Archive | July 2nd, 2020

Resist ruling class drive to reopen schools

RCG in London demand mass testing and PPE

On 22 May, the Independent Sage committee — which was set up in response to the lack of public or scientific scrutiny of the activities of the government’s own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) — published a report warning that the wider reopening of schools on 1 June risks spreading Covid-19 and causing a potential ‘second spike’ in the pandemic. Until the virus can be accurately monitored and controlled through a nationwide programme of community based testing and contact tracing, there must be no increase in numbers of pupils in school; the unions and educational staff must organise to ensure their essential demands are met. RUBY MOST reports

A growing number of councils are announcing that they will be advising schools in their local authority against the government’s plan to increase pupil numbers from 1 June. The government’s plan is that from this date:

  • Nurseries, childminders, and other early years’ providers should open to all children
  • Primary schools should open to all nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 pupils
  • All schools teaching secondary age pupils should bring in some face to face learning with years 10 and 12 from 15 June
  • Schools must also remain open for children of ‘key workers’ and vulnerable children from any year group.

The prime minister’s old elite boarding school Eton will of course face no such demand to reopen, and will continue its programme of education online, including podcast versions of assemblies. Several multi-academy trusts have used their ‘autonomy’ from local authorities to fall in line with the government’s demands. The push to increase pupil numbers in state schools is part of the ruling class offensive to force more of the working class back into work, whatever the human cost.

Councils, unions, doctors reject reopening

On 15 May the British Medical Association (BMA), the union for doctors and medical students in Britain, backed the National Education Union (NEU)’s five tests before an increase in pupil numbers should be considered safe. The five tests are:

  • Much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases (with a sustained downward trend and extensive testing and contact tracing to keep it that way)
  • A national plan for social distancing (including acceptable parameters for physical distancing and social mixing in schools, and appropriate PPE as needed in each school setting)
  • Testing on a comprehensive and regular basis for children and staff
  • A whole school strategy for protocols to be followed when a case is found in a school, to test the whole school or college and for isolation to be followed
  • Protection for vulnerable staff and those living with someone vulnerable to allow them to work from home, and protection for vulnerable families.

Thousands of NHS staff also signed an open letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, published in April, calling for ‘strict widespread testing for suspected Covid-19, rigorous contact tracing and scrupulous adherence to quarantining’ before a wider return to schools should be considered.

Councils across the north of England from Liverpool, Hartlepool, Rochdale, Wigan, Stockport, Bury in Greater Manchester, and an increasing number of others have so far rejected the government’s order to increase pupil numbers from 1 June. Some have said they will push back the date of increasing pupil numbers as the infection and death rates in their local authority remains too high. Those with the worst infection and mortality rates are of course the areas with more low paid, insecure, BAME workers, those most oppressed sections of the working class who are being made to bear the unforgivable human cost of this pandemic as a sacrifice for profit. So far the unions have offered fine words and no fight, determined instead to ‘work with’ the same government trying to force members back to work. Those workers will have to fight on if the councils and unions back down in the face of government pressure.

Government fails the test

There is no nationwide tracking and tracing scheme, which Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove insisted on 17 May would be ready to launch the same month, after initial plans to roll out community-based testing and tracing was abandoned in mid-March. The government has now pushed back the launch of the NHS test and trace app to say it may possibly be up and running at the end of May, and that it might not be needed to provide a testing and tracing service. Asymptomatic parents, staff or children could easily spread the virus in schools before it is detected.

There is nothing like the level of required testing being carried out; the government has failed its own arbitrary pledge to test 100,000 people a day by the end of April, with figures so far only reaching the target by including multiple tests on the same person, and home tests which have been posted out but not yet processed. The government’s advice is that only children or staff who develop symptoms, and their families, will be able to be tested once pupil numbers increase from 1 June, which is no help for stopping the spread of the virus.

The government’s own guidance admits that social distancing will be impossible with the youngest children, but claims that schools will be able to keep transmission rates low by avoiding contact with symptomatic people, hand washing, and getting rid of any toys which are hard to clean. Schools have been made responsible for producing their own risk assessments and social distancing measures. Reported examples of social distancing measures which some schools have released to families include toys and books being removed from classrooms, children having to do their own first aid and personal care, children as young as four having to sit at desks one metreaway from others all facing the same direction, and only being allowed to use the toilet at set times. The question of how this will work with real children, who need comforting when they hurt themselves, and cannot be expected to learn anything without books to read or friends to interact with, is one of many the government refuses to answer. The advice states that PPE will not be needed in the school setting unless a child develops symptoms and cannot be kept two metres apart from staff until they are taken home to isolate. These measures are ludicrous and the plan to increase pupils is dangerous, reckless and must be resisted.

Conflicting evidence

Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of BMA, in the letter of support to NEU’s Co-General Secretary Kevin Courtney said the BMA’s Public Health Medicine committee found the scientific evidence available on children’s susceptibility to and ability to transmit Covid-19 ‘conflicting’, citing one paper from New South Wales which ‘suggested that children were much less susceptible to serious illness but were more likely to have asymptomatic infection’, and a newer study from Berlin led by virologist Dr Christian Drosten which found ‘looking at viral loads in children suggest they are just as likely to be infected as adults, and may be just as infectious’.

The Office for National Statistics published data on 14 May from 10,705 swab tests, which found ‘no evidence of differences in the proportions of individuals testing positive for Covid-19 between different age categories’. Clearly this, along with evidence pointing to a possible link between Covid-19 and a rare inflammatory condition affecting children (up to 100 in Britain), are reasons to take every possible precaution before increasing the number of children in school.

Why reopen schools now?

When Johnson’s government reluctantly ordered schools to close from 20 March, to all but children of ‘key workers’ and vulnerable children, it marked the beginning of the lockdown measures which are finally starting to bring down the death rate and new infection rate for coronavirus. The government was forced to U-turn on its reckless and disastrous ‘herd immunity’ strategy, the aim of which chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 13 March was to allow the virus to spread to at least ‘60% or so’ of the population, after Imperial College’s modelling predicted it could kill 250,000 people and overwhelm the NHS. Vallance is the former president of research and development at British multinational pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a company which has admitted to bribing doctors, encouraging the prescription of unsuitable anti-depressants to children, and concealing data about life threatening side effects of its drug Avandia. GSK is in talks with the British government to produce 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine efficacy boosters. At the daily government briefing on 28 May Vallance suggested that social distancing of two metres may not be required, if other measures are considered, such as people being back to back with each other — this is not based on public health considerations, but business. Johnson said reducing the distance would be ‘particularly valuable in transport and clearly the hospitality sector’. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty contradicted this message, reinforcing that it is essential that even if people are meeting outdoors under the relaxed lockdown rules, that they should stay two metres apart.

When the extensive list of ‘key workers’ was published, more than 24 hours after the announcement that schools would need to remain open for these pupils, it was so broad that school leaders feared too many children would be sent to school, with insufficient space to keep them two metres apart, or staff to look after them. Businesses like pet shop chain Pets at Home used the vague guidance to argue their staff were ‘key workers’, and sent them letters so they could send their children to school and come in to work. Education Secretary Gavin Williams tweeted on 21 March that only parents whose ‘work is critical to our Covid-19 response’ should send children to school, but the broad guidelines remained. This would have allowed the blame to be placed on individual parents for selfishly sending children to school so they could work if numbers of children attending reached an unsafe level. 

This did not happen, and many parents kept their children away from schools as advised, in fact very low numbers attended, including many children classed as vulnerable.

But the ruling class is clamouring to force the working class back into its allotted role. This is the primary function of state schools under capitalism.

Inequality in the time of coronavirus

Williamson and Gove, along with a right-wing media frenzy against ‘militant’ education unions preventing teachers from ‘doing their duty’, are using vulnerable children as a sickening ploy to force them to back down.

