All posts by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats


We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.

Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.

Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.

Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid

The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.

People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.

Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.

Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.

Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.

During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.

The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.

The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to oppose the US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.

We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.

Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.

The US Embassy is Forced to Close

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.

Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.

When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.

The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.

When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.

Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.

Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)

Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution

We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.

Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.

While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.

One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”

The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.

This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.

Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)

Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential

The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.

We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.

The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.

We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.

Join the March 30 Mobilization Against the US Coup in Venezuela and the No to NATO protests in Washington, DC.

It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.

The US Must Grow Up And Respect Iranian Independence

US Peace Delegation to Iran February 2019 outside of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. From CODE PINK.

One of the lessons from our recent visit to Iran as a Peace Delegation is that Iran is a mature country. It is 2,500 years old, ten times as old as the United States and one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations with settlements dating back to 7,000 BC. It was an empire that controlled almost half the Earth for over 1,000 years. It is hard not to see the US-Iran relationship as one between an adolescent bully and a mature nation.

The root cause of the problems between the United States and Iran is not because Iran has oil, an Islamic government, nuclear weapons or Iran’s role in the Middle East — it is because in 1979, Iran ended 26 years of US domination. Foreign Minister Zarif explained to our Peace Delegation:

…the U.S. difficulty with Iran is not because of the region, not because of human rights, not because of weapons, not because of the nuclear issue – it’s just because we decided to be independent – that’s it – that’s our biggest crime.

Since the 1979 Revolution, the US has sought to dominate Iran using sanctions and threats of military aggression. Iran has responded by seeking negotiation with the US. The Iran Nuclear Agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA), which took over ten years to finalize, was viewed by Dr. Zarif as a first step toward more agreements.

Although Iran fulfilled its side of the nuclear agreement, the US did not relieve the sanctions, as promised, and under the Trump administration, increased the sanctions and left the agreement. On our trip, we learned first hand about the impacts of these actions.

Facing The Ugly Realities Of US History With Iran

Correcting the relationship between the US and Iran begins with an honest review of US policy since 1953. It is a record for which the US should be ashamed and shows the need for a new approach.

Iran Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq

The 1953 Coup

The August 19, 1953 coup was one the US denied for decades but has now been proven by documents released by the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. The British government also released documents showing its involvement. Information has been made public over the decades, but even after 65 years, many documents about ‘Operation Ajax’ remain classified.

The coup was led by CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt and cousin of President Franklin Roosevelt. The coup not only impacted Iran but the Middle East and was a model for US coups around the world, which continue to this day. As we write, we are on our way to Venezuela where a US-led coup just failed.

The 1953 coup was preceded by economic sanctions to destabilize the Mossadegh government and a Guaido-like fake Prime Minister. The coup initially failed on August 16 when the Shah fled to Baghdad and then to Rome. Before fleeing, he appointed former Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi as Prime Minister to replace the elected Prime Minister Mossadegh. Zahedi continued the coup with the military arresting Mossadegh at his home on April 19. When Operation Ajax succeeded, Zahedi became Prime Minister and the Shah returned to rule as a brutal dictator until 1979. Mossadegh was imprisoned until his death in 1967.

 

US Den of Espionage by Barbara Briggs-Letson

Installation Of The Brutal Shah

The Shah became the enforcer for the United States in the Middle East. His rule coincided with the US war in Vietnam when the US focused its military in Southeast Asia. When President Nixon came to office in 1969, Iran was the single-largest arms purchaser from the US. Nixon encouraged a spending spree and by 1972, the Shah purchased over $3 billion of US arms, a twenty fold increase over 1971’s record.

US weapons buying continued throughout the decade dwarfing all US allies including Israel. The weapons being sold required thousands of US military support troops in Iran. In 1977, President Carter sold more arms to Iran than any previous years. Carter toasted the Shah as “a rock of stability” during a visit to Tehran at the end of 1977.

The stability was not as rock solid as Carter imagined. Domestically, a conglomerate of western oil companies ran the oil industry taking fifty percent of the profits but not allowing Iran to audit the accounts or have members on the board of directors. The Shah recognized Israel and put in place modernization policies that alienated religious groups. In 1963, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was arrested for making a speech against the Shah after several days of protests. The Shah’s brutal secret police, the SAVAK, made mass arrests and tortured and killed political prisoners. The Islamic clergy, still headed by Khomeini living in exile since 1964, became more vociferous in its criticisms.

Mass protests and strikes struck Iran in 1978. On November 4, 1979, Iranian students seized the US Embassy and held fifty-two hostages for 444 days until January 1981. Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979. In December, a new Constitution creating the Islamic Republic was approved by referendum and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader.

Graves of martyr’s from the Iraq-Iran War at the central cemetery of Iran’s capital Tehran by Philipp Breu

US Supports Iraq’s War Against Iran

The Iraq war would not have been possible without US encouragement and support in the form of money, naval assistance and weapons. The US also provided Iraq with the ingredients for the chemical weapons as well as intelligence on where to use them. More than one million people were killed and more than 80,000 injured by chemical weapons in the Iraq war.

The US Shoots Down A Civilian Airliner

The US also killed 289 Iranians when a US missile shot down a commercial Iranian airliner in July 1988. The US has never apologized for this mass killing of civilians. When we were in Iran, we visited the Tehran Peace Museum and our delegation did what our country should do, apologized.

Forty Years Of US Economic Sanctions

The US has imposed economic sanctions since the Islamic Revolution began. In 1980, the US broke diplomatic relations with Iran and Carter put in place sanctions including freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets and banning imports of Iranian oil. Every president since Carter has escalated sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran has developed a “resistance economy” where it has become more self-sufficient and built relationships with other countries.

Announcement of the Iran Nuclear Agreement between six world powers and Iran in the Swiss town of Lausanne (Photo from CBS News)

US Withdrawal From Nuclear Agreement And Increased Sanctions

The most recent atrocity is the failure to live up to the carefully negotiated nuclear agreement. Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif painstakingly negotiated the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal between China, France, Russia, the UK, Germany, the US, and the European Union for more than a decade. Iran complied with all the requirements of the agreement, but the US did not lift sanctions, as promised, and exited the deal under President Trump, leading to protests against the US throughout Iran.

The people of Iran were joyous when the JCPOA was finalized as it promised relief; i.e., the release of $29 billion in Iranian funds held abroad, allowing US exports of Iranian oil, allowing foreign firms to invest in Iran and allowing trade with the rest of the world through the global banking system.

Instead of abiding by the agreement, the US escalated sanctions against Iran. Trump’s escalation has been harsh as the US seeks “to isolate Iran politically and economically, by blocking its oil sales, access to hard currencies and foreign investments, along with more harsh sanctions and overall financial hardships on the country.” Sanctions include secondary sanctions on non-US corporations and nations doing business with Iran, which the International Criminal Court found to be illegal.

These sanctions are having a significant human impact. They are causing a rapid devaluation of Iranian currency resulting in increasing costs of basic goods, including a tripling of the cost of imported goods such as cars. When we were in Iran, we heard firsthand about the impact sanctions have on people’s lives; e.g., the inability to get life-saving medicines, make financial transactions, use apps or translate books from the US into Farsi. In a restaurant, the menu warned prices may not be as listed because of rapid inflation. We interviewed Dr. Foad Izadi of the University of Tehran on Clearing the FOG about the impact of the sanctions and how US policies are alienating youth.

We spent time at the University of Tehran with students and faculty in the American Studies department. They were excited to speak with people from the United States, as few people from the US are able to get visas, and they lamented not being allowed to travel to the US. We found that we have much in common and believe we would benefit from more exchanges with Iranians.

Ongoing US Destabilization Iran And Threats Of War

Sanctions are designed to destabilize the government but are instead uniting people against the United States. If anything, US actions will put in place a more anti-US government in upcoming elections. The US has a flawed understanding of Iranian politics and global politics around US unilateral sanctions. The Iran sanctions are likely to speed up the de-dollarization of the global economy and end US dollar hegemony and are illegal.

The US is also fomenting rebellion. The Trump administration has been seeking regime change through various actions including violence. It created a Mission Center in the CIA focused on regime change in Iran and spends millions of dollars to encourage opposition in Iran, working to manipulate protests to support a US agenda. The threat of war continues and becomes ever more likely in an administration dominated by Iran hawks, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

US military bases around Iran

Creating A Peaceful, Positive Relationship Between The US And Iran

The history of US behavior toward Iran cannot be ethically defended. The US needs to appraise this history and recognize it has a lot for which to apologize, then it must correct its policies.

A group of prominent Iranian-Americans recently sent an open letter to Secretary Pompeo, writing:

If you truly wish to help the people of Iran, lift the travel ban [although no Iranian has ever been involved in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Iran is included in Trump’s Muslim ban], adhere to the Iran nuclear deal and provide the people of Iran the economic relief they were promised and have eagerly awaited for three years.

Until the US is ready to accept responsibility for its abhorrent actions, Iran will continue to build a resistance economy and relations with other countries. There is talk of US-sanctioned countries joining together as a countervailing force. Such countries include Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, Somalia, Belarus, Iraq, a number of African countries and more, as well as China with US trade tariffs. Building relationships through civil society, academia, professional societies, and government are needed to create a unified opposition to challenge US sanctions.

Our tasks in the US are to create opportunities for greater knowledge about and exchanges with Iran. Students at the University of Tehran are interested in dialogue with students and professors in the US. Members of the peace delegation live in areas across the US and can speak to groups about Iran. Contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni if you are interested in any of the above. We must educate our members of Congress about Iran and insist that the sanctions be lifted and that the US rejoin the JCPOA, and we must stop the threats of war against Iran.

