On November 21, 2022, Mali’s interim Prime Minister Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga posted a statement on social media to say that Mali has decided “to ban, with immediate effect, all activities carried out by NGOs operating in Mali with funding or material or technical support from France.” A few days before this statement, the French government cut official development assistance (ODA) to Mali because it believed that Mali’s government is “allied to Wagner’s Russian mercenaries.” Colonel Maïga responded by saying that these are “fanciful allegations” and a “subterfuge intended to deceive and manipulate national and international public opinion.”
Tensions between France and Mali have increased over the course of 2022. The former colonial power returned to Mali with a military intervention in 2013 to combat the rise of Islamist insurgency in the northern half of Mali; in May 2022, the military government of Mali ejected the French troops. That decision in May came after several months of accusations between Paris and Bamako that mirrored the rise of anti-French sentiment across the Sahel region of Africa.
A new burst of anti-colonial feeling has swept through France’s former colonies, where the debates are now centered around breaking with France’s stranglehold on their economies and ending the military intervention by French troops. Since 2019, the countries that are part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa have been slowly withdrawing from French control over their economies (for example, in 2020, the French officially announced that for West Africa, it would end the requirement for countries to deposit half their foreign exchange reserves with the French Treasury through the old colonial instrument of the CFA franc). According to a story that circulated in West Africa and the Sahel—given credence by an email sent by an “unofficial adviser” to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—one of the reasons why France’s then-president Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was because the Libyan leader had proposed a new African currency instead of the CFA franc.
France denies that the reason for this tension with Mali is due to the new anti-colonial mood. The French government says that it is entirely due to Mali’s intimacy with Russia. Mali’s military has increasingly been establishing closer ties with the Russian government and military. Mali’s Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara and Air Force Chief of Staff General Alou Boï Diarra are considered to be “the architects” of a deal made between the Malian military and the Wagner group in 2021 to bring in several hundred mercenaries into Mali as part of the campaign against jihadist groups.
Wagner soldiers are in Mali, but they are not the cause of the rift between Paris and Bamako. The anti-colonial temper predates the entry of Wagner, which France is using as an excuse to cover up its humiliation.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.
Dear President Lula,
When I visited you (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) in prison on August 30, 2018, in the brief time that the visit lasted, I experienced a whirlwind of ideas and emotions that remain as vivid today as they were then. A short time before, we had been together at the World Social Forum in Salvador da Bahia. In the penthouse of the hotel where you were staying, we exchanged ideas with Brazilian politician Jacques Wagner about your imprisonment. You still had some hope that the judicial system would suspend the persecutory vertigo that had descended upon you. I, perhaps because I am a legal sociologist, was convinced that this would not happen, but I did not insist. At one point, I had the feeling that you and I were actually thinking and fearing the same thing. A short time later, they were arresting you with the same arrogant and compulsive indifference with which they had been treating you up to that point. Judge Sergio Moro, who had links with the U.S. (it is too late to be naive), had accomplished the first part of his mission by putting you behind bars. The second part would be to keep you locked up and isolated until “his” candidate (Jair Bolsonaro) was elected, one who would give Moro a platform to get to the presidency of the republic later on. This is the third phase of the mission, still underway.
When I entered the premises of Brazil’s federal police, I felt a chill when I read the plaque marking that President Lula da Silva had inaugurated those facilities 11 years earlier as part of his vast program to upgrade the federal police and criminal investigation system in the country. A whirlwind of questions assaulted me. Had the plaque remained there out of oblivion? Out of cruelty? Or to show that the spell had turned against the sorcerer? That a bona fide president had handed the gold to the bandit?
I was accompanied by a pleasant young federal police officer who turned to me and said, “We read your books a lot.” I was shocked. If my books were read and the message understood, neither Lula nor I would be there. I babbled something to this effect, and the answer was instantaneous: “We are following orders.” Suddenly, the Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt came to my mind. To be a sovereign is to have the prerogative to declare that something is legal even if is not, and to impose your will bureaucratically with the normality of functional obedience and the consequent trivialization of state terror.
This is how I arrived at your cell, and surely you did not even suspect the storm that was going on inside me. Upon seeing you, I calmed down. I was faced with dignity and humanity that gave me hope for mankind. Everything was normal within the totalitarian abnormality that had enclosed you there: The windows, the gym apparatus, the books, and the television. Our conversation was as normal as everything around us, including your lawyers and Gleisi Hoffmann, who was then the general secretary of the Workers’ Party. We talked about the situation in Latin America, the new (old) aggressiveness of the empire, and the judicial system that had converted into an ersatz military coup.
When the door closed behind me, the weight of the illegal will of a state held hostage by criminals armed with legal manipulations fell back on me once again. I braced myself between revolt and anger and the well-behaved performance expected of a public intellectual who on his way out has to make statements to the press. I did everything, but what I truly felt was that I had left behind Brazil’s freedom and dignity imprisoned so that the empire and the elites in its service could fulfill their objectives of guaranteeing access to Brazil’s immense natural resources, privatization of social security, and unconditional alignment with the geopolitics of rivalry with China.
The serenity and dignity with which you faced a year of confinement is proof that empires, especially decadent ones, often miscalculate, precisely because they only think in the short term. The immense and growing national and international solidarity, which would make you the most famous political prisoner in the world, showed that the Brazilian people were beginning to believe that at least part of what was destroyed in the short term might be rebuilt in the medium and long term. Your imprisonment was the price of the credibility of this conviction; your subsequent freedom was proof that the conviction has become reality.
I am writing to you today first to congratulate you on your victory in the October 30 election. It is an extraordinary achievement without precedent in the history of democracy. I often say that sociologists are good at predicting the past, not the future, but this time I was not wrong. That does not make me feel any more certain about what I must tell you today. Take these considerations as an expression of my best wishes for you personally and for the office you are about to take on as the president of Brazil.
1. It would be a serious mistake to think that with your victory in Brazil’s presidential election everything is back to normal in the country. First, the normal situation prior to former President Jair Bolsonaro was very precarious for the most vulnerable populations, even if it was less so than it is now. Second, Bolsonaro inflicted such damage on Brazilian society that is difficult to repair. He has produced a civilizational regression by rekindling the embers of violence typical of a society that was subjected to European colonialism: the idolatry of individual property and the consequent social exclusion, racism, and sexism; the privatization of the state so that the rule of law coexists with the rule of illegality; and an excluding of religion this time in the form of neo-Pentecostal evangelism. The colonial divide is reactivated in the pattern of friend/enemy, us/them polarization, typical of the extreme right. With this, Bolsonaro has created a radical rupture that makes educational and democratic mediation difficult. Recovery will take years.
2. If the previous note points to the medium term, the truth is that your presidency will be dominated by the short term. Bolsonaro has brought back hunger, broken the state financially, deindustrialized the country, let hundreds of thousands of COVID victims die needlessly, and promised to put an end to the Amazon. The emergency camp is the one in which you move best and in which I am sure you will be most successful. Just two caveats. You will no doubt return to the policies you have successfully spearheaded, but mind you, the conditions are now vastly different and more adverse. On the other hand, everything has to be done without expecting political gratitude from the social classes benefiting from the emergency measures. The impersonal way of benefiting, which is proper to the state, makes people see their personal merit or right in the benefits, and not the merit or benevolence of those who make them possible. There is only one way of showing that such measures result neither from personal merit nor from the benevolence of donors but are rather the product of political alternatives: ensuring education for citizenship.
3. One of the most harmful aspects of the backlash brought about by Bolsonaro is the anti-rights ideology ingrained in the social fabric, targeting previously marginalized social groups (poor, Black, Indigenous, Roma, and LGBTQI+ people). Holding on firmly to a policy of social, economic, and cultural rights as a guarantee of ample dignity in a very unequal society should be the basic principle of democratic governments today.
4. The international context is dominated by three mega-threats: recurring pandemics, ecological collapse, and a possible third world war. Each of these threats is global in scope, but political solutions remain predominantly limited to the national scale. Brazilian diplomacy has traditionally been exemplary in the search for agreements, whether regional (Latin American cooperation) or global (BRICS). We live in a time of interregnum between a unipolar world dominated by the United States that has not yet fully disappeared and a multipolar world that has not yet been fully born. The interregnum is seen, for example, in the deceleration of globalization and the return of protectionism, the partial replacement of free trade with trade by friendly partners. All states remain formally independent, but only a few are sovereign. And among the latter, not even the countries of the European Union are to be counted. You left the government when China was the great partner of the United States and return when China is the great rival of the United States. You have always been a supporter of the multipolar world and China cannot but be today a partner of Brazil. Given the growing cold war between the United States and China, I predict that the honeymoon period between U.S. President Joe Biden and yourself will not last long.
5. You today have a world credibility that enables you to be an effective mediator in a world mined by increasingly tense conflicts. You can be a mediator in the Russia/Ukraine conflict, two countries whose people urgently need peace, at a time when the countries of the European Union have embraced the U.S. version of the conflict without a Plan B; they have therefore condemned themselves to the same fate as the U.S.-dominated unipolar world. You will also be a credible mediator in the case of Venezuela’s isolation and in bringing the shameful embargo against Cuba to an end. To accomplish all this, you must have the internal front pacified, and here lies the greatest difficulty.
6. You will have to live with the permanent threat of destabilization. This is the mark of the extreme right. It is a global movement that corresponds to the inability of neoliberal capitalism to coexist in the next period in a minimal democratic way. Although global, it takes on specific characteristics in each country. The general aim is to convert cultural or ethnic diversity into political or religious polarization. In Brazil, as in India, there is the risk of attributing to such polarization the character of a religious war, be it between Catholics and Evangelicals, or between fundamentalist Christians and religions of African origin (Brazil), or between Hindus and Muslims (India). In religious wars, conciliation is almost impossible. The extreme right creates a parallel reality immune to any confrontation with the actual reality. On that basis, it can justify the cruelest violence. Its main objective is to prevent you, President Lula, from peacefully finishing your term.
7. You currently have the support of the United States in your favor. It is well known that all U.S. foreign policy is determined by domestic political reasons. President Biden knows that, by defending you, he is defending himself against former President Trump, his possible rival in 2024. It so happens that the United States today is the most fractured society in the world, where the democratic game coexists with a plutocratic far right strong enough to make about 25 percent of the U.S. population still believe that Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was the result of an electoral fraud. This far right is willing to do anything. Their aggressiveness is demonstrated by the attempt by one of their followers to kidnap and torture Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. Furthermore, right after the attack, a battery of fake news was put into circulation to justify the act—something that can very well happen in Brazil as well. So, today the United States is a dual country: the official country that promises to defend Brazilian democracy, and the unofficial country that promises to subvert it in order to rehearse what it wants to achieve in the United States. Let us remember that the extreme right started as the official policy of the country. Hyper-conservative evangelicalism started as an American project (see the Rockefeller report of 1969) to combat “the insurrectionary potential” of liberation theology. And let it be said, in fairness, that for a long time its main ally was former Pope John Paul II.
8. Since 2014, Brazil has been living through a continued coup process, the elites’ response to the progress that the popular classes achieved with your governments. That coup process did not end with your victory. It only changed rhythm and tactics. Throughout these years and especially in the last electoral period we have witnessed multiple illegalities and even political crimes committed with an almost naturalized impunity. Besides the many committed by the head of the government, we have seen, for example, senior members of the armed forces and security forces calling for a coup d’état and publicly siding with a presidential candidate while in office. Such behavior should be punished by the judiciary or by compulsory retirement. Any idea of amnesty, no matter how noble its motives may be, will be a trap in the path of your presidency. The consequences could be fatal.
9. It is well known that you do not place a high priority on characterizing your politics as being left or right. Curiously, shortly before being elected president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro stated that the important distinction for him was not between left and right, but between politics of life and politics of death. The politics of life today in Brazil is sincere ecological politics, the continuation and deepening of policies of racial and sexual justice, labor rights, investment in public health care and education, respect for the demarcated lands of Indigenous peoples, and the enactment of pending demarcations. A gradual but firm transition is needed from agrarian monoculture and natural resource extractivism to a diversified economy that allows respect for different socioeconomic logics and virtuous articulations between the capitalist economy and the peasant, family, cooperative, social-solidarity, Indigenous, riverine, and quilombola economies that have so much vitality in Brazil.
10. The state of grace is short. It does not even last 100 days (see President Gabriel Boric in Chile). You have to do everything not to lose the people that elected you. Symbolic politics is fundamental in the early days. One suggestion: immediately reinstate the national conferences (built on bottom-up participatory democracy) to give an unequivocal sign that there is another, more democratic, and more participative way of doing politics.
Boaventura de Sousa Santos is the emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. His most recent book is Decolonizing the University: The Challenge of Deep Cognitive Justice.
A Critique of Gerald Horne’s ‘The Counterrevolution of 1776’: A case study of the US left’s retreat from materialist history By: Marius TrotterRead Now
(I want to credit Fred Schelger for his excellent analysis of Horne’s book posted on the World Socialist Website 17 March 2021. A lot of his critiques that I get into here are ones he pointed out in his own article. For the sake of coherence and completeness, I go over some of the same ground that he covers in his article, while adding a number of observations of my own)
The New York Times 1619 Project, unveiled in 2019, was a watershed in the woke cultural revolution during the Trump years. Supposedly a clear eyed interrogation of the continuing legacy of slavery in American economics, politics and culture, the project was mired in controversy. One of the most incendiary claims made in the pages of the newspaper of record was the introductory essay by NY Times columnist Hannah Nicole Jones, who made the inflammatory assertion that the American Revolution was waged to preserve the institution of slavery for fear that the British were about to abolish it:
“Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South…In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if some of the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue”
This claim aroused furious indignation on the right and passionate defense of this position on the left. After being pressured to provide a source for this claim, Jones said in a tweet that was later deleted that the source was the book ‘The Counter Revolution of 1776’ by University of Houston history professor Gerald Horne.
In this book, published by the New York University Press in 2014, Horne makes four central claims: First, Horne argues that the British Empire in the late 18th century was moving in the direction of the abolition of slavery. Horne places special emphasis on the Somerset court decision in London on June 22, 1772 (more on this later), as well as the Lord Dunmore proclamation of November 7, 1775.
Second, Horne contends that the British were pressured in this direction by a wave of violent slave rebellions, both in the Caribbean and North American colonies as well as free maroon communities in the Spanish colonies, particularly Spanish ruled Florida. Thus Horne argues, the British decided peaceful emancipation was preferable to the violent overthrow of the institution.
Third, Horne contends the British Empire’s move towards abolition provoked a violent backlash from the white colonists, who opted towards independence in order to preserve the institution. In essence, what happened in 1776 was little different from the secession of the Confederacy in 1861, the difference being that the insurgents in 1776 succeeded.
Fourth, this therefore means that the American Revolution of 1776 was not a progressive step forward in world history, but a reactionary event. The logical inference that results from this line is that people of African descent (as well as Native Americans) would have been better off had British rule continued, or perhaps could have maneuvered into a position where they could have thrown off white domination entirely. The bourgeois democratic revolutions of America as well as France were not only distinct from, but directly antagonistic to the liberation movements of the enslaved and colonized, and remain so to this day, Horne argues.
How do these claims stand up to factual scrutiny? Let us examine each in turn.
1. The British Empire in the late 18th century was moving in the direction of the abolition of slavery
Horne spills a considerable amount of ink on detailing the Somerset case, a 1772 court decision which ruled the practice of chattel slavery illegal in England or Wales. This law did not apply to Britain’s overseas empire, where nearly all of the nearly one million Africans enslaved by the British actually resided. Nonetheless, Horne insists that the colonists in the 13 colonies saw the ruling as a bellwether for eventual abolition in North America, and this spurred them to rebellion.
