Humanity finds itself at a crucial moment. It’s not only war and climate change that threaten life on our planet. Ideologies and some people do too.
We know that money and the production of wealth and well-being have created an ever greater and more profound gap between people, neighborhoods, cities and countries—a gap that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
So, I’d like us (my fellow Bolivians and Indigenous peoples) to stop thinking of ourselves as the poor periphery of a process of globalization that has been unequal, colonial and racist.
In Bolivia, since the beginning of this century, we have battled some of the most important and decisive questions for the future of the human race: water, our sacred coca leaf, the goods we have which we can share thanks to the generosity of the Pachamama and, of course, the right to make decisions collectively about our lives.
Each battle, each sacrifice made, from places like El Alto and Cochabamba, has repeatedly confronted us with the owners of power and money.
At the core of each one of our struggles is our overriding need to stay alive, to finally construct a world fit for all of us to live with dignity.
Not tomorrow, today. Bolivia is the center of the world, as is North Dakota or Chiapas, or the poor neighborhoods of Caracas.
Yes, we are poor and far from the powerful centers of economic and political decision-making. But at the same time, we live in the center of the most important battles—battles fought from our smallest trenches, communities, neighborhoods, cities, jungles and forests.
What I’m describing to you isn’t merely a simple change in discourse. We want to think about ourselves differently, because if we do that at the core of the true struggle for survival, we can look at the world and at our sisters and our brothers with new eyes. If we are condemned to be at the margins, we will not get far.
It is by constructing in this way, from the hundreds and thousands of centers in which life is defined, that we fight for what is most essential: water, food, shelter, education and dignity—perhaps from this we can construct a new horizon. Weaving together our needs, our achievements, and even our errors, it’s possible to dismantle centuries of colonialism, the brutal pillaging of our territories, and the forced subjugation of our people.
In Bolivia, we have had to draw on our millennia-old Aymara and Quechua traditions and knowledge, for example, peoples who define much of what this country is. But it’s not only Indigenous peoples who have fought against imperialism, nor is it the obligation of one people to be the vanguard or the moral reserve for the human race.
We are what we are. We know, among ourselves, what our grandparents passed down to us. For that reason, from our lived experience, I invite you to begin this journey, firstly by reestablishing what is important so that we can begin to view ourselves like the people in the streets of Cochabamba were viewed after the Water Wars, knowing that it is possible and that there is another life waiting beyond the barricades, beyond the strikes and the roadblocks, and that is our common heritage.
This also happened to us in October 2003, when El Alto (near the capital city of La Paz) was converted, for a few moments, into the center of the world. With sticks and with stones, with their will, the Aymara rejected the selling off of our riches—a death prescribed by a corrupt and foolish president.
There, in this burning epicenter, everything that matters was at stake. The centers of power and global decision-making were our periphery. Without a doubt, I do not think we are the periphery. This mini-census is not intended to be paralyzing. Quite the opposite.
As a Bolivian, as an Aymara, as someone who has lived within one of the most decisive battles to change everything, I know that we can’t ignore the daily catastrophe we saw in Sri Lanka, in the boats filled with refugees in the Mediterranean, in that wall that separates North America from the rest of the Americas, in the Aboriginal territories of Australia, or in the famine experienced by the girls and boys in La Guajira in Colombia.
To be able to view the immensity of our horizon, to be able to daydream when we look upon the Andean Altiplano and its peaks, perhaps we should give ourselves a different perspective, a new center.
In Bolivia, like in so many other places, what’s at stake is not a set of goods or a piece of land, not even a government. We have fought to defend life itself, to nourish it, and to watch it grow with dignity. We do not know of anything more important to do in these difficult times.
We are the center of the world.
Adapted from Rogelio Mayta’s speech to the Progressive International’s Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022.
Rogelio Mayta is the foreign minister for the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
At first, there was an explosion. The six-story building vibrated, and a few wires snapped with the force of a whiplash. Immediately afterward, more than half of the facade collapsed without any warning, with each floor swallowing the one above as the ceiling crushed against the floor and the floor against the ceiling during the explosion, and a cloud of dust hid everything except the desperate screams of people. It seemed as if the ground had just opened and closed when two other buildings collapsed in the vicinity.
The causes of the incident at the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana on May 6 were immediately known, although the investigation is still ongoing: it was a gas leak from a tanker truck servicing the hotel building, which was preparing to reopen during the second week of May. With no guests, the rooms were locked tight, and a simple click of the light switch would have been enough for the mass of accumulated gas to cause the shock wave that shattered the glass, marquetry and ornately decorated facade of green and white stucco, which was originally from the 19th century.
It is not the first time that Cuba has mourned tragedies like this. An accident like this might seem even minor in a country that has suffered more than 30 major hurricanes in half a century, dozens of deaths during the CIA sabotage of the steamship La Coubre in the port of Havana in 1960, the blowing up of a commercial airliner with 73 passengers in 1976, a chain of bombs in hotels and restaurants in the 1990s, the eternal blockade imposed by the United States government, a “rogue action,” as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls it—that has naturalized the shortage of almost everything and made the pandemic more desperate, just to cite a few dramatic examples.
But no. The explosion at the Saratoga Hotel, with almost 100 injured victims—including 43 deaths as of May 11—is something else. What made this story in particular the big news story was not the explosion that was felt in Havana, nor the dense smoke that could be seen overhead, nor the feeling of vulnerability that it left us all experiencing, but rather it was the solidarity of the citizens who crowded around the area demanding a place to rescue the victims from the rubble, and donated their blood for the wounded or helped alleviate the anguish of the victims. Two hours after the accident, the line of volunteers in front of blood banks, polyclinics and hospitals exceeded thousands, and most of them were young people, the same ones who Miami’s propaganda says are leaving Cuba en masse.
While the government acts and the public press teaches immediacy and sensitivity, people from the streets, from all kinds of professions, continue to help their compatriots. We do not know the names of all those who were part of the rescue teams—many of them are volunteer firefighters—or of the teachers of the “Concepción Arenal” school that is right next to the hotel who protected their students, of the children who saved other children, of the passersby who helped the Saratoga workers and the families residing in the other two buildings that imploded in the neighborhood, nor the sniffer dogs that are still looking for the traces of at least two missing persons in the rubble.
When crashing, the buildings showed their viscera, their arteries, their nerves and their fragility, similar to ours. But they also exposed that kind of decent sentimentalists who are not in danger of extinction and who are the best of us all, the heroes who went out to save others, not realizing that another explosion and another collapse could have made them victims. And, at the same time, there is an anonymous army of health workers who have not rested for more than 100 hours since the accident.
In Soldiers of Salamis, the Spanish novelist Javier Cercas reminds us that “in the behavior of a hero there is almost always something blind, irrational, instinctive, something that is in their nature and from which they cannot escape.” They are the ones who look squarely at the absurdity and cruelty of life to make us more human, and they are the ones who warn us that struggle is born from despair.
And once again, death does not prevail.
Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a Cuban journalist and founder of the site Cubadebate. She is vice president of both the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). She has written and co-written several books including Jineteros en la Habana and Our Chavez. She has received the Juan Gualberto Gómez National Prize for Journalism on multiple occasions for her outstanding work. She is currently a weekly columnist for La Jornada of Mexico City.
On May 2, 2022, a statement was made by Mali’s military spokesperson Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga on the country’s national television, where he said that Mali was ending the defense accords it had with France, effectively making the presence of French troops in Mali illegal. The statement was written by the military leadership of the country, which has been in power since May 2021.
Colonel Maïga said that there were three reasons why Mali’s military had taken this dramatic decision. The first was that they were reacting to France’s “unilateral attitude,” reflected in the way France’s military operated in Mali and in the June 2021 decision by French President Emmanuel Macron to withdraw French forces from the country “without consulting Mali.” France’s military forces moved to nearby Niger thereafter and continued to fly French military planes over Malian airspace. These violations of Malian airspace “despite the establishment of a temporary no-fly zone by the Malian military authorities” constituted the second reason for the new declaration, according to the statement. Thirdly, Mali’s military had asked the French in December 2021 to revise the France-Mali Defense Cooperation treaty. Apparently, France’s answer to relatively minor revisions from Mali on April 29 displeased the military, which then issued its statement a few days later.
‘Neither Peace, Nor Security, Nor Reconciliation'
Over the past few years, French forces in Mali have earned a reputation for ruthless use of aerial power that has resulted in countless civilian casualties. A dramatic incident took place on January 3, 2021, in the village of Bounti in the central Mopti region of Mali, not far from Burkina Faso. A French drone strike killed 19 civilians who were part of a wedding party. France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly said, “The French armed forces targeted a terrorist group, which had been formally identified as such.” However, an investigation by the United Nations mission in Mali (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, or MINUSMA) found that the French drone fired at a marriage celebration attended by about 100 people (which might have included five armed persons).
Two months later, on March 5, 2021, in the village of Talataye, east of Bounti, a French airstrike killed three teenage children and injured two others, who were all out hunting birds. The father of the three deceased children—Adamou Ag Hamadou, a shepherd--said that the children had taken their cattle to drink water and then had gone off to hunt birds with their two hunting rifles. “When I arrived at the scene of the airstrike,” Ag Hamadou remembered, “there were other people from this [hunting] camp. From 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., we were able to collect the pieces of their bodies that we buried.”
