Archive | July 16th, 2020

‘Deplorable Act in Face of Global Crisis’: Trump Condemned as US Buys Up Nearly Entire Supply of Covid-19 Drug

“It’s a very concerning precedent because if we see the vaccine coming from a U.S. company, we’re likely to see the same type of behavior and hoarding by the U.S. and other developed countries.”

by: Jake Johnson,

President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 30, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Most of the world will not be able to make use of a modestly effective Covid-19 treatment for at least the next three months because the Trump administration this week bought up nearly the entire supply of the drug, a move critics said exposes the potentially deadly consequences of the U.S. president’s so-called “America First” approach in the context of a pandemic that has swept the globe.

The Trump administration’s decision to purchase almost all of California-based Gilead Sciences’ projected stock of remdesivir through September was also viewed by observers as a glaring example of the “dysfunctional character” of a patent system that gives pharmaceutical giants decades of monopoly control over a drug that could save lives in the near-term.

“We knew Trump was Mr. ‘America first,’ but this is still a deplorable act in the face of a global crisis.”
—Michael Smith, University of Aberdeen

“This is what happens when the world relies on a broken system driven by greed and profit during a pandemic,” tweeted U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, which is urging governments to override Gilead’s patent through compulsory licensing.

“Governments have a right to override this ludicrous patent system under international law, and they should take the opportunity to do that now, saving the [National Health Service] and patients around the world from the profiteering of these dysfunctional corporations,” Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said in a statement.

On Monday—the same day Gilead unveiled its pricing plan for remdesivir—the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) announced it “has secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug for American hospitals through September.” The company said it will charge U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir, a price consumer advocacy group Public Citizen condemned as “offensive” given that U.S. taxpayers poured more than $70 million into developing the drug.

HHS said its purchase “represents 100 percent of Gilead’s projected production for July (94,200 treatment courses), 90 percent of production in August (174,900 treatment courses), and 90 percent of production in September (232,800 treatment courses), in addition to an allocation for clinical trials.”

HHS Secretary Alex Azar gushed in a statement that President Donald Trump “has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for Covid-19” as infections continue to surge in dozens of states across the U.S.

But as The Guardian reported Tuesday, “experts and campaigners are alarmed both by the U.S. unilateral action on remdesivir and the wider implications, for instance in the event of a vaccine becoming available. The Trump administration has already shown that it is prepared to outbid and outmaneuver all other countries to secure the medical supplies it needs for the U.S.”


Sarah Newey@sneweyy
Well, it’s only gone and happened. Experts have been warning about the politics of drug/vaccine/diagnostic supplies as being the greatest threat to tackle the pandemic for months. And now the US has bought up global supplies of remdesivir: https://theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/30/us-buys-up-world-stock-of-key-covid-19-drug…10:23 PM · Jun 30, 2020

Michael Smith, head of politics and international relations at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, tweeted Wednesday that “we knew Trump was Mr. ‘America first,’ but this is still a deplorable act in the face of a global crisis.”

“With a pandemic like Covid-19, the problem won’t be solved until it’s sold for the whole world.”
—Dr. Deborah Gleeson, La Trobe University

The Guardian noted that the U.K. and other nations still have the option of purchasing the drug through “generic companies in Bangladesh or India, where Gilead’s patent is not recognized.”

Gilead ignored calls from civil society organizations around the world to relinquish its exclusive control over remdesivir and take steps to ensure that the treatment is widely available to those in need regardless of where they live or their ability to pay.

“An exclusivity and monopoly-based approach will fail the world in combating the Covid-19 pandemic,” more than 150 organizations and experts warned in an open letter in March. “Gilead must act in the public interest now.”

Dr. Deborah Gleeson, a senior public health lecturer at La Trobe University in Australia, told a local news outlet Wednesday that “it’s quite outrageous that the U.S. government has bought up almost the entire next three months supply of remdesivir.”

“It’s a very concerning precedent because if we see the vaccine coming from a U.S. company, we’re likely to see the same type of behavior and hoarding by the U.S. and other developed countries,” said Gleeson. “With a pandemic like Covid-19, the problem won’t be solved until it’s sold for the whole world.”

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Congress Urged to Repeal Program That Transfers ‘Weapons of War’ to Local Police

“In response to the national outrage, armored vehicles, assault weapons, and military gear once again filled our streets and communities, turning them into war zones.”

by: Jake Johnson,

Police ride on an armored vehicle on May 31, 2020 in Bellevue, Washington. (Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images)

More than 90 progressive advocacy groups are calling on Congress to repeal a decades-old Pentagon program that facilitates the transfer of surplus military equipment to local police departments, a demand that gained steam in the wake of law enforcement’s militaristic crackdown on nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd.

In a letter (pdf) to members of the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday, a coalition led by Demand Progress urged lawmakers to insert language ending the 1033 Program into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The letter was delivered as the committee began marking up the sprawling defense policy legislation.

“When our police forces are equipped like an occupying army, they act like one.”
—Rep. Nydia Velázquez
“Since [the 1033 Program’s] inception, more than $7.4 billion in surplus military equipment and goods, including armored vehicles, rifles, and aircraft, have been transferred to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies,” the groups wrote. “In response to the national outrage, armored vehicles, assault weapons, and military gear once again filled our streets and communities, turning them into war zones.”

“Weapons of war have absolutely no place in our communities,” the groups continued. “What’s more, evidence has shown that law enforcement agencies that obtain military equipment are more prone to violence.”

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate introduced separate bills last month that would either end or sharply curtail the transfer of military equipment to police departments through the 1033 Program, which President Donald Trump fully restored in 2017 by rolling back Obama-era restrictions.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s (D-N.Y.) Demilitarizing Local Law Enforcement Act, which has 14 co-sponsors in the House, would fully eliminate the 1033 Program. The legislation has been endorsed by dozens of progressive advocacy groups, including Demand Progress, Amnesty International USA, and other signatories of Wednesday’s letter.

“When our police forces are equipped like an occupying army, they act like one, treating New Yorkers and the American people as an enemy force,” Velázquez said in a statement last month. “The deadly consequences of this policy disproportionately affect people of color and this initiative should be scrapped, completely.”

Read the full letter:

Dear House Armed Services Committee Members:

The undersigned civil, human rights, faith, and government accountability organizations,representing millions of our members across the country, write in support of ending the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program and associated transfers of all military equipment and vehicles to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

The military surplus equipment transfer program, known as the 1033 Program, was formally established in the 1997 FY National Defense Authorization Act. Since its inception, more than $7.4 billion in surplus military equipment and goods, including armored vehicles, rifles, and aircraft, have been transferred to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies. The program came to national attention in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, Congressional leaders have tried to reform or end this program that has caused an increase in militarized policing particularly in communities of color.