As evidence that this court ruling was infuriating to the pro slavery colonials, Horne starts off by quoting a Virginia newspaper supposedly opposing the ruling:
“Is it in the power of Parliament to make such a Law? Can any human law abrogate the divine? The laws of Nature are the laws of God”
The source cited, a 1772 issue of the Virginia Gazette, available online in its original text, says something quite different:
“It has been said that Lord Mansfield has advised a law respecting the property of Negroes in England. Is it in the power of Parliament to make such a Law? Can any human law abrogate the divine? The Laws of Nature are the laws of God. By those laws a Negro cannot be less free than a man of any other complexion. If Negroes are to be slaves on account of their colour, the next step will be to enslave every Mulatto in the Kingdom, than every Portuguese, next the French, then the brown complexioned English, and so on till there be only one free man left, which will be the man of the palest complexions in the three kingdoms!”
What Horne presents as a pro slavery argument is in fact an anti slavery one, and an anti racist one at that. And this is only on the very first page of the book.
This is only the beginning of the problems with Horne’s assertions about the importance of the 1772 Somerset trial as an instigating event. There is no reference to this trial in any of the vital documents of the American Revolution, not the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitutional Convention, not the Articles of Confederation, nowhere.
None of the Founding Fathers- not George Washington, nor Thomas Jefferson, nor Alexander Hamilton, nor James Madison, nor Patrick Henry, made any statement in their voluminous public statements or private correspondence about the Somerset court ruling being a motivating factor in desiring independence, or that they felt slavery as an institution was under threat.
The 1770’s was not a politically correct era. If preserving the institution of chattel slavery was at issue, men like the Founders would have had no problem declaring so. By analogy, every one of the Southern states which broke from the Union in 1861 to preserve slavery when they considered it under threat openly and proudly gave that as the reason in their documents of secession.
The only Founding Father who had anything at all to say about the Somerset ruling was Benjamin Franklin, well known as a prominent abolitionist. His remarks on it, published in the London Chronicle, were:
“It is said that some generous humane persons subscribed to the expence of obtaining liberty by law for Somerset the Negro.2 It is to be wished that the same humanity may extend itself among numbers; if not to the procuring liberty for those that remain in our Colonies, at least to obtain a law for abolishing the African commerce in Slaves, and declaring the children of present Slaves free after they become of age…Pharisaical Britain! to pride thyself in setting free a single Slave that happens to land on thy coasts, while thy Merchants in all thy ports are encouraged by thy laws to continue a commerce whereby so many hundreds of thousands are dragged into a slavery that can scarce be said to end with their lives, since it is entailed on their posterity!”
Thus, the only Founder to have a recorded opinion on the case disparaged it as meaningless symbolism, not to mention hypocrisy. In his 252 page book, Horne only briefly mentions Franklin four times, and nowhere does he mention this quote.
The other event that Horne emphasizes as an indication that the British Empire was on the cusp of abolishing slavery is the Proclamation of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, in November 1775, offering freedom to slaves who volunteered to fight for the British Crown.
Again, this can simply be refuted by basic chronology alone. Dunmore’s proclamation couldn’t have incited the rebellion of the colonists for the very simple reason that the rebellion had already started. In November 1775, the war had already been going on for six or seven months. The opening skirmishes of Lexington and Concord were on April 19, 1775, the siege of Boston by Patriot militias began two days later, the Battle of Bunker Hill was on June 17, 1775, King George III officially declared the 13 North American colonies to be in rebellion on August 23, 1775. Dunmore’s proclamation was responding to events as a war measure, not instigating them.
Horne presents this order as evidence that the British were an abolitionist force, yet he himself admits that George Washington also made offers to free slaves in exchange for military service, yet “observers should view with skeptical restraint the crassly pragmatic post 1776 attempt by rebels to recruit and assuage Africans- as suggested by Washington’s orders to free Negroes- a solicitude that virtually disintegrated on cue after London was ousted from the 13 colonies”. How can this exact same logic not be applied to the British? Why is it a bold abolitionist move when London did it, but only ‘crassly pragmatic’ when the Patriots offered it? Both sides were leveraging support from Africans for an advantage on the battlefield, neither was interested in abolishing slavery as an institution.
The reliability of Horne’s citations aside, another problem with this narrative of the late 18th century British Empire moving in the direction of abolition is that it is at odds with the well documented imperial policy of London in that time period. For the second half of the 1700’s and into the early 19th century, the Crown was not only not drawing down the slave trade, it was actively using armed force to expand and accelerate the practice.
For example, Horne discusses the British conquest of Havana, Cuba, in 1762 several times in the course of his text. Yet he omits a crucial aspect of the ten month British occupation of Havana. During that brief time period, the British imported 4,000 additional slaves, a huge increase given that a total of 60,000 slaves had been brought into Havana over the previous 243 years of Spanish rule, an average of only 250 a year. In this one year, the British imported 8-10% of ALL slaves sent to Cuba up to that point. The British authorities also expanded the plantation system focused on the export of sugar, which came to dominate Cuba’s economy well into the 20th century. Even after the city was returned to the Spanish, the British merchants continued to traffick slaves to Havana on a large scale. This occupation, although brief, is widely believed to have locked Cuba into a dependant relationship on the northern Atlantic British free trade system- including their slave trade.
At variance with these facts, Horne asserts, incredibly, that “there was so much anger on the [North American] mainland about London’s decision to limit the slave trade to Cuba during its brief rule”!
Thirty years later, the British undertook another aggressive military expedition to strengthen the slave trade, also in the Caribbean. In August 1793, the revolutionary French republic, in the face of the Haitian slave rebellion, issued a proclamation declaring slavery abolished in the northern half of its colony. The very next month (September 1793), the British invaded Haiti and were welcomed as liberators by the French slave owners, who were monarchists that despised the new French republic. Everywhere the British soldiers went, they put the slaves back in bondage. They were driven back and defeated by a combined French/black rebel army led by Toussaint L’Ouverture, but only after five years of brutal fighting, 60,000 of their men dead, and millions of pounds of the British treasury wasted- one of the most costly defeats the British Empire suffered in its history.
Is this the behavior of an empire that was anywhere near abolishing slavery? Hardly.
It also presents a problem for Horne’s thesis of a divergence of interests between overseas colonial merchants passionately believing in the free market, and the British Crown attempting to restrain them. The reality is that classical liberal economics and the iron fist of the Royal Navy went hand in hand- the raw power of the British military forcefully broke open any societies that had the temerity to attempt to close their ports to British commerce.
When the British finally did abolish slavery in all their colonies for good by 1838, it was a full 62 years after the American colonies had declared their independence. Every one of the Founding Fathers (unless you count John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams) was dead and buried by that point. In an era when much of humanity still didn’t live beyond the age of 40, this was almost two entire generations after 1776.
But that’s not the end of the story. Even when slavery was abolished in Britain’s formal colonies, slavery was still integral to the British economy. Their textile industry was highly dependant on cotton imported from the American South, picked by slaves.
When the American Civil War broke out, the British elite was heavily predisposed to favoring the Confederacy. For the first two years of the war, despite being officially neutral, Britain acted as an unofficial ally of the South, actively assisting their war effort. Confederate blockade runners and warships were built in the shipyards of Liverpool, a city which had prospered for centuries from the slave trade.
What deterred Britain from overtly intervening on the side of the South was mass opposition from the British working class, which identified with the democratic and egalitarian values of the Union cause. As recounted by WEB Dubois in ‘Black Reconstruction’:
“The [Emancipation] Proclamation had an undoubted and immediate effect upon England. The upper classes were strongly in favor of the Confederacy, and sure that the Yankees were fighting only for a high tariff and hurt vanity. Free trade England was repelled by this program, and attracted by the free trade which the Confederacy offered…Notwithstanding this, the English workers stood up for the abolition of Negro slavery, and protested against the intervention of the English…During the winter of 1862-63, meeting after meeting in favor of emancipation was held. The reaction in England to the Emancipation Proclamation was too enthusiastic for the government to take any radical step. Great meetings in Manchester and London stirred the nation…In the monster meeting of English workingmen at St. James Hall, London, March 26, 1863, John Bight spoke, and John Stuart Mill declared that ‘Higher political and social freedom has been established in the United States’. Karl Marx testified that this meeting held in 1863 kept Lord Palmerston from declaring war on the United States”
Thus, nearly a century after Horne declares that Britain was moving rapidly towards slave emancipation, the British government was seriously considering going to war to defend slavery, and their hand was only stayed by their own working class.
2. The British were pressured in the direction of abolition by a wave of violent slave rebellions, both in the Caribbean and North American colonies.
Horne makes a convoluted and contradictory argument in this regard. He spends six chapters building a case that the system of slavery in the colonial British ruled American South was under constant threat from slave revolt, especially emanating from free ‘maroon’ communities of runaway slaves operating in French and Spanish territories, especially Spanish ruled Florida. Chapter 4 of Horne’s book goes into great detail about how Georgia was originally founded as an all white colony in 1735 to function as a ‘white wall’ to protect the institution of slavery in South Carolina, a colony where enslaved Africans outnumbered whites. By forbidding the presence of Africans in Georgia, there was a physical buffer against both slaves escaping South Carolina and maroon insurgents sowing discord from Spanish Florida. Horne spends Chapter 5 on the Stono slave rebellion in 1739 South Carolina, in which 24 whites were killed, indicating the fragility of the slave system there at the time.
The problem with Horne’s contention is that the threat of successful slave insurrection rapidly receded from that point onwards in the decades leading up to the American Revolution. This was due to a series of British military victories which pushed both the Spanish and the French out of North America, depriving rebellious slaves of their safe havens, first in the so-called War of Jenkins Ear from 1739 to 1748 (a subset of the War of Austrian Succession), and finally the French and Indian War of 1756 to 1763 (a subset of the global Seven Years War). Spain lost its colony of Florida in 1763, which passed to British control for twenty years(1763-1783).
Losing their safe havens, rebellious activity amongst the slaves went into marked decline in the latter half of the 18th century in North America. After the 1739 Stono revolt and the (alleged) slave conspiracy in New York in 1741, there are no significant slave rebellions or conspiracies on record until the 1800 Gabriel Prosser conspiracy in Virginia(after the American Revolution succeeded). In his classic work ‘American Negro Slave Revolts’, Herbert Aptheker notes that after 1741: “So far as available records go the next generation is one during which there was a marked decline of organized rebellious activity on the part of the Negro slaves”
After expending close to 100 pages talking about how mortified colonists were at the prospects of slave revolution emanating from Spanish Florida, Horne does a baffling about face. He claims -incredibly- that the destruction of the rebellious havens of maroons and the retreat of foreign powers who could aid slave revolts gave the colonists more confidence to rebel against the Crown!:
“The apparent eradication of the threat from both France and Spain to the mainland set the stage for the North American colonies to follow up aggressively on their wartime intimate dealings with London’s European antagonists and forge what amounted to a de facto alliance against Britain, as was reflected in 1776.”
But why? Why would the extirpation of the threats that bedeviled the colonists for decades make them rebel against Britain? Wouldn’t the British triumph in North America make the institution of slavery more secure than ever? And as already demonstrated previously, London wasn’t in any hurry to abolish slavery contrary to Horne’s claims, so what was the impetus for this explosion of rebellion in the 1770’s, except for reasons unrelated to slavery?
Seemingly to distract the reader from this dilemma, Horne spends a lot of time going into great detail about slave rebellions in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica and Antigua, which remained constant even in the period when they were in decline in North America. But this simply raises more questions. If the rebellion of the 13 colonies was motivated by a desire to preserve slavery from a supposedly abolitionist British Empire, why was there no movement for independence in the West Indies? Why didn’t the Founding Fathers of the United States make an alliance with their fellow planters in Jamaica and elsewhere against London? The white population was far smaller, and more vulnerable to the menace of slave insurrection then it was anywhere in the 13 colonies. Yet the white settlers in Britain’s Caribbean colonies remained staunchly loyal to the Crown. These islands did not become independent until the 1950’s and 60’s. Horne simply ignores this gaping hole in his thesis.
3. The British Empire’s move towards abolition provoked a violent backlash from the white colonists, who opted towards independence in order to preserve the institution.
A prime example of supposed colonial backlash to London’s moves towards abolition put forward by Horne contains one of his books most blatant fabrications- his account of the so called ‘Gaspee’ incident of 1772:
“June 1772 proved to be a watershed, clarifying- in the eyes of many settlers- that London was moving towards abolition, which could jeopardize fortunes, if not lives…This was the import of the Somerset’s case, but, likewise, the same could be said of the Gaspee Affair…A climax was reached on 10 June 1772 in the wee hours of the morning, when a brig arriving from Africa, the Gaspee, entered Newport and was boarded by officers of the Crown. In response, a mob of about five hundred male settlers rioted, burning the British ship”
Nothing written here about this incident is factual. The ‘Gaspee’ was a British customs vessel attempting to prevent illegal smuggling out of Rhode Island. It was pursuing an American vessel ‘The Hannah’, which escaped the British when the ‘Gaspee’ vessel ran aground. Neither ship was arriving from Africa, none of the primary sources on this incident make any mention of this fact, as the Gaspee had been patrolling the Narragansett bay for months. It appears Horne simply invented this detail to imply the American vessel(actually the British one), had some sort of connection with slavery. In this vital section, two entire pages of this lengthy description of the Gaspee incident don’t have any footnote whatsoever, without even a hint of a source for this claim.
Another major problem with Horne’s argument is that if the American colonists were motivated to fight against the Crown to preserve slavery, then logically speaking the colonies where slavery was the most predominant economically would be hotbeds of Patriot sentiment.
Unfortunately for Horne’s thesis, the main strongholds of Loyalist, pro British sentiment amongst the colonists were in two places where slavery was the most widespread. New York City, where as many as one in five residents in the 18th century were slaves, was a hotbed of Loyalist sentiment. New York saw over 23,000 white colonists sign up to fight for the Crown, more than any other single state. The Southern states, particularly the Carolinas, also had large numbers of Loyalists, which was a large part of the reason why the British military strategy focused on those areas under the commands of Clinton and Cornwallis, hoping that operating in regions with a more friendly population would bring about a British victory. In South Carolina, a heavily slave dependent state Horne’s book puts so much emphasis on, approximately 25% of the white male colonist state population actively fought for the Crown or resisted the Patriots in some way, with many more passively refusing to obey Whig authority. New England, where slavery was least predominant as an institution, was where Loyalist sentiment was the weakest.
Horne completely ignores the fact that after the American rebels expelled the British, slavery was abolished in every colony north of Maryland in the thirty years after the Declaration of Independence. Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1780, in 1783 Massachusetts and New Hampshire abolished slavery, in Rhode Island and Connecticut it was abolished in 1784. New York abolished the practice in 1799, and in New Jersey slavery was abolished in 1804. Why did they go through all the trouble of expelling the British to preserve an institution they immediately made illegal? Horne often likes to point to the fact that the British abolished slavery in their empire thirty years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, yet the northern US states got rid of the practice thirty years before that.
4. The American Revolution of 1776 was not a progressive step forward in world history, but a reactionary event.
First, a word of clarification is in order. When Marxists use the term ‘progressive’, it is at odds with how the millennial American left nowadays employs it. When the latter use the term, they mean that a historical or current development, movement, or leader is ‘progressive’ in line with contemporary US progressive conceptions of racial or gender justice. In other words, the yardstick it uses is largely cultural and social. But this is not what Marxists mean when they use the term ‘progressive’. For an event, movement or leader to be ‘progressive’, that means it represents a transition to, or at least a movement towards, a more advanced economic mode of production. From hunter-gatherer societies to slave systems, from feudalism to capitalism, from capitalism to socialism.
By that criteria, the American Revolution of 1776 was certainly a progressive event- it represented the transition from the colonial, aristocratic monarchical system imposed on the 13 colonies by Britain to an independent bourgeois republic which allowed for the rise of American capitalism and the unleashing of its free market and industrial productive forces, which ushered in the modern era not only in America but the entire world. That many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, did not see woman as equals, and considered those without property unworthy of the vote does not at all change the progressive nature of this event under this definition. The process that they set in motion was objectively of world historic importance, with consequences and implications far beyond even their subjective intentions.
