Archive | July 26th, 2017

Nazi MK calls for building synagogue in Al-Aqsa

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Extremist Nazi Jewish MK from the Jewish Home party, Nazi Bezalel Smotrich, has called for building a synagogue inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard, Al-Resalah newspaper reported yesterday.

The Palestinian newspaper said that the Zionist TV Channel 7 reported Smotrich saying that the best Zionist response to the Palestinian rejection to the Nazi measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque is to let them understand that they had paid a “high price” for their acts.

He said that the best response would be to build a synagogue in the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque in response to the attack on the Nazi Jewish illegal settlement of Halamish, where three Nazi Jewish settlers were killed.

“I would set up a synagogue on the Temple Mount today, this morning.”

“The Zionist response would largely be to make the other side understand and feel that they have lost. They must understand that they gain nothing from terrorism. They are the only ones who will lose, and this will happen on three levels,”  Nazi Smotrich told Arutz Sheva. If I am the Prime Minister – this morning I would close the Temple Mount to Arab prayer and establish a Synagogue for Jews.”

Palestinians have been rejecting Nazi latest security measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque which include metal detectors and advanced surveillance cameras. The metal detectors were removed late last night however more cameras were setup at the mosque. Mass protests have been held against the latest Nazi policies with occupation forces responding in a heavy handed manner. Seven Palestinians were killed in the ten days since 14 July and 1,090 were injured.

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Q & A: The National Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

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Venezuela Solidarity Campaign | Venezuelanalysis | 

Elections for a National Constituent Assembly are being held in Venezuela on July 30th. Here are some common questions – with the answers – that are being asked about the Assembly. (21/07/17)

What is a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), under Venezuelan law?

A National Constituent Assembly is essentially a constitutional convention, a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. Apart from the famous examples from the 18th century America and France, a range of other countries have employed this mechanism. In Venezuela, Article 347 of its constitution says:

The original constituent power rests with the people of Venezuela. This power may be exercised by calling a National Constituent Assembly for the purpose of transforming the State, creating a new juridical order and drawing up a new Constitution.”

Venezuela’s constitution is itself the product of a constitutional convention held in 1999, convened at the initiative of President Chávez to draft a new constitution. The constitution was later endorsed by referendum in December 1999. New general elections were held under the new constitution in July 2000.  This marked the transition from the Fourth Republic of Venezuela to the present-day Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Is President Maduro allowed to call for the setting up of a Constituent Assembly?

Article 348 of the constitution provides for how a National Constituent Assembly is to be instigated:

The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.

It is also important to note what Article 349 of the constitution says, bearing in mind (as explained later) that the right-wing opposition coalition, which has a majority in the National Assembly, is opposed to the calling of a National Constituent Assembly:

Article 349: “The President of the Republic shall not have the power to object to the new Constitution. The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way. For purposes of the promulgation of the new Constitution, the same shall be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Venezuela or in the Gazette of the Constituent Assembly.”

Why has President Maduro called for a National Constituent Assembly?

In a formal document which he signed in front of the National Electoral Council (CNE), President Maduro stated that the call for the Constituent Assembly was made in the context of the current social, political and economic circumstances in which there are severe internal and external threats against democracy and the constitutional order.

This refers to the right-wing opposition-led violence aimed at bringing down the elected Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The violence began in early April, resulting so far in scores of deaths and over 1,200 people injured. A key tactic in the violent protests is the use of ‘guarimbas’ or street blockades created by masked protesters.

The current violence has involved attacks on state facilities and services such as maternity hospitals, electricity supplies, food depots and public transport, and also targeted assassinations of government supporters. A ramping up of the aggression occurred in late June when a police officer flying a stolen helicopter attacked the Ministry of Interior building and the Supreme Court, firing shots and dropping four grenades.

The purpose of the Constituent Assembly has been expounded on by former Education Minister Elias Jaua, who explained in an interview with Televen, a private Venezuela TV channel, that its aims were “to maintain political stability, to solve the economic issues, to broaden and to strengthen the system of social welfare [and] to heal the social wounds that have come up during the conflict”.

When and how will the Constituent Assembly be made up?

Elections for Constituent Assembly are scheduled to take place on 30 July 2017.

Anybody, regardless of political persuasion, can be nominated or nominate themselves to be a candidate for election to the Constituent Assembly.

Candidates may be nominated in one of the following ways:

• by their own initiative.

• by the initiative of groups of voters and voters.

• by the initiative of the sectoral groups comprising173 seats of the 545 seat Constituent Assembly (see infogram)

In order to run for office on their own initiative, 3% of voters and voters registered in the electoral registry of the municipalities are required to nominate the constituents. In the sector category, the candidates will be nominated by the corresponding sector, and should receive the backing of 3% of the sector to which they belong.

From these various ways of being nominated, there are over 6,000 candidates competing for Constituent Assembly seats.

In keeping with how previous elections have been organised, the National Electoral Council (CNE) organised a ‘trial run’ of voting arrangements for the Constituent Assembly, setting up nearly 2,000 voting booths in voting centres across the country, in order to be assured that on election day everything would run smoothly and efficiently..