The same children, millions of whom now live in poverty after years of crushing austerity, have been utterly failed by the government throughout the lockdown, with entrenched inequalities becoming magnified by the effects of the pandemic. As a result of the government’s incompetent attempt to run its free school meals voucher scheme, a recent Food Foundation report, conducted a month after lockdown began, found 5.1 million people living in a household with children have experienced food insecurity since the measures were introduced. The report found that almost a third of children entitled to free school meals had not had any substitute through the government’s scheme. Run through an online portal created by private company Edenred, the scheme has seen delays of weeks at a time, with some parents still not receiving a voucher since the lockdown began, and many who did receive vouchers found they failed at the till, leaving families humiliated and hungry.

It should come as no surprise that, according to new survey data published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, of those from the poorest 20% of households are the least reassured about the safety of sending their children back to school — only a third of the poorest families were willing, compared to half of the wealthiest families. The wider reopening of schools is gambling with the lives of the working class and must be resisted.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No 276, June/July 2020

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US pandemic sharpens contradictions

 By: Joe Tyler

The US now has almost a third of the world’s total confirmed Covid-19 cases (1.77 million), and more than a quarter of all deaths. At the time of writing, official fatalities are over 104,000. Anthony Fauci, prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claimed the real death toll is likely to be far higher. The crisis has sharpened the contradictions of US capitalism, which is incapable of dealing with this sustained crisis. Amidst lost profits and a historic economic downturn, the ruling class is gearing up to have workers shoulder the burden of the pandemic.

The Trump administration entered the pandemic claiming the virus was fake news, ‘a hoax’, attacking the Democrats for exaggerating any potential crisis. President Trump claimed ‘we have it totally under control’ in late January, when the first US case was confirmed. This bluster translated into an administration totally unprepared to coordinate a response to the disease: by March, having spent two months downplaying the seriousness of the virus, Trump described the pandemic as coming ‘out of nowhere’.

Forced to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the administration turned to attack China and the World Health Organisation (WHO), attempting to deflect attention from its own shambolic handling of the crisis. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly referred to the ‘Wuhan virus’ to blame the illness on China, while Trump has described the pandemic as an ‘attack’ and baselessly claimed with ‘a high degree of confidence’ that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory. In an act of supreme irony, Trump has also announced a halt to all US funding to the WHO ($400-500m annually) and threatened to quit the organisation altogether after claiming it was too slow to react to the Covid-19 crisis, and for being ‘too pro-China’. As the administration postures over China, US hospitals are stacking the dead in refrigerated trucks, and mass graves are being used to dispose of bodies.

Record unemployment but handouts for big business

At least 40 million US people have so far lost their jobs as a result of the virus pandemic: 23% of the US workforce. The Federal Reserve suggests 40% of US households earning less than $40,000 have experienced unemployment due to the pandemic. Recent statistics indicate that for white workers, the unemployment rate sits at 14.7%. People from minority backgrounds have been hit harder: for black workers, the unemployment rate is 16.7%, and for Hispanic workers it is 18.8%. For a comparable crisis, one must look to the 1930s Great Depression. While many have ‘temporarily’ lost their employment, millions of low-waged service sector and retail employees have been cut completely adrift.


The administration has rushed out several stimulus bills, notably the Coronavirus Relief Bill, or CARES Act, on 27 March. This promised an unprecedented $2 trillion to alleviate the economic effects of the virus, but it has been used to sneak through unprecedented handouts to the rich in the form of loans and tax cuts. Included are tax breaks calculated at $135bn, allowing rich individuals to offset potential losses against tax, $510bn worth of bailouts to large businesses, and a $341bn ‘Paycheck Protection Programme’ aimed at small businesses. These handouts were funnelled through the banks, who took $10bn in fees and approved payments to their preferred customers. No surprise then that US billionaires increased their wealth by an estimated $434bn during the first four months of the pandemic.
Aware of the dangerous prospect of millions of desperate unemployed people, the administration was forced to provide financial support. Workers affected by the crisis were to receive an extra $600 a week in unemployment payments through to 30 June, but with new claims increasing by 3,554%, the country’s underfunded unemployment offices have been inundated. 40.8 million US workers have applied for unemployment benefit but only a fraction of these claims is likely to be processed in time to bring any support (never mind the additional $600) – even if the claims are approved. Similarly, the Act promised one-time ‘stimulus checks’ [sic] of $1,200 to workers with incomes under $99,000, but through a cavalcade of executive delays and errors (including Trump demanding his signature featured prominently on the payments before they could be released), millions of US workers waited weeks to receive these, and many still wait; meanwhile, the handouts for businesses were completed in two weeks. A second round of stimulus payments is currently being delayed by the Republican-controlled Senate. After months without work, the provisions for working people are akin to dousing a blaze with a water pistol.

US healthcare: no good for workers

Covid-19 has pushed the US healthcare system to breaking point, but for workers it was already woefully inadequate. The US spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world – yet the deep inequalities in the system mean that for the majority, falling ill is unaffordable. US healthcare providers are driven by profit, but more than 27 million US people lack any kind of health insurance, meaning they risk going into debt should they fall ill. 25% of US citizens avoid seeking medical care due to the cost. At the end of 2019, 137 million US people had some form of medical debt; this will rise steeply with unemployment. Lack of paid sick leave and the daunting costs associated with healthcare have exacerbated coronavirus’ effects on the US working class.

WHO guidelines advise that mass public testing and contact tracing can contain the virus’ spread. But despite Trump’s insistence that the US has the best Covid-19 screening systems in the world, mass testing in the US is a fiction; at the beginning of May less than 2% of the population had received a test. In Philadelphia those living in poorer areas are six times less likely to have received testing than those in more affluent areas. Many poor black and minority people are not tested, even when reporting Covid-19 symptoms. Roughly 33% of Covid-19 cases have affected black people, despite their constituting 13% of the population. Systemic racism means black and minority communities bear the brunt of the coronavirus, thanks to long-standing economic marginalisation.

Republican Mitt Romney criticised his own administration, claiming it ‘treaded water’ for two months instead of taking an approach which might have allowed hotspots to be effectively quarantined. Trump downplayed the need for testing, although all White House staff are tested each day. Testing facilities are slowly growing, but even the current rate of about 250,000 tests a day would need to be exponentially increased to hope to head off the virus’ spread. There is no concrete federal plan for achieving anything like the required numbers; no support for the masses of uninsured workers; no central organisation of materials needed to carry out tests. The Trump administration blames local state governors for the failures.

The profit motive has left healthcare institutions unable to deal with the pandemic. With most hospitals in the US cancelling non-urgent elective surgeries, a major source of their income has dried up. It is the poorest who suffer for this: due to falling hospital revenues in some of the hardest-hit low-income areas of the country they are being forced to furlough frontline workers when they are needed most. In Seattle, the state’s largest healthcare provider UW Medicine furloughed over 1,500 medical staff on 18 May due to a $500m deficit. Healthcare workers still working have totally inadequate supplies of vital medical equipment. Staff who speak up about shortages risk being sacked by company managements which prioritise profits over adequate preparation and safeguarding. Hospitals have been forced to beg for donations of PPE from salons, construction companies and the general public. Doctors have worn industrial jumpsuits instead of protective equipment.

Return to work

While the crisis deepens, the Trump administration has focused on calling for the reopening of the economy. On 30 April, Trump allowed federal guidelines on social distancing to expire, paving the way for states to relax lockdown rules. Businesses have jumped on the chance to resume profit-making. Notably, union-busting gangster Elon Musk reopened Tesla’s California automotive plant on 11 May, against state public health directives; Musk has personally made over $12bn since the start of the year and called business closures ‘fascistic’. One week into May, 23 states had issued return-to-work orders for non-essential businesses. By 20 May, all states had begun to loosen the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the US agency of workplace safety, which is meant to act in the workers’ interests, has surrendered its role entirely to business-owners, advising that as long as businesses are operating in ‘good faith’, they will leave them to organise their own virus response. Bosses will be allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and decide for themselves whether they are doing enough to protect workers.