The Movement And The 2020 Elections

The political system in the United States is a plutocracy, one that works for the benefit of the wealthy, not the people. Although we face growing crises on multiple fronts – economic insecurity, a violent and racist state, environmental devastation, never-ending wars and more – neither of the Wall Street-funded political parties will take action to respond. Instead, they are helping the rich get richer.

The wealth divide has gotten so severe that three people have more wealth than the bottom 50% of people in the country. Without the support of the rich, it is nearly impossible to compete in elections. In 2016, more than $6.5 billion was spent on the federal elections, a record that will surely be broken in 2020. More than half that money came from less than 400 people, from fewer than 150 families.

People are aware of this corruption and are leaving the two Wall Street parties. According to the census, 21.4% of people do not register to vote, and in 2018, less than a majority of registered voters voted. According to Pew Research, independents (40% of voters) outnumber Democrats (30%) and Republicans (24%). The largest category of registered voters is non-voters. Yet, the media primarily covers those who run within the two parties, or billionaire independent candidates who do not represent the views of most people.

This raises a question for social movements: What can be done to advance our agenda over the next two years when attention will be devoted mostly to two parties and the presidential race?

Progressives Failed to Make the Democratic Party a Left-Progressive Party

People in the United States are trapped in an electoral system of two parties. Some progressives have tried — once again — to remake the Democratic Party into a people’s party.

We interviewed Nick Brana, a former top political organizer for the Sanders presidential campaign, on the Popular Resistance podcast, which will be aired Monday, about his analysis of the Democratic Party. Brana describes the efforts of progressives to push the party to the left over the past three years and how they were stopped at every turn. They tried to:

  • Change the Democratic Party Platform: The platform is nonbinding and meaningless but even so, the Party scrapped the platform passed by the delegates the following year and replaced it with a more conservative one called the “Better Deal.”
  • Replace the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair. They discovered the chair is picked by the DNC, which is made up of corporate lobbyists, consultants, and superdelegates, who picked Hillary Clinton’s candidate Tom Perez, over Rep. Keith Ellison, former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
  • Replace the DNC membership with grassroots activists. Instead, at the DNC’s  2017 fall meeting, the Party purged progressives from the DNC, making it more corporate and elitist.
  • Fix the Presidential primary process after it was disclosed that the DNC weighted the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The Democrats rigged the Rules Commission to accomplish the opposite; i.e., kept closed primaries to shut out progressive independent voters, kept joint fundraising agreements between the DNC and presidential campaigns, slashed the number of states that hold caucuses, which favor progressive candidates, and refused to eliminate superdelegates, moving them to the second ballot at the convention but reserving the right to force a second ballot if they choose.

Further cementing their power, Democrats added a “loyalty oath” which allows the DNC chair to unilaterally deny candidates access to the ballot if he deems the candidate has been insufficiently “faithful” to the Party during their life. And the DNC did nothing to remove corporate and billionaire money from the primary or the Party, ensuring Wall Street can continue purchasing its politicians.

The results of the 2018 election show the Blue Wave was really a Corporate Wave. Brana describes how only two progressives out of 435 members of Congress unseated House Democrats in all of 2018: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. When Pelosi was challenged as leader of the House Democrats, she was challenged from a right-wing Blue Dog Democrat, not a progressive Democrat, with many “progressives” including AOC and Rep. Jayapal speaking up for Pelosi’s progressive credentials.

In contrast to the failure of progressives, the militarists had a banner 2018 election. The 11 former intelligence officials and veterans were the largest groups of victorious Democratic challengers in Republican districts. Throughout the 2018 election cycle, Democratic Party leaders worked against progressive candidates, for instance pushing them to oppose Medicare for all.

This is an old story that each generation learns for itself: the Democratic Party cannot be remade into a people’s party. It has been a big business party from its founding as a slaveholders party in the early 1800s, when slaves were the most valuable “property” in the country, to its Wall Street funding today. Lance Selfa, in “The Democrats: A Critical History,” shows how the Democratic Party has consistently betrayed the needs of ordinary people while pursuing an agenda favorable to Wall Street and US imperialism. He shows how political movements from the union and workers movements to the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement, among others, have been betrayed and undermined by the Democratic Party.

Social Movements Must Be Independent of the Corporate Parties

The lesson is mass movements need to build their own party. The movement should not be distracted by the media and bi-partisan politicos who urge us to vote against what is necessary for the people and planet. At this time of crisis, we cannot settle for false non-solutions.

Howie Hawkins, one of the founders of the Green Party and the first candidate to campaign on a Green New Deal, describes, in From The Bottom Up: The Case For An Independent Left Party, how Trumpism is weakening as its rhetoric of economic populism has turned into extreme reactionary Republicanism for the millionaires and billionaires. He explains that Democrats are not the answer either, as “they won’t replace austerity capitalism and militaristic imperialism to which the Democratic Party is committed.”

The result, writes Hawkins, is we must commit ourselves “to build an independent, membership-based working-class party.” Even the New Deal-type reforms of Bernie Sanders “do not end the oppression, alienation, and disempowerment of working people” and do not stop “capitalism’s competitive drive for mindless growth that is devouring the environment and roasting the planet.”

Hawkins urges an ecosocialist party that creates economic democracy; i.e., social ownership of the means of production for democratic planning and allocation of economic surpluses as well as confronting the climate crisis. He explains socialism is a “movement of the working class acting for itself, independently, for its own freedom.”

He urges membership-based parties building from the local level that are independent of the two corporate-funded parties.  Local branches would educate people on issues to support a mass movement for transformational change. Hawkins is a long-time anti-racism activist. He became politically active as a teenager when he saw the mistreatment of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, who elected sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer as their co-chair. He believes a left party must confront racial and ethnic tensions that have divided the working class throughout its history.

Hawkins points out the reasons why the time is ripe for this. Two-thirds of people are from the working class compared to one-third in 1900. The middle class (e.g. teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, technicians) holds progressive positions on policy issues creating super-majority support for critical issues on our agenda. The working and middle classes are better educated than ever. Over the last forty years, their living standards have declined, especially the younger cohort that is starting life in debt like no other generation. Finally, the environmental crisis is upon us and can no longer be ignored creating a decisive need for radical remaking of the economy.

Critical Issues To Educate And Mobilize Around

Popular Resistance identified a 16 point People’s Agenda for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  Three issues on which we should focus our organizing over the next few years include:

National Improved Medicare For All: The transformation of healthcare in the US from an insurance-based market system to a national public health system is an urgent need with over 100,000 deaths annually that would not occur if we had a system like the UK or France, two-thirds of bankruptcies (more than 500,000 per year) are due to medical illness even though most of those who were bankrupted had insurance, 29 million people do not have health insurance and 87 million people are underinsured.

While many Democrats are supporting expanded and improved Medicare for all, including presidential candidates, the movement needs to push them to truly mean it and not to support fake solutions that use our language; e.g., Medicare for some (public options, Medicare buy-ins and reducing the age of Medicare). Winning Medicare for all will not only improve the health of everyone, it will be a great economic equalizer for the poor, elderly and communities of color. This is an issue we can win if we continue to educate and organize around it.

Join our Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign.

Enacting a Green New Deal. The Green New deal has been advocated for since 2006, first by Global Greens, then by Green Party candidates at the state level and then by Jill Stein in her two presidential runs. The issue is now part of the political agenda thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and Senator Ed Markey led the introduction of a framework for a Green New Deal, which is supported by more than 50 Democrats including many presidential candidates.

Their resolution is a framework that the movement needs to educate and organize to make into real legislation to urgently confront the climate crisis, which has been mishandled by successive US presidents. The movement must unite for a real Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal has the potential to not only confront the climate crisis by shifting to a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy but to also shift to a new economy that is fairer and provides economic security. Remaking energy so it serves the people, including socializing energy systems; e.g., public utilities, could also provide living wage jobs and strengthen worker’s rights. It will require the remaking of housing, which could include social housing for millions of people, a shift from agribusiness to regenerative agriculture and remaking finance to include public banks to pay for a Green New Deal. The Democratic leadership is already seeking to kill the Green New Deal, so the movement has its work cut out for it.

Stopping Wars and Ending US Empire: US empire is in decline but is still causing great destruction and chaos around the world. US militarism is expensive. The empire economy does not serve people, causing destabilization, death and mass migration abroad as well as austerity measures at home. Over the next decade, the movement has an opportunity to define how we end empire in the least destructive way possible.

As US dominance wanes, the US is escalating conflicts with other great powers. The US needs to end 15 years of failed wars in the Middle East and 18 years in Afghanistan. In Latin America, US continues to be regime change against governments that seek to represent the interests of their people especially in Venezuela where the threat of militarism is escalating, but also in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. The migrant issue being used by Trump to build a wall along the US-Mexican border is created by US policies in Central America. And, the US needs to stop the militarization of Africa and its neocolonial occupation by Africom.

Take action: Participate in the Feb. 23, 2019, international day of action against the US intervention in Venezuela and the “Hands-Off” national protest in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019.

There will also be actions around April 4, when NATO holds its 70th-anniversary meeting in Washington, DC, on the same day as the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and his Beyond Vietnam speech.

Join the Spring Actions against NATO in Washington, DC.

While the US lives in a mirage democracy with manipulated elections, there is a lot of work we can do to build a mass movement that changes the direction of the country. This includes building independent political parties to represent that movement in elections.

