to raise fuel prices during this crisis, which provoked a protest from the transport unions. Jacques Anderson Desroches, president of the Fós Sendikal pou Sove Ayiti, told the Haitian Times, “If the state does not resolve to put an end to the liberalization of the oil market in favor of the oil companies and take control of it,” nothing good will come of it. “[O]therwise,” he said, “all the measures taken by Ariel Henry will be cosmetic measures.” On September 26, trade union associations called for a strike, which paralyzed the country, including the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

The United Nations (UN) evacuated its nonessential staff from the country. UN Special Representative Helen La Lime told the UN Security Council that Haiti was paralyzed by “[a]n economic crisis, a gang crisis, and a political crisis” that have “converged into a humanitarian catastrophe.” Legitimacy for the United Nations in Haiti is limited, given the sexual abuse scandals that have wracked the UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti, and the political mandate of the United Nations that Haitian people see as oriented to protecting the corrupt elite that does the bidding of the West.

The current President Ariel Henry was installed to his post by the “Core Group” (made up of six countries, this group is led by the United States, the European Union, the UN, and the Organization of American States). Henry became the president after the still-unsolved murder of the unpopular President Jovenel Moïse (thus far, the only clarity is that Moïse was killed by Colombian mercenaries and Haitian Americans). The UN’s La Lime told the Security Council in February that the “national investigation into his [Moïse’s] murder has stalled, a situation that fuels rumors and exacerbates both suspicion and mistrust within the country.”

Haiti’s Crises

An understanding of the current cycle of protests is not possible without looking clearly at four developments in Haiti’s recent past. First, the destabilization of the country after the second coup against Aristide in 2004, which took place right after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010, led to the dismantling of the Haitian state. The Core Group of countries took advantage of these serious problems in Haiti to import onto the island a wide range of Western NGOs, which seemed to substitute for the Haitian state. The NGOs soon provided 80 percent of the public services. They “frittered” considerable amounts of the relief and aid money that had come into the country after the earthquake. Weakened state institutions have meant that the government has few tools to deal with this unresolved crisis.

Second, the illegal U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela crushed the PetroCaribe scheme, which had provided Haiti with concessionary oil sales and $2 billion in profits between 2008 and 2016 that was meant for the Haitian state but vanished into the bank accounts of the elite.

Third, in 2009, the Haitian parliament tried to increase minimum wages on the island to $5 per day, but the U.S. government intervened on behalf of major textile and apparel companies to block the bill. David Lindwall, former U.S. deputy chief of mission in Port-au-Prince, said that the Haitian attempt to raise the minimum wage “did not take economic reality into account” but was merely an attempt to appease “the unemployed and underpaid masses.” The bill was defeated due to U.S. government pressure. These “unemployed and underpaid masses” are now on the streets being characterized as “gangs” by the Core Group.

Fourth, the acting President Ariel Henry likes to say that he is a neurosurgeon and not a career politician. However, in the summer of 2000, Henry was part of the group that created the Convergence Démocratique (CD), set up to call for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Aristide. The CD was set up in Haiti by the International Republican Institute, a political arm of the U.S. Republican Party, and by the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy. Henry’s call for calm on September 19, 2022, resulted in the setting up of more barricades and in the intensification of the protest movement. His ear is bent more to Washington than to Petit-Goâve, a town on the northern coast that is the epicenter of the rebellion.

Waves of Invasions

At the UN, Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus said, “[T]his dilemma can only be solved with the effective support of our partners.” To many close observers of the situation unfolding in Haiti, the phrase “effective support” sounds like another military intervention by the Western powers. Indeed, the Washington Post editorial called for “muscular action by outside actors.” Ever since the Haitian Revolution, which ended in 1804, Haiti has faced waves of invasions (including a long U.S. occupation from 1915 to 1930 and a U.S.-backed dictatorship from 1957 to 1986). These invasions have prevented the island nation from securing its sovereignty and have prevented its people from building dignified lives. Another invasion, whether by U.S. troops or the United Nations peacekeeping forces, will only deepen the crisis.

At the United Nations General Assembly session on September 21, U.S. President Joe Biden said that his government continues “to stand with our neighbor in Haiti.” What this means is best understood in a new Amnesty International report that documents the racist abuse faced by Haitian asylum seekers in the United States. The United States and the Core Group might stand with people like Ariel Henry, but they do not seem to stand with the Haitian people, including those who have fled to the United States.

Options for the Haitian people will come from the entry of trade unions into the protest wave. Whether the unions and the community organizations—including student groups that have reemerged as key actors in the country—will be able to drive a dynamic change out of the anger being witnessed on the streets remains to be seen.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Understanding Libya’s relentless destabilization

Libya’s competing domestic actors are being exploited by foreign powers seeking to downplay their role in the fragile country.

After leading a military coup in 1969, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi cemented his rule over Libya for more than 40 years. A variety of different political ideologies—Pan-Arabism, Pan-Africanism, socialism, Islamic leftism, and others—characterized his leadership, which were further reinforced by a cult of personality. While living standards for Libyans increased under his rule, Gaddafi attracted resentment among some non-Arab populations, Islamic extremists, and other political opponents.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

As the Arab Spring spread outward from neighboring Tunisia into Libya in February 2011, protestors and militant groups seized parts of the country. Loyalist armed forces retook control of much of what they had lost over the next few weeks after the outbreak of the protests, but Gaddafi’s historical antagonism toward Western governments saw them seize the opportunity to impose a no-fly zone and bombing campaign against Libyan forces in March 2011.

