All posts by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Empires Are a Secret until They Start Falling

In the past, we have written about the 2020s as a decade when the United States Empire will end. This is based on Alfred McCoy’s predictions (listen to our interview with him on Clearing the FOG). Sociologist and peace scholar John Galtung believes US Empire will fall much faster, losing world dominance by 2020. Much of what he predicted when he said this in 2016 is happening now. In particular, there is a rise in “reactionary fascism” or a desire to go back to the “good old days,” the cost of maintaining the empire is taking an increasing economic toll and other countries are starting to rebuke the US, both its requests for military assistance and its unfair economic demands.

What this means for people in the United States and around the world depends on whether we can build a mass popular movement with the clarity of vision, skills, and solidarity necessary to navigate what is and will surely be a turbulent period. There are no guarantees as to the outcome. Failure to act could result in a disastrous scenario – at best, that the US will continue to try to hold on to power by waging economic and military warfare abroad, weakening the economy at home, and undermining necessities such as housing, healthcare, education and the transition to a Green economy. At worst, as Galtung describes, there could be “an inevitable and final war” involving nuclear weapons.

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is next weekend. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS. You must register in advance for the Monday night solidarity event. RSVP at bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. And sign the Global Appeal for Peace here.

When Empire Is In Decline

Alfred McCoy says that it is only when empires are in decline that people begin to recognize they live in an empire and start to talk about it. While discussion of empire hasn’t broken into the corporate media, it is certainly happening in the independent media. A concerted effort by a popular movement could bring it to the fore, just as Occupy changed the political dialogue about wealth inequality and the power of money. People in the US need to face some stark realities when it comes to declining US global power.

For starters, the United States does not currently have the capacity to wage a “Great Power Conflict” even though that is the goal of the national security strategy. The loss of its manufacturing base and lack of access to minerals necessary for producing weapons and electronics means the US does not have the resources to fight a great war. Much of the US’ manufacturing has been outsourced to other countries, including those targeted by US foreign policy. Resources necessary for weapons and electronics are in China, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Venezuela. It’s no surprise that the US is maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan, has increased its presence in Africa through AFRICOM and is struggling to wrest control of Venezuela.

Despite these attempts, the US is not having success. There is no military solution for the US in Afghanistan. As Moon of Alabama explains, the Taliban has taken control of more territory than it has had since the US started the war and has no reason to negotiate with the US. He advises, “The U.S. should just leave as long as it can. There will come a point when the only way out will be by helicopter from the embassy roof.”

Alexander Rubinstein writes the failures in Afghanistan can be attributed to Zalmay Khalilzad, currently the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. Khalilzad has led US foreign policy in Afganistan and Iraq since the presidency of George W. Bush, and before that worked with Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who provided crucial support for the Mujahideen to draw the Soviet Union into a quagmire. The writing is on the wall that the US must leave Afghanistan, but that is unlikely to happen as long as people such as Khalilzad and Elliott Abrams, who has a similar ideology, are in charge.

As the US-led coup in Venezuela continues to fail due to a lack of support for it within the country, resilience to the effects of the unilateral coercive economic measures (sanctions) and exposure of attempts to create chaos and terror by paramilitary mercenaries, the US grows increasingly desperate in its tactics. There has already been a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro, a US freight company tied to the CIA has been caught smuggling weapons and the US and its Puppet Guaido have been implicated in a terrorist plot as the failed coup enters a more dangerous phase. This week, the Organization of American States voted to invoke a treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which would allow military intervention. Mexico strongly opposed that possibility. This comes as Venezuela has strengthened troops at the Colombian border after discovering terrorist training camps on the Colombian side. With allies such as Russia and China, an attack on Venezuela would not only hurt the region but could go global.

Despite the Asian Pivot under President Obama during his first administration and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s comment this week that the US is directing a lot of energy toward China, analysts predict the US will fail to achieve dominance in the Asia-Pacific. China is purchasing weapons from Russia that are superior to US systems, is strengthening its military coordination with Russia through drills and is expanding its global ties through the Belt and Road Initiative. Matthew Ehret writes in Strategic Culture, “Those American military officials promoting the obsolete doctrine of Full Spectrum dominance are dancing to the tune of a song that stopped playing some time ago. Both Russia and China have changed the rules of the game on a multitude of levels….”

Protests in Hong Kong, as we described in a recent newsletter, are being used to stoke greater anti-China sentiment in the US. As often occurs, the sophisticated propaganda arm of US-backed color revolutions excites leftist activists, but each day it becomes clearer just how deep the US’ influence is. K. J. Noh provides a helpful guide – a list of seven signs a protest is not a popular progressive uprising. One sign is Hong Kong protesters are supporting a bill in the US Congress, the so-called “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.” The bill would allow the United States to sanction Hong Kong officials.

Andre Vltchek attended a recent protest and interviewed some of the participants. He found the democracy protesters have little grasp on the oppression Hong Kongers faced under British colonization, they attack anyone who disagrees with them and they are destroying public infrastructure. One of the protest leaders, Joshua Wong, is openly meeting with figures connected to US regime change efforts, and NED-backed organizations are planning an anti-China protest in Washington, DC on September 29. Their new propaganda symbol is a Chinese flag with a Swastika on it. No surprise that was evident at the protests in Hong Kong this weekend.

The US is already at war with China with battlefronts on trade and the Asian Pacific. The propaganda around Hong Kong showing prejudice against China is part of manufacturing consent for the conflict between the US and China, which will define the 21st Century. US militarism is also escalating to involve space. This week, the US conducted its first space war game and Putin warned of a space arms race.

Our Tasks as Activists

It was good news this past week that President Trump asked John Bolton, a white supremacist neocon who disrupted any attempts at negotiation, to resign from his position as National Security Adviser. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report writes, “Every sane person on the planet should be glad to see Bolton go.” But, even with Bolton gone, the US War Machine will rage on with bi-partisan support. Whether Trump starts to live up to his campaign rhetoric of non-intervention remains to be seen. The appointment of Michael Kozak as the new US envoy to Latin America is a bad sign.

Almost two centuries of Manifest Destiny that went beyond North America to spread US Empire across the globe will not end overnight. It will take a concerted effort to build a national consensus against the dominant ideologies of white supremacy and US exceptionalism to change the course of US foreign policy. Fundamental tasks of that effort include education, organizing and mobilizing. Below are some examples of each.

Education:

The Palestinian Great March of Return, a weekly nonviolent protest in Gaza demanding the right of return granted by the United Nations, continues and each week Israelis injure and murder unarmed Palestinians. Abby Martin and Mike Prysner of The Empire Files produced an excellent documentary about it, “Gaza Fights For Freedom,” and are touring the country to raise awareness. Listen to our interview with Abby Martin on Clearing the FOG. Find a showing near you or organize one.

The United States uses unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) that are illegal under international law to wage war on other countries. The Treasury Department currently lists 20 countries sanctioned by the US, but the US also uses threats of sanctions to wield power. Sanctions are warfare, even though they are not commonly viewed that way. They result in the suffering and death of mostly civilians. Kevin Cashman and Cavan Kharrazian explain how sanctions work, why they violate international law and how they threaten global stability.

Organizing:

Alison Bodine and Ali Yerevani encourage activists to avoid the organizing pitfall of getting caught up in debates about the internal politics of countries targeted by US imperialism. Our tasks, as citizens of imperialist countries, are to stop our governments from intervening in the affairs of other countries and demand they respect international law. We also have a task of building solidarity with civilians of other countries. It will require a global mass movement to address major issues such as the climate crisis, wealth inequality, colonization, and violence.

Citizen to citizen diplomacy is critical in building this mass movement and solidarity. Ann Wright, retired from the military and State Department, writes about the challenges of citizen to citizen diplomacy as she tours Russia. Ajamu Baraka, national organizer of Black Alliance for Peace, reminds us that war and militarism are class issues in his address to an international meeting of trade unions held in Syria.

We are strong believers in breaking out of the confines of the narrative presented by corporate media about countries outside the US. Our trips to Iran and Venezuela this year were invaluable learning experiences. We hope to visit more targeted countries. An effort that came out of these trips is the new Global Appeal for Peace, first steps toward creating an international network to complement the more than 120 non-aligned movement countries that are resolved to respect international law and sovereignty and take action to create peace and prevent the catastrophic climate crisis. Sign on to this effort at GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.

Mobilizing:

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet starts next weekend. On Saturday night, Black Alliance for Peace is sponsoring a discussion, “Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the ‘Americas’” in the Bronx. On Sunday we will rally and march to the UN with Embassy Protectors, Roger Waters and many more. On Monday night, we have a special solidarity night at Community Church of New York. Registration is required as there will be high-level representatives of impacted countries speaking about the challenges they face. Click here to register.

Rage Against the US War Machine will take place October 11 and 12 in Washington, DC. This is the second annual event organized by March on the Pentagon. Click here for details.

We also ask you to join the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee. Sign the petition to drop the Trump administration’s charges against us for protecting the Venezuelan Embassy this spring. We are facing up to a year in prison and exorbitant fines even though it was the US State Department that violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the embassy in May. We will tour Northern California in October and are planning more tours to raise awareness that the struggle to end the US  coup and interventions in Venezuela continues.

John Galtung predicts that the fall of the US Empire could have a devastating impact on domestic cohesion in the United States. As the US loses its position of global supremacy, we have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape what we as a nation represent. We can become cooperative global citizens in a world free of oppression, violence, and poverty if we do the work of joining in international solidarity for these goals.

Exit John Bolton, But Will That Mean An End To His Failed Foreign Policy?

Leon Neal, Getty Images

Many who oppose the aggressive foreign policy of the United States under President Donald Trump, which has resulted in record numbers of bombs dropped, regime change operations against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran and Hong Kong, the abusive use of unilateral coercive measures (sanctions) and record military budgets, cheered when uber-hawk, John Bolton was removed as the National Security Advisor.

Bolton undermined Trump numerous times such as when Trump wanted to get out of Syria and sought negotiations with North Korea and Iran. Bolton led Trump into regime-change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, both of which backfired.