Research studies indicate that the 1033 Program is not only unsafe but ineffective as it fails to reduce crime or improve police safety. In 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13688 that provided necessary oversight of the program. The Executive Order has since been rescinded, which only underscores that legislative action—not executive orders—is critical to address the concerns with this program.

In the aftermath of Ferguson, law enforcement agencies across the country have continued to receive military equipment and weapons of war, including “494 mine-resistant vehicles, at least 800 pieces of body armor, more than 6,500 rifles, and at least 76 aircraft.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have also received enormous amounts of excess military equipment as part of the ​militarization of our border. This is particularly concerning at a time when ICE and CBP units are being deployed in response to peaceful protests and for interior law enforcement programs.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, millions have demonstrated globally against police brutality and systemic racism. In cities across our country, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators called for justice and accountability for George Floyd and the countless unarmed Black people that have been killed by law enforcement.

In response to the national outrage, armored vehicles, assault weapons, and military gear once again filled our streets and communities, turning them into war zones. Weapons of war have absolutely no place in our communities. What’s more, evidence has shown that law enforcement agencies that obtain military equipment are more prone to violence.

There are sincere and aggressive efforts in the House and Senate to severely curtail or end the Department of Defense 1033 Program. Millions of Americans have been calling for the 1033 Program to be shut down, with legislation introduced in both chambers to address these concerns.

Accordingly, we urge you to use the opportunity of the full committee markup of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act to support and include language to end the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program.

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Big Pharma Trade Group Blasted as ‘Morally Bankrupt’ for Suing to Block Minnesota Insulin Affordability Law

The law is named for Alec Smith, an uninsured 26-year-old who died in 2017 after rationing his insulin.

by: Jessica Corbett,

James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt held a picture of their son Alec—who died in 2017 at age 26 after rationing his insulin—at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul after state representatives passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act on April 14, 2020. (Photo: John Autey/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt held a picture of their son Alec—who died in 2017 at age 26 after rationing his insulin—at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul after state representatives passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act on April 14, 2020. (Photo: John Autey/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

A Big Pharma trade group is under fire for filing a federal lawsuit late Tuesday against Minnesota’s Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act mere hours before it took effect.

State Sen. Matt Little, a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), decried the move as “morally bankrupt” and “devoid of humanity.” In a Tuesday night tweet, Little also vowed: “I will spend my entire life fighting these soulless companies. No one should get sick or die from an inability to afford life-sustaining insulin.”

The law in question is named for an uninsured 26-year-old diabetic who died in 2017 of complications from rationing his insulin because he couldn’t afford the medicine and related supplies after aging off his mother’s health insurance. After state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure, DFL Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law this April.

As MPR News explains:

Under the law, people with diabetes who can’t afford the essential medicine will be able to get 30-day supplies with no more than a $35 copay. A separate income-based program is established for those with needs that extend beyond that.

Drug makers are required to participate. If they don’t, they would face a series of escalating fines.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The drug industry group claims the measure is unconstitutional, arguing in the complaint (pdf) that “a state cannot simply commandeer private property to achieve its public policy goals.”

An PhRMA spokesperson told Brian Bakst of MPR News that “we are not seeking an emergency ruling to block the law from going into effect, but we think the law is unconstitutional and that the court should strike it down after it hears our challenge.”

The advocacy group Public Citizen noted the tragic death of the law’s namesake and denounced PhRMA’s suit as “beyond unconscionable.”


David Sirota@davidsirota
what stage of capitalism is this?

Public Citizen@Public_CitizenBREAKING: Pharma is suing to block Minnesota’s new insulin access law. The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was passed in honor of a 26-year-old who died rationing insulin. The law would’ve taken effect today. Pharma’s fighting it during a pandemic. Beyond unconscionable. https://pic.twitter.com/vzfBqPD3fo

Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec Smith’s mother, also took to Twitter to condemn PhRMA’s lawsuit and accuse drug companies of violating human rights.


Nicole Smith-Holt #insulin4all@NSmithholt12Do you know what I think is unconstitutional? @PhRMA determining the value of my life, of your life of my sons life!! @PhRMA determining who lives and dies, I think that is unconstitutional. These companies are violating our human rights, that is unconstitutional. #insulin4all

Brian Bakst@Stowydad

Drug manufacturers, through trade group PhRMA, are suing in federal court to try to halt implementation in Minnesota’s new insulin affordability law, which is set to take effect on July 1 #mnleg


Nicole Smith-Holt #insulin4all@NSmithholt12Do you know what I think is unconstitutional? @PhRMA determining the value of my life, of your life of my sons life!! @PhRMA determining who lives and dies, I think that is unconstitutional. These companies are violating our human rights, that is unconstitutional. #insulin4all

Brian Bakst@StowydadDrug manufacturers, through trade group PhRMA, are suing in federal court to try to halt implementation in Minnesota’s new insulin affordability law, which is set to take effect on July 1 #mnleg

Smith-Holt was not the only outraged parent of a diabetic. Saint Paul-based healthcare advocate Lija Greenseid wrote in a series of tweets that she felt “so deflated” and “duped by lawmakers,” calling out GOP state senators who she said “assured advocates that they had worked with the manufacturers to develop their plan.”


Lija Greenseid, PhD @Lija27
Phrma’s lawsuit against Alec’s Law really hurts. As the mom of a kid with Type 1 diabetes, I spent so much of my time for 2 years advocating for affordable insulin. I feel so deflated. We were duped by lawmakers. And people will continue to suffer and die.5:28 AM · Jul 1, 2020


Lija Greenseid, PhD @Lija27
Replying to @GrnMtnBot and @keithellisonGOP senators assured advocates that they had worked with the manufacturers to develop their plan. Advocates wanted a fee on the manufacturers and were told by GOP lawmakers that it would get hung up in court and not help anyone. Well, here we are anyway with their plan.

GOP state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka expressed disappointment with the suit in a written statement reported by MPR News. “Senate Republicans remain committed to providing emergency insulin for those in crisis no matter what happens with this poorly timed lawsuit,” Gazelka said.

State Attorney General Keith Ellison (DFL) tweeted Wednesday morning in response to PhRMA’s “attack” on the law that “we look forward to defending the people of Minnesota in court against this morally repugnant behavior.”

