Category Archives: Peace

New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War

NOTE: In April of this year, my family had a medical emergency that required most of my time and attention. The result is that I am now the sole legal and physical guardian of two young children with significant needs. I hope to return to writing a regular newsletter now that they are in school. There is a lot going on and a lot to do. Solidarity, Margaret Flowers

This month, the Sanctions Kill coalition (Popular Resistance is a member) released its report: “The Impact and Consequences of US Sanctions.” The 35-page report was written in response to the Biden administration’s January call for a review of the US sanctions to determine if they ‘unduly hinder’ the ability of targeted nations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, there is no word on whether that review has been conducted, but given that the State Department and Treasury are tasked with conducting it, the same institutions that impose sanctions, the Sanctions Kill coalition had no confidence their report would challenge the US’ current foreign policy path of escalating economic war on 39 countries, or a third of the world population.

The Sanctions Kill report found that sanctions, which are being increasingly imposed by the United States in lieu of or in addition to military aggression, cause tremendous suffering and death, violate international laws, harm US industries, place the US in a position of civil and criminal liability and are isolating the US from the community of nations. The corporate media are silent on these harmful effects and criticism of sanctions.

Venezuelan UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada described the impact of sanctions this week at The People’s Forum (view the event here):

Sanctions are killing us…. They are homicidal. One of the awful effects of sanctions as a weapon, because it’s a kind of war, is that you don’t feel it here. You don’t even realize that sanctions are acting abroad…. You don’t feel it in any way. But we feel them…. That’s why they are so insidious and dangerous. [The US] is waging economic war against millions of people.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include restrictions on financial transactions, trade and travel, blockades on foreign loans and aid and the seizure of assets. The Sanctions Kill report found these measures violate the human rights of people in affected countries because they block access to basic necessities such as food, medicines and fuel and they prevent maintenance of important infrastructure such as water services, power generation and transmission and transportation. The so-called humanitarian exceptions that are supposed to prevent sanctions from blocking food and medicine don’t work – banks won’t allow the sales and shipping companies won’t transport the goods.

Technically what the United States is doing are not sanctions but are unilateral coercive measures (UCMs), which violate international law because they operate outside the structure provided by the United Nations. Legal sanctions are used as a punishment after a legal process determines a country violated a law. Unilateral coercive measures are imposed by the US and its western imperialist allies based on lies and without due process in order to effect a desired political outcome, such as regime change or retaliation.

For example, following the failed US-backed coup attempt in 2018 against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, the United States Congress passed the NICA Act, which began an economic war against socialist Nicaragua. With presidential elections being held this November, the United States has ramped up both a propaganda campaign against the popular Ortega, who is expected to win, and Congress is in the process of passing the RENACER Act, which will impose more UCMs against Nicaragua.

Here is what US activists are saying about the RENACER Act and what you can do to stop it. If you want to learn more, BreakThrough News recently interviewed Jill Clark-Gollub of Friends of Latin America about the RENACER Act.

The Sanctions Kill report also found that the US is imposing secondary sanctions on countries that do business with sanctioned countries, another violation of international law, and is using sanctions to target business people, such as Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, and diplomats, such as Alex Saab. Saab is being held in Cabo Verde where he stopped last year on his way to Iran to negotiate the purchase of food and medicines for Venezuela. The US is working to extradite him while international support for Saab, whose imprisonment violates the Vienna Convention, is growing. Clearing the FOG spoke earlier this year with Roger Harris of Task Force on the Americas after he traveled with a delegation to Cabo Verde to visit Alex Saab. Click here to take action.

In front of the United Nations after the People’s Mobe rally and march.  (September 2019. By Yuka Azuma)

Clearing the FOG spoke with two of the authors of the report, international lawyer John Philpot and Latin American solidarity activist David Paul. Philpot predicts a day of reckoning is coming for the United States because the UCMs violate multiple international laws, including the United Nations charter. They are a form of collective punishment, which is a crime against humanity.

As the United States’ status as a global hegemon declines, targeted countries are finding ways to work together to resist the brutal economic wars being waged by the US and build power. For years now, countries have worked on alternative financial instruments to bypass US sanctions in order to do business. One example is INSTEX, a trading mechanism developed by European nations and Iran.

One of the first major acts of defiance against US UCMs was in the spring of 2020 when Iran sent four tankers of oil and equipment to Venezuela despite a large US military presence in the surrounding waters. Recently, Iran defied US UCMs again when it sent a convoy of oil trucks through Syria to Lebanon, which is suffering greatly from an economic crisis and fuel shortage.

Cuba has been under a US economic blockade for more than 60 years but it continues to be a model of international solidarity, especially during the pandemic. Henry Reeves Medical Brigades have been sent to numerous countries to assist them in caring for COVID-19 patients. Now Cuba is in need of aid and Mexico is stepping up to provide it using its naval ships since commercial ships face many barriers due to the UCMs. People and organizations outside Cuba also worked to supply millions of syringes so Cubans can receive vaccinations against COVID-19.

Mexico was the host of the recent CELAC (the community of Caribbean and Latin American states) meetings where leaders openly criticized the Organization of American States as a tool of US imperialism and called for its reform or the creation of a new body. CELAC countries are working on ways to practice greater solidarity in the face of the pandemic, climate crisis and debt.

Similarly, the first African/CARICOM summit was held virtually earlier this month. A third of the countries being targeted by the US’ economic war are in Africa. In fact, almost all of the countries being sanctioned by the US are majority black or brown. Don Rojas covered the summit for Black Agenda Report, writing:

“The Summit was also a recognition of the political and economic imperative that the governments of Africa and the Caribbean must succeed in restructuring if our black and brown people and nations are ever going to assume their rightful place in the world.”

And this week, during the United Nations general assembly meetings, the foreign ministers of 18 countries met as the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and released a statement pledging to work together. They wrote, “…we convey our support to nations and peoples subjected to unilateral and arbitrary approaches that violate both the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms of international law, and renew our call for the full respect to the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as well as the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations.”

By Medea Benjamin

Those of us who live in the United States and its allied imperialist nations that enable these serious violations of human rights and international law have a responsibility to act to stop the use of economic warfare through unilateral coercive economic measures. Global power is shifting and we face multiple worldwide crises. It is imperative that imperialist nations change their foreign policy from death and destruction to diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.

An important step is education so people understand that UCMs are as lethal as bombs and that they affect the whole world, including people living in countries that wage economic war. The SanctionsKill.org website contains numerous resources to help with this including a toolkit that provides you with a power point and script so anyone can give a presentation on sanctions. The toolkit informs about what UCMs are and the specific harms they do.