The firing of Bolton is an opportunity for Trump to make a major course correction on foreign policy as the 2020 election heats up. The escalation of military aggression and regime-change actions that have occurred in the Trump era have been inconsistent with his previous campaign statements, which indicated he opposed never-ending wars, nation-building, and interventions abroad and wanted to focus on fixing problems at home in the United States.

Trump has long expressed skepticism about US foreign intervention in activities that he has labeled as “nation-building.” During the presidential election campaign, Trump criticized the war in Iraq, claiming he opposed George W. Bush’s Iraq War at the time and accused Bush of lying about the presence of weapons of mass destruction. In October 2015, he criticized US interventions saying, “We’re nation-building. We can’t do it. We have to build our own nation. We’re nation-building, trying to tell people who have [had] dictators or worse for centuries how to run their own countries.”

In December 2016, before his inauguration, Trump said that the policy of “intervention and chaos” must come to an end. He pledged to “build up our military not as an act of aggression, but as an act of prevention. In short, we seek peace through strength.”

Trump has opportunities to take another course, one that is more consistent with his rhetoric. Chairman Kim of North Korea said he was open to another meeting with President Trump on September 10, the next day, Bolton was fired. Shortly after the firing of Bolton, Secretary of State Pompeo gave the green light for Trump to meet with the President of Iran without preconditions at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in a few weeks. The firing of Bolton may not be enough, Iranian officials have refused any meeting until sanctions are lifted. After Bolton’s firing, President Hassan Rouhani said Trump “should distance itself from ‘warmongers’” after the dismissal of Bolton.

When it comes to Latin America, Trump has been silent, especially about his failed coup in Venezuela. Trump’s previous National Security Advisor, H. R. McMaster, strongly recommended to President Trump not to pursue a military option in Venezuela when Trump suggested it in 2017. He explained that Latin American governments were against foreign intervention in the region. John Bolton gave contrary advice when he dubbed Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba the “Troika of Tyranny” and gave Trump bad advice by urging a strategy of escalating intervention in Venezuela, recognition of a failed coup government and military threats.

When Bolton was fired, the New York Times reported:

Mr. Trump also grew disenchanted with Mr. Bolton over the failed effort to push out President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. Rather than the easy victory he was led to anticipate, the president has found himself bogged down in a conflict over which he has less influence than he had assumed. The political opposition backed by the White House could not turn Venezuela’s military against Mr. Maduro and has been stuck in a stalemate for months.

President Maduro has consistently expressed his willingness to meet with President Trump, despite the brutal economic war, military threats and recognition of the fraudulent Juan Guaido. Trump knows that Maduro is solidly in place as the president of Venezuela. US efforts to undermine his re-election in May of 2018 failed, the multiple coup efforts with Juan Guaido have failed, Venezuela exposed a series of terrorist plots the US was backing and there is little support for military intervention. In addition, because of Trump’s threats, Venezuela has strengthened its relationships with China and Russia, bringing them into Latin America in ways they have never happened before and squeezing out US interests.

John Bolton has put Trump in a trap in Venezuela. Trump has two choices: continued his failed strategy of regime change which has become a quagmire or stop interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela. Once Trump recognizes that Venezuela is an independent nation he can have a diplomatic relationship with the country as exits between most nations. It is time to give up on the embarrassing failed Bolton strategy and pursue a new approach of non-interference and diplomacy.

For most of its history, the US and Venezuela have been allies. It has only been during the eras of Clinton through Obama and the Bolton-era during the Trump administration that the US has been in conflict with Venezuela. Trump can now reverse those mistaken policies and put the United States back on a constructive track.

People’s Mobilization Unites For People And Planet

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is two weeks away. The “People’s Mobe” will be held from September 20 to 23 in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly.

Members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective started organizing the People’s Mobe in May. Organizers sought to bring the issue of US violations of international law, such as when the State Department violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the Venezuelan Embassy on May 16, to the UN General Assembly and began to plan around September 21, the International Day of Peace. Organizers wrote:

At a time when all of the world leaders gather, we will say we’ve had enough of the US War Machine.

We demand the US be held accountable for its destructive acts. It’s time for the US government to obey the United Nations Charter by stopping regime change operations, ending the use of unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and ceasing military attacks.

We demand the US sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty, rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate treaty, disband NATO and close bases and outposts around the world.

We demand an immediate transition to a peace economy that uses our resources to meet human needs and protect the planet.

The People’s Mobe begins with the Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, an international day of action on the climate crisis, and ends with a solidarity evening uniting countries and popular movements around opposition to US intervention and respect for international laws that uphold sovereignty, human rights and protection of the planet.

The weekend will also focus on decolonization joining a protest for the liberation of Puerto Rico and black resistance to racism and militarism in the “Americas.”

Schedule of Events for the People’s Mobilization Against the US War Machine

Friday, September 20 – People’s Climate Strike. Starts at Foley Square at noon, then a march to Battery Park for a rally at 3:00 pm. We’ll bring messages connecting militarism and the climate crisis.

Saturday, September 21 – Puerto Rico Independence Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN. It’s time to decolonize Puerto Rico! Time TBA.

Saturday, September 21 – Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the “Americas” from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Green Worker Cooperative, 1231 Lafayette Ave in the Bronx.

Sunday, September 22 – People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet Rally and March, Herald Square near 34th St. and 6th Ave., 2:00 pm. Featuring Cornel West, Roger Waters, members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Chairman Omali Yeshitela, music by Ben Grosscup plus many solidarity, climate crisis, and resistance groups. More special guests to be announced.

Monday, September 23 – Solidarity evening with UN representatives from countries targeted by US sanctions and intervention. “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” Location: Community Church of New York 40 East 35th St., New York City, 10016. Hear from UN representatives and social movements. The Peace Memorial Prize will be awarded and David Rovics will perform. Time:  6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). You must register in advance. Register at http://bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. The event is free but we will accept donations to help cover the costs.

People’s Mobilization Shows Interconnections At Historical Moment

The People’s Mobe is connecting the issues of militarism, climate crisis, racism, and decolonization. We cannot achieve economic, racial and environmental justice or peace without forming a united people’s force that demands international law be obeyed by the greatest violator of laws, the United States.

We face multiple crisis issues that are reaching their breaking points. We are in a climate emergency as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and drought are becoming common experiences, destroying communities and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Even if the US government ignores climate science, people understand it and realize these conditions are worsening. As a result, the Global Climate Strike from September 20-27 was called. Popular Resistance will participate in the Strike in NYC; other peace activists are joining the Shut-Down DC Climate Strike.  We urge peace activists throughout the country to support the Climate Strike and demonstrate the connection between militarism and climate.

The role of the US military in climate change is massive as oil is essential for the war machine. There is no such thing as a Green War. We cannot confront climate change without confronting US militarism.

Even though the US military produces more climate pollution than 140 countries combined, the US-made sure the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change from 1997, the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, excluded fossil fuel emissions by the military. Even the Paris Agreement, which Trump withdrew from, still enabled the US to avoid reporting Pentagon emissions.

As a result, the greatest fossil fuel polluter on the planet is excluded despite the fact that the US military accounts for 25% of the total US consumption of oil, which is itself 25% of the total world consumption. US military fossil fuel pollution is equivalent to 25 million additional cars on US roads. The US Air Force is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.

The US and allies learned in World War II that controlling the oil supply and cutting off Germany’s access to oil was essential to defeating Hitler. Since then, domination of oil reserves has been a central goal of US policy to ensure its role as the global superpower. Even with the rapid increase in US fossil fuel production, denying China access to oil from Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and other sources is critical to remaining the world’s dominant power. The US and its war machine drive the rise in greenhouse gases.

The ties between war and racism have been evident throughout US history since the “Indian Wars” of Manifest Destiny and the theft of one-fifth of Mexico during the US war with Mexico, which gave the US control of much of North America. As the US expanded its empire beyond the continent, the US fought wars against people of color all over the world and today is rapidly militarizing Africa.

As happens with empires, the empire turns against its own people to take as much as it can from its poor and working classes for the wealthiest. Not only has this resulted in an immense wealth divide and widespread poverty, homelessness and inadequate education for many people in the US, but it has also led to militarized police forces that use weapons and techniques of war against the people in the United States. The prime targets of domestic militarized police are communities of color, which have been left destitute from neglect and the funneling of wealth upwards in a racially-biased manner.

Part of being the largest empire in world history not only includes an empire of bases and dollar domination of trade and the global economy, but also the US remains a colonizer nation. While decolonization created scores of independent nations from 1945-1960, the United States did not decolonize. As a result states like Hawaii, which was an independent nation throughout most of its history, did not become independent and territories like Puerto Rico, which had broken from Spanish colonization only to be captured as a US colony, remain.

Uniting To End Empire and Militarization, and put People and Planet First

The Peoples Mobilization comes at a time when all of these fronts of struggle are coming together. Climate activists realize that ending wars for oil, closing bases and making serious cuts to military funding are essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and financing a global Green New Deal. Anti-war activists recognize that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essential for stopping endless wars.

It is time to stop the US war machine and for the US government to stop its global gangsterism. The US must obey international law and be held accountable for illegal and destructive acts. The Non-Aligned Movement countries made a commitment to do what they can this past July. Now, we need a global popular movement that pushes to make peace, justice, and a livable future a reality.

If you agree, sign onto the Global Appeal for Peace. We plan to deliver it to the United Nations while they are in session. Beyond that, we will continue to build a global solidarity movement to Stop The US War Machine and Save the Planet.

Linking Popular Movements And Unions Is A Winning Strategy For Workers

After years of declining power and stagnant wages, workers in the United States are awakening, striking and demanding more rights.  A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows the number of striking workers is the highest since 1986. In 2018, 485,000 people went on strike, a number not exceeded since the 533,000 people in 1986, and 2019 will be even larger. Workers should be in revolt, as the Economic Policy Institute found workers have had stagnant wages for three and a half decades even though productivity is increasing.

This week we look at the origin of Labor Day, how workers are returning to those roots and the future for workers in the United States.

From the Economic Policy Institute.

