US Navy patrolling the Pacific Ocean. January 27, 2017. US Navy photo by Theo Shively / Flickr.
The announcement on April 15 by President Biden that this administration was expelling 10 Kremlin diplomats and imposing new sanctions for alleged Russian interference in the 2020 US elections — to which Russia replied with a tit for tat — came just days after the Pentagon conducted military drills in the South China Sea. These actions were but the latest escalation of aggressive posturing as Washington ramps up its “New Cold War” against Russia and China, pushing the world dangerously towards international political and military conflagration.
Most observers attribute this US-instigated war to rivalry and competition over hegemony and international economic control. These factors are important, but there is a bigger picture that has been largely overlooked of what is driving this process: the crisis of global capitalism.
This crisis is economic, or structural. One of chronic stagnation in the global economy. But it is also political: a crisis of state legitimacy and capitalist hegemony. The system is moving towards what we call “a general crisis of capitalist rule” as billions of people around the world face uncertain struggles for survival and question a system they no longer see as legitimate.
In the United States, the ruling groups must channel fear over tenuous survival away from the system and towards scapegoated communities, such as immigrants or Asians blamed for the pandemic, and towards external enemies such as China and Russia. At the same time, rising international tensions legitimate expanding military and security budgets and open up new opportunities for profit making through war, political conflict and repression in the face of stagnation in the civilian economy.
All around the world a “people’s spring” has taken off. From Chile to Lebanon, Iraq to India, France to the United States, Haiti to Nigeria and South Africa to Colombia, waves of strikes and mass protests have proliferated and, in many instances, appear to be acquiring a radical anti-capitalist character. The ruling groups cannot but be frightened by the rumbling from below. If left unchallenged, the New Cold War will become a cornerstone in the arsenal of US rulers and transnational elites to maintain a grip on power as the crisis deepens.
THE CRISIS OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM
Economically, global capitalism faces what is known in technical language as “overaccumulation”: a situation in which the economy has produced — or has the capacity to produce — great quantities of wealth but the market cannot absorb this wealth because of escalating inequality. Capitalism by its very nature will produce abundant wealth yet polarize that wealth and generate ever greater levels of social inequality unless offset by redistributive policies. The level of global social polarization and inequality now experienced is without precedent. In 2018, the richest one percent of humanity controlled more than half of the world’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent had to make do with just five percent.
Such inequalities end up undermining the stability of the system as the gap grows between what is — or could be — produced and what the market can absorb. The extreme concentration of the planet’s wealth in the hands of the few and the accelerated impoverishment and dispossession of the majority means that the transnational capitalist class, or TCC, has increasing difficulty in finding productive outlets to unload enormous amounts of surplus it accumulated.
The more global inequalities expand, the more constricted the world market becomes and the more the system faces a structural crisis of overaccumulation. If left unchecked, expanding social polarization results in crisis — in stagnation, recessions, depressions, social upheavals and war — just what we are experiencing right now.
Contrary to mainstream accounts, the coronavirus pandemic did not cause the crisis of global capitalism, for this was already upon us. On the eve of the pandemic, growth in the EU countries had already shrunk to zero, much of Latin America and sub-Sahara Africa was in recession, growth rates in Asia were steadily declining, and North America faced a slowdown. The writing was on the wall. The contagion was but the spark that ignited the combustible of a global economy that never fully recovered from the 2008 financial collapse and had been teetering on the brink of renewed crisis ever since.
Even if there is a momentary recovery as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic, global capitalism will remain mired in this structural crisis of overaccumulation. In the years leading up to the pandemic there was a steady rise in underutilized capacity and a slowdown in industrial production around the world. The surplus of accumulated capital with nowhere to go expanded rapidly. Transnational corporations recorded record profits during the 2010s at the same time that corporate investment declined.
The total cash held in reserves of the world’s 2,000 biggest non-financial corporations increased from $6.6 trillion in 2010 to $14.2 trillion in 2020 — considerably more than the foreign exchange reserves of the world’s central governments — as the global economy stagnated. Wild financial speculation and mounting government corporate, and consumer debt drove growth in the first two decades of the 21st century, but these are temporary and unsustainable solutions to long-term stagnation.
THE GLOBAL WAR ECONOMY
As I showed in my 2020 book, The Global Police State, the global economy has become ever more dependent on the development and deployment of systems of warfare, social control and repression simply as a means of making profit and continuing to accumulate capital in the face of chronic stagnation and saturation of global markets. This is known as “militarized accumulation” and refers to a situation in which a global war economy relies on perpetual state organized war making, social control and repression — driven now by new digital technologies — in order to sustain the process of capital accumulation.
The events of September 11, 2001 marked the start of an era of a permanent global war in which logistics, warfare, intelligence, repression, surveillance and even military personnel are more and more the privatized domain of transnational capital. The Pentagon budget increased 91 percent in real terms between 1998 and 2011, while worldwide, total state military budgets outlays grew by 50 percent from 2006 to 2015, from $1.4 trillion to more than $2 trillion, although this figure did not take into account the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on intelligence, contingency operations, policing, bogus wars against immigrants, terrorism and drugs, and “homeland security.” During this time, military-industrial complex profits quadrupled.
But focusing just on state military budgets only gives us a part of the picture of the global war economy. The various wars, conflicts and campaigns of social control and repression around the world involve the fusion of private accumulation with state militarization. In this relationship, the state facilitates the expansion of opportunities for private capital to accumulate through militarization, such as by facilitating global weapons sales by military-industrial-security firms, the amounts of which have reached unprecedented levels. Global weapons sales by the top 100 weapons manufacturers and military service companies increased by 38 percent between 2002 and 2016.
By 2018, private for-profit military companies employed some 15 million people around the world, while another 20 million people worked in private security worldwide. The private security (policing) business is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in many countries and has come to dwarf public security around the world. The amount spent on private security in 2003, the year of the invasion of Iraq, was 73 percent higher than that spent in the public sphere, and three times as many persons were employed in private forces as in official law enforcement agencies. In half of the world’s countries, private security agents outnumber police officers.
These corporate soldiers and police were deployed to guard corporate property, provide personal security for TCC executives and their families, collect data, conduct police, paramilitary, counterinsurgency and surveillance operations, carry out mass crowd control and repression of protesters, run private detention and interrogation facilities, manage prisons and participate in outright warfare.
In 2018, President Trump announced with much fanfare the creation of a sixth military service, the “space force.” The corporate media duly towed the official line that this force was needed to face expanding threats to the United States. What went less reported is that a small group of former government officials with deep ties to the aerospace industry had pushed behind the scenes for its creation as a way to hype military spending on satellites and other space systems.
In February of this year, the Federation of American Scientists reported that military-industrial complex lobbying is responsible for the decision by the US government to invest at least $100 billion to beef up its nuclear stockpile. The Biden administration announced in early April to much acclaim that it would pull all US troops out of Afghanistan. While US service troops in that country number 2,500, these pale in comparison with the more than 18,000 contractors that US government has hired to do its bidding in the country, including at least 5,000 corporate soldiers that will remain.
