Category Archives: Activism

Covid Deaths in the US (over 1 million) and China (about 5000)

In May and June of 2022 two milestones were passed in the world’s battle with Covid and were widely noted in the press, one in the US and one in China. They invite a comparison between the two countries and their approach to combatting Covid-19.

The first milestone was passed on May 12 when the United States registered over 1 million total deaths (1,008,377 as of June 19, 2022, when this is written) due to Covid, the highest of any country in the world. Web MD expressed its sentiment in a piece headlined: “US Covid Deaths Hit 1 Million: ‘History Should Judge Us.’”

Second, on June 1, China emerged from its 60-day lockdown in Shanghai in response to an outbreak there, the most serious since the Wuhan outbreak at the onset of the pandemic. The total number of deaths in Mainland China since the beginning of the epidemic in January 2020 now stands at a total of 5226 as of June 19,2022.

To put that in perspective, that is 3042 deaths per million population in the US versus 3.7 deaths in China due to Covid. 3042 vs. 3.7! Had China followed the same course as the US, it would have experienced at least 4 million deaths. Had the US followed China’s course it would have had only 1306 deaths total!

The EU did not fare not much better than the US with 2434 deaths per million as of June 19.

When confronted with these numbers, the response of the Western media has all too often been denial that China’s numbers were valid. But China’s data have been backed by counts of excess deaths during the period of the pandemic as the New York Times illustrated in a recent article. Actually this is old news. The validity of China’s numbers, as shown by counts of excess deaths, was validated long ago in a February 2021 study by a by a group at Oxford University and the Chinese CDC. This was published in the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) and discussed in detail here.

What about the economy?

Clearly China put the saving of lives above the advance of the economy with its “dynamic zero Covid policy.” But contrary to what was believed in the West at the time, saving lives also turned out to be better for the economy, as shown in the following data from the World Bank:

During the first year of the pandemic, 2020, China’s economy continued to grow albeit at a slower rate. In contrast the US economy contracted dramatically, dropping all the way back, not simply to 2019 levels, but to pre-2018 levels!

Interestingly the plot also shows the year that the Chinese PPP-GDP surpassed that of the United States, 2017, heralding a new era for the Global South.

The World Bank has not yet released data for 2021, but the IMF has PPP-GDP data for 2021 shown here. The U.S. economy grew at 5.97 percent and China’s at 8.02 percent. Unlike the World Bank data shown in the graph above for the years up to 2020, these data for 2021 are not corrected for inflation which for 2021 ran at 4.7% in the U.S. whereas China’s was 0.85%. So China’s growth would be even greater in comparison to the US, were inflation taken into account.

The bottom line is that for the first two years of the pandemic through 2021, China’s growth was always positive and greater than that of the US. China’s policy not only saved lives but protected the economy. Win-win, one might say.

Is China’s dynamic zero Covid policy “sustainable”in the face of the Omicron variant? The Shanghai Lockdown.

The period of the recent Shanghai lockdown which we can date from April 1, 2022, ended on June 1, and was the second largest outbreak in China since the original outbreak in January, 2020, in Wuhan. Each resulted in major lockdowns, the first in Wuhan lasted about 76 days and the second in Shanghai about 60 days. The first in Wuhan was due to the original variant and the second was due to the much more infectious Omicron.

During the recent lockdown in Shanghai, the Western press was awash with proclamations, all too many laced with an unseemly Schadenfreude, that China’s dynamic Zero Covid policy was not sustainable. This is all too reminiscent of decades of predictions that China’s extraordinary success in developing its economy to number one in the world in terms of PPP-GDP was a passing phase, a Ponzi Scheme that was – what else – “not sustainable. Recently the same press has gone silent, always a sign that China has met with success. So what are the results?

The Shanghai Lockdown ended on June 1 and from that day until today, June 19, there have been no deaths due to Covid on the Chinese Mainland. Cases nationwide are also way down to 183 per day from the peak of 26,000 on April 15. That was the largest number of cases in a single day for the entire period of the pandemic in China. For comparison, the peak in the US was 800,000 in a single day.

Both the Wuhan and Shanghai lockdowns demanded sacrifices and patience over the roughly two-month period for each. However, these difficulties are generally exaggerated In the West and based on anecdotes of the worst of the difficulties encountered. Such sordid journalism reached rock bottom in a NYT piece equating China’s hard working health care workers to Adolph Eichmann!

As an antidote to this kind of hit piece and to gain a feeling of life in the cities that were under lockdown during the Wuhan outbreak, Peter Hessler’s March, 2020, account in the New Yorker, “Life on Lockdown in China,” is enlightening and will dispel many misconceptions. Hessler was living and teaching in Chengdu, Sichuan, at the time.

For the moment China’s approach has succeeded although we cannot say what the future holds. But the public health measures that have worked so well in Mainland China should not be lightly dismissed let alone be the subject of mean-spirited attacks. Such measures may be a means of saving millions of lives when the next variant or the next pandemic strikes.

The US Needs a People’s Tribunal on the Handling of Covid-19.

Turning again to the US, what does it say when the US, one of the richest nations in the world, spending over $1 trillion a year on its “national security” budget, could not muster the means to deal with Covid-19 and ended up with more deaths than any other nation on earth? China’s handling of the pandemic certainly shows a completely different outcome is possible. The US death toll was not an inescapable act of nature.

That being so, should there not be a People’s Tribunal to investigate those in charge in the US government over the course of three administrations? That, and not an official white wash, is certainly needed? And should not punishment appropriate for a crime against humanity be meted out? The one million dead deserve no less.

The post Covid Deaths in the US (over 1 million) and China (about 5000) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Imperialism Cannot Solve Our Problems

In learning more about the Poor People’s Campaign Moral March on Washington set for June 18th, I came across this statement by Bishop William Barber, the campaign’s national co-chair:

Republicans say poverty is just a personal failure. And Democrats too often talk about the working class and those trying to make it into the middle class but refuse to talk expressly about poverty. Our debates are locked in struggles around and about trickle-down concepts of neoliberalism, and middle-class considerations.

He concluded that the country’s refusal to address poverty is “the basic moral contradiction” of our time.

I have to admit that I initially bristled at the idea of a “moral contradiction” because, as a non-religious person, that language sometimes raises red flags for me. But I began to think about how Marxists talk about the concept of contradiction.

What is a contradiction? All social phenomena contain contradictions. Contradictions aren’t simply accidents but essential features of what those objects are. For example, the U.S. is a society that describes itself as free and touts its wealth but is plagued by the poison of white supremacy and male supremacy. The constitutional system grants due process, but cops kill and beat thousands of people each year. It has 142 million people living in dire poverty or one paycheck, one health crisis, or one disaster away from financial desperation. More than 52 million workers earn less than $15 per hour and often can’t meet their basic needs.

U.S. leaders and capitalists brag about advanced technology, such as medical technology and knowledge. Still, they couldn’t prevent the loss of 1 million lives from COVID or 100,000 opioid overdose deaths, or 46,000 deaths from guns. We wring our hands while little change takes place. We wonder why we never see these things coming and constantly react only after so many people have been harmed.

Political leaders boast about an advanced educational system but cannot provide it free or at a reasonable cost to the mass of working-class people. Decades-long debt peonage is the best choice we have. As illiteracy grows and workers score poorly on tests that measure competence with mathematics and language, politicians cut school and university budgets.

These are essential contradictions that define the U.S. as a social formation. They aren’t just bad choices made by an otherwise just society.

This reality shapes how I read Barber’s comments. “Moral contradiction” causes one of the major political parties to demand the state control women’s bodies by banning safe abortions claiming the human rights of unborn fetuses. But then, the next day, it votes as a bloc against immediate steps to remedy a baby formula shortage. A baby formula shortage! They will demand pregnant women register themselves to track births and punish abortions but refuse to consider gun registration. The Republicans and fascists built a morally bankrupt political platform. But the moral contradictions of the capitalist market economy, which they cherish even above life itself, are central pillars of the whole system. Abortion, gun violence, and baby formula are just the most recent plain examples.

Contradictions

Why do we care about contradictions like this? Social systems change and develop based on how social and class forces address these contradictions and turn a system into a new substance. Many capitalists and their sympathizers see contradictions as mere inconsistencies or glitches. Reformers want to fix these glitches and bring our “values” back into alignment with our actions. Or, they want to mend these problems by creating philanthropic or socially innovative programs that help out the poor but leave the system intact.