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Blood on His Hands: The Nursing Home Covid-19 Crisis is Donald Trump’s Fault

The president is desperate to deflect from the truth: Over 54,000 nursing home residents and workers are dead. Those deaths were preventable. Their deaths are his fault.

by: Alex Lawson

Emergency Medical Service workers unload a patient out of their ambulance at the Cobble Hill Health Center on April 18, 2020 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: Justin Heiman/Getty Images)

Emergency Medical Service workers unload a patient out of their ambulance at the Cobble Hill Health Center on April 18, 2020 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: Justin Heiman/Getty Images)

The very first COVID-19 outbreak in the US took place in a Kirkland, Washington nursing home more than four months ago, at the end of February. At least 37 people died.

That first outbreak should have been the impetus for the Trump administration to launch a coordinated national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, centered around protecting nursing home residents and workers. Instead, they’ve focused on protecting nursing home corporations from lawsuits.

When the White House brings up the nursing home crisis at all, it’s to seek to shift the blame to Democratic governors. Trump is desperate to deflect from the truth: Over 54,000 nursing home residents and workers are dead. Those deaths were preventable. Their deaths are Donald Trump’s fault.

“The philosophy behind Trump’s entire response to the pandemic, is that he thinks that seniors’ lives—as well as the lives of people with disabilities, people who are immunocompromised, and others who are at high risk from COVID-19— are disposable.”

A new report from the Senate Aging Committee lays out the Trump administration failures that led to the nursing home crisis. Trump never had a plan to protect nursing home residents. In fact, the actions his administration did take, put seniors and people with disabilities directly in the path of the deadly pandemic.

For months, as nursing home workers faced a devastating shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests, Trump refused to invoke the Defense Production Act. Nor did he leverage FEMA’s response capabilities to target supplies to nursing homes.

An opaque and corrupt program, run by the president’s inexperienced, unqualified son-in-law, tasked to deliver critically needed PPE not surprisingly failed miserably to help anybody, except perhaps Trump’s political donors. FEMA continues to deliver broken and unusable equipment to nursing homes even as the unrelenting death toll in nursing homes grows. 

Simply telling nursing homes to test workers and residents more often, as the administration has done, is meaningless. What’s needed is an actual plan to procure additional tests and get them to the facilities that need them. This late in the pandemic, that plan is still missing.

In March and April, Congress allocated $175 billion in emergency funding for health care providers in the front lines of the pandemic. It was the Trump administration’s responsibility to distribute that funding as quickly and efficiently as possible. But it took two months for the administration to distribute any of the funding to nursing homes—and then only a paltry $19.5 billion.

Nursing home workers are at the front lines of the crisis. Across the country, nursing homes have seen staffing shortages, forcing them to hire part timers who work in multiple facilities. Employees who remain are often forced to work while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, further spreading the disease. This is exacerbated by the fact that even before COVID-19, private equity barons had seized on the long term care industry as a sector they could hollow out, carve up and destroy for profit.

We need to increase staffing levels by providing premium hazard pay. We must guarantee paid sick leave for all nursing home workers. Workers who need to quarantine should be provided with temporary housing so they don’t infect their families. The Trump administration has proposed none of this, because their anti-worker ideology takes precedence over public health.

The right-wing deflection operation is well underway. The Trump White House and Senator Mitch McConnell understand that the nursing home crisis is political kryptonite. They don’t care about the lives lost; Indeed, they never mention them. Instead, they care only about the bad headlines and the plummeting support among seniors for Trump and Republicans.

Starting with the official propaganda organ of the Trump White House, FOX News, and filtering down through shadowy networks of dark money used to spread unchecked lies on Facebook, their playbook is clear: Deflect responsibility, blame Democratic governors, and lie about the failures of the president and his administration.

Chief White House strategist and mouthpiece Sean Hannity can be seen in this clip laying out the whole strategy for “dealing with” the nursing home crisis. Hannity heaps praise on Florida Republican Governor DeSantis while blaming, among others, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her state’s nursing home crisis. He goes so far as to say that the media needs to apologize to Gov. DeSantis for criticizing his rush to “reopen” the state.

Like so much else Trump does, this strategy is based on a lie. Public health experts and local senior advocacy groups agree that Whitmer did a very effective job in a terrible situation, while Gov. DeSantis’s state of Florida is ineffectively confronting an explosion of new cases and dwindling hospital beds.

To end the nursing home crisis, we need a robust system of testing and tracking. We need a system in place to make sure that every facility has PPE, tests, and adequate staffing. We need measures in place to reduce the overall spread of COVID-19, including a national mandate to wear masks in public places. Most of all, we need an administration that values the lives of people over the profits of corporations.

“Older people should not have to quarantine themselves forever, cut off from their families and friends, because the Trump administration is too incompetent to contain the pandemic.”

Recently, one of Trump’s top economic advisors, Stephen Moore, suggested that we should allow every business (including high risk environments like bars and gyms) to reopen. He insisted this would be safe so long as we “keep older people in quarantine because they’re the ones susceptible from dying.” While Dan Patrick, Trump ally and Lt. Governor of Texas, another state with an exploding epidemic, said that seniors should sacrifice themselves to protect the economy. 

It’s this cavalier attitude towards seniors’ lives that led to the nursing home crisis. Older people should not have to quarantine themselves forever, cut off from their families and friends, because the Trump administration is too incompetent to contain the pandemic. Nor would it even work for them to do so. Over 64 million Americans live in multi-generational households. And even if no nursing home patient ever left, or had visitors, workers still go in and out. 

What Moore and Patrick are saying, and the philosophy behind Trump’s entire response to the pandemic, is that he thinks that seniors’ lives—as well as the lives of people with disabilities, people who are immunocompromised, and others who are at high risk from COVID-19— are disposable.

Trump’s failure to contain the nursing home crisis is a product of his values. He values nursing home corporations, which don’t want to get sued. He values Wall Street billionaires, who are demanding that every business reopen regardless of public health. He does not value seniors’ lives. He is more than happy to volunteer them to be sacrificed on the altar of Wall Street’s greed.

This is all Donald Trump’s fault. The blood is on his hands.

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Statues come down: the toppling of the mighty

Good riddance to bad rubbish, but what next?

Lalkar writers

At the moment a sizable number of statues are coming down around the world as the unfettered racist police murder of George Floyd in the US has drawn attention to the link between racism and black slavery.

Britain was, of course, was the major slave trading country, bringing enormous wealth to the slave traders who, being rich, rapidly received recognition as the great and the good. Some of them donated a part of their vast fortunes to public works for the benefit of the less fortunate; one of them wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

Nevertheless, those who suffered at the hands of these bandits and their descendants cannot feel that whatever good works they might have done wipe out their unspeakable crimes.

