Archive | June 4th, 2018

Syrian War Report – June 5, 2018: Roadmap For Manbij, Explosion Near US-French Military Base

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…from SouthFront

On June 4, the US State Department officially acknowledged that Turkey and the US had endorsed a roadmap for the northern town of Manbij. The announcement came after a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington.

Manbij is currently controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Kurdish YPG and YPJ forces are the core of the SDF. Ankara sees them as terrorist group.

Earlier, Turkey claimed that the US-Turkish roadmap on Manbij will force YPG/YPJ elements to leave the area. However, the implementation and real details of this roadmap still remains in question.

On the same day, an explosion erupted near a US-French military base in the SDF-held town of Ain Issa. According to pro-opposition sources, at least one person was killed in the incident. However, no further details are currently available.

According to reports, the Ain Issa base hosts around 200 US and 75 French troops.

On June 4 and June 5, the SDF continued its advance against ISIS on the eastern bank of the Euphrates reportedly capturing al-Nammurah, Tal Manakh and al-Dahu.

On June 3 and June 4, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies repelled a series of ISIS attacks carried out from both eastern and western banks of the Euphrates. Main clashes took place in the areas of Jalaa, Saiyal and Hasrat.

Some sources even speculated that the terrorist group used these attacks to transfer some of their members from the SDF encirclement in the area of Hajin to the Homs desert.

Firefights between government forces and militants were reported in the area west of the city of Aleppo. This incident and other cases in northern Hama and northern Latakia show that the establishment of observation posts in the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone are not enough to impose a fully-fledged ceasefire regime in the area. The key reason behind this is still high level of influence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in this part of Syria.

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In landslide vote, Ireland repeals anti-abortion amendment to constitution

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Protest after death of Sarita Halappanavar. Photo: William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Protest after death of Sarita Halappanavar. Photo: William Murphy from Dublin, Ireland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The people of Ireland took to the polls on May 25 to cast their historic vote to whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which placed the life of a pregnant woman and a fetus on equal footing and effectively bans abortion. After many long and suspenseful months of campaigning by political parties  and other grassroots coalitions  such as Together for Yes, progressive forces succeeded and won a major victory.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was adopted in September of 1983 during the Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition government and was suggested previously by the more right-wing Fianna Fáil government. The Eighth Amendment explicitly stated: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” The bill was heavily campaigned by members of the Catholic Church, right-wing groups, and pro-life groups and passed with 66.90 percent voting yes to adopt the bill and 33.10 percent voting no. As a result of Eighth Amendment, the “destruction of of unborn life” became a crime and was punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Since 1983, there have been numerous campaigns to repeal the Eighth Amendment and grant women control over their own bodies, but none have fully succeeded. In 1992, a Supreme Court judgment, known as the “X case,” granted the right to an abortion under certain circumstances in which pregnancy endangers a woman’s life, including risk of suicide, although this still did not grant women full autonomy over their bodies.

The death of Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar was a 31-year old Indian woman living in ireland who at the time of her death was 17-weeks pregnant. Halappanavar died due to problems resulting from a septic miscarriage after being hospitalized for seven days at University Hospital Galway. Early on in the process, she requested an abortion but was denied by medical staff because they felt her life was not in immediate danger. Eventually, doctors did determine her life was in danger and attempted to induce delivery, though the sepsis continued to develop and she died of cardiac arrest.

Her death caused outrage in Ireland and internationally. Numerous marches and protests took place. Organizers and community members were angry and stated that she died because of the lack of specific guidance on access to a legal abortion as outlined in the X case. Halappanavar’s death urgently prompted a new act to be put in place called the “Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013” which defined the circumstances in which an abortion can be performed to ensure the safety of a woman.

>Repeal the Eighth

As of May 25, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland has been repealed and replaced with the new Thirty-Sixth Amendment which states: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

The repeal passed with a landslide with 66.40 percent voting yes to repeal the Eighth and 33.60 percent voting no. The overall voter turnout was 64.13 percent, which is one of the highest voter turnouts in Ireland’s history. Among thousands of these voters were Irish citizens who live overseas, or who were studying abroad who decided to return home to vote to repeal the Eighth. Many of these people filmed their journey back home to vote or posted their story online, sparking the popular hashtag #HomeToVote. The dedication to travelling hours back home to vote in this referendum truly speaks to where the Irish people stand in this decision.

The driving force behind the “Yes” campaign were grassroots organizations like ‘Together For Yes’ which is a coalition of other groups and community activists. On the other side was the “No” campaign, heavily funded and organized by leading members of the Catholic Church who formed groups such as “Save Lives – Save The 8th.” Volunteers sacrificed hours of their time every week passing out flyers and holding events to discuss just how important this step is in Irish society and  how it is a major step forward for women’s rights and reproductive rights.

The struggle for women’s rights

For centuries women in Ireland have suffered greatly under strict laws that prevented them from having autonomy over their own bodies and choices. To repeal the Eighth amendment is not only a major victory for the women of Ireland, but is an inspiration to women all over the world because women organizers and activists were the driving force behind this highly successful campaign. Up against the powerful and highly influential Catholic Church , the people proved that they wanted progressive and positive change instead of remaining in the dark ages for women’s rights.

As many have said after the “Yes” victory in this referendum, not all Irish women have won these rights, as Northern Ireland, which is still occupied by the British, continues to criminalize abortion. The women of Northern Ireland will not be forgotten or be left out of the struggle for women’s rights and liberation.

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Elections in Venezuela mark crossroads for revolution

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Elections in Venezuela mark crossroads for revolution

Venezuelans celebrate Maduro’s election victory. Photo: TeleSur

As widely predicted, President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela won reelection handily on May 20th, winning 67.76 percent, 6,157,185 votes of those who turned out, securing a second six-year presidential term. Henri Falcón, the main opposition candidate, received 1,909,172 votes or 21.01 percent.

The election comes after significant victories of progressive forces in both the National Constituent Assembly and regional elections in 2017, and solidifies government power of the socialist-oriented Bolivarian revolutionary process begun in 1998 under the leadership of then-President Hugo Chávez.

Within 24 hours of the results, the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Venezuela, this time targeting the country’s oil industry, PDVSA and its U.S. operation, CITGO. Washington is intensifying its full-court press on Venezuela, with the U.S.-directed Group of Lima, a coalition of right-wing Latin American governments, also denouncing Maduro’s victory. The New York Times editorial of May 21 openly calls for his ouster.

While Maduro, his party the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and left wing allies such as the Communist Party won easily, the overall number of votes and low turnout reflect the impact of serious economic problems in the country that has tempered enthusiasm among supporters of the Bolivarian revolution.

The pressure for abstention from Venezuelan rightwing and U.S. government  also played a significant role, with only 46 percent of the 20 million eligible voters going to the polls May 20.

The opposition is crowing that the abstention rate builds their claim for true leadership of the country. This is patently false. The opposition also got their loyal supporters to abstain from the Constituent Assembly elections in 2017. In that election the socialist, or Chavista, camp received 8,089,320 votes. Further, in his first election in 2013 President Maduro received 7,587,579 votes. On top of all that the May 20 vote total for Maduro was several hundred thousand votes above what the Bolivarian forces received in 2010 when they won the National Assembly elections.