There has been resistance to this brazen attack on the working class. Workers at meatpacking factories across the US found themselves on the frontlines as one of the hardest-hit industries, with over 12,000 workers, largely from poor minority backgrounds, contracting the virus nationwide. Workers in these factories often stand shoulder-to-shoulder for long hours with no protective equipment. Several plants were targeted by walkouts and strikes in opposition to pushes for a return to work in late April. It took an executive order from Trump commanding the plants to open ‘under any circumstances’ to force workers back. Union capitulation has helped stifle workers’ capacity to fight back. In Detroit, wildcat strikes and walkouts forced the closure of automotive plants at the start of the lockdown, but the United Auto Workers union (UAW) gave the thumbs-up to these reopening on 6 May, forcing workers back into deadly factories. UAW officials received mandatory coronavirus tests before returning to their own offices – they made no such demands for the workers they represent.

The reopening of US businesses is not based on declining cases, or any kind of breakthrough in controlling the virus. Indeed, the week beginning 27 April, when states began to announce they would lift lockdown restrictions, an average of 1,831 people died every day, and the total number of confirmed cases passed one million. The drive to reopen the economy is based on desperation to restore business profits and to stave off inevitable resistance from workers left with nothing; this is social murder, plain and simple.

It has been left up to individuals at a state level to organise extensions to quarantine efforts. The Trump administration has made use of the situation to give tacit approval to small groups of pro-Trump right-wing protestors, who have invaded state legislatures in states such as Michigan, armed with assault rifles and threatened officials seeking to stop businesses reopening. The administration has proved that it will not take steps at a federal level to ensure workers are financially able to self-isolate, opting to send them back into their workplaces. States reopening have threatened workers that if they don’t return to work, whether or not it is safe, they will lose their unemployment benefits; in Iowa, state officials have requested companies to inform on workers refusing to return to work. For working class people, who must still pay rent and support themselves and their families, returning to work becomes the only option.

The US government actions dealing with the Covid-19 crisis betray its absolute lack of interest in the welfare of working people. Its chief concern has been exploiting the crisis to hand record bailouts to capitalists, pass legislation to shield businesses from being held legally responsible if their workers are in unsafe conditions, and to cut into workers’ rights. They sacrifice the working class in dangerous workplaces, so the rich can continue to profit.

Joe Tyler

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Tracing the origins of today’s viruses

 By: BJORK LIND

The increased occurrence of virulent diseases is directly linked to the intensity and scale of land use and food production under capitalism. Around 50% of all the habitable land on Earth is agricultural land, most of which is under the control of big agribusinesses whose goal is to maximise profit at any cost. Their assault on the environment has created pathways for diseases to cause misery and mortality in animals and humans alike. BJORK LIND reports.

The majority of pathogens found in humans – bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms – originate in other animals. Some come directly from commercial farms, like salmonella and bird flu, but most, like Covid-19 and Ebola, spill over from wild animals to local human communities. Animals, however, are not especially infested with deadly pathogens ready to infect us. On the contrary, biodiverse areas contain numerous harmless pathogens that have been passed back and forth between animals over time. The co-evolution of pathogens and animals has led to a natural defence system that keeps disease outbreaks in check. 

The deadly pathogens that have em­erged in human populations over the past centuries have done so in response to humanity’s activities – habitat destruction, industrial production, urbanisation and expanding global travel and trade networks. This has altered ecosystemic relations and thus the pathways along which pathogens evolve and disperse, causing harmless microbes to transform into human diseases. 

Agribusiness and the destruction of wildlife habitats

The scale at which big agribusinesses conduct production entails the massive appropriation and exploitation of land. This has been achieved through the destruction of natural animal habitats, such as forests, jungles and wetlands. Additionally, these businesses are on track to be the world’s biggest contributors to climate change – surpassing even the oil industry – which upsets natural conditions. These factors have led to the threat of extinction for a vast number of wild species, and have pushed surviving animals to relocate into smaller fragments of remaining habitat. Meanwhile, cities have grown and suburbs and towns have expanded into forests and jungles where the likelihood of coming into contact with wild animals is high. The disruption of ecosystems and the increasing contact between humans and wildlife have created the perfect conditions for virus spillover.

As the African Centre for Bio­safety recently stated: ‘There are many examples of how ecosystem disruption causes diseases and outbreaks […] Most pandemics in fact, including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, SARS, Lyme disease and hundreds more, have their roots in environmental change and ecosystem disturbances.’

Malaria – which kills over a million people annually due to the transmission of parasites by mosquitoes – has long been shown to go hand in hand with deforestation. Ebola outbreaks, with a fatality rate at about 50%, have been linked to the displacement of bats and people following the expansion of industry. Covid-19 derives from ecosystem disturbances as well. As agribusinesses in China have encroached upon the regional forests, wild food operators have moved further into a contracting wilderness to obtain their source. It is thought likely that, as a result, bat-hosted Covid-19 found its way onto a truck and crossed over to humans.

Such spillover is not new. In England capitalism was intensified via the mass clearing of peasants from their land and the replacement of existing ecosystems with industrial agriculture. Sick cattle were imported and concentrated in ways which resulted in pandemics ripping through the population in the 19th century – much more aggressively than had occurred before. The results of capitalist intrusions elsewhere were even more devastating and torment communities to this day: British colonists in Bangladesh cut down the Sundarbans to build rice farms, exposing humans to water-borne bacteria now known as cholera. European colonists in Central Africa established routes along rivers and into dense forests which eventually allowed a lentivirus in local primates to spill over, perfect its adaptation to the human body and evolve into HIV. 

The redirection of the worst damage from industrial production has continued into the post-colonial era where agribusinesses are taking advantage of cheap labour and cheap land by moving their operations to the tropics. While the international community has responded vigorously to the Covid-19 pandemic, infectious diseases that cause a substantial health burden in the oppressed nations are largely ignored.   

Monoculture and mega-farms 

It is not habitat destruction alone that heightens the risk of disease emergence, but also the fact that wild habitats are replaced with monoculture farming – the practice of keeping animals or crops of the same species and with nearly identical genomes. It is an attractive option for agribusinesses since it is simpler, easier to automate and requires fewer employees. As a result, three quarters of the world’s food today is generated from as few as 12 plants and five animal species. 

When a ‘wild’ virus strikes a monoculture, its severity is drastically increased. This is because natural selection, which in wild animals allows immune evolution to track pathogens and ensure within-species variation, has been replaced with artificial selection. While this increases production and economic gains, it simultaneously reduces genetic variation and prevents animals from co-evolving with a natural environment comprising benign and pathogenic microorganisms. Consequently, farm animals’ immune response is weak, and exacerbated by the physiological distress they endure in their state of captivity. 

Bird flu is a salient example. Studies have shown that while the source of nearly all influenza subtypes comes from wild bird populations, no endemic strains of influenza have been found in the wild birds themselves. Instead, multiple low infectious influenza subtypes in such populations develop into harmful viruses only once they enter domestic bird farms. 

Crowded conditions and large farm animal population sizes make the transmission of pathogens easier. In 1998 swine flu virus was discovered in North Carolina, USA – the same year the state’s pig population hit ten million, up from two million just six years earlier.

The end of agribusiness

Even though many viruses are wholly avoidable, governments worldwide – in an effort to protect profits – choose to pick up the pieces rather than hold agribusiness accountable. Given the stakes, immediate action is needed. Rather than restarting the economy that produced the damage, we must end agribusiness by destroying the private ownership that lay at the roots of its foundation. We must institute systematic socialised changes including the socialisation of land and natural resources. The redistribution of land would not only achieve a greater diversity in food production but also preserve the natural evolution of our ecosystems which, in turn, protects our farms from harmful pathogens. Only with socialism can the plundering of nature be stopped and nature’s ability to protect itself be restored.