Alongside assistance from regional Middle Eastern allies, the NATO-led intervention was successful in helping local militant groups topple Gaddafi, who was later captured and executed in October 2011. Soon after his death, questions were immediately raised about how Libya could be politically restructured and avoid becoming a failed state. After militant groups refused to disarm, they along with their allies began to contest territory and control over Libya’s fragile new national institutions.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) was established to coordinate rebel groups against Gaddafi, and naturally inherited much of the Libyan government after the war. But a number of countries did not recognize its authority, and after handing power over to the General National Congress (GNC) in 2012, Libya’s weak central government steadily lost political control over its enormous territory to competing groups.

Libya’s population of almost 7 million people lives in a highly urbanized society that has led to the development of strong regional identities among those living in its northern coastal cities. There has also historically been an east-west divide between the two coastal provinces of Cyrenaica in the east and Tripolitania in the west.

A large Turkish and part-Turkish minority also live throughout Libya’s major cities, particularly in the city of Misrata. Most of them have descended from the Ottoman troops who married local women during Ottoman rule from 1551-1912, and though not a strictly homogenous group, the majority revolted against Gaddafi as nationwide protests began in Libya.

The historical lack of central authority in Libya’s more rural south resulted in widespread autonomy for the Tuareg tribe in the southwest and the Tubu tribe in the southeast. While the Tuaregs largely supported Gaddafi, the Tubu joined the revolutionaries, sparking increased tension between these two tribes to gain control over the city of Ubari, local smuggling routes, and energy infrastructure.

Alongside ethnic and cultural disputes, Libya was further destabilized by radical Islamists after the fall of Gaddafi. Mass unemployment among Libya’s relatively young population fueled recruitment for ISIS and the Al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sharia. Having gained battlefield experience and with limited economic prospects, many militants in Libya had little incentive to return to civilian life, while the influx of foreign jihadists also kept the violence ongoing.

Rivalries between these numerous factions helped lead to the outbreak of the second Libyan civil war in 2014. The UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) was signed in December 2015 to create a Presidential Council (PC) for appointing a unity government in Tripoli but failed to curtail growing violence between local actors.

Two major entities came to dominate the country. The Government of National Accord (GNA), which was presided over by the PC, was recognized in March 2016 to lead Libya, with Fayez Serraj as the Libyan prime minister. This move partly incorporated elements of Libya’s political Islamic factions.

The Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), meanwhile, refused to endorse the GNA, and relocated to Tobruk in Cyrenaica after political pressure and Islamist militias forced it out of Tripoli in 2014. The HoR is led by former General Khalifa Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The GNA retained official recognition by the UN as well as Libya’s most important economic institutions, including the Central Bank of Libya (CBL). But both the GNA and the HoR continued to fight for influence over the National Oil Corporation (NOC), while many other national institutions were forced to work with both factions.

Military force has also been integral to enforcing rival claims to Libya’s leadership. In 2017, Haftar’s forces seized Benghazi, consolidating power across much of the east and center of the country. But his attempt to take Tripoli in 2019-2020 was repelled by GNA and allied forces, prompting an HoR retreat on several fronts. A ceasefire between the GNA and the rival administration of the LNA declared an end to the war in October 2020, but tensions and violence persisted.

Libya’s civil conflict has also been inflamed by outside powers. Turkey opposed the original NATO-led intervention in 2011 but supported Libyan Turks, some of whom founded the Libya Koroglu Association in 2015, to coordinate with Turkey. Ankara has also supported the GNA with arms, money, and diplomatic support for years, and Turkish forces and military technology were integral to repelling Haftar’s assault on Tripoli.

Turkey’s business interests in Libya and desire to increase its power in the Mediterranean remain Ankara’s core initiatives, and in June it voted to extend the mandate for military deployment in Libya for another 18 months. Both Turkey and Qatar, which has also been a strong backer of the GNA, are close with the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and associated political circles in Libya, to attempt to promote a brand of political Islam that rivals Saudi-led initiatives.

With few core interests in Libya, the U.S. has shown tacit support for intervening again in a conflict it had allegedly won, but from 2015 to 2019, U.S. airstrikes and military support helped the GNA push ISIS out of many Libyan cities. Yet, Washington has remained wary of being associated with the Libyan conflict and with Islamists allied with the GNA, and the U.S. harbored and provided support to Haftar for decades to pressure Gaddafi before the civil war.

Egypt has been one of the HoR’s most crucial allies, providing weapons, military support, and safe haven through Libya’s eastern border. Besides protecting Libya’s Egyptian population, Egypt’s military-led government is also seeking to suppress political Islam in the region after Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood briefly ruled Egypt from 2011 to 2013 following Egypt’s own revolution. In 2020, Cairo approved its own intervention in Libya.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have similar interests in suppressing rival political Islamic forces in the region and have provided funding and weaponry to Haftar. Doing so has brought them closer to Russia, which has also supported Haftar with substantial military assistance. This includes warplanes piloted by the Russian private military company Wagner, which is suspected to be partially bankrolled in Libya by the UAE.