 

Labor Returns To Its Roots: Strikes Escalate

This is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, which was declared in 1894 after the nationwide Pullman railroad strike led by the American Railway Union under Eugene Debs when 260,000 workers in 27 states participated. Federal troops were used to stop the strike and 26 people were killed. Six days after the more than two-month-long strike ended, President Grover Cleveland pushed legislation through Congress creating Labor Day as a conciliatory gesture to the workers.

Near the end of the strike, on July 4, Debs described the strike as the beginning of a conflict where “90 percent of the people of the United States will be arrayed against the other 10 percent.” Six days later, Debs was arrested and, after his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, he served six months in prison for violating an injunction against the strike. When released, Debs started the Socialist Party, which built worker power in elections, resulting in many changes to the laws.

The Pullman Strike was part of a growing labor movement that won reforms such as ending child labor, the 8-hour workday, the right to unionize and Depression-era New Deal laws, which included many laws demanded by workers, the Socialist Party and the Progressive Party.

Since the 1947 Taft-Harley Act, which restricted worker rights, unions have been in decline with reduced members and rights. The Janus decision, which some saw as a fatal attack on public-sector unions, might be the low point, perhaps the darkness before the dawn, for workers in the United States. Workers are realizing that democracy requires unions and now 64% of people say they approve of unions, a dramatic increase of 16 percent over a record-low figure registered in 2009.

Janus seems to have focused unions on the need to rethink their approach, and so far unions who have moved to an organizing culture have not been hurt by Janus. In recent years, there has been an awakening with a wave of strikes such as the teachers’ strikes in multiple states (California, ColoradoMichigan, New JerseyOregonPennsylvaniaTennessee, WashingtonWest Virginia, among others). There have also been recent strikes by healthcare and hotel workers in ten citiesgrad studentsfarmworkers and Stop and Shop, National Grid and Steelworkers, as well as the largest strike of manufacturing workers in the Trump era, McDonald’s, and even prisoners on stike in 17 states. WalMart workers threatened to strike and won increased wages.

Workers in the new gig economy also face challenges. When Uber and Lyft went public, it was bad news for drivers. While investors made billions of dollars, it created new “demands from investors for fare increases and further attacks on drivers, already grossly undercompensated.”  These drivers are contractors, not employees subject to minimum wage laws or the benefits of being an employee. The effective hourly wage of an Uber driver is less than what 90 percent of US workers earn. Drivers have begun to organize and strike to demand better wages and benefits.

It is time for a new era of worker rights, union organizing, higher wages, and worker ownership. Decades of mistreatment of workers are boomeranging and could make the next decade one of massive advancement by workers.

People participate in a workers’ rights protest. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Transformation Requires More Than Wages

The vast majority of people in the United States are wage slaves as they depend on their job for survival and missing a short time without work puts people in serious financial difficulty. This is the time to transform the relationship of workers to their jobs.

The Congressional Budget Office found the wealth divide has reached new levels of disparity, finding the wealthiest top 10 percent of families with incomes of at least $942,000 now hold 76 percent of the total wealth and average $4 million in wealth. The remainder of the top half of the population took most of the rest, 23 percent, which left only 1 percent of wealth for the bottom 50 percent. That bottom half can barely pay their bills, has no money for emergencies, has no savings, can’t afford to send their children to college and is trapped with great insecurity and no upward mobility. In fact, the bottom 25 percent of people in the US are, on average, in debt $13,000 and the bottom 12 percent is $32,000 in debt.

One reason for the wealth divide is that since 1979 productivity has increased by 70 percent while hourly compensation has increased only by 12 percent. During this period, the top one percent’s wages grew 138 percent, while wages of the bottom 90 percent grew just 15 percent. If the wages of the bottom 90 percent had grown in parallel with the increase in productivity, then the bottom 90 percent’s wages would have grown by 32 percent, more than double the actual growth. Breaking this down further, middle-class wages have been stagnant with an hourly wage increase of only 6 percent since 1979, while low-wage workers’ wages have actually declined by 5 percent. Those with very high wages had a 41 percent increase.

Radical transformation is needed to correct decades of decline in worker’s rights and wages. This means reversing the era of privatization and creating economic democracy, such as worker ownership and workers sharing in the profits. As the calls to declare a climate emergency get louder, there is an opportunity to do both while we confront the reality of the climate crisis. Various proposals are being put forward for a Green New Deal. Transitioning to a clean energy economy requires changes in many economic sectors; e.g., construction, manufacturing, transit, agriculture, housing, finance, energy, and infrastructure. Jeremy Brecher and Joe Uehlein list twelve reasons why a Green New Deal could be good for workers.

Responding to the climate crisis is going to require major public capital investments over the next two decades. With these public investments, the United States needs a democratically controlled economy. This means more public works, and the nationalizing of some sectors of the economy, especially the energy and transportation sectors.  It is an opportunity to put in place public ownership where workers have a share in ownership of businesses or complete ownership based on a worker-cooperative model.

Labor unions need to be involved in determining the details of the new Green-era economy. As Labor for Sustainability points out, many unions are already on board. It is important for workers involved in the fossil fuel economy to realize the new economy of the future will not include fossil fuels and they need to help create that new economy so they can be part of it and benefit from it. Green New Deal advocates are calling for a “Just Transition”, where workers are compensated and receive training as they transition to the new economy. One of the challenges of building the new economy is it will require millions of workers. There will be a worker shortage as all sectors of the economy will have to transition to sustainability and clean energy.

Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet, September 20 to 23 in New York City. We will join the climate strike with messages that war = ecocide. We’ll march for Puerto Rico’s independence. We’ll talk about racism, militarism, and resistance. We’ll rally and march to demand the US be held accountable for its global gangsterism with Cornel West, Roger Waters, and the Embassy Protectors. And we’ll hold an evening of solidarity with representatives from countries impacted by US sanctions and intervention and music by David Rovics (you must register for this at bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace). Learn more at PeoplesMobe.org. And sign the Global Appeal for Peace.

The shift to a democratized economy is already underway as more people are developing worker-owned businesses. The movement for worker ownership in the United States has been growing rapidly since before the 2008 financial crash. This movement is now reflecting itself in the electoral process. Polls show widespread support among people in the US for workers having ownership in corporations where they are employed.

Last week, Senator Sanders put forward a labor program that included giving workers a greater ownership stake in companies. Senator Warren made a similar proposal last year when she announced her exploratory campaign that included workers on boards of directors and receiving a share of the profits. Green candidate Howie Hawkins has a long history of support for economic democracy, giving workers more rights, a share in profits and ownership of corporations. Such “codetermination” policies are widely prevalent in Europe providing unions with a strong voice in corporate decision-making.

Commencement celebration, Bronx, NY

Wage-Slaves Must Revolt To Reverse The Era of Privatization

The attack on workers is a product of the privatization era that began under Reagan, accelerated under Clinton and continues today. Some of the teacher’s strikes have focused on charter schools, highlighting how privatization hurts workers. Privatization strengthens the financiers. The negative consequences of the privatization era are increasing support for socialism and economic democracy as well as specific policies such as national improved Medicare for all, municipal Internet networks, public utilities, and worked-controlled businesses.

There has been an increased call for general strikes by workers, climate activists, and immigrants. When the people of the United States become mobilized enough to organize a general strike, it will be a revolutionary moment in the development of the United States. People will realize they have the power to determine their own futures.

When we describe building power at Popular Resistance, we are describing the kind of people’s movement that is able to stop business as usual with a mass general walkout or other tactics. A wage-slave revolt is where the popular movement is going in the foreseeable future.

The escalation in worker organizing in the US, both inside and outside of unions, over the past half-dozen years is coming at a time when people are being radicalized in social movements from Occupy to Black Lives Matter. Unions are connecting worker struggles to community concerns and as a result, when they strike, the community supports them.  The linking of the popular movement to growth in unions strengthens both workers and activists. People uniting across issues is building a popular movement that is demanding people and planet, not profit.

Labor Day is a time to reflect on the potential of workers building power. The people are on the path to build a powerful political movement against both corporate-controlled parties to fight for a government that represents the interests of workers and puts people and planet before profits.

What Will It Take To Declare A Climate Emergency?

Students march in Melbourne, Australia. Source AAP.

The Embassy Protectors Defense Committee is calling on the US State Department to drop the federal charges against us. On May 16, federal forces invaded the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC in violation of the Vienna Convention and arrested four Embassy Protectors even though we were there with permission of the elected government of Venezuela.

Visit www.DefendEmbassyProtectors.org to send them an email, learn more and donate to the defense fund.

The Earth’s lungs are on fire. Forest fires are burning in greater numbers and with greater frequency and intensity than in the past. They are fueled not just by conditions connected to the climate crisis, such as drought and intense storms, but also by unfettered exploitation for profit.

We are living in a climate emergency without an emergency response. At a time when fossil fuels must be kept in the ground, the United States is increasing extraction of oil and gas and is rapidly becoming the world’s greatest climate threat. The corporate duopoly parties are slow to respond.

This week, we look at efforts by activists to raise awareness of the climate emergency and to directly confront those who are responsible for it.

Map showing heat (the red dots) and smoke in Bolivia and Brazil detected by a satellite August 14, 2019. WildfireToday.com.

Burning down our home

The Amazon Rainforest, which produces 20% of the world’s oxygen and has sequestered as much as 25% of the carbon from fossil fuel use worldwide, is now burning at an increased rate. There are 84% more forest fires in the Amazon this year than during the same period in 2018. Fires are destroying old-growth forests and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Each acre of rainforest lost means less capacity to serve as a carbon sink, less production of oxygen and less biodiversity, functions critical for survival.

This increase in fires can be directly attributed to changes in policies under the Bolsonaro administration. Environmental protection standards have not been enforced and stripping land for cattle has increased. As a result, Norway and Germany, which have invested millions of dollars to protect the Amazon, are pulling their funding from Brazil.

While Bolsonaro lets the fires rage and even jokes about it by referring to himself as “Nero,” the Bolivian government is acting quickly to put out the fires that have crossed its borders. They purchased aircraft to assist with evacuations and carry water and they deployed troops to help firefighters. Activists around the world protested outside Brazilian Embassies on Friday to pressure its government to take action.