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US and China: the writing on the wall

 By: Trevor Rayne

President Trump and the US government blame China for the pandemic. They not only seek to deflect attention away from their own reckless response to the disease but to mobilise US people and foreign allies against China. The US ruling class intends to halt China’s challenge to US global hegemony. US imperialists understand that a turning point against them may have been reached – and that time is running out for them to act. It is not just Covid-19 that threatens the economy and life; the US ruling class is especially dangerous. TREVOR RAYNE reports.

At the time of writing China, with over four times the population of the US, has one-twentieth of the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths from the disease. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that the US economy will shrink in 2020 while China’s will grow. Before the pandemic, China’s manufacturing output was almost equal to those of the US, Japan and Germany combined. China has the four biggest banks in the world, when measured by assets. China’s exports of goods far exceed those of the US (see China: on top of the world FRFI 266 Oct/Nov 2018).

Those charged with trying to manage capitalism’s global financial system have questioned the leading role of the US dollar. Addressing central bankers in August 2019, Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England, said the US accounts for only 10% of global trade and 15% of global GDP, but US dollars are used to finance half the world’s invoices and two-thirds of security issuance. This creates distortions in the global monetary system, undermining policy making. Carney warned, ‘The deficiencies of the international monetary and financial system have become increasingly potent … even a passing acquaintance with monetary history suggests this centre won’t hold.’

‘Built on a lie’

By the end of 2019, the world financial system was heading for a crisis resulting from ballooning debt. ‘Up to 40% of the $19 trillion of debt owed by companies is now at risk of default if there is a global economic downturn, according to the IMF’s analysis’ (Financial Times 21 October 2019). The World Bank estimated that underdeveloped countries were burdened with a ‘towering’ $55 trillion of debt by the end of 2018. China’s debt to GDP ratio had risen from 182% in 2010 to 255%. To these debt mountains is added the cost of bailouts during the pandemic. At the outbreak of the pandemic there were over $16 trillion worth of negative-yielding bonds, that is a quarter of all government and corporate debt, up from $6 trillion in October 2018. Investors in these bonds will get back less than they paid; creditors pay to hold debts. As financial assets lose their prospective profitability, so their liquidity decreases. Nevertheless, investors demand returns. Carney warned that investment funds that hold illiquid assets but offer investors daily redemptions (payments) were ‘built on a lie’.

The US Federal Reserve states that in the US, corporate debt rose from $3.3 trillion before the 2008 financial crisis to $6.5 trillion in 2019. Now, with shopping malls, offices, factories and supply chains shut, corporate America is facing ‘unpaid bills carnage’. Chains of defaults, bankruptcies and closures will follow. In the US, the average US hourly wage has the same purchasing power as it did in 1978. Labour’s share of value-added in production has dropped 8% in five decades. With stagnant and falling living standards for the majority and a rotting infrastructure, decay and decline are symptomatic of US capitalism.

In 2019, the accountants Ernst and Young (EY) produced a report showing that the number of Fortune Global 500 companies headquartered in the US fell from 179 in 2000 to 121, while the number headquartered in China grew from 10 to 119. Under the headline ‘Covid-19 and the threat to US primacy’ the Financial Times surveyed the prospects, ‘The world’s most powerful military machine is not much use against a virus. But a lack of universal healthcare coverage is suddenly a threat not just to the poor but to the whole of US society … Combine the relative stabilisation of China, with the threat of a new Great Depression and a deep political crisis in America and it is clearly possible that Covid-19 will trigger a big shift in power from the US to China. It could even mark the end of American primacy’ (14 April 2020). The writing is on the wall for the US ruling class.

Blaming China

On 24 January President Trump tweeted ‘China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus … The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.’ By 6 May the message was: ‘We went through the worst attack we’ve ever had on our country … This is worse than Pearl Harbour, this is worse than the World Trade Centre attack.’ Trump and his Secretary of State Pompeo accused China of developing the virus in a Wuhan laboratory and targeting the US – in effect, of waging biological warfare. Peter Navarro is Assistant to the President and Director of US Trade and Manufacturing Policy. He was put in charge of Defence Production Act policy to fight the pandemic. The Act, dating from 1950 during the Korean War, mobilised private industry for the war effort. During an interview, Navarro said, ‘I did write a book in 2006 called The Coming China Wars. On page 150, I predicted that the Chinese Communist Party would create a viral pandemic that would kill millions of people worldwide, it is now beyond my wildest nightmare what China has inflicted on the world.’

Trump, Pompeo and Navarro mobilised Rupert Murdoch’s media empire to repeat the message that China is to blame. The story about the Wuhan laboratory was aired by Fox News on 15 April. A wave of anti-China propaganda followed. On 25 April, The Times in London carried an article, ‘Time is running out for the West to stop China’s global takeover’. On 5 May, Murdoch’s Australian Saturday Telegraph cited research confirming that ‘China deliberately suppressed or destroyed evidence of the coronavirus outbreak in an “assault on international transparency” that cost tens of thousands of lives.’ Despite being ordered to investigate China’s Wuhan laboratories as a possible source of Covid-19, US intelligence agencies would not confirm that the coronavirus was manmade or genetically modified. Murdoch is no friend of China; he bought Star TV in 1993 to broadcast to over 30 countries in Asia, but the Chinese government prevented it from reaching most of China.

Responding to the US furore against China, Russia’s President Putin said that since the outbreak of the pandemic, Russia and China have ‘stood in unity and extended mutual support, which is testament to the strategic nature and high quality of their relationship’. Russia condemned the US for establishing laboratories in former Soviet states, including Ukraine.

Blaming the World Health Organisation (WHO)

Under President Trump, the US has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a nuclear missile deal, is threatening the World Trade Organisation and has questioned the usefulness of NATO. After launching a trade war with China, the US government threatens Europe and Japan with more tariffs. This reactionary US nationalism unnerves the US’s traditional European and Asian ruling class allies. Now Trump has stopped funding the WHO, calling it a ‘Chinese puppet’. Trump claimed WHO negligence increased the world’s Covid-19 death rate ‘twenty-fold’.

The WHO was established as a UN agency in 1948. It has been restricted by the powers that dominate the UN. However, the WHO incurred the wrath of corporate interests by recognising that the ‘the major cause of all ill health was poverty. Generally, the better-off a community was in financial terms, the better its health indices were … health is certainly as much a political issue as a biomedical/clinical one.’ Consequently, Structural Adjustment Policies imposed by the IMF could be regarded as illegal under international law (Theodore MacDonald, Preserving the United Nations 2010).

The WHO supports vaccination programmes in poorer countries, notably in Africa and the Middle East. China detected Covid-19 symptoms on 27 December 2019. On 31 December Chinese authorities alerted the WHO about the new outbreak. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention was briefed by its Chinese counterparts. On 17 January, a German institute, using genetic data relayed from China, produced a test kit to identify the virus, which the WHO adopted and made available to all countries. WHO chief-of-staff Bernhard Schwartlander, said of the US government’s action, ‘You don’t turn off the hose in the middle of the fire, even if you dislike the firemen.’ Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical magazine was angry, ‘President Trump’s decision to defund the WHO is simply this – a crime against humanity. Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.’

Addressing the WHO annual meeting on 18 May, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged $2bn to the global battle against coronavirus. Responding to claims that China had covered up the outbreak, Xi said China would support ‘a comprehensive review of the global response’ to the pandemic. He said that any vaccine developed in China would be made a ‘global public good’, adding, ‘This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.’ This directly counters US nationalism.

Not to be outmanoeuvred before November’s presidential election, Democrat senators Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders lambasted China as responsible for the spread of the pandemic. The customarily Democrat-supporting Washington Post and New York Times joined in the China bashing.

