Category Archives: Colonialism

Canada vs. the Rule of Law

I’m aware that Canada, unlike its southern neighbor in which I live, has just recently, ever so slightly, stood up to certain of the horrors of the Saudi government. I’m aware of the role Canada has played, albeit imperfectly, as refuge for people fleeing U.S. slavery and U.S. wars and general U.S. backwardness. I’m aware of how many times through history the United States has attacked Canada. I’m aware that just several yards in front of me as I sit in my outdoor office (the downtown mall of Charlottesville) a small army is gleefully creating a police state on the anniversary of a Nazi rally at which similar numbers of soldiers, similarly armed, stood by and watched fascist violence last year. I agree with Robin Williams’ characterization of Canada as a nice apartment over a meth lab.

But here’s the thing. I’m a world citizen not owned by the Pentagon. When we hold World BEYOND War’s annual global conference in Toronto next month, Canadians will, if they are like most people on earth, be eager to discuss Canada’s shortcomings, not its highpoints. I’ve been reading about some of those shortcomings, and they are not insignificant. Canada is a standout player when it comes to environmental destruction, and in the colonial brutality that still feeds that destruction.

The theme of our upcoming conference is the rule of law, its uses, its abuses, and its potential as a local and global tool. I’ve just read Tamara Starblanket’s Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations, and the Canadian State. This is a lawyer’s view of the Canadian history and present practice of forcibly removing children from families. While the U.S. removal of immigrant children from their families has been in the news of late, it’s not been newly invented. Both settler-colonist Canada and Nazi Germany learned from the U.S. practice of removing Indigenous children from their families in order to “educate” them into another culture.

A major focus for Starblanket is the legal and linguistic case for applying the term “genocide” and the crime of genocide to the forcible removal of Indigenous children in Canada and their placement in so-called residential schools. It ought to be no mystery that kidnapping is evil and criminal, just as it ought to be no mystery that murder is evil and criminal. But “genocide” is something different from those crimes — different not in quantity or grandeur, but in type. Genocide is an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Such an act can involve murder or kidnapping or both or neither. Such an act can “physically” harm no one. It can be any one, or more than one, of these five things:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The actions in item “e” can transfer children to a materially better condition where they are educated in a culture that views itself as dramatically superior, and yet genocide have been clearly committed. That is a clear matter of international law. It is not a claim that all acts of genocide are equally evil, that all victims are equally tragic, that all types of genocide can best be prevented in the same way, or any other such unstated claim.

But the idea of removing children to a materially better condition is a theoretical one irrelevant to the Canadian context, at least when viewed as a whole. The Indigenous children removed from their families in Canada were forced into “schools” where over 40% and likely over 50% of them quickly died, from disease, starvation, torture, rape, suicide, and physical and mental abuse. Of those forced into Dachau by the Nazis, 36% died, Buchenwald 19%, Mauthausen 58%. The Canadian “schools” employed a list of torture techniques that could make a CIA agent drool with envy.

A survivor, Emily Rice, is quoted by Starblanket:

” I clung to Rose until Father Jackson wrenched her out of my arms. I searched all over the boat for Rose. Finally I climbed up to the wheel house and opened the door and there was Father Jackson, on top of my sister. My sister’s dress was pulled up and his pants were down. I was too little to know about sex; but I now know he was raping her. He cursed and came after me, picked up his big black Bible and slapped me across the face and on top of the head. I started crying hysterically and he threw me out onto the deck. When we got to Kuper Island, my sister and I were separated. They wouldn’t let me comfort her. Even today, all my sisters are strangers to me.”

Numerous top Canadian officials over the years stated clearly that the intention of the child-removal program was to eliminated Indigenous cultures. Placing their words and Heinrich Himmler’s words about a similar Nazi program side-by-side finds them virtually interchangeable. In the words of various Canadians, the intent was to utterly remove “the Indian problem.” I suspect, though Starblanket doesn’t discuss it, that part of why U.S. as well as Canadian genocidists perceived an “Indian problem” was that it was impossible to persuade Indigenous adults to adopt the settler-colonist culture, while numerous settlers happily adopted the Indigenous culture and refused to give it up. In other words, fierce methods were needed to destroy cultures precisely because of their desirability — making the acts crimes against humanity, and not-incidentally against the rest of the natural environment.

Proving the crime of genocide does not require the statement of intent, but in this case, as in Nazi Germany, as in today’s Palestine, and as in most if not all cases, there is no shortage of expressions of genocidal intent.

There is also no shortage of genocidal results. Indigenous cultures of Canada were devastated — in no small part because the children subjected to the “schooling” who survived it lacked parenting skills, as well as cultural and linguistic knowledge — in addition to being traumatized, dehumanized, and demonized in their own eyes.

When the treaty to ban genocide was being drafted in 1947, at the same time that Nazis were still being put on trial, and while U.S. government scientists were experimenting on Guatemalans with syphilis, Canadian government “educators” were performing “nutritional experiments” on Indigenous children — that is to say: starving them to death. The original draft of the new law included the crime of cultural genocide. While this was stripped out at the urging of Canada and the United States, it remained in the form of item “e” above. Canada ratified the treaty nonetheless, and despite having threatened to add reservations to its ratification, it did no such thing. But Canada enacted into its domestic law only items “a” and “c” — simply omitting “b,” “d,” and “e” in the list above, despite the legal obligation to include them. Even the United States has included what Canada omited.

Thus, when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008 apologized for Canada’s crimes, he didn’t indicate any awareness that they were crimes, much less that they were the crime widely understood to be the greatest of all: “genocide.” (At Nuremberg, of course, the chief prosecutor characterized something else as the greatest international crime: war.) In fact, while Harper’s apology certainly looks like a positive step in the right direction, it also reads a little like a Ken Burns Vietnam documentary where “mistakes” flow from “good intentions.” Harper says that children were tortured and killed “partly in order to meet [Canada’s] obligation to educate Aboriginal children.”

Starblanket notes that Indigenous children today are frequently forcibly removed to provincial child “welfare” systems, and that as recently as 2014 (six years after the apology) St. Anne’s School in Ontario was torturing children with electric chairs.

Of course, in the United States, Canada, and other countries, non-Indigenous children are sometimes removed from families believed to be abusive, and sometimes these families are abusive indeed. But one wonders whether the tendency to remove children rather than to aid families in caringly keeping them originated in practices directed against Indigenous peoples, just as every “security” technique I’m now watching in downtown Charlottesville was first justified for use against foreign “enemies.”

Much of the Canadian crime of genocide predates the Genocide Convention, although consisting of numerous other recognized crimes then extant. Current continuations of Canadian genocide may not in all instances any longer constitute, in isolation, genocide. But that genocide is a major element in the story of Canada, as in the story of the United States, as in the culture of Europe and most of its offshoots, there should be no doubt. Bringing ourselves to say the word is not the most important thing we can do about it. But our reluctance to say the word is indicative of the primary problem at the root of it.

I would offer Starblanket the friendly amendment of dropping her proposed use of the term “brainwashing” because of its origins in the CIA-driven propaganda used to claim that U.S. pilots engaged in biological warfare in Korea were telling lies magically implanted in their minds. And I would urge the merging of honest Indigenous understandings of genocide with honest anti-imperialist understandings of war, with the combination opposed to the academic view of genocide as something non-Westerners do, and of war as something noble Westerners use to combat genocide. The fact is that war and genocide are Siamese twins. The slaughters that coated North America with blood were both genocides and wars, and the application of either term to them meets similar resistance. The slaughter of Iraqis by Westerners in recent years has been both war and genocide, and recognizing and understanding both is part of the solution. It is helpful to the antiwar cause when Indigenous North Americans apply their understanding to global peace.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact, which first clearly banned war globally in 1928, as documented in The Internationalists, largely put an end to the acceptability of new wars of conquest. The rule of global law that may be needed for human survival will draw on the wisdom of Indigenous, not colonial, precedents, and will respect local rights in Canada as in Nicaragua, in Crimea as in Kosovo. The changes in law and culture that are most needed are those that will address root causes of suffering and prevent violence and force. But the “forward looking” lawlessness advocated by Barack Obama and even Andrés Manuel López Obrador must be replaced with non-vengeful accountability equally applied to all.

That means law for the powerful as for the weak. That means kidnapping is kidnapping even when in line with colonial views. Murder is murder even when committed by drone or when part of a war. Torture and land-theft are torture and land-theft even when committed on large scales. Prison camps are prison camps when on actual U.S. military bases as when in Hollywood movies set in Nazi Germany. Canadian horrors are horrific even when the Prime Minister is a handsome liberal bowing and scraping to the same oil companies and NATO warmongers.

Canada should seek out the best in its history. There are rich veins there too. Canada should lead by example, add restitution to apology, and make peace at home rather than exporting violence in the name of its supposed “responsibility to protect.” Protect us from such protectors!

India: The State of Independence

India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debtThe result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India, of course, has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests  and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation.

The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (September 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers’ already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma, subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book The Invention of Capitalism, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are:

opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished. (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on prosper.org under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the world’s) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.

— Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see thisthis and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell-offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum) were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.

— Noam Chomsky.

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the Earth. This has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.

— Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.

How Does Canada Escape Prosecution for Genocide?

Can Canada continue to commit what is an enumerated act of genocide by the UNGC [United Nations Genocide Convention] and excuse itself by continuing to say that it is not intending what the Genocide Treaty recognizes as the result of such an act… ?

— Tamara Starblanket1

Genocide is a heinous crime that fractures and dehumanizes humanity. Science tells us that we are all taxonomically Homo sapiens. Yet most of us tend to divide into Us and Them groupings, sometimes leading to in-group and out-group competition that can turn violent. In the worst cases, the monstrous result is the decimation of the different group.

The carrying out of a genocide doesn’t require annihilatory bombing or the mowing down of a particular targetted group. Neither does genocide require a lightning temporality in execution. Genocide merely requires the intent to bring about the destruction of a targetted group by whatever manner, unbounded by a specific timeframe. Humans steer genocide: a malicious force capable of an evil genius in linguistically guising its execution, as well as being capable of extreme patience in achieving its pernicious aims.

A particular example of an under-the-radar genocide is that carried out by European settler-colonialists who denationalized all the Original Nations of the western hemisphere. There are non-indigenous people who are aware and acknowledge that genocide occurred, but few would realize or acknowledge that the genocide continues. That is much of the importance of Tamara Starblanket’s Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018).

Starblanket is a Nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six Territory — in the region colonially designated as Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her Suffer the Little Children is based on her Master of Laws thesis which, she relates, met with obstruction from “Canada’s academic gatekeepers.”2

Suffer the Little Children details the Canadian state’s Indian Residential School (IRS) program — a policy whose intent was the disappearance of Indigenous peoples. As such it constitutes genocide. Moreover, by prefacing the genocide with the descriptor “cultural,” as in cultural genocide, the destruction seemingly points to the abstraction of culture, thereby eliding the lethal effects on humans.

Starblanket cuts through the lexical obfuscation and compellingly makes known that the genocide continues “in somewhat altered form, and the toll continues to mount.” (p 22)

One narrative, however, is largely controlled by the state and dependent media. A stark example is the “apology” read by then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper about the “sad chapter” of the IRS.

