Watchdog: US Aid to Venezuela Was Used to Push Regime Change

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A report from the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) watchdog found that aid allocated for Venezuela in 2019 was used as part of the Trump administration’s failed regime change effort.

In January 2019, the US and many of its allies recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela in an attempt to unseat Nicolas Maduro. As part of this policy, USAID started coordinating aid deliveries with Guaido.

The report from USAID’s Inspector General reads: “In January and February 2019, the US Government identified USAID’s humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans as also serving as a key tool to elevate support to the Venezuelan Interim Government and increase pressure on the Maduro regime.”

In February 2019, USAID sent 368 tons of aid worth $2 million to the Colombia-Venezuela border and the Caribbean island of Curacao. A media frenzy ensued as the Trump administration tried to force the Venezuelan government to accept the aid.

Since the US was calling for Maduro to be overthrown, he did not allow the trucks carrying the aid to enter the country from Colombia and stopped them at the border. One truck was set on fire, which US media outlets initially blamed on Venezuelan forces. But it turned out the blaze was started by a molotov cocktail thrown from the Colombian side of the border.

The Inspector General’s report makes it even more apparent that the attempt to ram the aid into Venezuela was merely a political stunt. For example, the aid was dramatically delivered to Colombia in giant Air Force C-17 cargo planes when there were cheaper commercial delivery options available.

The report also found that the aid package included ready-to-use supplemental food even though USAID said this type of commodity was not necessary after determining the nutritional status of Venezuelan children. Ultimately, only eight out of the 360 tons allocated for Venezuela made it into the country. The rest was delivered inside Colombia or shipped to Somalia.

Under direction from Guaido, USAID also minimized funding to the UN agencies that already had infrastructure set up in Venezuela to deliver aid. A Venezuelan non-governmental organization, which wasn’t named in the report, was awarded funding because it had US-aligned interests.

The Trump administration’s regime change effort came with a failed coup attempt and a brutal sanctions regime that has had a devastating impact on Venezuela’s civilian population. President Biden has continued the policy, continues to recognize Guaido, and appears to have no interest in giving Venezuela sanctions relief.


Reprinted with permission from Antiwar.com.

‘(bleep) The Mask Order’ With Guest Pho Chan

Libertarian artist, educator, and philosopher Pho Chan joins today's Liberty Report to explain how the statists can best be challenged with music and humor. How to connect with a younger generation now seemingly attracted to socialism and authoritarianism? Chan has a few ideas. Watch today's Liberty Report:

US’ new Foreign Malign Influence Center is just official cover for American intelligence interference in domestic politics

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The Director of National Intelligence has ostensibly created a new “center” for the sharing and analysis of information and intelligence about foreign interference in US elections. Its real focus is much more nefarious.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) announced in a statement on Monday that it was creating a new intelligence “center” focused on tracking so-called “foreign malign influence,” reported Politico. This new entity, known as the Foreign Malign Influence Center, was mandated in the recent intelligence and defense budget authorization acts, representing the reality that the impetus for its creation came from Congress, and not the intelligence community.

For example, the most recent defense expenditure authorization required that the ODNI establish a “social media data analysis center” to coordinate and track foreign social media influence operations by analyzing data voluntarily shared by US social media companies. Based upon this analysis, the ODNI would report to Congress on a quarterly basis on trends in foreign influence and disinformation operations to the public. As envisioned by Congress, the intelligence community would determine jointly with US social media companies which data and metadata will be made available for analysis.

In short, the intelligence community, using data obtained from the social media accounts of American citizens, will report to Congress how this data influences the political decision making of these same American citizens.

If this does not make the most ardent defender of the US Constitution ill, nothing will.

It is not as if the US intelligence community wasn’t trending in this direction on its own volition. The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was the publication in March 2021 of an intelligence community assessment entitled ‘Foreign Threats to the US 2020 Presidential Election’. In this document, the US intelligence community assessed that “Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.”

But the most damning portion of this assessment came when it delved into the specific methodology employed by Russia to achieve these nefarious aims. “Throughout the election cycle”, the assessment declared, “Russia’s online influence actors sought to affect US public perceptions of the candidates, as well as advance Moscow’s long standing goals of undermining confidence in US election processes and increasing sociopolitical divisions among the American people. During the presidential primaries and dating back to 2019, these actors backed candidates from both major US political parties that Moscow viewed as outsiders, while later claiming that election fraud helped what they called ‘establishment’ candidates. Throughout the election, Russia’s online influence actors sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in ballots, highlighting alleged irregularities, and accusing the Democratic Party of voter fraud.”