Fires are also burning in the Arctic, in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. Nancy Fresco from the University of Alaska reports, “The evidence shows that overall, fires in the far North are becoming bigger, hotter and more frequent. …As these [carbon] releases fuel further warming, climate change is causing more climate change, which affects the entire planet.”

Houston, TX. 2017. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Adding fuel to the fire

At a time when general wisdom tells us to keep fossil fuels in the ground, the United States is gearing up to be the biggest extractor of oil and gas in the 2020s. Global Witness estimates the US will account for 61% of new oil and gas production globally, which will be 20 times more than Russia and 40 times more than Saudi Arabia. The state of Texas alone will produce almost four times more than Canada and ten times more than Russia and Brazil. Of the top ten oil and gas producers, seven of them are states in the US.

A quarter of the US’ new fossil fuel production is expected to occur on federal land and the other three quarters will be on private land. Global Witness recommends a moratorium on drilling public lands and ending fossil fuel subsidies to private companies.

Activists aren’t waiting for these policy changes. Protests and other acts of resistance to new fossil fuel infrastructure continue. In Minnesota, people locked down to the gates of an Enbridge office, halting work on the Line 3 pipeline that will carry tar sands oil. The Standing Rock Sioux continue to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, they filed a new motion in court against the pipeline because the environmental study used to support Energy Transfer Partner’s permit was flawed. The company is seeking to double the volume of oil it is transporting even though the current pipeline has leaked at least ten times since it opened in 2017.

Pipeline fighters in Maryland had a victory this week when a judge denied TransCanada’s attempt to use eminent domain to gain access to land that is part of a public rail trail, a perversion of the whole concept of eminent domain that was viewed as a threat to Maryland’s sovereignty. And pipeline fights continue against the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia and against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.

New York City. Erik McGregor.

Declaring a climate emergency

Multiple groups have been pushing candidates to support a major mobilization to address the climate crisis through a green economy, akin to the transformation to a war economy achieved during World War II. At that time, factories switched from making consumer goods to making military equipment and weapons. Many people contributed to the effort by rationing goods, gathering scrap materials, planting victory gardens and learning new skills.

This year, the Sunrise Movement, which champions the idea of a Green New Deal, has been pushing the Democratic National Committee to hold a specific presidential debate on the climate crisis. The DNC voted down a resolution in support of such a debate over the weekend even though climate activists stormed the room and protested the vote.

Daphne Wysham reminds us that the failures to address the climate crisis are bipartisan. Although oil and gas companies are scrambling for investors, a new study by the Center for Sustainable Economy found that Democrat Tim Geithner and Republican Richard Kayne are financing new oil terminals in Oregon. Of course, it was President Obama who takes credit for expanding oil and gas production in the US, and around the world, and President Trump who is continuing the expansion. We outlined the presidential misleadership on climate by the Obama and Bush administrations. Amy Westervelt shares a letter written to President Carter in 1977 by Frank Press warning of climate catastrophe.

Howie Hawkins, a candidate seeking the Green Party nomination for president who brought the idea of the Green New Deal to the United States, wrote this week that the next president must declare a climate emergency on Day One in office, just as Trump did with the border wall. Hawkins explains that declaring a climate emergency gives the president the power to take significant actions, which he lists (see image to the right). Hawkins also calls for an Office of Climate Mobilization and investment in the Global Green New Deal.

Hawkins has put forward his own version of the Green New Deal that includes cutting military spending by 75%. This would not only make more funds available for necessary projects, but it would also limit the military’s ability to be the greatest single user of fossil fuels on the planet.

This week, Bernie Sanders put forward the best climate proposal of all Democratic candidates seeking the nomination thus far. His plan includes a series of positive steps but he still needs to be pushed for more. Sanders would move to clean, sustainable electricity by 2030 but it is not until 2050 that he calls for an end to the fossil fuel economy. This is not consistent with climate science. Sanders only vaguely confronts the biggest polluter on the planet, the Pentagon.

J. P. Sottile writes that we have to confront militarism to address the climate crisis. Not only are wars fought for oil, but military vessels defend waterways so that oil and gas can be transported. He describes the negative military-fossil-fuel-industrial cycle:

…every year the U.S. political system reflexively funds a world-dominating defense budget that directly benefits the oil industry, client states and the entire hydrocarbon-based economy. Basically, it’s a global protection racket that generates huge profits for defense companies that sell weapons to the Pentagon. And the U.S. government also pushes arms sales abroad, particularly to oil-rich clients like those in the Middle East. All of those arms sales sustain thousands of jobs in states and congressional districts around the U.S. That, in turn, creates constituencies for members of Congress who collect millions in campaign contributions from both the defense and oil industries to make sure they can maintain de facto subsides for their weapons and their oil. Taxpayers and consumers complete the circuit through their “contributions” to the empire’s public-private partnership: They get to keep on buying oil, gas and plastic, while paying taxes for the military. It’s a perpetual ATM fueled by oil.

JOIN THE PEOPLE’S MOBILIZATION TO STOP THE US WAR MACHINE AND SAVE THE PLANET. September 20 to 23 in New York City.

Fridays for Future Rally in Berlin. Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP

What about the future?

The next decade is full of threats and full of potential. There is much that needs to change but it is up to us to change it.

The climate crisis is here. We need to take action now because we are already behind in the game. On September 20, there will be a climate strike led by youth. We urge you to support it no matter your age. See StrikeWithUs.org. The Extinction Rebellion is planning a fall of resistance beginning with the strike on September 20 and lasting into October. See ExtinctionRebellion.US. These are both global initiatives.

Connected to the climate crisis are other great threats – the United States stoking conflict with Great Powers, including Russia and China and driving other countries to obtain nuclear weapons to protect themselves from western powers are moving us closer to the possibility of a nuclear war. Underlying the climate crisis is the capitalist economic system that values profit over life and protection of the planet. This system is literally fueling fires in the Amazon. Extreme wealth inequality and exploitation are inciting unrest, which is then used to justify surveillance and repression. We are in a hot mess in more ways than one.

There are signs for optimism. More and more, various movements are discovering their relationships to each other and are collaborating on actions. This is critical to learn from each other and to build the popular power necessary to shift what is possible.

These crises are also opportunities for tremendous transformation. People around the world are experimenting with new ways of living and structuring our societies. Brian Tokar of the Institute for Social Ecology describes local initiatives and how they can be scaled up regionally and globally. The Zapatistas recently announced the expansion of autonomous municipalities in Chiapas. Activists in France and Puerto Rico are creating direct democratic structures through general assemblies to make decisions about their future.

We have the opportunity now to think outside the box. To organize in our communities and connect with others throughout the country and around the world. We are building solidarity from person to person across movements and across borders. Together we have the power to create a new world.

We Are Not Fooled By The Hong Kong Protests

Agnes Chow and Nathan Law accept the 2018 Lantos Human Rights Prize on behalf of Joshua Wong in Washington, DC. (Facebook)

Update: Protests continued in Hong Kong this weekend. The protesters returned to the use of violence and the police responded. The South China Morning Post reported:

In a now familiar pattern, the protesters threw bricks, petrol bombs, corrosive liquid and other projectiles at the police, who responded with tear gas, pepper balls and sponge grenades. Twenty-eight people were arrested, including an organiser of an approved protest march. At least 10 people were hospitalised, including two men in serious condition.

Some people in the United States are confused about the protests going on in Hong Kong. Whenever the corporate media and politicians, especially people like Marco Rubio, applaud a social movement, it is a red flag that the protests are not a progressive people’s movement, but serve other purposes.  Is this really a democracy movement? Are workers protesting the deep inequality and exploitation there? If not, what are these protests really about?

Fortunately, a more complete narrative of what is happening in Hong Kong and how it relates to the geopolitical conflict between the United States and China is developing among independent and movement media. The following is a description of what has been learned recently.

Hong Kong Protests: Not a Democracy Movement, but an Anti-China Tool

What is happening in Hong Kong is not actually a people’s uprising for democracy, but a tool for anti-China rhetoric and “Great Power Conflict.” Many Hong Kong protesters are pro-capitalist and racist in nature, referring to mainland Chinese as locusts, and are calling for the United States to intervene. Many of the same tactics employed by Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Ukrainian regime change operations are re-appearing in Hong Kong. For example, demonstrators have used violence as a tactic to entice police to respond with violence in order to put out a false narrative of state repression against them.

Fight Back News describes the problem:

There’s a tendency among progressives in the United States to support big crowds of people protesting in other countries. No doubt, the corporate media assists in this process by labeling certain movements ‘pro-democracy’ or ‘freedom fighters.’

Just because there are people in the street does not make protests progressive, worker-based or for the people’s interests. Fight Back News reports how Hong Kong has been used by China as a way to attract foreign investment, but also as a way to make the Renminbi (RMB) a more powerful currency as well as to advance China’s Belt & Road initiative. These are major threats to US dominance.

Controversial American political activist Joey Gibson, founder of the group Patriot Prayer, holds up an American flag while attending an anti-extradition rally in Hong Kong on July 7, 2019. Facebook Live screengrab

Dan Cohen of the Grayzone mentions the ties between the protest movement and right-wing racist groups in the US. This is an issue requiring further reporting as it is strange that pro-Trump, racist groups are supporting the protests and the protesters are using US racist symbols.

Cohen’s major focus is the capitalist ties of the Hong Kong protesters. He describes the Rubert Murdoch of Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai, the self-described “head of opposition media,” who has been spending a lot of money, millions, to build the movement and giving a lot of media time to the anti-China rhetoric. And, he shows the connections between these capitalists and the Trump administration; i.e., he has had meetings with Bolton, Pence, and Pompeo as well as with neocons in the Senate, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton.

The goal of the Hong Kong protests is only unclear because they are trying to hide their true purpose. The real goal is preventing the full integration of Hong Kong into China in 2047 when the transition agreement between China and the United Kingdom is finished. The United States, the United Kingdom, and billionaires in Hong Kong want it to be integrated into the western capitalist economy and fear China’s state-planned economy. If they succeed, Hong Kong will become a base of economic, military and political operations for the US at the Chinese border, a critical position for the West’s ‘Great Power Conflict’ with Russia and China.