How sincere an “apology” was it? Has the Canadian state subsequently set out to meaningfully atone for the genocide? The author asks:

But has the Canadian state put effort into assisting the victims of the residential schools to re-learn traditional parenting skills before the birth of children? Has the state stopped the forcible removals in the child welfare system? All the aggravates not mitigates the Canadian government’s conduct? (p 265)…

It is hypocritical for the state of Canada and Canadians to pretend to Indigenous Peoples and Nations and to the world at large that they are ‘sorry’ when it’s obvious the Canadian state, at least, is anything but…. Furthermore, there is no ‘apology’ that would undo or make the atrocious crimes it has engaged in ‘forgiveable’. It is a smokescreen designed by the colonizer to absolve itself of the crimes it knowingly engages in against the innocent.” (p 273-274)

The “apology” was followed by a government-created Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to document the history and make known what happened in IRS. Starblanket, however, argues that “the TRC adheres to the federal script in every significant respect,” (p 27) evades addressing genocide, (p 28) and is “very far from the truth.” (p 28)

The Canadian government apparently attempted to burnish its image based on the goodwill and generosity demonstrated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. In South Africa, the TRC was establised by the people who survived the apartheid regime — not by the oppressors. Unlike in South Africa, the Canadian TRC was set up by the colonial-settler political estalishment.

Evading a monstrous crime such as genocide is problematic on many levels, including legally and morally; nonetheless the evasion continues in Canada. One legal obstacle is demostrating the intent of the genocidaire. Starblanket writes that “the specific intent requirement actually serves the denial of genocide due to its difficulty to prove.” (p 32)

Starblanket cites the International Criminal Tribunal findings in Karadzic and Akayesu as indicating: “If the destruction is massive, widespread and systematic this will satisfy the specific intent requirement.” (p 74)

However, Canada and the colonial powers displayed bad faith in the drafting of the UNGC. “In effect, as a result of the colonial powers’ dominance over the drafting process, international laws fail to protect against the imposition of a colonial framework of destruction over Indigenous Peoples.” (p 77) “The necessary point to draw … is that colonialism is regarded as a genocidal process by the very fact that it came up in the drafting process of the genocide convention.” (p 81)

Starblanket argues that Canada was aware of legal loopholes in the Genocide Convention that would allow it to evade culpability. (p 213) Furthermore, “If Canada intended to have entire segments of the convention excluded from its domestic laws, it was under an obligation to make a formal reservation.” (p 229)

That the forced transfer of children has taken place suggests an implied reservation by Canada. (p 229) Yet the International Court of Justice determined that parties to the Genocide Convention could not make sovereign reservations to the convention. (p 232) Building her case further, Starblanket points to Article 18 of the Vienna Convention which prohibits states involved in criminal conduct from entering into treaty on such a conduct, in this case genocide. (p 235)

Starblanket describes the IRS as a total institution, an institution whose purpose is dehumanization. (p 97, 342) Among the outcomes wrought by the IRS total institution are:

  1. linguicide3 — as the state realized the importance of transmitting culture from one generation to the next and sought to stultify such transference; colonial language attempts to finalize domination and dehumanization (p 162); “… children do not learn that we have names in our original languages that identify our lands and territories.” (p 189); “Spiritual laws are encoded into Indigenous languages.” (p 202)
  2. deculturation
  3. religious indoctrination
  4. slave labor
  5. torture
  6. starvation
  7. trauma — such as compelling Indigenous students to witness the public execution of eight Cree men (p 118)
  8. beatings, rapes, killings — all this disguised euphemistically to thwart legal efforts proving state culpability. (p 156)

The genocide continues unabated. The author writes that the IRS negated adult survivors’ ability to parent. IRS children lived the example of violence used to coerce their obedience. Post-IRS enter the child welfare system and children continue to be “removed” and isolated from biological parents, family, community, and their First Nation. This was not, as the language implies, a Sixties Scoop. Starblanket finds that such naming masks the ongoing genocide within Canada’s child welfare system. (p 221) The ongoing genocide is revealed by 2011 statistics: whereas Indigenous children represent 7% of all children in Canada, they account for 48% of children placed in foster care. (p 133-134)

Starblanket points to cognitive conditioning whereby:

… ‘laws of occupation’ … serve as the cornerstone of legalized persecution and oppression of Indigenous Nations in the colonizer’s quest for land. Colonial domination justified by the dehumanizing Western doctrine of racial superiority is vital to the process of genocide. (p 190)

Starblanket argues, “The application of the law [will] show beyond a reasonable doubt, to say nothing of a preponderance of the evidence, that the Canadian government is culpable for crimes of genocide.” (p 244) After reading Suffer the Little Children, it is difficult to rationally or morally reach a different conclusion.

The book is bold and well-argued, and it should be read widely; however, a few points vexed me.

1) Starblanket cites the ruling from Akayesu and the purported genocide of Tutsis committed by Hutus. (p 263) Granted, Starblanket is interested in the legal determinations concerning the genocide, and, of course, the ruling of the court has salience. However, when the validity of the court is dubious and the question is raised of whether a genocide could be insidiously twisted such that the perpetrators escape justice and even benefit from the horrific crime then such matters demand addressing.4,5

2) Starblanket cites academics David MacDonald and Graham Hudson who state that there have been few occasions for Canadian courts to consider the Genocide Convention in criminal proceedings. (p 211; See David MacDonald and Graham Hudson, “The Genocide Question and Indian Residential Schools in Canada,” 2012. PDF: p 14.) Suffer the Little Children has not cited Bruce Clark, PhD in comparative law,6 who has doggedly (some may say overzealously; but how can one be overzealous in fighting against genocide?) attempted to pursue the matter of genocide in Canadian courts where he and his clients have been stymied by the legal system’s Catch-22. This is missing from MacDonald and Hudson’s paper and Starblanket’s thesis. It seems pertinent.

Starblanket replied that she was not encouraged to include Clark’s work since she was building her own case and it was considered unnecessary to prove her legal arguments to her committee.7 Maybe so. But it seems crucial to points she raised in her book.8

3) Granted, Starblanket is focused on IRS and Article 2(e) of the Genocide Convention: “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Yet no mention was made of biological warfare against Original Peoples.9

A Quick Historical Overview, Solution, and Duty

The Original Peoples had lived on Turtle Island for millennia when the Europeans first reached the continent’s shores. The Europeans brought with them their supremacist notions and dehumanized the Original Peoples as savages and heathens. Preposterously, the colonial-settlers considered that this gave them the right to dispossess the First Nations and wreak a genocide. First Nations’ children were kidnapped and indoctrinated into the White man’s ways. Today, the dispossessed remain dispossessed and the genocide continues within the child welfare system.

The solution (the only solution according to the author) to the injustices lies in Indigenous peoples ridding themselves of the yoke of colonial dispossession and seizing what is their sovereign right to self-determination.

Starblanket speaks to non-indigenous Canadians:

It is up to you finally to be the generation of settlers that stands up against the crimes that are committed against Original Peoples and Nations of this Western hemisphere and the world. (p 278)

I concur. For those not already aware (and those who wish to deepen their knowedge), read the book and stand in solidarity against the crimes that are committed against Original Peoples and their nations.

  1. In Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018): p 208.
  2. Academic gatekeeping regarding Original Peoples is no surprise to this writer. See “Canadian Government and Academia: ‘Othering’ Original Peoples,” Dissident Voice, 2014.
  3. In 1890, 100% of First Nations people spoke the Indigenous tongue compared to 5.1% in 2010. “Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2010.”
  4. See Keith Harmon Snow, “The Rwanda Genocide Fabrications,” Dissident Voice, 13 April 2009 and “Real Rwandan Genocide and Brainwashing of the Western Mind,” Dissident Voice, 11 April 2014. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014) write that the victims and the perpetrators of genocide have been inverted, abetted by the US, UK, and Canada. Moreover, “a larger–apparently substanially larger–death toll was suffered by Hutu [compared to Tutsi]…”
  5. Keith Harmon Snow, who has been working on the politics of genocide for years, sees the merit and power of Starblanket’s book. But he wonders, “How so many people cite wrong cases of genocide, or fail to cite true cases, and all the other kinds of political, intentional, accidental, ethical errors and commissions and propaganda.” Snow considers, “Akayesu, and many of the other cases were a complete sham.” Snow particularly dissents from Starblanket’s promulgation of the establishment narrative on page 74: “‘(Tutsi peoples)’ as victims but this lacks all appropriate situating of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in Rwanda, and so it contributes to the perpetuation of genocide (ongoing) against the Hutu peoples in service to the establishment interests.” Herein Snow identifies a problem: “On the one hand she [Starblanket] wants to challenge the establishment; on the other she uses the tools of the empire (establishment agents) to try to do so.” Personal communication, 1 August 2018.
  6. Clark is the author of Indian Title in Canada (1986) and Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada (1990), Justice in Paradise (2004), and the upcoming (2018) Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights.
  7. Dana Kaminstein, professor and capstone advisor at the University of Pennsylvania states, “The literature review for a master’s thesis or capstone… needs to be a substantive part of the paper. The focus should be on making sure that the literature that is covered is directly related to the research question(s) in the thesis, as well as being clear about what areas have been left out, and the reasons for excluding them. (p 3)
  8. E.g., at footnote 88 (p 352) Starblanket writes, “The point being there is no Canadian Court that has applied the term genocide or acknowledged the application of genocide in international law to government culpability into genocide.” That is precisely what Clark has been struggling against at great personal cost.
  9. See Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review.

Imperialists’ Fear and Loathing of being Colonized

For decades and longer, the United States and Europe lectured and encouraged countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia to welcome and accept foreign investment as the virtuous path to modernization, growth and prosperity.

With few notable exceptions western leaders and academics promoted unlimited flows of capital (and the outflows of profits). No section of the targeted economies was off-limits – agriculture, mining, manufacturers, utilities, transport and communication were to be ‘modernized’ through US and European ownership and control.

Third World leaders, whether generals, bankers or landowners who abided by the ‘open markets’doctrine and ‘invited’ foreign ownership, were praised, whether they were dictators or elected by hook or crook. Nationalism and nationalists were condemned as restricting the wheels of progress and blocking the March of History.

To be fair, the western regimes encouraged all countries to open their doors to capital flows – but of course only the imperial countries had the capital, technology and political power to do so.

Economists preached the doctrine of specialization in ‘comparative advantage’: the West to invest, profit and dominate markets and the South to accept low wages, junior partnerships and dependent industries.

This system worked very well for the West as long as they were the dominant power and shaped the markets, flows of capital and the terms of exchange.

Nationalist leaders were condemned, sanctioned, ousted and demonized throughout the time of Anglo-American ascendancy.

Through time and efforts, Third World countries followed another path – through revolutions or reforms, through state direction and national entrepreneurs, they invested, innovated, borrowed and transformed their economies. Over time, some like China, began to successfully compete with Western powers for markets, minerals and technology.

Role Reversal: Imperial Washington Denounces China for Colonizing the Economy

As the US Empire has failed to out-compete China, not only in overseas markets, but in sectors of the domestic economy, local manufacturers either relocated to China and Mexico or went bankrupt or merged or were acquired by foreign capital – notably China.

Nationalism replaced neo-liberalism and globalism among sectors of the ruling class especially among political ideologies grouped around President Trump.

The nationalists forged a national pluto-populist alliance, linking Wall Street, backward sectors of the capitalist class with displaced and under and unemployed workers under the umbrella of ‘protectionist rhetoric’: massive business tax cuts and tariffs, quotas and taxes on European, Asian and North American competitors. Gone were Washington lectures on free markets and the virtues of globalization and multi-lateral trade agreements.