As an American citizen who is politically engaged, I read the intelligence community assessment with a combination of interest, concern, and outrage. The notion of “Russian online influence actors” affecting “US public perceptions of the candidates” is as intellectually vacuous as it is factually unsustainable. The stupidity encapsulated by such analysis can only be excused by the fact that the intelligence community assessment is a document produced more for the benefit of domestic political consumption than a genuine effort at identifying and quantifying legitimate threats to the US. 

The assessment itself is short on hard data. However, the House Intelligence Committee has documented some 3,000 social media ads bought by Russian “troll farms” between 2015-2017, at a cost of some $100,000. These ads were in addition to so-called “organic posts,” some 80,000 of which were published on US social media, free of charge, by alleged Russian “bots” resulting in 126 million “views” by Americans. These ads were crude, unfocused, and simply inane in terms of their content.

To put the alleged Russian influence campaign into perspective, one need only reflect on the fact that during his short bid for the Democratic nomination, Michael Bloomberg spent nearly $1 billion underwriting the single most sophisticated public relations campaign, including hundreds of millions of targeted social media ads put together by the most brilliant political minds money could buy. All this money, time and effort, however, could not change the reality that, to the American public, Michael Bloomberg was an unattractive candidate – in the end his $1 billion bought him exactly two delegates.

The fact is, the political opinions of most American citizens are formed based upon a lifetime of exposure to issues that matter for them the most, whether it be education, right-to-life, gun control, social justice, agriculture, energy, environment, law enforcement, or any other of the multitude of sources of causation that impact the day-to-day existence of the American electorate. 

Some of these beliefs are inherited, such as the working-class attachment to unions. Some are driven by current affairs, such as the growing awareness of climate change. But all are derived from the life experience of each American, and the thought that these deeply held beliefs could be bought, changed, or otherwise manipulated by social media posts published by foreign actors, malign or otherwise, is deeply insulting to me, and should be to every other American as well.

The irony is that by creating an intelligence organization whose task it is to help prevent the political Balkanization of America by analyzing the social media accounts of Americans who hold differing political beliefs than “the establishment” the newly minted Foreign Malign Influence Center ostensibly serves, the resulting process will only cause the further political division of the United States. 

Some 74 million Americans voted for a candidate, Donald Trump, who has promulgated the very issues that the Democratic-controlled Congress seeks to denigrate and suppress through the work of this new intelligence center. These ideas will not simply disappear because the Democrats in Congress have empowered a “center” within the intelligence community whose sole function is to demonize any political thought that does not conform with the powers that be.

As it is currently focused, the Foreign Malign Influence Center is the living, breathing embodiment of politicized intelligence, two words which, when put together, represent the death knell for any intelligence organization. Worse, the work it will be doing, when turned over to a Democratically controlled Congress desperate to undermine the political viability of those 74 million American citizens, will only further fracture an already divided nation.

The Foreign Malign Influence Center was specifically mandated to examine the social media influence campaigns operated by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. It is particularly telling that they were not directed to investigate the two largest foreign sources of political influence in America today, namely the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the Murdoch media empire. President Putin could only dream about being able to buy congressional seats the way AIPAC does, or control what information becomes magnified (and, by extension, suppressed) by the newspapers, television and radio enterprises owned by Rupert Murdoch. 

These are the true villains when it comes to foreign corruption of American politics. These foreigners, however, have a seat at the establishment table. Their malign influence will never be labeled as such, and they will never have to withstand the ignominy of having their work scrutinized under the politicized microscope of an intelligence community that has allowed itself to be corrupted by domestic American politics to the point that it no longer serves the American people as a whole, but only a select class of American persons.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

Ethiopia: Violence, Instability, and the Need for Law and Order

An unresolved war in the north of the country; ethnic based violence some are describing as genocide in the West; random explosions of aggression in various regions: Ethiopia is trembling.

With around 117 million people, Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, made up of 80 or so tribal groups, all with their own cultures, language or dialect. Three big ones dominate: The Oromo (35% of population), Amhara (27%) and Tigrayan (6%). Historic disputes over land and power exist between these powerful groups; grievances which are being aggravated by pernicious elements attempting to destabilize the country.

On November 5th 2020 an armed conflict erupted in the Tigray region, between the federal government and the armed wing of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). It had been brewing for some time and both sides were prepared, itching for a fight. The Ethiopian government invited Eritrean troops to the party and then denied they were fighting side by side against a common enemy — the TPLF, widely hated in Eritrea and by many Ethiopians.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced (Ethiopia has around two million IDP’s) by the fighting, combatants on both sides killed, civilians (nobody knows how many) massacred and injured. Women and girls raped and tortured, reportedly by Eritrean military — thugs, committing vile acts, destroying lives, and all with impunity.

The government has claimed victory, but sporadic fighting continues and the TPLF leadership has escaped capture. They are believed to be reorganizing and recruiting young men to join what is morphing into an insurgency force. Intransigence prevails, with neither side willing to back down; the government is refusing to enter into negotiations, something that in the long-term, and given the high level of popular support for the TPLF in the region (they were elected as the regional government in banned elections in October 2020), may well be needed.

