A Community With a Shared Future for Mankind: China’s Proposal to the World at 20th CPC National Congress By: Aymara GerdelRead Now
A delegate outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, where the 20th CPC National Congress was held. Photo: CFP.
The general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Xi Jinping submitted a report summarizing the major achievements of China in the past decade and its vision for the future at the 20th National Congress of the CPC in Beijing. Among the main points outlined in the report, Xi Jinping buttressed the inevitability of upholding global peace and development and invited all countries to take part in efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Xi’s report to the 20th CPC National Congress reflected the two roads proposed and built by China. The first is the national road, “the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” through which China has built an economy that currently accounts for 18.5% of the world’s GDP in 2021, ranking it as the second largest economy in the world. On this basis, China is likely to become the world’s largest economy during the third decade of the 21st century, which constitutes the country’s objective to “basically achieve socialist modernization by 2035.”
The economic construction of this road has also permitted China to free more than 770 million rural people from poverty, according to the UN definition, providing employment to around 746.5 million people, significantly increasing the disposable income of its residents, guaranteeing health insurance to more than 1.364 billion people, and establishing the world’s largest social security system. The economic and social development of the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics is unprecedented.
The second is the international road, called “Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind,” being China’s proposal to the world at the 20th CPC National Congress. The report had some major takeaways which rightly analyzed the historical juncture the world has reached. Our vision for the future should firmly take its roots from the lessons learned from history and addresses the deficiencies of current global affairs management.
China shows that it will continue its active participation to reform and build an inclusive global governance system, adhering to the spirit of multilateralism. It is committed to building a community with a shared future for mankind. To support this vision, China is inviting other countries in the world to work together on the implementation of three initiatives: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Global Development Initiative (GDI), and the Global Security Initiative (GSI).
Since its inception, the initiative to build a community with a shared future for mankind has been widely welcomed and discussed in the international community, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Of the 33 countries in this region that maintain diplomatic relations with China, 21 have already signed up to the BRI. This enthusiastic participation makes the initiative one of the most successful programs to realize the concept of a future-sharing community in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Some regional countries, such as the Republic of Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, have also pledged their support for the GDI and GSI, as well as expressed their willingness to participate.
For developing countries, these three initiatives propose new situations that will require not only economic, political and social, but also cultural and academic efforts, to which China has also offered new proposals to the world.
An exhibition of the 14th China-Latin America and the Caribbean Business Summit in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality, November 16, 2021. /Xinhua
In this sense, on January 12, the Venezuelan Center for China Studies and the Institute for a Community of Shared Future of the Communication University of China jointly launched the China-Venezuela Research Center for a Community with a Shared Future. This new center has been envisaged as a joint academic platform for building research networks between the two countries to facilitate collaborative projects, promote the dialogue of civilizations and initiate global communication on the concept of a community of shared future for mankind. Since then, we have been working closely together to seek the possibilities of cooperation and elevate our engagements to the next level.
Building a community with a shared future for mankind can prevail across the world and a new era will emerge of prosperity and peace. Latin America and the Caribbean have enormous potential to contribute to global development movements and can aptly help materialize the efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Aymara Gerdel is the director of the China-Venezuela Research Center for a Shared Future Community, a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, and a PhD student at the University of International Business and Economics.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
Alexis Castillo (Alfonso), internationalist fighter in Donbass By: Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s RepublicRead Now
Alexis Castillo (Alfonso)
An internationalist warrior from Colombia, a member of the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic (KPDPR), a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth of the DPR, Alexis Castillo (callsign Alfonso), died under shelling from shrapnel wounds. He fought off the offensive of the Ukrainian Nazis on the village of Peski.
Alexis Castillo was born in Colombia and lived in Spain for a long time. Eight years ago, he came to defend the inhabitants of Donbass from Ukrainian Nazism.
Our deceased comrade was a convinced communist, a decent and modest man. Until the end of his life, he remained faithful to his duty as an internationalist warrior.
In Donetsk, Alexis is survived by his wife and son. We extend our condolences to his family and friends.
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic
October 28, 2022
Translated by Melinda Butterfield
This article was republished from Struggle La Lucha.
FRONT ROYAL, Va.—By a 1,820-2,810 margin, members of yet another rail union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, rejected a proposed contract which bargainers for 13 rail unions hammered out with the nation’s Class I freight railroads, and brokered by the Democratic Biden administration.
Lack of paid sick leave was the key issue for members, union President Michael Baldwin said. It also was a key issue for another union whose members voted the pact down, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees/Teamsters.
Talks between BMWE and the freight railroads have resumed, but with company bargainers refusing to even consider paid sick leave for the workers, news reports add.
“BRS members spoke loudly and clearly that their contributions are worth more, particularly when it comes to a basic right of being able to take time off for illness or to prevent illness,” he stated after the tally was announced October 26.
The Signalmen have just over 6,000 members while BMWE has 23,000.
The two rejections do not mean the nation’s 115,000 freight rail workers will bring the carriers to a halt. Both the unions and the carriers are in a legally mandated cooling-off period of 60 days after the tentative pact was reached on September 15, with Biden Labor Secretary Marty Walsh mediating.
After that, the freight railroads—including CSX, Norfolk Southern. Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Union Pacific—can lock out the workers and the workers can walk. And if the proposed pact fails, Congress can step in and impose one of its own.
Would impact the supply chain
A lockout or a forced strike, just after the election, would further strain the nation’s already creaky supply chain, as the freight railroads move everything from grain to oil to coal to cars.
Like the BLE&T, members of the Signalmen bristled at carrier refusal to better work rules and working conditions—conditions, the unionists point out, that can keep them at work for weeks at a time without a break. And when they do get a day off, the bosses can call them back with little or no notice.
Both the freight railroads and a Biden-named mediation board “failed to recognize the safety-sensitive and highly stressful job BRS members perform each day to keep the railroad running and supply chain flowing,” Baldwin’s statement said.
“Without Signalmen, the roadways and railroad crossings would be unsafe for the traveling public, and they shoulder that heavy burden each day,” he added.
Railroad bosses and stockholders “seem to forget the rank-and-file of their employees continued to perform their job each day through an unprecedented pandemic, while the executives worked from home to keep their families safe.”
Railroads’ kowtowing to Wall Street demands for ever-higher profits has led to the bad working conditions and an acute shortage of rail workers ever since 2014, when cuts began, the rail union coalition notes.
Starting the next year, the big freight carriers have cut the workforce by 29% while racking up a combined $146 billion in profits.
The union’s decision sends BRS back to the bargaining table with the carriers. Under pressure from DOL, the carriers proposed larger raises, but still not enough to match inflation. But they didn’t change the work rules, and that’s angered railroaders.
“Three unions have now voted down the tentative agreement,” noted Railroad Workers United, a rank-and-file organization whose members hail from all the big freight railroads, and more, and all rail crafts.
RWU pointed out the three unions combined represent 30.4% of all rail workers. Six smaller unions, representing 19.4% of workers, have voted for the pact. The third union, Machinists District 19, negotiated its own new pact with the freight railroads, after the initial rejection. Its members are now voting on that.
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.
This article was republished from People's world.
ON THE EVE OF THE 20TH CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA THE CHAIRMAN OF THE CC CPRF GENNADY ZYUGANOV GAVE AN INTERVIEW TO THE POPULAR CHINESE NEWSPAPER GUANGMING RIBAORead Now
Speaking at the International Forum of the CPC and Marxist Parties organized by the Communist Party of China you noted that the centenary of the CPC which was marked a year ago was an outstanding milestone in the history of the Chinese people which had great resonance in many countries. How do you assess the successes achieved by the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China during the 101 years of revolutionary development?
During its more than a century-long existence the Communist Party of China has traversed a glorious path of creative endeavor. Following its initial goal and fulfilling its mission of social restructuring it managed to unite the popular masses and launch the struggle for a great resurgence of the country on the basis of the values of peace, labor, justice, humanism and progress. In this struggle it has achieved outstanding historic results. Over the past hundred years the CPC dramatically changed the destiny of the Chinese people. It liberated them from the shackles of semi-colonial dependence, national humiliation and economic enslavement and made the people masters of their land and their destiny. Under the leadership of the CPC the working people of China have driven out foreign invaders, established and consolidated their power and built a middle-income society. Today the Chinese look to the future with complete confidence and are making the history of their great Motherland in the new era. Within a historically brief space of time a massive leap has been made toward creating a high-tech industry and dramatically raising people’s living standards. Along with dynamic economic growth long-term stability of the Chinese society has been ensured. This is extremely important for the country as a whole and for each concrete individual. Socialist China is an indisputable leader on many key parameters.
The resolution of the VI Plenum of the CC CPC of the 19th Convocation “On the Main Achievements and the Historical Experience of the Party’s Hundred-Year Struggle” notes that by its successes the CPC has demonstrated the vital might of Marxism: “The scientific character and validity of Marxism have been fully tested in China. In China the popular and practical character of Marxism has been fully put into practice and its openness and modernity have been fully vindicated… Thanks to this an important turn in favor of socialism has taken place on the world scale in the historical evolution and rivalry between the socialist and capitalist ideologies and social systems.”
Almost ten years have passed since Comrade Xi Jinping was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. What do you think about how China has been led during this period in terms of politics, economics, security, culture and international cooperation?
Comrade Xi Jinping is an outstanding statesman of our time. In terms of the scale of influence on global processes his figure occupies a special place in the galaxy of the best known politicians who are constantly written about by the world mass media. Very much on our planet depends on the decisions being taken with his participation.
Xi Jinping is flesh of the flesh of the great Chinese people. His father, Xi Zhongxun, an honest man infinitely dedicated to the Party’s cause, stood at the sources of the revolutionary movement in China. He is a representative of the first generation of Chinese revolutionaries. He was among the founders and leaders of the revolutionary base in the liberated regions of the Shanxi and Gansu provinces and organizers of political work in the People’s Liberation Army of China, one of the pioneers of the policy of reform and openness. He has inherited the best qualities from his father. He continues to uphold his deep faith in the inevitable triumph of the ideals of labor, justice, humanism and progress and hence the ideals of socialism.
The ideas of Xi Jinping about socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era actualize all the fundamental tenets of Marxism. Universal in character, they constitute a major innovative contribution to the development of the Marxist theory. Xi Jinping’s conceptual approaches provide an important key to the understanding of the ongoing processes in the world and explain why the PRC has made such a dramatic breakthrough toward new development horizons.
Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, following the path of deepening the policy of reform and openness, the CPC did away with poverty and built a middle-income society. It has scored real successes in ensuring all-round supremacy of law and compliance with strict party discipline. One of the key ingredients of the success of Xi Jinping’s policy has been the strengthening of the people’s faith in its own culture, without which it is impossible to implement the “Chinese dream.”
Contemporary political leaders bear huge responsibility for the destiny of the Earth and its inhabitants. State leaders of all countries should pass on the relay of peace to the following generations, energetically contribute to the conservation of the environment, and to the progress and prosperity of the world civilization.
Unfortunately, the leaders of the main Western countries are very remote from understanding this lofty mission. Being in thrall to racial and ethnic prejudice, they still see the planet as a source of colonial plunder and gain, as a vast “field of opportunities” for imperialistic expansion. Seeking to impose its hegemony on the rest of the world, the West is prepared to put the world on the brink of war with the use of the most lethal weapons.
The aggressive policy of the USA and its satellites brings pain and suffering to the peoples of the planet. Dangerous experiments of military bio-laboratories constitute a heinous crime against humanity and call for a resolute condemnation by the international community. Support of Fascism, escalation of the Ukraine conflict and encouragement of insane missile attacks of the Bandera followers on the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant illustrate the inhumanity of the Western leaders’ policy and their utter disdain of the goals of sustainable development. Sabre-rattling off the shores of the PRC, the United States and its vassals merely demonstrate that they are capable of pursuing an absolutely destructive course. It is an openly terrorist policy! There is nothing humane or creative about it!
Speaking at the UN headquarters in Geneva in January 2017 Xi Jinping said that “the destiny of the world must be in the hands of all the countries, international rules should be written jointly by all the countries, the globalization issues should be resolved together and the results of development should be available to all.” He stressed that the idea of the common destiny of humankind embodies the loftiest ideals and China’s commitment to building a wonderful world. It reflects the hopes of the peoples for a new, peaceful and just order. That is why it has the sympathy and powerful support of a growing number of countries.
The CPRF has always come out against the globalists’ attempts to put the future of civilization under threat. Our clear-cut and unambiguous position on the recent events around Ukraine and Taiwan has been reflected in concrete steps and political statements of the party with calls for actions aimed at curbing the insanity of the Western “hawks,” establishment of lasting peace, and prevention of provocations with the use of nuclear and biological technologies.
You have repeatedly stressed that the Chinese communists do not simply develop the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, but set an example for the whole planet. Their experience takes on a universal character and merits profound discussion and study. You have noted that the Chinese comrades have brought out the fourth volume of the series of books devoted to Xi Jinping’s governance system. I have three volumes of this series and I hope to get the fourth volume in Russian.
The resolution “On the Main Achievements and the Historical Experience of the Hundred-Year Struggle of the Party” adopted by the VI Plenum of the CC CPC of the 19th convocation reads in part: “Xi Jinping’s thoughts about socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era constitute modern Chinese Marxism, the Marxism of the 21st century, the quintessence of Chinese culture and the Chinese spirit, they mark a new leap in the Sinoization of Marxism.” What do you think of this conclusion?
Writing about socialist society in 1890 Friedrich Engels pointed out that it is not “something given once and for all.” And the great thinker stressed: “like any other social system it should be seen as subject to constant changes and transformations.”
The state system of any country depends directly on the level of its socio-economic development, the historical legacy, cultural traditions and the balance of social class forces. Socialism in China was born under certain conditions. It grew stronger in the confrontation with foreign invaders, in the struggle of the working people for freedom and independence. Its development involved difficult quests and the making of decisions that transformed the whole country.
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is a vivid manifestation of the social creativity of the Chinese Communist Party and people. The rapid development of your country has become a major achievement in the development of the human civilization. The PRC today has an advanced state system. It has institutional advantages and a huge potential for self-improvement. The properties and features Marxism has acquired in Chinese reality have determined the creative potential of this system.
Marx, Engels and Lenin have repeatedly stressed that the characteristics of the socialist social and economic system manifest themselves in the practice of socialist construction in each individual country. Life has vindicated these theoretical premises: a socio-economic system cannot be created according to a single template. Historical experience shows that transition to socialism calls for a combination of the fundamental ideas of Marxism-Leninism and the real state of affairs. As Deng Xiaoping pointed out, “the combination of the overall truth of Marxism-Leninism and the reality of a concrete country is the universal truth.”
Socialism in the PRC has colossal creative potential. It is based on a truly scientific theory and practical experience of the revolution, building and reform. Proceeding from the basic principles of Marxism, The CPC has created a socio-political system which takes into account the national realities of China, its historical tradition, the strength and wisdom of the people. The party has transformed its practical experience into systemic results whose fruitfulness has been felt by the country and seen by the whole world. This enables it to look to the future with confidence while implementing the main principles of scientific socialism and preserving the shining idiosyncrasy of national culture.