The so-called wars on drugs and terrorism, the undeclared wars on immigrants, refugees and gangs — and poor, dark-skinned and working-class youth more generally — the construction of border walls, immigrant detention centers, prison-industrial complexes, systems of mass surveillance and the spread of private security guard and mercenary companies, have all become major sources of profit-making and they will become more important to the system as stagnation becomes the new normal. In sum, the global police state is big business at a time when other opportunities for transnational corporate profit-making are limited.
But if corporate profit, and not an external threat, is the reason for expanding the US state and corporate war machine and the global police state, this must still be justified to the public. The official state propaganda narrative about the “New Cold War” serves this purpose.
CONJURING UP EXTERNAL ENEMIES
There is another dynamic at work in explaining the New Cold War: the crisis of state legitimacy and capitalist hegemony. International tensions derive from the acute political contradiction in global capitalism in which economic globalization takes places within a nation-state-based system of political authority. To put this in technical terms, there is a contradiction between the accumulation function and the legitimacy function of states. That is, states face a contradiction between the need to promote transnational capital accumulation in their individual national territories and their need to achieve political legitimacy and stabilize the domestic social order.
Attracting transnational corporate and financial investments to the national territory requires providing capital with all the incentives associated with neoliberalism, such as downward pressure on wages, union busting, deregulation, low or no taxes, privatization, investment subsidies, fiscal austerity and on so. The result is rising inequality, impoverishment and insecurity for working and popular classes; precisely the conditions that throw states into crises of legitimacy, destabilize national political systems and jeopardize elite control.
International frictions escalate as states, in their efforts to retain legitimacy, seek to sublimate social and political tensions and to keep the social order from fracturing. In the US, this sublimation has involved channeling social unrest towards scapegoated communities such as immigrants — this is one key function of racism and was a core component of the Trump government’s political strategy — or towards an external enemy such as China or Russia, which is clearly becoming a cornerstone of the Biden government’s strategy.
While the Chinese and Russian ruling classes must also face the economic and political fallout of global crisis, their national economies are less dependent on militarized accumulation and their mechanisms of legitimization rest elsewhere — not on conflict with the US. It is Washington that is conjuring up the New Cold War, based not on any political or military threat from China and Russia, much less from economic competition, as US- and Chinese-based transnational corporations are deeply cross-invested, but on the imperative of managing and sublimating the crisis.
The drive by the capitalist state to externalize the political fallout of the crisis increases the danger that international tensions will lead to war. Historically wars have pulled the capitalist system out of crisis while they serve to deflect attention from political tensions and problems of legitimacy. The so-called “peace dividend” that was to result in demilitarization when the original Cold War ended with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union evaporated almost overnight with the events of September 2001, which legitimated the sham “War on Terror” as a new pretext for militarization and reactionary nationalism. US presidents historically reach their highest approval ratings when they launch wars. George W. Bush reached an all-time-high of 90 percent in 2001 as his administration geared up to invade Afghanistan, and his father George H. W. Bush achieved an 89 percent approval rating in 1991, right as the US declared the end of its (first) invasion of Iraq and the “liberation of Kuwait.”
THE BATTLE FOR THE POST-PANDEMIC WORLD
We are currently witnessing a radical restructuring and transformation of global capitalism based on a much more advanced digitalization of the entire global economy and society. This process is driven by so-called fourth industrial revolution technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, Big Data, autonomously driven land, air and sea vehicles, quantum and cloud computing, 5G bandwidth, bio- and nanotechnology and the Internet of Things, or IoT.
The crisis is not only economic and political, but also existential because of the threats of ecological collapse and nuclear war, to which we must add the danger of future pandemics that may involve much deadlier microbes than coronaviruses. The pandemic lockdowns served as dry runs for how digitalization may allow the dominant groups to step up restructuring time and space and to exercise greater control over the global working class. The system is now pushing towards expansion through militarization, wars and conflicts, through a new round of violent dispossession and through further plunder of the state.
The ruling classes are also using the health emergency to legitimate tighter control over restive populations. The changing social and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic and its aftermath are accelerating the process. These conditions have helped a new bloc of transnational capital, led by the giant tech companies, interwoven as they are with finance, pharmaceuticals and the military-industrial complex, to amass ever greater power and to consolidate its control over the commanding heights of the global economy. As restructuring proceeds, it heightens the concentration of capital worldwide, worsens social inequality and also aggravates international tensions and the dangers of military conflagration.
In 2018, just seventeen global financial conglomerates collectively managed $41.1 trillion dollars — more than half the GDP of the entire planet. That same year, to reiterate, the richest one percent of humanity led by 36 million millionaires and 2,400 billionaires controlled more than half of the world’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent — nearly six billion people — had to make do with just five percent of this wealth. The result is devastation for the poor majority of humanity.
Worldwide, 50 percent of all people live on less than $2.50 a day and a full 80 percent live on less than $10 per day. One in three people on the planet suffer from some form of malnutrition, nearly a billion go to bed hungry each night and another two billion suffer from food insecurity. Refugees from war, climate change, political repression and economic collapse already number into the hundreds of millions. The New Cold War will further immiserate this mass of humanity.
Capitalist crises are times of intense social and class struggles. There has been a rapid political polarization in global society since 2008 between an insurgent far-right and an insurgent left. The ongoing crisis has incited popular revolts. Workers, farmers and poor people have engaged in a wave of strikes and protests around the world. From Sudan to Chile, France to Thailand, South Africa to the United States, a “people’s spring” is breaking out everywhere. But the crisis also animates far-right and neofascist forces that have surged in many countries around the world and that sought to capitalize politically on the health calamity and its aftermath. Neofascist movements and authoritarian and dictatorial regimes have proliferated around the world as democracy breaks down.
Such savage inequalities are explosive. They fuel mass protest by the oppressed and lead the ruling groups to deploy an ever more omnipresent global police state to contain the rebellion of the global working and popular classes. Global capitalism is emerging from the pandemic in a dangerous new phase. The contradictions of this crisis-ridden system have reached the breaking point, placing the world into a perilous situation that borders on global civil war.
The stakes could not be higher. The battle for the post-pandemic world is now being waged. Part of that battle is to expose the New Cold War as a ruse by the dominant groups to deflect our attention from the escalating crisis of global capitalism.
William I. Robinson is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Global Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His book, Global Civil War: Repression and Rebellion in the Post-Pandemic World, will be released by PM Press early next year.
This article was first published by Roar Magazine.