Billionaires and fascists have different ideas about resolving contradictions. Think of Elon Musk’s recent embrace of the Republican Party and its fascist platform. He is mad that the government continues to investigate his suspicious financial activities, and he is afraid unions will weaken his absolute power in his companies. He wants state power that he can personally bend to his will to help him get over his emotional problems. He wants more power to resolve contradictions through coercion and legal force.

Imperialism uses war to resolve contradictions. Consider the U.S. government’s drive to perpetuate or expand the war in Ukraine. It manufactures images of Russian human rights abuses—some of which are undoubtedly true. But the U.S. record of torture, mass killings, destroying civilians, racist mass incarceration, assassinations, political interventions, and hybrid wars on a global scale, in just the past two decades, embarrass even people like Henry Kissinger, among the vilest of abusers. George W. Bush’s recent verbal slip wasn’t just a gaffe.

Though immoral, these aren’t simply moral inconsistencies. They are contradictions that comprise the structure of U.S. capitalism and its political system. Its capitalist class, on the whole, believes that it must maintain these structural forms of power if the U.S. is to keep its hegemonic position in the imperialist world system. In simple terms, these contradictions make the U.S. what it is as a country. This structure drives us from war crisis to economic crisis to health crisis and back all the way around again. So far, our only means of psychological survival has been self-induced amnesia. Forgetting, like self-medication, eases the pain of this moral contradiction, which I believe most of us feel very deeply.

Barber’s terminology about moral contradiction is essential. And amnesia is no longer a practical solution. However, working-class power transformed into social power could be the basis for an answer.

Imperialist world system

In the present world system, five fundamental contradictions are interconnected and reveal moral bankruptcy, logical inconsistencies, and anti-human tendencies that make capitalism what it is:

  • a world imperialist system that denies to most humans their national aspirations
  • worldwide poverty that denies human dignity on a scale of billions
  • deepening rates of exploitation that spark frequent crises of overproduction
  • global socialization of labor vs. the anarchy of national systems that rely on the capitalist market economy
  • excess capitalist production without rational planning for the survival of humanity and the planet.

What is a world system? World system is not a conspiratorial term, nor does it refer to “globalism” or the “deep state” or any mystifying right-wing concepts about evil hordes of racial others dominating the U.S. or Europeans. Those racist and anti-Semitic theories drive right-wing capitalist agendas and fascist violence.

The world system names the dominant form of global integration of countries into the capitalist-imperialist system in a particular period. For example, the European slave-trade-based capitalist development, led by Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Dutch in the 17th century, and Great Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, formed a world system based on markets in human beings as a financial basis for market and industrial capitalist development. It created a settler-colonial-slavery complex, which also drove Indigenous genocide in the Americas. It made modern capitalism possible. (Gerald Horne’s The Dawning of the Apocalypse, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism, The Counterrevolution of 1776, Negro Comrades of the Crown, and Confronting Black Jacobins can be read sequentially as a study of this world system. Joseph Inikori’s Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England is also an informative study of one aspect of that system.)

These kinds of global interactions gave capitalism a racial characteristic it still relies on to maintain its capacity to accumulate surplus value and recirculate it as new capital.

By the end of the 19th century, this slavery-settler system transitioned to an imperialist-colonial system. It kept critical features of the former, as settler features persisted in Southern Africa until 1994. And Canada, the U.S., and Australia continue to deny land and sovereignty to the Indigenous people who hold rightful claims. European powers, sometimes with agreement among themselves but always in fierce long-term competition, strove to conquer and dominate the entire earth.

That system collapsed during the Great Depression and subsequent global war. Fascism—the most extreme form of capitalism and imperialism—pitted Europeans against one another in unprecedented ways. Within two decades, the colonialism system followed suit.

After this unprecedented collapse of the world system, the U.S. managed to rise to the top of the heap. The debts incurred by the imperialist powers and the U.S.’s skillful management of the shift to dollarized neo-colonial control of former European colonies enabled this transition. (W. Alphaeus Hunton’s Decision in Africa and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Under Developed Africa are essential for this history of U.S./European colonialism and neo-colonialism in African countries.)

Essentially, the U.S. recreated and managed a world system that expropriated vast tons of raw resources from the colonized world to fuel its own and Europe’s redevelopment after World War II. The collapse of the colonial regimes through national liberation struggles aided by the socialist countries prompted a transition to the domination of finance capital in the neoliberal regime of structural adjustments, privatization, forced labor, and hybrid war.

That new regime successfully produced wealth and power for U.S. capitalists that one commentator characterized as the “end of history.” Meanwhile, vast billions of the human population suffered from extreme poverty, hunger, lack of health resources, rapid environmental change, disease, war, and conflict.

The end of “the end of history” came after a series of financialization crises from the late 1990s to the 2007 housing collapse, which ruined the bliss of everlasting capitalist success. The failure to conquer Iraq and Afghanistan, which sucked trillions out of the U.S. economy, further signaled U.S. decline.

Unlike the 1930s, when the U.S. political system responded to manage the contradictions through “Keynesian” economic theory and New Deal social democracy, the present system blunders along with handouts to the banks, tax cuts for billionaires, and more austerity. Today, we are at the end of 60 years of declining rates of growth that pale in comparison to China’s 8%-9% rates of growth each year for the past 40 years.

The U.S. political class frequently admits that it can’t afford the record hundreds of billions pumped into military spending and a universal health system each year. It can’t afford to buy new missile systems and quality schools and universities. It can’t provide a meaningful safety net and ensure record profits and wealth accumulation for millionaires and billionaires with low tax rates.

Even as globalization generates the socialization of labor on a world scale, the anarchy of capitalist market economies within national frames produced new internal contradictions in those ruling-class agendas. (I am indebted to Cheng Enfu’s China’s Economic Dialectic for the phrasing of this contradiction.)

This contradiction between the needs of the empire and the interests of national economic and political systems is evident in the conflict over Ukraine. Consider how deeply and violently the U.S. ruling class split over the Russia-Europe contest. Trump was willing to dump Europe for an alignment with Russia, while much of the U.S. capitalist maintains corporate ties to Western Europe. We have yet to understand how much this conflict has altered and shaped U.S. domestic politics. (And the impending internal conflict over links to China has only been kicked down the road.)

Over here

The U.S. capitalist class aspires to maintain its dominance of the imperialist world system. But this means they have to carefully manage an increasingly expensive military, intelligence apparatus, local police, and border patrol system. The institutions operate strictly for the purpose of global and domestic repression of dissent. These are the only spending priorities for which a nearly unanimous Washington consensus exists.

At the same time, however, capitalists discovered that their goal of endless higher profits had been little more than accounting schemes and fantasy for some decades. Corporate policies drove record profits with higher prices, lower wages, and benefit cuts, all aided by a significantly weakened labor movement since the 1980s. Further, accounting tricks like stock buy-backs and debt schemes made bubbles and fantasy wealth a mainstay of Wall Street chicanery.

The capitalist class’s drive to manage the top spot in the imperialist system propels deepening exploitation worldwide, and in the U.S. Initially, globalization of production made the prices of imported goods seem like a boon. But then, the loss of manufacturing jobs meant a weakened labor movement, lower pay, and more frequent cycles of simply not being able to buy things. In some communities, whole neighborhoods became ghost towns. City services vanished overnight. Workers found they needed more than one job to survive. Consumption levels dropped, producing new levels of poverty combined with new demands for higher exploitation rates.

Racist mass incarceration became a mechanism for resolving some aspects of that crisis simply by cultivating and exploiting racism to punish Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and immigrant people with imprisonments, criminalization, and mass deportations. Euro-American racial solidarity seemed to be an appropriate alternative to multi-racial working-class solidarity.

Today, the performance of racial reforms (that aren’t reforms) and openly fascistic racist doctrine (great replacement dogmas, ravings about critical race theory, book burnings, and xenophobia) stand in for actual resolutions to deepening exploitation. Philanthropy and the non-profit industrial complex take the place of systemic solutions to poverty.

The anti-war movements (2002-2008), Occupy Wall Street (2011), #BlackLivesMatter (2014-2020), and worker uprising (2020-2022) have lain bare the crisis of the political system. They have uplifted specific analyses of different aspects of these five main contradictions.

Imperialist double jeopardy

Withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan signaled the severe jeopardy of U.S. dominance of the imperialist world system. In contrast to the past, it appears unable to assert its agenda for Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the South Pacific, or even Latin America, which it had long proclaimed its “backyard.” De-dollarization combined with new military blocs appear to be steps toward sovereignty for some countries.

Will this produce a new, competing imperialist system? Will this unique situation solidify into two new geopolitical and economic blocs? Are we simply witnessing a deadly realignment of imperialist forces? Yes, to each is possible—unless we bring forward internationalist, working-class revolutionary solutions.