Clearly, then, a key factor in the turnout dropping below 50 percent is some combination of an abstention “protest vote” and demoralization of some subset of the Chavista base in the face of the serious challenges facing the country.

It is also worth putting the broader result in some perspective. For instance, in 2012 President Obama, widely considered quite popular, won only 28 percent of the voting age population. President Trump received roughly 25 percent and was second in the popular vote.

All-in-all the vote totals and percentages represent the fact that despite all odds, the Chavista base is resilient and maintains a strong politically active core that is the strongest single political force in the country. With 24 elections in almost 20 years, the Bolivarian forces have lost only two.

Is Venezuela a failed state?

The principal argument used to discredit the Venezuelan revolution, known by supporters as the “Bolivarian process,” is the idea that Venezuela is a failed state, taking the current economic difficulties and greatly overstating and distorting them. This was the narrative in the weeks leading up the election as well.

The international media has pounded away at themes of Venezuela as an economic basket case and stated that President Maduro only maintains power by giving out food and having strong arm policies. As with most reporting on Venezuela, this is a seriously distorted view.

The main factor to consider here are the historical context of Venezuela’s oil-centric economy. Like many major oil producers Venezuela has traditionally generated and currently generates large sums of money. Before Chávez’s presidency, that money flowed to U.S. and British oil companies and a small Venezuelan elite, while the bulk of the population was relegated to poverty. There was little to no domestic industry and the vast majority of the foods, medicines, building materials and so on were imported. The informal economy heavily dominated domestic employment.

During the Chavista era this has been significantly reversed, with huge portions of the flows from the wealth of the nation being pushed back into social programs. For instance, some 73 percent of the 2017 budget goes towards social programs in areas like housing, health, education and public works. The social commitment continues despite the huge drop in world oil prices.

From 1999 to 2015, GDP increased in Venezuela by 43 percent, the agricultural GDP by 27 percent. In 2015 when shortages in basic goods were reaching the heights, GDP was still actually higher than in 2004. Unemployment sank 62.5 percent between 1999-2015 when it hit its lowest level ever of 6 percent. In just the years 2003-2007, extreme poverty was reduced by 70 percent. The Venezuelan government has also extended health care to the entire population, thanks to a cooperative accord with Cuba and the work of Cuban medical workers. Healthcare is enshrined as a right in the 1999 constitution. It has extensively built up a vastly expanded educational system. It has a massive project to make housing a right as well, one that has created 2 million low-cost homes since just 2011, with a goal of reaching three million by 2019.

Like all oil-producing countries, the Venezuelan economy is highly vulnerable to the rise and fall of oil prices, especially since its income is 95 percent derived from oil sales.

The precipitous drop in oil prices in recent years has been a major factor in the economic crisis, falling from over $100 per barrel in 2008 to an average $37.00 per barrel in 2016.

When one looks, for instance, at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization statistics on undernourishment, dietary energy supply, protein intake, and some others, the curve of the graph clearly reflects this. For instance, the percentage of the population that is undernourished dropped precipitously from 16.9 percent in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2011. In 2016 that statistic stood at 13 percent.

The FAO keeps statistics on the average dietary energy supply adequacy, the percentage by which one falls below, meets, or exceeds the FAO recommended dietary requirement. In 2002 Venezuela was at 103 percent of the ADESA; by 2011 they had reached 121 percent. As of 2016 the percentage was back down to 104 percent.

These statistics show clearly that access to food was heavily tied to increasing revenues. Given that huge percentages of food in Venezuela was and is imported, the lack of ability to spend on imports has helped intensify the economic crisis.

This is where the role of international actors and local saboteurs becomes even more important. There are numerous examples of the giant corporate importers, Venezuelan and U.S. — Polar, Nestle’s, Proctor & Gamble, many others — that have hoarded large shipments of food and other goods to create critical shortages. At the same time they have exported billions of dollars to western banks. In late 2017 the Belgian financial services company Euroclear essentially hijacked $450 million earmarked for buying food and medicines.

Another crisis is the contraband of subsidized foods and gasoline for the population, provided by the government but stolen en masse by criminal gangs to sell at a profit in neighboring Colombia.

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions that prevent U.S. banks from restructuring Venezuelan debt. This is a regular process that would allow the freeing up of money designated for debt payments for other purposes, like importing food and medicines.

Further, the U.S. has sanctioned a number of top government officials making it difficult for them to oversee things like say, importing food and medicine, because financial companies and other corporations fear being hit with sanctions violations by the United States. The population seems to understand the role sanctions play as respected pollster Datanálisis has noted. According to their surveys, 55.6 percent of the population “strongly disagrees” with U.S. sanctions.

There are also now aggressive moves to attack the oil industry overall. In 2007 Venezuela nationalized the Orinoco oil belt. This led a number of the oil supermajors who were dispossessed to challenge Venezuela in the International Court of Arbitration. Now one of those companies, ConocoPhillips, has seized assets from PDVSA on the island of Curacao that are crucial to PDVSA’s refining capacity, dealing a heavy blow to the industry.

How far this will go is unclear, but there are also potential attempts on the horizon to also seize PDVSA’s oil tankers. This attack on the oil industry is clearly another major attempt to strangle the Venezuelan economy.

The key issue is that Venezuela is not a failed state (and has social indicators and programs that would be the envy of many countries the world over). They are experiencing structural problems that could be almost totally unavoidable, exacerbated by intense interference from the United States, Europe and right-wing Latin American governments. All this is occurring in a context where the government is trying against all odds to maintain an extremely high level of social spending to the benefit of the broad mass of people.

Is it true that the Chavistas are doing nothing?

The real story about what the government and allied forces have been doing, and a key factor in why undoubtedly many were still willing to vote in favor of it on May 20 is, quite different. The government is engaging in a wide range of measures to combat the economic war and Venezuela’s extensive revolutionary grassroots is working alongside them and also developing its own initiatives.

Revolutionaries in Venezuela are intensely focused around the theme of, to borrow a phrase from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, “grasp revolution, promote production.” It is clear to all that the biggest handicap of Venezuela is the oil-dependent import based economy. As Burkinabe revolutionary Thomas Sankara frequently stressed “where is Imperialism? It is the food aid on the plate in front of you.”

All around the nation, revolutionary forces are working to remedy this situation. In Altos de Lídice in Caracas, communal councils in the area have banded together not only to create a commune, but to focus it on some of these key factors. Miguel Padiña, a participant in the project, speaking to journalists from the revolutionary Bolivar and Zamora Current (CRBZ) of the PSUV stated:

“Currently in the productive field we have planted sweet potato, yucca and milky, as the first productive experience, it is designed to benefit around 1,400 families nearby.”

The Frente Francisco de Miranda (FFM), another broad revolutionary current within the PSUV, have developed a production entity known as Ecopatria with six sites across the country so far that are using organic farming to grow vegetables primarily but also the production of “rabbit, pork, goat and sheep meat, and the milking of goats for the manufacture of cheese.”

In Paez, a city in Apure state, the new Mayor who came in last year, José María Romero, found that the Mayor he replaced, who has been arrested for corruption, had been abusing government services to enrich himself and not engage in key productive activities, failing to even collect taxes to fund local services.

