Archive | March 17th, 2014

Events in support of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution continue

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Reports from Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque, N.M.

Ever since the U.S. government-backed campaign of violent destabilization began in Venezuela last month, people around the world, including in the United States, have taken to the streets in solidarity with President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s ongoing revolutionary process. This has taken on even more significance with the one-year anniversary of the late President Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5. You can also read reports from similar actions in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15again in D.C. on Feb. 19, Chicago on Feb. 22 and Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Despite harsh winds and rain, people gathered on Central Avenue in front of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque March 1 in an informational picket line to express solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution.

Called by ANSWER New Mexico and endorsed  by several progressive organizations including Stop the War Machine, Veterans for Peace and Stop $30 Billion to Israel, the demonstrators held signs demanding that the United  States stop intervening in the affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela with the aim of overthrowing the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

Leaflets documenting more than 12 years of support by the United States for a coup d’etat against first Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro were handed out to passersby and were well received.

Signs stating “We stand in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution” and “USA/CIA hands off Venezuela” were visible, and many drivers honked their horns in solidarity.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

On March 5, a diverse group of about 150 packed Bolivarian Hall to honor the memory of Hugo Chavez on the one-year anniversary of his death. The Bolivarian Hall, dedicated to the Revolution which shares its name, was packed full of supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and the people of Venezuela.

To celebrate Chavez’s life and memory, Gabriel Torrealba, the Venezuelan First Secretary of Consular Affairs, presented a timeline of Chavez’s life, which matches the one at Chavez’s burial place outside Caracas. Torrealba recounted Chavez’s life, outlining the tremendous advances for the Venezuelan masses under the Bolivarian Revolution along the way. It was abundantly clear that among the crowd—members of the working class from Washington to El Salvador to Venezuela—Chavez’s memory is as potent and inspirational as it was during his lifetime.

Beginning under his leadership, Bolivarian Venezuela courageously broke free from the rule of exploiters, both foreign and domestic, as Chavez helped set into motion Venezuela’s trajectory as a centerpiece for resistance to U.S. designs for domination in Latin America. Chavez’s leadership helped pave the way for the formation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a trade organization built around the interests of Latin American countries, rather than those of the United States and Canada, meant to challenge NAFTA, the OAS and other imperialist institutions.

Bolivarian Venezuela also extended solidarity to Cuba during the depths of the Special Period, when the country came under especially intense attack by the United States as it faced economic crisis after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As Cuba was forced to weather an economic siege led by the most right-wing elements in Washington, Venezuelan trade represented a lifeline, offering much-needed access to global trade and offering oil at discounted prices.

Chavez’s displays of friendship were not limited to Cuba: under his leadership, Venezuela offered to ship 1 million barrels of oil and $5 million to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. His legacy is one of friendship and anti-imperialist unity in Latin America.

The event at the Bolivarian Hall paid tribute to Chavez’s history of courageous service to the people and the revolution. The event, ending with a reception featuring music from Chavez’s home region in the plains of southern Venezuela, helps preserve the legacy of one of the most important figures for the people of Venezuela and the world.

¡Hugo Chavez Presente!

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A new political equation in Iraq

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From the ANSWER Coalition archives

From the ANSWER Archives:

March 19, 2014, marks the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. During the next weeks the newsletter will feature key articles from the ANSWER Coalition archives that ANSWER and associated groups published before and during the invasion, and throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This is a critical period of U.S. history and the voices of those who led the mass anti-war and anti-occupation movement during this period are largely erased from the U.S. mainstream media. Please read and share this important article originally published in September 2008 about a key moment in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Share it with young people who were not yet teenagers when the Bush administration invaded Iraq in one of the greatest war crimes in modern history.

By Brian Becker
Originally published on September 13, 2008

The “surge” crafted by Gen. David Petraeus and other Pentagon brass changed little militarily in Iraq.

The people of the United States are in the dark when it comes to Iraq. Why are they spending $12 billion each month, which is $250 million every day, so that the Pentagon can occupy Iraq? They do not get to vote on that question and they are not told what the occupation is for.

This should be simple, right?

Why does the United States maintain an occupation force of 146,000 troops in Iraq? That is a direct question. This is now the second longest war in U.S. history but what is it actually for? Who is the enemy and what does victory mean?

Most people in the United States cannot provide an informed answer because neither the Republican president nor the Democratic-controlled Congress is willing to tell the truth.

There are many stories in the media about the success of the surge and the eventual “timeline” for some withdrawal of forces. But if it is so successful why did the civilian and uniformed brass from the Pentagon announce on Sept. 4, that very few troops would be removed from Iraq in 2009? Another 150,000 private “contractors” or mercenaries will also remain. The total force of occupation, including the private sector mercenaries, will stay at about 300,000 throughout 2009 and probably for much longer.

John McCain, when he accepted the nomination on Sept. 4, spoke about “victory” and “winning” in Iraq but he did not say what either victory or winning actually means. Obama does not speak about “victory” but says any future draw down of troops must be done “responsibly” and only in accordance with the recommendations of the very same Pentagon generals that sent 35,000 more troops last year in the so-called surge.

So, back to the original question: Why is the U.S. occupation continuing? It is important to understand the evolved thinking of the U.S. ruling class.

If the U.S. military occupation of Iraq ends now there will inevitably emerge, and quite quickly, a government in Iraq that is not willing to function as a colonial-type stooge of the United States. That had been the goal of President George Bush’s “Shock and Awe” invasion in 2003. But the plan has been a disaster. The original goal proved unattainable in the face of the Iraqi resistance. In a quandary, Bush and the Pentagon have developed new short-term goals.