A Positive Vision For What The Green New Deal Could Be

We interviewed Dahr Jamail about his new book, “The End of Ice,” for our podcast, Clearing the FOG, this week. It will be available Monday. Jamail describes the grim reality of human-caused climate distortion. The bottom line is: It is here. It is accelerating. We need to take swift action to attempt to mitigate it and adapt to it as best we can.

The Green New Deal was introduced this week by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey. It is best described by Jason Grumet, head of a conservative Washington, DC think tank, as “a mirror that allows anyone to see their own interest.” It is a resolution that Members of Congress can support because it doesn’t challenge their corporate donors while it gives the illusion of addressing the climate crisis.

The Green New Deal has received mixed responses from the climate justice movement. Some see it as a positive because the idea was introduced in Congress, while others raise serious concerns that its contents leave too much wiggle room for things to stay the same. What becomes of the Green New Deal is up to us to determine.

This photograph taken on December 4, 2009 shows a glacier in the Everest region some 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu. The Himalayan glaciers provide water for more than a billion people in Asia, but experts say they are melting at an alarming rate, threatening to bring drought to large swathes of the continent within decades. (Photo/Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

The Climate Crisis is Here

Dahr Jamail stated that while the amount of climate devastation he described in his book is severe, new reports since his book show the climate crisis continues to worsen. In January, scientists reported that Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica has a giant hole under it, two-thirds the size of Manhattan, and is melting faster than they thought. It alone could raise sea level globally by two feet.

Another new study finds that ice in the Himalayan Mountains is melting faster than the global average and could practically disappear in this century. They write that if we continue with the same level of carbon emissions, global temperatures will rise by 4.2º to 6.5ºCelsius by the end of the century, far higher than the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5ºC and far more disastrous.

It’s not as if our lawmakers are unaware of the crisis. US intelligence analysts cited the climate crisis as a significant threat to global stability in their recent Worldwide Threat Assessment because of loss of resources like water and resultant migration. They also alerted Congress members that some US military bases are at risk because of rising seas and storms.

The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which is considered a conservative document, calls for immediate action to attempt to keep the increase in temperature below 1.5ºC to give the best chance of human adaptation. The current levels of fires, storms, drought and more are the result of a 1ºC temperature rise, and they will worsen exponentially as the temperature goes up. The IPCC states, “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.”

Climate activists visited 50 congressional offices December 10 demanding support for a Green New Deal. (Rachael Warriner)

The Door is Open for a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, which could create such a transition, is an idea that has finally broken through into the mainstream public dialogue. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has been working on it since she won her seat last November. She started with the idea of having a Green New Deal committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected that and created a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis headed by Congresswoman Kathy Castor instead. The committee has little power. It can neither subpoena witnesses to testify in hearings nor draft legislation.

In his analysis of the blue wave, which he calls a “corporate wave,” Nick Brana of Movement for a People’s Party describes the committee as “a public relations stunt for the fossil fuel industry.” He says, “It is worse than nothing to have a committee that pretends to be doing something while ensuring that nothing gets done to address climate change and other urgent environmental crises.”

This week, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced “H. Res. 109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” It is a resolution, not a bill, that provides a framework for the Democrat’s Green New Deal. It is remarkably vague. It does not even contain keywords such as “oil,” “gas,” “coal,” “nuclear,” or “fossil fuels.”

Several groups have criticized the resolution. The Indigenous Environmental Network listed a number of concerns, from the use of terms that would permit market mechanisms for managing carbon, which would allow fossil fuel companies to keep extracting oil and gas, to not specifying what is meant by clean and renewable energy to failing to recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations, and more. Food and Water Watch cited significant omissions in the resolution, writing that it needs to “halt the expansion of fossil fuels immediately, ensure that the transition to 100% renewable energy happens by 2035 at the latest, [and] exclude dirty energy sources like nuclear power…”

Whitney Webb explains that the Green New Deal leaves a lot for corporations to like and views it as an effort timed to benefit the Democrats in the 2020 elections, rather than a serious attempt to address the climate crisis. She compares it to the Green Party’s version of the Green New Deal, which calls for an immediate halt to investment in fossil fuels, 100% renewable energy by 2030, defined as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal, the creation of a Renewable Energy Administration tasked with supporting the development of cooperatively-owned energy and reducing the military by 50% to help finance the transition.

Community-owned solar panels (From the Institute for Local Self Reliance)

A Vision for a Green New Deal

Even if it is primarily an election season ploy for Democrats, to the millions of people who worry about the climate crisis and are pushing for solutions, the Green New Deal is an opportunity to define the transformations we need. That’s how Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson views it. He calls on “the Left to intervene” to make sure the Green New Deal doesn’t support the “market-based capitalist extractive system.” Akuno states that an ideal Green New Deal would prioritize reparations through financial compensation and decolonization.

Susan Scherarth and Sean Sweeney write that market mechanisms must be replaced with the concept of energy democracy, “public and social ownership of energy, to serve both social and ecological needs…” They view energy as a public good and a human right, not a commodity. Other writers argue that the Green New Deal must include a new agency that supports the development of energy cooperatives, much like the Green Party’s Renewable Energy Administration proposal. The Backbone Campaign takes that even farther with Solutionary Rail, a plan to create electric rail that moves people, freight and locally-produced renewable energy around the country. We interviewed Bill Moyer and Steve Chrismer about it on Clearing the FOG in 2016.

Current industrial farming techniques contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Elizabeth Henderson writes that sustainable agriculture must be part of the Green New Deal and outlines what that looks like. It includes support for agricultural cooperatives and family farms, unions for farm workers, regenerative farming and a just transition to end factory farms and the use of toxic chemicals.

Financing the Green New Deal is another opportunity to have an impact on transforming the economy. Ellen Brown describes how using a network of public banks to finance the transition to the new energy economy would not only avoid using tax dollars but would also generate a return to the government. We have long argued that instead of the profits from the transition going to Wall Street, they could be used to finance a universal basic income, which would reduce or eliminate poverty.

These are just some of the ideas that could be used to fill in the gaps of the Green New Deal and ensure it is both transformational in a way that ends wealth inequality and effectively addresses the climate crisis. Adam Simpson interviewed Johanna Bozuwa of the Democracy Collaborative, Anthony Torres of the Sierra Club and Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement about their ideas for creating a new economy through the Green New Deal. We need to keep the public debate going on these issues to generate a common vision of what the Green New Deal could be.

From SeeWhatGrows.org.

What Next?

There are many ways that we can make a transformative Green New Deal a reality even with a Congress that is bought by the polluting industries who profit by destroying the planet and hope to profit from attempting to fix it. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement focused on the Green New Deal, is organizing people to impact Congress with their current week of action. They led protests in Congress over the past few months.

To win, there will have to be a movement outside of Congress that builds a national consensus for what the Green New Deal must be. If you are a member of an activist or community group of any kind, you can generate discussion and action about it.

On top of that, we need to continue the current work to shut down new fossil fuel and nuclear infrastructure, create democratized renewable energy programs and push for policies at the local level that put in place the changes we need to transportation, housing, food and farming, and the economy. There is something for everyone to do in their community.

Through all of this, we need to prioritize the voices and wisdom of those who are the most impacted by our current dirty energy and unfair economy and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations to control what happens on their land.

The Green New Deal as a concept has arrived. Where it goes from here is up to us.

Venezuela: US Pursuing Humanitarian Aid Path To War

A protest outside the United States Consulate in Sydney on January 23 2019 to demand no US intervention in Venezuela.(Photo: Peter Boyle)

The United States has been working with oligarchs in Venezuela to remove President Maduro since he came to office in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez and was re-elected that year. After he won re-election to another six-year term in 2018, the regime change planners sought new strategies to remove Maduro, including an assassination attempt last August. The coup campaign escalated recently with the self-appointment of president Juan Guaido, who President Trump and US allies have recognized. Now, the ongoing coup attempt is escalating through a strategy of humanitarian intervention.

Trump has been talking openly about war to take control of Venezuela’s vast oil reserves since mid-2017. Pentagon and former administration officials, who have since been removed from office, opposed the action. Now, Trump is surrounded by neocons who share his goal of removing Maduro and taking control of the country’s natural resources. War is an option being openly considered.

The US has no excuse to legally attack Venezuela. As Defense One reports, “International law forbids ‘the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.’” There are two exceptions mentioned in the UN Charter: self-defense and authorization by the U.N. Security Council, neither of which have been met in Venezuela. Domestically, Trump would also need the US Congress to authorize an attack, which is unlikely with a Democratic-controlled House not because Democrats oppose war but because they oppose Trump.

The United States has also claimed a highly questionable right to use force for “humanitarian intervention.” For example, the US and NATO 1999 intervention in Kosovo was a humanitarian intervention that became a war.

After a long-term economic war that has sought to starve Venezuela of resources and has cost the country billions of dollars annually, the United States is now claiming there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. It is moving to use this humanitarian crisis it helped to create as a path to war with Venezuela, with the help of US proxies, Colombia and Brazil. The tactic is to proclaim a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela requiring a humanitarian intervention and then to bring troops in to provide humanitarian aid as the BBC explains. Once the foot is in the door, it is simple to manufacture an excuse for conflict.

John Bolton

✔ @AmbJohnBolton

Answering the call of President Guaido, the U.S. is mobilizing & transporting humanitarian aid for the people of . I applaud the hard work of USAID, the State Department and their partners in preparing critical supplies to move forward this weekend.