Many of those wealthy slave traders and their descendants were among those who set up coal mines, mills and factories where they harshly exploited the British working class (who in the days of slave trading were overwhelmingly white), employing little children, throwing workers into unemployed penury at will, making workers endure dangerous conditions and forcing them into life-limiting overwork.

Whether descended from the victims of slave owners or other heartless exploiters, it is quite understandable that anger is leading protestors in the direction of toppling statues designed to honour these sociopaths.

We are happy for people to take into their own hands the removal of these tributes to evil – ie, for the working class to take the necessary executive action since it is perfectly clear that without them doing so, absolutely nothing would be done.

As a result of the good citizens of Bristol tipping the statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the river, authorities all over the world are frantically removing obnoxious statues from their own jurisdictions – or at least covering them up, as well as changing street names, etc, to which we can only respond: ‘Well done!’

What must not be done, however, is to restrict oneself to fighting the crimes of the past, since equally heinous crimes are being committed in the present by today’s ‘great and good’ – every day, in every way, and on a scale that positively dwarfs even the slave trade.

To the extent that we fail to fight the imperialist bloodsuckers of today while enjoying some of the benefits that living in an imperialist country provides, we make ourselves complicit in the crimes of our ruling class. Herein lies the great danger.

British imperialism, principally through its finance capital, sucks blood from oppressed countries all over the world. Having for centuries through downright looting impoverished the countries it colonised, it now claims for itself a large proportion of the wealth generated in those countries through lending to them at high rates of interest the money it looted in the past and the wealth it continues to extract to this day.

The result of this is that these countries, whether exploited by British imperialism, US imperialism or any other imperialism, lack the means to provide modern infrastructure, health and education facilities, or even to build enough production facilities to provide employment to their population, except to the extent that they increase their indebtedness and subservience to imperialism. Those who try to resist this iniquity nowadays find themselves victims of crippling sanctions, if not the bombing and destruction of what little they have.

The result is, of course, millions of refugees from these countries desperately seeking a safe haven, many of whom lose their lives in the process, or get stranded in concentration camps with little in the way of facilities and often without enough to eat. Disease in such places is rife.

Even in Britain we have been witnessing how the billionaire class has callously put working-class lives at risk by pillaging the NHS so it could not afford to put in place the necessary measures to combat a pandemic that everybody knew would sooner or later be coming.

To date, some 62,000 British people have paid the price with their lives, afflicted either with coronavirus or with other conditions that the hospitals were too overwhelmed to attend to, while others will never fully recover. (Excess UK deaths blamed on undiagnosed coronavirus cases by Chris Giles and Clive Cookson, Financial Times, 5 June 2020)

One must not forget also that precisely because of racism and discrimination that lowers their average social status, black people in Britain are more susceptible to coronavirus than the general population, without, however, blinding us to the fact that even in the lowest economic strata of British society, the majority are white.

In other words, susceptibility to disease is above all a class question.

In conclusion, if you see a statue erected to some great owner of cotton mills or coal mines, some industrial giant or honoured civic or royal dignitary, it is surely the case that the wealth they amassed or used was built on the dead bodies of slaves, on mines full of corpses, on the short and pitiless lives of mill workers.

If that makes you seethe with anger, what should be your response? To smash or hide that statue is by itself not enough. What is needed is to stand in unity with other workers, black and white, young and old, male and female, and smash the chains that still hold you. Racism cannot be tolerated as it undermines unity – a divided working class stands little chance of victory.

Our collective enemy is imperialism, and it must be destroyed. One day in the future, people will walk freely through museums of statues to this or that slaver, owner of machines, land-grabber, king or president, and marvel that such a twisted and sick society was ever created and lorded over by such an insignificant and vain tiny minority.

But there is much work to do to before we are able to establish that bright future.

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Bank of England must hand back Venezuela’s gold

Britain’s latest theft is part of a long history of looting and aggression against the Venezuelan people, who continue to struggle for their independence and freedom.

Lalkar writers

When Hugo Chávez took power in Venezuela in 1998, a chain of reaction was set off among the Venezuelan comprador elite and the US imperialism it served. The stratagems and dirty tricks that have been used to try to take this country back to its former subordinate position are many and varied, and these unbridled and aggressive attempts to bury the Bolivarian revolution and the example it sets to other countries in what the US considers its ‘backyard’ have been covered in many of our previous articles.

Before 1998, Venezuela was the world’s fifth-largest exporter of oil, and the little that remained to Venezuela of its huge wealth after the imperialist corporations had taken the lion’s share was systematically appropriated in the personal incomes of the ruling elite, with an even smaller share going to pay the wages of workers in the privileged oil and banking sector, who make up the country’s much-touted ‘middle class’.

Venezuela’s dependency on oil profits meant that its economy was always firmly tied to imperialism, and no attempt was ever made by these leeches either to diversify or to invest any of the profits from oil into improving conditions for the vast majority of the people, most of whom were existing in slums and shantytowns well below the poverty line.

Venezuela today, by contrast, stands proudly at the side of socialist Cuba, supported in the region by some other progressive states such as Nicaragua, which also suffers from constant interference in its internal affairs by the US and its puppets.

The constant coup attempts, financial and industrial sabotage (mainly in the field of oil production and refining) and the crippling sanctions have been a drain on the Bolivarian state programmes aimed at raising living standards for the poor, but, despite this, the masses still support their government, now led by President Nicolás Maduro.

This article mainly deals with recent intrusions and dirty tricks, but will also have to refer back to some earlier ones as part of the background to what is happening now.

The coronavirus Covid-19 is causing distress and deaths around the world in 2020, and almost every country has tried to combat the virus and alleviate the problems caused it is causing as much as possible. Venezuela’s efforts in this regard have been hampered since it has been under even stricter US sanctions than before, because (a) President Maduro won the last presidential election easily, and (b) Venezuela did not succumb to a coup attempt last year aimed at overturning the election result.

Sanctions from the US in reality mean sanctions from nearly every country that has dealings with the US. This has meant that food, medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff are among the items being cruelly withheld from the Venezuelan people as US imperialism attempts to cow them into submission. Even where the much-needed supplies could be found, their transportation is problematic as any company taking on such a contract will find itself sanctioned by the US and on a very slippery and short slope to financial ruin.