That situation is now being turned around. As one revolutionary current reports, “The mayor has 5 thousand 500 million bolivars. In terms of production, this is the great challenge that has already begun to be implemented in specific policies, such as the recent allocation of seeds and inputs for the production of 600 hectares of rice…. Those 600 hectares will be for small and medium producers, the communal city Simón Bolívar, and for the municipality…That step is the first. By 2019 the goal will be 1500 hectares. It is not all, there is also a production plan for yellow corn, rabbits, milk goats, chicken, and urban agriculture.”

The FFM, is also participating — in its own right —in the above mentioned housing campaign that has already delivered 2 million low-cost homes, aiming at 3 million by next year. They have constructed 18,000 homes in partnership with communal councils and the government to source the materials locally. As they explain, there are “more than 400 blocks [concrete-ed.], 243 carpentry and more than 200 communal ironworks, which are active guaranteeing the raw material.”

Further as one of the leaders of the project notes: “It is not just about the block, the rebar and the cement, but to go further, the economic crisis has allowed us to empower the people in the creation of their own production yards, where they can plant and harvest items or supplements to guarantee sovereignty in the food issue.”

For its own part, the government has been developing systems of more centralized distribution in order to circumvent the corporations’ hoarding practices and black market corruption networks. The centerpiece of this is the CLAP (Local Committees for Supply and Production) program that delivers food and other basic good directly to people in conjunction with the “popular power.” They are communal councils, communes and varying conglomerations set up by revolutionary currents within communities. CLAP is currently delivering 60,000 tons of goods to 6 million people, twice a month.

They have also moved to use the digital economy to help improve these measures. The government created an electronic card system (“Card of the Fatherland”) by which people can receive bonuses, social security and sometimes wages. It is a system of electronic monitoring that ensures the delivery of the goods to people who need them, rather than being disrupted.

While it is still in a developing form, one can see the clear development — with the “top-down” and the “bottom-up” growing together — of a centralized system of production and distribution of basic goods for the broad mass of the population.

Is popular power still alive?

In addition, many, if not all, of the voters in the Bolivarian movement are undoubtedly determined to defend the tremendous flowering of organs of popular government at a range of levels and intertwined in various ways with the more official government structure. One major misconception is that the “popular power” is dead.

There are roughly 46 thousand registered communal councils and roughly 1,600 communes. In his book “Building the Commune,” author George Ciccariello-Maher gives a flavor of this process:

“Sometimes a commune is sixty women gathered in a room to debate local road construction, berating political leaders in the harshest of terms. Other times it’s a textile collective gathering with local residents to decide what the community needs and how best to produce it. Sometimes it’s a handful of young men on motorcycles hammering out a gang truce, or others broadcasting on a collective radio or TV station. Often it’s hundreds of rural families growing plantains, cacao, coffee or corn while attempting to rebuild their ancestral dignity on the land through a new, collective form.”

These popular organs, particularly communal councils and communes, are in fact the mainstay of the Bolivarian process, its backbone really, and many of them, despite being perceptive critics of aspects of government policy, are the first to call to rally for the revolution at the ballot box behind the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and other members of the Chavista coalition like the Communist Party.

Aristóbulo Instúriz, minister for the communes in the President’s cabinet and a major figure in the Constituent Assembly, stated earlier this year: “Currently we have 1,883 registered communes in Venezuela and by the end of January we must reach 2,000 new ones.” He went on to note that they need to reach 3,000 this year and link them to the new communal bank. The bank is designed to funnel funds directly to communes to promote production.

These plans include: “The allotment of substantial resources to the Commune El Maizál for creation of a food production factory, to the Agua Sagrada Terepaíma Commune for an irrigation system and to the Juan Sabas Peralta Commune to purchase equipment to maintain agricultural roads.”

Angel Prado is one of the leaders of the Socialist Commune El Maizál. The El Maizál Commune is made up of 22 communal councils across Portuguesa and Lara states organized around forms of direct democracy, with a number of impressive gains to its credit such as producing “4,000 tons of corn annually and has communal enterprises producing beef, pork, cheese as well as managing gas distribution.”

Prado, who has had well publicized disagreements with the government despite firmly backing Maduro’s re-election, noted about the tasks ahead:

“[W]e have a project that is to create the communal city, I believe that this is a debt to Chávez. We are dead set on this idea, and then we want to go to a federation of communes, which is the union of several communal cities and thus build the communal state…We see ourselves in the medium-term being part of a great collective leadership that assumes the responsibility of taking the reins of the communal city. That includes our own fight against crime, an entire industrial, productive system, a university. We have a project to free our land. It is not about being independent. It is what is in the [2013-2019] Homeland Plan.”

The road ahead

There are a range of contradictions and qualifications that could be introduced into all of the above. What is crucial, however, is that Venezuela is being targeted because the majority of people, most of them poor and working people, dared to envision another world than the brutal capitalist reality so many of us live in.

Already, post election, many revolutionary groups are already putting outinteresting meditations on the road forward.

They are engaged in a great process, and a great debate among themselves about how to build a society that stresses the needs of the people over the needs of private profit. We will repeat here something we have said before:

“For revolutionaries around the world then, the tasks could not be clearer. A people decided in 1998 to break decisively with neo-liberal capitalism, and to share their wealth more equally. They also decided to institutionalize and expand massively efforts at communal, popular power. In that time living standards have increased, poverty has decreased, healthcare, education and housing are formally rights and policy is aimed at achieving that. Indigenous communities and Afro-Venezuelans have been empowered to reclaim their culture and heritage and push back against the legacies of genocide and slavery. In effect, Venezuela has launched a worldwide discussion on socialism, what the next round of attempts to build socialism can and should look like, and what they can borrow from the past and must invent for the future.

“If the Bolivarian movement is derailed, or overthrown, all that goes away. The cause of people being able to collectively decide how to best use their resources and talents for their own benefits will be irreparably set back. There are challenges and contradictions to discuss for sure, but first and foremost the Bolivarian revolution must be defended.”

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Unjust US blockade cost Cuba over $130 billion

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Photo: ANSWER Coalition.

Photo: ANSWER Coalition.

In a stunning vindication of the Cuban government’s assertions that the Cuban economy has been drastically distorted due to the aggressive foreign policy of the United States, the head of a UN agency visiting the island confirmed that the U.S. blockade of Cuba has cost the country over $130 billion in the past 56 years.

The “unjust blockade” by the U.S. has cost Cuba’s economy and its people over U.S. $130 billion in economic activity over the last five decades according to the Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The figures quoted by Barcena are similar to the economic impact the Cuban government has repeatedly cited in arguing against the blockade.

Barcena, along with UN Secretary General Antonia Gutierres, were in Havana in early May for the 37th session of ECLAC, along with the group’s 46 members states and 13 associates. The goal of this UN body is equitable economic development worldwide.

“We evaluate it every year… and we know that this blockade costs the Cuban people more than U.S. $130 billion at current prices and has left an indelible mark on its economic structure,” Barcena explained. “This country which welcomes us today .. is testing its own ways to face the brutal human costs that it has sustained during an unjust blockade.”

The U.S. blockade of Cuba was fully instituted in 1962 and has continued unabated. A stated goal of the policy is to create an environment of economic desperation to encourage the Cuban people to overthrow their revolutionary government. This manipulative strategy is a clear violation of Cuba’s sovereignty. In large part due to the blockade, Cuba’s economy has only grown at an average rate of 2.4 percent over the past decade, in spite of economic reforms introduced in 2010.