You can also send the new Sanctions Kill report to your members of Congress and demand they end them now or publicize the report in any way you can – use social media, local or independent media outlets, your organization’s website, etc. We must break through the media blockade and demand the truth be told about the illegality of UCMs and their devastating impact on people in targeted countries. Write letters to the editor when you see articles about sanctions.

Take action to stop the RENACER Act and join the call to free Alex Saab. There are many solidarity organizations that are working to support people in countries attacked through economic measures. One example is the Saving Lives Campaign, a joint effort by people in the US and Canada to provide aid to Cuba.

Ending sanctions will save millions of lives and move us forward on the path toward a world of cooperation, peace and solidarity. Nations like the United States use sanctions because their deadly impacts are not as visible as dropping bombs. We must expose this brutal economic warfare and demand an end to it.

The post New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Let’s end the insanity of colossal military spending during a global health emergency

Imagine what could be achieved if just a portion of the money spent on military expenditures were pooled into a global fund, and redirected towards ending hunger and massively investing in public health systems. 

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If nations had a referendum, asking the public if they want their taxes to go to military weapons that are more efficient in killing than the ones we currently have, or if they would prefer the money to be invested in medical care, social services, education and other critical public needs, what would the response be?

Probably the majority of people would not have to think long and hard, since for many life has become an endless struggle. Even in wealthy countries, the most basic social rights can no longer be taken for granted. Social services are increasingly being turned into commodities, and instead of helping ordinary people they must serve shareholders by providing a healthy profit margin.

The United States is a prime example, where seeing a dentist or any medical doctor is only possible if one has health insurance. Around 46 million Americans cannot afford to pay for quality healthcare—and that is in the richest country of the world.

In less developed nations, a large proportion of people find it hard to access even the most basic resources to ensure a healthy and dignified life. One in nine of the world’s population go hungry. And the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis of poverty amid plenty, with the number of people facing acute hunger more than doubling.

There are now 240 million people requiring emergency humanitarian assistance, while over 34 million people are already on the brink of starvation.

But the United Nations’ funding appeals are far from being met, condemning thousands to unnecessary deaths from hunger this year. With aid funding falling as humanitarian needs rise, aid agencies are being forced to cut back on life-saving services.

Does it make any sense for our governments to spend billions on defence while fragile health systems are being overwhelmed, and the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in generations?

Outrageously misplaced priorities

Global military spending continued to reach record levels in 2020, rising almost 4 percent in real terms to US$1.83 trillion, even despite the severe economic contractions caused by the pandemic. The United States spends two-fifths of the world’s total, more than the next ten countries combined, and still cannot afford to prevent 50 million of its own citizens suffering from food insecurity. Most shamefully, the United Kingdom is massively boosting its arms budget—the largest rise in almost 70 years, including a vast increase to its nuclear weapons stockpile—while cutting aid to the world’s poorest by 30 percent.

Consider what a fraction of military budgets could achieve if that public money was diverted to real human needs, instead of sustaining the corrupt and profitable industry of war:

  • Meeting Goals 1 and 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals— ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’ and ‘Zero hunger’—would barely exceed 3 percent of global annual military spending, according to the UN’s Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
  • With the U.S. military budget of $750 billion in 2020, it could feed the world’s hungry and still spend twice as much on its military than China, writes peace activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK.
  • The annual nuclear weapon budget worldwide is 1,000 percent—or 10 times—the combined budget of both the UN and the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to the Global Campaign on Military Spending.
  • Just 0.04 percent of global military spending would have funded the WHO’s initial Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, according to Tipping Point North South in its Transform Defence report.
  • It would cost only 0.7 percent of global military spending (an estimated $141.2 billion) to vaccinate all the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants against Covid-19, according to figures from Oxfam International.

These opportunity costs highlight our outrageously misplaced priorities during an unprecedented global health emergency. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed just how ill-prepared we are to deal with real threats to our societies, and how our ‘national security’ involves a lot more than armies, tanks and bombs. This crisis cannot be addressed by weapons of mass destruction or personnel prepared for war, but only through properly funded healthcare and other public services that protect our collective human security.

It’s time to reallocate bloated defence budgets to basic economic and social needs, as long enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Article 25 points the way forward, underscoring the necessity of guaranteeing adequate food, shelter, healthcare and social security for all.

There is an imperative need for global cooperation to support all nations in recovering and rebuilding from the pandemic. The United Nations and its frontline agencies are critically placed to avert a growing ‘hunger pandemic’, and yet are struggling to receive even minimal funding from governments.

Imagine what could be achieved if just a portion of the money spent on military expenditures were pooled into a global fund, and redirected towards ending hunger and massively investing in public health systems, especially in the most impoverished and war-torn regions.

The common sense of funding ‘peace and development, not arms!’ has long been proclaimed by campaigners, church groups and engaged citizens the world over. But it will never happen unless countless people in every country unify around such an obvious cause, and together press our public representatives to prioritise human life over pointless wars.

In the words of arms trade campaigner Andrew Feinstein:

Perhaps this is an opportunity. Let’s embrace our global humanity, which is how we’re going to get through this crisis. Let’s put aside our obsession with enemies, with conflict. This is an opportunity for peace. This is an opportunity to promote our common humanity.

The post Let’s end the insanity of colossal military spending during a global health emergency first appeared on Dissident Voice.

China:  Leading to World Recovery and Beyond

China’s currently ongoing (4-11 March 2021) annual parliamentary meeting, known as the “Two Sessions”, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC), may be the most important of such meetings in recent years. The event is also celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The conference will define China’s internal and external development strategies, as well as her future role on the world stage. China is the only major economy that has mastered the covid-induced economic crisis, ending 2020 with a 2.3% growth. Compare this with economic declines way into the red for the US and Europe, of 25% to 35%, and 10% to 15%, respectively.

These figures may only be indicative. The bulk of the economic fallout from western governments’ mishandling of the covid crisis; i.e., bankruptcies, trade disruption, unemployment and housing foreclosures – a massive slide into poverty – may only be registered in 2021 and beyond.

The greed-driven capitalist system has already plunged tens of millions of westerners and perhaps hundreds of millions in the Global South into destitution.

What China decides at the “Two Sessions” Conference will undoubtedly have an impact on the entire world in the medium-term (2025) as well as long-term (2035) and beyond. China’s socialism “with Chinese characteristics” will be an influence for peace, justice and equality, as well as for a multi-polar world.

China’s thousands of years of cultural history and the ensuing Tao-philosophy of non-aggression and conflict avoidance, of a societal spirit of endless creation, as well as long-term thinking, contrasts radically with western conflict and instant-profit seeking.

The summit is addressing ambitious but attainable 2035 targets, including a 6%-plus growth in the foreseeable future; reduction of unemployment with urban focus; continued food self-sufficiency and environmental improvement targets, a gigantic 18% CO2 reduction, largely through a significant drop in energy consumption (13.5%) per unit of GDP — and this with a projected higher than 6% annual economic output. Environmental improvement and protection targets are way above any environmental objectives of western countries.