The new protectionism echoed the rhetoric of 18th and 19th century America and the Great Depresion era Smoot- Hawley tariff. Earlier the US claimed tariffs were necessary to protect and foster so-called ‘infant’ industries; twenty-first century protectionism claims it is to protect ‘national security’ from cross oceanic rival (China) and cross border (Canada, Mexico) — mortal military threats…

President Trump adopted the ideology of Third World national liberation governments to undermine its imperial competitors. Washington’s ersatz ‘nationalist’ empire builders were abated by their media allies, who spilled tons of ink attacking ‘imperial’ China’s overseas investments as ‘plundering’ Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Washington projected an image of the US surrounded by enemies everywhere, who were ‘taking advantage’ of their privileged position in order to exploit a ‘weak America’.

President Trump reverted the nationalist slogans of Third World liberation into imperialist calls to “Make Americas Empire Strong.”

Third World nationalism is an ideology to create domestic markets and industries in largely agro-mineral economies, through public-private investment and state ownership, oversight, regulation and subsidies.

Nationalism of declining empires is the ideology of authoritarian militarists and fascist regimes which no longer can compete in the market place.

Imperial countries in decline have several options.

1) They can adapt to the new realities by upgrading their economies, reducing overseas military commitments, reallocating budgets and investments and educating their labor force to productive activity.

2) They can form partnerships with emerging competitors via power sharing, innovations, joint ventures and multi-lateral trade agreements.

3) They can engage in trade wars, overseas military conquests or encircle emerging rivals through sanctions, tariffs and protectionist fiats.

Nostalgia for the past ‘glory’ of unipolarity , economic supremacy and unquestioned ideological superiority, is a formula for losing wars and a Hobbesian world of all against the predator.

Conclusion

In the beginning a nationalist-populist revival can stimulate growth as rivals will appease the aggressor; the imperial classes will prosper through lower taxes; the ‘deplorables’ may glory in the rhetoric of nationalism and expectation of ‘great thing are coming’.

But tax gains mean bigger debts; appeaser nations in the face of permanent losses of vital exports will retaliate and succumb to the protectionist contagion. Imperial globalists will turn into nationalists.

Nationalist will replace impotent neo-liberal social democrats. Workers will turn to nationalists to recover their lost workplace and neighborhood solidarity; nationalists will exploit downward mobility and appeal to images of past prosperity.

National plutocrats will turn to authoritarians who speak to popular grievances in order to deflect class antagonism. Nationalists will gain a popular audience in the face of a Left that avoids, dismisses or rejects the shared values of local communities. Liberal and progressive support of overseas wars, which increase the flow of immigrants, alienates the working and middle class taxpayers

The declining empire will not die early.

The nationalist revival can revive the imperial ‘last hurrah!’ The fear and loathing of being colonized is the driving force for the new imperial revival.The lies and hypocrisy accompanying the older imperial claims of conquest in the name of ‘defending western values’ no long works.

A consequential opposition can only emerge if it links class and nationalist appeals to community values and social solidarity.

Under a Blood Moon

U.S. imperial actions in Vietnam and elsewhere are often described as reflecting “national interests,” “national security,” or “national defense.” Endless U.S. wars and regime changes, however, actually represent the class interests of the powerful who own and govern the country.
— John Marciano, “Lessons from the Vietnam War,” Monthly Review, December 1, 2016

The Bretton Woods institutions are like arsonists, lighting new social fires, then waiting for the NGOs and local communities to play firefighter.
— Eric Toussaint, (Your Money or Your Life:
 The Tyranny of Global Finance, June 1, 2005)

We found the weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq]. We found biological laboratories.
— President George W. Bush, May 29, 2003

There is no evidence to confirm that [US-supported El Salvador] government forces systematically massacred civilians in the [El Mozote] operations zone.
— Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders, February 8, 1982

Today here in Norway, it is expected that this will go down as the hottest day in Norwegian history. It is also the day of the Blood Moon lunar eclipse. Somehow this seems fitting, in a sort of mytho-poetic way. For I can’t shake the sense of apocalyptic dread that permeates life everywhere today. I suppose it might have to do with the historic-level wild fires near the arctic circle, or the dozen major floods that are happening on every single continent, or the methane bubbles that are growing weekly across Siberia and the Arctic. Or just the drought that has hit my home state of California, as well as the previously inviolate countryside of Norway.

The U.S. government continues to occupy itself with the matters of Imperialist aggression (which, besides, you know, killing people, contributes something like 40% of the world’s pollution). And with the endless, necessary, selling of the mythology of freedom and democracy that is so important to sustain the fantasy lives of its citizens. So, to just sort of track semi randomly the madness that is gripping the Empire today, we can start with the fact that most of Trump’s cabinet are Dominionist Evangelical Christians. I don’t think most people, at least most of those not brainwashed by Christianity, realize just how barking mad the Dominionists are. Pence is one, Pompeo is one, DeVos and Kudlow and Carson are also such. Think about that. This label covers a variety of belief systems, but in the U.S. these are the legatees of the surge of Christian Nationalism that started in the 70s (really, there are two branches of Dominionism, that of the late R.J. Rushdoony, and the 7 Mountains brand favored by Ted Cruz and others).

Pompeo and John Bolton are the two most significant advisors to Donald Trump. Both men are what in conventional terms could be described as unstable and perhaps suffering from one or another personality disorder (antisocial personality disorder, or APD, is no doubt accurately assigned to Bolton). But these are the obvious examples. Trump is the cartoon bad guy writ large, in primary colors (including hair) and he invites such hatred because part of his schtick is to troll the public. And his own administration, for that matter. (And its funny how suddenly liberals are aghast because he insulted the Queen of England — or rather “broke protocal.” I mean seriously who gives a fuck. That old racist harpy long ago deserved to work stacking boxes in a WalMart warehouse, but I digress).

No, the deeper madness that has taken hold is found in the educated classes, actually. I wrote before about Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and her rather obvious intellectual bankruptcy as well as her disingenuous presentation of self. And yet, leftists continue to defend her and plead to give her a chance and how she is part of some mythic insurgency in the Democratic Party. Now most of these writers, those I am thinking about, spent the last couple years deriding the DNC, attacking the criminal record of Hillary Clinton. And yet, now there is a sort of mushy appeal to consider the Democratic Party in any calculus for building a movement toward change. No longer do I hear the word communism, and I only hear socialism when it is hyphenated with Democratic (Democratic-Socialist). What happened? Well, part of what happened is the rise of the marketing left. The entrepreneur left. Or the branded left. The capitalist left. All of these terms apply. In other words, these people are no longer (and probably never were) in any way the opposition. The magazines of these entrepreneurs (Sunkara and Jacobin, which Nick Beams amusingly called the ‘the house journal for the middle class pseudo-left milieu, in particular the Democratic Socialists of America’) found a niche sort-of-left market demographic and capitalized (sic) on it. This is the place one reads of strategic alliances but never reads of the positives of communism. Or the likes of Charles Davis, a puerile fascist masquerading as pseudo left. I mean he is sort of the fake, fake left.

And invariably these new non-Marxist and anti-communist leftists will quote and include those western educated voices in matters of foreign policy ( on Syria in particular). They will claim these Syrian voices, who speak English with perfect vowels, are the voices of the people. And they will always find a way to damn with faint praise the Bolivarian Revolution, and they will be anti-Castro and anti-the late Colonel Gadaffi. Most take a mulligan on Milosevic, even at this late date when literally all the propaganda has been debunked. They will use the term thug for any number of revolutionary leaders in the 3rd world. Think Maduro or Kim Jong Un, or Mugabe or Ortega. They call it is realism or something. It is the illusion of fairness. It is the subject position of the educated bourgeoisie. Now, never mind the failings or not of these leaders, their real crimes in the eyes of the West (like Iran) is their independence. And rarely is much thought given to the forces assembled against these independent countries. (think the embargo of five or six decades against Cuba, or the what was done to crush the Sandinistas, the dismantling of the former Yugoslavia, the sanctions against Iran). Remember, too, the U.S. targeted Syria thirty some years ago and that hasn’t changed.

I think in earlier times, a time before the internet, when news was not nearly instantaneous, one relied on certain principles, a certain ideological experience (I was accused this week of being blinded by my ideology, when in fact I think my ideology allows me to see more clearly, but I digress) that meant one knew who had the power, one knew that such power is almost always used to preserve privilege, and hence one would be inclined to side with those who had no power. Regardless. But it is also the tendency, today, to imagine a level playing field – a field that exists in one’s own cultural landscape. And this is what I am coming to call the new Orientalism. When I think back to Vietnam and how those of us who resisted and protested that Imperialist war, there was no question of tweezing apart if Ho Chi Minh was nice. I suspect he kind, but not probably nice, but that was not the issue. The issue was the United States and its massive military killing machine against a largely peasant population. And the opposition to the war had deep working class roots, and it was a resistance that began with a refusal to support any U.S. Imperialist aggression.

The domestic antiwar movement was the largest in U.S. history, and the October 1969 Moratorium Against the War alone was the greatest single antiwar protest ever recorded in this country. The movement was deepened and strengthened by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), that in January 1966 issued a public statement against the war—a courageous dissent that nearly bankrupted it financially. SNCC called U.S. involvement “racist and imperialist.”
— John Marciano

Artists and poets travelled the country giving free readings and offering support for draft resisters. Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, W.S. Merwin… even Robert Lowell, were creating work that was organically political, and not simply agit prop. They were doing what artists traditionally do, they were engaging in the world around them, and with the people around them, and with the life of planet. They weren’t selling anything. Not even a T-shirt.

Now, this branded left of today, or the anti-dialectical left, is also acutely anti-Maoist and anti-Stalinist. And again, my experience suggests the core of this ideological grouping are white men under or about 40, and University educated. And they are the exemplars, too, of this new Orientalism. And this Orientalism tends to enclose a particular strain of racism. Jay Tharappel wrote over at Big Russ News last week: “Racism is not just a tool of capital to divide labour (which is the dominant definition of the term among first–world Left); it is also an ideological weapon employed primarily by empires to shape how their citizens think about other nations in accordance with their geopolitical strategy.” These New Orientalist Leftists are also, as I say, rabidly anti-Stalinist and anti-Maoist; and this is less because they possess any real historical knowledge but because the caricature of the evil totalitarian despot is a necessary figure in their personal anti-communist imaginary.

President Barack Obama made his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president in July, 2009, speaking in Accra, Ghana. Despite a decades-long trail of broken promises to Africa on aid and development, Obama’s speech in Accra was marked by finger-wagging and reprimands, and an insistence that African nations’ own “mismanagement” and “lack of democracy” are to blame for their economic and social problems.
— Lee Wengref (International Socialist Review, #103)

Nations that establish their dominance can afford to be more liberal especially if they’re not threatened by more powerful enemies, whereas countries that find themselves actively fending off aggression by more powerful enemies do not have the luxury of adhering to ‘liberal’ standards premised on a privileged place in global affairs.
— Dan Tharappel

When liberals and New Orientalists (branded left, anti-communist left etc) look to find that neutrality of argument, the one that suggests just because I don’t like U.S. and NATO wars doesn’t mean I have to like Assad (Castro, Maduro, Ortega, Milosevic et al). They are assuming their privileged state of existence is outside all critiques. Any country colonized by one of the European powers automatically inherited bureaucratic and administrative structures and a political apparatus (including European policing). Syria inherited the French colonial structures for the most part. Such burdens constitute a psychic wound, a kind of mythic burden of both guilt and rage. But if those western educated sources with the posh vowels are consistent with NGO testimony and reports (western based and funded) such as Amnesty International, then this serves as evidence of third world savagery. The history of Hill & Knowlton, or any of the other Madison Avenue firms the State Department employs is simply ignored. It is literally tossed into the black hole of Western amnesia. If one cites the even very recent perfidy of western media and NGOs one is usually called a conspiracy theorist. I’ve been so called for citing things the CIA actually admits and brags about.