These are some of the most dramatic incidents. Others litter the debate over the French military intervention in Mali, but few of these stories make it beyond the country’s borders. There are several reasons for the global indifference to these civilian deaths, one of them being that these atrocities perpetrated by Western states during their interventions in Africa do not elicit outrage from the international press, and another is that the French have consistently denied even well-proven incidents of what should be considered war crimes.
For example, on June 8, 2019, French soldiers fired at a car in Razelma, outside Timbuktu, killing three civilians (one of them a young child). The French military made a bizarre statement about the killing. On the one hand, the French said that the killing was “unintentional.” But then, on the other hand, the French authorities said that the car was suspicious because the car did not stop despite warning shots being fired at it. Eyewitnesses said that the driver of the car was helping a family move to Agaghayassane and that they were not linked to any terrorist group. Ahmad Ag Handoune, who is a relative of those killed in this attack and who drove up to the site after the incident, said that the French soldiers “took gasoline and then poured it on the vehicle to set everything on fire so that nothing was identifiable.”
Protests against the French military presence have been taking place for over a year, and it is plausible to say that the May 2021 military coup, which installed the present military leadership of the country to power, was partly due to both the failure of the French intervention in Mali to bring about stability and its excesses. 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 population aspires “to stop the flow of Malian blood.”
No Way Forward
On the day that the Malians said that the presence of French troops on their soil was illegal with the ending of the defense accords, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres paid a visit to neighboring Niger. When France’s army withdrew from Mali, they relocated to Niger, whose president, Mohamed Bazoum, tweeted his welcome to these troops. Guterres, standing beside Bazoum, said that terrorism is “not just a regional or African issue, but one that threatens the whole world.”
No one denies the fact that the chaos in the Sahel region of Africa 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 now convulsed by the entry of arms and men from Libya and Algeria. Three jihadi groups appeared in the country as if from nowhere—Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Movement for the Unification of Jihad in the African West, and Ansar Dine. They used the older tensions to seize northern Mali in 2012 and declared the state of Azawad. French military intervention followed in January 2013.
Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg leader from Kidal, fought in Libya and Mali. In the early 2000s, Ag Ghali set up the Alliance for Democracy and Change, which advocated for Tuareg rights. “Soft-spoken and reserved,” said a 2007 U.S. Embassy cable about him. “Ag Ghali showed nothing of the cold-blooded warrior persona created by the Malian press.” After a brief stint as a diplomat to Saudi Arabia, Ag Ghali returned to Mali, befriended Amadou Koufa, the leader of the Macina Liberation Front, and drifted into the world of Sahelian jihad. In a famous 2017 audio message, Amadou Koufa said, “The day that France started the war against us, no Fulani or anyone else was practicing jihad.” That kind of warfare was a product of NATO’s war on Libya and the arrival of Al Qaeda, and later ISIS, to seek local franchise with local grievances to nurture their ambitions.
Conflicts in Mali, as the former President Alpha Oumar Konaré said over a decade ago, are inflamed due to the suffocation of the country’s economy. Neither did the country receive any debt relief nor infrastructure support from the West or international organizations. This landlocked state of more than 20 million people imports 70 percent of its food, the prices for which have skyrocketed in recent weeks, and could further worsen food insecurity in Mali. Part of the instability of the post-NATO war has been the military coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Mali faces harsh sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), sanctions that will only deepen the crisis and provoke greater conflict north of Mali’s capital, Bamako.
Anti-French sentiment is not the whole story in Mali. What France and other global leaders need to recognize is that there are many larger questions at the root of the issues Malians face—questions around their livelihood and their dignity, which need to be answered to secure a better future for the country.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." His latest book is "Washington Bullets," with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
Inge Deutschkron, Holocaust survivor, author, and lecturer, was a force of nature. She died at the age of 99 on March 9, 2022, and was buried on April 8 in her hometown of Berlin, where she fought for justice against right-wing extremists.
She was honored by officials and political leaders from Berlin, few of whom knew her personally, at the funeral she planned at the Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf cemetery near Potsdam, Germany. It has architecturally striking tombs and burial places of famous people, but is difficult for friends to reach.
I happened to be in Berlin that day. I was not one of the invited guests but was told about it. Inge Deutschkron and I met in 1970 in Bonn, then the German capital. She worked out of the Reuters office for the Israeli paper Maariv and often stood over my shoulder, lecturing me as I struggled with news and the German language. We met over the years when I worked in and visited Berlin.
‘I Wore the Yellow Star'
Inge left Germany in 1968 for Israel where she worked in the foreign affairs section of Maariv. I had known she escaped the Nazis by living underground but not much more. When I was visiting Israel while working for Reuters, she gave me a copy of her book Ich trug den gelben Stern (German for “I Wore the Yellow Star”; Outcast is the English title), for which she became famous. It was her first of many books.
Inge wrote of the life-threatening experiences she and her mother faced while fleeing the Nazis—using a false identity, hiding in 22 places (backyards, garden sheds, and abandoned apartments), and constantly fearing capture. Her father, an educator and Social Democratic Party activist, fled to England before the war, but Inge and her mother were denied entry until after the war.
In one notable scene, when starved for food, she and her mother joined refugees fleeing to Berlin. Asked at a collection site her address, she said: “Giesen, Adolf Hitler Strasse, 2” (a guess she made that a town square had been named after Hitler in the village of Giesen), rightly assuming the Fuhrer was cited everywhere. She got the food.
Of the 200,000 Jews in Berlin before World War II, about 7,000 Berlin Jews had gone into hiding, and only 1,700 of them survived.
Among those who helped Inge survive was Otto Weidt, who hired her and other Jews (many of them blind and deaf) under false names for his factory that made brooms and brushes. He was the Oskar Schindler in her life, and she honored him by helping to resurrect his workshop into a museum. She told me how the blind Jews whom Weidt had harbored were finally ordered to a Nazi deportation site. They walked along streetcar tracks, single file, one by one.
A play based on her book, which is still performed in theaters in the German-speaking world, “Ab heute heist du Sara” (“From Now On, Your Name Is Sara”), depicted her odyssey during the war. I once joined the “Saras” at a party for Inge.
Why Did I Survive?
In 2013, 90-year-old Inge Deutschkron gave a speech in the German parliament on Auschwitz Memorial Day recalling those who had not survived the Holocaust: “At night, I saw them in front of me, and could not stop thinking of them. Where were they? What was done to them?… What right did I have to hide, to duck out of a fate that should have been mine as well? That feeling of guilt haunted me, it never let me go.”
In her speech, Inge also recalled the early postwar years in Bonn under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. She said that Chancellor Adenauer “had claimed in a government statement in parliament that the majority of Germans had opposed crimes against the Jews” and that “many of them even helped the Jews escape their killers.” “Ah, if only that had been the truth!” she said.
Parliamentarians stood and applauded—except for delegates from the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AFD) party, who sat in stony silence.
Was Returning to Berlin a Wise Choice?
Inge Deutschkron returned to Berlin from Israel in 1988. Annette von Broecker, the former editor-in-chief of the Reuters German-language news service, thinks the move was a mistake and believes Inge thought so too. Annette mentored Inge during her last years.
“She could have gone back to Israel and had a nice life and even written about her own experiences as an exile,” Annette told me.
While in Israel, she and Annette often took holidays together. “She was interested in so many things and enjoyed life,” Annette recalled. But in Berlin, where Inge lectured in schools and elsewhere, “she was confined to one topic: the Holocaust.”
Inge Deutschkron had the potential to have done so much more in other areas, and yet she dedicated her life to the remembrance of the Holocaust and the rise of fascism. As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, it is remarkable that she made such a significant contribution to educating the public about a horrific history—one that could be repeated if its memory is left to wilt.
Evelyn Leopold is a writing fellow and correspondent for Globetrotter. She is an independent journalist based at the United Nations and the winner of a UN Correspondents Association gold medal for her reporting. She served at Reuters as a manager, editor and correspondent in New York, Washington, London, Berlin and Nairobi. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and head of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists.
The world wants to see an end to the conflict in Ukraine. The NATO countries, however, want to prolong the conflict by increasing arms shipments to Ukraine and by declaring that they want to “weaken Russia.” The United States had already allocated $13.6 billion to arm Ukraine. Biden has just requested $33 billion more. By comparison, it would require $45 billion per year to end world hunger by 2030.
Even if negotiations take place and the war ends, an actual peaceful solution will not likely be possible. Nothing leads us to believe that geopolitical tensions will decrease, since behind the conflict around Ukraine is an attempt by the West to halt the development of China, to break its links with Russia, and to end China’s strategic partnerships with the Global South.
In March, commanders of the U.S. Africa Command (General Stephen J. Townsend) and Southern Command (General Laura Richardson) warned the U.S. Senate about the perceived dangers of increased Chinese and Russian influence in Africa as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. The generals recommended that the United States weaken the influence of Moscow and Beijing in these regions. This policy is part of the 2018 national security doctrine of the United States, which frames China and Russia as its “central challenges.”
