Category Archives: Africa

Nigeria, Oh, Nigeria, Cry for me, Nigeria!

So, good friend, Madu, who I met decades ago, at UT-El Paso. He was coming through buildings where part-time English faculty had offices. That big smile, that large voice, and an open hand. He was working the used/discount book gig: going to colleges to get books from faculty and bookstores that might have been extra copies from the respective publishers called review copies.

So, part-time faculty like myself, in the 1980s, would order tons of these reviewer’s copies of grammar, lit, and survey collections. Then fellows like Madu might come by with hard cold cash to buy them up.

The old days when students could find alternative prices (lower) than what college bookstores would charge. Madu has that service.

We talked, and his Nigerian love, his Nigerian spirit, the fact he was in Houston, with a wife and three children, all of that, made the chats open and real. I had just had a baby girl, so we talked about her.

Then politics, Africa, my own activism around Central America, the US-Mexico border, the environment, twin plants, militarization of campuses and the border, and my own work trying to unionize part-time exploited faculty.

Global politics. Nigeria, Africa, Diasporas, evil US-backed dictators, colonialism, post-colonialism, the trauma, the long-term biopiracy of Africa, the theft of resources, and alas, imagine, 30 years later, almost, and African countries are in the grips of AFRICOM, the US vassals, the exploiters, the mining, ag, and oil thieves. Until, 2022, many are becoming failed states, famines, the entire world of data mining, Zuckerberg encircling the continent with his Metaverse, and on and on. The story of United Fruit Company, Coca Cola, Monsanto, Big Pharma, Hearts and Minds USA special forces, and proxy wars and Nationa ENdowmenr for Democracy/CIA fomenting hell.

Oh, this devil USA:

Phoenix Express 2021, the AFRICOM-sponsored military exercise involving 13 countries in the Mediterranean Sea region, concluded last week. While its stated aim was to combat “irregular migration” and trafficking, the U.S. record in the region indicates more nefarious interests. “AFRICOM military’s exercise: The art of creating new pretexts for propagating U.S. interests” (source)

Go to MR Online, and then put in AFRICOM. Or, AFRICOM and Nigeria, or pick your country. Mark my words: Everything, I say EVERYTHING, tied to the USA and UK and EU when involving African nations now, well, pure evil:

This is recent, as in Oct. 2021:

Please join us for the launch of the international month of action by attending a webinar on October 1st, titled “AFRICOM at 13: Building the Popular Movement for Demilitarization and Anti-Imperialism in Africa.” Speakers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, and the African diaspora will discuss AFRICOM and what we can do to expel imperialist forces from the continent. Following the webinar, events will take place throughout October organized by various organizations on the African continent, in the U.S., and around the world to demand an end to the U.S. and western invasion and occupation of Africa.

BAP makes the following demands in the U.S. Out of Africa!: Shut Down AFRICOM campaign:

  • The complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Africa,
  • The demilitarization of the African continent,
  • The closure of U.S. bases throughout the world, and
  • That the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) oppose U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and conduct hearings on AFRICOM’s impact on the African continent, with the full participation of members of U.S. and African civil society.

Written by Tunde Osazua, a member of the Black Alliance for Peace’s Africa Team and the coordinator of the U.S. Out of Africa Network.

So, I was on Madu’s radio show, and he has run for Senate in Nigeria, and he wants to run for president. However, as he clearly states: “You have to have millions of dollars and militias to buy the votes.”

This is his organization:

Here’s a statement from Madu:

Not rising up by Nigerians from within Nigeria and around the world beyond ethnic, regional, religious and partisan political boundaries to save Nigeria from the hands of her mostly visionless, ignorant, insensitive, inhumane, squandermanic and most painfully, corrupt and morally bankrupt drivers of government at all levels whose actions have significantly weakened her sovereignty and territorial integrity, and made her peoples so poor and vulnerable , is a sin against God and a grave infraction against humanity for which history and unborn generations of Nigerians will judge us all harshly if we fail today to act unconditionally to save the country from an imminent collapse.

….Smart Madu Ajaja

This is a serious and long-term project, the decolonizing of the world, including all those countries’ economies, the land, the people, the cultures and the individuals:

This Special Issue aims to explore the complex and contested relationship between trauma studies and postcolonial criticism, focusing on the ongoing project to create a decolonized trauma theory that attends to and accounts for the suffering of minority groups and non-Western cultures, broadly defined as cultures beyond Western Europe and North America. The issue builds on the insights of, inter alia, Stef Craps’s book, Postcolonial Witnessing, and responds to his challenge to interrogate and move beyond a Eurocentric trauma paradigm. Authors were invited to submit papers on the theorization and representation of any aspect of postcolonial, non-Western and/or minority cultural trauma with a focus predominately, but not exclusively, on literature. (SourceDecolonizing Trauma Studies: Trauma and Postcolonialism … 200+ pages!)

I talked with Madu on his radio show, and below, the show. I do cover a lot of philosophical territory, and alas, this is about Madu and his love of his country and how quickly the country of his birth has spiraled into a country of selling people as slaves, kidnapping people for organs, murder, rape, theft.

So under the cover of counterterrorism, AFRICOM is beefing up Nigeria’s military to ensure the free flow of oil to the West, and using the country as a proxy against China’s influence on the continent. And that is the issue, too, that Madu is not happy with his country being exploited by anyone, including China. I explained to him that the USA has the military bases, the guns, and China has the contracts, the builders. In fact, Madu is spiritually exasperated at how his own countrymen turn against their own countrymen, and how there is a overlay of trauma and laziness and desperation and inflicted PTSD, including the post-colonial trauma referenced above.

USA is like a storm of ticks, locusts, mosquitos, viruses, as the syphilitic notions of Neocon and Neoliberal anti-diplomacy hits country after country like disease. A plague.

The greatest threat looming over our planet, the hegemonistic pretentions of the American Empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn you about this danger, and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads.

–Hugo Chavez

The United States Military is arguably the largest force of ecological devastation the world has ever known.

–Xoài Pham

Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, and fulfill it or betray it.

–Frantz Fanon (source)

William Blum wrote about the illegality of the USA’s direct and indirect bombing and invasions.

Here, a bit of an update:

The Death Toll of U.S. Imperialism Since World War 2

A critical disclaimer: Figures relating to the death toll of U.S. Imperialism are often grossly underestimated due to the U.S. government’s lack of transparency and often purposeful coverup and miscounts of death tolls. In some cases, this can lead to ranges of figures that include millions of human lives–as in the figure for Indonesia below with estimates of 500,000 to 3 million people. We have tried to provide the upward ranges in these cases since we suspect the upward ranges to be more accurate if not still significantly underestimated. These figures were obtained from multiple sources including but not limited to indigenous scholar Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology as well as Countercurrents’ article Deaths in Other Nations Since WWII Due to U.S. Interventions (please note that use of Countercurrents’ statistics isn’t an endorsement of the site’s politics).

  • Afghanistan: at least 176,000 people
  • Bosnia: 20,000 to 30,000 people
  • Bosnia and Krajina: 250,000 people
  • Cambodia: 2-3 million people
  • Chad: 40,000 people and as many as 200,000 tortured
  • Chile: 10,000 people (the U.S. sponsored Pinochet coup in Chile)
  • Colombia: 60,000 people
  • Congo: 10 million people (Belgian imperialism supported by U.S. corporations and the U.S. sponsored assassination of Patrice Lumumba)
  • Croatia: 15,000 people
  • Cuba: 1,800 people
  • Dominican Republic: at least 3,000 people
  • East Timor: 200,000 people
  • El Salvador: More than 75,000 people (U.S. support of the Salvadoran oligarchy and death squads)
  • Greece: More than 50,000 people
  • Grenada: 277 people
  • Guatemala: 140,000 to 200,000 people killed or forcefully disappeared (U.S. support of the Guatemalan junta)
  • Haiti: 100,000 people
  • Honduras: hundreds of people (CIA supported Battalion kidnapped, tortured and killed at least 316 people)
  • Indonesia: Estimates of 500,000 to 3 million people
  • Iran: 262,000 people
  • Iraq: 2.4 million people in Iraq war, 576, 000 Iraqi children by U.S. sanctions, and over 100,000 people in Gulf War
  • Japan: 2.6-3.1 million people
  • Korea: 5 million people
  • Kosovo: 500 to 5,000
  • Laos: 50,000 people
  • Libya: at least 2500 people
  • Nicaragua: at least 30,000 people (U.S. backed Contras’ destabilization of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua)
  • Operation Condor: at least 10,000 people (By governments of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. U.S. govt/CIA coordinated training on torture, technical support, and supplied military aid to the Juntas)
  • Pakistan: at least 1.5 million people
  • Palestine: estimated more than 200,000 people killed by military but this does not include death from blockade/siege/settler violence
  • Panama: between 500 and 4000 people
  • Philippines: over 100,000 people executed or disappeared
  • Puerto Rico: 4,645-8,000 people
  • Somalia: at least 2,000 people
  • Sudan: 2 million people
  • Syria: at least 350,000 people
  • Vietnam: 3 million people
  • Yemen: over 377,000 people
  • Yugoslavia: 107,000 people (Source: The Mapping Project is a multi-generational collective of activists and organizers in the Boston area who are deeply engaged in Palestine solidarity / BDS work. For over a year, we’ve been tracing Greater Boston’s networks of support for the colonization of Palestine–and how these networks participate in other forms of oppression, from policing to U.S. imperialism to medical apartheid and privatization.)

Madu and most activist Nigerians know these facts. Big global facts. The vices the United States of America has put the world in. The dirty Empire. The global cop. And, so, Nigerians in the USA number around two million, with a few hundred thousand. Now, of course, off camera, I repeated to Madu that most Americans, oh, 90 percent of the 355 million currently residing (most illegally) here do not care about Black, Africans, Chinese, and again one American is worth a million Nigerians. It is a juggling act, being part of the Diapora, and Madu is a nurse, and he like I said ran for Senate, and lost, and he has been inspired by some youth, but again, youth are being colonized by the ticks of data. Read below the YouTube window.

So, Alison McDowell at Wrench in the Gears, and then Silicon Icarus and others are talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the next colonialization of Africa. Coltan and gold may be like gold to the Wall Streeters and Transnationalists, and water and food and good land maybe like platinum to the same group of thieves, but data is worth its gigbytes/terrabytes in emeralds. “French Imperialism vs. Crypto Colonialism: The Central African Republic Experiment” & “Blockchain Technology & Coercive Surveillance of the Global South” both by Sebs Solomon

So, Madu, and great honorable youth in Nigeria who want to have a free, open, clean, sustainable, cultural-centric, food security, self-imposing, country of healthy bodies, minds and ecosystems, I am sorry to report the devils wear skinny jeans, and many come to the USA from India with work permits to work and live in Seattle/Redmond to work for Microsoft/Google/Facebook and all the other devils helping put these systems in place:

At the same time, SingularityNET partnered with UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education (IBE) to establish a new curriculum for children and teens, with an emphasis on emerging technology to prepare the youth for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to UNICEF:

There will never be enough money allocated in the budget, qualified teachers, or places in schools for the population we have; therefore, emerging technologies like Virtual Reality allow us to leapfrog these problems and offer the hope of more affordable, scalable and better quality education.