‘Trade embargo’ or genocidal blockade?

The U.S. refers to its economic policies against Cuba as a “trade embargo.” The Cuban government asserts that it is subject to a genocidal blockade. Which description is accurate?

If it were simply a matter of the U.S. not allowing American companies to trade with Cuba, the policy would be considered a trade embargo. However, the U.S. government strong-arms the rest of the world into choosing between trading with the United States and trading with Cuba. This means if Toyota wants to export cars to the United States, it cannot export a single car to Cuba. Additionally, freight ships that dock in a Cuban port cannot dock in an American port for a specified number of days.

The U.S. has the largest economy in the world and is the heart of global capitalism/imperialism. Cuba is a small, post-colonial island nation with a history of rampant economic exploitation at the hands of Spanish colonialists and American imperialists. Unsurprisingly, most major corporations choose to engage with the American economy at the expense of the Cuban economy. The end result is Cuba is economically isolated from much of the global economy, and experiences shortages. Because of the blockade, Cuba hasn’t been able to import certain life-saving drugs, technical equipment or modern automobiles for decades.

Did Obama end the blockade?

In an historic rapprochement, former U.S. President Barak Obama established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. At the same time, however, the U.S. government’s ultimate goal of regime change and capitalist restoration in Cuba remained the driving motivator of Obama’s foreign policy.

Obama did not end the blockade of Cuba; he merely loosened travel restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba, and normalized diplomatic relations. He maintained the financial, economic and commercial blockade. Obama’s “reforms’”were an attempt to use soft power to bring about regime change in Cuba, recognizing that overtly aggressive policies have been a disaster and further entrenched support for the Cuban Revolution.

The restrictions to Cuba

Until last year’s temporary ban on U.S. citizens traveling to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Cuba was the only country in the world subject to a travel ban by the U.S. government. The travel restrictions originate exclusively from the U.S. government. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Cuban government welcomes international tourists, including people from the U.S..

Many think that Obama lifted the travel ban, but U.S. citizens were not allowed to freely travel to Cuba even after the Obama administration’s reforms. U.S. citizens still needed to obtain a license, otherwise it was illegal for them to spend money traveling to or within Cuba. However, the process for obtaining a license to travel to Cuba was streamlined and this allowed de facto tourism under the umbrella of people-to-people exchanges.

The rationale for this was that freer travel to Cuba would expose ordinary Cubans to “American values” and promote anti-communist attitudes on the island. Permitting travel from the U.S. to Cuba was seen as another form of imperialist penetration and destabilization. Ordinary Cubans, however, have been exposed to millions of tourists from Canada and Europe for the past two decades and have not abandoned socialism, even under the worst economic conditions during the so-called Special Period in the 90s.

Did Trump reinstate the blockade?

Trump has definitely been more hostile to Cuba, and rolled back elements of the Obama provisions. Some 60 percent of Cuba’s diplomats in Washington, D.C. were expelled, and Trump sought to reduce U.S. travel by ending individual people-to-people exchanges. This has dramatically reduced the flow of U.S. tourists to Cuba and has further hampered economic development. However, Trump did not reverse all of Obama’s reforms. U.S. citizens can still legally travel to Cuba for professional purposes and as part of missionary work, for example.

Both presidents, from a centrist Democrat to the most odiously bigoted Republican, followed the dictates of U.S. imperialist policy. Both left the blockade of Cuba intact. Both pursued policies aimed to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty and destroy the Cuban Revolution.

International solidarity trumps U.S. imperialism

How has Cuba, a small player in the global economy, survived as a sovereign, socialist state after being blockaded for over 50 years? In short, because of international solidarity and the resiliency of the Cuban people. During the Cold War, Cuba’s economy was buttressed by friendly relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.. Unlike the United States, which relies on hyper-exploited labor from the Global South, the Soviet Union traded with Cuba on equitable terms and sent technical advisers to help modernize and diversify Cuba’s economy. This process ended abruptly with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Cuba was on its own for much of the 1990s but received a lifeline with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998. Venezuela began exporting subsidized oil to Cuba in exchange for Cuban doctors to provide medical care for poor Venezuelans, free of charge.

Since the victory of the Cuban Revolution, international solidarity has been the cornerstone of Cuba’s foreign policy. Thousands of Cuban doctors have provided free medical care to the world’s poorest people. Thousands of Cuban volunteers fought Apartheid South Africa’s armies in Angola and Namibia. The rest of the world recognizes and appreciates Cuba’s contributions to the world.

Since 1992, virtually every nation has voted in favor of ending the blockade at the United Nations, with the noted exceptions of the United States and Israel. In the last UN General Assembly vote in November, it was 191 governments for ending the blockade, two against. It is high time for the U.S. government to listen to the rest of the world and abandon all of its aggressive and unjust policies.

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The US media’s six lies about Hamas

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The Israeli government killed more than 60 Palestinian people demonstrating at the Gaza border, and wounded 12,000. According to Amnesty International, “Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.”

Israel and the U.S are trying to hide the reality of this massacre and war crimes against an unarmed population by shifting the focus and the responsibility to Hamas, the Palestinian organization which administers the government in Gaza. The U.S. corporate media are willingly assisting in this vilification of Hamas, often repeating as fact the exact same boldface lies found in Israeli and U.S. press releases, and even in the exact words.  Here are a few.

Lie one: Hamas is responsible for the death of more than 60 Palestinians by irresponsibly encouraging them to demonstate at Gaza’s border with Israel.  

Lest there be any confusion, Palestinians weren’t killed by Hamas, but by Israeli soldiers under the orders of Israeli generals with Remington M24 sniper rifles gifted by the Pentagon.  The media blames Hamas for everything that happens in Gaza because it is the government there.  In the same way, Assad is blamed in the press for every death in Syria, even though the U.S. armed and trained the opposition.  And the Maduro government of Venezuela is blamed by CNN and Fox for the economic hardship there  even though Washington has economically sanctioned that country, and funds a rightwing opposition.

Lie two: Hamas is a terrorist organization that doesn’t recognize Israel’s ‘right to exist.’

The country that is not allowed its “right to exist” is Palestine. Since the Oslo Accords, there have been 19 years of U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. During this time Israeli has moved 100,000 settlers to the West Bank, and  steadily annexed huge tracts of land so  that on a map the parts that remain under Palestinian control look like the holes in Swiss cheese. Israeli troops storm anywhere at will, regularly killing, arresting and jailing Palestinians for indeterminate periods. Israel has waged major war on Gaza twice, and is strangling it with a siege.

Palestinians have also raised having a democratic secular Palestine with the right of return for refugees and equal rights for all. Israel has not only rejected this idea, but declared itself to be an exclusively Jewish state even though 20 percent  of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. Israel prevents Palestinian refugees from returning to their land and homes simply because they are not Jewish.  Israeli apartheid has been declared a war crime under international law, and called worse than South African Apartheid by South African activists. In truth Israel won’t even recognize that Palestinian people have a “right to exist.”

Lie three: Hamas called the demonstrations and is responsible for provoking Israel.