Horne contends otherwise, claiming that the continuation of British rule would have been somehow to the benefit of people of African and indigenous descent:
“It is not self evident the aristocracy of class and ancestry that obtained in London was less humane and more retrograde than the aristocracy of ‘race’ that emerged in the aftermath of 1776…Canada, this massive nation is a kind of a control group allowing for a measurement of the fruits of 1776: is it the case that those groups- for example, Africans and the indigenous in the first place- who have been disfavored south of the St. Lawrence Seaway have fared worse than who of like ancestry north of this artery, notably in a way that would justify and sacralize the bloodletting that created the republic?…it is quite telling that Australia, so similar to the US in so many ways, has endured a raging controversy about its origins as a violently implanted redoubt of white supremacy in a way that dwarfs and overshadows any such conversation in the presumed revolutionary republic”
Canada didn’t have the climate or agriculture to sustain the sort of slave economy that the American South or the Caribbean did, thus the lack of a history of slavery there is due more to geography than anything else. As for the fate of the indigenous, this is simply a bizarre point to make. Indigenous people were subjected to the same genocide and land theft in Canada that they were in the United States. To this very day new mass graves of Native American children in residential schools are discovered in Canada- exactly like those in the United States. The record of the American republic towards Native Americans is a disgrace and a horror, yet the example of Canada shows that the defeat of the American Revolution would have made little difference in that regard.
The other example of Australia is dumbfounding- were not the Aborigines exterminated and massacred in the so called ‘Black Wars’? Why does it matter to the survivors that there is a ‘raging controversy’ amongst guilty liberals centuries after the fact? Have there not been countless ‘raging controversies’ in the United States about the legacy of slavery and indigenous genocide as well?
For Horne to contend that aristocratic and monarchial privilege was perhaps not as bad as, or even preferable to the racialized caste slave system that existed in the antebellum United States is to present a false dichotomy. The latter grew quite naturally out of the former, and once the first was overthrown, justifying the abolition of the latter became much more conceivable and justifiable. To quote historian of the American Revolution Gordon Wood:
“For a century or more the colonists had taken slavery more or less for granted as the most base and dependent status in a hierarchy of dependencies…Rarely had they felt the need to criticize black slavery or defend it. Now, however, the republican attack on dependency compelled Americans to see the deviant character of slavery and confront the institution as they never had before. It was no accident that Americans in Philadelphia in 1775 formed the first anti slavery society in the world. As long as most people had to work merely out of poverty…slavery and other forms of enforced labor did not seem all that different from free labor. But the growing recognition that labor was not simply a common necessity of the poor but was in fact a source of increased wealth and prosperity for ordinary workers made slavery seem more and more anomalous.
Americans now recognized that slavery in a republic of workers was an aberration, a ‘peculiar institution’, and that if any Americans were to retain it…they would have to explain or justify it in new racial and anthropological ways that their former monarchial society had never needed. The Revolution in effect set in motion ideological and social forces that doomed the institution in the North and led inexorably to the Civil War”
It is worth remarking on the fact that Horne considers himself to be coming out of the Marxist and Marxian tradition. Yet Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and many other socialist and Communist revolutionaries praised the 1776 American Revolution as a progressive event in its time, and a source of inspiration for their own revolutionary projects.
Lenin declared in his 1918 ‘Letter to American Workers’ that: “The history of modern, civilised America opened with one of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few…That was the war the American people waged against the British robbers who oppressed America and held her in colonial slavery, in the same way as these ‘civilised’ bloodsuckers are still oppressing and holding in colonial slavery hundreds of millions of people in India, Egypt, and all parts of the world”. Mao Zedong said in a 1965 interview that “The United States…had first fought a progressive war of independence from British imperialism, and then fought a civil war to establish a free labor market. Washington and Lincoln were progressive men of their time. When the United States first established a republic it was hated and dreaded by all the crowned heads of Europe. That showed that the Americans were then revolutionaries”. Ho Chi Minh used words from the American Declaration of Independence when declaring Vietnam independent of French colonial rule on September 2, 1945.
Horne briefly acknowledges this, but tries to glibly explain it away, by saying that Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and other revolutionaries were merely being motivated ‘more by diplomatic niceties and protocol than anything else’. The notion that leaders of revolutionary projects which were literally at war with US imperialism would be primarily motivated by diplomatic niceties is, again, something that is very difficult to believe.
What’s also rather stunning about Horne’s treatment of the American Revolution is the lack of engagement with previous Marxist scholarship on the subject, odd for someone who claims to come from that tradition. In ‘The Counter Revolution of 1776’, there is not even a passing acknowledgement of the foundational work of WEB Dubois, Herbert Aptheker [especially his classic work ‘Negro Slave Rebellions’], Eugene Genovese and so many others who had written on the American Revolution and slavery while applying a Marxist class analysis. The notion that all these sharp scholars, famed for training their laser eyes on aspects of history buried or obscured by the ruling class, would have failed to uncover a historical fact as enormous as the American colonial rebellion of 1776 being motivated by slavery, strains credulity to a breaking point.
In addition to being shoddy scholarship, ‘The Counter Revolution of 1776’ has a quite reactionary message- it presents the British Empire as a politically progressive historical force, at the very least more progressive than the anti monarchical, anti aristocratic revolutions which challenged it. Given the known historical record of British imperialism in India, Ireland, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, China and countless other places, to anyone with even a passing knowledge of history this is a bizarre position to advance, not to mention hideous for anyone that's a proponent of left wing politics. The fact that it has been smuggled into liberal/left discourse inside the Trojan horse of anti-racism is all the more alarming.
There are many more factual errors, contradictory arguments, and questionable citations that abound in Horne’s tome. It was quite a labor to try to concisely fit the most egregious examples into a single article. In light of the problems with the book, the more important question is why has this woke Anglophile narrative of history acquired such currency amongst the American liberal/leftist intelligentsia? That is what the next article will attempt to address.
 Shelger, Fred. ‘Gerald Horne’s Counter Revolution Against 1776’, World Socialist Website, 17 March 2021. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2021/03/18/horn-m18.html
 Jones, Nikole-Hannah. ‘Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans fought to make them true’. New York Times, published August 14, 2019.
 Nikole Hannah-Jones (@nhannahjones), Twitter, December 21, 2019: ‘Sure, you can start with the texts cited in our response. Also, Gerald Horne’s Counter Revolution of 1776. Sylvia Frey, Water from the Rock. All these should be helpful. Thank you for the respectful exchange.’
 Horne, Gerald. ‘The Counter Revolution of 1776, NYU Press, 2014. P. 1
 Virginia Gazette, August 20, 1772, Rockefeller Library Collections: https://research.colonialwilliamsburg.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/VGSinglePage.cfm?IssueIDNo=72.PD.37
 Horne, pages 19, 209, 230, 234
 Horne, p. 239.
 The 1762 British siege of Havana is discussed on eleven separate occasions in Horne’s book, as listed in the index
 Childs, Matt D. 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery, University of North Carolina Press, 2006, p. 24.
 Horne, p. 193
 Dubois, Laurent (2005). Avengers of the New World. Harvard University Press, p. 167.
‘Liverpool’s Abercromby Square and the Confederacy during the US Civil War’, website of the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative, Charleston College
 Dubois, WEB. ‘Black Reconstruction’, pp. 87-89.
 Aptheker, Herbert. ‘American Negro Slave Rebellions”, Columbia University Press, 2008 edition, p.196
 Horne, p. 182
 Horne, pages 203-204.
 Horne, p.250
 Wood, Gordon. ‘The Radicalism of the American Revolution’, Vintage Books(Random House), 1991., pages 186-87.
 Lenin, Vladimir I. ‘Letter to American Workers’, Pravda, 20 August 1918. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/20.htm
 Zedong, Mao. ‘South of the Mountains To North of the Seas’, Interview with Edgar Snow, 9 January 1965.
 ‘Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’ http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5139/
 Horne, p. 250.
Sartre once remarked that the attempt to construct a philosophy that goes beyond Marxism simply recreates a pre-Marxist view that is no longer relevant to current understanding. In a recent issue of the London Review of Books I believe the philosopher Galen Strawson guilty of just such an attempt in his article "Real Naturalism."
Engels long ago pointed out that there are basically two trends in modern philosophy--one that leads to idealism and myth making, and one that leads to materialism and the correct scientific approach to understanding the nature of reality. I hope to show in this article that Strawso n (hereafter "GS") has taken the idealistic path.
GS states unequivocally the following: "I'm a naturalist, an out-and-out naturalist, a philosophical or metaphysical naturalist about concrete reality. I don't think anything supernatural or otherwise non-natural exists." We shall see. Reality has already been qualified by the adjective "concrete", which leaves open the possibility of some sort of "non-concrete" reality to play the role usually reserved for "spirit" or "mind" in idealistic philosophies. I want to be able to replace the term "naturalism" with the term "materialism" (which I defend) so I am a "materialist about reality" period.
We need to be clear about terms. I think naturalism is the same as materialism but some naturalists disagree. Some think that there are emergent qualities in the material world that lead to the transcendence of mere nature. I think they are mistaken and are dualists or idealists as regards reality and are naturalists in name only. All such emergent qualities are ultimately to be explained by basic constituents of a material nature.
Physicalism is also another name for materialism. This outlook originated with the Logical Positivists with respect to their materialist philosophy of mind. For the sake of clarity I will use the term "materialism" instead of either "naturalism" or "physicalism" (or sometimes "n-materialism" and "p-materialism" to be really clear) in order to avoid the obfuscation introduced into philosophy by the multiplication of useless terms. I hope I have not obfuscated here.
Now GS says that the non-natural can only be known in relation to the natural and everything natural is "anything that exists in space-time." Well, materialism also holds to this view and, since everything that exists does so in space-time, GS should simply say he is a materialist, adopt Marxism-Leninism as the most consistent materialism, and that would be that. Except that he thinks many people who call themselves n-materialists are not--they are really false n-materialists, they are "noturalists." Which is just what I think GS himself is.
What upsets GS is his view that in the last fifty years or so, so-called n-materialists have questioned the existence of conscious experience and nothing could be more self-evident than that we have experiences. GS blames this lamentable state of affairs on the influence of Behaviorism, which led most n-materialists to think that, since Behaviorism explained all human activity without recourse to concepts of consciousness and experience, it was unscientific to use such concepts. Even when they broke with Behaviorism as such they still denied the existence of "experience" because they did not think the concept compatible with the n-materialist view that everything was "physical."
These "false" n-materialists, in the view of GS, simply deny that matter can be conscious and since they don't believe anything else basically exists except matter it follows that there is no such thing as experience. Now GS admits that many of them deny that they don't believe that matter can be conscious and so experience can be "physical," but he says they only make these claims by changing the meaning of "consciousness" so that "whatever they mean by it, it excludes what the term actually means."
GS now switches from speaking about n-materialism to p-materialism. There is no problem here because they are the same thing. We cannot reduce everything we hold to be explainable in terms of p-materialism to terms of physics. Physics right now is in flux and no one can state that they know exactly what the ultimate theory of reality will be, or if there will even ever be such a theory. According to GS, outside of certain quantitative structures revealed by mathematics and experimentally tested, physics appears unable to "tell us anything about the intrinsic nature of reality."
GS wants us to doubt physics because he wants to create a p-n-materialist theory of the mind that will not be reducible to statements of physics. He exhorts us to think in terms of the views of Locke, Hume, and Kant, as well as Eddington and Bertrand Russell, to accept the "point that physics can't convey the nature of everything that exists--even though everything is wholly physical." This appeal to the great thinkers of the past is unnecessary.
I can't think of any materialist, unless he or she has completely lost his or her way, who would deny that the nature of certain things that exist--appreciation of a work of art by a person for example--is to be explained by physics even though the art work, the person's brain, and the neural activity within it are wholly physical. It is enough for materialism to point out that the nature of the appreciation that exists within the person would not exist without the physical (materialistic) prerequisites of the brain.
So I don't see a problem with the existence of "experiences", which GS wants to call his "starting point: outright realism about experience, conscious experience." A new term has now been introduced: "realism." This too is, I think, just another term for "materialism"--"r-materialism." I don't want to belabor the point, but while Marxists are content to use just one term, "materialism" tout court, our non-Marxist philosophical colleagues insist on using three different terms and usually eschew using such a crude old-fashioned and discredited term as "materialism"--not all of them but enough so that I need to use these distinctions I have made for purposes of clarification.
I agree with GS about the "terminological wreckage" that one finds in the philosophy of mind and so sympathize with him in wanting to get a clear understanding of what "experience" means. It is just the pre-philosophical notion that every one has, from childhood up, when they feel, hear, taste, or see something that they are aware of. He takes the example of the taste of pineapple from Locke--to taste pineapple is all you have to do to know what tasting a pineapple is like. That is a real experience, the experience of the taste of pineapple. Materialists would be wrong to think "they have any good reason to give an account of experience that is in any way deflationary or reductionist relative to the ordinary pre-philosophical understanding of experience."
GS is surely right for any ordinary everyday conversations about experience, but a materialist, talking to another philosopher, would not be remiss in pointing out that the taste of a pineapple is a function of some type of brain activity without which there would be no experience of said taste. I think it rather obvious that "physical reality has experiential character only when organised in certain specific ways--e.g., in the way in which it is organised in brains" [or proto-brains or some functionally equivalent organ or structure]. At this point in his essay this materialist position presented by GS need not, he tells us, be ruled out. But he is going to try to and rule it out later because he wants to defend the possibility of panpsychism! Let us see if he succeeds.
Now I agree with GS that experience really exists the way he says it does--I have a real experience of the taste of pineapple and I do not question the existence of this conscious experience. But GS says that if that is the case then I must be "fully open to panpsychism." This is the view, according to the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, "that the physical world is pervasively psychical, sentient or conscious (understood as equivalent)." Well, I am fully open to his argument (if he has one) but I don't think his argument will prove his case.
He begins to make his case by arguing that materialists who argue for the non-existence of experience are wrong, and since we all are aware of experience we have better reason to doubt the existence of non-experiential reality than of experiential reality. He says we know "some physical stuff" is experiential because of brain states and concludes that we have no reason not to conclude that "all physical stuff is in its fundamental nature wholly experiential in all conditions and in all respects all the way down." But not all materialists argue that experience doesn't exist. The fact that we experience external reality does not necessitate the fundamental nature of external reality is "experiential" in the same sense that we experience it and call our awareness "experiential." This is the fallacy of equivocation.
GS, however, concludes that he has shown that panpsychism is the logical result of p-n-materialism. He calls it "pure" panpsychism " since "it goes beyond the version of panpsychism according to which all physical stuff has experiential being in addition to non-experiential being." He also claims that this version of panpsychism "leaves everything that is true in physics untouched." Quite a claim since we don't know if everything that we think is true in physics is true.
GS admits he has not really made the case in his article for panpsychism. What he thinks he has done is to show that "there's no reason" to think that the world given to us by physics is fundamentally non-experiential rather than experiential. Since the world as we know it is our experience of it. "There is," he says, "zero observational evidence of any non-experiential concrete reality."
What does this mean? Because all our knowledge of the world is our awareness and experience of it, therefore there is no evidence that it has an existence independent of experience. GS denies that this is what his position amounts to. But that is exactly what his position amounts to. He simply enunciates his position and says anyone who doesn't accept his view is "not a real naturalist."
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the problem with panpsychism. Physics is not the only science we have to deal with--there is biology, geology, and paleontology, just to name a few others. Science has pretty much shown that our cognitive abilities including consciousness and awareness and the abilities to experience the world we live in are functions of our nervous system and the evolution of our brains. A rock is not going to be "aware" of anything. There was a time when there was no life on earth and no experiences either. Everyone knows this story. Our observational understanding of the history of the universe makes the materialist (non-panpsychic) view the most compelling logical explanation of all the concrete facts we presently have at our disposal.