How will a new constitution emerge?

Once elected, the National Constituent Assembly will be convened within 72 hours and will get to work.

The Assembly will set its agenda for discussion on the basis of what it sees as national priorities. As convenor of the Assembly, however, the President has proposed nine topics for the Assembly to consider:

• the nation’s right and need for peace

• improvements to the country’s economy

• constitutional recognition of the various ‘Missions’ (government social programmes)

• an extension of the justice system’s scope, to end impunity for crimes

• constitutional recognition of new forms of popular and participatory democracy in Venezuela, such as communal councils and communes

• the defence of Venezuela’s sovereignty and protection against foreign intervention

• reinvigorating the plural, multicultural character of Venezuela

• a guarantee for the future of Venezuela’s youth through enshrining in the constitution their rights and the need to preserve life on the planet

Symbol of the National Constituent Assembly from government media campaign. Text: “The constituent [assembly] is going ahead!”

What is the right-wing opposition’s response to the National Constituent Assembly initiative?

Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, the so-called ‘Roundtable of Democratic Unity’ (MUD) coalition, originally announced in May that it would boycott the National Constituent Assembly and denounced it as an illegitimate effort to rewrite the nation’s constitution.

This is seemingly in contrast  to the position it held in 2013, when 55 opposition leaders signed a joint statement in support of setting up a constituent assembly.

Considering the opposition’s claim about the depth of the government’s unpopularity, echoed by most of the media, it is puzzling that opposition candidates will not be contesting all Constituent Assembly seats.

Instead of taking part in this legitimate constitutional process, the opposition held on July 16 their own unofficial plebiscite, asking whether voters recognised or rejected the Constituent Assembly process. Turnout levels for this exercise have been hotly disputed, since the process was not conducted under the auspices of the National Electoral Council and the voting was not independently audited.

How does this Constituent Assembly initiative fit with current peace and dialogue initiatives?

The convening of a Constituent Assembly is a key part of ongoing efforts by President Maduro to engage in constructive dialogue with the opposition.

The dialogue process was launched last year between the government and opposition sectors, but the right-wing MUD coalition has refused to participate.

Some opposition parties have accepted the offer of dialogue. Seventeen Venezuelan opposition parties met with the government to discuss the Constituent Assembly in May 2017. The parties who accepted the invitation included Citizenship Movement, Mopivene Movement, Republican Democracy, Republican Movement, Labour Power, Red Flag, Civilian Resistance, Renewable Democracy, Ecological Movement, Young Party and the Stone Party.

In an attempt to pursue dialogue, in early June Maduro sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to mediate the political conflict with opposition sectors that have encouraged violence in the streets. Pope Francis has repeatedly urged dialogue between sectors in Venezuela, criticising part of the opposition for not being willing to sit down for talks, but without success. He has also called on Venezuelan bishops to denounce “any form of violence.”

President Maduro has followed this by again renewing his call for the opposition to agree to dialogue and peace, in order that solutions can be arrived at to meet the needs and well-being of the Venezuelan people. He has emphasised that these solutions can only be arrived at through cooperation and peace.

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Philippines urges US to return church bells

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Press TV

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has demanded the United States return church bells seized by American forces in a bloody campaign more than a century ago, in another blast at his country’s traditional ally.

American forces took three bells from the Catholic church of Balangiga town on the eastern island of Samar in 1901 as war booty in what historians said was a particularly brutal military operation in the new US colony.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells. They are not yours. They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” Duterte said at his annual State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Those bells are reminders of the gallantry and heroism of our forebears who resisted the American colonizers and sacrificed their lives in the process.”

Two of the bells are installed at a memorial for US war dead in Wyoming, while the third is with US forces in South Korea.

Some US politicians oppose the dismantling of the memorial.

US embassy spokeswoman Molly Koscina gave a non-committal reply on Tuesday to Duterte’s demands.

“We are aware that the bells of Balangiga have deep significance for a number of people, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” she said in an email to AFP.

Duterte on Monday repeated a Filipino account of the campaign that the commanding general, Jacob Smith, ordered Samar be turned into a “howling wilderness” and that all Filipino males aged 10 or above be killed.

A 1902 US court-martial convicted Smith of a minor offence in relation to the Samar campaign, while 39 other Americans were separately found guilty of torturing and shooting Filipino prisoners there, the US Army War College research paper said.

However none of them were jailed, according to the paper.

The then Philippine president Fidel Ramos first sought but failed to recover the bells during a 1998 Washington trip.

Duterte, a self-described socialist, has since his election last year worked to distance Manila from Washington while building closer ties with China and Russia.

The Philippine islands, a Spanish colony for centuries, were ceded to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained independence from the Americans in 1946.

Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the US as ties have frayed, and last Friday vowed he would never visit the “lousy” country despite an earlier invitation extended by US President Donald Trump.

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Japan’s Conspiracy bill signals new threats to the anti-U.S. base movement

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Japan’s Conspiracy bill signals new threats to the anti-U.S. base movement

The day after Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, successfully rammed through a controversial law, the Conspiracy bill, on June 15, the author arrived in Kyoto to represent the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan).