No Cold War
Latin America does not want a new cold war. The region has already suffered from decades of military rule and austerity politics justified based on the so-called “communist threat.” Tens of thousands of people lost their lives and many tens of thousands more were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled only because they wanted to create sovereign countries and decent societies. This violence was a product of the U.S.-imposed cold war on Latin America.
Latin America wants peace. Peace can only be built on regional unity, a process that began 20 years ago after a cycle of popular uprisings, driven by the tsunami of neoliberal austerity, led to the election of progressive governments: Venezuela (1999), Brazil (2002), Argentina (2003), Uruguay (2005), Bolivia (2005), Ecuador (2007), and Paraguay (2008). These countries, joined by Cuba and Nicaragua, created a set of regional organizations: the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America–Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) in 2004, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011. These platforms were intended to increase regional trade and political integration. Their gains were met with increased aggression from Washington, which sought to undermine the process by attempting to overthrow the governments in many of the member countries and by dividing the regional blocs to suit Washington’s interests.
Because of its size and its political relevance, Brazil was a key player in these early organizations. In 2009, Brazil joined with Russia, India, China, and South Africa to form BRICS, a new alliance with the goal to rearrange the power relations of global trade and politics.
Brazil’s role did not please the White House, which—avoiding the crudeness of a military coup—staged a successful operation, in alliance with sectors of the Brazilian elite, that used the Brazilian legislature, judiciary system, and media to overthrow the government of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and to cause the arrest of President Lula in 2018 (who was then leading the polls in the presidential election). Both were accused of a corruption scheme involving the Brazilian state oil company, and an investigation by Brazil’s judiciary known as Operation Car Wash ensued. The participation of both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI in that investigation was revealed following a massive leak of the Telegram chats of Operation Car Wash’s lead prosecutor. However, before the U.S. interference was uncovered, the removal of Lula and Dilma from politics brought the right wing back to power in Brasília; Brazil no longer played a leading role in either the regional or the global projects that could weaken U.S. power. Brazil abandoned UNASUR and CELAC, and remains in BRICS only formally—as is also the case with India—weakening the perspective of strategic alliances of the Global South.
In recent years, Latin America has experienced a new wave of progressive governments. The idea of regional integration has returned to the table. After four years without a summit meeting, CELAC reconvened in September 2021 under the leadership of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Argentine President Alberto Fernández. Should Gustavo Petro win the Colombian presidential election in May 2022, and Lula win his campaign for reelection to Brazil’s presidency in October 2022, for the first time in decades, the four largest economies in Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia) would be governed by the center-left, notably supporters of Latin American and Caribbean integration. Lula has said that if he wins the presidency, Brazil will return to CELAC and will resume an active stance in BRICS.
The Global South might be prepared to reemerge by the end of the year and create space for itself within the world order. Evidence for this is in the lack of unanimity that greeted NATO’s attempt to create the largest coalition to sanction Russia. This NATO project has aroused a backlash around the Global South. Even governments that condemn the war (such as Argentina, Brazil, India, and South Africa) do not agree with NATO’s unilateral sanction policy and prefer to support negotiations for a peaceful solution. The idea of resuming a movement of the nonaligned—inspired by the initiative launched at the conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955—has found resonance in numerous circles.
Their intention is correct. They seek to de-escalate global political tensions, which are a threat to the sovereignty of countries and tend to negatively impact the global economy. The spirit of nonconfrontation, and peace, of the Bandung Conference is urgent today.
But the Non-Aligned Movement emerged as a refusal by Third World countries to choose a side in the polarization between the United States and USSR during the Cold War. They were fighting for their sovereignty and the right to have relations with the countries of both systems, without their foreign policy being decided in Washington or Moscow.
This is not the current scenario. Only the Washington-Brussels axis (and allies) demand alignment with their so-called “rules-based international order.” Those who do not align suffer from sanctions applied against dozens of countries (devastating entire economies, such as those of Venezuela and Cuba), illegal confiscation of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets (as in the cases of Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia), invasions and interference resulting in genocidal wars (as in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan), and outside support for “color revolutions” (from Ukraine in 2014 to Brazil in 2016). The demand for alignment comes only from the West, not from China or Russia.
Humanity faces urgent challenges, such as inequality, hunger, the climate crisis, and the threat of new pandemics. To overcome them, regional alliances in the Global South must be able to institute a new multipolarity in global politics. But the usual suspects may have other plans for humanity.
Marco Fernandes is a researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research (a pillar of the International Peoples’ Assembly). He is a member of the No Cold War campaign and is a co-founder and co-editor of News on China (Dongsheng). He lives in Shanghai.
Image: Native Pride, Fibonacci Blue (CC BY 2.0); Map showing native lands, Native Land Digital (website).
The question has arisen: is the U.S. a settler colonial country? To begin with, the U.S. definitely was founded as a settler colonial state as well as a capitalist state. The most well-known of states in this classification besides the United States are New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. These present-day capitalist states all started as formations of settler colonialism, which was within the development of early-day imperialism. The age of imperialism is generally considered by some non-Marxist historians as beginning in the 15th century. Others advance a date of around 1760. However, I shall adhere to Lenin’s statement from his celebrated work, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism: “Needless to say, of course, all boundaries in nature and in society are conventional and changeable, and it would be absurd to argue, for example, about the particular year or decade in which imperialism ‘definitely’ became established.”
It would also be “absurd” to argue as to the year or decade that capitalism was established. But the capitalism and imperialism that promoted and was responsible for settler colonialism within present-day U.S. borders did begin in the early 17th century. This of course was not monopoly capitalist imperialism but an early imperialism with many of the features of its early 20th-century counterpart.
Under the imperialist umbrella, what was settler colonialism? First, it was a form of imperialist development. It was the relocation of non-Indigenous people to new territory as permanent settlers. It was the invasion by foreign colonists of Indigenous land with the encroachment authorized by an imperial power and often sponsored by a corporate entity, such as were the Plymouth and Jamestown colonies. In a settler context the objective was commercial, with a search for land and resources to exploit for the benefit of the imperial and business entity. This was expressed by monopoly corporations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when imperialism went into full operation. Imperialism from its incipient stage to its most developed was always in search of new markets.
Settler colonialism preceded the most developed stage of imperialism by over 150 years. Settler colonialism was brutal and barbaric and accompanied by unspeakable atrocities. In this process the Indigenous people were either exterminated or so decimated and isolated as to be reduced to a minority, and the invading settlers became the majority as happened in the U.S. Again, the land was the key resource in this settler colonialism.
By the early 20th century, settler colonialism had done its “dirty work” in the U.S. by nearly wiping out the Indigenous population. From a pre-contact population estimated at over 60 million the numbers of the Native people had been reduced to 237,196 by 1900.
In his Imperialism, Lenin posited that the era of the most developed imperialism began in the early 20th century, with the combining of finance and industrial capital. This combination of capital resulted in the development of monopoly capitalism. Lenin maintained that this was the final stage of capitalism. Unfortunately, there is no telling how long this final stage will endure.
But before the rise of monopoly capitalist imperialism, settler colonialism was established in many areas of the world. A prime example was the Eastern seaboard of the present-day United States. European settlers had been invading this region for decades before the founding in 1776 of the U.S. as a capitalist state, which then embarked on a 100-year-plus campaign of genocide against the country’s Indigenous peoples.
Everywhere across the globe, settler colonialism from the 18th to the 20th centuries pushed Indigenous peoples to the edge of extinction and oftentimes over the edge. In Brazil settler colonization resulted in the genocide of millions of the Indigenous (this reportedly continues in the modern era in the Amazon region), in Newfoundland the Beothuk were no more by the 1820s, in Australia the Aborigines were hunted like wild game, in California genocidal massacres of tens of thousands of the Indigenous were settler organized and even state sponsored, and in Tasmania the Indigenous population was exterminated.
Settler colonialism is a formation of the past, although colonialism lives on. But its intergenerational legacy still resonates with exploitation and racism. This legacy is being combated in a myriad of struggles, all of which require the highest level of working-class unity for the ultimate and complete victory over these racist vestiges of the past that degrade and limit our future. The white component of the working class are no longer settlers, as settler colonial countries have developed into full-blown imperialist states which must see working-class unity for the transition to socialism.
The U.S. working class is very diverse, but a united proletariat of white and non-white workers is a necessary precondition for the overthrow of capitalism. This working class is the most multinational, multiracial strata of society and the most strategic layer capable of fostering revolutionary change. Also, this unity depends on substantial numbers of white workers joining in the struggle that will realize the transition to socialism.
In the book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, J. Sakai states that “the white proletariat cannot be revolutionary because they are settlers.” This statement reveals the author’s bias against working-class unity and plays into the hands of the ruling class. White workers are obviously not settlers but a part of the working class and natural allies of the nationally and racially oppressed. To regard them as “settlers” would be a blow against the struggle for unity and would only prolong capitalism.