Could you comment on the current state of relations between Russia and China? How do you see Russia-China relations developing after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China?
I believe that the relations between Russia and China today are at a higher level than at any time during the past decades. It is not by chance that at the official level they are described as “relations of all-embracing partnership and strategic interaction.” There is no exaggeration in this assessment. The broad cooperation between China and Russia at the present stage is marked by intensive dynamism, common perception of the key world problems, a solid legal basis and active popular support of the course for a rapprochement between our countries.
The foundation of the current relations between Russia and China is very strong. It does not depend on short-term political expediency. Its key components are dynamic trade and economic relations and sustained mutual understanding on key issues on the international agenda, support of the UN and work to strengthen its role in world affairs. Moscow and Beijing have similar or identical positions on international security issues.
There is much that brings us together. Geographical, mental, historical and spiritual proximity. Shared views on the sources of global challenges and threats which are increasingly felt in the modern world.
On August 3, 2022 the Presidium of the CC CPRF came out with a Statement, “He Who Plays with Fire Will Burn Himself,” devoted to the situation around Taiwan. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, followed by a visit of members of the US Congress to Taipei, were steps that provoke confrontation between the USA and China. Such actions, aimed at sowing chaos in the Asia Pacific region, undermine international stability.
The actions of high-ranking Washington officials have highlighted the fact that the US ruling circles are captives of old neo-colonial prejudices. It looks as if Washington is set to continue behaving in this aggressive and provocative manner.
The CPRF has always pointed to Washington’s inadmissible behavior in the world arena.
Today the United States and its satellites are pursuing a policy of revising the results of World War II. With active US support justification and even heroization of Nazi criminals and their accomplices is taking place in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Strange voices of “experts” calling for a “reappraisal” of the World War II events in Asia are being increasingly heard. All this contradicts the historical truth and leads to the denial of the decisive role of the USSR and China in the Victory over German Nazism and Japanese militarism.
Today the question of recognition or non-recognition of the outcome of World War II has become one of the key topics on the international agenda. The USA is using it to try to destroy the existing world order, establish its hegemony by force, derive geopolitical dividends from the weakening of its growing rivals. I believe that one way of countering this at the legal level could be international legal recognition of the facts of genocide of the Soviet and Chinese peoples during World War II by Europe “united” under Hitler and militarist Japan.
Further, a legal assessment should be given of the actions of current state and political leaders who encourage Fascism and are complicit in the perpetration of crimes against peace and humanity. The chieftains of the Nazi Reich were indicted for just this kind of actions. I think a legal assessment of the crimes today could be given by an ad hoc international court similar to the Nuremberg tribunal.
We see all too well how the American imperialists build their policy of provocations. They are fostering Fascism and increasingly threatening biological and radiation security of the planet. In Europe Russia is the main US target. Hostilities are conducted against our country with the hands of its East European satellites, in the first place Bandera Ukraine. That is why the CPRF supports the special military operation to de-militarize and de-Nazify Ukraine. The success of this operation would mark an important step toward de-escalation in a vast region of the world.
The actions of American puppets cause great harm to world peace. Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries are salient examples of this in Europe. Their Russophobic policy, the course for severing historical links and escalation of the confrontation with Russia is in glaring contradiction to the interests of durable peace and security in the region. These actions, profoundly anti-people and anti-history, are extremely dangerous.
The pro-American regimes are pawns in the grand chess game being played by the United States. Their representatives are often used to stoke up international tensions, and that includes dirty provocations against Russia and China. Developments in Ukraine, the situation around Taiwan, the cobbling together of the AUKUS bloc, the blowing up of branches of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and much else demonstrate the growing involvement of American satellites in implementing Washington’s strategy. This is the result of the wish of the US ruling circles to “share responsibility” and use others’ resources to further their ends.
Destabilization of the situation in Central Asia is one of the key tasks of the US in redrawing the world political map. This task meets the interests of the US ruling circles which are committed to “twin containment of Russia and China.” The policy of “twin containment” of our countries can and must be effectively counter-acted. This is possible through close coordination and consolidation of efforts. It is exceedingly important for Russia and China to have a common approach to the problems of the region and to see eye-to-eye on matters of economic activity, information policy, defense and security.
The CPRF is strongly supportive of the course for an all-round rapprochement between Russia and China. We consider the broadening of cooperation between our countries to be an important prerequisite for tapping new opportunities. It cannot be ruled out that the need may arise in the near future to create a powerful economic and military-political bloc capable of being an alternative to the American model of globalization.
— Could you say a few words to the readers of Guangming Daily? What are your hopes for the development of friendship between the peoples of China and Russia? And what would you wish the people of China?
Your newspaper is very popular and highly respected in the People’s Republic of China. I am glad to be able to address your readers with the best wishes of success and peace, happiness and well-being.
In particular, I would like to express my hope and confidence that our fraternal peoples will jointly overcome the most acute challenges of the modern world. The historical process is so tortuous that we should all be “on our guard.” We should work persistently to strengthen our mutual understanding, to act together and win together!
The CPRF is preparing to mark the centenary of the formation of the USSR. Moving along the path of building socialism our country has achieved great successes which have an intransient significance for the whole human race. In 1917 Russia was the first to breach the international front of imperialism and embark on the building of a new society. Following this path under the leadership of the Communist Party the Soviet people have created the most advanced economy for that time, raised living standards, developed science and culture, vanquished Fascism and conquered outer space. In the 21st century the relay of victories and accomplishments has been confidently taken from the USSR by socialist China.
The Soviet experience has shown that it is impossible to effectively counteract the West without building up economic might, without strengthening the defense capability and without uniting the efforts of progressive forces on the planet.
It is only by working persistently to strengthen the unity of the Russian and Chinese people and build up our joint efforts in the struggle against the West’s neo-colonial aspirations that we can uphold he sovereignty of our countries. As Stalin would have said in a similar situation, we will either do it quickly, or we will be crushed.
The great legacy of our friendship is the best guarantee of the joint journey of our peoples toward a bright, just and happy future!
Communist party of the Russian Federation.
Republished from Communist party of the Russian Federation.
A neoliberal ‘redesign’ of the State is underway in Ecuador, activated since 2017 through different surreptitious tactics, especially “lawfare”, known for resorting to judicial and media plots as ruses to reverse alternative projects. Also on the scene are different expressions of authoritarianism, which are con-substantial to the pursuit of the neoliberal model, to impose the dominance of the market over the interests of society. It is a programmatic agenda, which is made possible by the conversion of State institutions into minimal operational agencies, in charge of executive aspects to attend primarily to private actors, especially transnational and national corporations, financial capital and related.
In this case, the imposition of a radical neoliberalism brings with it the destruction of a sovereignty project, constitutionally based (2008) on a perspective of the common good and the public, with a horizon projection that places Good Living as a counter-hegemonic proposal, aiming at the primacy of life rather than the reproduction of capital.
The repercussions of the regression of this emerging historical horizon project (2007-2017) towards a neoliberal ‘business plan’, are palpable in the prolongation of extreme inequality indexes: 80% of the country’s patrimony is in the hands of 10%, at the same time, with the privatization of everything, unemployment, corruption, poor quality of public services, insecurity, discrimination, and a large etc.
As part of this neoliberalizing onslaught, transnational corporations have been repositioned in strategic sectors, while the prescriptions of the International Financial Institutions, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have supplanted the Constitution. State assets and resources are being auctioned off, while security and defense are being transferred to foreign repressive models. Moreover, Ecuador is trying to become the spearhead for a U.S. initiative for hemispheric control.
With the dismantling of the public sector, the lack of protection of the people is extreme, this was explicit on the occasion of the Covid-19 pandemic, when thousands of people died, many of them in the streets, due to the lack of attention in public services resulting from the shrinking of the State. When it was believed that there was no worse pandemic than Covid and the bad government of Lenin Moreno (2017-2021), in 2021 the banker Guillermo Lasso came to power, with an agenda of private interests, often contrary to legislation, but very attentive to the business of the financial sector and business groups.
In this order of priorities, not only redistributive policies disappeared, but also planning and initiatives oriented towards the common good, while prices were liberalized and subsidies were eliminated. In June 2022 the basic food basket at US$ 751.00 surpassed its historical ceiling, while the minimum wage is barely US$ 425.00 and only 34% of people have access to adequate employment. In the countryside, 22.7% of people are affected by extreme poverty and 42.9% by poverty. It is not surprising then that it is indigenous and peasant organizations who lead initiatives to claim socioeconomic justice, formulate substantive anti-capitalist critiques and mobilize against neoliberalism, as happened in October 2019 and June 2022.
Rurality: complexities and anti-neoliberal disputes
Ecuador is a singular country. It is a unique case, because it recognizes food sovereignty in its Constitution of Good Living (2008), it also has an Organic Law of Food Sovereignty (2010), which protects not only the rights of the peasantry but also their ways of life, in a plurinational State, which includes economic and productive diversity. But, these and other advances, which even came to be considered internationally avant-garde, have been halted and reversed by the aggressive neoliberal onslaught underway since 2017, which has led the country to a crisis of great magnitude.
The countryside is the most affected by neoliberal measures, there poverty affects almost half of the population, especially the small and medium agriculture sector, which registers 86.2% of multidimensional poverty. Gone are the policies and plans for the construction of a productive model based on food sovereignty and the popular and solidarity economy. The construction of a plurinational and intercultural State is a dead letter, as are the twenty-one collective rights of communities, peoples and nationalities, set forth in Article 57 of the Constitution.
Likewise, the application of articles 281, 282 and 283 of the Constitution, which have to do with the redistribution of the means of production, land, water, seeds, as well as labor and social rights, in order to maintain and promote small and medium agriculture, which represents 64% of agricultural production and 60% of the food consumed in the country, has been forgotten.
The government of Guillermo Lasso, with its eyes on agribusiness, even threatens the reversion of lands that were legally awarded to the peasantry, in the framework of the policies associated with the Food Sovereignty Law, in the period of the Citizen Revolution (2007-2017). The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock has not institutionalized the National Land Fund, which is also a constitutional mandate and is far from complying with the adjudication of land to peasant organizations that are in possession and fulfilling a social and environmental function.
Lasso has deepened the historical debt of relegation that the country has with the peasantry, taking it to extreme levels of dispossession. But, just as the peasantry is put aside, the large agricultural and agro-exporting businessmen, who together with the financial sector are a priority, are taken care of.
Ecuador is an agricultural country and has everything to be sovereign, but the agrofood model is in dispute, between the capitalist agribusiness proposal that pursues profit and, on the other hand, the alternative model for the people, which proposes Food Sovereignty, with an agroecological peasant-indigenous production, as a basis for healthy food.
The latter is totally viable, especially in a country that has an experience of self-sustenance practiced for millennia from the Andean and Amazonian cosmovision. However, this experience and the associated knowledge have been put in check by the agro-export model and by the importation of agricultural products, favored by free trade practices, which lead to the bankruptcy of national production, especially that of small, family or community agriculture.
The June rebellion
In June 2022 the Ecuadorian people, led by the indigenous and peasant movement, mobilized on a national scale, for a simple motivation: the right to dignity. The National Strike, initially called by the organizations: CONAIE, FEINE, FENOCIN, FEI and FENOC, gathered a wide participation of women, diversities, youth, students, workers, teachers, intellectuals, artists and others, who mobilized to demand better living conditions, in all senses. Faced with the government’s lack of response, the mobilization expanded in a sort of successive waves of nonconformity, until it became a tsunami of indignation that was expressed everywhere.
The “National Struggle Agenda. June 13. The People Rise”, based on a critical analysis of neoliberalism and the government, raised issues that have to do with the daily realities of the majorities, such as: control of prices and speculation; reduction of fuel prices; moratorium and renegotiation of personal and family debts; promotion of employment and labor rights; budgets for health, education and effective security and protection policies. But it also included: the rejection of the privatization of strategic sectors and public patrimony; the defense of collective rights and the safeguarding of territories against oil and mining exploitation; and fair prices for peasant production.
The mobilization lasted 18 days, during which the Ecuadorian people demonstrated that it is unsustainable to live without the attention of the State, especially with regard to basic rights, such as education, health and security, which, as we pointed out above, have been literally dismantled by neoliberal policies. It was demonstrated that privatizations and the transfer of the management of society to the market only results in more socioeconomic polarization and, therefore, more exclusion.
For its part, the government used all its power to subdue the people, with three emergency decrees, states of exception and a forceful deployment of the police and armed forces that confronted the strike as if it were a battlefield. Guillermo Lasso himself made explicit his intention to subdue the indigenous people, the peasantry and those who show an opinion contrary to his erratic management. This resulted in six deaths, hundreds of wounded, dozens of kidnapped and imprisoned people. The report of the International Solidarity and Human Rights Mission, even evidences facts that could constitute crimes against humanity.
Likewise, in keeping with the leading role they have assigned themselves, the corporate media acted as spokespersons for the government and private interests, deployed a campaign of disinformation and criminalization of the mobilization, tinged with aggressive racism; they even echoed the government’s vexatious accusation that associated the strike with drug trafficking, offending the millenary struggles of the native peoples against colonialism. The alternative media, which transmitted the popular mobilization and its proposals, were the only ones to make reality visible, despite the repression to which they were also subjected.
These were days of great intensity that concluded with some achievements for the Ecuadorian people. The most outstanding achievement was the formulation of a consensual agenda of demands, together with the great capacity of popular mobilization, the scope of which left no doubt about the massive disagreement with neoliberalism.
The impeachment motion in the National Assembly
The strike made visible that the demand for change is a broad and multisectoral petition. This became ostensible in the scenario of the impeachment motion of President Guillermo Lasso, placed by the Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana in the National Assembly.
This parliamentary initiative, under Article 130 numeral 20 of the Constitution, was proposed as a solution to the “serious political crisis and internal commotion” affecting the country, in a context of repeated states of exception, which had already resulted in deaths, injuries and even disappearances. Meanwhile, President Guillermo Lasso, whose administration, after barely one year in office, was disapproved by more than 80% of the population, not only refused to respond to the demands expressed in the ‘National Struggle Agenda’, but even threatened to intensify repression.
In order to implement this motion, the consent of two thirds of the parliamentary vote was necessary. And the vote for the dismissal was a majority, but the required two thirds vote was not obtained. Lasso was saved and even, in spite of his very low popularity, he was strengthened.
The right closed ranks, but also political actors that define themselves as of the center, such as the Democratic Left, were part of those ranks. However, if these adhesions were foreseeable due to their support for the neoliberal project and previous alliances with the government, the votes in favor of Lasso coming from the Pachakutik Movement, which is the political arm of CONAIE, the organization that led the national strike, were surprising. This duality is part of the explanatory elements of several important events in Ecuadorian politics, including the election of the banker Lasso as president (2021), who benefited from the so-called “ideological vote”, an anti-citizen revolution vote, called by the Pachakutik movement.
