This is the text of a talk at the conference of the Irish Labour History Society on September 17, 2023.
What does Marxism bring to a conference on visions of labour and class?
For me, this is connected to what Marxism brings to everything: context, clarity, coherence, comprehensiveness.
Marxism is an intellectual tradition connected to a political movement that focuses on totality, on how everything is connected to everything else. It is a theory of everything, one that is open-ended and always evolving. There are certain tenets that are basic as well as many matters where there are serious differences and lively debates.
It is a philosophy of economics, politics, history, culture, even psychology, that sees all of these spheres as decisively shaped by the dominant mode of production. It is in particular a critique of the capitalist mode of production and an orientation toward socialism as an alternative mode of production.
Class is a key concept for Marxism. The word has many uses as a term of differentiation and stratification. In social-political-economic terms, it is a way of categorising social groups in terms of wealth, status, education, occupation, and culture, often in a very loose and somewhat shoddy way, when it is addressed at all. For Marxism, it is a more precise concept and one that is central to its whole analysis of society.
So what is class for Marxism and how is it different from other approaches? Basically, Marxism sees class in terms of relationship to the means of production. In capitalist society, there are two primary classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat—those who own the means of production and those who depend on wage labour to live. Within these classes, there are various strata and other differences, but the great divide is between those who do the work of the world and those who are able to appropriate the fruits of their work, who can extract the surplus value of labour without labouring.
I am assuming a broad definition of who is the working class here, including not only the prototypical proletarian, a male manual labourer, but all who work by hand or brain, those who make the world as we know it happen, those who live by their labour, whether plumbers or pilots or professors, whether they build houses, stack shelves, perform surgery, or pursue scientific research, of all genders, races, ethnicities, and nations, the many who are manipulated into serving the interests of the few.
There is a near absence of discourse about class in contemporary society. This is because capitalism functions in such a way as to mask the nature of itself as a system.
There is a liberal discourse about diversity, inclusion, fairness, and helping those in need that conceals the realities of class. Whenever issues of social distribution are discussed, there is always lip service given to protecting those who are most vulnerable, often reducing the working class to those who need rather than those who do, those who take rather than those who give.
The trade union movement is nearly alone in addressing the real relationship between production and distribution, to argue that what people are demanding is what they have earned through their labour. Even then, it is most often a matter of making the case in terms of specific disputes and what is being demanded in terms of wages and conditions for particular groups of workers. We rarely hear trade union officials speak about the working class as a class making demands for radical redistribution in connection with their overall role in social production.
However, look at the massive response to Mick Lynch when he has been in the media spotlight and spoken not only about railway workers, but about the working class, the working class without whom the lights aren’t turned on, the trains don’t run, the streets aren’t swept, the sick aren’t nursed, the students aren’t taught. The clarity and simplicity of that has resonated powerfully.
We have a great tradition of literature and song that expresses this powerfully.
We were here in Liberty Hall a few months ago celebrating Robert Tressell’s great novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The title itself stresses what the working class gives rather than what it takes.
There is Bertholt Brecht’s great poem “Questions from a Worker Who Reads”:
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
And there is that great anthem of the labour movement, “Solidarity Forever”:
It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where they trade,
There needs to be a new and constant reassertion of that.
The aim of socialism animating the best of the labour movement is a form of social organisation shaped by the principle of “from each according to their abilities / to each according to their needs.”
All that exists and is of value comes from nature or labour, and mostly from a combination of both. Everyone who exists has the same number of hours in a day. Why should some people who spend some hours organising production be able to accrue more in a few seconds than someone engaging in hard manual labour can earn in a year? Even worse, why should others who never in their whole lives do any work whatsoever but inherit shares (or crowns) be able to take enormous unearned wealth extracted from the labour of others?
How did so much built by so many come to be expropriated by so few? It has not, on the whole, despite rags-to-riches myths, come from genius invention or entrepreneurial skill. It has come largely by force, whether by marauding armies or through oligarchic manipulation of the state passing and enforcing laws favourable to such expropriation.
This is why the most conscious of the working class have organised for a system based on social ownership of the means of social production, allowing for more just distribution and more efficient reinvestment, not only in the enterprise itself, but in the whole social infrastructure on which it depends.
This is the only way to harness the resources of society in such a way as to save our planet from the path of self-destruction on which we are hurtling along a trajectory that is inherent in the logic of capitalism.
To me, this is as clear as the rising sun, but the prevailing climate clouds over it fills the space with clutter and noise and diverts even progressive impulses into blind alleys.
For example, the cultural turn constitutes a shift in analysis of social phenomena in terms of culture and away from economics and science, away from class and mode of production—basically postmodernism as opposed to Marxism. I do not believe that the cultural turn was good even for the study of culture, which Marxism has done even better. I wrote two books about Irish television drama where my editor insisted that class had nothing to do with it, whereas I thought otherwise and wrote better books because I did.
Another blind alley is the reduction of everything to identity politics, without taking class into account. I understand the contemporary concern with identity. We live lives very different from our ancestors; we live in more complex times and identities have become more complex. What begins as a liberating attention to gender, race, and ethnicity can mutate into a displaced fixation with gender, race, and ethnicity at the expense of class.
There is also a way of speaking about class without really talking about class. I hear voices on Raidió Teilifís Éireann talking about growing up in drug-infested working-class communities, rising above addiction, turning to education as a lever of social mobility, arguing that working-class people are as good as anybody, given the right help from good government policies.
No. The working class is not as good as anybody else. The working class makes life as we live it possible. The working class makes the world go round. The working class should not be positioned as the most vulnerable in need of help, but as those who labour and deserve a just distribution of the fruits of their labour. The working class comes not with a begging bowl, but with a clear strong voice and, when necessary, a clenched fist.
This is why we need to engage in a discourse that provokes the working class to see themselves more clearly as the working class and to embark on a road that will lead from capitalism to socialism.
Helena Sheehan is Professor Emerita at Dublin City University in Ireland where she taught STS as well as history of ideas more generally. Her books include Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History, The Syriza Wave, Navigating the Zeitgeist and Until We Fall (in progress). She has also published many articles on philosophy, science, politics, and culture. She has lectured in various countries in America, Europe and Africa. She has been an activist on the left since the 1960s.
This article was produced by Monthly Review.
A Ukrainian combat general says of each 100 individuals conscripted last year only 10-20 remain while others are either dead or disabled.
Almost nine out of every ten Ukrainian draftees who enlisted in the army a year ago have either been killed or injured in combat, Ukrainian media reported on Friday citing a senior conscription officer in the Poltava Region.
Lt. Colonel Vitaly Berezhny, who is currently serving as the acting head of the territorial center for recruitment and social support, made this admission during a Poltava City Council meeting.
Sounding the alarm, Berezhny told meeting participants that "out of the 100 individuals who joined the units last fall, only 10-20 of them remain, the rest are dead, wounded or disabled." Going from this statistic, he declared that the military was in urgent need of reinforcements.
He acknowledged that local authorities are facing significant challenges in their conscription efforts, having only achieved 13 percent of the mobilization plan. This places the Poltava at the bottom of the region's rankings.
To address the shortage of manpower, the officer proposed the "establish the presence of conscripts." He further stated that the region had intentions to establish a substantial mechanized brigade and appealed to local deputies to actively support this endeavor.
Following the start of the war with Russia in February 2022, Kiev implemented a general mobilization, barring most men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. This measure was initially thought to suffice in meeting the country's military manpower needs.
Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov revealed last month that Kiev had not yet fully executed its existing mobilization plan, indicating that there was no necessity for another conscription effort.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of this month, a significant policy shift occurred when the Ukrainian Defense Ministry issued a decree allowing the conscription of individuals with severe medical conditions, including hepatitis, asymptomatic HIV, and clinically managed tuberculosis.
This unexpected change in approach signaled a transformation in Kiev's strategy for bolstering its military capabilities.
Simultaneously, the country's authorities initiated a comprehensive anti-corruption campaign within the nation's conscription framework. In recent developments, President Volodymyr Zelensky took resolute measures by terminating the appointments of all regional military conscription officials.
Berezhny's recognition coincides with Ukraine's ongoing counteroffensive, which has extended for over three months but has encountered difficulty in achieving substantial territorial gains despite full Western backing.
In recent days, Russian President Vladimir Putin estimated Ukraine's military casualties to exceed 71,000 personnel. Additionally, he proposed that Kiev might consider engaging in negotiations with Moscow once its resources for confronting Russian defenses become critically depleted. Putin's assessment emphasized that Ukraine would primarily seek talks to rehabilitate its weakened military capabilities.
Al Mayadeen English
This article was produced by Almayadeen.
NATO Destroyed Libya in 2011; Storm Daniel Came to Sweep Up the Remains: The Thirty-Eighth Newsletter By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Shefa Salem al-Baraesi (Libya), Drown on Dry Land, 2019.
Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Three days before the Abu Mansur and Al Bilad dams collapsed in Wadi Derna, Libya, on the night of September 10, the poet Mustafa al-Trabelsi participated in a discussion at the Derna House of Culture about the neglect of basic infrastructure in his city. At the meeting, al-Trabelsi warned about the poor condition of the dams. As he wrote on Facebook that same day, over the past decade his beloved city has been ‘exposed to whipping and bombing, and then it was enclosed by a wall that had no door, leaving it shrouded in fear and depression’. Then, Storm Daniel picked up off the Mediterranean coast, dragged itself into Libya, and broke the dams. CCTV camera footage in the city’s Maghar neighbourhood showed the rapid advance of the floodwaters, powerful enough to destroy buildings and crush lives. A reported 70% of infrastructure and 95% of educational institutions have been damaged in the flood-affected areas. As of Wednesday 20 September, an estimated 4,000 to 11,000 people have died in the flood – among them the poet Mustafa al-Trabelsi, whose warnings over the years went unheeded – and another 10,000 are missing.
Hisham Chkiouat, the aviation minister of Libya’s Government of National Stability (based in Sirte), visited Derna in the wake of the flood and told the BBC, ‘I was shocked by what I saw. It’s like a tsunami. A massive neighbourhood has been destroyed. There is a large number of victims, which is increasing each hour’. The Mediterranean Sea ate up this ancient city with roots in the Hellenistic period (326 BCE to 30 BCE). Hussein Swaydan, head of Derna’s Roads and Bridges Authority, said that the total area with ‘severe damage’ amounts to three million square metres. ‘The situation in this city’, he said, ‘is more than catastrophic’. Dr Margaret Harris of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the flood was of ‘epic proportions’. ‘There’s not been a storm like this in the region in living memory’, she said, ‘so it’s a great shock’.
Howls of anguish across Libya morphed into anger at the devastation, which are now developing into demands for an investigation. But who will conduct this investigation: the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh and officially recognised by the United Nations (UN), or the Government of National Stability, headed by Prime Minister Osama Hamada in Sirte? These two rival governments – which have been at war with each other for many years – have paralysed the politics of the country, whose state institutions were fatally damaged by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) bombardment in 2011.
Soad Abdel Rassoul (Egypt), My Last Meal, 2019.
The divided state and its damaged institutions have been unable to properly provide for Libya’s population of nearly seven million in the oil-rich but now totally devastated country. Before the recent tragedy, the UN was already providing humanitarian aid for at least 300,000 Libyans, but, as a consequence of the floods, they estimate that at least 884,000 more people will require assistance. This number is certain to rise to at least 1.8 million. The WHO’s Dr Harris reports that some hospitals have been ‘wiped out’ and that vital medical supplies, including trauma kits and body bags, are needed. ‘The humanitarian needs are huge and much more beyond the abilities of the Libyan Red Crescent, and even beyond the abilities of the Government’, said Tamar Ramadan, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya.
