Israel Kills Dozens in Gaza Airstrikes, Escalates Land Theft and Palestinian Expulsions. By: C.J. AtkinsRead Now
Mourners carry the bodies of Amira Soboh and her 19-year-old disabled son Abdelrahman, who were killed in Israeli airstrikes at their apartment building, during their funeral at the Shati refugee camp, in Gaza City, Tuesday, May 11, 2021. | Adel Hana / AP
At least 26 Palestinians have been killed—including nine children and women—by Israeli military forces in just the last 24 hours. Most were killed by bombs dropped on Gaza by Israeli jets. The airstrikes came in retaliation for rockets fired by militants belonging to the Islamist group Hamas. The rockets, in turn, were a response to Israeli police attacks on Palestinians protesting a Zionist march at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque.
Sparking the latest rounds of violence are Israel’s aggressive land grabs and stepped-up effort to expel Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The moves are widely seen as a prelude to Israeli ambitions to swallow up all of Jerusalem, blocking the formation of a Palestinian state with its capital in the city.
The expulsions have now been temporarily postponed by a decision of the Supreme Court of Israel to delay ruling on government plans to permanently move Israeli settlers onto the Palestinian lands in Sheikh Jarah.
Much of the mainstream press in Israel and in countries allied with the extremist right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have referred to the stealing of Palestinian land and homes by illegal settlers as “evictions,” but Palestinians and international human rights groups say the process is part of a long-running ethnic cleansing program aimed at driving Arabs out of Jerusalem.
Most of the families living in Sheikh Jarrah have been there since 1956. They moved to the area after being expelled from their previous homes during the land thefts that made way for the founding of the State of Israel in 1948—the events known as the “Nakba,” or the Catastrophe, by Palestinians. Approximately 750,000 Palestinians out of a population of 1.9 million were kicked off their ancestral lands to make way for new Jewish immigrants from 1947 to 1949.
Israel’s deadly airstrikes on Monday were preceded by hours of fighting outside the al-Aqsa Mosque, a site sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Palestinians had gathered at al-Aqsa to protest a plan by right-wing extremists to march through Palestinian neighborhoods for the annual Jerusalem Day parade, an Israeli national holiday celebrating the conquest of Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
Israeli police attacked the protests with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets. Ammunition was reportedly fired into the mosque itself, where people were praying as fighting raged outside. An estimated 300 or more Palestinians were hurt. Later that evening, Hamas fired rockets toward Israel in retaliation. Netanyahu then sent bombers into the skies above Gaza.
Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, May 11, 2021. | Hatem Moussa / AP
The Israeli military claimed it would only target Islamist militants, but the Gaza Health Ministry reported heavy civilian casualties, particularly in targeted apartment buildings.
Ashraf al-Kidra, a spokesperson for the ministry, told the Associated Press that Israel’s “relentless assault” was overwhelming the health care system, which is already reeling from the fight against COVID-19.
Medical supplies are constantly in short supply due to an economic blockade by Israel, and a form of vaccine apartheid continues to restrict Palestinian access to coronavirus shots. Israel has vaccinated over 60% of its population, but by the end of April, Palestine had only been able to secure enough vaccines for 3.4% of its people. Most Palestinians must wait for supplies from the World Health Organization’s Covax program for poor countries, even as their wealthy neighbor speeds back to pre-COVID normality.
These events are unfolding in the wake of the release of a comprehensively stunning report from the internationally respected non-partisan group Human Rights Watch, which unequivocally calls Israel an “apartheid” state.
Mass protests against the Netanyahu government’s military moves, meanwhile, swept both the Palestinian territories and Israeli cities Monday night.
The Palestinian People’s Party issued a statement calling for the “largest possible popular movement and mobilization” to support the people of Sheikh Jarrah “in the face of the fascist attacks” of Israeli “occupation forces and settler gangs.” The left-wing socialist party urged Palestinian authorities to secure international aid to “stop the massacre of ethnic cleansing” in East Jerusalem.
Calls for resistance against Israeli aggression also came from within Israel itself. Muhammad Barakeh, chair of the Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, encouraged protests in all cities against the “terror of the occupation in Jerusalem.” Some 21% of the population of Israel proper is Palestinian. Barakeh is a member of the Communist Party of Israel and previously served as a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Relatives of 11-year-old Hussain Hamad, who was killed by an explosion, mourn during his funeral in the family home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2021. | Khalil Hamra / AP
Netanyahu’s militaristic actions are in line with his long-running stance of squeezing out Palestinians and expanding Israeli territory, but they are also wrapped up in Israel’s chaotic domestic political situation. Since inconclusive elections in March, Netanyahu has failed to hammer out a coalition arrangement with his hardline and ultra-Orthodox allies. He currently sits as a caretaker prime minister.
Heading up the defense ministry and overseeing the bombing of Gaza is one of Netanyahu’s rivals, Benny Gantz. The two share a desire for crushing Hamas, but the latest fighting may upset Gantz’s attempts to win the support of Arab parties in Israel in order to oust Netanyahu.
Though the highest organs of the Israeli state appear beset by division and confusion, in Sheikh Jarrah and across Palestine, the latest fighting appears to be uniting people. Muna al-Kurd, a 23-year-old woman living in Sheikh Jarrah, told the Al Jazeera network, “The size of the global solidarity has angered the [Israeli] government of the occupation, and the crackdown has increased. “But,” she defiantly said, “I believe in popular resistance.”
C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.
The neo-fascist moment of neoliberalism has proven to be extremely destructive for the working class of the world. Pervasive mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by right-wing governments throughout the globe has proven to be extremely costly in terms of the number of lives lost to the infection. However, this political urgency of removing neo-fascist leaders from power has not translated into a deeper re-thinking of the strategies and tactics hitherto used by social justice movements.
Instead of critically reflecting on the rise of the Right, they have been busy denouncing the impact of their policies. While the latter is absolutely necessary, the absence of sustained thinking on the various reasons behind the re-emergence of neo-fascist-populist ideas will not allow one to move beyond moral outrage and angry reactions. Thus, what we need is honest introspection on how the various deficiencies of progressive politics played a role in propelling the Right to power.
The extension of the neoliberal logic of hyper-individualization into the spheres of social and cultural exchange has shaped the trajectory of progressive politics. In general, the marketization of the public sphere has eroded the bases of collective solidarity in two ways. First, it has personalized the causes of suffering into individual trauma, which can be self-managed. Second, it has relentlessly regurgitated the supposed importance of a unique, authentic, individual identity, thus weakening the foundations for the formation of shared experience. These neoliberal transformations have exerted influence on the recent directions of identity politics, accepted by many movements as a legitimate form of counter-hegemonic assertion.
Identity politics, like the neoliberal discourse of authenticity, has adopted a position which states that only those who have experienced an injustice can understand and thus act effectively upon it. This overly subjectivist theory of knowledge - labeled as “epistemology of provenance” - mimics the ideology of private property and of competition in bourgeois society. If the direct experience of oppression is the primary or the only condition for one to develop an insight into oppression and how to fight it, then the implication is that the insight into oppression as a form of cultural wealth is the monopoly of a few as if it is their private property.
Another consequence of the subjectivist theory of knowledge is that it perpetuates the individualist fallacy that oppressive social relationships can be reformed by particular subjects without the broader agreement of others who, together, constitute the social relations within which the injustices are embedded. This, again, closely corresponds to neoliberal concepts, namely the undue stress on personal efforts rather than collective struggle.
The atomistic tendencies engendered by identity politics’ espousal of an epistemology of provenance get exacerbated when it is complemented with the theory of “intersectionality”. While it is true that a multiplicity of identities are simultaneously acting on an individual, intersectionality’s depiction of identities as descriptive categories leads to the absence of an active interpretation of oppression. This gives rise to the framing of identities as freely floating in an undefined atmosphere of interpersonal relations.
Ascriptive identities (like race, gender, or sexual orientation) shift from being understood as, to use Stuart Hall’s formulation, modalities through which class is “lived” to attributes of individuals that attach to them. It becomes part of their “portfolio”, categorizing individuals on the basis of what they are rather than what they do. Thus, identity operates as a commodity, whereby the historical specificity of specific identities through and alongside a capitalist mode of production is mystified.
Insofar that intersectional theorists observe no meaningful links between different identities, there only exist many perspectives on oppression, all of which are partial perspectives (e.g. a gender perspective, a race perspective, etc.), and they are all competing, but there is no common ground among them. This situation leads to mere diversification within contemporary power structures as the only conceivable goal. The response to this intra-subaltern impasse has been confused. Ajay Gudavarthy and Nissim Mannathukkaren, while emphasizing that “progressive politics has to move towards affinity and an idea of shared spaces rather than focus on mere claims of essentialised identity”, fail to outline the basis on which this solidarity can be crafted.
Class: A Concrete Universal
According to identity politics, the cause of discrimination is rooted in the very identity of these groups and their difference from the discriminating group. The rectification of discriminatory attitudes involves the reaffirmation of the identity category, which is necessarily self-reproducing rather than transformative. This is Nancy Fraser’s case when she looks at “affirmative” redistributive remedies, arguing that the repeated surface re-allocations they involve have the effect not only of reinforcing the identity category but of generating resentment towards it; and Wendy Brown’s more general philosophical case when she argues that identity politics are a form of “wounded attachment”, which must reproduce and maintain the forms of suffering they oppose in order to continue to exist.
Contemporary identity politics is non-transformative in another dimension. The idea of simple “discrimination” presupposes a liberal understanding of civil and human equivalence as the desired norm, leading to the framing of oppression as a failure of the liberal creed. Liberalism, taken in its late 19th century American usage to mean the inclusion of all groups in a given social whole (workers, women, people of color, etc), does not guarantee equality, as a lack of equality is presupposed by a capitalist system for which inequality is constitutive. Hence, by asking to correct not inequality but differential inequality, identity politics does not end up abolishing inequality. Winning equivalence, identity politics universalizes inequality by distributing it more evenly among all without difference.
As we have seen, the struggle for recognition has turned into an arms race, in which cultural identities deploy the language of minority rights in their defense. The inflation of recognition as a political category has also led the displacement of material injustices, and the reification of reductionist identities, which could become increasingly insular. These factionalist cracks in subaltern politics can be plastered with the help of socialist politics which comprehends the centrality of class. However, this understanding should not be interpreted as degrading the significance of identities. As Martha Gimenez explains, “To argue…that class is fundamental is not to ‘reduce’ gender or racial oppression to class, but to acknowledge that the underlying basic and ‘nameless’ power at the root of what happens in social interactions grounded in ‘intersectionality’ is class power.”
When a class-based politics is practiced, the entire capitalist system becomes the excluded exterior of the subalterns’ discourse. By identifying a discourse in relation to its exteriority, the internal differences of that discourse are negated and it thereby, enters into a “logic of equivalence”. Logic of equivalence constricts the internal differences within a discourse and instead, describes its identity through a relation of exteriorization. But the construction of equivalential chains is not a smooth process. According to Ernesto Laclau, in a discourse trying to redefine itself according to an equivalential chain, “each difference expresses itself as difference; on the other hand, each of them cancels itself as such by entering into a relation of equivalence with all the other differences of the system.” This means that the parts of that discourse are constitutively split and are afflicted by an inherent ambiguity.
The Marxist model of class politics utilizes these productive tensions to generate a vibrant praxis of solidarity. It emphasizes the commonality of the subalterns’ enemies and then the particularity of their own interests and differences. In other words, it recognizes difference while stressing the concrete universality of class, based on the subject’s relationship to the means of production. Concrete universality, unlike the abstract universality of modern liberalism, with its human and civil rights that are so often little more than formulaic to those at the bottom of society, is rooted in social life, yet points beyond the sheer facticity of a complex reality. It is this dialectical feature of concrete universality that allows it to mold identity politics in a radical direction. The identitarian experience provides a point of entry to a potentially radical politics, but such potential will only be realized if its subjects move beyond that unfiltered immediacy to challenge the systems of oppression that generate the inequalities shaping not only their lives, but those of others too.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Cuba's President Miguel Díaz-Canel addresses delegates during the closing session of the Communist Party of Cuba's 8th Congress in Havana, April. 19, 2021. | Ariel Ley Royero / ACN via AP
The Cuban Communist Party’s Eighth Congress took place in Havana on April 16-19, five years after the previous one. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who had just replaced former President Raúl Castro as first secretary of the party’s Central Committee, delivered the closing remarks. Castro is retiring from public life.