Mark Green

✔ @USAIDMarkGreen

@USAID is working hard to help the people of #Venezuela with humanitarian assistance such as these tons of Ready-to-Use Supplementary Foods (RUSF) for malnourished children. #EstamosUnidosVE

Elliot Abrams, who has a long history of war crimes and was convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal, said the US government is considering opening a “humanitarian corridor” and has maintained contacts with Brazil and Colombia on the issue. He acknowledged that Maduro’s “cooperation” would be necessary to transport the aid to the country. El Pais reported, “The opening of this supply channel could require the participation of troops, whether Americans or from another country in the region, something that Chavism interprets as a clear threat.”

Vice President Mike Pence spoke this week about the deployment of humanitarian assistance with Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s ambassador to the United States, as well as Julio Borges, appointed as representative to the Lima Group. Borges will ask the Lima Group, which meets in Canada this week, for the “urgent” opening of a humanitarian corridor. Canada has played a junior role in the ongoing coup. Trudeau, who also levied economic sanctions against Venezuela, promised $53 million in humanitarian aidMedia critical of the coup have been denied access to these meetings.

The United States launched this major operation in coordination with the right-wing governments of Colombia and Brazil, the most belligerent anti-Maduro allies of Guaido. The US National Security Council confirmed on Saturday that the deployment of aid has already begun.  The initial aid will contain medicines, surgical supplies, and nutritional supplements. It was scheduled to come from USAID to Bogota on Monday and then be moved for storage in a collection center in the border city of Cúcuta, the main entrance route for Venezuelans migrating to Colombia. Cúcuta has a high presence of Colombian paramilitaries and smuggling mafias and is where those who attempted to assassinate Nicolas Maduro last year were trained.

One of the goals of the humanitarian aid is to divide the Venezuela military which has refused to recognize Guaido. They seek to deepen the pressure on the military in order to break the solidarity of the Maduro government. TIME Magazine reports, “The aid has become something of a litmus test for the military’s backing of Maduro.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), said on Twitter that, “Military & police leaders in #Venezuela must now decide to either help food & medicine reach people, or help #Maduro instead.”

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who has not recognized Guaido, said the United Nations “will not be part of” distributing the aid, as it wants to maintain “credibility” in order to help “find a political solution to the crisis.”

El Pais reports that “Diplomats from several Latin American countries and from the more moderate sectors of the opposition fear that this will serve as a pretext to drag the conflict into the military.” President Maduro has repeatedly rejected the entry of humanitarian aid because he knew it would provide justification for foreign intervention. He knows the US seeks Venezuela’s oil and other resources,“gold, gas, iron, diamonds, other material riches.”

Maduro called on the international community to stop the US threats of war against Venezuela. He said a war would be a blood bath, a David and Goliath struggle that would “leave Trump bloodstained.” Maduro said the Venezuelan people were prepared to defend their sacred land from a US military invasion, but emphasized that he “prayed to God” such a conflict will never occur. Trump’s “military aggression” must be rejected so that “peace prevails.”

Venezuela: What Activists Need To Know About The US-Led Coup

Photo: John Zangas, DC Media Group.

Two things stand out about the US coup in Venezuela. First, it is unusually open. Typically, the US tries to hide its coups. Second, the coup is built on a series of obvious falsehoods, yet the bi-partisans in Washington, with a few exceptions, keep repeating them.

First, we will correct the falsehoods so readers are all working from the same facts. Second, we will describe how this coup is being defeated. It will be another major embarrassment for the Trump administration and US foreign policy.

It is important to understand Venezuela has become a geopolitical conflict as Russia and China are closely allied with Venezuela. China and Russia coming into the backyard of the United States challenges the antiquated Monroe Doctrine.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest gold reserves, as well as diamonds and other minerals such as coltan (needed for electronic devices). And, Venezuela is taking over as president of OPEC and will be in a position to push for oil payments in non-dollar currencies or in cryptocurrencies, a major threat to the US dollar.

A protest outside the United States Consulate in Sydney on January 23 to demand no US intervention in Venezuela. Photo: Peter Boyle

Correcting the Record

There are a series of false statements repeated by DC officials and corporate media to justify the coup that are so obvious, it is hard to believe they are not intentional. In his two-paragraph comment on the coup, even Senator Bernie Sanders repeated them.

1. Truth: President Nicolás Maduro is the legitimate president.

President Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018, in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The legitimacy of the election of Maduro is so evident that it must be assumed those who say he is illegitimate are either intentionally false or ignorant. The election was scheduled consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution and in consultation with opposition parties. When it became evident that the opposition could not win the election, they decided, under pressure from the United States, to boycott the election in order to undermine its legitimacy. The facts are 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters. Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency.

The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others. According to the international observers, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”

Venezuela has one of the best electoral systems in the world. Voter fraud is not possible as identification and fingerprints are required for each voter. Voting machines are audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does — a public, citizen’s audit of a random sample of 53% of voting machines that is televised. All 18 parties signed the audits.

Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total.

This same voting system has been used in elections that Maduro’s party has lost in governor’s and legislative elections. Venezuela is a real democracy with transparent elections. The United States could learn a good deal about real democracy from Venezuela.

2. Truth: The economic crisis is caused by outside intervention, internal sabotage and the decline in oil prices.

There is no doubt the economic situation in Venezuela is dire. The cause is the economic war conducted by the United States, the major decline in oil prices and economic sabotage by the opposition. In essence, the United States and opposition created problems in the Venezuelan economy and now say Maduro must be replaced because of problems they created.

Oil was discovered in Venezuela in the early part of the 20th Century and has dominated the economy since then. The Dutch Disease, the negative impact of an economy based on one natural resource, causes a sharp inflow of foreign currency, which raises the value of the country’s currency, making the country’s other products less price competitive. It is cheaper to import products rather than create them. This makes it more difficult for segments of the economy like agriculture and manufacturing to develop.

Chavez/Maduro sought to diversify the economy. They put in place thousands of communes and hundreds of thousands of people working in cooperatives to build agriculture and manufacturing. When the global price of oil was cut by more than half, it collapsed Venezuela’s public finances undermining these efforts. The economic war by the US made it difficult for Venezuela to borrow and trade with some countries.

Economic sanctions against Venezuela began under President Obama, and the Trump administration escalated them with financial sanctions. United States sanctions cost Venezuela some $6 billion since August, according to an October analysis. Measures against the nation’s oil industry have prohibited the Venezuelan majority-owned company, CITGO, from sending profits back to Venezuela, a $1 billion loss to the government yearly. Now, the Bank of England is refusing to return $1.2 billion in gold reserves after US officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied them to cut Venezuela off from its overseas assets.

The US economic war and sabotage of the economy by business interests has been exposed as part of the effort to remove Maduro by creating social unrest and lack of confidence in the government.  This has included hoarding of goods, storing essentials in warehouses and selling Venezuelan goods in Colombia.

In September 2018, Venezuela pointed to a false media campaign exaggerating migration from Venezuela. They highlighted   statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to affirm that Venezuela has the fewest volunteer migrants in the continent. They pointed out 5.6 million Colombians have fled violence in their country and live in Venezuela. Venezuela has programs that have helped thousands of Venezuelans return home.

Socialism strengthens economies, as demonstrated in Portugal. Indeed, one criticism of Venezuela is that the Bolivarian Process is moving too slowly to put in place a socialist economy. There is a need for more sectors to be nationalized and put under democratic control of the people.

3. Truth: The opposition is violent, not the Maduro government.

Opposition protesters have been extremely violent. One tactic of the opposition was to be violent and then film the government’s response to make the government look violent. When Abby Martin was confronted by opposition protesters, they told her, “Do not film anything that we do. Just film what the government does to us.” She reported on the violence saying, “the vast majority has been caused by either indirect or direct violence by the opposition.”

Martin reports the opposition attacked hospitals, burned down the Housing Ministry, assassinated Chavistas and attacked citizen communes such as an art commune that gave free dance and music lessons to local children. Afro-Venezuelans were burned alive. Protesters pulled drivers out of buses and torched the buses. When photos and videos of opposition violence were put on social media, Martin and her colleague, Mike Prysner, became the target of a false media campaign on social media. The opposition did all they could to prevent them from reporting the truth using hundreds of death threats and threats they would be lynched.

In 2017, Venezuela Analysis reported that violent opposition protests included an attack on a maternity hospital endangering the lives of more than 50 newborn babies. Another report described the opposition using snipers to shoot government officials and civilians. Opposition newspapers urged that blunt objects be used to “neutralize” pro-government protesters, resulting in serious injuries and death.

Steve Ellner also reported that violence was coming from the opposition. He pointed to attacks at grocery stores, banks, buses, and government buildings.  Other commentators described specific incidents of violence by the opposition including killing people. Maduro ordered the arrest of a retired general who tweeted how to use wire to decapitate people on motorcycles, which happened, and how to attack armored vehicles with Molotov cocktails.

Documents show that violence was the opposition’s strategy. They sought to “Create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate US intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries.”

The tales of government violence are rooted in lies. The government’s response was Maduro calling for a peace conference describing it as “a national peace conference with all the country’s political sectors … so we Venezuelans can try to neutralize violent groups.”

4. Truth: The National Assembly acted in violation of the law and is in contempt of court.

The National Assembly is not the only democratic body in Venezuela. Indeed, its actions since the opposition won a majority have violated the law and protected the violence of the opposition with an embarrassing amnesty bill.

On December 6, 2015, the opposition won a parliamentary majority in the Assembly. There were allegations of vote buying in Amazonas state that were investigated by the National Electoral Council, another branch of the government. The Supreme Court barred four legislators from Amazonas taking office, two from the opposition, one allied with the opposition and one from the ruling party. The National Assembly allowed three candidates to take office. The Assembly has been held in contempt of court since July 2016 and their decisions were nullified.