As for Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, and Sharice Davids, U.S. Representative from Kansas, their involvement in the government should be celebrated because the more progressive Indigenous voices to be heard the better. But working for the government can result in being in an awkward position, as with Haaland’s supporting Biden’s decision to sell new oil and gas leases. Haaland’s predicament had already been foreseen by many in Indian Country who realized that she would be hamstrung on certain decisions. Unfortunately, if she wants to keep her Cabinet position, acquiescence to wrong decisions is required.
As for decolonization as advocated by Indigenous activists, this concept is a legitimate expression of the struggle for Indigenous liberation. Decolonization is represented by the LandBack movement of Native American people.
In reference to the overall Indigenous approach to the Biden administration, I would characterize it as one of employing mass pressure, taking into account Biden’s flip-flops (again referencing his about-face on gas and oil) and foreign policy initiatives (his inflaming the Ukrainian conflict by a massive influx of weaponry). Mass pressure on Biden is required to get the most done. A good example is the Leonard Peltier campaign. To get the most done for Peltier, a march is being organized for his freedom that will begin in Minneapolis on September 1 and culminate on November 22, in Washington, D.C. So far, the mass pressure approach must be brought to bear on Biden to get results.
Albert Bender is a Cherokee Indian. He is a freelance reporter and political columnist for News From Indian Country, and other Native and non-Native publications. He is also a historian and attorney specializing in Native American law. Currently, he is writing a history of the Maya Indian role in the Guatemelan civil war of the late 20th century.
This article was republished from Cpusa.
The United States is hosting a Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, on June 6 – 10 to “focus on ’Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future’ for our hemisphere.” The irony of the US-hosted event could not be more in your face: in terms of sustainability, the US is the second largest CO2 emitter, with its pentagon alone ranking as the “world's 55th largest emitter;” in terms of inequality, in the US the “top 0.1 percent hold roughly the same share of our wealth as our bottom 90 percent;” and in terms of providing an ‘equitable future for the hemisphere,’ the US’s continued Monroe doctrine treatment of Latin America as “its own colonial territory,” where it has waged criminal regime change operations for over a century to protect its imperialist sphere of influence, would place it as the last country in the region with the right to talk about an equitable future for the hemisphere.
Nonetheless, the irony of the event is intensified by the US’s exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Apparently, besides blockades, covert terroristic campaigns, and the creation and funding of ‘dissident groups,’ part of the punishment nations face when they prevent US monopolies from owning their counties’ resources or superexploiting their people’s labor power, is also an expulsion from the geographical region their country is in. Like the British colonial ordinance surveys in Ireland, geography itself becomes a tool in the hands of imperialists; the US sees itself capable of determining who is, and who is not, American.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) threatened to personally boycott the event if Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are excluded. He affirmed on May 10th that "If they exclude, if not all are invited, a representative of the Mexican government is going to go, but I would not."
Since AMLO’s statement was made, Bolivia, Honduras, and The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have joined in protest against the exclusion. Bolivian president Luis Arce said that “If the exclusion of our brother peoples persists, I will not participate in it.” Similarly, Honduras’ Xiomara Castro said that “If all our nations are not there, it’s not a summit of the Americas.”
As Fidel Castro once told Salvador Allende in their late 1971 meeting, "This continent has in its belly a creature called Revolution, which is on the way and that inexorably, by biological law, by social law, by the law of history has to be born. And it will be born one way or another." In the context of a returned socialist tide in the region, of the inclusion of various Latin American countries into China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and lastly, of the continued collective rejection of US imperialist narratives and exclusionary events, the grounds are being laid for a sovereign and united patria grande, a condition which is essential for the region’s birthing of the ‘creature called revolution.’
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The contemporary neoliberal system is fundamentally unjust. It is filled with blood-sucking billionaires whose entire existence of grotesque opulence is structurally predicated on the continual exploitation of the working class – a powerful force in whose hands lie the productive powers of humanity. Through the wretched brutalization of labor, the rich enact a process of capital accumulation whose end result is the fattening of bourgeois pockets at one pole and the growth of dehumanization and social murder at the other. While one group of people lives in an oasis of wasteful abundance and sadistically revels in the elitist social status signified by this unnatural wealth, the other group is left to die in diseased conditions, forced to live a life of unjustified toil in the slums and ghettos of abject poverty. This situation is justified through the legal sanctification of private property, through the acceptance of crude selfishness, and through the normative establishment of the right to oppress others in the name of personal liberty. The sheer cruelty of this state of affairs is bound to elicit resistance from the proletariat, whose living conditions of neo-slavery leave him/her with no other option than to revolt against the denial of basic necessities. To manage these counter-hegemonic threats, today’s billionaires have consolidated a militarist apparatus of repression, embodied in the state’s increasing use of its monopoly over violence and the expansion of the carceral system. The rebelliousness of the surplus population, or the reserve army of labor, generated by neoliberal dynamics of fiscal conservatism and privatization is kept in control through the regular deployment of violence, which weakens the militancy of subalterns and convinces them of their disposability. Thus, the glittering world of commodities and billionaire personalities inevitably entails its dark underside: the constantly enforced exclusion of the poor from the material world created by their own hands and the protection of bourgeois control over the means of production from the democratizing tendencies unleashed by the collective subjectivity of the proletariat.
Taking into account the stark inequalities that dominate the general landscape of late-stage monopoly capitalism, one can draw only the following conclusion: eat the rich. Neoliberalism only displays in a more unadorned fashion the primary contradiction that has characterized capitalism from the beginning, namely the contradiction between social production and private property. Capital, or the logic of the endless self-expansion of money, results in the organization of all the forces of production into one effectively organized social process. This socializing tendency is facilitated by the centralization of capital i.e. the expropriation of many capitalists by few. In the words of Karl Marx, the progressive advancement of this centralizing tendency develops “the cooperative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as means of production of combined, socialized labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and with this, the international character of the capitalistic regime.”
However, the immense productivity of capitalism is constricted by the suffocating narrowness of private property. Capital is profit-seeking and can’t exist without the inherent drive toward the maximization of surplus-value. This drive manifests itself through the control of the production process with the help of which private capital appropriates the most of the wealth produced through the socialized methods of production, with little share to the actual producers. In this way, the control of capital over the production process prevents the flourishing of the creativity inherent in human labour; the need to extract surplus value means that the rigidities of top-down control and mechanical conformity create relations of production that are in conflict with the liberating potential of the productive forces. That’s why Marx notes: “Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”
The presence of systemic contradictions does not, however, spell the automatic death of capitalism. These contradictory tendencies need to be accelerated by the construction of subjective dispositions that kindle the fire of working class militancy and weaken the legitimacy of the bourgeoisie. In the words of Georges Sorel: “The spirit of class struggle does not arise mechanically from conflicts over salary; experience teaches us that these conflicts can be resolved in a way conducive to social peace and inspiring solidarity between classes. In order to produce and, above all, to maintain the spirit of separation it is necessary to have institutions capable of generating and developing it.” Class hatred toward the bourgeoisie plays an important role in giving political velocity to the economic movements of class struggle. Through hatred, the proletariat shuns the illusions of symbolic unity promoted by the instrumental philanthropy and feigned generosity of the ruling class. It comes to accept as a basic fact the irreconcilability of the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Instead of looking upon the ruling class with admiration and envy and aspiring to imbibe their elitist attitudes, the working class regards the bourgeois civilization with angry contempt.
This represents the political delineation of the proletarian identity, the reduction of class battle to a pure and primitive antagonism between two definitively demarcated class identities, and the conversion of the collection of individual labour-powers into a social mass, a unified mass worker. Recognizing the usefulness of this destructive power of class hatred, Antonio Negri comments: “The hatred for the despotic power that dead labor [labor as embodied in machines and other commodities] tries increasingly to exercise over living labor [the human capacities denoted by laborers] – this hatred, even if it is shot through with pessimism, exercises a function which, if not creative, plays a certain maieutic role. It is a basis, a fundamental “rip” in the “lining of History,” in the “sediment of the Institution”, or in the “artifice of the Law.”” The historical content of class hatred is supplied by the politically organized remembrance of the existential degradation wrought by capitalism upon the social body of workers. Talking about the deficits that prevented German Social Democracy from pre-empting the rise of Nazism, Walter Benjamin remarks that the organization “thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations, in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.”
In other words, what was lacking in the social democrats’ futurist vision of socialist utopia was the absolute negativity of capitalism. According to Benjamin, the transition from capitalism to socialism should not be conceived of as “the progressive unfolding of something already promised – liberated grandchildren whose lives will enjoy full human vitality” – but should involve “the deepening of opposition to the existing order, strengthening the proletarian resolve to abolish (negate) capitalist society.” A communist plan can’t just look forward; it has to look backward for reasons why revolutionary changes might be necessary. Breaking this linkage between the transcendence of overcoming and the immanent facticity of oppression destroys the emotional foundations of class hatred. In fact, proletarian hatred itself is based on the opposition to the bourgeoisie’s abstract futurism, which has sacrificed present lives in the name of an ill-defined notion of progress. This image of a promised capitalist heaven needs to be smashed by the historical memory of the working class. And this ponderous past needs to be lightened by the political will of revolutionary hatred, by the declaration of an unrelenting war against the bourgeoisie. Only this orientation can help us advance in terms of socialist theory and practice. As Mario Tronti writes: “The first step continues to be the recuperation of an irreducible working-class partiality against the entire social system of capital. Nothing will be done without class hatred: neither the elaboration of theory, nor practical organization. Only from a rigorously working-class viewpoint will the total movement of capitalist production be comprehended and utilized as a particular moment of the workers’ revolution. Only one-sidedness, in science and in struggle, opens the way simultaneously to the understanding of everything and to its destruction. Any attempt to assume the general interest, every temptation to remain at the level of social science, will only serve to inscribe the working class—in the most powerful way possible—within the development of capital.”