Centering on the congress’s theme of continuity, Díaz-Canel’s speech was impassioned, far-reaching, and clear. He called upon the new party leadership to respond to an increasingly restrictive U.S. economic blockade, speed up the implementation of economic reforms, and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The Eighth Congress took place 60 years after both Fidel Castro’s declaration of the socialist nature of Cuba’s Revolution and Cuba’s victory over counter-revolutionaries at the Bay of Pigs. That timing may add significance to Díaz-Canel’s speech; the longer U.S. hostilities last, the sooner they will end.
Maybe Cuba will have soon a free hand—or maybe not. Either way, a speech at a watershed moment that documents plans, aspirations, and problem-solving proposals will be of interest to historians.
What follows are excerpts from the president’s speech chosen because of relevance and significance. The entire speech may be read in Spanish here. At this writing, no English-language version of the speech has appeared on the internet.
Honoring former President Raúl Castro, Díaz-Canel expressed “gratitude for his patient labors of many years, which we declare to be a milestone in our political history: This is the Congress of Continuity … Comrade Raúl has prepared, directed, and led this process of generational continuity.
Raúl Castro’s Central Report to the Congress told the truth.
“It exposed specific challenges that confront our country, in particular those associated with attempts at domination, the hegemony of U.S. imperialism, and the brutal blockade whose extraterritorial impact strikes at us on almost all fronts. In the last four years, it escalated to qualitatively more aggressive levels … That barrier constitutes the principal obstacle for the development of our country and for moving ahead in the search for prosperity and well-being …
“In asserting this truth, there is no intent to hide the deficiencies of our own reality, which has been repeatedly discussed. In the last three decades, the economic, commercial, and financial blockade [has been] intensified opportunistically and with evil intent in periods of great crisis so that hunger and misery might provoke a social explosion that undermines the legitimacy of the Revolution.”
Cuba’s economy faces difficulties.
People wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic wait their turn to enter a state-run store in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. The government is implementing a deep financial reform that reduces subsidies, eliminates a dual currency that was key to the old system, and raises salaries in hopes of boosting productivity to help alleviate an economic crisis and reconfigure a socialist system that will still grant universal benefits such as free health care and education. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
“This Congress’s five-year appraisal does not show good economic results. Inefficiency and ineffectiveness influenced the performance of a significant part of the entrepreneurial and the budgeted sectors. Structural problems shape outcomes. We’ve been unable to avoid extra expenses that turned out not to be necessary for this period. We’ve seen inadequate control of material and financial resources as well as avoidable obstacles and bureaucracy …
“Cuba has provided a magnificent lesson of how a complex problem like the pandemic can be confronted through political will, the humanistic vocation of the Revolution, governmental operations, public policies centering on the human being, and dialogue among decision-makers and scientists and with the Cuban people …
“We must resolve the challenge of producing the food that we need and must use and take advantage of renewable sources of energy. We must create sustainable and high-quality tourist facilities, achieve efficiency in investment processes, orient national production to satisfy internal market demands, and raise the quality of all services offered to the population. We must also bury the importation mentality. We must do all this in the least amount of time, through our own efforts, on the island, with as little foreign dependency as possible.”
The Revolution is strengthened by its achievements.
“Despite the blockade, our country has been successful in sustaining its principal services, cared for all infected people and anyone suspected of infection, mobilized a score of molecular biology laboratories in record time, designed and created national prototypes of pulmonary ventilators and diagnostic kits, and developed five candidate vaccines. We’ve arranged to produce doses enough for immunizing the entire population and contributing to other nations …
“All of this is much more than light at the end of the tunnel. It’s proof that we are on the right side of history, that revolutionary and socialist endeavors have so much potential and reach … When men and women in white coats, members of a Henry Reeve Brigade, come down the gangway, raising on high the flag with the solitary star … the lies and infamies against Cuba begin to dissolve like ice in warm water.”
The Revolution won’t survive without unity and overcoming divisions created by U.S. machinations.
“In the face of the unjust international order imposed by broken and discredited neoliberalism, Cuba maintains a line of action that inspires admiration … But this posture provokes frustration, desperation, and impotence in our northern neighbor and its acolytes, the sell-outs and annexationists, those who are submissive and unworthy and who give in to the designs of the empire.
“Our sworn enemies go about thinking up the most perverse plans to attack the Revolution, create distrust, and break up unity. The Cuban revolution won’t be betrayed or given over to those who … toy with the fate of the homeland.”
The party is Cuba’s defense against disunity and corruption.
“Its history can be summarized in two words: people and unity. That’s so because Cuba’s Communist Party has never been an electoral party; it wasn’t born out of any break-up [split]. It was born out of the unity of all political forces whose deeply humanistic ideals came about from the struggle to change an unjust country with great inequality. Our country was dependent on foreign power and under the yoke of a bloody military tyranny.
“The militancy of the party serves to mobilize the energies of the country toward objectives of development, particularly food security and sovereignty; industrial development; dealing with the energy problem. But always, and at the top of the list, it prepares for defense, strengthening institutional order, and the socialist rule of law…
“The main premise … is never to lie or violate ethical principles. The solid authority of the party rests on those values … Our obligation is that of standard-bearer in the struggle against corruption, dishonest ways, abuse of power, favoritism, and double standards.
“Themes of urgent attention in our party schools include party discipline, collective leadership, theoretical studies, and an insistence upon the viability of socialism, Marxist-Leninist ideas, and the traditions of Cuban thought, particularly those of Martí and Fidel … To function as a true vanguard, our leadership must be capable of projecting itself as truly concerned about the functioning of society and powerful enough to proclaim and mobilize against whatever plan enemies of the Cuban nation conceive of to provoke a social explosion.”
The future of Cuba’s Revolution depends on young people.
A man waves at the doctors, part of the first Cuban medical brigade of the Henry Reeve Contingent, after it arrived in Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 8, 2020. The Cuban doctors had gone to Italy on March 22 to help with the COVID-19 emergency in the Lombardy region. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
“Generational continuity is part of [our] unity. It’s appropriate to speak and share what’s happening with our young people as the most important people that they are, to distinguish them as protagonists of transformations on the way. They have the force, disposition, decisiveness, and sincerity required for whatever project or revolutionary contribution the situation demands. They have shown courage and responsibility as we look to the end of the pandemic.
Social media is a tool for revolutionary advocacy as well as a tool used by our enemies.
“We need to look for the most agile, brief, and novel ways to communicate our training efforts. In the era of the internet that now permits millions of Cubans to gain a fixed perception of the world through a cell phone, our messages to our militants can no longer go out on the old print-media route …
“But there are sociopaths with digital technology available and ready for open war on reason and feelings. They attack not only our political system but also manipulate people’s real and immediate needs with which we are connected as a species … Powerful groups—mostly in highly developed countries—can convert universal ideas, wants, emotions, and ideological currents into a dominating force, often out of context. For these communication magicians, truth is negotiable but even worse—disposable.
What about Revolution?
“I say it without complaint. In a true Revolution, victory is about having to learn. Our route is an untested one. Our challenge is to innovate constantly, changing everything that has to be changed, without renouncing our firmest principles, without ever departing from the concept of Revolution that the undefeated leader of this venture [Fidel Castro] left to us. We must be free of rigid thinking and conscious of possible mistakes that go along with making a road to walk on.”
A U.S. Marines helicopter lifts off from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, April 29, 1975. | AP
April 30, 2021, marks the 46th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, and the end of the conflict known in the U.S. as the Vietnam War. This anniversary provides an opportunity to review the mistakes of the past so as to make sure they are not repeated again. What started America’s most traumatic war, and what led eventually to it one of its military’s biggest defeats?
Like most conflicts of the era, the seeds were laid by use of “the Red Scare.” Americans were told that if communism spread to all of Vietnam, it would cause a “domino effect” and spread to Laos and then Thailand and, by implication, to the rest of the world. At this point, the U.S. public had already been inundated with decades of anti-communist propaganda that sought to program them to react with fear and violence at this prospect.
The next step for the dogs of war was to light a fuse that would lead to direct conflict. This came in the form of “The Gulf of Tonkin Incident,” a false flag attack on U.S. Navy vessels off the coast of North Vietnam. On Aug. 2, 1964, the U.S.S. Maddox was sent into North Vietnamese waters to incite a response. This was followed by a completely fictitious “attack” by Vietnamese forces two nights later. This “incident” was used by the administration of President Lyndon Johnson to seek authority from Congress to go to war in Vietnam.
What followed was nearly a decade of fighting, tens of thousands of dead American draftees—mostly from poor and working-class backgrounds—and the death of millions of Vietnamese people. Many forget that at the start of the war, U.S. public opinion polls showed a high level of support for the war. However, as it dragged on and casualties mounted, it became less and less popular. A mass peace mobilization at home demanded the withdrawal of forces from Southeast Asia, which eventually happened. In the end, U.S. imperialism was defeated, and the Vietnamese people were able to reunite their country in 1975.
After the war, “communism” did spread to Laos as well, another country, like Cambodia, which was heavily bombed by the U.S. during its war against Vietnam. Did this “spread of communism” have any negative impact on the U.S. people, as they were led to believe it would? None at all. The only negative effect for the people of the United States was that their own nation was left deeply divided over the long and bloody war. For the Vietnamese and Laotian people, “the spread of communism” brought national unity and, since the 1980s, growing levels of prosperity.
Why is it important that we review this history now?
Modern Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). | By Tokeisan at Vietnamese Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Because we are in danger of watching it be repeated with what is been dubbed “the New Cold War.” The Red Scare and anti-communism are back. Much of the mainstream media and elites in Washington that serve the military-industrial complex and its lobbyists are constantly saturating U.S. news and television with the message that they need to be scared of the “CCP,” the often misused acronym of the Communist Party of China.
The false flags are back as well, and this time with a whole grab bag of options. One article will tell you that COVID-19 was created in a “CCP lab,” despite the lack of any evidence. Another article will warn of religious oppression, once again without any concern for evidence. We are told that Chinese police are “brutally cracking down on Hong Kong protesters” despite not a single protester being reported killed by the state (in sharp contrast to the large numbers of American citizens U.S. police kill annually). And to top it off, the U.S. military—together with its allies—is trying to provoke an incident around Taiwan, despite the U.S. having agreed in the 1970s to follow the “One China Policy” that recognizes Taiwan as part of China.
We must learn from history. We cannot be tricked again into supporting a new war because of Red Scare anti-communist tactics or fall for false flags. Let this April 30th be a day that we remember these important lessons and not find ourselves once again fighting hot wars in a new Cold War.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
Amiad Horowitz studied history with a specific focus on Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He lives in Hanoi, Vietnam.
In 1889, Clara Zetkin wrote: “Wherever busy folk are drudging under the yoke of capitalism, the organised working men and women will demonstrate on May Day for the idea of their social emancipation.” In today’s world, the murderous claws of oppression have dug deeper into the flesh of humanity. The globalization of capital, establishment of post-Fordist economic arrangements of flexible specialization, financialization of the accumulation process and neo-colonial strangulation of the Global South have led to a barbaric situation. Amid this generalized chaos, May 1 acts as a blazing streak, inviting the wretched of the earth to reflect intensively on their own history of joy, tenacious resistance, collective courage and strong solidarity.
May Day has old roots in archaic traditions of human responses to springtime and the customary pagan celebration of nature’s beauty and fertility amid spring’s full flowering in northern temperate zones. Dating to ancient Rome, this May Day is rooted in the seasonal rhythms of Earth and ecology. It reached across the Atlantic with the European conquest of the Americas. It is a day of leisure, to be spent outdoors, wearing flowers and soaking up the wind and sun. Dancing around maypoles, people enact a sense of participation in the joys of natural renewal and growth won back from winter’s death. It was an official holiday in the British Tudor monarchy by at least the early 16th century. The bourgeois Puritan Parliaments of 1649-1660 suspended the holiday, which was put back with the reinstatement of Charles II.
Flames of Labor Militancy
With the rise of capitalism, the ideas of the “Green May Day” merged with the “Red May Day” of Communists. Workers hailed May demonstration as a herald of future struggles, but also of future victories, which must as surely come as spring follows winter. While outlining the modern history of May Day, Rosa Luxemburg stated that it was born in Australia by workers - the stonemasons of Melbourne University - who in 1856 organized a day of complete stoppage together with meetings and entertainment as a demonstration in favor of the 8-hour day. The day of this celebration was to be April 21. At first, the Australian workers intended this only for the year 1856. But this first celebration had such a potent impact on the masses, that it was decided to repeat the celebration every year.
The first to follow the example of the Australian workers were the Americans. At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) - which later became the American Federation of Labor - proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations.
The anthem of the Knights of Labor was the “Eight-Hour Song”:
“We want to feel the sunshine;
On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the US walked off their jobs. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity; the protests didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities had predicted. More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out between police and strikers.