The emphasis on the state’s limitations is not to be minimised. Similarly, the World Meteorological Organisation’s Secretary-General Petteri Taalas pointed out that although there was an unprecedented level of rainfall (414.1 mm in 24 hours, as recorded by one station), the collapse of state institutions contributed to the catastrophe. Taalas observed that Libya’s National Meteorological Centre has ‘major gaps in its observing systems. Its IT systems are not functioning well and there are chronic staff shortages. The National Meteorological Centre is trying to function, but its ability to do so is limited. The entire chain of disaster management and governance is disrupted’. Furthermore, he said, ‘[t]he fragmentation of the country’s disaster management and disaster response mechanisms, as well as deteriorating infrastructure, exacerbated the enormity of the challenges. The political situation is a driver of risk’.
Faiza Ramadan (Libya), The Meeting, 2011.
Abdel Moneim al-Arfi, a member of the Libyan Parliament (in the eastern section), joined his fellow lawmakers to call for an investigation into the causes of the disaster. In his statement, al-Arfi pointed to underlying problems with the post-2011 Libyan political class. In 2010, the year before the NATO war, the Libyan government had allocated money towards restoring the Wadi Derna dams (both built between 1973 and 1977). This project was supposed to be completed by a Turkish company, but the company left the country during the war. The project was never completed, and the money allocated for it vanished. According to al-Arfi, in 2020 engineers recommended that the dams be restored since they were no longer able to manage normal rainfall, but these recommendations were shelved. Money continued to disappear, and the work was simply not carried out.
Impunity has defined Libya since the overthrow of the regime led by Muammar al-Gaddafi (1942–2011). In February–March 2011, newspapers from Gulf Arab states began to claim that the Libyan government’s forces were committing genocide against the people of Libya. The United Nations Security Council passed two resolutions: resolution 1970 (February 2011) to condemn the violence and establish an arms embargo on the country and resolution 1973 (March 2011) to allow member states to act ‘under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter’, which would enable armed forces to establish a ceasefire and find a solution to the crisis. Led by France and the United States, NATO prevented an African Union delegation from following up on these resolutions and holding peace talks with all the parties in Libya. Western countries also ignored the meeting with five African heads of state in Addis Ababa in March 2011 where al-Gaddafi agreed to the ceasefire, a proposal he repeated during an African Union delegation to Tripoli in April. This was an unnecessary war that Western and Gulf Arab states used to wreak vengeance upon al-Gaddafi. The ghastly conflict turned Libya, which was ranked 53rd out of 169 countries on the 2010 Human Development Index (the highest ranking on the African continent), into a country marked by poor indicators of human development that is now significantly lower on any such list.
Tewa Barnosa (Libya), War Love, 2016.
Instead of allowing an African Union-led peace plan to take place, NATO began a bombardment of 9,600 strikes on Libyan targets, with special emphasis on state institutions. Later, when the UN asked NATO to account for the damage it had done, NATO’s legal advisor Peter Olson wrote that there was no need for an investigation, since ‘NATO did not deliberately target civilians and did not commit war crimes in Libya’. There was no interest in the wilful destruction of crucial Libyan state infrastructure, which has never been rebuilt and whose absence is key to understanding the carnage in Derna.
NATO’s destruction of Libya set in motion a chain of events: the collapse of the Libyan state; the civil war, which continues to this day; the dispersal of Islamic radicals across northern Africa and into the Sahel region, whose decade-long destabilisation has resulted in a series of coups from Burkina Faso to Niger. This has subsequently created new migration routes toward Europe and led to the deaths of migrants in both the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea as well as an unprecedented scale of human trafficking operations in the region. Add to this list of dangers not only the deaths in Derna, and certainly the deaths from Storm Daniel, but also casualties of a war from which the Libyan people have never recovered.
Najla Shawkat Fitouri (Libya), Sea Wounded, 2021.
Just before the flood in Libya, an earthquake struck neighbouring Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains, wiping out villages such as Tenzirt and killing about 3,000 people. ‘I won’t help the earthquake’, wrote the Moroccan poet Ahmad Barakat (1960–1994); ‘I will always carry in my mouth the dust that destroyed the world’. It is as if tragedy decided to take titanic steps along the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea last week.
A tragic mood settled deep within the poet Mustafa al-Trabelsi. On 10 September, before being swept away by the flood waves, he wrote, ‘[w]e have only one another in this difficult situation. Let’s stand together until we drown’. But that mood was intercut with other feelings: frustration with the ‘twin Libyan fabric’, in his words, with one government in Tripoli and the other in Sirte; the divided populace; and the political detritus of an ongoing war over the broken body of the Libyan state. ‘Who said that Libya is not one?’, Al-Trabelsi lamented. Writing as the waters rose, Al-Trabelsi left behind a poem that is being read by refugees from his city and Libyans across the country, reminding them that the tragedy is not everything, that the goodness of people who come to each other’s aid is the ‘promise of help’, the hope of the future.
Exposes the drenched streets,
the cheating contractor,
and the failed state.
It washes everything,
and cats’ fur.
Reminds the poor
of their fragile roofs
and ragged clothes.
It awakens the valleys,
shakes off their yawning dust
and dry crusts.
a sign of goodness,
a promise of help,
an alarm bell.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an 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 books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
This article was produced by Tricontinental.
Niger is shaping up to be the surprising frontline of the new Cold War. Yesterday, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered the “activation” and “deployment” of “standby” military forces to the country, an action that threatens to spark a major international war that could make Syria look minor by comparison.
In this venture, ECOWAS has been fully supported by the United States and Europe, leading many to suspect it is being used as an imperial vehicle to stamp out anti-colonial projects in West Africa.
On July 26, a group of Nigerien officers overthrew the corrupt government of Mohamed Bazoum. The move, which the junta presents as a patriotic uprising against a Western puppet, is widely popular in the country, and many of Niger’s neighbors have declared that any attack on it will be considered an attack on all their sovereignty. The United States and France are also considering military action, while many in Niger are calling for Russian aid.
Consequentially, the world waits to see if the region will be engulfed in a war that promises to pull in many of the major global powers.
But what is ECOWAS? And why do so many in Africa consider the organization a tool of Western neocolonialism?
“PART OF A CORRUPT CABAL”
Even before the dust settled in Niger, ECOWAS sprung into action, imposing a no-fly zone and tough economic sanctions, including freezing Nigerien national assets and halting all financial sanctions. Nigeria suspended electricity to its northern neighbor. The regional bloc also immediately came to the defense of Bazoum, releasing an ominous statement declaring that it would “take all necessary measures,” including “the use of force,” to restore the constitutional order. ECOWAS also gave the new military government a deadline to stand down or face the consequences. That deadline has already passed, and ECOWAS troops are preparing for action.
Member states of ECOWAS may therefore be obliged to send their troops into Niger. Yet many nations are balking at the prospect. Nevertheless, the bloc still seems adamant that military action could come at any time. “We are determined to stop it, but ECOWAS is not going to tell the coup plotters when and where we are going to strike. That is an operational decision that will be taken by the heads of state,” explained Abdel-Fatau Musah, the group’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.
Despite not yet acting, the threat of an invasion is far from an idle one. Since 1990, ECOWAS has launched military interventions in seven West African countries, the most recent being in the Gambia in 2017.
This response has disappointed many onlookers. Journalist Eugene Puryear, for example, described the bloc as “part of a corrupt cabal that is directly linked to Western imperial powers to keep Africans poor.”
Those Western powers immediately lined up behind ECOWAS’ position. “The United States welcomes and commends the strong leadership of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to defend constitutional order in Niger, actions that respect the will of the Nigerien people and align with enshrined ECOWAS and African Union principles of ‘zero tolerance for unconstitutional change,’” read a State Department press release.
Deeming the coup “completely illegitimate,” the French government also said that it “supports with firmness and determination the efforts of ECOWAS to defeat this putsch attempt.” “The EU also associated itself with ECOWAS’ first response to the matter,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, thereby greenlighting an intervention.
U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary Victoria Nuland also strongly hinted that the United States is considering invading Niger itself. “It is not our desire to go there, but they [the new military junta] may push us to that point,” Nuland said about her recent trip to Niger, where, she said, she had an “extremely frank and at times quite difficult” meeting with the new leadership.
A measure of how close ECOWAS is to the United States is the constant support Washington gives to the organization. Throughout 2022, the State Department issued statements backing ECOWAS’s position on Mali (another country where the military deposed an unpopular, Western-backed government). “The United States commends the strong actions taken by ECOWAS in defense of democracy and stability in Mali,” the State Department wrote. It has also issued similar memos reaffirming its unwavering support for ECOWAS’ actions against military coups in Guinea and Burkina Faso. This has led to many critics seeing ECOWAS as little more than a pawn of the United States.
While Washington has presented the situation as ECOWAS defending democracy against authoritarianism, the reality is more complex. Firstly, many of its member states’ governments have decidedly shaky democratic credentials. President Alassane Ouattara of Cote D’Ivoire, for example, violated the country’s term limit law and was controversially sworn in for a third term last year. Protests against his power grab were suppressed, leaving dozens dead. Meanwhile, Senegalese President Macky Sall’s government has banned the main opposition party and imprisoned its leader.
Furthermore, ECOWAS’ response to coups is far from uniform. After Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba seized power in Burkina Faso in 2022, ECOWAS refused to even impose sanctions, let alone consider an invasion. Instead, they merely asked Damiba to present a timetable for the “reasonable return to constitutional order.” Their indifference to the events may have been due to his staunchly pro-Western outlook and the fact that he had been trained by the U.S. military and the State Department.
ECOWAS’ top leadership is also deeply intertwined with U.S. power. As journalists Alex Rubinstein and Kit Klarenberg noted, the bloc’s chairman, Bola Tinbu, “spent years laundering millions for heroin dealers in Chicago” and later became a key State Department source for analyzing West Africa. Previous ECOWAS chairman Mahamadou Issoufou was also a “staunch ally of the West,” in the words of The Economist” magazine, though many in Africa might use less neutral language to describe him.
In this sense, it might be applicable to compare ECOWAS to other U.S.-dominated regional bodies, such as the Organization of American States (OAS). While the OAS is formally independent, it has constantly aligned itself with Washington and attacked enemy countries like Venezuela and Cuba. A document from USAID (a U.S. governmental organization) noted that the OAS was a crucial tool in “promot[ing] U.S. interests in the Western hemisphere by countering the influence of anti-US countries” like Cuba and Venezuela.
A US Army rifleman pulls security with a Ghanaian soldier during a training exercise near Camp Thies, Senegal, in 2014. Photo | US Army
ECOWAS traces its own project of African integration back to 1945 and the creation of the CFA franc, a move that brought France’s African colonies into a single currency union. The currency, still in use by 14 African countries today, was artificially pegged to the French franc and later the euro, meaning that importing from and exporting to France (and later the eurozone) was very cheap, but importing from and exporting to the rest of the world was prohibitively expensive.
Therefore, even after formal independence, the CFA franc trapped African countries into economic submission to Paris. As a consequence, many African governments are still powerless to enact serious political and economic changes, seeing as they lack control over their own monetary policy.
This has been a massive boon to France, economically, which enjoys a huge resource base from which to extract raw materials at artificially cheap prices, and also a captive export market. It has also meant that France has maintained a good degree of control over its former colonies. “Without Africa,” former French President François Mitterrand famously said, “France will have no history in the 21st century.”
But this unjust economic system has also benefited African elites, who can import French and European luxuries at the abnormal exchange rate. And it has also allowed them to siphon off African money into European banks, with French authorities happy to turn a blind eye to the practice. France still holds half of the CFA franc countries’ gold reserves.
The result has been stagnation and underdevelopment across francophone Africa. Niger’s real GDP per capita today is significantly lower than what it was at the time of its formal independence from France in 1960. France continues to be by far and away its largest trading partner, with the Nigerien economy revolving around the export of uranium to Paris, where it is used to supply the country with cheap nuclear power. Yet ordinary Nigeriens see little to no benefit from this arrangement. As Oxfam stated in 2013: “In France, one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium. In Niger, nearly 90% of the population has no access to electricity. This situation cannot continue.” Thus, to a great extent, France’s prosperity is built upon African suffering, and vice versa.