The protest was a mass outpouring, begun by an individual, marking the 70th anniversary of the forcible expulsion of Palestinians from the country and the replacement of Palestine with Israel. The goal of the protest was to end the siege of Gaza and to exercise the people’s right to return to lands just over Gaza’s border which was owned by their families before the expulsion 70 years ago. The protest was endorsed by and  participated in by every political group in Gaza as well as civil, legal, and social service groups. Tens of thousands of people came out to the encampment and protests, from the very old to the very young.  People lived there, there were cultural and children’s programs, there were marriages there.

Lie four: Armed Hamas terrorists were cowardardly hiding among the people.

The protests were heavily covered by Palestinian and other media, even though Israeli discouraged this by killing two reporters wearing clothing clearly identifying them as press, and wounding many other reporters. Participants posted  many photos and videos of the events on social media. Some Palestinians used slingshots to hurl stones in the direction of the Israel snipers, behind two fences, earth fortifications, and tens or even hundreds of yards away. Only one side had the guns. NO one was “hiding among the people.” This WAS the Palestinian people.

Lie five: Israel was legitimately defending its borders.

Israel is the only state in the world which has never declared where its borders are.  This is because it has plans to expand permanently into Arab lands.  At one time or another it has occupied and/or annexed all of historic Palestine as well as  territory of all of its neighboring countries—Syria (the Golan Heights have been annexed), Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Borders, it seems, are only for the Palestinian and other Arab people.

In much the same way, U.S. corporations and military penetrate and bomb countries, violating borders at will. But when the victims of this devastation seek shelter in the  U.S., they are “violating U.S. borders.”

Lie six: Hamas is using the demonstrations to deflect from its own incompetence and failure to provide a decent life in Gaza.

One does not have to agree with everything Hamas does to know that Israel is responsible for the terrible living conditions in Gaza. Israel, not Hamas has besieged that strip of land for 11 years. Israel, not Hamas, bombarded Gaza in 2011, and again in 2014, killing thousands of civilians, including many children, and deliberately destroying much housing and the civilian infrastructure. It’s Israel that has reduced Gaza to only four hours of electricity a day, and denies it essential food items and even clean drinking water.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, GazaComments Off on The US media’s six lies about Hamas

Zionist puppet Nikki Haley event disrupted at University of Houston

NOVANEWS

Nikki Haley event disrupted at University of Houston

Nikki Haley event disrupted at University of Houston

Photo: Mariam Zaidi

UN ambassador and war criminal Nikki Haley was set to deliver a lecture at the University of Houston’s Student Center South Theatre on May 22nd. Luckily, things did not go anywhere near according to plan, and shortly after being praised as a “champion of human rights,” Haley was confronted with the realities of her blood-splattered approach to “diplomacy.”

Mohamad Fattouh, an activist with University of Houston’s Students for Justice in Palestine stood up and reminded Haley that “The blood is on your hands. You continue to sign off on the genocide of a native people. You’re an accomplice to terrorists and colonizers.” Various members of the crowd then rose up together, some proudly waving the flag of Palestine, all chanting “Nikki, Nikki, can’t you see, you are on a killing spree! Nikki Haley you can’t hide, you signed off on genocide! Nikki Haley you will see, Palestine will be free!”

The protest was eventually forced outside by security. Liberation Newsspoke with Fattouh after the demonstration. He described genocide as not something that happens within a year, but rather something that “occurs after a system of plans and tactics that take decades to produce.” Haley has knowingly played her part in this system. She walked out as a Palestinian representative started speaking during a United Nations Security Council meeting discussing the Israeli massacre in Gaza that left well over 50 unarmed, nonviolent protestors dead, and over 3,100 wounded. The indiscriminate shooting of protesters by Israeli forces with “butterfly bullets,” which explode on impact, constitutes a crime against humanity. These are the tactics Haley referred to as “showing restraint.”

These Palestinian protesters were heroically demanding the right of the refugees of the Nakba to return to their occupied lands, after over 700,000 were illegally expelled from their homes. The protests also targeted the blockade of the Gaza strip, as well as the recent moving of the United States Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

One would wonder why an embassy is even necessary since Israel is a puppet of the United States. However, the imperialist satellite has shown that it is willing to go outside of United States supervision to pursue its own agenda, such as its previous secret meetings with Saudi Arabia, a genocidal monarchy which is also a U.S.  ally. It is therefore the duty of communists in the U.S. to stand in complete, irrevocable solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom and self-determination. Haley must always be reminded of the consequences of her work on behalf of imperialism, and we must not stop until Palestine is free.

#NikkiSidesWithGenocide

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Zionist puppet Nikki Haley event disrupted at University of Houston

A HISTORY LESSON ABOUT IRAN

NOVANEWS
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME IRAN (PERSIA) INVADED A COUNTRY?

 

About 200 years ago.

When is the last time Iran was invaded – and who did it?

1980… by then-friend-to-the-US Saddam Hussein who was armed with conventional and unconventional weapons (chemical and biological) provided by…the US.

Iran lost 300,000 people to that invasion.

 

The idea of regime change in Iran is delusional

Iranians know too well their history to allow a US-Saudi-Israeli alliance to change the Iranian regime.

by
On May 21, US Secretary of State Pompeo outlined 12 demands to be included in a new nuclear treaty with Iran, and threatened 'the strongest sanctions in history' if Tehran does not comply [Reuters]
On May 21, US Secretary of State Pompeo outlined 12 demands to be included in a new nuclear treaty with Iran, and threatened ‘the strongest sanctions in history’ if Tehran does not comply [Reuters]

In the immediate aftermath of US President Donald Trump‘s announcement on May 8 that the US is unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal much wishful thinking about “regime change” in Iran surfaced in the global news. 

The tone for this prattle was set by a major speech that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on May 21. In the speech, Pompeo outlined 12 specific demandsfor Iran, which in effect would amount to its complete capitulation to the imperial wishes of the United States and its colonial sidekick, Israel.  

Following the US cue like clockwork, a “former top Mossad official” named Haim Tomer told The Jerusalem Post that Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia can all secretly help to advance regime change in Iran”Well, how is this “regime change” exactly to happen? Pray, do tell.

I am not saying it will be a piece of cake – The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basiji militias are very strong. But… even if regime change does not succeed… it is better to have the Iranians fighting among themselves,” Tomer said. 

That last sentence is, of course, the key issue here: the more Muslims get to kill each other and dismantle their own polities, the stronger the European garrison state built in Palestine would be. Right? Well, let’s see now.

Wishful thinking running amok  

Aside from such “ex-Mossad” characters or Islamophobe hawks like Mike Pompeo, the issue of “regime change in Iran” goes way back, much before the Israeli-Saudi-instigated Trump violation of the Iran nuclear deal. Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and his FDD buddy Reuel Marc Gerecht have for the longest time argued that “the goal should be regime change in Iran, not stopping proliferation.” This Gerecht character is even more rabid than Dubowitz; by his own account, he has “written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran. Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.” 

What if Iran does not comply with US demands?

Soon after Pompeo issued his list of demands for Iran to do as he wishes, more sensible voices have come out one by one dismantling the options that such a delusional “regime change” might entail.

In an excellent piece for the CNN, William D Hartung has asked precisely how the US-Israeli-Saudi alliance might wish to implement this “regime change” in Iran. “Pompeo’s threat to bring Iran to its knees with punishing economic sanctions,” Hartung pointed out, “clearly won’t get the job done, especially since the Trump administration has just alienated its most important potential partners by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.” 