I think GS knows his position in both counter-intuitive and unscientific because he ends his essay by saying that he predicts "that no philosopher who disagrees will take any notice" of his "argument." But a bunch of assertions is not an argument and he has already said that he was "not particularly disposed to make the case for panpsychism" in this article. He quotes Hobbes to back up his prediction: "Arguments do seldom work on men of wit and learning, when they have once engaged themselves in a contrary opinion." If you don't accept GS's position, well then, "You're not a serious, realistic naturalist." Perhaps GS should rather be thinking about Horace's observation "mutato nomine de te fabula narratur."
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.
Alyssa Stout and her 800 coworkers banded together to keep Oroville Hospital open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, working around the clock to save countless lives.
But these union members didn’t stop there. They brought that same unwavering solidarity to the bargaining table earlier in 2022 and won a new contract with safety enhancements and other provisions designed to leave the workforce, the hospital, and their Northern California community stronger than before.
Stout and her colleagues are among thousands of union health care workers nationwide who are harnessing the collective power they forged during the pandemic to dramatically improve America’s system of care.
“I feel we have more leverage now than we ever did before, just because people realize we’re needed,” said Stout, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9600 and an X-ray technologist at Oroville, recalling how union workers put their lives on the line and pulled their communities through the crisis.
“People realize, in general, now how important the health care community is,” she continued, noting local residents signed petitions, reposted the union’s social media messages, and took other actions to support the workers’ recent contract negotiations. “It all kind of trickles down. People want to see us being treated well so they’re treated well. We were fighting for everyone.”
Hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities wrestled with turnover long before the pandemic, partly because they tried to save money on the backs of workers in crucial but long underappreciated departments such as environmental services and dietary. But nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other caregivers couldn’t have saved COVID-19 victims without the contributions of colleagues who sanitized rooms and prepared nutritious meals.
So workers at Oroville stood together for a contract providing significant raises to all union members, underscoring the collective effort essential to operating the hospital and ensuring patients continued access to an experienced, stable workforce committed to delivering ever better care across every department.
The contract also establishes a labor-management safety committee that gives a real voice to the front-line workers who best know how to address the hazards they and their patients face every day. Union members provided management with photos documenting cluttered hallways and blocked fire exits, driving home the need for collective vigilance and worker input in a part of the country where a wildfire destroyed another hospital just a few years ago.
“Our safety has to be a priority. Otherwise, we can’t be there for the patients we care about,” observed Stout, noting the challenges of the pandemic fostered greater cohesion and tenacity that union members brought to bear at the bargaining table.
Across the country, other union contracts are yielding similar improvements for workers, patients, and their communities.
More than 2,700 nurses and other workers at UMass Memorial Health Care in Massachusetts won significant raises and other enhancements that not only recognize the sacrifices they made throughout the pandemic but will also help the system’s hospitals recruit and retain the workforce patients need.
Nurses at three Steward Health Care hospitals in Florida achieved protections from unsafe scheduling and the creation of an infectious disease task force in their new agreements, while workers at Kaleida Health in New York successfully fought for wages increases, a health and safety committee and the health system’s commitment to create 500 new positions to address unsafe staffing issues.
And nearly 80 members of USW Local 7798-1 attained management’s commitment to address safe staffing concerns, among other gains, in a new agreement they ratified on November 14 with Copper Country Mental Health in Michigan.
“I do see a new trend,” said Local 7798-1 President Scott Skotarczyk, referring to the power that pandemic-tested health care workers are bringing to the bargaining table. “Look at what we did in this agreement. We got a pay increase. We got—for our more senior staff—an increase in vacation time. We didn’t give anything up.”
The contract also spells out a procedure for developing timely, effective responses when clients act out, creating safer environments for both workers and residents in the agency’s group homes.
“This is a stressful job,” Skotarczyk said, noting the contract improvements will help to facilitate the stable, experienced workforce needed to help clients build more independent lives.
“The more time you spend in this field, the more effective you are,” he said. “I’ve learned over the years what works best.”
Workers at union-represented hospitals have better patient outcomes, more inspections for workplace hazards, and better access to personal protective equipment (PPE), among many other advantages, than their counterparts at other facilities. Now, union members’ successful advocacy for themselves and their patients is fueling a wave of union drives across the health care industry.
More than 800 interns, residents, and other doctors at the University of Illinois Chicago formed a union in 2021, for example, citing the need to band together and fight for the long-overdue resources essential to patient care. Overall, according to new research from the AFL-CIO, 71 percent of health care workers would vote to unionize their workplaces.
“Don’t give up. Don’t back down,” Stout advises health care workers who want to leverage union power at their workplaces.
“We all made it, and we all helped each other,” she said of her coworkers at Oroville over the past few years. “We’re so much stronger together.”
Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).
This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.
Before it got national headlines about its severe water crisis, Jackson, Mississippi, was much renowned for its potholes. “The amount [sic] of potholes in the city is crazy,” exclaims the narrator of “Jackson, Mississippi: The Second Most Dangerous City in America,” a video posted to a popular travel YouTube channel in December 2021. The vlogger continues, “It’s just amazing to me there is a city in America that looks like this. … It’s hard to believe that this is the United States.”
“It is not uncommon to walk through west Jackson and see water flowing out of pipes for weeks,” observed Yoknyam Dabale, a Nigerian immigrant who moved to Jackson, in an op-ed in the Jackson Free Press. “Roads are overrun with potholes and uncleaned gutters.”
“The city says 90 percent of its roads are in poor shape,” television news outlet WLBT reported in 2021. “A Google search pulls up endless complaints, dangerous accidents, and hazardous barricades,” reporter Sharie Nicole wrote. “Local comedians write songs about the potholes; out-of-towners rant about it.”
The steady decay of Jackson’s public infrastructure goes beyond potholes and the water supply.
In 2018, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported that Jackson libraries faced a crisis that included “black mold, leaking buildings,” and “chronic flooding issues at two of its main branches.” Jackson libraries have been “suffering from needed repairs,” and some libraries were even facing temporary closure due to lack of money for repairs, according to an August 2022 report in the Northside Sun.
In 2017, the Clarion Ledger, in reporting on the “deteriorating” conditions in the city’s parks and recreation facilities, found a “$1.2 million hole” in the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.
The lack of government investment in Jackson’s public infrastructure, and across the state in general, extends to public schools as well.
Using the state’s school funding formula as a guideline, the Clarion Ledger calculated that since passing the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in 1997, Mississippi lawmakers fully funded public education only twice—“both during election years”--shorting schools of $2.3 billion over the past decade, according to a 2019 article in the Clarion Ledger.
Were Jackson schools funded according to state law, the district would receive $11,447,922 more in state funding for the 2022-2023 school year alone, according to the Parents’ Campaign, a parent advocacy group in the state.
Funding for Mississippi students is even worse if they happen to be Black. “Between 1954 and 1960, the state gave Black students more than $297 million less (in 2017 dollars) than white students,” the Sun Herald reported while referring to government data. “And if that number is extended back to 1890, Black students were shortchanged more than $25 billion.”
Jackson Public Schools (JPS) are 95 percent Black, according to the 2019 Better Together Commission (BTC) Findings Report by the nonprofit One Voice. The Better Together Commission is a public-private partnership that included city and state officials, Jackson citizens, and representatives from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a private foundation based in Michigan.
As I reported for the Progressive magazine in 2018, BTC was formed as an alternative to a takeover of the district by the state after an audit by the Mississippi Department of Education found a significant number of state regulatory violations by the district. Fearing state takeover would lead to schools being handed over to charter school management groups—which is what happened in New Orleans, Newark, and other majority-Black school districts—a coalition called Our JPS quickly formed to oppose the takeover and demand an alternative approach to improving the public school system.
One such alternative was to remake schools into community-based centers for providing student- and family-oriented supports and programs designed to address the high levels of poverty, homelessness, and mental and economic trauma in the district.
“We need schools that serve as hubs of the community,” Pam Shaw, a leading spokesperson for Our JPS at the time of writing the article for the Progressive, told me. “Communities should own that space and use it as a launching pad for everything children need.”
Our JPS has since refined that idea into a campaign for the district to adopt what’s become loosely known as community schools. Our JPS defines community schools as “neighborhood schools that partner with families and community organizations to provide well-rounded educational experiences and supports for students’ school success.”
Through the community schools approach, schools partner with local organizations to step in when there is a lack of public infrastructure so that these organizations can help by, for example, providing access to health care and counseling where clinics are lacking, opening pantries in food deserts, or interceding on behalf of families experiencing homelessness or unemployment. Schools using the community schools approach can also become catalysts for addressing chronic infrastructure problems in the surrounding community, such as lack of streetlights, parks, or safe sidewalks.
‘Community Schools Are a Strategy’
While BTC was promoted as a compromise between Jackson Public Schools and the state, it’s difficult to see what Jackson got out of the deal, other than staving off the takeover.
Both in BTC’s own work in Jackson and the work of its associated consulting group, little of the output seems to reflect the Jackson community’s desire for a community schools approach.
For instance, in its first report, which drew from “community conversations,” BTC found, “Among the most pressing concerns regarding the Jackson Public School District were teacher quality, district leadership, and test scores.”
The report mentioned “the theme of a holistic approach surfaced several times,” which is a possible reference to community schools, but nothing resembling the actual policy and practice of community schools is recommended in the report.
Meanwhile, the idea of community schools has caught on with progressive think tanks, teachers’ unions, public education advocates, and philanthropic groups across the nation. California has provided $3 billion in new state funding for transitioning schools to the approach in 2022, and Maryland has pledged to convert at least one-third of the state’s public schools to community schools.
One philanthropic group advocating for the community schools approach in Jackson is the NEA Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit founded by educators.
“We entered this work in Jackson at the invitation of Mississippi educators,” NEA Foundation president and CEO Sara Sneed told Our Schools. “There is enormous community pressure for positive change but also expectations that any effort to include community voice in the process will come with a fight.”
The NEA Foundation’s effort also targets two other communities in school districts in the South—Little Rock, Arkansas, and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. But Sneed expects their work in Jackson to lead the initiative for spreading the community schools approach throughout the South.
“We want to make community schools a signature issue in Mississippi and believe the effort in Jackson is an opportunity to transform the education experiences of children in the South,” Sneed said.
“Legislators in Arkansas have shown support for the community schools approach,” she said. “In Louisiana, unfortunately, there are battles at the local level because of the charter school industry’s interests in taking their model for reform in New Orleans to East Baton Rouge.”
When asked whether the work her organization is engaged in presents any tension with the work done by BTC, Sneed said, “While the BTC may have fostered a much-needed collaboration, it didn’t come up with a strategy. Community schools are a strategy.”
‘What Our Community Wants’
The interest in the community schools approach first caught on in Jackson in 2018 as an alternative to a state takeover, according to Treshika Melvin.
Melvin works as the advocacy, training, and power building director for Springboard to Opportunities, a Jackson-based nonprofit that helps families with housing, employment, child care, and other essential needs. She and her organization are part of the Our JPS coalition helping to implement the community schools approach in the district.
“We’ve moved toward this space because it’s what our community wants,” Melvin told Our Schools. A planning grant from the NEA Foundation provided a catalyst for Our JPS to engage its coalition members in learning about the approach and funding community outreach efforts that included surveys, interviews, and in-person meetings across the city, according to Melvin.
“It quickly became evident to us,” Melvin said, “even without using the term ‘community schools’ in our outreach, that what people were describing they wanted was the community schools approach.”
In contrast to the “pressing concerns” BTC had found through its outreach, according to Melvin, Our JPS found widespread desires for schools to provide access to new programs and services that were otherwise difficult for families to obtain in Jackson. Access to programs for reading improvement, mental health services, and training in conflict resolution and restorative justice were the most popular requests.
Reading programs were by far the most in demand, according to Melvin, with 75 percent of respondents wanting their children to have more access to after-school and summer programs that provide instruction and support in reading. Even among community members without school-aged kids, reading programs were the top priority. Another priority that stood out was for schools to provide more mental health supports to ensure schools are providing safe and supportive environments, physically and emotionally, for all students and parents.
‘It Would Be a Shame’
“The community schools approach makes sense because schools are such important anchors for families and their surrounding communities,” Julian Miller told Our Schools. Miller is a senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), another organization advocating for public schools in Jackson.
In 2016, the SPLC filed a lawsuit against Mississippi on behalf of a group of Jackson Public Schools parents who contended that the state’s method of funding charter schools harms their local schools. In 2018, a county judge denied the suit’s claims. When the SPLC appealed the ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision in 2019.
Despite the high court’s ruling, Miller believes that the community schools approach has the potential to address problems of inequity in Mississippi’s public education system, while charter schools tend to make inequities worse, he said.
Community schools—when implemented with fidelity to the original design and “done holistically, with adequate resources”—are part of the public system, according to Miller, with input from the community, unlike charter schools, which he believes have been imposed on Jackson as a separate and autonomous system.
“It would be a shame if community schools are implemented the same way that charter schools have,” he said, “and never actually increase funding for the [public school] system overall but instead pull away resources.”
In 2017, during the presidential administration of Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos awarded Mississippi with a $15 million grant to subsidize the startup of new charters over the next five years. Most of the new charters are in Jackson, according to Mississippi Today.
Again, in 2022, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Mississippi First, a pro-charter advocacy organization, a $19.3 million, five-year Charter Schools Program grant to grow charter schools in Mississippi.
Despite the flood of outside funding, Mississippi has been slow to ramp up its charter school sector. In 2021, of the five charter schools whose applications were submitted and completed initial screenings, none were ultimately approved. In 2022, out of 10 new charter school applications, only one made it through the full approval process.
Some of the reluctance to open new charters in the state is due to the state being primarily rural, according to Miller. Rural lawmakers often hesitate to open new charters in their communities where resources for schools are already stretched thin, he said. Also, powerful, nationwide charter chains haven’t flocked to the state “because it’s hard for charter schools to make money in rural communities with chronically low performance.”
But perhaps part of the reluctance to quickly expand the charter industry in Mississippi may come from concerns about the schools that are already operational.
Charter schools that were approved in the early years of opening the market, and have since come up for renewal, have drawn scrutiny for their low performance. On Mississippi’s school performance rankings, charter schools, including those in Jackson, perform mostly “on par” with their home districts, according to Mississippi Today.
This runs counter to the charter school industry’s claim that more charters, and other forms of school choice, will improve the overall quality of Mississippi’s troubled education system.
Another concern related to charter schools, according to Mississippi Today, has to do with whether their boards are subject to laws that prohibit conflicts of interest and other ethics violations that the state imposes on taxpayer-funded organizations. While state officials maintain they are, charter operators and advocates say they aren’t.
Despite the sluggish uptake of charters in the state, and concerns with individual schools already operational, nine proposed charters hope to open in Mississippi in 2023.
“Mississippi has the worst school system in the country because of what’s been happening for centuries,” said Miller, especially for Black students. “The problems are systemic, and white students suffer too. My hope is that schools that use the community schools approach eventually improve and serve as models to help other schools improve.”
‘What Sets the Stage for Better Academic Outcomes’
Yet community schools advocates in Jackson concede that evidence linking the approach to improved academic performance is likely to be slow in coming.
Part of the problem in measuring the success of the community schools approach has to do with the relatively short history of the approach’s implementation in schools, especially in Jackson where it is barely underway.
Another problem has to do with how education improvement is generally assessed in the U.S.
For instance, the strategic plan that JPS recently completed, with the guidance of BTC, reads like a typical consultant-driven education reform document, with lots of statistical metrics for measuring the district’s improvement “milestones” and very few qualitative measures that come from parents, community members, and other stakeholders.