This explains the widespread anti-colonial sentiment across West Africa. The military coup in July was sparked by public demonstrations against the Bazoum government’s decision to welcome French troops into the country – even after their presence in Mali precipitated a coup last year. The new Nigerien junta has suspended gold and uranium exports to France. “Down with France, foreign bases out” was the rallying cry of the protestors who took to the streets in the capital, Niamey, and other cities across the country.
Bazoum, however, has remained steadfastly loyal to France. In an interview with “The Financial Times” in May, he defended Paris, claiming that “France is an easy target for the populist discourse of certain opinions, especially on social media among African youth.” Thus, With Bazoum gone, Niger could go from the West’s number one ally in the region to an adversary.
REGIONAL INTEGRATION, REGIONAL WAR?
ECOWAS imposes strict, Western-approved economic measures on its member states, forcing them to obey neoliberal economic laws that make escaping the circle of debt and underdevelopment harder and helped make peaceful, democratic change harder to achieve and, ironically, spurred a flurry of military insurrections across the region.
The coup in Niger follows similar actions in Mali in 2020 and 2021, Burkina Faso (two in 2022) and Guinea (2021). All have positioned themselves as progressive, patriotic, anti-imperialist uprisings against a Western-created economic order. All four nations are currently suspended from ECOWAS.
A host of states have pushed back against the West/ECOWAS’ position. “The authorities of the Republic of Guinea dissociate themselves from the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS,” wrote the Guinean government, describing them as “illegitimate and inhuman” and “urg[ed] ECOWAS to return to better thinking.”
The governments of Mali and Burkina Faso went much further. In a joint communiqué, those nations welcomed Bazoum’s ouster, describing the event as Niger “tak[ing] its destiny into its own hand and to be accountable in the face of history for complete sovereignty.” Together, they denounced “regional organizations” [i.e., ECOWAS] for imposing sanctions that “increase the populations’ suffering and imperil the spirit of Pan-Africanism.” Perhaps most importantly, however, they bluntly stated that they would come to Niger’s aid militarily if ECOWAS invaded. “Any military intervention against Niger would mean a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” they wrote. Algeria, which shares a long border with Niger, has also warned that it would not stand idle if the West or its puppets attacked Niger.
President Putin meets with President Ibrahim Traore as part of the second 2023 Russia-Africa summit in Moscow. Dmitry Azarov | AP
Pan-Africanism – the anti-imperialist project attempting to create a brotherhood of nations across Africa in order to develop independently – has, of late, experienced a renaissance in Western Africa. Burkina Faso and Mali – Niger’s neighbors to the west – are in advanced stages of merging into a federation. “The process is underway,” said Ibrahim Traoré, the charismatic military leader of Burkina Faso, revealing that their militaries are now so integrated that “it is really the same army.” He also strongly hinted that he wanted Niger to join the federation:
"We cannot exclude the idea that another state with join us…If there are other states that are interested (it’s certain that we will move closer to Guinea) and if others are interested, we need to unite. It’s what the young people are demanding.”
ECOWAS has come out strongly against the idea, but Traoré remained defiant. “We are going to fight, but Africa must unite. The more we are united, the more effective we are,” he said.
Traoré has styled himself as a radical leader in the mold of Thomas Sankara, Burkina Faso’s Marxist revolutionary leader between 1983 and 1987. Sporting a red beret as Sankara did, Traoré asks questions such as “Why does resource-rich Africa remain the poorest region of the world?” and describes many of his fellow African leaders as “puppets in the hands of the imperialists.” He is fond of quoting Cuban leader Che Guevara and has allied his nation with Nicaragua and Venezuela.
People gather for a ceremony in front of the building where Thomas Sankara was assassinated in 1987 in Burkina Faso, April 6, 2022. Sophie Garcia | AP
Nigeriens – whether they support the coup or not – are fed up with being treated as a colonial outpost. Bazoum, who came to power in a controversial and disputed 2021 election, saw his approval ratings plummet after it was announced that Niger would host thousands of French troops who had previously been ejected from Mali and Burkina Faso. The presence of those soldiers precipitated coups in both those countries and immediately sparked angry demonstrations in Niger. Bazoum, who the “BBC” described as a “key Western ally,” failed to read the room and welcomed the troops. Today, Niger hosts almost 1500 French soldiers, as well as many more from the militaries of Germany, Italy and the United States. The new military government has instructed France to remove its troops.
Niger is the cornerstone of the American military operation in Africa, hosting around 1100 personnel across six bases. In 2019, the U.S. opened Air Base 201, a huge $110 million airfield it uses to carry out drone operations across the Sahel region. The stated reason for the foreign troops is to help the region deal with Islamist terrorism. But the threat of Islamist terrorism only arose from NATO’s 2011 destruction of Libya (another country with which Niger shares a border). The military alliance’s attack turned Libya from a nation with one of the highest standards of living in Africa into a failed state run by Jihadists, replete with open-air slave markets.
The coup, therefore, enjoys widespread support inside the country. A poll published by “The Economist” earlier this week found that 73% of Nigeriens want the military junta to remain in power, with only 27% wishing for Bazoum’s return.
Tens of thousands packed into the Seyni Kountché Stadium in Niamey to express their wish for independence and denounce threats of U.S. or French intervention. “If ECOWAS forces decide to attack our country, before reaching the presidential palace, they will have to walk over our bodies, spill our blood. We will do it [lay down our lives] with pride because we don’t have another country; we only have Niger. Since July 26, our country has decided to take charge of its independence and sovereignty,” said demonstrator Ibrahim Bana.
While Russia is largely seen in the West as a nefarious, authoritarian regime that interferes in other nations, much of Africa views Moscow in a positive light. The Soviet Union generally supported African independence struggles, and the Russian Federation has not invaded any African nation. Nearly every African state attended the Russia-Africa Summit in July, while only four African leaders participated in an official meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last year. The same “Economist” poll asked Nigeriens which foreign power they trusted the most. 60% chose Russia. Only around 1 in 10 chose the U.S., even fewer chose France, and none at all chose Great Britain.
Russian flags are now a common sight in Niamey, with many hoping for some sort of help from Moscow. Ousted President Bazoum, however, took to the pages of “The Washington Post” to ask the U.S. for help, warning that “the entire central Sahel region could fall to Russian influence via the Wagner Group.” Wagner has indeed been invited in by various African governments, including Mali, who see the Russian mercenary force as a counterweight to Western troops. Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin recently spoke approvingly of the coup, although Moscow has been far more reluctant to take sides.
The great worry for many is that the strife in Niger will spark a wider war between West African nations that will no doubt ask for help from Europe and the United States. If this happens, the military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger will doubtless call for Russian aid, turning the situation into something resembling the Syrian Civil War but on a grander scale.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, France shut off energy imports from Russia, making Nigerien uranium for its aging nuclear power plants more crucial. Yet any attempt at regime change in Niger to restart the uranium supply will anger Algeria, with which it recently signed a natural gas importation agreement. Thus, the French position is fraught with contradictions and complications.
As Western power diminishes, a multipolar world is beginning to be born. As part of that birth, the people of Western Africa are dreaming of a different future. Time will tell if the military coups will prove to be a liberatory force or actions that do nothing to help the oppressed people of the region. One thing is clear, however: the United States and France are unhappy with the changes going on and will fight to maintain their control over Africa. To this end, ECOWAS has proved an important tool at their disposal. Yet with so many conflicting interests and so many forces unwilling to compromise, the situation in Niger threatens to boil over into an international war that will bring global attention to one of the world’s most overlooked regions.
Feature photo | A map of Western Africa provides the backdrop for a brief during Western Accord at Harskamp, the Netherlands, July 24, 2015. Western Accord 2015 is a command post exercise that simulates Western intervention in Mali.
Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.
This article was produced by Mintpress News.
Neoliberalism privatised the rewards but socialised the risks of the patents system.
Image Courtesy: Left Word
The twentieth century saw the emergence of public funded universities and technical institutions, while technology development was concentrated in the R&D laboratories of large corporations. The age of the lone inventor—Edison, Siemens, Westinghouse, Graham Bell—had ended with the nineteenth century.1 The twentieth century was more about industry-based R&D laboratories, where corporations gathered together leading scientists and technologists to create the technologies of the future. In this phase, capital was still expanding production. Even though finance capital was already dominant over productive capital, the major capitalist countries still had a strong manufacturing base. In this phase of development, science was regarded as a public good and its development was largely concentrated in the university system or publicly funded research institutions. Technology development was largely regarded as a private enterprise. Science was supposed to produce new knowledge, which could then be mined by technology to produce artefacts.2 The role of innovation was to convert ideas into artefacts. The system of intellectual property—patents and other rights—arose to provide protection to the useful ideas embodied in artefacts. From the beginning, patents also had a public purpose—the state-granted monopoly for a certain period was meant to ensure the eventual public disclosure of the invention: the quid pro quo being full public disclosure in lieu of a limited-term monopoly.
The transformation of this system that had existed for several centuries came about as a result of two major changes in the production of knowledge. The first relates to the way in which, under the neo-liberal order, the university system of knowledge production has been transformed into a profit-making commercial enterprise.3 Secondly, the distinction between science and technology has blurred considerably and the two are more closely integrated than before. For example, an advance in genetics can almost seamlessly lead to an artefact—a drug, a diagnostic tool or a seed—that is both patentable and marketable. Similar is the case of innovations in the field of electronics and communications. Many disciplines of science and also research output in universities, are, in consequence, driven closer to the systems of production. The conversion of the university system into a system producing knowledge directly for commercial purposes has happened in tandem with the destruction of the R&D laboratories that were so much a part of the industrial landscape of the twentieth century. Finance capital controls university science, not just through ‘investment’ in R&D, but also the purchase of ‘knowledge’. Its monopoly is exercised through buying the patents that university research produces. This monopoly in turn allows finance capital to dominate over industrial capital.
The end of the twentieth century revealed the rupture of finance capital and productive capital. Today, global capital operates far more as disembodied finance capital, controlling production at one end with its control over technology and markets at the other. In this phase, where capital increasingly lives off speculation and rent, there is also a marked separation of knowledge as capital from productive or physical capital—plant and machinery. Foxconn/Hon Hai Precision Industries manufactures Apple products but cannot claim a major share in the profits from their sale, since Apple holds the intellectual knowledge and property rights. Roughly, Apple gets 31 per cent of the profits from an iPhone sale, Foxconn less than two per cent.
The transformation of capital to rent seeking, by using its monopoly over knowledge—patents, copyrights, industrial designs, etc.—characterises the current phase of capital. With this, the advanced capitalist countries have increasingly become rentier and ‘service’ economies. In essence, they dominate the world by virtue of controlling the global financial structure, new knowledge required for production, and distribution through retail and global brands.
Even as universities are captured by capital and turned into what is termed as University Inc., the new knowledge they produce is still publicly funded.4 This is true alike of advanced capitalist countries and those like India. The direction of scientific research is dictated by private capital, which takes over any successful outcome, and yet this transformation of science did not come about through being privately funded. The cost of fundamental research is high and only a few of its research outputs may have immediate benefits in terms of advancing technology. This is where the state, whether in electronics or in genetics, takes care of the costs while the patents are handed over to private capital. A hallmark of the neo-liberal system is the socialisation of risk and privatisation of rewards.
The understanding that science needs to be restored as an open and collaborative exercise has given birth to the commons movement. By a curious sleight of hand, capitalism sees the finite commons—the atmosphere and large water bodies such as lakes, rivers and oceans—as infinite, and demands the right to dump waste in these commons. Yet it regards knowledge, capable of being copied infinite number of times without loss, as finite and demands monopoly rights over it!
Never before has society had the ability it does today to bring together different communities and resources in order to produce new knowledge. It is social, universal labour, and its private appropriation as intellectual property under capitalism stands in the way of liberating the enormous power of the collective to generate new knowledge and benefit people.