Trade war to financial war

On 12 May, Trump ordered the US government’s main pension fund to stop investing in Chinese equities. US government officials warned that Chinese firms could be sanctioned because of Chinese government culpability in spreading the coronavirus. Three days later, the US announced rules to stop supplies of semi-conductors and other technology made in third countries (Taiwan and South Korea) reaching the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei. China holds $1.1 trillion of US government debt. There was talk in the US of ceasing interest payments on this debt. This would be disastrous for the US dollar, at a time when the US Treasury intends to borrow $3 trillion to deal with economic effects of the pandemic.

China removed caps on foreign companies taking full control of local asset management operations on 1 April 2020. China is the third-largest asset management market in the world, after the US and Britain. The market provides the biggest growth opportunity for fund managers in the next decade; a market expected to exceed $9 trillion by 2023. JP Morgan, the US’s biggest bank, has just completed a 100% takeover of its Chinese partner. Trump’s anti-China moves will be considered excessive among some powerful US corporations.

David Cameron announced a ‘golden era’ in Sino-British relations when deals worth over £30bn were agreed during President Xi’s 2015 state visit. In July 2019, Boris Johnson said his sgovernment would be very ‘pro-China’ and promised to keep Britain ‘the most open economy in Europe’ for Chinese investments. However, this February, Trump reportedly vented ‘apoplectic’ fury at Johnson over the British government’s decision allowing Huawei a role in Britain’s 5G mobile phone network. British-US trade negotiations began in May. There are divisions in the ruling class, the Conservative Party and the government over whether Britain should roll over and submit to US government pressure to join it in isolating China.

Meanwhile, the US has deployed a nuclear attack warship and bombers to the Western Pacific and South China Sea, through which passes 80% of China’s trade, including oil. China cannot replace the US as the global hegemon, nor does it wish to, but it will not bow down to US imperialism. Yang Chengjun, Chinese nuclear strategist, warns, ‘Although we have fewer warheads than the US, once we detect any nuclear attack from the US, our warheads are enough to destroy the US in counterattack. This is effective nuclear deterrence.’

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Making a killing: capitalism, care homes and Covid-19

 By: FRFI

Had there been a government which had a modicum of competence, the disaster that befell care home residents and which led to thousands them dying from Covid-19 would have been completely avoidable. But the record of the Tories betrayed a complete indifference in preparing for the impending crisis and their incapability to organise the basic steps in managing the pandemic when it hit Britain. There was no attempt to obtain and use information about the spread of the virus; warnings issued to the care sector were belated and imprecise, and later on, there was criminal complacency in accounting for the appalling mortality in Britain’s care homes. ROBERT CLOUGH and JAMES PIKE report.

Precise figures for the number of Covid-19 deaths among care home residents are impossible to get because no count was maintained until mid-April, and was then dependent on first, whether care homes submitted data to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the government agency designated as responsible for collecting the information, and second, whether Covid-19 was recorded as a cause of death on death certificates. However, between 11 April and 22 May alone, the CQC shows that 15,414 residents died from Covid-19; thousands must have died in the weeks beforehand, meaning that estimates by the International Long Term Care Policy Network of 22,000 deaths are completely realistic.

Why have there been so many deaths? There are about 15,500 care and nursing homes in England, with 465,000 residents, 60% of whom are aged over 85. Older people are particularly susceptible to Covid-19, in part because they anyway have weaker immune systems, but also because they suffer more from conditions which affect their immune systems. Type 2 diabetes is a known factor in developing Covid-19 complications. In hospital settings, for instance, 53% of all deaths as at 29 May were of patients aged 80 years or more (14,000 out of 26,384 deaths) of whom some 40% had been transferred from care homes. People aged 80 or more number some 2.6 million or 4.6% of the population of England; of these half are aged over 85. Once a coronavirus infection starts in a care home, it spreads rapidly because social distancing is difficult to maintain, and because it can be introduced and spread unintentionally by asymptomatic staff.

Anatomy of the disaster

Despite the evident warnings from China which in January already showed the devastating impact of coronavirus on the elderly, the Tory government took no action, despite evidence that the spread of the virus was already thought to be doubling every five days. Instead, it waited until 25 February before issuing its first guidance on the virus and care homes. This claimed there was no need for isolation since it was ‘very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected.’ In the event of a suspected case among staff or residents, ‘no restrictions or special control measures are required in these settings while a member of staff or resident is waiting for laboratory test results for Covid-19. In particular, there is no need to close or send staff home at this point.’ The guidance did not mention outside visits, and stated that staff did not need to wear face masks.

Updated guidance on 13 March continued this complacent attitude; Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance was still musing about the need to ‘build up some kind of herd immunity’, while ‘at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it.’ At this point, care home operators were ‘advised’ for the first time to ‘review their visiting policy, by asking no one to visit who has suspected Covid-19 or is generally unwell.’ As it was, unable to wait any longer, the larger private care home groups had unilaterally stopped non-essential visits. Later, on 13 May, Boris Johnson was to claim that the 13 March guidance meant the government had locked down care homes before the general lockdown – a lie. Two days later, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock was to allege that the guidance showed that ministers had ‘tried to throw a protective ring around’ care homes ‘right from the start’ of the outbreak – another lie, and then implied it was a government success that 62% of care homes had escaped infection.

The 13 March guidance unleashed a storm of criticism which the government ignored, waiting nearly three weeks until 2 April, 10 days after the national lockdown, before saying ‘family and friends should be advised not to visit care homes, except next of kin in exceptional conditions such as end of life.’ By this time the damage had been done; tracking data made available by Public Health England at the end of April showed that by the end of March there had been 793 outbreaks in care homes. Some 15,000 elderly patients were being discharged from hospitals into care homes to free up beds; they were not being tested for coronavirus unless they were symptomatic or were being transferred from somewhere with a known outbreak. They became a further source for infection spread. The 2 April guidance stipulated that testing would be strictly limited to those care home residents who were symptomatic, and only if five or more residents in the same home showed such symptoms. On 25 March, Johnson had told parliament that every care home worker would receive all necessary PPE ‘by the end of the week’, but as late as 4 May one care provider told The Guardian that they had received a total of 400 masks when they need 35,000 a week.

It was not until 15 April that Hancock announced ‘plans’ to test all symptomatic care home residents and staff; not until 28 April a ‘plan’ to test all residents and staff, symptomatic or otherwise. At the time of writing, the government claims that every care home for the over-65s will have been ‘offered’ testing for residents and staff by 6 June. Like so many ‘plans’ the government has put forward over the past three months, this is likely to be yet another empty promise.

A pre-existing crisis

Before the pandemic, the care system was already in a deep crisis, with a staffing shortfall of 122,000 workers across the whole sector, endemic low pay, and cuts to local authority spending of over £8bn since 2010. 1.4 million older people were estimated to be living without the care and support they needed, while the care that many received was often wholly inadequate.

1.2 million people work in the care sector: 465,000 in care and nursing homes, 610,000 providing domiciliary care and 150,000 day and community care. With few prospects for increasing productivity, private providers have pursued higher profit margins by slashing workers’ wages and conditions:

  • 28% of all care workers are paid the minimum wage; it is estimated that 10-13% of care workers are in practice paid below this legal minimum.
  • Around 10% of all care home workers are on zero hours contracts.
  • 58% of frontline domiciliary care workers and 54% of domiciliary nurses are on zero hours contracts.

There is widespread use of agency staff – precarious workers drafted in to meet an existing staffing shortfall of 122,000 (8% of all roles) across the sector exacerbated by up to 25% of staff absent due to the virus. They have been faced with the impossible choice of working with no protections, or a total loss of income; this has undoubtedly contributed to the spread of the virus. As it is, death rates among care workers from Covid-19 are double those for the population in general.

Making a killing

Private care services have long existed for the wealthy, but it was not until the 1980s that public money began to be routinely funnelled to private care companies. The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act, which passed full responsibility for care to cash-strapped local authorities, accelerated a process of privatisation. The large providers which had emerged in the 1980s began to be floated on the stock market. Attracted by guaranteed streams of public and private fees and property assets which can be speculated with, finance capital has asset stripped the sector, and saddled care home operators with massive debts, before selling them on for a profit.