The conference may also define China’s guiding role in a worldwide recovery from a covid-related devastated economy. China’s economy has suffered, mainly during the first half of 2020, but her decisive actions have successfully overcome the pandemic’s path of destruction. By the end of 2020, China’s production and services were back to 100%. Thanks to this stellar efficiency, the west and Global South may continue relying on China’s supply of such vital goods as medical equipment, medicines, electronics and more.

What China’s 2025 Plan and 2035/2050 visions may include is a strong emphasis on economic autonomy and defense.

Economy:  Western China bashing with related sanctions, trade and currency wars, may continue also under the Biden Administration because US/European policies on dealing with China – and Russia for that matter – are made well above the White House and Brussels.

Rapid dedollarization may be an effective way to stem against the western “sanctions culture”. China may soon roll out her new digital Renminbi (RMB) or yuan, internationally, as legal tender for inter-country payments and transfers, and as an international reserve currency.

Reduce demand for US-dollars may incite worldwide investments in the new digital RMB.

Detaching from western dependence, China is focusing trade development and cooperation on her ASEAN partners. In November 2020 China signed a free trade agreement with the ten ASEAN nations, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, altogether 15 countries, including China.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, covers some 2.2 billion people, commanding some 30% of the world’s GDP. This agreement is a first in size, value and tenor worldwide.

China, Russia, as well as the Central Asia Economic Union (CAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), are likewise integrated into the eastern trade block.

RCEP’s trade deals will be carried out in local currencies and in yuan — no US dollars. The RCEP is, therefore, also an instrument for dedollarizing, primarily in the Asia-Pacific Region, and gradually moving across the globe.

Defense:  China provides the west’s main supply chain, from medical goods to electronic equipment to almost every sector important to humanity. Yet, western political interference in China’s internal affairs, like in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet, are endless. Overcoming these aggressions and threats of armed conflicts is part of China’s forward-looking plan and defense strategy.

Mr. Wang Yi, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently warned the White House to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs; that reunification with Taiwan is a historic tendency and was the collective wish of the Chinese people. He added, this trend cannot be reversed.

As a forerunner to China’s CPPCC Summit, in his address to the virtual World Economic Forum (WEF) on 25 January 2021, President Xi Jinping stated that China’s agenda was to move forward in the World of Great Change, with her renewed policy of multilateralism, aiming for a multi-polar world, where nations would be treated as equals.

China will continue to vouch for strong macroeconomic growth with focus on internal development which, in turn, will stimulate and contribute to international trade and investments. China pledges assistance for those that are suffering the most during this pandemic-induced crisis.

President Xi emphasized there was no place in this world for large countries dominating smaller ones, or for economic threats and sanctions, nor for economic isolation. China is pursuing a global free trade economy. BUT – and this is important – when talking of “globalism” respect for political and fiscal sovereignty of nations is a MUST.

On a global scale, President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) embraces currently more than 130 countries and over 30 international organizations, including 18 countries of the European Union. BRI offers the world participation, no coercion. The attraction and philosophy behind BRI, is shared benefits – the concept of win-win. BRI may be the road to socioeconomic recovery from covid-devastation and cross-border cooperation for participating countries.

China’s achievements in her 71 years of revolution are unmatched by any nation in recent history. From a country largely ruined by western colonization and conflicts, China rose from the ashes, by not only lifting 800 million people out of poverty, becoming food, health and education self-sufficient, but to become the world’s second largest economy today; or, if measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), since 2017 the world’s largest econmy. China is poised to surpass the US by 2025 in absolute terms.

On 4 March, 2021, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Children’s Health Defense), asked the pertinent question, “Can We Forge a New Era of Humanity Before It’s Too Late?” His answer is simple but lucid: “Unless we move from a civilization based on wealth accumulation to a life-affirming, ecological civilization, we will continue accelerating towards global catastrophe.”

This understanding is also at the forefront of China’s vision for the next 5 and 15 years and beyond. A China-internal objective is an equitable development to well-being for all; and on a world-scale, a community with shared benefits for all.
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First published by the New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

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Small Acts Can Become A Power No Government Can Suppress

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) was passed in the House this past week and now heads to the Senate, where it will no doubt be changed before it becomes law some time in mid-March. The current unemployment benefits expire on March 14.

While we don’t know what the final bill will look like, at least now we can get an idea of what is in it. Overall, as expected, the provisions in the bill will help to provide some financial assistance to some people, but they won’t solve the crises we face. And the Biden administration is backtracking on promises made on the campaign trail.

As Alan Macleod writes, Biden has abandoned raising the minimum wage, ending student debt and the promised $2,000 checks. His focus is on forcing people back to work and school even as new, more infectious and more lethal variants of the virus causing COVID-19 threaten another surge in cases and deaths. There is only one promise Biden appears to be keeping, and that is one he made to wealthy donors at the start of his campaign when he said, “nothing would fundamentally change.”

Despite this, people are organizing across the country for their rights to economic security and health and an end to discrimination. These struggles are necessary as we cannot expect either of the capitalist parties to act in the people’s interest. But together, we can demand that one of the wealthiest nations on earth upholds its responsibility to provide the basic necessities for its people. This is consistent with a People(s)-Centered Human Rights approach.

What is and isn’t in the ARP?

The current version of the American Rescue Plan contains provisions that would provide money to people earning less than $75,000 per year. One is the one-time $1,400 check.  Another is raising the tax credit for families with children, which will benefit those who file tax returns but leave out the millions of poor people who don’t.

The ARP will also extend unemployment benefits until the end of August and increase the enhanced benefits to $400/week. Unlike the previous bills, this one includes workers who left their jobs because of unsafe conditions and those who had to leave work or reduce their hours to care for children. The benefits are retroactive for some workers who were denied benefits.

While this will temporarily improve the economic situation for many people, it is not a plan to address the poverty crisis in the United States nor is it sufficient to support people through the current recession and pandemic. People will still face barriers to receiving the aid. Instead of making the programs something that people have to apply for, the government could provide monthly checks to everyone with incomes under a certain amount automatically. Numerous examples show that putting money into people’s hands, such as through a guaranteed income or giving unrestricted lump sums, improves their well-being.

An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, a promise of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, is in the House version of the bill, but it will not be in the Senate version unless the White House or Democrats intervene, which they seem unwilling to do. The minimum wage increase is being blocked by the Senate Parliamentarian, but the Vice President could override the decision or the Democrats could take steps to work around the Parliamentarian, as has been done in the past on other issues. They are choosing not to take this stand.