The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe. In every forum activists were deeply concerned and outraged by the Conspiracy bill. Despite the bill becoming law, people were determined to continue to resist it.

Conspiracy bill

The Conspiracy bill became law by using the rare tactic of bypassing committee-level approval. That is, skipping a vote in an upper house committee and moving directly to a vote in the full upper house. Critics fear the bill’s vague definition of terrorism poses a threat to citizens’ rights. The Abe government argues the Conspiracy bill is a necessary safeguard against terrorist attacks at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo.

Many activists in Japan believe that the bill is a new offensive specifically aimed at peoples’ movements, such as the anti-U.S. base movement. For example, the bill criminalizes plans and preparations to commit 277 “serious crimes.” Such “crimes” include acts commonly used in the anti-base movement, like sit-ins to stop base-related construction projects. The bill therefore seems less about combating terrorism and more about legalizing the state’s use of terrorism against its own citizens.

In discussions with the author, activists in Japan were struck by the similarity between Abe’s Conspiracy bill and the way Republican-controlled states began taking steps to widen the legal definition of criminality after the election of Trump. In North Dakota, for example, under emergency provisions, laws were immediately enacted without debate to further criminalize peaceful, indigenous-led water protectors blocking the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

U.S.-Japanese Military Alliance

Abe’s Conspiracy bill comes at a time when the United States and Japan are ramping up their military alliance based largely on the lie that the DPRK and China pose an aggressive, offensive threat to the U.S. military bases in Japan, 75 percent of which are located about 400 miles south of Japan proper on Okinawa island.

The United States controlled Okinawa from 1945 until it was returned in 1972, not to the indigenous Okinawans, but to the Japanese government, as part of a non-nuclear proliferation treaty. Even though the United States no longer occupies the whole of Okinawa, the Security Treaty, signed in 1951 and revised in 1960, continues to give the United States access to Japan’s air and land space for military purposes in exchange for “protection.”

The U.S. government’s stated intention of maintaining a large and growing military presence in Japan beginning in 1952 was to serve as a “bulwark against communism.” Even after the Cold War, the U.S. military presence in Japan and the Asian Pacific has grown. Once the Soviet Union and much of the socialist bloc were eliminated, the last holdouts of anti-colonial, pan-Arab, independent, nationalism were targeted for regime change.

Through racism, sanctions and lies about weapons of mass destruction, the United States has brought massive destabilization to the region, including genocide, widespread terrorism, and open-air slave markets. The U.S. bases and military alliance with Japan made these war crimes possible.

Japan, after enacting a new series of war laws, sent war ships to the Gulf region in 2001 and 2003 to provide refueling support for U.S. aircraft during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution states, “the Japanese people forever renounce war” and that all means of “war potential, will never be maintained.”

In 2005-2006, the U.S.-Japanese military alliance was reinforced through a “realignment” plan that would more centrally integrate U.S. and Japanese military alliances. The goal is to transform the Japanese Self-Defense Forces into a ready-for-war army to be deployed, along with U.S. forces, anywhere in the world. The people’s movements in Japan have been resisting this plan for many years.

In 2012, Obama’s “rebalancing” strategy made dangerous strides toward realignment, leading to more cooperation between the United States and Japan in conducting joint military exercises or “war games” right outside of North Korea’s waters.

Most recently, the United States, Japan and the U.S.-controlled South Korean military coordinated a nuclear bomb-dropping drill right off of North Korea’s shores. When the author joined a rally in Kyoto on June 16, demonstrators expressed outrage that the UN Security Council would not consider this an act of provocation, but rather imposed further sanctions on the DPRK for their testing of an intermediate-range missile as a response to being threatened with nuclear annihilation.

The Abe government is currently moving aggressively to completely deregulate and unleash the Japanese Self-Defense Forces by amending the constitution. This process is likely to begin in the fall. Abe has boldly stated that Japan’s military forces need a legitimate position within Article 9.

Based on the energy and perseverance of the people’s movements in Japan steps taken to amend Article 9 will likely result in Abe’s approval rating to continue to fall. An indication of this was the Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, July 2, where Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party suffered a humiliating defeat. While this election does not necessarily mean the undoing of the Abe government, it does call into question Abe’s proposed timeline for reforming Japan’s pacifist Constitution by 2020.

As state policy moves further away from the peoples’ will, protests and demonstrations can be expected to rise. A seasoned politician, Abe surely knows this opposition is coming, and the Conspiracy bill must be understood within this context.

The anti-base movement

The United States has over 40,000 military personnel deployed at 83 permanent bases in Japan. In addition, the U.S.’s 7th Navy Fleet, with its homeport at the Yokosuka base, houses more than 13,000 troops afloat. With perhaps around 60,000 U.S. troops, Japan has been the number one host country for U.S. forces abroad since 2010.

While the anti-base movement in Japan is informed by the peoples’ demand for self-determination and the desire to regain control of their national territory, a number of related issues have also been central.

First, many people, especially in Okinawa where the bases are most heavily concentrated, consuming more than 20 percent of the land base, the bases themselves have disrupted and even devastated their social life. For example, many are outraged and disgusted by the sexual crimes U.S. soldiers commit against women and young girls near U.S. bases with near impunity.