Before the court ruling, the Assembly passed an amazing amnesty law, which granted amnesty for crimes the opposition has committed since 1999 (Chavez’ election). The law is an admission of guilt and provides a well-organized catalog of crimes including felonies, crimes committed at public rallies, terrorist acts involving explosives and firearms and undermining the economy. They essentially admitted exactly what Chavez/Maduro have claimed — crimes to overthrow the government for 17 years. Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled the amnesty law was unconstitutional. Inaccurately, the Trump administration calls the Assembly Venezuela’s only remaining democratic institution.

This January, a subsidiary of the state oil company asked the Assembly to intervene claiming the president cannot make reforms to mixed public-private oil businesses without the prior approval of the National Assembly. On January 16, the court ruled that the Assembly was still in contempt of court and could not act. This is also when the Assembly elected Juan Guaidó as their president, who would later appoint himself President of Venezuela, as part of the US-led coup. Guaidó’s election to head the legislature was illegal and nullified by the court.

The Assembly still exists but remains in a state of contempt of the judiciary. It can rectify the situation by removing the lawmakers accused of electoral fraud. The Assembly refuses to do so because their goal is to remove Maduro from office and they need a super-majority to do so.

Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK disrupts Mike Pompeo at the OAS. Press TV.

A Timeline of the US Coup in Venezuela

In “Anti-Maduro Coalition Grew from Secret Talks,” the Associated Press explains the coup was “only possible because of strong support from the Trump administration, which led a chorus of mostly conservative Latin American governments that immediately recognized Guaidó.”

Since August 2017, Donald Trump has been saying that military intervention against Venezuela was a distinct possibility. AP describes this as a “watershed moment” in the coup planning. They report Trump pressuring aides and Latin American countries to invade Venezuela. In September, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had been meeting with coup plotters since mid-2017.

The Wall Street Journal reports Trump has long viewed Venezuela as one of his top-three foreign policy priorities, with Iran and North Korea. Trump requested a briefing on Venezuela on his second day in office, talking of the immense potential of Venezuela to become a rich nation through its oil reserves. AP reports that Trump “personally sparked” this as he brought up regime change in Venezuela in every meeting with Latin American leaders.

After Maduro was re-elected, administration plans began taking shape, driven in part by key members in the National Security Council and anti-Maduro advocates in Congress like extreme interventionist Senator Marco Rubio.

On November 1, John Bolton zeroed in on Latin America, calling Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a “troika of tyranny.” On January 2, Bolton met with his Brazilian and Colombian counterparts to collaborate to “return Venezuela to its democratic heritage.”

On January 10, Maduro was sworn in for his second term, Pompeo spoke with opposition leader Guaidó, pledging support. Canada also played a key role, AP reports that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to Guaidó the night before Maduro’s inauguration offering Canada’s support. This was 13 days before Guaidó announced he was president of Venezuela.

On January 12, the State Department backed Guaidó’s move to invoke his authority as president of the assembly, saying, “It is time to begin the orderly transition to a new government.” On January 15, the National Assembly declared Maduro as illegitimate. The Trump administration worked to get allies lined up to support Guaidó’. By January 18, the Venezuela Foreign Minister was describing a US coup in progress.

The night before Guaidó’s announcement on January 23, Vice President Mike Pence put out a video message encouraging Venezuelans to overthrow their government, saying, “We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you.” Guaidó also received a phone call from Pence the night before he appointed himself president where he pledged that the U.S. would back Guaidó.

Guaidó declared that Maduro’s government was illegitimate and he was assuming the presidency. In a well-coordinated charade, almost instantly, Trump recognized Guaidó as the country’s rightful leader. To further demonstrate the preconceived, tightly coordinated and efficiently carried out coup, US allies, among them Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, quickly recognized the coup president.

The Trump administration is claiming Guaidó represents the lawful government and is entitled to all Venezuelan revenues. The State Department notified the Federal Reserve that Guaidó is the agent for access to Venezuelan assets in US banks.

Nearly as quickly, Maduro drew statements of support from Russia, China, Turkey, Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, and others. The Venezuelan Supreme Court called for an investigation into the National Assembly and Guaidó, regarding the illegal usurpation of Executive power. The Venezuelan military announced it supported Maduro and Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily.

On January 25, the Organization of American States, which is traditionally a US tool, rejected a resolution to recognize Guaidó. Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK interrupted Pompeo at the OAS holding a sign that said: “a coup is not a democratic transition!” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza thanked Benjamin, saying, “With her protest, she revealed the macabre coup plan against Venezuela, we will always prevail, thank you!” Eighteen countries defeated the proposal.

At the UN Security Council meeting on January 26, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of attempting “to engineer a coup d’etat.” He demanded to know whether the Trump administration “is ready to use military force” against Venezuela. European countries gave Venezuela eight days to hold an election, a suggestion Venezuela rejected. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Venezuela an “illegitimate mafia state.” He accused Russia and China of trying “to prop up Maduro.”

Both China and Russia have told the US not to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs. In December, Russia sent two nuclear-capable strategic Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela along with an An-124 heavy military transport plane and an II-62 long-haul plane. As of December, Russia has one brigade in Venezuela and was discussing sending a second military brigade to Venezuela even before the coup due to the continued threat of intervention from the United States.

China has lent over $50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade and has become a partner in the Venezuelan oil industry. In December, seven months since signing a financial business venture with China, Venezuela’s oil production has doubled to 130,000 barrels per day. The take-over of Venezuela’s oil would also be an attack on China. China and Venezuela signed 28 bilateral strategic cooperation agreements on September 14 in the areas of oil, mining, security, technology, finance, and health.

Demonstrating the nature of the coup president, the first acts that Guaidó took were to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which would put Venezuela in debt to western bankers and under their control, and to privatize the Venezuelan oil industry, which would rob Venezuela of the funds being used to lift up the poor and working class.

The appointment by Mike Pompeo of Elliott Abrams as the person in charge of overseeing operations “to restore democracy in Venezuela” is an ominous sign. It is scandalous and demonstrates the most extreme elements of the US establishment are leading the charge. Abrams was convicted during the Iran-Contra scandal, supported US-backed death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, played a key role in the Reagan administration support for the murderous Contras in Nicaragua and was the person who gave approval for the US-backed coup in Venezuela in 2002.

Analyst Vijay Prashad writes the coup violated the charters of the United Nations and of the Organisation of American States and describes efforts to call on the military to rise up against the government have failed. The Trump administration is now  threatening a total oil embargo on Venezuela and is leaving the “military option” open.

The concerted campaign by the US and Canada to install Juan Guaidó as the new ‘self-declared’ interim President of Venezuela has been met with initial failure. Unfortunately, the illegal and undemocratic attempts to destabilize the country and overthrow the democratically-elected President will continue with harmful consequences. The people of Venezuela are rising once again to defend their country against hostile foreign intervention. It is essential that we support them in this fight. Many groups are holding solidarity rallies and issuing statements of support. Find rallies and protests here and here.

While Sanders got all the facts wrong about Venezuela, he did reach the right conclusion: “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries. We must not go down that road again.” People in the United States have an important role to play in supporting Venezuela and defeating the coup.

Beyond NATO: Time To Break The Silence, End NATO’s Militarism

Source No2NATO2019.org.

Fifty-two years ago on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  gave his most important speech ever, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” King’s conscience drove him to take the unpopular position of publicly criticizing the Vietnam War and putting it in the context of the “giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.” The message of that speech remains relevant today because its wisdom has not been heeded.

We put this in the context of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because this year on April 4, the anniversary of that speech and the anniversary of the murder of King by the government, NATO will be holding its 70th anniversary meeting in Washington, DC. Protests and other activities are being planned.

NATO is a front for Western military aggression, which has resulted in destruction around the world, mass deaths and mass migration as people are forced from their NATO-destroyed communities. It’s time to end it.

No to NATO! : Newport, August 30, 2014. From Rtuc’s Blog.

Would Dr. King oppose NATO?

That is the question asked by the Black Alliance for Peace on this birthday weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. The Alliance explains why Dr. King would speak out against NATO if he were alive today:

Dr. King would be opposed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) because it is an instrument of US and European militarism. He would not be confused—and neither are we—about why the liberal establishment, neocons, military-industrial complex, corporations and the corporate media are opposed to ending an anachronistic structure. NATO’s only reason for being today is to serve as the military wing of the dying U.S.-European colonial project.

Black Alliance for Peace is not alone in seeing the reality of NATO as an aggressive arm of the US military. In the Chicago Tribune, Victor Davis Hanson writes, “In an era when the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are now ancient history, everyone praises NATO as ‘indispensable’ and ‘essential’ to Western solidarity and European security. But few feel any need to explain how and why that could still be so.”

The truth is NATO is not only not indispensable or essential — it is counterproductive. It creates conflicts and is being used as an aggressive military tool. Among the wars of NATO are Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen as well as Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia

In NATO is a Danger, Not a Guarantor of Peace, the American Conservative describes how NATO was appropriate when it was created to deter Russian aggression, but that was only necessary prior to the dissolution of the soviet union. It writes that NATO “has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since” and urges Trump to return to his campaign view that NATO is obsolete, a position he has backtracked from saying he just didn’t know much about it.

David Swanson of World Beyond War describes how NATO works against the rule of law writing, “NATO is used within the US and by other NATO members as cover to wage wars under the pretense that they are somehow more legal or acceptable.”