The U.S. intervention in Eastern Europe, specifically in Ukraine, from 2014 to the present, has centered on promoting a proxy military conflict with Russia. State Department officials recently admitted to this. However, like its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the results have been mixed for U.S. imperialism. It feels compelled to continue with this dangerous and deadly strategy, unfortunately.

While the most violent part of that conflict is still in its early stages, many ruling class commentators may already be crying “uncle.” The New York Times recently opined that a negotiated settlement that concedes territory inhabited by Russian-language speakers to Russia might be necessary. Further, to provide promised energy resources to European allies, the U.S. was compelled to walk back its de-humanizing sanctions regime against Cuba and Venezuela.

On the gain side, the U.S.-Europe faction has drawn more “neutral” Sweden and Finland into its orbit and extracted billions in new contracts for U.S.-based weapons makers from Germany, the U.K., and other countries. But even these gains are fraught with localized contradictions as NATO isn’t an ideologically unified bloc, and its actors hold competing and contradictory interests.

On the loss side, Russia controls vast amounts of natural gas and petroleum desperately needed in Eastern Europe. Their military power has proven to be far more robust than expected. Their restraint in this war (relative to U.S. “shock and awe” and Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo Bay-level atrocities) has proven disappointing to Western human rights watchers who regularly side with U.S. government interests.

The petroleum element of this war produces an internal domestic problem for the U.S. government. Rationed resources have driven up prices, even as oil companies look to deepen their already sizeable profits on gas-guzzling U.S. consumers. High prices are another form of deepening exploitation of workers and provoke political instability. The fascists are already exploiting this instability.

Meanwhile, the Western media and political establishments have soft-pedaled fascist movements that the U.S. has funded and used to spark international conflicts along the Ukraine-Russia border since 2014. Like a page out of the Cold War playbook, the U.S. government has supported extremists painted as “freedom fighters.” Those choices have never ended well for U.S. imperialism, even if it allows them to accomplish short-term goals. Think of the various U.S.-funded drug cartels in Central America (like Noriega’s in Panama), the mujahideen in Central Asia, the “contras” in Nicaragua, and the militarists in Chile, Indonesia, and South Korea.

End of humanity?

While the imperialist world system leaders plotted a Ukraine-Russia war, cried crocodile tears about “blonde, blue-eyed” refugees, and pumped billions of dollars into Ukraine to keep the war going. A United Nations call for immediate, urgent global attention to human-caused climate change went almost unheeded.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated in April 2022 that if the world continues on its present course, humans can expect new levels of suffering due to “unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals.” He referred to a report by the International Panel on Climate Change that showed swift and deep action is needed within the next couple of years to turn back the worst effects of the changing climate.

Few within the U.S. political class seem concerned, let alone capable of leveraging the sorts of emissions reductions needed to protect human life. Indeed, maintaining world system dominance appears to be their only operating concern.

What do we do with these contradictions? They show us that imperialism cannot cure itself. Imperialism cannot deliver human rights and dignity to the people it regularly exploits and oppresses. Capitalism cannot end racism or stop mass killers motivated by racist theories. It cannot suspend its need for racist super-exploitation or its exploitation and destruction of natural resources, like the air we breathe, water, and soil in which we plant crops.

We have no time to celebrate the failure of capitalism to solve the problems it has created.

The working class, especially its socialist and communist parties, can fight for more prominent organizations, clearer analysis, and class leadership. The socialization of labor on a global scale creates unprecedented levels of working-class power. It is the one lever with which we can move the immovable force of ruling class power and resolve the major contradictions of the present to change this world into something new. When working-class power becomes the supreme power in the world system, we have the means to win peace, avoid climate disasters, reduce exploitation, uplift the national aspirations of the world’s peoples, and bring our values into line with our actions.

The post Imperialism Cannot Solve Our Problems first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom

What took place between May 2021 and May 2022 is nothing less than a paradigm shift in Palestinian resistance. Thanks to the popular and inclusive nature of Palestinian mobilization against the Israeli occupation, resistance in Palestine is no longer an ideological, political or regional preference.

In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and only a few years ago, Palestinian muqawama – or resistance –  was constantly put in the dock, often criticized and condemned, as if an oppressed nation had a moral responsibility in selecting the type of resistance to suit the needs and interests of its oppressors.

As such, Palestinian resistance became a political and ideological litmus test. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas, called for ‘popular resistance’, but it seems that it neither understood what the strategy actually meant, and certainly was not prepared to act upon such a call.

Palestinian armed resistance was removed entirely from its own historical context; in fact, the context of all liberation movements throughout history, and was turned into a straw man, set up by Israel and its western allies to condemn Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and to present Israel as a victim facing an existential threat.

With the lack of a centralized Palestinian definition of resistance, even pro-Palestine civil society groups and organizations demarcated their relationship to the Palestinian struggle based on embracing certain forms of Palestinian resistance and condemning others.

The argument that only oppressed nations should have the right to choose the type of resistance that could speed up their salvation and freedom fell on deaf ears.

The truth is that Palestinian resistance preceded the official establishment of Israel in 1948. Palestinians and Arabs who resisted British and Zionist colonialism used many methods of resistance that they perceived to be strategic and sustainable. There was no relationship whatsoever between the type of resistance and the religious, political or ideological identity of those who resisted.

This paradigm prevailed for many years, starting with the Fidayeen Movement following the Nakba, the popular resistance to the brief Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1956, and the decades-long occupation and siege starting in 1967. The same reality was expressed in Palestinian resistance in historic Palestine throughout the decades; armed resistance ebbed and flowed, but popular resistance remained intact. The two phenomena were always intrinsically linked, as the former was also sustained by the latter.

The Fatah Movement, which dominates today’s Palestinian Authority, was formed in 1959 to model liberation movements in Vietnam and Algeria. Regarding its connection to the Algerian struggle, the Fatah manifesto read: “The guerrilla war in Algeria, launched five years before the creation of Fatah, has a profound influence on us. […] They symbolize the success we dreamed of.”

This sentiment was championed by most modern Palestinian movements as it proved to be a successful strategy for most southern liberation movements. In the case of Vietnam, the resistance to US occupations was carried out even during political talks in Paris. The underground resistance in South Africa remained vigilant until it became clear that the country’s apartheid regime was in the process of being dismantled.

Palestinian disunity, however, which was a direct result of the Oslo Accords, made a unified Palestinian position on resistance untenable. The very idea of resistance itself became subject to the political whims and interests of factions. When, in July 2013, PA President Abbas condemned armed resistance, he was trying to score political points with his western supporters, and further sow the seeds of division among his people.

The truth is that Hamas neither invented, nor has ownership of, armed resistance. In June 2021, a poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), revealed that 60% of Palestinians support “a return to armed confrontations and Intifada”. By stating so, Palestinians were not necessarily declaring allegiance to Hamas. Armed resistance, though in a different style and capacity also exists in the West Bank, and is largely championed by Fatah’s own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The recent Israeli attacks on the town of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, were not aimed at eliminating Hamas, Islamic Jihad or socialist fighters, but Fatah’s own.

Skewed media coverage and misrepresentation of the resistance, often by Palestinian factions themselves, turned the very idea of resistance into a political and factional scuffle, forcing everyone involved to take a position on the issue. The discourse on the resistance, however,  began changing in the last year.

The May 2021 rebellion and the Israeli war on Gaza – known among Palestinians as the Unity Intifada – served as a paradigm shift. The language became unified; self-serving political references quickly dissipated; collective frames of reference began replacing provisional, regional and factional ones; occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque emerged as the unifying symbols of resistance; a new generation began to emerge and quickly began to develop new platforms.

On May 29, the Israeli government insisted on allowing the so-called ‘Flag March’ – a mass rally by Israeli Jewish extremists that celebrate the capture of the Palestinian city of al-Quds – to once more pass through Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. This was the very occasion that instigated the violence of the previous year. Aware of the impending violence which often results from such provocations, Israel wanted to impose the timing and determine the nature of the violence. It failed. Gaza didn’t fire rockets. Instead, tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilized throughout occupied Palestine, thus allowing popular mobilization and coordination between numerous communities to grow. Palestinians proved able to coordinate their responsibility, despite the numerous obstacles, hardships and logistical difficulties.

The events of the last year are a testament that Palestinians are finally freeing their resistance from factional interests. The most recent confrontations show that Palestinians are even harnessing resistance as a strategic objective. Muqawama in Palestine is no longer ‘symbolic’ or supposedly ‘random’ violence that reflects ‘desperation’ and lack of political horizon. It is becoming more defined, mature and well-coordinated.