It is striking to read that UNICEF doesn’t believe there will ever be enough money to help all of the children in the world receive a traditional, classroom, education; therefore, it’s better to invest and scale Virtual Reality education — a rather pessimistic take from the “children’s fund” arm of the UN. UNICEF Innovation Fund, has virtual reality education programs in ChileIndiaNigeria, and Ghana. In Ghana, they noted there are “challenges to accessing the necessary teaching and learning resources for students to receive quality education; which is compounded by the lack of necessary and up-to-date education materials, huge class sizes and the lack of necessary infrastructural facilities.” (source)

How many more battlefields shall honorable people like Madu enter into with no money, no militias and the kings of capital weilding more powerful digital bombs than hydrogen bombs?

For a rabbit hole or warren, go to: Silicon Icarus and see Alison McDowell’s work on the following: Alison McDowell. Or over at her blog: Wrench in the Gears. She’s expending lifetime hours looking into this evil web of Davos, WEF, the billionaires’ club, the taking over of humanity through transhumanism, blockchain, Singularity, and all the other topics the mainstream and leftstream media and blogs just won’t tackle.

  • Blockchain
  • Gamification
  • Genomics
  • Impact Finance
  • Smart Cities
  • Biosecurity State

This is what the Fourth Industrialization devils want for all children on earth (minus their kids and their sychophants’ kids). Soylent Green be damned!

 

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Africa, the Collateral Victim of a Distant Conflict

Amadou Sanogo (Mali), You Can Hide Your Gaze, but You Cannot Hide That of Others, 2019.

On 25 May 2022, Africa Day, Moussa Faki Mahamat – the chairperson of the African Union (AU) – commemorated the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which was later reshaped as the AU in 2002, with a foreboding speech. Africa, he said, has become ‘the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine’. That conflict has upset ‘the fragile global geopolitical and geostrategic balance’, casting ‘a harsh light on the structural fragility of our economies’. Two new key fragilities have been exposed: a food crisis amplified by climate change and a health crisis accelerated by COVID-19.

A third long-running fragility is that most African states have little freedom to manage their budgets as debt burdens rise and repayment costs increase. ‘Public debt ratios are at their highest level in over two decades and many low-income countries are either in, or close to, debt distress’, said Abebe Aemro Selassie, the director of the African Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF’s Regional Economic Outlook report, released in April 2022, makes for grizzly reading, its headline clear: ‘A New Shock and Little Room to Manoeuvre’.

Jilali Gharbaoui (Morocco), Composition, 1967.

Debt hangs over the African continent like a wake of vultures. Most African countries have interest bills that are much higher than their national revenues, with budgets managed through austerity and driven by deep cuts in government employment as well as the education and health care sectors. Since just under two-thirds of the debt owed by these countries is denominated in foreign currencies, debt repayment is near impossible without further borrowing, resulting in a cycle of indebtedness with no permanent relief in sight. None of the schemes on the table, such as the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) or its Common Framework for Debt Treatments, will provide the kind of debt forgiveness that is needed to breathe life into these economies.

In October 2020, the Jubilee Debt Campaign proposed two common sense measures to remove the debt overhang. The IMF owns significant quantities of gold amounting to 90.5 million ounces, worth $168.6 billion in total; by selling 6.7% of their gold holdings, they could raise more than enough to pay the $8.2 billion that makes up DSSI countries’ debt. The campaign also suggested that rich countries could draw billions of dollars towards this cancellation by issuing less than 9% of their IMF Special Drawing Rights allocation. Other ways to reduce the debt burden include cancelling debt payments to the World Bank and IMF, two multilateral institutions with a mandate to ensure the advancement of social development and not their own financial largess. However, the World Bank has not moved on this agenda – despite dramatic words from its president in August 2020 – and the IMF’s modest debt suspension from May 2020 to December 2021 will hardly make a difference. Along with these reasonable suggestions, bringing the nearly $40 trillion held in illicit tax havens into productive use could help African countries escape the spiralling debt trap.

Choukri Mesli (Algeria), Algeria in Flames, 1961.

‘We live in one of the poorest places on earth’, former President of Mali Amadou Toumani Touré told me just before the pandemic. Mali is part of the Sahel region of Africa, where 80% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Poverty will only intensify as war, climate change, national debt, and population growth increase. At the 7th Summit of the leaders of the G5 Sahel (Group of Five for the Sahel) in February 2021, the heads of state called for a ‘deep restructuring of debt’, but the silence they received from the IMF was deafening. The G5 Sahel was initiated by France in 2014 as a political formation of the five Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Its real purpose was clarified in 2017 with the formation of its military alliance (the G5 Sahel Joint Force or FC-G5S), which provided cover for the French military presence in the Sahel. It could now be claimed that France did not really invade these countries, who maintain their formal sovereignty, but that it entered the Sahel to merely assist these countries in their fight against instability.

Part of the problem is the demands made on these states to increase their military spending against any increase in spending for human relief and development. The G5 Sahel countries spend between 17% and 30% of their entire budgets on their militaries. Three of the five Sahel countries have expanded their military spending astronomically over the past decade: Burkina Faso by 238%, Mali by 339%, and Niger by 288%. The arms trade is suffocating them. Western countries – led by France but egged on by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) – have pressured these states to treat every crisis as a security crisis. The entire discourse is about security as conversations about social development are relegated to the margins. Even for the United Nations, questions of development have become an afterthought to the focus on war.

Souleymane Ouologuem (Mali), The Foundation, 2014.

In the first two weeks of May 2022, the Malian military government ejected the French military and withdrew from G5 Sahel in the wake of deep resentment across Mali spurred by civilian casualties from French military attacks and the French government’s arrogant attitude towards the Malian government. Colonel Assimi Goïta, who leads the military junta, said that the agreement with the French ‘brought neither peace, nor security, nor reconciliation’ and that the junta aspires ‘to stop the flow of Malian blood’. France moved its military force from Mali next door to Niger.

No one denies the fact that the chaos in the Sahel region was deepened by the 2011 NATO war against Libya. Mali’s earlier challenges, including a decades-long Tuareg insurgency and conflicts between Fulani herders and Dogon farmers, were convulsed by the entry of arms and men from Libya and Algeria. Three jihadi groups, including al-Qaeda, appeared as if from nowhere and used older regional tensions to seize northern Mali in 2012 and declare the state of Azawad. French military intervention followed in January 2013.

Jean-David Nkot (Cameroon), #Life in Your Hands, 2020.

Travel through this region makes it clear that French – and US – interests in the Sahel are not merely about terrorism and violence. Two domestic concerns have led both foreign powers to build a massive military presence there, including the world’s largest drone base, which is operated by the US, in Agadez, Niger. The first concern is that this region is home to considerable natural resources, including yellowcake uranium in Niger. Two mines in Arlit (Niger) produce enough uranium to power one in three light bulbs in France, which is why French mining firms (such as Areva) operate in this garrison-like town. Secondly, these military operations are designed to deter the steady stream of migrants leaving areas such as West Africa and West Asia, going through the Sahel and Libya and making their way across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Along the Sahel, from Mauritania to Chad, Europe and the US have begun to build what amounts to a highly militarised border. Europe has moved its border from the northern edge of the Mediterranean Sea to the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, thereby compromising the sovereignty of North Africa.

Hawad (Niger), Untitled, 1997.

Military coups in Burkina Faso and Mali are a result of the failure of democratic governments to rein in French intervention. It was left to the military in Mali to both eject the French military and depart from its G5 Sahel political project. Conflicts in Mali, as former President Alpha Omar Konaré told me over a decade ago, are inflamed due to the suffocation of the country’s economy. The country is regularly left out of infrastructure support and debt relief initiatives by international development organisations. This landlocked state imports over 70% of its food, whose prices have skyrocketed in the past month. Mali faces harsh sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which will only deepen the crisis and provoke greater conflict north of Mali’s capital, Bamako.

The conflict in Mali’s north affects the lives of the country’s Tuareg population, which is rich with many great poets and musicians. One of them, Souéloum Diagho, writes that ‘a person without memory is like a desert without water’ (‘un homme sans mémoire est comme un desert sans eau’). Memories of older forms of colonialism sharpen the way that many Africans view their treatment as ‘collateral victims’ (as the AU’s Mahamat described it) and their conviction that it is unacceptable.

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“Booming” Economy Leaves Millions Behind: Part Four

The last three economic updates (see end of article) focused primarily on the U.S., whereas this update focuses more on global conditions.

The data coming in every day, month after month, is revealing a clear picture of the dire straits confronting millions globally. Problems appear at every level and on every continent. There is no letup in deteriorating economic and social conditions at home and abroad. Things are dreadful and getting worse in most parts of the world, and the decline began long before top-down covid lockdowns started more than two years ago.

Unfortunately, mainstream economic news is largely irrational, contradictory, and incoherent; it does not help people figure out what is going on, who is responsible, why phenomena are unfolding the way they are, how to connect the dots intelligibly, and how to move forward in a way that favors the people. No serious theory, analysis, or perspective is offered to assist people in affirming their interests.

*****

“Poorer nations in Asia, Africa, Middle East face food crisis: UN.”

“In 2021, an Oxfam review of IMF COVID-19 loans showed that 33 African countries were encouraged to pursue austerity policies. This despite the IMF’s own research showing austerity worsens poverty and inequality.”

“In 2020, half of all Zimbabweans – eight million people – were estimated to be in extreme poverty. That toll is almost certainly greater after a stringent COVID-19 lockdown that hit the informal sector – on which 90 percent of economically active citizens depend on for their survival – especially hard.”

“Surging inflation set to derail Ghana’s 2022 growth target.”

“Turkish inflation of 70% Sets G-20 high.”

Severe economic crisis, high living cost affect Lebanese diet.”

Sri Lanka “is in shambles after defaulting on payments on its mountain of foreign loans — estimated to be worth $50 billion — for the first time since the country gained independence from the British in 1948.”

“The Bank of England forecast inflation exceeding 10% and predicted negligible growth for the next two years, toppling into months of recession, accompanied by the savage squeeze on living standards.”

“Italy unveiled a hefty package of measures ($14 billion euros) on Monday (May 2, 2022) aimed at shielding firms and families from surging energy costs as the war in Ukraine casts a shadow over the growth prospects of the euro zone’s third largest economy.”

“The Spanish economy was the hardest hit in the euro area by the pandemic, shrinking 11% in 2020 amid tough lockdowns. Two years later, it has still not returned to its pre-virus level.”

“Dutch consumers have never been so pessimistic about the economy.”

“France’s economy unexpectedly grinds to a halt in first quarter.”

“Business environment trends still mostly negative in Latvia.”

“‘We see a big recession in the making’: Top CEOs are fearing the worst in Europe.”

Europe’s Economy is ‘De Facto Stagnating,’ ECB’s Panetta Says.” ECB stands for European Central Bank. Fabio Panetta is an Executive Board member of the ECB.

“S. Korean economy facing growing downside risks.” South Korea is Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

“Depreciating yen threatens Japan’s economy.”

New Zealand: “Recession fears as survey shows record 20 percent of Kiwis plan to cut spending.”

“Australia’s prices surge at fastest pace in two decades.”

“Average Australian worker went backwards by $800 in 2021, says ACTU chief Michele O’Neil.”

“The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) places Costa Rica with the highest unemployment rate in people between 15 and 24 years old (40%), even when comparing us with other countries such as Colombia, Chile and Mexico, which are also part of this organization.”

“Inflation is eroding Latin Americans’ purchasing power.”

“[U.S.] Stock market’s plunge continues on new concerns about global economy.”

