The fallout over the AUKUS deal, as we are now seeing, has been a severe rift in relations between two historic allies, the U.S. and France. And the collateral damage may also include NATO.
Only weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden courageously ended the war in Afghanistan—in the face of bitter opposition from the media and Congress—came the announcement of the formation of AUKUS, a new trilateral security alliance between the U.S., the UK and Australia.
The creation of AUKUS is only further confirmation—as if more was needed—that the Biden administration intends to wage a new cold war in Asia with China as its target.
This is not a development we should welcome. As the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’s Anatol Lieven has recently observed, a new cold war “with China… will continue to lock in place the power of the U.S. military-industrial complex and squander trillions more on wasteful and unnecessary military programs designed to benefit American corporations rather than defend the actual security of actual American citizens.”
And so, as Biden puts an end to one hot war, he finds himself starting yet another cold war: One step forward, two steps back.
AUKUS’s debut has been marred by a high-profile controversy with France, which believed it had reached a deal with Australia to provide it with 12 diesel-electric submarines. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, noted in a statement that, instead, the Americans and the British will be providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
European leaders have come out strongly against AUKUS. Both European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the move. And the French are furious. French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled his ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia, while the former French Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud observed on Twitter, “The new reality of the world rivalry of great and middle powers should lead France to a 2.0 Gaullist stance. Allied but not aligned. Some confrontations are not ours.”
And so, the fallout over the AUKUS deal, as we are now seeing, has been a severe rift in relations between two historic allies, the U.S. and France.
And the collateral damage may also include NATO.
The AUKUS controversy puts the future of the transatlantic alliance in question. Recall that Macron has long been a vocal and perceptive critic of the nearly 75-year-old alliance. A self-described disciple of France’s wartime leader and former President Charles de Gaulle, Macron has criticized the foreign policy of his immediate predecessors as a kind of “imported neoconservatism.” His own foreign policy forays can be characterized as a quest for strategic autonomy, away from the dictates of Washington and London.
Biden’s AUKUS debacle just may give Macron the leverage he needs to move the rest of Europe in his direction, toward a foreign policy that rejects the decades-old Atlanticist consensus in favor of a continental security architecture that takes into account the interests of all of Europe, as de Gaulle once put it, “from the Atlantic to the Urals.”
At a minimum, the AUKUS debacle may have the effect of pushing France closer together with its old ally Russia. Macron may double down on his policy of detente with the Kremlin, which only recently was the target of criticism by his partners in the EU.
This would leave Anglo-American neoconservatives and liberal hawks seething, but such a development might be just what is needed for a stable and peaceful future for Europe.
James W. Carden is a writing fellow at Globetrotter and a former adviser to the U.S. State Department. Previously, he was a contributing writer on foreign affairs at the Nation, and his work has also appeared in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, the American Conservative, Asia Times, and more.
This article was produced by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord.
There has existed a correlation between the outward political realm and the personal lives of the American public since the very establishment of the United States. The intertwined nature of personal and political matters has culminated in a movement that holds a continuing influence into the modern day, aptly referred to as, “the personal is political,” an ideological result of 1960’s second-wave feminism. As suggested by the name of this ideological development, “the personal is political” essentially translates that that there are established connections between the personal lives of women and the existing political structures surrounding them. This cultural and political hegemony as maintained against women since coincides with the interconnections of race, class, and gender and the effects of the capitalist system on these institutions, thus maintaining both a dialectic and a materialist connection within this sect of feminist and social theory.
Of the many personal issues faced among women, one of the most touching, sensitive, and personal issues women have historically faced that hold political connections is the issue of sexuality and racism. The 1920s was a considerably eventful decade for the African-American population of the US, particularly referring to what is known as “The Great Migration,” wherein a myriad of black people made haste in the chaos of World War One and migrated from the southern US into the northern states in search of economic freedom not well known throughout the south. The experiences of black women in Harlem, NY throughout the so-called “roaring twenties” depict the status quo of race and gender in the Harlem society. It was in particular that this cultural status quo influenced the Harlem criminal justice system of the time.
Mabel Hampton was a young African-American woman living in Harlem during the 1920s, who herself garnered a great deal of experience dealing with Harlem police and their incessant racial bias. As an effect of the racial pseudoscience that was accepted as fact in the early twentieth century, the Harlem Police displayed an inherent racial bias in how they conducted their business. Due to the established double jeopardy of being both a woman and a person of color, the business of the police additionally contained a distortion of sexuality and the image of black women. Through a racially driven construction of sexuality, the “Jezebel” stereotype for black women had become to many a fact of life rather than a socially created falsehood. This pseudoscience acted as a drive for Harlem police to substantially target black women for charges of vagrancy, prostitution, and other racial and sexually related accusations, often without firm reason for suspicion beyond racist ideology. “Racial stereotypes led the police and Bedford administrators to view black women’s ‘sexual delinquency’ as natural, rather than judging the conduct of individuals.” In the case of Mabel Hampton, she had faced unlawful arrest on false accusations of prostitution by Harlem forces.
It is often that racism and classism go hand in hand within the criminal justice system, and so too is the case of Mabel Hampton in the 1920s. Tracing the historical basis of the ideological standpoint of “the personal is political” all the way back to the institutions of chattel slavery and Jim Crow, the perpetuation of racial stereotypes regarding black women has often resulted in the complete disregard, trivializing, or outright shifting of blame in cases of rape, violence, and other forms of sexual assault against black women throughout the United States. Through the nature of race, class, and gender in synthesis, racial stereotypes regarding the sexuality and sexual experiences of black women are reinforced through the outlet of dejure racism, which is essentially racism at the level of state and federal action. At one time it was considered a fact when one claimed that black women were “complicit” in being raped. This notion stemmed from the legacy of slavery and the evolution of white supremacy in the late 18th – early 19th centuries, in which the southern US in particular sought to perpetuate the myth of black women being promiscuous and immoral.
Beyond the realm of the police force itself, the court system acts as the highest form in which he personal side of life connects with the political. This dichotomy, in regards to the issues of the domestic variety, culminates often in the confines of the municipal court system. It was in the post-WWII era of the United States that the municipal system witnessed a rise in domestic abuse and other domestic cases being presented by black women. The dialectical relation between race, class, and gender is omnipresent in viewing the functions of the municipal court, coinciding the highly personal issue of domestic life and issues within internal relationships. Similarly to Mabel Hampton, the criminal justice system in terms of domesticity has held great effect on the personal lives of women.
The lens of criminal justice lacked a sort of consciousness in regards to class dynamic and economic material conditions, with one decision or another by the court resulting in an advancement of disenfranchisement and suffering. The double jeopardy of being black and a woman had culminated into a new form, one that may have intended to protect women and ensure at least some sense of security, however those intentions were lost in the actual application of the court methodology. The impotence of the municipal court, essentially, resulted in a myriad of women who went to such institutions were often dragged further into a world of economic hardship and abuse. This dichotomy is represented by he fact that; “Women who were financially dependent on their husbands were more vulnerable to abuse, and abuse could reinforce a woman’s poverty by injuring and isolating them.” This cyclic process of abuse was especially felt on the economic foundation of women and their domestic situation, for instance whenever black women facing abuse were able to look for a settlement within the court, there was a lack of planning to ensure a sturdy foundation of economic assistance. Women in these court proceedings were many a time granted what can be colloquially referred to as a “divorcee’s third,” in essence meaning that in deciding the amount of support a woman should receive, it was more often than not equivalent to a third of her spouse’s income. The income of the men in these court proceedings was usually on the lower side, meaning that the compensation given to these women had hardly put a dent into any of their financial or physical needs. To quote a woman involved in such a case; “When you take a man into court you hardly get enough to pay a babysitter.”
The diaspora of global capitalism directly effects not only women who were born and raised in the United States, it extends into the realm of immigration in synthesis with the link between race, class, and gender, in addition to the notion that “the personal is political.” The plight of Asian women throughout American history had been burdened immensely by the establishing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, otherwise known as the Page Act of 1875. Xenophobic through and through, the issue of a woman’s “morality” had ultimately become a great factor in creating and enforcing the doctrine of the Page Act. Similar to the white perceptions of black women, the orientalist views of white men treated Chinese women with nearly as little respect, a San Francisco politician even claiming; “As a class Chinese are intelligent, among the multitudes of Chinese women in our state there is not a wife or virtuous female in their numbers.” Designed to prevent the trafficking of women, the real world practices of the American consular had quite often been seen as humiliating by Chinese women who faced such interrogation. Due to the fear of lack of morality and the fear of prostitution rings being created, a plethora of Chinese women wishing to immigrate into the US were extended the burden of proving that they were not prostitutes or involved with prostitution.
Korean women who had immigrated to the United States in line with their marriage to an American G.I. additionally faced a dilemma blurring the lines between personal and political. The personal identity of these Korean brides were effectively under attack from the cultural and political standards held within the US. In order to properly “Americanize,” otherwise known as a form of assimilation, it was expected of Korean women entering the US to essentially forget and disown the entirety if not close to the entirety of her cultural and ethnic heritage, all for the sake of the satisfaction of an often controlling or abusive husband. These women who traveled from South Korea to the United States were practically forced to adapt to and eat solely Americanized food, with little to no access to recreating the food that they grew up with, citing Americanized dishes as “heavy, greasy, and bland.”
Korean war bride’s path of assimilation went beyond their diet (which in and of itself was detrimental to their physical health), it was often that the physical appearance of these brides was forced to undergo a change. Encompassing the Cold War hysteria that essentially fueled the Korean War, in addition to the racial pseudo-science that dominated much of 20th century America, a variety of Korean women had acted to alter the very appearance of their eyes to strengthen their ability of “westernization.” “Korean military brides were considered both cultural and racial threats to the U.S., which influenced many Korean women, especially those who wished to marry American soldiers, to alter their eyes in the 1950s.” An effort to “deracialize” themselves, Korean women sought to alter their physical features to appear similar to those of the white “race,” all in order to ease the process of assimilation and neutralize the racial “threat” to the American status quo.