One year ago the United States was on the verge of the biggest military catastrophe since being driven out of Vietnam in 1973. General David Petraeus and a new team of Pentagon commanders crafted a new military strategy, popularly dubbed the “surge.” The multi-faceted counter-insurgency plan had one principal goal: to avoid imminent, catastrophic defeat. No other goals took precedence.

Petraeus and the Pentagon had decided they could not defeat militarily the armed resistance. Rather, they began paying most of the combatants of the resistance. More than 100,000 Sons of Iraq fighters were given $300 U.S. dollars each month so that they would not shoot at the occupiers. The military units of these resistance fighters are essentially intact. But these forces, whose social base are a web of Sunni tribes, are fundamentally suspicious and fearful of the central government in Baghdad, that is dominated by the Islamic Dawa Party, which is led by Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite adherent.

The United States divided Iraq along ethno-sectarian lines with the hope of creating a puppet government based primarily on Shiite political parties. The U.S. occupation forces had this goal in mind when they stimulated a civil war in Iraq during 2004-2007. But this did not succeed in creating a stable puppet government. Instead it led to chaos, immense human suffering and country-wide hatred for the occupiers. Millions of Iraqis participated in one way or another or supported various anti-U.S. military forces. By 2007, the U.S. military was on the ropes and public opinion in the United States was demanding an exit from Iraq.

The key element necessary for the Iraqi resistance to win a military victory was to create an instrument for national unity. The Pentagon planners were well aware of the dangers to U.S. imperialism if unity was achieved.

If the Iraqis had been able to overcome the ethno-sectarian divide created by the invasion and occupation, there would have been an irrepressible nationwide rebellion or revolution that would have driven both U.S. and British forces from Iraq. This was how the British were forced out of Iraq in 1920, by a rebellion known as Ath Thawra al Iraqiyya al Kubra or The Great Iraqi Revolution. This was a defining moment in Iraqi history and all Iraqis know the story inside out. Sunnis and Shias, tribes and cities, were brought together in a united effort against the British colonialists.

General Petraeus and a section of the Pentagon brass crafted the “surge” as the last available option open to the imperialists to rescue the situation. McCain and Bush credit the “success” of the surge to the expansion of U.S. forces in Iraq. The impact of the extra 30,000 U.S. troops was a minor factor in the changed military situation.

The decisive factor was that 100,000 Sons of Iraq fighters stopped shooting at the occupiers. On another front Moqtada Al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, whose base is the multitude of poor Shiites in eastern Baghdad and in the south of Iraq, has maintained a unilateral ceasefire against the occupiers. That does not mean, however, that each of these entities is beholden to the United States—either able or desiring to function as semi-colonial proxy for the interests of U.S. imperialism—should the U.S. military actually pull out.

The U.S. occupation forces are also financing and training Iraq’s central army and national police. Both are under the control of Maliki’s Shiite dominated government. If the United States were to leave it has no guarantee that Maliki’s government will not strengthen its ties to Iran. Last week, the Maliki government awarded a major oil contract to a state-owned Chinese oil company. This is a clear indicator that Maliki, if he is to survive, must start to find ways to express resurgent Iraqi nationalism that is uniformly bristling at the continued domination of their country by the United States.

The new political equation for the occupation is that the Pentagon is financing and supporting many competing political forces, each of which has ample military forces. These various forces are rooted in contemporary Iraqi society, which has been shaped by the anti-colonial struggles of the past 90 years. None of them can or will function as the Shah did in Iran or as the monarchies in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait do today. If the United States were to leave completely it would have no stable proxy to rule on its behalf.

Working people in the United States would lose nothing by the re-emergence of an anti-colonial government in Iraq. This is not our empire. The Pentagon and CIA function on behalf of Exxon/Mobil and all the other corporations and banks that seek global markets and puppet governments. The blood spilled in Iraq, including the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis with tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, is for a criminal gangster enterprise known broadly as “Wall Street.” The price tag for the occupation will rise to $2 trillion—and that too will be for the biggest U.S. corporations who profit from war. That is why we must do everything possible to organize and mobilize against the war machine and demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq. Then, under a sovereign Iraq, the people of Iraq should receive massive reparations for the terrible suffering inflicted on their beautiful country.

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San Francisco demonstration shows solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

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Rally held on one-year anniversary of tragic passing of Hugo Chavez

 

On March 5, activists and community members gathered in San Francisco’s Mission District to express their solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the revolutionary government of President Nicolas Maduro. The rally was held on the one-year anniversary of the tragic passing of Hugo Chávez, who led the Bolivarian Revolution to power in 1998 and became an international hero of all oppressed people struggling to be free.

Since Feb. 12, right-wing gangs have been provoking violent altercations throughout Venezuela, which have resulted in fatalities. At the San Francisco demonstration, people chanted “Chávez vive! Maduro sigue!” (“Chávez Lives! Maduro Continues!”) The crowd rallied around a banner that paid homage to Chávez’s legacy and anti-imperialist struggle. A second banner called on the U.S. government to free the Cuban Five, the unjustly imprisoned heroes fighting for Cuba’s sovereignty.

Around five right-wing counter-protesters tried to loudly interrupt the demonstration, but their lies were discredited by revolutionary Venezuelans. Many Venezuelans who now reside in California came to speak and discredit the notion, spread by right-wing media in both the United States and Venezuela, that the Venezuelan people are against Maduro and the revolutionary process. They pointed out that Venezuela has a higher school enrolment rate than the United States because the Venezuelan education system focuses on educating the poorest of the poor. They dispelled the lie that people were starving in Venezuela, which in fact has seen food insecurity plummet as a result of the revolution.