Propaganda as the world knows it is essentially a human phenomenon. History has practically become defined by propaganda in the human process, the power of societal influence and how such influence has the ability to form entire identities. Having entrenched itself into the very foundation of society, propaganda has remained an inescapable force even to the modern day. Whether it be from the age of Robespierre and the French Revolution or one of the most devastating wars in world history, propaganda is integral for the formulating of public opinion. As such, the effect of propaganda that fills the past often lingers well into the coming future, and especially in the current era. Ultimately, propaganda is a universal entity.
In order to develop a legitimate foundation for understanding the mission and the process in line with global propaganda, the study of Edward Bernays is pivotal. Bernays outlines the force of influence and its deep roots in the political, economic, and cultural realms of society that effect average everyday life. For example, the psychological aspect of the propaganda machine and the exploitation of the public mind is a primary tactic in establishing a base of influential control. To quote; “By playing upon an old cliché, or manipulating a new one, the propagandist can sometimes swing a whole mass of group emotions.” Essentially, the targets of propaganda are manipulated based on internalized thought processes, creating a manufactured consent so as to bolster the power of the ruling class and those associated with it. A significant extent of this manufacturing of consent comes with the creation of an enemy, most often an enemy that must be destroyed in order to maintain the goals of the driving forces.
A revolution cannot exist without a strong propaganda force. Whether that revolution be in the age of Robespierre or the age of the Soviet Union, propaganda was an absolute necessity for the mass uprisings. As the first successfully created socialist state built on the principles of Marx and Engels, in addition to application of the (at the time) developing theories of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian Revolution and the establishing of the Soviet Union is often seen as an inspiration for the world communist movement throughout the twentieth century, and in many ways even to the modern day. There’s a reason the official ideology of the Soviet Union expanded beyond Orthodox Marxism with the incorporation of Leninism, being that Lenin’s theoretical contributions soon served as the very foundation for building the socialist state, with The State and Revolution being integral for a theoretical understanding of maintaining a revolution and the transition from capitalism to full communism.
According to Lenin to properly reach full communism, a transitional stage is required in order to continuously defend the revolutionary goals and practices. In the establishing of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the communists aim to uphold the revolution against any reactionary forces internal or external. In line with class struggle, the bourgeoisie and other reactionary, pro-capitalist forces are resisted by maintaining a strong armed force, a strong proletarian democracy, and the forced suppression of the reactionaries. The capitalist class is the ultimate enemy of the working class and socialist revolutionaries, and so it becomes of the utmost significance to protect the revolutions gains and interests through armed defense. To quote Lenin,
“But the dictatorship of the proletariat-i.e.,the organization of the vanguard of the oppressed as the ruling class for the purpose of crushing the oppressors cannot produce merely an expansion of democracy. Together with an immense expansion of democracy which for the first time becomes democracy for the poor, democracy for the people, and not democracy for the rich folk, the dictatorship of the proletariat produces a series of restrictions of liberty in the case of the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must crush them in order to free humanity from wage slavery; their resistance must be broken by force; it is clear that where there is suppression there is also violence, there is no liberty, no democracy.”
After the death of Lenin, Joseph Stalin ultimately held the position of General Secretary of the CPSU and aimed to carry out the revolution and build a socialist society through the ideals of Marxism-Leninism, a culmination of Marx’s, Engels’, and Lenin’s contributions to revolutionary communist theory. As a means of industrializing, modernizing, and establishing a socialist economy in the Soviet Union, the CPSU instituted the Five Year Plan program, built to accomplish these goals in rapid and sufficient status. However, there existed people within the USSR that were against the Five Year Plans and the collective farming initiatives: the kulaks. Kulaks, essentially, were upper-peasants that engaged in capitalist and exploitative practices that opposed the threat that collectivization posed to their profitability.
Though sources differ, there exist reports of kulaks sabotaging the collectivization efforts by means of killing livestock, burning and/or improper care of crops, and other means of destruction and sabotage. In line with the defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat as outlined by Lenin as applied to the USSR, measures needed to be carried out in order to protect the Five Year programs and the forward development of the Soviet economy. Through efforts to “oust the elements of capitalism from the countryside, subsequent action was taken to guarantee the success of the collective farming system. “Naturally, the policy of restricting the kulaks' exploiting tendencies, the policy of restricting the capitalist elements in the countryside, cannot but lead to the ousting of individual sections of the kulaks. Consequently, ousting individual sections of the kulaks cannot be regarded otherwise than as an inevitable result and a component part of the policy of restricting the capitalist elements in the countryside.” Here we can see that the Soviet enemy was based on a person’s class status and their actions.
On the other hand, Fascism consists of a form of propaganda built entirely on the demonizing and the other-ing through genetic essentialism of groups that are, in essence, treated as undesirable and enemies to the fascist state. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany is the embodiment of propaganda gone awry. Nazis, and fascists in general, have to create these undesirables and bring public opinion into the same wavelength. In the case of Nazi Germany, whether they be communists, homosexuals, or especially of jewish descent, the formation of the undesirable is designed to establish a new status quo and paint the governing fascist body’s ideology as the be-all-end-all of public ideals. This is accomplished not only through direct governmental actions (I.e the Holocaust, invasion of Poland, etc.) but through the utilization of mass media. “The Eternal Jew” is one of the cornerstones of Nazi propaganda and the culmination of state antisemitism to utterly destroy any human qualities of the Jewish people. One of the kickers for this film, among other forms of propaganda and actions taken on by the Nazi forces, is that a great deal of influence stems from the United States, as the Nazi film used an excerpt from an American antisemitic film as a means to cement the notion that Jews are nothing more than money-hungry, deceitful, and untrustworthy.
Simultaneously a separate entity and something acting in synthesis with mass media, the educational system is a prime force for the propagandists and the manufacturing of an obedient and unquestioning society. The Nazi educational system was not one that most would envy, as it was built almost entirely on the revision of German history and the bolstering of a demigod status for Hitler. The life and times of Adolf Hitler are used not only to victimize Germany, but to essentially make Adolf Hitler into the embodiment of Germany itself in both its victim status and its rise to power. As displayed in The Legitimate History of Lies, a Nazi textbook translated by Aleksandr Rainis, Hitler’s life (similar to that of Germany’s life) has been ripe with hardship, rejection, and disrespect. The entire first chapter of this textbook is dedicated to covering Hitler’s developing political history, beginning first with what is, essentially, a sob story to garner an initial sympathy for the man who would become the Fuhrer, citing his father’s death at a young age and the ever-so unfortunate rejection from art school- his dreams of artistic ascension crushed. Later in his life Hitler formed himself as a savior in German eyes during WWI, saving his commander among other “amazing” feats.
In the modern age, the forces of propaganda scrambled to establish a new “other,” a new enemy for the west as the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 practically diminished the entire purpose of such organizations as NATO with the communist movement in Europe ultimately halted. As a result of the September 11th 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, and, ultimately, of western funding of terrorist groups for the sole purpose of containment and the anti-communism burned into society during the Cold War, the self-created threat of radical Islamic terrorism became the new boogeyman for the western world.