The US is investing in an anti-China movement to make integration of Hong Kong into China difficult. China is already hedging its bets by building Shenzhen across the bay, a state-planned, market-based economy, which will become an alternative to Hong Kong and shrink Hong Kong’s importance. The people of Hong Kong will be the losers if this occurs.

The Hong Kong Protest Is Not A Working-Class Revolt

Even though there are good reasons for workers in Hong Kong to revolt, these protests are not focused on the issues of economic insecurity; i.e., high levels of poverty, the exorbitant cost of housing, low wages, and long hours. As Sara Flounders writes:

For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world.

But, as Fight Back News explains: “The Hong Kong protests are absolutely not driven by or in the interests of the working class, whether in Hong Kong or mainland China.” In fact, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is not backing the demonstrations and called on its members to reject the call for a strike on August 5 put out by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which is backed by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

If the protesters were focused on workers rights, they would be demanding an end to, or at least reform of, the neoliberal capitalism of Hong Kong that is dominated by big financial interests and corruption. In fact, half of the seats in the legislature are set aside for business interests who vote to protect their profits and not basic needs such as housing, but there is no criticism of this by the protesters.

In Popular Resistance, we wrote: “Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent.” These are crisis-level problems for the vast majority of people in Hong Kong, but they were not the focus of the protests.

Fight Back News writes: “In actuality, the protests in Hong Kong serve the interests of finance capital, both in the city itself and around the world,” and makes the important point that “Hong Kong’s working class has nothing to gain from worse relations with mainland China, much less from ‘independence.’ They suffered greatly under British colonial rule – no minimum wage laws; no labor protections; barbaric legal punishments like flogging and more.”

The Role of the United States is Evident to Anyone Who Looks

The NED has spent millions of dollars to build this anti-China movement over the years in a place with a population of 7.3 million people, over a million fewer people than New York City. The first to report on NED involvement in the current protest was Alexander Rubinstein of Mintpress News, who wrote: “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013.

The Viable Opposition blogger, in “How Washington is Meddling In the Affairs of Hong Kong“, describes NED’s history as a regime change agent for the United States and the recent NED funding in Hong Kong, pointing to a total of $1,357,974 on grants to organizations described as promoting freedom, democracy and human rights in Hong Kong over the period from 2015 to 2018.

This is not short-term funding but a long-term commitment by the United States. NED has been doing mass funding in Hong Kong since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred.

Sara Flounders points out US funding goes beyond NED, writing: “Funding from the NED, the Ford, Rockefeller, Soros and numerous other corporate foundations, Christian churches of every denomination, and generous British funding, is behind this hostile, subversive network orchestrating the Hong Kong protests.” The US-funding of NGO’s confuses political activists, media and commentators because they fund a myriad of NGO’s in Hong Kong. As a result, there are human rights, democracy, youth and other Hong Kong spokespersons whose NED funding is not disclosed when they talk in the media.

 

Martin Lee, Benny Tai, and Joshua Wong speak at Freedom House, 2015

Hong Kong protesters are not always secret about their ties to the US. In 2014, Mintpress News exposed US involvement in Occupy Central. They pointed out that Martin Lee, a Hong Kong protest figure, was in bed with NED. They gave him an award and had his bio on their website. He came to Washington, DC in 2014 along with Anson Chan, another protest figure, and met with  Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).  Lee took part in a NED talk hosted specifically for him. In 2015, Lee and others were applauded for their leadership by Freedom House, which, as the now-deceased Robert Parry described in 2017, works hand in hand with the NED.

In this Popular Resistance story, we point out that during the current protests, participants were meeting with Julie Eadeh, of the US Consulate at a hotel. And, when Nathan Law and Agnes Chow visited the US they met with the China-hawk Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel. They also met with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Senator Marco Rubio.

Protesters carry US and UK flags, and sing the Stars and Stripes Forever and the US national anthem, displaying their connection to western nations. In one of the most iconic moments, demonstrating how these protests are really a microcosm of the conflict between the US and China, a protester used a US flag to beat a Chinese reporter, Fu Guohao of Global Times, who was tied up and assaulted at the Hong Kong airport.

Some believe the protests are too big for the US to control and point to the amount of money being spent by the NED. If the populations of Hong Kong and the US are compared, $1 million in funding for the movement in Hong Kong is equivalent to $60 million in the US. Additional funds are also being provided by billionaires. That level of resources is gigantic for popular movements that typically run on shoestring budgets.

The only way not to see US involvement in the Hong Kong protests is to close your eyes, ears, and mind and pretend it does not exist.

Challenging the Dominant Western Narrative

Although Western backing and political ambitions are the reality, it is a challenge to get this narrative out more widely. Too many in the US are confused by the messaging coming from the Hong Kong billionaires, NED-funded NGO’s, bi-partisan politicians in DC and the military-intelligence establishment, all made larger by the corporate mass media.

Corporate powers are banning social media accounts and YouTube Channels from China to suppress social media activism that tells a different narrative. For example, an article in the China Daily documents US involvement in detail with photographs of meetings between US officials and Hong Kong opposition, as well as the role of NED and Voice of America.

Independent media outlets, such as the ones cited above, are exposing who is behind the protests and their pro-capitalist, imperialist agenda. They are starting to change the dominant western narrative. This is critical because it is easy for activists to be drawn into supporting movements that are counter to our goals for social and economic justice as well as peace.

Hong Kongers have also been manipulated pawns in the US Great Power Conflict with China. They are advocating against their own interests by seeking what will essentially be re-colonization by the West. If the US is successful, it will not be good for the people of Hong Kong, Asia or the world.

Hong Kong in the Crosshairs of Global Power and Ideological Struggles

Hong Kong is one of the most extreme examples of big finance, neoliberal capitalism in the world. As a result, many people in Hong Kong are suffering from great economic insecurity in a city with 93 billionaires, second-most of any city.

Hong Kong is suffering the effects of being colonized by Britain for more than 150 years following the Opium Wars. The British put in place a capitalist economic system and Hong Kong has had no history of self-rule. When Britain left, it negotiated an agreement that prevents China from changing Hong Kong’s political and economic systems for 50 years by making Hong Kong a Special Administrative Region (SAR).

China cannot solve the suffering of the people of Hong Kong. This One Country, Two Systems approach means the extreme capitalism of Hong Kong exists alongside, but separate from, China’s socialized system. Hong Kong has an unusual political system. For example, half the seats in the legislature are required to represent business interests meaning corporate interests vote on legislation.

Hong Kong is a center for big finance and also a center of financial crimes. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of suspicious transactions reported to law enforcement agencies rocketed from 32,907 to 92,115. There has been a small number of prosecutions, which dropped from a high of 167 in 2014 to 103 in 2017. Convictions dropped to only one person sentenced to more than six years behind bars in 2017.

The problem is neither the extradition bill that was used to ignite protests nor China, the problems are Hong Kong’s economy and governance.

April, 2019. Demonstrators marched over the weekend to demand authorities to scrap the extradition bill [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The Extradition Bill

The stated cause of the recent protests is an extradition bill proposed because there is no legal way to prevent criminals from escaping charges when they flee to Hong Kong. The bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism to transfer fugitives in Hong Kong to Taiwan, Macau or Mainland China.

Extradition laws are a legal norm between countries and within countries (e.g. between states), and since Hong Kong is part of China, it is pretty basic. In fact, in 1998, a pro-democracy legislator, Martin Lee, proposed a law similar to the one he now opposes to ensure a person is prosecuted and tried at the place of the offense.

The push for the bill came in 2018 when a Hong Kong resident Chan Tong-kai allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing, in Taiwan, then returned to Hong Kong. Chan admitted he killed Poon to Hong Kong police, but the police were unable to charge him for murder or extradite him to Taiwan because no agreement was in place.

The proposed law covered  46 types of crimes that are recognized as serious offenses across the globe. These include murder, rape, and sexual offenses, assaults, kidnapping, immigration violations, and drug offenses as well as property offenses like robbery, burglary and arson and other traditional criminal offenses. It also included business and financial crimes.

Months before the street protests, the business community expressed opposition to the law. Hong Kong’s two pro-business parties urged the government to exempt white-collar crimes from the list of offenses covered by any future extradition agreement. There was escalating pressure from the city’s business heavyweights.  The American Chamber of Commerce, AmCham, a fifty-year-old organization that represents over 1,200 US companies doing business in Hong Kong, opposed the proposal.

AmCham said it would damage the city’s reputation: “Any change in extradition arrangements that substantially expands the possibility of arrest and rendition … of international business executives residing in or transiting through Hong Kong as a result of allegations of economic crime made by the mainland government … would undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations.”

Kurt Tong, the top US diplomat in Hong Kong, said in March that the proposal could complicate relations between Washington and Hong Kong. Indeed, the Center for International Private Enterprise, an arm of NED said the proposed law would undermine economic freedom, cause capital flight and threaten Hong Kong’s status as a hub for global commerce. They pointed to a bipartisan letter signed by eight members of Congress, including Senators Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and Steve Daines and Members of the House of Representatives, Jim McGovern, Ben McAdams, Chris Smith, Tom Suozzi, and Brian Mast opposing the bill.

Proponents of the bill responded by exempting nine of the economic crimes and made extradition only for crimes punishable by at least seven years in prison. These changes did not satisfy big business advocates.

Protesters hold a placard featuring U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. flags as they take part in a march at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, July 21, 2019. | Vincent Yu / AP

The Mass Protests and US Role 

From this attention to the law, opposition grew with the formation of a coalition to organize protests. As Alexander Rubinstein reports, “the coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM [Human Rights Monitor], Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition.” HKHRM alone received more than $1.9 million in funds from the NED between 1995 and 2013. Major protests began in June.

Building the anti-China movement in Hong Kong has been a long-term, NED project since 1996. In 2012, NED invested $460,000 through its National Democratic Institute, to build the anti-China movement (aka pro-democracy movement), particularly among university students. Two years later, the mass protests of Occupy Central occurred. In a 2016 Open Letter to Kurt Tong, these NED grants and others were pointed out and Tong was asked if the US was funding a Hong Kong independence movement.