On the other hand, in Ecuador nothing that happens in politics can be explained outside the acute onslaught of “lawfare” or judicialization of politics in progress. The political, judicial and media persecution is expressed in an intricate scenario of machinations that disrupt reality in function of a known objective: the achievement of neoliberalism and the triumph of the private interests that sustain it.
Paradoxically, the Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana, which is the political actor most affected by the ‘lawfare’ and which practically survives repeated attempts of proscription and political persecution, was the one that dared to open the way to propitiate a democratic solution attentive to popular demands. The parties of the traditional left, on the other hand, maintained a discreet participation or did not exhibit a public position, while the trade union centers limited their support to communiqués related to the mobilization.
According to the economist Magdalena León T “…The weakness of the political front has different expressions but it refers to the configuration that neoliberalism seeks at this level, so that market authoritarianism prevails. Politics suffers a constant siege, democratic institutionality is undermined, the public is captured according to the interests of capital, relevant political actors are surrounded and persecuted by various means. These common features in neoliberal contexts, are combined in Ecuador with the singular phenomenon of an ‘anticorreismo’ of all colors, which has implied a widespread, systematic, perverse attack, inasmuch as it adds sectors that put themselves on the tail of the elites and their interests, and which ratifies the tangible potential for transformation embodied by the Citizen Revolution. …It is under these conditions, that in spite of having a clear and consistent line with the confrontation to neoliberalism, an evident mobilized popular support and an important legislative block, it did not manage to shape the presidential impeachment proposal.”
The announced outcome and deferred solutions
The president, Guillermo Lasso, had the 18 days that the national strike lasted to respond to the demands of the mobilized country, but he did not do so, nor did he show up at the call of the National Assembly, but he did exacerbate the repression and rather showed a strategy of letting time pass, hoping that the people would give up due to attrition. And attrition was probable, above all because the most substantial part of the national mobilization rested on the indigenous and peasants, who abandoned their rural world to demand justice in the capital, but the retreat did not happen, but rather firmness and loyalty was perceived, above all from the grassroots.
Faced with the government’s inoperativeness, the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference was called upon to assume a mediation role. Under this format, a peace agreement was signed and a dialogue agenda was established to be dealt with in 7 work tables, the results of which were deferred for a period of 90 days.
Thanks to the popular mobilization, Decree 95 on oil management was repealed and the reform of Decree 151 on mining was committed, both of which have to do with the protection of ancestral territories and compliance with prior consultation. Some 20 mining megaprojects, especially those linked to metallic mining, already occupy 8% of the national territory and worse still, the extension of the oil zone and mega-mining are a key part of the executive’s ‘business plan’.
The mobilization achieved the declaration of an emergency for health, which has been seriously affected by the destruction of the public sector and the reduction of budgets. Likewise, price control was compromised, in view of the vertiginous speculation, fed by the dismantling of the control instances. One of the most sensitive points, the moratorium and renegotiation of personal and family debts, of great importance for rural people, whose levels of indebtedness to the financial sector, especially private, are directly proportional to the absence of economic and social policies, was postponed.
No form of reparation was included for the families of those who lost their lives. Nor was there any commitment not to prosecute the leaders of the strike or the mobilized people, which represents a great void in a context of judicialization of politics and human rights violations, even more so if, in the context of the disinformation campaign on the mobilization, the government made public a whimsical association between the Citizen Revolution and popular and indigenous movements with drug trafficking, crime and terrorism.
Current challenges and the future
A central accumulation of the national strike is the demonstration of strength, the capacity of mobilization, resistance and cohesion of an important group of organizations, around a common agenda that dialogues with the motivations of the people. A necessary step will be to maintain and expand this articulation, in terms of the future of an Ecuador that is being pushed towards a crisis of difficult return.
We are facing a complex scenario, mainly because the mechanisms to consolidate this extreme neoliberalism are activated by all means, including force. In the same days of the strike, contrary to the demands of ‘no privatization’ and even transgressing constitutional guidelines, the appeal to the auction of public goods, strategic resources and others was intensified. The “business plan”, which serves as the government’s line of action, is rapidly applied and, under the subterfuge of promoting investment, all the openings to free trade are underway, which operate contrary to the aspirations of strengthening national production, which is a decisive issue, for example, for the small and medium agriculture sector.
The neoliberals and their entourage, in government or not, who came to power with trickery -such as Lawfare- are giving a blow of force and speed to consolidate their project, as much as to demolish any initiative that proposes redistribution and even everything that smells of the project of the Citizen Revolution, led by Rafael Correa. Moreover, their aspiration to unseat the progressive constitutional and legal framework is public.
Ecuador is a country in dispute, where the disparity of contents and interests between the neoliberal model and the popular projects is evident. Thus, the ineffective response of the Lasso government to the demands of the strike is not just a matter of ‘political will’, it is a programmatic issue, since all the demands of the strike have to do with the common good, which is the antithesis of the objective of individual accumulation of the neoliberals.
Thus, a scenario of far-reaching struggles is in perspective, in order to recover and substantiate a process of changes towards Good Living. In the immediate term, after the neoliberals, as in October 2019, got away with their tactic of deferring the response to the demands of the strike, postponing it to some dialogues at a certain time, there are doubts, both about the fulfillment of the commitments made to lift the strike, as well as about the consistency of the eventual results of the negotiation tables deferred to 90 days. Likewise, as the government of Guillermo Lasso usually resorts to subterfuges and delayed promises, it is possible to infer that as it has already failed to comply before, it could do it again and violate the agreements obtained by the mobilization.
Hence the importance of vindicating politics and strengthening the search for structural solutions, in the face of a dispute that has to do with the orientations and projections of society. To achieve this, in addition to deepening the joint agenda, all possible efforts will be key to achieve substantive convergences between movements and political actors that advocate for a common good approach, that advocate for a perspective that places life above capital, in line with the advanced constitutional definitions that the country has.
In this sense, the purpose expressed by those calling for the strike contributes in this sense: “…Not only the organizations calling for this day of mobilization have the obligation to build a great front where the most diverse knowledge and traditions of struggle against exploitation and capitalist domination converge, whose central axis is the socialization of the economy, the care of life, the conquest of dignified work and security for all equally”.
This is a relevant proposal for organizational growth, which could have significant projections if the fact that in Ecuador there are two main alternative movements is strengthened: the Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana in the popular and institutional political field and the indigenous – peasant movement in the movement scenario, while feminism and others are also being strengthened.
In pursuit of this effort of feasible convergences, a renewed approach of the Citizen Revolution Movement to the organizational dynamics of the movements is unavoidable, since institutional politics and organizational processes are not only complementary, but necessary in terms of change.
Concomitantly, the socio-political growth of an alternative front to recover the country, calls for a sincerity both in content and in the management of alliances. Thus, in order for the alternative front to develop in the widest diversity, it is essential to mark a demarcation from the interpretations of reality and agendas that the right-wing elites formulate, according to their interest in dismantling the alternatives. For, while it is understandable that the dominant sectors seek the ruin of Revolución Ciudadana, the main political force of the country, which they consider antagonistic for its anti-neoliberal proposal, it is hardly understandable that actors who identify themselves with the popular camp join and, even worse, are co-participants of the little nuanced agenda of demonizing progressivism, even becoming, in some cases, acolytes of the judicialization of politics.
For the peasant-indigenous movement, it is time to emphasize the agenda for an agrarian and agroecological revolution for food sovereignty. It is time to further deepen the shared cause of the right to land, water, economic resources, trade and marketing, for a reactivation in the constitutional framework of economic and productive diversity. The development of a qualitative agenda in the face of neoliberalism is also important for ancestral and Afro-descendant peoples, in view of their horizon of dignity. In all cases, it is urgent to strengthen the organizational processes, with their respective communicational capacities.
In this context, Fernando Daquilema’s historical mandate gains meaning: I was not born to be a slave and with it, it is worth highlighting the importance of the recovery of historical memory, of the legacy of great indigenous leaders such as Dolores Cacuango, Transito Amaguaña, Jesús Gualavisi, Ambrosio Lasso and others, whose struggle against injustice should inspire all efforts for unity, to resume in the near future, the horizon of Good Living and the prospects of a sovereign regional integration, which would allow the plurinational people to return to be subject of their history.
Irene León, Ecuadorian sociologist and communicator. FEDAEPS
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.
This article was originally published on Rebelion.org on October 17th, 2022.
Kerala is an Indian state referred to by citizens of that country as a place of inherent natural beauty. Some 35 million people live in this territory in the south of the subcontinent. To get an idea, one only has to realize that more people live in Kerala than in Venezuela or in all the Scandinavian countries taken together.
The particularity of this state, and why we are interested, is that the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), in the 2021 elections renewed its electoral victory in 2016 that enabled the Party to govern within the coalition framework of the Left Democratic Front, (LDF), along with forces such as the Communist Party of India (CPI). The CPI (M) and CPI historically have achieved rather fantastic results in this region, especially compared to outcomes elsewhere in the country. The Sino-Soviet disputes of the 20th century led to a split in India's communist movement and the two parties two parties went their separate ways. So it’s the CPI(M) and the Indian National Congress that have been vying for political dominance for decades in Kerala.
In the 2021 elections, the communist-progressive coalition, having won more than 45% of the votes in the state, opened the door to five more years of left-wing rule in the region. Led by Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, the Communists now face the challenge of reaffirming their political leadership in the elections of 2026. It’s unavoidable, if they want to continue applying the "Kerala model" that differentiates this territory from the rest of India.
The Kerala model
What is the Kerala model? In an economy that revolves around tourism, the state dedicates much effort to determining how best to distribute economic revenues internally. Through initiatives like the missions, among others, that are reminiscent of those in Venezuela, the state carries out projects for the equitable distribution of resources, and for managing them. These public policy packages can be properly implemented thanks to a high rate of social participation in common spaces for discussion and in "local self-government". In these venues, many people living in different municipalities can bring up for discussion the immediate needs of their communities. These assessments by the people end up on the government's agenda mainly by sectors of the media communicating between the discussion spaces and the state.
These missions are, in short, social stimulus programs. One is the Pothuvidyabhyasa Samrakshana Yajnam, which is a program through which huge amounts of resources are dispensed to guarantee free universal access to books for students, to adapt school infrastructure for students with functional diversity, to offer academic support, etc. In this regard, the government of Kerala has received international recognition for universalizing and improving the quality of public education throughout the country. The high degree of cohesion and planning capabilities of the regional government are illustrated through other examples. See, for example, the Haritha Keralam Mission which deals with the healthcare sector and agencies that manage water resources and waste disposal. There is another mission directed at eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by means of delivering food kits and ration cards.
Programs like these are typical of initiatives characterizing the "Kerala model, and are the basis for a necessary comparison with the "Gujarat model.” That is the state that was governed by Narendra Modi before he became prime minister. It is a development model that, lacking efforts at equitable distribution, offers privatization and profiteering and no significant improvement in social indicators. Although other regional experiences have emphasized popular participation – in West Bengal, for example – none has been sustained over time like the "Kerala model” or has produced deep-seated structural transformations in government, as in Kerala
In India, poverty – even in the "polite" terms with which the national government defines it – is widespread, enormously so. Problems of access to food, education, health care, and/or clean water run through the lives of a considerable part of India’s population. In this context, Kerala, through its particular model, goes way beyond the norm. Among other things, the state boasts the highest literacy rate in India and the highest life expectancy. It also has placed a primary health care center in every village.
Several facts illustrate the gap between the "Kerala model" and the country as a whole. First, the rural-urban divide is less pronounced in that region. For every 1,000 children born alive in rural Kerala, five die; in urban populations, six do. If one pulls the thread a little further, a revealing fact crops up. In comparison with these infant mortality figures from Kerala, the country as a whole shows a rate of 46 deaths per 1,000 live births in rural areas and 29/1,000 in urban areas. At the same time, the percentage of women with more than 10 years of schooling is 70% in rural Kerala, compared to a meager 27% in rural India as a whole. Kerala boasts effective management of sanitation in the context of a country with profound deficiencies in access to sanitary facilities and water, etc.
The region has even begun to work together with organizations that offer spaces of sexual diversity and varying life styles. In that regard, the state has been able to focus on communities that for various reasons – belonging to the LGTBI+ community or unfamiliarity with the Malayalam language, for example – were not properly brought into universalizing programs, literacy programs, for instance. Responding, the government has launched programs for these groups, and the groups have designed them. Finally, it is worthwhile to mention poverty. The data are overwhelming. The 0.7% poverty rate for Kerala in 2021 contrasts with states such as Bihar (51.9%), Uttar Pradesh (37.8%) or Madhya Pradesh (36.7%.
There are also notable differences in other areas between Kerala and the rest of India. One of them is selective abortion of female fetuses. Several factors give rise to this reality, among them the custom of dowry. At the time of marriage, the woman's family must give the husband's family the equivalent, in money or goods, of the value of a house.
Economics and cultural inheritance combine to produce customs like this that are characteristic of misogyny, especially in rural areas. For example, a family withiout sons being born faces the prospect of a "loss" of lineage. However, it’s different in Kerala, where girl babies are born in ample numbers. As of 2011, the female-male ratio there was 1,084:1,000. In India as a whole, it was 943:1,000.
The political peculiarities of Kerala and of the CPI(M)
In Kerala, Communists are in the majority. This fact is evident aesthetically as one travels through the state. The Argentine Fernando Duclos - known on social networks as 'Periodistan' - offered rich testimony to this on YouTube. Statues, posters and graffiti of Che Guevara adorn the city streets of Kannur, and red hammer-and-sickle flags accompany a multitude of posters featuring figures such as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and even Kim Jong-un. A special kind of socialist folklore captures the attention of visitors to the region.
In regard to positions on international issues, one comment has to be made at the start: because of its regional nature, the state of Kerala takes clear positions only on questions that are national. Nevertheless, the CPI(M) recently did weigh in on happenings abroad.
According to Ramachandran Pillai, a leading party figure, "China declared that it had eradicated poverty. China contributed to the struggle against global poverty by having alleviated 70 percent of it.” [He took India’s national government to task for having failed to ease poverty in India, which] “constitutes 60 percent of the world's poor people."
Some positions taken within the Party are critical of the Chinese Communist Party, while other opinions are closer to Chinese socialism. (Translator’s note: The Indian government is no friend of China’s government, and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a CPI(M) member, “clarified the stand of the CPI(M)” in case R. Pillai’s pro-Chinese views were taken as anti-Indian.)
In any event, and as happens elsewhere, in Brazil, for example, the anti-China speeches of the Indian right wing have great resonance in domestic politics. Sectors of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Modi's party, have connected anti-China rhetoric with anti-Communism and have focused on the CPI(M). BJP members went so far as to say that belief in internationalism was "dangerous" and "a great betrayal of this land by the Communist movement." They have called upon all "Marxist groups" to leave India and join with China. The context is that of of border disputes between the two countries over places like Kashmir.
In sum, the differences between Kerala and the rest of India are extreme; they result from their divergent political histories. The general belief is that Ayurveda, which is a set of pseudo-therapies that often lead people away from real medicine, was born in this region. However, the Indian national government actually funds a Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (Ministry of AYUSH), which, in the governmental hierarchy, is at a level equal to that of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Kerala, by contrast, maintains a considerable separation between the administrative apparatus of that ministry and the pseudo-sciences that are so popular.