“The S&P 500 has dropped 18% so far this year, losing $7 trillion in value.”

“New wave of inflation – and disruptions – hits U.S. factory floors.”

“[In the U.S.] the average price of all grades of gasoline at the pump spiked to a record $4.33 per gallon on Monday, May 9, the third week in a row of increases, and was up 46% from a year ago, edging past the prior record of Monday, March 14 ($4.32), according to the US Energy Department’s EIA late Monday, based on its surveys of gas stations conducted during the day.”

“[In the U.S.] foreclosures surge 181% to highest levels since March 2020.”

Capital-centered economies cannot provide for the needs of all and are instead spiraling out of control with each passing month. Such economies perpetuate insecurity, instability, and anarchy for everyone, no matter which party of the rich is in power. Life is proving that none of the existing institutions and arrangements are capable of sorting out the grave problems confronting millions. “Representative democracy” is not giving rise to conditions that guarantee security, peace, and prosperity for all.

A completely new outlook, vision, thinking, politics, and direction is needed. New arrangements that favor the people are long overdue. The old way of doing things just prolongs misery and insecurity.

Part one of this series appeared on April 10, 2022, part two appeared on April 25, 2022, and part three appeared on May 10, 2022.

 

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Cost of the Ukraine War Felt in Africa, Global South

While international news headlines remain largely focused on the war in Ukraine, little attention is given to the horrific consequences of the war which are felt in many regions around the world. Even when these repercussions are discussed, disproportionate coverage is allocated to European countries, like Germany and Austria, due to their heavy reliance on Russian energy sources.

The horrific scenario, however, awaits countries in the Global South which, unlike Germany, will not be able to eventually substitute Russian raw material from elsewhere. Countries like Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Ghana and numerous others, are facing serious food shortages in the short, medium and long term.

The World Bank is warning of a “human catastrophe” as a result of a burgeoning food crisis, itself resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war. The World Bank President, David Malpass, told the BBC that his institution estimates a “huge” jump in food prices, reaching as high as 37%, which would mean that the poorest of people would be forced to “eat less and have less money for anything else such as schooling.”

This foreboding crisis is now compounding an existing global food crisis, resulting from major disruptions in the global supply chains, as a direct outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as pre-existing problems, resulting from wars and civil unrest, corruption, economic mismanagement, social inequality and more.

Even prior to the war in Ukraine, the world was already getting hungrier. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 811 million people in the world “faced hunger in 2020”, with a massive jump of 118 million compared to the previous year. Considering the continued deterioration of global economies, especially in the developing world, and the subsequent and unprecedented inflation worldwide, the number must have made several large jumps since the publishing of FAO’s report in July 2021, reporting on the previous year.

Indeed, inflation is now a global phenomenon. The consumer price index in the United States has increased by 8.5% from a year earlier, according to the financial media company, Bloomberg. In Europe, “inflation (reached) record 7.5%”, according to the latest data released by Eurostat. As troubling as these numbers are, western societies with relatively healthy economies and potential room for government subsidies, are more likely to weather the inflation storm, if compared to countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East and many parts of Asia.

The war in Ukraine has immediately impacted food supplies to many parts of the world. Russia and Ukraine combined contribute 30% of global wheat exports. Millions of tons of these exports find their way to food-import-dependent countries in the Global South – mainly the regions of South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Considering that some of these regions, comprising some of the poorest countries in the world, have already been struggling under the weight of pre-existing food crises, it is safe to say that tens of millions of people already are, or are likely to go, hungry in the coming months and years.

Another factor resulting from the war is the severe US-led western sanctions on Russia. The harm of these sanctions is likely to be felt more in other countries than in Russia itself, due to the fact that the latter is largely food and energy independent.

Although the overall size of the Russian economy is comparatively smaller than that of leading global economic powers like the US and China, its contributions to the world economy makes it absolutely critical. For example, Russia accounts for a quarter of the world’s natural gas exports, according to the World Bank, and 18% of coal and wheat exports, 14% of fertilizers and platinum shipments, and 11% of crude oil. Cutting off the world from such a massive wealth of natural resources while it is desperately trying to recover from the horrendous impact of the pandemic is equivalent to an act of economic self-mutilation.

Of course, some are likely to suffer more than others. While economic growth is estimated to shrink by a large margin – up to 50% in some cases – in countries that fuel regional and international growth such as Turkey, South Africa and Indonesia, the crisis is expected to be much more severe in countries that aim for mere economic subsistence, including many African countries.

An April report published by the humanitarian group, Oxfam, citing an alert issued by 11 international humanitarian organizations, warned that “West Africa is hit by its worst food crisis in a decade.” Currently, there are 27 million people going hungry in that region, a number that may rise to 38 million in June if nothing is done to stave off the crisis. According to the report, this number would represent “a new historic level”, as it would be an increase by more than a third compared to last year. Like other struggling regions, the massive food shortage is a result of the war in Ukraine, in addition to pre-existing problems, lead amongst them the pandemic and climate change.

While the thousands of sanctions imposed on Russia are yet to achieve any of their intended purpose, it is poor countries that are already feeling the burden of the war, sanctions and geopolitical tussle between great powers. As the west is busy dealing with its own economic woes, little heed is being paid to those suffering most. And as the world is forced to transition to a new global economic order, it will take years for small economies to successfully make that adjustment.

While it is important that we acknowledge the vast changes to the world’s geopolitical map, let us not forget that millions of people are going hungry, paying the price for a global conflict of which they are not part.

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Tectonic Shifts in the World Economy: A World Systems Perspective

Orientation 

One of the main problems with Western media (other than their non-stop anti-Russian propaganda), is the narrow and parochial manner in which they conceive world events. Like realists and liberals of international relations theory, they analyze world events two countries at a time, for example, the U.S. vs Russia. They appear to have little conception of interdependence, like Russia, China, and Iran as a single block. Or the U.S., England, and Israel as another block. No state can make any moves without considering the causes and consequences of their actions for their interdependent states. Secondly, these talking heads fail miserably in understanding that conflicts between states are inseparable from the evolution of global capitalism which, in many respects, is stronger than any state. Thirdly, their “analysis” fails to consider that the world capitalist system has evolved over the last 500 years, as I will soon present. We will see that what is going on in Ukraine is part of a much larger tectonic struggle between Eastern China, Russia, and Iran to create a multipolar world while being desperately opposed by a declining West, headed by the United States and its minions.

A Brief History of Modern Capitalism

According to world systems theory, the global capitalist system has gone through four phases. In each phase, there was a dominant hegemon. First, there was the merchant capital of Italy that lasted from 1450-1640. This was followed by the great Dutch seafaring age from 1610-1740. Next, there was the British industrial system from 1776 to World War I. Lastly, the Yankee system which lasted from 1870 to 1970. Note that over these 500 years the pace of change quickened. In the Italian phase, the city states of Venice and Genoa rose and fell over 220 years. By the time we get to the United States, the time of rise and decline is 100 years. All this has been laid out by Giovanni Arrighi in The Long 20th century. In Adam Smith in Beijing, Arrighi also lays out the reasons he is convinced that China will be the leading hegemon in the next phase of capitalism.

Five Types of Capitalism   

Historically there have been five types of capitalism. The first is merchant capital in which profits are made by trade, selling cheap and buying dear. This is what Venice and Genoa did, as did Dutch seafarers on a grander scale. Next, is agricultural capitalism, including the slave system of the United States, Britain, and parts of the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. Then, the British invented the industrial capitalism system in which profit was made by investing the infrastructure of society: railroads, factories, and surplus labor from the wage labor system. Lastly, especially in the 20th century, we have two other forms of capitalism. In addition to being an industrial power after World War II, the United States used its industrial power to invest in the military arms industry and relied on finance capital (stocks and bonds).

Destructive Forms of Capitalism

In the later stage of all four systems, making money from commodities or technologies becomes problematic because it becomes unpredictable what people will buy. For example, after the Depression from 1929-1941, the United States got out of the depression by investing in the military. This was so successful that after World War II, capitalists began investing in the military even during peacetime (Melman, After Capitalism). It provided a much more predictable profit as long as countries continued to go to war. This encourages arming your own country or supplying the whole world, which is what the United States does today. There is also finance capital, where banks invest in stocks, bonds and financial instruments rather than infrastructure (as industrial capitalists did). For the past 50 years military and finance capital are primarily where the ruling class in Yankeedom has made its profits.

In the early phases of capitalism, in all four cycles, commodities were produced which required money as mediation, but the purpose was to produce more commodities and technologies. In the decaying part of the cycle, capitalists would rather invest in finance capital than industrial capital because of the quick turn-around in profits. Investing in building bridges, repairing roads, or building schools will surely benefit capitalists in the long run. Smooth supply chains for capitalist profit and a sound education in high school and college would ensure that workers not only know how to do their jobs but that they would be creative-thinkers and innovators. Capitalists these days don’t want to invest in these things, and this is why the infrastructure in Yankeedom is falling apart and the Yankee population cannot compete with students from other countries with better educational systems.

What is World Systems Theory?

World systems theory is a macro-sociological theory of long-term social change which includes economic theory and world history. It is provocative in at least three ways. One, its basic unit of analysis is the entire world-system of capitalism rather than nation-states. Second, it argues that the so-called socialist societies were not really socialist, but rather state-capitalist. Third, global capitalism organizes itself into a transnational division of labor which ignores the boundaries of nation-states. World-systems theory has been used by historians, international relations theorists, and international political economists to explain the rise and fall of nation-states, the increase and decrease in stratification patterns, as well as rise and decline of imperialism. Christopher Chase-Dunn and Terry Boswell have specialized in understanding social movements and the timing and placing of revolutions from a world-systems perspective.

Economic Zones Within the World-system

Overview of the core, periphery                                                 

World-systems are divided into three zones: the core, the semi-peripheral, and the peripheral countries. Economically and politically, core countries dominate other countries without being dominated. Semi-periphery countries are dominated by the core, and, in turn, dominate the periphery. The periphery are dominated by both. Part of the wealth of core countries comes from their exploitation of the peripheral countries’ land and labor through colonization.

Core and periphery

The core countries control most of the wealth in the world capitalist system. Workers are highly specialized, high technology is used. It has an industrial-electronic base. They extract raw materials from the peripheral countries and sell peripheral countries finished products. Core countries have the most highly specialized workers and a relatively small agricultural base, whereas peripheral countries have strong agricultural or horticultural bases and have a semi-skilled urban working class. The peripheral countries have relatively unspecialized labor whose work is labor-intensive with low wages. Much of the work done in peripheral countries is commercial agriculture—the production of coffee, sugar, and cotton.

The core countries are the home of the transnational corporations who control the world. Additionally, the core countries control the major banking institutions that provide international loans, such as the IMF and the World Bank. Finally, the core countries have the most powerful militaries. Paradoxically, when core countries are at their peak, their militaries are not very active. They only become more active as a core country goes into decline, as in the United States. Core countries typically have the most highly trained workers. In their heyday, core countries have strong centralized states that provide for pensions, unemployment, and road construction. In their weak stage, states withdraw these benefits and invest in their military to protect their assets abroad as their own territory falls apart. Core countries have large tax bases and, at their best, support infrastructural development.

The periphery nations own very little of the world’s means of production. In the case of African states or tribes, they have great amounts of natural resources, including diamonds and minerals, but these are extracted by the core countries. Furthermore, core states are usually able to purchase raw materials and cheap labor from non-core states at low prices and yet demand higher prices for their exports to non-core states. Core states have access to cheap skilled professional labor through migration (brain drain) from semi-peripheral states . Peripheral countries don’t have a solid tax base because their states have to contend with rival ethnic and tribal forces who are hardly convinced that taxes are good for them and their sub-national identities.