“School improvement efforts are often hyperfocused on specific outcomes,” according to Sneed, “but you can’t achieve desirable outcomes without addressing children’s education experiences and the experiences parents and communities have with schools.”
Any effort to evaluate the results of a community schools implementation requires those results to be looked at over time, she contended. Initially, there may be only changes in school climate and culture. Then change shows up in nonacademic areas of the school, such as discipline and attendance. “These changes are what sets the stage for better academic outcomes,” she said.
Similarly, Melvin likens Jackson’s implementation of community schools to the city’s needs for infrastructure improvements—an investment that may not get results right away but will eventually pay off.
“It’s not at all hard to connect the dots between the state of our schools to the city’s overall lack of infrastructure,” she said. This connection became much more apparent during the city’s water crisis.
“Schools are affected by the infrastructure crisis in Jackson but are also part of the infrastructure,” Melvin noted, pointing out how schools were profoundly affected by the lack of water—sometimes resorting to remote learning or merging students with other school campuses—while they also served as distribution points for drinking water, helped students and families get access to food, and enabled parents to go to work during the school day.
“Ideally, infrastructure serves as a shared foundation for economic, environmental, and public health between different neighborhoods and municipalities,” wrote Andre M. Perry, Joseph W. Kane, and Carl Romer in an analysis of Jackson’s water crisis for the Brookings Institution. “[H]owever, infrastructure is often poorly maintained or intentionally overlooked in particular places, leading to a lack of access, affordability, and safety for many communities of color,” the authors contend. “In the case of Jackson, legacy infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with a legacy of racism. The costs of legacy infrastructure parallel long-standing economic and racial disparities in the region.”
Jackson schools have also experienced the very same long-standing economic and racial disparities that have been inflicted on the city’s infrastructure in general. However, while poorly maintained and overlooked public infrastructure would seem to call for new investments into that infrastructure, Mississippi lawmakers have instead tended to resort to privatizing public systems.
Governor Tate Reeves has not only said that privatizing Jackson’s water system is “on the table,” according to the Mississippi Free Press, but he’s also called charter schools “a positive pathway for students.”
Advocates for the community schools approach in Jackson see things otherwise.
“We see the community schools approach as a way to build up the city’s infrastructure,” Melvin said, “to be something that truly serves community needs and the success of our students and families.”
Jeff Bryant is a writing fellow and chief correspondent for Our Schools. He is a communications consultant, freelance writer, advocacy journalist, and director of the Education Opportunity Network, a strategy and messaging center for progressive education policy. His award-winning commentary and reporting routinely appear in prominent online news outlets, and he speaks frequently at national events about public education policy. Follow him on Twitter @jeffbcdm.
This article was produced by Our Schools.
For the Western press, the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party offered a number of signals which—if read in good faith—could have been perceived as reassuring.
Instead, establishment outlets reverted to familiar narratives regarding China’s Covid mitigation strategy and tied these into renewed predictions of a long-prophesied economic disaster—one that would inevitably befall China as a result of its government’s decision to forsake the orthodoxy of open markets.
More than anything else, corporate media fixated on Hu Jintao’s departure from the congress hall, engaging in tabloid-variety speculation around the fate of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s 79-year-old predecessor.
Invoking the specter of a purge, outlets like the New York Times and CNN pushed the narrative that Xi manipulated events to consolidate his power. However, the “evidence” used by corporate media to suggest that Xi orchestrated Hu’s exit as part of a power grab was far from convincing.
If establishment outlets covering the congress were on the lookout for substantive developments—rather than additional fodder to comport with their prefabricated narratives—they could have found them.
Despite the Biden administration’s belligerent posture vis-à-vis Taiwan, demonstrated by escalations like Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island and Biden’s own promise to deploy US forces in the event of a forced reunification, Xi indicated that China would continue to approach cross-strait relations with restraint.
In addition, Xi’s opening report to the congress placed particular emphasis on the task of combating climate change. The section titled “Pursuing Green Development and Promoting Harmony between Humanity and Nature” presented a four-part framework to guide China’s policy efforts in this area. Even the avidly pro-Western Atlantic Council had to admit that “China is showing its leadership in green development in a number of ways.”
Since China is home to one-fifth of the global population, and is currently the most prolific CO2-emitting country on Earth, its government’s decision to prioritize a comprehensive response to the climate crisis seems like an unambiguously positive development.
The congress even provided some encouraging news for those who claim to care about human rights. In a surprise move, Chen Quanguo, who was hit with US sanctions for his hardline approach as party secretary in both Tibet and Xinjiang, was ousted from the central committee.
But US corporate media generally failed to highlight these developments as positive news. In fact, with the exception of some coverage of Xi’s statements on Taiwan—which largely misrepresented China’s posture as more threatening than a good-faith reading would indicate—US news outlets had remarkably little to say about the substance of any news coming out of the congress.
As FAIR (3/24/20, 1/29/21, 9/9/22) has pointed out at various points in the pandemic, corporate media—seemingly disturbed by China’s unwillingness to sacrifice millions of lives at the altar of economic growth—have been almost uniformly critical of the Chinese government’s Covid mitigation strategy.
The article went on to quote Jude Blanchette, a “China expert” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who declared, “There is nothing positive or aspirational about zero Covid.” That CSIS would disseminate such a narrative—with the assistance of the reliably hawkish Times—is unsurprising, since the think tank’s chief patrons share a common interest in vilifying China.
CSIS’s roster of major donors includes military contractors Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, as well as a litany of oil and gas companies—all of whom derive financial benefit from America’s military build-up in the Pacific.
CSIS has also received millions of dollars from the governments of Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Sitting on its board of trustees are Phebe Novakovic, chair and CEO of General Dynamics, and Leon Panetta who—as Defense secretary in the Obama administration—helped craft the DOD’s “pivot to Asia.”
‘No to market reforms’
While China’s “reform and opening-up” has been immensely profitable for corporations—as evidenced in media coverage (Forbes, 10/24/22; NYT, 11/7/22) of global markets’ uneasiness over Xi’s alleged “return to Marxism”—its impact on Chinese workers has been uneven, to say the least. Living standards have improved generally, but labor conditions remain poor and inequality is growing.
Like the Times, CNN went the think tank route to support its thesis, quoting Craig Singleton—senior China fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD):
Yesterday’s speech confirms what many China watchers have long suspected—Xi has no intention of embracing market liberalization or relaxing China’s zero-Covid policies, at least not anytime soon…. Instead, he intends to double down on policies geared towards security and self-reliance at the expense of China’s long-term economic growth.
Despite the fact that China watchers have, for as long as one can remember, predicted a collapse of China’s economy that has yet to materialize, corporate media keep on returning to that same old well.
For its part, FDD—to which CNN attached the inconspicuous label of “DC-based think tank”—is a neoconservative advocacy group that has an ax to grind with China. The chairman of FDD’s China Program is Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor to Donald Trump.
Early on in the pandemic, a Washington Post profile (4/29/20) of Pottinger stated that he “believes Beijing’s handling of the virus has been ‘catastrophic’ and ‘the whole world is the collateral damage of China’s internal governance problems.’” The article quoted Trump’s second national security advisor, H.R. McMaster—who is also currently employed as a “China expert” at FDD—as calling Pottinger “central to the biggest shift in US foreign policy since the Cold War, which is the competitive approach to China.”
Desperate search for a purge
If consumers of corporate media only encountered one story about the congress, it probably had something to do with this seemingly innocuous development: During the congress’s closing session, aides escorted Hu Jintao—Xi’s predecessor as China’s paramount leader—out of the Great Hall of the People.
Later that day, Xinhua, China’s state news agency, said that Hu’s departure was health related. This explanation isn’t exactly far-fetched, since the 79-year-old Hu has long been said to be suffering from an illness—as early as 2012, some observers posited that the then-outgoing leader had Parkinson’s disease.
Since the whole episode was caught on camera, however, corporate media were not satisfied with China’s mundane account of events. Instead, establishment outlets seized the moment and transformed Hu’s departure into a dramatic spectacle, laden with sinister connotations. The speculation that followed was almost obsessive in nature.
In reference to the haloed party figures whose “expressions did not change” as Hu was escorted away, the Times quoted Wu Guoguang, a professor at Canada’s University of Victoria:
Here was Hu Jintao, the former highest leader of your party and a man who had given so many of you political opportunities. And how do you treat him now?… This incident demonstrated the tragic reality of Chinese politics and the fundamental lack of human decency in the Communist Party.
While noting that Wu “said he did not want to speculate about what had unfolded,” the Times evidently did not consider this statement of caution as being at odds with his subsequent use of Hu’s departure to condemn the CCP in the broadest possible terms.
Indeed, the paper of record saw no problem with attributing the failure of Hu’s colleagues to react in a more appropriate manner—whatever that may have been—to “the tragic reality of Chinese politics” and a “fundamental lack of human decency” on the part of the CCP.
Here was a microcosm of corporate media’s contradictory approach to the episode: a professed reluctance to engage in conjecture, persistently negated by an overwhelming eagerness to cast aspersions. In line with this tack, the Times resorted to innuendo by posing a hypothetical question:
Was Mr. Hu, 79, suffering from poor health, as Chinese state media would later report? Or was he being purged in a dramatic show by China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, for the world to see?
Rather than asserting outright that Hu was the victim of a purge, the Times advanced this familiar red-scare narrative by including two photographs from the Cultural Revolution—one of which depicts Xi’s father being subjected to humiliation during a struggle session. With these images, the Times coaxed readers into making a spurious connection between Hu’s exit and the political repressions of yesteryear.
Unfazed by lack of evidence
Predictably, cable news networks and China watchers also took part in the orgy of speculation. On CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front (10/25/22), international correspondent Selina Wang said this:
Now, I have spoken to experts who think there is more to this than that pure health explanation, including Steve Tsang of [the] SOAS China Institute. He told me that this is humiliation of Hu Jintao. It is a clear message that there is only one leader who matters in China right now and that is Xi Jinping.
She did not mention the fact that Tsang is a fellow at Chatham House, a think tank that derives a substantial proportion of its funding from the US State Department and the governments of Britain and Japan.
The day before, on CNN Newsroom (10/24/22), Wang stated, “Hu Jintao. . . was publicly humiliated at the closing ceremony of the Party Congress.” The only support she offered for this assertion came from Victor Shih, another China watcher from the aforementioned CSIS, who conjectured:
I am not a believer of the pure health explanation. And it seemed like [Hu] sat down in a pretty stable manner. And then suddenly, he was asked to leave. I’m not sure if he whispered something, said something to Xi Jinping.
Half-acknowledging that Shih’s description of events actually said nothing at all, Wang concluded: “Regardless, it was a symbolic moment. Out with Hu and the collective leadership of his era.” For Wang and for corporate media’s treatment of the episode writ large, “regardless” was the operative word—regardless of the fact that they were merely engaged in baseless speculation, they would still inevitably arrive at the most sinister conclusion.
Eric Horowitz is a FAIR intern and student at the CUNY School of Law, with a particular focus on housing and labor. He is also involved in organizing around Palestinian solidarity. You can follow him on instagram at Eric_Horowitz.
This article was republished from Fair.
Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawi people have lived in five refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara. They named these camps after cities in Western Sahara: Ausserd, Boujdour, Dakhla, Laayoune, and Smara. In a straight line, Smara the camp is some 400 kilometers from Smara the city. But a sand berm, built in the 1980s by Morocco, makes the distance unassailable. At 2,700 kilometers, the berm is the second-longest military fortification in the world, after the Great Wall of China. Reinforced with ditches and barbed wire fences, artillery and tanks, guarded outposts, and millions of land mines, the sand berm partitions Western Sahara—separating 80 percent of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic—which is recognized by the United Nations as the last “non-self-governing territory” in Africa. In 1991, MINURSO, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, announced a plebiscite that would give the Sahrawi people a choice: independence or integration with Morocco. In April 1991, the Sahrawi people packed their belongings in boxes, choosing the former.
Seeking access to Western Sahara’s rich coastline, Spain first seized the territory after European colonizers partitioned Africa at the West African Conference of Berlin that took place from November 1884 to February 1885. By the 1970s, facing resistance from the Sahrawi people and increasing internal pressures, the regime of Francisco Franco in Spain agreed to hold a referendum on independence, which never took place. Spain eventually pulled out from Western Sahara. Meanwhile, to the south and the north, Mauritania and Morocco had set their sights on Western Sahara’s resources. In November 1975, despite a judgment from the International Court of Justice that neither Mauritania nor Morocco had territorial sovereignty over the land, Morocco sent 25,000 troops and 350,000 settlers to Western Sahara. On November 14, Spain signed the tripartite Madrid Accords with Morocco and Mauritania, effectively ceding Western Sahara to its invaders.
The Polisario Front, a national liberation movement formed in 1973 to oppose Spanish colonialism, now fought on two fronts. Supported by Algeria, it defeated the Mauritanians in 1978. But Morocco retained its control over Western Sahara—with significant backing from Western powers, including the United States and members of NATO. At the Museum of Resistance in the camps, the Polisario keeps weapons of war captured during its struggle—tanks, airplanes, artillery, and armored vehicles from Austria, Germany, France, Spain, the U.S., Belgium, and apartheid South Africa.
Morocco controls 80 percent of Western Sahara. In the other 20 percent, the Polisario Front governs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a state battling for recognition. Armed conflict continued until Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a ceasefire in September 1991 overseen by MINURSO. “I was just coming back from Syria, a young graduate, having lived my entire life within this liberation process,” Oubi Bachir, a diplomat for the Polisario Front, told me. “I discovered not just hope, but jubilation. Finally, we were going home.” The Sahrawi people packed boxes to take their belongings back to Western Sahara. But as the boxes gathered dust, jubilation turned to frustration. The independence referendum has failed to take place—and the possibilities for armed struggle only reemerged when Morocco broke the ceasefire in 2020. The Sahrawi liberation movement, Bachir said, was “built on the armed struggle as the dominating pillar of action. That was taken away with no practical process in its place.”
Imperialism in Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a rich land. It has some 72 percent of the world’s phosphate deposits, which are used to manufacture fertilizers. By the end of November 2021, Morocco reported revenues of $6.45 billion from phosphates, an amount that increases each year. Western Sahara’s fishing grounds accounted for 77.65 percent of Moroccan catches in 2018, representing the majority of its income from fishing that year. The European Union, too, operates a fleet in these waters. In 2018, a judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU struck down the 2000 Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between Morocco and the EU as “incompatible with the principles of self-determination.” But the EU continues to act in violation of the judgment, funding highly destructive fishing practices in the occupied territory. Scientists warn that overfishing in Western Sahara is rapidly destroying a critical biodiversity hotspot.
Morocco and its international backers have their sights on two other resources abundant in the territory: wind and sunlight. In 2018, using German technology, the UK firm Windhoist built the 200 MW Aftissat wind farm in Western Sahara. Vigeo Eiris, a UK-French company that has been “investigating companies operating in occupied Palestine,” certified Moroccan energy investments on Sahrawi land. General Electric signed a contract to build a 200 MW wind farm in Western Sahara. Greenwashing its occupation in Western Sahara, Morocco uses the infrastructure in reporting toward its climate targets. Western Sahara Resource Watch estimates that the wind power plants in the territory could account for 47.2 percent of Morocco’s wind capacity and up to 32.64 percent of its solar capacity by 2030.
The People Bloom
“We call this the desert within the desert,” Mohamed El Mamun, a Polisario Front representative, told me on a drive between two camps. The sand is so salty, the water so scarce, that few things can grow. Yet in the five decades since the five camps have existed, the Sahrawi people have made great strides toward building a dignified society in them. They eliminated illiteracy. They built universal education and the infrastructure to extract and distribute water to the people. Mass movements ensure the participation of women, workers, and the youth in the project of liberation. Health care is free, and a small experiment in aquaponic farming promises to grow food in one of the most arid places on Earth.