Extracted with permission from Knowledge as Commons: Towards Inclusive Science and Technology by Prabir Purkayastha, first published by LeftWord, New Delhi, 2023.
1 Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, has been described as the last lone inventor. He fought against the corporate power of David Sarnoff, and RCA, the most powerful company in the business of broadcasting. It was a David versus Goliath battle. Evan I. Schwartz, The Last Lone Inventor: A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television, Harper Collins, 2002.
2 I have dealt with the relationship between science and technology in more detail in the essay ‘Restoring Conceptual Independence to Technology’. See Chapter 5 in Section II of this book.
3 ‘Academic administrators increasingly refer to students as consumers and to education and research as products. They talk about branding and marketing and now spend more on lobbying in Washington than defence contractors do’. Jennifer Washburn, University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education, Basic Books, 2005. Before the Bayh-Dole Act 1980, any invention or knowledge produced with public money had to remain in the public domain to be used by any individual or company. The universities have a vested interest in patenting—for example medicine—selling the rights to the private sector and generating either large one-time payments, or a stream of royalties or both. ‘This report shows that NIH funding contributed to published research associated with every one of the 210 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010–2016’. Ekaterina Galkina Cleary, Jennifer M. Beierlein, Navleen Surjit Khanuja, Laura M. McNamee, Fred D. Ledley, ‘Contribution of NIH Funding to New Drug Approvals 2010–2016’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 115, 10, pp. 2329–2334, 2018.
4 Washburn, University, Inc..
This article was produced by News Click.
It will take ages to unpack the silos of information inbuilt in the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week, coupled with the – armored - train-keeps-a-rollin’ conducted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un straddling every nook and cranny of Primorsky Krai.
The key themes all reflect the four main vectors of the New Great Game as it’s being played across the Global South: energy and energy resources; manufacturing and labor; market and trade rules; and logistics. But they go way beyond – exploring the subtle nuances of the current civilizational war.
So Vladivostok presented…
- A serious debate on the surge of anti-neocolonialism, presented for instance by the Myanmar delegation; geostrategically, Burma/Myanmar, as a privileged gateway to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, was always an object of Divide and Rule games, with the British Empire only caring about extracting natural resources. This is what “scientific colonialism” is all about.
- A serious debate on the concept of the civilization-state, as already developed by Chinese and Russian scholars, applied to China, Russia, India and Iran.
- The interconnection of transport/connectivity corridors. That includes the upgrading of the Trans-Siberian in the near future; a boost for the Trans-Baikal – the world’s busiest rail line – connecting the Urals to the Far East; a renewed drive for the Northern Sea Route (last month two Russian oil tankers sailed from Murmansk across the Arctic to China for the first time; ten days shorter than the Suez Canal route); and the coming of the Chennai-Vladivostok channel, which will be connected to the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC).
- The common Eurasia payment system, discussed in detail in one of the key panels: Greater Eurasia: Drivers for the Formation of an Alternative International and Monetary and Financial System. The immense challenge to set up a new payment settlement currency against “toxic currencies” instrumentalized amid relentless Hybrid War. In another panel, the possibility of a timely BRICS and EAEU joint summit next year has been evoked.
All Aboard The Kim Train
The genesis of Kim Jong Un’s train journey to the Russian Far East - coinciding with the Forum, no less - is a masterful strategic coup that was in the works since 2014, at the time of the Maidan.
Xi Jinping was still in the beginning of his first mandate; he had announced the New Silk Road exactly ten years ago, first in Astana and then in Jakarta. The DPRK was not supposed to be integrated into this vast pan-Eurasian project that would soon become China’s overarching foreign policy concept.
The DPRK then was on a roll against the Hegemon, under Obama, and Beijing was no more than a worried spectator. Moscow, of course, was always focused on peace in the Korean Peninsula, especially because its geopolitical priorities in 2014 were Donbass and Syria/Iran. The last thing Moscow could afford was a war in Asia-Pacific.
Putin’s strategy was to send Defense Minister Shoigu to Beijing and Islamabad to calm it all down. Pakistan at the time was helping Pyongyang to weaponize their nuclear arsenal. Simultaneously, Putin himself approached Kim, offering serious guarantees: we’ve got your back if ever there is an attack by the Hegemon supported by Seoul. Even better: Putin got Xi himself to double down on the guarantees.
The categorical imperative was simple: as long as Pyongyang did not start any trouble, Moscow and Beijing would be by its side.
A sort of calm before any possible storm then set in – even if Pyongyang continued to test their missiles. So over the years, Kim’s mindset changed; he became convinced that Russia and China were his allies.
The DPRK's geoeconomic integration into Eurasia was seriously discussed in previous, pre-Covid editions of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. That included the tantalizing possibility of a Trans-Korean Railway linking both North and South to the Far East, Siberia and the wider Eurasia.
So Kim started to see the Big Eurasia Picture, and how Pyongyang could finally start to benefit geoeconomically from a closer association with the EAEU, SCO and BRI.
This is how strategic diplomacy works: you invest during a decade, and then all the pieces fall into place when an armored train keeps-a-rollin’ across Primorsky Krai.
From the perspective of a Russia-China-DPRK triangle, it’s no wonder the collective West has been reduced to the status of crying toddlers in a sandbox. The Hegemon’s puny US-Japan-South Korea axis to counter, simultaneously, China and the DPRK, is a joke compared to the DPRK’s brand-new role as a sort of Asia-Pacific Military District, adjacent to their immediate neighbor, the Russian Far East.
There will be military integration, of course, in missile defense, radars, ports, airfields. But the key vector, along the way, will be geoeconomic integration. Sanctions from now on are meaningless.
No one in 2014 was seeing this all play out, except for a very sharp analyst who coined the precious Double Helix concept to define the still evolving, at the time, Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
The Double Helix perfectly explains the full-spectrum geostrategic symbiosis between two civilization-states which happen to be former empires but since the middle of the previous decade willfully decided to accelerate their mutual drive to lead the Global Majority in the path towards multipolarity.
The Road to Polycentricity
All of the above finely coalesced in the last panel in Vladivostok - informally known even to the Japanese and Koreans as “the European capital of Asia”, in the heart of Asia-Pacific. The debate was on a “global alternative to Western dominance”. The West, incidentally, was absolutely invisible at the Forum.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova summed it all up: the recent G20 and BRICS summits had set the stage for President Putin’s remarkable address to the plenary session in Vladivostok.
Zakharova alluded to “fantastic strategic patience”. That applies to the whole “pivot to Asia” policy and boosting the development of the Far East, initiated in 2012, and now implying a full turn of the Russian economy towards Asia-Pacific geoeconomics. But at the same time, that also applies to integrating the DPRK into the geoeconomic Eurasian high-speed train.
Zakharova stressed how Russia “never supported isolation”; always “advocated partnership” – which the Forum graphically displayed for dozens of Global South delegations. And now, under the conditions of a “dirty fight, unlawful and with no rules”, a serious stand-off, the Russian position remains easily recognizable for the Global Majority: “Not to accept dictatorship”.
Andrey Denisov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, made a point to mention crack political analyst Sergey Karaganov as one of the key drivers of the concept of Greater Eurasia. More than “multipolarity”, Denisov argued, what is being built is “polycentricity”: a series of concentric circles, involving plenty of dialogue partners.
Former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl now heads a new think tank in St. Petersburg, G.O.R.K.I. As a European who ended up being ostracized by her own peers under the blatant toxicity of cancel culture, she stressed how freedom and rule of law have disappeared in Europe.
Kneissl referred to the Battle of Actium as the key passage of power from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Western Mediterranean: “That’s when the dominance of the West started”, complete with all the mythology built around the Roman Empire which obsesses the Anglosphere to this day.
With sanctions dementia and irrational Russophobia installed at the head of the EU and the European Commission, Kneissl stressed, the notion that “treaties must be preserved” disappeared while “the rule of law has been destroyed. This is the worst that could have happened to Europe”.
Alexander Dugin, online, called for understanding “the depth of Western domination”, expressed via hyper-liberalism. And he proposed a key breakthrough: the Western modus operandi should become an object of research, in a sort of Gramscian attempt to define what distinguishes Western ideology, and thus act towards “deep decolonization”.
In a sense this is what is being attempted by current actors in West Africa – Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger. That poses the question of who is a real Sovereign in a new world. The West, argues Dugin, is a Total Sovereign; Russia, as a nuclear power and prime military power defined as an existential threat by the Hegemon, is also a Sovereign.
Then there’s China, India, Iran, Turkey. These are key poles in a dialogue of civilizations; actually what was proposed by former Iranian President Khatami way back in the late 1990s, and then dismissed by the Hegemon.
Dugin remarked how China “has moved far away in building a civilizational state”. Russia, Iran, India are not far behind. These will be the essential actors steering the world towards polycentricity.
This article was produced by Sputnik.
Appointment of Abrams to Public Diplomacy Commission Shows President Biden’s Close Ties to the CIA
In September 1998, Desiree A. Ferdinand gave a sworn deposition, in a case filed with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, detailing the career of her father, Colonel Albert V. Carone, an army intelligence officer in World War II who she claimed was a CIA liaison with organized crime.
Ferdinand testified in a civil suit brought against the CIA and then-Vice President and former CIA Director George H. W. Bush (and others) by Army Private William M. Tyree, Jr., who claimed he was involved in a drug-smuggling operation from Colombia and was then framed for the murder of his wife.
Because of Abrams’ involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, his nomination by Biden garnered criticism even on CNN.
Journalist Jefferson Morley characterized Abrams as the equivalent of neo-conservative royalty—his wife was the daughter of Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine, a mouthpiece for hawkish neo-conservatives.
In 1991, Abrams pleaded guilty for withholding information about arms smuggling to the Contras, earning him two misdemeanor counts, two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service—though his crimes were later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
Norman Podhoretz [Source: labiancatorrdiecthelion.wordpress.com]
The secret Iran-Contra operation, which took place during Abrams’ time as an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, involved funding anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua known as the Contras, using the proceeds from weapon sales to Iran despite the congressional ban on such funding contained in the Boland Amendment.
To bypass the Boland Amendment, Abrams took payments from the Sultan of Brunei, a petroleum potentate from South Asia, and passed them to Contra leaders who used terrorist methods in trying to sabotage Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government, which won legitimate elections in 1984.
Ronald Reagan meeting with Contra leaders. Oliver North stands behind Reagan in the background. [Source: dougmichaeltruth.com]
Nicknamed “Contra commander-in-chief,” Abrams stated in 1985 that the purpose of the illegal aid to the Contras was “to permit people who are fighting on our side to use more violence.”
Abrams being sworn in for his testimony at the televised Iran-Contra hearings. [Source: jacobin.com]
To further help fund the Contras, Abrams protected a drug-trafficking operation headed by Honduran General José Bueso Rosa, a CIA asset who ran an infamous death squad (Battalion 316), which captured, tortured and executed some 200 suspected leftists.
Additionally, Abrams helped cover up U.S. support for large-scale war crimes in Guatemala, and for the December 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, where the U.S.-trained Atlácatl Battalion massacred more than 800 civilians—the largest mass killing in Latin American history.
In a July 1982 certification hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Abrams downplayed the El Mozote massacre, describing it as “an incident which is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the [leftist] guerrillas.”
A decade later, Abrams told The Washington Post that “the administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement”; he repeated the same thing during a confirmation hearing in 2019 when he was grilled by Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Memorial to the victims of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador which Abrams helped to cover up. [Source: jacobin.com]
Doberman Pinscher School of Diplomacy
True to form, as a member of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, Abrams supported a coup attempt directed against Venezuela’s leftist leader Hugo Chávez in 2002. Then in 2006, he helped precipitate a civil war between Hamas and Fatah when the Bush administration would not accept Hamas’s victory in elections in Gaza.