Peripheral countries often do not have a diversified economic base and are forced by the world market to produce one product. A good example of this is Venezuela and its oil. Peripheral countries have relatively steeper stratification patterns because there are no middle classes for the wealth to spread across. A tiny landed elite at the top sells off most of the land to transnational corporations. The state tends to be both weak and strong. States in the periphery have difficulty forming and sustaining their own national economic policy because foreign corporations want to come and go as they please. On the other hand, if a nationalist or a socialist rise to power, the state will be very strong and dictatorial. This is because they are constantly at war with transnational corporations who seek to overthrow them. Since transnational corporations often do this through oppositional parties, those in power are extremely suspicious of oppositional parties. Hence their label as “authoritarian”. In contemporary world systems, peripheries are found in parts of Latin America and in the most extreme form in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Semi-periphery                                                 

The semi-periphery contains countries that as a result of national liberation movements and class struggles have risen out of the periphery and have some characteristics of the core. They can also be composed of formerly core countries that have declined. For example, Spain and Portugal were once core countries in Early Modern Europe. Semi-peripheral countries often take over industries the core no longer wants such as second-generation computers, appliances, or transportation systems. Semi-peripheral states enter the world systems with some degree of autonomy rather than simply a subordinate country. These industries are not strong enough to compete with core countries in “free trade”. Therefore, they tend to apply protectionist policies towards their industry. They tend to export more to peripheral states and import more from core states in trade. In the 21st century, states like Brazil, Argentina, Russia, India, Israel, China, South Korea and South Africa (BRICS) are usually considered semi peripheral.

As I said above, the world capitalist system has changed four times in the last 500 years and each time not only have the configurations of the core countries changed but so have the semi peripheral countries in the world systems. For at least half of capitalist world systems, there were some countries that were outside the periphery, including the United States. Semi-peripheral countries are not fully industrialized countries, but they have scientists and engineers which can lead to some wealth.

Which countries are in the core periphery and semi periphery countries today?

The core countries in the world today are the United States, Germany, Japan, and the Scandinavian social democratic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. Minor core countries are England, France, Italy, and Spain. Eastern European countries are in the semi-periphery. South of the border, there are four semi-periphery countries: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. More powerful up and coming semi-peripheral states include Saudi Arabia, Israel, Russia, China, and India. Most of Africa is in the periphery of the world systems with the exception of South Africa (semi-periphery).

Where did world systems theory come from?

Immanuel Wallerstein was a sociologist who specialized in African studies, so he had first-hand knowledge of the reality of exploitation by colonists. He was influenced by the work of Ferdinand Braudel who wrote a great three-volume history of capitalism. Wallerstein was also influenced by Marx and Engels, but he thought their history of capitalism was too Eurocentric. He emphasized that the core countries did not just exploit their own workers, but they have made great profits through the systematic exploitation of the peripheral countries for hundreds of years.

Modernization theory

World systems theory was in part a reaction against the anti-communist, modernization theory of international politics that prevailed after World War II into the 1960’s. Please see the table below which compares world systems theory to modernization theory.

Dependency theory of Andre Gunder Frank

Around the same time as world systems theory developed, Andre Gunder Frank developed what came to be called “dependency theory”. This theory also challenged modernization theory’s assumption that countries that were called “traditional societies” were improved by contact with the core countries. He claimed that they were systematically exploited by the core countries, made worse than they were before they had any contact with them. As long ago as 1998, Gunder Frank predicted the rise of China. See his book ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age.

Karl Polyani

Other influences on the world-systems theory come from a scholar of comparative economic systems, Karl Polyani. His major contribution is to show that there was no capitalism in tribal or agricultural civilizations and that the “self-subsisting” economy of capitalism was a relatively recent development. Wallerstein reframed this in world systems terms, with the tribal as “mini-systems”, agricultural civilization as “empires” and the capitalist system as “world economies”. Nikolai Kondratiev introduced patterns he saw in the capitalist world economy that centered around cycles of crisis and wars within very specific time periods.

Interstate System

As I said earlier, in international relations theory, realist and neo-conservative theory and neoliberal theories of the state treat each state as if they were separate units. Applied to today, that would formulate world conflict as a battle between, say, the United States and Russia. Neo-conservative and neoliberal theory treat any alliance between states as secondary epiphenomenon that can be dissolved without too much trouble. Secondly, both these theories operate as if interstate politics are relatively autonomous from economics. To the extent to which these theories mention capitalism, it is the domestic economy of nation-states. Each tries to hide the international nature of capitalism and the extent to which transnational corporations can, and do, override national interests. The ideology of the interstate system is sovereign equality, but this is practically overridden as states are treated as neither sovereign nor equal, especially in Africa.

World systems theory sees states differently. For one thing, nation-states are not like Hobbes atoms which crash against each other in a war of all against all. The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, fresh after the Thirty Years’ War, was an attempt to move beyond dynastic empires to nation-states. In core capitalist countries there were never single nation states. The Treaty created a system of nation-states which had rules of engagement, treaties, do’s and don’ts.

Today, between the core, periphery, and semi-periphery countries lies a system of interconnected state relationships. This interstate system arose either as a concomitant process or as a consequence of the development of the capitalist world-system over the course of the “long” 16th century as states began to recognize each other’s sovereignty.

Between these economic zones there were no enforceable rules about how nation-states should act, outside of not impeding the flow of capital between zones. Political domestic elites, international elites, and corporations competed and cooperated with each other, the results of which no one intended. Unsuccessful attempts have been made by the League of Nations and later the United Nations to create an international state. However, nation-states have been unwilling to give up their weapons. Therefore, the international anarchy of capitalist production is still unchecked. The function of the state is to regulate the flow of capital, labor, and commodities across borders and to enforce the structure of market rates. Not only do strong states impose their will on weak states. Strong states also impose limitations on other strong states, as we are seeing with US sanctions against Russia.

Who Will Be the Next World-Economy Hegemon?

Situation in Ukraine

Everything about Ukraine needs to be understood as the desperate clawing of a Yankee empire terrified of being left behind. The U.S. has so far convinced Europe to stay away from Russia and China, but it has nothing to offer. As Gary Olsen said, the Europeans may slowly make deals with Russia and China because they have some sense of where the future lies. So, Western hydra-headed totalitarian media all speak with the same voice: RUSSIA, RUSSIA, EVIL RUSSIA. EVIL PUTIN. Putin certainly had nerve wanting a national economy with its own economic policy. God forbid! But the time is up for Yankeedom and no terrorist police, no military drones, no Republicrats, and no stock exchange jingling with the trappings of divine honor can stop it.

The weakness of Europe

 So, if Yankeedom is in decline (and even Brzezinski admitted this) who are the new contenders? Up until maybe five years ago, I thought Germany might be, with its industrial base and its strong working class. But in the last five years German standards of living have declined. It seems that the EU is in the midst of cracking up. There is no leadership with the departure of Angela Merkel. Macron is on the way out in France. All the other countries in Europe, including Italy, are under water with debt. England is the puppy dog of the United States and hasn’t been a global power in over 100 years. Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece could be helped enormously by allaying themselves with Russia and China, but at this point most Europeans have been bullied and complicit in myopically siding with a collapsing United States. There is a good chance the US will drag most of Europe down with them.

Collapse of the core zones?

As we have seen, according to world systems theory, the history of capitalism has had three zones: core, periphery, and semi-periphery. The countries that have inhabited the three zones have changed along with the dominant hegemon over the last 500 years, and we are now in unprecedented territory. There is a good chance that the entire batch of formerly core states, the United States, Britain, France, and the west will collapse and that the core capitalist system will be without a hegemon (with the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries). China seems to be about ten years away from assuming that position.

2022-2030 the reign of the semi-periphery?

So, is it fair to say there is a huge tectonic shift where most of the core countries will collapse and the world system will have no core for maybe 20 years? It seems clear that the new hegemon is going to be China. Arrighi and Gunder Frank both thought this. But China is still a semi-periphery country and it might take 10-15 years to enter the core. Meanwhile its allies, Russia and Iran, are also semi-periphery countries. In South America, Argentina had the foresight to sign on the Chinese Belt Road Initiative. Brazil and Chile are still uncommitted to China and occupy a semi-peripheral status. The big country in Asia is India. It is very important to the Yankees not to lose control of India, and they have all the reason in the world to beat war drums in an attempt to demonize China. If a right winger such as Modi can refuse to side against Russia in the current events in Ukraine, will a more moderate or social democratic president of India have the vision to see the future lies in aligning with China? I wouldn’t count on it given the behavior of green-social democrat leadership in Germany.

The only European countries who seem to have made their way through 40 years of Neoliberal austerity, the collapse of Yugoslavia, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of fascist parties in Europe are the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. There is no reason why they could not maintain core status, though China would be the leading power.

The new hegemon China and the world-system in 2030  

I can imagine the world-system in 2030 could consist of China and the Scandinavian countries in the core, with Russia, Iran, and maybe Brazil, Argentina and Chile on the semi-periphery along with possibly India. I don’t know where to place the US and Europe. Since they are drunk with finance capital, it is unfair to put them in the semi-periphery, which is usually involved in productive scientific endeavors. Yet they are more productive than the peripheral countries. Africa could be the last battleground between the decadent Yankee and European imperialists who live on as neo-colonial crypto-imperialists attempting to either sell arms to Africans or directly set up regimes and enslave Africans to work the mines.

If China is able to develop African productive forces with the Belt Road Initiative, it might be an incentive to calm down the ethnic warfare there. It would be a wonderful thing if the African states could finally control the enormous wealth of their country. We cannot expect too much from China. The best they could do would be to invest in cultivating scientists and engineers to build up Africa as a fully industrialized continent. To me, what matters about China is not arguing whether or not it is really socialist, but that it is doing what Marx liked best about capitalism: developing the productive forces.

The prospects for a world state?

We cannot expect the Yankee state to decline peacefully and not start World War III. Is it possible to have a global capitalist realignment without starting World War III? As Chris Chase-Dunn has advocated for decades, we need a world state that has the capability to enforce a ban on interstate warfare. That is not likely now. The only attempts at this: the League of Nations and the United Nations happened after the misery of two world wars. Both attempts at world state have failed because nation-states would not agree to give up their weapons.

What about world ecology?                                                                              

But as world systems theorist Chris Chase Dunn points out, a Chinese-centered world still inherits the increasing ecological destruction that has been an inherent part of the world system since the industrial revolution and now the global pandemic. This includes extreme weather (hot and cold), pollution of land and oceans with plastics and the products of industrialization like carbon, flooding from global warming, and desertification of lands due to droughts and monocropping.

What about Marx’s dream of shrinking the ratio between freedom and necessity in the light of ecological disaster?

For Marx and Engels, the dream of socialism was based on abundance. Unfortunately, because socialism first took place in what Wallerstein would call peripheral or semi-peripheral countries, socialism has come to be associated with poverty. An implication that could be drawn under socialism is that people should expect to be poor and share the poverty equally. That is the opposite of how Marx and Engels saw things. They hoped that socialism would first break out in the west in an industrialized country, with an organized working-class party taking the lead. They hoped that the revolution of overthrowing capitalism would preserve its material abundance, technology, and scientific achievements, not tear them to the ground. They wanted to develop the forces of production that capitalism unleashed while abolishing the political economy of private property over means of production. As socialism developed, the collective creativity of workers would shrink the ratio between necessary work and freedom. What does this mean?