The creation of these threats by way of the reactionary Cold War containment policy as espoused by the west has brought about nothing but antagonism and destruction against the Middle Eastern region. Through the export of “democracy,” in line with the rhetoric and actions against the global socialist movement, US propaganda and policy has detrimentally effected the likes of Libya, Syria, Iraq, and other such countries in the area, all for the sake of imperialist, hegemonic expansion. Whether it be claims of chemical attacks by the Assad government in Syria, incubator babies in Iraq, or something in a similar vein, these falsehoods perpetuated by the US and other western powers against such countries are a continuation of the centuries-long history of western imperialism, colonialism, and the always vulturous capitalism.
Bernays, Edward. Propaganda. IG Publishing, 1928; 74.
Lenin, Vladimir. “The State and Revolution.” Internet History Sourcebooks, 1917,
Lenin, Vladimir. “The State and Revolution.” Internet History Sourcebooks, 1917, Chapter 5, Section 2. “Transition from Capitalism to Communism,” sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/lenin-staterev.asp.
Stalin, J.V. “Concerning the Policy of Eliminating of the Kulaks as a Class.” Marxists Internet Archive, 1930, www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1930/01/21.htm.
Hippler, Fritz, director. The Eternal Jew. Archive.org, 28 Nov. 1940, archive.org/details/TheEternalJewDerEwigeJude1940.
Snyder, Timothy. “Hitler Modeled His Plan for Global Conquest After America's Manifest Destiny.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 8 Mar. 2017, slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/03/nazi-germanys-american-dream-hitler-modeled-his- concept-of-racial-struggle-and-global-campaign-after-americas-conquest-of-native-americans.html.
Rainis, Aleksandr. Legitimate History of Lies. Lulu Com, 2012 50-51.
Etler, Dennis. “The U.S. Is Exporting Instability and War, Not Freedom and Democracy.” CGTN, April 8, 2021.
Jymee C is an aspiring Marxist historian and teacher with a BA in history from Utica College, hoping to begin working towards his Master's degree in the near future. He's been studying Marxism-Leninism for the past five years and uses his knowledge and understanding of theory to strengthen and expand his historical analyses. His primary interests regarding Marxism-Leninism and history include the Soviet Union, China, the DPRK, and the various struggles throughout US history among other subjects. He is currently conducting research for a book on the Korean War and US-DPRK relations. In addition, he is a 3rd Degree black belt in karate and runs the YouTube channel "Jymee" where he releases videos regarding history, theory, self-defense, and the occasional jump into comedy https://www.youtube.com/c/Jymee
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In their extensive correspondence on the American Civil War, Marx and Engels discuss filibusters. Before the term was understood as a U.S. Senate delaying speech, filibusters were known as American private military mercenaries seeking to conquer land, mostly in the Caribbean and Central and South America, to establish slavery in those lands by claiming the land for themselves and establishing a new country (for instance, Texas). Marx and Engels saw filibustering as an extension of American imperialism driven by slavery’s existential insatiable need to expand constantly, or die, like capitalism itself. The swashbuckling filibusters themselves, always relying on slavery for their production once they stole the land, saw their role as either highly ideological, or highly profitable, or just for adventure. This brings us to Israeli settlers, many of whom are Americans.
A 2015 Oxford University study estimated that 15% of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land, about 60,000, are American born, a number which is likely much higher today.
“Hirschhorn said her research reveals that most American Jewish settlers came when they “were young, single, highly-educated – something like 10 percent of American settlers in the occupied territories hold PhDs, they’re upwardly mobile, they’re traditional but not necessarily Orthodox in their religious practice, and most importantly, they were politically active in the leftist socialist movements in the US in the 1960s and 70s and voted for the Democratic Party prior to their immigration to Israel.... “They’re not only compelled by some biblical imperative to live in the Holy Land of Israel and hasten the coming of the messiah, but also deeply inspired by an American vision of pioneering and building new suburbanized utopian communities in the occupied territories. They draw on their American background and mobilize the language they were comfortable with, discourses about human rights and civil liberties that justify the kind of work that they’re doing.”
Marx and Engels would recognize American settlers in Israel as nothing more than filibusters from the imperial core, stealing land at the point of a mercenary gun. Given the apocalyptic joie de vivre of the 21st century version, precious little separates an American settler in the West Bank from a Mormon trekking to Utah to settle on native held land because he heard a talking salamander opine about gold plates dug up in Missouri, or a Spanish priest raising a crucifix in the face of an Aztec demanding his gold in the name of Christ Our Savoir. In a Marxist analysis, an American settler in Israel is an imperial capitalist cancer that is very old indeed, whose last flare up (not coincidentally) was immediately before the American Civil War, in capitalist slavery’s most desperate moment, just before its death.
And yet, analyzing Palestine through the lens of colonialism has relied solely on categorizing Israel as the colonizer stealing the land. In fact, under a Marxist analysis, the only structurally theoretical change brought about in Palestine by the creation of Israel after World War II is that the colonizer changed from Britain, the first global capitalist empire, to the United States, the next capitalist empire. The $3 billion yearly from American taxpayers to the Israeli government is merely the most obvious proof. The capture of both major American political parties by Israeli settlers would be understood by Marx and Engels as mirroring exactly the “slaveocracy’s” capture of American government across the board during the century before Ft. Sumter in 1861. The filibustering settlers carrying AR-15s shouting in Brooklyn accents as they lynch the Palestinians whose land they stole are merely the most visible, sharpest end, of capital’s sword. Like filibusters in the mid-19th century dragging America into the Mexican War, then the Civil War, American settlers in Israel hijack the American state into myriad wars profoundly unsupported by the American people, whether they want the war or not. The apocalyptic mania is just the icing on the cake. From a dialectical approach, Israel is merely the predictable result of capital, like the Confederacy before it.
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.
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 email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.
A common line of argument from the contemporary American left is that “socialism has never been tried.” It’s understandable that Western socialists would make this argument to members of the US proletariat, who have been deeply affected by years of red scare propaganda. This argument however, ignores the millions who have struggled and died in an effort to move beyond the contradictions of capitalism. It diminishes the herculean effort which was needed to transform Cuba from an agrarian society, managed by Western multinationals and their dictator Batista, into its current form, a Nation who recently sent an army of doctors all around the globe to fight Covid. Most importantly, this argument that socialism has never been tried, ignores the role played by Western imperialism in destroying, or attempting to destroy, any and all attempts at building an alternative economic system to capitalism. What Vijay Prashad does in Washington Bullets, is concisely detail just how the US and their allies go about crushing economic and political enemies. The book serves as a guide for a younger generation of socialists to understanding the tools and techniques of the imperialists, which have for years been used to maintain what US officials have called ‘Preponderant Power’, or in other words, economic, political, and military domination of the entire planet.