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
South Africa and other countries that have abstained from voting against Russia at the United Nations General Assembly in response to the war in Ukraine face intense international criticism. In South Africa, the domestic criticism has been extraordinarily shrill, and often clearly racialized. It is frequently assumed that abstention means that South Africa is in support of the Russian invasion, and this is either due to corrupt relations between Russian and South African elites, or nostalgia for support given to the anti-apartheid struggle by the Soviet Union, or both.
There is seldom any acknowledgment that nonalignment, in this case refusing to be aligned with the United States and its allies or with Russia, can be a principled position, as well as an astute tactical engagement with geopolitical realities. As two founding figures in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Yugoslavia’s then-President Josip Broz Tito and India’s then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, said in a joint statement signed on December 22, 1954, “the policy of non-alignment with blocs… does not represent ‘neutrality’ or ‘neutralism’; neither does it represent passivity as is sometimes alleged. It represents the positive, active and constructive policy that, as its goal, has collective peace as the foundation of collective security.”
The Global South houses more than 80 percent of the world’s people, yet its countries are systematically excluded from any decision-making in the international organizations that make decisions in the name of the “international community.” For decades, countries of the Global South have been advocating for the United Nations to be reformed so that it moves away from the zero-sum game of the cold war mentality that continues to drive it. Gabriel Valdés, Chile’s then-foreign minister, said that in June 1969, Henry Kissinger told him, “Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance.”
Jaja Wachuku, then a Nigerian foreign minister, posed a still urgent question to the UN’s 18th Session on September 30, 1963: “Does this Organization want… [the] African States to be just vocal Members, with no right to express their views on any particular matter in important organs of the United Nations…[?] Are we only going to continue to be veranda boys?” Global South countries are still “veranda boys” watching the adults make the rules and decide on the path that the world must take. They continue to be lectured and chided when they do not do as expected.
It is time for a revitalized NAM. The NAM will only succeed if the leaders of the countries in the Global South put their egos aside, think strategically on the global scale and put their considerable human capital, natural resources and technological ingenuity to better use. The Global South has an ascendant China, the second-biggest economy in the world. It has India, one of the leading countries in medical care and technological innovation. Africa is rich with a growing population and the natural resources that are needed for the mushrooming AI and cleaner energy industries. However, these resources are still extracted for profit to be accumulated in far-off capitals while Africa and much of the Global South remain underdeveloped, with millions still stuck in the desperation of impoverishment.
A renewed NAM has real potential if time is taken to build new institutions and to build buffers against the economic warfare that the United States has been waging against countries like Cuba and Venezuela and is now unleashing on Russia. Financial autonomy is critical.
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has a bank, and for the 16 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) there is the Development Bank of Southern Africa; yet the reserves of the countries joined to these projects are still kept in the United States or European capitals. This is the time for leaders within the Global South to wake up and realize that given the type of economic warfare that is currently being let loose on a country like Russia, weaker countries across the Global South have no meaningful autonomy.
This is the time to rethink how we conduct politics, economics and foreign policy when it is clear that the West can decide to decimate entire countries. The economic weapons being built against Russia will be available to be used against other countries that have the temerity not to toe Washington’s line.
BRICS has been disappointing in many respects, but it has opened some space for Global South countries—with their many differences in creed, culture, political and economic systems—to find a way of working together. The rejection of intense pressure to bend their collective knee at the United Nations Security Council is an encouraging example of the Global South rejecting the assumption that they should remain permanent “veranda boys” (and girls).
As the United States rapidly escalates its new cold war against Russia and China, and expects other countries to fall in line, there is now an urgent imperative to reject this cold war mentality of wanting to divide the world along old acrimonious lines. The Global South should reject this view and call for the respect of international law by all countries. It makes a mockery of the concepts of human rights and international law when they are only evoked when it is those countries whom the West dislikes or disagrees with who break them.
Only by standing together and speaking with one voice can the countries of the Global South hope to have any influence in international affairs and not continue to be just rubber-stampers of the positions of the West.
The Non-Aligned Movement needs to be confident and bold and not seek permission from the West. NAM leaders need to understand that they are there to serve their people and protect their interests and not allow the temptation of being included in the “big boys club” to sway their stance on issues. They need to constantly keep in mind that they have been kept as “veranda boys” for far too long, and unless they truly take their destiny into their hands, they will forever be at the foot of the table, with their people eating only the scraps from the wealth accumulated by the global economy, much of it from the exploitation of the South.
Nontobeko Hlela was the first secretary (political) at the High Commission of South Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. She currently works as a researcher for the South African office of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, a Global South think tank with offices in Johannesburg, South Africa; São Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New Delhi, India.
Early in the school year, a kindergartner on Joni Meyer’s school bus got motion sickness and threw up all over himself—and his brother, his cousin and his laptop.
Meyer pulled over, soothed the anguished child, cleaned everybody up as best she could and then drove the bus to school.
Over 34 years, Meyer has served as chauffeur, counselor, confidant, nurse and guardian angel to countless children like these in Bay City, Michigan. She’s skillfully navigated a 35-foot, 14-ton bus over serpentine roads and through treacherous winter storms, safely delivering what she calls “our precious cargo” to schools and football games. Now, in gratitude for Meyer’s dedication, officials in the Bay City Public Schools intend to kick her to the curb.
The school district recently notified Meyer and her 25 coworkers, represented by United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7380, of plans to eliminate their jobs and outsource transportation to a for-profit company. By continuing down this road, they’ll join the ranks of shortsighted employers who auction off crucial services to the lowest bidders, potentially saving a few bucks but gambling on safety.
Out-of-town drivers will never know Bay City’s rural roads or care about the community’s 8,150 students like Meyer and her coworkers, some of whom log upward of 150 miles during workdays that—because of split shifts—begin at 5 a.m. and end 12 hours later.
“I really enjoy my job. I enjoy my children. They’re sort of like extended family to us,” said Meyer, Local 7380’s unit president and the district’s second-most-senior driver, who wonders where a private contractor would even find replacements.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts around the country have struggled to recruit and retain drivers. Because of the shortage, some districts closed schools or cut service while others called in the National Guard for help, put teachers behind the wheel or paid parents to transport their own kids. So far this year, bus companies contracted by one Maryland school district missed more than 3,000 trips, leaving hundreds of students and parents in the lurch.
Bay City already has the dedicated, reliable workforce that other school districts crave. Teachers, elected officials, other community leaders and parents are rallying around the drivers, demanding the school district keep them on the job and avert the potential nightmare contracting out would bring.
“It’s terribly sad and unfortunate and quite disappointing because it’s going to rock these kids’ boats. Some of these kids come from homes that aren’t really stable. This is one stable thing they have in their lives,” Kristin McDonell, a Bay City parent, said of district drivers. “I trust these drivers. They’re part of our backbone. It means a lot to them to be contributing to their community in this way.”
“The school district is not putting the children’s best interests first,” added McDonell, who worries about whether contractors would properly train their employees or provide the same drivers on a daily basis, let alone find candidates willing to “invest their whole heart in the job” like Meyer and her colleagues. “From what I’ve read, outsourcing usually does not end very well. It’s a rocky road.”
The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission recently approved a $198,000 settlement with a school bus contractor that racked up 396 violations, including failure to screen drivers for drugs, while officials in other parts of the country have contended with contract drivers who drank alcohol on the job and left a child behind at the bus garage at the end of the run.
As horrifying as these incidents are, they only begin to describe the consequences of privatization the public faces every day. Outsourcing imperils safety and quality in numerous other fields—across the public, nonprofit and private sectors—because contractors put the money motive ahead of all else.
Studies show that profit-driven private prisons lock people up for longer periods and experience higher rates of violence, among other problems, compared to government-run facilities. Municipalities that privatized their water systems saddled residents with poorer service, along with other setbacks, and universities that outsourced security and cafeteria jobs created low-wage shadow workforces, exacerbating inequality in their communities.
“Choose wisely, because cheaper does not mean better. You get what you pay for,” cautioned Tyson Bagley, president of USW Local 326, who’s worked to end the contracting out of maintenance workers at the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo, California.
When he joined the refinery about 10 years ago, only a fraction of maintenance workers belonged to the union because the company preferred to rely on contractors. But that led to quality-control and safety problems in what’s already a hazardous environment, Bagley said, noting contract workers had little investment in the work because they might be assigned to the refinery one day and another location the next.
In 2015, the USW and the company began collaborating to bring maintenance work back in-house. Now, most maintenance personnel are USW members, and “our quality control has been almost perfect,” Bagley said.
“We’re the best trained, safest workers,” he explained of his union siblings. “We know the facility. We know the equipment. This is our house. We’re going to make sure it’s done right.”