A UN investigation into atrocities in Tigray and elsewhere in the country is urgently required, but to date this has been rejected by the Ethiopian government who, it seems, want to appear to be in control; access to the region, which was shut off  by the government during the conflict, remains limited.

Tigray does not exist in isolation, Ethiopia is one state. Violence legitimizes and breeds violence and in an atmosphere of uncertainty, where law and order is weak it can quickly spread. Attacks are being committed mainly in the west of the country, but in other areas as well, against the Amhara people, by ‘rebels’; code for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) — a breakaway armed wing of the Oromo Libration Front (OLF), founded in the 1970s to fight for the self-determination of ethnic Oromo.

The ethnically based killings, destruction of property, rapes and displacement of persons constitute what some Ethiopians claim is genocide. This is reinforced by Genocide Watch, who have issued a Genocide warning “for Ethiopia due to the government’s inaction to stop ethnically motivated violence between Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayan and Gedeo peoples.”

The situation throughout the country is unstable and complex; ethnic identities are strong and long-standing differences between groups are easily inflamed by malicious forces, inside and outside Ethiopia. There is speculation that Egypt (angry with Ethiopia over the construction and control of the Renaissance Dam) is supporting the OLA with arms, and that the ‘rebel’ group is working with the TPLF, with the aim of destabilizing the country ahead of general elections in June. Elections postponed from 2020 that the incumbent party (the newly formed Prosperity Party) under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are expected to win.

Defeating the men of hate and violence

For generations Ethiopia has been governed by intolerant repressive dictatorships that have ignored human rights and ruled through fear. The current government came to power in 2018 on the back of years of widespread protests against the TPLF, it has opened up the country and aspires to be democratic. Prime-Minister Abiy is the first Oromia PM, and the cabinet (50/50 male and female) is populated largely by other people from Oromo.

The TPLF ruled from 1991 to 2018. Dismantling 27 years of corrupt governance, purging all areas of government, national and local, the police and armed forces, of TPLF personnel, or TPLF-influenced/sympathetic personnel; changing habitual methods and attitudes, will not be eradicated in a few years. Such far reaching change takes time. Some Ethiopians claim that little or not enough has changed in the last two years, and blame the government, or elements within the government apparatus, for the current unstable situation.

A cornerstone of the TPLF’s rule was ethnic federalism; a seemingly liberal policy, that promised to respect different cultures and honor aspirations for autonomy, but a divisive tool in the hands of the TPLF, employed to agitate conflict between ethnic groups, divide and rule being the objective. The aftermath of their abhorrent reign is community carnage, pent-up anger, corruption and distrust.

Like all such regimes, they ruled through fear and division and were widely despised in the country and among the Ethiopian diaspora, but to their utter shame, western nations, including Ethiopia’s primary donors (and therefore the countries with the greatest influence) the US, Britain and the European Union, supported them. Consecutive western leaders, most notably Tony Blair and Barack Obama, not only failed to call out the regime’s atrocities, but were complicit, hailing corrupt elections as fair, legitimizing the results of one stolen election after another. And now, when Ethiopia is being assailed by criminal gangs, domestic terrorists masquerading as ‘freedom fighters’, and many believe, foreign interference, they stand by and do nothing.

With the odd exception, the mainstream media is also largely silent; uninterested it appears, in the deaths, rapes, and abuse of Ethiopians – men women and children whose lives were riddled with difficulties even before the current violence exploded. And now, as a result of a number of factors, including the fighting, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) states that, “Ethiopia is second only to Yemen for the total number of people in need in 2021 (IRC estimates at least 21 million). As the year progresses, vulnerable communities will increasingly struggle to access necessary food and resources.”

In order to support vulnerable communities and deal with the dire humanitarian and social issues facing the country, there must first of all be peace and stability.

The safety of civilians is the first requirement of any government, and in this major respect the ruling party under PM Abiy Ahmed, has completely failed. Enforcement of the law must be a priority, police and security forces need to be strengthened, deployed to areas where communities are at risk; corruption weeded out of all areas of public life. And every effort made, by politicians, religious leaders and the media, to unify the country. Talk of unity is easy, commonplace, but without justice, tolerance and understanding, it is a hollow word that means nothing.

Ethiopia is a diverse whole; ethnic differences and culture divergence enrich the country and should be respected and celebrated. For generations people from different ethnic groups have lived side by side; marrying, praying and working together. Community harmony is being poisoned by power hungry men intent on sewing unrest and wreaking chaos. These divisive forces, wherever they may be (and some will be found hiding within government bodies), must be rooted out of the country, and those responsible for the horrendous killings, rapes and destruction hunted down and arrested, tried in a court of law.