The camps depend almost entirely on foreign aid, a resource that is rapidly depleting. As of November 10, 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Algeria mission, a key source of humanitarian assistance to the Sahrawis, was only 39 percent funded. The UN has warned that the Russian-Ukrainian conflict risks further eroding that support. Here, socialist internationalism plays an important role. In the Smara camp, Venezuela and Cuba built a school. The Simón Bolívar School is staffed by Cuban teachers. More than 100 Sahrawis have graduated from the school since it opened in 2011. Some of the alumni went on to study in Cuba, returning as doctors, engineers, and teachers. Nearby, a man who calls himself Castro established the Center for Education and Integration, which prepares children with severe disabilities to live a dignified life. Above its entrance, a sign reads: “Neither plants nor trees grow here, but people bloom.”
Paweł Wargan is an organizer and researcher based in Berlin and the coordinator of the secretariat of the Progressive International.
Ethnic Uyghur demonstrators take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 1, 2021. .File Photo: Reuters/Dilara Senkaya.
On August 26th 2022 as the US-NATO directed counter-offensive against the Donbass Republics and other Ukrainian regions resisting the NATO installed Nazi friendly regime in Kiev began to take place, the NATO states, led by the United States and Britain, escalated their aggression against China.
The Donbass Republics and Russian forces broke the Kiev offensive in Kherson and inflicted heavy losses on the Kiev regime as they did in the past several days in the Kiev attack in the Kharkov region. Western propaganda was awash in claims of a Russian defeat, but they were the same type of claims made by the Germans in 1944-45 as they rushed headlong to their destruction; claims made in desperation, which led them to sabotage the North Stream Pipelines and the Crimea Bridge, which then literally blew up in their face on October 10 and 11.
At the same time, the US and its allied states, as if the war in Ukraine is not enough to satisfy their lust for power and world hegemony, and oblivious to the severe consequences their actions and sanctions have caused themselves and their citizens over the past few months, engaged in provocations against Iran, North Korea, and Syria, even Turkey, but, most importantly, against China; with several visits of US and European political figures to the Chinese province of Taiwan, despite Chinese warnings, with the US increasing the supply of weapons to the Taiwanese secessionists, with sabre rattling using US aircraft carriers in the Pacific and by stirring up Japan to menace China, as if their defeat in 1945 had been erased from history.
Some time ago I wrote about the CIA-MI6 backed anti-China “ Uyghur tribunal” that was set up in London in July 2021 and headed by Geoffrey Nice, the British lawyer who gained notoriety for trying to frame up President Milosevic of Yugoslavia at the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal, the ICTY. He failed miserably when Milosevic and his defence team, (of which I was proud to be a part) tore his claims into shreds and proved that it was NATO that had committed war crimes and atrocities in their unprovoked aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999.
But most relevant to China, Milosevic raised in his trial the fact that US and NATO planes attacked China at the same time, by launching several cruise missiles at the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing a number of Chinese officials. That attack proved that the USA and its allies consider themselves above the law, and beyond all morality. It proved them to be colonialists and imperialists to the core, and open enemies of the people of China.
Mr. Nice failed to charge any NATO officer or official or head of government for this war crime against China, as he refused, along with Canadian prosecutor Louise Arbour, to charge any NATO officials for their war crimes committed against the people of Yugoslavia.
Since then the USA has continued its aggression with economic warfare, disguised as revisions of trade agreements, as sanctions, along with cyber attacks, sabre rattling over Taiwan, a failed attempt to form a military alliance in southeast Asia against China, by agreeing to provide nuclear submarines to Australia to be aimed at China, and encouraging the Japanese to build up their armed forces for the same purpose.
It has also begun an intense propaganda campaign in all the western media, especially Voice of America and its Asia affiliates, and in the Rupert Murdoch controlled media. One of the most notorious elements of this campaign was the kidnapping, by Canadian authorities, on American orders, of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was detained in Canada for several years while the US tried to get their hands on her. That attempt finally collapsed and she returned home, but the smears of China continue.
The most persistent elements of their propaganda are the false allegations that China is committing “genocide” in its province of Xingjian against the Uyghurs, a Turkic, mainly Muslim population living there. In Europe, the Falun Gong, another CIA front group, is notorious for standing on streets and handing out anti-Chinese pamphlets containing these lies and slanders. It amounts to criminal slander, but no one is prosecuted.
In Britain, the London Uyghur tribunal, led by Geoffrey Nice was set up to conduct “hearings” about the claims. I discussed this in an earlier article. It was a failure in terms of immediate propaganda. Most of the western press ignored it and it seemed to fade away into irrelevancy. But the World Uyghur Congress, the CIA-front group that arranged and helped to finance the London tribunal and presented many of the staged “witnesses” and concocted ‘evidence” has since used the tribunal “findings” to harass China in other places.
In September 2021, the European Centre For Constitutional and Human Rights, mislead by the London tribunal and the World Uyghur Congress made allegations that certain European companies were using “Uyghur forced labour” to manufacture their products. The companies denied these claims as did China and as does most of the Moslem world, but that did not matter to the ECCHR. The big splash in the press was what they wanted and is what they got. They cited the London tribunal in support of their fake claims.
On December 14, 2021 the World Uygur Congress and its allied organisation, the Uyghur Human Rights Project, based in Washington, D.C. announced the engagement of British barrister, Michael Polak, to file a claim in Argentina, against China, for crimes against Uyghurs, basing their ability to do so on Argentina’s laws that grant it universal jurisdiction over crimes of “genocide.” Polak is chair of another anti-China propaganda group, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project is funded by the US government, through the National Endowment For Democracy. It also has connections to US anti-Chinese Senators Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumacher and was nominated by other US congressmen for the Nobel Prize in order underline its efforts.
As the legal action was announced, lawmakers in Washington advanced the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, intended to block the import of goods into the U.S. produced by “forced labor” in Xinjiang and authorize sanctions on foreign individuals and entities found responsible for rights abuses. Polak was also used by the World Uyghur Congress to complain to the International Olympics Committee about the issue to try to ruin the Winter Olympics of 2022 held in China.
ON August 26, 2022 he and others finally filed a case against China in Argentina, stating, that the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), have filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Criminal Court in Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 16, accusing Chinese officials of “genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim ethnic groups.”
China reacted through its Washington embassy spokesperson, Lui Pengyu, to a Voice of America question. Lui stated that,
‘Over the past 60-plus years, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang has grown from 2.2 million to about 12 million.’
“The accusation of ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is a flat-out lie of the century,” Liu told VOA in an email. “Whatever ploys are used; a lie repeated a thousand times is still a lie.”
Of course he is absolutely correct. But the USA and its propagandists for hire care nothing for the truth. They care only about creating an impression, of creating hostility towards China, and they are doing this in order to discredit and justify war against China.
Theses groups have not stopped at national courts and fake tribunals. On December 15, 2020, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court rejected consideration of their allegations filed with the ICC about China and their claims about the Uyghurs, on the basis that since China is not a signatory to the Rome Statute creating the ICC and accepting its jurisdiction the ICC cannot act as it has no jurisdiction to do so. In any case, as we have observed with the fake evidence presented to the London ‘tribunal’ and the Argentine court, there is nothing to investigate.
In fact we remember that just in May of this year, Michele Bachelet, former President of Chile, and High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN visited China and reported that she did not find evidence to support the claims being made against China. She immediately suffered a series of slanderous attacks in the western, especially British and American, media and reported that she was under enormous political pressure to issues a report the west had expected from her. She seems to have been forced out of seeking to continue her term of office due to this pressure. And to add insult to injury the British House of Commons refused to allow Chinese diplomats to attend the ceremonies and lying-in-state of Queen Elizabeth in London, on the pretext of the Uyghur claims.
It is about time these propagandists be held accountable for their actions, for manufacturing hatred and hostility towards a nation that has brought its people out of the poverty imposed on them by the west during the colonial period and which the west wants to impose again. It is a monstrous crime against the truth and against China.
At the Nuremberg Trials the Nazi propagandist, Julius Streicher, was hanged for putting out propaganda about Jews and inciting hatred leading to genocide. At the Rwanda Tribunal the members of a radio station were convicted of genocide for allegedly making false reports on events that the prosecutors claimed instigated hatred that led to genocide. Hate speech is proscribed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other treaties.
Is this not what Nice, and Polak, the ECHHR, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, such as Fox News and his British media, the World Uyghur Congress and its affiliated partners in crime are doing; trying to instigate hatred and hostility to justify war, to justify harming and killing Chinese? Is this not where it all leads? Is this not a crime against humanity? Are not they the real criminals?
Propaganda is a threat to peace itself. It is not only necessary to eliminate nuclear weapons and armies. It is also necessary to eliminate the psychological weapons that are used to justify, provoke and prolong war.
I wrote what follows before but it bears repeating for those that have not read it.
A Resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of November 3, 1947 denounced war propaganda;
“The General Assembly condemns all forms of propaganda, in whatsoever country conducted, which is either designed or likely to provoke or encourage any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.”
A Soviet draft definition of aggression presented to the General Assembly in 1957 defined war propaganda as ideological aggression. Their draft stated that a state has committed ideological aggression when it “encourages war propaganda, encourages propaganda for the use of atomic or other weapons of mass extermination and stimulates Nazi-fascist views, racial or national superiority, or hatred and disdain for other peoples.”
But before that the Supreme Soviet on March 12, 1950 passed a law on the defence of peace that stated:
“The Supreme Soviet of the USSR is guided by the high principles of the Soviet peace policy, which seeks to strengthen peace and friendly relations between the peoples, recognises that human conscience and the concept of right of the peoples, who, during one generation suffered the calamities of two wars, cannot accept that the conduct of war propaganda remain unpunished, and approves the proclamation of the Second World Congress of the Partisans of Peace, who expressed the will of the entire progressive mankind concerning the prohibition and condemnation of criminal war propaganda.
The western powers blocked a Russian UN resolution at that time to denounce war propaganda even though it was in accord with the principles of the United Nations Charter, which makes it a duty of all member states to preserve the peace. The west relied on arguments of “free speech,” arguments that do not hold water since war propaganda is not designed to enlighten people but to twist their minds into thoughts of hatred and war.
Those who are taking part in the western propaganda campaign against China claim to be for justice but are in actuality tools of injustice. They claim to be acting for victims of oppression but the truth is they are agents of western oppression. They claim to be for peace but are in truth advocates of war. They claim to be founded in law but in fact reject all law. Reject them. Better yet, expose them. The facts, and history, will condemn them.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.
This article was republished from Orinoco tribune.
In early December 2022, Japan’s Self-Defense Force joined the U.S. armed forces for Resolute Dragon 2022, which the U.S. Marines call the “largest bilateral training exercise of the year.” Major General Jay Bargeron of the U.S. 3rd Marine Division said at the start of the exercise that the United States is “ready to fight and win if called upon.” Resolute Dragon 2022 followed the resumption in September of trilateral military drills by Japan, South Korea, and the United States off the Korean peninsula; these drills had been suspended as the former South Korean government attempted a policy of rapprochement with North Korea.
These military maneuvers take place in the context of heightened tension between the United States and China, with the most recent U.S. National Security Strategy identifying China as the “only competitor” of the United States in the world and therefore in need of being constrained by the United States and its allies (which, in the region, are Japan and South Korea). This U.S. posture comes despite repeated denials by China--including by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on November 1, 2022—that it will “never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism.” These military exercises, therefore, place Japan center-stage in the New Cold War being prosecuted by the United States against China.
The Constitution of Japan (1947) forbids the country from building up an aggressive military force. Two years after Article 9 was inserted into the Constitution at the urging of the U.S. Occupation, the Chinese Revolution succeeded and the United States began to reassess the disarmament of Japan. Discussions about the revocation of Article 9 began at the start of the Korean War in 1950, with the U.S. government putting pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida to build up the army and militarize the National Police Reserve; in fact, the Ashida Amendment to Article 9 weakened Japan’s commitment to demilitarization and left open the door to full-scale rearmament.
Public opinion in Japan is against the formal removal of Article 9. Nonetheless, Japan has continued to build up its military capacity. In the 2021 budget, Japan added $7 billion (7.3 percent) to spend $54.1 billion on its military, “the highest annual increase since 1972,” notes the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In September 2022, Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that his country would “radically strengthen the defense capabilities we need….To protect Japan, it’s important for us to have not only hardware such as aircrafts and ships, but also enough ammunition for them.” Japan has indicated that it would increase its military budget by 11 percent a year from now till 2024.
In December, Japan will release a new National Security Strategy, the first since 2014. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the Financial Times, “We will be fully prepared to respond to any possible scenario in east Asia to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people.” It appears that Japan is rushing into a conflict with China, its largest trading partner.
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.
Peter Beinart Leads Charge to Cancel Palestinian American Journalist mnar Adely By: Mnar Adley & Alan MacLeodRead Now
The latest victim of cancel culture wave is MintPress News founder and editor-in-chief Mnar Adley. Adley had been booked to host and moderate an event discussing anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) laws in the United States, and how Palestinians are under increasing pressure to silence themselves, when she was herself, ironically, removed from the panel at the behest of a shady advisor.
The event was hosted by Voices From the Holy Land, an organization that hosts documentary films and group discussions in order to give voice to those ignored by the mainstream press and to educate the public about the realities of living under the Israeli occupation.
It was scheduled for October 9th online and featured a screening of the documentary “Boycott”, followed by a discussion. Other panelists included editor-at-large of Jewish Currents magazine Peter Beinart; “Boycott” producer Suhad Babaa; and Texas speech therapist Bahia Amawi.
While Voices From The Holy Land coordinator Deepak Kenkeremath had expressed excitement to have her host the panel, just hours before the event, he informed Adley that Beinart and others had objected to sharing a stage with her. In fact, he shared with Adley that Beinart had been calling him daily, putting pressure on him to remove Mnar from the event.
Beinart had been contacted by a Mr. Stanley Heller, who insisted that Adley was anti-Semitic, and that MintPress News was a discredited pro-Putin, pro-Assad, pro-Iran outlet. As proof, Heller reportedly shared MintPress’ (heavily defaced) Wikipedia entry.
These charges are, of course, false. MintPress is an expressly anti-racist platform and does not support any government, let alone specifically those of Russia, Syria or Iran. Instead, MintPress focuses on exposing the permanent war state and those who benefit from it. For this, we have been targeted by NATO-funded think tanks, the Israel lobby, U.S. and U.K. intelligence outfits, foreign governments and lobbying groups. We have also had our Wikipedia page attacked, been demoted and deranked by algorithms, and had our financial accounts frozen.
Adley, who previously lived under Israeli occupation and apartheid, witnessed grave human rights abuses and crimes, has advocated for Palestinian human rights for decades. She has used her career as a journalist and antiwar activist to oppose U.S. weapons from reaching human rights abusers. For a Palestinian woman who defends the rights of Palestinians to resist occupation to be called anti-Semitic is another example of the tried-and-tested smear tactic used by the Israeli lobby to target and silence Palestinian dissent.
As part of his investigation, Kenkeremath spoke with his confidant, Israeli-American author and activist Miko Peled. Peled, who frequently contributes to MintPress, was adamant that Adley is an exemplary figure. “What I told Deepak is that it’s Peter Beinart who should be grateful that he gets to sit on a panel with Mnar, not the other way around!” he said, adding,
"I’m absolutely appalled at the fact that somebody thinks they have the right to cancel Mnar. I am appalled, I’m disappointed, I’m angry. I think it is indicative of where we are today, politically – a privileged white guy who considers himself progressive can just feel comfortable enough to cancel a Palestinian woman from speaking about her country?”
MintPress contacted Beinart for comment, but received no response.
Kenkeremath came to a similar conclusion, telling MintPress,
"Mnar was the right choice [to moderate the panel]. I think Mnar is great. As a committee, we like her. We would like to find a way or time to bring her to participate with us, a time when we wouldn’t be blackmailed or held hostage by somebody [Heller].”