As Karl Marx wrote his theories on capitalism in the 19th century, he predicted that capitalism would take hold globally, the productive forces of Nations would increase, and eventually workers revolutions would sweep the old system aside, replacing it with communism. While Marx was not dogmatic in this view, and became more critical of colonialism and imperialism later in life, it is safe to say he did not predict the level of capitalist imperialism which would emerge, and be analyzed by Vladimir Lenin in the early 20th century. Rather than the productive forces of all nations increasing as capitalism developed, Lenin found that Imperialist Nations actively halt the development of productive forces in the country's they exploit. Take for example Venezuela, who for years saw their most abundant natural resource, oil, extracted by British Dutch Shell and Rockefeller Standard Oil. The profits from this oil flowed to Western Private interests, while Venezuela was left with underdeveloped industry, and an entirely oil dependent economy. It was in this context that Venezuela sought to build socialism through reclaiming their natural resources, while simultaneously facing an all out assault of sanctions and coup attempts from the US. The role imperialism plays in the present struggle for socialism is immense. Prahsad’s book analyzes both the impact of imperialism, as well as its changing forms, with the explicit goal of giving socialists a better idea of how to combat it.
In Part One of Three, Prashad talks of Imperialism’s change of form, which was seen after World War II. Following the war, national liberation movements swept across the global south, primarily in Africa and Southern Asia. The Japanese empire and European powers, weakened from the destruction of the Second World War, began losing their grip on their liberation minded colonies. Vietnam, Korea, Syria, Algeria and many more would declare independence following the war, with most only doing so after years of organized struggle. These national liberation movements created a shift from traditional colonialism, to what is usually called neocolonialism. Many nations did achieve their national independence and legal recognition as a nation, what Prashad calls ‘flag independence’. However, the economic and political systems of these nations remain largely under the control of Western private interests. The events of the war, and the National liberation movements, forced a change in form of Western Imperialism. The United States was now the dominant empire, and their primary goal was ‘preponderant power’. A phrase Prashad takes directly from State Department documents, which essentially means the US will seek to be the world’s sole superpower, and enforce their own preferred political and economic systems wherever is seen fit.
The United Nations was created following the war in 1945, with the publicly stated goal of maintaining world peace, and preventing any one nation from acting belligerently. However, in the founding charters of the UN, Prashad finds Western Nations had already crafted the legal framework to justify imperialist aggression. Article 41 allows for sanctions and economic disruption by UN member states, and Article 42 explicitly allows for the use of armed force against sovereign nations. Despite this, the UN security council, made up of France, UK, China, USSR, and the US, held the power to veto acts of unwarranted aggression by fellow member states. The first 56 vetoes were made by the USSR in an effort to protect liberation movements, which often had socialist tendencies, from Western aggression. Later in the book, Prashad describes how Saddam Huessein wondered why the USSR hadn’t come to his aid as the US bombed Iraq to a pre-industrial state in 1990. He was unaware that the USSR had already begun its collapse, and smaller nations like Iraq would no longer have a shield from Washington’s aggression.
Part Two of Washington Bullets begins with a nine point manual on how the US goes about enacting regime change against those who defy their interests. Prashad uses the events of the 1954 CIA backed coup of Jocobo Arbenz in Guatemala, and a myriad of other examples, to describe the repeated strategies used by the CIA, and other regime change arms of the US State Department. There are patterns of imperialism which play out again and again. Understanding these patterns is vital when analyzing what the State Department is currently looking to do to their enemies such as China, Venezuela, and Iran.
The first step in any US regime change effort is to manufacture public support for intervention. This involves a propaganda campaign not just at home, but also within the target Nation. Prior to the coup in Guatemala, journalists from NYT, Chicago Tribune, and TIME all received payments from the United Fruit, the multinational company which dominated Guatemala. In reality Arbenz was a popular leader who sought to enact minor land reforms. In the media he was portrayed as a dangerous communist, drunk with power. As the US corporate media fell in line, the CIA filled the streets of Guatemala with anti-Arbenz propaganda. This strategy of propagandizing both the American Public, and the people of whatever country the US is targeting, has been repeated again and again. Libya, Syria, and Venezuela have all seen money from the West used to bolster right wing media campaigns inside their borders. Control of public opinion has been one of the most vital components to US regime change efforts from the beginning.
Step four in Prashad’s manual of regime change is to “Make the Economy Scream.” A reference to directions given by Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon to the CIA in 1970, as the US looked to overthrow the Democratically elected Salvadore Allende in Chile. Here we see a vital component of what Prashad calls ‘hybrid war.’ Isolating from the world those Nations who seek to develop themselves, and reclaim their own natural resources. Sanctions and blockades are used to starve smaller nations of financing and trade, as corporate media outlets point and say “look. Don’t you see socialism clearly doesn’t work?” US sanctions recently led to many deaths in Venezuela and Iran during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the US has continued their murderous regime change efforts, with techniques they designed almost 70 years ago.
All these strategies of the empire, which Prashad lays in the manual for regime change, have the shared goal of destabilizing target nations. If the State Department thinks that starving Venezuelan civilians via sanctions will increase political unrest, they will not think twice about enacting those sanctions. There is no consideration given to human rights, democracy, or whatever it is that corporate media claims to be the goal of US foreign policy. The true goal is destabilization of the target Nation, and the replacement of their government, with one which will favor the interests of Western multinational corporations. Prashad uses the term ‘hybrid wars’ to describe the sustained regime change efforts enacted by the US around the world to achieve these goals.
In Part Three Professor Prashad gives a short history of imperialism’s change in form following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and some analysis of US regime change efforts since that time. Without the Soviet umbrella of protection, Prashad says “interventions from the west came like a tsunami.” He writes of the aforementioned bombing campaign against Iraq, which would have previously been strongly opposed by the USSR. Following their ruthless bombing of Iraq, the US went on to sanction the country for 13 years, before launching a full scale invasion, killing millions of people, before occupying the country where they remain today. The collapse of the Soviet Union increased the US capacity for achieving Preponderant Power. By the early 2000s Western Propagandists had coined the term “war on terror” which took the place of the “cold war” as the justification for invading a smaller country, and killing hundreds of their people.
In this section Prashad also covers the current global financial system, which was essentially hand crafted by the US, and Western private entities. Global financial organizations, such as the IMF and World Bank largely control which countries will receive financing. IMF financing to Chile was halted after Allende’s rise to power, only to be increased again when the despotic dictator Agusto Pinochet seized control of the country with a great deal of help from the CIA. In addition, the financial institutions have become notorious for their structural adjustment programs. Promising to finance only Nations who promise to cut social spending, and implement other neoliberal economic reforms. Countries who accept these deals often see the interest on their loans hiked to absurd levels, leaving them trapped in debt, and at the mercy of the Western dominated global financial system. This debt trapping technique is one of the many issues socialist leader Thomas Sankara railed against as President of Burkina Faso, prior to his being murdered by French backed forces in 1987.