The impressive turnout demonstrated that many in the United States are not fooled by the imperialist media’s lies and distortions about the situation in Venezuela.

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Protesters confront pro-I$raHell lobbyists

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ANSWER participates in “Boycott AIPAC” demonstration

A large crowd of pro-Palestine activists gathered outside the convention center in Washington, D.C., to protest the annual summit of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The demonstration, held March 2, was initiated by CodePink and supported by a wide range of anti-war and international solidarity organizations, including the ANSWER Coalition.

AIPAC’s yearly gathering draws dozens of members of Congress and other top U.S. government officials, along with representatives of corporations that profit off of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Israeli Prime Minister and notorious war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu gave a keynote address to attendees.

Despite the cold temperatures and rain throughout the day, the crowd maintained a constant presence at the front door of the convention center. Favorite chants included “AIPAC, AIPAC you will learn, the refugees will return!” and “When people are occupied, resistance is justified!” Protesters demanded an end to U.S. aid to Israel, which in large part finances its murderous armed forces.

A major focus of the anti-AIPAC demonstration was opposition to a potential war with Iran. Although the deal currently being negotiated between the Iranian government and western imperialist powers is still a gross violation of Iran’s sovereignty, Israel wants to fully maintain the current battery of sanctions to strangle the Iranian economy and force regime change. This has raised the possibility of an outright Israeli attack on Iran, echoed by their U.S. allies who menacingly assert that “all options are on the table.”

The protesters, who at times formed picket lines that stretched the entire length of the convention center, made it clear that there is a growing movement to reject AIPAC’s agenda and support the Palestinian people’s struggle for the right to determine their own destiny.

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International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five

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Scheduled for London, March 7-8

From the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

London Commission of Inquiry to hear key witnesses from Cuba and beyond in the case of the Cuban Five

René González, former Cuban Five prisoner to attend London event

International personalities including Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, actors Martin Sheen and Emma Thompson

René González, the first and only member of the Miami Five [Ed. Note: the Cuban Five is known as the Miami Five in Britain] to have been released after completing his 15 year sentence in the United States, has announced that he will come to London to give evidence to an International Commission of Inquiry on 7 and 8 March 2014.

The Miami Five are five Cuban men who were jailed in the United States in 1998 for attempting to prevent terrorist attacks against the Caribbean island.

René will be joined in London by family members of the Five, victims of terrorism against Cuba, lawyers, politicians and campaigners from Cuba and across the world, including Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple.

The Commission will hear testimony from around 20 key witnesses, including U.S. defence attorney Martin Garbus, representatives from international human rights organisation Amnesty International, and from Miami Five family members such as wives of the Five, Olga Salanueva and Elizabeth Palmeiro.

The Commission will be presided over by distinguished international jurists, including former Chief Justice of India Yogesh Kumar Sabharwal, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa Zakeria Mohammed Yacoob, and Philippe Texier, the former Chair of the Supreme Court of France.

There will be testimony from specialists on the range of measures taken to defend Cuba against the threat of terrorist attacks, as well as testimony from Cuban and international victims of U.S.-based terrorism.

In his New Year message, René González urged support for the International Commission of Inquiry and said:

“When we were imprisoned 15 years ago, our captors never imagined that from all corners of the world people like you would take up our cause. Instead of suffering defeat we have become stronger. During this time we have suffered hardships and lost people close to us. But our spirits never broke, because we knew we could count on people from all over the world like you. Your solidarity and sense of justice has kept us and our families strong.”

Director of Britain’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the hosting organisation, Rob Miller said:

“The International Commission is set to be one of the most important events in the long history of this case. Its staging in London, attended and endorsed by so many important personalities from across the world, means the Commission’s deliberations and its findings will have an important impact on the US administration and President Obama, who has the ability to end this injustice immediately.”

The International Commission is the major event of the campaigning organisation Voices for the Five, which has brought together hundreds of international celebrities, including John Le Carré, Emma Thompson, Danny Glover, Lord Rowan Williams, Martin Sheen, Noam Chomsky, Günter Grass, Peter Capaldi and Dame Vivienne Westwood. They have been joined by thousands who have posted messages of support to the campaigning website.

A number of associated events will also take place, including a major international concert at the Barbican Hall in London featuring acclaimed Cuban musician and star of the Buena Vista Social Club Eliades Ochoa and his group Cuarteto Patria, alongside other international performers and guests, as well as screenings and exhibitions.

The two day International Commission of Inquiry into the Case of the Miami Five will take place on 7 and 8 March 2014, at the Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL. For more information visithttp://voicesforthefive.com/

Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, talks about the Commission here:

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René González denounces U.S.-based terrorism against Cuba

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“Our real mission was to protect the Cuban people”

René González with his family in Cuba, shortly after being freed from prison in the United States

The following article was originally published by Prensa Latina and appeared on the website of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

London, Mar 7: Anti-terrorist Cuban fighter René González denounced today US-based groups that perpetrate terrrorist actions against Cuba and called for intensifying the demand for the release of his comrades still imprisoned in the United States.

Gonzalez testified via Skype to an international commission gathered here to investigate the case of the five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters arrested by US authorities in 1998 for monitoring Florida-based terrrorist groups operating against Cuba.

Gonzalez left prison two years ago after fully serving a harsh prison sentence and returned to Cuba in 2013 after giving up his US citizenship. Fernando Gonzalez served his over 15-year prison sentence and returned to Cuba a week ago.

Their comrades Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino are still in prison.