To move this wonderful country, which has suffered so much, out of the suppressive violent shadow of the past is no easy task; time is needed, solidarity and patient perseverance. But throughout the World and within Ethiopia, there is a powerful movement towards justice and freedom, a movement that despite the best efforts of the men of hate and violence, must prevail.

The post Ethiopia: Violence, Instability, and the Need for Law and Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Azeri War Trophies Museum

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has just offered his country a national museum to incite among his people their hatred of Armenians. He personally inaugurated it on 12 April 2021. It is a large park located in the capital, Baku. More than 300 Armenian tanks and artillery pieces, destroyed or confiscated during the fighting, are on display there. It also features a tent with a collection of helmets representing the skulls of Armenian soldiers who perished during the recent (...)

Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers


On February 2, a group of delivery drivers took a brave step. They waged the first strike in Australia’s history by gig workers. The workers opposed cuts to their pay rates by the company that they toil for, British-based Hungry Panda. Hungry Panda, while having no operations in China itself, specialises in providing food delivery to expatriate Chinese communities. It is largely owned by Western investment firms like Swedish corporation Kinnevik and Britain’s Felix Capital. Hungry Panda responded to the daring strike by removing two strike leaders, Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li, from the platform dispensing gigs to drivers. But the workers stood firm. They organised with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and held rallies and stopworks. And six weeks later, they made history again. They achieved the first ever victory by gig economy workers in Australia. The two sacked workers won their jobs back and Hungry Panda reversed the pay cuts, increased pay in certain areas and agreed to provide accident insurance to drivers.

In terms of improvement in conditions, the victory is modest. Like other gig workers, Hungry Panda workers continue to be terribly exploited. Many have to work long hours to make ends meet. For delivery riders, the resulting exhaustion can literally kill them. Last year, five such riders were killed on the job in Australia. However, the victory at Hungry Panda has enormous significance. It shows that even gig workers – who by definition have no job security because their income depends not on set hours but on being granted individual gigs by their bosses – can win gains through collective action. Let’s seize on this trailblazing struggle to organise other gig workers into our unions and fight for a drastic improvement in their pay and conditions. Let’s not only wage struggles against individual business owners but combine that with a fight for laws to improve the conditions of all gig and casual workers. To do this we need to bring the power of stronger sections of the union movement behind the fight for the rights of these most vulnerable workers. Let’s demand:

  • The granting of a decent, guaranteed minimum weekly wage to all currently gig and casual workers even if they are granted less hours in any week than that which would enable them to currently receive such wages.
  • The immediate granting of permanency to all gig and casual workers – including the granting of all the rights of permanency like sick pay, annual leave and accident insurance.

Migrant Workers from the Chinese Workers State Spearhead Struggle

The backbone of the Hungry Panda struggle was made up of drivers from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) who had come here as visa workers or students. This includes the two strike leaders who were initially sacked. This is not the first time that migrant workers from the PRC have energised the workers movement in the countries that they have worked in. In November 2012, 180 bus drivers from China waged Singapore’s first strike in 27 years! Their strike not only flouted Singapore’s harsh anti- strike laws but was done in defiance of Singapore’s union leaders who treacherously condemned the strike. Five of the Chinese strike leaders ended up being jailed by the Singapore regime and 29 other strikers were deported. The struggle did, however, win some improvements to the housing conditions of the drivers. In repressive, capitalist Singapore, the daring strike by the Chinese guest workers had the effect of a political earthquake.

So why do migrant workers from China, even when toiling under precarious employment arrangements, often have a great propensity to wage struggles? The reason is that in 1949, China had a massive revolution that brought workers to power. To be sure, the workers state created by that revolution is bureaucratically deformed and is today being white anted from within by a capitalist class that China’s compromising leaders allowed to emerge over the last four decades. However, unlike in Australia, India or the U.S., where it is the tycoons that governments answer to, in China billionaires are often cut down to size. Indeed, China’s tycoons are terrified when rich lists are released because that can result in a popular upsurge against them on social media that can culminate in the PRC state imprisoning them. Just two weeks ago, the PRC forced one of the two main companies controlled by China’s most well-known capitalist, Jack Ma, to restructure in a way that will cripple its profitability. Indeed, ever since the PRC squashed a lucrative share sale of that company last November, the normally high-profile Ma, fearing arrest, has gone into seclusion. Could you imagine that happening to Gina Rinehart or one of the Murdoch dynasty here!