The first care home to be threatened with having its licence taken away by the CQC during the pandemic, Home Farm Tree in Skye, is run by such a company – Britain’s largest private care provider, HC-One. Two thirds of HC-One’s 340 homes, which house 22,000 people, have experienced outbreaks, and over 800 residents have died. HC-One’s history can be traced back to March 1993 when Nursing Home Properties plc (NHP) was established to buy up the property of nursing homes, in order to then lease the properties back to the operators. This split between property company and operating company is central to the ownership model in corporate care – it is a key part of how vast profits are hidden by being reclassified as debts within the same corporate group. HC-One was set up by NHP to operate 249 homes which ended up in the hands of NHP following the debt-fuelled collapse of the UK’s then-largest care home operator Southern Cross in 2011.

HC-One is ultimately owned by the financial corporation Formation Capital LLP, Safanad Inc, and Court Cavendish – original partners to NHP, founded by Labour Party donor Chai Patel. The corporate structure of HC-One involves 62 companies with names like FC Skyfall Intermediate Holdco 3 Ltd. Nineteen of these, including the ultimate parent company (FC Skyfall LP), are registered offshore in Jersey or the Cayman Islands. HC-One has declared a loss in every year except two since its formation – but has paid out nearly £50m in dividends over the last three years. It has paid almost no corporation tax in that time, while receiving £6.5m in tax credits. The company’s highest paid senior director has received £2.5m since 2011, and Court Cavendish, which is 90% owned by Patel and 10% by his family trust, has received £25m of management fees. The CEO is paid £800,000 a year. The company is currently on sale for £1bn.

HC-One (whose non-executive chairman, David Behan, was until 2018 head of the CQC) is, alongside Care England, the trade body representing the large private providers, leading the charge in demanding yet more state money be funnelled to care operators who, it argues are being paid ‘below the cost’ of providing care. One study for the Centre for Research and Socio-Cultural Change, however, has shown that what corporate care providers consider operating ‘at cost’ is in fact turning a profit of 12%. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says that between 2015 and 2017, the 26 largest providers turned an average 21% ‘economic profit’ on top of the 6.5% the CMA considers necessary to break even before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and rent.

The 30 largest care home providers supply around 30% of beds, and include many companies backed by private equity or other financial investors. These include HC-One, Four Seasons (up for sale by private equity owners H/2 Capital Partners; split into a corporate group of 187 companies, many based in tax havens – see FRFI 270) and Care UK (controlling stake held by Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity investor holding £16bn in assets). At the other end of the scale, 29% of beds are supplied by the fragmented mass of companies only operate one home. Concentration in the sector is growing and will increase as the smaller operators (which tend to have much higher operating costs) fold under the financial pressures of the pandemic. One individual home, Friary Lodge in Barnet, is already the first to close down operations due to the pandemic, telling its residents to get out by the end of May – demonstrating the utter inhumanity of a system in which care is provided for profit.

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on Making a killing: capitalism, care homes and Covid-19

Libya: Zionist puppet Sisi threatens to intervene militarily

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

On 21 June 2020, after reviewing his troops, Zionist puppet Abdel Fattah al-Sissi said in a televised statement that a military intervention in support of the only elected Libyan authorities, those of the Tobruk Parliament, would be legitimate.

He explicitly threatened the al-Sarraj government, which is recognized by the United Nations.

The al-Sarraj government is made up of Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda jihadists who facilitated NATO’s overthrow of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in 2011.

In July 2013, after gigantic protests, Zionist puppet Abdel Fattah al-Sissi toppled President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies, who had rigged the Egyptian presidential elections the previous year. He was later confirmed as president by a regular election, but with low voter turnout.

Should the al-Sarraj government invade eastern Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood will no doubt resume their terrorist operations in Egypt.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Zio-Wahhabi have come to the support of Egypt in its fight against the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Dominic Cummings: ‘a man of the people’

There are people best kept in the shadows as they patrol the corridors of power, and certainly not presented in Downing Street’s rose garden. But Dominic Cummings is, according to former Prime Minister David Cameron, a ‘career psychopath’ and he could not help but stumble into the daylight. Now, Boris Johnson’s loyalty to his Chief Adviser threatens to wound this Conservative government — a wound that will not heal for as long Cummings remains. At the last count, 45 Tory MPs had called for Cummings to be sacked or to resign.

The protection given to Cummings contrasts sharply with the treatment of many people. Driving from London to Durham, while both Cummings and his wife considered themselves to have Covid-19 symptoms, is grounds for arrest under the Coronavirus Act. Although he initially claimed not to have left the family farm for two weeks, Cummings was subsequently compelled to admit two further journeys, including one of them, with the bizarre justification of testing his eyesight, to Barnard Castle. This was at a time when the Prime Minister and his cabinet told us emphatically that staying at home was ‘an instruction not a request’. As of 15 May, 18,000 fine notices had been issued in England and Wales under the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations. However, Durham Police announced on 28 May that Cummings had committed ‘a minor breach relating to lockdown rules’ and no action would be taken against him.

Contrast this generosity of spirit with the callous disregard shown to those extremely vulnerable people with cancer, liver disease or severe asthma who received a text on 22 May from GOVUK telling them that they had been dropped from the National Shielding Service. Without explanation, with no word from their doctors, people who had self-isolated, depending on deliveries of food boxes, were simply reclassified to be told they were no longer on the shielded person’s list. The government said that doctors should have written to patients to explain the decision and that the text should have directed recipients to other forms of help. This is frankly brutal indifference to anxiety and suffering.

So, who is this pampered and protected courtier? As Mrs Thatcher would have had it, Cummings is ‘one of us.’ Cummings was Director of the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum and helped Johnson and the Conservatives win the 2019 general election. He had been a special adviser to Michael Gove when Gove was education secretary. Cummings surfaced, ominously, in August 2019 when he asked an armed police officer to escort one of Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s advisers, Sonia Khan, off the Downing Street premises. Cummings proceeded to demand that Javid sack all his advisers, upon which Javid resigned.

With his dress-down style and Brexit appeal to voters, Cummings affects a ‘man of the people’ approach to politics, but this belies his class, status and purpose. Cummings was educated at the private fee-paying Durham School and Exeter College, Oxford University. His uncle, Sir John Laws, a High Court judge and former Lord Justice of Appeal, was also educated at Durham School and Exeter College. While at Exeter College Cummings studied under Norman Stone, one-time adviser to Margaret Thatcher and member of the Centre of Eurasian Studies, which denied Turkey’s role in the Armenian genocide. Cummings’ father is a former oil rig project manager with an estate, which we now know has three houses and a private wood. Cummings is married to Mary Wakefield, Commissioning Editor of the Spectator magazine. She joined the Spectator when Boris Johnson was editor. Her father is Sir Humphry Wakefield, an English baronet and owner of the 13th century Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. Her mother, the Honourable Katherine Baring, is herself the daughter of a former governor of Rhodesia, the South African protectorates and Kenya. Her ancestors include Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.

Cummings’ flouting of the lockdown instructions, his excuses and Boris Johnson’s protection of him, have provoked anger and driven a coach and horses through the ‘We are all in this together’ mantra. Sections of the ruling class are becoming exasperated by the sheer incompetence of this government. The Financial Times editorialised on the Cummings fiasco: ‘The foundation of this UK government is a bunker of close allies surrounded by a lightweight, supine and largely ineffectual cabinet chosen mainly for their commitment to Brexit or their loyalty to Mr Johnson in last year’s Conservative party leadership’ (27 May 2020). Meanwhile, the Labour Party has launched a ‘charm offensive’ in the City of London, seizing an opportunity to proffer a safer pair of hands to the owners and managers of British capitalism.