When the Soviet Union dissolved, the excuse for NATO ended. Indeed, it is well known that Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders received assurances that NATO would not expand. These assurances came not only from President George H.W. Bush but also from West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher; West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl; former CIA Director Robert Gates; French leader Francois Mitterrand; Margaret Thatcher; British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd; and Manfred Woerner, the NATO secretary-general.

Instead of ending NATO after it no longer served any defensive military purpose, NATO expanded to 29 nations, 13 since the end of the Soviet Union, including countries on the border of Russia. One of the reasons for the US coup in Ukraine was to antagonize Russia and prevent access to its naval fleet through Crimea. Ukraine is now partnering with NATO.

The current US national military strategy calls for conflict with Russia and China. NATO continuously expanding, conducting military exercises and putting bases, missiles and other military equipment on the Russian border are part of that strategy. NATO has even expanded to Colombia, which borders Venezuela, another nation the US has threatened with war while conducting an economic war and regime change operations there.

A coalition of more than 100 organizations that are calling for an end to NATO describes its devastating impact:

NATO has been the world’s deadliest military alliance, causing untold suffering and devastation throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Hundreds of thousands have died in U.S./NATO wars in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia. Millions of refugees are now risking their lives trying to escape the carnage that these wars have brought to their homelands, while workers in the 29 NATO member-countries are told they must abandon hard-won social programs in order to meet U.S. demands for even more military spending.

King delivering his speech “Beyond Vietnam” at New York City’s Riverside Church in 1967 (John C. Goodwin, TIME Magazine)

Dr. King’s Clarion Call Needs to be Acted On

In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” He described how militarism was destroying the soul of the United States and called for an end to the Vietnam war. He described in excruciating detail the US destruction of Vietnam, mass bombings, napalm, poisoning of their water and land and the killing of more than a million Vietnamese. He said a foreign policy based on violence and domination abroad, leads to violence and domination at home, and he urged “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

Time has shown the truth of his message as militarized police terrorize poor communities and are used to silence dissent, creating a war at home. Other aspects of the war at home are the injustice system, mass incarceration, the lack of social supports and the exploitation of workers and the environment.

King described how war degrades US soldiers who realize “we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.” King said he could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor “as poor blacks and whites” from the United States were “burning the huts of a poor village” 8,000 miles away. The dehumanization and contempt of “other” people, he noted, leads to the persecution and death of black people in the United States.

King saw war as “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.”  He accurately predicted that if we did not face this reality, US militarism would spread throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Today the US has 883 foreign military bases with troops deployed in 149 countries and sells or gives weapons to 98 countries. He described how the US keeps troops in foreign lands to “maintain social stability for our investments accounts.” He described US imperialism as based on “refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment. “

King connected the extreme materialism of capitalism to militarization and racism, describing a “thing-oriented” society rather than a “person-oriented” society and how “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people.” He described the new hopes in the nation as the government confronted poverty with new programs to uplift the poor, but how he “watched this program broken and eviscerated” as war funding stole from funding the necessities of the people.

Today, US military spending of more than a trillion dollars – the Pentagon alone is $717 billion – accounts for more than 65% of discretionary spending while poverty and homelessness rise. King called for a transformational change as an “edifice which produces beggars needs re-structuring” and urged us to “look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.” The wealth divide today has worsened with three people having wealth equal to half the population. King criticized “capitalists” who sought to take the wealth of nations across the globe.

Members of various groups planning to protest the Nato summit including Jesse McAdoo, from the People’s Summit, Aaron Hughes from Iraq Veterans Against the War and Andy Thayer, protest organizer talk to the media Thursday May 10, 2012 in Chicago. (Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune) …..

The Insult of NATO Celebrating War-Making In Washington, DC on April 4

On April 4, NATO will be holding meetings in Washington, DC. This is an insult to the memory of Dr. King and what he stood for. The Peace Congress, which was held in place of Trump’s cancelled military parade, called for people to unify around protests against NATO during their meetings.

The No2NATO2019 coalition, which is organizing protests against NATO, writes:

… in a grotesque desecration of Rev. King’s lifelong dedication to peace, this is the date that the military leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have chosen to celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary by holding its annual summit meeting in Washington, D.C. This is a deliberate insult to Rev. King and a clear message that Black lives and the lives of non-European humanity, and indeed the lives of the vast majority, really do not matter.

World Beyond War is organizing No to NATO — Yes to Peace Festival, which will include an art build, food, music and teach-ins on April 3 and a march from the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on April 4.

People are planning to organize strategic, nonviolent protests against NATO’s meetings and organizing non-violent direct action training to prepare for them. Learn more about all of the events and how you can participate.

On this holiday weekend, we reflect on the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who urged us to “re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world.” Protest to end NATO will be a step towards ending what King called “the deadly western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.” It is time for peace to “take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

Uniting For A Green New Deal

Support is growing in the United States for a Green New Deal. Though there are competing visions for what that looks like, essentially, a Green New Deal includes a rapid transition to a clean energy economy, a jobs program and a stronger social safety net.

We need a Green New Deal for many reasons, most obviously the climate crisis and growing economic insecurity. Each new climate report describes the severe consequences of climate change with increasing alarm and the window of opportunity for action is closing. At the same time, wealth inequality is also growing. Paul Bucheit writes that more than half of the population in the United States is suffering from poverty.

The Green New Deal provides an opportunity for transformational changes, not just reform, but changes that fundamentally solve the crises we face. This is the time to be pushing for a Green New Deal at all levels, in our towns and cities, states and nationally.

Hundreds gathered in San Francisco with the youth-led Sunrise Movement on December 11. (Peg Hunter / Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Growing support for the Green New Deal

The idea of a Green New Deal seems to have arisen in early 2007 when the Green New Deal Group started meeting to discuss it, specifically as a plan for the United Kingdom. They published their report in July 2008. In April 2009, the United Nations Environmental Program also issued a plan for a global Green New Deal.

In the United States, Barack Obama included a Green New Deal in his 2008 presidential campaign and conservative Thomas Friedman started talking about it in 2007. Howie Hawkins, a Green Party gubernatorial candidate in New York, campaigned on a Green New Deal starting in 2010. Listen to our interview with Hawkins about how we win the Green New Deal on Clearing the FOG. Jill Stein campaigned on it during her presidential runs in 2012 and 2016, as have many Green Party candidates.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), who ran for Congress as a Democrat and won in 2018, has made the Green New Deal a major priority. With the backing of the Sunrise Movement, AOC pushed for a congressional committee tasked with developing a Green New Deal and convinced dozens of members of Congress to support it. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sidelined that idea by creating a climate committee headed by Kathy Castor, which has no mandate to do anything and lacks the power to write legislation and issue subpoenas. Now the Sunrise Movement is planning a tour to build support for the Green New Deal. At each stop they will provide organizing tools to make the Green New Deal a major issue in the 2020 election season.

This week, more than 600 organizations, mostly environmental groups, sent a letter to Congress calling on it to take climate change seriously and design a plan to end dependence on fossil fuels, a transition to 100% clean energy by 2035, create jobs and more. Indigenous leaders are also organizing to urge Congress to pass a Green New Deal that is “Indigenized,” meaning it prioritizes input from and the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples.

YALE UNIVERSITY
Survey data shows the strongest support for a Green New Deal among liberal Democrats.

Defining a transformative Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, as a tool to address climate change and economic insecurity, could be transformative in many ways or it could reinforce current systems. Our political system is inclined towards programs that do the latter, so it is critical that the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice and peace is clear about what we mean by a Green New Deal.

At the heart of the issue is capitalism, a root cause of many of the crises we face today. Capitalism drives growth at all costs including exploitation of people and the planet. It drives competition and individualism instead of cooperation and community. It requires militarism as the strong arm for corporations to pillage other countries for their resources and militarized police to suppress dissent at home.

Capitalism was in crisis in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when, like today, there was great inequality and a political system that catered to the wealthy. Progressive, populist, labor and socialist movements were pressing for significant changes. This came to a head in the depression when tens of thousands of Bonus Marchers occupied Washington DC during the summer of the 1932 presidential election demanding their bonus pay from World War I. The newly-elected President Roosevelt was forced to act, so he put reforms in place called the New Deal.

While the New Deal brought relief to many people through banking reform, Social Security, jobs programs and greater rights for workers, it was not transformative. Some argue that the New Deal was essential to save capitalism. It relieved suffering enough that dissent quieted but left the capitalist economic system intact. In the decades since the New Deal, monopolization, inequality, and exploitation have again increased with the added crises of climate change and environmental destruction.

This time around, we need a broad Green New Deal that changes the system so there is greater public ownership and democratization of the economy. It can also be used to address theft of wealth from Indigenous, black and brown communities. And it can set us on a path to end US imperialism in the least harmful manner.

Wayne Price discusses this in “A Green New Deal vs Revolutionary Eco-socialism.” He writes,

…the capitalists’ wealth and power should be taken away from them (expropriated) by the self-organization of the working class and its allies. Capitalism should be replaced by a society which is decentralized and cooperative, producing for use rather than profit, democratically self-managed in the workplace and the community, and federated together from the local level to national and international levels.

It is interesting that the Yellow Vest movement in France is also seeking transformative change from a representative government to one that uses greater participation through direct democracy. System change is needed to confront these economic and environmental crises. One alternative system gaining traction is ecosocialism which combines the insights of ecology with the necessity for worker’s rights and public control over the economy. We discussed ecosocialism with Victor Wallis, author of Red Green Revolution: The politics and technology of ecosocialism, on Clearing the FOG.