Writing in CounterPunch, former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman called Abrams a “Cold War functionary remnant from a sad era.” Branko Marcetic in Jacobin called him “one of America’s worst living human rights abusers,” while career foreign service officer Frank McNeil said that Abrams practices the “Doberman Pinscher school of diplomacy.”
Biden’s Commitment to the CIA
The latter would be consistent with Abrams’ background in the CIA, an agency with a history of subverting diplomacy and fomenting violent coups, civil wars and regime change.
Biden’s appointment of the old CIA veteran to a prestigious commission shows Biden’s commitment not only to neo-conservatism but also to securing the interests of the CIA.
This commitment was seen last year when Biden refused to declassify 5,000 critical documents on the assassination of JFK, which researchers believe incriminate the CIA.
Biden has also bolstered funding for the CIA’s propaganda arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and helped turn Ukraine into a CIA playground, using an energy company that placed his son on its board as a front to funnel weapons to right-wing and neo-Nazi-dominated militias that have terrorized the people of eastern Ukraine since 2014.
Biden’s support for the CIA during his presidency is not surprising given that, when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate as a “29-year-old kid” in 1972, Biden was mentored by W. Averell Harriman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union who supported CIA covert operations throughout his long diplomatic career.
In 1981, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, Biden advocated locking up CIA whistleblower Philip Agee, whose 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary identified some 250 officers, front companies and foreign agents working for the United States. Biden also collaborated with CIA Director William J. Casey in 1980 in promoting legislation that banned graymailing, a tactic used in leaker trials in which classified documents are requested by the defense during discovery to pressure the government into dropping its case.
Joe Biden in 1981. [Source: nytimes.com]
In his memoir On the Run (1987), Philip Agee wrote that “Joseph Biden, like [Barry] Goldwater [conservative Senator from Arizona and 1964 presidential candidate and] a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a new law to stop my revelations by criminalizing the exposure of undercover intelligence officers.”
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was supposed to provide oversight of CIA covert operations but in reality came to function as a rubber stamp.
Among other things, it failed to (1) adequately probe into the CIA’s assassination of Frank Olson, a CIA biochemist who helped run germ warfare experiments at a secret army laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland; (2) acquiesced to the CIA’s lies about its subversion in Angola; and (3) covered up the CIA’s support for narco-traffickers in Latin America and Afghanistan.
In the early 1980s, after complaints by a Delaware citizen, Biden launched an investigation into Summit Aviation Corp., a Middletown, Delaware, company owned by Richard “Kip” DuPont that ferried bombs and guns to the Nicaraguan Contras in support of CIA operations, but never released the findings.
This exemplified Biden’s participation in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal alongside Elliott Abrams and Biden’s function as a “Company Man”—which continues to this day.
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine. He is the author of four books on U.S. foreign policy, including Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018). He can be reached at: email@example.com.
This article was produced by CovertAction Magazine.
What if There Had Been No Coup in Chile in 1973?: The Thirty-Sixth Newsletter (2023) By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Gracia Barrios (Chile), Multitud III (‘Multitude III’), 1972.
Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Imagine this scenario. On 11 September 1973, the reactionary sections of the Chilean army, led by General Augusto Pinochet and given a green light by the US government, did not leave their barracks. President Salvador Allende, who led the Popular Unity government, went to his office in La Moneda in Santiago to announce a plebiscite on his government and to ask for the resignation of several senior generals. Then, Allende continued his fight to bring down inflation and to realise his government’s programme to advance the socialist agenda in Chile.
Until the moment when the Chilean Army descended upon La Moneda in 1973, Allende and the Popular Unity government were in a pitched fight to defend Chile’s sovereignty, particularly over its copper resources and its land as they sought to raise sufficient funds to eradicate hunger and illiteracy and to produce innovative means to deliver health care and housing. In the Popular Unity programme (1970), the Allende government founded its charter:
The social aspirations of the Chilean people are legitimate and possible to satisfy. They want, for example, dignified housing without readjustments that exhaust their income; schools and universities for their children; sufficient wages; an end once and for all to high prices; stable work; timely medical attention; public lighting; sewers; potable water; paved streets and sidewalks; a just and operable social security system without privileges and without starvation-level pensions; telephones; police; children’s playgrounds; recreation areas; and popular vacationing and sea resorts.
The satisfaction of these just desires of the people – which, in truth, are rights that society must recognise – will be a preoccupation of high priority for the popular government.
Realising the ‘just desires of the people’ – a laudable objective – was possible amidst the public’s optimism for the Popular Unity government. Allende’s administration adopted a model that decentralised the government and mobilised the people to attain their own ‘just desires’. Had this model not been interrupted, the depositors in the government’s social security institutions would have remained on directive councils with oversight of these funds. Organisations of slum dwellers would have continued to inspect the operations of the housing department tasked with building quality housing for the working class. Old democratic structures would have continued to strengthen as the government used new technologies (such as Project Cybersyn) to create a distributed decision system. ‘It is not only about these examples’, the programme noted, ‘but about a new understanding in which the people participate in state institutions in a real and efficient way’.
Roberto Matta (Chile), Hagámosnos la guerrilla interior para parir un hombre nuevo (‘Let’s Fight the Guerilla War Within Ourselves to Give Birth to a New Man’), 1970.
As Chile’s people, led by the Popular Unity government, took control over their economic and political lives and worked hard to improve their social and cultural worlds, they sent a flare into the sky announcing the great possibilities of socialism. Their advances mirrored those that had been attained in several other projects, such as in Cuba, and boosted the confidence of people across the Third World to test their own possibilities. The eradication of poverty and the creation of housing for every family was an inspiration for Latin America. Had the Popular Unity project not been cut short, it very well might have encouraged other left projects to demand the satisfaction of just desires in a world where it was possible to attain them. No longer would we live in a world of scarcity, which impedes the realisation of these desires. No Chicago Boys would have arrived with their noxious neoliberal agenda to experiment in the laboratory of a military regime. Popular mobilisations would have exposed the illegitimate desire of the capitalist class to impose austerity on the people in the name of economic growth. As Allende’s government expanded its agenda, driven by a decentralised government and by popular mobilisation, the ‘just desires’ of the people might have eclipsed the narrow greed of capitalism.
If there had been no coup in Chile, there might not have been coups in Peru (1975) and Argentina (1976). Without these coups, perhaps the military dictatorships in Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay would have withdrawn in the face of popular agitation, inspired by Chile’s example. Perhaps, in this context, the close relationship between Chile’s Salvador Allende and Cuba’s Fidel Castro would have broken Washington’s illegal blockade of revolutionary Cuba. Perhaps the promises made at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) meeting in Santiago in 1972 might have been realised, among them the enactment of a robust New International Economic Order (NIEO) in 1974 that would have set aside the imperial privileges of the Dollar-Wall Street complex and its attendant agencies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Perhaps the just economic order that was being put in place in Chile would have been expanded to the world.
But the coup did happen. The military dictatorship killed, disappeared, and sent into exile hundreds of thousands of people, setting in motion a dynamic of repression that has been difficult for Chile to reverse despite the return to democracy in 1990. From being a laboratory for socialism, Chile – under the tight grip of the military – became a laboratory for neoliberalism. Despite its relatively small population of roughly ten million (a tenth of the size of Brazil’s population), the coup in Chile in 1973 had a global impact. At that time, the coup was not just seen as a coup against the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende, but as a coup against the Third World.
That is precisely the theme of our latest dossier, The Coup Against the Third World: Chile, 1973, produced in collaboration with Instituto de Ciencias Alejandro Lipschutz Centro de Pensamiento e Investigación Social y Política (ICAL). ‘The coup against Allende’s government’, we write, ‘took place not only against its own policy of the nationalisation of copper, but also because Allende had offered leadership and an example to other developing countries that sought to implement the NIEO principles’. At the third session of UNCTAD in Santiago (1972), Allende said that the mission of the conference was to replace ‘an obsolete and radically unjust economic and trade order with an equitable one that is based on a new concept of man and human dignity and to reformulate an international division of labour that is intolerable for the less advanced countries and that obstructs their progress while favouring only the affluent nations’. This was exactly the dynamic that was derailed by the coup in Chile as well as by other manoeuvres of the imperialist bloc. Instead of promoting an order ‘based on a new concept of man and human dignity’, these manoeuvres resulted in the murder of hundreds of thousands of people’s advocates (among them leftists, trade unionists, peasant leaders, environmental justice campaigners, and women’s rights activists) and prolonged the destiny of hunger and illiteracy, poor housing and medical care, and the general orientation of a culture of despair and toxicity.
Please read our dossier and share it. These dossiers – produced once a month – are a product of collaboration and hard work, a synthesis of how we, as an institute rooted in popular movements, see key events of our history. The art for this dossier comes from the Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum, which preserved art from the Popular Unity period and from the struggle against the coup. We are grateful to them, and to ICAL, for our collaborations based on solidarity and against the neoliberal ethic of parochial greed.
Two weeks before the fiftieth anniversary of the coup in Chile, Guillermo Teillier, the president of the Communist Party of Chile (PC), died. At his funeral, the party’s general secretary Lautaro Carmona Soto described how Teillier – with the coup’s cordite still in the air – went to work in Valdivia to protect and then build the party as part of the broader resistance to the coup regime. In 1974, Teillier was arrested in Santiago and subsequently held and tortured for two years in the Academia de Guerra Aérea. For another year and a half, Tellier was held in concentration camps in Ritoque, Puchuncaví, and Tres Álamos. Released in 1976, he went into hiding and continued to build the party back to its fighting strength, joined the following year by PC leader Gladys Marín. This was dangerous work, made even more dangerous when Tellier took over as the leader of the party’s military commission, which managed the aid sent from Cuba to Chile and oversaw the creation and operations of the Manuel Rodríquez Patriotic Front (FPMR), the PC’s armed wing. Though attempts to assassinate Pinochet failed, broader work to build the movement for democracy succeeded. It is the bravery and sacrifice of people such as Tellier, Marín, and countless – and often nameless – others, that brought the dictatorship of Pinochet and the Chicago Boys to an end in 1990.
The 1973 coup in Chile destroyed lives and suspended a process of great promise. Today, that promise must be revived.
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 triContinental.
The declaration omitted the use of the word aggression in the context of the Ukraine war, which had been a major point of contention. It recognized that the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues while acknowledging their impact on the global economy
The 18th Summit of G20 (Group of 20) concluded in New Delhi with the adoption of a joint declaration on Sunday, September 10. The declaration reiterated the G20’s commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals and raised the need to reform global decision-making with the inclusion of more voices from the Global South.
The two day meeting of world’s top economies concluded with Indian Prime Ninister Narendra Modi handing over the presidency to Brazil which will host the summit next year.
The New Delhi summit with the theme “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future” invited the African Union (AU) as its 21st member with its chairperson Azali Assoumani joining the proceedings.
The AU represents 55 nations on the continent with a population of around 1.4 billion and a combined nominal GDP of USD 3 trillion.
The leaders of G20 member countries and heads of international organizations addressed the summit gathering as it closed. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, speaking at the end of the summit, noted that the world is still witnessing poverty, hunger, and concentration of wealth. He also emphasized the need to address the issue of rising inequality in all spheres of life ranging from health, education, food, gender, race, and representation.
Leaders’ Declaration: Global South pushes its agenda
Host nation India was able to pull together all the participants to agree to the New Delhi declaration, despite earlier speculation that the war in Ukraine may play a spoiler. Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who attended the summit instead of president Vladimir Putin, praised New Delhi for preventing the West from pushing its agenda and “politicizing” the forum at the cost of the Global South on many issues including the war in Ukraine. The declaration omitted the use of the word aggression in the context of the Ukraine war, which had been a major point of contention.
The declaration reiterated that the G20 is the “premium forum for international economic cooperation” and not “the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues” while acknowledging the impact of these issues on the economy. The attempt by the West to use the G20 platform to push its agenda on geopolitical issues has often been criticized by some members of the G20.