The military activity and widespread use of dangerous chemicals on the bases have resulted in major environmental devastation. The construction of bases through expanding out into the ocean or in forested areas is another source of ecosystem devastation. One of the consequences of these and other activities has been high rates of cancer among communities in close proximity to bases and the military’s dumping grounds. The environmental destruction has also made life difficult for farmers and fisherman in places like Okinawa. Finally, the unimaginably debilitating noise pollution the bases mercilessly subject the people living around them to has led to decades of fierce resistance.

Okinawans have resisted U.S. military presence since the end of WWII and more recently, have blocked the construction of the Henoko base for 20 years. So organized and widespread is the Okinawan resistance that they successfully elected an anti-base governor in 2014, Takeshi Onaga.

In 2015, Onaga revoked the land reclamation permit needed to build the base on top of a fragile coral reef ecosystem. However, the Onaga-led Okinawans lost the case in the Supreme Court, and the central government quickly began building the seawalls for the Henoko base in late April amid massive protests and civil disobedience. The local activists have not given up on stopping the base from being built, noting that the sea walls have not destroyed the reef. The Conspiracy bill will surely be used against Okinawans in the coming realignment of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance.

Indigenous Okinawans, whose language and culture has been devastated by Japanese colonialism and current curricular genocide, and who have been terrorized by U.S. soldiers for nearly seven decades, will surely respond with indignation as the Abe government moves to further militarize the Self-Defense Forces.

Again, the Conspiracy bill will allow the Japanese government to more easily eliminate the anti-base movement by jailing its leadership and peaceful activists as terrorists.

People’s Resistance and Solidarity

As wealth is increasingly redistributed upward in both Japan and the United States through the slashing of social spending, cutting corporate taxes, and increasing military spending, only with international solidarity and the understanding of the power people already have can a new society of the people be realized.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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Free trade agreements and military deregulation in Japan

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Free trade agreements and military deregulation in Japan

The author represented the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan) from June 16-21, 2017. The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe.

Japan’s progressive movements tend to oppose the Japanese-U.S. military alliance codified within the 1951 Security Treaty. Revised in 1960, the treaty grants the U.S. open access to Japan’s air, land and sea territory for military purposes.

A dominant tendency within this movement acknowledges the role of U.S. imperialism within Japan’s armed forces, but argues the country has its own military and economic interests aside from the United States.

Because modern, late-stage capitalism is the product of European powers’ pivot to Africa for the slave trade and the pivot to Asian markets in the 1880s, the liberation of Asia and Africa from capitalism is central to the liberation of the whole planet from capitalism and imperialism.

While understanding Japan’s role as a junior imperialist power with the United States is significant for resisting U.S. imperialism, comprehending Japan’s independent economic and military interests are also important for anti-imperialist struggle. For example, the way Japan has responded to the Trump presidency withdrawing the United States from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an important development.

The TPP Puzzle

Many activists in Japan have expressed confusion regarding Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the TPP. That is, if the TPP was to be the U.S. capitalist class’s way of exploiting, tax-free, super oppressed labor in Asia Pacific created by decades of U.S. military intervention, then why would Trump back out? That is, why would the U.S. capitalist state decline another free trade agreement that would result in higher rates of profit for many multinational corporations? Many U.S. capitalists were in fact angry at Trump for ruining their projected TPP earnings.

While the answer includes a growing split within the U.S. capitalist class, and Trump’s uninformed turn to some type of racist economic protectionism, what is significant is the way the Japanese capitalist state apparatus has stepped in to assert its own independent interests. That is, with the United States out of the TPP picture, how is Japan moving forward? That is, the absence of the U.S. might mean more investment opportunities in the Asia Pacific, but perhaps less automobile exports that would have gone to the United States due to deregulated tariffs.

Japan’s FTAs

An FTA that had been in the works for years between Japan and the EU was just settled days before the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. It has been argued that the timing of this deal with the G20 sent an intentional message to Trump. That is, it was a direct response to Trump’s protectionism and solution to lost automobile exports.

Again, the TPP was going to help Japan with falling exports. In 2016, for example, exports in Japan fell more than 11 percent. Rather than exporting more automobiles to the United States, Japan has successfully turned to the EU with the signing of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement signed July 6.

In exchange for lowering tariffs on Japanese automobiles, Tokyo has agreed to dramatically lower tariffs on meat and dairy products for EU producers. The National Pork Producers Council sees the writing on the wall since Japan has been the biggest export market for their products.

Despite its downturn in exports overall, Japan remains the leading supplier of commodities produced by advanced technology to East Asian countries. Japan’s 14 FTAs (with Australia, Brunei, Chile, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand and Vietnam) have played an important role. Japan is also currently negotiating FTAs with Canada, Colombia, South Korea, and one between Japan, South Korea and China.

Japan’s highly developed capitalist economy tends to suffer from falling profit rates. One counter-acting measure to counter the falling rate of profit is to increase the rate of exploitation (i.e., lower wages).