Given the level of corporate dominance in the global economic and political systems, Western interests have developed more covert methods of regime change, which they employ when possible. Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have long played a role in regime change efforts, posing as unbiased observers, while doing all they can to destabilize target Nations and promote Western media narratives. Prashad focuses on Haiti, who have more NGOs than any country on Earth. When priest and socialist Jean Bertrand-Aristide became the first democratically elected Haitian leader in history, he was quickly ousted by what essentially amounted to a coup by NGO. After a struggle for power, and a second coup of Aristide in 2004, Haiti became a “republic of NGOs.” A country with no real state, essentially being directly governed by Western Interests. To this day Haiti remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
In addition to coup by NGO, Prashad touches on what he calls ‘lawfare’ or the use of the legal system to dismantle left wing movements. For US based socialists the FBI and Police crackdown on the Black Panther party should come to mind. Intellectual leaders such as Fred Hampton were murdered, while many others were sent to jail on trumped up charges. Prashad uses the example of Brazil, where the left wing Lula da Silva was put in jail on charges of corruption by a judge who would later be a member of the far right Bolsonaro Government, who took power in Lula’s absence. Under Bolsonaro’s Western backed leadership, multinationals have been given free reign to pillage the Amazon rainforest of resources.
Professor Vijay Prashad is one of the most well read Marxist intellectuals alive today. The fact that his books are published in english should be considered a gift to those of us living in the heart of the US empire. In a country where we find ourselves surrounded by imperialist and anti-communist propaganda, a book like Washington Bullets cuts directly through the bullshit. Prashad often says that he writes not to simply explain history, but to discover how it can be changed. This book is a concise history of US imperialism and regime change since the second world war, and paints a clear picture of how these things are carried out.
American socialists who read this book should keep in mind the recent actions of the State Department, and look for patterns in their actions. My upcoming essay on US imperialism in 2021 seeks to identify the current targets of regime change, and the specific strategies being used against them. To recognize the patterns of imperialism which we’ve seen time and time again. US State Department representatives now tell us Iran seeks to proliferate nuclear weapons, as they wrongfully accused Iraq of doing before launching a murderous invasion that costs trillions of dollars. Blurry satellite images of human rights abuses in China are being used to call for increased sanctions and military presence. How quickly we have forgotten the fake satellite images used to justify bombing Iraq to a pre-industrial state in 1990. Western backed NGOs in Venezuela cry fraudulent elections, and beg the US to restore Democracy, as the US crushes the country under embargo, and launches coup attempts through Colombia. Each of these situations echo the past regime change efforts carried out by the Western imperialist powers.
Washington Bullets is a book that every US socialist should read carefully. It is high time we recognize the lies of our ruling class, and refuse to send any more of our children to fight and die in their wars for profit. To do this we must understand the tools and tactics of the deceitful imperialists, so that we may know how to fight them. Vijay Prashad’s Washington Bullets is a wonderful tool for doing just that!
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.
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.
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
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
On April 13, 2021, two US transport helicopters escorted by an Apache attack helicopter transferred a group of at least 50 extremists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to the Al-Omar oil field controlled by the American military in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ez-Zur. These fighters were then trained at the Shaddadi base south of Hasakeh. The mission of these jihadists is focused on destabilizing the areas under President Bashar al-Assad’s government by attacking outposts of the Syrian army and civilian communities, in addition to protecting the oil facilities occupied by US troops.
US support for jihadist groups reflects the stalemate in Syria. The war in Syria has gradually settled around various zones of domination and influence: the government-controlled Damascus-Latakia corridor and Hama and Homs in the Western part of the country; the areas under the control of opposition forces, including Idlib in the North and small environs of Dara’a in the South.
The mainly Kurdish areas in the North that the Democratic Union Party (YPG) intends to unite under the name of Rojava; the North-Eastern parts of the country weakly held by the residues of ISIS; and, an Israeli occupation zone (which has lasted more than 50 years) in Al Qunaytirah (Syria’s smallest province, two-thirds of which Israel conquered and ethnically cleansed in 1967. The conqueror changed the name to the Golan Heights).
The only significant pocket of territory still held by the anti-Assad opposition is in and around Idlib - and even that has shrunk to a third of the size it was in 2017 after repeated offensives by Russia-backed Syrian government forces. Assad - with the help of Russia - re-seized the vital northern city of Aleppo and other opposition-held areas in 2020, placing himself in control of 70% of the country.
Now, he wants to take control of Idlib and bring the 3 million people there back under its control. But Turkey too, which controls areas surrounding Idlib, has an interest in defending at least parts of Idlib from the regime, and has troops on the ground inside the province. Yet the costs of retaking the province may simply be too high. A three-way fight among Damascus, backed by Russian fighter jets, Turkey, and militant groups like Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) would be devastating - displacing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Turkish areas and further into Europe.
In a scenario like this, the aim of the US is no longer to overthrow Assad - something that became impossible after the Russian military intervention began in 2015 - but to prevent him and his Russian and Iranian backers winning a decisive victory. In the final analysis, the US and its European allies refuse to accept the prospect of Assad remaining in power, although they lost the proxy war. How did this situation come about?
In 2011, the Arab Spring protests began in Syria. From 2005 to 2010, Syria had witnessed a 10% increase in poverty, geographically concentrated in the northeast and south of the country. Growing poverty was exacerbated by the flight of more than 1.2 million people from the land (according to the most conservative estimates) as a result of drought and economic crisis. These material conditions acted as the ingredients for the demonstrations.
The 2011 uprising was the biggest domestic challenge to the Assad family since the early 1980s, when President Hafez al-Assad crushed a Sunni revolt centered on Hama where at least 10,000 people were killed in 1982. The protests were secular in tone, but Deraa and Hama were Sunni strongholds resentful of the influence of the Alawites, a heterodox Shia sect to which 12% of Syrians belong, including Assad and many members of the ruling elite. Thus, there was a sectarian dimension to the protests which external powers would later exploit to further their own interests.
Increased government violence against the uprising did stimulate increased military defections: not of whole units, hence not threatening the regime’s core, but enough individual defections that, combined with the external provision of safe havens (in Turkey) and external arming, enabled the construction of the “Free Syrian Army.” At the same time, the incremental depletion of the government’s military manpower debilitated its capacity to secure territory.
As the government lost its monopoly of violence, territorial contestation increased, forcing it to withdraw from the far east of the country, leaving much of the country’s grain-growing areas and oil resources to opposition factions. In parallel, Western powers and Gulf Arab monarchies began the jihadisation of the anti-government Sunni rural underclass, which, together with the trans-state movement of non-Syrian militants into Syria, empowered jihadist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra (now known as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham) and Ahrar al-Sham.