As a result of these anti-capitalist crackdowns in China, while wages are lower, in keeping with the country still pulling herself out of her pre-revolution poverty, working conditions are better than in Australia. This is especially true in the PRC’s socialistic public sector that dominates the key parts of her economy. As a huge sprawling country, there are some private companies, especially those owned by Western or Taiwanese capitalists, which can quietly get away with abusing workers rights. However, ever since the PRC instituted a pro-worker law in 2008, workers rights have considerably improved. Article 4 of that law gives unions effective veto power over any modification to wages or conditions at a workplace. More significantly, when Chinese workers strike, PRC authorities often – though not always – support the workers not only in their court rulings but by tacitly allowing workers to picket and, sometimes, even take the bosses hostage with impunity. The result of all this is that Chinese workers have a sense of entitlement – a sense that comes from being a member of China’s ruling class. So, when they go as temporary workers abroad, they bring that workers don’t have to put up with crap spirit with them. The Australian workers movement, which has been on the back foot for decades, sure does need this kind of “communist Chinese interference”! Moreover, as the contribution by Chinese workers at Hungry Panda has shown, the existence of a workers state in China is good for the workers movement here. On the other hand, if the capitalist powers succeed in their campaign to destroy the PRC workers state and, thus, turn China into a massive sweatshop for capitalist exploitation this would drive down the conditions of workers the world over. Thus, we must stand with socialistic China against the capitalist powers’ Cold War drive. Rebuff the lying, anti-communist propaganda campaign over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the pandemic! Oppose the U.S. and Australian capitalist regimes’ military build up against socialistic China!

Demand the Rights of Citizenship for All Workers Residing Here

As well as being from China, Hungry Panda workers are often also temporary residents from South Asian countries. Their powerful struggle has blown to pieces the nationalist notion that visa workers are simply people who “take Australian jobs” rather than a valued part of a potentially fighting workers movement. Nevertheless, that guest workers and international students can be deported so easily and have no access to social security is a huge deterrent to these workers engaging in struggle. Even as pro- ALP union leaders and their ALP parliamentary mates have been quick to use the Hungry Panda workers victory to strengthen their own reputations with workers, much of the pro-ALP union leadership isolates visa workers still further by calling to “keep out guest workers”. Fortunately, a small number of unions are now rejecting this divisive approach that weakens the ability of workers to unite and fight. We say that the workers movement must fight for the granting of all the rights of citizenship to every worker, refugee and student who is here. Let’s unleash the full fighting potential of migrant workers seen so powerfully in the Hungry Panda struggle.

There is something else holding back struggle by migrant workers and that is the incessant racism that they are copping. Such attacks intimidate these workers and make them feel that they don’t belong here and, thus, would be demonised further should they rock the boat. The entire workers movement must come to their defence. We cannot stop individual attacks as they take place at random and are committed by a large number of disparate racists. However, when organised white supremacist groups hold a public provocation, the workers movement should unite with Aboriginal people, all people of colour and all anti-racists to sweep the racist scum off our streets. By dealing severe blows to the most organised racists we can scare the more numerous, garden-variety rednecks into pulling their heads in. Right now, people of Asian background are especially being hit with racist attacks which are getting worse by the day. To stop this we need to oppose the main factor currently encouraging anti-Asian hate attacks – the Cold War drive against socialistic China. Yet, the current ALP leadership of the workers movement is at one with the right-wing Morrison government in its Cold War – and increasing push towards hot war – drive against socialistic China. The ALP does so for the same reason that they promote divisive slogans against guest workers. The ALP accepts the overall domination of the capitalist class and is only seeking to improve workers position within that framework. That necessarily means that instead of fighting to strongly challenge capitalist interests they are left with trying to improve the position of local workers at the expense of their migrant and international worker counterparts. We need to decisively turn the workers movement away from this divisive and failed “strategy.” We need a workers movement that understands that we cannot defend workers interests if we try to gain the acceptance of the big end of town – a movement that understands that workers interests only come by uniting workers of all races and nationalities in militant struggle against their common enemy, the capitalist exploiters.

Let’s Use the Inspirational Struggle by Hungry Panda Workers to Build a Working Class Fightback

The struggle by Hungry Panda workers is not only crucial for gig and casual workers. By showing that even the most vulnerable workers can win through collective action, they provide inspiration to all sections of the union movement. And right now our workers movement sure is in need of inspiration! The bosses have used the pandemic to attack working conditions, retrench workers and make those still working toil yet harder for the same pay. Let’s unleash powerful industrial action to smash attacks on workers’ wages and conditions! Fight for a minimum weekly wage and permanency for all currently gig and casual workers! Win secure jobs for all by forcing capitalists to increase hiring at the expense of their profits! Build the unity we need to wage a class struggle fightback – smash racist attacks and demand the rights of citizenship for everyone who is here! Defend the PRC workers state that gave the Hungry Panda guest workers their “sense of entitlement” that enabled Australia’s first ever successful industrial struggle by gig workers!

  • Image credit: The Australian
  • The post Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    I’m Still Here, Though My Country’s Gone West

    Berlin, Fackelzug zur Gründung der DDR

    A mass rally with the Free German Youth that marked the founding of the German Democratic Republic in the Soviet Occupation Zone, October 1949.

