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D2. Socialism

Palestine solidarity on two Southern California campuses

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 21:21
Pasadena City College Walkout for Gaza

More than 200 students and faculty gathered in the mirror pools on the Pasadena City College campus and walked out for Gaza on Tuesday, April 30. The action comes in the wake of a wave of student occupations across college campuses in solidarity with Palestine and the violent police crackdown on the encampments.

Photo by Héctor A. Rivera.

The action was organized by the PCC Antiwar Club and supporting organizations, including a budding chapter of Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP).  The Antiwar Club has held actions for Palestine since the fall including a walkout early in the war. This time the turnout was considerably larger and better organized with chants, sign making and a march across campus.

Ashley, a founding member of the PCC Antiwar club, was impressed by the turnout saying,

We did a walkout last fall and the crowd is so much bigger than it was last time. The protests at university campuses have really increased our momentum here and I’m excited about what we’re doing today.

Together with the Environmental Club, students are calling on the administration to divest from fossil fuels and weapons manufacturers. The club also continues to protest Congressperson Judy Chu, who has blamed Palestinians for the unfolding genocide,  at the weekly vigil held at her offices on Lake Ave.

At the rally, Amy, a faculty member supporting FJP, was also impressed by the solidarity on campus after faculty and students launched a visibility campaign to identify Palestine supporters on campus.

If you look around you see a lot of keffiyehs in all their different shades and colors. We also see a lot of people wearing pins, particularly faculty. Because of scholasticide and the repression of discussion around Palestine, faculty are standing up and letting students know they’re safe in their classes and that they have solidarity and are ready to push back. Because of this visibility campaign our numbers have grown and we’re starting a chapter of FJP.

In the fall, the administration rejected a proposal for a teach-in on Gaza during Indigenous People’s week. In response, faculty students, and members of Tempest collaborated on a teach-in hosted at All Saints Episcopal Church.

Photo by Héctor A. Rivera.

Despite the presence of a Zionist instigator at the rally,  the march across campus was peaceful and spirited. The march ended at the mirror pools with traffic honking in support. The Antiwar Club and faculty plan to continue organizing to rally campus support for their demands of divestment and to continue building the movement for Palestine on campus.

Hundreds protest at California State University, Fullerton

On Monday, April 29, about 400 students gathered on the main quad of the Fullerton campus of the California State University to demonstrate support for Palestinian liberation and against Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. Fullerton is a quiet commuter campus, so the size and militancy of this demonstration was a welcome surprise.

The event was organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. Speakers emphasized the genocidal character of Israel’s siege, the bankruptcy of Zionism as a settler-colonial ideology, the responsibility of Benjamin Netanyahu for the genocide, and U.S. complicity with the Israeli state in its waging of this genocidal campaign. Speakers called for the University to divest from companies supporting Israel.

Photo by Dana Cloud.

Speakers led the crowd in a call and response with such chants as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”; “Hey Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?”; “We will honor all our martyrs–all the children, sons and daughters (all the parents, mothers and fathers)”; “Free free Palestine!”; and “Long live the Intifada!” Signaling the radical turn the movement has taken since the eruption of protests on campuses across the country, the crowd was clearly aligned with these chants and responded with enthusiasm.

The organizers led the crowd in a march, with the Palestinian flag flying high, along a main road abutting the campus, and we received many honks and cheers from passers-by.

I spoke to two demonstrators with distinctive perspectives. Celio Torres is a student veteran, who served as a medic in the U.S. Navy during engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he served “on the blue side and the green side,” meaning that he was stationed both with the Navy and the Marines.

He returned from war radicalized. He said that he came out to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians, as well as activists, volunteers, and journalists who worked in Gaza. Speaking of how his military experience led him to take a stand against the war and against imperialism more broadly, he said,

The reason why I served was because I wanted to give back, not just to my community, but to my nation and my country. During my service, I came to realize that a lot of the things that we’d been doing had been wrong, going back to like 9/11, with the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Afghanistan. The million Iraqis that were killed. I just really have sympathy for those people, because they had absolutely nothing to do with what happened, and we just took it out on them. And after August 2021, the pullout from Afghanistan. The casualties that occurred there in the 20 years of the occupation from the beginning were pretty much all for nothing. And I don’t want that to happen ever again. I don’t want any American to have to go to a foreign nation and to die for no reason. Or to kill innocent people. It’s horrible. It’s heinous.  And I want to make sure that every veteran can at least ask why we were even there.

Asked why he thought the U.S. supports Israel, he said, “Israel’s our proxy. They want to have Israel there so that we can steal the natural resources. I mean, it’s imperialism.”

Photo by Dana Cloud.

Celio told me that this demonstration was his first-ever protest, and he loved it:

It was awesome. Honestly, it inspired me and gave me hope. Because it’s one thing to see it, on Instagram or online, the photos and videos, but when you are actually in the rally, and you’re with like-minded individuals, and they want to advocate for change, I think that is empowering in itself. And I hope more people get inspired by it, and more people come out and support the Palestinians.

It’s one thing to see it [protests], on Instagram or online, the photos and videos, but when you are actually in the rally, and you’re with like-minded individuals, and they want to advocate for change.

Aasil Abdel Karim lives with his family in the Fullerton community. They are Palestinian. He said that they were out to “show support to the young people.”

We are inspired by all of the amazing rallies and campus events that we’ve seen over the country over the last two weeks. This is a cause that’s been dear to my heart for my entire life. I am amazed by the outpouring of support and the courage of these young people. The U.S. is complicit because we are the nation that is sending the bombs and providing moral, financial, and diplomatic support that enables Israel to carry out the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Both Abdel Karim and Torres believe that the student protests are making an impact. Abdel Karim said, “I’m hoping that they will carry this activism throughout their lives and continue to fight all forms of injustice, because what’s happening in Palestine, in Gaza, right now is a genocide.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

SF educators strike for Palestine

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 05/05/2024 - 21:40

Educators at Downtown High School in San Francisco went out on strike for Palestine to mark May 1, International Workers’ Day. All of them belong to United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), the union that represents classroom teachers and other frontline educators in San Francisco public schools—and every UESF member at Downtown High participated in the strike. None of them reported to work, leaving the principal on campus by themself.

The strike was organized by autonomous rank-and-file workers.

Tempest spoke with these educators as they rested in the shade of the pollarded sycamores in Civic Center Plaza after marching from the Mission District with hundreds of other labor movement and Palestine solidarity activists.

Karl, a UESF member at Downtown High, said, “We, as a school, all decided to protest today…we’re out in support of a free Palestine and against U.S. involvement and money toward Israel.”

None of [the educators] reported to work, leaving the principal on campus by themself.

Another UESF member at Downtown High, Rosa, brought a flier calling for strikes in solidarity with Palestine on May 1 to a union building committee meeting and proposed that they organize one themselves. Rosa said, “My husband and I were going to Labor for Palestine meetings. The whole thing there is, ‘How are you organizing your work sites?’”

Labor for Palestine is a nationwide network of labor movement activists that organizes to support the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and apartheid.

The Bay Area chapter of Labor for Palestine is especially active. The group organized a demonstration of more than a thousand labor movement activists in Oakland on December 16 calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. That demonstration was endorsed by the Oakland Education Association (OEA), UESF, and other local unions and workers’ organizations such as UAW 2865, UNITE HERE Local 2, and the ILWU Local 10 Young Workers Committee.  In February, Bay Area Labor for Palestine organized a mass meeting of more than two hundred unionists at Westlake Middle School in Oakland. The participants of that meeting resolved to organize strikes and other job actions for Palestine on May 1.

Banner of May Day strikers from San Francisco Downtown High School. Image by the author.

Hundreds of workers in the Bay Area were able to organize some response to the call for solidarity on International Workers’ Day, and public school educators were especially responsive.

OEA members at multiple school sites in Oakland walked out of afternoon professional development meetings to join a demonstration at the Federal Building.

Tempest exchanged text messages with one of these OEA members, Claudia, who organized an afternoon walkout at Piedmont Elementary School. Claudia explained that about three-quarters of OEA members at Piedmont Elementary participated in the walkout. Claudia wrote:

It’s refreshing to see unions out in the streets in solidarity with Palestinians and in opposition to our tax dollars being used to fund a genocide. Educators have a special perspective on what the future holds…I am desperate to protect that future for our kids.

Claudia was concerned that management intimidation tactics, including threats of docked pay and write-ups for absenteeism, would deter her coworkers, but ultimately they showed courage and determination. Claudia wrote, “Once we arrived together at the rally, I felt relieved. It always lifts my spirits to take action and to be in the streets with like-minded people.”

At Francisco Middle School in San Francisco, where I work as a special education instructional aide, the UESF union building committee organized a small lunchtime demonstration alongside the students’ FMS 4 Liberation club. Educators and students gathered together in the school garden, now covered in pro-Palestine murals and slogans, such as “from the river to the sea,” where they enjoyed Moroccan tea, took group pictures, and made signs.

The garden teacher, known by some students as Ms. Celery, exchanged texts with Tempest about the lunchtime demonstration. Ms. Celery wrote, “Students gathered…to make banners and signs to contribute to the ongoing encampment at SF State [University] to demand an end to the genocide in Palestine.”

Students at Francisco Middle School demonstrate for Palestine. Image by Ms. Celery.

There were other actions organized in response to the call for strikes and job actions by Bay Area Labor for Palestine. However, the educators of Downtown High in San Francisco are the only ones that I am aware of that were able to organize a unanimous strike action.

A third UESF member at Downtown High, Angela, spoke with Tempest about the conditions and culture at Downtown High that made such an exemplary strike action possible. Angela said:

I feel really happy to be at a school where we all share similar values and where we’re willing to take action to be in solidarity with others… Our ethnic studies unit this semester is “Resistance and Solidarity,” and those are not just empty words… We have deep and long-lasting relationships that are not transactional. We’re honestly invested in each other and each others’ struggles and causes. We have a lot of connections to Palestinian communities and [we] are deeply inspired by the resistance movements we see happening.

Downtown High is an alternative school and relatively small—there are 22 UESF members who work at the site—but the educators there are setting a big lead.

The unanimous strike for Palestine they organized on International Workers’ Day was perhaps the most advanced political action ever undertaken by UESF members.

When asked if they understood the example that they have set for other UESF members and the labor movement more broadly, Angela said:

I think we hadn’t really considered that. Our consideration was, “How do we take a meaningful action together in terms of stopping the war machine and this ongoing genocide?”

Even if it was not the intention of the Downtown High educators to assume a leadership role, we should attempt to follow their lead anyway. We should do so in ways that make sense for the particular conditions we face in our own workplaces, with both the urgency and the patience required, but we should do so nonetheless. Disruptive, often extralegal, political action by workers in and around the workplace, is the most powerful potential weapon at our disposal in the struggle for international solidarity and for justice in Palestine.

Part of a mural at Francisco Middle School. Image by the author.
Categories: D2. Socialism

Palestine and the Arab Revolution

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 05/04/2024 - 20:23

Shireen Akram-Boshar: For nearly two months, Israel has been waging a genocidal campaign against Gaza. During that time, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated globally in outrage at Israel’s genocidal bombardment of Gaza. In the Middle East in particular, protests have been massive, have faced state repression and have evoked memories of the Arab Spring Revolutions.

For example, in Egypt protesters have marched to Tahrir Square for the first time since 2013. In Jordan, regime and security forces have prevented these protesters from reaching the border to show solidarity with Palestinians. The liberation of Palestine has long resonated throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

And the connection is deeper than just sympathy. The settler-colonial project of Israel, its backing by U.S. imperialism, and the complicity of the Arab regimes with Zionism is reflected in the oppression of the people of the region more broadly. Because of this, one of the long held slogans of the Palestinian Left has been that the road to Jerusalem flows through Cairo, Damascus, and Amman; that Palestinian liberation will have to be achieved through regional revolt and revolution.

This panel will talk about the inextricable ties between Palestinian liberation and liberation across the region and its relevance to this crucial moment. And the speakers today are Hossam el-Hamalawy, Soheir Asaad, and Dr. Banah Ghadbian.

Hossam el-Hamalawi is an Egyptian journalist and scholar activist currently based in Germany. He’s also a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists and was among the organizers of the 2011 uprising in Egypt.

Dr. Banah Ghadbian holds a PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego. Their PhD dissertation, Ululating from the Underground, Syrian Women’s Protests, Performances, and Pedagogies, looked at the ways women and children in Syria utilized theater, protest, graffiti, and freedom school spaces in the Syrian Revolution.

Dr. Ghadbian has taught using theater and social justice curricula at the Syrian Women’s Association in Amman, Jordan, and with displaced Syrian and Palestinian youth in the Arab Youth Collective of San Diego, among other places. Dr. Ghadbian holds a Master’s in Ethnic Studies and a BA in Comparative Women’s Studies and Sociology, and is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Women’s Studies at Spelman College, where they also serve as a faculty advisor for the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. Banah is a member of the Palestinian Feminist Collective.

Finally, Soheir Asaad is a Palestinian feminist and political organizer and a human rights advocate. She received a Master’s Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame. Soheir is the advocacy team member of Rawa, For Liberatory, Resilient Palestinian Community Work.

She’s also the co-director of the Funding Freedom Project. Previously, Sohair worked in legal research and international advocacy in Palestinian and regional human rights organizations. We’ll start with Hossam discussing Egypt and its connection to Palestine.

Hossam el-Hamalawy: When it comes to Middle East politics, usually the right wing, and even liberals, dub Palestine “the opium of the Arab people.” According to this view, the Arab regimes always use Palestine in order to divert the attention of their domestic populations towards outside enemies.

But based on my own personal experience and the facts on the ground, this kind of discourse might have existed in Egypt and in the Arab world, but this was before 1967. In fact, the Palestinian cause is a threat and source of instability in the eyes of the Arab rulers. Even more dangerous, they provide a model that the Arab people tend to emulate and copy.

With respect to Egypt and the Palestine solidarity actions, there are definitely parallels with solidarity protests that we organized when I was a student in the 1990s, before the second Palestinian Intifada. These were usually protests at an Egyptian campus that would start with pro-Palestine slogans. Then the focus would slightly change in a few minutes into anti-U.S. and anti-Zionist slogans. Then a few minutes later, the focus would start to change into “Why isn’t our government doing enough to help the Palestinians?” A few minutes later, the focus would change again into “Why does our government not actually want to help the Palestinians and is exporting cement to Israel, which is being used to build Israeli settlements? Why is our government opening up an embassy for the Israelis in the heart of Cairo?”

Then a few minutes later, when the central security forces and our militarized police troops show up to besiege the university, people would immediately start asking, “Why is our government that doesn’t want to help the Palestinians, helping Israel by exporting cement, opening up an embassy, and sending troops to our peaceful protest instead of sending those troops to help the Palestinians?”

Then with the first baton, or the first stick, that cracks the head of any protester, the issue immediately becomes about police brutality, about the nature of the regime that we’re living under.

I recall well that in one of our protests that started in solidarity with Palestine, by the end of the event, we were discussing the housing crisis in Egypt. We were discussing the Bilharzia disease that was affecting the peasants in Upper Egypt and all sorts of domestic issues.

Palestine is always a gateway to domestic descent in Egypt and in the Arab world. And after all the 2011 uprising, in fact, we have to thank the Palestinian cause for it.

I joined university as a freshman in the mid 1990s, and at the time Egypt was going through its first “War on Terror.” At the time, all shades of dissent were squashed. Industrial actions were unheard of. The labor movement had been destroyed.

Most of the political parties were besieged or dismantled. Most of the unionized professionals (lawyers, pharmacists, doctors, and other middle class professions) have all been nationalized by the government. You could mobilize on the campuses, but you could not mention Mubarak’s name. You could not whisper his name. You could not talk about politics over the phone.

I even recall in one of my first protests that I organized in the late 1990’s, as soon as I started chanting against Mubarak the people behind me started running for their lives. I was all alone facing the police. This is the kind of state terror that existed.

How did we evolve from that situation to the Egyptian revolution of 2011? It is thanks to the Palestinian cause. When the second Palestinian Intifada broke out and the visuals of Palestinian kids taking on Israeli tanks were aired to every Egyptian home (thanks to Al-Jazeera and the other satellite channels at the time) people immediately started drawing parallels.

They started saying that if Palestinian kids can confront Israeli tanks, then I can confront the armored police vehicle that’s out there in my street, that’s stopping people, and also abusing people at checkpoints. People would draw parallels immediately between Palestine and between Egypt.

When the second Palestinian Intifada broke out, you suddenly had this influx of protests happening mainly on the campuses among unionized professionals. In very few cases, these protests spilled out onto the streets for the first time probably since the 1977 bread uprising in Egypt.

Thousands of Egyptian protesters rallied against religious sectarianism and in solidarity with the Palestinian intifada, in Tahrir Square on Friday May 13th 2011.  Photo by: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي.

Mubarak had destroyed street politics in the 1990s in Egypt. Even kindergarten schools and elementary school students were taking to the streets. And this phenomena we haven’t seen since probably the late 1940’s in Egypt. And these protests were faced with police brutality.

The police cracked down heavily on these protests and then they subsided after one week. But they revived once again in April, 2002, when Ariel Sharon sent his tanks to Jenin and the West Bank cities. Here there had occurred the horrible massacres under the name Operation Defensive Shield.

Then suddenly, this protest wave was revived once again. We had running battles with the police for two days around Cairo University, which is located in Giza. At the time people dubbed it the Cairo University Intifada. This was the first time in my life that I would hear thousands chanting against Mubarak. They were chanting “Hosni Mubarak is just like Ariel Sharon. He’s the same color. He’s the same figure.”

Only two years earlier, people could not whisper his name. Suddenly, they got the courage to take on the police and chant against Mubarak in name during the Palestine-inspired protests.

Now, the Cairo University Intifada was put down brutally also by the Central Security Forces, who were using their armored vehicles to try to disperse us by running us over. This was similar to scenes that we would see 10 years later during the Egyptian uprising after the protests were repressed and put down once again. They were revived with the American and the British led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Suddenly you had running battles from the old Islamic quarter in Cairo, where Al Azhar mosque is located, all the way to Tahrir in downtown Cairo.

There were roughly 40,000 protesters. This was the biggest protest ever organized in the streets of Egypt since the 1977 uprising at the time. People took over Tahrir Square for two days, burned down Mubarak’s posters, burned down the National Democratic Party, the ruling party posters, and almost managed to reach the American embassy trying to storm it.

And the police repressed the protest brutally. They rounded up hundreds of people, tortured many, including close friends of mine. Water cannons were used, bird shot, and all forms of repression. These mobilizations that happened in the streets around Palestine and Iraq created for us this margin where we could start mobilizing against the regime.