For example, in 2015, the primary labor law regulating the employment of part-time workers, the Worker Dispatch Act, was revised in the employers benefit. The length of time an employer can maintain an employee’s status as “temporary” is now unlimited.

As a result, the number of dispatch workers in Japan is growing. Around 40 percent of Japan’s workforce is temporary, with high rates of extreme exploitation. By laying out less in the form of wages, production costs are reduced and a little more flexibility exporting commodities is achieved on the backs of workers.

One outcome of this trend is that the number of families on public welfare assistance more than doubled in the last 20 years. More than 16 percent of children in Japan are living in poverty.

Another factor commonly used by the most developed capitalist economies to counter falling profit rates is to export not only goods or use values, but capital itself. For example, between 2015 and 2016, Japan’s investment in Indonesia doubled from roughly $400 million to $900 million.

Japan is also the worlds’ leading exporter of capital goods and the most advanced robotics, labor-saving technology. Such machines are exported from Japan and imported into Indonesia, South Korea and China, for example, to manufacture consumer goods for export.

The FTA between Japan and Indonesia, originally signed in 2008, has tended to favor the more powerful Japan. Throughout renegotiations of the FTA over the years, Indonesia has reduced obstacles for Japanese investment in Indonesia.

Deregulating Japan’s Military

Looking expansively beyond its borders, Japanese capitalists see China, the second-largest economy in the world, as a regional, economic competitor. For example, in 2013, after Beijing declared an Air Defense Identification Zone over the Senkaku islands and surrounding waters of the East China Sea, the Abe government intensified its anti-China position.

Whereas China claims “undisputed sovereignty” in the East China Sea, the United States and Japan side with the Philippines and Vietnam, who both assert sovereignty over the military use of the rocks and shoals as strategic positions in future struggles over economic regional control.

However, such militarist ambitions are difficult to realize with a pacifist Constitution. In 2005-2006, the U.S.-Japanese military alliance was reinforced through a “realignment” plan that would more centrally integrate U.S. and Japanese military alliances. The goal is to transform the Japanese Self-Defense Forces into a ready-for-war army to be deployed, along with U.S. forces, anywhere in the world.

Growing Opposition

The Japanese capitalist class interests in deregulating the military stands in direct opposition to the people of Japan who tend to support the pacifist Constitution and avoiding the horrors of war (especially those that the U.S. military brought to Japan with the use of the worlds’ first and only major nuclear attack). Many people in Japan see their pacifist Constitution as a great advance for humankind and democracy.

Attempting to counter the strong public opposition to the remilitarization of Japan, the Abe government has employed an intense nationalistic propaganda campaign, including patriotic education and using racism to justify the current aggression toward the DPRK and to glorify Japan’s past colonialist occupation of Korea. However, despite these efforts, steps taken to amend Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution will likely result in the continuing fall of Abe’s approval rating.

An indication of this was the Tokyo assembly election on Sunday, July 2, 2017, where Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party suffered a humiliating defeat. While this election does not necessarily mean the undoing of the Abe government, it does call into question Abe’s proposed timeline for reforming Japan’s pacifist Constitution by 2020.

For the faction of Japan’s capitalist class that Prime Minister Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party represent, Article 9 is a barrier to its militaristic ambitions.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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Struggling against imperialism, refusing to forget “comfort women”

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Struggling against imperialism, refusing to forget “comfort women”

A former “comfort woman” from South Korea joins a protest outside of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., in July 2015, demanding justice for Japan’s war crimes during World War II. Photo: Sarah Sloan.

The author represented the ANSWER Coalition on a weeklong speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan) from June 16-21, 2017. The speaking tour included a rally and a march in Kyoto, and public forums in Kyoto, Fukuyama, Nagoya, and Kobe.

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a highly unpopular imperialist agenda that has been coupled with an ideological turn to nationalist chauvinism in a feeble attempt to popularize its bigoted, militarizing, capitalist pursuits. For many activists in Japan, the election of Trump reflects the same ruling-class trend of reactionary scapegoating to maintain the stability of the system as living standards decline.

Demonizing North Korea

Mobilizing support for Abe’s desire to transform Japan’s military into a completely deregulated ready-for-war army has been a major focus of his administration. The Japanese capitalist class’s move to revise its pacifist Constitution is justified in part by the supposed threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). However, North Korea has done nothing but pursued a military deterrent against external threats since the United States and Japan have rejected its requests for a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War.

Since the DPRK does not really pose an offensive threat to Japan, South Korea or the United States, a more plausible explanation for Japan’s re-militarization is its desire to secure economic interests against such rivals as China in the Asia Pacific region and elsewhere. Working to secure popular support for Japan’s shift toward militarization, Abe has glorified Japan’s pre-WWII imperialist government.

Abe has therefore moved to suppress statements in Japanese history books that reflect the extremely high human costs of imperialism. This way Japanese youth, just like in the United States, are socialized with a form of romanticized blind patriotism.

Forgetting about “comfort women”

A serious issue that really shows the barbarity of imperialism is the enslavement of girls and women during WWII who were forced into prostitution. Abe has moved to erase this grave injustice from the history books. Hundreds of thousands of women in 11 countries, including Korea and the Philippines, were forced into a form of state-sponsored slavery by the Japanese military. This horrible consequence of colonialist domination constitutes a war crime.