Fuel is also on the list of embargoed essentials being denied to Venezuela. This does at first sight seem strange, since Venezuela sits on the largest-known oil reserves in the world, but, with that staple industry wrecked by sabotage and sanctions, it is extremely hard to sell what oil can be got to the surface. Many who used to work in the oil production and refinement industries as specialists and managers kept their allegiance to the comprador Venezuelan elite and to US imperialism, and were well placed for wrecking activities.

Venezuela has had to look to its gold reserves to try to overcome the problems of trying to protect its people from the pandemic and getting the oil industry back into production – at least for the home market and for those countries strong enough to stand up to US imperialism.

Like most countries, Venezuela has assets in other countries and has, like many others, for very many years held gold bullion in the Bank of England (BoE). This may seem strange to some, especially when Britain is a major enforcer of the sanctions placed on Venezuela, but the BoE is the second-largest keeper of gold in the world, with approximately 400,000 bars belonging to various nations in its vaults. Only the New York Federal Reserve has more.

Venezuela’s gold was placed in the bank’s vault before Hugo Chávez come to power, and has therefore been safe from theft, there being, unfortunately, nowhere in Venezuela anywhere near as safe. Venezuela did keep a small amount of gold at home, but this has been keeping the country afloat during the period of crippling sanctions.

When the elected government of Venezuela requested the release some of the country’s gold for sale in order to realise funds of around £820m to get food, medicines, medical equipment and refined oil products to fight against the pandemic, the BoE immediately turned down the request.

The US and other piratical imperialist powers behind last year’s failed coup attempt claim not recognise President Maduro’s government, and the US last year warned “bankers, brokers, traders and facilitators” not to deal in “gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia”. Taking this as its cue, the BoE is now claiming not to know who is the rightful owner of the Venezuelan gold in its vaults!

The imperialist claim that President Maduro’s government is ‘illegitimate’ is absurd in the extreme. The flimsy pretext is that in 2018 the Venezuelan government brought the presidential election forward by a few weeks, thereby hoping to clarify to the world the fact that the president had the country’s overwhelming support.

Meanwhile, 2017 had seen another coup attempt connected with what was supposed to be ‘mass, popular’ anti-Maduro rioting in some wealthy areas, and 2018 witnessed drone attacks, carried out by small groups hiding within the country who had loaded the drones with explosives, at least one of them targeting the president. Fortunately, the Venezuelan security forces were able to disrupt the drones’ signals, while soldiers and local workers captured some members of the piloting groups, who, when questioned, named Colombian drug cartels as the financial power (at least as far as their wages were concerned) behind their activities.

Venezuela’s pro-imperialist opposition complained that it was wrong to bring the elections forward, even though it made perfect sense for voter safety and despite the fact that there is nothing in the constitution against doing so. The opposition also complained that people who had been imprisoned for promoting and taking part in defeated coup attempts or who had escaped the justice of the Venezuelan masses by fleeing the country after such coup attempts were not being allowed to run for the presidency.

When the presidential election results came in, Nicolás Maduro had secured 6.2 million votes against 1.9 million for Henri Falcón of ‘Progressive Advance’, and, just under a million for Javier Bertucci of ‘El Cambio’ (two other candidates – Quijada and Ratti – pulled out during the campaign). Maduro therefore won a clear 67.8 percent of the votes cast.

In the wealthier areas it is known that many workers were threatened with extreme violence and financial aggression by landowners and employers, resulting in a high rate of abstention, yet in every single state, even those where workers were threatened by the elite, Maduro’s vote never went below 50 percent, while in others it soared to 60-70 percent.

Both defeated candidates complained about ‘irregularities’. There had been some, of course, but they were carried out by the elite, who had tried in some places to force workers to vote for one of the opposition candidates or to abstain. Despite these ballot-rigging activities, President Maduro had shown that the vast majority of the masses supported him, his government and their collective aims.

The ruling elite in the USA and its tame news media went mad. Amid the frothing mouths all screaming that the Venezuelan presidential election had been fixed and that it was ‘anti-democratic’, the US government decided that the result was void and declared the winner to be Juan Guaidó. Mr Guaidó had not taken part in the election, of course, but as an escaped coup conspirator he was seen as the ideal ‘democratic’ choice of the US to be the puppet leader of Venezuela.

As farcical as this scenario is, every other imperialist robber and all their many puppet states lined up to declare Juan Guaidó to be the rightful democratic leader of Venezuela. It is this breathtakingly audacious declaration by the 40 thieves that stopped Venezuela (on the face of it at least) from securing the IMF loan of $5bn that it asked for to buy the things it needed to combat the Covid-19 outbreak (that and the fact that the IMF simply does as it is told by the USA anyway).

And it was just this declaration that was making the poor old Bank of England hesitate to hand Venezuela’s gold over to Venezuela.

In the USA, of course, there was no such public handwringing. All Venezuelan assets were seized and handed to Mr Guaidó. In Britain, however, Venezuela has launched legal proceedings against the Bank of England to try to force it to release £820m ($1bn) worth of Venezuelan gold. It has even asked for that money to be given straight to the United Nations for the sole use of fighting Covid-19 in Venezuela.

The UN is no friend of Bolivarian Venezuela, but it has already identified Venezuela as a “priority country” in considering its global Covid-19 response because the Venezuelan healthcare system is now so fragile as a result of the sanctions, the loss of oil revenue, and the many aggressive armed interventions that the US has sponsored.

One of the first statements made by the UN after the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, was a call for a global ceasefire so that all humanity could fight against the pandemic. The US’s representatives in the UN voted against this proposition. They saw the pandemic as an ally in strangling several countries’ leaderships – Cuba, Venezuela and Iran being among the top targets.

Mr Guaidó does not even have the support of most of what constitutes the opposition within Venezuela, let alone the masses. Most of the opposition, such as Falcón, did not approve of what he called “Guaidó’s submission to Trump and Pompeo”.

Claudio Fermín of the Partido Soluciones para Venezuela (‘Solutions for Venezuela’ party) attacked the “irresponsible and fanciful thesis” of Guaidó and his supporters, which is reliant upon the “fantasy cloud of instructions sent to them by their bosses Elliot Abrams, Pompeo, and Trump”. Henrique Capriles Radonski, who twice ran unsuccessfully in presidential elections, pointedly said that Nicolás Maduro has “internal control” while Guaidó’s people have only “international alliances”.

At the time of writing, the British courts are yet to rule on who is the genuine ruler of Venezuela so that they can then consider the $1bn lawsuit that the Bank of Venezuela has had to bring against the BoE. Every state with gold in the BoE that thinks it may one day fall foul of US imperialist interests will be watching the proceedings closely.