Libya’s destabilization complements the Kremlin’s attempts to influence Europe. Haftar’s forces and supporters managed to block Libyan oil exports in 2020 and again earlier this year, threatening continental supply and increasing Russia’s leverage. Additionally, instability in the region and porous borders encourage migrant flows to Europe, often increasing the popularity of right-wing political parties which have grown closer to Russia over the last two decades.

The HoR has also found less direct aid from France. Officially, Paris has supported UN negotiations and the GNA and has sought to minimize perceptions of its involvement in the conflict. But the death of three undercover French soldiers in Libya in 2016 showed that Paris remained deeply involved in the country’s civil war, and it has sold billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help Haftar. This is part of France’s efforts to suppress Islamist groups in Africa, where France retains considerable interests.

France’s position has brought criticism from Western allies. In 2019, Paris blocked an EU statement calling on Haftar to stop his offensive on Tripoli, while its support for Haftar has severely undermined its relationship with Italy, which has seen its economic influence in Libya decline.

Since the conclusion of the second Libyan civil war in 2020, steps have been taken to unify the country. A Government of National Unity was established in 2021 to consolidate Libya’s political forces, and the new Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh reached an agreement with Haftar in July 2022 to enforce a ceasefire.

But based on the current dynamics of limited intervention, there is relatively little risk and high rewards for foreign powers to continue destabilizing Libya. Turkey and Russia are also using the conflict to add to their leverage over one another in Syria. With repeated delays in holding elections in Libya and rival local and foreign actors seeking to dominate the country, Libyan citizens risk continuing to be used instead of being helped to ensure a stable and secure future for their country.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

What do Americans care about? Not a Cold War with Russia and China

The Biden administration will soon release its National Security Strategy, which is being revised in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The document will no doubt trigger a renewed debate about how the United States should gear up for a new Cold War against Russia and China. But before we plunge into a global great-power competition, it’s worth recalling President Biden’s promise to create a “foreign policy for the middle class” and take a look at what most concerns Americans.

This article was published by Globetrotter.

Congress is about to add tens of billions of dollars to the military budget. Unrepentant hawks scorn this as inadequate, urging a 50 percent increase, or an additional $400 billion or more a year. Aid to Ukraine totals more than $40 billion this year, and counting. A new buildup is underway in the Pacific. Biden summons Americans to the global battle between democracy and autocracy, implying that U.S. security depends on spreading democracy—and, implicitly, regime change—worldwide.

Americans, it is safe to say, have different—one might suggest more practical—concerns, as revealed in a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Asked about the most urgent issue facing the country today, 27 percent of respondents—the highest number—ranked inflation as No. 1, while only 2 percent ranked Ukraine at the top. In a range of Economist-YouGov polls over the past month, the top foreign-policy concerns included immigration and climate change.

The foreign policy “blob” may be gearing up for a global Cold War, but Americans are focused on security at home. According to a survey by the nonpartisan Eurasia Group Foundation, nearly half of Americans think the United States should decrease its involvement in other countries’ affairs; only 21.6 percent would increase it. Nearly 45 percent would decrease U.S. troop deployments abroad; only 32.2 percent would increase them.

Polls, of course, are merely snapshots—and war fever can transform opinion. However, a 2021 report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs reported many of the same priorities. Far more Americans (81 percent) said they were concerned about threats from within the country than from outside the country (19 percent). Among foreign policy goals, more than 75 percent of respondents ranked protecting American workers’ jobs and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, respectively, as very important. Ranked lowest were “helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations” (18 percent) and “protecting weaker nations against foreign aggression” (32 percent).

What would a sensible strategy for the middle class look like? A recent paper from the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft—“Managed Competition: A U.S. Grand Strategy for a Multipolar World”—offers a good start. The author is George Beebe, a former head of the CIA’s Russia analysis unit who is currently director of grand strategy at the institute.

Beebe argues that over the past three decades, “yawning gaps” have emerged not only between “America’s ambitions in the world and its capacity for achieving those goals,” but also between a “Washington foreign policy elite too focused on promoting U.S. primacy” and “ordinary Americans yearning for greater stability and prosperity at home.”

He echoes the priorities of most Americans, arguing that “the chief strategic challenge Washington faces today is not to win a decisive battle between freedom and tyranny but to gain a breathing spell abroad that will allow the country to focus on desperately needed internal recovery.”

He then outlines the core of a strategy for this time: a “managed competition” with Russia and China. Recognizing that our economic health is intertwined with China’s, and that Russia’s nuclear arsenal demands prudence, he would “avoid promoting regime change” or otherwise “undermining political and economic stability in Russia and China.” Instead, in a managed competition, our rivals would be countered not only by American power and alliances, but also by rebuilding “agreed rules of the game,” beginning presumably with efforts to revive nuclear arms agreements and create cyber agreements to limit these growing security challenges.