Whereas Chinese women had effectively been barred from entering the United States due to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the fear of prostitution rings establishing, when Koreans had immigrated into the US they were met with cultural hostility and the forced erasure of heritage. Had the number of Chinese women been able to freely immigrate or married an American would they too have had to face the crisis of assimilation?
Race, class, and gender have acted in synthesis since the conception of race emerged through European Imperialism, and said synthesis saw a great deal attention during the Civil Rights Era. Women, particularly black women at this time, faced what is known as “double jeopardy,” essentially that they were subject to systematic oppression of being women and being African-American, both considered anywhere from second class citizens to absolute dehumanization. This systemic oppression more often than not affected the day to day life of these women, especially with Jim Crow ideology remaining the status quo of American Capitalism and the political structure itself. The instituting of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 aided in putting an end to the de jure racism and sexism targeted at black women, specifically Title VII of the Act. Title VII, effectively; “outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race.” It was thanks to the influence of Title VII that a system of affirmative action had been put in place, a system that sought to provide, at least in theory, a stronger sense of equality for African-American women (and men) in the field of employment. Despite the efforts of the mostly Conservative-dominated government in the post-Civil Rights era to undermine these affirmative action programs, such programs were and still are a necessity in the climate of American Capitalism in order to ensure, at least at some level, equal opportunity and economic strength for the African-American population.
On the note of governmental legislation, in the last twenty years there have been numerous incarnations of the Violence Against Women Act, originating in 1994 as a part of Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The effectiveness of this act, however, has come into question on several occasions. In what can effectively be considered a precursor to the infamous Brock Turner incident of 2015-2016, a woman by the name of Christine Brzonkala had been the victim of rape conducted by two football players at VPI, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, within the span of her first semester at this institution. The two men who committed this act had even boasted about their action, perpetuating the phenomenons of toxic masculinity and rape culture under patriarchal Capitalism. Furthermore, the two football players saw little to no repercussion for what they had committed, facing nothing more than a two semester suspension. This suspension, however, meant nothing, seeing as VPI had decided that such was “excessive punishment.”
It took until 2013, over a decade since the Brzonkala controversy, for the VAWA to include those within the LGBTQ+ sphere, and subsequently to include the plight of Native American women facing persisting discrimination. Within the racist institution of reservations, Native American women had finally been granted the ability to fight against sexual assault and similar actions that threaten the bodily autonomy of Native American women. As of 2013, the Violence Against Women Act “permits Native American women who are assaulted on reservations to press charges against non-Indians in tribal courts.” While this is certainly an improvement for the lives of Native women, this legislation had been long overdue considering the vast history of abuses and injustices committed against the Native American population since the first of the European settlers arrived on this soil.
History has not been kind to women, with women who fall under the thumb of white supremacy and patriarchal capitalism facing some of the most headstrong, excessive denial of basic rights and opportunities. “The personal is political” is something that describes the plight of women of color, immigrant women, and other such groups subject to the nature of patriarchal capitalism, in addition to the many injustices that have been perpetuated against other groups of women throughout history. The hegemony of Capitalism expands not only into the development of other nations, it expands into the daily lives of millions upon millions of women living in the United States.
Cheryl D. Hicks, “Mabel Hampton in Harlem: Regulating Black Women’s Sexuality in the 1920s,” in Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 437.
Hicks, “Mabel Hampton in Harlem: Regulating Black Women’s Sexuality in the 1920s,” pp. 438-439.
Lisa Levenstein, “Hard Choices at 1801 Vine: African American Women, Child Support, and Domestic Violence in Postwar Philadelphia,” in Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 650.
Levenstein, “Hard Choices at 1801 Vine: African American Women, Child Support, and Domestic Violence in Postwar Philadelphia,” 651.
“Chinese Exclusion: The Page Act and Its Aftermath,” in Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 412.
Ji-Yeon Yuh, “Korean Military Brides: Cooking American, Eating Korean,” from Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 641.
Claire Lee, “Uncovering History of Double Eyelid Surgery,” from The Korea Herald, Sep. 11, 2015
Civil Rights Act, Title VII, 1964, from Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 745.
Violence Against Women Act, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2013, from Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 8th Edition, Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016), 757.
Violence Against Women Act, 1994, 2000, 2005, 2013, 758.
Jymee C is an aspiring Marxist historian and teacher with a BA in history from Utica College, hoping to begin working towards his Master's degree in the near future. He's been studying Marxism-Leninism for the past five years and uses his knowledge and understanding of theory to strengthen and expand his historical analyses. His primary interests regarding Marxism-Leninism and history include the Soviet Union, China, the DPRK, and the various struggles throughout US history among other subjects. He is currently conducting research for a book on the Korean War and US-DPRK relations. In addition, he is a 3rd Degree black belt in karate and runs the YouTube channel "Jymee" where he releases videos regarding history, theory, self-defense, and the occasional jump into comedy https://www.youtube.com/c/Jymee
In his book The Palestine Communist Party Musa Budeiri explores the history of the book’s namesake which attempted to unite the Palestinian and Jewish populations in Palestine into a united revolutionary front. Budeiri divides the party’s near 30-year history into three periods mainly based on changes in the party’s policy towards the specific situation in Palestine. Throughout its short history the Palestine Communist Party adopted many different positions regarding the specific situation in Palestine and their successes and failures reflect the difficulties of applying a Marxist analysis in a settler-colonial context.
The party grew out of the “labor Zionist” movement of the early 20th century in the Jewish community of Palestine known as the Yishuv. Budeiri dates the party’s early period between its creation in 1919 and 1929. The first decade of activity was characterized by varying stances towards Zionism and attempts to work within Zionist labor groups which excluded Palestinian workers. This flirting with Zionism ended in 1924 when the party was expelled from the Histadrut (the Yishuv’s exclusively Jewish labor organization) and accepted by the Commintern as the official communist party of Palestine. With this, the party began to characterize Zionism as a pawn of British imperialism in Palestine and called for a joint Palestinian-Jewish proletarian struggle against their bourgeoisie. Despite this proclaimed internationalism, party membership was nearly entirely Jewish and had little presence among the majority the Palestinian population. Changing this would be a major focus of the party’s second phase between 1930 and 1942.
Under the influence of the Commintern, the party set out to attract more Arab members and become a truly territorial party reflective of the actual population in Palestine. This policy change entailed a greater focus on the Palestinian anticolonial struggle and establishing Palestinian leadership of the party. The party succeeded at this task in many ways becoming an important influence in the Palestinian labor movement and playing a supporting role in the Arab Revolt between 1936 and 1939. However, this stance caused a rift between Palestinian and Jewish communists on the role of the Yishuv which would only widen in World War II. The failure to resolve this question led to the party’s split in 1942 which created separate Palestinian and Jewish communist parties. These parties would continue until 1948 and the nakba which effectively ended any cross-community communist party.
There are many lessons to be drawn from the experience of the PCP, but I think the most important is regarding its answer to the question of settler-colonialism and the role of the Yishuv in Palestine. The party correctly recognized the policy of the British government to provoke religious and ethnic conflict to prevent united resistance to their colonization. With this, the party initially sought to promote unity between Palestinian and Jewish workers with appeals to overthrow their respective bourgeoisie. Even after the party placed its support firmly behind the Palestinian national struggle, it never came to a final resolution to the Yishuv’s presence in Palestine and many within the party hoped to continue working within it. This strategy, while appealing to Marxist sensibilities of proletarian solidarity, failed to account for the imperial and settler-colonial situation in Palestine. The party failed to recognize the extent of support for Zionism within the Yishuv and its ability to draw thousands of settlers to Palestine. On the other hand, as far as the Palestinain population was concerned the ever-growing Yishuv itself was as foreign entity and an ally of British imperialism. Thus, its constant growth, exclusionary economic policies and constant demand for land represented a threat to Palestinian society. So, while the party’s attempts to peel the Yishuv away from Zionism landed on infertile ground, its appeals to proletarian solidarity failed to resonate among an agrarian Palestinian population resisting colonization which it saw represented in the expanding Yishuv.
In this book, Musa Budeiri ably explains the considerable successes of the Palestine Communist party as a joint Palestinian-Jewish party, it also explores the root causes of their ultimate failure. That was the party’s inability to provide a satisfactory answer to the question of settler-colonialism and truly reconcile the interests of Jewish settlers with indigenous Palestinians. In this book we can see the importance for any communis party in a settler-colonial to provide a solution to these issues and find ways to foster the revolutionary national aspirations of colonized people.
Alex Zambito was born and raised in Savannah, GA. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2017 with a degree in History and Sociology. He is currently seeking a Masters in History at Brooklyn College. His Interest include the history of Socialist experiments and proletarian struggles across the world.
Members of BCTGM Local 364 on the picket line earlier in September. They were joined by progressive Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer, standing third from left. | Donnajo Calhoun-Marks / via BCTGM
PORTLAND, Ore. —You can buy and eat Oreo cookies again. Just make sure they’re made in the U.S.A., especially in Portland, Ore., not in Monterrey, Mexico.
The reason we specify Portland is it’s where Mondelez workers, at that Nabisco cookie and snack plant, fed up with company refusal to bargain a new and better contract at a time of record earnings, started what became a national walkout by the firm’s workers, all Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) members.
Key issues were not just raises, but working conditions. Those sometimes included back-to-back 12-to-16-hour shifts, BCTGM said.
The workers at the firm’s five U.S. snack plants, including Portland and Chicago, didn’t get all they wanted, but they got a lot from the firm and overwhelmingly ratified the contract, said union President Anthony Shelton.