During the current protests, organizers were photographed meeting with Julie Eadeh, the political unit chief of US Consulate General, in a Hong Kong hotel. They also met with China Hawks in Washington, DC including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senator Marco Rubio and Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Larry Diamond, a co-editor of the NED’s publication and a co-chair of research, has been openly encouraging the protesters. He delivered a video message of support during their rally this weekend.

Protests have included many elements of US color revolutions with tactics such as violence — attacks on bystanders, media, police and emergency personnel. Similar tactics were used in Ukraine, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, e.g. violent street barricades. US officials and media criticized the government’s response to the violent protests, even though they have been silent on the extreme police violence against the Yellow Vests in France. Demonstrators also use swarming techniques and sophisticated social media messaging targeting people in the US.

Mass protests have continued. On July 9, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pronounced the bill dead and suspended it. Protesters are now calling for the bill to be withdrawn, Lam to resign and police to be investigated. For more on the protests and US involvement, listen to our interview with K. J. Noh on Clearing the FOG (available on Monday).

Makeshift shelters at Tung Chau Street Temporary Market in Sham Shui Po. Photo: Nora Tam

What Is Driving Discontent in Hong Kong?

The source of unrest in Hong Kong is the economic insecurity stemming from capitalism. In 1997, Britain and China agreed to leave “the previous capitalist system” in place for 50 years.

Hong Kong has been ranked as the world’s freest economy in the Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom since 1995 when the index began. In 1990, Milton Friedman described Hong Kong as the best example of a free-market economy. Its ranking is based on low taxes, light regulations, strong property rights, business freedom, and openness to global commerce.

Graeme Maxton writes in the South China Morning Post: “The only way to restore order is through a radical change in Hong Kong’s economic policies. After decades of doing almost nothing, and letting the free market rule, it is time for the Hong Kong government to do what it is there for; to govern in the interests of the majority.”

The issue is not the extradition proposal, Carrie Lam or China. What we are witnessing is an unrestricted neo-liberal economy, described as a free market on steroids. Hong Kong’s economy relative to China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from a peak of 27 percent in 1993 to less than 3 percent in 2017. During this time, China has had tremendous growth, including in nearby market-friendly Shenzen, while Hong Kong has not.

As Sara Flounders writes, “For the last 10 years wages have been stagnant in Hong Kong while rents have increased 300 percent; it is the most expensive city in the world. In Shenzhen, wages have increased 8 percent every year, and more than 1 million new, public, green housing units at low rates are nearing completion.”

Hong Kong has the world’s highest rents, a widening wealth gap and a poverty rate of 20 percent. In China, the poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

China’s middle class. Alamy.

Hong Kong In The Chinese Context

Ellen Brown writes in “Neoliberalism Has Met Its Match in China,” that the Chinese government owns 80 percent of banks, which make favorable loans to businesses, and subsidizes worker costs. The US views China subsidizing its economy as an unfair trade advantage, while China sees long-term, planned growth as smarter than short-term profits for shareholders.

The Chinese model of state-controlled capitalism (some call it a form of socialism) has lifted 800 million people out of poverty and built a middle class of over 420 million people, growing from four percent in 2002, to 31 percent. The top twelve Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 are all state-owned and state-subsidized including oil, solar energy, telecommunications, engineering, construction companies, banks, and the auto industry. China has the second-largest GDP, and the largest economy based on Purchasing Power Parity GDP, according to the CIA, IMF and World Bank.

China does have significant problems. There are thousands of documented demonstrations, strikes and labor actions in China annually, serious environmental challenges, inequality and social control through the use of surveillance technology. How China responds to these challenges is a test for their governance.

China describes itself as having an intraparty democracy. The eight other legal “democratic parties” that are allowed to participate in the political system cooperate with but do not compete with the Communist Party. There are also local elections for candidates focused on grassroots issues. China views western democracy and economics as flawed and does not try to emulate them but is creating its own system.

China is led by engineers and scientists, not by lawyers and business people. It approaches policy decisions through research and experimentation. Every city and every district is involved in some sort of experimentation including free trade zones, poverty reduction, and education reform. “There are pilot schools, pilot cities, pilot hospitals, pilot markets, pilot everything under the sun, the whole China is basically a giant portfolio of experiments, with mayors and provincial governors as Primary Investigators.” In this system, Hong Kong could be viewed as an experiment in neoliberal capitalism.

The Communist Party knows that to keep its hold on power, it must combat inequalities and shift the economy towards a more efficient and more ecological model. Beijing has set a date of 2050 to become a “socialist society” and to achieve that, it seeks improvements in sociallabor and environmental fields.

Where does Hong Kong fit into these long-term plans? With 2047 as the year for the end of the agreement with the UK, US and western powers are working toward preserving their capitalist dystopia of Hong Kong and manufacturing consensus for long-term conflict with China.

How this conflict of economic and political systems turns out depends on whether China can confront its contradictions, whether Hong Kongers can address the source of their problems and whether US empire can continue its dollar, political and military dominance. Today’s conflicts in Hong Kong are rooted in all of these realities.

  • Read related: “Hong Kong: Can Two Million Marchers Be Wrong?
  • The World is Uniting for International Law, against US Empire

    We oppose the extraterritorial application of unilateral measures.

    That is not Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Russia, or China talking about the most recent unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against Venezuela, i.e. economic sanctions that have become an economic blockade, but the European Union. Even allies who have embarrassed themselves by recognizing the phony “interim president” Juan Guaido are saying the US has gone too far.

    All of the countries listed above and many more have stated their opposition to the escalation of the US economic war against Venezuela. Venezuela, along with Iran, has become a prime target of US regime change, and both are uniting the world in opposition to US bullying behavior, which is hastening the demise of US domination. Popular social movements are growing against US unilateralism and violations of international law.

    Activists in Indonesia on the World Day of Protest against the US blockade of Venezuela. Telesur.

    Countries of the World are Uniting Against the United States

    Six months ago, the US sought to install a puppet government led by Juan Guaido. Guaido, trained by the US, was an unknown personality to most Venezuelans. He is a minor politician who barely won election to the defunct National Assembly. Today, the failure of the US coup attempt is evident. Repeated efforts by Guaido, his allies, and the United States to rally support for Guaido from the people and Venezuelan military have failed.

    A large rebuke on the international stage occurred in July when delegations from 120 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) united to oppose US policy against Venezuela, saying in a statement that only Venezuela can decide its fate, no other state can intervene in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The UN General Secretary pointed out the importance of the Non-Aligned Movement when she spoke at the beginning of the conference, stating that “two-thirds of the United Nations members and 55% of the world’s population” are represented by it, making it the second-largest multinational body in the world after the UN.

    Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, put the US intervention against Venezuela in context, declaring upon his arrival for the meeting: “The resistance of the people of Venezuela against the United States is very important for all the countries of the world.”

    The economic blockade, announced last week, has also escalated opposition to dollar domination. There are now 21 countries on the US sanctions list and scores of other countries are impacted by US sanctions. In reality, what the US is doing is imposing unilateral coercive measures against these countries, which violate the United Nations Charter. Sanctions imply there was a formal action that justified punishment, but that is not the case here.

    The Caracas Declaration was passed at the NAM meeting. As Anya Parampil reported in the Grayzone, “the delegates unanimously affirmed their pursuit of a multipolar world and a desire to construct an international financial system independent of US control.”

    The Declaration also contained a clause calling for following the Vienna Convention, which includes a provision to protect diplomatic missions. No doubt this was in response to the US seizure of Venezuelan diplomatic properties, highlighted by the work of the Embassy Protection Collective to uphold international law.

    Minneapolis, July 15 (RHC) Demonstrators in the state of Minnesota condemned U.S. sanctions against Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and expressed solidarity with the peoples of these countries.

    Sanctions are Economic Terrorism

    At the NAM meeting, representatives of various countries described the impacts of the US’ economic war on their people. Zarif of Iran made the point clear: “Just Google ‘terrorism.’ This is the definition that the dictionary will give you: ‘unlawful use of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political gains’… so please friends, stop using [the term] ‘sanctions’… sanctions have a legal connotation. This is economic terrorism… we have to say it again and again.”

    Illegal unilateral coercive measures have contributed to the deaths of 40,000 Venezuelans in 2017 and 2018. A leading Venezuelan Economist, Francisco Rodríguez, says the Trump Administration’s sanctions are costing Venezuela $16.9 billion annually and threaten a famine that could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths. Two days after Trump’s new Executive Order was signed, a ship carrying 25 thousand tons of soy-made products for food production in Venezuela was blocked.

    The NAM conference agreed to study and report on the impact of US sanctions, ensuring that the movement against illegal unilateral coercive measures by the United States will continue.

    Russia, an observer of the NAM, was represented by Vice Minister Sergey Ryabkov who said the US was strangling Venezuela with one hand through sanctions while pick-pocketing it with the other by freezing its assets held in Western banks. Ryabkov told the Grayzone, “the US has sanctioned almost 70 countries in recent decades, impacting the lives of over one-third of the world’s population.”

    The US tried to threaten diplomats to convince them not to attend the meeting, but was unsuccessful. Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, described the successful summit as “a failure of US diplomacy” driven home by “120 countries [that] are not aligned with the US… they want to be free, they want to be independent.” He described the Non-Aligned Movement as a “vaccine against unilateralism.”

    President Maduro spoke at the meeting. He underscored the march of history toward freedom and the end of US empire describing the 21st Century as “the century of freedom, it is the century of the end of empires, and it is just beginning in 2019…nothing, nor anyone will stop us…no one can stop the course of the new story that is making its way!”

    People’s Movements Organizing Against US’ Violations of International Law

    The US blockade against Venezuela and continued threats of military attack galvanized worldwide protests this weekend. Popular Resistance joined with other social movements and civil society organizations in denouncing the blockade.

    In addition to the Non-Aligned Movement’s renewed commitment to the United Nations Charter, popular movements are organizing along similar lines. This week, we launched the Global Appeal to Save International Law, an effort to create a global network of people and social movements to demand respect for the United Nations Charter and its use as a tool for maintaining peace, guaranteeing human rights and protecting the sovereignty of nations.