It’s not a coincidence that the Kefaya movement, which is Arabic for “Enough,” was launched in Egypt in 2004. And the founders of Kefaya are the same people who led the pro-Palestine and the anti-Iraq War movements in the previous three years. Kefaya took on the taboo around criticizing Mubarak and completely destroyed it. Kefaya had mobilized for two years.

Kefaya was mainly organized among the middle classes in Egypt. It never managed to create roots among the working class or farmers. At the same time, the telecommunication revolution and the ability to spread visuals of dissent like a small protest that we were holding while burning Mubarak’s posters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, revolutionized the public.

It’s not a coincidence that the industrial actions wave and the revival of the labor movement started in 2006, two years after the launch of Kefaya. That is when 22,000 workers in the textile mill in the heart of the Nile Delta went on strike and they won. They triggered the winter of labor discontent in Egypt, where all the textile sector went on strike and then the industrial militancy started to spread over the other sectors. This built up a social movement that led to the 2011 uprising.

The Egyptian revolutionaries never forgot Palestine and never forgot this umbilical cord that ties the two causes together. Several mass protests were organized in Tahrir Square in solidarity with the Palestinians. There isn’t a single protest that I’ve attended throughout the revolution that did not have the flag of Palestine.

The Egyptian revolutionaries never forgot Palestine and never forgot this umbilical cord that ties the two causes together. Several mass protests were organized in Tahrir Square in solidarity with the Palestinians. There isn’t a single protest that I’ve attended throughout the revolution that did not have the flag of Palestine.

The Israeli embassy was stormed twice in Egypt in 2011. It’s not a coincidence that when the coup took place in 2013, and the fully fledged counter revolutionary onslaught started, Sisi (our ruler) targeted every single cause that our revolution had adopted. Among them and most important was the Palestinian cause. We can understand why he is taking part in the Gaza siege, and why he is complicit with Israel in its crimes against the Palestinians.

It is the same cause. We believe that the road to Jerusalem will have to pass through Cairo because we have the biggest clientelistic regime in the region. And the Sisi regime is just as dangerous to the Palestinian cause as Israel is. We hope that we will play our part in the liberation of Palestine by getting rid of the imperialist client regime in Cairo at the very least.

Banah Ghadbian: Before I start, I’m just gonna say “trigger warning.” I mention prison and a lot of things related to rape and sexual assault.

Shocking news! You can have a dual critique of Zionism and Arab dictators at the same time. It’s amazing I have to say that, but it’s true. A dual critique understands a few things. First, that Israel occupies Syria in the Golan Heights. Second, how the Assad regime in Syria targets Palestinians while using pro-Palestine rhetoric to justify its legitimacy in Syria. Third, it understands the kinds of gendered violence the colonial state and the authoritarian state use on Palestinian and Syrian women. Fourth, how prisons, the carceral state, is central to both of these struggles.

Let’s start with the first point. Israel actively occupies Syria. Syria and Palestine are one land. The colonial borders were created under Sykes Picot a century ago. This is a relatively modern construct. For this reason, Syrians carry dual critiques of the Zionist system that occupies our land and authoritarianism.

For example, in March 2011 the Syrian revolution began. A group of children in Daraa wrote graffiti on their school walls and were then tortured in the dictator Bashar al Assad’s prisons. People take to the streets in places like Daraa, Darayya, and Baniyas, holding roses and water bottles. The regime police respond by gunning them down.

While this is happening in 2011, on May 15th (Nakba Day) and on June 5th, 2011, around 1,000 Palestinian and Syrian protesters marched to the Golan Heights near Quneitra and Majdal Shams to protest the Israeli settler-colonial entity that’s on Syrian land. How did the Zionists respond? They gunned down protesters injuring 350 people and killing 23.

One of these young protesters was Khaled Bakrawi, who is a young Palestinian Syrian from Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, and the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the world (for context, there are twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Syria). He marched during the Palestinian return demonstration in the Golan.

Israeli snipers shot him and injured him. He went back to Yarmouk refugee camp and became a leader in the Syrian Revolution. He co-founded Jafra Foundation and helped all the displaced Syrian children, who slept in Yarmouk refugee camps in the UN-run schools. And he helped refugees from Tadaman, Hajar Aswad, and Babila. The Syrian regime saw what he was doing, kidnapped him, arrested him, and then he died under torture in Assad’s prison two months later.

There are so many Palestinian Syrians that have this story. His friends, Ahmed Kousa and Bassam Hamidi, were other Palestinian Syrians who fought in the Syrian revolution and then died when the Assad regime shelled the Yarmouk refugee camp.

You can have a dual critique of Zionism and Arab dictators…[that explains] a few things. First, that Israel occupies Syria in the Golan Heights. Second, how the Assad regime in Syria targets Palestinians…[Third] the kinds of gendered violence the colonial state and the authoritarian state use on Palestinian and Syrian women. Fourth, how…the carceral state, is central to both of these struggles.

George Talamas, who was another Palestinian Syrian, provided aid to wounded protesters in the Syrian revolution. Adnan Abdurrahman is another person who led protests and Basil Safadi created a secret cafe where journalists could upload videos of the protest, and then was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the regime in the Hadra prison in 2015.

There are people like Khaled Bakrawi and other activists whose entire life was about struggling against Zionism, but also against the brutal conditions of Syria’s authoritarian government that abuses Palestinians.

Today in Syria, organizations like Al-Marsad in the Golan Heights monitor human rights violations of the regime and of the Zionists. In 2017, rural people in Jasim, in the countryside of Daraa, played Fairouz’s famous “Flowers Among Cities” song during an anti-Assad protest to protest Trump’s decision to recognize the Israeli embassy in Jerusalem. They held up Syrian revolution flags and Palestinian flags saying “Jerusalem is our Bride” and they also burned American and Israeli flags.

The flag burning is interesting because that’s happening right now in Idlib. While they’re under Assad and Russian bombing, they’re burning American and Israeli flags. In Suwayda, numerous protests recently have taken place to criticize the Assad and Zionist settler-colonial entities at the same time.

These protesters hold multiple critiques simultaneously. Why? Because they experience multiple systems of oppression at once. This is the concept of intersectionality the U.S. Black feminist Kimberly Crenshaw created in the 1980’s. As Audre Lorde said, “there is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives.”

The Assad regime from its inception has used the Palestinian cause to say that Syria needed to be under a state of emergency. Syria had one of the longest periods of active martial law in the world from 1963 to 2011. The pretext was always that of an Israeli attack: “we’re protecting you by freezing your rights.”

Today, Palestinian Syrians are second class citizens in Syria. Rezan Ghazawi, who is a Palestinian Syrian scholar, and formerly imprisoned by Assad, said, “Being Palestinian in Syria, you’re expected to shut up and be grateful. Everyone says, ‘don’t you see how many rights Palestinians have?’ You are an exile inside Syria.”

Where do you think Assad got his tactics from? From Israel, Assad learned how to drop cluster bombs and use chemical weapons. In 1976 Hafez al-Assad supported the far right Christian phalangists in Lebanon and committed a huge massacre of Palestinian people in Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp in Lebanon.

Tel al-Zaatar was inhabited by 50,000 Palestinian refugees. For two months, the Syrian offensive cut off all food and basic supplies and shelled them with 5,500 shells over the heads of civilians and murdered over 3,000 Palestinians. At the same time, they massacred Palestinians in Jisr al-Basha and [Tel al-Zaatar] camps.

Hafez al-Assad also imprisoned Palestinian dissidents in the Palestinian popular community, Fatah, and the Party for Communist Action in the 1970s. His son, Bashar al-Assad, carried on this tradition. An oral history of rural Syrians, like Syrians in my family, helps us record the realities that Palestinians face.

I want to share a story about my father. He was skipping school one day and decided to hop on a train to Damascus when he was about eight years old. And the year was 1970. Black September had just happened. He got to Madras Square in Damascus and looked up and saw the dead bodies of Palestinian resistance fighters. They had been publicly lynched.

The regime executed them as a message designed to invoke fear in the Syrian population. This is what happens when you resist an Arab regime. Today in Bashar al-Assad’s prisons, the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria has documented that the Assad regime has detained over 4,000 Palestinian Syrians. Before October 7 that was around the same number of detained Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Bashar al-Assad besieged the Yarmouk camp for two years, from 2012 to 2014, because the vast majority of Palestinian Syrians supported the Syrian revolution. They were collectively punished.

The [regime] used starvation tactics. They prevented the entry of all people, food and goods. They bombed all but one hospital in Yarmouk and they dropped chemical rain from airplanes, shelled and launched rockets into the Yarmouk camp.

There is a photo that keeps getting circulated on social media. People keep mislabeling it and saying, “Look at these Palestinians in occupied Palestine talking about Israel.” No, this is from a documentary called “Little Palestine Diary of a Siege” directed by Abdullah al Khatib about Palestinians in Syria under Assad.

There’s another famous photo of Yarmouk refugee camp that gets mislabeled as a view of the Syrian refugee crisis. No, this is the Palestinian refugee crisis in Syria. This photo was taken by UNRWA during a food distribution in Yarmouk camp in 2014.

Scene from Yarmouk refugee camp, the less than one-square-mile camp populated by Palestinians, constructed in 1957.  Photo by UNRWA/Rami Al Sayyed.

The overlap of these Palestinian Syrian issues is a gendered experience. Why? Because Palestinian and Syrian women experience patriarchal logics of domination and the extraction of feminized lands and bodies.

What do I mean? In Tel al-Zaatar, one of the ways the Assad regime harassed and terrorized Palestinians is by cutting open the pregnant bellies of Palestinian women. They also committed mass rape. A 2014 report regarding sexual abuse in detention centers talks about the special branch of prison, the so-called Palestine Branch, that is famous for what’s called Ta’zeeb Mushtarak, where groups of young children and youth are sexually tortured together.

Rural farm-working people, like my family who were fellaheen, experienced Zionist bombing of their countryside in Damascus because it was said Palestinian resistance lived in the hills. In 1967, my grandmother, while gathering crops on her field, was under Israeli bombings and experienced that while she was pregnant. A few years later, she experienced the Syrian secret police, the Mukhabarat, storming her home, terrorizing her again while she was pregnant, causing her water to break. The experiences of birthing people and gendered sexual assault are also something we have to talk about.

The shared Palestinian and Syrian conditions are not only about dispossession from our ancestral lands, but also experiences under prison. Branch 235, (the Palestine Branch) ironically was the oldest intelligence apparatus in Syria. Founded in 1969, the purpose was to fight for Palestine. They were supposed to interrogate Israeli intelligence operatives in that branch. But today is known as the place where Palestinians are tortured.

This in itself summarizes everything. Assad claims to fight for Palestine on paper, but in reality targets Palestinians in brutal ways. The number of people killed under torture by the Palestine Branch are 10 and 15 people a day. This is part of the reason why Palestinians and the Syrian revolution came to the forefront.

Tal al-Mallouhi is the youngest known prisoner of conscience in the world. She was a teenage girl in Syria who was detained by the Syrian regime because she blogged poems about Palestine in 2009. Some of her poems are beautiful. One says, “We will not accept new shame. Jerusalem will not be trampled, no surrender of stolen Palestine.” On her blog, Tal al-Mallouhi wrote messages of solidarity to majority Black populations during Katrina. She talks about Palestine and solidarity with Black people in 2006 during Katrina together.

In summer 2020, I was part of a group of Palestinian Syrians, Alawite, Kurdish, and Assyrian Syrians, many of whom survived Zionist regimes, the Assad regime, and detention under ISIS. They created Syrians for Black Power.

The idea was that we connect the dots between our liberation, and doing so makes us that much stronger. Of course, there are Syrians who normalize Zionism and Palestinians who normalize Assad. But we can be creative in our responses to this.

The last thing I’ll share is that in 2016, several Syrian displaced people were relocated to San Diego, and the only Syrian organization in San Diego to support refugees had accepted a Zionist grant from the Israeli government.

As a response, a group of us youth got together and created another center that we called the Khaled Bakrawi Center. The idea there was to create a pro-Palestinian, pro-Syrian revolutionary organization that could support the political realities and lives of the people it supported.

We’re capable of holding multiple critiques, and when we do, a more holistic vision of our liberation emerges.

Soheir Assad: Banah took us to moments that are carved into the souls, hearts and minds of each one of us who lived through the Arab revolutions. I’m part of this generation, part of the generation of the Arab revolutions.

For these past few years my generation felt that we’ve been defeated. We’ve been defeated by the counter revolutions that took over an intense moment of hope.

During May 2021 in Palestine, the Unity Intifada had taught us something about reclaiming our unity; reclaiming our power as people and taking back our agency. Now, at this moment, we’re speaking about it in the context of the genocide that is going on in Gaza where almost 15,000 people were killed, among them over 6,000 children were killed. I cannot believe that I’m saying these numbers.

In order to understand Palestinian and regional Arab solidarity among Arabs and non-Arabs in the region, we need to understand what the war is now. Who is launching the war on Gaza?

We can’t start the analysis of the genocide in Gaza by only understanding the over 75 years of Israeli colonization and oppression in a detached way. Israel is a project of colonialism in Palestine and in the region as a whole. It is a European and a U. S. project that is oppressing Palestinians, taking their lands, forcefully displacing them, and turning us into refugees and fragmenting our community. It also aims to control the whole region, controlling our resources, our freedoms, and our livelihoods all over the region.

We can’t start the analysis of the genocide in Gaza by only understanding the over 75 years of Israeli colonization and oppression in a detached way. Israel is a project of colonialism in Palestine and in the region as a whole…[It] aims to control the whole region, controlling our resources, our freedoms, and our livelihoods all over the region.

This is apparent and very clear to us from what we’re seeing these days. It’s not only the state systems and armies that are actively participating in arming Israel with billions now and giving the technology that is burying children under the rubble. It’s not only military and state power but economic power. It’s also the complicity of different companies, investors and others who profit from the experience on our bodies like the bodies of the people in Gaza, the global South and in our region for so many years.

Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, are now being punished. They’re being punished for resilience, resistance and for standing up in the name of Palestinians, but also standing up in general in the name of the oppressed and shaking the foundation of this system, which is a global system.

It’s not only the Israeli colonization shaking the grounds behind these regimes within the racialized capitalist system under imperialism. And I think the ones who are complicit now are not only governments or right wings or mainstream. Definitely liberal discourse and institutions are extremely complicit as they’ve always been.

We’re seeing students in a U.S. university chanting and calling the universities to divest from arms. You ask yourself, why is a university, an academic institution, investing in arms, regardless of the ongoing genocide? Why is it generating profit from killing and experimenting on bodies of people from the Global South?

It’s not only universities, it’s big international human rights organizations, boards, and various institutions. It’s the media who is completely complicit in demonizing Palestinians the way it demonized Muslims and Arabs and black people and people from the Global South. They do not look at our deaths. They do not even call them killing. They do not point to the perpetrator. They call our children “people under 18.” Essentially, they do not have the basic, even ethical standards of journalism. But even more, the demonizing is actually abetting the genocide.

The Arab regimes not only have normalized relations with Israel. They are allies. We need to stop talking only about normalization. We should start speaking about allyship between them and their common interests.

The interest is not only to oppress Palestinians, to keep Palestinians contained and to end the Palestinian cause through the Abraham Accords and other processes that happened in the region in the last few years. There is also a mutual benefit. Israel is not oppressing only Palestinians, controlling the resources and playing the part of colonial power in the region. It’s directly aiding these regimes and oppressing their people with military, technology, surveillance, and political power. It’s not a coincidence that these regimes are killing their own people, starving them, making them live in poverty, putting them in jails, putting those who resist that oppression which is fully backed by the U.S.

If one looks at Egypt now, the U.S. obviously is part of this oppression but doesn’t have the political power. It does not have the political power but is benefiting from having a leader as a subject to it like Sisi. When we speak about imperialism, we don’t pick sides. It’s not that this imperialism is “good” and that imperialism is “bad.” In the end, imperialism is bad in Egypt, it’s bad in Syria, and it’s bad when anyone is doing it.

For many years these regimes were protected from accountability; they were protected from their people by the same power that is protecting Israel. The counterrevolution is a product of both these regimes.

This is control that runs deep in the state system, like the military, that we couldn’t get rid of by simply pushing out the political leader of the system. This deep control is also a result of direct intervention by these powers to keep the people of our region under continuous colonialism.

What are we witnessing? Colonialism not only exists materially on our land, the way it does in Palestine, but it is also the absolute control through racialized capitalism that is implemented through the militarization of life the Arab countries remain under despite the fact that it is claimed that colonialism is over.

If we deeply and radically look at our region we understand that colonialism is not over. What are we seeing now is colonialism from Europe and the U.S. being a clear manifestation of white supremacy with anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments, as well as a similar general sentiment against the global South.

Today one sees kids in Gaza being pulled from under rubble. At the same time, one sees Syrian kids drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and drowning on the shores of Europe. This is the reason and the cause for our oppression and the cost of what has happened in our homelands.

Regarding the Arab revolution, Hossam spoke about how Palestine radicalized Egypt. I want to talk about how the Arab revolution radicalized Palestine. I think as someone who’s a feminist in Palestine, as someone who believes in justice and is part of the Palestinian liberation struggle, our understanding of our liberation has often been very limited. It has essentialized Palestine in a way.

A generation of people linked the liberation of Palestine into a duality: either you’re with resistance or you’re with imperialism. Doing so turned Palestine into the general question of statehood. When Palestine is a question of the poor, Palestine is a question of the oppressed. Palestine is a question of the people and not statehood. It’s peoplehood and not statehood.

When the Syrian and Egyptian revolutions happened, I still remember what we felt in our hearts and the tears that we shed. I still remember the absolute rise of hope that my generation felt. We went into the streets for Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Iraq and for every other place that mobilized.

[S]ome people try to put us in a duality: if you’re supporting the Syrian revolution, then you’re therefore supporting Zionism and the U.S. Many of us had to stand up and say, “Absolutely not!” Palestine’s freedom doesn’t pass over the blood and bodies of Syrian people.

When we took the stage, we spoke about liberation, liberation from colonialism in the most radical sense, in the deepest sense. In a way, and especially Syria, some people try to put us in a duality: if you’re supporting the Syrian revolution, then you’re therefore supporting Zionism and the U.S. Many of us had to stand up and say, “Absolutely not!” Palestine’s freedom doesn’t pass over the blood and bodies of Syrian people. This cannot happen.

If we want to really understand Palestine, it’s not because we have a good position on Syria. If we want to deeply understand the liberation of Palestine, if we want to redefine its essence, to the core of that liberatory revolution, it is about resistance, but it’s about resistance to oppression.

We need to address all forms of oppression (not only Zionism). We need to address all oppressive capitalist regimes and dictatorships that are impoverishing people. And not only regimes, but also the economic system whose effects we see on our people all over the region.