“This has been a long and difficult fight for our striking members, their families, and our union. Throughout the strike, our members displayed tremendous courage, grit, and determination,” he said Sept. 18.
“The BCTGM is grateful for the outpouring of fraternal support and solidarity we received from across the labor movement in the U.S. and around the world,” including from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, a Portland native, said Shelton.
The workers demanded an end to forced 12-to-16-hour shifts, often back-to-back, known as “suicide shifts,” and six-or-seven-day workweeks. They also wanted better wages and benefits, including restoring their pensions, which Mondelez had replaced with “an inferior program” in 2018, and improved overtime and health insurance provisions.
BCTGM did not disclose specifics of what it won. But moreperfectunion.us, a pro-worker video website, reported the contract includes a 60-cents-per-hour wage increase for each year in its four-year term, a $5,000 signing bonus for all employees, and eliminating two-tiered health insurance which hurt new workers.
BCTGM argued Mondelez can afford to be generous, as the coronavirus pandemic drove the country indoors, snacking away. Its revenue last quarter was $6.64 billion, 12% more than the equivalent quarter of a year before, and its year-on-year revenue increased 3%.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on horseback charge toward migrants as they cross the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. | Felix Marquez / AP
In response to the escalating humanitarian crisis for Haitians and other forced migrants, Fred Redmond, President of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO wrote the following:
Working people in the Americas face increasing levels of displacement due to extreme push factors such as political instability, natural disasters, lawlessness, violence, lack of decent work, and failure to protect fundamental human and labor rights. In the face of escalating forced migration, governments in the region have two core obligations: to address the root causes driving working families from their homes and to provide meaningful humanitarian support to desperate people on the move.
In the face of relentless political, public health, and economic crises in Haiti, government responses have been woefully inadequate on both fronts. While countries such as the United States, Brazil, and Chile have undertaken some important measures to protect Haitian migrants, those steps have been uneven and partial.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of displaced families face discrimination and life threatening conditions as they continue to move in search of stability and a means of survival.
And now, despite the severity of last month’s earthquake, the U.S. government has resumed large-scale deportation of Haitian migrants back to a devastated nation many of them left more than a decade ago. This is an outrage.
Haitians deported from the United States arrive at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport, in Port au Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Sep. 19, 2021. | Rodrigo Abd / AP
Trade unions in the region remind our governments that the only way to achieve true security is through humane policies that uphold the rights and dignity of all working people, regardless of where we were born or the color of our skin. We call for an immediate end to the forced return of asylum seekers to harm’s way and we call for robust humanitarian aid to provide food and shelter to the Haitian people and support union efforts to rebuild their country.
As a labor movement fighting for democracy, racial justice, the rule of law, and human and trade union rights, our unions will continue to push our governments to do right by the Haitian people and by all working people in the Americas. We will also continue to organize for mutual aid and defense, and take action to help Haitians and other forced migrants access the support and protections they need and deserve.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
Fred Redmond is president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He was formerly vice president of the United Steelworkers.
Border Patrol unleashes horrific violence amid mass deportation of Haitian refugees. By: Sameena RahmanRead Now
One the largest expulsions of migrants and refugees in decades is underway, with up to 14,000 Haitians targeted for deportation. The Haitian refugees are along the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas seeking asylum. This racist mass deportation has sparked nationwide outrage after horrific images emerged of border patrol officers on horseback assaulting the refugees with whips.
The Biden administration is carrying out the deportation on the basis of a Trump-era order to remove essentially all migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border on the pretext of supposedly protecting public health amid the pandemic. This policy is called Title 42.
The U.S. flew three 145-passenger planes into Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Sunday, beginning the operation that has intensified since. Officials in Haiti pleaded with the United States to halt the mass deportations, citing food and housing shortages in the country especially given the political turmoil after President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in July. Haiti also experienced a 7.2-magntitude earthquake last month. This further spiraled the country into turmoil as 800,000 people were impacted, according to United Nations estimates. The Biden administration temporarily halted deporations but later changed course.
The United States’ constant meddling in the country’s affairs has deprived the Haitian people of basic democratic rights and fomented deep divisions in the country. Rachel Domond, a Boston-based organizer with the ANSWER Coalition, described the roots of the situation, “While right now, Haitians may be fleeing the cataclysmic impacts of an earthquake that took the lives of thousands and injured many more, for decades Haitians have been fleeing the deadly impacts of imperialist intervention in their country that have both made and kept Haiti the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.” Domond added, “The constant cycle of intervention, propping up of misleaders and dictators, and exploitation of Haitian labor by U.S. imperialism has left Haiti extremely unstable.”
The United States is directly culpable for the suffering of Haitian people, and “Across Latin America, the Caribbean and the world, U.S. imperialism has created unlivable conditions, yet criminalizes those who seek to take refuge in the United States from those very conditions,” said Domond.
Throughout history, Haiti has been a top target of the United States and other imperialist governments that could never tolerate the existence of an independent republic formed on the basis of a successful slave revolt. They have been obsessed with preventing the people of Haiti from achieving true sovereignty ever since. As the United States cruelly expels Haitians fleeing from the circumstances it created, it is more crucial than ever for people in the United States to demand an end to these deportations and the imperialist interventions that lay at their root.
This article was produced by Liberation News.
Electoral Politics Does Not Work: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix. By: Caitlin JohnstoneRead Now
It says a lot that AOC wasn’t even able to vote against an Israeli apartheid measure that everyone already knew would pass regardless of her vote.
I mean, how far gone is your progressive revolution if you’re not even allowed to have a perfectly safe performative “no” vote? If even the illusion of opposition is banned?
People say, “Why pick on AOC when other lawmakers are way worse?”
They’re not worse, they just perform different functions. The Manchins and Sinemas kill leftward movement openly, the AOCs encourage the left to feed their political energy into a party that’s built to kill leftward movement.
It happens that one of these manipulations is much easier for leftwardy-inclined people to see than the other; it’s easier to recognize Manchin and Sinema-type bullshit than AOC-type bullshit. So you’ll see some factions on the left putting special emphasis on pointing out the one that the general public needs a lot more help recognizing.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but there is no functional difference between a politician who votes a certain way because they want to and a politician who votes a certain way because systemic pressures push them to.
It’s like Trump supporters saying he wanted to fight the Deep State but the Deep State wouldn’t let him. It’s like, okay, so? Who gives a fuck? Either he’s an asshole or an impotent puppet, either way fuck him. Same with AOC and her constant establishment capitulations. Whether they’re serving the empire because they want to or because they have to, it’s clear and undeniable that electoral politics isn’t the way to advance the interests of normal human beings. The system simply does not allow for that.
The absolute least important thing in the universe is how some politician’s feelings are feeling inside. It does not matter what secret intentions they have in their heart. All that matters is what they do. If they can’t do what you need them to, it means they’re useless. Period.
The single greatest threat to freedom and democracy is not foreign governments, nor the authoritarian measures being implemented by our own governments, but the fact that giant media and tech companies are used to continuously manipulate the way people think about all of those governments.
You are not free if your mind is not free. It doesn’t matter if you were free to say and do whatever you want if the powerful are still actively manipulating the thoughts you think, because all your words and actions will arise from those thoughts. Mental sovereignty comes first.
In an alternate universe the governments of a parallel Earth responded to the pandemic by pouring money into healthcare systems, transferring wealth from their nations’ richest to their poorest, and saying “Here’s a new vaccine but it’s up to you whether you use it or not.”
It’s true that knowledge is power. That’s why the powerful work to control people’s access to knowledge through the internet and news media. It’s also why there’s privacy for the powerful and radical transparency for the public, instead of the other way around as it ought to be.
Biden proclaiming that the US is no longer at war because he moved a few thousand troops out of Afghanistan is the most Trump-like thing that has happened so far in this very Trumpian administration.
The US is like “We do not seek a new cold war, we simply seek to remain the unipolar dominator of the entire planet and maintain the ability to unilaterally destroy smaller nations which disobey us. And we’ll do anything to accomplish this, including waging a new cold war.”
George W Bush should never be able to give any speech anywhere without people in the audience cutting him off to yell about his war crimes.
Invented a highly effective new antidepressant that I hope to get to the market ASAP. It’s not a pill it’s just a big wad of cash taken by force from giant corporations.
Mothers and nurses work harder than any billionaire on earth.
People complain about how I do my thing here and say I should do it some other way, and I totally get it. One time I went to an AC/DC concert and they played not one note of smooth jazz. I was so angry.
We are ruled by a nuclear-armed globe-spanning power structure which is driving our world to its doom in myriad ways and that power structure has somehow seamlessly paced us from fearing terrorists to fearing Russian hackers to fearing anti-vaxxers instead of fearing it.
Someone who calls you an “anti-vaxxer” for expressing moderate and reasonable human rights concerns about brand new government policies that affect everyone deserves as much respect as someone who calls you an “anti-semite” for voicing legitimate criticisms of Israeli apartheid.
Having principles means having them even when they don’t further your personal agenda. You may enjoy the sight of having your politics enforced by gunpoint today, but it completely demolishes your voice and integrity when police brutality comes for you tomorrow. Those little self-serving lies that we tell ourselves about how our principles don’t apply here because of blah-blah reason are the levers by which the powerful manipulate us into further and further submission.
Propaganda works because it plugs into our most fundamental egoic mechanisms: identity and fear. Identify tightly with a group or political faction and you’ll accept propaganda which comes from there. Be driven by fear and that will be used to herd you into power-serving agendas.
If you want to free your mind from the chains of power it’s not enough to do research and memorize a bunch of facts. The most important step to freeing your mind from its shackles is to remove from yourself the psychological hooks to which those shackles are attached.
My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.
This article is produced by Caitlin Johnstone.