For space reasons, it is impossible in this article to list all the differences between Kerala’s regional government and India’s national government. What can be highlighted is evidence that the role Communists have played in the region’s governing apparatus has had much to do with this state showing figures for social safety and human development that are far superior to those prevailing in the rest of the country. At the same time, it should be remembered that India is one of the countries most affected by endemic problems such as poverty and conditions predisposing to ill health. These are realities against which the government of Kerala offers an alternative that contrasts sharply with other governments in India.
W.T. Whitney Jr. modified and edited a translation provided by Deepl.com/translator. Author Eduardo García Granado is a political journalist based in Spain who writes on international affairs.
Eduardo García Granado
This article was republished from Red World View.
The Last Thing Haiti Needs Is Another Military Intervention: The Forty-Second Newsletter (2022) By: Vijay PrashadRead Now
Gélin Buteau (Haiti), Guede with Drum, ca. 1995.
Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
At the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September 2022, Haiti’s Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus admitted that his country faces a serious crisis, which he said ‘can only be solved with the effective support of our partners’. To many close observers of the situation unfolding in Haiti, the phrase ‘effective support’ sounded like Geneus was signalling that another military intervention by Western powers was imminent. Indeed, two days prior to Geneus’s comments, The Washington Post published an editorial on the situation in Haiti in which it called for ‘muscular action by outside actors’. On 15 October, the United States and Canada issued a joint statement announcing that they had sent military aircraft to Haiti to deliver weapons to Haitian security services. That same day, the United States submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for the ‘immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force’ into Haiti.
Ever since the Haitian Revolution won independence from France in 1804, Haiti has faced successive waves of invasions, including a two-decade-long US occupation from 1915 to 1934, a US-backed dictatorship from 1957 to 1986, two Western-backed coups against the progressive former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991 and 2004, and a UN military intervention from 2004 to 2017. These invasions have prevented Haiti from securing its sovereignty and have prevented its people from building dignified lives. Another invasion, whether by US and Canadian troops or by UN peacekeeping forces, will only deepen the crisis. Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, the International Peoples’ Assembly, ALBA Movements, and the Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (‘Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development’ or PAPDA) have produced a red alert on the current situation in Haiti, which can be found below and downloaded as a PDF.
What is happening in Haiti?
A popular insurrection has unfolded in Haiti throughout 2022. These protests are the continuation of a cycle of resistance that began in 2016 in response to a social crisis developed by the coups in 1991 and 2004, the earthquake in 2010, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. For more than a century, any attempt by the Haitian people to exit the neocolonial system imposed by the US military occupation (1915–34) has been met with military and economic interventions to preserve it. The structures of domination and exploitation established by that system have impoverished the Haitian people, with most of the population having no access to drinking water, health care, education, or decent housing. Of Haiti’s 11.4 million people, 4.6 million are food insecure and 70% are unemployed.
Manuel Mathieu (Haiti), Rempart (‘Rampart’), 2018.
The Haitian Creole word dechoukaj or ‘uprooting’ – which was first used in the pro-democracy movements of 1986 that fought against the US-backed dictatorship – has come to define the current protests. The government of Haiti, led by acting Prime Minister and President Ariel Henry, raised fuel prices during this crisis, which provoked a protest from the trade unions and deepened the movement. Henry was installed to his post in 2021 by the ‘Core Group’ (made up of six countries and led by the US, the European Union, the UN, and the Organisation of American States) after the murder of the unpopular president Jovenel Moïse. Although still unsolved, it is clear that Moïse was killed by a conspiracy that included the ruling party, drug trafficking gangs, Colombian mercenaries, and US intelligence services. The UN’s Helen La Lime told the Security Council in February that the national investigation into Moïse’s murder had stalled, a situation that has fuelled rumours and exacerbated both suspicion and mistrust within the country.
Fritzner Lamour (Haiti), Poste Ravine Pintade, ca. 1980.
How have the forces of neocolonialism reacted?
The United States and Canada are now arming Henry’s illegitimate government and planning military intervention in Haiti. On 15 October, the US submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for the ‘immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force’ in the country. This would be the latest chapter in over two centuries of destructive intervention by Western countries in Haiti. Since the 1804 Haitian Revolution, the forces of imperialism (including slave owners) have intervened militarily and economically against people’s movements seeking to end the neocolonial system. Most recently, these forces entered the country under the auspices of the United Nations via the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which was active from 2004 to 2017. A further such intervention in the name of ‘human rights’ would only affirm the neocolonial system now managed by Ariel Henry and would be catastrophic for the Haitian people, whose movement forward is being blocked by gangs created and promoted behind the scenes by the Haitian oligarchy, supported by the Core Group, and armed by weapons from the United States.
Saint Louis Blaise (Haiti), Généraux (‘Generals’), 1975.
How can the world stand in solidarity with Haiti?
Haiti’s crisis can only be solved by the Haitian people, but they must be accompanied by the immense force of international solidarity. The world can look to the examples demonstrated by the Cuban Medical Brigade, which first went to Haiti in 1998; by the Via Campesina/ALBA Movimientos brigade, which has worked with popular movements on reforestation and popular education since 2009; and by the assistance provided by the Venezuelan government, which includes discounted oil. It is imperative for those standing in solidarity with Haiti to demand, at a minimum:
Marie-Hélène Cauvin (Haiti), Trinité (‘Trinity’), 2003
The common sense demands in this red alert do not require much elaboration, but they do need to be amplified.
Western countries will talk about this new military intervention with phrases such as ‘restoring democracy’ and ‘defending human rights’. The terms ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ are demeaned in these instances. This was on display at the UN General Assembly in September, when US President Joe Biden said that his government continues ‘to stand with our neighbour in Haiti’. The emptiness of these words is revealed in a new Amnesty International report that documents the racist abuse faced by Haitian asylum seekers in the United States. The US and the Core Group might stand with people like Ariel Henry and the Haitian oligarchy, but they do not stand with the Haitian people, including those who have fled to the United States.
In 1957, the Haitian communist novelist Jacques-Stéphen Alexis published a letter to his country titled La belle amour humaine (‘Beautiful Human Love’). ‘I don’t think that the triumph of morality can happen by itself without the actions of humans’, Alexis wrote. A descendent of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of the revolutionaries that overthrew French rule in 1804, Alexis wrote novels to uplift the human spirit, a profound contribution to the Battle of Emotions in his country. In 1959, Alexis founded the Parti pour l’Entente Nationale (‘People’s Consensus Party’). On 2 June 1960, Alexis wrote to the US-backed dictator François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier to inform him that both he and his country would overcome the violence of the dictatorship. ‘As a man and as a citizen’, Alexis wrote, ‘it is inescapable to feel the inexorable march of the terrible disease, this slow death, which each day leads our people to the cemetery of nations like wounded pachyderms to the necropolis of elephants’. This march can only be halted by the people. Alexis was forced into exile in Moscow, where he participated in a meeting of international communist parties. When he arrived back in Haiti in April 1961, he was abducted in Môle-Saint-Nicolas and killed by the dictatorship shortly thereafter. In his letter to Duvalier, Alexis echoed, ‘we are the children of the future’.
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 republished from Tricontinental.
With McDonald's McRib coming back, and possibly for the last time, this is a good moment to republish Dr. Riggins' 2011 article, farewell to the McRib.
The famous McRib pork patty has once again made a brief appearance at a McDonald’s near you. For a brief three weeks, October 24 to November 14, the elusive pork patty was available to the masses of gustatory-challenged carnivores who have become addicted to its unique combination of nutritionally disastrous chemical toxins.
From its first appearance, 1981-1985, (occasioned by a dearth of chickens available for nuggetivation) the McRib has been on and off the McDonald’s menu several times. It was widely available after being reintroduced in 1989– until removed again in 2005. Since then it has had a sporadic career in different parts of the McDonald’s Empire (except for Germany where it has always been available due to their unquenchable appetite for all things porky). But in the last couple of years the Empire has begun to make it available nationwide but only for a few weeks at a time with long periods between appearances.
What is the nature of this pork patty? It has no ribs in it so its name is somewhat misleading. Like a Hollywood star its real name, McRestructured-Meat-Product, was deemed by its creators too off putting to gain much attraction or many fans. Even McPork-Patty did not seem to have much appeal. But who doesn’t like ribs? And who wouldn’t fall for a juicy plump (at least in its roll) glob of restructured meat product with fake rib indentations slathered in barbecue sauce and introduced as the McRib sandwich (the name that brought it fame)?
But behind that lovely exterior McRib hides a sordid past. Its popularity masks its history of chemical dependence. It cannot show up to perform its culinary wonders unless it has been provided with seventy different chemicals and compounds by its legions of enablers.
It starts life on the slaughterhouse floor of Smithfield Foods which supplies McDonald with the raw meat that will become McRib. This relationship may soon end as the Humane Society of the United States is even now exposing what it calls cruel and inhumane treatment of the animals Smithfield slaughters and is asking for the intervention of the federal government to halt the company’s alleged truly odious practices.
McDonald’s takes this meat – basically pork shoulder mixed with pig tripe (the next door neighbor of chitlins in the pig digestive system), hearts, and scalded pig stomach, technically known as “restructured meat (pork) product.” However, due to the company’s friends in Congress, this is listed for the public as “pork.” It’s mashed up into a mush to which about three dozen chemicals and compounds are mixed (including sauce and bun) to make it appear presentable and salable to the public. Since you can imagine what this slop might taste like in its natural state, it needed all sorts of artificial flavors and colors mixed into it, and its sauce and bun, before anyone could be lured into embracing it with the love it so richly does not deserve.
One of its flavors comes from the 980 mg of salt it gets along with 26 grams of fat, including trans fat, and 41 percent of your daily maximum of cholesterol. McRib is now ready to weigh in at 500 calories, slightly less than the lead star at McDonald’s, the Big Mac. And, if you find McRib’s bun nice looking, one of the reasons is it is bleached with azodicarbonate, a chemical more commonly used in making foamed plastics in shoe soles and gym mats. By the looks of some McRib’s fans, azodicarbonate may be the closest they will ever get to a gym.
Why the periodic appearance of McRib? I don’t know, might it have something to do with the fact that different states have different times of expiration for their statutes of limitation on personal injury law suits?
In any case, the McRib is once again in semi-retirement. If we are lucky, maybe by next Thanksgiving McDonald’s will have McTurkey ready for us.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
“Founding Father” George Washington was a rich slave owner who owed his fortune to the stolen labor of kidnapped Africans. Image: Popular Graphic Arts. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Contrary to the mythology we learn in school, the founding fathers feared and hated the concept of democracy—which they derisively referred to as “tyranny of the majority.” The constitution that they wrote reflects this, and seeks to restrict and prohibit involvement of the masses of people in key areas of decision making. The following article, originally written in 2008, reviews the true history of the constitution and its role in the political life of the country.
The ruling class of today—the political and social successors to the “founding fathers”—continues to have a fundamental disdain for popular participation in government. The right wing of the elite is engaged in an all-out offensive against basic democratic rights and democracy itself. This offensive relies heavily on the Supreme Court and the legal doctrine of constitutional “originalism”. Originalism means that the only rights and policies that are protected are ones that are explicitly laid out in the constitution, conforming with the “original” intentions of the founders. As the article explores, this was a thoroughly anti-democratic set up that sought to guarantee the power and wealth of the elite.
In history and civics classrooms all over the United States, students are taught from an early age to revere the “Founding Fathers” for drafting a document that is the bulwark of democracy and freedom—the U.S. Constitution. We are taught that the Constitution is a work of genius that established a representative government, safeguarded by the system of “checks and balances,” and guarantees fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech, religion and assembly. According to this mythology, the Constitution embodies and promotes the spirit and power of the people.
Why, then, if the country’s founding document is so perfect, has the immense suffering of the majority of its people—as a result of exploitation and oppression—been a central feature of the U.S.? How could almost half of the population be designated poor or low income? Why would the U.S. have the world’s largest and most extensive prison system? If the Constitution, the supreme law of this country, was written to protect and promote the interests of the people, why didn’t it include any guarantees to the most basic necessities of life?
This contradiction between reality and rhetoric can be understood by examining the conditions under which the U.S. Constitution was drafted, including the class background of the drafters. Although it is touted today as a document enshrining “democratic values,” it was widely hated by the lower classes that had participated in the 1776-1783 Revolutionary War. Popular opposition was so great, in fact, that the drafting of the Constitution had to be done in secret in a closed-door conference.
The purpose of the Constitution was to reorganize the form of government so as to enhance the centralized power of the state. It allowed for national taxation that provided the funds for a national standing army. Local militias were considered inadequate to battle the various Native American nations whose lands were coveted by land speculators. A national army was explicitly created to suppress slave rebellions, insurgent small farmers and the newly emerging landless working class that was employed for wages.
The goal of the Constitution and the form of government was to defend the minority class of affluent property owners against the anticipated “tyranny of the majority.” As James Madison, a principal author of the Constitution, wrote: “But the most common and durable source of factions [dissenting groups] has been the various and unequal distribution of property” .
The newly centralized state set forth in the Constitution was also designed to regulate interstate trade. This was necessary since cutthroat competition between different regions and states was degenerating into trade wars, boycotts and outright military conflict.
The U.S. Congress was created as a forum where commercial and political conflicts between merchants, manufacturers and big farmers could be debated and resolved without resort to economic and military war.
Conditions leading to the U.S. Revolution
To understand the class interests reflected in the Constitution, it is necessary to examine the social and economic conditions of the time. In the decades leading up to the U.S. revolutionary period, colonial society was marked by extreme oppression and class disparities.
The economies of the colonies were originally organized in the interests of the British merchant capitalists who profited by trade with the colonies. These interests were guaranteed by the British monarchy headed by King George III. In the southern colonies like Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas, a settler class of slave-owning big planters grew rich providing the cotton that fed Britain’s massive textile manufacturing industry.
In the northern colonies, merchant economies in the port cities and associated small manufacturing industries formed the basis for the division between rich and poor. In the countryside, huge landowners who owed their holdings to privilege in Europe squeezed the limited opportunities of small farmers.
In 1700, for example, 75 percent of land in colonial New York state belonged to fewer than 12 individuals. In Virginia, seven individuals owned over 1.7 million acres . By 1767, the richest 10 percent of Boston taxpayers held about 66 percent of Boston’s taxable wealth, while the poorest 30 percent of taxpayers had no property at all . Similar conditions could be found throughout the colonies. Clearly, there was an established ruling class within the colonies, although this grouping was ultimately subordinate to the British crown.
On the other hand, the majority of society—Black slaves, Native Americans, indentured servants and poor farmers—experienced super-exploitation and oppression. Women of all classes had, like their peers in Europe, no formal political rights.
With these growing class antagonisms, the 18th century was characterized by mass discontent, which led to frequent demonstrations and even uprisings by those on the bottom rung of colonial society.