In a way, the Arab revolution redefined liberation for my generation and it has impacted the way we look at other struggles, at the social structure struggle in Palestine on the issue of class, that Palestine liberation is not only about nationalism. Who are the Palestinians? What are we struggling for? How do we define that? What kind of Palestine do we want to see? Are we looking for a capitalist Palestine? Do I want that or do I want a liberated Palestine in the full sense?

In a way the Arab revolution has affected the way we look at the revolution, but also the way we reflect about ourselves. We are forever grateful for that, especially as a feminist. This revolution impacted the way I look at the feminist struggle today.

For the last few years, we have felt that the counterrevolution waged by our political elites has defeated us in the region. In Palestine this was done through the Palestinian Authority and other political elites there.

Our causes were fragmented. Everyone wanted to survive. Everyone wanted their cause to survive. There was a feeling of finding allies by appealing to the powerful, by appealing to the EU, to governments, and Congress. We know now that this doesn’t work but we know it even more today.

The powerful and those who have power, the colonialist states and client regimes, are interested in keeping all of us oppressed under racialized capitalism. The bodies that are sweating and laboring in Egypt and dealing with poverty are the same bodies that are oppressed on the shores of Europe. They are the same bodies that are killed under the rubble in Gaza. We cannot ever forget that.

There has been this use and the weaponizing of Palestine by the regimes when people felt alienated from the cause. They felt that it belonged to tyrannical regimes. But what Gaza is doing now, like the Great March of Return did in 2021 and many other times in recent Palestine history, is proving to all of us that people are reclaiming Palestine, reclaiming what liberation means. Gaza now is radicalizing the region and is radicalizing the whole world.

At this moment we cannot keep speaking about transactional solidarity or solidarity with slogans. I think the moment of defeatism and the moment of counterrevolution may have freezed many of us.

We have also faced a lot of political depression. A lot of the movement for justice in the region was really struggling in the last years. What we’re seeing in the world, the immense amount of solidarity in the region and in the world, should really inspire us again and again, not only to do performative solidarity, but really deep solidarity.

Our “allies” are creating power. They have power through collaboration. It’s not only through speeches but by actual material power. What we should strive to do is actually create our own power, our own material power as people, and to have each other’s backs. And not only when Palestine is facing oppression but when anyone is oppressed and not free, we need to have each other’s back.

And we need to make sure that the Western colonizing world that is oppressing all of us and the global South, can never rest. When we are dying, they should never be able to rest. When we are faced with injustice and that the Arab regimes also never rest when we are killed, but also when our people in general in the region are killed.

Featured image credit: UNClimateChange; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Degrowth and revolutionary socialism

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 05/01/2024 - 21:11

Degrowth in broad terms rejects capitalism’s ever-expanding aggregate production and consumption, which is both socially and ecologically destructive and ultimately catastrophic for the planet.  In Slow Down: The Degrowth Manifesto, Kohei Saito aims to fuse degrowth and Marxism to “update our vision of the post-capitalist world” as a contribution to the struggles of global social movements facing the intertwined crises of capitalism, democracy, and ecology. First published in Japan, where it became a best-seller, Saito’s book taps into deep concern about runaway global heating and dire threats to our life-sustaining biosphere.

Slow Down begins with an international perspective, arguing that the normal operation of capitalism generates inequality between wealthy core states in the North and the global South. At the center of this is the “Imperial Mode of Living” which describes the ecologically destructive high-consumption economies of the North that operate based on extraction in the South characterized by exploitation, environmental destruction, and dramatically lower consumption. There is also a useful overview of fake solutions to ecological breakdown including greenwashing, myths that economic growth can be dematerialized, green Keynesianism/Green New Deal, so-called “sustainable growth,” degrowth capitalism, and the Left techno-optimism of eco-modernism advanced by some on the social democratic Left.

The middle part of Slow Down advances Saito’s politics of degrowth communism. Saito is best known as a Marx scholar who contends that late in life Marx rejected earlier ideas about the progressive nature of capitalism and the path to revolutionary transformation. Marx’s new position, which Saito calls degrowth communism, fundamentally challenges the credentials of both state-capitalist (the USSR and China) and social democratic versions of Marxism to understand and respond to ecological catastrophe.

Saito argues that predominant notions of Marxism based on Marx’s early thinking celebrate a progressive view of history, where capitalist development, exploitation of workers, and despoliation of the environment raise productivity and spur technological innovation that establishes the conditions for everyone to lead a rich, free lifestyle that solves environmental problems. But Marx ultimately saw that capitalism is no longer progressive because rather than providing the material basis for meeting human needs and socialism, capitalist growth destroys the conditions of production and the reproduction of human life itself:

The raising productivity under capitalism doesn’t necessarily lead to the liberation of humanity. Indeed, it disrupts and eventually creates a rift in the metabolic link between humans and nature that forms the base conditions for life itself. Capitalism does not bring about progress toward communism. Rather, capitalism destroys the “natural viability” necessary for society to thrive. (114)

For Saito, Marx also provides a basis for rejecting Eurocentrism and a linear view of history that sees all paths toward socialism running through Western-European-type capitalist development that lays the basis for communism. Alternatively, Saito sees in communal society (what Marx purportedly discovered about the Russian Mir, or commune) that is detached from economic growth as a potential basis for a metabolic relationship between humans and nature that would be life-sustaining and equal. In the commons, Saito sees the potential for radical abundance based on the marginalization of markets and cooperative social management, or communal wealth.

These insights, breaking with productivism and ethnocentric unilinear development, provide a basis for Saito’s reformulated materialist conception of history which he calls degrowth communism.  For Saito,

The most crucial thing, above all else, is the revolutionary transformation of labor and production. This is the main difference between the form of degrowth proposed by this book and that of earlier degrowth theorists, who studiously avoided engaging with Marxism and workers’ movements and thus failed to address the dimension of labor in their arguments. (183)

This is different from simplistic degrowth views focused on buying less and from conventional views of communism based on economic nationalization. Saito argues that “only revolutionizing the site of production can empower us to transform the system as a whole” (184).

To provide anchors for the degrowth movement, Saito presents several pillars of degrowth communism: transition to a use-value-based rather than exchange-value (profit) economy, shortening of working hours, abolishing the uniform division of labor, democratizing the production process, and prioritizing essential work. It’s a degrowth program Saito says doesn’t require wholesale rejection of capitalist technology and scientific developments while leading to a slowing down of the economy—and a host of related social and ecological benefits. Given that every pillar threatens capitalist control over production, we need to add that it is also one that requires a socialist revolution.

Saito’s interpretation of Marx in degrowth communism reflects important insights about the destructive character of economic growth and the contributions of indigenous resistance to ecological destruction. It’s debatable that this requires the radical reconfiguration of Marxism, since Marx understood and frequently noted the contradictions of capitalist development, progress accompanied by destruction. Puerto Rican ecosocialist Rafael Barnabe has written an excellent critique of Saito’s views along these lines for readers wanting to dig deeper here.

Slow Down tends to exaggerate the role of ideas, rather than social struggle and material forces. For example, Saito says that Marxism’s failure to understand late-in-life Marx led to the embrace of unilinear conceptions of history and productivism resulting in the nightmare of Soviet communism and the failure to challenge capitalism deepening the ecological crisis. A more Marx-consistent materialist reading of this history is that the counter-revolution in Russia leading to Stalinism and state capitalism, and the predominance of social democratic reformism on the Left in capitalist countries, provided the basis for productivist thinking. In the latter instance, Saito effectively criticizes the problems of technological accelerationism along with eco-modernist and electoralist roads to socialism which he says both lose sight of production—and the need to begin with democratizing labor, the central premise of degrowth communism.

Global heating and resulting climate destabilization are one part of ecological breakdown that also includes oceans, soils, fresh water, forest, species, nutrient cycles, and chemical pollution. These are not only destroying the diversity of life but threatening the basis for survival. Capitalism threatens the Holocene era in which the relatively stable mix of climate, life, and natural cycles provide the ecological foundation for a complex society.

This existential threat developed with fossil capitalism and rapidly advanced in the mid-twentieth century in what is called the great acceleration. Exponential growth of extraction, production, and consumption—and the consequential dumping of wastes—have impacted ecological cycles on a global scale to the point where red-line boundaries have been or will be transgressed if business-as-usual continues. Economic growth is both an accumulation and a biophysical process. Consequently, there must be radical reductions in material and energy throughput to protect conditions of life—and there are no technological fixes that will allow indefinite growth to continue.

For socialists, it should be clear that capitalist growth stems not only from an ideology that links progress and well-being with incessant growth that is celebrated in metrics like Gross National Product (GDP); it is more basically driven by capitalism’s systemic competition, prioritization of short-term profit, and resulting violent exploitation of labor and nature. For individual businesses, and for global capitalism as a whole, the operative condition is “grow-or-die,” which sacrifices the possibility of a sustainable future.

It is not just the undemocratic control over capitalist technological and investment decisions that is the problem. Rather, social relations and related technology undermine the possibility of ecological renewal and thus the revolutionary process toward a new ecological, just society. There must be a break with growth that challenges and re-makes many forms of existing technology.

The former growth enthusiast view rooted in social democratic reform politics ignores the interlinking of growth and biophysical processes noted above. There are ecological limits. Slow Down is strong on this point, correctly criticizing the emphasis on managing nature, rather than understanding ecological limits that require an approach of co-existence. For Saito, this left-wing accelerationist politics ultimately prioritizes electoral politics and policy and “loses sight of the aspect of the transformation that must take place in the field of production–that is, it loses sight of class struggle.”

Unfortunately, Saito inconsistently translates this key understanding into political practice. Saito helpfully identifies production and the oppression and exploitation of labor as central to both understanding and resolving the ecological crisis. These are similar conclusions to pioneering ecosocialists like John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett. But in projecting this insight to a practice of workers’ co-ops and municipal and other directly democratic initiatives Saito can be less convincing:

[I]nstances of resistance like the rise of workers’ co-ops or the revolt of the caring classes may seem quite small. And indeed, they might be. But there are many similar small instances of resistance to capitalism occurring all over the world. Such isolated incidents have the power to spread until they become a coordinated wave. (203)

We have to ask how localized initiatives can escape capitalist markets and state regulations that pressure alternatives to conform to business as usual. The ruling class has an arsenal of tools including government rules, courts, divestment, and even state-sanctioned violence to isolate and tame alternatives to the status-quo. This is why broader mass struggle and especially disruptive actions like strikes are necessary. Saito clearly recognizes the importance of class struggle in other parts of the book, but it tends to get lost.

Saito’s connection of Marxism, particularly identifying the importance of production and the exploitation of labor in the fight for the future of the planet for a wide audience is welcome. With Saito, we should recognize the contributions of the wide range of indigenous, social, and anti-colonial struggles and practices in our ecosocialist politics. But, specifically, it’s essential to always recognize that Marx went further. Marx and the tradition of socialism from below center the international working class and, crucially, class struggle in the revolutionary process. This is not class struggle invoked in a subordinate role to elections, or invoked by “socialist” rulers taking state power in the name of the working class, but the self-agency of the class in mass democratic struggle leveraging our economic power to interrupt the flow of profits.

While we need to be able to imagine radically different social and economic systems that can govern our relationship with the rest of nature, the central axis to the future must return to the struggle necessary to get us there. Marx’s discovery of the working class as a revolutionary agent remains key. An ecosocialist future depends on mass social and class struggle.

Featured image credit: Christopher Dombres; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

From the XI FOSPA to COP 30

Systemic Alternatives - Sun, 04/28/2024 - 15:05

An agreement to face the “unknown territory”

By Pablo Solon

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report on The State of the Climate 2023 notes that the last year “was the warmest year in the 174-year observational record.” This text maintains that we were only a few hundredths away from exceeding the increase in the planet’s temperature by 1.5°C. The data provided by the WMO report on the warming of the oceans, the melting of glaciers and the rise in sea levels announce that a qualitative leap is taking place in the climate crisis. The United Nations, echoing the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, states: “The global average temperature in July 2023 was the highest ever recorded in at least 120,000 years.” Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s top authority, writes: “Climate models cannot explain the gigantic 2023 heat anomaly. We may be in uncharted territory .”

The evolution of crises in the Earth system is advancing in leaps and bounds. Last year the Pan-Amazon Social Forum (FOSPA), the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and the World Assembly of the Amazon (AMA) together with several indigenous, peasant, women’s and social organizations delivered to the Summit of Presidents of the Amazon, gathered in Belém do Pará, Brazil, a set of proposals to avoid the point of no return of the Amazon . The presidents adopted a declaration that recognizes the danger of the point of no return in the Amazon and announced mechanisms for social participation, but they did not adopt urgent measures, with clear commitments, to stop deforestation, illegal gold mining, oil extraction, loss of biodiversity, and the recognition of indigenous and Afro-descendant territories. Just months after this Summit, the Amazon began to suffer extreme heat, with uncontrolled fires, rivers and reservoirs without water that left entire regions without electricity, while in other places rivers were seen overflowing due to the rains that devastated populations, claiming human lives.

The point of no return of the Amazon and the unknown territory that the Earth system is entering are two processes that feed on each other. The lack of action on one side fuels the crisis on the other and vice versa. From the XI FOSPA to be held in Bolivia from June 12 to 15, we must deepen our proposals to face the point of no return of the Amazon and at the same time promote actions to confront the collapse of the global climate system.

The Paris Agreement is no longer the answer to tackling climate “uncharted territory.” Nationally Determined Contributions are too weak to address the acceleration of the climate crisis. We are at a moment where we require a new type of agreement that confronts the structural causes of climate change. An agreement that is not limited to talking about greenhouse gas emissions, but that clearly establishes actions to get out of fossil fuels, stop deforestation in its tracks, dismantle the agribusiness model and combat the unsustainable consumption model, among other measures. . 

More than 4 billion tons of oil are extracted every year, a third of which comes from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Russia. We require a true climate agreement that sets annual goals for reducing the extraction and consumption of oil, coal and gas. Likewise, it is essential to have precise commitments to reduce deforestation and forest degradation for each country and region. It is not possible to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from forests in order to generate carbon markets for the sale of permits to continue polluting. The time of making money from climate flexibility mechanisms must end.

The new agreement we need must address both the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. The division that exists between the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) responds to the logic of diplomacy rather than the reality of Nature’s processes. We require a comprehensive agreement that does not parcel out the crisis of the Earth system and even less reduces it to a single factor such as greenhouse gas emissions.

We need a non-anthropocentric agreement that is not subject to the interests of the rulers in power. An agreement that assumes Nature as a subject and not as an object. An agreement based on the recognition of the Rights of Nature to restore the balance of the vital cycles of planet Earth.

A comprehensive climate and biodiversity agreement that establishes measures to confront militarism, neo-fascism, racism, patriarchal violence and hunger that spreads around the world. A solution to the planet’s ecological crisis is impossible if we do not stop the escalation of arms and war that is spreading like a cancer. It is absolutely inadmissible that the main powers fail to fulfill their promises of financing for climate and biodiversity when they allocate a figure twenty times larger for their military budgets. The agreement we need must clearly speak out against military invasions of Gaza and Ukraine. Also, this new agreement that we need must strengthen the fight against neo-fascist movements that spread climate change denialism and undermine social rights, particularly those of women. Peace, democracy and justice are essential to confront the “unknown territory” of the planet and the point of no return of the Amazon.

We need to build a process for action that is based on territorial solutions such as those assumed by Ecuador in the Yasuní referendum for the withdrawal of all oil facilities that are in said block. The fate of climate change depends on the strengthening and propagation of these actions of territorial self-management at the level of hydrocarbons, food sovereignty, forests, rivers, cities and all spaces of society.

The XI FOSPA in Bolivia this June 2024 has the challenge of laying the foundations for this collective construction for this new pact for life on Earth from the perspective of the Amazon. The Meeting of the Mobilization of Peoples for the Earth and Climate, which will take place immediately after the XI FOSPA, will be key not only to provide a global dimension, but to deepen the proposals and actions against wars, neo-fascism, and the erosion of justice at different levels.

Between the XI FOSPA and the COP 30 in Belém do Pará Brazil in November 2025, we must build a roadmap of territorial struggles like those of Yasuní in Ecuador that calls us to the broadest solidarity to make the withdrawal of oil activities a reality and begin the phase of reparation to Nature and the affected peoples; territorial struggles for the demarcation and titling of indigenous territories; territorial struggles against illegal gold and mercury mining; territorial fights to defend and expand protected areas; territorial struggles for food sovereignty, the defense of water and recognizing the rights of rivers, lakes and aquatic ecosystems.

The COP16 on Biodiversity in Colombia in October 2024 will be another key moment to advance this collective construction that goes beyond the texts of the negotiations and focuses on proposals for action and the collective construction of a new comprehensive agreement. I do not detract from the discussion of diplomatic texts, I consider that we can and should use some paragraphs; But, after two decades of intergovernmental negotiations, I am absolutely convinced that social, women’s, youth, academic and other movements cannot consume our energies in these processes, much less feed false expectations.

We must take advantage of the G20 in Brazil in November 2024 and many other regional and international meetings to think beyond the straightjacket of these meetings. Our perspective must be not only to build a new agreement from the People and for Nature to be adopted in Belém do Pará, Brazil, but to advance an action plan for its implementation.

COP 30 should be remembered not so much for the empty declarations to which we are accustomed, but for the determination of the people who have said enough of impostures and have begun to walk the path of a pact for life on Earth.

Categories: D2. Socialism

The Israel-Iran theater show–a distraction from Gaza genocide 

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 04/27/2024 - 21:07

How many Palestinians have Israel shot, bombed, and starved in the last week or so? Not a lot of it has been in the news, because we’ve been distractedby “bigger” theatre: a “regional” conflict may be brewing. Let’s observe and analyze this bigger picture, while remembering that the ongoing genocide in Gaza is the real issue here, not Israeli and Iranian fireworks.

At least 43 more Palestinians were killed and 62 others injured on April 13 in four Israeli massacres in Gaza. The next day another five Palestinians were killed “when the Israeli army shelled hundreds of displaced Palestinians trying to return to their homes in the northern Gaza Strip.” Meanwhile, as Al-Jazeera reported, in the West Bank in the same period, while drones flew overhead, mobs of Israeli settlers, backed by troops,

spearheaded a large-scale attack on the village of al-Mughayyir, where they killed one Palestinian man and injured 25 others. Since then, settlers have attacked more towns and villages near Ramallah including Bukra, Deir Dubwan, and Kfar Malik.

This is the ongoing reality behind the theatrical scenes we have witnessed over the last week. While the world witnessed the performative deployment of great military hardware on both sides, as both proclaimed self-defense, there was no power to knock out Israeli planes bombing Palestinians; no discussion of Palestine’s right to defend itself.