This meant that workers would either:

  1. a) work less and produce the same amount
  2. b) work the same amount but produce more
  3. c) work more and produce much more

In other words, workers would have an increase in the number of choices of what to do with their free time because of an increase in the technology and collective creativity to produce more with less. My question is, given the irreversible ecological situation we are in, is it still realistic to expect socialism will continue to be based on abundance? I can imagine that the way China is going, in that part of the world it may still be possible. I also suspect that in the Scandinavian countries it might be possible. The problem is that global pandemics, extreme weather, flooding, desertification, and pollution cannot easily, if at all, be contained within countries that are capitalist or socialist.

How Reliable is World-systems Theory?

I will limit criticisms of world systems theory to those of a political and economic nature. One common criticism is the struggle to do empirical research with a unit of analysis being the entire world system. This is not to say world systems theorists do not do empirical work, because they do. It is more a matter of how to derive meaningful relationships between variables at such a complex level of abstraction. Statistics for individual nation states are easier to manage, although nation-states are not autonomous actors.

Another criticism is that the successes of existing socialist states are in danger of being given the short shrift. Like many in the West, the first line of criticism by world systems theorists of socialist countries is that they are one-party dictatorships. While this may be true, there is good reason why communist parties in power are nervous about the prospect of oppositional parties being used by foreign capitalists to overthrow them. In addition, socialist countries have better records than capitalist countries on the periphery in the fields of literacy (reading and writing), low-cost housing, healthcare, and free education. Please see Michael Parenti, Black Shirts and Reds for more on this.

The third major criticism comes from orthodox Marxist, Robert Brenner. Brenner claims that the emphasis by world systems theorists on the relationship between economic zones comes at a cost to understanding the class structure within and between nation-states. I think world systems theorists are well aware of class relationships, but they choose to focus on the capitalist relationships between states. Lastly, Theda Skocpol argues that world systems theory understates the power of the state in international affairs. The state is not just the creature of transnational capital. States engage in military competition which long s capitalism. State structures compete with each other.

On a positive note, as I said earlier, Christopher Chase-Dunn has done some creative work with Terry Boswell in tracking the timing and location of rebellions and revolutions in the 500 years of the world systems in Spirals of Capitalism and Socialism. In addition, he wrote a very groundbreaking book with Tom Hall Rise and Demise, which challenges Wallerstein by suggesting that there were precapitalist world systems that go all the way back to hunter-gatherers. Also see my book with him, Social Change: Globalization from the Stone Age to the Present.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Socialism

The post Tectonic Shifts in the World Economy: A World Systems Perspective first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine is a Loud Echo of Britain’s Colonial Past and a Warning of the Future

[This is the transcript of a talk I gave to Bath Friends of Palestine on 25 February 2022.]

Since I arrived with my family in the UK last summer, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why choose Bristol as your new home?”

Well, it certainly wasn’t for the weather. Now more than ever I miss Nazareth’s warmth and sunshine.

It wasn’t for the food either.

My family do have a minor connection to Bristol. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side (one from Cornwall, the other from South Wales) apparently met in Bristol – a coincidental stopping point on their separate journeys to London. They married and started a family whose line led to me.

But that distant link wasn’t the reason for coming to Bristol either.

In fact, it was only in Nazareth that Bristol began occupying a more prominent place in my family’s life.

When I was not doing journalism, I spent many years leading political tours of the Galilee, while my wife, Sally, hosted and fed many of the participants in her cultural café in Nazareth, called Liwan.

It was soon clear that a disproportionate number of our guests hailed from Bristol and the south-west. Some of you here tonight may have been among them.

But my world – like everyone else’s – started to shrink as the pandemic took hold in early 2020. As we lost visitors and the chance to directly engage with them about Palestine, Bristol began to reach out to me.

Toppled statue

It did so just as Sally and I were beginning discussions about whether it was time to leave Nazareth – 20 years after I had arrived – and head to the UK.

Even from thousands of miles away, a momentous event – the sound of Edward Colston’s statue being toppled – reverberated loudly with me.

Ordinary people had decided they were no longer willing to be forced to venerate a slave trader, one of the most conspicious criminals of Britain’s colonial past. Even if briefly, the people of Bristol took back control of their city’s public space for themselves, and for humanity.

In doing so, they firmly thrust Britain’s sordid past – the unexamined background to most of our lives – into the light of day. It is because of their defiance that buildings and institutions that for centuries bore Colston’s name as a badge of honour are finally being forced to confront that past and make amends.

Bath, of course, was built no less on the profits of the slave trade. When visitors come to Bath simply to admire its grand Georgian architecture, its Royal Crescent, we assent – if only through ignorance – to the crimes that paid for all that splendour.

Weeks after the Colston statue was toppled, Bristol made headlines again. Crowds protested efforts to transfer yet more powers to the police to curb our already savagely diminished right to protest – the most fundamental of all democratic rights. Bristol made more noise against that bill than possibly anywhere else in the UK.

I ended up writing about both events from Nazareth.

Blind to history

Since my arrival, old and new friends alike have started to educate me about Bristol. Early on I attended a slavery tour in the city centre – one that connected those historic crimes with the current troubles faced by asylum seekers in Bristol, even as Bristol lays claim to the title of “city of sanctuary”.

For once I was being guided rather than the guide, the pupil rather than the teacher – so long my role on those tours in and around Nazareth. And I could not but help notice, as we wandered through Bristol’s streets, echoes of my own tours.

Over the years I have taken many hundreds of groups around the ruins of Saffuriya, one of the largest of the Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in its ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948, the Nakba or Catastrophe.

What disturbed me most in Saffuriya was how blind its new inhabitants were to the very recent history of the place they call home.

New Jewish immigrants were moved on to the lands of Saffuriya weeks after the Israeli army destroyed the village and chased out the native Palestinian population at gunpoint. A new community built in its place was given a similar Hebrew name, Tzipori. These events were repeated across historic Palestine. Hundreds of villages were razed, and 80 per cent of the Palestinian population were expelled from what became the new state of Israel.

Troubling clues

Even today, evidence of the crimes committed in the name of these newcomers is visible everywhere. The hillsides are littered with the rubble of the hundreds of Palestinian homes that were levelled by the new Israeli army to stop their residents from returning. And there are neglected grave-stones all around – pointers to the community that was disappeared.

And yet almost no one in Jewish Tzipori asks questions about the remnants of Palestinian Saffuriya, about these clues to a troubling past. Brainwashed by reassuring state narratives, they have averted their gaze for fear of what might become visible if they looked any closer.

Tzipori’s residents never ask why there are only Jews like themselves allowed in their community, when half of the population in the surrounding area of the Galilee are Palestinian by heritage.

Instead, the people of Tzipori misleadingly refer to their Palestinian neighbours – forced to live apart from them as second and third-class citizens of a self-declared Jewish state – as “Israeli Arabs”. The purpose is to obscure, both to themselves and the outside world, the connection of these so-called Arabs to the Palestinian people.

To acknowledge the crimes Tzipori has inflicted on Saffuriya would also be to acknowledge a bigger story: of the crimes inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people as a whole.

Shroud of silence

Most of us in Britain do something very similar.

In young Israel, Jews still venerate the criminals of their recent past because they and their loved ones are so intimately and freshly implicated in the crimes.

In Britain, with its much longer colonial past, the same result is often achieved not, as in Israel, through open cheerleading and glorification – though there is some of that too – but chiefly through a complicit silence. Colston surveyed his city from up on his plinth. He stood above us, superior, paternal, authoritative. His crimes did not need denying because they had been effectively shrouded in silence.

Until Colston was toppled, slavery for most Britons was entirely absent from the narrative of Britain’s past – it was something to do with racist plantation owners in the United States’ Deep South more than a century ago. It was an issue we thought about only when Hollywood raised it.

After the Colston statue came down, he became an exhibit – flat on his back – in Bristol’s harbourside museum, the M Shed. His black robes had been smeared with red paint, and scuffed and grazed from being dragged through the streets. He became a relic of the past, and one denied his grandeur. We were able to observe him variously with curiousity, contempt or amusement.

Those are far better responses than reverence or silence. But they are not enough. Because Colston isn’t just a relic. He is a living, breathing reminder that we are still complicit in colonial crimes, even if now they are invariably better disguised.

Nowadays, we usually interfere in the name of fiscal responsibility or humanitarianism, rather than the white man’s burden.

We return to the countries we formerly colonised and asset-stripped, and drive them back into permanent debt slavery through western-controlled monetary agencies like the IMF.

Or in the case of those that refuse to submit, we more often than not invade or subvert them – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Iran – tearing apart the colonial fabric we imposed on them, wrecking their societies in ways that invariably lead to mass death and the dispersion of the population.

We have supplied the bombs and planes to Saudi Arabia that are killing untold numbers of civilians in Yemen. We funded and trained the Islamic extremists who terrorise and behead civilians in Syria. The list is too long for me to recount here.

Right now, we see the consequences of the west’s neo-colonialism – and a predictable countervailing reaction, in the resurgence of a Russian nationalism that President Putin has harnessed to his own ends – in NATO’s relentless, decades-long expansion towards Russia’s borders.

And of course, we are still deeply invested in the settler colonial project of Israel, and the crimes it systematically inflicts on the Palestinian people.

Divine plan

Through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain gave licence for the creation of a militarised ethnic, Jewish state in the Middle East. Later, we helped supply it with atomic material in the full knowledge that Israel would build nuclear bombs. We gave Israel diplomatic cover so that it could evade its obligations under the international treaty to stop nuclear proliferation and become the only nuclear power in the region. We have had Israel’s back through more than five decades of occupation and illegal settlement building.

And significantly, we have endlessly indulged Zionism as it has evolved from its sordid origins nearly two centuries ago, as an antisemitic movement among fundamentalist Christians. Those Christian Zonists – who at the time served as the power brokers in European governments like Britain’s – viewed Jews as mere instruments in a divine plan.

According to this plan, Jews were to be denied the chance to properly integrate into the countries to which they assumed they belonged.

Instead the Christian Zionists wanted to herd Jews into an imagined ancient, Biblical land of Israel, to speed up the arrival of the end times, when mankind would be judged and only good Christians would rise up to be with God.

Until Hitler took this western antisemitism to another level, few Jews subscribed to the idea that they were doomed forever to be a people apart, that their fate was inextricably tied to a small piece of territory in a far-off region they had never visited, and that their political allies should be millenarian racists.

But after the Holocaust, things changed. Christian Zionists looked like much kinder antisemites than the exterminationist Nazis. Christian Zionism won by default and was reborn as Jewish Zionism, claiming to be a national liberation movement rather than the dregs of a white European nationalism Hitler had intensified.

Today, we are presented with polls showing that most British Jews subscribe to the ugly ideas of Zionism – ideas their great-great-grandparents abhorred. Jews who dissent, who believe that we are all the same, that we all share a common fate as humans not as tribes, are ignored or dismissed as self-haters. In an inversion of reality these humanist Jews, rather than Jewish Zionists, are seen as the pawns of the antisemites.

Perverse ideology

Zionism as a political movement is so pampered, so embedded within European and American political establishments that those Jews who rally behind this ethnic nationalism no longer consider their beliefs to be abnormal or abhorrent – as their views would have been judged by most Jews only a few generations ago.