In 1998 the U.S. Air Force document, titled Information Operations, states that “Information Operations are applied across the range of military operations, from peacekeeping to full conflict … it is important to emphasize that the Information warfare is a formula that is implemented in all Air Force activities, from peace to war in order to enable the effective execution of all tasks.… The execution of information operations in the aeronautical, space and cyberspace across all aspects of the conflict “(note the use of” doublespeak “[or” dual language “, in the context of the terms” peace “and” military operations “). [sic]
— from the Yellow Brick Road Free Blog

And of course this leads to items such as this
… and this.

In a quite constant way, Orientalism depends for its strategy on this flexible positional superiority, which puts the Westerner in a whole series of possible relationships with the Orient without ever losing him the relative upper hand.
— Edward Said

The looming environmental catastrophe, or multiple catastrophes, are impossible to calculate in effect. But clearly there are going to be enormous changes to how the wasteful west, the privileged white world, lives. The current dementia or hallucinatory fever that is gripping the U.S. has far less to do with Donald Trump (though it does, in a sense, have to do with Putin and Russia, but I will return to that) than it does with the degraded state of daily life for nearly everyone that lives within it. And that includes the very wealthy, who I maintain are just as miserable, only they have far better coping mechanisms available to them. The sheer sense of despair that cuts across all western societies today is visible and palpable, and the new homeless camps on the edges of EVERY big city in America, are the symbol of the dying society. And yet, this predatory nation of slave owning Presidents, a nation that is the only in history to use nuclear weapons, this country of mass incarceration and provable indelible racism, still seems to attract those claiming they want to change it.

Liberals are, of course, always going to side with authority. Always will look to preserve the status quo. They are most comfortable, really, with open displays of fascist symbolism and style. I know few liberals who do not secretly admire or find Mussolini attractive. For such fascist leaders are very similar to the protagonists Hollywood turns out. Of late, I’ve noticed, a sharp uptick in heroes fashioned after Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs — the lone genius who goes off and discovers the solutions to everything. Never are they seen at work with countless colleagues, or vast armies of researchers working in near anonymity. No, it is the Zuck/Mussolini figure that does it alone. And these figures are always allowed to be vain, rude, selfish and destructive. And most often reactionary. Genius is forgiven. It is a very attractive fantasy for the western bourgeoisie today. It also suggests these figures are hard at work solving global warming for example. Solving all those things that can’t be faced. But this new ‘branded left’ — the New Orientalists, the anti-communists under the age of forty five, are also attracted to power. And they find positions that are not greatly different than an HRC supporter (or Bernie, or Elizabeth Warren et al). Its the old lets hold their feet to the fire fantasy. As I think on it, there is rather a lot of fantasy taking place on all levels and at all rungs of contemporary society. Which is probably why such emphasis is put on being realistic. Which reminds me that today the public intellectual is either a Jordan Peterson (for the Jr College student or under grad at some directional state University) or Stephen Pinker (for the post grad from more expensive schools). To think only a few decades back Gore Vidal and James Baldwin appeared with regularity on TV opinion shows. As an aside, there is so much ludicrously wrong with Pinker that time and space prevent a full listing. But one observation regarding his claim that violence is in decline and that mankind has never known such a sustained peace. Now he arrives at this absurdity by simply ignoring the violence visited upon the global south. Post-1945 he figures the big “civilized” states aren’t at war. And that’s all that counts. Pinker and Peterson both are new Orientalists.

As Ed Herman and David Peterson wrote,

Pinker completely ignores the phenomenon of structural violence, or the kind of violence that is ‘built into the structure’ of social relations, and ‘shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances,’ in Johan Galtung’s famous rendering. On a planet with more than 7 billion people facing mounting ecological pressures, the increasingly savage global class war of the 1% against the other 99, and the ‘endemic undernutrition and deprivation’ that afflicts billions of people even in ‘normal’ times—to extend Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze’s writings on India to the world as a whole—takes a toll every day that overshadows the violence of war.

Pinker, by the by, teaches at Harvard. Something I find rather fitting and revealing regards the state of intellectual discourse today.

Fanon, of course, said,  “…decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.”

And today the structural violence is finding new avenues of expression. I wrote a while back about the rise of a new antisemitism. In one way much of that antisemitism is found in structural relationships. Just as racism is, though perhaps to a lesser degree (for white black racism remains steadfastly overt and concrete). Those homeless encampments also are testimony to the alienation of modern western society. For these are the camps of the newly poor. And it has been an opening of the flood gates of penury for much of what was once working class America. And these are people without protection, either from government, unions (which largely dont exist anymore) or extended family.

When the USSR collapsed another sort of symbol disappeared. For it was the USSR that fought for the independence of African nations. They fought against colonial rule. The US fought for the colonizer. They supported the apartheid state. And they would today, too, which is what many Africans instinctively know. Across the poorest regions of the planet the figures of Mao and Fidel and Stalin are symbols of hope, not tyranny.

So the rabid insane demonizing of Putin is both an extension of a cold war comfort zone, and simply the furious irrational tantrum of the DNC. But to be clear, the Bush and Putin bromance came to an end when Obama took office. That was the real sea change in US-Russia relations. And it marked the serious infiltration of Hollywood by the Clinton mafia. Obama was the errand boy for the deep state, for the CIA and state department, but also the NSA, and certainly for Wall Street and the even bigger finance that controls Wall Street. Now, tracking the logic and movement of this change is too complex for this post, but what is germane here is that Obama’s pivot to Asia included a pivot against Russia. For no matter how one feels about Putin, the historic role of the Russian people matters greatly. It matters because Russia has always defied Western diktats, and because Russians themselves, as a culture, a society, tend toward a sensibility of independence. And because as Andre Vltchek pointed out, they look white, the look normal, but they are in fact different. And it feels as if they are closer to Roma than to Americans. They have the same streak of absolute indifference to our opinion of them. In a sense they are closer to much North African culture, too, funny as that sounds. One thing they are not is British or French or American. There is a real split in cultural character between the European colonizing culture and that of Russia, the Islamic world, and Africa.

So Putin becomes this, on the one hand, slightly camp figure, barechested on horseback, but also surgically intelligent former KGB agent. Putin feels too smart for Americans, I think. I mean what-the-fuck, who-the-fuck-does-he-think-he-is? Few world leaders project intelligence. Castro did, but he, alas, is gone now. Commandante Marcos is smart. And your average liberal will try to explain that Obama was smart, Harvard Law Review and whatever. (Harvard where that Pinker guy teaches, right?). But its not the same smart. Its another varietal of smart, another sort that grows under other conditions. Obama did not project more than a kind of detached wonky intelligence. Intelligence but without a soul.

Meanwhile, I see where Tony Blair (speaking of not so smart) was just gifted with ten gajillion dollars or pounds or something by Mohammed Bin Salman, the presumptive next king of Saudi Arabia. Billions, as a gift, from the man who launched a merciless pointless genocide against Yemen. And Tony, ever the good Christian, accepted giddy with gratitude. The obscenity of the United States and UK today depresses me, I have to say. I see nothing good that comes out of trying to reform a ruthless profiteering death infected party of rich and the very rich and their courtiers. The Democratic Party should not even be mentioned when the discussion turns to change. Not even mentioned, let alone praised for anything. The Democratic Party, as noted before, are drawing candidates primarily from the intelligence community and the military. Remember that. For those erstwhile leftists, those who side with NATO and the U.S. against any third world ruler, ANY of them, are collaborators really. That is how I look upon them. If, as an example, Lula da Silva functioned as a sort of ersatz collaborator, for a time, I tend to forgive him more than I would Angela Merkel. Or Theresa May. For da Silva was leader of the world’s largest former colony. And the scars of the colonial period are always visible even today. And besides that, those arraigned against him are the same neo aristocrat fascists massed against Maduro. Against Bolivia, too. The real threat to mankind is the american establishment.

The other thing worth asking is if, as we know, the U.S. CIA black budget is in excess of fifty billion dollars a year, what is that being spent on? And one has to wonder if infiltrating the left is not something of a priority. I would submit it is. So these publications of the pseudo left (now routinely mentioned in articles by CNN and at the NY Times) must have connections. And when other supposed radical voices take up the cause of the Democratic Party, one has to wonder. When they suddenly starting citing, as an authority, the findings of NGO reports or the data collected by front groups… it gives one pause.

Ben Rhodes (Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications under Obama) has a memoir out, and in it is a paragraph he wrote, regarding the speeches at Fidel Castro’s funeral. He writes, “For the next several hours the global left was heard from in speech after speech. The message was tired, out of date. Africans talking about the struggle to shake off colonialism. Latin Americans honouring the Cuban people and their resistance to Empire in the North.” So you see, this is the Democratic Party. Even mentioning colonialism is soooo five minutes ago.

The Soviet Union was the only Great Power whose stand conformed to our people’s will and desire. That is why the Soviet Union was the only Great Power which has all along been supporting the Congolese people’s struggle. I should like to convey the heartfelt gratitude of the entire Congolese people to the Soviet people and to Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchov personally for your country’s timely and great moral support to the young Republic of the Congo in its struggle against the imperialists and colonialists. I should also like to thank the Soviet Union for the assistance in food which it is extending to the Congo.
— Patrice Lumumba, July 28, 1960. (Interview).

Nicaragua: Terrorism as an Art of Demonstrating

For two months, Nicaragua has been through a major political crisis, fueled by clashes between law enforcement and an insurgency. Humanitarian organizations report a terrifying record of nearly 200 deaths. This violence, compromising the attempts of political negotiations, makes it necessary to understand who has interest in paralyzing this Central America country. What are the motivations of protesters and opposition forces? Is the Nicaraguan government the symbol of absolute tyranny?

*****

It was a pension reform project that started the fire. To avoid privatizing social security as recommended by the IMF, the government wanted to increase contributions for both workers and employers. Faced with a public outcry, the government backtracked and withdrew its reform plan. But the protests continued without anyone being able to understand what was their objective. In order to stop the cycle of violence, government spokesmen called on the protesters to participate in peace commissions. They insisted on their willingness to listen to the various demands and to promote the expression of political opposition. To no avail. Calls for dialogue from the government have been shunned.

They were even perceived as a sign of weakness, galvanizing the young protesters of the M-19 movement. With no program, this movement simply calls for overthrowing the “dictatorship” accused of being at the origin of the “repression”. Moreover, the international media aligned themselves without reserve with these demonstrators, regarded as the quintessence of the civil society, in spite of their nihilism and extremism. But the attitude of the M-19 raises questions. By refusing any political solution and promoting violence, the movement offers an ideal motive for the proponents of “regime change” and “constructive chaos” already applied in countries like Libya, Iraq or Ukraine

On 14 June, the M-19 operation consisting of deploying “tranques” (barricades) in certain areas of the capital Managua, as well as in nearby cities such as Masaya or Granada, was supported by a “national strike” of 24 hours. This strike was convened by COSEP, the main employers’ organization. Yes, in Nicaragua, it is the bosses who call to strike! The world upside down? The fact remains that neither the majority of workers, nor the small and medium-sized enterprises followed suit. But it allowed an evaluation of the balance of power as well as maintaining the pressure until the next phase. On June 16, the day when the peace dialogue between the opposition and the government was to be revived, a new episode of extreme violence made the front pages of the international media.