They are all internationally known as The Cuban Five.

Gonzalez gave names and details about groups and individuals committed to plan and execute terrorist attacks against Cuba.

He cited the Cuban-American National Foundation, Brothers to the Rescue and the Democracy Movement, as well as notorious terrorists Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Jose Basulto and others.

In response to questions from the commissioners, he explained the violations of due process and irregularities committed against The Cuban Five since the moment of their detention.

In this regard, he refered to the illegal classification of all documents related to the case and the conditions of their imprisonment, aspects that were denounced by a UN body and International Amnesty.

He reiterated that The Cuban Five were not in the United States to harm anyone, but to prevent terrorist actions against human life and properties.

The three commissioners Yogesh Sabharwal (India), Phillipe Texcier (France) and Zac Jaccob (South Africa) lamented Rene Gonzalez’ absence in today’s hearing due to Britain’s refusal to grant him a visa to come to London.

You are a man of courage and great principles and morale, said Judge Jaccob, an ex member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, in his closing speech at the hearing, which was applauded by more than 300 people present at the London College of Law.

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A glorious day! Fernando is finally home!

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Statement from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

Fernando arrives home in Cuba

From the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is thrilled beyond words that Fernando González has already returned home to Cuba. We are absolutely joyful in seeing Fernando on Cuban soil, surrounded by his family, the Cuban leadership, and the Cuban people. We rejoice with Fernando and his family, while at the same time vowing to continue our efforts to free Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino from their unjust imprisonment. We repeat our demand as loudly as ever: Barack Obama, free the Cuban Five NOW!

We reprint below an article and photo that just appeared in CubaDebate. We also provide links to two related videos.

The antiterrorist fighter and Hero of the Republic of Cuba Fernando González Llort arrived in Cuba at noon today, after fully completing the long and unjust sentence to which he was subjected in the United States.

Fernando is now meeting with his family, accompanied by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, and other leaders of the Revolution.

He left the federal correctional center at Safford, Arizona, yesterday and was made available to the immigration services to begin the process of deportation to Cuba.

After René González, Fernando is the second of those internationally known as the Cuban Five that have finished their sentences.

Fernando, René, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino were arrested in 1998 when they were  on U.S. soil monitoring groups planning and executing terrorist actions against Cuba.

The last three remain prisoners in U.S. prisons, despite a worldwide campaign demanding their release.

Watch a moving video of Fernando being welcomed home by President Raúl Castro and René González:

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How and why the U.S. government aided a coup led by neo-Nazis in Ukraine

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Why U.S. imperialism continues to target Russia

Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the Neo-Nazi Svoboda party. Fascists now control key posts in the government, including over the armed forces
Sen. John McCain in Kyiv, Ukraine, alongside neo-Nazi leader Tyahnybok, declares his support for the Maidan movement
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a neoconservative, smiles with Ukrainian fascist leaders

A statement of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (U.S.)

The people of the United States are being deliberately misled and misinformed about the leading role played by the U.S. State Department, intelligence agencies and neoconservative leaders in bringing neo-Nazis to power in Ukraine.

The same neoconservative politicians and strategists that drove the country to war against Iraq in 2003, against Libya in 2011 and nearly against Syria in 2013 have been neck-deep in a protracted regime change effort in Ukraine as part of a larger geo-strategic struggle against Russia. The fact that they have worked hand in glove with armed neo-Nazis in Ukraine—with Sen. John McCain and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland literally joining the protests—speaks volumes about the political nature of the events.

The Maidan protest movement was launched in Kiev in November 2013 when Ukrainian President Yanukovych rejected a European Union economic plan that would have imposed a harsh austerity regime on Ukraine as the price for admission into the economic sphere dominated by German banks. The U.S. and E.U.-backed street protests, supported most fervently by neoconservative elements inside and outside the Obama administration, began when Yanukovych instead accepted a $15 billion loan from Russia and an economic plan that did not require austerity measures but did include discounted prices for Russian natural gas.

Another case of imperialist-backed regime change – this time with neo-Nazis

The U.S. government has engineered, financed and fully supported a classic coup d’état that overthrew a corrupt but democratically elected government in Ukraine. Joining in the destabilization of the Ukrainian government were Germany, France, Britain and other NATO powers.

The U.S. State Department funds an international network of non-governmental organizations and media outlets that are used to create political opposition and conduct regime change against targeted countries from Venezuela to Bolivia to Syria to Ukraine and other countries. A principal vehicle for these U.S. operations is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

A recent article by Robert Parry reports: “NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting ‘journalists’ and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting ‘democracy.’”

The new coup-led government was selected by a rump session of the parliament when many elected members could not show up to vote for fear of physical attack. It is filled with fascist and semi-fascist forces, as well as powerful billionaire oligarchs. The fascist forces promote hatred toward Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities.

During the past year these forces have been vandalizing the anti-fascist monuments and memorials that honor the Ukrainian and other Soviet military veterans who gave their lives to defeat Nazism in World War II. The new coup government immediately initiated laws to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine as many of its offices were torched around the country. The new government also banned the use of Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Greek, Tatar and others as officially recognized minority languages.

The Maidan movement took shape in the form of street protests in November 2013 demanding that the now toppled government of Yanukovych sign onto an agreement that would “integrate” Ukraine into the economic sphere of influence of Germany and the other E.U. countries.