    A full generation has elapsed since the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed in late 1991. Two years earlier, in 1989, the communist states of Eastern Europe dissolved, with the first salvo fired when Hungary opened its border. On 3 March 1989, Hungary’s last communist prime minister Miklós Németh asked the USSR’s last President Mikhail Gorbachev whether the border to Western Europe could be opened. ‘We have a strict regime on our borders’, Gorbachev told Németh, ‘but we are also becoming more open’. Three months later, on 15 June, Gorbachev told the press in Bonn (West Germany) that the Berlin Wall ‘could disappear when the preconditions, which brought it about, cease to exist’. He did not list the preconditions, but he said, ‘Nothing is permanent under the Moon’. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall was knocked down. By October 1990, the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR) was absorbed into a unified Germany dominated by West Germany.

    As part of the unification, the structures of the DDR had to be demolished. Headed by the Social Democratic politician Detlev Rohwedder, the new rulers created the Treuhandanstalt (‘Trust Agency’) to privatise 8,500 public enterprises that employed over 4 million workers. ‘Privatise quickly, restructure resolutely, and shut down carefully’, Rohwedder said. But before he could do this, Rohwedder was assassinated in April 1991. He was succeeded by the economist Birgit Breuel who told the Washington Post, ‘We can try to explain ourselves to people, but they will never love us. Because whatever we do, it’s hard for people. With every one of the 8,500 enterprises, we either privatise or restructure or close them down. In every case, people lose jobs’. Hundreds of firms that had been public property (Volkseigentum) fell into private hands and millions of people lost their jobs; during this time, 70% of women lost their jobs. The stunning scale of the corruption and cronyism only came out decades later in a German parliamentary inquiry in 2009.

    LPG Mansfeld, Solidaritätsbekundung mit Vietnam

    Cooperative farmers handing over a flag of solidarity with the motto ‘Solidarity Hastens Victory’ written on it to the Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1972.

    Not only did the public property of the DDR slip into the pockets of private capital, but the entire history of the project vanished in a haze of anti-communist rhetoric. The only word that remained to define the forty years of DDR history was stasi, the colloquial name for the Ministry for State Security. Nothing else mattered. Neither the de-Nazification of that part of Germany – which was not conducted in the West – nor the impressive gains in terms of housing, health, education, and social life occupy space in the public imagination. There is little mention of the DDR’s contribution to the anti-colonial struggle or to the socialist construction experiments from Vietnam to Tanzania. All this vanished, the earthquake of the reunification swallowing up the achievements of the DDR and leaving behind the ash heap of social despair and amnesia. Little wonder that poll after poll – whether in the 1990s or the 2000s – show that large numbers of people living in the former East Germany look back longingly for the DDR past. This Ostalgie (‘nostalgia’) for the East remains intact, reinforced by the greater unemployment and lower incomes in the eastern over the western part of Germany.

    In 1998, the German parliament set up the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, which set the terms for the national appraisal of communist history. The organisation’s mandate was to fund research on the DDR that would portray it as a criminal enterprise rather than a historical project. Fury governed the historical undertaking. The attempt to delegitimise Marxism and Communism in Germany mirrored attempts in other countries in Europe and North America that hastened to snuff out the reappearance of these left ideologies. The ferocity of efforts to rewrite history suggested that they feared its return.

    This month, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research partnered with the Internationale Forschungsstelle DDR (IF DDR) to produce the first of a new series, Studies on the DDR. The first study, Risen from the Ruins: The Economic History of Socialism in the German Democratic Republic, goes beneath the anti-communist sludge to unearth, in a reasonable way, the historical development of the forty-year project in the DDR. Based in Berlin, the authors of the text sifted through the archives and memories, interviewing those who helped construct socialism in Germany at different levels of society.

    Peter Hacks, a poet of the DDR, said in retrospect, ‘The worst socialism is better than the best capitalism. Socialism, that society that was toppled because it was virtuous (a fault on the world market). That society whose economy respects values other than the accumulation of capital: the rights of its citizens to life, happiness, and health; art and science; utility and the reduction of waste’. For when socialism is involved, Hacks said, it is not economic growth, but ‘the growth of its people that is the actual goal of the economy’. Risen from the Ruins lays out the story of the DDR and its people from the ashes of Germany after the defeat of fascism to the economic pillage of the DDR after 1989.

    Leipzig, Straßenschild Lumumbastraße

    A monument to Patrice Lumumba built by Leipzig’s Free German Youth; the street was later renamed ‘Lumumba Street’ in a ceremony with Congolese students, 1961.