The macabre fire of the Velasquez house

First, the facts. On June 16, a group of hooded people set fire to a building in Managua using Molotov cocktails, causing seven deaths, including a two-year-old child and a five-month-old baby. A mattress store occupied the ground floor of the building while the owner and his family lived on the first floor. Neighbors said they saw hoodlums throw their cocktails at the building, and said some shooters would have prevented the family from escaping. Accident as a possible cause was therefore immediately rejected.

But private media like Televisa or BBC immediately seized the case to blame the authorities for the crime. According to their information, paramilitaries on government payroll wanted to use the roof of the building to post snipers; the paramilitaries, having been denied access by the homeowner, would have locked him up in his residence with his family before setting it on fire. This is the same thesis defended by the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), which pointed out “their complicity with the national police”. For other governments, this argument would appear simplistic, implausible and irrational. Who would have defended the idea that the British government was behind the fire of the Grenfell tower for example? But in the case of Nicaragua, the complicity or even the responsibility of the government is put forth as a matter of fact.

To give credit to the story, the BBC used the testimony of the only survivor in the family: “Hooded people came with police officers and locked up nine people in a room on the second floor and burned us alive.” According to the same testimony, the offenders carried “mortars, weapons, and Molotov bombs”. We can only respect the bereavement of the survivor. But it cannot be dismissed that under shock, and calling for divine justice, she felt the need to find an immediate culprit. This is why it cannot be excluded that her testimony has been influenced in any way so as to channel her anger and to politically exploit it. In an effort to get closer to the truth, it is necessary to look for additional information and to cross-check them with other testimonies and documents.

The problem is that observers are facing a real war of images. Filmed from the balcony of the house burned, an amateur video was immediately relayed on social media. It aims at reinforcing the thesis of police forces and para-police organizations participation. Filmed by the eldest son of the family, Alfredo Pavon, one of the victims of the fire, this video is certainly interesting. But we see only a convoy of five police vans stopping near the house after a motorcycle chase, after which the police fires some warning shots and arrests a young biker. Hard to turn this into evidence. This document is nevertheless used to sow doubt, or even to point at the authorities as being responsible for the crime. Widely shared by the media in the aftermath of the crime, the video continues to be broadcast in a loop and feed hate comments…

However, these images have, in fact, been taken out of context: the recording was made on April 21, that is, at the very beginning of this crisis. What it reveals above all is that this precise area had been the scene of clashes between the two camps since the beginning of the crisis. This corresponds to information sent by Nicaraguan citizens, which indicates that the Carlos Marx district is controlled by the opposition. Indeed, it is hard to believe, as the opposition says, that police forces have surrounded the same neighborhood for two months, without being able to quell the protest movement until June 16, when they finally decided to use the roof of the Velasquez family to post snipers. And that’s not all. According to the same version, short of obtaining the family’s approval, the authorities acted brutally by setting the house on fire, without anticipating that it would cause a resurgence of tensions instead of calming them down.

Not really intimidated by the crime in the Velasquez house, four members of the M-19 were present on the scene the same day, to record a video where they accuse the government of “state terrorism” and call to support their movement. They take the opportunity to send a message to the negotiation table: “We are not going to remove the barricades, they are in our hands and those of the people, and we will not take them off. I want you to know: if the people do not unite, it will end up in new massacres like this one”. But have their accusations, carried by certain media and Internet users on social media, been the subject of a real inquiry gathering enough facts?

Retaliation against the right to work?

A journalist at TeleSur, Madelein Garcia reports a completely different version: the people responsible for the fire are “delinquents recruited by the opposition”, “hooded men who attacked with mortars and Molotov cocktails the family home, after reading in a media that snipers of the police were hiding there.” Garcia explains that according to a friend of the family, “the hooded men asked for mattresses, the owner refused and that’s when they burned the house for revenge.”

Moreover, a disturbing screen shot of the April 19 movement was relayed via social media, including several photos of the owner of the premises, the father Velasquez Pavon, accompanied by explicit threats against him. The document dates from 2 days before the fire, that is to say at the time of the strike organized by COSEP. The commentary indicates that he did not respect the strike directive, preferring to continue working. In the eyes of his attackers, that would have been enough to make him automatically suspicious of sympathy with the government. The M-19 would have then relayed the identity and address of one of the future victims, threatening to “disappear” these “infiltrated” Sandinistas who “refuse to strike by pretending to support the people”.

Since the release of this document, it appears that the text and photos have been removed from the account, the group administrators explaining that it could be a forgery. An explanation that did not convince everyone: some remember seeing these photos before the day of the fire, and point out that the area was under the control of the opposition, including through the “tranques” (barricades).

Who to believe? We only have amateur videos published by Velasquez Pavon on his Facebook account in recent months. He proudly presents his mattress making workshop and says he works tirelessly. Would the small business owner Velasquez Pavon have been the target of opposition or paramilitary forces? Two days after the employers’ strike, would there have been any reprisals against the right to work of the Nicaraguan people? The dead do not speak; it is difficult to answer these questions. But respect for the victims requires a real independent investigation, which is incompatible with political and media manipulation.

Who wants to eliminate the Sandinistas?

Without the same outrage from the media, other killings and attacks have clearly targeted citizens and buildings associated with Sandinismo.

On the same day that the Velasquez house was burned, a funeral home located a few meters from the house was also ransacked and set on fire.

Still near the scene of the incident, two men were spotted in the street dismantling the barricades of the opposition. They were shot dead on the spot. The killers sprinkled gasoline on one of the corpses and set it on fire. Before leaving, they put objects on the burned body to create a macabre scene. It was Francisco Aráuz Pineda, from a historical family of the Sandinista Revolution.

Here is a non-exhaustive timeline sequence of violent actions that took place in just three weeks:

  • On May 28, the public prosecutor’s office in Masaya was subjected to arson, while the police reported an attack on their offices.
  • On May 29 protesters set fire to the offices of Tu Nueva Radio Ya, considered a pro-government media.
  • On May 31, the offices of Caruna, a financial services cooperative, were set on fire.
  • On June 9 it was Radio Nicaragua’s turn, destroyed by the flames. That same day, a young Sandinista activist died in a motorcycle accident while trying to dodge a trap in a barricade in San José de Jinotepe, Carazo.
  • On June 12, a gang kidnapped and brutally tortured 3 workers at San José College in Jinotepe. In the context of the clashes, 2 historic Sandinista militants were murdered. Also that day, the mayor’s house was ransacked and burned.
  • On June 13, another group held captive and brutally tortured Leonel Morales, a leader of the National Union of Students of Nicaragua (UNEN). The emergency doctors at Bautista Hospital treated serious wounds caused by a bullet lodged in the young man’s abdomen, which would indicate a clear intention to kill. The authors of this attack had come from the vicinity of the Polytechnic University of Managua.
  • On June 15, the day after the employers strike, Sandinista lawyer and activist Marlon Medina Tobal was shot dead while walking beside a barricade in the city of Leon. On the same day, demonstrators armed with mortars were spotted in Jinotepe town.
  • On June 18, criminals threw a burning tire inside the house of Rosa Argentina Solís, a 60-year-old communal leader … for “totally supporting the government of the constitutional president Daniel Ortega and reminded that he had won the elections by a majority of votes.” The same day, the house of the mother of Sandinista MP José Ramón Sarria Morales was the subject of arson. Then nine members of his family were held captive and tortured.
  • On June 18, Sandinista activist Yosep Joel Mendoza Sequeira, a resident of Simón Bolivar Matagalpa neighborhood, was held captive and savagely tortured. The same day, a video was relayed via social media, where a young woman accused of sympathy with the government is humiliated and tortured during an interrogation.
  • On June 21, after being held by men manning barricades in Zaragoza, Stiaba, a young Sandinista youth activist named Sander Bonilla was savagely tortured under the impassive gaze of a priest.
  • On June 22, an anti-Sandinist group fired at the house of the teacher Mayra Garmendia in Jinotega and burned the building where her family was, who managed to escape.

The similarities with the crimes perpetrated in Venezuela by the anti-Chavista opposition a year ago suggest that this wave of violence is primarily motivated by a deep ideological hatred that goes beyond the framework of ordinary crime.

When the dead are brought back to life

To these brutal attacks that speak for themselves, we can add the confusion maintained by the protesters themselves with the complicity of the private media.

  • Thus, on April 23, at the very beginning of the protests, motorcyclists carrying Molotov cocktails shot at point blank range Roberto Carlos Garcia Paladino, a 40-year-old man who died on the spot. His mother, Janeth Garcia, denounced the opposition for using his image by making him a student victim of repression. “They are carrying the flag with his image, as if it were a flag of struggle, but he was not a student, you can verify it without problems.”
  • On May 4 a video with the testimony of José Daniel García is broadcast. He denounces the use of his own photo in a demonstration, looking as if he was killed in the clashes. Alerted by his mother, García demands that his photo be removed. According to him, this “manipulation is intended to deceive the people”. Similar cases where the dead are resurrected have been identified:
  • On May 13, a Frente Sandinista activist, Heriberto Rodríguez, was shot dead in the head near a cinema in Masaya. The private media say he was murdered during a protest, portraying him as a martyr of the anti-government struggle, while Sandinismo’s Voice media claims he was killed by gangs of criminals allied with the right.
  • On May 16, a group of demonstrators near the Metrocentro Mall in Managua threw down a metal art installation called “The Tree of Life”. After demolishing it, they stomped on it. The filmmaker of Guatemalan origin Eduardo Spiegler, who was there at the time of the incident, was crushed by the weight of the metal construction and died on the spot. His picture will be used to make it look as if he was a student victim of the repression, which some will denounce as manipulation.
  • On May 30, the 18-year-old Mario Alberto Medina’s family, who died in September 2017, condemns the “unscrupulous actions of people who are using the young man’s photographs to add them to the list of dead”.

Other people also discovered the presence of their name or photo in a list of dead claimed by the protesters: Christomar Baltodano, Karla Sotelo, Marlon Joshua Martinez, Marlon Jose Davila, William Daniel Gonzalez … Much like in Venezuela in 2014, the public was intoxicated by a massive campaign of fake news via social media.

Observers on the “good side” of the barricade

If we want to broaden the perspective, short of exposing the long history, it is necessary to return to the chronology of the facts. On June 15, the Catholic Church’s peace dialogue had just resumed after the talks had been interrupted since May 23. The new agenda between the government and the opposition renewed the authorization granted to a list of international organizations to participate in observation missions in the country, in order to identify all murders and acts of violence as well as their leaders, with an integral plan of care for victims in order to achieve effective justice. They included observers from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as the EU.

An organization dependent of the Organization of American States (aligned with Washington), the IACHR had already carried out a mission between May 17 and May 21. Then it continued to issue reports, the last of which coincided with the day of the strike. Its record attributed to the government of Daniel Ortega the central responsibility in this crisis, while recognizing the presence of armed groups with “homemade mortars filled with gunpowder” in the ranks of the demonstrators. The wording is not very eloquent: the reader of the release is unlikely to imagine the scenes of horror that these groups were responsible of.

On June 14, the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry replied in a letter that the work of the IACHR had still not taken into account “evidence of atrocious crimes, cruel and degrading treatment, kidnapping and other acts of violence committed against the population and especially against public officials and persons known to be Sandinistas “. Given the biased stance it is accused of, the authorization to visit the premises that the Ortega government granted to the IACHR on June 26, must be considered as a concession in the framework of peace negotiations between the two parties. Especially since institutions like Amnesty International have clearly shown that they are on the other side of the barricade, turning a deaf ear to the testimonies that are not aligned with the dominant narrative.

Caution is therefore required. If we assume the hypothesis of a political motive behind the frightening crime of the Velasquez house, the arrival of the investigators of the IACHR could have constituted a special motivation, in order to attract the international public opinion’s attention. Be that as it may, it did not take long to happen.