The Maidan movement started as a broad-based politically eclectic mix of fascist, centrist and some leftist organizations. The fascist and semi-fascist organizations, specifically the armed wings of the Svoboda Party and Right Sector, became the dominant political force as the protest movement was sustained over several months. Both Svoboda and Right Sector use the iconography of the pro-Nazi Ukrainians who fought with Hitler’s divisions in the invasion of the Soviet Union and carried out massacres of Jews, Poles and communists. After the ouster of Yanukovych, Svoboda Party  leaders were   appointed to the deputy prime minister position — now held by a notorious anti-woman bigot — and  four other ministries. A founder of the Social-National Party, which became Svoboda, is now Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, which controls Ukraine’s armed forces, and his top deputy is from the Right Sector.

Imperialist Strategy toward the former Soviet Republics

The right-wing coup government in Ukraine is trying to integrate the country into an E.U./IMF-sponsored austerity regime that will lead to the deep impoverishment of the Ukrainian working classes. The tremendous resources of Ukraine are seen as a huge prize for the enrichment of the biggest banks and corporations in Western Europe and the United States. These resources include major deposits of coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel and uranium. It holds the largest sulfur and second-largest mercury reserves in the world, and vast, rich agricultural lands and forests.  In addition, Ukraine has large-scale heavy industry, particularly in the eastern part of the country.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union most of the former socialist bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe have been integrated into a NATO and E.U. sphere of influence. Of the 28 member nations of the E.U., 22 so far have been incorporated into NATO.

Western imperialism has targeted all the countries in Eastern Europe and the other non-Russian former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, for incorporation into a U.S. and NATO-led sphere of influence. Their strategy is to exploit the land, labor and resources of the targeted countries, while containing and weakening Russia economically and militarily.

The Crimea and Russia

The Crimean Peninsula was historically an important part of Russia. In 1954, Crimea was transferred as an administrative unit in the Soviet Union from the Russian Republic to Ukraine but both were part of one country – the Soviet Union. The administrative transfer of the Crimea had little significance and no geo-strategic significance until the counter-revolutionary overthrow of the Soviet Union in 1991. Then, all of Ukraine and the Crimea became a primary target for absorption by the U.S. and NATO powers into their sphere of influence. This was a great threat to Russia. The Crimea was the headquarters for the Soviet Black Sea Naval Base which became the Russian Black Sea Naval base after 1991.

The imperialist governments of the world have united to denounce and condemn the Russian Federation’s decision to send military forces into the Crimea in the aftermath of the semi-fascist coup that threatens millions of ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and threatens to turn all of Ukraine into a NATO staging ground against Russia. Russia denies that the forces deployed in the Crimea are Russian special forces, suggesting that they are Russian-trained local defense forces working in tandem with Crimea’s established security personnel. Crimea’s governor says he is coordinating with the Russian troops at the Sevastopol base on security matters.

Russia today no longer has a socialist government, nor does it operate according to a socialist planned economy based on publicly-owned property. The Russian capitalist class has its own narrow economic interests and the Russian government protects those interests.

But Russia is not part of the small club of imperialist countries — the former colonizers of Asia, Africa and Latin America who continue to control the world financial system, hold a preponderance of military and political power in global affairs, and stage interventions and regime change efforts as they please.

In fact, Russia is routinely targeted by this Western imperialist club because it functions, due to its size and military power, as an obstacle to their complete hegemonic control over the former Soviet Republics. It also presents itself as a military, economic and diplomatic counter-weight in other critical areas, especially in the Middle East and Asia, not to mention at the United Nations where it maintains a veto within the Security Council.

It is completely understandable that Russia would project a show of force in Crimea, not as a premeditated plan of aggression but rather as a defensive counter-move to the dynamic offensive of Western imperialism and the pro-Western, fascist gang that seized the state power in Ukraine.

The pro-Russian military presence has been welcomed by huge numbers of people in Ukraine, both in the south and eastern regions of the country, where the coup government lacks legitimacy and is seen as a grave danger. Ukrainian civilians in these areas have been forming their own security blockades defending government buildings and anti-fascist monuments from being attacked by ultra-right nationalists. The presence of the pro-Russian military forces has been a relief to many targeted by the ascending fascist forces.

War-mongers like John Kerry and John McCain condemn Russia for “aggression” when it defensively acts to blunt the NATO offensive against Ukraine and Russia. Yet these very figures, and others of their ilk,  provoked this crisis. They worked closely with the most disgusting neo-Nazi forces in toppling a democratically-elected government in a large country that exists on Russia’s border. The hypocrisy of their rhetoric is hard to match. These were the cheerleaders for the massive bombing of Libya in 2011, the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the massive aerial bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Yet, today, they feign concern over Ukraine’s sovereignty. No one should be deceived.

As for German imperialism, this constitutes the third attempt to forcibly swallow up Ukraine into their sphere of influence. The German army annexed Ukraine from Russia in 1918. Ukraine only regained its sovereignty when the German war effort collapsed in 1918. But 23 years later, Nazi Germany invaded again. Twenty-seven million Soviet citizens died, including millions in Ukraine. Hitler and the German ruling class wanted Ukraine to be transformed into a slave society and colony. Because of Russian, Ukrainian and Soviet heroism, the plans of German imperialism were thwarted. But the prize of incorporating Ukraine into a zone for super-profits for German, U.S. and other imperialist bankers and industrialists has always remained a fixed objective.

Washington and its allies have thus far threatened Russia with “sanctions” and “costs.” But economic sanctions are in fact warfare. There is a very real danger that the current crisis could escalate into a military war—a war with unforeseeable consequences—were there to be a U.S.-NATO military intervention.  The anti-war movement and all progressive people should stand against any U.S. intervention in Ukraine, refuse to join the U.S.-NATO distortion and propaganda campaign, and demand an immediate end to U.S.-EU support for fascist forces in Ukraine.