Though John Deere factory workers are divided politically, they have one thing in common, says UAW Local 74 member Chris Laursen: "Everybody’s sick of Deere and sick of the International and ready to stick it to them.” Photo: Charles & Hudson (CC BY-SA 2.0, cropped from original)
UPDATE, September 13: On Sunday, all nine UAW locals at John Deere were presented with the company's first offer and took their own strike authorization votes. According to workers at those meetings, the company proposed a long list of concessions, including an end to the moratorium on plant closures, increasing workers' health insurance premium payments from 0 percent to 20 percent, and an end to overtime after eight hours. While company-wide numbers weren't yet available, among plants where numbers have been reported so far, 99 percent of voting members authorized a strike.
Ten thousand production and warehouse workers for the farm equipment manufacturer John Deere will take a strike authorization vote September 12 across nine Auto Workers (UAW) locals in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas.
Strike authorizations at bargaining time are not unusual for John Deere workers, and they haven’t struck in 35 years, but there are reasons to watch this round of negotiations closely.
The last contract in 2015 passed very narrowly, by fewer than 200 votes out of 10,000 eligible voters, who traded rising health care costs for a small pay bump.
The largest Deere local, Waterloo Local 838, rejected that contract 2 to 1; Ottumwa Local 74 also turned it down. Hundreds of laid-off workers were allowed to vote on it, though—and with a hefty $3,500 ratification bonus, many of them, unsure they’d have a job to return to either way, took the deal.
This time around, UAW leaders plan to present Deere’s first offer along with the strike authorization ballot—a step forward from 2015, when workers voting on a strike authorization got no details about what was being offered.
The pandemic makes it an interesting time to bargain a new contract for John Deere. In many ways workers are in a strong position.
For one thing, the company is struggling to find enough workers to hire. Josh Saunders, committeeman for Local 865 at the Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, attributes that to low starting wages and frequent layoffs with weak recall rights. “Before, this was the job to have in the Quad Cities,” he said. “Now they have trouble finding people.”
‘DEERE CANNOT FACE A LONG STRIKE’
The seasonal timing also gives UAW the edge, according to Chris Laursen of Local 74 in Ottumwa, Iowa. “Negotiations wrap up in September, and farmers buy farm equipment after harvest,” he said. “They get paid, and that’s when they’re looking to buy more balers, harvesters, things like that. Deere cannot face a long strike.”
Parts supply shortages induced by Covid have created problems at the Harvester Works. Production workers get paid based on a complicated piece rate formula called the “Continuous Improvement Pay Plan” (CIPP, pronounced “kip”). Essentially, management sets a rate for production and workers get paid bonuses according to whether or not their group hits that rate.
According to the contract, the rates are set aside during “planned disruptions” such as when a new product is being introduced or the plant undergoes retooling. But despite the current parts shortages, workers are getting penalized for not hitting their rates—an impossible task. The CIPP issues are so bad at Harvester that Saunders says, “This year, we’re going to write more grievances than since the ’80s.”
None of these supply issues have hurt Deere’s bottom line much, though. The company just reported $1.6 billion in profits for the latest quarter—compared to half that for the same quarter in 2020.
So far 2021 is the company’s most profitable year yet, beating a record set in 2013. Deere has used those profits to hike dividends by 17 percent. Bill Gates owns nearly a billion dollars in Deere shares. There’s money to spend.
The minimum starting wage at John Deere is $19.14 an hour.
‘EVERYBODY’S SICK OF DEERE’
Deere workers have operated under a two-tier retirement benefit since 1997, earlier than most other UAW units. Pre-1997 hires earn higher pensions and have stronger post-retirement health care coverage, while post-’97 hires have seen out-of-pocket health care costs rise as their plan covers less.
Health care looms large in the current negotiations. Deere remains one of the few agricultural implements companies where workers pay no premiums; other UAW shops like Caterpillar have gone to an 80/20 health care premiums scheme. (Defending premium-free health care was the central issue in the recent Steelworkers strike at Allegheny Technologies; the strikers succeeded.)
Laursen thinks anger at how the 2015 ratification was handled—workers got only a couple hours to review the union’s summary of contract “highlights” before voting—and members’ frustration over the UAW corruption scandals make a strike more likely.
“The membership is really divided politically,” he said. “It depends on what flavor of corporate media you’re watching. I will tell you, the one commonality that we all share is everybody’s sick of Deere and sick of the [UAW] International and ready to stick it to them.”
This article was produced by Labor Notes.
This original article by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez analyses the recently-announced AUKUS military pact in the context of the Biden administration’s aggressive foreign policy. The article points out that any pro-peace hopes in Biden have been comprehensively dashed; this administration is pursuing an imperialist New Cold War with all the zeal of its predecessor.
After four years of Trump’s unhinged anti-China rhetoric, combined with the intensification of US diplomatic and economic attacks on China, many people on the left and in the anti-war movement breathed a sigh of relief upon Joe Biden’s arrival in the White House.
Gone were such fanatical China hawks as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Stephen Bannon, Robert Lighthizer and Peter Navarro. Gone was the bombastic and openly demagogic style of the far-right Republican administration, with its racism, its blackmail, its threats. Perhaps it would now be possible to end the trade war; to accept China’s emergence as an important global power; to build an environment conducive to urgently-needed cooperation on climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation and peace.
The leopard has not changed its spots
Such hopes were misplaced, and have since been comprehensively dashed. As Demetri Sevastopulo noted in the Financial Times back in April, “Joe Biden’s hawkish stance on China has been much closer to that of his predecessor Donald Trump than experts had predicted.” Biden has made it abundantly clear that he has every intention of continuing – and indeed escalating – the New Cold War against China, stating: “China has an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world; that’s not going to happen on my watch.”
One of the Biden team’s first acts in the realm of foreign policy was to work to undermine the EU-China investment deal, which is currently still frozen. Nine months into Biden’s administration and there is no sign of Trump’s trade war being dropped, in spite its manifest failure to revive US manufacturing. Biden continues to repeat Trump’s talking points about China’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and its “abuses of the international system.”
Meanwhile the US continues to ramp up its military presence in the South China Sea. The US Coast Guard has commenced a massive upgrade of its fleet, for the specific purpose of “countering China’s growing influence in the region.” This has been combined with increased weapons sales to Taiwan.
Facing the reality of US defeat in Afghanistan, you might expect the US military budget to decrease somewhat, and yet even the relatively moderate proposal by Bernie Sanders to reduce military expenditure by 10 percent has been met with resolute, bipartisan opposition. In fact Biden’s 715 billion dollar defence budget will be the largest in history, making a mockery out of his widely lauded infrastructure plan, which commits to spending 3.5 trillion dollars over 10 years – meaning that he proposes to spend more than twice as much on the military as on solving the most basic needs of the American people.
The information warfare against China has if anything accelerated under Biden. His insistence on spreading conspiracy theories about Covid’s origins – dismissing the WHO’s findings that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” and ordering US intelligence services to conduct a separate investigation focused on the Wuhan Institute of Virology – is nothing more than a sugar-coating of Trump’s flagrant ‘kung flu’ racism. When Trump first put proposed the lab leak hypothesis, Democrats correctly dismissed it as a conspiracy theory; now in the driving seat of the New Cold War, these so-called progressives have chosen to take the same road.
The Democratic administration and its media supporters have amplified the crazed accusations of Mike Pompeo about genocide in Xinjiang. In the first week of the administration, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that the US would “impose costs for what China is doing in Xinjiang, what it is doing in Hong Kong, for the bellicosity and threats that it is projecting towards Taiwan”. Accusing China of “genocide and crimes against humanity” – on the basis of extremely dubious evidence that has been comprehensively debunked (for example by The Grayzone and the Eurispes Institute of Political, Economic and Social Study) – the US, EU, UK and Canada co-ordinated to impose sanctions on China. The Western media has ramped up its slander campaign in order to win broad public support for anti-China actions at an economic, political, diplomatic and military level.
In summary, as Danny Haiphong has observed, when it comes to the New Cold War, Joe Biden is “a Democrat with Trumpian Characteristics.” The imperialist leopard has not changed its spots. Biden is just as committed as his predecessors were to the preservation and expansion of the US-led imperialist world system. The New Cold War on China constitutes the cornerstone of this bipartisan strategy.
AUKUS and the attempted rebuilding of an imperial alliance against China
Trump’s bluster, his crudity and his unfiltered aggressive nationalism served to alienate some of the US’s traditional allies. The longstanding coalition of advanced capitalist countries – the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan – started to fracture under the weight of Trump’s refusal (or inability) to convincingly pretend that neoliberal imperialist plutocracy is good for everyone.
Once installed in the White House, Joe Biden lost no time in declaring that “diplomacy is back” and that he would work to “repair our alliances” in order to “confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.” In particular he promised to coordinate with “other democracies” to contain China.
In June, Biden travelled to the NATO and G7 summits in order to promote this anti-China alliance and to reiterate the importance of a “rules-based international order” A genuinely independent press might have queried whether the phrase “rules-based international order” should actually refer to the existing framework of international law as defined by the United Nations – of which, for example, the US’s wars, drone strikes and unilateral sanctions are a clear violation. Needless to say, such analysis was noteworthy by its absence.
The Quad alliance (the ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’ of the US, Japan, Australia and India), dormant for nearly a decade, was revived by Trump in 2017 as an ‘Asian NATO’ with a mandate to increase military pressure on China. Biden’s administration is picking up this ball and running with it – “making the Quad the core dynamic of its Asia policy.” Biden convened the first leaders’ summit of the Quad in March, and on 24 September 2021 the Quad holds its first ever in-person leaders’ summit.
The latest move in this deepening New Cold War is the announcement on 15 September 2021 of AUKUS – a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US. The pact is designed to “deepen diplomatic, security, and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region” and involves cooperation on cyber warfare, underwater capabilities, and long-range strike capabilities.