    One of the least known parts of the DDR’s history is its internationalism, wonderfully explored in this study. Three brief extracts make the point:

    1. Solidarity Work. Between 1964 and 1988, sixty friendship brigades of the Free German Youth (the DDR youth mass organisation) were deployed to twenty-seven countries in order to share their knowledge, help with construction, and create training opportunities and conditions for economic self-sufficiency. A number of these projects still exist today, though some have taken on different names, such as the Carlos Marx Hospital in Managua, Nicaragua; the German-Vietnamese Friendship Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam; and the Karl Marx Cement Factory in Cienfuegos, Cuba, to name but a few.
    2. Learning and Exchange Opportunities. Overall, more than 50,000 foreign students successfully completed their education at the universities and colleges of the DDR. The studies were financed by the DDR’s state budget. As a rule, there were no tuition fees, a large number of foreign students received scholarships, and accommodation was provided for them in student halls of residence. In addition to the students, many contract workers came to the DDR from allied states such as Mozambique, Vietnam, and Angola as well as from Poland and Hungary seeking job training and work in production. Right until the end, foreign workers remained a priority, with contract workers growing from 24,000 to 94,000 (1981-1989). In 1989, all foreigners in the DDR received full municipal voting rights and began to nominate candidates themselves.
    3. Political Support. While the West was slandering Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) as terrorists and ‘racists’ and conducting business with the apartheid regime in South Africa – even providing arms shipments – the DDR supported the ANC, provided the freedom fighters with military training, printed their publications, and cared for its wounded. After black students in the township of Soweto launched an uprising against the apartheid regime on 16 June 1976, the DDR began to commemorate international Soweto Day as a sign of solidarity with the South African people and their struggle. Solidarity was even extended to those in the belly of the beast: when Angela Davis was tried as a terrorist in the United States, a DDR correspondent presented her with flowers for Women’s Day and students led the One Million Roses for Angela Davis campaign, during which they delivered truckloads of cards with hand-painted roses to her in prison.

    The memory of this solidarity no longer remains either in Germany or in South Africa. Without the material support provided by the DDR, the USSR, and Cuba, it is unlikely that national liberation in South Africa would have come when it did. Cuban military support for the national liberation fighters at the 1987 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale was crucial for this defeat of the South African apartheid army, leading eventually to the collapse of the apartheid project in 1994.

    Berlin, 10. Weltfestspiel, Demonstration, Ehrentribüne

    The Free German Youth, a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, hosted the Tenth World Festival of Youth and Students in Berlin, 1973.

    Organisations such as the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany (Berlin) and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (Washington, United States) exist not only to denigrate the communist past and to malign communism, but also to make sure that communist projects in the present carry the penalty of their caricatures. To advance a left project in our time – which is imperative – is made much more difficult if it must carry the albatross of anti-communist fabrications on its back. That is the reason why this project, led by IF DDR, is so important. It is not merely an argument about the DDR; it is also, at its core, a broader argument about the possibilities opened by experiments to create a socialist society and the material improvements they create, and have created, in the lives of the people.

    Socialism does not emerge fully fledged nor perfectly formed. A socialist project inherits all the limitations of the past. It takes effort and patience to transform a country, with its rigidities and class hierarchies, into a socialist society. The DDR lasted for a mere forty years, half the life expectancy of the average German citizen. In its aftermath, the adversaries of socialism exaggerated all its problems to eclipse its achievements.

    Volker Braun, an East German poet, wrote an elegy to his forgotten country in October 1989 called Das Eigentum or Property.

    I’m still here: my country has gone West.
    PEACE FOR THE PALACES AND WAR ON THE SHACKS.
    I myself have given my country the boot.

    What little virtue it possessed burns in the fire.
    Winter is followed by a summer of desire.

    I might as well get lost, who cares what’s next
    And no one will ever again decipher my texts.

    What I never possessed, from me was taken.
    I will eternally long for what I didn’t partake in.

    Hope appeared on the path like a trap
    You grope and grab at the property I had.

    When will I say mine again and mean we and ours.

    Our quest here is not to reverse direction and exaggerate all the achievements while hiding the problems. The past is a resource to understand the complexities of social development so that lessons can be learnt about what went wrong and what went right. The IF DDR project, in collaboration with Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, is invested in this kind of archaeology to dig amongst the bones to discover how to improve the way we humans stretch our spines and stand upright with dignity.

    The post I’m Still Here, Though My Country’s Gone West first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    The US Congress Turns on Itself: Censuring and Threats of Expulsion Proliferating

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    Mark Twain once wrote that “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” Some developments over the past several weeks would certainly support that judgement if one regards a country’s legislative body as a mechanism intended to benefit the public that it is elected to serve. The hypocrisy of America’s two major parties is something to behold, with corruption at a level that is rarely attained in most third world countries.