The next fantasy this open plot against Iran espouses is to have the discredited cult of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) traitors do the job for the US and its Saudi-Zionist alliance. In response to this fanciful proposition, Hartung rightly says, “to think that an organization that the New York Times has rightly described as a ‘fringe dissident group’ could overthrow the government of Iran is a fantasy.” 

So, most people can clearly see that neither direct military action by the US, nor any fancy footwork in conjunction with Israel and Saudi Arabia is likely to dismantle the ruling regime in Iran. That leaves only the lunatic fringe of the Trump administration, led by Rudi Giuliani and John Bolton, both regular fixtures of the gaudy MEK cult spectacles, to continue to call for “regime change in Iran”. 

As Ishaan Tharoor has pointed out in a piece in Washington Post: “Bolton, Giuliani and a host of Washington politicos from both parties have supported – and likely taken money from – front groups directly related to the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) … [which] has paid Giuliani handsomely for years – $20,000 or more, and possibly a lot more – for brief appearances before the group and for lobbying to have it removed from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations …” 

Regime change as a smokescreen

In most of these analyses what is missing is Iran itself, its people, its political culture and its historical experiences – the creative and critical dynamics of its nation-state polarities. So far, it has been just a gang of Saudi princes, Zionist zealots, and their bought and paid for US politicians speculating about “regime change” in Iran.  

They all have their reasons and interests, to be sure, to keep the focus on Iran. Trump is eager to have a war to distract people’s attention from the calamities of his presidency and to bring his miserable approval rating up so that he can get himself re-elected and keep the Congress under Republican control. If not, the midterm elections in 2018, then the presidential election of 2020 would certainly be the golden occasion for such a possible strike. The Saudi-Zionist alliance most certainly relies on this timetable.  

OPINION

What do the Iranian people want?

by Rahman Bouzari

Netanyahu, too, has his own reasons to babble about “regime change”, for he wants a permanent distraction from the systematic theft of Palestine, the unyielding Palestinian uprisings and the global outcry after his recent massacre of Palestinians in GazaAnd of course, a sideshow distraction from his own personal corruption charges will not hurt.

The farther the Zionists throw the political ball around, first to the Arab world at large, and now to Iran, and next maybe to Pakistan and Turkey, the more, they so delude themselves, they can cover up the basic fact that is staring the world in the eyes – that Israel is a European settler-colony in someone else’s homeland.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, too, wants Iran destroyed to upstage his tribe’s massive militarism and the slaughter it is currently committing in Yemen so his juvenile ambitions of the counterrevolutionary mobilisations against Arab uprisings could be successful. 

The ruling state in Iran, too, to be sure, benefits from this state of war that will enable it to continue to rule a restless population of almost 80 million human beings with an iron fist. 

So, the state of war will effectively help all these reactionary forces conceal the real issues at hand – the fact that Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Kurds, etc, are following Palestinians in demanding their national sovereignty, their democratic dignities, and their civil liberties.

While the Saudi-Zionist alliance leads this treacherous counterrevolutionary mobilisation from Riyadh and Tel Aviv, the US is its direct puppet master and all other reactionary regimes in the region its beneficiaries.

How do regimes change in Iran?

This brings us back to the key question: would Iranians themselves not welcome a “regime change in Iran” and have the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia help them get rid of a nasty theocracy that has ruled over them for almost 40 years now? Here the answer is a resounding “no” for the following reasons.

OPINION

Trump’s threats are empowering hardliners in Iran

by Massoumeh Torfeh

Based on their prolonged historical experience – and they have a very long historical memory (they still think of Alexander the Great invasion of their homeland in 330 BC as if it happened a couple of years ago) – Iranians detest foreign interventions in their homeland.

They do not want anyone else changing their ruling regime for them for the very simple fact that they have been changing their ruling regimes on their own terms over the last two centuries of their modern history, including the last almost 40 years of the Islamic Republic.

The ruling Islamic Republic did not fall from the sky. It is not like the gang of European Zionists who descended upon Palestine and stole it from its rightful inhabitants.

Khamenei and his gang of recalcitrant clerics and their Praetorian Guards are Iranians, too, homegrown, rooted in Iranian politics, polity, and culture.

The Iranian revolution of 1977-1979 was a major political shift in the course of Iranian history in which Iranians staged one pole of their political culture (clerical) against the other (monarchic). But from the day that the clerical Shi’ism (to be decidedly distinguished from revolutionary Shi’ism) took over the Pahlavi monarchy, Iranians have been systemically and consistently challenging and changing their regime on their own terms. 

The Khomeini faction of the revolutionary mobilisation against the Pahlavis took over on February 11, 1979. By March 8, 1979 (International Women’s Day), less than a month after Khomeini returned to Iran from France, Iranian women were out in massive numbers protesting the imposition of mandatory hijab on them.

Starting from that day in 1979 until the widespread protests in January 2018, Iranians have been consistently challenging and changing their regime on terms determined by their own best interests.

Those who have opposed them and have sided with power, or are in power, are Iranians, too. The sustained battle between these two forces has enriched and empowered and enabled the Iranian political culture – and above all inoculated it more than ever against treacherous foreign interventions in their affairs.

The treasonous MEK forever lost any legitimacy in Iran when they exited this dialectic and sided with the murderous Saddam Hussein against their own people. Now, they are in the same camp as Benjamin Netanyahu, Mohammed bin Salman, Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton. 

None of that, however, means that tens of millions of Iranians do not wish to see the back of the Islamic Republic and its entire ruling apparatus. But they do not want to see that at the expense of the destruction of their homeland. 

A free lesson on Iran

The problem with Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, Netanyahu, bin Salman, and any other morally and intellectually compromised character who thinks they can threaten the ruling regime in Iran and it will just fall is that they are clueless about the nature of Iranian conceptions of nation, nationhood, and nationalism. 

So here is a free lesson on Iran for them to study at their CIA, State Department, Shin Bet, or mukhabarat: Iran emerged from the thicket of the 19th and 20th-century colonialism as a postcolonial nation before and beyond and above any feckless state apparatus could have any claims on it.

In Iran, sovereignty is national, not statist. Chew on that one for a second, ladies and gentlemen of the Shin Bet! You will have difficulty digesting that one, for you are a rootless settler-colony, a garrison state built by European colonialists on the historic resistances and the national consciousness of Palestinians, the rightful inhabitants of the country you have stolen. 

OPINION

How will the US nuclear deal pullout affect Iran’s economy?

by Seyed Yasser Jebraily

Starting with the Russo-Persian wars of the early 19th century forward, Iran emerged with an enduring anticolonial national consciousness while the Qajar dynasty (1789-1926) was crumbling under the Russian, French, and British imperial rivalries.

The Qajar dynasty eventually collapsed between the Tobacco Revolt of 1891 and the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, as Iranians became even more rooted in their national self-confidence and collective consciousness.  

The final demise of the Qajar dynasty and rise of the Pahlavis (1925-1979) only consolidated the societal power and political intuition of Iranians as a nation. The same is true in the aftermath of the collapse of the Pahlavis and the rise of the Islamic Republic.

This nation has not allowed one single day, one single year, one single decade pass over the last 40 years of the life of the ruling Islamists without systematically, consistently, non-violently, but structurally challenging and changing it. This challenge has changed the ruling regime, produced rooted and successive women’s rights, human rights, and civil rights movements within the skeletal framing of the ruling Islamic Republic.