For this to occur, he notes elsewhere, there must be an agreed end to the war in Ukraine. Beebe concedes that Vladimir Putin’s attack required a strong American-led response. But as when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Beebe would distinguish between repelling Putin’s aggression and efforts to foster regime change in Moscow or to bring Ukraine into the Western orbit.

In the current euphoria over Russian reversals in Ukraine, this caution is likely to fall upon deaf ears. But a foreign policy for the middle class must find a way to curb our adventures abroad so that we can rebuild our democracy and strength at home. A Cold War against Russia and China might empower the foreign policy elite, enrich the military-industrial-congressional complex and excite our bellicose media, but it ignores the American people’s common sense.

Author Bio: Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editorial director and publisher of the Nation and is president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA). She writes a weekly column at the Washington Post and is a frequent commentator on U.S. and international politics for Democracy Now, PBS, ABC, MSNBC and CNN. Find her on Twitter @KatrinaNation. This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with The Nation.

The roar of an America warplane over a civilian Irish airport

“This is not a regular airport,” Margaretta D’Arcy said to me as we heard a C-130T Hercules prepare to take off from Shannon Airport in Ireland after 3 p.m. on September 11, 2022. That enormous U.S. Navy aircraft (registration number 16-4762) had flown in from Sigonella, a U.S. Naval Air Station in Italy. A few minutes earlier, a U.S. Navy C-40A (registration number 16-6696) left Shannon for the U.S. military base at Stuttgart, Germany, after flying in from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. Shannon is not a regular airport, D’Arcy said, because while it is merely a civilian airport, it allows frequent U.S. military planes to fly in and out of it, with Gate 42 of the airport functioning as its “forward operating base.”

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

At the age of 88, D’Arcy, who is a legendary Irish actress and documentary filmmaker, is a regular member of Shannonwatch, comprising a group of activists who have—since 2008—held monthly vigils at a roundabout near the airport. Shannonwatch’s objectives are to “end U.S. military use of Shannon Airport, to stop rendition flights through the airport, and to obtain accountability for both from the relevant Irish authorities and political leaders.” Edward Horgan, a veteran of the Irish military who had been on peacekeeping missions to Cyprus and Palestine, told me that this vigil is vital. “It’s important that we come here every month,” he said, “because without this there is no visible opposition” to the footprint of the U.S. military in Ireland.

According to a report from Shannonwatch titled “Shannon Airport and 21st Century War,” the use of the airport as a U.S. forward operating base began in 2002-2003, and this transformation “was, and still is, deeply offensive to the majority of Irish people.”

Article 29 of the Irish Constitution of 1937 sets in place the framework for the country’s neutrality. Allowing a foreign military to use Irish soil violates Article 2 of the Hague Convention of 1907, to which Ireland is a signatory. Nonetheless, said John Lannon of Shannonwatch, the Irish government has allowed almost 3 million U.S. troops to pass through Shannon Airport since 2002 and has even assigned a permanent staff officer to the airport. “Irish airspace and Shannon Airport became the virtual property of the U.S. war machine,” said Niall Farrell of Galway Alliance Against War. “Irish neutrality was truly dead.”

Pitstop of Death

Margaretta D’Arcy’s eyes gleam as she recounts her time at the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, located in Berkshire, England, and involving activists from Wales, who set up to prevent the storage and passage of U.S. cruise missiles at this British military base. That camp began in 1981 and lasted until 2000. D’Arcy went to jail three times during this struggle (out of a total of at least 20 times she was in prison for her antiwar activism). “It was good,” she told me, “because we got rid of the weapons and the land was restored to the people. It took 19 years. Women consistently fought until we got what we wanted.” When D’Arcy was arrested, the prison authorities stripped her to search her. She refused to put her clothes back on and went on both a hunger strike and a naked protest. In doing so, she forced the prison authorities to stop the practice of performing strip searches. “If you act with dignity, then you force them to treat you with dignity,” she said.

Part of this act of dignity includes refusing to allow her country’s airport to be used as part of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2002, several brave people have entered the airport and have attempted to deface U.S. aircraft. On September 5, 2002, Eoin Dubsky paintedNo way” on a U.S. warplane (for which he was fined); and then on January 29, 2003, Mary Kelly took an axe onto the runway and hit a military plane, causing $1.5 million in damage; she was also fined. A few weeks later, on February 3, 2003, the Pitstop Ploughshares (a group of five activists who belonged to the Catholic Worker Movement) attacked a U.S. Navy C-40 aircraft—the same one that Mary Kelly had previously damaged—with hammers and a pickaxe (a story recounted vividly by Harry Browne in Hammered by the Irish, 2008). They also spray-painted “Pitstop of Death” on a hangar.

In 2012, Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell marched onto the runway to protest the airport being used by U.S. planes. Arrested and convicted, they nonetheless returned to the runway the next year in orange jumpsuits. During the court proceedings in June 2014, D’Arcy grilled the airport authorities about why they had not arrested the pilot of an armed U.S. Hercules plane that had arrived at Shannon Airport four days after their arrest on the runway. She asked, “Are there two sets of rules—one for people like us trying to stop the bombing and one for the bombers?” Shannon Airport’s inspector Pat O’Neill replied, “I don’t understand the question.”

“This is a civilian airport,” D’Arcy told me as she gestured toward the runway. “How does a government allow the military to use a civilian airport?”