The US government has also announced that Venezuela and its leaders are growing and shipping drugs to America, and has therefore put a price on the heads of President Maduro ($15m) and other government leaders ($10m each).

Here again, farce follows farce. Not only is there no evidence anywhere to prove this lie but in December 2019 the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released its ‘National Drug Threat Assessment’, a study that gives the best and most detailed look at the movement of drugs into the United States. At several points in the study, the DEA pointed out that Colombia is the “primary source for cocaine seized in the United States”.

According to the DEA’s cocaine signature programme, in 2018 “approximately 90 percent of cocaine samples tested were of Colombian origin, six percent were of Peruvian origin, and four percent were of unknown origin”. As far as the US’s own drug agency is concerned, there is no cocaine or any other narcotic coming to the US from Venezuela, and yet the world is told with the greatest of confidence (obviously bluster is to be taken as an adequate replacement for proof) that Venezuela’s leaders want to flood the US with cocaine.

Apart from putting prices on the heads of Venezuela’s elected leaders, the US imperialists think this tactic gives them the authority to block the Venezuelan coast with gunboats and send US military into Venezuela looking for ‘drugs’ and ‘drug growers’ to arrest or shoot.

On April Fools’ Day, US president Donald Trump gave a press conference in which he announced a new “counter-narcotics effort” by US Southern Command. “We’re deploying additional navy destroyers, combat ships, aircrafts and helicopters; coast guard cutters; and air force surveillance aircraft, doubling our capabilities in the region,” he said, adding: “The point of this mission, which will be joined by other countries, is to increase surveillance, disruption, and seizures of drug shipments. We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.”

As the American government knows only too well, the drugs traffic from Columbia, the real source of the killing powder on the streets of the US, doesn’t go anywhere near Venezuelan ports or its coast, even when it is shipped by sea. Since they don’t really want to stop that trade, however, the real routes are immaterial to them.

One of the US’s partners in this farcical ‘exercise’ is Colombia, a country where the government really does have links to drug growth and shipment. Both Colombia’s current president, Iván Duque, and his patron, the former president Álvaro Uribe, have had close ties with drug lord José Guillermo Hernández Aponte, known as Ñeñé, among others.

Armed intervention foiled

On 3 May 2020, in the early hours of a sleepy Sunday morning, speedboats left the Colombian coastline and headed toward Venezuela, landing on the coast at La Guaira. The heavily-armed men on board sported US flag patches on their uniforms.

Eight of the invaders were killed when they encountered the Venezuelan military, while two more were arrested and several went temporarily on the run. One of the arrested men told the Venezuelan soldiers that he was an agent of the US government’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The next morning, Venezuelan security forces, aided by the fishermen and fisherwomen of the Bolivarian militias in the coastal town of Chuao, arrested eight more mercenaries on a speedboat that was also attempting to enter the country.

Two more invaders were captured by Venezuelan soldiers and militias the same day in the town of Puerto Maya. Large quantities of specialised assault weapons, explosives and ammunition along with military intelligence equipment was seized by Venezuelan security forces over the two days.

One Venezuelan leader, Diosdado Cabello said at the time: “What happened is an example of the desperation of the United States and its allies.” He also called the invaders and the coup-plotters behind them “a cast of characters from the seediest quarters of the military and the drug world, as well as of US intelligence and Colombian paramilitaries”.

The plot has now been laid bare for all to see. It was led by Jordan Goudreau, who served in the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now linked with mercenary suppliers Silvercorp. He worked with Cliver Alcalá, a former Venezuelan military officer, who is now in prison in the United States for his involvement in the drug trade. Goudreau and Alcalá were backed by Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller and Roen Kraft of Kraft Foods.

One of the ironies of the military incursion was that, in the name of ‘combatting narcotrafficking’, the entire operation seems to have been financed by drug dealers. José Alberto Socorro Hernández (aka Pepero), who was captured during the invasion, admitted that the La Guajira cartel of Colombia promised to pay them $2m for their actions.

Videos and photos have emerged on social media of a contract signed between Goudreau and US puppet/leader Guaidó. There may be some enmity between them now, however, as Silvercorp has yet to receive any of payment it was promised.

It does now seem likely that the mission of this group was not to take over the country or government by itself; it was probably expected to inspire and join up with other groups. But if they really expected a friendly response from the armed forces or a street mobilisation of the populace it didn’t happen. What they clearly did not expect was the swift and unforgiving response that they actually got from Venezuela’s people and armed forces alike.

Juan Guaidó must now be feeling pretty peeved with his backers and embarrassingly impotent as every plan to send him back to Venezuela as a puppet dictator/triumphal president turns to ash. When a flotilla of Iranian tankers set off to deliver petrol and other refined oil products to Venezuela, he went from screaming that they contained nothing to declaring that the fuel wouldn’t last long, while all the time hoping that the US or one of its allies would capture or sink the tankers in question.

He must have been beside himself with rage when he realised that the five ships were able to sail serenely into harbour, the US’s gunboats having almost magically disappeared before the first tanker got to where they had been stationed. The Iranian flotilla escorted into harbour by the Venezuelan navy, delivered its cargo and returned home, while the Iranian government made it clear to all that they would sail again if asked by Venezuela to do so.

Far more worrying for the plans of Guaidó and the US ruling class is the fact that Iranian oil and refinery experts have been flown into Venezuela to mend the country’s sabotaged refineries and wells.

In saluting the Venezuelan people, armed forces and government for their heroism and tenacity under extreme threat, we also salute the Iranian people and government for their selfless acts of comradeship to another country suffering under the imperialists’ crippling sanctions regime.

We include a special salute to those five tankers: Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel and their crew of heroes.

Long live anti-imperialist unity!

Posted in UK, VenezuelaComments Off on Bank of England must hand back Venezuela’s gold

Under cover of Covid-19: trial by jury is under attack

The abolition of workers’ right to a jury trial could be the final nail in the coffin of the justice system in Britain.

Proletarian writers

Moves are afoot to abolish or limit the right of those facing criminal charges to have their cases tried before a jury of twelve, putting in its place trial by a single judge flanked by a couple of magistrates.

Whilst the professed justification for this move is the need to deal swiftly with a backlog of criminal cases supposedly caused by the covid emergency, closer inspection makes plain that the pandemic is merely a handy smokescreen for a long-planned attack on the jury system.

The fact is that, even before the lockdown, the Ministry of Justice was sitting on a backlog of over 37,000 crown court cases, thanks to austerity-driven underfunding and severe cuts to the number of judicial sitting days.