Lumber workers who were on strike for the 8-hour day were attending a meeting near the McCormick Reaper Works on the south side of the city, where 1,400 workers had been locked out since February and replaced by 300 scabs. When they went to confront the scabs at McCormick, the workers were attacked by some 200 police. 4 workers were killed and many others injured. The attacks continued into the following day, with police breaking up gatherings of workers.
Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. In her autobiography, Mother Jones wrote: “All about were railway tracks, dingy saloons and the dirty tenements of the poor. A half a block away was the Desplaines Street Police Station presided over by John Bonfield, a man without tact or discretion or sympathy, a most brutal believer in suppression as the method to settle industrial unrest.”
Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3,000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. As the meeting wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.
Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated 7 or 8 civilians died, and up to 40 were wounded. An officer died immediately and another 7 died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.
Eight anarchists - Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg - were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial comprised business leaders in a gross mockery of justice. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of them were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs.
On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s barbarity, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth. The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge for orchestrating a travesty of justice.
Before being executed, Spies said: “If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement...the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in want and misery expect salvation - if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there and there, behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.”
The Second International, founded in 1889, took the initiative to internationalise May Day by giving it a revolutionary content. At the meeting of the Second International, a resolution was adopted to declare an international May Day. The resolution read: “A great international demonstration shall be organized for a fixed date in such a manner that the workers in all countries and in all cities shall on a specified day simultaneously address to the public authorities a demand to fix the workday at eight hours and to put into effect the other resolutions of the International Congress of Paris.”
Instead of being confined to a demand for 8-hours working day, May Day became an instance of hope and struggle. In an April 1904 pamphlet, Vladimir Lenin wrote: “May Day is coming, the day when the workers of all lands celebrate their awakening to a class-conscious life, their solidarity in the struggle against all coercion and oppression of man by man, the struggle to free the toiling millions from hunger, poverty, and humiliation. Two worlds stand facing each other in this great struggle: the world of capital and the world of labour, the world of exploitation and slavery and the world of brotherhood and freedom.”
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn said that May Day “obliterates all differences of race, creed, color, and nationality. It celebrates the brotherhood of all workers everywhere. It crosses all national boundaries, it transcends all language barriers, it ignores all religious differences. It makes sharp and clear, around the world, the impassable chasm between all workers and all exploiters. It is the day when the class struggle in its most militant significance is reaffirmed by every conscious worker.”
May Day became an international socialist symbol of what the artist and designer Walter Crane called the “dawn of labour”. A Crane artwork for May Day 1896, for example, shows an English worker offering the hand of socialist cooperation to Italian, German, French and other workers with the slogan “International solidarity of labour - the true answer to jingoism”. Crane dedicated the work to “the workers of the world”.
This May Day, it is important that we work to carry forward the noble aims of the Communist movement. No one captures these aims better than Crane. In his poem “The Worker’s Maypole”, he beautifully depicts the various threads of which May Day is composed:
“World Workers, whatever may bind ye,
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Midwestern Marx's Editorial Board does not necessarily endorse the views of all articles shared on the Midwestern Marx website. Our goal is to provide a healthy space for multilateral discourse on advancing the class struggle. - Editorial Board
This 1886 engraving was the most widely reproduced image of the Haymarket massacre. It shows Methodist pastor Samuel Fielden speaking, the bomb exploding, and the riot beginning simultaneously; in reality, Fielden had finished speaking before the explosion. | Chicago Historical Society.
CHICAGO—On the morning of Oct. 6, 1886, Albert Parsons, native of Alabama, whose brother was a general in the Civil War, rose in a Chicago courtroom to make the last speech of his life.
He was facing his doom as one of the convicted co-called “anarchists,” one of the “detested aliens” who had been seized in the police frame-up following an explosion on Chicago’s Haymarket Square during a workers’ demonstration on May 4.
Parsons spoke long and well. He was going back over his life, telling the remarkable story of how the boy who ran with the Texas trappers and Native American traders as a kid grew up to become a leader of industrial strikes and an agitator for a new social system.
“The charge is made that we are ‘foreigners,’ as though it were a crime to be born in some other country,” he said. “My ancestors had a hand in drawing up the Declaration of Independence. My great great grand-uncle lost a hand at the Battle of Bunker Hill.” His speech then took an edge of defiant bitterness. “But I have been here long enough, I think, to have the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of my country.”
Ringing up to the ceiling of the room which was to be his death chamber, the voice of this man, a printer in the shop of the Chicago Tribune and a labor organizer after the early days of the frontier, became deep with exaltation:
“I am also an internationalist. My patriotism covers more than the boundary lines of a single state; the world is my country, and all mankind my countrymen.” Parsons was speaking against a force, a conspiracy that was determined to throttle him, and he knew it. But why was the state determined to see him dead?
The 8-hour day
The demand for an 8-hour workday was sweeping over America at that time as workers demanded relief from the 12-, 14-, or even 16-hour days that were the norm. On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of workers launched a general strike—the first in the history of the United States—which saw demonstrations in all the big cities greater than anything America had ever seen.
Albert Parsons | Public domain, Wikimedia Commons
But it was in Chicago where the movement reached its height. There, a small core of class-conscious organizers and agitators helped rouse a militant spirit not previously seen. 70,000 workers shut down the plants of that roaring city. At the head of the band of leaders stood the wiry and eloquent Parsons.
The campaign dragged on for several days. On May 3, there was a bloody attack by the police against strikers at the McCormack Reaper plant. Six workers had been shot in the back, with at least one killed. A mass protest meeting was called to take place the next day at the Haymarket Square.
A peaceful rally took place that evening, with speeches from Parsons and other labor leaders condemning what had happened the night before. A light rain began to fall as the meeting neared its end, and most people began to head home. Without warning, a force of some 200 police officers charged the square. A fight broke out between the cops and the crowd, and then, suddenly, a bomb was thrown. A number of police officers were killed by the explosion. Volleys of police bullets then plowed through the terrified and fleeing audience, killing at least four workers and wounding scores.
Flyer calling for a rally in the Haymarket on May 4, 1886. | Public domain, Wikimedia Commons
No one knew who threw the bomb (and historians have never discovered to this day), but it didn’t matter. The news media of the entire country raged in a red-baiting pogrom which has hardly ever been paralleled. Working-class leaders and trade unions everywhere were targeted. The strategy was to smear the 8-hour movement with the fearful stigma of “alien anarchism” and to kill it. One prominent economist, with characteristic servility, declared the idea that workers should only be on the job for eight hours to be an “irresponsible demand of lunatics aimed at the basis of civilization.” The stage was set for the Haymarket frame-up.
Parsons, along with several fellow organizers, were rounded up and charged with being an “accessory to murder.” Prosecutors eagerly followed advice given by the New York Times to “pick out the leaders and make such an example of them as would scare others into submission.” A Chicago newspaper was even more blunt, with editors writing, “The labor question has reached a point where blood-letting has become necessary.”
The trial was a classic case of intimidation, perjury, and forgery. The prosecution quickly gave up any attempt to prove that the men charged had thrown any bombs. No, the defendants were guilty of a far greater crime. They had inculcated among workers a theory of social change and spread in America the fearful idea of class consciousness.
Socialism on trial
As he faced the gallows, Parsons told the world that it was not just himself and the other defendants who were on trial, but rather the ideas of socialism and workers’ power. He declared to the judge, “Socialism is simple justice, because wealth is a social, not an individual product, and its appropriation by a few members of a society creates a privileged class, a class who monopolizes all the benefits of society by enslaving the producing class.”
Knowing history would absolve the leaders at Haymarket, Parsons spoke his last solemn words to the court: “They lie about us in order to deceive the people, but the people will not be deceived much longer. No, they will not.”
The Haymarket Memorial, a statue by Chicago sculptor Mary Brogger, remains a pilgrimage site for workers from around the world. Here, it is officially unveiled on Sept. 15, 2004, in Chicago. | Chuck Berman / AP
The Haymarket Memorial, a statue by Chicago sculptor Mary Brogger, remains a pilgrimage site for workers from around the world. Here, it is officially unveiled on Sept. 15, 2004, in Chicago. | Chuck Berman / APA carefully picked businessmen’s jury sealed their doom and garnered offers of a reward of $100,000 from a grateful “Citizens Committee” of big capitalists. On Nov. 11, 1886, Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel (the latter two weren’t even present at the rally) were hanged at the Cook County Jail, victims of a cold-blooded frame-up. Over 100,000 people followed the bier to their graves at Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery.
When the Second International, a global organization of socialist and labor parties, was founded three years later in 1889, it declared that May 1st would permanently be known as International Workers Day, in honor of the Haymarket struggle. Thus was born May Day—a global day of struggle and celebration—right here in the U.S.A.
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared as “Haymarket Hangings Vain Effort to Halt American Labor,” in the Nov. 12, 1937 edition of the Daily Worker.
Milton Howard was the pen name of Milton Halpern, a correspondent for the Daily Worker (a People’s World predecessor publication). He served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II and was among those who liberated the Nazi death camp at Dachau. He was later an editor for Masses and Mainstream and was subjected to government harassment during the McCarthy period.
Veteran combatant of Cuba’s revolutionary struggles, Comandante Víctor Dreke, in 2017.
Photo: Le Soir/Dominique Duchesnes.
Víctor Dreke, legendary commander of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, called for those defending the Revolution today to recognize that the battlefield of the 21st century is the media.
The comments were made at a conference held on Thursday, April 22, commemorating the 60-year anniversary of the Bay of Pigs—Playa Girón to the Spanish-speaking world. Comandante Dreke, now retired at age 84, spoke alongside author, historian, and journalist Tariq Ali; Cuba’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Bárbara Montalvo Álvarez; and National Secretary of Great Britain’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Bernard Regan.
“It is no longer about us, the over-80s,” said Dreke. “It is the next generation, those who are here, who are going to be even better than us. It will no longer be a case of combat… Right now, the media across the world has to defend the Cuban Revolution, and we and you have to be capable of accessing the media across the world to spread the truth about the Cuban Revolution. That is the battle we are waging today—to fight attempts to weaken the people, to soften the people, to try to take the country again. They have changed their tactics. We are ready, but we want to say to our friends in the Americas and around the world that Cuba, the Cuba of Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Juan Almeida, the Cuba of Che Guevara, will never fail, neither with us nor with the future generations.”
Dreke joined the 26 July Movement in 1954, fought under Che Guevara in the Cuban Revolutionary War and in Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1965, and commanded two companies in Cuba’s historic defeat of US imperialism at the Bay of Pigs. Dreke’s autobiography, From the Escambray to the Congo: In the Whirlwind of the Cuban Revolution, was published in 2002.
Cuba and Venezuela provide inspiration for Latin America and the world
Comandante Víctor Dreke drew a comparison between Cuba’s historic defense of the revolution and that of Venezuela, as both countries now face a common weapon in the arsenal of imperialism: the economic blockade.
“They block medicines for Cuba, they block aid for Cuba,” said Dreke. “They blockade the disposition of aid for Venezuela because of the principles of Venezuela, the principles of Chávez, the principles of Maduro, the principles of Díaz-Canel, the principles of this people, due to the historical continuity of this people.”
Regarding the failed 1961 US invasion of Cuba, Dreke remarked, “it was an example for Latin America that proved that the US was not invincible; that the US could be defeated with the morality and dignity of the people—because we did not have the weapons at that time that we later acquired. It had a meaning for Cuba, the Americas, and the dignified peoples of Latin America and around the world.”
Tariq Ali: we must see through ideological fabrications to defeat imperialism
Tariq Ali, esteemed author of more than 40 books, recalled the precursor of the US invasion of Cuba, the 1954 CIA coup in Guatemala in which President Jacobo Árbenz was overthrown and forced into exile. A young Ernesto Guevara was living in Guatemala at that time and bore witness to the multifaceted CIA operation PBSuccess, which included bombing campaigns with unmarked aircraft and a propaganda blitz of leaflets and radio broadcasts. Ali described the evolution of CIA tactics since then:
“Normally the way they choose is to occupy a tiny bit of territory, find a puppet president, and recognize the puppet president. They are doing that in the Arab world today, or have been trying to do it. They did it with Guaidó in Venezuela, except that the Venezuelan army would not play that game and it blew up in their face, their attempt to topple the Maduro regime. They are trying it in parts of Africa. The weaponry has changed, it is more sophisticated, but the actual method they use, ideologically, is the same. That’s why it always amazes me as to why so many people believe the rubbish they read when a war is taking place.”