Extraordinary Renditions

The U.S. government began illegally transporting prisoners from Afghanistan and other places to its prison in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and to other “black sites” in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. This act of transporting the prisoners came to be known as “extraordinary rendition.” In 2005, when Dermot Ahern, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, was asked about the “extraordinary rendition” flights into Shannon Airport, he said, “If anyone has any evidence of any of these flights, please give me a call and I will have it immediately investigated.” Amnesty International replied that it had direct evidence that up to six CIA chartered planes had used Shannon Airport approximately 50 times. Four years later, Amnesty International produced a thorough report that showed that their earlier number was deflated and that likely hundreds of such U.S. military flights had flown in and out of the airport.

While the Irish government over the years has said that it opposes this practice, the Irish police (the Garda Síochána) have not boarded these flights to inspect them. As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (signed in 1953) and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (adopted in 1984 and ratified in 1987), Ireland is duty-bound to prevent collaboration with “extraordinary rendition,” a position taken by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. In 2014, Irish parliamentarians Mick Wallace and Clare Daly were arrested at Shannon Airport for trying to search two U.S. aircraft that they believed were carrying “troops and armaments.” They were frustrated by the Irish government’s false assurances. “How do they know? Did they search the planes? Of course not,” Wallace and Daly said.

Meanwhile, according to the Shannonwatch report, “Rather than take measures to identify past involvement in rendition or to prevent further complicity, successive Irish [g]overnments have simply denied any possibility that Irish airports or airspace were used by U.S. rendition planes.”

In 2006, Conor Cregan rode his bicycle near Shannon Airport. Airport police inspector Lillian O’Shea, who recognized him from protests, confronted him, but Cregan rode off. He was eventually arrested. At Cregan’s trial, O’Shea admitted that the police had been told to stop and harass the activists at the airport. Zoe Lawlor of Shannonwatch told me this story and then said, “harassment such as this reinforces the importance of our protest.”

In 2003 and 2015, Sinn Féin—the largest opposition party in the Northern Ireland Assembly—put forward a Neutrality Bill to enshrine the concept of neutrality into the Irish Constitution. The government, said Seán Crowe of Sinn Féin, has “sold Irish neutrality piece by piece against the wishes of the people.” If the idea of neutrality is adopted by the Irish people, it will be because of the sacrifices of people such as Margaretta D’Arcy, Niall Farrell, and Mary Kelly.

Author Bio: Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Why electricity prices should not be left to bogus 'free markets'

The so-called electricity markets were created to help private capital, not people. It is time that we wind up such bogus electricity markets and return all such public services to the people, to be run cooperatively for their benefit.

The price of electricity has risen astronomically in Europe over the last two years: by four times over the previous year and 10 times over the last two years. The European Union (EU) has claimed that this rise in prices is due to the increase in the price of gas in the international market and Russia not supplying enough gas. This raises the critical question: Why should, for example, the German electricity price rise four times when natural gas contributes around one-seventh of its electricity production? Why does the UK, which generates 40 percent of its electricity from renewables and nuclear plants, and produces half the natural gas it consumes, also see a steep rise in the price of electricity? All this talk of blaming Russia for the recent increase in gas prices masks the reality that the electricity generators are actually making astronomical windfall profits. The poorer consumers, already pushed to the wall by the pandemic, face a cruel dilemma: With electricity bills likely to make up 20-30 percent of their household budget during winter, should they buy food or keep their houses warm?

This article was produced in partnership by Newsclick and Globetrotter.

This steep rise in electricity prices is the other side of the story of the so-called market reforms in the electricity sector that have taken place over the last 30 years. The cost of electricity is pegged to the costliest supply to the grid in the daily and hourly auctions. Currently, this is natural gas, and that is why electricity prices are rising sharply even if gas is not the main source of electricity supply to the grid. This is market fundamentalism, or what the neoclassical economists call marginal utility theory. This was part of Augusto Pinochet’s electricity sector reforms that he introduced in Chile during his military dictatorship there from 1973 to 1990. The guru of these Pinochet reforms was Milton Friedman, who was assisted by his Chicago Boys. The principle that electricity price should be based on its “marginal price” even became a part of Pinochet’s 1980 constitution in Chile. The Chilean reforms led to the privatization of the country’s electricity sector, which was the objective of initiating these reforms.

It was the Chilean model that Margaret Thatcher copied in the UK, which then the EU copied. The UK dismantled its Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) that ran its entire electricity infrastructure: generation, transmission, and bulk distribution. This move also helped the UK shift away from domestic coal for its thermal power plants, breaking the powerful coal miners’ union. These were also the Enron market ‘reforms’ in California, leading to the summer meltdown of its grid in 2000-2001.

The European Union banked heavily on natural gas as its preferred fuel to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions; it also ramped up renewables—solar and wind power—and phased out lignite and coal. The EU has imposed a series of sanctions on Russia, made public its plans to impose further sanctions on the country, and seized about 300 billion euros of Russia’s reserves lying in EU banks. The EU has also said that it will cut down on Russia’s oil and gas supplies. Not surprisingly, Russia has sharply reduced its gas supplies to the EU. If the West thought it could weaponize its financial power, why did it think that Russia would not retaliate by doing the same with its gas supplies to the EU?