The U.S. has been pleased that decades of Iranian-regime “anti-Zionist” bluster (aimed at internal and regional homogenization rather than at being taken seriously) amounted to nothing at all as Israel committed genocide in Gaza for six months. Despite Iranian leaders initially promising to back Palestinian resistance “until the liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds,” with one leader claiming an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza would “open that gates of hell,” in reality “the chasm between Iran’s bellicose rhetoric and relatively restrained action is even sharper in the current Gaza war” than in previous wars. Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei famously told Hamas chief Ismael Haniyeh in Tehran, that since Hamas “gave us no warning, we will not enter the war on your behalf,” allegedly demanding that Haniyeh silence Palestinian voices calling on Iran or Hezbollah to join the battle. In November, the U.S. allowed Iraq to transfer $10 billion it owed Iran in electricity payments in a sanctions waiver. According to The Economist, this was a reward to Iran for holding back its proxies after October 7.

However, Israeli leaders were less pleased. They were probably pleased in the first month or two, allowing them time to get on with the genocide. Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, boasted that “no one has come to [Hamas’s] aid – neither the Iranians nor Hizbullah.” But after that, Israeli leaders, or at least Netanyahu’s gang, appeared to want to escalate. For example, while the attacks and counter-attacks between Israel and Hezbollah on the Lebanese border were initially well-calibrated on both sides, restricted to a few kilometers, Israel soon upped the ante: While some twenty troops and civilians have been killed on the Israeli side, about 240 Hezbollah and other fighting cadre and forty Lebanese civilians had been killed by increasingly violent and reckless Israeli bombing by March. By late in 2023, Israel was escalating with targeted killings of leading Hezbollah cadre and Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon and Syria, which appeared to be aimed at getting a response.

Iranian missiles above Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

For years, Israel has bombed Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, but mostly they targeted weapons shipments, warehouses, and the like where Iran was transferring missiles to Hezbollah. These Israeli bombings were carried out with the facilitation of Syria’s Russian-controlled air defenses, an arrangement made through countless high-level meetings between then-best-friends Putin and Netanyahu, who over a decade met together more than any other two world leaders. Israel supported the Assad regime remaining in power, but without Iranian backing, and therefore welcomed Russia’s intervention on Assad’s behalf as an alternative. Russia and Iran jointly saved Assad, but then became rivals over domination of the Assadist corpse.

Yet over all these years of attacks, none of them were ever carried out in response to any imaginary Iranian or Hezbollah attacks on “Israel” (i.e., the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan); the Israeli and Western propaganda that Israel attacks Iranian forces because they pose a “threat” to Israel was very theoretical indeed. In fact, only twice, in my close reading, was there even retaliation (once by Iran, in May 2018, once by Hezbollah, in January 2015), as against hundreds of Israeli attacks.

But only in the last six months has Israel progressed to these targeted killings of significant numbers of important Iranian or Hezbollah figures, but no matter how many were killed, even leading Revolutionary Guards, still there was zero retaliation from Iran. Following a series of suspiciously precise Israeli strikes killing around a dozen leading Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria in December and January, Iran’s response was to pull back the Guards from Syria to avoid getting pulled into the conflict.

How is Israel supposed to maintain a 30-year propaganda campaign, that it faces not just the brutally oppressed Palestinians, but behind them a large evil power bent on wiping out Israel and Jews (sometimes referred to as “the Fourth Reich”) allegedly dedicated to Israel’s destruction, when, for years, that power never does anything, not even as a response? And continues the same, no matter how much Israel has turned up the dial in recent months. Israel cultivates this propaganda not because it fears Iran – a laughable proposition for a nuclear-armed military and economic superpower – but because of its utility as a key ideological prop for the Zionist enterprise. In the same way, Iran plays the same propaganda game in relation to Israel. Just as Israel used this propaganda to justify the brutal oppression of Palestine, Iran used the same to mobilize supporters and death squads against opponents – mostly Sunni Muslims – in Iraq and Syria as it built its sub-imperial arc from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.

While the world witnessed the performative deployment of great military hardware on both sides, as both proclaimed self-defense, there was no power to knock out Israeli planes bombing Palestinians; no discussion of Palestine’s right to defend itself.

But now in the context of its Gaza genocide and the mass global opposition that was confronting it, an Iranian response became especially important for Israel, because if Iran’s response were harsh enough, it may force the U.S. to enter the battle directly against Iran, and under the cover of such a region-wide conflagration, Israel could carry out its genocide in Gaza–and the West Bank–to completion. Israel’s crimes would become a mere sideshow compared to this “bigger picture,” and the world could be convinced that “poor little Israel” faces powerful enemies attacking it. So, it finally made the decision to hit the Iranian consulate in Syria, knowing Iran would now have no choice but to respond at some level or lose face completely.

At first, Iran said it held the U.S. responsible, a hint that the response might simply be that its Iraqi Shiite militia proxies go back to hitting U.S. bases in Iraq or Syria, something they stopped completely months ago (under Iranian regime pressure). Then the U.S. stressed that it was not “involved in any way whatsoever,” that it had received no advance warning from Israel (and was not happy about that), so Iran had better not hit U.S. forces. This was a hint that Iran should instead hit Israeli interests, somewhere. Then Iran hinted that its response would not be of an escalatory nature, and U.S. sources initially agreed that the response would be minor. But then we began to read in the media exactly what its response would be–a drone and missile attack on Israel from Iranian territory–somewhat more significant than initially expected. But the reason we could read about it was that Iran gave the U.S. 72 hours’ notice via various intermediaries–Oman, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Switzerland have all been mentioned–so that the U.S. and Israel would know exactly what was coming, giving them plenty of time to prepare. In real-time theatre, discussions were essentially going on in the media between the U.S. and Iran through these intermediaries over what was deemed to be within reasonable limits to avoid escalation and so on. The U.S. made it clear that if Iran hit Israel, U.S. support for Israel’s defense is “ironclad.”

Of course, this well-choreographed retaliation gave time for Israel, the U.S., the U.K., France, and even Jordan to be well-positioned to shoot down 99 percent of the 350 drones and missiles that Iran sent against Israel. Reportedly, some drones even had their lights on! Iran’s attack was aimed at an Israeli military base, not at civilians, as U.S. leaders confirmed. Iran then declared that the matter was “concluded”. Meanwhile, since the U.S.’s “ironclad” defense of Israel had indeed been successfully put into action, the U.S. therefore, did not need to do any more. Biden commended Israel on the success of its amazing air defense system–even though this may not have been the case if the U.S. and others had not helped–telling Israel, “You got a win. Take the win” and move on; Biden stressed that the U.S. would not support or participate in any offensive Israeli operations against Iran in retaliation.

Damage in Gaza, October 2023. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The U.K., France, Germany, and other Western countries all likewise called on Israel to avoid retaliating. Russia and China neither supported nor condemned Iran’s attack (just as the U.S., U.K., and France had refused to condemn Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in the UN) but expressed alarm about escalation and called for calm.

So, who won, lost, or came out even in this?

Iran and the U.S., for their own reasons, want to avoid escalation. Israel, for reasons explained above, wants to escalate, but not to fight Iran itself, but rather focus on smashing Gaza. For Israel, escalation means that the U.S. gets sucked into a war of non-choice with Iran while Israel gets on with killing the Palestinians, its real, not phantom, enemies. The U.S. has given Israel 100 percent of its support – despite occasional toothless hand-wringing – to Israel’s war of genocide in Gaza but has no interest in getting sucked into Netanyahu’s escalatory games. This reluctance is not out of pacifism; it’s just that it has much bigger issues with Russia in Ukraine and China in the South China Sea, and, as Obama’s Iran nuclear accord showed, the Democrats at least have a more rational understanding that Iranian capitalism merely wants a recognized place in the region and that the bluster, is, well, bluster.

From that perspective, Israel did gain a lot. Above all, the whole episode created a theatrical distraction from Gaza; it allowed Israel to get on with mass murder while the world’s attention was elsewhere; it covered  Israel scuttling the latest negotiations of ceasefire and hostage release; and it demonstrated how efficient its defenses were. The fact that Iran chose a full frontal attack on Israel, rather than an equivalent act such as hitting an Israeli embassy somewhere, allows Israel to again play-act that it is up against a powerful “evil” regime that wants to destroy it. The episode assembled a collection of Western powers and even Jordan as a “defend Israel” coalition. The escalating criticisms of its monstrous war coming from various Western powers, even to some extent from Biden and the U.S. government, have now been blunted. Massive new arms deals with Israel and sanctions on Iran are the word from the U.S. and Western allies.

On the other hand, this is not quite enough for Netanyahu; it is not quite a regional conflagration. The limitations, and above all the choreography, of Iran’s harmless attack do nothing to bring in the U.S. to wage war on Iran; on the contrary, it allows the U.S. to preach restraint.

Iran also gained: It could say, we retaliated for the violation of our consulate, but we also acted responsibly. If Iran had not planned for all its drones and missiles to be shot down, then this would be a severe humiliation. But since that was precisely the plan, Iran simultaneously gained credibility and showed “responsibility.” It also demonstrated that it had had the potential to do damage if it had not given extensive warning, and clear notice to Israel that it no longer accepted the previous rules. It was also a useful exercise for Iran to “test out” Israeli air defense weaponry, though of course, Israel benefits in the same way.

Above all, the whole episode created a theatrical distraction from Gaza; it allowed Israel to get on with mass murder while the world’s attention was elsewhere; it covered Israel scuttling the latest negotiations of ceasefire and hostage release; and it demonstrated how efficient its defenses were.

But again, on the other hand, it can also be argued that Iran fell into Israel’s trap by retaliating, though it had little choice. While the planned results of its attack show restraint, just the fact that it chose a full-frontal attack from its territory as its method of retaliation has allowed the West to denounce “Iranian aggression” and step up support for Israel.

Arguably, the U.S. gained the most by being in a position to jointly choreograph, with Iran, the latter’s response through intermediaries and then play the decisive role in helping Israel shoot down all the Iranian hardware, it placed itself in a strong position. If its aim was to show it could defend Israel while avoiding escalation, it came out on top. While the U.S. tells Israel it should be happy to see how well its defenses performed, Israel knows its dependence on the U.S. has been displayed; this arguably puts the U.S. in a strong position to moderate Israel’s next steps.

Of course, the U.S. has continually criticized some aspects of Israel’s war while at every stage supplying Israel with the weapons to carry out its genocide, so no one should wager too much on the idea that the U.S. will not buckle if Israel were to choose a hard escalatory response. However, it appears that this has been avoided with yet another piece of elaborate theatre, this time by Israel.

Following Iran’s attack, Israel immediately announced that it had to respond and would “decide for itself” in a pointed snub to U.S. advice. As expected, the U.S. began to come around, U.S. leaders now claiming to understand that Israel “had to respond” in some way. So, the U.S. advised Israel to keep it non-escalatory. But if Israel’s response to Iran’s response was not proportionate or bigger, that would not be good for Israel’s credibility. Some Israeli leaders wanted to wage a massive attack on Iran. To prevent that, it appears that the U.S. came up with a deal to save Israel, Iran, and the region from escalation at the expense of the Palestinians.

According to Egyptian officials cited by The Times of Israel on Thursday, “The American administration showed acceptance of the plan previously presented by the occupation government regarding the military operation in Rafah, in exchange for not carrying out a large-scale attack against Iran” [emphasis added]. In other words, no retaliation has been replaced with no “large-scale” retaliation. This is all Israel has to promise in order for the U.S. to give its assent – thus far not clearly given – for Israel to launch its heralded attack on Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians have been driven, up against the border of Egypt, into which Israel would like to expel them.

On Friday, April 19, Israel launched its retaliation. Explosions were heard in the Iranian city of Isfahan. Israel did not explicitly report anything; Iran said the explosions were not missiles but the actions of its air defenses knocking out several drones; Iran said the event was so small that it is uncertain where the drones came from and speculated that it may have been an internal attack by “infiltrators” and indicated that it therefore had no plans to retaliate.

Before proclaiming this as a victory for Iran and a climb-down by Israel, by targeting Isfahan, where Iran has major sites of its nuclear program, without hitting them, Israel has shown that it can target them if it chooses to. Therefore, despite the small size of the action, it is an important implicit threat.

Iran wins; Israel wins; escalation is avoided (for now); the U.S. wins. But if the terms of the alleged deal are true, Palestine loses. Following Iran’s retaliatory attack, its UN mission declared it had been conducted “in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus” based on Article 51 of the UN Charter “pertaining to legitimate defense,” and therefore the matter can be deemed concluded.” This was not only a message to Israel, but also to Palestine; if, as expected, Israel now goes ahead with a savage attack on Rafah, backed by the U.S., Palestine is on its own.

Ruthlessly repressive capitalist dictatorships like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, the UAE, and so on have nothing to offer the Palestinian people and never have had – regardless of their rhetoric and whether they use hollow phrases like “resistance” in their titles or not. On one hand, none have ever done anything to aid Palestine; on the other, given their nature as active enemies of human emancipation, even if they did make bumbling attempts to live up to their rhetoric, it would tend to be counterproductive.

The entirely theatrical nature of the past week’s events merely highlights this fact graphically. Only the oppressed peoples of the region, when they next rise against their oppressors, can be real allies of Palestine. In the meantime, all solidarity with the Palestinian resistance in Rafah and throughout Gaza is essential to prevent Israel from using the past week’s events to further its genocidal project.

Featured image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:F-15I_vs_Iranian_strikes_on_Israel_02.jpg; modified by Tempest.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

Southern autoworkers on the rise

Tempest Magazine - Fri, 04/26/2024 - 20:27

It starts to surface in the South in April. It’s rare and synchronized. It has been alive underground for decades, preparing, growing stronger within the grassroots. They’ve already started calling it alien, a foreign invasion (bless their hearts), though clearly it comes right from our soil.

No, it ain’t the aligned cicada brood, about to blanket the South (and beyond) in a manner that hasn’t been seen in two centuries. It’s unlikely to leave behind a fragile shell, or be crushed by boots or gone by summer. Yet something just as extraordinary is happening across the South: Thousands of workers are threatening to strike.

In North Carolina, more than 7,300 members of the UAW are currently locked in a high-stakes contract struggle with the multinational company Daimler Truck North America (DTNA). The union’s master contract was set to expire on Friday, April 26, at midnight. Unless workers received an acceptable contract offer from management by then, they would walk off the job at DTNA’s four big heavy-truck and bus plants in North Carolina, as well as at two smaller parts-distribution facilities, one in Memphis and one in Atlanta.

Members of UAW Local 5287 gather en masse in the cafeteria at the Thomas Built Buses C2 during break time to show their union pride. Image by UAW Local 5287.

The struggle at DTNA, which takes place within the context of an ambitious campaign by the UAW to organize the all-important Southern auto industry, has major implications for the class struggle in the South and across the country. If workers at DTNA are able to secure a victory, this could provide impetus to other workers to stand up and fight back. Within this context, several unions and workers’ organizations in North Carolina and beyond have announced their solidarity with the DTNA workers in their struggle for a new contract and their efforts to win justice, dignity, and a better life for working-class people.

This article shares the voices of these autoworkers on the precipice of their strike, as well as the voices of public-school teachers from the same communities, who are working to build solidarity with UAW workers at DTNA. The teachers are also struggling to overturn a Jim Crow-era law on the books in North Carolina that bars state, county, and municipal employees from bargaining contracts with their employers.

The South could be on the verge of its largest open-ended strike in decades. No matter what happens, it’s clear that workers in North Carolina are on the move.

* * *

It’s no secret that the South is the worst region for workers in the United States. From the lowest wages to a dearth of worker protections to the crippling denial of a right to organize, the ruling class has the South in a stranglehold.

Nowhere are the conditions worse than North Carolina. In last year’s report by the U.S. affiliate of Oxfam, North Carolina once again ranked last—even 52nd behind Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico—in the “Best and Worst States to Work in America 2023.”

Workers across the whole region are hamstrung by “right-to-work” laws, and North Carolina still clings to a Jim Crow-era law that bans collective bargaining for the state’s hundreds of thousands of public employees. (Even the United Nations has called for its repeal.)

As part of the capitalist class’s efforts to impose a “race to the bottom” and undermine conditions for all workers, corporations use the anti-labor environment in the South to their advantage. The South has been a key site of capital investment in manufacturing in recent years—in no small part because employers know that the area is conducive to the maintenance of high rates of surplus labor value extraction. North Carolina in particular has been the site of a major manufacturing boom in various critical sectors, including EV auto, semiconductors, military/defense production, and other sectors.

All too often, when workers organize and engage in struggle, they are forced not only to fight against their bosses, but also against top regional politicians, as well.

On April 16, the eve of the successful vote by Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to join the UAW, Republican governors from six states across the South banded together to release a joint statement “in Opposition to United Auto Workers (UAW)’s Unionization Campaign.” As transparent as it is wretched, the governors wring their hands against the “outside influence” that threatens “the values we live by.” (Not least, the governors are clutching their pearls—and their top-donors’ profits—by pointing out that the UAW “proudly call themselves democratic socialists.”)

DTNA workers rally to show their solidarity in their fight for a strong contract. Image by United Auto Workers.

It’s no surprise that in the Oxfam report, the governors’ six states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas—all rank in the bottom eight worst states to work in the country (joined, of course, by North Carolina). Yet they rush to hang their hat on alleged shared values that for the ruling class, ensure power and for the working class, subjection.

In an article about the Volkswagen workers’ vote in the New York Times on April 19, Jamelle Bouie writes,

It is no shock to see conservative Republicans opposing organized labor. But it is difficult to observe this particular struggle, taking place as it is in the South, without being reminded of the region’s entrenched hostility to unions — or any other institution or effort that might weaken the political and economic dominance of capital over the whole of Southern society.

Bouie then correctly couches the current struggle in the “unbreakable addiction of Southern political and economic elites to no-wage and low-wage labor,” adding that: “Before the Civil War, of course, this meant slavery.”

For many in the South, and of course for Black workers in particular, this cruel through-line embodies the elites’ “values” far better than anything they supposedly share with the masses.

* * *

On April 19, workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga overwhelmingly voted to join the UAW. In mid-May, workers at a Mercedes-Benz factory in Vance, Alabama, outside of Tuscaloosa, will also get a chance to join the union.

But it’s not only unionization campaigns that are igniting the labor movement in the South in a way that hasn’t been seen in many of the workers’ lifetimes. Workers are ready to strike, too.

The UAW has a master agreement across six Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) plants in the South. In North Carolina, these include:

  • Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant (Mount Holly, NC; UAW Local 5285)
  • Cleveland Truck Manufacturing Plant (Cleveland, NC; UAW Local 3520)
  • Gastonia Components and Logistics (Gastonia, NC; UAW Local 5286)
  • Thomas Built Buses (High Point, NC; UAW Local 5287)

 

Additionally, there are two smaller parts-distribution facilities elsewhere in the South that are covered in the UAW’s master agreement:

 

  • Atlanta Parts Distribution Center (Buford, GA; UAW Local 10)
  • Memphis Parts Distribution Center (Memphis, TN; UAW Local 2406)

 

If the union doesn’t have an acceptable proposal from the company at midnight on Friday, April 26, when the current contract expires, then workers at all six of these facilities are going to go out together.