With the engagement of multiple actors, Syria soon turned into a battle arena for rival interests. Five distinct conflicts have become tangled together in Syria: a popular uprising against neoliberal authoritarianism; a sectarian battle between Sunni and Alawites; a regional struggle between Shia and Sunni; a conflict between an Iranian-led grouping and Iran’s traditional enemies, notably the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia; and a reborn Cold War confrontation: Russia and China versus the West. These entanglements have resulted in the current stalemate in Syria.
From an early stage in the Syrian uprising the US, Israel and the Sunni Arab states openly exulted at the blow that would soon be dealt to Iran and to Hezbollah in Lebanon: Assad’s imminent fall would deprive them of their most important ally in the Arab world. Sunni leaders saw the uprising not as a triumph of democracy but as the beginning of a campaign directed at Shia or Shia-dominated states. Hezbollah and Iran believed they had no alternative but to fight and that it is better to get on with it while they still have friends in power in Damascus.
Turkey regarded the Assad government and Syrian Kurds as enemies whom it would like to see defeated. Erdogan was one of the first regional leaders to publicly call for the removal of Assad. Turkey opened its 510-miles long border to the rebels, allowing them to move supplies and fighters into Syria. It allowed a Syrian political opposition group to take up residence in Istanbul and it gave this platform - mainly composed of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood - full political support and encouragement.
Since 2011, Russia and China have blocked any attempt by the West to gain a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution for a war on Syria. Both these countries have formed strong relationships with Syria. In 2008, Assad agreed to allow Russia to convert a naval port located at the Syrian town of Tartous into a permanent military base for Russian warships. It would be Russia’s only such base in the region. Without Tartous, every Russian naval vessel in the sea would have to return through the Bosphorous to Odessa for single thing it needs.
The agreement signified that Syria had become Russia’s most important ally in the Middle East, a fact reflected in Russian arms exports to Syria, which accounted for about 10% of Russia’s total weapons sales during the 2000s. China is likewise tightly linked to Syria as the largest exporter to the country and its biggest source of FDI. The latter investments have been concentrated in Syria’s Al Furat Petroleum Company - Syria’s main oil producer, which was partially privatized over the 2000s - as well as in construction and utility projects.
In his 1965 book “The Struggle for Syria”, Irish journalist Patrick Seale wrote that the country is a “mirror of rival interests on an international scale”. This statement is pertinent even today where the conflicting aims of different countries have produced a ruinous stalemate for ordinary Syrians.
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.
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
Afghanistan’s Socialist Years: The Promising Future Killed Off by U.S. Imperialism. By: Marilyn BechtelRead Now
Women attend a rally in Kabul in the late 1970s. | Imgur via Pinterest
In the mid-1970s and early ’80s, People’s World correspondent Marilyn Bechtel was editor of the bimonthly magazine, New World Review. She visited Afghanistan twice, in 1980 and 1981. The article below first appeared in our pages on Oct. 6, 2001—the day before the U.S. launched its war in Afghanistan—under the headline, “Afghanistan: Some overlooked history.” With the Biden administration now withdrawing all troops from the country, we present this article as a reminder that the U.S.’ longest war had roots that went beyond the terrorist attacks of 9/11, stretching back to Cold War anti-communism.
Since the horrific events of Sept. 11, much has been said about the desperate situation of the Afghani people now crushed under the heel of the theocratic, dictatorial Taliban, and about the role of the Northern Alliance and other Taliban opponents who now figure in Washington’s plans for the region.
Kabul street scene, 1979. | TASS
There has been talk, most of it distorted, about the role of the Soviet Union in the years from 1978 to 1989. There has been talk, most of it understated, about the role of the U.S. in building up the Mujahideen forces, including the Taliban.
But almost no one talks about the effort the Afghan people made in the late 1970s and ’80s to pull free of the legacy of incessantly warring tribes and feudal fiefdoms and start to build a modern democratic state. Or about the Soviet Union’s role long before 1978.
Some background helps shed light on the current crisis. Afghanistan was a geopolitical prize for 19th-century empire builders, contested by both czarist Russia and the British Empire. It was finally forced by the British into semi-dependency.
When he came to power in 1921, Amanullah Khan—sometimes referred to as Afghanistan’s Kemal Ataturk—sought to reassert his country’s sovereignty and move it toward the modern world. As part of this effort, he approached the new revolutionary government in Moscow, which responded by recognizing Afghanistan’s independence and concluding the first Afghan-Soviet friendship treaty.
From 1921 until 1929—when reactionary elements, aided by the British, forced Amanullah to abdicate—the Soviets helped launch the beginnings of economic infrastructure projects, such as power plants, water resources, transport, and communications. Thousands of Afghani students attended Soviet technical schools and universities.
After Amanullah’s forced departure, the projects languished, but the relationship between the Soviets and the Afghans would later re-emerge.
The Center for Science and Culture was built in Kabul as a gift from the people of the Soviet Union. Once U.S.-backed Mujahideen forces took power, the facility was destroyed. | TASS
In the 1960s, a resurgence of joint Afghan-Soviet projects included the Kabul Polytechnic Institute—the country’s prime educational resource for engineers, geologists, and other specialists.
Nor was Afghanistan immune from the political and social ferment that characterized the developing world in the last century. From the 1920s on, many progressive currents of struggle took note of the experiences of the USSR, where a new, more equitable society was emerging on the lands of the former Russian empire. Afghanistan was no exception. By the mid-’60s, national democratic revolutionary currents had coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Modern apartment buildings constructed in Kabul in the 1980s with Soviet assistance. | TASS
In 1973, local bourgeois forces, aided by some PDP elements, overthrew the 40-year reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah—the man who now, at age 86, is being promoted by U.S. right-wing Republicans as the personage around which Afghanis can unite.
When the PDP assumed power in 1978, they started to work for a more equitable distribution of economic and social resources. Among their goals were the continuing emancipation of women and girls from the age-old tribal bondage (a process begun under Zahir Shah), equal rights for minority nationalities, including the country’s most oppressed group, the Hazara, and increasing access for ordinary people to education, medical care, decent housing, and sanitation.
A Mujahideen Islamist fighter aims a U.S.-made Stinger missile supplied by the CIA near Gardez, Afghanistan, December 1991. | Mir Wais / AP
During two visits in 1980-81, I saw the beginnings of progress: women working together in handicraft co-ops, where for the first time they could be paid decently for their work and control the money they earned. Adults, both women and men, learning to read. Women working as professionals and holding leading government positions, including Minister of Education. Poor working families able to afford a doctor, and to send their children—girls and boys—to school. The cancellation of peasant debt and the start of land reform. Fledgling peasant cooperatives. Price controls and price reductions on some key foods. Aid to nomads interested in a settled life.
I also saw the bitter results of Mujahideen attacks by the same groups that now make up the Northern Alliance—in those years aimed especially at schools and teachers in rural areas.