The ARP also fails to extend the eviction moratorium, which will expire at the end of March. While it does contain funds for rental assistance, they are being given to the Treasury Department to disburse to the states, so it is not clear how these funds will help people directly. A recent study found that corporate landlords received hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks last year but continued to evict thousands of people. When the eviction moratorium ends, those who cannot pay the back rent risk being evicted.

The health benefits in the ARP are not only inadequate but they are set to further enrich the medical-industrial complex, as I explain in “Biden’s Health Plan Shifts Even More Public Dollars into Private Hands.” The ARP is fulfilling a laundry list provided by private health insurers, hospitals and medical lobbying groups. It will subsidize the cost of insurance premiums but leave those who have health insurance still struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs and at risk of bankruptcy if they have a serious accident or illness.

And finally, another group that is being left out is those who have student debt. I spoke with Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice on Clearing the FOG this week. He said the current student loan burden is likely over $2 trillion and that the vast majority of debtors will never be able to repay . Collinge argues that it is imperative the Biden administration cancel student debt using an executive order, which he has the power to do, rather than leaving it to Congress. If the President does it, then the debt disappears (tax payers have already paid for the loans), but if Congress does it, which is unlikely to happen, they would have to offset the ‘cost’ through cuts to other programs or by raising taxes. Collinge also explains that cancelling student debt would be a significant economic stimulus.

All in all, the current ARP is another attempt by Congress to throw more money at a failed system that doesn’t change anything fundamentally. We must demand more.

The case for wealth redistribution

Lee Camp recently made the case for a massive change in the direction of wealth redistribution based on a new study that finds “the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020.” This amounts to over $1,000 per month per person in wealth that has been redistributed to the top or almost $14,000 per year.

It is time to reverse the direction of this wealth redistribution from one of consolidation at the top to one that creates greater wealth equality. This could be accomplished in a number of ways. In the middle of the last century, it was done through extremely high taxes on the wealthy and government investment in programs for housing and education. Camp advocates for taking all wealth over $10 million and redistributing it to the bottom 99.5% in a way that benefits the poorest the most.

Raising wages is another way to redistribute wealth. Professor Richard Wolff explains there are ways to raise wages without harming small businesses by providing federal support to them to offset the costs. Think of it as a reversal of the hundreds of billions in subsidies that have been given to large corporations, which they use to buy up and inflate the value of their stocks, to the small and medium businesses. It is smaller businesses that are most likely to keep wealth in their communities, unlike large corporations that extract wealth, and are the major drivers of the US economy. Small businesses alone comprise 44% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

If workers earned higher wages, it would also save the government money that is currently spent on social safety net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps for low-wage workers. These programs enable large corporations to profit off worker exploitation, especially Walmart, Amazon and McDonalds, according to the DC Report.

Robert Urie points out that another price society pays for the gaping wealth divide is state violence and incarceration. He writes, “At $24 per hour, the inflation and productivity adjusted minimum wage in the U.S. from 1968, workers were still being added to employer payrolls. The point: $24 – $7.25 = $16.75 per hour plus a rate of profit is one measure of economic expropriation from low wage workers in the U.S. Maintaining an unjust public order is critical to the functioning of this exploitative political economy. Most of the prison population in the U.S. comes from neighborhoods where the minimum wage affects livelihoods.” Imagine the many ways that greater economic security would positively benefit families and communities.

People are fighting back

In our current political environment, we cannot expect Congress and the White House to do what is necessary to protect the health and security of people without a struggle that forces them to do so. There are many ways people are fighting locally for their rights through resistance and creating alternative systems. Here are a few current examples.

On February 16, fast food workers in 15 cities went on strike to demand $15 an hour. Other low-wage workers joined them. Last Monday, in Chicago, Black owners of McDonalds franchises began a 90-day protest outside of the McDonalds headquarters because of discrimination against them. They say, “McDonald’s has denied the Black franchisees the same opportunities as white operators and continually steer them to economically depressed and dangerous areas with low volume sales.”

In Bessemer, Alabama, workers are conducting a vote to start the first union for Amazon employees. If they succeed, it will be an amazing feat considering that Alabama is a right-to-work state and Amazon is doing what it can to stop them. In Arizona, another right-to-work state, workers at two universities are leading an effort to unionize all higher education employees in the state. They are concerned that federal funding provided to keep universities open will not be used in a way that protects all workers. They cite recent practices that prioritize the financial well-being of the universities over worker health and safety.

Some workers are taking power in other ways. Bus drivers in Silicon Valley organized with the support of community members to stop fare collections and only allow boarding in the rear, moves designed to aid passengers during the recession and protect drivers during the pandemic. They were committed to doing this whether management agreed to it or not. Others are building worker-owned platform cooperatives to challenge platform corporations that exploit their labor such as Spotify and Uber.

Others are working to meet people’s basic needs through mutual aid. Food not Bombs has been feeding people throughout the pandemic in various cities. In Santa Cruz, CA, they are out every day to feed the houseless despite being hassled by the city and moved around. A rural area in Canada that includes 65,000 people pulled together it local resources to make sure everyone is fed through a food policy council of elected officials, organizations and stakeholders. They reallocated their budget from events and travel to food security. They opened their seed banks to support local gardening efforts and commandeered unused buildings as spaces for assembling food boxes that were delivered to those in need.

These examples illustrate the tremendous power people have to force changes and create support networks in their communities when they organize together. While we should continue to expose and pressure Congress and the White House to invest in programs that provide for people’s needs, that is a function of government after all, we also need to organize in our communities to build popular power and create alternative systems that will slowly build the society we need.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.

— Howard Zinn

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The Global Cry for Change

Change is in the air, it’s been hovering for some time, but thanks to Covid-19 festering social issues and inequalities have been highlighted, intensifying the need for a new approach. Talk of environmental action and reimagining how we live and work fills the airwaves; catchphrases abound, spilling from the lips of duplicitous politicians who claim they want to ‘build back better’, create a ‘new normal’, and invest in a ‘green recovery’.

Repeated often enough, and the men and women in suits are nothing if not repetitive, such slogans become totally devoid of meaning. The word becomes the thing to which it refers, without ‘the thing’ – ‘peace’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘equality’ – ever being realized, or any meaningful action undertaken to bring it about.

A cluster of interconnected crises confronts humanity, the most urgent of which is the environmental emergency. The natural world with its sublime beauty and intricate systems, has been vandalized, mutilated, poisoned. Hunger and malnourishment soil the lives of almost a billion people, billions more are economically insecure. Societies are fractured, divided, some more some less; there’s armed conflict, modern-day slavery, displacement of persons; anxiety, stress and depression are everywhere. It’s a mess, but it’s a mess from which a small number of very rich and politically powerful people benefit enormously. A tiny coterie of humanity, complacent and greedy, who are quite happy with the current order and do not want things to change, certainly not in any radical substantive way.