Revealing how important the Abe government believes it is to hide the horrors of imperialism, in 2014 Japan’s Foreign Ministry told the Japanese Consulate in New York to ask a major textbook publisher, McGraw-Hill, to alter passages on “comfort women” in one of their textbooks. Even though Japan’s Foreign Ministry was not successful, it demonstrates their dedication to portraying its imperial past in a positive light.

Outrageously, the official position of the Abe government is that there is no concrete evidence that women were forced against their will by the Imperial Japanese Army into brothels.

The struggle for justice for “comfort women”

As the movement for justice for enslaved “comfort women” has demanded that Japan offer, at the very least, a formal apology, Abe has repeatedly refused to offer one that takes responsibility of the role of the Japanese state. While Abe offered an apology in the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea that acknowledges that an injustice occurred, it does not place blame on the Imperial Japanese Army.

At a news conference in 2016 in Tokyo, former comfort women from East Timor, the Philippines, Indonesia and the Korean Peninsula spoke of the horrors they faced at the hands of the Imperial Japanese soldiers. They argued that the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea was not sufficient for many reasons, including the fact that it does not represent women from all 11 countries where Japan enslaved women and young girls during World War II.

Activists throughout the Asia Pacific and the United States, including remaining survivors, continue to agitate for justice for women forced into enslavement as so-called comfort women. Their demands include having the Japanese government offer a public apology and financial compensation to all victims in all countries, and making sure history textbooks in Japan include the true history of this injustice.

Click here to read the full report from the ANSWER Coalition’s participation in a speaking tour against U.S.-Japanese imperialism hosted by the Asia-Wide Campaign (AWC-Japan)

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John McCain and the People’s Congress of Resistance

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John McCain and the People’s Congress of Resistance

The bipartisan reactions to yesterday’s appearance of right-wing Arizona Senator John McCain in the U.S. Senate proves why people in the United States must create their own People’s Congress of Resistance.

McCain, a die-hard advocate of bombing, war and regime change in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Russia, was greeted with thunderous and sustained applause by Republicans and Democrats alike when he rose to speak. McCain is worth more than $21 million and his wife Cindy, an heiress to Anheuser-Busch fortune, is worth over $100 million.

McCain, who has cancer and is being treated with the support of a Cadillac-health plan, returned to the Senate and cast the key vote allowing the Republican majority to proceed with its efforts to wipe out health care coverage for millions of low-income workers and their children.

“Almost every senator sat in his or her seat, hanging on every word. McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) twisted themselves sideways so they could look directly at McCain, his left eye still deeply swollen from the surgery. Both leaders grew visibly emotional at times, McConnell’s face bright red as Schumer’s eyes glistened.” (The Washington Post, July 26)

What happened yesterday speaks volumes about the corrupt millionaires’ club talk shop. Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are closer to McCain than they ever will be to working people. They hustle for the same banks, war contractors, real-estate developers, and oil and gas monopolies. The U.S. Congress does not, cannot and will not represent the will of the people or try to meet the needs of the people, all people, to have access to health care, housing, education and a basic income.

It is a corrupt institution made up of ultra-rich cynical political operators. The Republican and Democratic politicians are a club.

The Washington Post noted that McCain is a “venerated” leader in the Senate, enjoying bi-partisan support because of his status as a Vietnam “war hero.” McCain was in fact a volunteer pilot who dropped 2,000-pound bombs on Vietnamese villages from 30,000 feet up. He never expected that that the Vietnamese would be capable of shooting down his plane at that height.

He was wrong.

Rather than an assemblage of war criminals, the People’s Congress of Resistance will bring together true people’s representatives: anti-war organizers,  single-payer health care advocates and grassroots activists nationwide. To get involved or register with the People’s Congress of Resistance, which meets in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 16-17, follow this link.

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Venezuela at the crossroads

NOVANEWS

In a significant escalation in the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela the hard-right opposition held an illegal plebiscite on July 16. On the ballot was among other things a resolution to stage a military coup against President Nicolas Maduro.

This election was less than representative and had many irregularities. Many voters were observed voting multiple times in multiple locations and there was no electronic or even analog system in place to prevent this. The plebiscite was not conducted through the country’s National Electoral Council. Duplicate social media posts from right wing accounts claiming to originate from far different locations showed the exact same image of voters participating. The alleged turnout of 8 million for the phony plebiscite has been proven mathematically impossible given the number of polling locations and the duration they were open — and eyewitnesses on the ground reported paltry turnouts to polling places.

The opposition claimed that all ballots would be burned after tallying for fear of alleged government repression. In reality, this was a measure that allowed the opposition to claim whatever results they wanted, with no third party verification possible.

The background of this plebiscite is ongoing nightly violence in the form of the guarimbas, a Chavista name for right-wing protests, which have endured for months and have seen the lynching of government-supporting Chavistas, Afro-Venezuelan citizens being doused in gasoline and burned alive by opposition supporters, the use of home-made rockets and improvised
explosive devices against the government police and military forces loyal to the Bolivarian Revolution and attacks on state-run food distribution centers and medical facilities.