    From September 20-23, a coalition of organizations is holding the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet. The Mobe will highlight the role of US militarism as the largest polluter on the planet during the Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20 and join in calling for decolonization at the Puerto Rico Independence March on September 21. The People’s Mobe will hold a rally at Herald Square at 2:00 pm on Sunday, September 22. On Monday the 23rd, we will hold an evening event: “A Path To International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter,” which will feature social movements and government representatives working for an end to US violations of international law. Registration is free, but is required. Register here.

    Opposition to US violations of international law were also evident at the Sao Paulo Forum held in Caracas from July 25-28 with the participation of 190 organizations, political parties, social movements, workers’ movements, parliamentarians and intellectuals from Latin America, the Caribbean and several continents. Seven hundred people participated in the four-day event showing unity across Latin America against US aggression.

    A dozen members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective attended the forum, spoke to the conference and were received with standing ovations for their work to uphold international law. The Collective had challenges getting to the Forum, due to US airlines no longer flying to Venezuela, and one member was harassed at the US border when he returned.

    A Final Declaration was issued by the Forum in support for Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and other progressive governments under attack by US imperialism and for a demand to free Lula and other left-wing leaders imprisoned for political reasons.

    Members of the Embassy Protection Collective in Caracas.

    Rising Resistance

    People are standing up to US interventions in many other countries. In Honduras, there are widespread protests against the US-installed coup president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was indicted last week in the US for drug trafficking. US-trained police are responding to protests with violence.  A hunger strike by political prisoners turned into a call for Hernandez’s resignation. Embassy Protector Adrienne Pine is there and reporting via Twitter.

    In Nicaragua, peace has prevailed after a US coup attempt last year. A US-funded Human Rights Director was accused of massive theft of US regime change dollars and inflating death tolls. To understand Nicaragua, read this excellent book by social movement leaders. There is a great deal happening in Cuba, Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and other countries responding to US domination. Stephon Sefton writes that the next five years will be pivotal for the Left in Latin America.

    Another top target is Iran where the US has escalated its economic war after Trump violated the nuclear arms agreement. Iran is being very strategic in responding to US aggression in the Strait of Hormuz and the US has been unable to get traditional allies like France and Germany to join with it, causing concerns within the US foreign policy establishment. The US economic war is undermining the Iranian economy and causing tens of thousands of deaths annually.

    Iran has never attacked another country nor invaded a country to steal its resources. They are proud of their skills in diplomacy and negotiation, as a veteran of the Iraq-Iran war wrote to President Trump in an open letter. He warns that the initiator of war is the loser, and attacks on Iran will backfire. Foreign Minister Zarif made a similar point with regard to the unilateral coercive measures saying US economic terrorism will backfire against the US.

    High level officials at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Caracas, 2019. By the Grayzone Project.

    The Loss of US Supremacy

    Aggressive US actions being put in place by Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo are backfiring. Responses are being put in place that will unravel US economic power, which is more fragile than it seems.

    Foreign Minister Zarif summarizes the situation saying, “Last year we did 35 percent of our bilateral transactions with Turkey in our own currencies. And this is happening between us and China, between us and India, between us and Russia, and between us and the countries in the region.”

    Countries are responding to dollar domination by trading without the US dollar. JP Morgan’s private bank advised clients that “the US dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency” and urged investors to diversify their currency holdings. New financial structures are being created by Europe, Russia, Iran, China, and others to trade without the dollar. The value of the dollar is in decline and last month Credit Suisse predicted it would continue to fall.

    The US political leadership seems unable to change course. The bi-partisans in Washington, DC passed a record-setting two-year military budget that continues to misspend US resources on an arms race and never-ending war rather than on critical needs at home. The failure to rebuild infrastructure, make education from pre-school through college free and available to all, confront the lack of investment in cities and rural areas and confront the crisis of healthcare with national improved Medicare for all will cause a downward US spiral.

    The myth of American Exceptionalism is being exposed, as we discuss with Danny Haiphong on Clearing the FOG. We need to prepare for a new era as the 2020’s offer potential for significant social and political transformation if we work at it.

    On Medicare’s 54th Birthday, Another Year Closer To Winning Medicare For All

    In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Act. Within a year, and without the aid of computers, the United States provided more than 19 million seniors with health coverage. Before the law existed, over half of the elderly in the United States did not have health insurance. Medicare, which now includes people with disabilities, celebrated its 54th birthday this week.

    Today, the US is on the verge of another transformation. Thirty million people do not have health insurance and 30,000 people die annually because of that sad fact. The healthcare crisis is also demonstrated by the separate but unequal reality that wealthy people in the US live 15 years longer than poor people.

    Momentum for National Improved Medicare for All is growing. That is being reflected in Congress and the presidential elections. As of last week, more than half the Democrats in the US House of Representatives have signed on to HR 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019. Medicare for All was also a major topic in the most recent Democratic Presidential Debates.

    Rally for Medicare’s birthday in Oakland, CA, July 2015 (From Happening-Here.Blogspot.com.)

    Medicare For All Is Central In The 2020 Elections

    National improved Medicare for all (NIMA) has become a litmus test issue in the Democratic Party primary for president. While corporate Democrats funded by Wall Street, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries are trying to stop progress, Democratic Party voters are showing the momentum may not be stoppable.

    The two leading Medicare for all candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have received the most donations of all the other candidates. One out of three donors to the Democratic primaries donated to Sanders. This broad base of support is consistent with polls that show Democratic Party voters have reached a consensus: NIMA is essential. Democratic voters have the power to nominate candidates who support Medicare for all if they insist on it. This consensus is the result of years of work by single payer advocates. This is a movement that will not compromise in support of false solutions.

    Join our Medicare for all campaign, Health Over Profit for Everyone.

    The Medicare for All Act not only expands health coverage to everyone from birth to death, but also improves Medicare for seniors by including more benefits such as dental, vision, hearing and long term care. And, it does this without requiring premiums, co-pays or deductibles, saving people more than $300 billion annually in out-of-pocket costs.

    All doctors, hospitals and other providers will be in a Medicare for all system so people will have complete choice of health services. Patients will not be limited by the narrow insurance industry networks, which often exclude cancer and other specialty centers – places people go when they are ill – to avoid paying for health care. Medicare for all means complete coverage, complete choice and freedom to change jobs or quit a job without fear of losing health coverage.

    Research shows these changes are affordable because one-third of health-related expenditures are for administrative costs caused by the complex web of insurance plans. In addition to insurance company overhead, which ranges from  12.4 percent to  17.8 percent while Medicare has administrative costs of only 1.4 percent, doctors, hospitals and other providers also have high administrative costs due to interacting with thousands of different insurance plans. Having one-payer dramatically reduces the bureaucracy of healthcare. Research shows there could be $504 billion in yearly administrative savings with a single-payer system.

    Improved Medicare for all creates hundreds of billions of savings that more than offset the increased costs of covering everyone and eliminating out-of-pocket expenses. In addition to reducing administrative waste, Medicare for all allows the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceuticals and providers to bring down the prices of care.

    There are many ways to pay for Medicare for all. Congress routinely goes into debt to fund wars and militarism, so it is strange that for something as essential as healthcare cost is an issue. If increased taxes are needed, there have been a variety of proposals for progressive taxes. These proposals show that all but the wealthiest will pay less for healthcare under improved Medicare for all. Households earning under $130,000 per year would save the most money.

    Currently, the US spends 18 percent of its GDP on healthcare and spending is rising faster than inflation and wages. This is an unsustainable expenditure that will be reduced with an improved Medicare for all system. Other wealthy countries with single payer health systems generally spend less than 11.5 percent of their GDP on healthcare.

    Medicare for all is good for businesses because they will no longer be subject to unpredictable increases in insurance costs. It is also good for the economy. Warren Buffett says our current healthcare system is a tapeworm on the US economy and describes health care as a real problem for US businesses.

    People Will Not Be Fooled By False Proposals

    The strategy of the industries that profit from healthcare is to confuse people with false information and false proposals that sound like Medicare for All. They create front groups to create the illusion of support for their proposals and donate to politicians who advocate for their interests. These false proposals, like the one promoted by the so-called Center for American Progress, are designed to protect the industry, not fix the healthcare crisis. The Democratic leadership is addicted to insurance, pharmaceutical, and healthcare dollars. The people must be organized to defeat the industry and put in place the system we need.

    This week, Sen. Kamala Harris put forward a terrible policy proposal, which she called Medicare for all. The proposal has two major flaws. First, it requires a ten-year transition to improved Medicare for all. This is unnecessary as the Medicare system already exists and we are already spending enough on health care to cover everyone. There is no need for long delays. Second, she allows insurance industry theft of the Medicare for all system by including “Medicare Advantage” plans (these are private insurance plans). Medicare Advantage is a heavily marketed scam on the elderly that costs the government more money than traditional Medicare and has the same flaws as private insurance. This proposal is bad policy and bad politics and should result in the defeat of Sen. Harris.

    The most common false proposal is some form of a ‘public option.’ Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of Wall Street’s favorite candidates, calls this Medicare for those who want it. We call it Medicare for some, not Medicare for all.  A public option does not fix the system, it makes it worse by adding another insurance plan to an already too complex system. It foregoes 84 percent of the savings that a single payer system would achieve.

    Former Vice President Biden, the biggest recipient of donations from the industry, is another who refuses to advocate for what Democratic voters want. Biden continues to put forward false arguments against Medicare for all. He is stuck in the past and focused on saving the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is fundamentally flawed because it is based on the corrupt and expensive private insurance system. Biden is fading in the polls for a variety of reasons, but his refusal to support improved Medicare for all should result in the end of his campaign. Democrats must know that the public understands the issue and insists on improved Medicare for all.

    Neither Republicans nor Libertarians are putting forward any healthcare plan, which resulted in Republicans losing in 2018. The Green Party has advocated for single payer health care since the start. Ralph Nader ran on a platform that included Medicare for All as early as 2000.