Ali also weighed in with a forecast for US foreign policy under the Biden administration:
“We can be hopeful for surprises… But effectively, whoever becomes president of the United States, whether it is Obama, or Biden, or Trump, or Clinton, or Bush, they are presidents of an imperial country, an imperial state, and this imperial state is not run all the time by the Congress or the Senate or the Supreme Court. The military plays a very important role in the institutions of the state, and the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency are in and out of the White House, so the president who decides to make a sharp shift—it can be done, I am not saying it cannot be done—would have to be very brave and courageous indeed.”
“Whoever from the Democrats gets elected—whatever their position—immediately comes under very heavy pressure,” Ali elaborated. “If you look at AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez]… initially very radical, but now she is totally on board… I have never heard her say sanctions should be lifted, and she certainly supports even the old Trump line on Venezuela.”
Hybrid warfare in the information age
“Direct warfare in the past may have been marked by bombers and tanks, but if the pattern that the US has presently applied in Syria and Ukraine is any indication, then indirect warfare in the future will be marked by ‘protesters’ and insurgents,” detailed Andrew Korybko in the publication Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change. “Fifth columns will be formed less by secret agents and covert saboteurs and more by non-state actors that publicly behave as civilians. Social media and similar technologies will come to replace precision-guided munitions as the ‘surgical strike’ capability of the aggressive party, and chat rooms and Facebook pages will become the new ‘militants’ den.’ Instead of directly confronting the targets on their home turf, proxy conflicts will be waged in their near vicinity in order to destabilize their periphery. Traditional occupations may give way to coups and indirect regime-change operations that are more cost effective and less politically sensitive.”
Hybrid warfare, waged today by the US and its political allies in conjunction with transnational corporations that wield powerful influence over mass media and political institutions, comprises the fields of economic warfare, lawfare, conventional armed warfare, and the information war. This last and most important—according to Commander Dreke—element in turn includes the manipulation of the press to serve capitalist and imperialist interests, the manufacture of fake news stories out of whole cloth, and targeted attacks on individuals, parties, or peoples who speak out against the failings of the present order. Moreover, hybrid warfare extends to interference in the political field and in electoral processes, the mounting of media campaigns to drive public attention into particular channels, and myriad assaults on our consciousness that attempt to turn us against each other, prevent us from seeing our common interests, and confuse us as we try to overcome defeatism and work to build a better world.
Steve Lalla is a journalist, researcher and analyst. His areas of interest include geopolitics, history, and current affairs. He has contributed to Counterpunch, Monthly Review, ANTICONQUISTA, Hampton Institute, Resumen LatinoAmericano English, Orinoco Tribune, and others.
Originally published by Orinoco Tribune
Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance Has Hidden Almost $40 Million In Pentagon Funding And Militarized Pandemic Science. By: Sam HusseiniRead Now
The Pentagon (Credit the Smithsonian)
“Pandemics are like terrorist attacks: We know roughly where they originate and what’s responsible for them, but we don’t know exactly when the next one will happen. They need to be handled the same way — by identifying all possible sources and dismantling those before the next pandemic strikes.”
This statement was written in the New York Times earlier this year by Peter Daszak. Daszak is the longtime president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based non-profit whose claimed focus is pandemic prevention. But the EcoHealth Alliance, it turns out, is at the very centre of the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
To depict the pandemic in such militarized terms is, for Daszak, a commonplace. In an Oct. 7 online talk organized by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Daszak presented a slide titled “Donald Rumsfeld’s Prescient Speech.”:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — there are things we don’t know we don’t know.” (This Rumsfeld quote is in fact from a news conference)
In the subsequent online discussion, Daszak emphasized the parallels between his own crusade and Rumsfeld’s, since, according to Daszak, the “potential for unknown attacks” is “the same for viruses”.
Daszak then proceeded with a not terribly subtle pitch for over a billion dollars. This money would support a fledgling virus hunting and surveillance project of his, the Global Virome Project — a “doable project” he assured watchers — given the cost of the pandemic to governments and various industries.
Also on the video was Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs is a former special advisor to the UN, the former head of the Millennium Villages Project, and was recently appointed Chair of the newly-formed EAT Lancet Commission on the pandemic. In September, Sachs’ commission named Daszak to head up its committee on the pandemic’s origins. Daszak is also on the WHO’s committee to investigate the pandemic’s origin. He is the only individual on both committees.
These leadership positions are not the only reason why Peter Daszak is such a central figure in the COVID-19 pandemic, however. His appointment dismayed many of those who are aware that Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance funded bat coronavirus research, including virus collection, at the Wuhan Institute for Virology (WIV) and thus could themselves be directly implicated in the outbreak.
For his part, Daszak has repeatedly dismissed the notion that the pandemic could have a lab origin. In fact, a recent FOIA by the transparency group U.S. Right To Know revealed that Peter Daszak drafted an influential multi-author letter published on February 18 in the Lancet. That letter dismissed lab origin hypothesese as “conspiracy theory.” Daszak was revealed to have orchestrated the letter such as to “avoid the appearance of a political statement.”
Sachs for his part seemed surprised by Daszak’s depiction of Rumsfeld but Daszak reassured him. “It’s an awesome quote! And yes, it’s Donald Rumsfeld, Jeff, and I know he’s a Republican, but — what a genius!”
Following the EcoHealth Alliance’s money trail to the Pentagon
Collecting dangerous viruses is typically justified as a preventive and defensive activity, getting ahead of what “Nature” or “The Terrorists” might throw at us. But by its nature, this work is “dual use”. “Biodefense” is often just as easily biowarfare since biodefense and the products of biowarfare are identical. It’s simply a matter of what the stated goals are.
This is openly acknowledged [See below] by scientists associated with EcoHealth Alliance when talking about alleged programs in other counties — like Iraq.
For much of this year, Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance garnered a great deal of sympathetic media coverage after its $3.7 million five-year NIH grant was prematurely cut when the Trump administration learned that EcoHealth Alliance funded bat coronavirus research at the WIV.
The temporary cut was widely depicted in major media as Trump undermining the EcoHealth Alliance’s noble fight against pandemics. The termination was reversed by NIH in late August, and even upped to $7.5 million. But entirely overlooked amid the claims and counter-claims was that far more funding for the EcoHealth Alliance comes from the Pentagon than the NIH.
To be strictly fair to the media, Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance obscures its Pentagon funding. On its website EcoHealth Alliance states that “A copy of the EHA Grant Management Manual is available upon request to the EHA Chief Financial Officer at finance ( at ) ecohealthalliance.org”. But an email to that address and numerous others, including Peter Daszak’s, requesting that Manual, as well as other financial information, was not returned. Neither were repeated voicemails.
Even this listing is deceptive. It obscures that its two largest funders are the Pentagon and the State Department (USAID); whereas the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which accounts for a minuscule $74,487, comes before either.
Meticulous investigation of U.S. government databases reveals that Pentagon funding for the EcoHealth Alliance from 2013 to 2020, including contracts, grants and subcontracts, was just under $39 million. Most, $34.6 million, was from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), which is a branch of the DOD which states it is tasked to “counter and deter weapons of mass destruction and improvised threat networks.”
Most of the remaining money to EHA was from USAID (State Dept.), comprising at least $64,700,000 (1). These two sources thus total over $103 million. (See Fig).
Summary of EHA Grants and Contracts. Note this figure doesn’t count subcontracts so it undercounts USAID’s contribution, see footnote (1) below (Credit: James Baratta and Mariamne Everett)
Another $20 million came from Health and Human Services ($13 million, which includes National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control), National Science Foundation ($2.6 million), Department of Homeland Security ($2.3 million), Department of Commerce ($1.2 million), Department of Agriculture ($0.6 million), and Department of Interior ($0.3 million). So, total U.S. government funding for EHA to-date stands at $123 million, approximately one third of which comes from the Pentagon directly. The full funding breakdown is available here and is summarized by year, source, and type, in a spreadsheet format.
Pdf versions of this the spreadsheet are available to download. The summary is here and all Federal grants and contracts are here.
More military connections
The military links of the EcoHealth Alliance are not limited to money and mindset. One noteworthy ‘policy advisor’ to the EcoHealth Alliance is David Franz. Franz is former commander of Fort Detrick, which is the principal U.S. government biowarfare/biodefense facility.
David Franz was part of UNSCOM which inspected Iraq for alleged bioweapons — what were constantly referred to as WMDs or Weapons of Mass Destruction by the U.S. government and the media. Franz has been one of those eager to state, at least when discussing alleged Iraqi programs, that “in biology … everything is dual use — the people, the facilities and the equipment.” (NPR, May 14, 2003; link no longer available).
Just this year Franz wrote a piece with former New York Times journalist Judith Miller, whose stories of Iraqi WMDs did much to misinform the US public regarding the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Their joint article, “A Biosecurity Failure: America’s key lab for fighting infectious disease has become a Pentagon backwater,” urges more funding for Fort Detrick.
Miller and Franz are long-time associates. Miller co-wrote the book Germs, released amid the 2001 false flag anthrax attacks, which repeatedly quotes Franz. Miller at the time received a hoax letter with a harmless white powder, increasing her prominence.
Franz continued hyping the existence of Iraqi WMDs even after the invasion of Iraq. While she was still with the Times, Miller quoted him in a story “U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs To Germ Arms” on May 21, 2003 pushing the theory that Iraq had mobile biological WMD units. (This theory was debunked by the British scientist Dr David Kelly, who would die, apparently by suicide, soon thereafter.)
Four significant insights emerge from all this. First, although it is called the EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak and his non-profit work closely with the military. Second, the EcoHealth Alliance attempts to conceal these military connections. Third, through militaristic language and analogies Daszak and his colleagues promote what is often referred to as, and even then somewhat euphemistically, an ongoing agenda known as “securitization“. In this case it is the securitization of infectious diseases and of global public health. That is, they argue that pandemics constitute a vast and existential threat. They minimize the very real risks associated with their work, and sell it as a billion dollar solution. The fourth insight is that Daszak himself, as the Godfather of the Global Virome Project, stands to benefit from the likely outlay of public funds.
Thanks to James Baratta and Mariamne Everett for researching the funding sources.
Republished from Independent Science News
As rich nations stockpile COVID-19 vaccines, China is providing a lifeline to Global South nations spurned by Western pharmaceuticals and excluded by the West’s neocolonial vaccine nationalism. So why is China being smeared for its efforts?
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called it “the biggest moral test” facing the world today. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom warned of a “catastrophic moral failure” whose price would be paid with the lives of those in the world’s poorest countries.
Such cautionings of inequitable global vaccine distribution have been shunted to the margins; instead, optimistic chatter of “returning to normal” is circulating once again as Global North citizens line up for their long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine. But normal, as ever, is relative: public health advocates warn that some countries may not be able to even begin their vaccination campaigns until 2024.
Vaccine apartheid is here, and it is revealing once more the ways our world continues to be structured by the geopolitical binaries of colonialism, capitalism, and racism. The People’s Vaccine Alliance reports that rich countries have bought enough doses to vaccinate their populations three times over. Canada alone has ordered enough vaccines to cover each Canadian five times over. Until March, the United States was hoarding tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines—not yet approved for domestic use—and refusing to share them with other countries (only under immense pressure did the Biden administration announce it would send doses to Mexico and Canada). Israeli officials, lauded for delivering a first dose to more than half of its citizens, have likened their responsibility to vaccinate Palestinians living under apartheid to Palestinians’ obligation to “take care of dolphins in the Mediterranean.” The European Union has extended controversial “ban options” which allow member states to block vaccine exports to non-EU nations. Meanwhile, countries like South Africa and Uganda are paying two to three times more for vaccines than the EU.
As of March 2021, China had shared 48% of domestically-manufactured vaccines with other countries through donations and exports. By contrast, the United States and United Kingdom had shared zero.
While the Global North hoards global vaccine stockpiles, China—alongside other much-maligned states such as Russia and Cuba—is modeling a very different practice of vaccine internationalism. As of April 5th, the Foreign Ministry reported that China had donated vaccines to more than 80 countries and exported vaccines to more than 40 countries. Science analytics firm Airfinity reported that as of March 2021, China had shared 48% of domestically-manufactured vaccines with other countries through donations and exports. By contrast, the United States and United Kingdom had shared zero. China has also partnered with more than 10 countries on vaccine research, development, and production, including a joint vaccine in collaboration with Cuba.
Crucially, China’s vaccine sharing has provided a lifeline to low-income Global South nations who have been out-bidded by rich nations racing to stockpile Western-made vaccines. Donations to African nations including Zimbabwe and Republic of Guinea, which both received 200,000 Sinopharm doses in February, have allowed those countries to begin vaccine rollouts for medical workers and the elderly rather than wait months or even years for access to vaccines through other channels. Just a week after Joe Biden ruled out sharing vaccines with Mexico in the short term, the country finalized an order for 22 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine to fill critical shortages.