Between 1676 and 1760, there were at least 18 uprisings aimed at overthrowing a colonial government. There were six slave rebellions as well as 40 riots like the numerous tenant uprisings in New Jersey and New York directed against landlords . Many of these uprisings were directed at the local elite and not the British Empire.
This local elite in colonial society found itself squeezed between the wrath of the lower working classes, on one side, and the British Empire, on the other.
Following the 1763 British victory in the Seven Years’ War in Europe, which included the so-called French and Indian War in North America, the French position as a colonial power competing with Britain was seriously downgraded as a result of their defeat. The French did send troops and military aid to support the colonists in their war for independence from Britain a decade later.
Following the defeat of the French in 1763, George III attempted to stabilize relations with Native Americans, who had fought primarily alongside the defeated French, by issuing the Proclamation of 1763. This decree declared Indian lands beyond the Appalachians out of bounds for colonial settlers, thereby limiting vast amounts of wealth the settlers could steal from the indigenous people. Chauvinist expansionism thus became fuel for anti-British sentiment in the colonies.
Making matters worse for the colonists, the British Empire began demanding more resources from the colonies to pay for the war. In 1765, the British Parliament passed the fourth Stamp Act, basically increasing taxes on the colonists. The Stamp Act of 1765 incited anger across all class strata, including British merchants, and was ultimately repealed in 1766.
The struggle around the Stamp Act demonstrated a shift in power relations between the colonists and the British Empire. While the local American elites were in less and less need of Britain’s assistance, the British Empire was in ever growing need of the wealth and resources of the colonies.
In summary, there were at least four factors that would motivate the American “new rich” to seek independence from the British crown. First, the anger of the poor and oppressed against the rich could be deflected from the local elite and channeled into hatred of the British crown—developing a new sense of patriotism. Second, the wealth produced and extracted in the colonies would remain in the pockets of the local ruling class rather than being transferred to the British Empire. Third, the local ruling class would greatly increase its wealth through the confiscation of property of those loyal to Britain. And lastly, independence would nullify the Proclamation of 1763, opening up vast amounts of Native land.
Two points qualified the drive to independence, which ultimately manifested itself in the sizable “Loyalist” or pro-British population during the revolution. First, despite the conflict between the colonists and the British government over wealth, colonists and colonizers were united against the Native American population, whom both tried to massacre and loot. The revolutionary struggle was not against exploitation, but to determine who would do the exploiting.
Secondly, in spite of the disputes over who got how much of the wealth generated by the colonies, this wealth primarily depended on the integration of the economy with British merchant capitalism. While the revolutionists wanted political distance from the empire, they could not afford a complete break.
The leaders of the U.S. Revolution
Revolutionary sentiment among the lowest classes of colonial society was largely spontaneous and unorganized. Leadership of the anti-British rebellion, groups like the Sons of Liberty, originated from the middle and upper classes. Some poor workers and farmers did join their ranks, allowing their leadership to garner popular support.
These leaders were conscious of the fact that only one class would be really liberated through independence from Britain: the local ruling class. However, in order to carry this out, they would have to create a façade of liberating the masses.
This is why the 1776 Declaration of Independence—the document used to inspire colonists to fight against Britain—includes language that was so much more radical than that of the 1787 U.S. Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson had originally drafted a paragraph in the Declaration of Independence condemning George III for transporting slaves from Africa to the colonies and “suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce” . Jefferson himself personally owned hundreds of slaves until the day he died, but he understood the appeal such a statement would have.
Instead, the final draft of the Declaration accused the British monarchy of inciting slave rebellions and supporting Indian land claims against the settlers. “He [the king] has incited domestic insurrection amongst us,” the final version read, “and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.”
Sixty-nine percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence held colonial office under England. When the document was read in Boston, the Boston Committee of Correspondence ordered the townsmen to show up for a draft to fight the British. The rich avoided the draft by paying for substitutes, while the poor had no choice but to fight.
Slavery existed in all 13 British colonies, but it was the anchor for the economic system in the mid-Atlantic and southern states.
Thousands of slaves fought on both sides of the War of Independence. The British governor of Virginia had issued a proclamation promising freedom to any slave who could make it to the British lines—as long as their owner was not loyal to the British Crown. Tens of thousands of enslaved Africans did just that. Thousands managed to leave with the British when they were defeated, but tens of thousands more were returned to enslavement after the colonies won their “freedom” in 1783.
Following the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which established the independence of the colonies, vast amounts of wealth and land were confiscated from Loyalists. Some of this land was parceled out to small farmers to draw support for the new government.
While most Loyalists left the United States, some were protected. For instance, Lord Fairfax of Virginia, who owned over 5 million acres of land across 21 counties, was protected because he was a friend of George Washington—at that time, among the richest men in America .
The drafting of the Constitution
In May 1787, 55 men—now known as the “Founding Fathers”—gathered in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention to draft the new country’s legal principles and establish the new government. Alexander Hamilton—a delegate of New York, George Washington’s closest advisor and the first secretary of the treasury—summed up their task: “All communities divide themselves into the few and the many. The first are the rich and well-born, the other the mass of the people… Give therefore to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government” . Indeed, the task of the 55 men was to draft a document that would guarantee the power and privileges of the new ruling class while making just enough concessions to deflect dissent from other classes in society.
Who were the Founding Fathers? It goes without saying that all the delegates were white, property-owning men. Citing the work of Charles Beard, Howard Zinn wrote, “A majority of them were lawyers by profession, most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing or shipping, half of them had money loaned out at interest, and 40 of the 55 held government bonds” .
The vast majority of the population was not represented at the Constitutional Convention: There were no women, African Americans, Native Americans or poor whites. The U.S. Constitution was written by property-owning white men to give political power, including voting rights, exclusively to property-owning white men, who made up about 10 percent of the population.
Alexander Hamilton advocated for monarchical-style government with a president and senate chosen for life. The Constitutional Convention opted, rather, for a “popularly” elected House of Representatives, a Senate chosen by state legislators, a president elected by electors chosen by state legislators, and Supreme Court justices appointed by the president.
Democracy was intended as a cover. In the 10th article of the “Federalist Papers”—85 newspaper articles written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay advocating ratification of the U.S. Constitution—Madison wrote that the establishment of the government set forth by the Constitution would control “domestic faction and insurrection” deriving from “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal distribution of property, or for any other improper or wicked project.” During the convention, Alexander Hamilton delivered a speech advocating a strong centralized state power to “check the imprudence of democracy.”
It is quite telling that the Constitution took the famous phrase of the Declaration of Independence “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and changed it to “life, liberty and property.” The debates of the Constitutional Convention were largely over competing economic interests of the wealthy, not a debate between haves and have-nots.
The new Constitution legalized slavery. Article 4, Section 2 required that escaped slaves be delivered back to their masters. Slaves would count as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of deciding representation in Congress. The “three-fifths compromise” was between southern slave-holding delegates who wanted to count slaves in the population to increase their representation, while delegates from the northern states wanted to limit their influence and so not count slaves as people at all.
Furthermore, some of the most important constitutional rights, such as the right to free speech, the right to bear arms and the right to assembly were not intended to be included in the Constitution at all. The Bill of Rights was amended to the Constitution four years after the Constitutional Convention had adjourned so that the document could get enough support for ratification.
As a counter to the Bill of Rights, the Constitution gave Congress the power to limit these rights to varying degrees. For example, seven years after the Constitution was amended to provide the right to free speech, Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1798, which made it a crime to say or write anything “false, scandalous or malicious” against the government, Congress or president with the intent to defame or build popular hatred of these entities.
Today, many people look to the Constitution—and especially to the Bill of Rights—as the only guarantor of basic political rights. And while the Constitution has never protected striking workers from being beaten over the heads by police clubs while exercising their right to assemble outside plant gates, or protected revolutionaries’ right to freedom of speech as they are jailed or gunned down, the legal gains for those without property do need to be defended.
But defending those rights has to be done with the knowledge that the founding document of the United States has allowed the scourge of unemployment, poverty and exploitation to carry on unabated because it was a document meant to enshrine class oppression. A constitution for a socialist United States would begin with the rights of working and oppressed people.
During the period leading to the second U.S. Revolution, commonly known as the Civil War, militant opponents of slavery traveled the country to expose the criminal institution that was a bedrock of U.S. society. On July 4, 1854, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison burned a copy of the Constitution before thousands of supporters of the New England Anti-Slavery Society. He called it a “covenant with death and an agreement with hell,” referring to its enshrining of slavery.
The crowd shouted back, “Amen” .
Although slavery has been abolished, the property that is central to the Constitution—private property, the right to exploit the majority for the benefit of the tiny minority—remains. In that sense, Garrison’s words still ring true.
References James Madison, Federalist Papers, No. 10. Available here.
 Michael Parenti, Democracy for the Few, 9th ed. (Boston: Wadsworth, 1974/2011), 5.
 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (New York: Longman, 1980), 65.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 72.
 Ibid., 84.
 Cited in Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), 152.
 Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 89.
 Zinn, Declarations of Independence, 231.
This article was republished from Liberation school.
Human Prehistory—Why New Discoveries About Human Origins Open Up Revolutionary Possibilities By: Jan Ritch-FrelRead Now
Discoveries in the fields of human origins, paleoanthropology, cognitive science, and behavioral biology have accelerated in the past few decades. We occasionally bump into news reports that new findings have revolutionary implications for how humanity lives today—but the information for the most part is still packed obscurely in the worlds of science and academia.
Some experts have tried to make the work more accessible, but Deborah Barsky’s new book, Human Prehistory: Exploring the Past to Understand the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2022), is one of the most authoritative yet. The breadth and synthesis of the work are impressive, and Barsky’s highly original analysis on the subject—from the beginnings of culture to how humanity began to be alienated from the natural world—keeps the reader engaged throughout.
Long before Jane Goodall began telling the world we would do well to study our evolutionary origins and genetic cousins, it was a well-established philosophical creed that things go better for humanity the more we try to know ourselves.
Barsky, a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and associate professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, who came to this field through her decades of studying ancient stone tool technologies, writes early in her book that lessons learned from the remote past could guide our species toward a brighter future, but “that so much of the information that is amassed by prehistoric archeologists remains inaccessible to many people” and “appears far removed from our daily lives.” I reached out to Barsky in the early stage of her book launch to learn more.
Jan Ritch-Frel: What would you suggest a person consider as they hold a 450,000-year-old handaxe for the first time?
Deborah Barsky: I think everyone feels a deep-seated reverence when touching or holding such an ancient tool. Handaxes in particular carry so many powerful implications, including on the symbolic level. You have to imagine that these tear-shaped tools—the ultimate symbol of the Acheulian—appeared in Africa some 1.75 million years ago and that our ancestors continued creating and re-creating this same shape from that point onwards for more than a million and a half years!
These tools are the first ones recognized as having been made in accordance with a planned mental image. And they have an aesthetic quality, in that they present both bilateral and bifacial symmetry. Some handaxes were made in precious or even visually pleasing rock matrices and were shaped with great care and dexterity according to techniques developed in the longest-enduring cultural norm known to humankind.
And yet, in spite of so many years of studying handaxes, we still understand little about what they were used for, how they were used, and, perhaps most importantly, whether or not they carry with them some kind of symbolic significance that escapes us. There is no doubt that the human capacity to communicate through symbolism has been hugely transformative for our species.
Today we live in a world totally dependent on shared symbolic thought processes, where such constructs as national identity, monetary value, religion, and tradition, for example, have become essential to our survival. Complex educational systems have been created to initiate our children into mastering these constructed realities, integrating them as fully as possible into this system to favor their survival within the masses of our globalized world. In the handaxe we can see the first manifestations of this adaptive choice: to invest in developing symbolic thought. That choice has led us into the digital revolution that contemporary society is now undergoing. Yet, where all of this will lead us remains uncertain.
JRF: Your book shows that it is more helpful to us if we consider the human story and evolution as less of a straight line and more so as one that branches in different ways across time and geography. How can we explain the past to ourselves in a clear and useful way to understand the present?
DB: One of the first things I tell my students is that in the field of human prehistory, one must grow accustomed to information that is in a constant state of flux, as it changes in pace with new discoveries that are being made on nearly a daily basis.
It is also important to recognize that the pieces composing the puzzle of the human story are fragmentary, so that information is constantly changing as we fill in the gaps and ameliorate our capacity to interpret it. Although we favor scientific interpretations in all cases, we cannot escape the fact that our ideas are shaped by our own historical context—a situation that has impeded correct explanations of the archeological record in the past.
One example of this is our knowledge of the human family that has grown exponentially in the last quarter of a century thanks to new discoveries being made throughout the world. Our own genus, Homo, for example, now includes at least five new species, discovered only in this interim.
Meanwhile, genetic studies are taking major steps in advancing the ways we study ancient humans, helping to establish reliable reconstructions of the (now very bushy) family tree, and concretizing the fact that over millions of years multiple hominin species shared the same territories. This situation continued up until the later Paleolithic, when our own species interacted and even reproduced together with other hominins, as in the case of our encounters with the Neandertals in Eurasia, for example.
While there is much conjecture about this situation, we actually know little about the nature of these encounters: whether they were peaceful or violent; whether different hominins transmitted their technological know-how, shared territorial resources together, or decimated one another, perhaps engendering the first warlike behaviors.
One thing is sure: Homo sapiens remains the last representative of this long line of hominin ancestors and now demonstrates unprecedented planetary domination. Is this a Darwinian success story? Or is it a one-way ticket to the sixth extinction event—the first to be caused by humans—as we move into the Anthropocene Epoch?
In my book, I try to communicate this knowledge to readers so that they can better understand how past events have shaped not only our physical beings but also our inner worlds and the symbolic worlds we share with each other. It is only if we can understand when and how these important events took place—actually identify the tendencies and put them into perspective for what they truly are—that we will finally be the masters of our own destiny. Then we will be able to make choices on the levels that really count—not only for ourselves, but also for all life on the planet. Our technologies have undoubtedly alienated us from these realities, and it may be our destiny to continue to pursue life on digital and globalized levels. We can’t undo the present, but we can most certainly use this accumulated knowledge and technological capacity to create far more sustainable and “humane” lifeways.
JRF: How did you come to believe that stone toolmaking was the culprit for how we became alienated from the world we live in?
DB: My PhD research at Perpignan University in France was on the lithic assemblages from the Caune de l’Arago cave site in southern France, a site with numerous Acheulian habitation floors that have been dated to between 690,000 and 90,000 years ago. During the course of my doctoral research, I was given the exceptional opportunity to work on some older African and Eurasian sites. I began to actively collaborate in international and multidisciplinary teamwork (in the field and in the laboratory) and to study some of the oldest stone tool kits known to humankind in different areas of the world. This experience was an important turning point for me that subsequently shaped my career as I oriented my research more and more towards understanding these “first technologies.”
More recently, as a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES-CERCA) in Tarragona, Spain, I continue to investigate the emergence of ancient human culture, in particular through the study of a number of major archeological sites attributed to the so-called “Oldowan” technocomplex (after the eponymous Olduvai Gorge Bed I sites in Tanzania). My teaching experience at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and Rovira i Virgili University (Tarragona) helped me to articulate my findings through discussions and to further my research with students and colleagues.