    Congress Must Do More

    In addition to stopping the false non-solution promoted by corporate Democrats, the movement must push to improve both the House and Senate Medicare for all bills. The Senate bill, SB 1129, sponsored by Sanders and 14 Senators, is flawed in very serious ways. It needs to expand coverage of long term care, provide global budgeting for hospitals and end the massive insurance loopholes of managed care structures like Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s), which function like insurance plans.

    The House bill is better but still needs improvement. Both the House and Senate bills need to end commodification of health care by eliminating for-profit hospitals and other facilities. The for-profits can be purchased by the healthcare system using a Treasury Bill financed over 15 years at a cost of one percent of total health spending. If the for-profits are kept in and regulated, as the House bill does, it is likely the owners will sell them or convert them to profit-making entities like condominiums as is happening in Philadelphia. The House bill needs to shrink the transition from two years to one year, and the Senate Bill needs to shrink the four-year transition currently proposed.

    The movement must insist on the best possible improved Medicare for all bill so people get the healthcare they need, businesses can thrive and the economy is not drained by the cost of healthcare. The US cannot afford to continue the insurance-dominated for-profit system it has; we must put in place improved Medicare for all.

    On The Precipice Of Winning Improved Medicare for All

    There are many signs that we are on the verge of winning the urgent and essential policy change of national improved Medicare for all. The single payer movement has the power to win improved Medicare for all if it doesn’t back down. The closer we get to victory, the more the profiteering industries will fight us. In the Popular Resistance School for Social Transformation, we describe this push back as part of the process of winning, and we teach how movements can defeat the strategies of those who seek to maintain the status quo.

    There are still hurdles before us, but if the movement continues to work to educate voters as well as to organize and mobilize, we will create a political environment where politicians across the political spectrum must support health care as a human right as embodied in an improved Medicare for all health system.

    Tools to assist advocates of improved Medicare for all:

    Medicare for All Facts: This resource provides facts and citations about the critical issues in the Medicare for all debate.

    Health Over Profit Tools for Activists: This includes tools to educate people and take action, descriptions of the current bills, how to influence business leaders, conservatives, the public and more.

    Rising Resistance And Solidarity In The Americas

    “If there isn’t justice for the people, there won’t be peace for the governor.” Protesters in Old San Juan on Tuesday call for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has vowed to remain in office (Thais Llorca/EFE/Zuma Press)

    This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Managua Friday night. This past week, mass protests erupted in Puerto Rico over long term corruption and subversion of democracy. A general strike is planned for Monday.

    This week is the 25th Sao Paulo Forum, a meeting of left political parties and social movements, in Caracas, Venezuela. We participated in a Sao Paulo Forum of Washington, DC in preparation for the upcoming meeting. A delegation of Venezuelan Embassy Protectors is traveling to Caracas to participate in it.

    Latin America has a long history of resistance to US domination and solidarity with social movements in the United States. This resistance and solidarity is critical to our success in the United States if we are to stop the machine and create a new world.

    40th anniversary of Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua (By Ben Norton, Twitter)

    Resisting US Coup Attempts and Building the Good Life

    Forty years ago, the Sandanista Front for National Liberation, named after Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary in the 1920s and 30s, ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasia Somoza, from the country. This day, now called the National Day of Happiness, is celebrated every year. Check out The Grayzone Project’s Twitter feed for videos of the celebrations.

    Under the leadership of the Junta of National Reconstruction, which included the future leader and president Daniel Ortega, Nicaraguans took action to provide healthcare, education, eradicate illiteracy, build roads and energy infrastructure, provide land and develop food sovereignty. They greatly reduced both economic and gender inequality.

    Nicaraguans enjoyed a stable life until an attempted coup to remove President Ortega, backed by the United States, in mid-2018. Similar to pro-coup protests in Venezuela, there were blockades built by violent coup-supporters who attacked and brutally killed 198 police officers, Sandanistas and bystanders. That coup attempt was stopped despite the media lies designed to confuse the public. A year later, the truth continues to emerge but peace prevails once again. An excellent book, Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or a Coup, A Reader, breaks through the false narratives of the attempted coup and gives information helpful to understanding the situation in Nicaragua.

    A delegation from Veterans for Peace is visiting Nicaragua for the anniversary. We look forward to their reports. We attended a celebration at the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC hosted by Ambassador Francisco Campbell. He described current efforts in Nicaragua to bring truth and reconciliation to reunite a country divided by US interference and the coup attempt.

    Nicaragua is a member of the United States’ “Troika of Tyranny,” which includes Cuba and Venezuela. These are three Latin American countries that have broken from US domination and continue to be punished for expressing their self-determination.

    Cuba has been experiencing a blockade since 1958, which has driven the country to develop a resistance economy without reliance on foreign goods. Although the blockades have hurt their economy and restricted access to necessities, such as medications, Cubans have better health outcomes than people in the United States due to their well-designed universal healthcare system.

    Venezuela continues to resist the current US-led coup attempt, even though the United States is taking it to new extremes. This past week, USAID, a regime change institution, announced the Trump administration is going to use almost $42 million designated for aid to Central America to pay for salaries and supplies for the right-wing opposition led by the self-declared president, Juan Guaido. The corruption of Guaido’s people continues to be exposed. Two more members of Guaido’s team were arrested for trying to sell stolen weapons.

    Will Mexico be next? Arturo Sanchez Jimenez outlines what he sees as the early stages of a right-wing coup targeting the new president, AMLO.

    Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet this September in New York City. Learn more here.

    Protest in Puerto Rico calling for Governor to resign (by Juan Carlos Dávila)

    Resistance is Growing in Latin America

    Ecuador was making great strides in meeting its population’s needs under President Rafael Correa, but that is being reversed by the current president, Lenin Moreno. Moreno is known worldwide for ending Julian Assange’s asylum and allowing police into the London Embassy to arrest him, but his actions against the Ecuadorian peoples has been similarly harsh. Moreno campaigned on continuing Correa’s programs but has done the opposite. In this interview, Andres Arauz, a member of Correa’s economic team, explains Ecuador’s neoliberal turn under Moreno.

    Ecuadorians launched a five-day general strike last Monday to protest “handing over Ecuador to US imperialism.” Among their complaints were Ecuador imposing austerity after receiving a loan from the International Monetary Fund, a US military base proposed in the Galapagos Islands and the imprisonment of Julian Assange.

    Mass protests have also erupted in Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of people, many who have never protested before, are taking the streets in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They are facing police repression with tear gas and pepper spray. On Monday, they are holding a general strike.

    The protests began when hundreds of pages of chat logs between Governor Ricardo Rosello and other officials were released. They contained derogatory statements and disrespect for the thousands who died after Hurricane Maria. Protesters are calling for the Governor to resign. Other government officials included in the chats have already resigned.

    Although the chats were the proverbial “last straw,” according to Miguel Diaz-Cruz, a Puerto Rican doctoral student, the protests are the result of “five centuries of uninterrupted imperialism, free-market disaster capitalism, an imposed dictatorial fiscal control board controlled by the very same people that bankrupted the island, and a storm of the century which was fueled by climate change.”

    We spoke with Puerto Rican lawyer, Natasha Bannan, who has participated in the protests, on Clearing the FOG. The episode will be published on Monday. She goes into depth on the problems Puerto Ricans are facing, describes what it will take to start the process of resolving them and explains how activists can be supportive.

    The 40th anniversary of the Sandanista Revolution is celebrated in Washington, DC with Americans from many countries at the Nicaraguan Embassy (Popular Resistance)

    Why Resistance and Solidarity Matter to Activists in the United States

    People in the United States often refer to themselves as “Americans.” Sadly, this is not done in the spirit that all people in the Americas, South, and North, are Americans. Instead, we in the US are taught to see the other Americans as different from us. This is part of US hegemony and the Monroe Doctrine that views Latin America as “our backyard.” It’s why people in the US, USians, accept unilateral coercive economic measures, exploitative trade deals and violent coups that harm other Americans.

    All Americans are victims of US actions that destabilize and exploit American territories. We probably don’t think about it that way very much, but what hurts our neighbors hurts us. Blockades mean that USians can’t benefit from medical breakthroughs in Cuba or inexpensive oil programs from Venezuela. Exploitative trade deals mean US jobs are moved South of the border to Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and other countries where wages are lower and there are fewer worker protections.

    In the United States, we are also victims of the US Empire. The Empire Economy consumes over 60% of federal discretionary spending on the military. This means less money for necessary programs to provide healthcare, education, housing, and food. The massive US weapons and military industry mean new “customers” must always be found for the products they make, which fuels wars abroad that add to global insecurity and destruction and militarization of our communities at home where the “others” are black and brown people, the poor and homeless. The US military is the largest institutional user of fossil fuels and a major polluter, driving the climate crisis and environmental contamination.

    If we are to overcome the US Empire, it will take all of us together. This is one reason why solidarity between all Americans is essential. We in the United States have much to learn from our American brothers and sisters who have been targets of imperialism for centuries. We also have much to learn about the ways countries like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are working to reduce inequality, meet basic needs and provide a better quality of life for their peoples.

    Events like the Sao Paulo Forum are opportunities to come together, get to know and learn from each other. A delegation from the Embassy Protective Collective will attend the Sao Paulo Forum this week in Venezuela. We cannot attend because of our ongoing prosecution by the Trump administration for staying in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, but we are sending Vanessa Beck, a representative from Popular Resistance who will bring a message of solidarity. Vanessa is also a leader of Black Alliance for Peace.

    We also attended the Sao Paulo Forum in Washington, DC where we agreed to ten resolutions of solidarity that will be brought to the Forum in Venezuela. At the DC Forum, the Embassy Protection Collective was presented with a powerful painting by the indigenous Salvadoran artist, William Berry. Dan Kovalik donated copies of his new book, The Plot to Overthrow Venezuela, which were sold at the forum to raise funds for the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee.

    Learn more about the Embassy Protectors Defense Committee at DefendEmbassyProtectors.org and how you can participate to support the collective’s defense against malicious US prosecution.

    Resistance is rising. We can join together in that resistance with acts of solidarity to stop the US war machine and create a new world.