Meyer and her coworkers are circulating petitions, walking informational picket lines and taking other steps to save safe, dependable bus transportation in Bay City.
Their supporters, like McDonell, warn that outsourcing will only disrupt the district’s family atmosphere and create new headaches, especially for parents fearful of putting their children in the care of rented drivers.
“It’s a bad deal,” McDonell said. “It’s wrong. It’s totally wrong.”
This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli Military killed Al Jazeera's renowned journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Video from the event showed the IDF firing at journalists who were clearly marked as "Press" in bright uniforms. The videos prompted Israel to retract their initial statement that Shireen had been killed by Palestinian militants. An obvious attempt to deflect blame on to the Palestinian Resistance for crimes committed by the occupying military force, which has been armed to the teeth by the United States Government.
Israel has consistently been found guilty of suppressing media which is critical of the occupation, and committing violence against journalists. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights compiled a 50 page report titled "Silencing the Press: Israeli Occupation Forces Attacks on Journalists" which details the systematic suppression of descent and criticism that has been carried out by the Israel for years. Shireen's murder was not random. She was another victim of a system of colonial occupation that uses violence to suppress those who expose its crimes to the public.
Of course those who criticize Israel's actions will be decried as Anti-Semitic, or lumped together with right wing conspiracy theorists. And let us be clear that the Occupation of Palestine and violence of the IDF is a product of capitalist imperialism. It is motivated by the material interests of transnational corporations and imperialist governments who seek to control markets, resources, and labour in West Asia. Israel serves as an economic and military ally to the U.S. in an oil rich region, where much of 21st century western imperialist aggression has been focused. Zionism has been allowed to thrive as an ideology because it is propped up by these forces of capitalist imperialism who find it useful for furthering their material interests.
There is no conspiracy here. And as Marxist analysis always reveals, there is no inherent quality in any race, religion, or ethnicity of people which causes them to act more aggressively, or be more likely to occupy another. Rather it is material class forces which drive colonialism and colonial violence. Ideology is born from these material forces, usually as a way to justify the interests and actions of a certain class. The occupation of Palestine is driven by the material interests of much of the capitalist class in the West and Middle East, and Zionism is the ideology produced in order to justify those interests. Anti-Semitic conspiracies should be rooted out from our thinking, and crushed with the hammer of Marxist class analysis.
R.I.P. Shireen Abu Akleh! Your courage will never be forgotten.
From the River to Sea Palestine will be Free.
Palestinian Center for Human Rights Report on Israeli Occupation Forces Systematic Supression of Press Freedom: https://reliefweb.int/.../prees-report-engliesh-2020.pdf
Midwestern Marx is a socialist project championing Marxist education and political analysis. It is the parent organization of the Journal of American Socialist Studies and the Midwestern Marx Publishing Press. Here are the links to Midwestern Marx's website, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our original 400k follower Tiktok account was banned because of our coverage of the Ukraine war, however, the link to the recent account we have been using can be found here.
Featured image: King delivering his speech “Beyond Vietnam” at New York City’s Riverside Church in 1967. Photo John C. Goodwin.
It is disheartening to hear movement leaders say they are inspired by Martin Luther King while also supporting the U.S. proxy war against Russia. Like all wars it endangers the lives of civilian populations, enriches the military industrial complex, and robs Americans of public resources. Once King chose an anti-war stance he did not waiver in his condemnations of U.S. empire.
On April 4, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most significant speeches of his career. In “Beyond Vietnam – Time to Break Silence ” King declared his unequivocal opposition to the war in Vietnam. His very public break with Lyndon Johnson was greeted with derision, including from his own allies, who believed that the president was an ally who should not be attacked. The NAACP board passed a resolution calling King’s statement a “serious tactical mistake” that would neither “serve the cause of civil rights nor of peace.” The media joined in the condemnation, with the New York Times characterizing his comments as “facile” and “slander.” Even Black newspapers such as The Pittsburgh Courier judged his remarks to be “tragically misleading.”
It is important to remember this speech in which he declared that the United States was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” There are individuals and organizations who routinely claim King’s mantle until they fall prey to the war propaganda promoted by the present day purveyors of violence.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber is sadly one such person. In an April 30, 2022 email on the subject Moral Clarity About Our Own Atrocities he made many specious arguments on the issue of war as it pertains to U.S. policy in Ukraine.
“To see the butchery at Bucha or the massacre at Mariupol and do nothing would be to forfeit any claim to moral authority. We know this instinctively. It is why, despite the political gridlock on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats have acted swiftly to approve historic military aid to Ukraine. In the face of such a moral imperative, it would be anathema for either party to ask, “How are we going to pay for it?”
There is no independent investigation of what the Biden administration and corporate media label as “massacres.” No one who claims to act in the interests of humanity should praise the historic levels of military aid to Ukraine, an oligarchic kleptocracy under U.S. control which depends upon military and police support from openly neo-Nazi formations. So blatant are the connections that in past years members of congress have moved to ensure that these groups are denied U.S. aid .
Furthermore, Rev. Barber ought to know that questions of funding for domestic needs must always be raised. Joe Biden is requesting $33 billion in aid to Ukraine, which means money for the military industrial complex, after ending stimulus payments and other support for struggling people in this country. Barber opens his email with the story of a woman who lost children in her care to a child welfare agency after the termination of the child tax credit program plunged her into poverty. It is disturbing to see Barber’s attempt to have it both ways, demanding help for the poor while also supporting the system that keeps them in their condition.
The child tax credit which kept families afloat disappeared, along with enhanced unemployment benefits, anti-eviction protection, and free covid related treatments to the uninsured. The much vaunted Build Back Better bill is dead and Biden seems uninterested in resurrecting it. It is reasonable to ask the Biden administration for a monetary accounting and for an explanation of how their actions led to a humanitarian disaster for the Ukrainian people, mass theft from Americans’ public resources, and a risk of hot war with the Russian Federation.
Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign are preparing for a Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls taking place on June 18, 2022. His ill conceived email was meant to bring attention to this event but instead he brought attention to the deep connections that liberal politics has with right wing forces. Barber is not alone in his capitulation as members of congress who claim to be progressive march in lock step with imperialism and austerity which create suffering in this country and around the world.
Then again, perhaps Barber was directing his words to people who support the anti-Russia proxy war in Ukraine.The non-profit industrial complex and the Black political class have cast their lot with the democratic wing of the war party. At this moment they all demand obedience to the status quo which gives a veneer of concern for low wage workers who suffer because of military adventurism personified by the anti-Russia proxy war in Ukraine. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to mobilize for the poor while also praising what King called the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.”
It is sad to see the name Poor People’s Campaign, which was launched by Martin Luther King, being used to support the war machine. It is even sadder to see a man like Rev. Barber succumb to the very worst narratives of American exceptionalism and demonization of another nation.
“As we all watch the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, Americans are aware that the main difference between us and the Russian people is that we see the truth of the human slaughter that is hidden from them by Putin’s propaganda.”
The U.S. is rife with propaganda emanating from the state and corporate media. What truths do Americans recognize and expose? Sadly, too many of them believe that their nation is superior to Russia while knowing very little about that country or how living standards there compare to theirs. Do Russian police kill three people every day? Do Russians have medical debt? Are they consigned to lifetime debt peonage after attending university? Military spending in their country is a fraction , less than 10%, of what the U.S. spends. Despite all the stories of Russian atrocities and human rights violations it is the U.S. which invaded and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, destroyed Libya in a proxy war, and now is helping its ally Saudi Arabia practice a genocide in Yemen.
We cannot separate the treatment of the marginalized from the foundational inequities present in this country. Barber cannot get justice for the poor and also uphold the contradictions he mentions. His words are troubling and frankly sad. Ignoring their harm is to give them undeserved credence.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
This article was republished from Black Agenda Report.
Starbucks Workers United is racking up victorious union votes in one branch after another of the iconic American coffee chain. A young California-based worker-organizer explains why this organizing campaign is different.
At only 19 years old, Joe Thompson is one of the youngest lead organizers with Starbucks Workers United (SWU), the umbrella organization at the forefront of one of the most exciting labor successes of the last few years. Thompson, who started working at the coffee chain at age 16, told me in a recent interview, “Starbucks likes to claim it’s super-progressive, and a lot of workers there are, but we’re the ones actually holding Starbucks accountable to that standard.”
The very first Starbucks location to successfully unionize was in Buffalo, New York, where a vote was held only last December. Since then, dozens more locations have voted to join SWU—whose parent company is Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU—and more than 200 other locations have filed for union elections.
Thompson, who uses they/them pronouns, and who describes their background as “working-class Hispanic,” lives in Santa Cruz, California, and works there as a shift supervisor at the first Starbucks in the state to petition for a union. That vote is expected to take place in May, and it will be a bellwether for union organizing at Starbucks cafés across California.
The nation’s most populous state has lagged behind New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Arizona on unionizing efforts at Starbucks primarily because, as per Thompson, California “does have better working conditions than a lot of other states.” The statewide minimum wage in California is $15 an hour, which is more than twice the federal minimum wage. Thompson also cites “better workplace protections” in California compared to other states.