Kenkeremath would have held the event with Adley moderating. But then others on the panel, who Heller had also contacted, demanded she be cancelled as well, citing the Wikipedia article. This put Kenkeremath in a situation he had never been in before, having already sold the tickets and been pressed into a corner, he apologetically disinvited Adley.
“We’ve been doing this for nine years, and we’ve had hundreds of events and many hundreds of panelists. This is the first time ever that we’ve had to change a panelist proactively. And we really regretted taking that action, but felt we really didn’t have a choice, given how close to the event this decision surfaced,” Kenkeremath told MintPress.
For Voices From the Holy Land, the problem was the time crunch they were put under and the consequences of cancelling such a high-profile event at the eleventh hour. As Kenkeremath explained,
"This was our biggest event in our 9-year history. And we had, by the time we made the decision, over 1400 people already registered. And we had many, maybe on the order of about 15 or 16 other groups that were tied in with us that were promoting this event. So it was a choice of either cancelling the event or making this change to keep the panel together. The film that we screened – “Boycott” – is about First Amendment rights. It’s about freedom of speech. And for us to take this action is a little more than ironic.”
Beinart’s clout as one of the most high-profile individuals in highbrow American life likely weighed heavily on the organization’s decision. A liberal hawk who championed the Iraq Invasion and became a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Beinart was also a passionate defender of the state of Israel. In 2020, however, after decades of support, he switched sides and advocated for a democratic bi-national state. His metamorphosis from apologist to critic of Israel shocked many, and is widely seen as a sign of how uncomfortable many liberal American Jews are with Israel. He has also publicly spoken out against Palestinian voices being suppressed and excluded from conversations on Israel/Palestine, making this incident all the more ironic.
Kenkeremath was more understanding of Beinart’s position, telling MintPress that,
I think Peter just felt uncomfortable in going forward with this… I’m pretty sure he had not heard of Stanley either, but just felt a little uncomfortable about a controversy that Heller had raised. And the feeling was, ‘we don’t have enough time to vet the situation, and we’re not sure that it makes sense at this time for us to be associated with the controversy.’”
Peled, on the other hand, was far more condemnatory, asserting that Voices of the Holy Land should have cancelled the event rather than disinviting a speaker on spurious grounds. “It was absolutely shameful…that should not have been allowed to happen. This on every possible level, human level, dignity level or respectful level, a political level, it was wrong,” he said.
To be fair to Beinart, Babaa, and the others, MintPress has been the subject of constant and unending attacks on Wikipedia, the entry describing us as in league with the Kremlin and as Assadist conspiracy theorists who routinely peddle fake news. Thus, anybody unfamiliar with the site and hearing this might justifiably feel uncomfortable with associating with its editor-in-chief.
Yet on many issues, Wikipedia is not an unbiased source of information, but the site of a bitter political struggle to discredit anti-war voices. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Israel/Palestine. For more than a decade, well-organized and well-funded Israeli groups have infiltrated Wikipedia and attempted to rewrite the dictionary to defend Israeli crimes and demonize voices who speak out against them.
One of the most well-known of these is the Yesha Council, which claimed to have 12,000 active members as far back as 2010. Yesha members painstakingly police Wikipedia, removing bothersome facts and framing articles in a manner more favorable to Israel.
Those Yesha considers the “Best Zionist Editors” receive rewards such as hot air balloon trips and other prizes. Between 2010 and 2012, this project was personally overseen and co-ordinated by future prime minister, Naftali Bennett.
Yesha and other pro-Israel groups have ceaselessly targeted MintPress’ Wikipedia page, filling it with demonstrable falsehoods and misinformation. (Another primary editor of our page is the infamous Philip Cross.) Wikipedia is aware of this problem, but has refused to address it adequately, perhaps in part because of its co-founder Jimmy Wales’ unabashedly pro-Israel partisanship.
Thus, yet another layer of irony to this story is that Heller, Beinart and co. are citing misinformation written in part by Israeli settlers and pro-Israel organizations, all in order to block a Palestinian speaking with them.
HELLER THE GADFLY
Why Beinart, Babaa and others paid attention to Heller is unclear. Stanley Heller is a Jewish American writer with a strong interest in Israel/Palestine. However, judging by his output, one of his primary passions is attacking left-wing or anti-war voices. In recent times, he has bitterly denounced Noam Chomsky for not being sufficiently anti-Russia, counter-protested an ANSWER Coalition peace demonstration, condemned Seymour Hersh and the U.S. Green Party for their stances on Syria, and labeled Rania Khalek a “liar”. Heller has also announced himself “repulsed” by much of the anti-war left and called on the “peace movement” to demand the U.S. impose a no-fly zone on Syria. In his haste to denounce anyone expressing doubts about the U.S. role in Syria, Heller has even presented intelligence front group Bellingcat as a reliable source.
Heller appears to be associated with Trotskyism, an obscure sect of Marxism that broke away in the 1930s after Russian leader Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union. Following Trotsky’s line, his supporters bitterly denounced the U.S.S.R., and many left-wing movements since, often putting themselves in the same camp as the U.S. government in many of its wars and coups.
Describing them as puritanical trust fund kids and comparing them to Scientologists, Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair explained,
"Their political thinking, such as it is, remains lodged like a fossil in the strata of the early 1930s. Humiliated by their own political impotence, the Trots have lashed out at nearly every popular uprising of the last 50 years for being doctrinally impure, from the Cuban Revolution to the Zapatistas, from the street protests at the WTO to the Bolivarian Revolution.”
St. Clair’s comments were in response to a Trotskyist group attempting to organize a boycott of Counterpunch magazine after a (female) author had used the word “tit” in an article about film star Angelina Jolie.
There is no evidence that Heller was involved in the campaign against Counterpunch. However, he certainly is a repeat offender in the cancellation business. In 2019, he attempted to pressure journalist and speaker Chris Hedges into refusing to platform Max Blumenthal of The Grayzone. Hedges curtly told Heller that he should mind his own business.
Kenkeremath originally ignored Heller’s email, dismissing him as a “gadfly you can’t take seriously.” Unfortunately, the other panelists did not come to the same conclusion, worrying about any potential negative consequences of appearing. “We are angered and frustrated that one person basically blackmailed an entire group into going his way,” Kenkeremath said, adding,
"Over the years, this is the type of pressure moves we have seen by pro-Israeli groups in trying to silence pro-Palestinian voices. It is unfortunate to see that this came from a self-professed pro-Palestinian activist.”
Peled was particularly disappointed that these figures failed to do their own research, telling us,
"Mnar is brilliant and progressive and not to their liking. And again, what is funny is that none of the people who wanted to cancel her spoke to her, had even heard of her, and did not know anything about her work..” “Before cancelling her, they didn’t even have the courtesy to call her. And we’re talking about people who are supposedly on the side of justice in Palestine! It is a very sad situation.”
Blumenthal was even more scathing on the whole situation, telling MintPress that, “Manipulating media figures into cancelling opponents of America’s regime change wars seems to be the only source of influence for a demented Trotskyist like Stanley Heller.”
PALESTINIANS? NO. ISRAELI OFFICIALS? A-OK
The BDS panel took place on October 9th without Adley, with Babaa showing her documentary, “Boycott” and the panel later discussing it and answering questions. Disappointingly, Babaa refused to share a platform with Adley, despite only recently promoting her movie alongside former senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Daniel Levy.
Levy is also a founder of explicitly Zionist, explicitly anti-BDS organization J Street. As it notes on its website,
"J Street very clearly opposes the global BDS movement and believes that actions that target the state of Israel or its people are incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state resolution of the conflict.”
Thus, it is strange indeed that the producer of a film about boycotts would share a platform with advisors to Israeli war criminals, but not with a Palestinian journalist. MintPress asked Babaa for her views on the affair, but did not receive a response.
“This is not the kind of thing that happens so much in Palestine; it is an American thing,” Peled noted, adding,
"In Palestine, I know people who have a brother with Hamas, a brother with Fatah, another brother with whomever. And people talk, communicate and disagree. This [American] fear of cancellation, what are they afraid of? The fact that somebody’s going to say that you sat in the same room as somebody else?”
A LONG HISTORY OF CANCELLED PALESTINIANS
Unfortunately, for Palestinians or people who support the cause of a free Palestine, cancellation is a common occurrence. Last week, Shaima Dallali, the U.K. president of the National Union of Students, was forced out after a smear campaign from the Israel Lobby. In August, Palestinian-American athletic trainer Natalie Abulhawa was removed from her job at a girls’ school over years-old social media posts criticizing Israel. And in February, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) fired seven Arab journalists – four of them Palestinian – because of their support for a Palestinian homeland. DW Journalists speaking anonymously said the message had been sent loud and clear: do not criticize Israel.
There has also been a crackdown on Palestine solidarity on campus. Quite apart from the BDS bans enacted in dozens of American states, academics such as Valentina Azarova, Norman Finkelstein and Steven Sailata have been fired or had employment offers rescinded because of their activism.
Meanwhile, child language specialist Bahia Amawi lost her job at a school in Texas after she refused to sign a state-mandated loyalty oath, pledging never to boycott Israel. Ironically, Amawi still spoke at the Voices From the Holy Land event, even after Adley was blacklisted.
Therefore, while Palestinians have come to expect negative consequences for holding their heads up high, it is disappointing to see explicitly pro-Palestine organizations succumb to cancel culture. That two white Jewish American men managed to stop a Palestinian woman from speaking about her country and BDS at a pro-Palestine event is especially ironic, and is, in many ways, a new low.
Mnar Adley is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. She started her career as an independent multimedia journalist covering Midwest and national politics while focusing on civil liberties and social justice issues posting her reporting and exclusive interviews on her blog MintPress, which she later turned MintPress into the global news source it is today. In 2009, Adley also became the first American woman to wear the hijab to anchor/report the news in American media. Contact Mnar at email@example.com. Follow Mnar on Twitter at @mnarmuh
This article was republished from Mintpressnews.
The tenure of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is defined by the deforestation of the Amazon, the return of 33 million Brazilians to hunger, and the terrible governance of the country during the pandemic.
But it also marked a radical turning point on a subject that receives little public attention in general: foreign policy. It’s not just that the Bolsonaro government has transformed Brazil, a giant in land area and population, into a kind of diplomatic dwarf. Nor is it just the fact that Bolsonaro turned the country’s back to Latin America and Africa. The most serious thing is that in his pursuit of aligning Brazil to the United States, Bolsonaro broke with a long tradition of Brazilian foreign policy: the respect for constitutional principles of national independence, self-determination of the peoples, non-intervention, equality between States, defense of peace, and peaceful solution of conflicts.
Despite the different foreign policies adopted by Brazilian governments over the years, no president had ever so openly broken with these principles. Never had a Brazilian president expressed such open support for a candidate in a U.S. election, as Bolsonaro did to Trump and against Biden in 2020. Never had a president so openly despised Brazil’s main trading partner, as Bolsonaro did with China on different occasions. Never had a Brazilian president offended the wife of another president as Jair Bolsonaro, his Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, and his son Representative Eduardo Bolsonaro did in relation to Emmanuel Macron’s wife, Brigitte. And never, at least since re-democratization in the 1980s, has a president talked so openly about invading a neighboring country as Bolsonaro did toward Venezuela.
This attitude has thrown Brazil into a position of unprecedented diplomatic isolation for a country recognized for its absence of conflicts with other countries and its capacity for diplomatic mediation. As a result, during the campaign for the 2022 elections—won by Lula da Silva on Sunday, October 30, by a narrow margin of 2.1 million votes, with 50.9 percent of the votes for Lula against 49.1 percent for Bolsonaro—the topic of foreign policy appeared frequently, with Lula promising to resume Brazil’s leading role in international politics.
“We are lucky that the Chinese see Brazil as a historic entity, which will exist with or without Bolsonaro. Otherwise, the possibility of having had problems of various types would be great. … [For example, China] could simply not give us vaccines,” professor of economics at Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) Elias Jabbour tells me. “Brazil should once again play a decisive role in major international issues,” he adds.
The Return of ‘Active and Assertive’ Foreign Policy?
International relations during the first Lula administrations, from 2003 to 2011, were marked by Celso Amorim, minister of foreign affairs. He called for an “active and assertive” foreign policy. By “assertive,” Amorim meant a firmer attitude to refuse outside pressure and place Brazil’s interests on the international agenda. By “active,” he was referring to a decisive pursuit of Brazil’s interests. This view was “meant to not only defend certain positions, but also attract other countries to Brazil’s positions,” Amorim said.
This policy meant a commitment to Latin American integration, with the strengthening of Mercosur (also known as the Southern Common Market) and the creation of institutions such as Unasur, the South American Institute of Government in Health, the South American Defense Council, and CELAC. The IBSA forum (India, Brazil, and South Africa) and the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) were also established. During this period, Brazil also advanced its relations with the European Union, Africa, and the Middle East. Due to Brazil’s size and the diplomatic weight it took on by increasing its diplomatic representation worldwide, Brazil came to be an important player in international forums, seeking to advance discussions toward multilateralism and greater democratization of these forums, effectively mediating sensitive issues such as the Iran nuclear agreement with the UN and tensions between Venezuela and the U.S. during the Bush administration.
So Far From God and So Close to the U.S.
There is a popular phrase throughout Latin America, originally said by Mexican General Porfirio Díaz, overthrown by the Mexican Revolution in 1911: “Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States.” It applies outside the bounds of its original time and place. Today’s Latin Americans could easily swap out “poor Mexico” for their own country, whether that’s Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, or even Brazil—a country where a Christ the Redeemer statue is an international tourist attraction.
In a scenario where nations are heading toward war and confrontation, the return of a diplomatically active Brazil may be exactly what the world, and Latin America in particular, needs. “For the past 40 days, the war in Ukraine has been heading toward a point of no return. Diplomatic exits are no longer on the agenda and the use of brute military force has increased,” says Rose Martins, a doctoral candidate in international economic relations at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). “In this scenario, the BRICS and its New Development Bank offer alternatives for economic development distinct from the neoliberal terms.”
The question, perhaps, is which “world” actually looks forward to an active Brazil. This resumption may interest the Third World, for example, but there are doubts about whether it would interest the so-called Western world. “In this global situation, in which there is a dispute over ‘cosmotechnics’ and among which the exercise of force is in place, Brazil will have to play in a very balanced way, with great caution,” says Professor Héctor Luís Saint-Pierre, coordinator of the Defense and International Security Study Group (GEDES). “I can imagine two possible attitudes: from the point of view of the dispute over cosmotechnical hegemonies, it would be the pragmatic non-alignment. In other words, entering into commercial, economic, and technological relationships in a pragmatic way, non-aligned: neither with one nor with the other,” he says. “And with regard to the U.S., a certain precaution, because they are at war—we are not. We don’t need to go to war to defend U.S. interests: the right thing to do, to defend Brazilian interests, is not going to war. Sometimes national interests are defended by not going to war.”
In addition to the external challenge, Lula arrives at the presidency in a very different situation from that found in his first term. Not only will he have to deal with all the institutional destruction left by Jair Bolsonaro, but he will also have to deal with the members of his own “broad front” coalition—many of whom had been radical opponents during his previous governments. One of the most sensitive topics, however, is how the armed forces will act. Since the coup against Dilma Rousseff, in 2016, the generals have returned to the Brazilian political scene, expanding their domains to the point of conquering thousands of positions under Bolsonaro—a scenario that puts a country that only left its last military dictatorship 37 years ago on alert. “More than paradoxical, it is aporetic. It’s a dead-end situation,” says Saint-Pierre, when I ask him whether the way to disarm military power internally would be to carry out a consistent foreign policy, or if, in order to carry out a consistent foreign policy, it would first be necessary to disarm military power. He believes that Lula will have to establish some kind of pact with the military, in which their demands are respected, so that he can effectively govern. But for all the challenges, Saint-Pierre, Martins, and Jabbour all seem to agree on one point: the Lula government’s foreign policy will definitely be better for Brazil, Latin America, and the world than Bolsonaro’s. So do the Brazilian people.