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EU and IMF spell disaster for Ukrainian working people

NOVANEWS

What the Western media isn’t saying about EU integration

Waving the flag for EU integration at Dec. 4 demonstration in Ukraine

On March 5, the European Union offered a $15 billion loan package to bailout the Ukraine. The conditions of this loan have not been made public.

Since the issue of whether Ukraine should join the EU and borrow money from the EU and International Monetary Fund or from Russia is central to the crisis in Ukraine, it is helpful to go back a few months and go over what happened at the beginning of the crisis.

On Nov. 21, the elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, decided not to sign an association agreement with the EU. The same day, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov rejected an IMF loan that was one of the conditions of association with the EU.

That night, a protest movement started that demanded integration with Europe. According to the New York Times, “On Friday evening (Nov. 22), about 1,000 people protested in the rain in Independence Square waving European Union flags and chanting, “Ukraine is Europe!” 

Azarov rejected the onerous conditions of the IMF loan: “raise of gas and heating tariffs for the population by approximately 40%; commitment to freeze base salary, minimal salary, general nominal salary on the current level; significant shortening of expenses for budget purposes; reducing of subsidies in energy sector; gradual cessation of the Value Added Tax exemption for agriculture and other branches and other conditions.”

The IMF loan was less than a $1 billion over seven years. Ukraine’s debt is approximately $4 billion.

Ukrainians pay 20 percent of their gas bill, while the government pays the rest. The VAT tax exemption, which the IMF also wanted to undo, protects Ukrainian farms and businesses from powerful global competitors. The IMF canceled a prior loan to Ukraine because the Yanukovych government had raised the minimum wage.

In other words, for an insufficient loan the IMF was demanding conditions that would greatly harm workers and small farmers, while establishing the Ukraine as a virtual free trade zone that would inevitably lead to the selling off of industries and resources to the West. It is important to note that up until this point, Yanukovych and Azarov had been in favor of the Ukraine joining the EU.

On Dec. 17, Yanukovych signed an agreement with Russia for $15 billion in loans over five years. Russia also agreed to reduce natural gas prices to the country by 33 percent. Furthermore, Russia did not require Ukraine to change any of its laws or join the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia in order to receive the loan.
Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader in the Ukraine, said about the deal with Russia: “They have given up Ukraine’s national interests, they have given up Ukraine’s independence, and they have given up perspectives of better life for all Ukrainians.”

But the IMF loan would be a far worse deal for the sovereignty and well-being of “all” Ukrainians.

European Union leaders, who greeted mass protest against austerity across Europe with utter disdain, were not only supportive of the protest movement in the Ukraine. They literally joined the protests.

They joined significant far-right and fascist forces, who have long maintained a social base in parts of western Ukraine. Meanwhile, a vocal sector of well-educated Ukrainians in the cities of the West of the country, who have traditionally leaned to the West, believe that integration with the West would lead to an improved standard of living. This is an illusion for the vast majority of Ukrainians.

What membership in the EU would mean to the Ukrainian masses

We only have to look at Poland, which is often put forward as an EU success story, to find clues about what would happen to Ukrainian workers under the umbrella of the EU.

Because Poland’s Gross Domestic Product grew in the years following the 2008 recession, the capitalist press dubbed the country’s growth, which has since slowed, as the “Polish Miracle.”

How did this “miracle” happen? What has the “miracle” meant for Polish workers?

The GDP of Poland has grown as a direct result of German investment and EU aid, while the situation for working people has not improved. In fact, the basic condition of this investment is the guarantee of cheap labor costs. When the recession hit, German capital simply went across the border where wages are lower.

The unemployment rate in Poland is 14 percent. One in 19 Poles are forced to leave the country to look for work—work that for the vast majority of emigrants is beneath their level of education and experience.

At 25 percent, Poland has one of the largest low-wage work forces in the European Union, according to the European Union itself. In reality this figure is much higher because the EU figures a country’s labor statistics by country and not in relation to the entire EU. For example, a low-wage worker in Germany makes over twice as much as a low-wage worker in Poland.

A staggering 35 percent of children in Poland now live in poverty.

On top of all this, in order to join the EU in 2004, Poland enacted drastic market reforms that greatly eviscerated the social safety net.

In other words, the EU, with the help of the IMF, has overseen the creation of Poland as a source of cheap labor for Germany and other European powers. Poland’s wealth has grown, but it has been diverted from the Polish masses to the German capitalist class.

Every former socialist bloc country that has entered the EU has become a source of cheap labor and resources for the world’s powerful capitalists. Whole industries have been captured and are now owned by people headquartered in foreign capitols.

For the United States and Europe, Ukraine is a big prize with large agricultural, industrial and technological sectors that, if brought into their orbit under their terms, could be exploited to enrich a tiny handful of people who live in the centers of power in the West. It also strengthens Europe in relation to Russia, a major competitor to the West who is not in the club of the Western imperialists.

The goal of the EU and the IMF is not to protect Ukrainian sovereignty, but to shape Ukraine into yet another source of super profits. While the corporate press presents the EU and the IMF as the saviors of Ukraine, these institutions have driven countries like Greece into the ground while sheltering German and U.S. capitalists from the effects of the great recession.

The other thing that the EU and IMF offer to the Ukrainian working class is a future of austerity and neocolonial domination.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on EU and IMF spell disaster for Ukrainian working people

Analysis: Understanding the crisis in Ukraine

NOVANEWS

Background on the growing conflict

People in Crimea march holding Russian flag, March 1

Everyone who is watching the news in the United States about the crisis in the Ukraine is getting the same story. On one side there is Russia, an evil autocracy that has launched an aggressive and illegal takeover of the Crimea to defend a corrupt regime against the wishes of the Ukrainian people. On the other side there are the Western governments, led by the United States, who are standing up for democracy, supporting a people’s revolution and defending Ukraine’s self-determination.