First, on June 18 the Civic Alliance, the political opposition movement engaged in dialogue with the government, announced its withdrawal from the negotiation table and demanded the presence of external observers. The reactions were immediate, notably that of the representative of the OAS Luis Almagro and the IACHR… and finally the unavoidable press release of the spokesperson of the US Department of State Heather Nauert, condemning the ‘current violence sponsored by the government, including the attack on June 16 against the residence and trade of a family…”. Nauert recommended that the government should carry on according to the points on the peace agenda, including the planned visit of observers of the IACHR. Her conclusion is quite significant: the United States “takes note of the general appeal of Nicaraguans for new presidential elections” and “considers that the elections would be a constructive way forward”!

This statement contains a thinly veiled threat: it is an interference with the sovereignty of Nicaragua. It relies on a new balance of power, starting from the mid-June sequence – the strike and the peace agreement, undermined by the new violence of the weekend, which has had as a result the opposition leaving the negotiation table. Nauert therefore puts pressure on the Ortega government, which is now confronted on the one hand with increased street violence and lack of dialogue with the political opposition, and on the other hand with the arrival of the observation missions – who have probably already decided in advance the conclusion of their report.

Is “regime change” a thing of the past?

Unless one is uncontrollably naive, everyone will have noticed that the United States continues to regard Latin America as its backyard. For we cannot dismiss the role played in Nicaragua by a certain international activism, which is centered on the United States Congress, where the Nica Act was approved last November. Under the initiative of Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban anti-Castro elected member of the Republican party, this law aims to stifle the Nicaraguan economy, blocking international loans. The reason? “Human rights violations, the regression of democracy in Nicaragua, and the dismantling of the free elections system in this country”.

When the United States presents itself as the defender of human rights and the champion of democracy in the world, it should be remembered that in recent years bodies dedicated to “promoting democracy”, such as USAID or the NED, showered opposition movements with dollars (support that the protesters do not hide). Simultaneously, Senator Marco Rubio proposed to use the Magnitsky Act as a weapon of financial sanctions against the Vice-President of the mixed enterprise Albanisa. What was Rubio’s aim? “Not only to support the desire for new elections as soon as possible to change the government, but also change the constitution, because a new government on the basis of corruption and dictatorship is more or less the same thing.” Helping to overthrow the government elected by the Nicaraguan people is not enough, so you have to write directly a new constitution in its place, to prevent these latinos from returning to bad habits!

All these mechanisms of destabilization correspond to the different phases of a real hybrid war. In the view of the neoconservative strategists, “constructive chaos” is far better than the loss of the areas of direct influence of yesteryear. If Nicaragua is again in the line of sight of US imperialism, the real reasons are mostly economic.

Nicaragua, theater of a long US strategic war

As early as 1825, the Federal Republic of Central America, a political entity stemming from the wars of independence, had commissioned a study on the creation of a canal on the Lake Nicaragua Canal route. It was a strategic project for the economic development and survival of the young republic. But following the creation of the Independent State of Nicaragua in 1838, the Central American Federation broke out, dividing it into six different political entities (Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). What about the economic integration project in the region? It fell into oblivion.

For the United States, the break-up of Central America was therefore very advantageous from a strategic point of view. In 1846, the Colombian government signed with the United States the Mallarino-Bidlak Treaty, by which Colombia was to ensure free circulation in this region, where the United States planned to create an inter-oceanic canal. Following the vision of US Marine Corps Captain Alfred Thayer, the goal was to better control maritime trade. The new agreement offered US troops the pretext to intervene militarily 14 times, relying on the legal foundations of the treaty. Thus the United States played a decisive role in the separation of Colombia and the Department of Panama on November 3, 1903.

As a reminder, as early as 1823, the United States had issued a warning to the European powers who would be tempted to regain control over the young emerging republics. It was the famous Monroe Doctrine: “America for Americans”. Translation: The United States were keeping a “right of interference” on its southern neighbors. Well, in 1850 the United States signed a similar treaty with England, which since 1661 had established a protectorate over the coastal region of Mosquitia, allying itself with the indigenous Mosquito people against the Spaniards. The agreement between the two powers provided for the shared control of the coast and the circulation of goods in the future canal. But in 1860, Nicaragua signed another agreement with England, by which it formally renounced the protectorate. In its place, the Kingdom of Mosquitia was created, with a constitution based on English laws. In 1904, Mosquitia was finally incorporated in Nicaragua.

On December 6, 1904, facing the US Congress, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the “Big Stick” doctrine, also known as the “Roosevelt Corollary.” This foreign policy was practiced in the period between 1898 and 1934 where, in order to protect its commercial interests, the United States occupied several Latin American countries, in what would become known as the “banana wars”. William Howard Taft, who had been appointed Secretary of War in the Roosevelt administration, did not hesitate to use force in several countries. Significantly, the same Taft was responsible for overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal, which was finally inaugurated in 1914.

It must be remembered that the initial project for the construction of the Panama Canal was first granted by Colombia to France thanks to the signing of the Salgar-Wyse agreement. The works, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, the engineer responsible for the Suez Canal in Egypt, began in 1878 and lasted ten years, but was abandoned in 1888. The abandonment of the project by the French led to the United States resuming the idea of the canal and commissioned a study of the American Congress at the Walker Commission. Finally, the choice was on Nicaragua and a construction treaty was signed. But this country opposed the granting of a route planned by the United States, and envisaged the possibility of granting it to Germany. In retaliation, in August 1912, the United States sent troops to Nicaragua. They would only return home after 21 years of occupation, turning the country into some sort of protectorate. The invasion served the purpose of preventing another country from building a canal in the area. In 1916, the newly elected Adolfo Diaz government, with the kind support of the US Marines, signed with the United States the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, through which that country obtained the concession for the canal for a period of 99 years and the authorization to install a naval base.

The success of the Panama Canal and the long invasion of Nicaragua by the United States threw the other canal project into the dustbin of history. But not forever. Daniel Ortega, the historical leader of the Sandinista Revolution who was president of Nicaragua in the 1980s and re-elected in 2006, brought back the project. In 2013, the National Assembly approved a law granting the concession of the new Transoceanic Canal to the private Chinese company HKND. If it saw the light of day, it would be three times the size of the Panama Canal. In other words, there would be a serious competition issue.

• Translated from French by Tamarvlad

• First published in Investig’Action

North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization

The critics had already signaled their strategy for derailing any meaningful move toward normalizing relations between the United States and North Korea. Right-wing neoliberals from CNN, MSNBC and NPR are in perfect alignment with the talking points issued by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the Democrat Party that took the position that anything short of the North Koreans surrendering their national interests and national dignity to the United States was a win for North Korea.

For much of the foreign policy community, corporate media pundits and leaders of the two imperialist parties, the issue is North Korean de-nuclearization. But for the people in Korea and throughout the global South, the real issue has always been the unfinished business of ending the war and beginning the de-colonization of the Korean peninsula.

The interrelated issues of respecting the dignity and sovereignty of the North Korean nation and engaging in an authentic process of de-colonization are precisely why the U.S.-North Korean initiative will fail without a major intervention on the part of the people in the United States demanding that their leaders commit to diplomacy and peace.

There should be no illusions about U.S. intentions. If U.S. policymakers were really concerned with putting a brake on the North Korean nuclear-weapons program, they would have pursued a different set of policies. Such policies would have created the necessary security conditions to convince the North Koreans that a nuclear deterrence to the United States was unnecessary.

The fact that those conditions were not created were less a result of the evil intentions of the North Koreans than it reflected the need to maintain the justification for continued U.S. military deployment in South Korea and in the region. Being able to point to North Korea as a threat to regional security has provided the justifications for U.S. power projection in the region and the ever-expanding U.S. military budget.

With the growing power of China over the last few decades, the threat of North Korea allowed the United States to continue a physical presence right at the underbelly of China. That is why the “agreed framework” under Clinton was not implemented and then jettisoned by the Bush administration. It is also why the Obama administration’s so-called strategic patience was really about a series of increasingly provocative military exercises and no negotiations.

Full Spectrum Dominance and the Psychopathology of White Supremacy

Korea has historically played a significant role for the U.S. imperial project since the end of the second World war. The emergent forces U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower identified as the military/industrial/complex are still present, but are now exercising hegemonic power, along with the financial sector within the U.S. state. Those forces are not interested in a diplomatic resolution of the Korean colonial question because their interests are more focused on China and maintaining U.S. regional hegemony in East Asia. The tensions in Korea have not only provided them the rationale for increased expenditures for various missile defense systems but also for bolstering public support for the obscene military budgets that are largely transferred straight to their pockets.

That is why the historic record is replete with the United States sabotaging negotiated settlements with the North, but then pointing to North Korean responses to those efforts as evidence of North Korean duplicity.

In addition to the material interests and hegemonic geopolitical objectives, the social-psychological phenomenon of inculcated white supremacy is also a factor and has buttressed imperial policies toward that nation for years.

For example, the psychopathology of white supremacy invisibilizes the absurdity and illegitimacy of the United States being in a position to negotiate the fate of millions of Koreans. The great “white father” and savior complex is not even a point of contestation because it is not even perceived — the rule of whiteness through the dominance of the Western capitalist elite has been naturalized.

Therefore, it is quite understandable that for many, the summit is the space where the North Koreans are essentially supposed to surrender to the United States. It is beyond the comprehension of most policymakers and large sectors of the public that North Koreans would have ever concluded it is not in their national interest to give up their defenses to a reckless and dangerously violent rogue state that sees itself beyond the law.

And it is that strange white-supremacist consciousness that buys into the racist trope that it was Trump’s pressure that brought North Korea to the table. The white-supremacist colonial mentality believes the natives will only respond to force and violence.

As U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the good old boy from South Carolina, argues “The only way North Korea will give up their nuclear program is if they believe military option is real.”\

But as Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s first vice minister for foreign affairs and former nuclear-program negotiator pointed out in relationship to the reasons why North Korea stayed with the process:

The U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness and trying to embellish and advertise as if these are the product of its sanctions and pressure.

Unfortunately, the white-supremacist world-view renders it almost impossible to apprehend reality in any other way. That is why it is inevitable that the Trump administration—like the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations—will mis-read the North Koreans.

The North Korea issue is a classic example of why it is impossible to separate a pro-peace, anti-war position from the issue of anti-imperialism. The concrete, geopolitical objectives of U.S. imperialist interests in the region drives the logic of regional dominance, which means peace, de-colonization and national reconciliation for Korea are counter to U.S. interests. And while we must support the U.S. state’s decision to halt military exercises, we must recognize that without vigorous pressure from the people to support an honest process, the possibility of conflict might be ever more alive now as a result of the purported attempt at diplomacy.

The nature of the North Korean state is not the issue. What is the issue is a process has begun between the two Korean nations that should be respected. Therefore, de-nuclearization should not be the focus—self-determination of the Korean peoples must be the center of our discussions. On that issue, it is time for activists in the United States to demand the United States get out of Korea. The peace and anti-war movement must support a process that will lead to the closure of U.S. military bases, the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the elimination of the nuclear threat.

In short, U.S. based activists must support an end to the Korean war and the start of the de-colonization of South Korea.

France’s Role in Africa

Fake news, propaganda, public relations, advertising — it goes by many names, but at the core of all these terms is the idea that powerful institutions, primarily governments and corporations, strive to manipulate our understanding of world affairs. The most effective such shaping of opinion is invisible and therefore unquestioned.