Even more, Chinese vaccine aid has reached countries isolated from global markets by sanctions and embargoes enforced by the United States and its allies. In March, China donated 100,000 vaccines to Palestine, a move praised by the Palestinian health ministry for enabling the inoculation of 50,000 health workers and eldery in Gaza and the West Bank who have been cut off from accessing Israeli vaccine rollouts. Venezuela, with many of its overseas assets frozen by U.S. sanctions, received 500,000 vaccines donated by China in a gesture praised by Nicolás Maduro as a sign of the Chinese people’s “spirit of cooperation and solidarity.” China’s international vaccine policy follows the broad pattern of China’s early pandemic aid, which similarly equipped low-income and sanctions-starved nations with the tools to combat the pandemic at home.
From Venezuela to Palestine, Chinese vaccine aid has reached countries isolated from global markets by sanctions and embargoes enforced by the United States and its allies.
In the face of a global pandemic that the U.S. alliance has used as a political cudgel against China, China’s vaccine internationalism has been a natural outgrowth of its philosophy of mutual cooperation and solidarity. From rapidly sequencing the viral genome and making it immediately publicly accessible to world researchers, to sending medical delegations to dozens of nations around the world, China’s pandemic response has been guided by a simple axiom of global solidarity. Xi Jinping made China the first nation to commit to making a COVID-19 vaccine a global public good in May 2020, meaning any Chinese vaccine would be produced and distributed on a non-rivalrous, non-excludable basis. In a telling contrast, that commitment came just as President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization in an attempt to punish the organization for daring to work cooperatively with Chinese health officials. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has similarly emphasized vaccine solidarity, urging his colleagues at the United Nations Human Rights Council in February that “solidarity and cooperation is our only option.” Wang chastised countries that he noted are “obsessed with politicizing the virus and stigmatizing other nations” and implored that global vaccine distribution be made “accessible and affordable to developing countries.” China’s record to date shows it is working to follow through on the lofty rhetoric its officials have used to implore global solidarity to defeat the pandemic.
Workers unload a donated shipment of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines in the West Bank city of Nablus. [Photo by Ayman Nobani/Xinhua]
Because China’s vaccine internationalism models a form of multilateral cooperation beyond the scope of U.S. hegemony, it has been met with relentless media propaganda designed to cast China’s vaccination efforts as shady, manipulative, and unsafe. In November 2020, the Wall Street Journal gleefully announced that Brazil had suspended trials of the Sinovac vaccine following an “severe adverse event.” Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing Brazilian president and Trump ally, declared it a “victory.” Casual observers would reasonably assume that there were serious safety issues with the Chinese vaccine; only closer reading would fill in the crucial context, that the cause of death of the participant was in fact suicide. A similar ruse was exploited in January, as headlines blasted that a Peruvian volunteer had died in the midst of a Sinopharm vaccine trial. Again, behind the salacious headlines was a crucial detail: the volunteer, who died of COVID-19 complications, had received the placebo rather than the vaccine.
Because China’s vaccine internationalism models a form of multilateral cooperation beyond the scope of U.S. hegemony, it has been met with relentless media propaganda designed to cast China’s vaccination efforts as shady, manipulative, and unsafe.
As study after study shows the efficacy of Chinese and Russian vaccines, the media has turned to painting vaccine aid and exports as a dangerous form of “vaccine diplomacy.” Human Rights Watch nonsensically described China’s vaccine aid as a “dangerous game,” citing conspiracies about the research development of Chinese-made vaccines. The New York Times wondered if China had “done too well” against COVID-19, claiming that the government was “over-exporting vaccines made in China in a bid to expand its influence internationally.” Headline after headline bemoaned that China was “winning” at vaccine diplomacy, making clear that Western pundits view the lives of Global South peoples as pawns in a zero-sum game valued only insofar as they further the interests of Western hegemony.
Some advocates say the bias against Chinese vaccines is based both on geopolitics and racist notions of scientific expertise. Achal Prabhala, coordinator of the AccessIBSA project, which coordinates medical access in India, Brazil and South Africa, said “the entire world—not just the West—is incredulous at the idea that you could have useful science in this pandemic come out of places not in the West.” Yet he emphasized the importance of Chinese and Indian vaccines as a “lifeline” to low and middle-income countries, both in addressing vaccine gaps in the developing world and as a “useful cudgel” for negotiations with Western pharmaceuticals.
Despite mainstream media tropes of Chinese “vaccine diplomacy,” it is the United States—not China—whose pharmaceutical companies are employing exploitative tactics to profit from vaccine sales. Pfizer, for instance, has been accused of “intimidating” Latin American governments in their vaccine sale negotiations, asking countries to put up embassy buildings and military bases as collateral to reimburse any future litigation costs—leading countries like Argentina and Brazil to reject the vaccine outright. One can only imagine the media hysteria which would ensue were Sinopharm to be caught demanding overseas military bases as collateral for its vaccine exports. But because it is a U.S. company, Pfizer’s medical neocolonialism has been absolved and flown under the radar.
Despite allegations of Chinese vaccine opportunism, it is the United States which has politicized its recent foray into vaccine exports. During his first meeting with leaders of the “Quad,” an anti-China alliance likened to NATO and consisting of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan, Joe Biden announced his intention to use the alliance to produce one billion vaccines for distribution in Asia in an explicit bid to “counter” China. It is telling that while China stresses global cooperation through channels such as COVAX (to which it has donated 10 million doses) the WHO, and the UN peacekeeper’s vaccination program, the United States is pursuing vaccine diplomacy through a highly-politicized military alliance designed to contain China. Likewise, despite the Biden administration’s lofty rhetoric about its leadership over a global “rules-based order,” it is the United States which has violated a UN Security Council resolution demanding a global military ceasefire to facilitate pandemic cooperation with recent airstrikes in Syria.
Perhaps most egregiously, the United States and other rich nations have blocked a proposed World Trade Organization waiver on intellectual property restrictions which would enable Global South countries to manufacture generic versions of COVID-19 vaccines. Proposed by South Africa and India with the backing of China, Russia, and the majority of Global South nations, Global North obstruction of vaccine IP waivers in the WTO makes clear that the status quo of vaccine apartheid is not an accident, but a product of deliberate policy by Western nations to put the profits of their pharmaceutical companies above the lives of the world’s poor.
Obstruction of vaccine IP waivers in the WTO makes clear that the status quo of vaccine apartheid is not an accident, but a product of deliberate policy by Western nations to put the profits of their pharmaceutical companies above the lives of the world’s poor.
With Global North nations stockpiling vaccines and experts warning that new rounds of vaccinations may be necessary to combat COVID-19 variants, critical vaccine shortages are here to stay. China’s manufacturing power and macroeconomic policy puts it in a position to continue to be the world leader in vaccine production. As of April, China’s Sinovac announced it had reached the capacity to produce a whopping 2 billion doses of CoronaVac per year, thanks in part to Beijing district government efforts to secure the company additional land for vaccine production. China’s vaccine production builds on the successful model of state intervention and coordination through which state-owned enterprises and private companies rallied to construct hospitals, manufacture PPE, and coordinate food supplies during China’s February 2020 outbreak.
The vaccine policies forwarded by China versus the U.S. and its allies serves as a microcosm for two very different worldviews: where China has insisted on global solidarity to defeat the pandemic, the Western world has refused to ease the pressures of its neocolonial regime. While China supports bids for vaccine equity in the WTO and UN, the Global North is bolstering vaccine apartheid for the sake of corporate profits. These differences alone ought to be enough to put to rest vacuous assertions that render U.S.-China conflict as a matter of “competing imperialisms.”
Xi Jinping stressed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic a commitment to “protect people's lives and health at all costs.” Not when it is profitable, not when it is geopolitically expedient—at all costs. Western obstruction of efforts towards vaccine equity forwarded by China, Cuba, South Africa, and other Global South nations only reveals the very different calculus which governs the West’s continuing neocolonial regime.
Qiao Collective is a diaspora Chinese media collective challenging U.S. aggression on China.
This article was first published by Qiao Collective
Biden's National Security Guidance Document Reflects The Old Imperialist Foreign Policy. By: Alvaro RodriguezRead Now
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that when it comes to China and Russia he favors continuing the failed policies of confrontation with rather than cooperation with those countries. | Carolyn Kaster/AP
There was hope that after the world-wide pandemic, mutual cooperation and sharing would be the new normal among all the countries affected by the pandemic. And we have seen a few hopeful signs in this regard but there are serious concerns now that we may not see real international cooperation become the norm.
If we look at the Interim National Security Guidance document put out by the Biden Administration recently the indications are that in foreign policy, we are getting from this administration the same old U.S. imperialism and it will take a massive mobilization to turn that around.
While Trump’s slogan was “America First,” the Biden foreign policy might be characterized as “America is back.” There is a difference in tone but the foreign policy path the country is on is essentially the same.
Throughout the document, you see the word “strength” repeated constantly, 36 times. There are belligerent statements such as, “The United States will never hesitate to use force when required to defend our vital national interests.”
This document, even as it says it prefers to ditch confrontation, intends to continue a policy of strangling China’s technological advancement through “vigorous competition” which the administration has already shown involves lining up countries to help the US weaken China economically.
So far there is no rejection of the continued hot wars in the Middle East.
Biden calls Russia’s leader, Putin, a “killer” and threatens new sanctions against Russia, while only scolding “Bone-Saw Murderer” Mohamed bin Salman. MBS, as he is called, is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, identified by Biden himself as authorizing the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate. Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post and a permanent resident of the United States. Biden refuses to call MBS a killer.
Why the belligerency?
The aim of U.S. imperialism is to make the world safe for U.S. finance corporations to maximize their ill-gained profits. Other aims include setting international rules suitable to U.S. extreme right class economic and military interests, keeping the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency, protecting death merchants defending the fossil fuel industry, and defending the chemical/pharma industry’s assault on the health of the planet and our international working class.
These predatory aims require the invention of enemies. In the past, these used to be the Soviet Union and later, global terrorism. Now it is China, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and other countries trying to exercise their independence and their right to develop and choose their own economic paths.
This “national security” guidance document shows clearly who the main target will be – China. China is attacked at least 14 times. Russia is attacked five times. They are labeled as “biggest threats” and “antagonistic authoritarian powers.”
If we are to successfully achieve a world where everyone is cooperating to solve the problems of the planet these countries should be seen as partners rather than threats.
They are seen as threats because the U.S. security establishment sees them as an impediment to U.S. imperialism. As such these countries are described as enemies of “democracy” while the U.S. is held up as the epitome of democracy.
The reality is that the world is becoming more multilateral and U.S. imperialism is on the decline. That makes U.S. imperialism more dangerous. When the word “democracy” is mentioned, it is a code word for capitalism and imperialism. The U.S. intends to revitalize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Indo-Pacific “Quad” Alliance – Japan, India, Australia, and the U.S., thus attempting to “contain” the rise of China and Russia.
In this document, Biden tries to connect the problematic foreign policy to the issue of “making life better for working families.” It is merely a cover for the promotion of imperialist policies, at odds with the true interests of the working class. Can we really have a progressive policy at home and an imperialist policy abroad? The answer is obvious. This is, in the long run, an impossibility.
In the document, Biden pretends to modernize the national security institutions while making life better for working families. It is the same old rhetorical argument made under Reagan, “Guns or Butter.” Reagan chose guns. It turns out that when this country promotes guns, little money is available for working families. What has happened to the income of working families since Reagan? There has been a significant drop in the working-class standard of life and more inequality!
More recently, a certain sector of the ruling class has decided that the higher level of inequality is an existential danger to the capitalist system itself. They are promoting a form of “inclusive capitalism” to avoid the pitchforks. “Inclusive capitalism” has no lasting substance, however, and cannot overcome the basic contradictions of capitalism.
During the pandemic, it has been easier to make the case for a Keynesian economic intervention to alleviate the worst of the pandemic-aggravated economic crisis (on top of the already existing capitalist crisis).
Underway are massive infusions of budgetary stimulus (fiscal stimulus) from the Federal spending budget plus a huge infusion from the Federal Reserve Bank (monetary stimulus). Combined between 2020 and 2021, they total about $6 trillion dollars.
The bottom line, however, is that imperialism has never been good for the country nor good for the working class. It has been very good for the stock market!
Biden’s interim national security strategic guidance, it turns out is a lot of smoke and mirrors!
Confrontation over values?