This opposition movement has now called for a general strike as part of their ongoing “Zero Hour” plan to create chaos for ordinary Venezuelans and delegitimize the democratically-elected United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) government.

So far the military and Bolivarian Revolution-aligned police forces have been remarkably restrained, patient and disciplined in their responses to the chaotic street violence. Government officials, who could have shut down the unconstitutional opposition plebiscite by force, instead permitted it to take place largely unmolested. But the opposition is dedicated to escalating matters as far as possible to try and achieve their goal of harming the revolutionary government.

If the opposition’s general strike goes forward, becomes violent and faces repression from government forces, whose side should socialist supporters of democracy support?

Who’s who and what’s what?

In the United States, large-scale protest movements are associated with progressive causes and efforts. This creates an opening for the forces of U.S. imperialism who are able to manipulate this general impression (that protests are progressive) by projecting a distorted image of protests to create popular support in the United States for regime change in other countries. However in a world of billions, the ability to mobilize large numbers alone is rarely the end of the story. A deeper understanding of the forces at play is always crucial and the current situation in Venezuela is no different.

In Venezuela, the opposition is principally backed by the business sector, including most of the largest businesses and private media conglomerates, and the ranks of the protest movement are principally made up of those from the more affluent sections of society.

Central to the opposition’s stated plans is the goal to privatize and sell off the 1.7 million new public housing units built over the last dozen or so years, and significantly roll-back the entire range of social programs that have reduced poverty and increased living standards for the majority of the country.

The opposition’s plans should be seen in context with the legislative coup government in Brazil and the anti-peace deal campaign in Colombia as part of a broader right wing push to roll-back the social gains made by the working class, Indigenous and Afro descended populations in Latin America under various left-leaning governments over the past two and a half decades.

On the other side are the Chavista forces, including some forces of the Venezuelan state, who are defending the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution for ordinary poor and working citizens. These among other things include significant increases in food security, the expansion of healthcare to the entirety of the population at little to no cost, the elimination of illiteracy, and the expansion of social rights for Indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan populations. These gains also include the institutions created by the grassroots, known as communes, that are pioneering socialist-oriented ways of organizing the people’s way of life.

Contrary to the opposition’s claims, the Chavista movement is conducting a truly democratic constituent assembly process to re-write the Constitution to decisively address the structural issues behind the current economic and political crisis. This is a process that almost certainly will involve millions of people; tens of thousands have clearly been participating in the selection of candidates. Large marches of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken place several times over the past few months to support and push forward this process, and oppose the right-wing protests.

On the same day as the opposition “plebiscite” the government held a “dry-run” for the constituent assembly which saw a very strong turnout with long lines in the mostly working class strongholds of the Chavista movement. This process is not simply a rubber stamp of the Maduro government as the opposition alleges. In fact it has seen a significant amount of discussion in the grassroots in general and more specifically among socialist and communist activists who are the backbone of the overall Venezuelan movement towards socialism. The assembly process is representative of the broad range of support the government has pulled together including some renegade sectors of the capitalist class.

This has created a lively discussion about the future of the country, most notably how far to move beyond capitalism and the relevant state structures and economic organization that would be required. On a related note is the debate as to how hard of a line to take against the business sector and their capital strike that has so crippled the country. Some argue for more direct and aggressive moves to a socialist society, taking lessons from previous and current socialist experiments; others would like to see a more broad-based conciliation between various social/political forces across classes to try to end the current crisis. These debates over the direction are real and substantive not simply an issue of narrowly endorsing Nicolas Maduro as President.

Which side are you on?

Venezuela is at a crossroads. Since about 2004 Venezuela has been trying to create a balanced developmental social program, socialist governing experiments and worker self-management of enterprises–with a capitalist market economy. This uneasy coexistence was bound to break down with a downturn in the oil economy, considering the role of the oil economy as principal driver of economic activity and government spending.

What is happening in Venezuela now is not “protesters against the state.” Society there is now breaking into two camps. One camp wants to return to the pre-Chavez status quo by dismantling social programs that have improved the standard of living. That coalition is made up of those who benefited the most from the previous, highly unequal society. The other camp seeks to maintain the social gains of the past couple of decades and to move to further consolidate them by bringing government structures into line with a people-centered, not a profit-centered, society.

In other words, the society is divided along “class lines.” The majority of those in the owning class and those who benefit the most from their rule are in the former camp, while the majority of the working class and other oppressed populations are in the latter. The actions of both sides have to be judged on that basis.

If the opposition succeeds it means the return of extreme wealth inequality, ultra-high poverty rates, mass homelessness and housing insecurity, the reduction of access to comprehensive healthcare and education, and the destruction of community and workplace-level experiments in socialism.

Progressive people in the United States then have a dog in this fight. If one truly supports comprehensive universal healthcare, education, housing and food as human rights, then supporting the Venezuelan revolution, and its next step, a constituent assembly, is the obvious choice.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuela at the crossroads

Free Khalida Jarrar, Khitam Saafin and all Palestinian political prisoners!