Left criticism of French imperialism in Africa provides a stark example. Incredibly, the primary contemporary criticism North American leftists make of French imperialism on that continent concerns a country it never colonized. What’s more, Paris is condemned for siding with a government led by the lower caste majority.

To the extent that North American progressives criticize ‘Françafrique’ they mostly emphasize Paris’ support for the Hutu-led Rwandan government after Uganda/Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded in 1990. Echoing the Paul Kagame dictatorship’s simplistic narrative, France is accused of backing Rwandan genocidaires. In a recent article for thevolcano.org, a leftist outlet based on unceded Coast Salish Territories, Lama Mugabo claims, “the organizations that organized this anger into genocide, and the instruments of murder that they wielded, were outfitted by French colonial power.” In Dark Threats and White Nights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping, and the New Imperialism Sherene H. Razack writes that “French peacekeepers made a number of decisions that prolonged and exacerbated the conflict.” The “post-colonial” Canadian academic also decries “French support for him [Hutu President “Hanyarimana” — her (repeated) misspelling] scuttled any fledging peace efforts.”

In taking up Kigali/Washington/London’s effort to blame France for the mass killings in Rwanda (rather than the Uganda/RPF aggressors and their Anglo-American backers), Razack and others even imply that Paris colonized the country. But, Germany conquered Rwanda and Belgium was given control of the small East African nation at the end of World War I. The nearest former French colony — Central African Republic — is over 1,000 km away.

What Razack, Mugabo and other leftists ignore, or don’t know, is that Washington and London backed the 1990 Uganda/RPF invasion. Officially, a large number of Rwandan exiles “deserted” the Ugandan military to invade (including a former deputy defence minister and head of military intelligence). In reality, the invasion was an act of aggression by the much larger neighbour. Over the next three and a half years Kampala supplied the RPF with weaponry and a safe haven.

Throughout this period Washington provided the Ugandan government with financial, diplomatic and arms support (Ottawa cut millions in aid to Rwanda, prodded Habyarimana to negotiate with the RPF and criticized his human rights record while largely ignoring the Uganda/RPF aggression). Washington viewed the pro-neoliberal government in Kampala and the RPF as a way, after the Cold War, to weaken Paris’ position in a Belgium colonized region, which includes trillions of dollars in mineral riches in eastern Congo.

Echoing Kigali/Washington/London/Ottawa, many leftists have taken up criticism of Paris’ policy towards a country France never colonized and where it sided with a government from the lower caste (over 85% of the population, Hutus were historically a subservient peasant class and the Tutsi a cattle owning, feudal ruling class). Concurrently, leftists have largely ignored or failed to unearth more clear-cut French crimes on the continent, which Washington and Ottawa either backed or looked the other way.

In 1947–48 the French brutally suppressed anticolonial protests in Madagascar. Tens of thousands were also killed in Cameroon during the 1950s-60s independence war. Paris’ bid to maintain control over Algeria stands out as one of the most brutal episodes of the colonial era. With over one million settlers in the country, French forces killed hundreds of thousands of Algerians.

To pre-empt nascent nationalist sentiment, Paris offered each of its West African colonies a referendum on staying part of a new “French community”. When Guinea voted for independence in 1958, France withdrew abruptly, broke political and economic ties, and destroyed vital infrastructure. “What could not be burned,” noted Robert Legvold, “was dumped into the ocean.”

France hasn’t relinquished its monetary imperialism. Through its “Pacte Coloniale” independence agreement, Paris maintained control of 14 former colonies’ monetary and exchange rate policy. Imposed by Paris, the CFA franc is an important barrier to transforming the former colonies’ primary commodity based economies. As part of the accord, most CFA franc countries’ foreign exchange reserves have been deposited in the French treasury (now European Central Bank), which has generated large sums for Paris.

Alongside its monetary imperialism, France has ousted or killed a number of independent-minded African leaders. After creating a national currency and refusing to compensate Paris for infrastructure built during the colonial period, the first president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio, was overthrown and killed by former French Foreign Legion troops. Foreign legionaries also ousted leaders in the Central African Republic, Benin, Mali, etc. Paris aided in the 1987 assassination of famed socialist Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara.

While undermining independence-minded leaders, Paris has backed corrupt, pro-corporate, dictatorships such as four-decades long Togolese and Gabonese rulers Gnassingbé Eyadema and Ali Bongo Ondimba (their sons took over).

France retains military bases or troops in Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gabon, Mali, Chad and Niger. French troops are also currently fighting in Mali and Niger.

Compared to Paris’ role in Rwanda, French influence/violence in its former colonies gets short shrift from North American leftists. Part of the reason is that Washington and Ottawa largely supported French policy in its former colonies (Ottawa has plowed nearly $1 billion into Mali since the 2013 French invasion and gave Paris bullets and other arms as 400,000 French troops suppressed the Algerian independence struggle). Additionally, criticizing France’s role in Rwanda dovetails with the interests of Kigali, Washington, London and Ottawa.

The North American left’s discussion of France’s role in Africa demonstrates the influence of powerful institutions, especially the ones closest to us, in shaping our understanding of the world. We largely ignore what they want us to ignore and see what they want us to see.

To build a movement for justice and equality for everyone on this planet, we must start by questioning everything governments, corporations and other powerful institutions tell us.

Quebec City Murders: Why Quebec? Why Muslims?

The murder of six worshippers in January 2017 reached a dramatic conclusion in March when Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty, avoiding a lengthy trial.

I’d like to ask for your forgiveness for all the harm I caused you, even though I know what I did is unforgivable. In spite of everything that was said, I am not a terrorist, nor Islamophobic … [I am] more a person who was carried away by fear and a horrible form of despair.

‘Semites’ and imperialism

Quebec has a long history of racial and religious problems, going back to the British conquest in 1763. The French were forced suddenly to accept ‘les maudits anglais‘ as their masters. The British were not gentle imperialists, and the Catholic French soon became second class citizens, with English the business language, and the economy controlled by these occupiers. They brought with them their ‘semites’, a handful of Jewish merchants and bankers, who faced discrimination, but more because it was politically acceptable to criticize Jews but not the British. In any event, Jews and Brits were considered the same — rich interlopers — and were resented.

This only got worse with the flood of poor east European Jewish immigrants in the 1890s. Canada wanted farmer immigrants, but the Jews were only interested in living in the large cities, especially Montreal, where they faced friction with their strange customs and tribal identity, centred on commerce, from the rag trade through to garment workers and retailers.

In the 1930s, overt anti-Jewish sentiment increased, with Canada’s most prominent Montreal fascist, Adrien Arcand (1899–1967), the chief rabble-rouser. He published and edited several anti-Jewish newspapers during this period, most notably Le Goglu, Le Miroir, Le Chameau, Le Patriote, Le Fasciste Canadien and Le Combat National. He was a brilliant journalist and charismatic speaker, but his bark was worse than his bite, and his star faded with the outbreak of WWII. He was interned during WWII as a fascist, but was never prosecuted for his anti-Jewish rants.

The negative legacy of Quebec-Jewish relations from the religious school controversy of the 1920–30s, when poor Jews unwillingly attend Protestant schools, and the Arcand period, no doubt accounts for the subsequent generosity of the Quebec government from the 1960s. They provided government support for Jewish schools, Canada’s only province where Jewish schools are flourishing.

Muslims – Imperial fallout

Now, it is the Jews’ current nemesis, Muslims, who through sheer numbers are eclipsing the Jewish minority in Canada, especially in Quebec.  In 2011, there were one million Muslims in Canada (3.2% of the population) making them the second largest religion after Christianity. In Greater Montreal, 6% of the population is Muslim, in the Greater Toronto Area, 7.7%.

This recapitulates the Jewish problem of a century ago, when the rapid ‘invasion’ of Jews with different dress codes and religious rituals raised the alarm of Canadians, especially Quebeckers, facing an uphill cultural battle in Anglo North America. Both ‘semites’, Jews and Muslims, came to Canada for economic reasons, the latter as fallout from the imperial occupation of Muslim lands, which disrupted traditional society, and forced Muslims to seek survival in the imperial centre, which includes Canada as a settler colony.

In the post-war period, just when Quebec had more or less come to terms with the ‘maudits anglais‘ and their Jewish banker/merchants, new ‘semites’ started coming. There are 94,000 Jews in Quebec, but already 250,000 Muslims, an increase by five times since 1991.

There is no Arcand, but, like Hitler, he still has acolytes. La Meute (The Pack), a far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islam group founded in October 2015 by Canadian Forces veterans Eric “Corvus” Venne and Patrick Beaudry, has 4,000–5,000 members. In an eerie coincidence, La Meute has its headquarters 60 kilometers north of Quebec City.

Where cultural clashes and the spectre of Israel still feed the ‘antisemitic’ accusation, the real discrimination is against Muslims, rather than Jews. The Quebec City murder of 6 Muslims at their mosque in January 2017 by Bissonnette shows that Quebec still has a problem, but now a Muslim one, but just how serious is it?

Many Muslims come to Quebec from French-speaking African countries, especially Algeria, Morocco, Rwanda and Burundi. A sprinkling of Jews come from Morocco. Both the Muslims and Sephardi Jews embrace French Canadian culture, adding an Arab flavor. Interestingly, Arab Muslim and Mizrahi (Arab) Jewish immigrants in Quebec have more in common with each other than the Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews, the latter English-speaking and unintegrated into Quebec society.

Quebec Muslims and terrorism

Quebec’s most infamous Muslim terrorist is Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian al-Qaeda member who lived for a time in Montreal. He received training in Afghanistan, and was convicted in 2001 of planning to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve 1999, as part of the foiled 2000 millennium attack plots.

In 2014, Montrealer Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a convert to Islam, fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, and then forced his way into Canada’s parliament building, where he had a shootout with parliament security personnel and was killed. Zehaf-Bibeau made a video prior to the attack in which he expressed his motives as being related “to Canada’s foreign policy and in respect of his religious beliefs.”

The rise of ISIS and the war in Syria have drawn a few Canadians, including seven Montrealers, five from Maisonneuve College, who just disappeared in January 2015, off to Syria via Istanbul to try to join the insurgents there.

Niqab controversy

Muslims in Quebec were/are the centre of controversy over the niqab, worn primarily by a small minority in line with the Saudi Wahhabi sect. In October 2017, the Quebec government passed a law prohibiting public workers, including doctors, teachers and daycare employees, and public transit users from covering their faces.  Three-quarters of Quebeckers (as do 68% of Canadians) back the law. It is less restrictive than a 2010 law in France which banned the niqab in public.

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée defended the controversial law, saying it is necessary for security and communication reasons. Quebec Superior Court Judge Babak Barin suspended the portion of the act banning face coverings until the government enacts guidelines for how the law will be applied and how exemptions might be granted.

Alia Hogben, the president of the Canadian Council For Muslim Women (CCMW), explained that CCMW’s position on the law is “nuanced”. “We don’t see the niqab as a religious obligation. We don’t see that it’s a demand in the Qur’an or in the hadith (Islamic traditions). But we also support a woman to make her own decision.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the law outright. Most others remain silent.

Meeting of minds

Following the Quebec City mass murder, Muslims in nearby Saint-Apollinaire applied for and were refused permission to establish a Muslim cemetery in a contentious neighbourhood referendum in 2017. Despite or because of the mass killing, residents did not want a Muslim cemetery.

Fortunately, other more sympathetic Quebeckers came to the rescue. A parcel of land near the Notre-Dame-de-Belmont Cemetery in Quebec City, was offered. The funeral company that runs the cemetery bought a larger parcel in the area a few years ago and in 2015 ceded back a small piece to the city in lieu of paying a 10% tax on the new acquisition. Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume offered the Muslim community leaders the area in the larger cemetery in August 2017. The leaders quickly accepted, but, ominously, the car of former mosque president Mohamed Labadi was torched the next night.