This phenomenon must be extremely worrying to Israel, as the coming months and years could prove critical in changing the nature of the confrontation between Palestinians and their occupiers. Considering that the new resistance is centered around homegrown, grassroots, community-oriented movements, it has far greater chances of success than previous attempts. It is much easier for Israel to assassinate a fighter than to uproot the values of resistance from the heart of a community.

The post Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

New York Times admits truth of Haitian coup

“A Haitian president demands reparations and ends up in exile”, declared the front-page of Wednesday’s New York Times. Eighteen years later those who opposed the US, French and Canadian coup have largely won the battle over the historical record.

French ambassador Thierry Burkard admits that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s call for the restitution of Haiti’s debt (ransom) of independence partly explains why he was ousted in 2004. Burkard told the Times the elected president’s removal was “a coup” that was “probably a bit about” Aristide’s campaign for France to repay Haiti.

Other major outlets have also investigated the coup recently. In 2020 Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” interviewed Denis Paradis, the Liberal minister responsible for organizing the 2003 Ottawa Initiative on Haiti where US, French and Canadian officials discussed ousting the elected president and putting the country under UN trusteeship. Paradis admitted to Radio-Canada that no Haitian officials were invited to discuss their own country’s future and the imperial triumvirate broached whether “the principle of sovereignty is unassailable?” Enquête also interviewed long time Haitian Canadian activist and author Jean Saint-Vil who offered a critical perspective on the discussion to oust Aristide.

Radio-Canada and the Times’ coverage was influenced by hundreds of articles published by solidarity campaigners in left wing outlets. Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment: Repression and Resistance in Haiti, 2004–2006, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, Haiti’s New Dictatorship: The Coup, the Earthquake and the UN Occupation, An Unbroken Agony Haiti, from Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President provide richer documentation about the coup, as do documentaries Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits, Haiti Betrayed and Aristide and the Endless Revolution.

The Times article on Aristide’s ouster was part of a series on imperialism in Haiti the paper published on its front page over four days. “The Ransom” detailed the cost to Haiti — calculated at between $21 billion and $115 billion — of paying France to recognize its independence. “A bank created for Haiti funneled wealth to France” showed how Crédit Industriel et Commercial further impoverished the nation in the late 1800s while “Invade Haiti, Wall Street urged, And American military obliged” covered the brutal 1915–34 US occupation, which greatly reshaped its economy to suit foreign capitalists.

The Times decision to spend tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of dollars on the series was no doubt influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and the paper’s 1619 project on slavery. Additionally, Saint-Vil and other Haitian-North American activists have been calling for France to repay the ransom for more than two decades. In 2010 a group of mostly Canadian activists published a fake announcement indicating that France would repay the debt. Tied to France’s Bastille Day and the devastating 2010 earthquake, the stunt by the Committee for the Reimbursement of the Indemnity Money Extorted from Haiti (CRIME) forced Paris to deny it, which the Times reported. The group also published a public letter that garnered significant international attention.

While these campaigns likely spurred the series, a number of academics made it about themselves. White Harvard professor Mary Lewis bemoaned that her research assistant was cited in “The Ransom” but she wasn’t. Another academic even apologized for sharing the important story. “I regret sharing the NYT article on Haiti yesterday. So many scholars are noting their egregious editorial practices. The writers of the article did not properly credit their sources.” Unfortunately, the academics’ tweets received thousands of likes.

Leaving aside the pettiness of academia, the series is not without questions and criticisms. First, will the Times apply the historical logic of the series to its future coverage of Haiti or continue acting as a stenographer for the State Department? More directly, why didn’t the series mention the “Core Group” that largely rules Haiti today? The series is supposed to show how foreign intervention has contributed to Haitian impoverishment and political dysfunction, but the Times ignores a direct line between the 2004 coup and foreign alliance that dominates the country today.

Last week Haitians protested in front of the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince. They chanted against the Core Group, which consists of representatives from the US, Canada, EU, OAS, UN, Spain, Brazil and France. A protester banged a rock on the gates. Previously, protesters have hurled rocks and molotov cocktails, as well as burned tires, in front of the Canadian Embassy.

The Times series has solidified the historical narrative regarding the 2004 coup and popularized the history of imperialism in Haiti. The series is a boon to North Americans campaigning for a radical shift in policy towards a country born of maybe the greatest victory ever for equality and human dignity.

But the point of activism is not simply to describe the world, but to change it.

The post New York Times admits truth of Haitian coup first appeared on Dissident Voice.

System Fail 11: Lamborghinis and Tear Gas

CORRECTION: During the production of this episode we were working with the most up to date information at the time when we had said nobody had died at the May Day protests in Chile. Unfortunately we have since learned that Francisca Sandoval, a journalist age 29 died several days later in the hospital. Our condolences go out to her family and loved ones.

Welcome to another episode of System Fail. In the news this week we do a quick rundown of May Day celebrations around the world. Although there were other May Day festivities we focused on Montreal Santiago de Chile, Istanbul, Berlin and Paris.

For our next segment we cover the drastic curtailing of reproductive rights in the United States as foreshadowed by the leak of Supreme Court documents. We also take a look at the acts of resistance and the obnoxious recuperationist conspiracy theorists who try to discredit them.

Later, we see how comrades in Greece are resisting Law 4777 which would station police on university campuses, where they have historically not been allowed to go.

Finally, we cover a violent insurrection in Sri Lanka where protesters have ousted the corrupt Prime Minister and torched two of the President’s houses and his presidential Lamborghini.

The post System Fail 11: Lamborghinis and Tear Gas first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“There Is No Way To Fool Physics”: Climate Breakdown And State-Corporate Madness

In the terrifying opening to his 2020 novel, The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson depicts an intense heatwave in India. In an ‘ordinary town’ in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, people are struggling to cope with unbearable heat and humidity. It is the combination of the two, measured by the so-called ‘wet-bulb temperature’, that is potentially fatal. When it approaches the core body temperature of 36C, sweat cannot evaporate and humans can no longer cool themselves down. Dehydration rises to dangerous levels. Vital organs become seriously stressed, especially the heart. Unless the body temperature is reduced, death follows in a matter of hours.

In the novel’s opening scenes, there are shouts of:

‘Go to the lake! Get in the water!’

One man shakes his head:

‘That water is in the sun. It’s as hot as a bath. It’s worse than the air.’

Nevertheless, people jump in the lake, hoping it will help. But a catastrophe is unfolding.

‘People were dying faster than ever. There was no coolness to be had. All the children were dead, all the old people were dead. People murmured what should have been screams of grief; those who could still move shoved bodies out of the lake, or out toward the middle where they floated like logs, or sank.’

It is a nightmare vision of what may lie ahead for humanity in the very near future.

This month, an intense heatwave did indeed hit northern India with temperatures reaching a record high of 49.2C in parts of Delhi. This was the fifth heatwave in the Indian capital since March.

Last month was India’s hottest April in 122 years and Pakistan’s for 61 years. Jacobabad hit nearly 50C with night-time temperatures often staying above 30C. Exhausted and dehydrated birds fell from the sky, an apocalyptic portent if ever there was one. A UK Met Office study has concluded that global warming makes record-breaking heatwaves in northwest India and Pakistan 100 times more likely.

Meanwhile, the highest daily level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere was recorded. On 11 May, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, measured 421.37 parts per million of carbon dioxide. The previous record of 418.95 ppm was set in May 2021.

‘It is very concerning, extremely worrisome,’ Peter Tans, senior climate scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Financial Times.

‘This last decade, the rate of increase [of carbon emissions] has never been higher, and we are still on the same path. We’re going in the wrong direction at maximum speed.’

Scientists are warning that the 1.5C global heating limit set by governments is about to be breached. The probability of one of the next five years surpassing the limit is now 50 per cent. This is up from 20 per cent in 2020 and zero per cent in 2015.

A new report this week from the UN World Meteorological Organization revealed that 2021 was a record year for breaking critical global indicators of the climate crisis. These include rising sea levels and the amount of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the UN, said:

‘Today’s State of the Climate report is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end – environmentally and economically.’

On top of all that, climate scientists recently reported that global warming could cause the most cataclysmic extinction of marine life in the past 250 million years.

Her Majesty’s ‘Opposition’

If the news media were not owned and run for the benefit of state-corporate elites, all this would be huge headline news – day after day, month after month. There would be vigorous debate across all the main media outlets, building pressure on governments to implement the urgent radical changes required to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

But instead the general population is being held captive, caught in a tight death grip by powerful forces masquerading as our benefactors and protectors. As Jonathan Cook observed:

‘Corporate media is the glue holding our corrupt world together. They promote the Ukraine arms bonanza, helping the corporate war industries profit from mass death. Then they normalise profiteering from the resulting fuel crisis as “bumper” profits for the corporate energy sector.’