The post-1978 developments also included Soviet aid to economic and social projects on a much larger scale, with a new Afghan-Soviet Friendship Treaty and a variety of new projects, including infrastructure, resource prospecting, and mining, health services, education, and agricultural demonstration projects. After December 1978 that role also came to include the introduction of Soviet troops, at the request of a PDP government increasingly beset by the displaced feudal and tribal warlords who were aided and organized by the U.S. and Pakistan.
The rest, as they say, is history. But it is significant that after Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1989, the PDP government continued to function, though increasingly beleaguered, for nearly three more years.
Somewhere, beneath the ruins of today’s torn and bloodied Afghanistan, are the seeds that remain even in the direst times within the hearts of people who know there is a better future for humanity. In a world struggling for economic and social justice—not revenge—those seeds will sprout again.
Marilyn Bechtel writes for People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.
The connection between the authoritarian personality and the working class began in earnest in the 1950s with cold war political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset. Lipset argued that since World War I, “working class groups have proved to be the most nationalistic and jingoistic sector of the population” [1959: 483.] His concept of authoritarianism is a mash-up Adorno’s ideas mixed with support for “extremist” groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Communist Party. Lipset argued that in the US, the working class authoritarianism poses a threat to democracy.
The question is: does the psychology of individuals in the working class explain Trump’s rise to power? A Marxist perspective reveals the flaws in this and other individual-level psychological explanations:
Upper class benevolence is a bourgeois fantasy.
Despite its obvious flaws, the psychological argument has a special appeal for members of the privileged class, who want to hold themselves blameless for the social ills around them. They believe they knew better, and they blame the working class to avoid facing up to their own culpability. Scapegoating the working class is known as the “myth of upper class benevolence.”
One classic study in race and ethnicity shows the fallacies in the myth of upper class benevolence and zeroes in on the ways the working class is often portrayed, incorrectly, as the source of white supremacy. In his book The Mississippi Chinese: Between black and white, the sociologist James Loewen interviewed hundreds of residents of the Mississippi Delta. He found upper middle class whites routinely blamed poor working class whites for any and all oppression of both African Americans and Chinese Americans. But looking closely at the facts gave Loewen a much different picture of culpability. It was the privileged planter- and business-class whose members had the power to keep Chinese- and African-Americans out of their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Working class organizations like the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and small Baptist churches were the first to welcome people of color, while upper class organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and Episcopalians excluded them. Financial institutions acted in the interests of the privileged class and served to limit opportunities for others. Schools reserved for whites only were resource rich compared with schools that served people of color. One county in Mississippi, Loewen discovered, actually spent $45 per white pupil for every $1 per African American pupil.
Loewen rejects the widely held belief, echoed in the London Business School study mentioned earlier, that the working class, fearing economic competition, feels the most prejudice. Instead, he turns to the pioneer Marxist sociologist of race, Oliver C. Cox, who argued that to analyze racial dynamics one needs to look first at “the economic policies of the ruling class.” Cox continued, “Opposition [by the working class] to social equality has no meaning unless we can see its function in the service of the exploitative purpose of this [ruling] class.”
A working class divided by race is easier to control
A working class divided by race is easier to control and to keep unorganized than a united one, so concerted and deliberate efforts are made to encourage members of the working class to embrace authoritarian beliefs, especially white supremacy. Using corporate-funded think tanks, right-wing radio and cable television, and presidential pronouncements, the ruling class frames current events in authoritarian terms, attempting to undermine the unity of the working class and therefore weaken it. In Mississippi Loewen found that alliances between working class whites and blacks were viciously undermined and blocked by the powerful of the community. Likewise, people who challenge class oppression and racial hierarchies are singled out for condemnation and retaliation.
Newer research on intolerance shows furthermore that authoritarian beliefs are not clearly associated with membership in the working class, defined by wage dependence, low income, and job insecurity. Erasmus University sociologist Dick Houtman revisited Lipset’s theory of working class authoritarianism found that it is not class that is correlated with intolerance, but educational level and access to cultural opportunities like books, concerts, and art exhibitions. Thus another way that the ruling class tries to divide the working class is by limiting their educational opportunities. Donald Trump once famously intoned, “I love the poorly educated.” Along with his secretary of education Betsy DeVos, Trump seems intent on increasing their ranks. With working class pupils forced to attend substandard, unsafe and under-resourced schools year after year, with college costs putting post-secondary education out of reach of many, and with crippling student debt for those who do borrow for college, the ruling class aims to limit the critical thinking resources the working class needs to challenge ruling class propaganda.
For those who are in college, corporate forces have developed special interventions to encourage neoliberal and fascist accommodation. The Charles Koch Foundation, established by the head of Koch Industries, has implemented a $50 million, 32-state strategy establishing institutes, holding conferences, and funding faculty and graduate students in a concerted effort to influence policy rightward: toward denial of climate science, undermining of labor rights, and revision of history in favor of business interests. Hand in hand with these corporate forces are the white supremacist organizations that pay for speakers to visit campuses and foment hate, then cry “first amendment” when students object. Other corporate-sponsored organizations encourage students to record, expose and protest faculty who do not espouse conservative views.
In short, the psychological argument claims that authoritarian tendencies emerge from working people themselves. It’s no surprise that researchers from a business school embraced that idea, because it is what Marx and Engels refer to as a “ruling idea.” By pretending that authoritarian ideas arise organically from the working class itself, it hides the relationship between authoritarianism and the economic policies of the ruling class. In contrast, a Marxist analysis recognizes the congruence between authoritarian ideas and the economic interests of the corporate ruling class, especially its efforts to divide the working class by race, gender, citizenship status, etc. It recognizes the influence of powerful corporate forces which intentionally try to persuade workers to blame each other for their oppression, instead of the capitalists who profit from their lack of unity.
Adorno, Theodor et al. 1950. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper.
Edsall, Thomas B. 2017. “The Trump Voter Paradox” The New York Times. 28 September. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/28/opinion/trump-republicans-authoritarian.html
Ferris, Robert. 2017. “Why voters might be choosing dominant, authoritarian leaders around the world.” CNBC, 12 June. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/12/why-voters-might-be-choosing-dominant-authoritarian-leaders-around-the-world.html
Jacobs, Tom. 2018. “Inside the minds of hardcore Trump Supporters” Pacific Standard. February 15. https://psmag.com/news/inside-the-minds-of-hardcore-trump-supporters
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Democracy and Working-Class Authoritarianism.” American Sociological Review 24 (4), 482-501.
Loewen, James. 1988. The Mississippi Chinese: Between black and white. 2e. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Serwer, Adam. 2017. “The Nationalist’s Delusion.” The Atlantic. November 20.
Image: Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015. Greg Skidmore/Creative Commons
Anita Waters is Professor Emerita of sociology at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and an organizer for the CPUSA in Ohio.
This article was first published by CPUSA.
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 email@example.com. His articles have been published in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and several countries of Latin America.