Revolutionary leaders like Mir Hossein Mousavi, reformists liberals like Mohammad Khatami, moderate politicians like Hassan Rouhani do not grow out of nowhere. They are the Islamic Republic’s successive answers, never fully satisfactory, to demands from within the Iranian society. In that calculus of the nation versus the state, the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia are the enemies of Iranian people, not their friends. 

No doubt the combined treacheries of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US can indeed conspire and impose even more crippling sanctions on Iranian people, or even start bombing targets in Iran. No doubt this can cause enormous pain and suffering, murder and mayhem, among innocent populations – as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. But that will not result in “regime change in Iran”.

That will, in fact, strengthen the regime even more, for at least some people in the Pentagon who have neither had the Israeli Kool-Aid or have been corrupted by Saudi wealth must know the ruling regime in Iran, its Praetorian Guards in particular, is basically a transnational guerrilla operation spread from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

They have not put all their eggs in one basket inside Iran for you to target and destroy. They do not fight conventional warfare. The masses of billions of dollars of US and EU arms the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Bahrainis, and, of course, the Israelis have procured for themselves will be entirely useless protecting their own ruling regimes. 

So yes, “the ruling regime in Iran” is a perfect match for those who are threatening it and knows how to defend itself, but it is nowhere near what Iranians as a nation deserve and will ultimately demand and exact. That it could be changed by a Saudi-Israeli-US conspiracy is simply delusional. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

What if Iran does not comply with US demands?

MORE ON IRAN

 

 

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on A HISTORY LESSON ABOUT IRAN

The US at war with itself

Resurgence of US racism and bigotry

By Lawrence Davidson

A cultural civil war: racism

The United States is at war with itself. It is actually a function of the nation’s heritage – the past contesting specific aspects of a modern present. This results in traditions in flux. Some examples of this are the racism, the pseudo-frontier mentality and the religious fundamentalism that persist into the present moment. These are traditions that characterised the first half of the nation’s history, and while some of these may have retreated into latency over the past 50 years, they are back with us now. As a result, Americans are in the midst of an ongoing culture war that in many ways is as old as the nation itself.

Let’s take look at the issue of racism, the latest display of which is the infamous Roseanne Barr tweet. Roseanne’s racist opinions are nothing new. Nor, since the advent of Donald Trump, is their public display. Here is how I contextualise the nation’s growing racist revival based on an updated earlier analysis entitled “Civil rights takes a hit”, published in March 2013 on the occasion of the Supreme Court’s ill-advised weakening of the 1965 Civil Rights Act

(1) A culture of racism shaped the American way of life since before the founding of the United States. This culture became particularly deep-rooted in the southern colonies/states, where slavery became not only a foundational economic institution but one that shaped the South’s self-image. In the North, a racist culture was also pervasive and society was segregated. The significant difference here was that the North’s labour system was not based on slavery.

(2) In the South, this deeply embedded culture of racism was briefly interrupted when, following the Civil War, a short period of “Reconstruction” (1865-77) took place. During this time a US military occupation of the conquered Confederacy suppressed most racist laws. The main reason for this was political and not social. Under the North’s occupation regime Blacks were recognized as citizens and could vote. Doing so, they of course supported the party of Abraham Lincoln. This helped the abolitionist Republicans maintain control of Congress. Reconstruction lasted only as long as did the dominance of the abolitionist faction. That ended in 1877.

In that year the US army was withdrawn from the southern states. Almost immediately there was a region-wide reversion to a racially dictated way of life wherein the oppression of slavery was replaced with a variety of “Jim Crow” laws legitimising segregation and all manner of discrimination against Black Americans.

(3) This state of affairs lasted close to another 100 years, until the 1960s, when a massive movement of civil disobedience known as the Civil Rights Movement, finally led to the outlawing of racist practices in both the South and the North within the public sphere – for instance, hotels, bars, public schools, shopping centres, and the like. It also discouraged the public display of racist attitudes. I emphasise the public sphere because, at the time of the passage of national civil rights legislation, little was done to change racist perceptions and behaviour within the private sphere. For instance, no effort was made to mandate the teaching of tolerance in the public schools so as to better erode private racist perceptions. The private sphere was left to itself.

(4) Thus, until 1965, with only a hiatus of 12 years following the Civil War (the effects of which were felt mostly in the South), US law validated racial discrimination and segregation as a guide to acceptable citizen’s views and behaviour. Against this 200-plus years of cultural shaping we can put the last 50-plus years of limited counter-shaping of the public sphere.

Given the protracted period that an overt culture of racism was allowed to work on the American mind, it can be argued that 50 years (approximately two generations) of public sector law is not enough time for the message that racial prejudice is wrong to be fully assimilated in the private lives of citizens.

(5) As a result there has developed an unstable cultural scenario wherein white Americans are begrudgingly accepting of racial mixing in public spaces, as well as the workplace. Privately, however, many are less tolerant and continue to resist such levels of intimacy as racially mixed friendship circles, neighbourhoods or intermarriage.

This continuing divide becomes even more complicated in the US South. A quarter of the US white population identifies themselves as southerners, and of those an active subgroup have never reconciled to the notion of colourblind civil rights. This subgroup has never given up a sentimental loyalty to Confederate Civil War heroes and symbols (the Confederate flag, for instance). These have become signs of resistance to federal hegemony and emblems of identity which, in some cases, are stronger than those representing the US as a nation.

Other aspects of the cultural civil war

Racism is a major theme in the nation’s ongoing cultural civil war, but it is not the only one. Another is the fight over gun laws, which presently are inadequate to provide for public safety.

Guns

The prevailing gun culture is a combination of the romanticisation of the country’s frontier tradition, and a fear of any authority that might interfere with an open-ended, almost anarchistic, definition of freedom. In terms of the frontier, the gun enthusiast’s portrayal is distorted for a reason explained below. The prevalence of guns on the frontier was, in truth, in direct proportion to the absence of the rule of law. Where there was law, the “gun-toting” was restrained or just prohibited.

The myth of the rugged, and armed, individual is actually a product of the television and movie distortion of the history of the “old West”. It wasn’t really a place of heroes who valued “freedom”. Until it was “tamed” by law and regulation, It was a place of murder and mayhem. Predictably, today’s effort to replicate the frontier myth of rugged individualism through promoting an armed and largely unregulated citizenry has resulted, not in freedom, but in a resurgence of murder and mayhem.

Religion

Finally, we should note the survival of 19th century-style of Christian fundamentalism. While this certainly does not include all US Christians, it is the case that millions of Americans still adhere to the “faith of their fathers” in a fashion that encourages social inequality and undermines the secular nature of the state. It is also a faith riddled with racial and gender bigotry, self-righteous egocentrism, and shameful hypocrisy.

That makes it easy for the Christian right to support President Donald Trump, whose public and private behaviour should make him anathema to even pseudo-Christians. Here is how one opinion writer in the New York Times put it: “The politicized sectors” of the Christian right “have been associated with bigotry, selfishness and deception for a long time. Trump has simply revealed the movement’s priorities. It values the preservation of traditional racial and sexual hierarchies over fuzzier notions of wholesomeness.” A key word here is “politicised.” The Christian right wants to decisively influence the government, local and federal.