The xenophobic element in Quebec life, a legacy of three centuries of imperial invasion is still there. French Canadian culture, swamped by Anglo American culture, and now with a growing, vigorous Muslim culture, must struggle to keep its unique place in North American society. At the same time, the unending violence eminating from the Middle East makes Muslims the new poster enemy. This, despite the fact that they are the victims, with Israel the imperial outpost ensuring that they are weak, divided — and frustrated. That surely is what prompted the paranoid Bissonnette to do his unspeakable deed.

Quebeckers had little experience with or awareness of Muslims until the 1960s ‘Quiet Revolution’, which led to sympathy with Palestinians. FLQ militants even trained with Palestinian militants briefly in the 1970s. Those heady revolutionary 1970s are history, but the embers of liberation live on and provide inspiration for pro-Palestinian activism, bringing together both Muslim and non-Muslim Quebeckers, resulting in occasional hostile encounters with JDL and Hillel activists, even a mini-riot at Concordia in 2012, when Netanyahu was forced to cancel his speech.

Hopefully, the Quebec City murders and perpetrator Bissonnette are an aberration. Rezzam and Zehaf-Bibeau are. The niqab is a highly visible sore point, though it affects a few dozen women at most, and the Muslim community could deal with restrictions on it. The lure of ISIS and terrorist acts by disaffected youth is another issue which again affects a tiny minority of Muslims. The rise of La Meute since 2015 is worrisome. But on the whole, the prospects for Quebec Muslims are good. They adapt well, happy to speak French and assimilate. Their natural sympathy for the Palestinians fits well with Quebec traditions of solidarity for the oppressed.

Prospects for Metis Civilization

Transition from the Indian Act to Aboriginal self-government

The debate about the Indian Act and how to reconcile the elected councils and the traditionals over the past 40 years has been shaped by the sweeping intent of the White Paper of 1969, issued as Pierre Trudeau began his career as prime minister. It set out a liberal, multicultural challenge, an attempt to supersede the Indian Act by eliminating any special status for natives altogether. This galvanized the natives towards a defence of their special status, above and prior to the colonial settlers. It is a nice historical touch that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made native issues a priority, perhaps putting in place a new dispensation that has been germinating ever since.

BC Nisga’a New Year’s Celebration

Some landmarks in the movement to replace the 1876 Indian Act include:

(a) In 1973, the federal government commenced talks with the Yukon Native Brotherhood (later the Council for Yukon First Nations). In 1995, the Umbrella Final Agreement and the Final and Self-Government Agreements for four Yukon First Nations became law.

Other Yukon First Nations subsequently signed final agreements, bringing most of the Yukon’s First Nations into a radically different relationship with the government of Canada. Reserves were replaced by settlement lands. First Nations governments operating under settlement agreements, with much wider scope than those regulated by the Indian Act, had to design and implement financial management regimes, and continue negotiations with federal and territorial authorities on financial/tax arrangements and transfers of programs and services. In the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Settlement Act (1994), the legislation noted, “When a final agreement is given effect, the Indian Act ceases to apply in respect of any reserve identified in the agreement as settlement land.”

(b)  The creation of Nunavut in 1999, an Inuit-controlled jurisdiction with the same range of powers as the other two territories, has raised even further the bar on Aboriginal governance.

(c) An agreement with the Nisga’a and the governments of Canada and British Columbia was reached in 2000, eventually leading to a British Columbia referendum on treaty process in the province. The Nisga’a approach to self-government is markedly different from that laid out in the Yukon, where each of the 14 First Nations has a First Nations government operating under the Umbrella Final Agreement. The old Indian Act administration has been removed, and replaced with the Lisims Government. Wilp Si’ayuukhl is the principle law-making authority for the Nisga’a, established along traditional lines, with a Council of Elders, made up of Hereditary Chiefs (Simgigat), Hereditary Matriarchs (Sigidimhaanak) and other key Nisga’a elders providing crucial cultural leadership. Local matters are administered by the Village Governments established for the four main Nisga’a communities. In addition, the Nisga’a made permanent provision for Nisga’a living off the settlement lands, establishing Urban Locals in Terrace, Prince Rupert and Vancouver.

The Nisga’a moved quickly to convert their settlement into an active and productive Nisga’a-led government, defining the contours of fisheries regulation, creating and amending electoral procedures, and otherwise handling the business of government and administration for the Nisga’a First Nation. As Kevin McKay, Nisga’a Lisims Government Chairperson commented, “The Indian Act was in our lives for approximately 131 years. Compare that to the history of the Nisga’a Nation: our oral stories tell us that we’ve been here since the beginning of time. The Indian Act was here for 131 years and it did a lot of damage. The demand of our people, especially our hereditary chiefs, matriarchs and respected elders, was that we achieve recognition of the land question in a just and honourable way. The agreement, by removing the authority of the Indian Act (save for the role it plays in defining whether an individual is an Indian under the terms of the Act), represented a major shift away from the long-standing system of external control.”

(d) Since the passage of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act in 1984, nine Cree communities are not subject to the Indian Act or the band system. Instead they are represented by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), which signed an agreement in 2012 with the province of Quebec that would abolish the municipalities in the region and merge them with the Cree Regional Authority in a new regional government called the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory.

Many of these Aboriginal governments have reconstituted themselves along traditional lines, re-establishing the control of clans, recognizing the authority of elders and hereditary leaders, and/or permitting the exercise of Aboriginal customary law. As of 2016, twenty-two comprehensive self-government agreements had been signed by the federal government. Of those, eighteen were part of a comprehensive land claim agreement or modern treaty.

Land is now controlled locally, under the terms of the settlement agreements. There has been a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of the First Nations tax exemption. The current push to finalize modern treaties in British Columbia and treaty negotiations in the Maritimes will, over time, result in even more status Indian communities agreeing to come out from under the Indian Act.

Ontario lags behind. In January 2014, the Nipissing First Nation adopted what is believed to be the first constitution for a First Nation in Ontario. It is supposed to replace the Indian Act as the supreme law which regulates the governance of the First Nation, but has not been tested in court.

The government of Canada has finally begun to address Canada as a Metis civilization, moving in other ways beyond the Indian Act, working with Métis communities and urban Aboriginal populations, groups ignored under the Indian Act. “Put simply, the Indian Act no longer dominates Aboriginal-government relations and no longer provides a singular focus for the management of status Indian affairs.”

An important nongovernmental organization helping to facilitate the transition is the Centre for First Nations Governance, a non-profit organization that supports First Nations as they develop effective self-governance after the demise of the Indian Act. It was founded as the National Centre for First Nations Governance in 2005 with federal government support, but was defunded in 2012 by the Harper government and reconstituted as a self-financing consultancy group.

Dual authority

The writing is on the wall for the Six Nations elected council and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The century-old legitimacy of the elected council vies with the millennia-old legitimacy of the confederacy. Government policy to support one side against the other undermines the search for an acceptable compromise. Understandably, there is no strong movement to overthrow the elected council, which carries out the important work of maintaining day-to-day life on the reserve. The unfunded Haudenosaunee Confederacy has the prestige of tradition on its side (David Suzuki paid a visit to them in 2014), but is in no position to usurp the elected council.

The HCCC and the SNEBC have parallel structures to govern and promote develop, the SNEBC holding government funding and legitimacy as their trump card. The HCCC authorized the Haudenosaunee Development Institute to set up a corporation, the NewCo, to negotiate contracts with external economic corporations, as part of the next phase of development for the Haudenosaunee. The Joint Stewardship Board (JSB) is an agreement between the HCCC and the City of Hamilton for shared responsibilities and environmental guardianship of the Red Hill Valley. The HCCC worked to restore the Burtch Lands after its use and abandonment by the official government, but the Ontario government is determined to put the lands in its own control under the corporation it set up with SNEBC participation.

The SNEBC works directly with the official Canadian government on housing, education, infrastructure. They hosted the North American Indigenous Games, Champion of Champions Pow Wow and the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in 2016-7. Both are present at international fora such as UNDRIP. The dual authority weakens the overall authority of the natives in dealing with the Canadian government, but things still get done.

Prospects for Metis civilization

Number one priority for both SNEBC Chief Ava Hill and the HCCC is recovering some of the land stolen over the past two and a half centuries. Number two is recovering some of the revenue which all of the Haldiman Treaty lands are producing for Canada every day. Number three is using these resources to build, or rather rebuild, native life. Outreach to the broader society is also a priority. Natives traditionally have been generous and trusting, which accounts for how easily they were conned into giving everything away to a European money- and private property-oriented society.

The SNEB have a tourism program, offering participation in traditional ceremonies, art and sports events, canoeing by moonlight. An innovative example of this outreach is the program of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN), which brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together to learn about the history, people and ecology of the Credit River. Indigenous elders and leaders lead workshops run by the environmental group Ecosource. Carolyn King, who led a workshop about the history of the MNCFN, told the Toronto Star it’s important to give youth “a more intimate look at, and relationship with, the First Nations community, a first step to creating and building relationships. The Indigenous youth who participated were a very important contribution.” Joseph Pitawanakwat, from Manitoulin Island, a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, and founder of Creator’s Garden, ran the workshop about the significance of plants along the Credit River.

This initiative is a hint of how a real Metis civilization can come about. It relies on a deconstruction of the ‘colonial syndrome’ as outlined in Part I, a renewal of human-based civilizational thinking that arose at the same time as the native civilizations were being destroyed: the radical rejection of imperialism and racism proclaimed for the first time in 1917 in Russia. Communism became imperialism’s mortal enemy, much more worrisome at the time than the defeated native resistance. Not surprisingly, communists were hounded and vilified much as natives were through the 20th century, even as they fought for fundamental human rights.

But it was not only communism that was anti-imperialist and anti-racist. Islam promoted this from the 7th century onwards, and Muslims suffered the same travails as did Canada’s native peoples in the 19th–20th centuries. Now that communism has been defeated, it is possible–necessary–to go back to the drawing board to fashion a new Canadian identity, incorporating the anti-racism of the communists, Islam and the native traditions as embodied in the Great Law of Peace. We are beginning this very haltingly, though pipelines, resource exploitation and dams still have the upper hand, and our cousin Israel continues to remind us of our past and present sins towards natives, both Canadian and Palestinian.

Already one third of Canadian native peoples are Metis; i.e., intermarrying and assimilating naturally to the dominant colonial, immigrant culture. The new popularity of all things native, the rediscovery of culture, languages, ethos, is encouraged by new immigrants, especially Muslim, as Aalia Khan, the leader of the nature walk through Mississauga’s Creditview Wetland underlines.

Islam is now the second largest religion in Canada. There is much in common between Islam and native cultures. Perennialism is a perspective in modern spirituality which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth from which all doctrine has grown. The Swiss Frithjof Schuon (1907–1998) was first attracted to Hinduism before converting to Islam in Algeria in 1932. He lived with and wrote about the Plains Indians in the US, emphasizing the commonalities between native religions and Islam.

Canada’s special place in world culture will come, not through its colonial past, which created a rich but exploitive ‘civilization’, but through its multiculturalism, tempered by the precious heritage of our native peoples. The Great Law of Peace is the foundation of renewal, and is very much in line with Islamic teachings on governance and relations with nature. Muslim Canadians can find common ground with Canada’s native peoples; for Torontonians, that means working with the Six Nations as the people whose land became Toronto.

Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here