    Recently there have been some appalling cases that underline how far the American Congress has separated itself from any tangible national interest if one excludes getting rich and reelected, in whichever order one seeks to go about that. One of the best at getting rich and reelected in spite of not having two brain cells to rub together is the esteemed Maxine Waters of California, who has starred in her recent attempt to inspire an angry mob to get more “confrontational” if the murder trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin were to go the wrong way through a failure to convict.

    Now bear in mind that we Americans live in a no-fault no-accountability society, where no one is guilty of anything unless he or she is caught red handed and has no protectors in place to deny that anything at all happened. As Maxine has plenty of defenders because she is black, a woman and, most of all, a Democrat, it should have been expected that in her case a call to riot by a congressman would be treated as a non-event, and so it proved when the GOP made a feeble attempt to censure her for her behavior.

    As Maxine represents part of California, her appearance in Minnesota was little more than race baiting with a threat of violence thrown in. Attempts to characterize it as free speech on her part ignore the fact that she is a government official, paid for generously by the taxpayer, and a call to violence by one part of the citizenry directed against both the legal system and another constituency cannot be considered acceptable. It is indeed impeachable.

    One has to wonder who paid for Waters’ Minnesota trip and marvel at her audacity when she asked for and received an armed police escort for her own safety as she traveled to and from the airport. Perhaps her calls to de-fund the police were on hold until after she completed her travels. It is also important to realize that due to the seniority afforded by her 29 years in office she is, in spite of her lack of anything describable as patriotism of even integrity, part of the House Democratic leadership. She’s Chief Majority Whip, has been the chairperson of the House Black Caucus, and is the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee. Never before has anyone attained so much having so little to offer.

    But the story does not end there, which is where the true mendacity of the US Congress comes to the surface. When the Republicans rightly attempted to censure Waters it was inevitable that the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump for the use of incendiary language when addressing a crowd at the Capitol on January 6th would come up, but the Democratic Party leadership was having none of that. The Hill reports that shortly before the Waters censure vote, rather than accepting that the two offenses were of a kind, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer instead delivered a threat, warning the Republican leadership that forcing a roll call on censuring Waters would make it more difficult to justify not taking similar action targeting Republican members of Congress. “This makes it harder, however, not to proceed on numerous [similar] resolutions on my side of the aisle” he said.

    So the game is on under new rules. The leadership of the Democratic and Republican Parties have declared that they will impose punishment, including censure, suspension and even expulsion, on House and Senate members who defy the consensus on appropriate behavior, which itself has become heavily politicized.

    The first Republican who is likely to feel the wrath of the Democratic controlled Congress is Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Representative Jimmy Gomez of California has already circulated a draft letter renewing his earlier effort to expel her from Congress. Gomez cited Greene for her alleged promotion of violence against other members of Congress. In his letter he included her promotion of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” as yet another justification for her expulsion from Congress. The “Dear Colleague” letter begins with “[E]veryone – including House Republican leadership – knew this stunt was nothing more than an effort to promote white supremacy in the United States Congress.” He, of course, also claimed that she was engaged in the “brazen promotion of anti-Semitism and racism.” Somehow the anti-Semitism tag always seems to make it into these documents.

    Gomez’s expulsion resolution already has 72 Democratic co-sponsors. House Democrats as well as 11 Republicans had already voted in February to strip Greene of her committee assignments over her alleged past endorsements of violence against Democrats and embrace of conspiracy theories to include suggesting that some mass shootings have been staged.

    Greene, for her part, has tit for tat submitted a resolution to expel Waters based on her encouraging supporters to harass Trump administration officials when they made public appearances in 2018 while also saying a year earlier that she would “go and take Trump out tonight. “This is nothing new from Maxine Waters. She has been inciting violence and terrorism for the last 29 years,” Greene said in a statement.

    Despite the current wave of lawmakers introducing measures to formally sanction each other, it seldom occurs that the House actually takes such a drastic step. Only 23 lawmakers have been censured in the House’s history and only five were expelled, mostly for actual criminal behavior. Nevertheless, the new environment condoning punishment of colleagues in Congress is only just gaining momentum and the Democrats clearly have the whip hand with their control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. To be sure, free speech is the most important liberty guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States, but the right of legislators to call on citizens to break the law up to and including the destruction of that very government that pays them and gives them their status has to be challenged. Say what they will when they are out of office, but when they take that oath of loyalty to the constitution it means that they are pledged to support all of those structures and safeguards that that foundational document has established.

    Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

    Joe Biden and Catholic Church at loggerheads

    While President Biden's inauguration was initially hailed by the Vatican for being that of the second Catholic president of the United States, the Catholic Church quickly lost its enthusiasm at the sight of his advisers. The US bishops will consider a motion to excommunicate him at their next bishops' conference in June. The issue at hand is for President Biden to clarify his position on abortion: will he leave it up to everyone's conscience or does he intend to promote this practice? Also (...)