A populist leftist president in Latin America states that the main characteristic of conservatism (catchall phrase for capitalism and neoliberalist policy) is hypocrisy. By conservatism, he speaks of the ideology of resistance to change, of having to give up private unwarranted privileges and wealth. Most of this wealth is acquired through wage theft, corruption, tax avoidance, debt traps, and undemocratic practices.
While the national security guidance talks about “democracy”, “ U.S. values” and “universal” values, what they are really talking about is making the U.S. finance capital more profitable around the world.
The guidance document makes no mention of what happened during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
No mention is made of passage of laws that essentially take away the right to vote in many states.
No mention is made of the lies used to justify the war on and killing of the people of Iraq, the Afghan people, the Syrian people, the people of Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and many more nations.
No mention is made of the CIA rendition and torture programs around the world, including Guantanamo’s U.S. military base and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
No mention is made in the “national security” strategic guidance document about U.S. “undemocratic” support for the coup that overthrew the elected President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, efforts to overthrow the elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, efforts to overthrow elected President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua or the U.S. supported coup that overthrew the elected presidents of Honduras, President Zelaya in 2009 (Biden was Vice- President then, nominated by Obama because of his foreign policy “expertise”).
Obviously, no mention is made of institutionalized racism in this country and the consequent political instability. No mention is made of the consequences of savage capitalism (neoliberalism) introduced in the 1980s under Reagan in the U.S. and Thatcher in the UK. This economic policy has resulted in the loss of good-paying jobs and a lower standard of life for the working class, not only in this country but around the world.
Confrontational meeting in Alaska
The U.S. and China had a joint meeting (March 18-19, 2021) between the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, U.S. National Security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, and chair of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi.
The U.S. sanctioned 24 Chinese officials the day prior to the meeting. The U.S. State Department also came ready with preconditions to improved relations.
The summit turned into a posturing and recrimination session on China and U.S. human rights. The facts point to this public confrontation as the real purpose of the U.S.- requested meeting.
“China urges the U.S. side to fully abandon the hegemonic practice of willfully interfering in China’s internal affairs. This is a longstanding issue, and it should be changed.” Yang Jiechi urged “the abandonment of Cold War mentality and zero-sum game.”
No communique was issued after this Biden Administration meeting with the Peoples Republic of China.
Hopefully, this is not a lost opportunity to advance solution to common problems like the pandemic, climate change, nuclear proliferation, global economic recovery after the pandemic, and to engaging in cooperation to help solve issues affecting developing countries.
Take the issue of vaccination against the pandemic. Ten developed capitalist countries are hoarding 80% of the vaccines. Mexico’s President Obrador, during an online meeting with Biden, asked the U.S. to share its vaccine. The reply by the White House press secretary was that “Joe Biden would not consider sharing its coronavirus vaccines.”
U.S. vaccines were denied in spite of hypocritical talk about the enduring partnership between the U.S. and Mexico “based on mutual respect and the extraordinary bond of family and friendship.”
Would you deny vaccines to your own “family”? Now, the U.S. plans to “lend” some of its oversupply of the AstraZeneca vaccines to both Canada and Mexico. This comes after some vaccinated Europeans experienced isolated blood-clot issues and many European countries temporarily suspended the use of that vaccine.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and African Union chairman has criticized this vaccine nationalism.
China, Russia, and other countries have sent their own vaccines to developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and other locations. Socialist Cuba has developed a new COVID-19 vaccine and, in contrast to developed capitalist countries, provided exemplary international health care solidarity. Mexico has received vaccines from Belgium, China, Russia, and India. Mexico also received the active ingredient for AstraZeneca from Argentina.
Later, under international pressure and condemnation, the U.S. pledged $4 Billion to the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
If history is a possible indicator of future actions, the Biden administration intends to continue U.S. imperialist hegemony in a world that expects more multilateralism in foreign policy, respect for the national sovereignty of nations, and more international solidarity on common issues affecting the globe, such as pandemics, climate change, war prevention, labor migration, refugees, weapons control and global poverty alleviation.
There have been some positive moves made by Biden including extension of the New Start Treaty with Russia and willingness to rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty with Iran. It didn’t help that Biden bombed alleged Iranian assets in Syria, however.
There is an internal conflict between Biden’s foreign policy intentions and his domestic agenda. Biden plans to pursue infrastructure jobs, raising wages, student debt forgiveness, economic recovery, and other domestic issues. There is a growing domestic mass opposition and new coalitions created to oppose a confrontational foreign policy and a bloated military budget; its slogan is – Money for Jobs, Not for War!
If you agree with this slogan, you are encouraged to join the coalition at moneyforhumanneeds.org.
Biden says he wants to work with Mexico and Central American countries in a joint economic development program initiated by Mexico to alleviate the poverty and insecurity that is driving the labor migration from Central America and southern Mexico to the U.S. Nevertheless, Biden intends to keep Trump’s original 4,000 National Guard members on the southern border with Mexico, while continuing immigrant deportations and caging of 5,000 immigrant children. Biden only offers to help Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, all of which have right-wing governments allied with the United States. Countries left out include left-led Nicaragua plus Haiti. The main reason for the labor migration and refugee exodus is poverty, an effect of global imperialist policy. Other contributing factors include climate change, wars, and gang violence.
Biden’s regional commanders (North America and Southern Command) also cautioned in a recent press conference about possible terrorists coming through the southern border. Sounds a lot like Trump’s racist and unfounded rhetoric! These outrageous remarks are an insult to Mexico.
Martin Luther King warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
The military budget in the U.S. takes about half the discretionary spending of the national budget, leaving little money to meet social needs. The U.S. spends (~$741 billion budgeted for 2021) more on the military budgets of the next 10 countries combined.
Alvaro Rodriguez is a long-time labor and community activist. He writes from Texas.
This article was first published at People's World
On March 8, 2021, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) - Brazil’s highest court - struck down all the criminal convictions against Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Monumental in its impact, this decision finally brought an end to a ruthless lawfare campaign against Lula.
Lula was imprisoned in April 2018 at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba as part of Operation Car Wash for alleged corruption. From the beginning, it was evident that Lula’s imprisonment was part of lawfare - the use of law for political motives. The Supreme Court ruled, on April 5, 2018 - after a threat from Brazilian Gen. Eduardo Villas Bôas - that defendants could be jailed even before their appeals had been exhausted. This regressive judgment allowed Judge Sérgio Moro to arrest Lula at a time when he was leading in all polls. In August 2018, the polls registered that 29% of the nation preferred Lula’s Worker’s Party (PT), while the political parties that were spearheading the anti-PT campaign were rapidly declining in terms of electoral strength.
The presence of political bias in Lula’s imprisonment was confirmed when a range of materials and private conversations released by “The Intercept” proved that judge Moro discussed the case with the lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol, to whom Moro gave advice about how to proceed with the case. Furthermore, the Car Wash prosecutors plotted to use the investigation to undermine the campaign of the PT in the 2018 election. In November 2018, Moro joined Jair Bolsonaro’s government as his Minister of Justice, thus leaving no doubts about the political nature of the judicial proceedings against Lula.
Lula was released in November 2019 after serving 580 days, when the SFT agreed to examine his case on the basis of the judicial principle that no one can serve a sentence before it can be reviewed by the country’s highest court.
Changing Political Tides
In a welcome move, the STF confirmed on March 23, 2021, the existence of misconduct by Moro in the cases involving Lula. According to Justice Carmen Lucia, the evidence that has emerged since 2018 “may indicate the infringement on the impartiality of the judge.” “What is being discussed here is something very basic: everyone has the right to a fair trial, that includes due process and also the impartiality of the judge…New information was presented to clarify doubts about evidence of the partiality of the judge overseeing the case.”
The legal affirmation of the biased nature of Operation Car Wash is reflective of Brazil’s changing political tides. Opinion polls suggest that Lula is the best-placed politician to challenge neo-fascist Bolsonaro in 2022 elections. This was expected. The Bolsonaro administration’s toxic mix of pandemic mismanagement and savage neoliberalism stands in sharp contrast to Lula’s social sensitivity.
At a press conference held at the headquarters of the ABC Metalworkers’ Union in São Bernardo do Campo in the metropolitan region of São Paulo after the annulment of convictions, Lula heavily criticized the Bolsonaro government: “I need to speak with you about the situation in this country. It would be an error on my part to not mention that Brazil did not have to go through this.” “Many people are suffering. This is why I want to express my solidarity with the victims of coronavirus and the healthcare workers. And above all, the heroes of the SUS [Unified Health System], that were even politically discredited. If it wasn’t for the SUS, we would have lost many more people to coronavirus.”
Lula’s remarkable ability to connect with the poor masses is a direct result of his sustained involvement in grassroots politics. Born in poverty in 1945 in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Lula emerged on the national scene from the late 1970s as a confrontational union leader. On winning presidency in October 2002 after three failed attempts, he toured the country extensively, talking to the oppressed members of the society about his own life and the larger struggle for equality and justice. Today, it is highly likely that Lula - whether he runs for presidency or not - will help the Left to regain power in Brazil.
Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow were elected as new party leaders. LINKE
Things worked out quite differently than many in the Berlin media said they would at the congress of the LINKE, the country’s left-wing party.
The pandemic had forced postponements from June 2020 to October 2020 and from last October to March 2021, with most of the 580 delegates at home in front of a screen, microphone, and camera. Only the socially-distanced, masked leaders sat in a sparsely occupied hall in Berlin. Other political parties are meeting that way too.
The bitter, possibly fatal inner conflicts, greatly feared by some, greatly desired by others, simply did not happen. Unlike the angry quarrels, hostility, and near split-ups which troubled some earlier congresses, this time there was an amiable, friendly atmosphere throughout.
No surprise, at least for most members, was the choice of new party leaders. Their predecessors stepped down as required after two four-year terms (plus extra months due to the postponements). Only outsiders may have been surprised that both new co-chairs were women, Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, which was new.
But many were indeed moved to see the two so supportive of one another, each congratulating the other on her (separate) election and both assuring party members that they would get along very well while diving into the tough tasks ahead; a year full of elections in six states and, on September 26, in all Germany, and with the LINKE now polling at a worrisome 7 or 8 percent, too close to the 5 percent cut-off point below which a party is not entitled to seats in the country’s parliament.
Who are the two new leaders, no longer a male-female team but still the customary East-West duo?
Janine Wissler, 39, has led the LINKE opposition caucus in the legislature of the West German state of Hesse since 2014. She is known as a fighter. In the last election campaign, she covered her whole state by bicycle, speechmaking all along the route, and winning more LINKE votes than the party won in most of West Germany.
More recently, joining the protest against chopping down part of an ancient forest to build another highway, she stayed a while in one of the high tree huts aimed at holding off loggers and the police.
Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, 42, her co-chair, is also known to be plucky. Originally a speed skater, a very good one, she switched to educational issues in her East German home-town of Erfurt in Thuringia, and quickly climbed to a position equivalent to that of Janine Wissler’s just across the former East-West border, becoming chair of both the state party and its caucus in the legislature.
But unlike Wissler, she was not in opposition. Thuringia is the first and only German state with a LINKE leader, Bodo Ramelow, as minister-president (like a governor), because his party won the most seats. Since 2014 he has headed a shaky coalition with a small Social Democratic and even smaller Green caucus.
Hennig-Wellsow gained unusual fame last year after a conservative politician pushed Ramelow out as head of state, but only by accepting the votes of the neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which, despite the leading role of the state’s Red, Red, Green coalition, is stronger and more rabid in Thuringia than anywhere else.
Tradition demanded that party-leader Hennig-Wellsow present the winner, any winner, with congratulatory flowers. She approached him, then suddenly let the bouquet fall to the floor. Impolite, but most anti-fascists rejoiced at what became a top YouTube hit. After a huge public outcry, the man had to step down three days later and Ramelow came back — with Hennig-Wellsow. Now, these two state leaders head the national party, and though they disagree sharply on some issues, they are in agreement on a host of others.
A striking feature of the LINKE congress that just ended was the age of the delegates. Among the delegates who spoke up electronically, with contributions strictly limited in time because so many wanted to speak, the number of young people and women was greater than ever before. This marked a change from the past when so many were aging, often male, and frequently former members of the old Socialist Unity Party, the ruling party in the GDR.
That generation is dying out. Ten years ago over 50% of Die Linke’s membership lived in the five smaller states of East Germany. Now they make up 38 percent of a total of 60,000.
With all due respect to these truly “Old Faithful,” the trend toward a new, younger generation is a greatly-needed cause for hope. And so is their militancy — which was reflected in the words and the spirit of Wissler and Hennig-Wellsow.