No, today Jewish Zionists think of their views as so self-evident, so vitally important to Jewish self-preservation that anyone who opposes them must be either a self-hating Jew or an antisemite.

And because non-Jews so little understand their own culpability in fomenting this perverse ideology of Jewish Zionism, we join in the ritual defaming of those brave Jews who point out how far we have stepped through the looking glass.

As a result, we unthinkingly give our backing to the Zionists as they weaponise antisemitism against those – Jews and non-Jews alike – who stand in solidarity with the native Palestinian people so long oppressed by western colonialism.

Thoughtlessly, too many of us have drifted once again into a sympathy for the oppressor – this time, Zonism’s barely veiled anti-Palestinian racism.

Nonetheless, our attitudes towards modern Israel, given British history, can be complex. On the one hand, there are good reasons to avert our gaze. Israel’s crimes today are an echo and reminder of our own crimes yesterday. Western governments subsidise Israel’s crimes through trade agreements, they provide the weapons for Israel to commit those crimes, and they profit from the new arms and cyber-weapons Israel has developed by testing them out on Palestinians. Like the now-defunct apartheid South Africa, Israel is a central ally in the west’s neo-colonialism.

So, yes, Israel is tied to us by an umbilical cord. We are its parent. But at the same time it is also not exactly like us either – more a bastard progeny. And that difference, that distance can help us gain a little perspective on ourselves. It can make Israel a teaching aid. An eye-opener. A place that can bring clarity, elucidate not only what Israel is doing but what countries like Britain have done and are still doing to this day.

Trade in bodies

The difference between Britain and Israel is to be found in the distinction between a colonial and a settler-colonial state.

Britain is a classic example of the former. It sent the entitled sons of its elite private schools, men like Colston, to parts of the globe rich in resources in order to steal those resources and bring the wealth back to the motherland to further enrich the establishment. That was the purpose of the tea and sugar plantations.

But it was not just a trade in inanimate objects. Britain also traded in bodies – mostly black bodies. Labour and muscle were a resource as vital to the British empire as silk and saffron.

The trafficking in goods and people lasted more than four centuries until liberation movements among the native populations began to throw off – at least partially – the yoke of British and European colonialism. The story since the Second World War has been one of Europe and the United States’ efforts to reinvent colonialism, conducting their rape and pillage at a distance, through the hands of others.

This is the dissembling, modern brand of colonialism: a “humanitarian” neocolonialism we should by now be familiar with. Global corporations, monetary
agencies like the IMF and the military alliance of NATO have each played a key role in the reinvention of colonialism – as has Israel.

Elimination strategies

Israel inherited Britain’s colonial tradition, and permanently adopted many of its emergency orders for use against the Palestinians. Like traditional colonialism, settler colonialism is determined to appropriate the resources of the natives. But it does so in an even more conspicuous, uncompromising way. It does not just exploit the natives. It seeks to replace or eliminate them. That way, they can never be in a position to liberate themselves and their homeland.

There is nothing new about this approach. It was adopted by European colonists across much of the globe: in North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as belatedly in the Middle East.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the settler colonial strategy, as Israel illustrates only too clearly. In their struggle to replace the natives, Israel’s settlers had to craft a narrative – a rationalisation – that they were the victims rather than the victimisers. They were, of course, fleeing persecution in Europe, but only to become persecutors themselves outside Europe. They were supposedly in a battle for survival against those they came to replace, the Palestinians. The natives were cast as irredeemably, and irrationally, hostile. God was invoked, more or less explicitly.

In the Zionist story, the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians – the Nakba – becomes a War of Independence, celebrated to this day. The Zionist colonisers thereby transformed themselves into another national liberation movement, like the ones in Africa that were fighting after the Second World War for independence. Israel claimed to be fighting oppressive British rule, as Africans were, rather than inheriting the colonisers’ mantle.

But there is a disadvantage for settler colonial projects too, especially in an era of better communications. In a time of more democratic media, as we are currently enjoying – even if briefly – the colonisers’ elimination strategies are much harder to veil or airbrush. The ugliness is on show. The reality of the oppression is more visceral, more obviously offensive.

Apartheid named

The settlers’ elimination strategies are limited in number, and difficult to conceal whichever is adopted. In the United States, elimination took the form of genocide – the simplest and neatest of settler-colonialism’s solutions.

In the post-war era of human rights, however, Israel was denied that route. It adopted settler colonialism’s fall-back position: mass expulsion, or ethnic cleansing. Some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and outside the new borders of Israel in 1948.

But genocide and ethnic cleansing are invariably projects that cannot be completed. Some 90 per cent of Native Americans died from the violence and diseases brought by European incomers, but a small proportion survived. In South Africa, the white immigrants lacked the numbers and capacity either to eradicate the native population or to exploit such a vast territory.

Israel managed to expel only 80 per cent of the Palestinians living inside its new borders before the international community called time. And then Israel sabotaged its initial success in 1948 by seizing yet more Palestinian territory – and more Palestinians – in 1967.

When settler populations cannot eradicate the native population completely, they must impose harsh, visible segregation policies against those that remain.

Resources and rights are differentiated on the basis of race or ethnicity. Such regimes institute apartheid – or as Israel calls its version “hafrada” – to maintain the privileges of their own, superior or chosen population.

Colonial mentality

Many decades on, human rights groups have finally named Israel’s apartheid. Amnesty International got round to it only this month – 74 years after the Nakba and 55 years after the occupation began.

It has taken so long because even our understanding of human rights continues to be shaped by a European colonial mentality. Human rights groups have documented Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians – the “what” of their oppression – but refused to understand the “why” of that oppression. These watchdogs did not truly listen to Palestinians. They listened to, they excused, Israel even as they were criticising it. They indulged its endless security rationales for its crimes against Palestinians.

The reluctance to name Israeli apartheid derives in large part from a reluctance to face our part in its creation. To identify Israel’s apartheid is to recognise both our role in sustaining it, and Israel’s crucial place in the west’s reinvented neocolonialism.

Being ‘offensive’

The difficulty of facing up to what Israel is and what it represents is, of course, particularly stark for many Jews – not only in Israel but in countries like Britain. Through no choice of their own, Jews are more deeply implicated in Israel’s crimes because those crimes are carried out in the name of all Jews. As a result, for Zionist Jews, protecting the settler colonial project of Israel is identical to protecting their own sense of virtue.

In the zero-sum imaginings of the Zionist movement, the stakes are too high to doubt or to equivocate. As Zionists, their duty is to support, dissemble and propagandise on Israel’s behalf at all costs.

Nowadays Zionism has become such a normalised part of our western culture that those who call themselves Zionists are appalled at the idea anyone could dare to point out that their ideology is rooted in an ugly ethnic nationalism and in apartheid. Those who make them feel uncomfortable by highlighting the reality of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – and their blindness to it – are accused of being “offensive”.

That supposed offensiveness is now conflated with antisemitism, as the treatment of Ken Loach, the respected film-maker of this parish, attests. Disgust at Israel’s racism towards Palestinians is malevolently confused with racism towards Jews. The truth is inverted.

This confusion has also become the basis for a new definition of antisemitism – one aggressively advanced by Israel and its apologists – designed to mislead casual onlookers. The more we, as anti-racists and opponents of colonialism, try to focus attention and opprobrium on Israel’s crimes, the more we are accused of covertly attacking Jews.

Into the fire

Arriving in the UK from Nazareth at this very moment is like stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Here the battle over Zionism – defining it, understanding it, confronting it, refusing to be silenced by it – is in full flood. The Labour party, under Jeremy Corbyn, was politically eviscerated by a redefined antisemitism. Now the party’s ranks are being purged by his successor, Sir Keir Starmer, on the same phony grounds.

Professors are being threatened and losing their jobs, as happened to David Miller at Bristol university, with the goal of intensifying pressure on the academy to keep silent about Israel and its lobbyists. Exhibitions are taken down, speakers cancelled.

And all the while, the current western obsession with redefining antisemitism – the latest cover story for apartheid Israel – moves us ever further from sensitivity to real racism, whether it be genuine prejudice against Jews or rampant Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.

The fight for justice for Palestinians resonates with so many of us precisely because it is not simply a struggle to help Palestinians. It is a fight to end colonialism in all its forms, to end our inhumanity towards those we live alongside, to remember that we are all equally human and all equally entitled to respect and dignity.

The story of Palestine is a loud echo from our past. Maybe the loudest. If we cannot hear it, then we cannot learn – and we cannot take the first steps on the path towards real change.

The post Palestine is a Loud Echo of Britain’s Colonial Past and a Warning of the Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

As ‘La Françafrique’ Comes to an End, Russia is Ready To Replace France in West Africa 

Finally, France will be leaving Mali, nearly a decade after the original military intervention in 2013. The repercussions of this decision will hardly be confined to this West African nation, but will likely spread to the entirety of the Sahel Region; in fact, the whole of Africa.

France’s decision to end its military presence in Mali – carried out in two major military operations, Operation Serval and Operation Barkhane – was communicated by French President, Emmanuel Macron. “Victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself,” Macron said on February 16.

The French President called the Malian leadership “out of control” and rationalized his decision as a necessary move, since “European, French and international forces are seeing measures that are restricting them.”

“Given the situation, given the rupture in the political and military frameworks, we cannot continue like this,” Macron added.

Macron is not fooling anyone. The French military intervention in Mali was justified at the time as part of France’s efforts to defeat ‘Jihadists’ and ‘terrorists’, who had taken over much of the country’s northern region. Indeed, northern militants, protesting what they have described as government negligence and marginalization, had then seized major cities, including Kidal and Timbuktu. But the story, as is often the case with France’s former African colonies, was more complex.

In a recent article, the New York Times said that France’s “diplomatic power” is predicated on three pillars: “its influence in its former African colonies, along with its nuclear arms and its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.”

Mali is one of these ‘former French colonies’, largely located in what used to be called ‘French West Africa.’ Once a great kingdom, known as the Mandinka Empire, Mali was colonized by France in 1892. It was then renamed French Sudan. Though it gained its independence in 1958, Mali remained a French vassal state.

To appreciate French influence over Mali and other West African states long after their independence, consider that fourteen African countries, including Niger and Senegal, continue to use the West African CFA franc, a French monetary invention in 1945, which ensured the struggling African economies continued to be tied to the French currency. This has allowed Paris to wield tremendous influence over various African economies, whose resources were provided to their former colonizers at competitive prices.

Unsurprisingly, France took the leadership in ‘liberating’ Mali in 2013. Hence, France was able to reconfigure the region’s militaries and politics to remain under the direct control of France, which presented itself as West Africa’s savior in the face of terrorism. Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Togo, all participated in the French-led operation, which also involved the United Nations and several Western powers.

The arrival of French soldiers to the Sahel region was meant to underscore the importance, if not indispensability, of France to Africa’s security, especially at a time that Africa was, once again, a contested space that attracted the continent’s old colonial powers and new political players, as well: Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, among others.

However, for the people of Mali, the intervention merely prolonged their misery. “Operation Serval”, meant to last a few weeks, carried on for years, amid political strife in Bamako, worsening security throughout the country, rising corruption and deepening poverty. Though initially welcomed, at least publicly by some in the south of the country, the French military quickly became a burden, associated with Mali’s corrupt politicians, who happily leased the country’s resources in exchange for French support.

The honeymoon is now over. On January 31, the Malian government ordered the French Ambassador to leave the country.