These six plants constitute a major portion of DTNA’s overall production. A strike would send shockwaves ricocheting through the company’s entire North American production network. Across the South, for example, a strike at Thomas Built Buses plants in High Point and Archdale, NC, would also disrupt production at the company’s non-union Freightliner Custom Chassis plant in Gaffney, South Carolina, which produces all of the chassis that used to build school buses at DTNA’s High Point facility. A strike would thus throw much of the production that’s taking place in Gaffney offline.

In addition to this, workers at the Cleveland truck plant, who build Western Star trucks, also produce cabs that are then sent to be assembled on trucks at DTNA’s plant in Portland, Oregon, and at one of the company’s two Mexican plants. While a strike in Cleveland would not shut down these facilities, it nonetheless would impact production there.

Ahead of the strike deadline, I interviewed two DTNA workers: Ben Smith, a welder at Thomas Built Buses plant in High Point, NC, and a member of UAW Local 5287; and Cameron Dunphy, a worker in engine line complexity at the Cleveland (NC) Truck Manufacturing Plant, and UAW Local 3520 member.

Joel Sronce: How long have you been working at DTNA, and what are your positions?

Ben Smith: I’ve worked at Thomas Built Buses, which is owned by DTNA, for two years. I weld school buses together alongside my coworkers on the assembly line. Prior to starting at TBB, though, I worked in non-union manufacturing for many years. I’ve always been a union man at heart. Solidarity forever.

Cameron Dunphy: I have been working at the Cleveland DTNA plant for just over two years now, having worked seven and a half years at Lowe’s Home Improvement, and three and a half years at Bojangles [a regional fried chicken chain] prior to working here.

JS: What’s it like on the shop floors these days? What are the stakes for next week?

BS: The company is making money hand over fist right now. In March, Daimler Truck announced that it had made record profits of 5.5 billion euros (nearly $6 billion) in 2023—an increase in profits of 39 percent over the previous year. As part of this, the company announced a major stock buyback program and an increase in dividends in order to enrich shareholders and corporate bosses. Astoundingly, the CEO of Daimler Truck, Martin Daum, declared during an interview with CNBC that profits for the company were “red hot,” adding that any “leftover money…certainly belongs to our shareholders.”

Meanwhile our wages have stagnated and many workers are struggling to get by and pay their bills. Many workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Our last contract was negotiated in 2018—and we don’t have a cost of living adjustment (COLA) provision. This means that, as a result of skyrocketing inflation in recent years, our buying power has declined by a whopping 13 percent over the course of the past six years, according to research put out by the UAW International.

As the contract campaign has accelerated, a mood of determination, seriousness, and solidarity has set in on the shop floor.

These economic dynamics are very well understood by workers inside the plants. At my job, we talk about it all the time—during breaks, at mealtime in the cafeteria, and between school buses on the assembly line. As the contract campaign has accelerated, a mood of determination, seriousness, and solidarity has set in on the shop floor. I can say for certain that, while most workers do not want to strike, we are now prepared to do just that if this is what it will take to win justice. Everyone is having discussions with their families about the struggle to come. Union density, I have heard, is up to around 90 percent at Thomas Built Buses. Many of the stragglers that had previously dropped out of the union have rejoined. Back on March 8, UAW workers across DTNA voted by a margin of 96 percent to authorize a strike if necessary.

In terms of demands, the key issues we’re fighting for are: No concessions in our contract; major wage increases; COLA provisions in our contract so that our wages rise with the rate of inflation; an equalization of wages for UAW members across all of the DTNA plants covered under the master contract; and job-security protections.

The company is still playing hardball—and, absurdly, still pushing for concessions on health care.

CD: In the last two years, things have been steadily getting harder and harder, and it’s not easy like it was before. Everyone is struggling in some way, but the ability to struggle against this company to get things better for themselves is firing people up. We have a lot to work to do in educating and connecting to wider struggles but I believe a strike—if it comes to it—will help bring us together.

Unfortunately, past leadership hasn’t always been as militant in fighting for strong contracts, having given concessions every prior contract. Prior administration in the International stopped at least one strike voted on by the membership. Over the past two years I have seen a lot of discouragement within the plant change into excitement even while everyone’s struggling more and more from inflation and corporate greed. The Big Three strike got people talking and nervous about whether the International would support us. This is the first time we’ve had UAW International’s full support and encouragement to get our demands with them saying they’ll back us the whole way.

JS: How connected do you feel to your fellow UAW workers across the country, and what makes you feel more or less connected? What does the future hold for DTNA/UAW workers across the South and country (and world), and how about for workers in general?

BS: In our struggle at DTNA, we feel like we are a part of a broader movement by UAW workers and blue-collar working people more generally. One thing that’s worth noting here in particular is that the monumental, historical victory by workers at the big Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, who just voted to join the UAW, has the potential to have an impact on our UAW contract struggle at DTNA. The VW union win sends a resounding message to DTNA—and to the employing class in general—that our union is expanding and leading a growing movement to organize the South.

Crucially, a core part of our movement must be to build solidarity with Mexican workers in auto and related sectors.

If we win at DTNA, either through waging a strike or not, this will, in turn, also help to build the growing movement to organize the all-important Southern auto industry, as well as other critical sectors of heavy manufacturing.

Crucially, a core part of our movement must be to build solidarity with Mexican workers in auto and related sectors. DTNA, for example, maintains two major plants in Mexico, and the company consistently goes out of its way to pit us against our Mexican brothers and sisters at these plants. Excitingly, the UAW has adopted a policy of fully supporting and providing material assistance and backing to the independent union movement in Mexico.

CD: The future holds the possibility of joining with all non-unionized workers, including EV-battery production workers, and not just at DTNA but across the South in BMW, Toyota, all the little parts manufacturers and anyone who wants to organize. Almost everyone that we’ve reached out to has been receptive without fail… We have to build more relationships between unions and other organizations to facilitate more organizing between all of us.

* * *
Building such relationships is exactly what happened two weeks ago in Greensboro, NC, in an intersection of two of the most important labor forces in North Carolina.

Like autoworkers, North Carolina teachers’ organizing has struggled to gain dignity in the mire of the Tar Heel State’s Jim Crow-era labor laws.

GCAE is a local chapter of the statewide public-school staff union, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), which in turn is a part of the National Education Association (NEA)—the largest labor union in the United States. In the harshest of the anti-labor, anti-union Southern states, NCAE is a product of incredible solidarity. While there had previously been two groups—the NC Teachers Association for Black teachers, and the NC Education Association for white teachers—the NCAE formed in 1970 in response to school desegregation. Within its first ten years after merging, NCAE successfully organized and won improved maternity leave, salary increases, and longevity pay.

However, as also discussed above, in North Carolina public-sector workers can legally have a union, but they cannot engage in collective bargaining with state, county, and municipal employers. Therefore, the union cannot negotiate pay, employment policies, or working conditions for its members. By current law, the stagnating wages—not to mention outdated resources, unreliable heating and air conditioning, and many more issues that students and workers face—cannot be subject to pressure by organized labor. But the teachers and other public-school workers are fighting nonetheless, including with inter-union solidarity.

On April 11, the Guilford County Association of Educators (GCAE) had its monthly meeting in the library at the Smith High School in Greensboro. It might have been an ordinary Thursday meeting, focusing on the last two months of the school year, were it not for a few new faces. The neighborhood UAW autoworkers had been invited.

Members from UAW Local 5287 were invited to a union meeting of the Guilford County Association of Educators, some of whom teach public schools in High Point, NC, where the workers’ DTNA plant is located. The UAW members were given the floor to talk about their struggle for a strong contact, and had the chance to learn about the teachers’ struggle as well. Image by UAW Local 5287

Regarding the teachers’ struggle, and specifically their budding solidarity with UAW workers at DTNA, I interviewed Harris (a pseudonym), a high-school teacher in Guilford County, who has served as association representative—better known as a “building rep”—since 2018. In this role, Harris keeps their coworkers updated on legislative changes that affect school employees, coordinates with their coworkers to get petition signatures, attends monthly county-wide meetings, and makes connections with workers at other schools in their district as well as across the state.

Joel Sronce: Can you share some about GCAE, NCAE, and the most urgent struggles you’re facing now?

Harris: The most urgent struggle for NC public-school employees today is two-fold between the inadequate funding doled out by state legislators and the expansion of private school vouchers (the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program). The effects after decades of decreased funding are obvious—few schools have reliable heating or air conditioning, elective classes and staff positions are continuously cut, there are not enough support staff (teacher assistants, counselors, or nurses), and classified workers (such as bus drivers, custodians, and school nutrition staff) inevitably have multiple jobs to make ends meet. The issue with private-school vouchers is less well known, but amounts to diverting tax dollars that have been supporting public schools to subsidize tuition at private schools. Vouchers were originally promoted to give low-income families more options, but 2024 marks the end of such income-eligibility requirements—meaning the richest families in NC can send their kids to expensive private schools and redirect millions of dollars away from public schools. NCAE has been fighting against these harmful policies for many years, and GCAE is specifically running a campaign to address both issues.

JS: It was incredible to hear that GCAE invited UAW members—specifically from the Thomas Built Buses plant in High Point, which is also in Guilford County—to its meeting on April 11 in a show of solidarity with their struggle and potential strike. Can you talk about that meeting and what you hope builds from it?

Harris: At that meeting we learned how deeply connected our two groups are. Thomas Built Buses is not only a few minutes away from the schools where we work, but they manufacture the school buses that our students ride in every day. Many of our students have parents or family members who work there as well. As the UAW members spoke about the struggles they are facing while DTNA is raking in profits, every head in the crowd nodded with a deep understanding that we deal with the same types of issues as school employees. Many of the GCAE members in attendance had participated in the 2018 and 2019 mass demonstrations that shut down schools across the state; we knew all too well how necessary and scary it can be to confront your employers, and here UAW members were telling us that they felt compelled to do the same thing. If they didn’t realize it before, every GCAE member left that night feeling inspired by our UAW siblings.
Harris:

JS: And how about at GCAE’s rally at the Board of Education? Can you describe its purpose, the solidarity you received, and what you think the future holds?

Harris: Over 2,300 Guilford County Schools employees have signed GCAE’s petition to address insufficient pay for all school employees as well as the threat of private school vouchers. There are two groups of decision makers who will control the outcome over the next two months – the GCS Board of Education and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. We have learned in years past that these Boards are more likely to listen when school employees speak out and show up in mass numbers. We will also need widespread participation and support in order to influence their decisions, which is one reason why UAW members attended our meeting a few days before we were to deliver the petitions to the BOE.

One of the most empowering parts was seeing UAW members in the crowd; having their support makes our fight feel so much bigger and gives us hope that we aren’t alone.

About one-hundred people attended our rally at the Board of Education on April 16 to deliver the petition signatures. Employees from dozens of schools showed up in red with their posters, their children, and their desire to be heard. There were uplifting chants and heartfelt stories from various school workers. One of the most empowering parts was seeing UAW members in the crowd; having their support makes our fight feel so much bigger and gives us hope that we aren’t alone.

The NC public school staff union will be ready to support our UAW family in the coming weeks. We know that countless workplace gains have been made solely because of the dedication of labor unions. We want to see UAW win the contract that they deserve because when they win, students and school employees across NC will win. We will add the courage of our UAW siblings to the long list of worker actions in our state’s history, and the lessons they can share with us will make our fight for better schools that much stronger. If an injury to one is an injury to all, then a win for one Union in the South is a win for the entire labor movement.

* * *

GCAE members aren’t the only North Carolina teachers who have gone public with their solidarity. Earlier in April, the wider NCAE released a statement in support of the UAW workers. Its authors are Tamika Walker Kelly, an elementary school music teacher from Fayetteville, NC, and president of the NCAE; and Bryan Proffitt, a high school history teacher from Durham and the union’s vice-president. Like many in the South, they understand the conditions and the stakes surrounding their struggle.

In the statement, they write, “The South is sliding from the margins to the center, our unions are growing, and the North Carolina Association of Educators could not be prouder to stand with our UAW siblings as we work alongside them to secure a state where every family can win.”

To no surprise, their conviction comes in direct contradiction to the six Republican governors’ deceit and distortion of the alleged “values we live by” in the South. The teachers reject that tradition, pointing instead to the path of solidarity and the burgeoning labor movement around them:

We are proud of our UAW family for standing together, and we are encouraged by the upsurge of workers joining and strengthening their unions all over the country, from Starbucks to Amazon to auto plants to schools.

Our state, which still boasts Jim Crow-era restrictions on workers’ rights and among the lowest rates of unionized workers in the whole country, still has a long way to go. But movements like the Daimler workers are leading inspire hope in what is possible, and we look forward to celebrating their win with them on the way towards our own.

They deserve respect, safe working conditions, and stable wages. So do public school workers, and we stand united with our UAW family, and their families, like we do in our schools and communities every single day.

The solidarity across North Carolina doesn’t end there. I spoke to one final member of the state’s labor movement, Jim Wrenn, a former president of the Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union (CAAMWU), and machine operator on the B-Block Line at the Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP) in Whitakers, NC. In 2003, CAAMWU received its charter as the private-sector chapter of the statewide UE Local 150, the NC Public Service Workers Union that struggles against the same Jim Crow-era laws as the public-school teachers and other state employees.

For Wrenn, who has been involved in North Carolina’s labor movement since the 1970s, what’s happening not only at Daimler but across the South signifies something new.

“The recent success of the UAW Big Three auto contracts and now the UAW’s push in the South with DTNA contracts and organizing at Volkswagen, Mercedes, and beyond can be a game changer, creating momentum across the South and even at Cummins RMEP,” Wrenn said.

A couple of days after I contacted Wrenn, the UE150 and CAAMWU published a statement offering their “full support and solidarity to members of the United Auto Workers at Freightliner truck assembly plants in Cleveland and Mount Holly, N.C., and Thomas Built Buses plant in High Point, NC, in their ongoing negotiations with Daimler Trucks North America.”

The statement also notes that the Cummins plant supplies engines to the North Carolina DTNA plants. As the article notes, this means that, “in a sense the workers at Cummins RMEP are co-workers of the DTNA workers.”

Like other unions across the South, workers at CAAMWU understand the significance of the contract negotiations with DTNA, as well as its possible influence on their own livelihoods. The statement also declares,

Daimler has gained a 90% increase in profits since 2018. DTNA grossed $6 billion profit just in 2023. Record profits should mean record pay increases for the workers! A record contract for pay and benefits between the United Auto Workers and DTNA will paceset the whole diesel truck and bus industry, potentially impacting the workers at Cummins RMEP.

As the labor movement in the South grows, these types of statements and symbolic actions might well become more material solidarity tomorrow.

Left: On March 8, DTNA workers across North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee voted by an 96 percent to authorize a strike if it becomes necessary. Right: On Sunday, April 28, Triad Workers Assembly, a chapter of Southern Workers Assembly, will hold a “Picnic on the Picket” in High Point, NC, to support Thomas Built Buses workers if there’s a strike, or to have a picnic in honor of May Day if a contract is reached. Left image by United Auto Workers. Right image by Triad Workers Assembly.

* * *

When this article is published, the strike deadline will have passed. Whether or not the strike happens, solidarity is needed now more than ever not only to maintain this political moment, but to push it forward.

On April 23, several rallies for a Global Day of Action in support of the UAW struggle at DTNA were held not only in North Carolina and across the country, but outside of the U.S., too. Rallies happened at all four union plants in North Carolina, as well as at the two parts-distribution facilities in Atlanta and Memphis. Another action at the DTNA corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon was organized by the Oregon AFL-CIO and the UAW. There were even actions at the Daimler Truck plants in Mexico and Brazil. The UAW is working in tandem in Mexico with the truckers’ organization Tamexun/Truckers Movement for Justice, and in Brazil, they are working with the union CNM-CUT, which represents workers at the massive Daimler plant in São Bernardo do Campo.

“Whether or not the strike happens, solidarity is needed now more than ever to not only maintain this political moment, but to push it forward.” Image by UAW Local 5287. Whether or not the strike happens, solidarity is needed now more than ever to not only maintain this political moment, but to push it forward.

Finally, the Triad Workers Assembly, a chapter of the Southern Workers Assembly, has organized a “Picnic on the Picket” action to take place starting at noon on Sunday, April 28. This is scheduled just a day and a half after the DTNA contract expires at midnight on Friday. The “Picnic on the Picket” action will convene at Armstrong Park in High Point, NC, a few miles from the Thomas Built Buses plant. If the workers strike, supporters across North Carolina are encouraged to join the caravan to the picket line at Thomas Built Buses to stand in solidarity with striking workers, as well as bring food and other supplies to the picket line. (If there is no strike, a picnic will still be held in Armstrong Park in honor of International Workers Day.)

A victory at DTNA would be a signal, heard far and wide, that it’s possible to win a better life through organization and union power. Major union votes and victories in the South, where the status quo of oppression and exploitation have historically run so high, create the possibility for beginning to completely transform the political system in this country, and for pushing the entire class struggle forward to a new horizon.

How to Support

The regular bargaining updates provided by the union are all available online.

On Instagram, follow:

The UAW

Southern Workers Assembly

Triad Workers Assembly

To support GCAE/NCAE going forward:

 

  • Become a community ally.
  • School employees can become a member of the union.
  • Contact your BOE and BOC representatives to tell them to fully fund public schools.

 

Categories: D2. Socialism

Del XI FOSPA a la COP 30

Systemic Alternatives - Tue, 04/23/2024 - 16:57
Un acuerdo para hacer frente al “territorio desconocido”

Por Pablo Solón

El informe de la Organización Meteorológica Mundial (OMM) sobre El Estado del Clima 2023 señala que el año pasado “fue el año más cálido en el registro observacional de 174 años”. Dicho texto sostiene que apenas faltaron unas pocas centésimas para superar el incremento de la temperatura del planeta en un 1,5°C. Los datos que aporta el informe de la OMM sobre el calentamiento de los océanos, el derretimiento de los glaciares y el aumento del nivel del mar anuncian que se está produciendo un salto cualitativo en la crisis climática. Las Naciones Unidas, haciendo eco del Servicio de Cambio Climático Copernicus de la Unión Europea, afirman: “La temperatura media mundial en julio de 2023 fue la más alta jamás registrada en al menos 120.000 años”. Gavin Schmidt, la principal autoridad de la NASA, escribe: “Los modelos climáticos no pueden explicar la gigantesca anomalía de calor de 2023. Es posible que estemos en territorio desconocido“.