Is it any wonder we are in an era of climate breakdown when Business-As-Usual – characterised by short-term corporate greed, compliant mass media and careerist government politicians – is such a dominant factor in human ‘civilisation’?

For example, Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit research and campaign group which monitors and exposes corporate lobbying on EU policy making, recently warned that:

‘Fossil fuel giants are shaping the EU’s response to the energy crisis.’

Six big energy companies were named: Shell, BP, Total, ENI, E.ON and Vattenfall. Pascoe Sabido of Corporate Europe Observatory said:

‘The European Commission has been in bed with these corporations for decades. If we want to end our reliance on gas, Russian or otherwise, then we need to end the relationship between the fossil fuel industry and decision-makers, cutting fossil fuel interests out of our political system. In short, we need fossil free politics.’

There is little chance of that under the Tories. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has just drafted in the former UK boss of BP to supposedly oversee the UK’s transition to ‘a low-carbon economy’. Would a former CEO of Big Tobacco be rewarded by leading a reform of the NHS? Would a former slave owner be put in charge of the abolition of slavery?

In the never-ending corporate quest for profit, even as the planet’s life support systems are failing, oil and gas corporations ‘are planning scores of vast projects that threaten to shatter the 1.5C climate goal.’ If governments allow the projects to proceed, these ‘carbon bombs’ will ‘trigger catastrophic climate breakdown.’

As mentioned above, the head of the UN has called for an end to new fossil fuel projects, warning that climate change poses ‘an existential threat to us all – to the whole world.’ Speaking at a recent press conference, António Guterres said:

‘Main emitters must drastically cut emissions, starting now. This means accelerating the end of our fossil fuel addiction and speeding up the deployment of clean renewable energy.’

The UN chief’s urgent comments align with the aims of campaign groups, such as Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, so often labelled by ‘mainstream’ media as ‘eco-zealots’, ‘eco maniacs’, ‘eco yobs’ or a ‘mob of environmentalists’. Indeed, on Twitter, Guterres effectively gave climate campaigners his support:

‘Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.’

In this country, the madness extends to all three of the main political parties – Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservative – calling for climate protesters to be ‘cracked down on’ and for their rational demands to be rejected.

Last month, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer demonstrated yet again that he is a faithful ally of established power. Referring to Just Stop Oil protesters’ blockade of 11 fuel depots in southern England, Starmer tweeted:

‘The government must stop standing idly by and immediately impose injunctions to put an end to this disruption.’

He was later confronted publicly by Lauren MacDonald, a 21-year-old Scottish climate activist. According to one newspaper report, Starmer:

‘appear[ed] visibly flustered and fle[d] the scene without addressing the topic of the injunction.’

Fatima Ibrahim from campaign group Green New Deal Rising said:

‘We feel betrayed by Keir Starmer and the Labour Party for calling for more police powers to prevent young people worried about their future from peacefully protesting.

‘At a time when the country is desperate for a different vision of the future, the Labour Party could be calling for a massive shift towards renewables to bring down energy bills and deliver new jobs. Instead, they’ve relegated themselves to government cheerleaders.’

Starmer had shown once again how paper-thin are the differences between Her Majesty’s ‘Opposition’ and Her Majesty’s Government.

‘The Demise Of Civilisation Is Well And Truly In Sight’

Veteran climate scientist James Hansen, who warned the US Congress of the dangers of global warming as early as 1988, injected some reality missing from ‘mainstream’ reporting:

‘There is no indication that incumbent governments are even considering the fundamental actions that are needed to slow and reverse climate change.’

As we wrote at the time, last year’s UN Climate Summit in Glasgow was a greenwashing festival, full of empty rhetoric. Last month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said it was ‘now or never’ to save humanity.

Climate scientist Simon Lewis observed of the most recent IPCC report:

‘the full 3,000-page report contains an astonishingly frank assessment of the organised efforts used to thwart climate action, noting: “opposition to climate action by carbon-connected industries is broad-based, highly organized, and matched with extensive lobbying”.’

Earth scientist Bill McGuire warned that:

‘it is now practically impossible to have any chance of staying this side of the 1.5C guardrail. The truth is that we can no longer sidestep dangerous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown.’

He added:

‘The demise of civilisation is well and truly in sight.’

These are remarkable and frightening statements from a senior scientist; in other words, the kind of sober, conservative, even ultra-cautious figure that the public has traditionally regarded as unwilling to speak out for fear of being seen to be too ‘political’.

McGuire also commented:

‘I have concluded that there will be no real pressure on governments to seriously tackle the #ClimateEmergency until we are all terrified. We are simply not sh*t scared enough – yet.’

In similar vein, Nasa climate scientist Peter Kalmus urged large-scale citizen action to pressure governments around the world. Last month, he wrote that:

‘Climate scientists are desperate: we’re crying, begging and getting arrested.’

He warned:

‘Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk.’

Kalmus continued:

‘Nothing has worked. It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.’

All this has motivated Kalmus to become involved in climate activism:

‘I’ve joined the ranks of those who selflessly risk their freedom and put their bodies on the line for the Earth, despite ridicule from the ignorant and punishment from a colonizing legal system designed to protect the planet-killing interests of the rich. It’s time we all join them. The feeling of solidarity is a wonderful balm.’

‘Our Morality Must Catch Up With Our Intelligence’

Noam Chomsky has also urged widespread participation in climate actions:

‘What we face is the greatest imposition of suffering and injustice in the history of civilization…I support the actions of the Just Stop Oil coalition. It’s imperative for us all to do so.’

He added:

‘Brave humans from all walks of life have chosen to not give up. We are fighting back because it’s the fight for all life. It’s now or never. It’s time for action. We need you to join us. We need everyone, everywhere. Now. Just stop oil.’

It will take truly massive, sustained public activism – perhaps on a scale never seen before in human history – to shift course away from climate catastrophe. Meanwhile, governments and corporations will claim their destructive policies, actions and threats are intended to ensure ‘security’ of energy supplies, or ‘security’ of the general population in ‘defending’ the West against Official Enemies.

In a recent interview, aptly titled ‘To Tackle Climate, Our Morality Must Catch Up With Our Intelligence’, Chomsky identified such elite statements as propaganda:

‘Whatever is driving policy, it is not security — at least, security of the population. That is at best a marginal concern. That holds for existential threats as well. We have to look elsewhere.’

Chomsky suggested that to understand why this happens, one could start with ‘the best-established principle of international relations theory’. This dates back to the 18th century and economist Adam Smith’s observation that:

‘the “Masters of Mankind” — in his day the merchants and manufacturers of England — are the “principal architects of [state] policy.” They use their power to ensure that their own interests “are most peculiarly attended to” no matter how “grievous” the effects on others, including the people of England, but most brutally the victims of the “savage injustice of the Europeans.” His [Smith’s] particular target was British savagery in India, then in its early stages, already horrifying enough.’

But in an era of climate breakdown and mass extinction of species, including perhaps our own, surely this principle no longer applies? Chomsky disagrees:

‘Nothing much changes when the crises become existential. Short-term interests prevail. The logic is clear in competitive systems, like unregulated markets. Those who do not play the game are soon out of it. Competition among the “principal architects of policy” in the state system has somewhat similar properties, but we should bear in mind that security of the population is far from a guiding principle, as the record shows all too clearly.’

The historical record also shows that improvements in society are rarely, if ever, bestowed as gifts from above. Power typically only ever makes concessions when it is forced to do so by pressure from below.

Time is running out too rapidly to fundamentally reform society and create a real democracy that people deserve. The immediate priority is to exert insurmountable pressure on existing power structures, not least our own governments, to change course away from climate catastrophe. If we cannot do that, there will be no human civilisation to reform or restructure.

The post “There Is No Way To Fool Physics”: Climate Breakdown And State-Corporate Madness first appeared on Dissident Voice.

May Day is International ‘Thank a Worker’ Day

“As far as I’m concerned, those people don’t exist.”

— Arizona Republican Governor Jack Williams, telling farm workers they’d be arrested if they were to strike and boycott during harvest seasons (May 1972).

For Migrant Workers, Still the Harvest and the Shame - The Atlantic

May Day harkens back to celebrations of spring, a renewal and fertility. In Rome, I witnessed one such event: the festival of Floralia, where people wear colorful clothes and were pelted with beans and flowers (fertility symbols).