The declaration also urged the countries to adhere to their commitments under the UN charter and maintain the territorial integrity of all countries. It also acknowledged that the war in Ukraine has had a massive global economic impact particularly for the least developed countries which are still trying to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
It called for the revival of the Black Sea Grain deal and food grain and fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine as it is necessary to meet the demands from developing countries.
Apart from reiterating the long-standing view of the developing countries about immediate reforms in the UN system, the declaration also voiced the need for greater representation of developing and poor countries in global economic decision-making to create a multilateral world reflecting the changing realities.
It noted that a large number of developing countries have been facing debt vulnerabilities which need urgent attention. It proposes immediate reforms in the global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and establishment of an efficient multilateral development bank (MDB) to address issues related to democratic disbursal of loans.
Noting that global economic growth is slower than expected and remains uneven, it underlines that all structural issues need to be resolved to address them.
The declaration reiterated the significance of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a multilateral forum and underscored that a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all members by 2024 must be created under it.
Sustainable development with multilateralism and reforms in global governance
Noting that “no country should have to choose between fighting poverty and fighting for our planet” the declaration pressed for greater cooperation to tackle the issues related to climate change and to ensure “sustainable, inclusive and just transitions” in the world.
The declaration underlined the need to have increased efforts and financing to achieve the Paris Agreement to tackle the rise in global temperature and other climate issues. The G20 agreed to take steps to limit the rise of temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius by 2030 but rejected any push to have a time-bound phasing of fossil fuels as demanded by some countries and the UN earlier.
The declaration talks about member countries taking efforts to restore at least 30% of the destroyed ecosystem by 2030 and at least 50% reduction of land degradation by 2040.
It reiterated the G20 commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Noting that only 12% of the SDGS are on track, the group declared that attempts need to be made to achieve time-bound targets and increased financing from all sources for the same.
It noted the structural constraints which prevented developing countries from catching up with the West and focused on the needs to manage gaps in skills, wages, social security of the workers particularly in the gig economies.
The declaration underlined the need to increase the role of women in economic decision-making.
Haiti, plunged into cycles of humanitarian crisis, rejects the possibility of new foreign intervention. By: Monyse RavenaRead Now
Movements propose transitional government and cooperation with the Global South to rebuild the country
Brasil de Fato spent seven days in Haiti at the invitation of popular organizations and movements. During the visit, BdF spoke to over 20 human rights organizations and all were unanimous in stating: the escalation of violence in the Caribbean country is stimulated by agents outside the island, and will probably be the justification for a new military intervention—rejected by the country’s civil society—led by foreign forces and sanctioned by the United Nations (UN).
Another common criticism from activists is the international press coverage of the country. Exuma Emmanuel, a communicator for Radio Resistance and the Haitian People’s News Agency, a community and popular web radio based in Port-au-Prince, is incisive, “The kind of international coverage given to Haiti has many negative effects for those who live here” he says. “One of which is to sell the image that it is one of the worst places in the world to live, and this also has an effect on Haitians living outside the country.”
“Outside the country, Haitians are afraid to present themselves as Haitians. There are other political effects on Haiti, since independence, negative news has formed an image,” he adds.
Camille Chalmers, economist, professor and representative of the Platform for Alternative Development in Haiti (PAPDA) asks, “How do people talk about the crisis in Haiti?”
“The dominant discourse in the international press is always about wars, the need for humanitarian aid,” she says. “This discourse has been going on since the 19th century because the imperial powers never accepted Haitian independence. The country helped in many independences and the [other] countries were afraid of the Haitian revolution.” Camille also highlights the permanence and originality of the Haitian popular movement and its anti-imperialist consciousness.
Increased violence and armed groups
The situation in the country is complex, with an increase in violence driven by armed groups that now control more than 50% of the territory, as confirmed by the organizations. The most critical situation is in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Armed groups control several popular neighborhoods, often involving murders and kidnappings.
According to Exuma Emmanuel, “the violence that has been encouraged wants to impose a new occupying force on the country.”
“The weapons used by the armed groups in the working class neighborhoods come from the United States. The Haitian people are not just desperate, they are fighting,” says Emmanuel, who explains that the gangs control strategic areas, creating a climate of terror and preventing people from organizing themselves.
According to a United Nations report on the situation in Haiti, violence intensified in 2023 and the number of murders recorded in the country increased by 21% this year, from 673 in the last quarter of 2022 to 815 between January 1 and March 31. The number of kidnappings rose by 63% in the same period, from 391 to 637.
Cases of rape of women and girls are also among the main complaints of the organizations heard by Brasil de Fato. A report by Amnesty International, presented at the beginning of April, points out that 40% of the country’s population is in a food emergency, which corresponds to five million people going hungry.
According to the UN, the Haitian authorities recorded 1,014 kidnappings in the country between January and June this year.
Haiti has the third highest inflation rate among Latin American countries (behind Argentina and Venezuela), at around 30%, and a volatile exchange rate. Fuel prices have risen by 260% in two years and the country is facing a new migration crisis with a flight of skilled labor. The majority of the population has no access to drinking water, medical care or adequate housing.
For Radio Resistance coordinator Reyneld Sanon, the international community is backing a “criminal government.” “Everything they do is to justify Haiti as a chaotic entity,” he says.
Since the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, the presidency has been vacant and there are no plans for new elections. After the president’s death, Ariel Henry was appointed prime minister. Popular organizations claim that his appointment was made through direct interference by the Core Group, made up of the embassies of Germany, Brazil, Spain, the USA, France, Canada, the European Union and the special representative of the Organization of American States.
At the moment, there is no functioning parliament or higher courts in the country.
A group of popular movements and human rights organizations are proposing the establishment of a transitional government as a way out of the crisis. The proposals have been systematized in the “Montana Accord,” which is opposed by the Core Group.
The agreement was proposed in August 2021 by the Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis. The group brings together non-governmental organizations, popular and religious movements, political leaders and intellectuals who met after Moïse’s assassination. The name Montana Group refers to the place where the group held its meetings, the Hotel Montana, in the capital Port-au-Prince.
“The transition of power can be one of continuity or rupture, but the current government is illegitimate and illegal,” says Camille Chalmers on the challenge of the historic moment Haiti is experiencing.
Neidyson Cèzaire, a communicator, producer and activist, rejects the possibility of a new foreign intervention. “International aid from Western countries has never helped a country to develop,” he says. “The way forward for Haiti is to prioritize South-South cooperation. Western countries hate Haiti, they want to make us pay for being responsible for breaking the world order of slavery.”
Chalmers concludes by saying that “we need real solidarity. US imperialism is one of the actors driving the crisis. We do need to build international support networks, not military intervention.”
Unlike the popular organizations and movements that work directly with the population, Prime Minister Ariel Henry asked for international military aid to fight the armed groups in October 2022 and has yet to receive a response.
However, it is expected that at the next UN Security Council meeting on September 14 there will be statements and a possible determination on the issue.
The Brazilian government has already shown interest in having the Brazilian Federal Police train the Haitian police, but is waiting for the Security Council to approve a multinational police force in the country.
History and independence
Haiti was the first colony in the Americas to gain independence and the only independence revolution carried out by Black enslaved people. The Haitian revolution began in 1791, when the then French colony was called Santo Domingo. After a long struggle, independence was proclaimed in 1804 and the country was renamed Haiti, a name of Indigenous origin. The Haitian revolution combined the struggle for independence from the metropolis with the struggle to free the enslaved.
However, Haiti’s history in the 20th and 21st centuries has been marked by successive foreign occupations: the US occupation from 1915 to 1934; and the Duvalier military dictatorship, which lasted almost 30 years from 1957 to 1986. With the end of the dictatorship, the 1987 constitution brought several advances, including the establishment of Creole as an official language alongside French.
There were two coup attempts against the progressive former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991 and 2004.
Also in 2004, the occupation by MINUSTAH, a multinational UN force commanded by Brazilian military personnel, began and lasted until 2014. One of its commanders was General Augusto Heleno, head of the security cabinet in Jair Bolsonaro’s government.
Recent Haitian history also includes the devastating earthquake of 2010, which greatly inflamed the country’s social and economic crises, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“Each intervention had serious and interrelated consequences. We arrived in 2016 with an important cycle of demonstrations led by the peasants and which were harshly fought by the gangs,” concludes Chalmers. Another cycle of important popular demonstrations took place in 2022, protesting against Ariel Henry’s government and the increase in violence.
BdF reporters tried to contact the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Haiti, but had not yet received a response by the time the report closed.
This article was translated from an article in Portuguese originally published on Brasil de Fato.
Republished from Peoples Dispatch.
Niger’s government accuses France of mobilizing for war after discussing troop withdrawal. By: Pavan KulkarniRead Now
The commander of French forces in the Sahel has discussed disengagement from Niger, yet Macron has refused to withdraw troops, whose continued presence in Niger was deemed ‘illegal’
Questioning the “sincerity” of France’s comments about the withdrawal of its troops from Niger, the transitional military government, the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), has accused the former colonizer of mobilizing for war.
CNSP spokesperson Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane said on September 9 that a “hundred or so rotations of [French] military cargo planes unloaded large quantities of war material and equipment” in multiple member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
He added that “two A400M type military transport aircraft and a Dornier 328 were deployed as reinforcements in Ivory Coast”, and “two Super Puma type multi-role helicopters” and “around forty armored vehicles” have been deployed “in Kandi and Malanville in Benin”.
He alleged that “France has continued to deploy its forces in several ECOWAS countries, as part of the preparations for an aggression against Niger that it is planning in collaboration” with the sub-regional bloc.
The AFP quoted an unnamed French military source denying the accusation, saying, “None of this is in preparation or intention. There is no intervention, no attack planned against Niger”. France had earlier extended support to ECOWAS, which has threatened to use military force if the CNSP does not restore France’s ally Mohamed Bazoum as Niger’s president.
Bazoum, whose regime had instituted a crackdown on the mass protest movement against the presence of French troops in their country, was removed from presidency on July 26 in a military coup that has received popular support.
French troops in Niger are “in a position of illegality”, maintains Niger’s PM
Following the coup, on August 3, the CNSP, canceled the agreements on the basis of which the French troops were present in the country. The one-month notice period in these agreements expired on September 3, following which the French troops in Niger are “in a position of illegality”, the CNSP-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, said at a press conference on September 4.
He added that the “ongoing exchanges should allow these forces to withdraw from our country very quickly”. According to Abdramane’s CNSP communique on Saturday, Niger’s Chief of Staff and the commander of French forces in the Sahel met on September 1 “to discuss a plan for the disengagement of French military capabilities from Niger.”
Earlier last week, the AFP quoted an unnamed source in the French defense ministry confirming that “discussions on the withdrawal of certain military elements have begun.” Le Monde had also reported that “Paris has discreetly opened discussions with the ruling military in Niamey on ‘the withdrawal of certain elements,’ after initially refusing to comply with the junta’s demands”.
However, “no progress has been made in implementing an agreement,” Abdramane criticized on September 9, questioning “the sincerity of the announcement of the French withdrawal plan”. He explained the reasons for CNSP’s skepticism, saying that “this withdrawal announcement comes from an operational level. It was not made by the French armed forces general staff, not by the French government, nor was it the subject of any official, written, or declaratory press release as is always customary in such circumstances.”
During a press conference on Sunday, September 10, after the conclusion of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that “We do not recognize any legitimacy in the statements” of the CNSP, which he referred to as “the putschists”.
“If we redeploy anything, I will only do it at the request of President Bazoum and in coordination with him, not with officials who today are taking a president hostage,” he said. “As for the rest, I have no intention as long as the situation is this. It sort of freezes everything, since the only person we have to legitimately talk to is President Bazoum.”
Anti-French protests continue
In the meantime, demonstrations which began soon after the coup in support of the CNSP, demanding withdrawal of French troops, have now become an almost daily event. Thousands continue to gather outside the French base in capital Niamey, in a protest against the former colonizer’s intransigence.