But billions of people throughout the world are desperate for change, for freedom, social justice, greater democracy and environmental action. And in the last forty years or so virtually every country in the world has witnessed expressions of popular outrage (including the more repressive states) as a global protest movement, unprecedented in scale, has emerged.

Social change has forever been slow in coming; fought for by the masses and resisted, often violently, by those in power. There is nothing unusual there, what is new is the weight and scale of the calls for change, the range of issues, interconnected, but diverse, and the urgency of the crises. The internet, social media and mass communication means the world is connected like never before. It’s easier to organize happenings, news is accessible almost everywhere all the time, speeding everything up.

Underlying this universal wave of discontent is a collective awakening, a unifying attitude of strength in the face of political arrogance, corporate exploitation and social division: Enough is enough; hear us and respond, seem to be the mantras of the masses. Fear of reprisals has lost its restraining hold (as seen in the recent protests in; e.g., Belarus, Russia and Myanmar) in light of the power of unified creative actions brought together under the banner of love.

‘People power’ is the label commonly applied to this uncoordinated diverse movement by the mass media – and they love a label. A reductive, somewhat divisive term; the explosion in political, social and environmental engagement is not rooted in opposition, though this certainly exists, but flows from a growing sense of social and environmental responsibility and an evolving unity; a recognition that we are all responsible for one another and the planet.

Responsibility is a key component of a democratic society, as is participation, and, of course, the two are closely linked. Society is not separate from those who live, work and study within its boundaries; we are society, collectively we create the atmosphere, and we allow and perpetuate the structures and dominant modes of living through our actions and attitudes. Consciousness sits behind behavior, attitudes, values, and consciousness (at least as far as we know it) is its content. Such content is predominantly the accumulated ideas and beliefs that have been poured into the mind from birth; conditioned content then is the fabric of our consciousness. We are, for example, conditioned into competition from childhood, and believing it to be natural and beneficial, we live within its divisive pattern and pass it on to others, our peers and children, say; we thereby add to the collective conditioning which shapes society.

Changes in consciousness and therefore behavior come about quite naturally when conditioning is absent; remove conformity and fear from a classroom, for example, and see children relax, play and freely express themselves.

We are all responsible, not just for ourselves but for others, family, friends, our community, nation, region, world; the more we act, the more the ripples of responsibility expand. Recognition and awareness of this inherent responsibility leads quite naturally to participation and action, as the many and varied protest movements and community groups demonstrate.

Expressions of social and environmental responsibility reflect and strengthen an evolving realization that humanity is one, that we are all essentially the same: Individuals with particular qualities and gifts sharing a common nature and universal constitution, the beauty and depth of which we sense but do not understand; its quality is love, that much we do know; and it is love in action that needs to permeate any ‘new normal’.

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China’s Economy of Peace

In the context of China’s webinar on 14 December 2020, on the topic of “China’s New Development Paradigm and High-Quality Belt and Road Cooperation”, organized by the China Center for Contemporary World Studies, International Department of CPC Central Committee and the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, my presentation was on China’s Economy of Peace.

*****

China, about a decade ago, has deliberately embarked on an Economy of Peace. A strategy that China pursues, unimpressed by constant aggressions from the west, which are mostly led by the United States. Is it perhaps this Chinese steadfast, non-aggressive way of constant forward-creation and embracing more and more allies on her way that has made China such a success story? Overcoming violence by non-violence is engrained in 5000 years of Chinese history.

Despite relentlessly repeated assertions by the west, China’s objective is not to conquer the world or to “replace” the United States as the new empire. Quite to the contrary. The alliance China-Russia and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is seeking a multipolar world, with more justice for all; i. e., fairer trade in the sense of “win-win”, where all parties are benefitting equally. This is also a policy pursued by the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the 15-country trade agreement signed at the 37th ASEAN Summit, 11 November 2020, in Vietnam, as well as by President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)), launched in 2013 by the President himself.

China does not coerce cooperation but offers peaceful cooperation. In 2014, Mr. Xi traveled to Germany to offer Madame Merkel for Germany to become – at that time – the western most link to the BRI, or the New Silk Road. This would have been an opening for all of Europe. However, Madame Merkel, having to follow Washington’s mandates, did not respond positively. President Jinping returned to Beijing, no hard feelings. And China continued her persistent course of connecting the countries of our Mother Earth with transport infrastructure, inter-country industrial ventures, education and research projects, as well as cultural exchanges to enrich the world, all the while respecting individual countries’ monetary and political sovereignty.

Many country leaders from Africa and the Global South in general express openly their contentment and satisfaction to have China as a partner and for dealing with China on the basis of equals. With the west, especially the US, there is bullying and coercion, unequal contracts, and often total disrespect for legally signed contracts.

Meanwhile, the west lives in a permanent state of hypocrisy. It bashes China – actually without any reason, other than that the dying Anglo-Saxon-American empire mandates it to its partners, especially the European NATO allies – under threats of sanctions. Unfortunately, spineless Europe mostly complies.

Yet, having outsourced for economic and profit reasons most production processes to reliable, efficient and cheaper-labor China, the west depends very much on China for its supply chains. The covid-crisis, first wave, has clearly shown how dependent the west is on goods produced in China from sophisticated electronic equipment to pharmaceuticals.

As an example: About 90% or more of antibiotics or ingredients for antibiotics are Made in China. Similar percentages apply to other vital western imports.  But China does not “punish” or sanction. China creates and moves forward offering her alliance to the rest of the world.

China has also developed a new digital international Renminbi (RMB) or Yuan that may soon be rolled out for use of monetary transactions of all kinds, including transfers, trade and even as a reserve currency. The yuan is already an ever-stronger reserve currency. This trend will be further enhanced through the RCEP and BRI.

Of course, the US is afraid that their dollar-hegemony they have built up since WWII with Fiat money backed by nothing, may suffer as international trading currency which the Anglo-American banking cartel practically imposed on the world, will come to an end; and the US-dollar’s standing as a reserve currency may rapidly decline.

And, yes, the yuan will gradually replace the US dollar as reserve currency and this because countries’ treasurers realize that the yuan is a stable, gold-backed currency, also supported by a solid economy, the only economy of any importance in the world that will grow in the covid-year 2020, by perhaps as much as 3.5%, while western economies will falter badly. Predictions are dire for the US and Europe, between 12% (EU predictions) and up to 30%/35% (US FED prediction).

The US dollar and its dominion over the international transfer system through SWIFT has been used massively for sanctioning non-compliant countries, including totally illegal confiscation of assets even countries reserve assets — case in point is Venezuela.

Escaping this coercive dollar dominion is the dream of many countries. Therefore, trading, investing and dealing with the Chinese currency will be a welcome opportunity for many sovereign nations.