Most of these young members called energetically for more visible and militant action in all causes for which the party stands. A key theme was helping people recover from the pandemic, which is causing heavy debts, hardships, job losses, and bankruptcy for tens of thousands of small firms, retail shops, restaurants, and cultural workers while the biggies, from Amazon to Aldi, from Daimler-Benz to BMW rake in mountains of euros for their owners and stockholders. The LINKE demands genuine taxes on the wealthy, higher wages for the workers —a 15-euro minimum wage — and more for children and pensioners. It means much closer ties with the unions and their struggles. Some of the unions sent greetings to the congress, which still required a bit of courage.
Many stressed the related fight for the environment, too often neglected and left to the Greens. But the Greens, till now in second place in the polls ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD) but well behind the twin “Christian Union” parties, have moved ever closer to arrangements with big business, downplaying the needs of working-class people and even abandoning major principles in order to gain or keep cabinet positions, as in Hesse, where their coalition ministers concurred in sacrificing forest sectors to an unnecessary highway extension (where Wissler did some needed “tree-hugging.”)
Many delegates warned of further hospital privatization and supported the fight for affordable, publicly-owned housing to outpace the profit-based gentrification expanding through most cities.
There was praise for the LINKE in Berlin; it led local coalition partners SPD and Greens in pushing through a rent control law reversing the worst over-pricing and forbidding most increases. It also defied Green foot-dragging and SPD opposition to a referendum to buy out (or “confiscate”) Berlin’s biggest real estate giants.
Both of the two new party leaders and many delegates called for a constant, vigilant resistance to the growing menace of the fascists, some loosely bound up in local thug gangs and underground killer units, others organized on a party basis or embedded in the police, the armed services or as suspicious secret agents of the FBI-type Constitutional Defense Bureau.
There was also general agreement on re-directing billions spent on armament purchases and production toward the repair of decrepit schools, rutty roads, unsafe bridges, and all public facilities.
But general agreement on this edged onto questions dividing the party for years. Some members — and many in leadership — hope keenly that the LINKE can join with the Social Democrats and Greens in a national, governing “left-of-center coalition,” as in current state governments in Thuringia and Berlin. Former harsh rejection by the other two of any connection with the “former rulers of the GDR dictatorship” has now weakened, especially if the votes of LINKE deputies can help them over the 50% margin to victory. Since both the SPD and the LINKE adopted the color red as their symbol, this would be a Green-Red-Red coalition, or G2R, or RGR, depending on who would be top dog. Such an alliance, say its advocates, would be a bar against the right, meaning the Christian sister parties, the conservative Free Democrats, and the fascistic AfD.
The state and the national levels differ in many ways. Most important, only the latter deals with foreign and military policy, which erects big, important hurdles. Both SPD and the Greens insist on two conditions for an alliance: the LINKE must abandon its opposition to NATO and to sending Bundeswehr troops outside German borders, even on UN missions. That is their red line; No-NATO means No-go! And well-armed German troops must be able to flutter black-red-golden flags from Kabul to Bamako, from masts in the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, or any sea or coast where it serves German purposes. Roll up the tanks, drones, fighters, and armed frigates!
Some LINKE leaders call for compromises. A humanitarian mission for the UN now and then should not be a major hurdle, while replacing NATO with a Europe-wide security agreement, including Russia instead of threatening it, is currently pure fantasy, they say. In a highly controversial open letter, Matthias Höhn, a leading LINKE member, said that such matters can be agreed upon, Germany need not totally reject U.S. demands for 2% of its budget for military build-up but might cut it to 1%, with the other 1% diverted to development aid for countries of the south.
His opponents were quick to reply; they insisted that Germany was threatened by no one; the Bundeswehr was in essence an instrument of the same expansive powers which have determined bloody German policy for over a century. Bombing Belgrade and Afghanistan was also called “humanitarian,” they note, and any backsliding in these matters was really a foot in the door, a dangerous foot, and would cancel the basic claim by the LINKE to be the one and only party of peace in the Bundestag.
This question has implications for even more basic questions. Does the LINKE support or oppose Germany’s present capitalist social system? Many leaders in the East, often having experienced advantages attached to cabinet seats on a state level, insist that the LINKE can only exert political effect to improve life if it takes part on a governmental level. The other side claims that the LINKE, as a tolerated little brother in such a coalition, would be granted a few lesser cabinet ministries but be easily outvoted on important policy questions, foreign or domestic, with only two options — bow down or quit.
“No,” they say, the party wants improvements but sees the need for a full social switch. That means active opposition and not becoming part of “the Establishment,” a role which has cost it dearly in eastern Germany in poll results, elections, and reputation. Essentially, some say that support for socialism and being part of the so-called establishment contradict one another.
The dividing line also affected the two new leaders. Hennig-Wellsow from Thuringia is ready to consider a GRR coalition, even with a compromise or two. Isn’t that what realistic politics sometimes requires? Wissler from Hesse says No; she wants no cozy, weak-kneed cabinet seat for LINKE. Let the SPD and Greens change their position, she says, and adopt a genuine peace policy that abandons dangerous “east-west” confrontation.
The differing viewpoints were put to a test during the vote for six deputy chairpersons. Matthias Höhn, who sent that letter proposing a retreat on armaments and deployment, received 224 voters. Tobias Pflüger, a disarmament expert opposed to any dilution of peace positions, beat him out with 294 votes. And it was Pflüger’s views which were more frequently reflected by the overwhelmingly young speakers’ list.
Many note that the coalition question is purely hypothetical anyway. With Greens and SPD now polling at 17 percent each and the LINKE at 8 percent (but hoping to get back to double digits), reaching 50 percent is still a dream.
That explains why so many stressed instead the need to fight far less in parliaments or party meetings but far more in the streets, factories, and colleges, among machinists, teachers, medical personnel, supermarket employees, truck drivers, and all the places where those who do the country’s work must move in defense against current attacks on living standards and values. This must reach at least as many women as men, both young and old, all sexual orientations, and definitely, those hit hardest, the millions with immigrant backgrounds. Hopeful symbols were the hearty greetings from the Alevite Turkish community, from several major unions, and young activists in Fridays for Future.
Disagreement on key issues could not and will not be ignored. But the happy surprise was that this did not lead to a split, which would have meant LINKE if not general left-wing political demise! The sides agreed to disagree and now work together to win supporters — and votes — in the six state elections and the national election soon challenging the party.
There was one other aspect which surprised many and deserves attention: how many participants, especially the younger ones, dropped past shyness and stated that the current social system, now proving its decay and inhumanity more clearly than ever, must be replaced.
The goal was also named, without many former taboos; a socialist economy, no longer determined by a tiny cabal whose lust for unearned profit caused a huge, growing gap between billionaire luxury and billions facing deprivation and despair.
If this new fighting spirit and renewed orientation can be maintained, the LINKE party could play a far more potent role in strengthening opposition within Germany. And after the vicious defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s fight in Britain and with the weakness of leftist parties in France, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, a militant Left in central, powerful Germany could regain the importance it once possessed in the heyday of people like Rosa Luxemburg — who was born 150 years ago, on March 5, 1871!
Victor Grossman is a journalist from the U.S. now living in Berlin. He fled in the 1950s in danger of reprisals for his left-wing activities at Harvard and in Buffalo, New York. He landed in the former German Democratic Republic (Socialist East Germany), studied journalism, founded a Paul Robeson Archive and became a freelance journalist and author. His books available in English: Crossing the River. A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany. His latest book, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, is about his life in the German Democratic Republic from 1949 – 1990, tremendous improvements for the people under socialism, reasons for the fall of socialism, and importance of today's struggles.
This article was first published in People’s World March 4, 2021.
Biden, at the time vice president, right, speaks to Putin, then the Russian Prime Minister, second left, during a meeting in Moscow, March 10, 2011. The two are now face each other as presidents of their respective countries. | Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP
I want to start this critique of Biden’s developing foreign policy by stating clearly and unequivocally that his $1.9 trillion rescue plan deserves total support from everyone in our country. It is nothing less than a dramatic disavowal of the right-wing era launched by Ronald Reagan some 40 years ago.
Although Biden deserves praise for his domestic policy so far, his characterization on national television of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer” was just another indication of what is, unfortunately, turning out to be a dangerous trend in the foreign policy he is pursuing.
While his domestic policy radically departs from what we have seen in the U.S. over the last 40 years his, foreign policy—executed by stalwart representatives of the old establishment—is failed business as usual. And the unfortunate reality is that a continuation of the policy of military domination of the entire world will sooner or later require turning away from progressive domestic priorities.
As Biden begins his presidency, we are in a different and new world, one that did not exist in the Reagan-Bush-Clinton days of neoliberalism. The planet is in a very real climate emergency and is reeling under a global pandemic. Super recessions and depressions are crippling many countries economically. The wealth gap is growing day by day, and corruption in government, which has always been a problem, is even worse now, with scandals happening in almost every country in the world. Also worse than ever are the attacks on democracy happening in nations that have previously prided themselves as beacons of freedom.
Solutions for these unprecedented problems will require unprecedented international cooperation. This is not the time then for the president of the United States to be calling the president of Russia, the second-largest nuclear power on earth, a “killer.” There are indeed plenty of killers running plenty of countries these days, as there have been in the past, including in our own. But the crises of today require cooperation between the two largest nuclear powers.
Calling Putin a “killer,” however, reflects some real and far more dangerous trends in U.S. foreign policy. It reflects the control still being exercised by the old foreign policy establishment that played such a big role in bringing us the world-wide mess we have today.
The U.S., thanks to the old foreign policy establishment, has almost 800 military facilities around the world. The new domestic and worldwide realities of today require dismantling of that network of bases. That will require changing the thinking about what constitutes national security. That shift will have to be as big if not bigger than the change we have seen from the Biden administration when it comes to domestic policy.
For starters, the U.S. will have to stop military adventures around the globe, including the confrontational ones on Russia’s borders. Calling Russia’s leader a “killer” while the U.S. threatens that country with our troops along its frontiers is hardly helpful to the cause of re-ordering our priorities.
Likewise, U.S. military confrontation with China in the South China Sea will not be at all conducive to the necessary reordering of priorities. There is no real indication yet that Biden is moving in the direction of ending confrontation with either Russia or China.
In Afghanistan, the United States has been at war for more than 20 years. Trillions of dollars have been spent on that war. Many have died. Biden is now signaling U.S. troops will stay there beyond the date which Trump had claimed American forces would pull out. What amounts to institutionalized warfare, it seems, is something Biden is willing to continue. There is no hope of getting back what has been lost in Afghanistan. The only prudent course is to get U.S. troops out of there.
Biden, during his campaign for the White House, promised to revive the Iran nuclear deal he helped negotiate when he was vice president. He promised to also bring back the constitutional role of Congress in declaring war. But he instead ordered the bombing—over the objection of Democratic senators who called it a violation of the War Powers Act—of what he said was an Iranian-backed outpost in Syria.
In addition, he has delayed removal of 900 U.S. troops who are uninvited occupiers in Syria. He is maintaining troops in a sovereign country against its will and has ordered a bombing in that same country’s territory.
Biden said he is reviewing our drone policies, but so far, that review has resulted in more focused targeting and no indication that use of killer drones will be ended.
He is continuing U.S. support for regime change by continuing inhumane sanctions against Venezuela—sanctions clearly intended to overthrow its government. To no avail, the UN has called on the U.S. to end its cruel blockade tactics that deny medicine and food to the Venezuelan people.
And back to Russia, Biden is ratcheting up dangerous confrontation with that country. In the next few weeks, Biden said, in answer to a question on national television, that “we will see” how he retaliates for last year’s SolarWinds hack of U.S. cyberinfrastructure—for which Russia was allegedly responsible. Knowledgeable sources say the administration will approve still more sanctions on Russia and clandestine cyber actions against Russian state institutions.
Such an escalation is likely to trigger more and worse cyberattacks by both sides. Is that what we really want right now? In the long term, that will do no good at all for either the American or the Russian people.
On China, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has called relations with China “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” with the administration making a show of not just confronting China economically but also militarily in the South China Sea. U.S. naval maneuvers there continue.
As the administration does this, the Republicans put forward continued accusations in public congressional hearings that the “Chinese Communist Party” is responsible for both the pandemic and for economic problems in the U.S. resulting from the pandemic. Such anti-China rhetoric inflames the international situation while also fueling domestic anti-Asian hate crimes and attacks.
The United States cannot focus on and help solve the climate crisis, the pandemic, and worldwide economic disasters, including inequality and the wealth gap, by continuing institutionalized warfare, regime change, threats of military action, and maintaining 800 bases around the world.
No one pretends that the foreign policy of the U.S. can or will be radically changed overnight. The hope is there, however, that based on what we see happening in domestic policy, the Biden administration may yet begin to move in a better direction when it comes to foreign affairs.