By: Trevor Rayne

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Annexation turns Jewish lobby against ‘Israeli’ gov’t

Annexation turns ‘Israel’ lobby against ‘Israeli’ gov’t (Peace Now chair says ‘it’s been de facto apartheid for a long time’)

BY: PHILIP WEISS

NETANYAHU MEETS SEC’Y OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, MAY 13, 2020, JERUSALEM. FROM NETANYAHU’S FLICKR FEED.

There has been remarkable news in the last few days: much of the Israel lobby in the United States is in open revolt against the Israeli government to try and stop annexation of the West Bank.

The rightwing group AIPAC has for once given politicians a green light to criticize Israel over annexation; hardliners such as Robert SatloffDavid Makovsky and Democratic Majority for Israel are urging Israel not to annex West Bank lands, and the Democratic group J Street is pushing a letter to Netanyahu signed by 28 Democratic senators saying it would “betray our shared democratic values” by denying the possibility of a Palestinian state, along with statements from nine Senate candidates.

Maybe most important, Haim Saban, a leading Democratic donor, is reported to have sherpa’d an op-ed by a UAE ambassador urging Israel not to annex. The bombshell op-ed in a rightwing Israeli publication has enraged Trump’s pro-Israel ideologues who paved the way for annexation under the Trump “peace plan.”

Saban’s role shows that the center and left branches of the Israel lobby don’t like what the far-rightwing is doing. It’s Saban versus Sheldon Adelson, two megadonors who have worked together for Israel often, joining Republicans and Democrats in blissful harmony.

Let’s be clear that this is a crisis for the Israel lobby because Israel supporters fear they will have trouble selling Israel in the U.S. if this goes through. That Senate letter to Netanyahu gives away that fear:

[M]ost concerning, a unilateral annexation outside of a negotiated agreement would likely erode the strong support among the American people for the special relationship and diplomatic partnership with the United States that Israel currently enjoys.

Not that any of this is getting through in Israel. At Americans for Peace Now, a liberal member of the Israeli parliament, Merav Michaeli says that Israelis live in a rightwing bubble, and few have any awareness of the risks annexation poses to Israel’s international standing. “An overwhelming majority” of the parliament and the government ministers are for annexation, she says, and the public has been indoctrinated by rightwing media, thinktanks, and nonprofits to accept it too. The parliamentarians who support annexation include two Labor members of Knesset, by the way — so much for any hope in liberal Zionism in Israel.

The concern for American Zionists is that annexation will remove their main talking point, that Israel is a model democracy. Suddenly Palestinians will be demanding rights, and that will embarrass liberals. Michaeli:

“The moment we turn from a conflict and a dispute over territory to a dispute over rights, because when Israel annexes, it actually says we are giving up the two state solution– sooner than later Palestinians will start saying OK, no two state solution, just give us rights. Then this is the end of the nation home for the Jewish people, and somehow most Israelis I think can’t picture this.”

Michaeli is admitting what several other Israel supporters have lately admitted: that managed conflict was a policy, and the endless peace process that betrayed Palestinian aspirations again and again was fine so long as liberals could continue to claim the occupation is temporary.

When that pretense is abandoned, as it would be under annexation, then it puts American Jews in a difficult position. “The idea that Israel would not be a democratic state at its core because the Palestinians would not have citizenship or equal rights is just not aceptable for many American Jews,” Aviva Meyer, vice chair of Americans for Peace Now, said on that conference call.

Not that Palestinians have ever had equal rights. . . Americans for Peace Now chairman James Klutznick was blunt on this score during the same conference call:

Regardless of how Israel or I should say Netanyahu and that faction of their government tries to cover annexation with the euphemism of extending Isael sovereignty, Occupation remains. It’s occupation, and whether or not anyone wants to say apartheid, I just said it. It’s been de facto apartheid for a long time and this could end up being official.

That’s a big leap for an organization that has tried to avoid such terms. And it shows that the annexation debate is breaking up old orthodoxies and allowing Americans to look at Israel for what it really is.AIPACAMERICANS FOR PEACE NOW

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, PoliticsComments Off on Annexation turns Jewish lobby against ‘Israeli’ gov’t

Venezuelan working class defies imperialist attacks

 By: Sam Mcgill

Venezuelan security forces with captured former US Green Berets

Like a scene out of Rambo, mercenaries on speedboats led by US special ops veterans raced towards Venezuela’s coast in two waves on 3-4 May. This was ‘Operation Gideon’, its aim: to capture high-ranking government officials, including President Nicolas Maduro, turn them over to the United States and overthrow Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution. The new coup-government was to be led by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and self-styled president touted by the US and its allies as the face of ‘regime change’ since he swaggered onto the scene in 2019. Hollywood fantasy quickly evaporated, however, as these charlatans found themselves tied up, detained and defeated by an organised revolutionary Venezuelan people, determined to defend their sovereignty. SAM McGILL reports.

The coup that failed

The Bolivarian armed forces intercepted the first wave at the country’s main port of La Guaira, where a shoot-out left eight paramilitaries dead. Then, tipped off by the Venezuelan intelligence agency, fishing communities in the predominantly Afro-Venezuelan Chuao Valley enacted a beach defence plan, capturing the mercenaries and tying them up with fishing rope while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Their actions were replicated in other coastal villages. Since the attack, 52 mercenaries have been detained. Yet another coup attempt was defeated by the strength of the alliance between the Venezuela’s loyal armed forces and the 3.5 million-strong Bolivarian militia volunteers. As community activist Ana Felicien explained: ‘the militias are everywhere, the militias are the people, they are not separate … they defend us through every day actions and also in critical times, defending the border’.

 The plot was coordinated by a US Army special operations veteran, Jordan Goudreau, and his Florida-based private security firm Silvercorp USA. Silvercorp provided security at Donald Trump’s election rallies and for Richard Branson’s farcical ‘Venezuela Aid’ concert in Colombia last year, which attempted to provide cover for USAID intervention across the border. A former Venezuelan major general, Cliver Alcala, trained 300 Venezuelan military, paramilitary and police defectors in camps in the Colombian city of Riohacha – a headland away from Venezuelan waters. Finance and logistics were provided by the Colombian La Guajira drug cartel. The operation had already been compromised after a cache of weapons was seized in Colombia in March. Alcala took that hit, releasing a confession tape before handing himself over to the authorities. Then, on 1 May, the Silvercorp plot was exposed by the Associated Press news agency. Nevertheless a band of 60 mercenaries pressed ahead.

Guaido initially denied any involvement before an incriminating Silvercorp contract for $212m, signed by him and his top aides, was made public. The contract reveals that Goudreau was promised a bonus of $10m and a lucrative contract under Guaido in Venezuela if his plot succeeded. An investors’ group was fronting the $212m bill, to be paid back by Guaido’s government at 55% interest, payable in barrels of oil. Guaido committed $450,000 to the families of any Silvercorp personnel who were arrested, wounded or killed in the course of the operation, and operatives were absolved of responsibility for any destruction or loss of life in the process of carrying out the mission. The contract gives the green light to the use of deadly anti-personnel mines – whose use is banned by 150 countries (not including the United States) – military strikes against infrastructure and other economic targets, and the use of deadly force against civilians.

US and Britain manoeuvre against Venezuela

The US has denied ‘direct’ involvement in this botched invasion. Yet just days before the attack, a string of tweets from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams and former National Security Adviser John Bolton gloated that: ‘Transition in Venezuela is coming’, ‘Morning is coming to Venezuela again’ and that the proxy US embassy for Venezuela in Colombia would ‘soon be moving to Caracas’. Two former members of the US Army Special Forces – Luke Denman and Aidan Berry – were captured as the plot was foiled. Their families told US news channels that the two men had believed the operation had US backing. Certainly it is the US Treasury Department which bankrolls Guaido’s phoney ‘administration’, using $11.6bn of frozen Venezuelan state assets. In March, the US Justice Department indicted Nicolas Maduro on trumped-up ‘narco-terrorism’ charges, placing a bounty of $15m on his head. In April, Trump issued an executive order activating armed forces reservists for a supposed ‘anti-narcotics’ mission against Venezuela.