Though Macron pledged that his military withdrawal will be phased out based on France’s own outline, the Malian leadership, on February 17, demanded  an immediate and unconditional French withdrawal. Paris continues to insist that its Mali decision is not a defeat, and that it cannot be compared to the US chaotic retreat from Afghanistan last August, all indications point that France is, indeed, being expunged from one of its most prized ‘spheres of influence’. Considering that a similar scenario is currently underway in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), France’s geopolitical concessions in Africa can aptly be described as unprecedented.

While Western countries, along with a few African governments, are warning that the security vacuum created by the French withdrawal will be exploited by Mali’s militants, Bamako claims such concerns are unfounded, arguing that the French military presence has exasperated – as opposed to improving – the country’s insecurity.

The particular parallel between Mali and C.A.R. becomes even more interesting when we consider media and official reports suggesting that the two African nations are substituting French with Russian soldiers, further accentuating the rapid geopolitical shift in the continent.

Though Macron continues to argue that the shift is induced mostly by his country’s own strategic priorities, neither evidence on the ground, nor France’s own media seem to believe such claims. “It is an inglorious end to an armed intervention that began in euphoria and which ends, nine years later, against a backdrop of crisis,” wrote Le Monde on February 17.

The truth is that an earth-shattering development is under way in Mali and the whole of West Africa, ushering in, as argued in the NY Times, the “closing chapters of ‘la Françafrique’,” the centuries-long French dominance over its ‘sphere of influence’ in the resource-rich Africa.

Though ‘la Françafrique’ is possibly coming to an end, the geopolitical tussle in Africa is merely heating up. While some powers will benefit and others will lose, the West African populations are unlikely to reap many benefits from the ‘scramble’ over the region’s resources. Caught between corrupt elites and greedy global powers, African nations will not be enjoying real security or economic prosperity any time soon.

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The Keep Africa Poor and Dependent Project  

Exploited and abused for generations by white colonial powers and manipulative economic structures, there is a growing feeling of solidarity within parts of the African continent, as exemplified by the #NoMore movement. Covid vaccine inequality and environmental injustice, together with recent events in Ethiopia, have galvanized people.

Ideas of African unity and rage against former imperial forces are nothing new; the chain of suppression and exploitation of African nations is long, running from slavery and colonialism (including colonial extraction) to wealth and climate inequality, racial capitalism and now Covid vaccine apartheid.

Despite the fact that many would say Africa was united long before Europe – family to tribe, tribe to nation, nation to continent, with 54 countries spread over a vast area –  establishing a defined Union of Africa seems unlikely, if not impossible. Standing in solidarity, rejecting western intervention, challenging the exploitative status quo and reductive notions of development based on a defunct western model is not; indeed, if African nations are to prosper and create vibrant economies allowing its burgeoning young population to fulfill their enormous potential, they must.

Poverty amidst abundance of resources

Blessed with rich environments and vast natural resources, Sub-Saharan Africa should certainly not be poor. But for huge numbers of people across the continent grinding poverty and hardship are the norm.

According to the World Bank report Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, while those living in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 a day) has fallen in the last twenty years, the number of “poor people [living on $5 a day or less]…has increased from 278 million in 1990 to over 413 million” Over 80% of those living in stifling poverty are found in rural areas where education and  health care are scarce.

Natural resources dominate many African economies and, along with agriculture, are central to the livelihoods of the poor rural majority. African natural resources that are owned by multi-national mining companies, dug out of the ground by grossly underpaid local workers, are exported for production in goods that are sold in the rich developed nations. This has been the role of Sub-Saharan Africa for generations, and is fundamental to the prosperity of advanced countries: they need the raw materials and they need them to be dirt cheap.

The handful of conglomerates that dominate, collude in enabling monopoly buying structures. Contracts agreed at national levels are administered by middle-men, often corrupt, in the pockets of the corporation; the local workforce has little choice but to accept whatever ‘terms of employment’ are offered; poverty entraps and silences rebellion.

It is a crippling model of suppression and exploitation; a form of wage slavery that holds not just the workers in its suffocating grip, but the nation and continent. It is one of the main reasons African nations that are overly dependent on raw materials, whether cotton or oil, coffee, diamonds or Cobalt, are poor. Poverty is political, the result of short-term political and economic decisions taken in The West by duplicitous corporate-controlled governments.

The other reasons that ensure Africa remains poor and dependent are historical and economic: Colonization, which persists as economic and cultural imperialism, together with a certain mind-set of superiority/inferiority. A mind-set that maintains consciously or unconsciously that some people (black, brown) are worth less than others and, as Covid vaccine inequities demonstrate, can be sacrificed. The economic structures, global institutions and economic ideologies championed by abusive self-centered governments and promoted in the business schools around the world are all designed to ensure Africa remains poor: Imperialism never ended, it just changed form.

When colonial powers withdrew from the global south they needed new ways of maintaining the enslavement of Africa and Africans. Three interrelated weapons where used to create dependency: Aid, debt and the toxic Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), the overarching umbrella of control.

In the 1980s SAP’s were introduced; the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) gave highly conditional loan packages to African nations in order to aid their ‘development’; in fact, the loans/SAPs, which destroyed African economies and agriculture, were simply forms of debt entrapment. Once a country is indebted it becomes easy to control. SAPs hollowed out national economies and incorporated Africa into the global political economic system, dominated by the US. It’s economic warfare: the rich countries set up these unaccountable institutions and systems to control the poor nations.

The IMF, WB, World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), were given enormous political influence/control of African governments and economies. Funding for public services (e.g. education and health care) was slashed to repay loans; countries were forced to ‘liberalize’ their economies, and privatize, selling off key areas like utilities to western or western-backed companies.

In his book Confessions Of An Economic Hitman, John Perkins designates this process of economic terrorism as ‘Predatory Capitalism’: he describes how  in an earlier period, during the 1950’s the IMF, CIA and US State Department set up a faceless bank to lend money to African countries that were producing raw materials; any national President that refused the loan was at risk of being handed over to the ‘Jackals’, as Perkins describes the CIA thugs that accompanied him.

At independence, many African countries were self-sufficient in food production and were, in fact, net exporters of food; SAPs and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, changed all that. Countries were forced to withdraw State subsidies to agriculture (while farmers in Europe and the US receive huge subsidies); farmers suffered, food prices increased, food insecurity was created, dependency on aid and Western benefactors ensured and with it control by the US and her puppets, of Africa, its direction and ‘development’, or, as these paranoid selfish states would have it, its non-development.

‘Development as Westernisation’

Within the narrow socio-economic paradigm that dominates global affairs, ‘development’ and perpetual economic ‘growth’ are regarded as all important. Dominated by quarterly national GDP figures, it is a reductive model designed by donor’ nations to serve not the people of Africa or Asia, but western corporations and the unjust, defunct Ideology of Greed, so beloved.

The very idea of development has become synonymous with ‘Westernization’, including the way of life, the values, behavior and attitudes of the rich, ‘successful’ nations of The West: a hollow, deeply materialistic way of life rooted in division, selfishness and conformity that has poisoned and vandalized the natural environment, created unhealthy, unequal societies of anxious suppressed human beings.

In order to develop, economists maintain Africa must industrialise and manufacture – no country has ever ‘developed’ without manufacturing. All this is true, and some African nations, like Ethiopia, which has a vibrant leather industry, are beginning to do just this. But this is only true within the suffocating boundaries of the existing model of extreme capitalism based on unsustainable consumerism.

There must be another way; perhaps as we sit at this transitional time, not just for Africa, but for the world as a whole, the opportunity presents itself to re-design the socio-economic structures, reimagine civilization, and in so doing save the planet. And perhaps Africa, unburdened, energised and dynamic can play a leading role; working with the West, but rejecting the model of conformity and exploitation, the conditionality of support.

The existing development paradigm sits within the overarching political-economic system, a system of global monopolies, centralized control, massive inequality, grinding poverty, financial insecurity and stress. Not only should this model of development be rejected by Africa, and it would be were it not for the Noose of Debt, and the fact that it is presented as the one and only show in town, but the poisonous spring from which it flows – Market Fundamentalism as some call it – must also be radically dismantled.

It may appear impossible to challenge, but there are alternatives to the current unjust political-economic system. And as the environmental and social impact of the Neo-Liberal experiment becomes more apparent, as well as the economic pain of the majority, more and more people around the world, especially within Africa, where the environmental emergency has inspired powerful movements of activism, recognize the urgent need to reject this way of organizing life and are demanding change.

Western powers (dried-up imperial forces) do not want Africa and Africans to flourish and become strong, this is clear to all. Africa’s destiny must rest in the hands of Africans, in particular young Africans (the median age in Africa is around 20, Europe is a greying 43, US a complacent 39), who are increasingly standing up, organizing, particularly in regard to the environment, and calling for change.

But what should that change look like? Not a shadow of Western nations, but a creative evolving movement of development in which the people have a voice; social and environmental responsibility are championed and lasting human happiness sit at its core. Unity is essential, African unity is essential; together, not necessarily under some defined structure, but coordinated cooperation and support through the medium of the African Union and civil society.

The first and most basic step towards establishing a less brutal, more just system would be the equitable distribution of the resources of the world – the water, land and food; the machinery needed to build infrastructure; the skills, knowledge and expertise.

The world is one: We are brothers and sisters of one humanity. And if we are collectively, within Africa and the world, to establish An Alternative Way, this basic fact needs to form the foundation and provide the touchstone of new systems and modes of living. Only then will we begin to build a global society in which the values of unity, compassion, tolerance and sharing, which are found in tribal societies all over Africa, may flourish.f

The post The Keep Africa Poor and Dependent Project   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Africa Must Not Abandon Palestine by Granting Israel Observer Status 

The current split in the African Union (AU) over Israel’s Observer membership status is emblematic of a larger conflict that could potentially split the African continent’s largest political institutions.

Africa is currently facing one of its most crucial decisions regarding Palestine and Israel. The repercussions of this decision could be as significant as the 1975 Resolution 77 (XII) by the Organization of African Unity – the precursor to the African Union – which recognized Zionism, Israel’s founding ideology, as a form of racism. This time around, however, it is Palestine, not Israel, that stands to lose.

Israel’s attempt to gain observer status at the AU began years ago. For many years, most African countries have severed all ties with Israel in solidarity with Palestine and other Arab countries. The African boycott, which began in earnest in 1973, faltered soon after the Palestinian leadership itself signed a series of agreements with Israel, starting with the Oslo Accords of 1993. Seeing Palestinians and other Arab countries ‘doing business’ with Israel, some African countries felt that their solidarity was no longer serving a particular purpose, thus the revival of diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.

Since then, Israel has worked diligently to strengthen its presence in Africa. Currently, Israel is recognized by 46 of the 55 members of the AU. Additionally, it operates 17 embassies and 12 consulates throughout the continent. Some of Israel’s latest diplomatic victories include ties with Chad in 2019, Morocco and Sudan in 2020, all being Muslim-majority countries.

Israel’s successes in mind, there is little evidence to suggest that the Palestinian Authority has ever mounted a substantial and coordinated counter-campaign in Africa to win back the support of a region that served as the backbone of international solidarity with the Palestinian people for many years. This solidarity is exemplified in countless statements by African leaders in the past, such as that of Tanzanian national liberation leader, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who said, “We have never hesitated in our support for the right of the people of Palestine to have their own land.” This notion was reiterated by numerous African leaders on countless occasions over the years.