Due to the Russian supplies of natural gas to Western Europe falling, the price of LNG has risen sharply in the international market. Worse, there is simply not enough LNG available in the market to replace the gas that Russia supplied to the EU through its pipelines.

With the price of gas rising by four to six times in the last few months, the price of electricity has also risen sharply. But as only a fraction of the electricity is powered by gas, all other sources of energy—wind, solar, nuclear, hydro, and even dirty coal-fired plants—are making a killing. It is only now that the EU and the UK are discussing how to address the burden of high electricity prices on consumers and the windfall profits made by the electricity generators during this period.

It is not only the EU and UK consumers who are badly hit. It is also the European and British industries. Stainless steel, fertilizer, glass making, aluminum, cement, and engineering industries are all sensitive to input costs. As a result, all these industries are at risk of shutting down in the EU and the UK.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in his article “Time to Blow Up Electricity Markets” writes, “The European Union’s power sector is a good example of what market fundamentalism has done to electricity networks the world over… It’s time to wind down the simulated electricity markets.” The rest of the world would do well not to follow the EU’s example.

Why then is Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s central government rushing into this abyss? Did it not learn from last year’s experience when, after a coal shortage, the prices in the electricity spot market went up to Rs 20 ($0.25) per unit before public outcry saw it capped at Rs 12 ($0.15)? So why push again for these bankrupt policies of market fundamentalism in the guise of electricity reforms? Who will benefit from these market reforms? Certainly, neither the consumers nor the Indian state governments, which bear the major burden of subsidizing electricity prices for their consumers.

Author Bio: Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.

Violence against Indigenous women grows in Vancouver amid 'apathy and injustice'

Violence against Indigenous women is “escalating like never before,” the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has warned. A series of tragedies have rocked the city of Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands) in recent months, including the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old Indigenous child, Noelle O’Soup, in May.

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

“Apathy and injustice prevail among the authorities while the intersecting crises of MMIWG2S+ [missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and others], the colonial child welfare system, homelessness, and the opioid crisis are literally killing our people,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, according to a press release by the organization.

Noelle O’Soup was found in an apartment approximately a year after she went missing from a group home in Port Coquitlam, while under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), British Columbia. Reports on the circumstances of her disappearance and the investigation into her death have revealed negligence by both the police and the government. “The major investigative oversight occurred despite multiple visits to, and apparent inspections of, the single room occupancy unit where Noelle O’Soup’s remains would finally be discovered,” stated Global News. Her case, unfortunately, is more the rule rather than the exception in Canada.

An Ongoing Genocide

In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) released its final report, declaring that the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people amounted to “genocide.”

The NIMMIWG emphasized that this genocide had been “empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”

The inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or [go] missing than any other women in Canada,” with the figure soaring to 16 times when compared to white women in the country.

A report by Statistics Canada released in April 2022 stated that 56 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46 percent have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Constituting approximately 5 percent of Canada’s population of women, Indigenous women accounted for 24 percent of all women homicide victims between 2015 and 2020, according to the Statistics Canada report.

The likelihood of experiencing violence seems to be higher in cases where Indigenous women live in rural and remote areas, if they have a disability, have experienced homelessness, or have been in government care—81 percent of Indigenous women who have been in the child welfare system have been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada.

“Across multiple generations, Indigenous peoples were and continue to be subjected to the detrimental harms of colonialism,” acknowledged the report. Not only are Indigenous children disproportionately represented in Canada’s child welfare system (52.2 percent), but advocates have also found that more children have been forcibly separated from their families now than during the brutal Indian residential schools period.

Along with its final report, the NIMMIWG also made a key intervention in prevailing definitions✎ EditSign of genocide, stating✎ EditSign that “In actuality, genocide encompasses a variety of both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of ‘slow death,’ and all of these acts have very specific impacts on women and girls.”

“This reality must be acknowledged as a precursor to understanding genocide as a root cause of the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the NIMMIWG added, “[n]ot only because of the genocidal acts that were and still are perpetrated against them, but also because of all the societal vulnerabilities it fosters, which leads to deaths and disappearances.”

‘The Police Don’t Protect Us’

The remains of Noelle O’Soup were found in Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood referred to as “ground zero” for violence against Indigenous women. Residents face disproportionate levels✎ EditSign of “manufactured and enforced violence, poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization, and fatal overdoses.”

Approximately 8,000 women live and work in DTES, where the rates of violence have been more than double compared to the rest of Vancouver, according to data provided by the police.

Indigenous women have an acute vulnerability to violence, and yet the institutional response has been to stigmatize the women in DTES for having “high-risk lifestyles.”

“Harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated against Indigenous women are used as an ongoing tool of colonization to enforce their vulnerability to violence,” stated Christine Wilson, director of Indigenous Advocacy at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), in an interview with Peoples Dispatch.

In 2019, the DEWC published “Red Women Rising,” a historic report produced in direct collaboration with 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women in the DTES who knew Indigenous women who have experienced violence, have gone missing, or have overdosed. “Red Women Rising” was published in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG.