The composition of the AUKUS pact serves to expose its nature as a colonial throwback. Boris Johnson may try to present the three countries’ core commonality as being “English-speaking maritime democracies”, but what the world sees is an “alliance of white colonial states” attempting to reassert imperial hegemony and keep the natives in line.
The pact’s most obvious practical significance is in improving Australia’s ability to police the Pacific on behalf of US-led imperialism – specifically, with the aid of nuclear-powered submarines. Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh write that “the aim is to put Australia’s currently diesel-powered navy on a technological par with China’s navy.”
Nobody is in any doubt that AUKUS is part of a strategy to contain and encircle China. Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), observes: “this major new multifaceted defence agreement between the US, UK and Australia sees the latter firmly jump into the US camp and the former strengthen and renew its Pivot to Asia through unashamedly militaristic means.” Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times, describes it as being “ultimately aimed at deterring Chinese power, much as NATO deters Russia in Europe” (Rachman of course considers this a good thing).
Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating argued vociferously against Australia’s membership of such a pact, on the basis that it would induce a “further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty” and that its only objective – “to act collectively in any military engagement by the US against China” – runs counter to Australia’s basic interests.
The provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia certainly violates the spirit – and quite possibly the letter – of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), involving as it does the provision of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear weapons state. Kate Hudson points out that the NPT “stipulates that any sharing of nuclear technology must be ‘for peaceful purposes’, and a military pact does not have ‘peaceful purposes’”.
Given these nuclear submarines will doubtless be deployed in and around the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, AUKUS adds significantly to the threat of the New Cold War turning extremely hot. As the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Britain put it: “The AUKUS military partnership and cooperation on nuclear submarines risk intensifying global arms race, crippling international non-proliferation efforts and severely undermining regional peace and stability.” Even New Zealand, a fellow “English-speaking maritime democracy”, is keeping its distance from AUKUS, stating that Australia’s new nuclear-powered submarines will be banned from New Zealand waters.
Build opposition to the New Cold War
It is an inescapable fact that the Biden administration does not plan to end the New Cold War or pursue a cooperative, multipolar foreign policy. The US remains a hegemonist power, armed to the teeth and ready to risk humanity’s future for the sake of preserving the imperialist status quo.
The fight against the New Cold War therefore requires a global alliance of the socialist countries, the developing world, the working class and oppressed communities in the imperialist heartlands; alongside the peace movement, the environmental movement, and all forces that can be united to oppose this reckless strategy. Cold War benefits only a tiny handful of people. Meanwhile humanity face global problems that require global solutions: climate change, containment and prevention of pandemics, microbial resistance, and the threat of nuclear confrontation.
Kishore Mahbubani puts the case simply and eloquently in his recent book, Has China Won?: “If climate change makes the planet progressively uninhabitable, both American and Chinese citizens will be fellow passengers on a sinking ship.”
The cooperation we urgently need cannot be built in an atmosphere of fear and distrust, in the context of a New Cold War and a relentless slander campaign. Those of us in the West must demand of our governments and media that they cease their hysterical hostility towards China, stop demonising China, stop attempting to prevent its rise, stop constructing military alliances against it, and start creating an environment conducive to deep and lasting cooperation.
China’s approach to international relations provides an example for others to follow: “No matter how the international landscape evolves, China will resolutely safeguard UN’s core role in international affairs, stay firmly on the right side of history, strive to build a community with a shared future for mankind, join hands with all progressive forces in the world, and work tirelessly to advance the noble cause of peace and development for humanity.”
Let us consolidate and expand our forces, and put our shoulders to the wheel of ending the New Cold War.
Carlos Martinez is the author of The End of the Beginning: Lessons of the Soviet Collapse, co-founder of No Cold War and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China. He also runs the blog Invent the Future.
This article was produced by Socialist China.
People's Institute of Applied Religion, founded by Claude C. Williams of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union
“We therefore see that the Christianity of that time [referring to the book of Revelation] which was still unaware of itself, was as different as heaven from earth from the later dogmatically fixed universal religion of the Nicene Council; one cannot be recognized in the other. Here we have neither the dogma nor the morals of later Christianity but instead a feeling that one is struggling against the whole world and that the struggle will be a victorious one; an eagerness for the struggle and a certainty of victory which are totally lacking in Christians of today and which are to be found in our time only at the other pole of society, among the Socialists.’’
The views of the foundational figures of Marxism on the question of religion are not well known, except to depict Marxists as hostile toward religion. A few lines before his infamous depiction of religion as “the opium of the people,” Karl Marx, in an introduction to his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, writes, “The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.” While Marxism undeniably arose from a critique of the atheistic “materialism” of Feuerbach, this distinction Marx makes about “the struggle against religion” is worth noting, and also seems discernable in later Marxist analyses of religion like Lenin’s 1905 essay “Socialism and Religion.” In Lenin’s time, as Karl Polanyi noted, the Czarist (Caesarist) feudal power structure faced little opposition from the ranks of the Orthodox Church. (“The Essence of Fascism”) After the famous “opium of the people” sentence, Marx continues with lines that are less quoted: “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”
Similarly, the views of the foundational figures of Christianity on the question of class struggle are not well known, except those scriptures which can be used to pacify the masses. Rarely is the scripture from the Epistle of James quoted from American pulpits, “Is it not the rich who oppress you?” (James 2:6) In Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, Engels wrote of early Christianity, “What it originally looked like has to be first laboriously discovered again, since its official form, as it has been handed down to us, is merely that in which it became a state religion, to which purpose it was adapted at the council of Nicaea.” In the Epistle of James, the unknown church father warns against showing partiality to those who “wear gold rings,” which in the Roman imperial context certainly included emperors like Constantine. By giving the Roman emperor a seat at the council of Nicaea, the church fathers of the fourth century may have not only been ignoring the warning of James, but may also have been betraying the very counter-imperial theology which proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth the “Son of God,” an epithet of the Roman emperor. If the Roman emperor was the antichrist of John’s Revelation, surely the word of Our Lord would apply, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6)
Church fathers who came just after the generation of Nicaea like Ambrose of Milan and Basil the Great may represent some of the class politics that was considered “orthodox” before the full integration of the church into the Roman Empire. In his sermon “On Naboth,” Saint Ambrose claims that greedy Ahabs and murdered Naboths are born every day, referring to the story in I Kings of a monarch who kills a poor man in order to take his property.
“How far, O rich, do you extend your mad greed? ‘Shall you alone dwell upon the earth’ (Isa. 5:8). Why do you cast out the companion whom nature has given you and claim for yourself nature’s possession? The earth was established in common for all, rich and poor. Why do you alone, O rich, demand special treatment?” (Ambrose “On Naboth”)
Basil the Great says, “The beasts become fertile when they are young, but quickly cease to be so. But capital produces interest from the very beginning, and thus in turn multiplies into infinity. All that grows ceases to do so when it reaches normal size. But the money of the greedy never stops growing.” (Basil, Homily on Psalm 14)
The whole of Christian history is worth analysing from the perspectives of class, patriarchy, disability, ecology, and colonialism. One period of Christian history was analysed by Frederick Engels in his 1850 book The Peasant War in Germany. A rival Reformer to Martin Luther, the German preacher Thomas Müntzer wrote in an 1524 anti-Luther pamphlet titled A Highly Provoked Defense, “Whoever wants to have a clear judgement must not love insurrection, but equally, he must not oppose a justified rebellion.” (Sermon to the Princes) He continues, “The people will be free. And God alone will be lord over them.” (p. 92) A year later, Müntzer was tortured and executed as a leader of the German Peasant Rebellion. While Luther worked to integrate his Reformation into the feudal power structure of 16th century Germany, Müntzer railed against the land-owning nobility who dominated Early Modern Europe. Instead of assimilating to the values of the kingdoms of earth, Müntzer pointed to the example of the early church in Acts 2 and 4: omnia sunt communia — “all things held in common.”
“The stinking puddle from which usury, thievery, and robbery arises is our lords and princes. They make all creatures their property—the fish in the water, the bird in the air, the plant in the earth must all be theirs. Then they proclaim God's commandments among the poor and say, ‘You shall not steal.’” (A Highly Provoked Defense)
Engels describes Müntzer’s gospel in glowing terms: “By the kingdom of God, Muenzer understood nothing else than a state of society without class differences, without private property, and without superimposed state powers opposed to the members of society.”
For many, Müntzer falls into the category of history reserved for so-called “idealists” (not the Hegelian kind per se)—seemingly crazed martyrs like the 19th century abolitionist John Brown. A similar lone radical figure is present in both the synoptic gospel narratives of Jesus’ life and the Antiquities of Josephus.
“A voice crying out in the wilderness
Josephus identifies him as “John, who was called the Baptist.” His account of John’s death reads:
“Now many people came in crowds to him, for they were greatly moved by his words. Herod, who feared that the great influence John had over the masses might put them into his power and enable him to raise a rebellion (for they seemed ready to do anything he should advise), thought it best to put him to death. In this way, he might prevent any mischief John might cause, and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late.” (Jewish Antiquities 18.118)
This account of the reasoning for Herod’s execution of John the Baptist is different from that which is reported in the gospel narratives, but has strong resonances with other passages in Matthew and Luke. A very obscure saying like “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force,” seems to reflect the kind of violent revolutionary conflict that indeed took place in Roman-occupied Palestine. Many rebellions were even led by men who claimed to be the Messiah. There is obvious evidence to support the notion that a potentially historical Jesus of Nazareth chose the path of nonviolent resistance to Roman oppression rather than the path of the Zealots. However, Jesus’ alleged proximity to the figure of John the Baptist may be an indication of the revolutionary nature of the original Jesus movements, or at least the attitudes of the ruling classes towards the movement while it was on the rise. (Horsley’s Jesus and Empire is an accessible primer on first-century Palestinian resistance to Roman rule.)