The Trump connection

The Christian right, along with the gun rights enthusiasts, and those who privately support a diffused undercurrent of racist traditionalism, believe that modern movements for equal rights, as well as for the community’s need for safety and security through law and regulation, are threats to genuine American culture. They threaten traditions of “freedom” that makes their world ideologically comfortable. The current president has become their champion.

That puts Donald Trump front and centre in the ongoing cultural civil war. Against this backdrop it becomes clear what the president means when he says, “Make American great again”. He means the country has to return to the behavioural patterns that existed before the Civil Rights Movement, before the Great Depression and before World War II. It is not only possible that this regression can be approximated, it is already being attempted! A sure sign of this is the fact that Trump’s ascendency to office has encouraged a return of public displays of racist opinions – just like those of Roseanne Barr.

Conclusion

Clearly, the American embrace of things like gender and racial equality is superficial and fragile. It’s superficial because civil rights legislation was restricted to the public sphere – and even that legislation has proved too much for large numbers of white Americans steeped in a cultural history which, in truth, was and is ethically wretched. The past now rises up to challenge those fragile improvements of the recent present.

James McFadden, who participated in the original, 25 February 1960, restaurant counter sit-in that helped initiate the Civil Rights Movement, recognises this resurgence of the past. He

sees a frightening similarity to those days… the way [some] talk and dehumanise people who are different. It’s the same kind of dehumanisation we received. I’m very fearful today, almost as much today as 1960.

Reading the tweets of Roseanne Barr and Donald Trump, one can understand why. It’s a war – a cultural civil war.

Posted in USAComments Off on The US at war with itself

The shame of injustice

NOVANEWS
Injustice and sharing

By Graham Peebles

Poverty is the greatest cause of death and illness globally. It strangles the lives of billions of people, denying the expression of innate potential, andcondemning men, women and children to live stunted, uncreative lives of interminable suffering and drudgery.

While the numbers living in extreme poverty (the World Bank calculates this to be living on $1.90 a day) has decreased, over half of the world’s 7.5 billion people are somehow surviving on less than $5 a day (the cost of a designer coffee in developed countries). Hundreds of millions of others live in a condition of relative poverty or economic insecurity, with anxiety and worry their constant companion. The majority of the world’s poorest people live in developing countries – India, sub-Saharan Africa and rural China predominantly, but tens of millions are pushed into the shadows in industrialised nations, America, for example, has an estimated 44 million people, or 13% of the population, living in “official” poverty. Wherever the poor are found they live on the margins of society, are exploited and disregarded. 

It is unjust that billions of people live in squalor; it is unjust that the quality of a child’s education is dependent upon the size of its parent’s bank account; it is unjust that access to health care in many countries is determined by one’s ability to pay for it.

Walking hand-in-hand with poverty is the crime of extreme inequality. Obscene levels of wealth are concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller number of trillionaires while the poor are forced to beg for the crumbs that fall from their burgeoning tables.

Poverty results from and is itself a form of injustice. So too is poor education, inadequate health care, homelessness and sub-standard accommodation. As with freedom, justice is a human right and within that triumph of common sense, the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, is enshrined as such. But our world is dominated by attitudes and modes of living that deny justice and prohibit freedom. It is unjust that billions of people live in squalor; it is unjust that the quality of a child’s education is dependent upon the size of its parent’s bank account; it is unjust that access to health care in many countries is determined by one’s ability to pay for it. The collective shame of injustice must be cleansed from our world and trust inculcated.

As with many of our problems, the key to creating a just society lies in the encouragement of sharing. In various areas of life, sharing is beginning to fashion the way things are done: data sharing within all forms of government and between agencies and allies is common practice, United Nations agencies readily share statistics and education tools, cooperate with aid organisations, as well as sharing research material relating to global issues – climate change, for example. The internet allows sharing on an unprecedented scale and has given billions of people access to information and ideas in a way that was impossible in the pre-internet age.

While sharing initiatives is increasingly common, it is yet to be adopted as the primary economic and social principle. However, the “sharing economy” of which we hear so much these days is a hint of things to come. A leading example of this new movement is the groundbreaking “Sharing City” project set up in 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. The scheme has four main objectives: reduce the use of municipal resources, create new jobs, build communities and cut pollution. There is a range of initiatives taking place in the city, including sharing unused parking spaces, leasing empty rooms, exchanging children’s clothing and even meals, sharing bookshelves and internet access, and letting citizens use idle spaces in public- or government-owned facilities. As a result of these schemes, Forbes reports that, “a different culture is emerging, thanks to the support of the government, that has been proactively engaged with the public by providing the city’s resources such as unused public spaces and related data to its citizens, and providing support to sharing economy business models”.

On the whole, the businesses grouped together under the sharing economy banner are functioning within the traditional capitalist system. Despite this distortion, it shows that the concept of sharing is increasingly influencing thinking and beginning to permeate human affairs: this augurs well for the future. 

Sharing engenders trust

Injustice must be eradicated from our world, and the principal means of doing this is through sharing. When one shares, trust is engendered, divisions are dismantled, unity is cultivated and justice begins to flower. Sharing is the most efficient way to meet collective need; it is the common-sense approach to many of our problems, social and environmental; it is an expression of love, which is the unifying force of nature.

Without universal justice, disharmony will continue and peace will remain a fantasy. Injustice poisons the social fabric, pollutes the collective atmosphere and creates fermenting resentment, which fuels conflict. It is fed by complacency, which is the principal vice of the privileged, the smug and the comfortable; they have little or no idea of the intense suffering that billions of people are living under, and, fearing that their position of influence and control may be wretched from them, they cling to all that they hold dear – power and wealth.

Everything that causes injustice must be uprooted, not only within the structures under which we live, but also, and perhaps more importantly, within the consciousness of the individual. The destructive nature of conditioned ideals that encourage injustice must be recognised and rejected, and ways of living based on justice and social responsibility cultivated. At the same time, and flowing from this shift in attitudes, which in many people is well under way, socio-economic structures rooted in sharing are desperately needed to deal with systemic injustice.

The injustice of inequality has reached abhorrent levels, not simply wealth and income inequality, but inequality of opportunity, inequality of access to health care and good quality education, housing and culture. Such inequalities feed injustice and stoke division, leading to conflict. They are inevitable under neoliberalism, and unless we reject this outdated and unjust way of organising the global economy, inequality will continue to grow year on year. The promise of social mobility as a means of addressing or reducing injustice is mere propaganda: within the current system there is virtually no such thing. if you’re born into poverty or relative poverty, the chances are you will remain there. 

The answer to injustice and social division is not to be found buried in the crumbs of the comfortable; it lies in adopting radically new ideas; concepts of sharing that are woven into the fabric of human nature and need now to be applied in a pragmatic manner to solve the global problem of injustice.

Posted in Politics, WorldComments Off on The shame of injustice

New US Ambassador to Berlin Vows to “Empower” Europe’s Xenophobic Far-Right

NOVANEWS

“The comments made by Richard Grenell give the impression that the new U.S. ambassador still hasn’t adjusted to his new role. At least the Russians make an effort not to be seen to be meddling in other countries’ affairs.”

Posted in GermanyComments Off on New US Ambassador to Berlin Vows to “Empower” Europe’s Xenophobic Far-Right


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