Such ancient tool kits, some of which date to more than 2 million years ago, were made by the hands of hominins who were very different from ourselves, in a world that was very distinct from our own. They provide a window of opportunity through which to observe some of the cognitive processes employed by the early humans who made and used them. As I expanded my research, I discovered the surprising complexity of ancient stone toolmaking, eventually concluding that it was at the root of a major behavioral bifurcation that would utterly alter the evolutionary pathways taken by humankind.
Early hominins recognizing the advantages provided by toolmaking made the unconscious choice to invest more heavily in it, even as they gained time for more inventiveness. Oldowan tool kits are poorly standardized and contain large pounding implements, alongside small sharp-edged flakes that were certainly useful, among other things, for obtaining viscera and meat resources from animals that were scavenged as hominins competed with other large carnivores present in the paleolandscapes in which they lived. As hominins began to expand their technological know-how, successful resourcing of such protein-rich food was ideal for feeding the developing and energy-expensive brain.
Meanwhile, increased leisure time fueled human inventiveness, and stone tool production—and its associated behaviors—grew ever more complex, eventually requiring relatively heavy investments into teaching these technologies to enable them to pass onwards into each successive generation. This, in turn, established the foundations for the highly beneficial process of cumulative learning that was later coupled with symbolic thought processes such as language that would ultimately favor our capacity for exponential development. This also had huge implications, for example, in terms of the first inklings of what we call “tradition”—ways to make and do things—that are indeed the very building blocks of culture. In addition, neuroscientific experiments undertaken to study the brain synapses involved during toolmaking processes show that at least some basic forms of language were likely needed in order to communicate the technologies required to manufacture the more complex tools of the Acheulian (for example, handaxes).
Moreover, researchers have demonstrated that the areas of the brain activated during toolmaking are the same as those employed during abstract thought processes, including language and volumetric planning. I think that it is clear from this that the Oldowan can be seen as the start of a process that would eventually lead to the massive technosocial database that humanity now embraces and that continues to expand ever further in each successive generation, in a spiral of exponential technological and social creativity.
JRF: Did something indicate to you at the outset of your career that archeology and the study of human origins have a vital message for humanity now? You describe a conceptual process in your book whereby through studying our past, humanity can learn to “build up more viable and durable structural entities and behaviors in harmony with the environment and innocuous to other life forms.”
DB: I think most people who pursue a career in archeology do so because they feel passionate about exploring the human story in a tangible, scientific way. The first step, described in the introductory chapters of my book, is choosing from an ever-widening array of disciplines that contribute to the field today. From the onset, I was fascinated by the emergence and subsequent transformation of early technologies into culture. The first 3 million years of the human archeological record are almost exclusively represented by stone tools. These stone artifacts are complemented by other kinds of tools—especially in the later periods of the Paleolithic, when bone, antler, and ivory artifacts were common—alongside art and relatively clear habitational structures.
It is one thing to analyze a given set of stone tools made by long-extinct hominin cousins and quite another to ask what their transposed significance to contemporary society might be.
As I began to explore these questions more profoundly, numerous concrete applications did finally come to the fore, thus underpinning how data obtained from the prehistoric register is applicable when considering issues such as racism, climate change, and social inequality that plague the modern globalized world.
In my opinion, the invention and subsequent development of technology was the inflection point from which humanity was to diverge towards an alternative pathway from all other life forms on Earth. We now hold the responsibility to wield this power in ways that will be beneficial and sustainable to all life.
This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
Ernest Hemingway learned in Cuba that the best way to get through a hurricane is to have your ears tuned to a battery-powered radio and keep your hands busy with a bottle of rum and a hammer to nail down doors and windows. The American writer appropriated the typical jargon of Cuban meteorologists and fishermen who speak of “the sea” in the feminine and of the hurricane as a demon or evil sorcerer, and who, when a storm leaves the island, usually say that “it entered in the channel” or that “it crossed the land.”
From the clashes with the cyclones and the turbulent waters came that jewel of literature, The Old Man and the Sea, which made William Faulkner, another giant, exclaim that Hemingway had found God.
On an island located at the crossroads of the winds, it is impossible not to live with the culture of hurricanes that have existed in the Antilles since the most remote evidence of life, some 6,000 years before Christ. The Taínos, Indigenous Cubans, gave the phenomenon its name and drew a spiral to represent the hurricane, a rotating symbol of the wind, which could be embodied in a monstrous serpent capable of wrapping the entire universe in its body.
In both reality and mythology, the hurricane has produced “tremendous fantasies” alike, in the words of the greatest Cuban novelist, Alejo Carpentier, who was inspired by the passage of the 1927 meteor over Havana to write some passages for his novel Ecue- Yamba - O! The storm, Carpentier wrote, caused the movement of “houses, intact, several kilometers from their foundations; schooners pulled out of the water, and left on a street corner; granite statues, decapitated from a chopping block; mortuary cars, paraded by the wind along squares and avenues, as if guided by ghost coachmen and, to top it off, a rail torn from a track, raised in weight, and thrown on the trunk of a royal palm with such violence, that it was embedded in the wood, like the arms of a cross.”
There are no significant differences between that description and what we have witnessed again in Cuba. Hurricane Ian left three dead and more than 89,000 homes affected in the province of Pinar del Río, caused the destruction of thousands of hectares of crops, led to trees and street lighting poles falling everywhere, left the country in total darkness for hours and with thousands of stories that turn anything told by two literary geniuses like Hemingway and Carpentier into pale tales.
The destruction can have infinite variations, but the hurricane is one of the few things that has not changed in thousands of years for the people of the Antilles. Whatever it may be called and whatever maybe be the strength of its fury, both the ancient and modern worlds have considered it a living creature that comes and goes over time and is not always cruel. When the excesses do not occur, the waters and the winds cool the summer heat and benefit agriculture, and everyone is happy.
However, this will be the first time that such a well known and recurrent natural phenomenon passes through Cuba accompanied by another equal or greater destructive force that has been created artificially in the new digital laboratories and is capable of such an evil that our Taíno ancestors could not have foreseen it.
While gusts of wind of more than 200 kilometers per hour blew in the north of Pinar del Río, more than 37,000 accounts on Twitter replicated the hashtag #CubaPaLaCalle (Cuba to the streets), with calls for protests, roadblocks, assaults on government institutions, sabotage, and terrorism, and with instructions on how to prepare homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails. Less than 2 percent of the users who participated in this virtual mobilization were in Cuba. Most of those who made the call to “fire up” the streets in Cuba were connected to American technology platforms and did so while hundreds of kilometers away from the country that remained in darkness. Perhaps some on the island kept their battery-powered radio. Still, what millions of Cubans had in the palm of their hands was not a bottle of Hemingway’s rum but a cellphone connected to the internet (the country of 11 million inhabitants has 7.5 million people with access to social media).
Let’s do an exercise. Imagine this panorama: you are anguished with the here and now. You have no electricity and no drinking water. What little food you have bought with great difficulty and kept refrigerated will go bad in no time. You don’t know what has happened to your family that lives in the western provinces, where the damage is apocalyptic. You have no idea how long this new crisis will last. Daily life before the hurricane was already desperate due to the economic blockade imposed by the United States, inflation, and shortages being faced by Cubans. Still, you see on your mobile that “everyone” (on the internet, of course) seems to be doing well and has plenty, while thousands of people on social media (and their trolls) shout that the culprit of your misfortune is the communist government. Your only light source is the mobile screen, which works like Plato’s allegory of the cave: you sit with your back to a flaming fire while virtual figures pass between you and the bonfire. You only see the movements of their shadows projected on the walls of the cave, and those shadows whisper the solution to your desperate reality: #CubaPaLaCalle.
At no other time in history has an immigrant minority had so much economic, media, and technological power to try to sink their country with their relatives still in Cuba before even trying to lend a hand in the midst of a national tragedy. What Mexican who lives in the United States puts political differences above helping their relatives after an earthquake? Why don’t Salvadorans or Guatemalans who live abroad do it now that Hurricane Julia has devastated Central America.
It is unprecedented and unheard of that the hurricane of a lifetime, and the hurricane of virtual hatred can arrive simultaneously, but that is just what happened in Cuba.
Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a Cuban journalist and founder of the site Cubadebate. She is vice president of both the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP). She has written and co-written several books including Jineteros en la Habana and Our Chavez. She has received the Juan Gualberto Gómez National Prize for Journalism on multiple occasions for her outstanding work. She is currently a weekly columnist for La Jornada of Mexico City.
Under the neoliberal regime of accumulation, income differences between classes widen, leading to a reduction in the purchasing power of the proletariat. However, in order to avert severe deficiencies in aggregate demand, contemporary capitalists have constructed Wal-Mart producer-consumer relationships wherein “[c]heap goods made by cheaper labor (including the superexploitation of third world labor) prop up the declining wages of the middle class; their spending keeps the economy plodding along.”
Political Economy of Bulimia
A paradigmatic example of the abovementioned economic relation is the fast-food industry. Unlike the Keynesian era, which was constituted by a social wage that supported demand for Fordist manufacture, the low-wage neoliberal economy “actively produced by McDonald’s and its ilk makes people dependent on fast, cheap food.” In keeping with the neoliberal emphasis on the intensification of commodification, the generalization of fast-food is also accompanied by the creation of new needs and desires that can absorb the increasing supply of cheap food from big corporates. But one soon encounters the problem of market glut – big businesses reach the maximum amount of food that a single person can consume. Neoliberalism’s response is “to create purchasable solutions to the problems it generates. One solution…is to commodify dieting as well as eating”. At the same time as neoliberal discourses encourage people to consume more, they culturally value those who are able to avoid its supposedly harmful physical consequences i.e. fatness. The process of disciplining fat bodies and re-incorporating them into the dominant themes of thinness is paradoxically predicated on further consumption (of exercise club memberships, health foods, diet plans, etc.). This economic model of bulimia – promoting both out-of-control food consumption and hyper-vigilant dieting – turns human bodies into economic assets from which big businesses can profit in multiple ways.
The contradictory processes of a culture of bulimia have been propped up by the Medical Industrial Complex (MIC) and the health industry – branches of the capitalist economy that have functioned in tandem with neoliberal governments and pliant media apparatuses to frame fatness as a grave disease requiring various forms of treatment. These powerful actors have referred to it as the “obesity epidemic” – a narrative that is based on questionable scientific evidence. In “Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic,” J. Eric Oliver writes, “[a]lthough heavier people tend to die more frequently than people in mid-range weights, it is by no means clear that their weight is the cause of their higher death rates.” Whereas doctors, public health agencies, and the corporate media repeatedly highlight “the connections between being too fat and various ailments…this…is a misperception. Obesity has not been found to be a primary cause of any of these conditions. Yes, heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments are more common among the obese than the non-obese, but there is little evidence that adiposity (that is, excess fat tissue) is producing these pathologies.” In other words, major studies have simply compared health status of obese people to others, ignoring confounding factors. Apart from statistical extremes, high body mass is a very weak predictor of mortality. Alternative large-scale studies “have found no increase in relative risk among the so-called ‘overweight’ [Body Mass Index between 25 and 29.9], or have found a lower relative risk for premature mortality among this cohort than among persons of so-called ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ [sic] weight.” This repudiation of loose statistical conjectures regarding fatness and mortality has led to more logical questions that emphasize how overweight people “are less likely to seek regular medical care, the consequence of the prejudice they often encounter among medical professionals”.
Despite scientific evidence that reveals the inaccuracies of medical narratives about obesity, the idea of fatness as always unhealthy and the concomitant valorization of thinness continue to be entrenched. This is so because it opens the possibly never-ending project of weight loss, making fat people the best consumers. “Sustaining the problem status of fatness is beneficial to a number of actors. The obesity epidemic discourse has promoted fatness as a business opportunity for the dietary, pharmaceutical, fitness, biotechnology, food, news, and entertainment industries among others.” The hegemony of anti-obese narratives has distorted the public’s perception of fat people, giving rise to harmful anti-obesity strategies that “currently involve speculative and costly investment in disrupting energy balance, food taxation and marketing, coercive physical activity, genetic engineering, pharmacological and surgical interventions and sanctions against fat people, as well as public-private partnerships with the weight loss industry”. This medical model regarding fatness depoliticizes the experiences of fat people, considering them to be individuals who have failed in regulating their impulses and thus deserve moral condemnation.
The medical judgment of fat people as morally irresponsible is closely linked to the healthist ideology of neoliberalism. In contemporary capitalist societies, the lack of safety net or welfare means that people have to endure great pressures to improve their employability and compete on the ruthless arena of market forces. Individuals are expected to constantly work on their bodies in order to prove themselves as morally responsible, and economically productive. The hetero-patriarchal and white supremacist character of neoliberal capitalism means that the ideal citizen is always imagined as thin, white, male and able-bodied. These cultural norms that constitute healthist ideals are formed through discourses of moralization that praise some and enact shame against others, with the underlying goal being to generate new hegemonic narratives of happiness and repress the possible emergence of subaltern resistance. Within these bio-pedagogies of health and happiness, fat people represent failed citizens, “the slow, unwell, undisciplined and unemployable losers in the race of life whose only chance of betterment is by participating within neoliberal health regimes.” The fat body becomes an embodiment of irresponsibility, cast out from mainstream bio-pedagogies as an entity that deserves to be judged negatively in front of everyone. One of the primary parameters of judgment is supplied by the logic of austerity that drives neoliberalism. In a world where “the body is expected to be productive, cost-effective, and dynamic…[the] less the individual needs public services the more cost-effective and productive/profitable the individual appears from the state’s point of view.” Thus, the goal of neoliberal governmentality is to build individuals who are self-responsible, whose efficiency in the personal management of their health renders unnecessary any kind of state intervention. Hannele Harjunen notes how this discursive world of austerity stigmatizes fat people for being costly:
[C]ostliness is constructed, for example, through the stereotype of fat people as ill, overconsuming, unproductive, and morally wanting. Fat people are seen as unproductive, ineffective and as a (public) expense. In public discourse the fat body is regularly used as a representation as well as a metaphor to represent and as a culprit of a “bloated” public economy, which is in need of cuts. Interventions that aim at changing the fat body are treated as analogous to interventions that are needed to fix the ailing public economy…Even the terms used to discuss fatness come from the economic sphere such as a “risk”, “surplus”, “excess”, “waste”, and “burden”.
The failure of fat people to comply with the normative structures of thin, healthy and successful bodies – a social status that is based upon consumption, accumulation and the defense of profit-maximizing behavior – denotes a radical alternative to these dominant modes of engagement. In medical discourses, the failure of fatness to accept healthist values is constantly regarded as highly morbid, associated with the rise of diabetes and heart disease, the coming catastrophe of the “obesity time-bomb” and the degradation of public health systems. In this cultural imaginary, fatness is posed either as a threat to the civilizational vigor of humanity or a self-destructive force that will kill obese people themselves. In “No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive,” Lee Edelman considers this chaotic space of existential threat, this possibility of total death, to be a form of queer resistance. Whereas the societal project of the ruling classes is based on reproductive futurism – the unrelenting movement towards a glorious future – queerness is based on the death drive that is disavowed by this futurist agenda, the anti-social tendency that is repressed by the given social order. The core of futurism consists of the figure of the Child, on whose behalf efforts are undertaken to preserve the status quo. In Edelman’s theory, the Child’s Other is the queer – that which “comes to figure the bar to every realization of futurity,” the radical element that disrupts the political reproduction of the Child and hence opposes ruling class futurism.