John the Baptist, who calls the elite factions of Palestine a “brood of vipers,” apparently requested confirmation that Jesus was the “one who is to come” while he was incarcerated in Herod’s prison. As economist Michael Douglas and theologian Sharon Ringe have pointed out, Luke and Matthew record Jesus answering John’s messengers: “The poor have good news brought to them.” While Jesus and John’s movements may have been separate, this message apparently united them. The gospels of Luke and Matthew also corroborate Josephus’s observation that the rulers of Palestine “feared the people.” In Luke, when Jesus asks the religious establishment if John’s baptism was of divine or human authority, they consult amongst themselves, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” Later in the same chapter, Luke says the chief priests and scribes “wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.” (Luke 20:19) Perhaps that is why in Luke 22, the religious leaders enlist the “temple police” to help them apprehend Christ. (22:52) “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless.’” (22:37) Indeed, the cross was typically used to execute slaves like Spartacus, rebels, and bandits.
In 1940, radical folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a song titled “Jesus Christ,” which identifies “the bankers and the preachers,” “the landlord, cops, and soldiers” as the ones who “laid Jesus Christ in his grave.” Guthrie died a poor man in 1967, the same year as his contemporary Langston Hughes, whose poem “Bible Belt” anticipates the theology of the great James Cone:
It would be too bad if Jesus
The Nazarene once proclaimed the gospel in a field: “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Let that kingdom come, through our wills and our actions. Through God’s will and spirit. On earth as in heaven.
Just four verses after Christ’s final sermon in the book of Matthew (‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’), a woman comes to anoint Jesus at the house of a leper. (Matthew 26) When his disciples try to condemn the woman’s use of fine perfume as wasteful, Jesus responds in what I imagine to be the sarcastic tone he used toward the Pharisees and Herodians who tried to catch him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. As Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis shows in her book Always With Us?, the phrase, “You will always have the poor with you,” is a reference to the law of Jubilee in Deuteronomy, a book Matthew’s gospel draws heavily from.
“Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. [...] There will be no one in need among you, if only you will obey the Lord your God by observing this entire commandment.” (Deuteronomy 15)
Let the law be fulfilled in our hearing and doing.
Luke’s gospel, cited repeatedly above, seems to present a more noticeably class-conscious version of the already egalitarian good news presented in Matthew and Mark. As Dennis MacDonald has noted, the Gospel of John, known as the latest gospel, seems to take issue with some of Luke’s narrative—notably in his transformation of Lazarus the parabolic homeless man into a friend of Jesus who is raised from the dead. Both Lazarus stories deal with resurrection: in Luke, a rich man who ignored the begging Lazarus at his gate, calls out to Abraham from the fires of Hades, asking him to send Lazarus back to the land of the living to warn his family of the coming judgement on the rich. “Remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony,” Abraham says. “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16)
Revolutionary and first president of Burkina Faso Thomas Sankara said, “No altar, no belief, no holy book, neither the Qur’an nor the Bible nor the others, have ever been able to reconcile the rich and the poor, the exploiter and the exploited. And if Jesus himself had to take the whip to chase them from his temple, it is indeed because that is the only language they hear.”
The exploitation of the poor by the rich is indeed condemned by our holy books, from the prophets Micah, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, through the gospels and epistles. After rejecting the rich young ruler, Christ says with God all things are possible. But a camel does not pass through the eye of a needle without a miracle. (Mark 10)
If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Such blindness befalls a world which bows before the altar of Mammon. The imperialist “wisdom of the rulers of this age” is foolishness to God. The economy was made for humanity, not humanity for the economy.
Historian Christopher Wilson wrote recently about Juneteenth for the Zinn Education Project, “As with an incarcerated prisoner who may be told she is free, until the prison bars are unlocked that word only results in theoretical freedom.”
Freedom, abolition, and justice are words which must become flesh. The epistle of James speaks again, “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers of the word who deceive themselves.”
Mary proclaims the good news of our Deliverer: He lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. For those who cause the least of these to stumble, Christ prophesies the millstone.
“God wept; but that mattered little to an unbelieving age; what mattered most was that the world wept and still is weeping and blind with tears and blood. For there began to rise in America in 1876 a new capitalism and a new enslavement of labor. Home labor in cultured lands, appeased and misled by a ballot whose power the dictatorship of vast capital strictly curtailed, was bribed by high wage and political office to unite in an exploitation of white, yellow, brown and black labor, in lesser lands and “breeds without the law.” Especially workers of the New World, folks who were American and for whom America was, became ashamed of their destiny. Sons of ditch-diggers aspired to be spawn of bastard kings and thieving aristocrats rather than of rough-handed children of dirt and toil. The immense profit from this new exploitation and world-wide commerce enabled a guild of millionaires to engage the greatest engineers, the wisest men of science, as well as pay high wage to the more intelligent labor and at the same time to have left enough surplus to make more thorough the dictatorship of capital over the state and over the popular vote, not only in Europe and America but in Asia and Africa.
“Decolonization never goes unnoticed, for it focuses on and fundamentally alters being, and transforms the spectator crushed to a nonessential state into a privileged actor, captured in a virtually grandiose fashion by the spotlight of History. It infuses a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity. Decolonization is truly the creation of new men. But such a creation cannot be attributed to a supernatural power: The ‘thing’ colonized becomes a man through the very process of liberation. Decolonization, therefore, implies the urgent need to thoroughly challenge the colonial situation. Its definition can, if we want to describe it accurately, be summed up in the well-known words:
Zachary White Kairos fellow, Union Theological Seminar
Clear Away the Hype: The U.S. and Australia Signed a Nuclear Arms Deal, Simple as That. By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
On September 15, 2021, the heads of government of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced the formation of AUKUS, “a new enhanced trilateral security partnership” between these three countries. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined U.S. President Joe Biden to “preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” as Johnson put it.
While China was not explicitly mentioned by these leaders at the AUKUS announcement, it is generally assumed that countering China is the unstated motivation for the new partnership. “The future of the Indo-Pacific,” said Morrison at the press conference, “will impact all our futures.” That was as far as they would go to address the elephant in the room.
Zhao Lijian of the Chinese Foreign Ministry associated the creation of AUKUS with “the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception.” Beijing has made it clear that all talk of security in the Indo-Pacific region by the U.S. and its NATO allies is part of an attempt to build up military pressure against China. The BBC story on the pact made this clear in its headline: “Aukus: UK, US and Australia launch pact to counter China.”
What was the need for a new partnership when there are already several such security platforms in place? Prime Minister Morrison acknowledged this in his remarks at the press conference, mentioning the “growing network of partnerships” that include the Quad security pact (Australia, India, Japan and the United States) and the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States).
A closer look at AUKUS suggests that this deal has less to do with military security and more to do with arms deals.
Prime Minister Morrison announced that “[t]he first major initiative of AUKUS will be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.” Two red flags were immediately raised: first, what will happen to Australia’s preexisting order of diesel-powered submarines from France, and second, will this sale of nuclear-powered submarines violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
In 2016, the Australian government made a deal with France’s Naval Group (formerly known as Direction des Constructions Navales, or DCNS) to supply the country with 12 diesel-electric submarines. A press release from then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his minister of defense (who is the current minister of foreign affairs) Marise Payne said at the time that the future submarine project “is the largest and most complex defence acquisition Australia has ever undertaken. It will be a vital part of our Defence capability well into the middle of this century.”
Australia’s six Collins-class submarines are expected to be decommissioned in the 2030s, and the submarines that were supposed to be supplied by France were meant to replace them. The arms deal was slated to cost “about $90 billion to build and $145 billion to maintain over their life cycle,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Australia has now canceled its deal with the French to obtain the nuclear-powered submarines. These new submarines will likely be built either in the U.S. by Electric Boat, a subdivision of General Dynamics, and Newport News Shipbuilding, a subdivision of Huntington Ingalls Industries, or in the UK by BAE Systems; BAE Systems has already benefited from several major submarine deals. The AUKUS deal to provide submarines to Australia will be far more expensive, given that these are nuclear submarines, and it will draw Australia to rely more deeply upon the UK and U.S. arms manufacturers. France was furious about the submarine deal, with its Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling it a “regrettable decision” that should advance the cause of “European strategic autonomy” from the United States. Words like “betrayal” have flooded the French conversation about the deal.
Australia ratified the NPT in 1973, and it is also a signatory to the Treaty of Rarotonga (1985), or the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty. It does not have nuclear weapons and has pledged not to have nuclear material in the South Pacific. Australia is the second-largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan, and most of this nuclear material is sold to the UK and the U.S. For the past several decades, Australia has been considered a “nuclear threshold” state, but it has opted not to escalate its nuclear weapons program. The three heads of government of Australia, the U.S. and the UK made it clear that the transfer of the nuclear-powered submarines is not the same as the transfer of nuclear weapons, although these new submarines will be capable of launching a nuclear strike. For that reason, not only China but also North Korea has warned about a new arms race in the region after the AUKUS submarine deal.
Morrison admitted during a September 16 press conference that his country has already spent $2.4 billion on the French submarine deal. He did not, however, answer a journalist’s question as to what the ultimate price tag would be for the UK-U.S. nuclear-powered submarines. He asked his Secretary of Defense Greg Moriarty to answer it, to which Moriarty spoke about task forces “that will set up a number of working groups” with the U.S. and UK to look into several issues relating to the deal; but Moriarty also did not touch on the topic about the price tag. One of the questions asked at the press conference with regard to the cost to Australian taxpayers was whether Australia would buy the Astute (UK) class submarines or the Virginia (U.S.) class, since this decision has a bearing on the cost. The Virginia class submarine, according to a recent U.S. Congressional Research Service study, costs $3.45 billion per vessel. To this must be added the cost of upgrading the naval bases in Australia and the cost of running and maintaining the submarines. The U.S. and the UK firms will make considerable profits from this deal.