The British government is also up to its neck in dirty manoeuvres aimed at destabilising Venezuela’s socialist government. The British left-wing news website The Canary discovered through a series of Freedom of Information requests that a secret ‘reconstruction of Venezuela’ unit exists within the UK Foreign Office (The Canary, 13 May 2020). It is headed by John Saville, Britain’s ambassador to Venezuela from 2014 to 2017, who promoted British recognition of Juan Guaido as ‘interim president’ in January 2019, and urged the Bank of England to hand over to Guaido the £1.2bn of Venezuelan gold reserves frozen since then. The gold is currently subject to a lawsuit filed against the Bank by the Venezuelan government, which wants £930m worth of the reserves sold and the money channelled through the United Nations to fund Covid-19 relief within Venezuela. Saville also directed the the Department for International Development to channel at least £40m of ‘humanitarian assistance’ to Venezuela without revealing who the beneficiaries of the funding would be. The Foreign Office has previously admitted to financing three opposition outfits committed to overthrowing the government, including the rather misleadingly named Radiophonic Institute of Faith and Joy.

This ‘reconstruction unit’ was central to talks between Guaido and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the Minister for the Americas, Christopher Pincher in January 2020 when Venezuela’s wannabe president visited London. The Canary reveals that the Foreign Office ensured positive press coverage of Guaido’s visit, while the Guaido-appointed fake ‘envoy’ to Britain, Vanessa Neumann, emphasised her desire to ‘sustain British business in Venezuela’s reconstruction’. Neumann’s Asymmetrica Ltd firm is co-directed by Alec Bierbauer and Michael Marks, who work closely with the US military and are credited with developing US drone warfare. It is no coincidence that in 2018, President Maduro was the target of a failed drone assassination attempt. The exposé has led to Venezuela’s diplomatic denunciation of British support for coup-mongering in Caracas. As Samuel Moncada, Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN put it, ‘The British government is looking for business advantages once Trump imposes his colonial regime in Venezuela’.

Meanwhile, the mainstream British media continues with propaganda against Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. The Guardian’s current Latin America correspondent, Tom Phillips, penned his usual hatchet job after the failed coup attempt, taking the side of the captured US Green Beret Luke Denman, whom he described as simply wanting to help ‘Venezuelans take back control of their country’, and calling into question the authenticity of Denman’s video confession. As per usual, Phillips makes reference to Venezuela’s ‘food shortages, violence and political turmoil’ whilst completely failing to mention the devastating impact of US sanctions. Three other Guardian hacks – Julian Borger, Joe Parkin Daniels and Chris McGreal – conclude their piece on Operation Gideon by publishing Guaido’s ludicrous accusation against Maduro of having ‘blood on his hands’ for letting the operation go ahead. Once again The Guardian shows that despite its liberal veneer, it cannot offer a truthful picture of what is underway in Venezuela. Doing so would require it to side with the Bolivarian revolutionary struggle against 20 years of US imperialist sabotage and destabilisation.

Not one of the 50, predominantly western, countries that ‘recognise’ Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela have uttered one word of condemnation of the coup attempt against a sovereign country. Guaido has been at the centre of a string of scandals and failures since he swore himself in as president in 2019. He has never stood as a presidential candidate, and now cannot even claim to be head of the opposition-dominated National Assembly. He has been pictured with Colombian drug traffickers Los Rastrojos after they helped him cross into Colombia, his team have been caught red handed blowing the cash given to them for ‘humanitarian aid’ on prostitutes, hotels and flash cars and now his team is paying itself $5,000 a month from money destined for ‘humanitarian assistance’. Such ‘assistance’ never demands the lifting of sanctions that have cost Venezuela $120bn since 2014 and which UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas estimates are responsible for up to 100,000 deaths.

Defying the US blockade

On 25 March, the first of five Iranian tankers bringing 1.5 million barrels of gasoline docked at Puerto Cabello, the site of Venezuela’s biggest oil refinery, in defiance of US sanctions on both countries. Oil workers celebrated on the dock, waving Iranian and Venezuelan flags, after the oil tanker Fortune dropped anchor. The US had deployed naval ships to the area, saying it was watching the situation closely and was ‘considering measures’. Iran made it clear that any hostile action would be met with a ‘quick and decisive response’, and it was clear, with Venezuelan navy and air support accompanying the convoy of tankers into its national waters, that for the United States the risk of direct intervention was too great. Iran has also provided key components to get Venezuela’s refineries working productively again. The Iranian fuel is urgently needed as the US has imposed secondary sanctions on Russia’s Rosneft, which had been carrying 60% of Venezuela’s exports, as well as ending sanctions waivers for Chevron and putting pressure against Indian trade. Venezuela’s heavy crude oil needs complex refining, and the nation desperately needs fuel and diluent for oil refineries, industry and power generation. Rolling blackouts and rationing leave whole states without electricity for days at a time whilst oil output has been slashed to around 700,000 barrels per day, down from 2 million in 2018.

Covid-19 – Venezuela’s exemplary response

Despite the apocalyptic prediction of death in Venezuela ‘on an appalling scale’ as a result of Covid-19 from the politically-motivated David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee – and much to the chagrin of Tom Phillips – Venezuela has so far been able to control the impact of the coronavirus. Although its economy, health system and food provision have been ravaged by sanctions and economic sabotage, as of 27 May Venezuela had 1,245 confirmed cases of infection, and just 11 deaths. It may struggle to sustain this as tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants pour over the borders from Colombia and Brazil, where Covid-19 is wreaking devastation. However the measures it has taken to date offer an object lesson on how to contain the pandemic. These include:

  • Free health care for all.
  • Mass testing – Venezuela has carried out more tests per capita than any other country in Latin America.
  • Being the first country in Latin America to introduce a national quarantine on 17 March, after restricting international air travel five days earlier.
  • Mandatory wearing of medical masks and gloves in public.
  • Deployment of workers in major cities to disinfect public areas.
  • Medical teams, including Cuban doctors, going door-to-door to survey, test and if necessary quarantine those reporting symptoms.

However the economic impacts of lockdown are hitting hard. Wage increases are quickly eroded by inflation; the Bolivar has lost 57% of its value against the dollar since March. Food boxes delivered to six million families are a lifeline but the inability to supplement incomes via the informal sector, scarcity of food and shortages of cooking gas, electricity and water are ramping up the pressure in the barrios. Unsurprisingly there have been isolated instances of looting, whilst the comunas and social movements demand decisive action to confront capitalist speculation and sabotage. The survival of the Bolivarian revolutionary movement continues to depend on the organised working class and poor, fighting to construct socialism against all odds.

Posted in USA, C.I.A, VenezuelaComments Off on Venezuelan working class defies imperialist attacks

Zionist puppet Priti Patel sought cash for Golan Heights hospital treating Qaeda jihadists

Priti Patel sought cash for Golan Heights hospital treating Syrian jihadists

By: Catherine Philp,

A doctor from the Israeli army tends a wounded Syrian in the Golan Heights
A doctor from the Israeli army tends a wounded Syrian in the Golan HeightsMENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/GETTY

Priti Patel wanted to send British aid money to support an Israeli army programme treating wounded Syrian jihadists, including al-Qaeda fighters, in the occupied Golan Heights.

Downing Street confirmed that the international development secretary had asked officials from her department to look into whether public funds could be used to support the work after holding secret meetings with Israeli figures including Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister.

However, No 10 learnt from the BBC that among the options discussed by Ms Patel was channelling humanitarian aid to the Israeli army. She did not volunteer this information in the meetings with Downing Street on Monday. The statement released by Ms Patel’s department said only that the work was done on a humanitarian proposal.


Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Politics, UKComments Off on Zionist puppet Priti Patel sought cash for Golan Heights hospital treating Qaeda jihadists

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