You can start, Mr. President, by not grandstanding against the Russians. That’s so old, and it gets us nowhere.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.
Republished from Peoples World.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
Due to Joe Biden appointing Ohio’s 11th Congressional District Representative Marcia Fudge to his cabinet, a special election will be held to replace Fudge, likely in August or September, 2021. Summer special elections are best known for ultra low voter turnout, perhaps 10% or lower. Since Nina Turner has announced her candidacy, leftists in America are thus faced with the question of whether or not to spend their second COVID summer in Cleveland, organizing for Bernie Sanders’ most visible African American supporter so she wins a splintered Democratic Party primary with a handful of votes. What’s a Marxist to do? Let’s ask Shaft.
In the landmark 1971 film Shaft, actors Richard Roundtree (the African American playing private eye Shaft) and Charles Cioffi (Italian American playing police lieutenant Vic Androzzi), talk about race after Shaft refuses to name names. “Warms my black heart to see you so concerned about us minority folks,” says Shaft. Androzzi responds by holding a black pen next to Shaft’s face to compare the colors. “Come on, Shaft, what is it with this black shit? Huh? You ain’t so black.” Shaft then holds a white coffee cup next to Androzzi’s face declaring, “You ain’t so white, baby!”
According to St. Xavier University professor and attorney Jacqueline Battalora, the racial concept of “white” was invented, by law, to prevent solidarity amongst slaves and indentured servants against land holding colonizers in Virginia in Maryland. Battalora argues in her 2013 book “Birth of a White Nation” that the very first appearance in law, “on planet Earth”, of the term “white” is the 1681 Anti-Miscegenation law of colonial Maryland, enacted in response to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. The 1681 law banned marriage between “white women” and “negro slaves”. Battalora notes in a 2014 speech on her book that the 1681 law was not an extension of English common law, but entirely new law for the purpose of colonies.
In fact, the “lawmakers” of colonial Maryland who invented the human genetic sludge category of “white” were completely illegitimate tools of imperial capitalism in every conceivable way. They did not enact a “law” so much as they amended their articles of incorporation. Obviously, an English king (James I) stole the land called “Maryland” from indigenous tribes. Whatever “government” King James and his successors created on that land was constituted exclusively by male “owners” of the stolen land under “royal charters”, i.e. corporations. Indeed, the mother ship corporation that created every colonial royal charter - from the East India Company, to the Plymouth Company, to the Virginia Company - exists even today. All trace their legal birth to the City of London Corporation, an entity at least a thousand years old, which itself has no document whatsoever establishing its existence. Today, the City of London Corporation (now lovingly called “the City” or “the Square Mile”) is the center of world finance, a medieval black hole through which the undead legal tendrils of the British Empire form the City’s tax haven archipelago across the Caymans, Bermuda, etc.
That Empire Strikes Back every time we utter the words “white” or “black”, because those words are corporate imperial insertions into the mind, designed by capital, solely for the benefit of capital. Here we see Antonio Gramsci’s cultural hegemony of capital at its most brutal core; the very words around which we structure our world, thus voluntarily enforcing the value system of capital, merely pop out of our mouths. No bother is made of their origin, nor why those words work their magic. They are just...there, like air we breathe. Much is groundbreaking about the 1971 movie Shaft, hailed as the first “Blaxploitation” film, but somehow lost is this incredible scene where an Italian and an African teach each other with one glimpse that none of us are actually black, nor white.
Ohio’s “black seat”, which Nina Turner is now running to fill, has been gerrymandered by both parties for decades to be one of Ohio’s safest Democratic Party districts. Because Cleveland has been hollowed out by capital for decades, what used to be a 90% African American district now must be rather larger on a map, so is today only 54% African American. Thus, OH11’s 2021 version is a serpentine masterpiece, snaking from Cleveland’s poorest inner city African American & Hispanic precincts, then weirdly south through some of Ohio’s most affluent Cleveland suburbs, then into a sprawling exurbian no mans land of McMansion dead zones, then back into impoverished inner city precincts in Akron, to collect Democrats.
OH11 is thus less a “black” seat, than a Democratic Party seat. Another assumption which capital’s cultural hegemony enforces through our acquiescence is that whoever wins the Democratic primary for OH11 will be elected to Congress. In fact, should Nina Turner win this summer’s Democratic Party primary and rise to Congress, she will join a Democratic Party establishment in Northeast Ohio Nina herself forged with her own hands in 2009 with the most consequential political act of her life. Nina Turner was the only African American elected official to endorse a thinly veiled corporate takeover of Cuyahoga County government in 2009, via a new county charter which left as the only remaining countywide elected official besides the chief executive, guess who...the county prosecutor. That prosecutor, Bill Mason, who wrote the 2009 charter himself to preserve his own seat specifically, remains as current county executive Armond Budish’s chief of staff. Thus, Congresswoman Nina Turner will reunite with Mason, 12 years after (quite literally) creating him, at the top of Cleveland’s wholly owned subsidiary of capital, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.
“It is what it is.” That’s the answer you get to such obvious grotesquery from activists supporting Nina Turner for the Democratic Party nomination to the OH11 seat. Why acquiesce to this? Further, why on earth should Nina Turner acquiesce to a Democratic Party primary structure that she knows full well, based on two Bernie Sanders primary catastrophes, is rigged to its core? Because now maybe, just maybe, she can rig it herself? No, Nina, it does not need to be “what it is.” Nina Turner must refuse acquiescence to this cultural hegemony, and run as an independent for OH11. Otherwise, leftists should refuse acquiescence to Nina’s enforcement of capital’s cultural hegemony, and refuse to support her campaign.
Good news being, the circumstances this summer could not be better for refusing acquiescence to this rotted value system. First, the ultra low turnout of this special election primary will outsize the importance of the voting bloc most likely to turnout in OH11, concentrated in the largest Jewish community in America outside New York City, which would not be in this district but for capital’s total destruction of the city of Cleveland. The Democratic Party’s establishment favorite, county chair Shontel Brown, has already signaled that her entire campaign will be focused on these votes, as if she’s running to represent Israel in Congress, not Cleveland and Akron. Upon one visit to her website, you’d be forgiven for thinking Shontel Brown is the world’s most delightful black Jewish lady practically signed up for a kibbutz in some West Bank settlement. AIPAC (which paid for Shontel’s obligatory sight seeing in Israel in 2018), Democratic Majority for Israel, all the usual suspects are lined up to unload hundreds of thousands of dark money dollars and countless whisper campaigns to smear Nina with the “anti-semitism” canard that was so effective against Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, rolled out against Bernie (a Jew, we must apparently remind everyone), and used last year against Ilhan Omar. In an ultra low turnout special primary, such weaponization of identity politics will be nearly impossible to overcome, no matter how much money Nina raises, especially since Nina has proven beyond doubt she can’t build an organization to manufacture turnout.
But if Nina runs as an independent, she faces Shontel Brown’s Congresswoman for Israel routine in November, when many localities in OH11 are holding (crucially) non-partisan municipal elections, including the city of Cleveland, where Nina needs the highest turnout she can get. And guess who is likely to be running for mayor of Cleveland in 2021 - incredibly, Dennis Kucinich. An “I told you so” comeuppance 40 years in the making, the prospect of Kucinich running for mayor already has Cleveland media targeting him in a catatonic panic. Cleveland turnout in November would dwarf the pro-Israel turnout and deliver Nina to Congress over any Corbyn-esque smear campaign. And a Dennis-Nina ticket would electrify leftists nationally, mostly because it would be a total rejection of capital’s cultural hegemony.
That is the power of saying no. All around us is a Gramscian experiment, the old world dying, the new one struggling to be born. This “time of monsters”, as the saying has been bastardized, was actually coined by Antonio Gramsci in the original Italian as “morbid phenomenon”. No phenomenon is quite as morbid as the undead zombie of Northeast Ohio Democratic Party politics in a special election for U.S. Congress in early 21st century late stage capitalism. Like Shaft telling Androzzi he ain’t so white, baby, nothing has been so ripe for refusal to acquiesce.
Tim Russo is author of Ghosts of Plum Run, an ongoing historical fiction series about the charge of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg. Tim's career as an attorney and international relations professional took him to two years living in the former soviet republics, work in Eastern Europe, the West Bank & Gaza, and with the British Labour Party. Tim has had a role in nearly every election cycle in Ohio since 1988, including Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Tim ran for local office in Cleveland twice, earned his 1993 JD from Case Western Reserve University, and a 2017 masters in international relations from Cleveland State University where he earned his undergraduate degree in political science in 1989. Currently interested in the intersection between Gramscian cultural hegemony and Gandhian nonviolence, Tim is a lifelong Clevelander.
Privatization and Winter Storms Kill Texans
*Midwestern Marx youth writer Sahil Siddiqi has compiled a list of links leading to mutual aid organizations in Texas. They can be found at the bottom of the article.*
An unprecedented winter storm has thrown the state of Texas into chaos. Texans have experienced freezing cold temperatures and multiple inches of snow. At face value, this may not seem like a big deal to a Midwesterner. To those of us accustomed to these conditions, winter weather simply means it’s time to break out the winter coat and boots. For most Texans however, grabbing the Winter apparel to protect from these conditions is not an option, as the storm they are currently experiencing is unlike anything Texas has seen in recent memory. 21 people have now died, and much of the homeless population is desperately looking for warmth.
Not only are people freezing, but the state’s infrastructure is completely unprepared to withstand a blizzard of this magnitude. Videos have spread around the internet of Texans filming their roofs caving in from buildup of snow. Reports from the Texas Tribune detail millions being left without power, and many now being forced to ration food. The storm, which scientists are telling us is climate change induced, is a warning of what’s to come if the US does not change course when it comes to production. Texas’ privately owned energy grid has failed millions, while continuing to rake in profits for their services. The crumbling homes are an example of how ill prepared US infrastructure is for the storms which will only increase as the climate worsens. The clear solution is to move to a system of planned production, and worker ownership of all major industries. Continuing to allow private companies to command production is suicidal for the working masses. Socialism and planned production must be implemented, or private interests will continue to destroy the planet, while apathetically watching us die in the climate storms of their own creation.
Local Texas news station KHOU 11 reports that the private utility company ERCOT met to discuss what should be done during this disaster. The conclusion was that electricity prices should be raised, due to an increase in the demand for power. There may have never been a clearer example of how little profit driven private entities care for anything besides profit itself. The very fact that companies are allowed to make a surplus profit off of something as essential as electricity, highlights the irrationality of a capitalist economy. However, in the face of an unprecedented storm, it becomes more clear than ever how the system incentivizes profit, and profit alone. Private companies like ERCOT look at a situation in which people are dying and being left without power, and see only an increase in consumer demand, which will allow for a hike in their prices. They care nothing for the human costs of their actions.
Privately owned utilities must be seized and made public. This is quite literally our only option. So long as private interests are in control of the major sectors of the US economy, they will continue to be apathetic towards the effect their production has on the climate, and they will continue to turn the climate change storms they create into profitable business opportunities. The solution is for the working masses to seize the major sectors of economic power, because workers are those who feel the negative effects of climate change. The capitalists are not struggling in Texas. On the contrary, they are thriving. Capitalists sit and watch the chaos of the storm on television from the comfort of million dollar electrified homes, plotting new avenues of exploitation, which can bring an increase in shareholder profits. Capitalism is, at its core, a system which incentivizes a group of greedy vultures to extract all they can from the masses of society. A fact which this storm in Texas has made apparent. It is as Rosa Luxemburg said many years ago, we must choose between socialism, or barbarism.
*Links to Help Texas Compiled by Sahil Siddiqi*
- North Texas Mutual Aid
- Austin Mutual Aid
- Ending community homelessness coalition (ECHO)
- get free lunches to homeless people
- Texas health and human services
- Texas COVID-19 Mutual relief
 Aguilar, Julián. “Texans Running out of Food as Weather Crisis Disrupts Supply Chain.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, February 18, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/17/texas-food-supply-power-outage/.
 Staff, Author: KHOU 11. “ERCOT to Raise Texas Energy Prices, Blaming High Demand from Winter Storm.” khou.com, February 16, 2021. https://www.khou.com/article/weather/ercot-to-raise-texas-energy-prices-blaming-high-demand-from-winter-storm/285-76ea495b-b67b-4cb7-8f1a-47f0fb4b4234.
Edward is from Sauk City, Wisconsin and received his B.A. in Political Science from Loras College, where he was a former NCAA wrestling All-American, and an active wrestling coach. His main interest are in Geopolitics and the role of American imperialism with relation to socialist states, specifically China and Venezuela. He also worked for Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2020.