After threatening late month to storm the French bases if its troops did not leave the country, protesters sacrificed a goat dressed in the French tricolor and symbolically buried a coffin draped in its national flag outside its base in Niamey earlier this month. Up to 1,500 French troops are deployed in this base and two others in Ouallam and Ayorou.
US on the retreat while China offers to moderate
The US, which has another 1,200 of its own troops in two bases in the country, is taking a more cautious approach than France. Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said at a press briefing on September 7 that the US is “repositioning some of our personnel and some of our assets from Air Base 101 in Niamey to Air Base 201” further north in Agadez.
Reiterating that the US hopes “that the situation on the ground gets resolved diplomatically,” she added that although “there is no perceived threat…to US troops”, they are being relocated as “a precautionary measure”. Politico reported on September 8 that the US military is “preparing to cut its presence in Niger nearly in half in the next few weeks,” citing unnamed Defense Department officials.
In the meantime, the Chinese ambassador to Niger Jiang Feng, said at a meeting with Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine that the Chinese government “intends to play the role of good offices, a role of moderator, with full respect for the regional countries.” Feng added that China “stands with Nigeriens”.
Republished from Peoples Dispatch.
Many nations, however, want to work for all of mankind, not for the wealthy few, the Russian president has said
Western countries are destroying the existing framework of global economic relations that they helped to build in the first place, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, adding that many countries are opposed to this.
Speaking at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin stated that the landscape of the international economy is changing in part because “some countries, primarily Western nations, are destroying the system of financial, trade, and economic relations with their own hands.”
However, this destructive activity coincided with the expansion of “real business cooperation,” involving many nations around the world that resist any external pressure and pursue their own national interests, Putin said.
“They prioritize not temporary political events, but the promotion of their own projects... that bring direct and long-term benefits to their populations,” Putin said, adding that this leads to the emergence of a new international model “shaped not by Western standards [and] catering to the selected ‘golden billion,’ but all of humanity... and the developing multipolar world.”
Putin’s comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month that the BRICS economic group – which recently announced an unprecedented expansion – and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are gaining more international clout as many nations seek to bypass Western-dominated international institutions that fail to address their grievances.
In June, he also estimated that one in four countries in the world is to some extent sanctioned by the US or European nations. According to Lavrov, this means that the West is using the global economy “as an instrument of coercion, blackmail, and punishment.”
Western countries imposed particularly harsh sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict, including the freezing of Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves to the tune of around $600 billion, a move that Moscow condemned as “theft.”
Summary and Analysis
Last year in the summer of 2022 a wonderful friend named Debbie sent me a copy of Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad’s new book The Withdrawal. A year later I finally got the chance to sit down and read it (sorry it took me so long Debbie) and I was not disappointed as this text provides an excellent history of the major events and developments that have taken place within Western Capitalist imperialism throughout the last forty years or so. Those looking for a dense historical text will be disappointed as The Withdrawal is actually a transcribed conversation between Prashad and Chomsky, but this makes it a quick and easy read, perfect for beginners setting out to understand modern American policy and geopolitics.
Going into this book I was curious to see how Chomsky and Prashad reconciled their views on existing socialist countries. Prashad is someone I’ve always admired for his ability to stand up for existing socialist countries and his refusal to parrot U.S. State Department talking points about countries like China. Chomsky on the other hand, has always provided brilliant critiques of the American empire, but has a tendency to sound like a mainstream liberal propagandist when the topic of the Soviet Union or Leninism comes up. However, it seems that Chomsky may be turning over a new leaf at the ripe age of 94 as attacks on China, Vietnam, and other existing socialist countries are notably absent from this book.
The Withdrawal provides an excellent summary of the American Empire going back thirty years at least, and it does an incredible job of placing the major geopolitical events of the past few decades within their proper historical context. By example Chomsky’s analysis of the 9/11 terror attacks doesn’t begin on September 11th 2001. Instead he details the millions of dollars that were funneled into Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist group known as the Mujahideen by the United States after the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize the country. Through this historical analysis Chomsky reveals how the U.S. empire created the forces who carried out 9/11, then used 9/11 as justification to invade two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, who had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11th. In fact, the U.S. waged war against Taliban and Iraqi Governments that were actually enemies of Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group, an outgrowth of the Mujahideen.
Notably absent from Chomsky’s analysis is the claim so often made by Western academics that Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan was just as bad as American imperialism. Instead, Chomsky admits that most Afghans see the era of Soviet occupation as the most hopeful time in the country’s history. The Soviet soldiers fought bravely on behalf of the Marxist Democratic Government in power at the time against U.S. backed terrorist groups like the Mujahideen. They also helped the Government build factories, hospitals, infrastructure, and launch literacy campaigns teaching people to read even in the impoverished rural regions of the country. The U.S. on the other hand, dumped money and arms into Jihadist extremists who would throw acid on the faces of literacy workers and women who dared to walk outside without being covered head to toe. Thankfully, The Withdrawal avoids falling into the Western myth that tries to conflate Soviet and American imperialism as equal evils. And this may be due to the influence of Prashad, who has said in another book, Washington Bullets, that the CIA makes a concerted effort to conflate Soviet foreign policy with the worst acts of Western imperialism
Similarly absent from the book are any attacks against the People's Republic of China (PRC), which Prashad and Chomsky accurately say is providing a counterweight to the long-held hegemony of the American empire. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Belt and Road Initiative (BRICS) were created to counter American imperialism through cooperation and economic development, not to rival American imperialism through exploitation and debt trapping. The authors refuse to fall into the Western trope of dismissing everything that the PRC is doing as “authoritarian” or “imperialist” as so many academics tend to do. Instead, they take a measured and fact-based approach to looking at the foreign policy of the PRC, which ends up making socialist China look pretty dang good.
The book covers four core topics including Vietnam and Laos, 9/11 and Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It will be an enlightening read for anybody who believed the mainstream media myths surrounding these major events. Chomsky brilliantly counterposes the facts of what actually happened in these four wars, to the mainstream media myths that were created to justify them. He also explains how the empire’s justification myths have morphed over time from the war against communism, used to justify the horrific bombing campaigns against Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, into the war on terror, used to justify the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya (as well as Syria although it’s not discussed thoroughly in The Withdrawal).
In totality the book provides a fantastic summary of American imperialism since World War II, and I would recommend that beginners in the field of geopolitics read this text in conjunction with Prashad’s Washington Bullets that I mentioned earlier (After you read Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism by Lenin of course). The Withdrawal is an easy read and it is not cluttered with hundreds of academic sources, but it is filled with the knowledge of two academics who have spent most their lives studying the U.S. Empire.
My criticisms of The Withdrawal are contained to the explanations given by Prashad and Chomsky as to WHY the U.S. carries out the murderous and imperialistic policy that it does. For one, the authors use the analogy of the Godfather to explain U.S. policy, arguing that since World War II the U.S. has held unrivaled and unprecedented power on the global stage, allowing them to act like a mafia, breaking the knees of anybody who goes against their interests. I agree with this description of American power, and I find the Godfather to be a useful analogy for how the U.S. conducts foreign policy, constantly ignoring international law in order to violently protect their own economic interests.
Where I disagree with Chomsky and Prashad is when they say that American Policy is “rooted in a settler-colonial culture” or history. Make no mistake American policy is ROOTED in the mode of production, in the economic system of capitalism. America is not a uniquely evil country where people are born with some kind of innate drive to conquer foreign lands. Rather, we are a country of working people who are dominated by multinational corporations and finance capitalists that deceive the public in order to use them as pawns for advancing their global interests. It is not an attitude held by the American public that drives imperialist aggression, it is the incessant need for capital to expand, and the drive for surplus value inherent to the capitalist mode of production. The U.S. did not invade Iraq because Americans are a bunch of settler colonialists who wanted to seize a random country in the middle east. The U.S. invaded Iraq because the Koch brothers and other capitalists wanted Iraq’s oil. That is what American imperialism is rooted in, the need for constant expansion and increased profits which results from the capitalist mode of production, the basis for American society. And it is only through transforming this mode of production into a socialist one that we can bring a halt to American imperialism. Labeling the American working class as “settlers” will simply not achieve this goal.
In fact, America’s settler colonial attitude and history, to the extent that it has existed historically, is itself rooted in the capitalist mode of production, not the other way around. It was the expansion of capital that brought European settlers to America in search of new land, labor, and resources; and it was capitalism that incentivized the mass genocide of the native populations. As Karl Marx brilliantly details in Capital Volume I, in order for capitalism to work it requires a large population of workers who do not own their own means of production or produce their own means of subsistence (food and other things humans need to survive) and thus are forced to sell their labor power to capitalists in order to survive. When European settlers got to America the native peoples already had their own mode of production and produced their own means of subsistence, and thus they needed to be wiped out by the settlers, or divorced from their own means of production and subsistence, in order for capitalism (and the bourgeois form of slavery seen in the American south) to take hold as the dominant mode of production. The genocidal settler colonial culture of European settlers at the time was rooted in the capitalist mode of production and its incessant need to expand. To say that American imperialism and the expansion of capital is rooted in a settler colonial attitude or culture is to flip reality on its head. Although, the capitalist mode of production has certainly benefited from such attitudes.
Additionally, over 500 years have passed since European settlers first came to America. The U.S. is no longer a settler colonial project akin to the apartheid state of Israel, where every day native Palestinians are being forced off their land to make room for new Israeli settlement. It cannot be said that a settler colonial attitude has carried over hundreds of years later, and now acts as the motive force of American Imperialism in the year 2022 (the year the book was published).
From the Marxist perspective, settler colonial or American exceptionalist attitudes stem from the mode of production, and in turn help to condition the mode of production. By example the attitude of American exceptionalism has been produced and maintained by the ruling economic class of capitalists in order to get the American people on board with their regime change wars. American exceptionalism is rooted in the capitalist imperialist system, and in turn helps to keep that system churning. Again, to say that U.S. imperialism is rooted in an attitude of American exceptionalism or settler colonialism is to flip reality on its head.
Chomsky has never claimed to be a Marxist or dialectical materialist, and so I was not surprised to see him make this mistake. Prashad however, does come from a Marxist-Leninist tradition similar to myself, and I hope that he gets a chance to read this review and reconsiders his use of the word rooted when it comes to describing attitudes of American exceptionalism and settler colonialism.
Regardless, The Withdrawal is a fantastic text from two intellectuals who I deeply admire. It is filled with information about American Imperialism that has been systematically withheld from the American public by the American ruling class of capitalist, bankers, shareholders, and neoconservative/neoliberal politicians. I would recommend this text to any Americans who want to know what our government has been doing around the world in our name for the last 75 years or so.
Edward Liger Smith is an American political scientist (with a focus on Geopolitics, Socialist Construction, and U.S. health care), wrestling coach, and Director of the Midwestern Marx Institute for Marxist Theory and Political Analysis.
The bloc has too much riding on Kiev’s highly-unlikely success, and that’s why it’s doing all it can to prolong the conflict
As the West’s proxy war in Ukraine slips inexorably towards utter failure, the neocons behind the debacle are faced with dwindling avenues of retreat.
Early confidence that Russia, in its current form, would collapse under the pressure of the harshest sanctions regime in history failed to materialize. Early Russian miscalculations on the battlefield were not followed by a military meltdown, but by a pragmatic display of strategic adaptability, which is begrudgingly admired in the military war rooms of the West. The Russian army, far from falling apart, has steeled itself into making bold decisions to retreat when prudent and advance when required, both of which have proven devastating for their Ukrainian opponents. It follows that, as the Western political elites that cultivated this conflict peer into another winter of political, military, and potentially economic discontent, it is now that we potentially face the most dangerous period in Europe since the outbreak of WWII.