Ever since the Australians signed the deal with the French, media houses associated with the U.S.-based Rupert Murdoch have attacked it. Any small delay was picked up to be clobbered, and any adjustment to the contract—including a change in contract proposed on March 23, 2021—became front-page news. Aware of the problems, France’s Foreign Minister Le Drian spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Paris on June 25 about the deal. He told the French-speaking Blinken that the submarine contract is not only a French one but also a French-U.S. partnership since Lockheed Martin is party to the deal. French attempts to get U.S. buy-in to the deal came to nothing as the Biden administration was already in talks with the UK and Australia on their own regarding the AUKUS deal. That is why the language of “betrayal” is so pronounced in Paris.
On September 16, the Australian and U.S. governments released a joint statement that included a direct attack on China, with reference to the South China Sea, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Two days later, an article in Australia’s leading newspaper, the Australian, by Paul Monk, who is the head of the China Desk at Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organization, stated that his government should “facilitate a coup within China’s Communist Party.” This is a direct call for regime change in China by Australia.
The belligerent language from Australia should not be taken lightly. Even though China is Australia’s largest trading partner (both in terms of exports and imports), the creation of these new military pacts—with a nuclear edge to them—threatens security in the region. If this is merely an arms deal hidden behind a military pact, then it is a cynical use of war-making rhetoric for business purposes. This cynicism could eventually lead to a great deal of suffering.
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.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
As a longtime Hawaii resident, I have always wondered how the former President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, was so ineffective when it came to foreign policy matters. His efforts to right the wrong of the unauthorized armed invasion and imprisonment of the last sovereign monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen Liliʻuokalani, in 1893 fell woefully short. Corporate and military forces influenced Congress to undermine Cleveland and, ultimately, successfully orchestrate the overthrow of the sovereign nation of Hawaii.
A similar betrayal took place recently when President Joe Biden called President Xi Jinping of China on September 9, 2021, to work toward rapprochement as tensions in the western Pacific had reached a fever pitch. The very next day, Biden’s call was undermined by inflammatory information provided on September 10 to the Financial Times by anonymous officials from his own administration. It drew immediate ire from Beijing.
By calling Xi, Biden’s goal had been to ratchet down the brinkmanship that has been accelerating tension in the region for years. His key offering to Xi was the reassurance that the U.S. would continue to respect the One China policy—the red line that Beijing has insisted must remain uncrossed.
The One China policy has been honored by the U.S. since 1972. It asserts that the U.S. acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only one China, and that Taiwan is part of it and is not a separate nation-state. The policy calls for the U.S. to officially recognize “the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of China, acknowledging the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.” But at the same time, the U.S. is free to continue a robust yet informal relationship with Taiwan, including the sales of limited non-sophisticated arms.
For all its ambiguity, the policy has helped maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait for half a century. However, that has changed in recent years as China’s influence in the world has grown at a rate that threatens the U.S. hegemony. The U.S. does not wish to lose its influence in the waters around Taiwan, through which trillions of dollars in trade pass every year. But that is what would happen if Taiwan were to eventually unify with China. To prevent this from happening, the U.S. has responded by steadily and dangerously amping up military maneuvers in the South China Sea. China has followed suit, and both the nations find themselves squarely in the middle of a new Cold War.
Mock battles over control of Taiwan are a recurrent scenario staged in frequent U.S. military exercises, which decimate sea life in the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, defending Taiwan was one of the featured maneuvers during the “Large Scale Exercise 2021,” when the U.S. Marines and Navy set up shop in Hawaii for two weeks in August. Needless to say, China finds these and many other similar military exercises highly provocative.
Given the strained relationship between the two nations, the world should’ve been able to breathe a sigh of relief when Biden picked up the phone to find a way to avert global war.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. Appearing the very next day—on September 10—the article in the Financial Times with the leaked information was timed perfectly to overshadow Biden’s phone call with Xi. According to the article, “The Biden administration is moving towards allowing Taipei to change the name of its representative office in Washington to include the word ‘Taiwan,’ a move likely to trigger an angry response from Beijing.” This would lead to changing the name of Taiwan’s mission in Washington, D.C., from “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to “Taiwan Representative Office.” Needless to say, the Chinese government was outraged, as the new nomenclature bestows near-embassy status, a ranking reserved only for full-fledged nation-states.
The Financial Times article further stated that the name-change idea had been backed by White House Asia Advisor Kurt Campbell (colloquially known by the imperialist title of ‘Asia Czar’) and had the “support inside the National Security Council and from state department Asia officials.”
What’s in a Name? A Lot
Beijing expressed its opinion in the Global Times, an English newspaper published by the Chinese government. An editorial in the paper summed it up saying, “if the U.S. and the island of Taiwan do make the name change, it will mean Washington’s basic abandonment of its ‘one-China policy.’”
On September 13, another excoriating editorial in the Global Times implied that the duplicitousness of the U.S. is the reason that China must “firmly seize the strategic initiative of the regional situation.” The editorial continued, “Sending PLA fighter jets over the island of Taiwan is a step we must take.”
At the very least, the impact of fighter jets over Taiwan will send the commercial air industry reeling, as hundreds of routes would have to be adjusted to circumvent trouble. If Taiwan fires back, strategic escalation would be rapid and risky.
The language out of China is consistently measured. They don’t tend to bluff. The U.S. should take this very seriously. The Global Times editorial on September 13 forewarns, “Let us be fully prepared that there will be a showdown in the Taiwan Straits.”
If the leak to the Financial Times was intended to undermine any headway Biden might have made during his call with Xi, it was a raving success. China is now infuriated, and Biden’s credibility with China is dashed. Most tragically, this news has thwarted the American president’s desire to avert the perils of strategic war. Regional stability is spiraling downward once again.
Just as President Cleveland’s authority had been ignored in Washington to instead favor corporate and military interests, so it goes today. There’s big money in war with China. So much so that powerful people seem eager to risk the likelihood of mutually assured destruction.
Koohan Paik-Mander, who grew up in postwar Korea and on the U.S. colony of Guam, is a Hawaii-based journalist and media educator. She is a board member of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space and part of the CODEPINK working group “China is Not Our Enemy.” She formerly served as campaign director of the Asia-Pacific program at the International Forum on Globalization. She is the co-author of The Superferry Chronicles: Hawaii’s Uprising Against Militarism, Commercialism and the Desecration of the Earth, and has written on militarism in the Asia-Pacific for the Nation, Progressive, Foreign Policy in Focus, and other publications.
This article was produced by Globetrotter.
Israel Bombs Gaza for third Consecutive Day as Punishment for Palestinian Jailbreak. By: Steve SweeneyRead Now
Israeli soldiers take positions along the border between the northern West Bank near Jenin and Israel as they search for two Palestinians who broke out of a maximum-security prison last week | AP
Israel targeted Palestinian resistance sites in series of airstrikes in Gaza for the third consecutive day today.
It is accused by Palestinian groups of carrying out “collective punishment” for last week’s jailbreak in which six prisoners escaped from Gilboa prison.
Missiles struck an outpost in southern Gaza, to the east of the city of Rafah, according to reports from the Palestinian Shehab news agency.
Explosions reverberated across the besieged Palestinian territory, causing electricity blackouts in Rafah, locals said.
Drones and aircraft have been conducting extensive overflights of the territory in what Palestinian sources say is an attempt to “strike fear” into Gaza’s civilian population.
Tel Aviv claims to be justified in carrying out airstrikes, insisting that it is responding to incendiary balloons launched from Gaza.
But its aggressive measures have escalated since last Sunday’s jailbreak, which was seen as a humiliation for the apartheid regime.
Israeli security forces have recaptured four of the escapees, with a mass search operation underway as they hunt for the remaining pair: Ayham Kamamji and Munadel Infeiat.
Minister of Public Security Omar Barlev said that he believes the men have separated and that attention was being focused on the northern Israeli town of Yokne’am and the West Bank city of Jenin.
Jibreil Zubeidi, the brother of Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the prisoners that was caught by Israeli agents, spoke out against his brutal treatment in custody today.
“My brother is undergoing most the brutal torture. They are electrocuting and beating him. They broke his leg, and he is not getting any sleep.
“They are forcing him into stress positions over his broken leg and cursing at him,” Mr. Zubeidi said.
The other detainees, Mahmoud and Mohammad Ardah and Yacoub Qadri, are also allegedly being tortured and have been denied access to their lawyers.
An Israeli court ruled against overturning the ban today, denying an application from their legal teams.
Palestinian prisoners are planning protest action over the punitive measures introduced at jails following the escape.
The measures involved prison authorities placing tens of detainees into solitary confinement, preventing inmates from going to the prison yard, banning prisoners from meeting their families, and closing the canteens.
The Palestinian Authority’s detainees affairs commission and the Palestinian Prisoners Society said that the prisoners would boycott the Israel Prison Service and its rules and start a gradual hunger strike, with more inmates expected to join the action every day.
This article was reposted from Morning Star.
Steve Sweeney writes for the Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain. He is also a People's Assembly National Committee member, patron of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign, and a proud trade unionist.
A protest demonstration was organized in Agartala condemning BJP violence. In a pre-planned fashion, the offices of the CPI(M), including the state headquarters, were attacked by mobs of BJP men. The most brazen attack was on the state committee office in Agartala. | CPI(M) via Twitter
RightOn September 8, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s right-wing ruling political party, attacked three buildings in the Melarmath area of Agartala (Tripura). These attacks targeted the offices of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the communist newspaper Daily Deshar Katha, and two private media houses Pratibadi Kalam and PN-24. The violence took place in broad daylight as the police stood by and watched. Across Tripura, 54 other offices of the communists were also attacked.