The Green Party divides the Green New Deal into four pillars: An economic bill of rights, a green transition, financial reform, and a functioning democracy. The economic bill of rights includes not only a job at a living wage for all who want it but also single payer healthcare, free college education, and affordable housing and utilities. The green transition to renewable energy sources includes building mass transit, “complete streets” that promote walking and biking, local food systems and clean manufacturing. Financial reform includes debt relief, public banks and breaking up the big banks. And the democracy section includes getting money out of politics, guaranteeing the right to vote, strengthening local democracy, democratizing the media and significant changes to the military. We would add to this prioritizing the involvement of Indigenous, black and brown communities. As Jon Olsen writes, ecosocialism is now part of the platform of the Green Party of the United States and has entered the political dialogue.

Join the Green Power Project national call on Thursday, January 17 at 8:00 pm Eastern to learn more about the Green New Deal. Click here for details.

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES – 2018/12/10: Protesters seen holding placards during the Sunrise Movement protest inside the office of US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to advocate that Democrats support the Green New Deal, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Uniting to win the Green New Deal

Conditions are ripe for a Green New Deal. Wealth inequality continues to accelerate. As Lawrence Wittner describes, we have a new era of Robber Barons like the Waltons and Jeff Bezos who pay low wages and rake in millions in public subsidies for their new facilities. They use their economic power to influence lawmakers so laws are passed that increase rather than threaten their riches.

A new report shows that 40% of people in the United States have negative wealth; they are in debt. And another 20% have minimal wealth, meaning 60% of people in the US have virtually no assets. The report was focused on millennials finding they are less well off than previous generations.

Anthony DiMaggio, who wrote about the report, also found that the affluent are oblivious to the high degree of inequality in the United States and that without this understanding, they are unlikely to support policies that reduce inequality.

The Democratic Party is starting to get the message. With student loan debt at a record $1.465 trillion, twice the amount in 2009, candidates are starting to talk about this issue. Members of Congress in the House are planning to hold hearings on National Improved Medicare for All and increasing Social Security. Democratic voters strongly support these changes, so the Democrats are feeling compelled to appear to be taking action on them, though this could mostly be for show to keep people from leaving the party in the lead up to the 2020 elections.

To win a Green New Deal, which could include a stronger social safety net, we will need to unite as a movement of movements and make the demand impossible to ignore. Uniting across issues makes sense because the Green New Deal is broad, addressing multiple crises at once. And we will need to push issues that Democrats will not want to discuss, such as nationalization of industries, more democracy, and cuts to the military. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report urges us to organize not just nationally but at the state level too by introducing plans for state Green New Deals.

We can work at many levels to build the demand for a Green New Deal. Talk to people in your community about it. Start local initiatives for clean energy, local food networks, protecting public schools and water systems, promoting cooperatives and more. Push your state and federal legislators too. This is an opportunity to unite in support of a bold new vision for our society.

What Would A Yellow Vest Movement Look Like In The United States?

A truth about movements is, they move. They morph, evolve and move around a country or even around the globe. This occurs over months and often over years.

The US Occupy encampment era occurred ten months after the Arab Spring and six months after the Spanish Indignado movement – early versions of occupy. It started in New York and then spread across the United States and to other countries. It was a global revolt against the 1% that changed politics in the United States and continues to have impacts today.

The Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) movement in France is having a major impact and gaining international attention, already spreading to other nations, with some nations like Egypt banning the sale of yellow vests to prevent the protest from spreading there. The movement is showing that disrupting business-as-usual gets results. Will it come to the United States? What form would it take here? What could spark the equivalent of the Yellow Vests in the US?

The ‘gilet jaune’ (‘yellow vest’) wave from France reached the centre of Brussels on Friday (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Social Movements Create Global Waves Of Protest

It is common for a protest to develop in one part of the world and move to another country. This is even more common in modern times as the economy has become globalized and communication across different countries has become easier.

The US revolution against Great Britain was part of the Age of Enlightenment, which questioned traditional authority and emphasized natural rights of life, liberty, and equality as well as sought self-government and religious freedom. The French Revolution followed 13 years after the US in 1789. It led to political changes in the UK, Germany and across Europe. This coincided with the Great Liberator, Simon Bolivar, freeing colonies from the Spanish Empire including Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru. They became independent and briefly united as a single nation.

The democratic revolutions of 1848, known as the Springtime of Peoples, were part of a widespread revolutionary period that impacted 50 nations in Europe, beginning in France and spreading without any evident coordination. The issues were about democratic and worker rights, as well as human rights and freedom of the press. It led to the abolition of serfdom in some nations and ended monarchy in Denmark. The French monarchy was replaced by a republic, constitutions were created, and empires were threatened by countries seeking sovereignty.

In the era of Decolonization of Africa and Asia, 1945 and 1960, three dozen new states achieved autonomy or outright independence from their European colonial rulers. In Africa, a Pan-African Congress in 1945 demanded an end to colonization. There were widespread unrest and organized revolts in both Northern and sub-Saharan colonies. Protests, revolutions and sometimes peaceful transition ended the era of colonization.

The 1960s were an era of protest that peaked in 1968 around the world. Multiple issues came to the forefront including for labor rights and socialism, the feminist movement, protests against war and militarism, and against racism and environmental degradation. Protests occurred in the United States, Europe, the Soviet Bloc, Asia, and Latin America.

More recently, economic globalization and the Internet have accelerated global protests. An example of this is the anti-globalization movement itself. As corporations took control of trade agreements and began to write trade for transnational corporate profits, people around the world saw how this impacted their communities and fought back.

The Zapatista Uprising in Chiapas, Mexico on January 1, 1994, was an uprising that coincided with the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Zapatista Army of National Liberation was an uprising by the indigenous, local population against being exploited by global trade. Their action was an inspiration to others and an anti-NAFTA movement developed in the United States, growing into an anti-globalization movement.

Join the No NAFTA-2 National Call-in Day on Tuesday, January 8

The 1997 financial crisis in Southeast Asia, followed by the International Monetary Fund restructuring the debt in ways that brought austerity, led to protests across the region in Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand against economic globalization and the undue influence of transnational capital.

These combined into the Battle for Seattle in 1999 at the World Trade Organization meetings where 50,000 people from the US and around the world protested on the streets of Seattle for four days shutting down the meetings. This was a movement of movements moment that united many single-issue groups into a force too powerful for the elites to overcome. WTO meetings since then have been met with mass protests as have IMF and other economic meetings. This evolved into making it very difficult to pass corporate trade agreements in the United States; e.g., the people stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trump will have difficulty getting NAFTA-2 approved. Join the campaign to stop Trump Trade’s NAFTA-2.

“The Yellow Vests will win” written on L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris. AFP

The Yellow Vest Movement

The French Yellow Vest movement is made up of working people who are protesting the unfair economy every Saturday.  The 8th “Act,” held this Saturday, was larger than expected as the government and media were claiming the movement was dying down over the holidays, despite the movement saying they were not over and were just getting started.

The movement began as a protest against a gasoline tax, but it quickly became evident that this was just the final straw against a series of policies that have made people economically insecure.  President Macron has aggressively pursued a neoliberal agenda on behalf of the wealthy, lowering their taxes while cutting social services.

Macron has responded with the elimination of the fuel tax, raising the minimum wage, and cutting taxes on pensioners, but they continue to call for the “president of the rich” to step down. Macron’s popularity is down into the twenties in polls, while a majority of French people want the Yellow Vest protests to continue. The movement is exposing contradictions in France that cannot be solved by the current economic and political systems.

Macron, while making concessions, has also called the protesters thugs and agitators. Police tactics have been aggressive and violent, in the face of mostly nonviolent protests. They arrested a Yellow Vest participant, Eric Drouet, who the media has labeled a “leader,” on flimsy charges of protesting without a permit, stoking more outrage. The media calls him a leader while saying the leaderless movement will fail because it lacks a leader. This reminds us of similar treatment during Occupy.

The movement has blown up political divides because there are people from the extreme left, extreme right and everywhere in-between participating. It includes young and old, male and female. It shows people uniting in a revolt over the unfair economic system and its impact on workers.  They are also calling for participatory democracy by demanding citizen initiatives where people can vote on legislation, firing political appointees or even changing the constitution if they gather enough signatures. The Yellow Vests are showing system-wide problems that require both the economic and political systems to change.

Will ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Come to the United States?

Many of the problems the French people suffer are also felt in the United States. The US economy has been designed for the wealthy for decades and billionaire President Trump-era policies have made that reality worse. People never fully recovered from the 2008 economic collapse when millions lost houses and jobs, got lower income and higher debt.

The globalized economy that has been designed for transnational corporations has not served the people in the United States well.  The fly-over states of the Midwest have been left hollowed out. Rural hospitals are closing as the economy disappears. In urban areas across the country, decades of neglect and lack of investment have created impoverished conditions. Racist and violent policing have been used to prevent rebellion and contain the unrest. People are struggling. Addiction and suicide rates are up. There is vast hopelessness and despair.

An economic collapse is on the horizon. As Alan Woods writes in New Year, New Crisis, “The question is not if it will happen, only when.” The US economy is dominated by Wall Street, which ended the year in crisis.  Citigroup’s share price declined 30 percent from where it started the year, Goldman Sachs declined 35 percent, Morgan Stanley 24 percent, Bank of America 18 percent and JPMorgan had a 10% loss. Woods points to China’s economy slowing as is Germany’s and problems in other European nations all point to a global slow down, which those in power do not have tools to respond to as interest rates are already low and government debt is already high.