The lesson here for anti-union forces is that poor wages and working conditions can prompt union activity. Unions are needed precisely because pro-corporate politicians have resisted raising the minimum wage and have weakened labor rights for decades.
Additionally, workers at California’s Starbucks locations “wanted to see what Buffalo could accomplish” before petitioning for a union, said Thompson. “After watching them win their vote, then we really started to organize.”
It’s no wonder that Starbucks worked so hard to stop organizers from successfully unionizing in Buffalo, flying in external managers and holding captive-audience meetings with CEO and founder Howard Schultz. The company was rightfully worried about the domino effect of a successful union vote triggering similar efforts elsewhere.
It seems as though the standard anti-union corporate playbook may have reached its limit as workers across the United States are seeing the benefits of labor organizing in the face of undignified work, meager pay, unpredictable hours, little to no benefits and few rights.
One of the most effective corporate anti-union tactics has been to disparage unions for charging fees (monthly or annual dues) to finance their protection of workers. Indeed, union dues were the entire basis of the Republican-led effort to pass so-called “right-to-work” laws in states around the country. It was also the central theme around which the online retail giant Amazon discouraged workers from organizing, saying instead that they could “do it without dues.”
But this tactic failed in the face of SWU’s organizing. “Before a union goes public, we’re inoculating our organizers,” said Thompson. “We’re telling them, ‘here’s exactly what Starbucks is going to say; here’s why it’s wrong.’” The union uses creative graphics via social media to explain how union dues are a perfectly reasonable price for collective bargaining rights that yield better working conditions. “We’re using Discord and other technology really to get workers engaged and to keep them there,” said Thompson.
The union’s overall messaging is savvy and effective, and it remains one step ahead of the company. For example, Starbucks refers to its employees not as workers but as “partners,” a slick PR term that implies a level playing field with the boss. But, weaponizing this wordplay against the company, SWU counters that only through the power of a union can workers truly be partners with their employer. “Partners becoming partners” has become a central theme of its organizing strategy.
Another aspect of the successful unionizing streak that may have caught Starbucks off guard is that most workers are relatively young and extremely cognizant of the social and political conditions under which they have come of age. “They’re all young people who are growing up during the Bernie Sanders era,” said Thompson. The same fearmongering against unions that may have worked with older Americans appears not to be working against these younger workers.
“We’re recognizing that we have power together, and young people are so fed up with not only their workplaces… but with a lot of other things too,” said Thompson. Among those things is the existential threat of climate change. “Being young right now, we don’t have a solid future ahead of us,” said Thompson, who volunteered for Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, and said that their fellow Starbucks workers are “asking ourselves, what are we going to do to stand up and fight back against these corporations that are not only polluting the earth but also not paying us a living wage?”
“The simplest answer is to unionize,” said Thompson.
It is simple. And that elegant idea is a countervailing force to corporate power that businesses like Starbucks have been dreading since their inception. The company is already facing a lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board for illegally retaliating against workers over their union organizing activity.
So overt is the company’s anti-union position that CEO Schultz recently announced that he was considering new benefits for workers, but only for those who did not join the union.
Thompson said, “that is clear union-related retaliation against organizing; it’s unlawful.” If Schultz goes through with such a step, Thompson promises that SWU will sue the company for unfair labor practices. “He is a bully… disconnected from his workers,” said Thompson of Schultz.
Although the Starbucks unionizing efforts have been wildly successful over a short period of time, voting to join a union is only the first—and easiest—step. The hard part comes during contract talks where the nuts and bolts of workers’ demands will be negotiated.
For example, Starbucks’ baristas are tipped workers and those whose wages do not have to meet minimum wage standards because they are expected to earn tips to compensate, resulting in the possibility of taking home appallingly low paychecks. But the company still refuses to allow customers to pay tips via credit card—a major issue that workers plan on raising during contract negotiations.
Given the geographic diversity of the company’s locations, contract negotiations could be unique to each state and even café. Thompson explained that in California where they are based, the union’s statewide organizing committee is currently putting together “an action plan” of the sort of contract that workers in the state want to negotiate, including the specific type of benefits they need.
That plan will form the floor of a contract that each unionized store in California will start from in their negotiations with Starbucks, adding on demands specific to each store as needed. Thompson’s Santa Cruz-based café, for example, will be including a demand for a security guard on its premises.
Not content with helping to lead a historic union organizing movement, Thompson is also running for office for a seat on the California State Assembly representing District 28 and is the youngest person to do so. Their campaign website says, “Joe knows what it’s like to not know when you’re gonna be able to eat your next meal and how it feels to be left behind by a system that allows for the rich to get vastly richer while the rest of us continue hard work for starvation wages.”
“Anyone can unionize,” said Thompson, who remains optimistic even in the face of multiple dire crises facing young people like them. “Young workers are recognizing that we need to do something to protect ourselves and to fight for our values… The world we are living in is falling apart. And we can change that.”
Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
“Capitalist production…disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e. prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; it, therefore, violates the conditions necessary to lasting fertility of the soil. The more a country starts its development on the foundation of modern industry, like the United States, for example, the more rapid is this process of destruction. Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology…only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker.”
Capitalism as a world system is wholly incompatible with preserving the environment sustainably and equitably for all. The system’s motive for existence, its engine of growth, is the ever-increasing need for surplus accumulation. By its very definition, a system seeking infinite profit on a finite planet is bound to collapse under its own weight. Riddled with this so-called external bound as well as its own internal contradictions and pushed forward by a falling tendency of the rate of profit, the system becomes more and more unsustainable with the present status of global climate emergency. In this essay, we will begin the analysis by talking about green growth and its more radical version Green New Deal, followed by a discussion on the essential tenets of Degrowth as a theory and a possibility. We would conclude by discussing the viability and potential of each of the strategies.
In a broad sense of the word, Green Growth means economic growth that encompasses decoupling with emissions. The decoupling can be relative or absolute. The inherent vagueness of the term ‘green growth’ has led it to be susceptible to varied interpretations. One kind of green growth can be the mere emphasis on more energy-efficient production, firmly entrenched within the status-quo of the socio-economic system of global capitalism. On the other extreme of the spectrum of meaning lies the domain of ecosocialist green growth. Slightly tilting towards this extreme is the idea of modern Green New Deal (or Green Keynesianism in its milder version). The Green New Deal premise begins with acknowledging that polluting emissions (primarily carbon emissions) need to be cut down drastically to even envision a possible stabilisation of the global environment in the foreseeable future. One of the most common tenets of the prominent Green Growth thinkers has been massive investment (sometimes solely public) around the scale of 2% of the global GDP in energy-efficient infrastructure along with a simultaneous reduction in fossil-fuel consumption to bring CO2 emissions close to zero in the next thirty to forty years.
Even if the ‘Green Growth-ers’ agree on principle with the ‘Degrowth-ers’, the main issue of contention remains the viability of the former strategy compared to the latter. Most of the Green Growth-ers believe that Degrowth does not offer a viable method of stabilising the climate, given that the world seems to be running out of time. Another criticism that the green growth advocates make about the degrowth theorists is that the latter have been much too involved in broad strokes and abstract arguments to be actually helpful in providing concrete and viable strategies for environmental preservation.
In its modern form, the Green New Deal (GND) gathered popular momentum within the moderate social-democratic wing of the Democratic party in the USA. The GND proposes not only a massive public investment for greener transitioning but a reformed restructuring of the global taxation system, taking into account intra-country as well as inter-country inequalities. The central argument hinges on the possibility of the Global South still continuing to grow- as an appeal to the attractiveness of the proposition along national lines, as long as said growth proceeds along the lines of systematic decoupling. The essential twin opportunities that Green Growth promises to offer to global citizens are a higher standard of living and expanded job opportunities across the globe. In a fundamental sense, as green energy becomes cheaper, it frees up resources’ availability to achieve higher living standards. In this possibility, one must also be aware of what Jevons termed as the rebound effect, which might lead to rising energy consumption due to the said cheapening. The other opportunity for expanded employment seems to follow from the sound premise that the physical shift from non-green, carbon-emitting, fossil-fuel dominant energy sources to green energy sources would entail intensive labour expenditure. If such a transition was to truly take place globally, this might indeed lead to increasing employment opportunities throughout the globe.
Moreover, suppose the significant part of this investment could be public investment. It might also provide a window to marginally subvert the neoliberal dynamics of profit-maximisation-based employment generation that has become a defining characteristic in the present times of environmental and economic crises. The Green New Deal places its faith solidly into the technological effectiveness of green energy transitions once the political opposition to such a restructuring of the political economy is surpassed. Robert Pollin claims that for 2016, the worldwide green-energy investments ranged between 0.4% of the global GDP. This means that the range of clean energy investments needs to increase by the range of 1-1.5%. The basic plan, so to say, is that the given pattern continues beyond the initial 20 years investment plan along with a reduction in the consumption of fossil-fuel-based energy use to reduce carbon emissions to an effective zero level in the next 50 years.