It also turns out that the number of cases since the lockdown has in fact only shown a slight increase, rising from 39,214 in March to 40,526 in May. (Legislation to abolish some jury trials could be passed within weeks by John Hyde, Law Gazette, 23 June 2021)

It is clear from this that the move to shut down the jury system, in operation since Anglo-Saxon times, has little to do with covid and everything to do with further encroachments on civil liberties, for which the pandemic is providing such excellent cover.

Whilst it may require some expense and ingenuity to make the jury system work properly during lockdown (to maintain social distancing etc), this is no more an insuperable hurdle than are those being faced by schoolspublic transport, hospitals and businesses.

We have already seen workers’ access to the civil court system all but wiped out by the destruction of legal aid over several decades. Now the criminal system looks set to be abolished in the form we have known it, returning us to something much more akin to the days when landowning magistrates sent impoverished workers to the gallows or banished them to Australia on a whim.

The lord chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, says that he would rather just tamper with the system, reducing the jury count from twelve to seven (yielding between 5 percent and 10 percent extra capacity in the courts), but if necessary would have to scrap the jury altogether (yielding a tempting extra 40 percent capacity).

By presenting the matter as being restricted to a choice between two options (a dilution of the existing trial by jury or its outright scrapping), Buckland is sending a strong signal that, one way or another, the jury system is under attack. He confirmed to the Commons justice select committee that the government intends to get one of the two options operational by September, requiring primary legislation to be rushed through parliament before recess on 21 July – ie, with little or no consultation and no time for meaningful public opposition to be organised.

Claims that this is merely a temporary measure ring hollow. The last time the British state resorted to the widespread imposition of lone judge trials was in the colonised six counties, with the notorious Diplock courts. These ‘temporary’ kangaroo courts were invented to fit up and jail Irish republicans who dared challenge the occupation of their homeland by British imperialism. The ‘temporary’ Diplock courts endured from 1973 to 2007, and even now are still resurrected on occasions.

In 1973, British imperialism feared the wrath of the colonised Irish people fighting for the liberation of their homeland. In 2021, with unemployment, poverty and hunger spiralling out of control, what the state now fears is the possibility of social revolt by the working class.

The attack on the jury system must be seen in the light of a more general bourgeois preparation for the coming class war.

Posted in Health, UKComments Off on Under cover of Covid-19: trial by jury is under attack

Stop the War gets it wrong again

When is an anti-war movement not an anti-war movement?

Proletarian writers

In its dotage the Stop the War Coalition is continuing to masquerade as a broad-based anti-war movement whilst doing all it can to undermine any forces that are actually serious about mobilising against imperialism.

StW’s latest abomination is to sponsor a march through London entitled ‘March for Yemen’. If this sounds like a march in solidarity with the anti-imperialist Yemeni resistance, you need to take a closer look at the route announced on the leaflet advertising the event.

After paying a visit to the embassies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two Arab countries leading the barbarous onslaught on Yemen, the protest trail winds up at – wait for it – the Iranian embassy.

On StW’s past record we can be sure that the purpose of this latter visit is not to express solidarity with Tehran and thank it for the fraternal support it is giving to Yemen’s liberation struggle.

This is always how StW operates, pouring a teaspoonful of tar into every barrel of honey and striving at all costs to steer workers away from uniting with those who are genuinely resisting imperialism.

When in January the US carried out the cold-blooded murder by drone in Baghdad of Iranian national hero Major General Qasem Soleimani, StW responded by (a) pointing out that the assassination was “an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict with global significance”, and (b) declaring that “We urge restraint on the part of both the Iran and the US” (emphasis added) – at a stroke equating the forces of resistance with the imperialist aggressors!

Iran, heeding wiser counsels than this, decided that on this occasion the best form of defence was attack, and proceeded to lay into US occupation forces in Iraq. In February two US soldiers and one British one were killed when the Taji military base was rocketed, and the retaliatory airstrikes that followed only triggered more punishment for the occupying forces as the base drew further attacks.

These bases, intended by the US as launch pads for aggression against Iran, are starting to look more like sitting ducks for Iran-backed militias. Consequently, in March, bases at Kirkuk, Qaim and Qayyarah were closed down, and in April al-Taqaddum air base was shuttered too.

The moral is clear: the only way to teach imperialism ‘restraint’ is by standing up to it.

The plan to protest outside the Iranian embassy recalls another shameful embassy visit, back in 2011, when StW celebrated the imperialist-backed counter-revolution in Benghazi by standing outside the Libyan embassy and loudly denouncing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In this way the ‘anti-war coalition’ demobilised the anti-war movement, sending the message loud and clear to British workers that the imperialists were right in planning to overthrow Libya’s government.

Those who refuse to understand the difference between a just war and an unjust war, and make a show of sitting on the fence and urging everyone to show ‘restraint’, are condemned to end up on the wrong side – the side of imperialism.

Just as when it sends oil tankers to Venezuela, by giving what fraternal support it can to the brave resistance of the Yemeni people, Iran is showing how seriously it takes its part in the anti-imperialist struggle.

Workers in Britain need a leadership that is prepared to do likewise.

Support the axis of resistance! Victory to the Yemeni people!

Posted in Campaigns, UKComments Off on Stop the War gets it wrong again

Council tax becoming the new poll tax says report

Thinktank investigation reveals the huge disparity in rates of payment between the poorest and richest households.

Proletarian writers

“The first premise of all human existence is … that man must be in a position to live in order to make history. But life involves before anything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things.” (Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1846)

A short column in the Financial Times on Saturday 18 May noted the publication of a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality. The report, focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain, concludes that council tax is beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated poll tax, which caused Margaret Thatcher so many problems thirty years ago.

Britain is ranked by the OECD (the imperialist ‘Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’) as having, after France, the greatest reliance on property taxation of all OECD country respondents as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2017, property taxes accounted for around 4.2 percent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average.

The IPPR report states that today’s system of council tax leaves those living in the lowest-value homes paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value than those living in the highest-value homes. This is particularly acute in London, where property investment has taken house prices to ludicrous levels.

The study found that a household in a Band A (the lowest valued homes) property in London would on average pay nearly five times what a Band H household would pay as a proportion of property value. The poorest Londoners pay 8.1 percent of household income in council tax, whilst those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3 percent of their declared earnings.

“Those in the lowest-value homes in London are paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value than those in higher-value homes … To the extent that the distribution of property values is a proxy for wealth, this is not fair …

“The regressive nature of the present council tax system is embedded in its design … The highest-value property in Band H will attract a maximum of three times the tax on the lowest-value homes, even though (based on the current banding system) the high-value home is worth at least eight times the low-value one in 1991 property prices. As a proportion of property value, lower-value properties pay a larger proportion than higher-value properties.”