La evolución de las crisis del sistema de la Tierra está avanzando a saltos. El año pasado el Foro Social Panamazónico (FOSPA), la Red Eclesial Panamazónica (REPAM) y la Asamblea Mundial de la Amazonía (AMA) junto a varias organizaciones indígenas, campesinas, de mujeres y sociales entregamos a la Cumbre de Presidentes de la Amazonía, reunida en Belém do Pará, Brasil, un conjunto de propuestas para evitar el punto de no retorno de la Amazonía. Los presidentes adoptaron una declaración que reconoce el peligro del punto de no retorno de la Amazonía y anunciaron mecanismos de participación social, pero no adoptaron medidas urgentes, con compromisos claros, para frenar la deforestación, la minería ilegal del oro, la extracción petrolera, la pérdida de la biodiversidad, y el reconocimiento de territorios de indígenas y afrodescendientes. Apenas meses después de esta Cumbre, la Amazonía empezó a sufrir un calor extremo, con incendios descontrolados, ríos y embalses sin agua que dejan sin electricidad a regiones enteras, mientras que en otros lugares se presenciaban ríos desbordados por las lluvias que arrasaban poblaciones cobrando vidas humanas.

El punto de no retorno de la Amazonía y el territorio desconocido al que está entrando el sistema de la Tierra son dos procesos que se retroalimentan. La falta de acciones en un lado aviva la crisis en el otro y viceversa. Desde el XI FOSPA a realizarse en Bolivia del 12 al 15 de junio, debemos profundizar nuestras propuestas para hacer frente al punto de no retorno de la Amazonía y al mismo tiempo promover acciones para confrontar el descalabro del sistema climático mundial.

El Acuerdo de París ya no es la respuesta para hacer frente al “territorio desconocido” del clima. Las Contribuciones Nacionalmente Determinadas son demasiado raquíticas para frenar al aceleramiento de la crisis climática. Estamos en un momento donde requerimos un nuevo tipo de acuerdo que confronte las causas estructurales del cambio climático. Un acuerdo que no se limite a hablar de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero, sino que establezca claramente acciones para salir de los combustibles fósiles, frenar en seco la deforestación, desmantelar el modelo del agronegocio y combatir el modelo de consumo insostenible, entre otras medidas. 

Cada año se extraen más de 4.000 millones de toneladas de petróleo, un tercio de los cuales provienen de Estados Unidos, Arabia Saudita y Rusia. Requerimos de un verdadero acuerdo climático que fije metas anuales de reducción de la extracción y consumo de petróleo, carbón y gas. De igual manera, es fundamental tener compromisos precisos de disminución de la deforestación y degradación de los bosques por cada país y región. No es posible que se gasten cientos de millones de dólares para cuantificar las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero de los bosques con el objetivo de generar mercados de carbono para la venta de permisos para seguir contaminando.  El tiempo de hacer dinero con los mecanismos de flexibilidad climática debe acabar.

El nuevo acuerdo que necesitamos debe atender tanto la crisis climática como la crisis de la biodiversidad. La división que existe entre la Convención de Biodiversidad (CBD) y la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático (CMNUCC) responde a la lógica de la diplomacia antes que a la realidad de los procesos de la Naturaleza. Requerimos un acuerdo integral que no parcele la crisis del sistema de la Tierra y menos que lo reduzca a un sólo factor como las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero.

Precisamos un acuerdo no antropocéntrico que no esté supeditado a los intereses de los gobernantes de turno. Un acuerdo que asuma a la Naturaleza como un sujeto y no como un objeto. Un acuerdo basado en el reconocimiento de los Derechos de la Naturaleza para restablecer el equilibrio de los ciclos vitales del planeta Tierra.

Un acuerdo integral del clima y la biodiversidad que establezca medidas para hacer frente al militarismo, el neofascismo, el racismo, a la violencia patriarcal y al hambre que se extiende por el mundo. Es imposible una solución a la crisis ecológica del planeta si no detenemos la escalada armamentista y guerrerista que se está esparciendo como un cáncer. Es absolutamente inadmisible que las principales potencias incumplan sus promesas de financiamiento para el clima y la biodiversidad cuando destinan una cifra veinte veces más grande para sus presupuestos militares. El acuerdo que necesitamos debe pronunciarse claramente contra las invasiones militares a Gaza y Ucrania. También, este nuevo acuerdo que necesitamos debe fortalecer la lucha contra los movimientos neofascistas que esparcen el negacionismo climático y socavan los derechos sociales, en particular de las mujeres. La paz, la democracia y la justicia son esenciales para hacer frente al “territorio desconocido” del planeta y al punto de no retorno de la Amazonía.

Necesitamos construir un proceso para la acción que esté basado en soluciones territoriales como las asumidas por el Ecuador en el referéndum del Yasuní para el retiro de todas las instalaciones petroleras que están en dicho bloque. El destino del cambio climático depende del fortalecimiento y propagación de estas acciones de autogestión territorial a nivel de los hidrocarburos, la soberanía alimentaria, los bosques, los ríos, las urbes y todos los espacios de la sociedad.

El XI FOSPA en Bolivia tiene el desafío de sentar las bases de esta construcción colectiva para este nuevo pacto por la vida en la Tierra desde la perspectiva de la Amazonía. El Encuentro de la Movilización de los Pueblos por la Tierra y el Clima, que se llevará a cabo inmediatamente después del XI FOSPA, será clave no sólo para aportar una dimensión mundial, sino para profundizar las propuestas y acciones contra las guerras, el neofascismo, y la erosión de la justicia a diferentes niveles.

Entre el XI FOSPA y la COP 30 en Belém do Pará Brasil, debemos construir una hoja de ruta de luchas territoriales como las del Yasuní en el Ecuador que nos convoca a la más amplia solidaridad para hacer realidad el retiro de las actividades petroleras y empezar la fase de la reparación a la Naturaleza y los pueblos afectados; luchas territoriales por la demarcación y titulación de los territorios indígenas; luchas territoriales contra la minería ilegal del oro y el mercurio; luchas territoriales por defender y expandir las áreas protegidas; luchas territoriales por la soberanía alimentaria, la defensa del agua y reconocer los derechos de los ríos, lagos y ecosistemas acuáticos.

La COP16 de la Biodiversidad en Colombia será otro momento clave para avanzar en esta construcción colectiva que vaya más allá de los textos de las negociaciones y se centre en las propuestas de acción y en la construcción colectiva de un nuevo acuerdo integral. No desmerezco la discusión de los textos diplomáticos, considero que algunos párrafos podemos y debemos utilizarlos; pero, después de dos décadas de negociaciones intergubernamentales, estoy absolutamente convencido que los movimientos sociales, de mujeres, juveniles, académicos y otros no podemos consumir nuestras energías en estos procesos y menos alimentar falsas expectativas.

La realización del G20 en Brasil y muchos otros encuentros a nivel regional e internacional debemos aprovecharlos para pensar más allá de los chalecos de fuerza de estos encuentros. Nuestra perspectiva debe ser no sólo construir un nuevo acuerdo desde los Pueblos y para la Naturaleza a adoptarse en Belém do Pará, Brasil, sino avanzar en un plan de acción para la implementación del mismo.

La COP 30 debe ser recordada no tanto por las declaraciones vacías a las que nos tienen acostumbrados, sino por la determinación de los pueblos que hemos dicho basta de imposturas y hemos comenzado a andar por la senda de un pacto por la vida en la Tierra.

Categories: D2. Socialism

The bipartisan attack on immigrants

Tempest Magazine - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 21:36

Dana Cloud: A few weeks ago, as you know, Biden and Trump both visited the Texas-Mexico border. Biden was selling his immigration bill that Trump encouraged Republicans to vote against. Even though Biden is pushing for more resources for border policing, Trump claimed (in his articulate way) that the U.S. is being overrun by the “Biden migrant crime.” Trump emphasized crimes committed by migrants. My perception is that his rhetoric of monstrosity regarding immigrants has a different tone from Biden’s, but do you think that they are essentially proposing similar controls?

Aly Wane: Yes. I’ve been an activist on this issue since at least the mid-2000s. And I would say that the Republicans have worse rhetoric and oftentimes Democrats have great rhetoric. There were plenty of times during the Obama administration when I would hear a speech that Obama gave on immigration and just be like, yeah, that’s great. Can we just follow through on what you just said? At the end of the day, both parties are law enforcement parties, and whenever there is anything that can even be construed as a crisis, Republicans have the advantage because Democrats do not change the narrative at all.

Their whole thing is, if Republicans talk about a crisis at the border, the Democrats’ first move would usually be, okay, let’s agree on more enforcement. Like, tell us how much more enforcement to add. And the only thing that upsets them is the rhetoric of Republicans. But at the end of the day, what is Biden proposing? Biden is proposing very, very similar things. In fact, the Biden administration has doubled down on some of Trump’s worst excesses in his desperation to get a deal after this last attempt at getting a deal failed, and I want to be clear that from my perspective as an activist, that immigration proposal was the Democrats basically giving everything to the Republicans.

There wasn’t even any kind of negotiation about maybe a path to citizenship for folks with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for example, which is like the lowest of lowest bars, but even that wasn’t included. And I want to remind folks that Biden recently has been talking about how he wants to pass a deal with Trump.

That’s his whole thing: He’s so desperate to get something going that he’s inviting Trump to the table. The deal that was already rejected was already basically giving everything to the Republicans that they wanted. The only reasons they rejected it were that they wanted to humiliate Biden, number one, and number two, they want to propose something even worse under Trump.

And so when Biden’s inviting Trump to the table in negotiation, what he’s saying is, I’m absolutely willing to cave in even more on immigration. So all that is to say is that, unfortunately, right now Republicans totally own the narrative on immigration.

Democrats are playing on the same narrative field that the Republicans are, which is that right now we’re in the midst of a crisis. Therefore, the logic goes, we need to add more border enforcement. We need to add more drones. We need to add more agents. All of that. There is very little having to do with any kind of relief.

There was going to be some funding for more immigration judges, which would actually get to the problem because the reason why we keep having these crises is that the administrative piece of immigration has just been decimated, that people are caught up in all of these different bottlenecks and have been waiting forever. [Three million cases are pending in immigration courts.]

And that just keeps creating sort of more bottlenecks, which then makes it look visually like, oh, it’s this invasion, it’s this crisis. But the Dems, instead of actually standing up for immigrants and wanting to solve the crisis, which would involve a lot more on the relief side, are saying, yes, yes, things are really bad, so let’s add more money for enforcement.

Immigrants at the U.S. border in Del Rio. Photo credit: Sandor Csudai.

That’s what the two-party system has been throwing at the issue for years. And I promise you, if they pass even more enforcement, we’re going to be back here in another year, another year and a half, two years, however long, because all it is, is making the crisis worse.

The more enforcement you put into the system, the more you choke off the avenues for people to come legally, the more you’re going to create bottlenecks that are going to create crises. And so it’s this very vicious cycle that keeps happening over and over again with Republicans and Democrats thinking that enforcement is going to solve the issue when more enforcement is actually what is creating all of these so-called crises.

DC: Can you speak a little bit more about the content of this bipartisan compromise that Biden has been pushing? I’ve heard it described as cruel and draconian. Did you want to speak to the effects or the consequences for the migrants themselves of these policies?

AW: It’s good to talk about the migrants, who are usually the last people to be considered in this conversation. If you look at the proposals, they want to add numbers to the detention bed mandate, for example, to add the number of people who would be required to be detained. Incarcerated. I’m not sure how many people are aware that there are these detention bed contracts that a lot of private prison corporations sort of sneak into immigration legislation.

A certain number of beds are guaranteed, which obviously creates an entire incentive for the immigration enforcement system to capture as many people as possible. So the bed mandate is one thing. The second thing is basically the decimation of the asylum system. Now, to be clear, the problem with the U.S. asylum system started way before Trump. I still remember in 2014 when international human rights organizations were decrying the U.S. detention system and asylum system under Obama, but that got very little notice.

So the system already started out as very stringent. Trump almost decimated it. And Biden’s way to deal with this crisis is to enshrine some of the ways in which Trump had decimated the current asylum system. There are provisions in this legislation going towards reducing the ability of people to get asylum.

Democrats are playing on the same narrative field that the Republicans are, which is that right now we’re in the midst of a crisis. Therefore, the logic goes, we need to add more border enforcement. We need to add more drones. We need to add more agents. All of that. There is very little having to do with any kind of relief.

I want to be really clear about this. The asylum system–even back in 2014, this was a system that was very stringent in the sense of having to apply at a certain place and then you have to go through an interview and it’s a long process, usually two years.

It’s a very stringent process. You can go through all of that and still, even back then, not get asylum. Now it’s gotten to a place where, if you are able to get asylum now, you are pretty lucky.

That is contrary to the mainstream narrative, which is that the problem is that our asylum system is too open, somehow too lax, and that too many people are getting through. It’s quite the opposite. So this is very much in line with what I was saying earlier; it’s another one of those things where both parties are actually contributing to the problem by making the asylum system worse.

You’re actually guaranteeing that you’re going to see more bottlenecks at the border, more visuals of immigrants basically pooling at border sites, which is only going to be fodder then for Republicans to turn around and say, look, see, we still have a problem. I guess we need to increase funding for ICE and all of those things.

And the problem, of course, is that the Democrats keep taking the bait, and that’s because they are essentially still very much a law enforcement party. And in fact, today, I was thinking to myself, when was the last time that I felt that there was such a bipartisan agreement on enforcement and immigration?

And I thought, this reminds me of what was happening in the mid-1990s. In the mid-1990s, you had Bill Clinton, who was a president whom Republicans considered to be way too liberal. As a way to overcompensate, he pushed the [1994] crime bill. [The senate version of the bill was originally drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden.] But then he pushed incredibly draconian immigration laws that are at the heart of this detention explosion and this deportation explosion.

Those 1996 laws were really bad. And now when I think about 2024, it’s a similar thing.

You have a Democratic Party president who doesn’t want to be seen as too lax. Therefore, he’s going to push draconian immigration policies, thinking that it will help him. The thing that is different though now is that there is a movement now in a way that there wasn’t back in the 1990s. So I don’t even understand why Biden is regressing to old Democratic Party strategies of just going along with the Republican narrative instead of trying to change it.

I think that over the past 20 years, Democrats have created an atmosphere and a regime where it is easy to pass enforcement issues, but anything having to do with release is seen as too weak or dangerous. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell your readers that the ”War on Terror turbocharged the entire immigration conversation.

So ever since then, any kind of immigration negotiation starts with a “national security concern.” They’re always going to start with more border patrol agents, more ICE agents, more money for prisons.

Until we can decouple those two conversations, that’s where we’re at. And as per usual, the Dems have done next to nothing to even re-educate the public. At best, what they’ve done over the past couple of years is to create a very, very small number of targeted categories of migrants who can maybe, if they jump through about a billion hoops, eventually win legalization.

I feel like the movement has had to just really push them into even that much. I mean, we would not have had even something like DACA, which Obama talked about all the time. I still remember fighting the Obama administration for DACA and how it took two years to convince the Dems that it was a good idea.

DACA protest at Columbus Circle in New York. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.

And now DACA is on the chopping block, which a lot of us were warning about in terms of that being a strategy. And all the Dems are left with is another one of those defensive postures, like, well, Republicans are talking about how there’s a crisis. And poll numbers maybe don’t look so great right now, so let’s not even try to change the public’s mind on this.

Let’s just do what we always do, which is to agree on more enforcement, thinking that it will appease Republicans. This is why I was so confident about this last deal not passing. It was terrible and awful, actually based on the politics of the Republican Party.

The Republicans didn’t even ask for it. It just reminds me of the Democratic Party tactic of starting just like, all right, we’ll give you like the bulk of what you want, like, are we good? And every time they do that, of course, the Republicans are like, yeah, we want more. Because they’re not idiots.

DC: Let’s return to the asylum point for a second, because when I was watching that State of the Union response from the Republicans, Senator Katie Britt invoked that story of the person who was being sex trafficked by the cartels. Apparently, Republicans think that story was great for their cause, and I guess it was, to the extent that people don’t understand it, but how does that even make any sense, because the problem is that that woman needed to have asylum, and she wasn’t going to get asylum.

What are your thoughts on that?

AW: There’s been a follow-up: The woman whose story was told came out and said, I don’t know what she was talking about. That’s not at all what I was trying to convey. First of all, this story did not happen under Biden; it happened a long time ago. And she herself was an advocate for victims of trafficking. The solution is actually more ability for people to have access to asylum, not less.

And she was clear that she was offended by the way her story was used. She said this was one of the reasons why she didn’t work with politicians one-on-one all that much, because she often felt that her story was used as a political football, as opposed to wanting to help the people that she wanted to help. That’s par for the course. They will use these stories to scaremonger and then hope that no one’s gonna do any research on it to find out what the true story actually was.

DC: We talked about Biden’s use of the word “illegal,” which he backtracked on. What do you think about his attempt to salvage something after that?

AW: You should really pay very little attention to what politicians say; you should almost exclusively pay attention to what politicians do.

To  a certain degree, I appreciate him saying, okay, I should have used “undocumented” instead of “illegal,” but to me, what really matters is policy, so it doesn’t really matter whether you call people “undocumented” or “illegal.” It’s what you actually do with these people. I want to be clear–there’s clearly a difference between the sort of open hostility of someone like Trump and Biden, who is just basically a typical Democratic Party person who just does not want to be outflanked as too soft on immigration.

So to me, it barely even registered in the conversation. You know, one of the activists that I’ve worked with in the past is Jose Antonio Vargas, who came out as documented a while back. I think he was on the Time Magazine cover, much more of a mainstream sort of activist than I am, but he wrote a pretty good piece, where he talked about how people are focusing on the term illegal, but it’s not as important as the actual policy.

He had been one of the key activists who had been fighting editorial boards to get them to stop using the term illegal. So even that was a political battle, but even as a prominent activist who had worked on this issue, it was just like, yeah, whatever.

We want action. I couldn’t care less what you call us. Just, you know, do right by us. That’s all that matters.

DC: I thought it was kind of gross that Biden in his State of the Union speech even mentioned the murder of the Georgia graduate student Laken Riley and played up that story about her having been [allegedly] murdered by an undocumented person, as if that single tragic case proves something about the entire system of immigration.

AW: I wasn’t surprised. I mean, maybe it’s one of the reasons why I veered into depression rather than anger, because so much of what I’m seeing, it’s just like, yep, could have called it. It’s his instinct; he’s looking at the poll numbers. They’re not looking great on immigration and he’s faced with two options.

The hard thing would be to make a forceful case for immigration. But the easy thing to do as a politician is to say, we’re not looking great, so I should tell everyone how tough I am on this, especially since Democrats have done such a terrible job of describing the scope of the crisis.

For example, one of the things that people have been talking about a lot recently is migrants being bused to cities like New York and Chicago. Now, a lot of these migrants are asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are different from undocumented people. Asylum seekers have gone through a legal process.