China’s economic achievements and forward-looking perspectives may be summarized in two major events or global programs, the just signed free trade agreement with 14 countries – the 10 ASEAN countries, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, altogether, including China 15 countries. The so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was in negotiations during eight years  and achieved to pull together a group of countries for free trade, of some 2.2 billion people, commanding about 30% of the world’s GDP. This is a never before reached agreement in size, value and tenor.

In addition to the largest such trade agreement in human history, it also links to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), which in itself comprises already more than 130 countries and more than 30 international organizations. Also, China and Russia have a longstanding strategic partnership, containing bilateral agreements that too enter into this new trade fold – plus the countries of the Central Asia Economic Union (CAEU), consisting mostly of former Soviet Republics, are also integrated into this eastern trade block.

The myriad of agreements and sub-agreements between Asian-Pacific countries that will cooperate with RCEP, is bound together by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), founded on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai as an intergovernmental organization, composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO is little known and little talked-about in the west.

The purpose of the SCO is to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

Much of the funding for RCEP and BRI projects may come in the form of low-interest loans from China’s Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) and other Chinese and participating countries’ national funding sources. In the hard times emerging from the covid crisis, many countries may need grant assistance to be able to recover as quickly as possible from their huge socioeconomic losses created by the pandemic. In this sense, it is likely that the new Silk Road may support a special “Health Road” across the Asian Continent.

The RCEP may, as “byproduct”, integrate the huge Continent of Eurasia that spans all the way from western Europe to what is called Asia and covering the Middle East as well as North Africa, of some 55 million square kilometers (km2), and a population of about 5.4 billion people, close to 70% of the world population – See map (Wikipedia).

The crux of the RCEP agreement’s trade deals is that they will be carried out in local currencies and in yuan – no US-dollars. The RCEP is a massive instrument for dedollarizing, primarily the Asia-Pacific Region, and gradually the rest of the world.

Much of the BRI infrastructure investments, or New Silk Road, may be funded by other currencies than the US-dollar. China’s new digital Renminbi (RMB) or yuan may soon become legal tender for international payments and transfers, and will drastically reduce the use of the US-dollar.

The US-dollar is already in massive decline. When some 20-25 years ago about 90% of all worldwide held reserve-assets were denominated in US-dollars, this proportion has shrunk by today to below 60% – and keeps declining. The emerging international RMB/yuan, together with a RCEP- and BRI-strengthened Chinese economy, may further contribute to a dedollarization, as well as dehegemonization of the United States in the world. And as said before, the international digital RMB/yuan may progressively also be replacing the US-dollar, as well as euro reserves in countries’ coffers around the globe. The US-dollar may eventually return to be just a local US-currency, as it should be.

Under China’s philosophy, the unilateral world may transform into a multi-polar world. The RCEP and New Silk Road combination are rapidly pursuing this noble objective, a goal that will bring much more equilibrium into the world.

Maybe for a few years more to come, the west, led by the US — and always backed by the Pentagon and NATO — may not shy away from threatening countries participating in China’s projects, but to no avail. Under Tao philosophy, China will move forward with her partners, like steadily flowing water, constantly creating, avoiding obstacles, in pursuit of her honorable goal – a world in Peace with a bright common future.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

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Time to Grow Up: Ending Divisions Creating Peace

There are said to be around 30 armed conflicts currently taking place in the world, some large, some small, all deadly. The warring factions of today are more likely to be insurgent groups – ‘rebels’ (sometimes fighting proxy wars for a regional or global power) or terrorists, extremists – right and left, battling with a federal army or police force – than nation squaring up to nation.

Research shows that less people are dying in such clashes than at any time in history. This is positive, of course, but the number of deaths isn’t really the issue, although clearly less is better. What’s important is to unearth the reasons for violence, to create a world in which the causes of conflict are removed and allow peace, that long held ideal, to be realized.

In addition to armed battles, societies everywhere are violent, dangerous places in varying degrees, as are many personal relationships and homes. Then there is the vandalism mankind is inflicting on the natural world, on intricate ecosystems, on plant and animal species, on the air, the waterways and the earth itself. Although this form of abuse may appear separate from uniformed killings, stabbings or roadside bombs, it flows from the same destructive source – human consciousness and behavior.

Humanity appears to be incapable of living together in peace, or in harmony with the other kingdoms in nature; our long past is punctuated and in many ways shaped by war, by death, destruction and suffering, and by wholesale vandalism and exploitation, of one another, of groups that are (militarily/technologically) weaker, and of the environment.

Some argue that human beings are inherently brutal, others that we are conditioned into violence. This is the reductive nature versus nurture debate; a conversation that centers around the degree to which each aspect influences and colors the behavior of the individual: is humanity (or a specific individual) inherently violent and abusive, for example, or is such behavior the result of conditioning, the way we are raised, nurtured, the type of atmosphere we are exposed to, the prominent values and modes of living that are promoted and unconsciously absorbed?

While people’s natures vary and we are all unique individuals – different yet the same – within each and every human being the potential for tremendous good exists (routinely demonstrated in times of need), as does the propensity towards great cruelty, to which some appear more at risk than others. The environment in which an individual lives, the conditioning factors he/she is exposed to, the values and beliefs, all influence the extent to which one or other innate tendency is expressed and or comes to dominate.

Although some forms of conditioning are more damaging than others, all conditioning inhibits, divides, and creates a false sense of self and a distorted view of others. Conditioning into competition, into tribalism/nationalism and adherence to any ideology – religious, political, economic – constructs a barrier, fuelling division, facilitating violence; that which is inherent, the seed of the good, is stifled, consigned to the margins, merely an alarming echo, the voice of conscience. As a result of the current socio-economic system, which has found its way into all aspects of life, including education and health care, such conditioning is widespread.

It is a socially unjust model, a violent system founded on ideals that agitate the negative and breed violence. Competition, ambition, greed and desire are promoted, in fact, they are essential for its survival; nationalism, via the agency of competition, encouraged. All perpetuate and strengthen separation, dividing humanity, one from another, and where division exists – within the individual and/or within society – conflict is inevitable.

Under the Doctrine of Greed everything and everyone is seen as a commodity, a consumer of relative value, or an obstacle to enrichment of some kind (indigenous people living in the Amazon rain forest for example), something or someone that can be used and profited from, and when drained of value, discarded. Inequality of all kinds, wealth, income, opportunity, influence, is built into its mechanics, which grind the goodness out of all but the strongest; social justice denied, injustice ensured.

Social injustice is a form of mass violence, perpetrated by the architects and devotees of the system, all of whom have profited well and are determined to maintain the cruel status quo and remain in power for as long as possible. Given the level of injustice, particularly between the rich global north and impoverished south (albeit with pockets of enormous wealth), it is surprising that riots don’t break out all the time. There is resentment and anger among people everywhere, but physical exhaustion, economic insecurity; fear and a conditioned sense of guilt and inadequacy coalesce to inhibit action.