Africa’s solidarity with Palestine was itself predicated on Palestinian and Arab solidarity with Africa. Historically, Palestinians saw their liberation struggle within the same context of many African nations’ own liberation struggles against Western colonialism. This explains the wording of the above-mentioned Resolution 77 (XII), which equated between “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa” as they are all grounded in the same  “common imperialist origin … (and are) organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being.”

Much of this has changed in recent years, not only on the part of many African nations, but on the part of the Palestinians as well. A renewed ‘scramble for Africa’, championed by the US and other Western countries, and also Russia, China and Israel, is forcing many in the continent to pursue ‘pragmatic’ thinking, abandoning the old discourse of liberation and decolonization in favor of grandiose language of supposed technological innovation and self-serving emphasis on fighting terrorism.

With Israel posing as a “rising superpower”, many African countries are lining up, purchasing Israeli unmanned drones, digital monitoring and surveillance technology.

However, the Palestinian leadership, too, has changed. With continued ‘security coordination’ between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Palestinians are sending confusing messages to their former allies in Africa and everywhere else. “Based on your stated historical positions and your support for the Palestinian right … we call for the withdrawal and objection of Israel’s observer status at the African Union,” PA Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, told the AU Summit on February 5. In fact, it is these contradictions that emboldened the likes of Moussa Faki Mahamat who, as the Chairman of the AU Commission, decided to take it upon himself to grant Israel the Observer status last July.

African countries that opposed Faki’s decision argued, during the AU Summit in February, that the decision was unlawful and that it did not reflect the collective wishes of African states. Faki recounted that such a view reflects the ‘double standards’ of these countries. “Is the said State – referring to Israel – (acceptable) at the national level, while it cannot be (accepted) at the African level? Frankly, I would like someone to explain this kind of double standard to me,” Faki said on February 7.

In truth, Faki had his own reasons to grant Israel the coveted status. The AU Commission Chairperson was Chad’s Foreign Minister until 2017. Though Chad did not declare its diplomatic ties with Israel until 2019, the north Central African country’s top diplomat must have played a significant role in paving the way for the N’Djamena-Tel Aviv official connection.

Faki may have calculated that Israel’s diplomatic triumph in his and other African countries in recent years has meant that Africa is ready to unconditionally embrace Israel, and that decades of Africa-Palestine mutual solidarity will not factor in the least in the AU decision. The February Summit, however, has proven otherwise, namely that Africa has not yet succumbed to Western-Israeli pressures and that Palestine continues to command a strong political constituency on the continent, despite the many shortcomings of the Palestinian leadership.

The solid support that Palestine enjoys among an influential block at the AU, in addition to the popular support the Palestinian cause continues to receive throughout Africa, indicates that, despite the mistakes of the past, Palestine remains a central issue on the continent. However, in order for Israel not to crown its diplomatic triumphs in Africa with an AU Observer status, Palestinians and their supporters must move quickly to formulate a counter-strategy. They ought to work hand in hand with African governments that reject the Israeli membership and to mobilize the numerous civil society organizations throughout the continent in order to send a strong, collective message to Israel that it is not welcome in Africa. A region that has paid, and continues to pay, a heavy price for colonialism, neo-colonialism and apartheid has no need to ‘do businesses’ with another colonial apartheid regime.

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Manufacturing Savagery: U.S. Military Training In West Africa And Beyond

On January 24th, Burkina Faso bore witness to its third destabilizing coup in less than a decade. It also marked the eighth successful putsch American soldiers launched in multiple West African countries since 2008. The Intercept reports that Ouagadougou’s new leader, Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, took part in many United States led AFRICOM (Africa Command) exercises and an American sponsored military intelligence course. This disturbing pattern raises serious questions about what the U.S. army is teaching its African allies.

The U.S. developed an alarming habit for training individuals likely to commit horrendous crimes after the outbreak of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001) based in Fort Benning, Georgia spent decades teaching the dark arts of torture and counterinsurgency warfare to thousands of Central and Latin American soldiers and aspiring dictators keen to annihilate socialist or peasant movements. Distinguished alumni include Bolivian autocrat Hugo Banzer, Panamanian strongman turned drug lord Manuel Noriega, and El Salvadoran Colonel Domingo Monterrosa. Monterrosa led battalions that slaughtered a thousand civilians in the village of El Mozote, according to anthropologist Lesley Gill.

Guatemalan SOA students enjoyed exceptional careers as well. Proud graduates like dictators Efraín Rios Montt, General Fernando Lucas García, and various members of Guatemala’s feared D-2 intelligence agency terrorised the indigenous and impoverished Mayan community into submission over a nearly four decade-long civil war. Devastating scorched earth campaigns, which reached their apogee in the early eighties, wiped out hundreds of Mayan villages and almost all their inhabitants. Journalist Zach El Parece noted that a member of the infamous “Kaibiles” Special Forces, a unit that bludgeoned children to death with hammers for being communist sympathisers in the village of Dos Erres, among many others, later became an instructor at the SOA.

The Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) concluded that the Guatemalan army was responsible for displacing 1.5 million people and murdering or vanishing most of the war’s 200,000 victims. The CEH deemed the army’s atrocities so severe that they amounted to acts of genocide against the Mayan population. The report even singled out the United States’ crucial role in reinforcing Guatemala’s homicidal “national intelligence apparatus and for training the officer corps in counterinsurgency techniques, key factors which had significant bearing on human rights violations…”

The U.S. government also paid millions to train Indonesian soldiers implicated in Jakarta’s barbaric occupation of East Timor. Amnesty International revealed that approximately 7,300 Indonesian officers took part in IMET (International Military Education and Training) courses at U.S.-based army, navy, and air-force schools between 1950 and the early nineties. Washington promised to cancel military aid to Indonesia after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, during which Indonesian troops killed 271 protesters at a peaceful pro-independence rally in the Timorese capital of Dili. However, they secretly continued to train elite Kopassus troops. This regiment, according to the Guardian, indulged in “some of the worst human rights violations in Indonesia’s history”.

Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s current Minister of Defence, trained at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, finished first in his class, and re-joined the Kopassus after returning home. Historian Gerry van Klinken and journalist Jill Jolliffe believe it is highly likely that Subianto participated in the brutal suppression of the East Timorese uprising of 1983-84. A former Indonesian intelligence employee alleged that Subianto directed anti-insurgent operations that butchered hundreds of innocent civilians. Soldiers executed surrendering women and children on sight, while countless others endured starvation, torture, sexual abuse, and arbitrary detention in overcrowded concentration camps. Moreover, reporter David Jenkins claims the Kopassus eagerly adopted tactics the shadowy U.S. Phoenix program perfected during the Vietnam War—a program that assassinated thousands of Vietnamese peasants with impunity. The abhorrent methods of U.S. trained “Contra” death squads in Nicaragua proved quite influential among the Kopassus as well.

Scholar Noam Chomsky asserts that Jakarta’s invasion of East Timor incurred “perhaps the greatest death toll relative to the population since the Holocaust…” Approximately 200,000 East Timorese perished in the Indonesian onslaught, while survivors still suffer the long-term effects of napalm and chemical weapon poisoning. The Commission for Reception, Truth, and Reconciliation in East Timor issued a damning verdict: the U.S. backed Indonesian military deliberately imposed unbearable conditions of life which almost exterminated the East Timorese. A genocide in paradise, to borrow Matthew Jardine’s haunting phrase.

U.S. Special Forces also trained the Tutsi RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) in the late nineties as it decimated refugee camps and massacred Hutu exiles fleeing into the jungles of eastern Congo. Many of them were sickly and starving civilians that had nothing to do with the Tutsi genocide of 1994. Le Monde and the Irish Times cited French intelligence findings and Pentagon papers stating that U.S. instructors and mercenaries provided combat training to dozens of Rwandan officers. Some reports even alleged that U.S. advisers accompanied the RPA as it expanded its rampage into the Congo. These destructive incursions marked the opening salvo in the DRC’s (Democratic Republic of the Congo) endless “world war”—a cataclysmic conflict that has caused, thus far, the deaths of millions.

Historians and authors like Filip Reyntjens, René Lemarchand, and Judi Rever largely agree that the RPA, along with the Ugandan and Burundian-backed AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire) rebel group, killed tens of thousands of Rwandan and Congolese Hutus in the DRC between 1996-97. A United Nations report released in 2010 insisted that in most cases perpetrators did not carry out these atrocities unintentionally in the heat of battle and may be guilty of “crimes of genocide”.

Yet the U.S. is not alone in enabling, unwittingly or otherwise, regimes prone to committing egregious crimes. In December 2008, Guinean Army Captain Moussa Dadis Camara spearheaded the “German Coup” which brought a military junta into power in Conakry. Deutsche Welle reported that Camara and his co-conspirators received extensive training from the German Armed Forces in Bremen. German-trained paratroopers unleashed a wave of extreme violence against peaceful protestors in Conakry Stadium less than a year after Camara suspended the Guinean constitution and threadbare republican institutions.

Amnesty International said that security forces murdered more than 150 people, wounded hundreds more, and raped or assaulted dozens of women and girls with sticks, bayonets, rifle butts, and batons in broad daylight. A failed assassination attempt quickly disposed Camara, only for another ruthless soldier—the Moroccan, French, and Chinese trained Sékouba “The Tiger” Konaté—to take his place. To this day, undiscerning European Union member states continue to provide military training and weapons to African countries hampered by weak civilian governments and very powerful armies. It is a recipe for disaster.

Ideally, massive grassroots movements in both the U.S. and West Africa should try to convince representatives to bring a permanent end to these borderline colonial military exchanges. Following that, Congress must enact more legislation that would strengthen background checks for future trainees. Furthermore, any manuals, textbooks, or instructors advocating torture and other unlawful or inhumane tactics need to be removed and replaced with courses that seek to improve civic-military relations.

However, adding human-rights awareness or international law modules to military curricula is by no means an effective solution. Political scientist Jacob Ricks worries that promoting courses or practices geared towards professionalizing and enhancing the social responsibilities of the military is a lackluster strategy. Survey data demonstrates that many high-ranking Siamese soldiers, already among the largest recipients of US IMET programs now replete with professionalizing courses, are statistically more likely to support a coup or greater military interference in Siamese politics and society. Thailand has weathered 19 coup attempts since 1932. Teaching soldiers to respect the sanctity of human life, democracy, and the rule of law, although necessary and beneficial, is clearly not enough to curb such vicious tendencies.

West African politicians and civil society groups need to be more creative and ambitious if they ever hope to tame their often unruly armies. Professor Kwesi Aning, head of academic affairs and research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana, told University World News that African states keep sending troops abroad for training because they do not possess the resources or facilities required to properly train them at home. This breeds a dangerous imbalance of power as foreign-trained troops, imbued with delusions of superiority and entitlement after studying in the U.S., France, or Germany, could return home with a burning desire to take control. Depending on the lessons, especially in the U.S., foreign-trained soldiers might begin to perceive fellow citizens not as ordinary people who need protection but as potential or internal enemies to be eradicated.

Constructing homegrown, truly sovereign, and well-funded military academies, devoted to teaching civic-military cooperation and unencumbered by harmful relations with exploitative armies in the Global North, would be a step in the right direction. To paraphrase Colonel Jahara Matisek, West African nations must develop military institutions steeped in their own histories and cultures. Only then can trustworthy armies emerge and the coup curse finally fade.

    First published at OWP.
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