As they continue going through the process, they should have access to the legal right to work. That’s international law. That’s not partisan politics. But even that’s becoming an issue, because Republicans are saying, there are migrants at the border and we just bused them up there. And now they’re draining your resources. See how it feels?

A sophisticated way to start to push back on that would be to start to make the legal distinction between asylum seekers and undocumented people, because these are not people who just showed up. These are people going through a process. Technically, these people have internationally protected rights, the legal right to work, but the mainstream media and the Democrats haven’t made that distinction and allowed Republicans to capture the issue and charge Biden with allowing these people to work as if that’s an aberration.

I’ve been an activist on this issue for years. If it weren’t for that, I don’t think I would get all of these nuances. If I were just receiving all of this negative media coverage about migrants being bused left and right and a “crisis” at the border, I wouldn’t have time as a regular U.S. citizen to figure out what’s really going on here. No, people just get their news and they have a sense that there’s a crisis. And because the Dems have done such a poor job of explaining the crisis, right now the ball is totally in the Republicans’ corner.

So they’re stuck in this defensive crouch of like, please take as many of our enforcement concessions as possible. Save our hides, in their mind, by taking more enforcement concessions from us.

Now, who’s conspicuously absent from that circle of concern? Migrants themselves, and so that, that’s how you get someone like the mayor of New York Eric Adams, who’s been coming out and saying things that sound really xenophobic to me, but couching it the terms of, we’re trying to do our best, but all of these migrants are just overrunning our services.

For a Democratic party politician, that’s the easy route.

DC: It’s interesting that you just mentioned Eric Adams, because it was going to be my next question to ask about the context of the greater security state/tough-on-crime discourse. Are these things connected to you?

AW: As a Black migrant, as part of a cohort of Black migrants, we are at this kind of painful intersection of the “regular” law enforcement system and the immigration enforcement system.

It’s all the same carceral logic. It has not escaped me that Eric Adams, as a former cop, sees everything from an enforcement perspective. But this is why I said earlier on in this conversation that one of the things that often observers miss about this conversation is that both parties are essentially law enforcement parties.

I want to repeat that. Both parties are law enforcement parties. While I, for example, am someone who’s a leftist and I’m interested in the abolitionist conversation, both in regular law enforcement and in immigration, I know that that is far from where the Democratic Party is in terms of its concerns.

As someone who did some organizing within the Movement for Black Lives, I remember that I was excited to see that the conversation around abolition was starting to pick up steam and that it was becoming a more popular conversation, but I immediately thought to myself, yeah, but the Dems are not going to do anything about it.

Both parties are law enforcement parties. I want to repeat that. Both parties are law enforcement parties.

They’re going to give us a couple of slogans and murals, paintings, and dashikis or whatever. But when it comes to police budgets, that shit is not touched. Whether you’re talking about the law enforcement conversation or the immigration conversation, it’s the same conversation. You’re ultimately talking about who’s deserving and who’s undeserving. And the undeserving category keeps getting wider when it comes to both immigration and law enforcement in general.

There’s a corporate aspect to this. The private prison corporation conversation is very important. It’s a through line in these issues.

They’ve made a lot of money incarcerating Black and Brown citizens under the so-called war on drugs. Once the war on terror sort of exploded, those very same private corporations were the ones who helped write anti-immigrant legislation that would actually end up lining up their own pockets.

This is how you get to the whole recent conversation around bed mandates in detention centers, for example. So the two things in my mind are tied, crime and immigration. And there is a kind of purity politics there, and by purity politics, I mean in terms of symptoms of rising fascism.

You know, whenever you have larger and larger categories of who’s seen as undeserving, as diseased to the body politic, to be extricated, pushed out, that usually is a sign that we’re getting close to fascist territory.

And so, to me, it makes total sense that there are rising concerns around crime and the border crisis. The thing that’s fascinating to me is that if you look at the numbers, both crises, if you even want to call them that, have been greatly, greatly exaggerated.

Often people talk about border politics, and it’s like symbolic politics because they have very little to do with actually fixing a problem. The border has become a kind of sociological boogeyman, just this idea that there’s danger there.

We need to figure out what the problem is and fix it. But instead of actually fixing it, which would mean the types of solutions that would actually include relief and letting people through. It’s easier to just sell fear and keep adding more law enforcement, so that in some hypothetical future, we might be safe. But it is literally like watching an addict or something like that. You know, you could give them as much enforcement as you want. It’s not going to solve the problem, but it plays well in terms of short-term politics. And that’s where Republicans have the advantage.

Immigrant rights march, May Day, 2006 in Los Angeles. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

DC: That’s interesting, what you said about purity politics and proto-fascism or fascism. Since the pandemic, there has been a lot of fear-mongering about Chinese migration. And then there’s the rivalry between the United States and China as part of the context. Do you have any thoughts on that?

AW: The incidents of assault against our Asian kinfolk here were very real. I had a bunch of Asian organizer friends who were not feeling really safe. Conversations about Chinese migrants are connected to both imperial politics and the immigration issue. It’s citizenship politics writ large.

In the U.S., citizenship politics are white identity politics. Even now in 2024, when people think about who is a U. S. citizen, people think of a straight white person. I have connections with folks who are in Asian immigrant advocacy groups who are wonderful and radical. They’ve been U.S. citizens their entire lives, they’re in their forties and fifties–and to this day, people still ask them where they’re from.

Whenever you have larger and larger categories of who’s seen as undeserving, as diseased to the body politic, to be extricated, pushed out, that usually is a sign that we’re getting close to fascist territory.

They’re still seen as foreign, which tells you that the conversation around immigration is necessarily a conversation about race. And this is where those of us who are at that intersection of blackness and immigration come in. As an undocumented Black person, I don’t have any illusions that, if I were to become a U. S. citizen today, that would keep me safe. I’m looking around at my Black citizen kinfolk, and they’re not exactly taken care of by the state or cared for by the state.

They’re being gunned down left and right by law enforcement. Yes, there’s a conversation about empire and imperialism, which is really clear, but there’s also obviously the basic conversation around white supremacy and how it operates in the imaginary around citizenship.

This is one of the many ironies of President Obama becoming the first Black president and then ending up deporting people at record rates. Even though he was president for eight years, people still wondered whether he was an American.

DC:  I am wondering whether you can connect the horrific unfolding of the border “crisis” to the horrific genocide unfolding  in Gaza. Are you seeing any links between the way that the United States is treating immigrants and how Israel is treating Palestinians?

AW: There are some thematic connections. I don’t want to make the connection too strong because I don’t want to minimize the horror Palestinians are going through right now.

I feel like I’ve had a pretty high tolerance for things over the years. This is something that is very, very hard to deal with.

That being said, if you delve into some of the rhetoric around immigrants and the rhetoric around Palestinians, it’s all tied to the larger problem of nationalism. Nationalism implies citizenship. Citizenship implies inclusion versus exclusion. It implies people who are desirable versus people who are undesirable. It implies the conversation around security and who is seen as human and who is seen as non-human. There are some parallels. Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. often get trained in Israel. There’s a lot of sharing around surveillance technology between folks who work in the IDF versus folks who work in ICE and CBP.

That technology has been used by those agencies for years. So there’s a sort of corporate connection there in terms of who profits from that misery. The themes around dispossession, land, who belongs, all of those things are very, very clear in terms of what migrants go through and what Palestinians go through.

But I don’t want to be glib. We’re talking about immense misery in either case.

In both cases, we have to bring it back to the Democratic Party strategy.

One of the major reasons why Biden wanted this deal where he gave everything to Republicans on immigration was to secure more funding for Ukraine and Israel, right? So that was one of the things that was the most depressing these past couple of weeks: realizing that one of the major reasons that the Biden administration was pushing this awful deal was to increase its ability to immiserate the lives of Palestinians.

Asylum seekers at the border. Photo credit: Sandor Csudai.

I feel sick to my stomach about it. I know that there are calculations to be made about 2024, but on a personal level, and I’ve spoken to a lot of other immigration activists, people are pretty angry at Biden right now, feeling like they’re not sure if they have what it takes to push for Biden in 2024. It was hard enough to do it in 2020.

DC: So what, in your view, should we activists and the readers of Tempest and your people and my people, what should we be doing now?

AW: I always go back to what’s happening at the grassroots. Wherever you are, I’m sure there is a local activist group that is doing work that’s important for migrants. I would certainly emphasize doing any anti-deportation work or any work that would support immigrants.

That may not be straightforwardly political, but that might be helping migrants get access to basic resources, food, clothing, and health care. All of those things matter. This is what I’m thinking about as I’m trying to create this workshop for Black migrants.

There’s the immigration political conversation happening here, and that’s important, but that’s not as important as your survival. Right now, what immigrants need are allies that help them with basic survival. Also, it’s important to make spaces where they can push back on the negative rhetoric. I would just emphasize the local for people.

DC: And so what about you? Like, what is your relationship to the electoral process and the Democrats?

AW: I’m still fully undocumented. The whole voting thing is really interesting to me because as an activist for years, I’ve been telling people don’t take your access to vote for granted precisely because I can’t vote.

On a personal level with this election, it’s literally the first time that I asked myself, if I could vote, would I vote for Biden? Even if it were a state where it mattered, I don’t think I could. I’ve tried as much as possible to stay away from just being like one- or two-issue voters, but it’s Palestine. I’ve gone back to therapy because it has wrecked my soul and it is disgusting to me that Democratic Party politicians are making this out to be just an electoral inconvenience.

Children are being slaughtered as they are trying to access international food aid. And we’re being asked to look past that. No. Biden is absolutely complicit in genocide right now. That makes it much, much harder to make the case for the lesser evil.

DC: What would you say to readers who may be worried about Trump’s alignment with the far-right?

AW: I do believe that a Trump presidency would be worse. But Palestine is a major red line. I was surprised at how well the uncommitted campaign has gone in Michigan. The numbers were much larger than I thought they would be. At first, Biden and his team were like, well, it’s just a couple of Arabs and Muslims, I guess, we don’t need to worry about it.

Then they looked at the numbers, they were like, well, maybe it’s Arabs and Muslims and young people. They’re trying to convince themselves that it’s okay. I think they’re looking at a potential iceberg.

I don’t know any pro-Palestinian activists who looked at Biden’s plan for aid to Gaza and said, yes, he nailed it. No, it has infuriated more people, because, as you probably know, the issue is not the resources, the issue is access to resources.

Biden is absolutely complicit in genocide right now. That makes it much, much harder to make the case for the lesser evil.

And Israel right now is making it very hard for those resources to be accessed. What are we talking about here at this point? It’s strictly for the consumption of voters that had very little to do actually caring about Palestinians.

We should say to Biden, just tell Israelis right now to let the food in or we’re cutting off at least your military aid. The fact is that Biden can’t even cross that bottom line. At the end of the day, he’s ideologically committed to this genocide.

DC: Is there anything else you would want to say about any of these issues before we wrap up?

AW: All I want to do is send love to activists and organizers. I know it’s hard. We’ve been immigration activists for ten, fifteen years or more. Sometimes folks wonder, what is even the point?

We keep having to fight the Democrats on this. Like with Republicans, it’s always clear. We understand where Republicans stand. But it’s just that every time there’s even the slightest ripple in the water for Democrats, the first group of people that they throw under the bus is migrants. I want to send some love to those folks and remind them to find support in their own communities, and not so much sustenance in the political system which we just can’t count on.

Featured image credit: Donna Burton: modified by Tempest.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

Freedom for Cuban political prisoners

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 04/18/2024 - 21:01

In Argentina, deputies and leaders of the Frente de Izquierda y de Trabajadores – Unidad/Workers and Left Front – Unity (FIT-U) met on Wednesday, April 3, with the Cuban ambassador to Argentina, Pedro Prada, and other officials from the Cuban Embassy. This included the national deputies Myriam Bregman (from the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas/Socialist Workers’ Party [PTS]), Romina del Pla (from the Partido Obrero/Workers’ Party [PO]) and Christian Castillo (PTS) participated on behalf of the FIT-U; the legislator for the Buenos Aires (CABA) Celeste Fierro (from the Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores/Movement of Socialist Workers’ [MST]); the elected deputies Juan Carlos Giordano, Mercedes de Mendieta and Pablo Almeida (from the Izquierda Socialista/Socialist Left [IS]), Pablo Heller and Luis Brunetto (PO) and Guillermo Pacagnini (MST).

During the meeting, the FIT-U delegation called for the freedom of hundreds of Cuban workers, youth, professionals, and intellectuals convicted for participating in the popular protests of July 11, 2021 and for the right to protest on the island. The ambassador himself acknowledged that there are 564 accused protesters currently being punished, of which 297 are being deprived of their liberty, with sentences of up to several years in prison.

[T]he FIT-U, the only political bloc in the country that refuses to meet with …the representatives of Yankee imperialism, reiterated its repudiation of the United State blockade suffered by Cuba and the hypocrisy with which the U.S. claims to stand for human rights.

The FIT-U delegation asked the ambassador for a complete list of the names of the prisoners, the crimes for which they were convicted, and the sentences handed down. The delegation also conveyed their concern about the detention conditions reported by relatives of the prisoners. They highlighted the cases of Brenda Díaz, a trans prisoner, who is serving her sentence in a men’s prison and who is identified by her birth name. The delegation also raised the situation of the renowned critical leftist historian Alina López (detained soon after July 2021), who has been told that if she leaves the country she would not be allowed to return, among others.

Ambassador Prada promised to transmit to the Cuban government the concerns expressed by the FIT-U delegation and to provide information about the prisoners, taking account of the issues raised  by the FIT-U delegation.

The FIT-U delegation also raised the possibility of traveling to the island to make contact with families of the prisoners and to visit the detention centers where the sentences are being served, as well as to hold meetings in this regard with the Cuban authorities. This was, in principle, welcomed positively by the ambassador.

The delegation of the FIT-U, the only political bloc in the country that refuses to meet with Marc Stanley and the representatives of Yankee imperialism, reiterated its repudiation of the United State blockade suffered by Cuba and the hypocrisy with which the U.S. claims to stand for  human rights while, among other horrors, supporting and supplying weapons to the Zionist regime to crush the Palestinian people through genocidal methods.

[T]he representatives of the FIT-U stated that imperialist aggression cannot be an excuse to curtail the legitimate rights of the Cuban working class to protest.

However, the representatives of the FIT-U stated that imperialist aggression cannot be an excuse to curtail the legitimate rights of the Cuban working class to protest. The demonstrations, which occurred during the COVID period, encompassed broad layers of the population and reflected—as the Cuban government itself admitted—popular unrest originating from very severe hardships. Of course, we cannot lose sight of the effects of the U.S. blockade at any time. At the same time, we cannot ignore the consequences derived from the austerity measures adopted by the Cuban government within the framework of the Decree of “monetary regulation”1This refers to the disastrous effort undertaken to change monetary policy and create a single currency in Cuba. Given the drastic drop of tourism during the pandemic there have been far fewer dollars around to back up any kind of monetary transformation. The peso’s value dramatically descended and continues to do so with massive impact on living standards. This has been criticized by some on the Left as representing a turn towards neoliberal policies by the Cuban government. from the end of 2020. In this context, the FIT-U representatives maintained that the protests of July 11 cannot be classified as a conspiracy orchestrated by imperialism, as the Cuban government maintains, despite the attempts to use it by some on the right.

Our demand for the freedom of the July 11 prisoners is from the standpoint of our  opposition to Yankee imperialism (and its allies), and solidarity with the suffering Cuban people, workers, and its youth, therefore, from an anti-imperialist and socialist perspective. Those of us who make up the FIT-U defend the right to protest within the framework of the defense of the full freedom of political and union organization of Cuban workers.

Frente de Izquierda y de los Trabajadores Unidad
Buenos Aires, 4/4/2024

Featured image credit: RawPixel; modified by Tempest.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

Erdoğan’s colossal defeat in Turkey — and a new hope

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 04/17/2024 - 20:24

On March 31, the surprise results of Turkey’s municipal elections completely transformed the political mood in the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost 15 out of the 36 cities it governed. The main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), gained 15 cities and won a plurality of the national vote with 37 percent. Last year, when most pollsters and analysts predicted his defeat in the general elections, Erdoğan devastated the opposition with a surprise victory. What has changed since then?

Inflation in Turkey had been in the double digits for the past six years, reaching nearly triple digits for the past two. Poverty is widespread in most major cities. Nearly half of the workers in the private sector work for minimum wageRent and food prices are skyrocketing. The disorganization of the working class through austerity and union busting throughout the 2000s prevented a major response from organized labor. In the absence of a strong workers’ movement, Erdoğan managed poverty through AKP’s control over the municipal government services that distributed food and resources. After the AKP lost most major cities in 2019, he instead focused on raising pensions and the minimum wage, while maintaining the credit access of the already heavily indebted working and middle classes.

This year, the tightness of Turkey’s government budget in the face of the ongoing stagflation and currency devaluation crisis prevented Erdoğan from raising pensions before the municipal elections. Historically, a quarter of voters and a sizable chunk of Erdoğan’s support came from older religious voters in smaller cities and urban ghettos. Yet the initial results suggest that many older voters either stayed at home or voted for other parties.

Part of the reason for the lack of enthusiasm was Erdoğan’s candidate picks in major cities, including İstanbul and Ankara. In İstanbul, the former secretary of environment and urban planning Murat Kurum, a figure partially responsible for Turkey’s earthquake disaster, failed miserably due to a near complete lack of social skills. In Ankara, Turgut Altınok, a big landlord, spent a lot of his campaign trying to justify his outrageous net worth. Despite different candidates, the situation was similar in 2019 when the AKP lost both cities. Erdoğan’s complete control over the party apparatus forces him to pick national figures close to himself who have very little context for the local conditions in urban ghettos where the AKP used to have a strong base.

[T]he surprise results of Turkey’s municipal elections completely transformed the political mood in the country. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost 15 out of the 36 cities it governed. The main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP) gained 15 cities and won a plurality of the national vote with 37 percent.

AKP’s decline helped the New Welfare Party (YRP) on the right. An Islamist party founded by Fatih Erbakan, the son of Erdoğan’s former mentor Necmettin Erbakan, the YRP became the third largest party, garnering six percent of the vote. After being founded in 2019 to reclaim the legacies of the ultra-Islamist National Outlook Movement and its former leader Necmettin Erbakan, the party unenthusiastically supported Erdoğan’s presidential candidacy in 2023. Despite this, the YRP won four seats in the parliamentary elections and is now becoming the main right-wing alternative to the AKP. YRP rose to prominence in part due to the party’s support for higher pensions and for boycotting Israel. While Erdoğan claims to oppose Israel’s genocide, his inaction against Israel pushed many younger radicalizing religious voters toward the YRP.