Barriers to Peace

The concept of peace has been held in our collective consciousness for at least two thousands years, probably longer. Peace between nations, peace within countries and regions, peace in our communities, longed for by people everywhere and routinely promised by politicians and leaders of all colors, while they invest in the machinery of war, trade in arms and follow the ideology of conflict. Hollow hypocritical words uttered without intent like a mechanically recited prayer, and so (for the most part), like other noble constructs, peace has remained an ideal. And believing in the ideal alone, the conditions for its realization have not been created, systems that ensure conflict are maintained, and so, inevitably violence has erupted, again and again and again.

Despite this fact, and contrary to our history of brutality and cruelty, peace and harmony are the natural order of life. They are aspects of life that are eternally present – like the sun, which even when obscured by cloud or darkness remains in the heavens. All that is required is that the obstacles to their manifestation be identified and removed.

The principle obstruction is division, followed by selfishness and greed. The notion that we are separate from one another, from the environment and from that which we call God; divisions based on tribal/nation affiliations, ideologies of all kinds (including religions), race and or ethnicity; inequality and social injustice in its myriad forms. Greed and the focus on material wealth, and with it political influence, is itself divisive and has led to the violent exploitation of people (the slave trade being perhaps the greatest and most abhorrent example) and the natural world.

In order to rid the world of violence an understanding and rejection of those modes of living that create environments of conflict and fuel discord is needed; a shift in consciousness away from selfishness, greed and tribalism; and recognition that humanity is one. We are living in extraordinary times, transitional times, and such a realignment is well underway; there is a growing awareness that if humanity is to overcome the issues of the day and save the planet we must come together, cooperate and share. In the pursuit of peace sharing is essential, for without it there can never be social justice, and social justice is critical in creating trust and community harmony.

Together with justice and freedom, peace is no longer simply a dormant ideal, a cherished aspiration.  It is a living force flowing through the hearts of men and women throughout the world, inspiring collective action, demanding change and an end to all forms of violence. It’s time for humanity to come of age, to reject all that divides us, to unite and create a space in which peace and harmony can ring out across the world.

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Who and What Should One Remember on Remembrance Day?

Education is supposed to encourage critical thinking. However, if critical thinking ever were a part of the education curriculum, it usually goes out the window around Remembrance Day.

Take, for instance, Canada Remembers Times the Veterans’ Week Special Edition (5-11 November 2020). It is published by Veterans Affairs Canada and made available in BC provincial elementary schools. On page one an article caught my eye: “Going to War in Korea.”

The article relates:

The Korean War erupted 70 years ago when the North Korean troops poured across the border into South Korea on 25 June 1950…. More than 26,000 Canadians traveled halfway around the world to fight with the United Nations forces…

There is no background to the article, and there is no supporting evidence for the information given. For example, readers are not apprised that the UN Security Council was able to vote for sending troops to Korea because the USSR did not partake in order to show solidarity with the bid of the People’s Republic of China to hold the UNSC China seat (instead of the Republic of China, aka Taiwan). It seems that an essential piece of information was omitted, and that poses a question mark to the validity and morality of Canada joining UN forces in a military venture that is strikingly at odds with the UN’s expressed raison d’être of preventing the scourge of war.

In western state/corporate media the question of who started the war on the Korean peninsula is given as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. If one is curious enough to seek out what the DRPK side or independent media says, then a different answer might be forthcoming. Pyongyang states that there were several Republic of Korea troop incursions into the North preceding the DPRK invasion that began on 25 June 1950.1,2

Regardless of whether the North or the South had initiated militarism on the peninsula, what is not discussed is the question of what gave the US and the UN the moral right to become involved in what was initially a civil war?

Who started the war on the Korean peninsula is relevant. But the far more important question is what caused the war? The what in this case would seem to answer the question of who.

At the end of WWII, Japan was defeated, and it would have had to end its colonization of Korea which began in 1910. Left out of many accounts is the Taft-Katsura Agreement, essentially a quid pro quo imperialism where the US left Korea to Japan and Japan left the Philippines to the US.3

This would all change shortly after the end of WWII.

Yo Un Hyung was a politician, well regarded in both the ROK and the DPRK, who had vigorously opposed the Japanese occupation of Korea. At the end of WWII, Yo was handed the reins of self-government in Korea by the Japanese governor general of Korea, general Abe Endo. Yo helped form People’s Committees in all Korean provinces and the Korean People’s Republic arose. On 14 September 1945, the first cabinet was formed.4

The US, however, feared a socialist state in Korea. The US dismantled and abolished the fledgling democratic Korean People’s Republic. Vice president Yo was forced to step down, as the United States Army Military Government in Korea consolidated its occupation of the South.

As a consequence, the division imposed by the US created a situation in which the Korean people would seek to unite the two sides of the peninsula. The unpopular US-installed government in the south rapidly fell to the northern forces who were supported by socialist sympathizers in the south and aided by desertions from the ROK forces. The peninsula, aside from a pocket in Busan, was militarily captured by northern fighters. Thus the US intervened.

Writes author Nhial Esso,

If the issue of [governance] had been left to the Korean people themselves to decide, all of Korea would have been united under the leadership of the North, long recognized by the Socialist Bloc (and at that time, much of the Korean and world populations) as the sole legitimate government on the peninsula.5

Korea expert Bruce Cumings argued: “it is the Americans who bear the lion’s share of the responsibility for the thirty-eighth parallel.”6

Countries of ethnically similar people that are split up by outside actors tend to want to rejoin. In recent history there are the examples of North and South Viet Nam as well as East and West Germany reuniting. The US had a hand in the partitioning of Viet Nam, Germany, and Korea. It is only matter of time before some form of reunification happens between the DPRK and ROK.

Thus it is prima facie evident that the US bears responsibility for instigating the war on the Korean peninsula. If the US had not forced a division of the Korean peninsula, there would not have been a burning desire to reunite what was not separated.

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So why is Veterans Affairs Canada pushing this hawkish narrative? Is it ignorance? Is it subservience to the US?

When it comes to wars and warring, what is the narrative a government (in this case the Canadian government) should be presenting in schools? Should not governments promote a narrative that peace is the path to be followed?

I do recognize that many of the people who fought in the wars, fought out of bravery and the conviction that they were fighting for a noble cause. That Remembrance Day recognizes the past sacrifice of men and women who fought for, what they believed to be, a good cause is respectful. But a more important and respectful use of such a holiday is to lay bare the fact that warring is a dirty, violent business that has no place in a moral universe. Governments that believe in the sanctity of human life must strive to prevent the scourge of war. But governments misuse Remembrance Day. Thus Remembrance Day comes packaged with patriotism, propaganda, and disinformation.