Floralia - Celebrating the Goddess of Spring — Celebrate Pagan Holidays

I was in Edinburgh and celebrated their May Day around a bonfire: The Celts welcomed spring during Beltane by lighting bonfires or the ‘fire of Belt.’ My partner and I even danced around a Maypole and watched the crowning of a May Queen.

However, my most meaningful celebrations for May Day tie into my family’s union roots. This day is about workers’ rights, which should be embedded in everyone’s blood in this country, post-COVID and with the growing gap between those who have and those who do not.

I’ve worked with Portland warehouse workers as their case manager, and many of them I met were either in mini-vans or broken down RVs. These are workers toiling 10 or 12-hour shifts. Some had two jobs just to make ends meet, sleeping in vehicles.

Going back 170 years, the eight-hour work day movement fanned across the world, aiming to reduce the working day from 10 to eight hours. In 1886, the first congress of the American Federation of Labor called for a general strike on May 1 to demand an eight-hour day, which culminated in what is known today as the Haymarket Riot.

On May 3, 1886, one person was killed and several others injured as police intervened to protect strikebreakers and intimidate strikers during a union action at the Chicago McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. It was part of a national campaign to secure an eight-hour workday. Then, a day later, anarchist labor leaders called a mass meeting in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality.

It was a peaceful gathering, even by Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison’s observation. But after Harrison and most of the demonstrators departed, a large group of police arrived and demanded that the crowd disperse. A bomb was thrown by an individual — never positively identified — and police responded with random gunfire. Seven police officers were killed and 60 others wounded before the violence ended; civilian casualties have been estimated at four to eight dead and 30 to 40 injured.

See the source image

Employers regained control of workers, and 10 or more hour workdays became the norm again.

My May Day March participation includes Tucson, El Paso, Mexico City, Spokane, Seattle, Portland. I’ve marched with day laborers in Oregon demanding higher hourly pay, and I’ve marched with nuns, priests and other clergy in El Paso demanding worker rights for immigrant farm workers.

May Day for me is about that American sacred right to protest, right to free speech, and the right to gather and call out the powerful, the elite, the bosses.

Of course, I was always aware of heavy police presence, always aware of the negative mainstream media coverage.

May Day protests turn violent in downtown Seattle

Today, as Starbucks and Amazon workers are voting for unionization, many Americans are oblivious to the degradation of the workplace and the lack of real opportunities for young people to find gainful, sustainable and worthy employment.

Young and old — many with college degrees, and many with huge student loan debts — are finding a collective voice in setting up unions in order to demand fair wages, safe work environments and an end to the boss lording over their lives.

When I was an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, Local 925-Seattle, my work was around adjunct faculty. I had been a freeway flyer. I worked in Washington, Texas and Oregon as a part-time faculty. Low wages, countless hours of unpaid work (I was an English faculty so essays and tons of other writing assignments I took home for weekend reading/commenting/grading blitzes), no benefits and no guarantee of work semester to semester resonated with me.

I always saw myself as a worker, not as some professor or multiple college degreed highfalutin elite. Part of my work was with students of migrant farm worker parents, as well as organizing service workers — CNAs and others laboring as caregivers.

We Fought and We Won for Seniors, People with Disabilities, and their Caregivers | by SEIU Local 2015 | Medium

Many of my union brothers and sisters were from Somalia, Eritrea and Mexico. Working for pay on 24-hour shifts, these amazing immigrants were both first and last line of defense for aging and dying-in-place clients.

I talked to one terminal white woman, Gloria, who was in a foster care facility at the tune of $4,600 a month. She told me that her main caregiver, Mehret from Eritrea, not only bathed, fed and took her to doctor’s appointments, but Mehret celebrated Gloria’s birthday with her own Eritrean family, and even had Gloria come to her extended family’s gatherings.

“I will die with Mehret by my side. My own children haven’t seen me in a year. They pay for this care, but have no interest in an old cranky dying mother. Mehret is my only friend, my only family.”

Mehret got $12 an hour, and she had to pass dozens of classes to keep up her credentials. Many of Mehret’s family members were harassed by Seattle police and other law enforcement agencies for “driving while black.”

We need more labor history, more media coverage of workers, and more Americans pushing for the 8-8-8 day: eight hours of work, eight hours with family/community, eight hours of sleep.

If you haven’t already read the book, then check out Dr. Rupa Marya and Raj Patel’s Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice.

It’s all about how Americans are working themselves to death. Literally. Unions can stop that. Happy May 1!

++Note: Appeared first in Newport News Times, April 29, 2022!++

And a side note — try and catch Johnny Depp (yes, that fool) in the movie, Minimata, about Chisso factory and the mercury poisoning of Japanese, young and old and fetuses.

See the source image

At the end of the flick, you get a short run down of the industrial “accidents” that killed thousand immediately and then many others through time.

Fifty years after American photographer W. Eugene Smith first arrived in the Japanese port town of Minamata, the fight for recognition and compensation still continues, for scores of people poisoned by mercury dumped into the bay by a local factory.

Aileen Mioko Smith, Eugene’s Japanese-American wife and collaborator, hopes that the September screening of the film Minamata will once again shine a light on the case, which was one of the worst industrial pollution disasters in Japanese history.

Nearly half a century later, victims of the mercury poisoning are still trying to obtain full restitution from the national government, although 2,265 people, 1,784 of whom died, have been formally recognized as victims of the disease. In 2004, Chisso also paid compensation totalling $86 million (€70.7 million).

“There are 10 ongoing lawsuits against the prefectural government in Kumamoto and the national government,” said Smith. “These are people who were toddlers 50 years ago when they were exposed to this pollution. They have gone through the lower courts and some of these cases are now before the Supreme Court, but I do not think we will have a final decision before the end of this year.”

“The government has always refused to carry out a full epidemiological study of the impact of the poisoning, and that can only be because they do not want to know,” Smith added. “So these are people who have lived with this their whole lives, and they are still fighting.” (Source)

Here we go, more disasters of capitalism. Who pays the price? Workers, and those living around or near those facilities, or sometimes, those living and working thousands of miles away:

Bhopal memorial for those killed and disabled by the 1984 toxic gas release. (Credit: Luca Frediani)

Bhopal

An abandoned school in Pripyat, Ukraine

Chernobyl

Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. (Credit: Public Domain)

BP Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico

weather, london

1952 London Great Fog

A dust storm approaches Stratford, Texas in April, 1935. (Credt: NOAA/MCT/MCT/Getty Images)

Dust Bowl 1920s-’30s, USA

For more on the “films” depicting corporate wrong-doing, go to the book, Corporate Wrongdoing on Film: The ‘Public Be Damned’ by Kenneth Dowler, Daniel Antonowicz

Fukushima, anyone?

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster – Jennifer Straka

And the workers helping release those millions of gallons of radioactive water? How will they be treated? Consequences? And us, the global citizen? Did we vote on this?

In April, the Japanese government announced its formal decision that the treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi site will be discharged into the sea. Japan intends to start releasing the treated water around the Spring of 2023, and the entire operation could last for decades.

The post May Day is International ‘Thank a Worker’ Day first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Walk for Appalachia’s Future

From May 24th to June 4th, climate justice and social justice activists will be walking and riding from Charleston, West Virginia into southwest Virginia, down to Rockingham/Alamance counties in North Carolina, ending up in Richmond, Virginia. For most of the time the Walk for Appalachia’s Future will take place along the route of the planned but deeply troubled, 303 miles long, fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline.

This action is happening first and foremost to kill the MVP, but it also calls for jobs with justice, for renewable energy, and for mobilizing the resources so that the people of Appalachia can exercise control over their lives and communities. In the words of West Virginia farmer, activist, and one of the Walk leaders Maury Johnson:

There is no reason to build new pipelines. We have far too many destructive pipelines already. We need to fully electrify our energy sector with renewable energy and build a smart, modern electrical grid. Senator Joe Manchin, MVP supporter and coal plant owner, is not only wrong, he is DEAD wrong, and the human race will be too if we continue down the path that he is pushing.

The primary purpose of the Walk is to amplify the voices of frontline Appalachian communities and others in their fight for environmental justice and renewables. The mission statement goes on:

We will say loudly and clearly that politicians need to stop doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry and get serious about the urgent need to shift in a just way from coal, oil and gas to renewables. All along the pipeline route we will inspect damages to water, air, animals, and the Earth, and the people who depend on them; and we will every morning have ceremonies honoring the heroes in our states who have died during these fights to protect Appalachia.