Imprisoned for arrears

“Across England,” according to the report, “officially recognised annual total council tax arrears increased from £836m in 2013/14 to £944m in 2017/18. Moreover, the total arrears outstanding in 2017/18 were £3bn, up from £2.5bn in 2013/14.

“Research by the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) has also found that a number of councils are using bailiffs, and claimants are being charged court costs on top of their arrears … At the most extreme, 305 people were given custodial prison sentences for non-payment of council tax between 2013/14 and 2017/18, with another 6,278 receiving suspended sentences.”

No tinkering with the present system of taxation will be enough to stop the steady slide of hundreds of thousands of poorer and even more privileged workers into absolute destitution and misery. The crisis of overproduction, with its consequent lay-offs and redundancies, is destroying the purchasing power of the masses, who are also crushed under the weight of rising prices and taxation, which they can no longer afford.

Millions of workers today are only a pay cheque away from ruination. Raising taxes on empty homes in London does nothing to undermine the financial power of the landlord and capitalist class; it does nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of the people’s misery – capitalism.

Only under socialism, where the private ownership of the land by a tiny few is replaced with a socialist system of land ownership and taxation, where the recurrent crisis of capitalism is done away with and replaced by planned production can the working man and woman finally find themselves liberated.

______________________________

Note

The Institute for Public Policy Research is a social-democratic thinktank with a long history of providing Labour party class collaborators with policy proposals designed to paper over the cracks of an increasingly divided and unequal society. Its chair of trustees is Lord Adonis, and in 2016 it appointed Tom Kibasi its director. Mr Kibasi has worked for the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Bill Gates Foundation.

Posted in UKComments Off on Council tax becoming the new poll tax says report

‘Day of Rage’: Palestinians and Global Allies Rise Up Against Annexation Plan and ‘Israeli’ Apartheid

“The Palestinian struggle today is not just about fighting annexation, which we must continue to do. It is about dismantling the entire system of apartheid.”

by: Jessica Corbett,

Demonstrators take part in a rally as Palestinians call for a 'day of rage' to protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Gaza City July 1, 2020. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Demonstrators take part in a rally as Palestinians call for a ‘day of rage’ to protest against Israel’s plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Gaza City July 1, 2020. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip—backed by allies across the globe—organized protests on Wednesday against the Israeli government’s looming plan to further its apartheid policy by annexing up to a third of West Bank territory under U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “vision for peace” for the region, which was unveiled in January and championed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Gaza City, the Associated Press reports, thousands of protesters marched with Palestinian flags and signs decrying the annexation plan as a “declaration of war” on the Palestinian people. Following that demonstration, which reportedly ended peacefully in the early afternoon, other rallies were planned in the West Bank.

Protest signs captured by photojournalists said that “Palestinian Lives Matter” and “The annexation is contrary to the U.N. Charter, and a fundamentally illegal act.”

Image

The demonstrations in the occupied territories came after Hazim Qasim, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas, said Tuesday that Hamas and all the other Palestinian factions “are united” against Israel annexing any West Bank territory. Qasim added that Wednesday would be a “day of real rage.”

Solidarity rallies and car caravans were planned throughout Wednesday in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Oregon. A dozen Democrats in the U.S. House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday released a letter vowing to oppose further military aid to Israel if its government moves forward with annexing parts of the West Bank.


Palestine Legal@pal_legal
Palestine Legal joins widespread international condemnation of Israel’s annexation attempts in the West Bank and highlights legal resources for protesters participating in Wednesday’s Day of Rage against annexation in the U.S.

Solidarity protests were also held outside the U.S. consulate in the South African city of Sandton and in South Korea, the Middle East Eye reported Wednesday. “Protests in Jordan, which has threatened to take action should Israel move forward with its plans,” the outlet noted, “have meanwhile been postponed to Saturday, activists said on social media.”

After Netanyahu signaled on Tuesday that annexation could be delayed beyond his initial July 1 target date, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Army Radio station the process would not begin on Wednesday. He said the Israeli government is still sorting out details with the Trump administration and he now expects the annexation to occur later this month.

The anticipated annexation and Trump’s broader plan have drawn sharp critiques from the international community, which considers all existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, along with politicians and diplomats from various countries, have urged the Israeli government to resist annexation altogether.

Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor argued in a piece Wednesday that “whatever Israel decides, a one-state reality looms.” As Tharoor wrote:

If Netanyahu presses ahead with annexation, prominent Palestinian officials fear a definitive end to their already enfeebled statehood project and a future shorn of equal rights of citizenship, where their lives and movements are forever curtailed by the imperatives of the Israeli security state. “It means that I, as a Palestinian, will not be able to do anything without their permission,” Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told my colleague Ruth Eglash. “It means they will control my movements, my planning, my borders and my access to everything. …They are trying to suffocate me, bury me, and they think I will stand for it?”

Others contend that years of Israeli occupation, land grabs, and settlement expansion in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem had already cemented this reality. “Contrary to the popular narrative, annexation will not kill the two-state solution—you cannot kill something that has long been dead,” wrote Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian American scholar. “Rather, annexation is dragging and displaying the two-state solution’s corpse before the world.”

“If you ask Palestinians in the Jordan Valley how they feel about annexation, many will tell you that they thought we had already been annexed long ago,” wrote Salem Barahmeh, executive director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “This is why we cannot help but ridicule the world’s growing, alarmist, and existential outcry as we approach July 1.”

Barahmeh, writing for +972 Magazine on Monday, added that “the Palestinian struggle today is not just about fighting annexation, which we must continue to do. It is about dismantling the entire system of apartheid. The world must recognize this reality for what it is, and impose political and economic pressure on Israel to dismantle that system. If the world is more interested in maintaining the current reality because it feeds a convenient façade, then the world itself is complicit.”


+972 Magazine@972mag‘For decades Israel has taken our land and water, restricted our movement, destroyed our economy, displaced our communities, and ended our lives, all while treating us as lesser human beings. And the world still thinks we haven’t yet crossed the Rubicon.’

“Instead of maintaining this grand illusion, what we need now are systematic solutions that build a new social contract between the river and the sea, where everyone can be free with equal rights,” Barahmeh concluded. “This is not about who you are or where you [are] from, or whether you are Palestinian or Jewish—it is about the values you stand for. We cannot let another generation of Palestinians grow up under apartheid.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on ‘Day of Rage’: Palestinians and Global Allies Rise Up Against Annexation Plan and ‘Israeli’ Apartheid


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