The research of professor Jacques Pauwels reveals that World War One and World War Two were fought for ignoble reasons.7 Pauwels writes that WWI was antagonistic to the working class, hindering workers from organizing, receiving higher wages, and demanding greater democracy. The Establishment hoped that WWI would destroy revolutionary zeal, democratic aspirations, and the desire for socialism. As for WWII, Pauwels argues that the United States’ participation was again based mainly on the economic and business interests of US corporations.

If Pauwels’ etiology of WWI and WWII is correct, and I believe it is, then shouldn’t the extirpation of the elaborate propaganda and disinformation architecture that helps to foment wars be priority number one? Is the celebration of the individual acts of certain soldiers to be accorded greater attention than the millions upon millions of people killed, the cities leveled, and the resulting immiseration? Would people sacrifice their lives and take the lives of others knowing beforehand that wars are fought for corporate profiteering?

Governments must be truthful and forthright about the scourge of war, and the men and women have an ethical obligation to become deeply familiar with what war is and what the moral implications are before they take up arms. Some soldiers may well be heroes, but many are killers and war criminals. Right now a man is incarcerated in the ill-reputed Belmarsh Prison in London because he helped to expose the war crimes of Americans. Julian Assange is a genuine hero, but the governments of today, and the state/corporate media prefer that he be dropped down the Memory Hole. One day, however, it is the heroes of peace, people like Julian Assange, who will be remembered and celebrated on this day.

The physicist Albert Einstein identified how simple it is to bring an end to warring: “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.”8 In other words, to some extent, the people who continue to enlist and put their bodies on the line for what their government deems to be a good cause are guilty of perpetuating war. Remembrance Day and its annual propaganda trumpets battlefield heroism and desensitizes people to the bloody carnage.

To target such propaganda at young children is condemnatory.

Yet, such propaganda is presented within the school system to impressionable young minds, minds that haven’t fully developed the intellectual tools to evaluate the verisimilitude of information.9

Is it any wonder that Mark Twain said, “Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”

  1. See Won Myong Uk and Kim Hak Chol, Distortion of US Provocation of Korean War (Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 2003).
  2. See Ho Jong Ho, Kang Sok Hui, and Pak Thae Ho, The US Imperialists Started the Korean War (Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1993).
  3. See Carole Cameron Shaw, The Foreign Destruction of Korean Independence (Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 2007).
  4. Lee Wha Rang, “Who was Yo Un-hyung? (Part 2),” Association for Asian Research, 1 March 2004.
  5. Nhial Esso, What You Don’t Know about North Korea Could Fill a Book (Intransitive Publishers International, 2013): 21%.
  6. Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005): 186.
  7. See Jacques R. Pauwels, The Great Class War 1914-1918 (Lorimer, 2016) and The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, Lorimer, second edition, 2015).
  8. Einstein from an interview with George Sylvester Viereck, January 1931.
  9. The child development psychologist Jean Piaget considered higher level reasoning occurs during the formal operational stage of development, at approximately age twelve, although not everyone achieves this stage of cognitive development. The psychologist Lev Vygotsky promoted guided discovery in the classroom for problems beyond a child’s level of understanding.

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War, Peace, Wealth, and Recognition

Is the world making more love than war these days? And if so why?

It’s a question that three great contemporary intellectuals have either indirectly or directly wrestled with in their life’s work.

The first of our intellectuals is Francis Fukuyama. In his celebrated debut book The End of History and The Last Man, Fukuyama argued with great verve and imagination that Hegel’s nineteenth century insights into the mystery of human history were relevant to better understanding the political nature of our times.

Through the interpretive filter of the Russian-French philosopher Alexander Kojeve, Fukuyama explained that History’s trajectory was bent towards individual freedom and recognition.

In this story, the rise of modern science and technology are not enough to explain the historic spread of democratic governments and the passionate belief in human rights. Science can produce a vibrant consumerist society but only the strong human desire for the recognition of ones self-worth in the eyes of others can explain the demand for political liberty.

Similar to Fukuyama is Michael Doyle’s work on “the Democratic peace” which is, itself, partly based on the philosophical works of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Paine.

Doyle, and others, began to notice in the 1970’s that “a separate peace” between the democracies had been practically achieved. This empirically verifiable peace seemed to support Kant’s and Paine’s earlier beliefs that the only way for a peaceful world order to be secured, republics (democracies) would have to be set up within individual states which would then combine to form a federation of pacific states for whom war would be effectively abolished. The fact that, according to the democratic peace theorists, no war had broken out between the democracies for over two-hundred years seemed to verify these Enlightenment thinkers’ earlier philosophical conjectures.

However, before we celebrate the triumph of Hegelian desires and Kantian Republics in contributing to world peace we should, says Azar Gat, be aware of the pacific power of modernization.

Azar Gat, a noted historian of both war and peace, believes that neither the human desire for freedom and recognition nor the spread of democratic governance is responsible for the current spell of peace between the great powers. He cites as evidence the belligerent nature of ancient democracies between themselves (the case of Democratic Athens vs Democratic Syracuse is of particular interest), the War of 1812, and the US civil war.

Also of importance is the fact that both democracies and non-democracies have had an increasing tendency to not engage in warfare over the past 200 years.

So, if democracy is not the cause of the “long peace” what is?

For Gat, the transformation of the world though the industrial revolution leading to the creation of a consumerist-technological society and culture is the main variable sufficient to explain the current state of peace. Significantly, it is a peace that predated the advent of the atomic bomb, although that event has also contributed to world stability according to Gat.

Modernization has meant many things. Most importantly, it has meant an exponential growth in wealth and comfort. It has increased the possibilities for the enjoyment of life through urbanization, the sexual revolution, commerce, the integration of women, and demographic changes which have led to comparatively less young men (historically the major practitioners of war, if not the instigators).

Thus, in the pre-modern world, war was still a potentially lucrative, if risky, endeavor. And it did not matter against whom it was waged as long as there was a good chance of winning it. However, with the rise of the industrial-technological society (modernization) the payoff matrix suddenly changed. Increasingly, it made more sense to avoid conflict so as not to risk the considerable benefits of peace (wealth and comfort).

Ultimately, if Gat is right, it is not so important for countries to be democratic as it is for them to be wealthy. Wealth softens the war like spirit. This is something that was known to philosophers for thousands of years. But the way to modern wealth is through trade, technology, and overall scientific development and education.

In this final causal explanation for the modern peace, we may find some not inconsiderable solace and hope in the recent rise of China. A country very focused on the increase of national wealth and well being. It is to be hoped that such a political interest and actual material development will be enough to avoid great power conflict in the future. Something which was not avoided in the cases of Japan’s and Germany’s rise to power in the early twentieth century. In the end, this will be a test of much more than mere academic theories of peace.

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