It is a false picture. What we are witnessing instead are the world’s leading imperialist powers—the former colonizers of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America—attempting to take over Ukraine in an alliance with that country’s billionaire oligarchs and fascist parties. It is part of a long-term geostrategic plan to economically and militarily dominate the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe, and to encircle Russia.

Ukraine’s coup government has received the full backing of the biggest Western banks, and in exchange is preparing to enact economic policies that will devastate poor and working-class Ukrainians, regardless of their political affiliations or ethnic background. The West has funneled resources to the most reactionary and neo-Nazi parties whose ascendancy to power has pushed the country to the brink of civil war and secession. While claiming they are reacting to Russia, the Western imperialist powers have in fact launched an offensive against the working classes and peoples of Eastern Europe.

Events are moving quickly and all the major powers of the West have set themselves in confrontation with Russia. They are demanding immediate withdrawal of pro-Russian troops, threatening sanctions and working hard to consolidate the coup government in Kiev. Ukraine stands at the brink of major war—both between Kiev and Russia, and potential civil war.

What are the roots of the crisis? What is the make-up of the current government in Kiev and who supports it? What is motivating Russia and those in Ukraine rallying behind its troops? What is the United States after?

Orange roots

The current crisis has short-term roots in the “Orange Revolution” of 2004, one of a series of color-coded mass protest movements in former Soviet republics that took place over a decade ago. In these “color revolutions,” Western-oriented forces sought to shift the direction of their countries away from Russia into alliances with the European Union and United States. They evoked mass support from people who were fed up with corruption, oligarchy and stagnant standards of living, and those who desired greater independence from Russia.

The program and leadership of these movements was directed, however, towards integration with the European Union and the West. Regardless of people’s desires and motivations on the streets, these were in fact neoliberal counter-revolution dressed up as “revolution.”

In Ukraine, the basic lines among the political parties that exist today were visible in 2004. Yanukovych and his Party of Regions received significant support in the East and South, and a collection of parties attached to EU neoliberalism maintained a stronger base in the Western part of the country.

Both sides represented elements of the Ukrainian capitalist elite. The majority of “oligarchs,” the major capitalists who monopolize and control entire industries, are based in the East and supported Yanukovych in his last term. In the face of the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych lost the 2004 presidential election but then returned to defeat the same constellation of political forces in 2010. His opponent, natural-gas tycoon and former Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko was subsequently imprisoned for corruption.

The political split in the country clearly possessed grave geopolitical implications, and after his 2010 election Yanukovych tried to walk a tightrope. He sought closer relations with the EU and declared EU “integration” a key goal. At the same time, he maintained fairly strong relations with Russia, giving political support to it on occasions and extending the Russian lease on naval facilities in the Crimea. Yanukovych refused to pursue membership in NATO, which he knew would lead to sharp confrontation with Russia.

The EU did not agree to Ukraine’s “full integration,” however, offering only a free-trade Association Agreement that would open up the country’s economy in several sectors and relax some visa requirements. But it also imposed political “reforms” and demanded the release from prison of western-oriented politicians like Tymoshenko. Their vision for Ukraine is not as a full member of the European Union but a sort of free-trade zone and neo-colony attached to it.

Similarly, IMF loans for Ukraine were put on hold in late 2013 because of Ukraine’s “non-compliance” with its “economic policy conditions”—in particular, it had not devalued its currency as instructed or eliminated state subsidies to domestic gas supplies. Yanukovych tried to attract more favorable terms by offering EU access to Ukrainian markets and cheap labor—but to little avail.

In sum, leading Western institutions like the EU and IMF demanded from Yanukovych a heavy price for Ukraine’s partial integration while strengthening the hand of his political opponents.

Facing potential bankruptcy and default on its bonds, in November 2013 Yanukovych rejected the EU’s Association Agreement and instead accepted an economic package offered by Russia. The Russian deal offered far more in aid, discounted natural gas and appeared to come with none of the major economic adjustments demanded by the EU.

This was the immediate spark for the EuroMaidan protests and the current crisis, which recalls the same basic divide as 2004. While there were considerable popular grievances against the corrupt Yanukovych government, it was the rejection of the EU Agreement that gave the opposition an opening to challenge him with the backing of the EU and U.S. government.

The new government of billionaires and far-rightists that deposed Yanukovych immediately declared its intention to resume discussions with the EU and IMF. The new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk promised, “we will fulfill all the conditions—I repeat, all the conditions.”

The present situation

The high political stakes of Ukraine’s internal crisis explain why this situation spiraled so quickly from a protest of a few thousand people in the direction of international war. While the West and Russia have had disagreements on other issues, few are of such central importance to Russia as the orientation of Ukraine and continued military access to the Crimea.

Russia’s interests extend beyond the profit motive or expansionist aims of different sectors of Russia’s capitalist elite; Ukraine and the Crimea have been considered foundational national interests—vital for the country’s self-defense and influence in the region—from the era of tsarism through the Soviet Union and the modern-day Russian Federation.

The EU-U.S. capitalists have continuously extended the military reach of NATO eastward and pursued various plans for “missile defense” aimed at containing Russian influence. Using this combination of economic and military pressure, they have been gradually moving Eastern European and Central Asian countries away from various Russian regional initiatives. The “Eastern Partnership” in which the EU had intended to integrate Ukraine is a major component of the West’s drive.