The first, long, multi-day political walk I was ever on took place in Appalachia, in 2011, the March on Blair Mountain. Over the course of a week we walked from Charleston down into coal country in the southwest part of West Virginia. That march had four demands: preserve Blair Mountain, abolish mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights and invest in sustainable job creation for all Appalachian communities. Blair Mountain is where 10,000 armed coal miners fought in 1921 against the coal operators and their supporters who were severely repressing them as the miners attempted to organize. The 2011 action was well attended, received much state and national media attention and was a big deal.

Organizers for this Walk 11 years later are from West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and beyond. They are active members of organizations such as 7 Directions of Service, POWHR, Beyond Extreme Energy, NC Alliance to Protect the People and the Places We Live, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Th!rd Act, and others. Hopefully, this Walk will come to be seen as an important part of what put the final nails in the coffin of the MVP, as well as advancing the urgently needed, justice-grounded, community-involving transition from fossil fuels to a jobs-creating, renewable energy economy, toward thriving and prosperous Appalachian communities.

The post The Walk for Appalachia’s Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed

It was a climate of unquestioned moral righteousness. The enemy was Fascism. The brutalities of Fascism were undisguised by pretense:  the concentration camps, the murder of opponents, the tortures by secret police, the burning of books, the total control of information, the roving gangs of thugs in the streets, the designation of “inferior” races deserving extermination, the infallible leader, the mass hysteria, the glorification of war, the invasion of other countries, the bombing of civilians. No literary work of imagination could create a more monstrous evil… But it is precisely that situation—where the enemy is undebatably evil—that produces a righteousness dangerous not only to the enemy but to ourselves, to countless innocent bystanders, and to future generations.

— Howard Zinn, The Bomb (City Lights, 2010), p. 29.

Nuclear War:  The Unimaginable and Real Threat

Aware that Ukraine could well become the next Afghanistan, and that we face the chance of a nuclear war and subsequent “nuclear winter” in which 2 billion people are at risk of starvation, voices of peace around the world continue to protest the militarism of irresponsible leaders of the governments of the NATO states, Russia, Japan, and other countries. There is even criticism of U.S. and Canadian support for Nazis in Ukraine. Now, when they should be focused on repairing relations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as between Russia and the NATO states, and thereby increasing the chances of humanity’s decent survival, instead these leaders are focused on “winning” their petty macho fest in Ukraine. For example, on the 6th of March, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine have gotten “the green light” from the U.S. Luckily for our species, Biden did not listen to Blinken, and instead listened to the Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin III, a four-star general.

“Could the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalate to nuclear war? It’s unlikely but not impossible. That should terrify us,” writes foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer. “Unlikely but not impossible.” This is a common view today among serious international affairs analysts.

Many U.S. generals have never really been keen on the notion of nuclear war, in fact. “In 1945 the United States had eight five-star admirals and generals. Of the eight, seven are on the record saying the atomic bomb [dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki] was either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both.”

Although “GHQ” (the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers) imposed strict censorship on discussions and photographs of the atomic bombs and its victims, the news did eventually spread via word of mouth, underground publications, etc., and people found out about the results of this U.S. experiment on the bodies of Japanese and Koreans. And over the course of the last three-quarters of a century, historians in Japan, the U.S., and other countries, such as Peter Kuznick, have done painstaking research to uncover the fact that one can say, in retrospect, that these two bombings were stupid and barbaric.

Most of us who are aware of the history of the bombings and who campaign for peace would agree with Stephen Bryen that “beyond all the rhetoric, and the sanctions [over the violence in Ukraine], Washington had better clear its head and start to think straight. That’s not happening right now but it is essential for our future security and well-being.”

By this time, our leaders should have learned from humanity’s past mistakes. Theodore A. Postol, a nuclear weapons technology expert and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has asserted that “over the course of several U.S. administrations failing to take into account Russia’s core security concerns… ‘there’s no reflection at all’.” (Author’s italics). We are being led by ignorant, violent, reckless, macho-men.

Our Leaders Are Leading Us toward the Precipice of Global Dystopia

Here in Japan we are told that, for no reason, China could invade Taiwan at any moment, just as Russia invaded Ukraine, and that the best way to create security for ourselves would be for the U.S. and Japan to continue to build military bases on Ryukyu Islands. These are bases that are equipped with all kinds of lethal weapons, soldiers, and Osprey aircraft (for transporting such weapons and troops to places like China). They are building a new base in Henoko (on the main island of Uchinaa/Okinawa), on Miyako Island, and other Ryukyu Islands, all close to Taiwan. These two states are continually militarizing the islands of this region and putting our lives in jeopardy. One can, in fact, see the high mountains of Taiwan from Yonaguni Island (at the southernmost island of the Ryukyu Island chain, where a new base now sits) on a clear day, as the island is only 111 kilometers from Taiwan. In other words, they want us to believe that holding China by the throat with one hand, and a knife in the other, will improve our security.

In the U.S. and other countries, people are told that only Big Brother knows best, that only he can keep us, the ignorant masses, safe from overseas villains. Unfortunately, for those who tell this tall tale, the U.S. has been threatening Russians, ever since the end of the Second World War, at a point in time right after the Soviet Union had lost millions of people fighting against Nazis. There was a time when “Official U.S. war plans, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Dwight Eisenhower, stated that, if so much as a single Soviet tank division crossed into allied territory, the United States would respond with nukes.” Such was our government’s posture then toward our former ally the Soviet Union. And our message to Russians even now is essentially that they “better watch out.” After years of steady success with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), NATO’s official nuclear policy is “flexible response,” which allows the alliance to be “the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, including in reply to an attack with conventional weapons.”

It surely has not been lost on Russians that former president Barack Obama, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, set aside $1 trillion of our tax dollars for nukes, to be spent over a span of 30 years, nor has it been lost on many Japanese that he did not apologize on our behalf when he visited Hiroshima. Some have even noticed that he actually clapped while watching footage of a mushroom cloud during that trip.

Biden has gone “full steam ahead” with increasing our reliance on nuclear weapons, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Trump and Obama. Yet, back in early December, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, perhaps feeling that Biden was not spooking Russians enough, made things extra clear with his words, “Military action could mean that we stand off with our ships in the black sea and we rain destruction on Russia capability, it could mean that,” and added, “We don’t rule out first-use nuclear action, we don’t think it will happen but there are certain things in negotiations, if you are going to be tough, that you don’t take off the table.” It is this toxic masculinity, this being “tough,” that could get us all killed.

Since our nukes were equipped in recent years with new super fuses that can destroy a large portion of Russia’s nukes even in their silos, Russia has been put into a situation where they must “use ‘em or lose ‘em” in the event that they are threatened with an imminent nuclear attack from the U.S. Unlike in the past, U.S. nuclear warheads now have “hard target kill capability.” This means it is possible to destroy “Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles and command posts in hardened silos or mountain sanctuaries, or to obliterate hardened military command and storage bunkers in North Korea, also considered a potential US nuclear target.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a lone voice of sanity in the U.S. Congress, said she was moved by the Ukrainians, as well as by the Russians who are standing up for peace and said, “We must avoid the knee-jerk calls to make this conflict worse.”

Unlike established politicians in many other countries, very few in the U.S. have the foresight of Rep. Omar. U.S. politicians lack understanding of what happens in wars, and especially of the suffering produced by wars. Their sons are not foot soldiers, they are ignorant of U.S.-Russia relations, they do not know U.S. history, and they have the attitude of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” with respect to what Americans long ago did to the Japanese and Koreans in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Thus we cannot rest easy, trusting that our lives are in good hands. They are not going to go out of their way to avoid unnecessary killing in Ukraine, whether of Ukrainians or Russians. As Bob Dylan’s song goes, “I’ve learned to hate Russians, all through my whole life. If another war comes, it’s them we must fight. To hate them and fear them, to run and to hide. You never ask questions, when God’s on your side.” (Starts at 4:00 in “With God on Our Side.” Such is our mentality in the U.S. after a half century of Cold War indoctrination, years of Roman Empire-like exaggeration of national security threats, two decades of the “war on terror,” and Russiagate.

Now, turning to their leaders, on the “enemy” side:  “Asked if Putin would use nuclear weapons, Mr [Leonid] Volkov [the former chief of staff for jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny] replied: “As he is crazy enough, we can expect unfortunately everything’.”

A Putin ally has specifically warned us of nuclear dystopia:  “Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council who also previously served as the country’s president and prime minister, wrote in a post on Russian social networking site VK.com that Russia has been ‘the target of the same mediocre and primitive game’ since the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘This means that Russia must be humiliated, limited, shaken, divided and destroyed’… if Americans succeed in that objective, ‘here is the result: the largest nuclear power with an unstable political regime, weak leadership, a collapsed economy and the maximum number of nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the US and Europe’.” Hearing such words, some macho Americans will say as they always do that it is “time to get tough.” This is what happens when our foreign policies are decided by tough men like Biden and Putin.