When the recession hits, the economic insecurity of the people will worsen. Like the people in France, the rich are getting obscenely richer and avoiding taxes by hiding billions offshore. And, the government is doing the opposite of what is needed; e.g., reducing taxes on the wealthy when there should be a millionaire’s tax of 70%, and blocking the Green New Deal.

And, when the economic crisis hits, people will blame Trump. Many voters supported him because he promised to break from a system that is designed to favor the wealthy. They will know from their own experience that he did the opposite. Stop Trumpism! will become an even louder rallying cry and a president whose popularity always hovered around 40% will find himself in polls at 30% or lower, as a presidential campaign kicks into high gear.

The economy is often the trigger event, as it was for Occupy, and we already know there are going to be mass teacher strikes in 2019, indeed plans to strike in LA are expected to escalate more broadly. The GM workers who lose their jobs when four US factories close could be facing losing their homes and have other economic stresses causing them to revolt. Congress refusing to take National Improved Medicare for All seriously when tens of thousands of people are dying every year simply because they are uninsured could light the spark.

People in the US might not be wearing yellow vests, but we know from other recent protest movements, people are willing to shut down streets and highways and stop business as usual. More may participate if a radicalizing moment ensues now that they have seen the model work in France.

There are many triggers that are likely to spark aggressive mass protests in 2019. Get ready.

Upcoming Opportunities for the Movement

There will be important opportunities in the next few years to advance the movement for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace. This article will focus on three opportunities: the 2020 elections, the decline of US empire and an economic slowdown.

The movement is in a stronger position than it has been in for years. The current movement took off during Occupy in 2011. Occupy’s headline was “We Are The 99%,” which emphasized inequality and money corrupting government. Occupy included every major front of struggle, e.g., economic insecurity, racial injustice, climate change, massive debt, never-ending wars, the crisis of capitalism and more.

Since then, the movement has grown and matured. We have majority support on many issues, have more experience and are organized to take advantage of upcoming opportunities.

The 2020 Elections: Focus on the Issues

Although the movement is independent of elections, the 2020 elections will present numerous opportunities to build a national consensus on issues. Our actions over the next two years can shape the election narrative.

The movement has already impacted the electoral process. Senator Sanders ran a more successful campaign than expected by focusing on movement issues, e.g., inequality, improved Medicare for all and free college. The movement created an environment where new Members of Congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.), won campaigning on our issues.

The media and political parties will make the elections a beauty contest about personalities to avoid the issues. We must keep issues front and center, including confronting candidates, even seeming allies, to demand they represent us. Doing so will build national consensus so our issues cannot be ignored no matter who is elected.

The movement should not be limited by ‘political realities.’ We need to demand what is necessary, a People’s Agenda, to solve the crises the nation and planet face.

Since the 2016 election, our issues have grown in popularity. Democratic candidates must support improved Medicare for all if they want to be the nominee as 85% of Democrats support it. Support is strong among independent voters, the largest bloc, and now a majority of Republican voters support Medicare for all.

Take action: Demand transparency for the new National Improved Medicare for All bill.

Similarly, the Green New Deal, which has been raised by Greens since 2006, has now entered the Democratic Party dialogue, although Democratic leadership is fighting it. The Green Party version of the proposal requires a rapid transition to a clean energy economy, living wage jobs, public ownership, cutting the budget of the biggest polluter, the military, and building the social safety net. The Democratic Party version will not push for these system-wide changes.

Dramatic changes are needed in multiple federal agencies to confront climate change. Thanks to Beyond Extreme Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is being forced to consider the climate impact of new energy infrastructure. The FERC must prioritize wind, solar, tidal and other clean energy sources while restricting oil and gas, coal and nuclear. FERC either needs to be part of the energy transformation or be disbanded.

Likewise, the corporate take-over of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Interior Department needs to be reversed. Recent reports indicate urgent and aggressive action is needed. Obama’s “all of the above” approach and business as usual won’t suffice. People who have taken action on climate change should lead those agencies.

The economy is a deciding factor in elections. Do people feel economically secure, are their salaries increasing, do their children have opportunities? A popular position for candidates to take is ending corporate trade. Candidates need to pledge to remake trade so it puts people and planet before big business.

Take action: An opportunity to remake trade is stopping Trump’s NAFTA II.

Workers have been under attack for decades by both Wall Street-funded parties. The movement should use the coming elections to push for a national jobs program, a living wage higher than $15 an hour, and a basic income for all. The right to organize unions must be restored and laws are needed to encourage worker-ownership through cooperatives so workers share in the profits they create and participate in decision-making for their workplace.

Demand a Responsible End to US Empire

Current US foreign policy is expensive, destructive and creates chaos around the world. Movement building to end US militarism and never-ending war are needed.

The national security strategy of the US is great power conflict, i.e. conflict with Russia and China. Obama’s Asian Pivot has evolved into aggressive actions under Trump, along with counterproductive tariffs that threaten the global economy. Russia has become the scapegoat for many problems in the US, such as Clinton’s failed election. The US is lining Russia’s border with NATO military bases while threatening to escalate the conflict in Ukraine and starting a nuclear arms race.

A radical shift is needed with Russia and China. Detente with Russia is needed in order to end the arms race, stop military belligerence and remove bases from their border. The US should develop a win-win relationship with China. If the two largest economies can work together, they can ameliorate many global problems, e.g. poverty, the climate crisis and economic insecurity.

The withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan needs to be pushed. The movement should demand a full withdrawal including ground troops, Air Force, contractors, and the CIA and a stop to the funding of proxy forces. This should be followed by a full withdrawal from Iraq. Rather than war with Iran, the US should end the Middle East quagmire, which has trapped the US this entire century.

In Latin America, the US has been very destructive. Central American governments in the US orbit are wracked with poverty, misery, and violence causing many to flee north toward the US. Brazil, which had been moving in a positive direction, now has an extreme right-wing government supported by the US.

The economic war, attempted coups and assassinations and military threats on Venezuela are destructive. Russia has sent troops to Venezuela and is considering sending more to counter US threats. The US should be seeking a partnership with Venezuela, not domination.

Economic sanctions are now being used against Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in our hemisphere, after a violent US-supported uprising organized with oligarchs, US-funded NGOs and the Catholic Church. The attack on Nicaragua reignites the Contra War of the Reagan era, targeting a government that resists US domination.

The US is expanding militarism in Latin America by bringing NATO to Colombia. Under their right-wing government, there is extreme violence against labor, environmentalists and Afro-Colombians as well as constant threats to its neighbor, Venezuela. The US relationship with Colombia is a source of instability in the region and needs to transform into a relationship of stability and de-militarization.

Africa is becoming a 21st Century battleground. The US is militarizing Africa through AFRICOM while China is pursuing a win-win economic strategy in Africa. US-China competition in Africa could become another quagmire, i.e. draining US resources while causing destruction and chaos for Africa.

Take action: Support Black Alliance for Peace’s call for US out of Africa.

Closing US and NATO foreign bases is a key step to ending empire. On April 4, when NATO holds its 70th-anniversary meeting in Washington, DC, on the same day as the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and his Beyond Vietnam speech, people are organizing in response. There will be a major march on the Saturday before and events throughout the week calling for an end to NATO, as well as highlighting the triple evils King emphasized: militarism, racism and consumerism caused by capitalism. We can create a movement of movements event and change the political dialogue in the US.

These issues show a failing empire They are opportunities to change the course of US foreign policy. Working with people across the country, Popular Resistance will help build the peace movement through regional Peace Congresses in 2019 and a national Peace Congress in 2020. Contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni if you want to participate in these.

Opportunities for Economic Transformation

The weak stock market in December portends an economic slowdown or collapse worse than 2008. There are other troubling signs, e.g. high government, business, and personal, including student, debt, a fragile international economy, tariff wars and sanctions that create international economic confusion, among others. Further, the US is overdue for a “correction,” recession or worse. Even with the Republican tax cut that caused large buy-backs of stock to grow the stock market, the market is now faltering.

The fundamentals of the US economy have been flawed for years. The wealth divide has been expanding, leaving most people in the US economically insecure, since ‘trickle down economics’ began under Reagan. Corporate trade agreements since Clinton have hollowed out the Midwest economy leaving fly-over states insecure. Urban areas have been neglected leaving primarily communities of color impoverished. Abusive police and mass incarceration have been used to prevent justified uprisings. Military spending takes more than 60% of federal discretionary spending while the social safety net has been shredded.

Unlike 2008, the movement is positioned to push for changes in the economy. An economic downturn will weaken those in power as they will be justifiably blamed. The president, who campaigned on the economic insecurity of workers and the middle class, has governed on behalf of the wealthy. The economic downturn will impact him more than Mueller or the 16 other Trump investigations.

An economic slump will be an opportunity for the movement to push for a new economy. Our It’s Our Economy project puts forward a vision for a new economy based on economic democracy that empowers people through worker-owned businesses, a national jobs program, guaranteed basic income and more.

Economic democracy includes public programs that serve the public interest, e.g., public banks that work with community banks and credit unions to meet the necessities of the people, not serve investors. It includes public utilities and democratized energy production so every home and business is an energy producer spreading the profits, rather than funneling them to concentrated corporations.

Economic democracy also includes confronting issues of communication, equal access to a free and open internet, i.e., net neutrality and high-speed Internet in rural and poor communities. The expanding censorship of social media must be confronted through extending freedom of speech and press along with privacy protections.

If the movement continues to build power and put forward transformational programs such as those outlined above, the next two years will be the beginning of a decade of positive change. We need to prepare now. Over this holiday, we encourage you to listen to this interview with Kali Akuno for more wisdom on how to make transformation a reality.