Their overall strategy is obvious: to prevent Russia from establishing an independent regional bloc that would at least bear a passing resemblance to the Soviet Union and potentially set-up a more serious counter-hegemonic threat to Western imperialism.

For Russia’s leaders, the country’s re-emergence on the world stage has been a core objective for years, closely associated with Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. The fall of the Soviet Union greatly weakened the country, as it gave way to rapid privatization sprees, extreme inequality and the looting of the state sector. For a period the West had a virtual puppet in the person of Boris Yeltsin, but this arrangement could not last. Given Russia’s size, military and economic capacity, newly assertive and nationalist trends were bound to find expression among Russia’s consolidated capitalist class.

The West’s moves in Eastern Europe are understood in Russia as an attempt to ring-fence their own ambitions, to block it from expanding back into its historic sphere of influence. The West’s initiative in Ukraine, and potential encroachment on the Crimea, is therefore seen as a very serious and provocative move — an attempt to give Russia a knock-out punch just as it is putting itself back on its feet.

Russian troops in the Crimea and other moves are essentially defensive. Russia is attempting to send a message that they will not allow a parliamentary coup to disrupt the status quo and forever alter the region’s political and military alignments. While Russia claims Yanukovych is at present the only legal leader of the country, because he was deposed by a coup, they are not attached to him. Rather they are pointing to the international agreement, which the EU itself engineered, for new Ukrainian elections in December.

What now?

The EuroMaidan protests were large but not broadly representative of Ukraine as a whole. The new government is led by pro-Western politicians, far-right parties that established leadership in the streets, and a few other opposition figures from EuroMaidan. This coalition has combined reactionary and fascistic nationalism—withdrawing language rights for Russian speakers and other national minorities, for instance—with a clear economic strategy to “Go West.”

They are making moves to suppress opponents and drafted a ban on the Communist Party of Ukraine. This has been accompanied with a brutal street campaign attacking communists, anarchists and anti-fascists, including burning down the headquarters of the Communist Party and attacking the buildings of other radical groups.

The Kiev government is receiving unconditional support from the West and has heavily integrated fascist shock troops into its coalition. It is not clear how much control the neoliberals have over the fascists in the Svoboda Party and Right Sector. Anti-fascists in Ukraine have pointed out that roughly 30 percent of the protestors at the Maidan were fascists. Clearly they are able to exert tremendous influence on the coalition. Six cabinet posts went to the Svoboda party along with a range of other ultra-right forces.

This has sparked a counter-movement amongst many regions where people are protesting against the Kiev government. Many are expressing support for Russia as a counter-balancing or protective force. Russia has withheld further incursions beyond Crimea but other eastern cities are speaking of disaffiliation. Some of these regional governments do not accept leadership from Kiev. In Crimea, a vote for independence has been scheduled for March 16.

The long-standing ethnic and regional divisions within Ukraine, which for a period had been submerged and eased, were reignited by the country’s elites and now become mass politics threatening to rip the country apart.

Elections scheduled for May 25 are meant to give legitimacy to this new ruling coalition. Whatever the exact outcome, the character of the Kiev government supported by the United States is clear.

The United States is now exploring a range of sanctions and financial support for Ukraine. It is insisting that Russia accept the new Ukrainian government as legitimate— which is very unlikely. Furthermore, the United States and Europe have declared they will not accept any sort of Crimean independence even if the people on the Crimea vote for it. Other regions may follow suit. Ethnic divisions within the regions may be unleashed, as national minorities like Crimean Tatars are likely to oppose affiliation with Russia.

The clouds of war are clearly gathering

The West may try to wage a serious economic war on Russia, perhaps even seizing Russian assets abroad. Russia could shut off natural gas to the EU in retaliation. The stakes are extremely high and the deployment of EU nations’ troops could threaten regional conflict.

The Russian military and other local self-defense militias are at present the only check to curtail the authority of the far-right, pro-Western Kiev government over Ukraine’s entire national territory. What appears superficially as the “peaceful” scenario—immediate Russian withdrawal, which is the main objective of Western governments—would at present embolden fascist forces and undoubtedly accelerate NATO militarism in the region.

Military escalation, on the other hand, would likely stimulate ultra-nationalist sentiments in both Ukraine and Russia, threatening national minorities, Jews, Tatars and others.

For progressive people and anti-imperialists, the current situation underlines the central importance of the leadership of mass movements. In our current era, with the weakness of the left, the far-right has reaped the fruits of populist uprisings. Revolutionary organizations—built on broad class solidarity and internationalism, not reactionary forms of nationalism— must be built.

We must emphasize that the Kiev government is not a “popular” or representative government born of progressive protest, but a lash-up between pro-Western forces and fascists attempting to impose punishing economic policies on the Ukrainian people.

In the current era of imperialism, dominated by a small club of Western powers, they stage interventions and support regime change operations the moment a government asserts an independent orientation or a more compliant regime can be found. They care nothing about popular legitimacy or self-determination, using any opportunity to encircle and undermine those they do not physically crush.

It is folly for anti-imperialists to join in the chorus of condemnation against the Russian military so long as they are obstructing the EU-NATO-fascist takeover of all of Ukraine. During this rapidly changing situation, as the U.S. capitalist media howls and misleads, we must remain vigilant and precise in our message. The poor and working people of the United States and of the world have no interest in another regime change operation or imperialist war. All anti-fascist activity in the Ukraine, of which there is a militant historical tradition, must be whole-heartedly supported.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Analysis: Understanding the crisis in Ukraine

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