Echoing the argument put forth in “Red Women Rising,” Wilson reiterated that “the criminal justice system constructs Indigenous women as ‘risks’ that need to be contained, which leaves them unsafe and exacerbates inequalities.” Widespread bias✎ EditSign within the policing system has not only influenced whether police take Indigenous women’s complaints seriously, Wilson explained, but also whether Indigenous women approach the police at all.

“The police don’t protect us; they harass us,” stated DJ Joe, a resident of DTES, in the report by DEWC. “Native women face so much violence but no one believes a Native woman when she reports violence.”

In cases involving missing or murdered women, there is a lack of proper investigation and adequate resources, Wilson stated, adding that family members of victims were subjected to insensitive and offensive treatment, alongside general jurisdictional confusion and lack of coordination among the police.

Police have also been actively hostile and abusive toward Indigenous women in Canada. They continue to be targets of sexual violence by police forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has been deployed on contract policing services in 600 Indigenous communities.

Lack of police and judicial protection also overlaps with criminalization, thereby exacerbating violence against Indigenous women and girls. Wilson added, “Indigenous women are more likely to be violently attacked by their abusers and then more likely to be counter-charged by the police, compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Colonial Patriarchy Poses the Highest Risk

As “Red Women Rising” outlined, “Settler-colonialism intentionally targets Indigenous women in order to destroy families, sever the connection to land-based practices and economies, and devastate relational governance of Indigenous nations.”

The report identified “[m]ultiplying socioeconomic oppressions within colonialism,” including loss of land, family violence, child apprehension, and inadequate services, which worked to displace Indigenous women and children from their home communities.

Forty-two percent of women living on reserves lived in houses requiring major repairs, according to the report, and nearly one-third of all on-reserve homes in Canada were food insecure, with the figure soaring to 90 percent in some areas. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Indigenous women lived off-reserve, in areas such as DTES.

Displacement is closely linked to housing insecurity, with all members of DEWC having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The violence that Indigenous women face is tied to poverty, which in turn “magnifies vulnerability to abusive relationships, sexual assault, child apprehension, exploitative work conditions, [and] unsafe housing,” stated the “Red Women Rising” report.

Not only are Indigenous women disproportionately criminalized for “poverty-related crimes,” but Indigenous families are also investigated for “poverty-related ‘neglect’” eight times more as compared to non-Indigenous families. “[H]igher stressors associated with living in systemic poverty such as drug dependence and participation in street economies are used against Indigenous women in order to apprehend Indigenous children, thus perpetuating the colonial cycle of trauma and impoverishment,” the report pointed out.

As a result, activists argue that what is needed is an “assertion of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction, and restoration of collective Indigenous women’s rights and governance,” and “individual support for survivors such as healing programs.”

“Red Women Rising” had made 200 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women. Meanwhile, the NIMMIWG had issued 231 “Calls for Justice,” stressing that they were legal imperatives, not recommendations. However, in the three years since the release of both these reports, the Canadian government has made “little progress.”

“While there have been crucial acknowledgments on the subject of violence against Indigenous women,” Wilson told Peoples Dispatch, “now we need actions. We need funds for reparations, we need housing, and we need clean water on the reserves.”

Author Bio: Tanupriya Singh is a writer at Peoples Dispatch and is based in Delhi.

Is the U.S. legal system at war with the American people?

Incarcerations, brutality, and torture are common in the U.S. Activists claim that this amounts to a war waged against racially marginalized, poor, and working-class people.

The very laws and government agencies created to protect the people in the United States are increasingly being weaponized against those who are often marginalized in society: people of color, the poor, and the working class. In just the last few months, there have been many incidents of this kind of violent abuse of power.

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

On July 28, the state of Alabama performed a “botched” execution on Joe Nathan James Jr., who journalists believe may have suffered medical malpractice akin to “torture” for hours before his death. On August 12, around midnight, a police officer threatened to kill a Black pregnant woman during a traffic stop in Florida. On August 18, far-right-wing Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis announced that 20 formerly incarcerated people would be arrested for the crime of voting, as the U.S. severely restricts the right to vote for the tens of millions of former prisoners. Within the same week, three police officers were captured on video brutally beating a homeless man in Arkansas on August 21.

“We’re in a state of genocidal war,” said former political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim to Peoples Dispatch. Muntaqim was and still is a fighter for Black liberation who spent 49 years in prison, which activists claim was due to his political work as a member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. Alongside the label of political prisoner, Muntaqim also identifies himself as a prisoner of war.

The belief shared by many that the U.S. is at war with a subset of its own people is not a fringe idea. “End the War on Black People” is a policy platform of the Movement for Black Lives, a major organization within the Black Lives Matter movement. “Stop the War on Black America” was a popular slogan in several uprisings against police brutality, from the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 to Amir Locke’s murder in 2022.

In recent months alone, there has been enough evidence to support this belief that the U.S. is waging a war against its people.

Who Polices the Police?

According to the data project Mapping Police Violence, police killed at least 1,144 people in the U.S. in 2021, which is approximately three people per day. Every few weeks there is a police murder that triggers mass outrage, such as the killing of Jayland Walker who was found with more than 60 bullet wounds on his body, or Amir Locke who was killed seconds after waking up, or 15-year-old Brett Rosenau who was burned alive during a botched SWAT-team raid.