Fatness, identified by anti-obesity discourses as a fundamental threat to human health and life, functions as one of the criteria through which the neoliberal subject measures its rational correspondence with the figure of the capitalist Child. Whereas as the fat individual is immoral and unproductive – requiring excessive demands from others – the neoliberal individual is moral and productive – consistently competing in the capitalist market to achieve self-sufficiency. Whereas the former rejects the collective reproduction of the futural Child and instead remains obstinately fixed in the messiness of the present, the latter submissively forsakes the present to work for the capitalist future. Here, the queer failure to conform to neoliberal norms has the political potential to dissect the complexities of the present and open up the privatized individuality and ideal citizenship of neoliberalism to multifarious modes of being. Given the neoliberal hostility towards obese people, these ways of living are not oriented towards participation in the system as no institutions exist to help fat people in any meaningful way. The only way the fat community survives without pursuing a politics of assimilation is by helping each other – queered fatness is maintained by a solidaristic, non-monetary economy of shared, reciprocal care. However, queer fat activism is not something that automatically emerges from experiences of fatphobia. When a fat woman fails to meet the desired expectations of the heteronormative male gaze, or when a fat Black woman is racialized as a parasitic sloth, there emerges a possibility for political radicalization. It is the duty of Communist politics to realize that possibility, to wage a militant struggle for fat liberation and the destruction of neoliberal capitalism.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Niall Ferguson teaches history at Harvard. He has a very conservative world outlook which, when applied to the analysis of current social reality, has a tendency to so warp his perceptions that the situation he writes about becomes an imaginary inverted world where truth becomes falsity and falsity truth. But don't take my word for it. Just look at his article in the Wall Street Journal for 10/10-11/2015: "The Real Obama Doctrine." Ferguson's take on Obama can only be the result of a profound ignorance of the historical reality he professes to understand.
He opens his article by referring to ideas expressed by the revered, but morally reprehensible, Henry Kissinger in 1968. Kissinger expressed the opinion that America didn't really have a foreign policy. He might have noted the U.S. was too busy butchering Vietnamese peasants to pay attention to much else.
Be that as it may, there was no real coherent strategic thinking going on and this for two reasons according to Kissinger. First, the president was not selected for his strategic thinking but his "will" to get elected, and second, there are just too many lawyers working for the government. Now lawyers are clever but they don't know enough about history and this deficiency has led to the adoption of a "minimum risk" attitude when it comes to policy. Well, Ferguson teaches history at Harvard; what better guide could we have to lead us to understand Obama's plans for the U.S. of A.
Seeing that Obama was elected due to his will to win, has a passel of lawyers at work in his administration, and doesn't support a "maximum risk" policy, he seems to exemplify just what Henry K was complaining about to a tee. Ferguson tells us, in fact, that he himself has "spent much of the last seven years trying to work out" just what strategy Obama was following. Here is what he found out.
He read Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech but wasn’t clear on how it would result in practical actions. The speech was full of good intentions and was met positively by those friendly to the U.S. and either negatively or skeptically by those hostile to it. The criticisms basically were that actions speak louder than words and that upbeat speeches were no substitute for a change in policies. Ferguson doesn’t go into much detail on the speech, but needless to say he should have known that Obama would not be able to quickly reverse fifty years of cold war policies and the fact that the Bush administration had left the entire Middle East entirely in flames or on the verge erupting into chaos.
Obama’s attempt to disengage U.S. ground forces in Iraq and strengthen Iraqi security forces is called by Ferguson “precipitate withdrawal.” The fact is that the damage done to Iraq by the Bush policies are almost irreversible and the sectarian Shia government the U.S. created is both corrupt and unwilling, or unable, to reconcile with the Sunni minority. Obama must either try to wind down American involvement or hunker down and prepare for an open ended American occupation. The American people definitely want to get out of Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and they don’t want to get involved in Syria either. Obama cannot, no president could, put the Middle East back together again after the Bush folks so thoroughly smashed it up. The best he can do is respond to the will of the American people and try and limit the damage caused by the Bush gang.
Besides not having a clue to the complexities in Afghanistan, Ferguson thinks Obama has become “indifferent” to Europe as a result of the attempted “reset” with Russia. It’s true the reset failed but only because it was predicated on Russia following American dictates against its own interests and there is no evidence that Obama has become indifferent to Europe.
But Ferguson also discovered something more troubling than Obama’s failure to clean up the mess left behind by Bush. It is one thing to reject Bush’s policies, but the 2012 debate with Mitt Romney revealed, horror of horrors, that Obama was also “turning away from Ronald Reagan.” Romney held that enemy numero uno to our world wide hegemony was Russia and Obama dismissed this. And what happened? In March 2014 [as a result of the U.S. and E.U. intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine] Russia annexed Crimea returning it to Russian administration after it had been assigned by the Soviet Union to Ukraine in the 1950s. Historian that he is, Ferguson thinks Romney “prescient” in spotting that, in his words, Russia is “our number one geopolitical foe.” We had better move the Seventh Fleet to the Bering Strait in case Putin decides to reverse the Alaska Purchase.
Ferguson also discovered, by reading articles and interviews given by Obama in the popular press, that it was his intention to “create a new balance of power in the Middle East.” Obama said that he wanted to end the conflicts between the Shia and Sunni by trying to get Iran to abandon its (in his opinion) negative policies and to work with the mostly Sunni Gulf states in a common effort to build a positive future in the region.
Obama hopes an international coalition, which could include Iran, might work together to solve the problems of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. Unmentioned is the fact that the crises in all these countries are the results of Saudi and American actions and interference. It would be the U.S. and not Iran that would have to abandon its negative policies. It is unlikely to do so since it profits from arms sales to the region.
Ferguson, however, has other reasons for objecting to Obama’s Middle East policies which he says are based on the president’s “fuzzy thinking.” In his recent U.N. speech Obama indicated he was willing to work with other nations “under the mantle of international norms and principles” and with both Russia and Iran (as long as they agreed to eventually dump Assad) in solving the Syrian problem. Obama is “fuzzy” because, Ferguson says, neither Russia nor Iran are “famed” for operating under the “mantle of international norms and principles.”
One would expect a Harvard history professor to be aware of the fact that the U.S. is also not “famed” for operating under this mantle. In fact, even a slight acquaintance with modern history would show U.S. behavior is more egregious in this respect than that of either Russia or Iran. In fact, almost every crisis in world diplomacy since (and most of them before) the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the result of the U.S. flouting international norms. To blame Obama for trying to improve this dismal record doesn’t say much in favor of Ferguson’s bona fides.
Ferguson thinks Obama's policies are failing because, since 2010, terrorism and violence in the Middle East from North Africa (Libya) to Pakistan and Afghanistan have dramatically increased and we can expect even more violence to come “as the Sunni powers of the region seek to prevent Iran from establishing itself as the post American hegemon.”
It’s true that American policies are not working out if peace is the goal. If, however, the goal is to sell billions of dollars worth of new weapons systems to the governments in the area as well as to ramp up military spending at home, these policies at least make some sense.
After Bush/Cheney destroyed Iraq in the east and the Obama/ U.S. supported NATO intervention in Libya (pushed by Secretary of State Clinton) effectively destroyed that country in the west the growth of terrorism was bound to increase as outside governments and their proxies moved in to take advantage of the chaos the U.S. created.
It was the Sunni governments that moved to take advantage of the situation. The U.S. destroyed two major secular governments and both the Saudi Arabians, and Gulf Sunni states, representing the most backward “Islamic” radical ideology, funded Sunni terrorist groups, as well as Pakistan’s covert support of the Taliban, that has led to the impotence of U.S. policy on the ground. The U.S. still sends billions of dollars in military aid (much of it actually spent at home to support the military industrial complex behind our domestic deep state) to countries who pass some of it along to the very terrorist groups the U.S. is fighting.
The truth is that Iran is not trying to become a hegemon. It was the Shah, installed as a result of a CIA coup against a democratically elected government and backed by the U.S., who was moving to both develop nuclear weapons and establish hegemony, as a U.S. client state, in the region until he was overthrown in 1979. The U.S. has been trying to get rid of the new Iranian government ever since.
Iran’s actions have been purely defensive in nature. It supports its Shia allies in Iraq against the Sunni Islamic State, it supports its ally Assad in Syria against the Islamic state and the Sunni jihadists supported by the Saudis and indirectly by the U.S. under the covering myth of supporting “moderates.” All this puts the lie to Ferguson’s pseudo-historical analysis of “Obama’s failures.” Obama’s problem, such as it is, has been his inability to reverse the movement of Middle Eastern disintegration initiated by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has succeeded in preventing the implosion of half the Mediterranean world by keeping boots off the ground in Libya and Syria, and thus not compounding the Bush/Chenny Iraq folly. Nevertheless his interventionist actions in these two countries threaten to create a wider area of war and destabilization which the next president will have to defuse unless he takes actions towards withdrawal and cooperation with the Iranians and Russians to limit Saudi and Pakistani sponsored jihadists.
Finally, Ferguson concludes there are three major problems facing U.S. foreign policy; the Middle East, Russia’s meddling, and China’s ambitions. Obama, he says, is failing to properly address these problems. The reason for this failure is that he does not have advisors of the caliber of Zbigniew Brzezinski (whose Afghan policies gave us both Osama ben Laden and the Taliban) and Henry Kissinger (whose war crimes against humanity gave us fascism in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, among achievements of similar note). Both of these stalwarts, Furgeson says, have made intellectual contributions to strategic doctrine far greater than the advisors surrounding Obama. Perhaps, but more people around the world have died meaningless deaths and suffered injuries and loss of loved ones due to the strategic doctrines of Brzezinski and Kissinger than due to the policies of Obama (but he is running a close second with his Syrian policies).
U.S. policy does have problems. In the Middle East it supports dictators and tyrants and its blanket support of Israel and Israel’s truly barbaric treatment of the Palestinians prevents it from having a policy that the majority of Middle Eastern people can live with. We create the very terrorists we seek to fight. Russian meddling is nothing more than its advancing policies that protect its interests and are usually just reactions to overt or covert U.S. provocations. There will be no reset of relations with Russia as long as the U.S. acts in bad faith. China’s ambitions are perfectly normal. They want to play a role in their part of the world commensurate with their growing economic and political strength. As long as the U.S. seeks to challenge them in this respect (such as U.S. air and naval provocations in the South China Sea) there will be no real cooperation possible nor any incentive for Chinese to trust the U.S.
The above comments are just a reflection of the current Zeitgeist and it appears that the role of the U.S. is contrary to the movement that spirit is taking — a movement that is pointing us towards a world of better cooperation and understanding and is not subject to the negative destructive will of one rogue superpower. This, and not the views of Henry Kissinger, is what the next president must keep in mind.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
CHAPTER SIX: THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT
Carrillo wants to give up this concept. His reasons are basically related to those expressed a few years ago in an article in Political Affairs.net on the ten worst and best ideas in Marxism by Joe Sims. It is the number one worst idea: “1. “Dictatorship of the proletariat.” Probably the worst phrase uttered by a political theorist ever. Who wants to live in a dictatorship? Even if I agreed with it conceptually, (which I don't), the Machiavellian in me has enough sense not to repeat it. Indefensible. And by the way, working-class “hegemony” (whatever the hell that means, sorry Gramsicans), aint much better.” [8-5-2008]
Carrillo writes: “The term dictatorship has in itself become hateful in the course of the present [20th] century, which has seen the most abominable fascist and reactionary dictatorships, among them Franco, and has known the crimes of Stalinism— that is to say, the phenomenon arising from the corruption of the dictatorship of the proletariat — and the evils of totalitarianism of one sort or another; all that is enough to justify the abandonment of the political use of the term.” Who indeed wants to live in a dictatorship?
Carrillo sees a problem. It is pragmatic and practical to abandon the term in our cadre work but what about Marxist theory? Marx, Engels, and Lenin used the expression and thought it was a cornerstone of Marxist theory. In the following, Carrillo will deal with this conundrum.
MARX AND ENGELS ON THE STATE
In the Communist Manifesto, Carrillo says, Marx and Engels for the first time conclude that the State’s main purpose is “for the domination of one class over another.” [p.145] This is still true today, in Spain or the US it makes no difference. “Even in countries where there are the most liberties, the State is the organized power of one class for oppressing another.”
Fascism is the worst State form the ruling class uses to oppress the working class and working people in general. Communists understand that the bourgeois democratic State is also a tool of oppression against the workers but we do not dismiss bourgeois democracy as having no redeeming values. The rights and liberties found in democratic States are the result of the major and minor victories in the class struggle that the workers have won over the years. The bourgeoisie instituted rights for itself as against the feudal and monarchist regimes it took power from and working class struggles have expanded those rights to cover its class as well as it could.
Carrillo continues by saying Marx & Engels in the Manifesto and later works equated “the raising of the proletariat to the position of ruling class with winning the battle of democracy.” [ p.147]
We should note that if we win the battle for democracy and become the ruling class we will have to oppress another class (that is what the State is for) i.e., the bourgeoisie. Traditionally this has been called the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat. A term not used by Carrillo. Why “democratic dictatorship”? Because for the first time in history the ruling class will represent the interests of the vast majority of the people, will be the working people themselves taking control of the economic foundations of society and the State as such will begin to cease to exist with the elimination of the bourgeoisie, there being no class left to oppress, the State will “wither away.”
The question is— Can this be done peacefully under the ground rules of bourgeois democracy? Will the present capitalist ruling class allow a peaceful transition? Carrillo’s answer is “Yes”— this can happen in the advanced fully developed capitalist countries because the revolutionary forces will have convinced all the various class interests and organizations that socialism is the best of all possible worlds by means of purely democratic struggle and the capitalist ruling class will realize that resistance is futile. But this has never happened, you say "Don’t be such a negative Nellie!" “Things do not have to be always the same and in the end they are certainly not always the same, even though in particular historical conditions they may have been so.” [p.149]
WHY THE CONCEPT OF THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT?
In the days of Marx, Engels and Lenin (MEL) the proletariat did not amount to a majority of the population so if a revolution broke out that brought the workers to power they had to impose the dictatorship of the proletariat to maintain themselves in power during the transition to socialism. MEL were aware that not being in the majority, the dictatorship was necessary. This is Carrillo’s position. But Lenin, aware of the fact that the vast majority of Russians were in fact peasants, I;e., petty bourgeois in Marxist terms, used the slogan “Dictatorship of the Proletariat and the Peasantry.” So this was a democratic majority and still a “dictatorship” to repress the capitalists as a class. However, the country was underdeveloped.