NOVANEWS

Free Khalida Jarrar, Khitam Saafin and all Palestinian political prisoners!

The Party for Socialism and Liberation condemns the Israeli apartheid regime for its arrest and detention of two women leaders of the Palestinian liberation struggle, Khalida Jarrar, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Khitam Saafin, General Coordinator of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and joins in the worldwide demand for their immediate release.

Khalida Jarrar and Khitam Saafin, arrested along with nine others in pre-dawn raids on July 2, have been sentenced to six and three months respectively of administrative detention, without charge or trial.  Israel continues its dictatorial and racist rule over the Palestinian people in the West Bank using the emergency military regulations, including administrative detention, employed by the British when they were the colonizing power in Palestine.

Khalida Jarrar, elected as a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist party, is now the thirteenth member of the Palestinian Legislative Council imprisoned by the Israeli occupation. Today she and Khitam Saafin are among more than 6,200 Palestinian prisoners held illegally in Israeli jails, nearly all for the “crime” of resisting the Israeli brutal occupation regime.  At the same time, there are zero Israelis held in Palestinian prisons.

These facts alone make undeniably clear who is the colonizer and who are the colonized, and demolish once again the myth that Israel is any kind of “democracy.”

Day after day, the killings, torture, checkpoints, settlements, house demolitions, destruction of olive and fruit groves, the theft of water, the lethal blockade and isolation of Gaza, the apartheid roads, the apartheid everything, continue. None of this could continue without the massive military, economic and political support extended to the Israeli state by Washington.

But in the face of vicious repression, the heroic resistance of the Palestinian people continues.

Free Khalida Jarrar, Khitam Saafin and all Palestinian political prisoners!

End all U.S. aid to Israel!

Free Palestine!

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Free Khalida Jarrar, Khitam Saafin and all Palestinian political prisoners!

Move to End CIA Support for Syria Rebels Cuts US Losses – Ex-EU Adviser

NOVANEWS
Image result for CIA IN SYRIA CARTOON

President Donald Trump’s move to end the CIA training program for Syrian rebels finally cuts US losses and acknowledges the failure of efforts to topple President Bashar Assad, former European Union adviser Paolo von Schirach told Sputnik.

On Friday, US Special Operations Command head Raymond Thomas said at a security forum that the administration ended the CIA train-and-arm initiative after assessing the nature of the program and its viability in light of US objectives.

“The chance of overthrowing Assad via military actions is a dream,” Schirach said. “US efforts to force regime change in Damascus by supporting the domestic Syrian opposition through military assistance have failed.”

Schirach, who is also the president of the Global Policy Institute and professor of international affairs at BAU University in Washington, said the decision to end the CIA training program marked a belated recognition by US policymakers that they were not going to be able to topple Assad and his government in Damascus, no matter how many weapons and support they funnelled to the rebels.

Trump’s decision showed US policymakers had abandoned a six year effort by the Obama administration to build up military rebel forces in Syria, Schirach claimed.

“I call this cutting one’s losses and moving on,” he said.

Schirach said some of Trump’s critics claimed that cutting off the rebels had been a major US favor to Russian President Vladimir Putin without getting anything in return.

“They argue that arming the Syrian rebels was smart because it created a pressure point against the Assad regime that could have been used at a later date as a bargaining chip during negotiations about a future settlement of the conflict in Syria,” he said.

However, Schirach maintained that Trump had scrapped a program that had already clearly failed at enormous cost.

“While the details about how much money was spent and how effective this operation has been are not publicly available, the truth is that the Syrian opposition aided by the US and several Arab countries was never very effective; and now it has been essentially beaten,” Schirach pointed out.

After the fall of Aleppo, the CIA-backed Syrian rebel groups lost any remaining chance of overthrowing the Damascus regime, or even inflicting serious damages to it, Schirach remarked.

The decision to end training and support for the Syrian rebel groups was not just a personal call by Trump but represented a major and sustained policy change by the US government, Schirach insisted.

“There seems to be a new consensus within the US Government that removing Assad from power is no longer a priority. [Previous President Barack] Obama instead repeatedly declared that Assad ‘had to go,’ because of his violations of human rights and other crimes against the Syrian people,” he recollected.

However, current Secretary of State Rex Tilllerson and others actually said publicly that the removal of Assad from power was no longer a precondition for any serious talks about the future of Syria, Schirach recalled.

“Given all this, continuing a CIA-funded operation aimed at arming a few Syrian rebels who do not have any realistic chances to achieve much against regular pro-Assad forces backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, seems like a waste of time and money,” he explained.

Syrian rebels who were included in the CIA-funded program who had counted on continuing US support would have every right to feel betrayed, Schirach acknowledged.

“But this would not be the first time in which allies of America have been dropped by Washington, on account of larger strategic considerations,” he remarked.

Trump reportedly decided to halt the training of Syrian rebels about a month ago after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The program originally ramped up in 2015 and was designed to produce a force of more than 5,000 troops to fight the Syrian government.

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Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Move to End CIA Support for Syria Rebels Cuts US Losses – Ex-EU Adviser

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