Moreover, according to Adnan Z Amin, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)- there has been an ongoing cheapening of renewable energy resources, so much so that the current renewable energy cost in the global north is at par (and in some cases even below) with the non-renewable energy throughput. A significant shortcoming of the green growth strategy by social democratic movements in the global north is how much of an actual challenge these strategies even pose to the global capitalist system, which is responsible for the primary unsustainability of the present situation. Even though it does seem reasonable that the nature of employment, for example, in publicly funded green transition jobs, would be more just and equitable than elsewhere under private enterprise, is this reorganisation enough to effectively subvert the growth paradigm of capitalism responsible for the imminent breakdown of the system?
At this point, Degrowth broadly differs from the green growth strategies. Classical economists from Smith, Ricardo and Mill to Marx have talked of stationary states. Mill has also argued that even in a stationary state of no growth, the ultimate welfare of the society as whole hinges on the distributional policies of the state. Degrowth openly and radically runs against the growth paradigm of both capitalism and the kind of productivist socialism practised in the USSR. The Degrowth theorists have advocated that pursuing a green growth strategy within a somewhat ‘benevolent’ capitalist system is insufficient to prevent the planet from breaking down. For them, the only viable option is a reduction in growth, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions, as they believe that absolute decoupling is a myth.
Degrowth advocates base their argument on the primary rationale that growth in itself is not necessary (and is indeed far from sufficient) for the improved well-being of the masses. Modern Degrowth theories draw extensively from anthropological studies of various tribes and societies that value abundance rather than scarcity and have been shown to derive their well-being from a shared sense of shared resource utilisation and non-growth. At the outset, it does seem clear that most of the degrowth activists and theorists have been people based in the global north. Furthermore, added to this, the green growth advocates have frequently labelled the degrowth theorists as utopians. Robert Pollin, for example, tries to disprove the degrowth objective through simple arithmetic. He argues that based on Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) estimates, we know that global CO2 emissions need to fall from the current level of 32 billion tons to 20 billion tons within the next 20 years. Moreover, if we assume that following the degrowth paradigm, global GDP plummets 10% within the next two decades, this would be a reduction four times larger than what was caused by the global financial recession. Moreover, the impact of this fall would be to push carbon emissions closer to 29 billion tons by 2040, which is still far from the desired outcome of 20 billion tonnes. Pollin also argues that Degrowth by itself is meaningless and harmful if the pie gets smaller than the current size and the rich and the powerful still maintain their position of expropriating most of the surplus from the global economy.
At this juncture that ecosocialist degrowth appears to be a possible response to Pollin’s criticism. Ecosocialist degrowth-ers argue that reducing the GDP is not an end in itself. A reasonable class-conscious advocacy might be that be it green growth or Degrowth, both of these strategies might prove to be ineffective, if not downright harmful to the vast masses of citizens of the globe, if the capitalist system is not primarily subverted. The engine of infinite accumulation is not brought to a halt. Moreover, when it comes in terms to thinking about which alternative might have the upper hand in halting this engine of exploitation, Degrowth does have a certain sense of appeal.
Green growth runs the risk of continuing economic growth as a political necessity to pacify social conflict and ascertain the socio-economic reproduction of the capitalist system as a whole, Kallis argues. A radical post-capitalist ecosocialist society has the scope of envisioning reduced working hours with greater well-being for the masses, indeed. Kallis uses the example of Cuba during the 1990s to argue that the change envisioned by the state of Cuba during the crisis was akin to degrowth theories, encompassing a shift towards more organic and less intensive input farming. According to Ellul, in modern societies, technology in itself possesses its own logic of reproduction and accumulation divorced from socio-economic reality.
Therefore, relying exclusively on a technocratic fix like the Green Growth poses risks of ineffective control of the direction in which such a technological shift would extract surplus. Advocating through broad-based workers’ and peasants’ movements for a world with no economic growth or even Degrowth opens up intellectual and practical avenues for envisioning a system beyond capitalism. However, of course, one cannot shy away from the radical, seeming impossibility of the project as a whole. In some senses, it might not be a stretch to conceptualise the debate between green growth and Degrowth in terms of the older debate of reform and revolution that raged during the Second International days.
Eduard Bernstein had argued that the increase in the social position and power of organised labour would gradually be enough to buy time to transform the socio-economic dynamics of capitalism and make possible the ushering in of socialism. However, on the other hand, the faction led by Lenin placed its faith in the growing misery of the proletariat in the global south to transform itself into the most revolutionary class in the economy, making possible a revolutionary overthrow of the system (Arrighi).
Akin to Bernstein’s position, the green growth-ers believe that the increased social position and power of environmentalism-oriented policy would gradually usher in a state of altered ecological dynamics. However, there is no such evidence of increasing social power or positioning in the global economy as a whole for green growth to become a dominant energy paradigm.
The Democratic Party in the United States of America recently approved increased Ethanol blended fuels in cars which are highly polluting in general. The social positioning of this strategy within the party of its genesis is on the wane itself, as evidenced by other recent developments. This ought to make one sceptical of the possibility of green growth being achievable soon. On the other hand, the growing misery of countries in the periphery which face the most severe brunt of the environmental collapse of the capitalist world-economy opens us to opportunities to advocate the most radical and revolutionary (akin to Lenin) of all solutions of ecosocialist degrowth attacking the twin pillars of the perverse system of capitalism and surplus-value-driven growth.
 https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-allow-higher-ethanol-fuel-sales-summer-check-gas-prices-2022-04-12/(Accessed on 1-05-2022)
On May 4th, 2022, Midwestern Marx received an email from POLITICO asking for a statement from our Editor and TikTok handler, Edward Liger Smith, concerning his support for Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan socialist project in light of Maduro's and PSUV's so-called regressive "policies regarding polices brutality, feminism and LGBT rights." The article POLITICO published omitted Edward's comments, so we wish to include those here.
My name is Eddie Smith, but I usually use Eddie Liger as a pseudonym when producing online political content.
Here are three articles I have written on this subject of Venezuela.
This is my undergraduate senior thesis which focuses on US imperialism towards Venezuela and the US Media portrayal of the situation in Venezuela: https://www.midwesternmarx.com/articles/neo-colonialism-in-venezuela-and-its-coverage-in-western-media-by-edward-liger-smith
This is a critique of the Maduro Government I published after he was criticized by some Chavista socialists in Venezuela: https://www.midwesternmarx.com/articles/venezuelas-anti-blockade-law-a-critique-of-maduro-and-the-lies-of-western-media-by-edward-liger-smith
This is an article I co-authored with my co-editor Carlos Garrido about the recent wave of socialist Governments coming to power in Latin America and what it means for the future:
These articles should give you a good idea of my general positions on Venezuela, and why I criticize US foreign policy in Latin America. However, here's a statement responding to your question specifically.
Statement: Western Media outlets tend to focus their coverage of Venezuela on the Maduro Government and Nicolas Maduro Himself, usually portraying the former bus driver turned President as a dictator, and warning of human rights abuses he's committed against the Venezuelan people. However, Western media tends to omit information about US hostility towards Venezuela, particularly the 15 year long economic sanction regime. By ignoring the effects of US policy on the Venezuelan economy and people, US media largely ignores the historical context which led to Venezuela's current situation, and the context that Maduro is currently acting within. Most Western coverage simplifies the situation, portraying Maduro as a comic book style tyrant ruling over his people with an iron fist, which is simply not an accurate portrayal of the complexities existent in Venezuelan politics.
The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, which brought Hugo Chavez to power in the late 1990s, was not a top down movement implementing a dictatorship. Rather, it was a grassroots movement organized by and for the Venezuelan people, and against the years of colonial expropriation and exploitation Venezuela had been subjected to by Western Oligarchs. It is the revolution that I support, not an individual man; I support the Venezuelan workers and Chavista Socialist Leaders, who often have criticisms of the Maduro Government in relation to police brutality, economic policy, social policy, etc. My support for Maduro extends as far as the Venezuelan people's. While he is not a perfect leader, he is the man who the Venezuelan's voted for despite millions in Western money being funneled to Juan Guaido and the US backed opposition. So, in the context of Venezuela's last elections, I do support him, because I support the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people and their struggle against US imperialism.
A recent report from the UN showed that US Sanctions have caused Venezuela's economy to implode with the State losing $31 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2020 alone. The UN investigation showed that US sanctions affect poor and vulnerable Venezuelans the most, and concluded they are being blockaded from vital medical supplies, despite US claims that the sanctions do not target medicine. The US claims these sanctions were supposed to create a "democratic transition" in Venezuela, but now admit it has only united the Venezuelan people together in a struggle against Western interventionism. It is these working class Venezuelans who I support in their struggle, and these violent actions from the US state Department which I criticize in almost any conversation about Venezuela.
As Americans, it is not our job to meddle in Venezuelan politics, it's our job to assess our own Government and improve it wherever we can. That is why I spend so much time advocating for the US to remove there 166 economic sanctions on Venezuela.
Edward Liger Smith is an American Political Scientist and specialist in anti-imperialist and socialist projects, especially Venezuela and China. He also has research interests in the role southern slavery played in the development of American and European capitalism. He is a co-founder and editor of Midwestern Marx and the Journal of American Socialist Studies. He is currently a health care administration graduate student and wrestling coach at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.