Two cases of police brutality have generated outrage most recently. In Florida on August 12, police officer Jason DeSue was driving in his car when he told Ebony Washington, a Black mother who was four months pregnant and driving with her three children, to pull over for speeding. Instead of following instructions immediately, Washington waited until reaching a well-lit area to pull over. “It was dark [and I was] with my kids. I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be able to not have anyone else around,” she said afterward in an interview.

DeSue reacted drastically to Washington’s decision. Body camera footage shows DeSue telling her over loudspeakers, “Pull the vehicle over, or I’ll put you into the ground.” Once Washington did finally pull over, DeSue pulled out his gun. He then handcuffed her roughly despite her pregnancy. DeSue eventually released Washington after giving her a ticket for speeding.

Nino Brown, a longtime activist against police brutality and a fighter for the freedom of political prisoners, said, “That this police officer came at her [Washington] ‘guns blazing’ with his weapon already drawn tells us everything you need to know about how the police treat African Americans in this country: the police operate as a Gestapo force in our communities—they shoot first and ask questions never.”

A video of three Arkansas police officers brutally beating Randall Worcester, taken on August 21, went viral. Despite being the victim of a brutal assault, Worcester was the one charged with “second-degree battery, resisting arrest, refusal to submit, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, criminal mischief, terroristic threatening and second-degree assault,” according to KARK.

DeSue resigned after drawing scorn for pulling a gun on Washington, and the three officers in Arkansas—Thell Riddle, Levi White, and Zack King—have now been suspended. This is the extent of their accountability thus far, even though some people are demanding criminal charges against the three police officers.

The fact that these officers are facing any punishment at all may be related to the existence of video evidence, which in past cases of police violence, such as in George Floyd’s murder, generated enough outrage to result in police accountability. Without video evidence, police often take charge of the narrative, labeling brutality with insidious neutral terms such as “officer-involved shooting” rather than “police killing.” Before the video of Floyd’s murder was released to the world, the Minneapolis Police Department press release of May 26, 2020 read, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.”

Persecution of Prisoners Follows Them to the Grave

There is an untenable double standard of justice for police officers who act with legalized impunity and those they ostensibly protect and serve. Although police rarely face criminal charges for brutality, people who are convicted of a crime, many of whom are racially marginalized and are in deep poverty, are punished mercilessly by the state.

Such is the case for prisoners who face the death penalty, which in the U.S. is most commonly carried out by administering a lethal injection. Although this method appears to be humane, death by lethal injection has been increasingly proven to be a torturous process. As the death penalty comes under more scrutiny, major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer are banning the use of their drugs in lethal injections. As a result, states such as Alabama are turning to lower-quality medications, like midazolam, which according to Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, “is not an appropriate drug to be used for execution purposes.” As Dunham told the Independent, “Studies now show this three-drug process [of lethal injection] is the equivalent to waterboarding, suffocation and being chemically burned at the stake.”

Even beyond the pain and suffering caused by the contents of the lethal injection, corrections departments have botched executions. Journalist Elizabeth Bruenig wrote in the Atlantic about how after prisoner Joe Nathan James Jr. was executed using lethal injection, an autopsy revealed that the Alabama Department of Corrections took hours to find an entry point for the injection, torturing James in the process. “My initial impression of James was of someone whose hands and wrists had been burst by needles, in every place one can bend or flex,” Bruenig wrote.

Meanwhile, many of those who were incarcerated at one point may find that their state-sanctioned punishments are not over yet. This was the case for the 20 people, all formerly incarcerated, who were recently arrested in Florida for so-called voter fraud. As NPR reported, however, “According to court documents, though, some of the 20 individuals told law enforcement officials that they thought they were able to vote when they cast ballots.” (In Florida, voting rights were recently restored to felons except those convicted of murder or a sexual offense cannot vote—the latter point cited by Governor DeSantis in response to criticism of the recent disenfranchisement crackdown.) Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, told Democracy Now that Floridians “are now being dragged from their homes in handcuffs because all they ever wanted to do was participate in democracy.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis bragged about the arrests, stating, “Today’s [August 18] actions send a clear signal to those who are thinking about ballot harvesting or fraudulently voting. If you commit an elections crime, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

A Cruel Double Standard

DeSantis’ words are telling. The so-called “elections crimes” will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” and yet there is still no word about criminal charges against officers Jason DeSue, Thell Riddle, Levi White and Zack King for the violent crimes of assault and battery they committed. Meanwhile, despite “cruel and unusual punishment” being prohibited as per the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prisoners are enduring torturous executions.

Some argue that torture, execution, imprisonment, and brutality against racially marginalized, poor, and working-class people amounts to war. Some, like Muntaqim, have worked to hold the entire U.S. state accountable for genocide, and have sought to question the legitimacy of the laws and agencies governing the people in the United States. Muntaqim said, “It’s important for us to recognize that we, Black people in this country, must seek out other means of survival. Other means of prosperity. Other means from which we can govern ourselves.”

Author Bio: Natalia Marques is a writer at Peoples Dispatch, an organizer, and a graphic designer based in New York City.

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