The Communist Party—CPI(M)—and the media houses had been critical of the BJP-led state government. The CPI(M) and other organizations recently took to the streets to protest a range of policies; these protests have drawn considerable support from the population. The CPI(M) was a key constituent of the Left Front, which governed the state from 1978 to 1988 and from 1993 to 2018.
Just a few days before the attacks, former Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is a leader of the CPI(M), was to speak to his constituency in Dhanpur (Sepahijala). BJP workers tried to prevent Sarkar’s car from entering Dhanpur. Sarkar, with CPI(M) cadre alongside, walked six kilometers through two BJP barricades. Sarkar’s public meeting was part of the wider communist campaign against the BJP.
Since 2018, attacks on the CPI(M) have become routine. The communists in Tripura report that, between March 2018 and September 2020, 139 party offices have been set ablaze, 346 party offices have been vandalized, 200 offices of mass organizations have been vandalized, 190 homes of CPI(M) cadre have been destroyed, 2,871 homes of party workers have been attacked, 2,656 party workers have been physically assaulted, and 18 CPI(M) leaders and cadre have been killed.
Sensitive people and organizations from around the world, including the International Peoples Assembly, condemned the attacks on India’s Left.
Right-wing political violence has become routine worldwide
What occurred in Tripura, a state in India’s northeast of nearly 3.6 million people, has become a normal facet of democracy in our times. Political violence by the right wing against those who seek to amplify the voices of the people is now routine.
Just a few weeks before this attack in Tripura, a terrible act of violence silenced a trade union leader in South Africa. As he stood at the doorstep of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration in Rustenburg, South Africa, on Aug. 19, Malibongwe Mdazo was shot to death. Mdazo, a leader of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), had led a 7,000-worker strike against Impala Platinum Holdings, the world’s second-largest platinum producer, just a month before.
The political assassination of Mdazo came nine years after the terrible massacre in Marikana of 34 miners from the platinum mines operated by Lonmin, a British mining company. The platinum belt in South Africa has bristled with tension not only because of the killing of Mdazo and the Marikana massacre but also because of the normal way in which the mining firms’ associates—including rival unions—settle industrial disputes through such grim violence.
These trade union activists, political leaders, and community organizers are people who have the urge to lift up the confidence of the people. When these leaders are assassinated or when buildings are burned, a light begins to flicker. Those who carry out the violence expect that the flame of resistance will die down and that the people will be cowed into submission, no longer confident in their ability to change the world. But this is only one outcome of such political violence. The other outcome is just as likely, which is that these deaths and this violence inspire courage.
When the BJP workers attacked the CPI(M) office, they tried to break the statue of Dashrath Deb (1916-1998), who led the liberation struggle in Tripura against its last king. Deb was born in a poor peasant family that had its roots deep in the indigenous culture of Tripura. He was a venerated communist leader who fought to democratize all aspects of life in Tripura as chief minister from 1993 to 1998.
It was thanks to the struggles led by Deb and then by the Left Front government led by Manik Sarkar that the state saw its human development advance remarkably. When the communists left office in 2018, the state’s literacy rate stood at 97%, helped along by the provision of universal free education (including free school books) and by a massive electrification campaign (90% of homes in the state have electricity).
This is not just political violence, but it is rooted in social violence, a violence against those—such as the Garifuna leaders in Honduras and the Afro-descendant leaders in Colombia—who dare to lift their chins up and build the world in their image.
A new report from Global Witness, Last Line of Defence, shows that a large number of Indigenous activists were killed in 2020 (227, or more than four a week); half of them were in just three countries (Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines), and all of them fought to defend the dignity of humans and the integrity of nature.
One of Tripura’s great poets and communist leaders, Anil Sarkar, spent much of his literary and political career uplifting the voices and the destinies of the oppressed castes (Dalits) in the state. Sarkar’s powerful poetry suggested that the old social forces would no longer be able to dominate society as they once had. Not only did they have the example of the great leader Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, but they had the legacy of Karl Marx and the Left.
“The sound of his approaching step wakes me,” Sarkar wrote of his discovery of Marx in Marxer Prati, “and I see my land’s deprivation.” In another of his poems, Sarker sang to Heera Singh Harijan, a Dalit, that power would not be given to him; “you, after growing up, should take it by force.”
Edited from an earlier version.
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.
The Illusion and Reality of Siddhattha Gotama, the Buddha, A Marxist View of the Buddha. By: Thomas RigginsRead Now
Karen Armstrong’s Buddha, published as a Penguin paperback is not only a bestseller but has been praised as "invaluable." Armstrong is well known as a popular writer on religious history and this book is one of many she has written for a lay audience. All of her books are well written and enjoyable to read but not always historically reliable. This is, unfortunately, the case with her book on the Buddha. I am afraid that people going away after a reading of this admittedly enjoyable book will have no real understanding of either the Buddha or his religion.
The problem is that she has somewhat indiscriminately mixed up primary and secondary sources as well as credited and discredited theories about religion in general and Buddhism in particular. As an example she gives equal weight to both forms of Buddhism – i.e., the original, or at least the older, Theravada tradition (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia) based on the Pali texts, [her book is, however, based mostly on the Pali texts] and the much later Mahayana tradition that developed in North India (written in Sanskrit rather than Pali) and spread to China, Korea, Tibet, Vietnam and Japan. This second tradition, influenced by contact with Persia and incorporating Zoroastrian elements, and seeing the Buddha as "an object of worship" is very different from the original teachings of Gotama who was himself inclined towards atheism and was more this worldly than other worldly.
Armstrong is well aware of the difficulties of writing a "biography" of the Buddha. The man Gotama died in the 5th century B.C. and all we know about him has been mixed up with legends and later traditions to such a degree that what we say concerning him "cannot satisfy the standards of modern scientific history." We have a similar problem with the life of Yeshua ben Yosef, the first century Jewish preacher who became “the Christ.” The Buddha that emerges in her book is, as she says, an "archetypal figure" that she has more or less constructed out of the Pali canon which is the earliest and most reliable source available on the life and teachings of the Buddha.
There are two annoying features of her interpretation that will not go down too well with Marxists. First she uses, as a framework for comparisons, the discredited notion of the "Axial Age" put forth by the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers. This is the notion that from around 800 to 200 B.C. the ancient world from Europe, thru Iran and India to China created the "ethos" that "has continued to nourish men and women to the present day." This fantastical "Axial Age" only works by selectively including and excluding, as well as misinterpreting the functions of the individuals who are supposedly the most important thinkers of this period.
She includes Socrates and Plato (but not Aristotle) as well as "the sixth-century Iranian sage Zoroaster." Zoroaster’s dates are notoriously difficult to determine, but the modern consensus places him four or five hundred years earlier than the sixth-century – this messes up the "Axial Age" because Iran drops out of the picture. It should also be noted that Confucius was a thoroughly secular teacher and was not involved in reforming "the religious traditions of China." "People," she writes, "who participated in this great transformation were convinced that they were on the brink of a new era and that nothing would ever be the same again." A period that lasted 600 hundred years can hardly be called a "brink", nor, not having read Jaspers, would people from Europe to China even be aware of a "great transformation" taking place, especially since it was artificially constructed only recently.
Second, she refers to the economic system in Buddha’s day as a "market economy." This is very confusing terminology with relation to the mode of production in ancient India. The ancient economy was based on the exploitation of village agriculturalists in a semi-feudal system that had recently developed in Buddha’s day (in northeast India where he lived) when state structures had evolved out of tribal systems into kingdoms and then empires. There was a large merchant class, as in Rome, but it is a stretch to say the cities and empires were "dominated by a market economy." Ancient India was not a capitalist state.
Buddha, as we know, saw life as a big drag – suffering, etc., and his new religion was based on the Four Noble Truths (all is suffering, suffering has a cause, suffering can be overcome, the sacred eightfold path is the way to do it.) To escape suffering you needed to follow Buddha’s new rules of life. He founded an order of monks who could follow his path and attain enlightenment and escape from rebirth, and thus another round of suffering, to "nirvana" – a state of being or nonbeing never really spelled out.
Armstrong gives an interesting account of all the trials and tribulations of the Buddha and the founding of his Order – but her explanations are almost exclusively in terms of inner struggles and spiritual development. This is all very well and good but will not satisfy Marxists who want to understand the rise of Buddhism in terms of class struggle and other Marxist categories. None of this is in Armstrong’s book. So Marxists will not get much out of her book. She lacks the necessary jaundiced eye when looking at religion which Marxists regard as an "illusion" and, as Marx said, brings the people only an "illusory happiness."
The question for Marxists is – what were the social and economic conditions prevailing in Buddha’s time that allowed his religion to survive and prosper? The answer to this question is to be found in the works of the great Bengali Marxist philosopher Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya. The short answer is that in Buddha’s time the old democratic tribal associations were being replaced by newly emergent military states. The tribes had been governed by councils who appointed the leaders by democratic methods. Buddha came from such a tribe, the Sakyas. He witnessed the destruction of these tribal organizations by the new states and the consequent enslavement and murder of the tribal peoples: the source of the suffering world.
In his Order he recreated the primitive democracy and interpersonal solidarity of the tribal ethos and thus presented, on a spiritual level, the illusion of freedom and meaning to life that had actually been lost in the real world.
This is the real story behind the rise and development of Buddhism but you won’t find it in Armstrong’s book.
Karen Armstrong, Buddha, Penguin, New York, 2004
Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy: A Popular Introduction People’s Publishing House, Delhi, 1964
Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Lokayata: A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism, People’s Publishing House, New Delhi, 1959 (7th ed. 1992)
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.