Pedro Marin is the editor-in-chief and founder of Revista Opera. Previously, he was a correspondent in Venezuela for Revista Opera and a columnist and international correspondent in Brazil for a German publication. He is the author of Golpe é Guerra--teses para enterrar 2016, on the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, and coauthor of Carta no Coturno--A volta do Partido Fardado no Brasil, on the role of the military in Brazilian politics.
The West Is Using COP27 to Shift Blame to Poorer Nations—Private Greed Prevails Over Humanity’s Survival By: Prabir PurkayasthaRead Now
In the hands of capital, “clean” natural gas is worse than “dirty” coal. But rich nations have devised an elaborate system to conceal facts and shift blame to poorer nations.
COP27 has begun in Sharm el-Sheikh. Although the Ukraine war and the U.S. midterm elections have shifted our immediate focus away from the battle against global warming, it still remains a central concern of our epoch. Reports indicate that not only are we failing to meet our climate change goals, but we are also falling short of the targets by a large margin. Worse, the potent methane greenhouse gas emissions have grown far more rapidly, posing as much of a climate change threat as carbon dioxide. Even though methane lasts for a shorter time in the atmosphere, viewed over a period of 100 years, it is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The net result is that we are almost certain to fail in our target to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. And if we do not act soon, even a target of 2 degrees Celsius is hard to achieve. At this rate, we are looking at a temperature rise of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius and the devastation of our civilization. Worse, the impact will be much higher in the equatorial and tropical regions, where most of the world’s poor live.
In this column, I will address two issues. One is the shift from coal to natural gas as a transitional fuel, and the other is the challenge of storing electricity, without which we cannot shift successfully to renewable energy.
The advanced countries—the U.S. and members of the European Union—bet big on natural gas, which is primarily methane, as the transition fuel from coal. In Glasgow during COP26, advanced countries even made coal the key issue, shifting the focus from their greenhouse emissions to that of China and India as big coal users. The assumption in using natural gas as a transitional fuel is that its greenhouse impact is only half that of coal. Methane emissions also last for a shorter time—about 12 years—in the atmosphere before converting to carbon dioxide and water. The flip side is that it is a far more potent greenhouse gas. Its effects are 30 times greater over a 100-year period than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. So even a much smaller amount of methane has a much more significant global warming impact than carbon dioxide.
The bad news on the methane front is that methane leakage from the natural gas infrastructure is much higher, possibly as much as six times more—according to a March 2022 Stanford University study—than the advanced countries have been telling us. The high methane leakage from natural gas extraction not only cancels out any benefits of switching to natural gas as an intermediary fuel but even worsens global warming.
There are two sets of data on methane now available. One measures the actual leakage of methane from the natural gas infrastructure with satellites and planes using infrared cameras. The technology of measuring methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure is easy and cheap. After all, we are able to detect methane in exoplanets far away from the solar system. Surely, saving this planet from heat death is a much higher priority! The other data is the measurement of atmospheric methane conducted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. estimates that 1.4 percent of all natural gas produced in the U.S. leaks into the atmosphere. But the March 2022 Stanford University study using cameras and small planes that fly over natural gas infrastructure found that the figure is likely to be 9.4 percent—more than six times higher than the EPA’s estimate. Even if methane leaks are only 2.5 percent of natural gas production, they will offset all the benefits of switching from coal to natural gas. “Clean” natural gas may be three to four times worse than even dirty coal. At least in the hands of capital!
The EPA does not conduct any physical measurements. All it uses to estimate methane emissions is a formula that involves a number of subjective factors, along with the number of wells, length of pipelines, etc. Let us not forget that there are many people in the U.S. who either do not believe in or choose to ignore the fact of global warming. They would like to take a crowbar to even a weakened EPA, dismantling all measures to reduce global warming.
The impact of methane leaks can be seen in another set of figures. The World Meteorological Organization reported the biggest jump in “methane concentrations in 2021 since systematic measurements began nearly 40 years ago.” While WMO remains discreetly silent on why this jump has occurred, the relation between switching to natural gas and the consequent rise of methane emissions is hard to miss.
The tragedy of methane leaks is that they are easy to spot with today’s technology and not very expensive to fix. But companies have no incentive to take even these baby steps as it impacts their current bottom line. The larger good—even bigger profits, but over a longer time frame—does not interest them. They aren’t likely to change unless they are forced to by regulatory or direct state action.
The cynicism of the rich countries—the U.S. and members of the EU—on global warming can be seen in their conduct during the Ukraine war. The European Union has restarted some of its coal plants, increasing coal’s share in the energy mix. Further, the EU has cynically argued that developing oil and gas infrastructure in Africa is all right as long as it is solely for supply to Europe, not for use in Africa. African nations, according to the EU, must instead use only clean, renewable energy! And, of course, such energy infrastructure must be in the hands of European companies!
The key to a transition to renewable energy—the only long-term solution to global warming—is to find a way of storing energy. Renewables, unlike fossil fuels, cannot be used at will, as the wind, sun, and even water provide a continuous flow of energy. While water can be stored in large reservoirs, wind and sun cannot be, unless they are converted to chemical energy in batteries. Or unless they are converted to hydrogen and then stored in either tank or natural storage in geological formations, underground or in salt caverns.
There has been a lot of hype about batteries and electric cars. Missing here is that batteries with current technology have a much lower energy density than oil or coal. The energy from oil or natural gas is 20-40 times that of the most efficient battery today. For an electric vehicle, that is not such a major issue. It simply determines how often the vehicle’s batteries need to be charged and how long charging will take. It means developing a charging infrastructure with a quick turnaround time. The much bigger problem is how to store energy at the grid level.
Grid-level storage means supplying the grid with electricity from stored energy. Grid-level batteries are being suggested to meet this task. What the proponents of grid-level batteries neglect to inform us is that they may supply power for short-term fluctuations—night and day, windy and non-windy days—but they cannot meet the demand from long-term or seasonal fluctuations. This brings us to the question of the energy density of storage: How much energy does a kilogram of lithium battery hold as compared to a kilogram of oil, natural gas, or coal? The answer with current technology is 20-40 times less. The cost of building such mammoth storage to meet seasonal fluctuations will simply exhaust all our lithium (or any other battery material) supplies.
I will not address the prohibitive energy cost—electric or fossil fuel—of private versus public or mass transportation, and why we should switch to the latter. I will instead focus on addressing the larger question of how to store renewable energy so that we can run our electricity infrastructure when wind or sun is not there.
Is it possible that a new technology will solve this problem? (Remember the dream of nuclear energy that will be not only clean but also so cheap that it will not need to be metered?) But do we bet our civilization’s future on such a possibility?
If not, we have to look at existing solutions. They exist, but using them means seeking alternatives to batteries for addressing our grid-level problems of intermittent renewable energy. It means repurposing our existing hydro-projects to work as grid-level storage and developing hydrogen storage for use in fuel cells. No extra dams or reservoirs, as the opponents of hydroelectricity projects fear. And of course, it means more public transportation instead of private transportation.
All of these existing solutions mean making changes on a societal level that corporate interests oppose—after all, doing so would require public investments for social benefits and not for private profits. Capital privileges short-term private profits over long-term social benefits. Remember how oil companies had the earliest research to show the impact of global warming due to carbon dioxide emissions? They not only hid these results for decades but also launched a campaign denying that global warming is linked to greenhouse gases. And they funded climate change deniers.
The contradiction at the heart of global warming is private greed over social needs. And who funds such a transition, the poor or the rich? This is also what COP27 is all about, not simply about how to stop global warming.
Prabir Purkayastha is the founding editor of Newsclick.in, a digital media platform. He is an activist for science and the free software movement.
The Lane Xang EMU train passes by the China-Laos borderline inside a tunnel, October 15, 2021. /Xinhua Source: CGTN
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is a small, inland nation; the only landlocked country in southeast Asia. Known as the “crossroads of Indochina,” its geographic position—situated in the middle of the peninsula, bordering Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and China—historically saw the region benefit greatly from the growth of overland trade in ancient times. With the emergence of colonialism, however, Laos was placed in a similar position to that of most other global south nations at the time. Under the French colonial boot, infrastructure and development was limited to only the areas that would be profitable for the colonialists—extraction rather than construction; destruction rather than growth. Today, the Lao PDR stands on the cusp of a golden age of socialist development, not unlike the periods of growth and construction underway in neighboring China and Vietnam.
How did the Lao people get here, what developments are underway, and what might the future hold?
On 23 August 1975, the Lao People’s Liberation Army (LPLA)—also known as the Pathet Lao—entered the city of Vientiane, capital of the then-Kingdom of Laos. In the months that followed, the last King of Laos—Sisavang Vatthana—would formally abdicate, and the Kingdom would officially be replaced by the new People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), with the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) leading the way. The founding of the Lao PDR marked the end of more than a century of struggle; first against the French colonialists, then the Japanese fascists, then the American imperialists. Their struggle-filled history presented the Lao people, and their newly born Democratic Republic, with a dual problem:
First, Laos became, and remains to this day, the most heavily bombed country on the planet. During the war of resistance against imperialism, the US reportedly dropped some 2 million tons of bombs, or roughly 1 ton per person, on Laos despite never formally declaring war. The US has never fully taken responsibility for its crimes, and offers little more than hush-money to solace the victims of its brutality.
Second, while not all infrastructure was destroyed, infrastructure and productive forces developed in Laos under the colonialists had been oriented exclusively towards extractive industries, rather than national construction. The same problem plagues most—if not all—post-colonial nations, which is also especially evident in Africa. It is due to the little surviving infrastructure that, until recently the most reliable and readily-available form of transportation, at least along the country’s western border, was by boating up and down the Mekong river.
Map of Laos
Mekong River, Luang Prabang, Laos. 2011 Source: Wikimedia
The withdrawal of imperialist forces and establishment of the PDR however did not, in and of itself, solve all of the myriad obstacles standing in the way of further development. Beginning from around 1960 onwards, the Sino-Soviet split marked another great obstacle to the Lao people. Laos and Vietnam sided with the Soviet Union in the split, putting them at direct odds with neighboring China, which also resulted in exacerbating isolation. A mere four years following the establishing of the Lao PDR, tensions between neighboring Vietnam and China would hit a fever pitch. The people of Laos, having maintained the closest of fraternal and Comradely relations with the Vietnamese ever since their common founding in the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) in 1930, supported their Vietnamese compatriots without question—even at the cost of further isolation and tenuous relations with China. Likewise, trade relations with the United States did not become normalized until December of 2004.
Map of rail lines in SEA (outdated) Source: Johomaps
Overview of the Pan-Asia Railway Network southeastern routes Source: Bangkok Post
As highlighted by the above (now thankfully outdated) map of regional rail lines, the desperation, sacrifice, and courage of the Lao position in that period becomes apparent: although direct overtures began as early as 1976, relations with Thailand did not begin to fully normalize until the late-80’s, with armed interactions along the border being relatively frequent until around 1988. Relations with China, while never arising to the point of military conflict, would remain fraught until the late-80’s as well. In other words, during this period the only close partner Laos had was Vietnam. For their part, Vietnam reciprocated the Lao view of fraternal solidarity and comradery; however, reciprocation does not assuage material difficulties. Partly as a result of their historic status as colonial nations, and partly as a result of the US dropping millions of tons of bombs along the border, there is not a single rail connection between Laos and Vietnam. There is not, for that matter, a single rail connection between Laos and any other country, period. Or at least there wasn’t until 2015.
President Xi Jinping meets with then-Prime Minister, now-President Thongloun Sisoulith at the National Convention Center in Vientiane. 14 November 2017. Note: Sisoulith is now President of Laos. Source: LMC China
BRI Flagship Project
On 2 December, 2015, construction officially began on the Vientiane-Boten Railway, a flagship high-speed rail project of the new Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As reported by the Vientiane Times, the first train from the Laos side departed from Vientiane by order of President Sisoulith, with Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh leading the delegation aboard; simultaneously, President Xi gave the signal for the first train to depart Kunming as well. Not only would Laos finally have a rail network linking some of its most important cities—such as Vientiane and Luang Prabang—but it would also link directly with the Chinese side, and allow seamless travel all the way to Kunming, capital of southern China’s Yunnan province. Six years and one day later, on 3 December, 2021, President Xi Jinping and President Thongloun Sisoulith met via video conference, to officially mark the opening of the historic project. During the meeting, both sides stressed the necessity for mutual cooperation, development, and friendship—that united in the spirit of serving the people, there is nothing that cannot be overcome. As highlighted by People’s Daily, the ultimate goal of the Vientiane-Boten line is to further link with Thai networks, and thereby establish a direct rail network expanding from Beijing to Singapore. Such an achievement, coupled with ongoing developments in Vietnam and Cambodia, would permanently change the socioeconomic fabric of southeast Asia—beginning a new age of hyperconnectivity, integration, and, one hopes, peace, friendship, and common prosperity. Because the railway uses the Chinese standard gauge, traffic—logistics, transport, etc.—can seamlessly cross between China and partner countries without needing to changeover or employ specialized equipment; a problem which has plagued international rail developments for centuries. All told, construction of the line cost an estimated $62.3 billion, of which 70% was paid for by the Chinese side. The Vientiane-Boten line extends some 427.2 kilometers (265.5 miles), and uses electric-powered high speed cars capable of reaching top speeds of 160 km/h (99.4 mph). A journey from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, roughly 310 kilometers (190 miles), would normally take up to six hours by driving. Roughly equal in distance as driving from Baltimore, Maryland to New York City, New York, which in the United States would take around three-and-a-half to four hours. Instead, thanks to the Laos-China railway, the journey takes only around two hours.
As highlighted in subsequent reporting by both Chinese and Lao outlets, the Laos-China railway has, in a brief period of time, already achieved great milestones, and made irrevocable contributions to the development of both countries. As of writing, it is reported that total goods transported has exceeded 10 million tonnes (11 million US tons), valued at over 12 billion yuan (1.7 billion USD), and has continued increasing month-by-month since the opening of the line. The value of the Laos-China railway to the Lao people and their continued development can be made no clearer than the fact that the value of goods transported within the past 12 months is, as of writing, identical to the country’s total GDP in the year 2000.
The victory of the People’s Liberation Army all those decades ago was a great triumph of the forces of the working and oppressed masses over the forces of Capitalism and its bastard offspring—colonialism, fascism, and imperialism. In view of the situation following that triumph, the continued existence, development, and success of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic can be described as nothing less than a man-made miracle: an unquestionable triumph of people-centered governance, the strength of the masses, and the great truth of the science of Marxism-Leninism. The Lao people have faced the greatest horrors, and made the greatest sacrifices. Today it seems those long years of struggle and commitment to the great cause of socialist construction are beginning to reap the greatest harvest. As regional developments continue, it appears the crossroads of Indochina are open once again, and the great undertakings of building a community with a shared future for mankind will give way to common prosperity, dignity, and peace.
This article was republished from Red World Review.
People filling up tanks with water from a truck. Photo: Vincent Tremeau.
There is no doubt that the countries that pollute the most are the developed and industrialized ones, and, therefore, they should be the ones that provide the most resources to curb climate change. However, an investigation revealed that rich countries apply deceptive and dishonest practices to exaggerate the climate financing they provide to developing countries.
“Contributions from rich countries not only remain well below target, they are misleading by accounting for climate financing in a way that is neither correct nor adequate,” said Nafkote Dabi, the climate change policy spokesperson for Oxfam International, the group leading the investigation.
What is the real value of climate financing? According to Oxfam research, in 2020 it was between $21 billion and $24.5 billion, compared to the figure of $68.3 billion that wealthy countries claimed they contributed in public financing.
This article was republished from Orinoco Tribune.