It is not really reassuring to know that a “small number of [nuclear] bombs are reportedly kept under U.S. Air Force guard at six airbases in five European countries, ready to be delivered by respective national fighter planes,” and that we have nuclear missiles on submarines prowling the sea near Russia. It is not necessarily comforting that within striking range of Russia, there are missiles that could kill millions of people over there within days of the start of a nuclear war. The “nuclear weapons should have been removed from Turkey long ago. Now, whether they’re taken out or kept in, they are going to play some kind of role in the escalating tensions.” Those words were written in 2019. Could it be possible that the presence of nukes in several European countries did worry many Russians and actually increased the chances of war in Ukraine? Could it be true that “there are any number of scenarios in which Russian military doctrine foresees the use of nuclear weapons as a rational move, wars on its border being only one such example”?

The state of U.S. political culture and education is shameful. “60 percent of Americans would approve of killing 2 million Iranian civilians [with our nukes] to prevent an invasion of Iran that might kill 20,000 U.S. soldiers.” One single man, respected and selected by a small number of Democratic Party elites, a man named Joe Biden, has the authority to initiate nuclear strikes at any time on Russia.

Political scientist John Mearsheimer has argued for years that “the U.S., in pushing to expand NATO eastward and establishing friendly relations with Ukraine, has increased the likelihood of war between nuclear-armed powers and laid the groundwork for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive position toward Ukraine.”

“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” This quote has been ascribed to Adolf Hitler. A similar sentiment was expressed by Bob Marley as you “think you’re in heaven, but you’re living in hell.”

Help Needed:  War Resisters

Unlike the government leaders in the rich and powerful countries, and unlike the millions whose eyes are glued to TV and computer screens, some people are fully awake and aware, and are doing what they can to stop the war in Ukraine and build world peace. The activism and writings of Howard Zinn taught us there are always such people who stand up for social justice even in the darkest of times. The anti-nuclear weapons movement of the postwar period, extending from people like Peggy Duff and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) all the way to the anti-nuke protests of the 1980s, when tens of millions of Japanese signed antinuclear petitions, achieved significant victories, especially in terms of preventing the spread, testing, and use of nuclear weapons. The existence of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including new techniques of mass killing such as AI-controlled and cyber weapons, and new weapons made possible by nanotechnology, is making it more and more obvious that our choice is between ending the institution of war, or ending ourselves. In Japan, the elderly who know all about war, like the hibakusha, as well as the young, who know very little beyond what they learned from the mass media and their school textbooks, are beginning to take a stand. It is a beginning, and we have a long way to go to re-build the movement. All hands on deck!

Of course, we have to pressure our government officials to end this war. And if they do not start listening to our demands very soon, then we will have to kick them out of office, and replace them with leaders who do listen, and do respond. Every day of inaction brings us closer to the brink of global destruction, closer to the edge of the cliff towards which they have been pushing us all. Here are three of the tasks that our movement must take on:

(1) We have to raise public awareness of the dire need for peace.

(2) We need lots of people out on the streets and other visible places who are committed to tenaciously working on the project of increasing the costs of state violence. Right now, it is easy to start wars, while starting peace is difficult; we need to turn that around. The anti-nuke and peace movements of the past “brought about political pressure to end nuclear testing and stop the spread of the Bomb by mobilizing protesters—ranging from tens of thousands to even millions at its peak—that took to the streets in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.” (Naturally, Japan also once had a large anti-nuclear weapons movement, as documented by Lawrence Wittner).

(3) CodePink brought us speeches from Abby Martin, Lee Camp, and Chris Hedges the other day that emphasized the importance of protecting freedom of expression, thereby joining other dissidents who warned earlier about censorship, such as Dissident Voice writer Rick Sterling. Not only advocates of global death and destruction have the right to speak but also advocates of life, the “greatest gift of all.” “We are the world, we are the children,” who have the right to not be nuked. Some elite extremists in government will soon start spouting lies, claiming that peace advocates are dangerous, that we are aiding and abetting our nations’ enemies in Russia, etc. The very word “peace” could become taboo. They want to silence and censor, and prevent our rational, humanitarian voices from being heard.

With millions of people now craving vengeance against Russia, and even against disempowered and disadvantaged Russians, let us build a global movement, people who refuse to take up weapons, who actively make it difficult for others to take up weapons, and who know that war is never the answer.

The post Don’t Let Them Get Us All Killed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Head to Your Local Gas Station or Supermarket to End the US Proxy War in Ukraine

“Harris Tells Americans They Will Have to Pay More for Gas To Punish Russia,” proclaimed the New York Times headline recently.   So spoke no less an authority on economics than the Vice President of the United States. Harris was on a visit to Poland to reassure a nervous NATO member and to egg on the war in Ukraine at the cost of ever more Ukrainian and Russian lives and higher inflation in the US and the world.

Inflation, Already Bad, Will be Worsened by the War in Ukraine.

The Times’s report on Harris’s declaration, however, concluded with this sobering reminder:

The sanctions could also complicate the political situation back in the U.S., where Americans have for months grappled with growing inflation, which has driven down the approval ratings of the Biden presidency.

The Consumer Price Index rose by 7.9 percent through February, the fastest pace of inflation in 40 years. The average price for a gallon of gas was $4.32 on Thursday, according to AAA. Economists say because of those record gas prices, inflation is expected to climb even more.

To be clear, the extraordinary 7.9% inflation increase predates the crisis in Ukraine although Joe Biden has attempted to blame it all on the thoroughly demonized Putin. But unless cause can come after effect, Joe has a tough argument to make there. However, it is clear that the war and the sanctions that go with it are accelerating inflation. And it is also clear from every poll that inflation (and the pandemic) are very much on the minds of Americans. Political analysts tell us that the 2022 Congressional elections and probably the 2024 elections will turn in large part on the issue of inflation.

A grassroots approach to stopping the war in Ukraine.

It is clear that the public is very likely to oppose US sanctions on Russia and US involvement in Ukraine IF either proves to drive up gas prices, food prices and other items in an accelerated inflationary spiral.

Our strategy should be to link the inflation with prolonging a war in a far-away land which has little to do with US security and risks a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

We should have rallies opposing ALL US involvement in Ukraine by tying them to gas prices, food prices, rents and other items.

Let us have demonstrations, not at the US Congress and not at military bases, but at gas stations and supermarkets.  Especially highly visible gas stations; there is surely one near you.

Let us hold up placards with a simple message:

Biden’s arms to Ukraine = Longer War.

Longer War = Higher Gas Prices.
Ukraine is not our biz.

Come Home, America.

Ukraine as US proxy war against Russia to be fought to the last Ukrainian.

The war in Ukraine is a US war with Russia, with Ukraine as a US proxy.  So we in the US can stop it by getting one of the parties, the US, to end its involvement.  That is the right and moral responsibility of those in the US.  And it is the action that we as citizens are best positioned to do.  The effective action.

If, in the face of facts, one believes that this is not a US proxy war but a war between the US and Ukraine, then it is none of our business.  But the course of action is the same. We should still call for an end to sending weapons, materiel and “advisors” to Ukraine and its environs. We should stay out it and avoid foreign entanglements in European disputes – the very thing that the Founders warned us about. That course is anti-interventionism as opposed to pursuing imperial or dubious ideological agendas.

The best way to stop escalation of the war is to take the offensive.

The Biden administration is getting a lot of credit for refusing to be part of a no-fly zone and turning thumbs down on US troops on the ground in Ukraine.  But as time goes by, pressure is building for escalation.  At a recent press briefing we saw a number of reporters from the White House press core badgering Jen Psaki and inquiringly petulantly why the President has not done more. And on top of that we have Biden embarrassing himself by making statements contrary to his own policy – either out of confusion or as a way of telling people what the real policy is. Dangerous escalation is waiting just around the corner.

The best way to stop this vehicle from going forward is to apply the brakes, put it in reverse and leave the question of escalation in the rearview mirror. Let us make de-escalation not escalation the question of the day. Let us push escalation off the table altogether.

Let’s go out to our local gas station or supermarket to stop the war in its tracks and not only avoid escalation but save countless lives. As I finish here, I just heard Max Blumenthal on the Jimmy Dore show suggest something along the same lines, signage at gas stations linking the war and inflation. Let’s try it.

No weapons to Ukraine. No sanctions on the world. End the war and stop the inflation.

The post Head to Your Local Gas Station or Supermarket to End the US Proxy War in Ukraine first appeared on Dissident Voice.