Carrillo does not want to dismiss the writings of MEL on the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat — for their historic period. His position is that in the modern world of the highly developed capitalism of Europe and the USA plus a few other highly advanced economies the traditions of bourgeois democracy are so ingrained that the transition to socialism can take place without the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Well, these traditions are so ingrained that, in the USA, we just had an election (2020) which the defeated sitting president tried to declare rigged and that he won it . Had he succeeded in remaining in power there would be no question about the validity of the dictatorship of the proletariat still being on the venue even in so called advanced democracies.
If Carrillo is correct, and the concept of a dictatorship of the proletariat is no longer politically relevant for advanced capitalist states, it is not the case that the concept of the “hegemony” of the working class in the transitional state is outmoded. The working class will be the leading class in this state because it has the most advanced ideas and is the only class that can actually bring about the socialist transition, but the other classes and strata in the state will follow the lead of the workers because of the good examples they set, not\due to coercion.
Finally, there is the case of the Soviet Union and the Soviet model. The totalitarian state apparatus created by Stalin created a state that was not capitalist, was not bourgeois, but was a failed workers state because the workers were not the ones really controlling the state. It was controlled by an undemocratic bureaucratic caste and was unable to make a real advance towards socialism. There were good aspects and benefits provided to the people that they lacked in capitalist states but it was frozen in a stagnation that prevented it from further socialistic advances.
This whole issue is now moot. The Soviet Union imploded because it was unable to dialectically resolve the contradiction between its goal of socialism and its Stalinist power structure, which Khrushchev dented, but was unable to eliminate. The world communist movement is now on its own. The parties in the advanced capitalist countries must work out their own salvation— Lenin’s ideas are still the best ones for them to consult, but many parties only give lip service to Marxism-Leninism. The Chinese experiment is still in progress and world imperialism, led by the US, will do anything it can to see that it fails. It is in the interests of all communists, socialists, and genuine progressives to see that it doesn’t.
WHAT TYPE OF STATE
Carrillo points out that MEL saw two stages of the revolution— the first, Socialism, creates the working class led state, eliminates all exploiting classes, and then evolves into the second and final stage, Communism, a classless society free of human exploitation.
Carrillo says that the real world is quite unlike this ideal of how the revolution will turn out. While real social advances have been made in the USSR and the Eastern European socialist countries they are still backward in the area of consumer goods due to the legacy of destruction of WWII and their backward starting points compared to the advanced Western countries. Unfortunately the CPs in these countries have taken to talking about socialism as if they are already at that stage and freedom to argue about this with the authorities is restricted and forbidden. This has alienated large numbers of ordinary citizens who see the freedoms allowed in the Western democracies and become skeptical and disillusioned regarding real socialism because they are told the transitional phase, still full of backward capitalist manifestations and practices, is socialism.
Carrillo says the people will eventually move to replace the status quo and he fears “they will throw out the baby with the bathwater “ -- I.e., because the bureaucratic CPs will not lead the reform movements correctly the people will abandon the goal of socialism. [p.161] Carrillo’s worries seem to have been correct. This happened in the socialist bloc. But in the Soviet Union it was the CP itself, in its top leadership, that “lost the faith.” Carrillo thinks the democratic measures advocated by Eurocommunism will prevent this from happening during the revolutionary transformation to come in Western Europe, etc. [p.161]
This is what happened in the USSR. With the revolution in power with Lenin as its leader the masses were filled with enthusiasm for building socialism. The USSR did not have an advanced capitalist infrastructure. It had not gone through the state of advanced capital accumulation needed for such an infrastructure. Socialism needs to grow out of that already existing infrastructure. “[N]o account was taken of the fact that the new State might find itself compelled to carry out, before anything else, a typically capitalist task … the content of which did not undergo a fundamental change just because it was given the name ’socialist accumulation.’” [p.162]
To make a long story short, that ‘accumulation’ was sweated out of the Soviet population and it was carried out under the direction of a state bureaucracy composed of the most class consciousness and dedicated workers who directed a mass population in which that consciousness did not yet exist and which it tried to imbue with that consciousness. This was a dictatorship of the party over the proletariat. The growth of Soviet industry + the patriotic sentiments unleashed by the NAZI invasion and defeat accounts for the popularity of Stalin despite the excesses, and abuses, and crimes committed during this period. Carrillo also notes that there were tremendous economic, cultural and even spiritual advances also made at that time based on true revolutionary energy and sacrifices — so it is wrong to only dwell on the misdeeds of this era and fail to accentuate the positive. But we no longer need Stalinism as a model where there is a regime of bourgeois democracy in place which we can use. Stalinism was a revolutionary technique, which ultimately failed, designed for a backward underdeveloped country that lacked the real world objective economic materialist infrastructure to grow upon and make a transition to socialism.
Was failure inevitable? Carrillo did not think so. It was possible, at least in theory, to have democratized the system and prevented the collapse. We know that that didn’t happen because Khrushchev’s successors closed down ‘’the thaw’’ he initiated. In the 1970s Carrillo still hoped the Soviet system would self-correct and become again a model for others. “[P]erhaps what is lacking is the political analysis of the system which Khrushchev was unable to make or did not know how to make at the Twentieth Congress and which could be the starting point for a new leap forward on the part of the Soviet Union and all the socialist countries.” [p.165] After Khrushchev came the Brezhnev era of stagnation and then après Brejnev le déluge.
THE WORLD ENVIRONMENT AND ITS INFLUENCE ON THE STATE
In this last part of the chapter Carrillo seeks to explain why socialism went off the tracks in the Soviet Union. No one, friend or foe of the Soviet Union, least of all Carrillo, would have guessed that in less than fifteen years the Soviet Union would be history and capitalism was being restored in Russia.
Born in the midst of WWI, suffering through three years of a brutal civil war, surrounded by imperialist powers planning its overthrow, the revolutionary government, after the founding of the USSR in 1922, realized it could not survive without rapid industrialization and centralization of power. Lenin and the Bolshevik leaders did not think the revolution could survive without being aided by a revolution in the advanced capitalist world which would come to its assistance. This didn’t happen and the Soviet Union was an orphan. The State that developed could not have survived had it been committed to the kind of Western style bourgeois democracy that Carrillo supported which, in fact, didn’t really come into its own until after WWII. The existential parameters in which the young Soviet state found itself situated “confirmed the impossibility of building complete socialism in a single country without socialism also triumphing in a series of developed countries." [p.166]
The system created by Stalin enabled the Soviet Union to industrialize and repel the Nazi invasion in WWII and the Red Army captured Berlin in 1945. The Soviet Union was a non-capitalist state run for the material benefit of working people by an authoritarian communist party which prevented the development of a worker’s democracy due to the top-down vertical structure of the devolution of power from the leadership of the CPSU to the lower levels of the party and from thence to the populace at large. It was supposed to be a democratic centralist party but it was centralist without the democratic element. It was flawed but still there was no capitalist exploitation of the working class and a different international environment would have allowed its democratic and socialist potentials to manifest themselves. Think of what the Cubans could have accomplished, and be accomplishing, without the US blockade smothering their potentials.
The Soviet model was imposed on the new Socialist Bloc of counties that emerged in Eastern Europe after WWII. The exception was Yugoslavia which developed its own model. This was the result of the Cold War initiated by the US — the Soviet Union had to hunker down to protect itself and the allied Socialist bloc was governed by Soviet allied parties that had looked to it for leadership against Hitler and the NAZIS and for the struggle against US imperialism and now followed its lead in both domestic and international affairs. The need for a common defense and the use of social income to build up the military rather than to enhance consumer goods availability hindered any developments favorable to democratic pluralism and reenforced the vertical structure of governance in the socialist bloc. Writing in the late 1970s, Carrillo concluded, “The context in which the global confrontation presents itself today does not favor the transformation of the Soviet Union into a state of working-class democracy.” [p.168]
Carrillo sees a problem with the Soviet leadership. They fail to see that their model is flawed due to the unfavorable historical circumstances that they have faced in trying to construct socialism over the last half century. [They were in fact 15 years away from collapse] They were claiming to already have achieved socialism and were about to enter the communist stage. The CPs around the world were supposed to follow this line and hitch their own parties to the fate of the Soviet Union in the Cold War which we were told we were winning due to the general crisis of capitalism. But the leaders of major CPs in Europe, especially in Italy,Spain and France didn’t see it that way. They saw socialism as an expansion of democracy while in the Soviet block it was limited and subject to over determination by party censorship. They didn’t see “proletarian internationalism” and as simply uncritically following the Soviet line.
“We in the communist parties which are functioning in the capitalist countries cannot accept the idea that the victory of socialism is determined in the confrontation between the countries in which capitalists no longer exist and those which still preserve capitalism.”[p.169] This is one of the signature positions of Eurocommunism. Many CPs around the world rejected this movement and remained allied ideologically with the Soviet Union, including the party in the US, all were caught flat footed with the collapse of the Eastern bloc. Some CPs dissolved, others became social democratic in name or de facto programmatically. Eurocommunism as a distinct movement disappeared but some parties formally anti-Eurocommunist, including in the US, more or less adopted the Eurocommunist outlook— peaceful electoral transition, pluralism (multi-party democracy), rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc.
Carrillo ends his book with the hope that as Eurocommunism grows in the West it will help the Soviet Union transform “into a real working people’s democracy.” 
After the Czech comrades were put down in 1968 by the Warsaw Pact, Brezhnev sitting in the Kremlin may have heard the death knell of Czech reform. If he had asked for whom the bell tolls he would not have liked the reply.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.
Images: World Bank protest, Jonathan McIntosh, photo cropped and lightened (CC BY 2.0); U.S. Army soldiers, Ryan DeBooy, U.S. DOD, photo cropped (public domain); Protest of military budget, Peace Action, photo cropped and lightened (Facebook).
A feature which distinguishes our communist parties from other tendencies which define themselves as “socialist” is our emphasis on anti-imperialist solidarity.
A starting point for anyone who wants to understand imperialism is V.I. Lenin’s 1916 book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this important work, Lenin outlines the essential features of 20th-century imperialism as follows:
“Free trade” is replaced by huge monopolies operating on a global scale.
In the 21st century, all of this still applies with some modifications (for example the wars generated by imperialism are more between the imperialist center and the resistance in the poorer countries).
After the triumph of the October Revolution and the rise of the USSR and the Comintern, anti-colonial freedom movements in the colonies and “semi colonies” (i.e., the nominally independent poorer countries) increasingly saw communism as a source not only of ideas and inspiration but also of material support for their struggles against the colonial powers and the wealthy imperialist countries. This tendency increased after the Second World War and the coming to power of communist-led, socialist governments in the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania. There were new socialist revolutions first in China, then in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba, as well as strong communist-influenced or allied people’s movements in many other countries. In response, the leaders of the main imperialist countries made every effort to undermine the existing socialist states, and to block any socialist advances in other countries. As the most powerful of the imperialist states, the United States led the way in many of these efforts.
The methods used by imperialism to block socialist movements and maintain economic and political control over the newly independent and poorer countries have included, and continue to include, pouring “foreign aid” money into these countries in such a manner as to reinforce right-wing oppositional currents. We all know about the activities of the CIA, but U.S. agencies such as USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, and others also perform this function on a large scale. The techniques of imperialist hegemonic control also include sanctions designed to cripple recalcitrant countries, coups d’état and assassinations, and even direct military intervention. Imperialism has also enlisted the services of cultural institutions, literary figures, religious movements, the media (and right now especially the social media), and right-wing labor union leaders in this endeavor to protect its hegemonic interests.
Since the collapse of socialism in the USSR and Eastern and Central Europe, the remaining socialist countries and the pro-socialist people’s movements in the global South have faced very great difficulties, since they lost access to fair trade arrangements and material and ideological support. The neoliberal package of “free” (i.e., monopoly dominated) trade, elimination of labor and environmental protection regulations, privatization of public resources of every kind, and the imposition of austerity measures are the prices poorer countries are forced to pay to survive in the 21st-century economic, political, and military environment.
The enforcement mechanisms of the neoliberal world order include trade sanctions such as those the United States continues to impose on socialist Cuba, “free trade” agreements such as CAFTA-DR, and “structural adjustment” programs such as those imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (both entities controlled by imperialism). The poor countries find themselves trapped in unpayable debt, with dire consequences should they default. And they have to keep themselves in the good graces of the bond rating agencies (Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, Fitch) if they are ever to be able to get development financing on the international bond market.
Private hedge funds, such as Elliot Capital Management, buy up the sovereign debt of poor countries at discounted prices and then try to force those countries to pay them the full original amount. Elliot even got a judge in Ghana to seize a ship of the Argentine Navy in an effort to force Argentina to cooperate with such an arrangement.
The late president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, tried to get the heavily indebted poorer countries to form a united front which would refuse to pay the unpayable debts. Unfortunately, he was not listened to. In too many of the poorer countries, the ruling groups are heavily, and often corruptly, enmeshed in the imperialist project.
Of the greatest importance is the predominance of the U.S. dollar in international trade. None of the poor countries can use their own national currencies for purchasing vitally needed supplies on the international market. This is because currencies like the Cuban peso are not considered “hard currencies,” and so trade must be carried out with U.S. dollars or very few others. By restricting Cuban access to dollars, U.S. imperialism has made it extremely difficult for Cuba to get such crucial things as fuel, spare parts to maintain its infrastructure, and even medical supplies and equipment. Various efforts are underway to challenge the trade hegemony of the dollar, including a possible new BRICS currency. With the dynamic rise of the economy of the People’s Republic of China, it is possible that the yuan will become an alternative hard currency.
These are the ways in which 21st-century imperialism harms the peoples of the poorer countries around the world. But how does imperialism, of which the United States is by far the biggest state player, affect working-class people in the United States itself?
Firstly, by keeping the poorer countries poor in a world dominated by transnational monopolies and international trade, imperialism motivates U.S. employers to move their operations overseas in search of the cheapest labor costs possible, exercising a downward pressure on wages here in our own country.
Secondly, the massive super profits created by imperialism benefit the wealthiest people in the United States, increasing inequality at home. And since wealth and power are fungible in capitalist society, this dynamic also undermines our limited democracy.
Thirdly, imperialism requires vast public expenditures on the military, using up resources that could and should go to meeting vital human needs here.
Finally, this stage of capitalism is creating multiple crises which harm workers and other ordinary folk, both at home and abroad. Suffice it to mention the climate crisis, which is very much a product of the capitalist-imperialist mode of production.
What is to be done?
The last words of the Communist Manifesto are “Workers of all nations, unite!” You cannot fight against capitalism unless you also fight against 21st-century imperialism, and the struggle against imperialism is the same as the struggle against capitalism.
We need a far larger and more effective anti-imperialist movement in this country, encompassing all fields of political activity.
And new opportunities for building this movement are opening up, especially among young people. The youth-led surge of new labor militancy is just one manifestation of this. For many years it was very hard to get much of organized labor involved in international solidarity activities, due to the lingering influence of McCarthyism. With millions of young workers actively organizing their workplaces, we see that change is coming, and this will also strengthen the anti-imperialist movement.
The auguries are positive.
Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.
This article was republished from CPUSA.