The catalyst for a wider war in Europe isn’t, in fact, a limited conflict in Ukraine in itself, one that started in 2014 and, notably, had been largely ignored by Western powers for almost a decade. The real issue is that NATO, which is currently engaged in a proxy War with Russia, is facing a ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario regarding its growing military involvement in Ukraine. If the US-led bloc escalates further as defeat looms, it could likely lead to direct confrontation with Russia. If it doesn’t, its proxy will collapse and leave Russia victorious, a fate once utterly unthinkable in Brussels, Washington, and London, but now becoming a nightmarish reality.
Such a defeat would be devastating and potentially terminal for the prestige and reputation of the whole NATO brand. After all, despite the Soviet Union having long ceased to exist, the bloc still markets itself as an indispensable bulwark against imagined Russian expansionism. In the event of an increasingly likely Ukrainian defeat, that ‘essential partner’ in ‘countering Russia’ will have been proven utterly impotent and largely irrelevant. More cynically, the vast US arms industry would also be denied a huge and lucrative market. So, how does a multi billion-dollar machine that has prophesied absolute victory against Russia even begin to contemplate defeat? And how do senior EU bureaucrats like Ursula Von der Leyen climb down from their quasi-religious devotion to the ‘cause’ of utterly defeating Russia, which she has shamelessly evangelized for over a year and a half? Lastly, how does the American administration, which has gone politically, morally, and economically ‘all in’ against Russia in Ukraine, contemplate what amounts to an increasingly inevitable European version of Afghanistan 2.0?
They will need to do two things: Firstly, find someone to blame for their defeat and secondly, find a new enemy to deflect public opinion onto. The ‘someone to blame’ will be quite easy to identify – the narrative will be flush with attacks on states like Hungary, China, and to some extent India, who will be accused of "undermining the unified effort needed to isolate and defeat Russia."
Blaming Ukraine itself will also be central to this narrative. Western media will insure it’s singled out as incapable of ‘taking the medicine’ proffered by NATO and therefore suffering the consequences, not listening to Western military advice, failing to utilize Western aid correctly and, of course – given that little has been done by Zelensky to tackle the endemic corruption in Ukraine – this fact will be easily weaponized against him and used to lubricate a slick narrative of ‘we tried to help them, but they simply couldn’t be saved from themselves’.
The ‘shift focus to another enemy’ narrative is the simplest and most obvious – that will be China. NATO is already trying to expand its influence in Asia, including via a planned ‘liaison office’ in Japan. The ‘China is the real threat’ narrative is bubbling steadily to the surface in Western media.
And, most worryingly, should Western powers fail to make their case for ‘plausible deniability’ around the culpability for this war, there is always the option of further escalating it. Such an escalation could rapidly lead to direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, an outcome no lucid observer on either side of the debate could or should be contemplating. The problem is, rational assessment and negotiation seem to have become so rare in Washington and Kiev that a devastating escalation could, quite remarkably, be considered an option by the deluded neocon think-tank advisers wielding disproportionate influence over an increasingly desperate political class in Washington and Brussels. In the event that NATO does indeed sanction a direct intervention into Ukraine, it will, of course, be justified as a ‘peacekeeping’ or humanitarian intervention by Polish or Romanian troops, but the categorization of the ‘mission’ will become gloriously irrelevant when the first clashes with Russian forces occur, followed by a potentially rapid spiral into all-out war between Russia and NATO.
It could be argued that the process to disassociate from Ukraine has already started, beginning with the embarrassment Zelensky faced at the recent NATO summit and progressing with the open spats between Western ‘partners’ over whether to give Ukraine ever deadlier weapons to essentially insure its self-destruction.
From here on out one thing is abundantly clear, nothing will happen by accident when it comes to the EU and NATO's interaction with the Zelensky regime. Whatever comes next may need to be spun both ways, to either pull out or to escalate. A case in point is the blame game being openly acted out around the obvious failure of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, with open finger-pointing in the Western media by Ukrainian officials like the ambassador to Germany, Aleksey Makeev. Kiev’s top man in Germany recently blamed the West for the bloody failure of the ill-fated project, suggesting it was solely due to European and American delays in shipping weapons and cash to Kiev. According to the ambassador, it was this Western failure that apparently allowed the Russians to build their defenses in eastern Ukraine, where tens of thousands of unfortunate Ukrainian conscripts have met their fate in the past three months.
In the real world, the counteroffensive, which has now become a slow-motion calamity, had been telegraphed to the Russians and the wider world for almost a year and will surely be recalled as one of the greatest military misadventures in history. The fact that the Ukrainian regime openly advertised its intentions, even loudly pointing out the avenue of assault and strategic goals, is conveniently ignored by the likes of Makeev. It now seems apparent that Kiev believed that its overt saber-rattling would stimulate faster and larger weapons shipments from its increasingly concerned partners – it didn’t, and by the time those very same sponsors’ patience ran out with Kiev’s lack of progress on the battlefield, it was glaringly obvious any offensive against long-prepared Russian defenses was doomed to fail. Yet, because of Kiev’s PR need and demands from Western political elites, the counteroffensive began, wiping out entire battalions of Ukrainian troops and burning through a huge portion of the Western heavy weapons previously provided.
The situation evokes a kind of tragic romantic folly, with Ukraine desperate to woo NATO and the EU to the point of suicide, NATO and the EU playing the aloof lover; never having really considered marriage but willing to allow its admirer to throw itself onto the spears of the real object of their attention – Russia. Of course, the real concern now preoccupying the EU-NATO cabal is how to survive this tawdry affair and move on. While the hapless Jens Stoltenberg would have us believe NATO has never been stronger, the reality is far less rosy for the ‘defensive alliance’ that has bombed its way across Europe and the Middle East, and now seeks to expand to the Pacific. The reality is that the Ukraine conflict could destroy NATO. It has become something of a modern day League of Nations, adept at admonishing small fish, but utterly incapable of standing toe to toe with any peer adversary, a failed political institution, posing as a military alliance, that in reality would collapse in the face of a direct challenge from either Russia or China. Of course, it seems that NATO has also willfully fallen under the spell of its own propaganda.
The big question now is whether the bloc would in reality contemplate a direct confrontation with Russia in Ukraine? Or will the Western political elites who built the scaffold the Ukrainian conflict is now blazing on choose to reverse through blame or escalate through desperation?
One thing is indisputable: The fate of NATO and its credibility as a ‘defensive alliance’ is irrevocably intertwined with the outcome of the Ukrainian conflict, yet because NATO is, in reality, a political rather than military institution, these crucial issues will never be debated openly, as the answers would be akin to a priest announcing the nonexistence of God from the pulpit.
Chay Bowes, journalist and geopolitical analyst, MA in Strategic Studies, RT correspondent.
Republished from RT.
Nigerian president Bola Tinubu weathers challenge to electoral victory but faces resistance from labor By: Tanupriya SinghRead Now
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has dismissed all petitions filed by the opposition challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25 polls. The ruling was issued in the midst of a two-day strike organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress against the government’s economic policies
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu. (Photo: @officialABAT/Twitter)
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) of Nigeria has dismissed all petitions challenging the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the elections held on February 25. The five-judge bench issued its ruling on Wednesday, September 6, in response to the challenges filed by opposition contenders including Atiku Abubakar from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi from the Labour Party (LP), and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
The presidential election saw a record low voter turnout of only 29% of the total 93.4 million eligible voters. On March 1, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Tinubu as the winner with 36.6% of the votes, followed by Abubakar (29.1%) and Obi (25.4%)—whose LP had been popular among the youth and was backed by trade unions as a potential third force in Nigerian politics.
“We won the elections and we will prove it to Nigerians… It will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever to be held in Nigeria,” Obi had stated at the time.
Obi and Abubakar, who were among five petitioners that initially approached the PEPC, asked the court to either pronounce them as the winner of the February polls or order fresh elections. The petitions raised issues related to Tinubu’s educational qualifications, his citizenship of Guinea, and his indictment on drug trafficking charges in the US.
The two candidates raised allegations of major irregularities and corrupt practices in the polls, including suppression of votes, manipulation of results, and deliberate delays by the INEC in uploading virtual copies of the real-time results from polling units.
The APM’s petition was centered around the alleged double nomination of Tinubu’s vice-president and running mate, Kashim Shettima. Obi and Abubakar both claimed to have won the election.
However, in a 12-hour marathon judgment issued on Wednesday, the court dismissed all the petitions, stating that the petitioners had presented no “credible evidence” to prove the allegations of irregularities and corrupt practices, and had failed to present alternative results to prove their victory.
In a brief statement published on X (formerly Twitter) on Wednesday, the LP stated that it rejects the outcome of the judgment in its entirety “because justice was not served and it did not reflect the law and the desire of the people.”
The PEPC ruling came on the second day of a nationwide strike declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), while President Tinubu was in India ahead of the G20 Summit. The strike was called in protest of the recent economic reforms undertaken by the government, particularly the removal of subsidy on fuel in May. The move followed years of financial crises and neoliberal policies pursued by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari at the directive of the IMF and World Bank, under which energy distribution was privatized and subsidies were cut down. Tinubu had announced the removal of the fuel subsidy during his inaugural speech, resulting in fuel prices rising by almost three times to reach record high levels.
Speaking to Peoples Dispatch soon after, prominent Nigerian journalist and author Chido Onumah had highlighted that despite being the largest producer of crude oil in Africa, Nigeria is forced to rely on fuel imports.
“We have four refineries in the country, none are working. We should look at the political economy of subsidy and fuel importation…how many trillions of naira are going into importing fuel, much of this fuel is diverted. It is [an issue of] elite capture of the state…they are the ones in control of the state and the ones in control of the petroleum sector. According to them, trillions of naira [are being] spent to subsidize petrol… [meanwhile] how much does it cost to build a refinery?”
On the impact of subsidy removal, Onumah said that “fuel subsidies [in Nigeria’s context] is not about cars, it is about the barber, the hair salon, the market woman…because everything needs an alternative source of power to function. So you are not just targeting the middle class who own cars…When there are no efficient public transport systems….no alternative transport systems like rails…or effective public buses, it is difficult for the majority of Nigerians.”
The two-day shutdown on September 5 and 6 came just weeks after the NLC and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) held major countrywide protests to demand the “immediate reversal of all anti-poor policies of [the] government including the recent hike in PMS [Premium Motor Spirit or petrol] price, school fees, and VAT,” fixing local refineries, and addressing issues related to corruption.
The NLC also denounced the government’s decision to merge the foreign exchange rate in the official and parallel markets, which was done with the floating of the naira. The NLC stated that at a time when Nigeria “has nothing to export other than crude oil,” the decision raised the country’s debt stock from N72 trillion (USD 91.1 billion) to N81 trillion (USD 100.2 billion) and put “enormous pressure on local manufacturing capacity utilization,” impacting the cost of locally-produced goods as many input materials were imported.
Other issues raised included the provision of comprehensive social protection for poor and vulnerable households and government support for the health and education sectors instead of a move towards privatization.
The NLC has warned of organizing a “total and indefinite national shutdown” starting September 21 if the government does not take steps to “address the excruciating mass suffering and impoverishment being experienced across the country.”
Meanwhile, Tinubu is also facing a tense situation internationally as the chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In Niger, while thousands continue to take to the streets in support of the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, the West African bloc has imposed severe sanctions on Niamey and threatened military action.
However, the Senate of Nigeria, which was expected to have a leading role in any potential intervention, immediately rejected Tinubu’s request for the mobilization of forces. Late in August, Tinubu stated that “We [ECOWAS] are deep in our attempts to peacefully settle the issue in Niger by leveraging on our diplomatic tools. I continue to hold ECOWAS back, despite its readiness for all options, in order to exhaust all other remedial mechanisms.”
While talks between ECOWAS and Niger’s leadership are ongoing, the people of Niger have continued to hold mass protests against attempts to violate their country’s sovereignty, the threats and sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, and demanded the removal of French forces from their soil.
This article was produced by Peoples Dispatch.