The biggest winner of the election, however, was the CHP. The CHP’s dysfunctional alliance strategy and its failure in the previous election had fractured the opposition. The political devastation obscured the party’s relative success—the CHP’s best performance was with 41 percent of the vote in 1977, while 2023 outpaced that when the party’s presidential candidate won 45 percent. Since then, the CHP’s former presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been ousted from the party’s leadership. His successor, Özgür Özel, had shifted the party rhetorically to the Left, but the party remained split due to the tension between the party’s nationalist wing and democratic wings.

The nationalists in various small cities attacked the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) during the campaign, while the mayor of İstanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, aimed to appease the large Kurdish population of the city by promoting Kurdish language programs. In 2019, İmamoğlu ran with the CHP’s alliance, which included the right-wing nationalist Good Party (IYIP) and was supported by the Kurdish Left. Because of this İmamoğlu held a moderate position on the Kurdish question, appeasing the minimal demands of DEM, such as opposing Erdoğan’s appointed mayors in Kurdish cities, while occasionally echoing the anti-terrorist rhetoric of nationalists. This time around it appears that most DEM voters voted for İmamoğlu, as DEM’s İstanbul candidate, Meral Danış Beştaş, remained at two percent of the vote, a fraction of the 10 percent Kurdish Left parties usually receive in the city.

The vote share of the three nationalist parties collapsed after reaching nearly 25 percent last year. The fascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), IYIP (which split from the MHP), and the Victory Party, whose presidential candidate, Sinan Oğan, outperformed expectations in 2023, in total received about 10 percent of the vote. The defeat of the Victory Party is especially encouraging given the party rose to prominence last year in large part because of its militant support for mass deportation of all Syrians in Turkey. Nevertheless, the victory of Ankara mayor Mansur Yavaş, who left the MHP in 2013, and wins by other nationalist CHP mayors will ensure that the ultranationalist atmosphere that’s been suffocating Turkey for nearly ten years will continue. While Yavaş, like İmamoğlu, held a more moderate position on the Kurdish question, despite his nationalist background, as the now second most popular figure in the CHP, he is well positioned to fill the nationalist vacuum.

The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Özgür Özel pictured here in September 2023. Photo Credit: Oğulcan Bakiler.

Despite the colossal defeat the AKP experienced by coming second in elections for the first time since its founding, Erdoğan once again used bureaucratic mechanisms to seize control of Kurdish cities. The day after the election, Van’s local election council decided that the DEM candidate, Abdullah Zeydan, was wrongly certified to run by the council. The council then recommended the AKP candidate, who won second place with 27 percent against Zeydan’s 55 percent, should be appointed mayor. After large protests in Van on April 3, during which the local CHP marched in solidarity with DEM, and Özel and İmamoğlu declared that they would fight the decision, Turkey’s supreme electoral council decided to certify Zeydan as the mayor of Van in a 7-4 decision. The weakness of the AKP and the strong showing of the opposition emboldened the council to vote against Erdoğan’s demands.

In contrast to DEM’s victory in Van and nearly all other Kurdish-majority cities, the parties of the Turkish socialist Left had a much weaker showing. The disastrous decision by the Workers Party of Turkey (TIP) to nominate former soccer player Gökhan Zan as their mayoral candidate in Hatay was an unfortunate display of opportunism at a critical moment. Hatay was devastated by the earthquake in February 2023. TIP and Zan became more prominent, along with many other activists and aid organizations, through their role in the earthquake relief efforts. Lütfü Savaş, who was elected mayor of Hatay with the AKP in 2009 and later joined the CHP in 2014, played a major role in the systemic negligence that led to the destruction. Hatay had been filled with unsafe buildings, many of which were constructed during Savaş’s decades-long tenure. Yet, when the CHP refused to replace Savaş despite the massive pushback within the party, TIP, which was initially flirting with the idea of supporting the CHP, endorsed Gökhan Zan in an opportunistic move to the center.

TIP’s endorsement of Zan, who ran against TIP’s candidate, Can Atalay, with IYIP just months before, faced much criticism within the party as well as on the Left more broadly. It was an especially controversial move given Atalay had been imprisoned over his involvement in Gezi Park protests and illegally kept in prison after his election as Hatay MP in 2023. Zan’s swing from the far right to the far left within the span of one year also raised a lot of questions about the politics of TIP. TIP had previously been accused of clout chasing for some of their celebrity recruitments during the 2023 elections. TIP later withdrew its support for Zan over the allegations of Zan meeting with the AKP. In the end, the AKP won narrowly in part due to the lack of a viable Left opposition.

The Hatay results are especially disheartening because Erdoğan told the people of Hatay that the central government abandoned the city during the earthquake simply because Savaş was not an AKP mayor. TIP’s opportunism prevented it from taking advantage of the unpopularity of its rivals.

Nevertheless, the Left’s victory in Van hints at a completely new balance of forces. For the first time under his rule, Erdoğan backed out of his repression of the Kurdish Left due to mass mobilizations. Also, for the first time, these mobilizations were openly supported by the now-victorious CHP. Given the direness of the country’s economic crises, Erdoğan’s new lame- duck position, and the CHP’s centrism, it is possible that movements from below might be revived and create a political opening for the Left.

It is clear that CHP leaders are aware of this opening as they begin to emphasize the party’s “social democratic” legacy. However, this vision is still being carried by millionaire capitalists like İmamoğlu and nationalists like Yavaş. The CHP’s expansion of social services at the municipal level could alleviate some of the suffering, but these reforms will not fix the country’s structural crisis. Meanwhile, the disastrous showing of the Left in Hatay and its effective liquidation into the CHP in most of the country during this election shows that the Left has a long way to go.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

IREHR Letter to Ahern Luxury Boutique Hotel

Dear Ahern Hotel:

It has come to our attention that a notorious group with ties to insurrectionists and white nationalists has scheduled a conference at the Ahern Luxury Boutique Hotel next week.

We are reaching out to you with a sense of urgency and concern regarding the upcoming plans by the so-called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) for an all-day event at your hotel on April 17th. (See flyer below).

In addition to the concerns of our organization, it is important to note that both the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center categorize CSPOA as an “anti-government extremist” group. This classification should raise serious concerns and prompt a cautious approach towards any involvement with the CSPOA.

The far-right pro-paramilitary group promotes the long-discredited idea derived from the violently racist and antisemitic Posse Comitatus that sheriffs can usurp the judicial branch’s role in interpreting the Constitution and unilaterally override federal, state, and local laws.

This event is likely to garner significant negative national media coverage. As other hospitality professionals will tell you, hosting such a toxic event can be severely damaging to a hotel’s reputation and brand.

As you consider a timely response, here are some facts about the group’s founder, the current CEO, the advisory board, and members for you to consider.

CSPOA Founder Richard Mack

The CSPOA was founded by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack—a longtime militia movement figure and founding board member of the insurrectionist paramilitary group, the Oath Keepers. Six Oath Keepers leaders were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their part in the January 6th insurrection. According to the Department of Justice, the “manners and means” used by defendants convicted in two separate Oath Keepers trials included “using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”

While Mack told Reuters that he left the Oath Keepers’ board around 2016 because the group became too militant, he and other CSPOA leaders maintained a relationship with the insurrectionist group. In fact, on January 5, 2021, CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman had Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes on his radio program the day before the insurrection to encourage others to join his insurrectionary plans. Bushman continues to defend Rhodes on his program.

Mack has also made clear that he would support using private militias against government officials, writing, “People get all upset when they hear about militias, but what’s wrong with it? I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to call out my posse against the federal government if it gets out of hand.”

During the 2014 armed standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, Mack encouraged standoff participants to use women as human shields.

Before returning to efforts to infiltrate law enforcement, in 2021, Mack toured the country with an antisemitic conspiracy theorist spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

While Mack spends considerable time stressing his devotion to Constitutional rights, his record and that of other law officers affiliated with CSPOA has too often been wanting in this regard.

Richard Mack’s history in law enforcement is also worthy of consideration. In 1985, while serving in the Provo, Utah, police department, Mack’s apparent misconduct landed a man on death row and in prison for nearly 30 years. As described in a 116-page federal court ruling, during the investigation into a high-profile murder case, Mack arranged to pay the rent, heat, and phone bills of two key witnesses and give them cash – totaling some $4,000 across several months. As a result, a Fourth District Court Judge overturned the conviction and death sentence of the man based on the misconduct of Mack, other officers, and the prosecutor. One witness also “testified that Officer Mack threatened her and [her husband] with arrest, deportation, and loss of their son, and that this occurred three times.” In addition, witnesses testified that they were coached to lie about having received gifts and about the defendant planning to rape the murder victim. The judge wrote, “Officer Mack’s inconsistent statements—all aimed at painting the police and his own conduct in a more favorable light— seriously undermined his credibility.”

CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman

When Richard Mack took a $20,000-a-month position on the board of a group spreading COVID misinformation, Sam Bushman was promoted to CEO of CSPOA. Sam Bushman never served in law enforcement. He has, however, been involved with promoting troubling white nationalist organizations, including groups advocating secession and killing law enforcement.

Already facing growing pressure for ties to white nationalists, last October, Bushman appeared on the podcast of a Hitler-loving white nationalist. On that program, Bushman confessed that he’d been a longtime reader of and remains a supporter of the white nationalist publications Spotlight and American Free Press.

CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman has used his radio show to promote and build a relationship with the white nationalist, antisemitic, and secessionist League of the South. In 1990, League of the South Chief of Statt Michael Tubbs pleaded guilty to stealing M-16 rifles from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, serving four years in prison. In 2017, Tubbs was named commander of the League of the South’s paramilitary branch, the Southern Defense Force.

Identity Dixie leader Jim O’Brien, aka Padraig Martin, a guest on Bushman’s radio show, League of the South ally, and co-editor of a pro-secessionist book promoted by Bushman, wrote this troubling passage about murdering law enforcement:

“The lesson of the egregious Stewart Rhodes prison sentence – as well as every other J6 Protester languishing in a prison, – is the following: if you are going to start a revolution of any kind, even if your purpose had legal or Constitutional merit, you better not stop at the gates. You better go all in. Do not leave a single police officer, Congressman, judge, or any other functionary of government alive…[T]he next time you take part in a rightwing protest be prepared to kill them all. Half measures are no longer an option.”

Bushman also recently announced on his radio show that he is a member of fugitive paramilitary figure Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights network. While the group is most well-known for threatening hospitals and public health officials, one People’s Rights network member is serving an 18-year sentence for a northern Idaho shootout with law enforcement. Another is awaiting trial in Nevada for threatening law enforcement.

CSPOA Advisory Board

Mack and Bushman aren’t the only CSPOA figures of concern. The group’s advisory board includes a former member of a white nationalist secessionist group and a sheriff involved in an attempt to seize voting machines.

Michael Peroutka was a national board member of the white nationalist secessionist group, the League of the South, a group that seeks a whites-only ethnostate in the U.S. South, promotes vicious antisemitism, and has forged alliances with neo-Nazis. Peroutka has denounced the Union’s victory in what he calls the “War Between the States.” Peroutka even led the League of the South convention in singing what he called the “national anthem” – “Dixie.” While Peroutka later backed away when his ties were exposed, he stated, “I don’t have any problem with the organization.”

Peroutka currently leads the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC). This group promotes anti-Muslim bigotry and state nullification. It has distributed material stating that “We see no reason why men should not discriminate on grounds of religion, race, or nationality if they wish.” Peroutka even pledged to use the Institute on the Constitution to aid the League of the South and advance the cause of imposing biblical law.

CSPOA Advisory Board member Barry County, Michigan, Sheriff Dar Leaf was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Michigan voting machine tampering case. Emails obtained by Bridge Michigan show that Sheriff Leaf tried to enlist fellow “constitutional sheriffs” to seize Dominion voting machines at the heart of the election conspiracy promoted by then-President Donald Trump.

In May 2020, Sheriff Leaf shared the stage with members of the Michigan Liberty Militia, including one of the men arrested in the plot to kidnap the governor.

Other CSPOA-Affiliated Sheriffs

CSPOA ranks are filled with members who have tarnished the image of law enforcement and harmed communities. Multiple CSPOA-affiliated law officers have engaged in intimidation and illegal and potentially illegal practices.

  • Former Edwards County (TX) Sheriff Pam Elliot, a CSPOA member featured on the cover of Mack’s book, Are You a David?, and her department engaged in activity that intimidated political opponents and voters, including Edwards County deputies appearing at polling stations. Election attorney Buck Wood described the latter as “pure and simple intimidation.”
  • In 2022, Real County (TX) Sheriff Nathan Johnson, who attended a Texas CSPOA training, was put under criminal investigation for repeatedly seizing money from undocumented immigrants, even if they were not charged with a state crime – actions to which he admitted.
  • Culpepper County, Virginia, Sheriff Scott Jenkins, a featured speaker at CSPOA’s 2020 conference, was indicted in June on a slew of corruption charges related to a scheme thatoffered police badges and gun permits in exchange for payments or political contributions.
  • CSPOA member Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Austin Jenkins wasindicted in April by a federal grand jury for breaking federal gun laws. Jenkins is alleged to have defrauded the United States by interfering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by making false statements and representations in paperwork submitted to the ATF to obtain machine guns that were used by campaign supporter Robert Justin Krop’s firearms business, The Machine Gun Nest.
  • Riverside County, California Sheriff Chad Bianco, is not only a prominent CSPOA member, he’s also been a member of the insurrectionist group, the Oath Keepers.
  • Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff who received a 2012 CSPOA award, was convicted of criminal contempt in 2017 after refusing to end his department’s racial profiling practices. As of 2015, taxpayers had paid $8.2 million for the case.
  • In 2019, CSPOA presented former Republic, Washington Police Chief Loren Culp with its “Police Chief of the Decade” award. On April 3, 2024, the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs issued Loren Culp a “notice of…proposed expulsion” from the Association because of “numerous offensive public social media posts and comments” deemed to be “unbecoming of a WASPC member.”

We could go on, but I think you get the idea. You have a vital opportunity to disconnect the exquisitely crafted luxury brand of the Ahern Luxury Boutique Hotel from the toxicity of CSPOA’s pro-paramilitary and white nationalist brand. As this issue is time-sensitive, we would appreciate a rapid response. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Devin Burghart

Executive Director

IREHR

 

The post IREHR Letter to Ahern Luxury Boutique Hotel appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Informe de la Organización Meteorológica Mundial. Un comentario rápido

Systemic Alternatives - Tue, 04/09/2024 - 15:50
Luiz Marques: “¿El salto de calentamiento de 2023 nos introduce en un ‘territorio inexplorado’?”

En marzo de 2024, la Organización Meteorológica Mundial publicó su informe anual, The State of the Global Climate 2023 (en adelante, OMM 2023) confirmando oficialmente su informe provisional de octubre de 2023 [1] y lo que ya habían anticipado las agencias climáticas nacionales y europeas, así como la literatura científica reciente. Citemos y comentemos cinco de los puntos más importantes de este informe:[2]

El primer punto se refiere, por supuesto, al calentamiento medio mundial en 2023: “La temperatura media mundial cerca de la superficie en 2023 fue de 1,45 ± 0,12 °C por encima de la media de 1850-1900” (OMM 2023). Esto, de enero a diciembre del año pasado. Según Copernicus, la agencia europea del clima, la temperatura media mundial combinada de la superficie, la tierra y el mar, para los doce meses comprendidos entre marzo de 2023 y febrero de 2024 fue 1,56 °C más cálida que la media del período preindustrial (1850-1900) y la temperatura en febrero de 2024 fue 1,77 °C más cálida que la media de los meses de febrero en este periodo de referencia. [3] Es posible, por tanto, que los 12 meses comprendidos entre abril de 2023 y marzo de 2024 superen la marca de 1,56 °C y así sucesivamente hasta que cesen o disminuyan los efectos de El Niño actual.

¿El salto de calentamiento de 2023 nos empuja a un “territorio inexplorado”?

El segundo punto del informe de la OMM sitúa el calentamiento de 2023 en relación con los registros climáticos históricos, que comenzaron alrededor de 1850: “El año 2023 fue el año más cálido en el registro observacional de 174 años, superando claramente a los años más cálidos anteriores. El calentamiento de 2016 alcanzó 1,29 ± 0,12 °C (por encima de la media de 1850-1900) y el de 2020 alcanzó 1,27 ± 0,13 °C. Los últimos nueve años, 2015-2023, han sido los nueve años más calurosos registrados. (…) La temperatura media mundial para el decenio 2014-2023 es de 1,20 ± 0,12 °C por encima de la media de 1850 a 1900, el período de 10 años más cálido registrado” (OMM 2023).

En 2023, por lo tanto, se observó un aumento del calentamiento medio global de casi 0,2 °C. En el mismo mes de la publicación de este informe de la OMM, Gavin Schmidt, director del Instituto Goddard de Estudios Espaciales (NASA), publicó un artículo llamando la atención sobre la excepcionalidad de este salto en los registros históricos de calentamiento. En su título, el artículo dice a qué se refiere: “Los modelos climáticos no pueden explicar la gigantesca anomalía de calor de 2023. Es posible que estemos en territorio desconocido” (inexplorado). [4] “En los últimos nueve meses, las temperaturas medias de la superficie terrestre y marina han superado los récords anteriores cada mes hasta en 0,2 °C, un margen enorme a escala planetaria”. Para calibrar cuán enorme es realmente este margen, basta recordar que la tasa media de calentamiento global entre 1970 y 2010 fue de 0,18 °C por década, lo que ya representaba una enorme aceleración, ya que la tasa de calentamiento entre 1920 y 1970 fue de 0,04 °C por década. Es comprensible, en este contexto, que Gavin Schmidt retome la hipótesis de que el sistema climático puede haber entrado en un “territorio inexplorado”. Utiliza esta expresión, sin embargo, con la máxima cautela, subrayando que todo sigue dependiendo del comportamiento del clima después de El Niño aún en curso:

“Si la anomalía no se estabiliza para agosto, una expectativa razonable basada en eventos anteriores de El Niño, entonces el mundo está en territorio inexplorado. Esto podría implicar que el calentamiento del planeta ya está alterando fundamentalmente la forma en que funciona el sistema climático, mucho antes de lo que predijeron los científicos. También podría significar que las inferencias estadísticas basadas en eventos pasados son menos confiables de lo que pensábamos, agregando más incertidumbre a los pronósticos estacionales de sequías y patrones de precipitación”.

El término “territorio desconocido” en el presente contexto alude a los mapas de los siglos XV y XVI que utilizaban la expresión terra incognita para referirse a las zonas aún no cartografiadas del planeta. Ha sido empleado desde al menos 2022 por António Guterres, secretario general de la ONU, quien dijo: “los impactos nocivos del cambio climático nos están llevando a territorios inexplorados de destrucción”. [5] El término se ha vuelto recurrente en la comunidad científica y fue utilizado, por ejemplo, por William Ripple y sus colegas en un artículo titulado: “El informe sobre el estado del clima de 2023: Entrando en territorio inexplorado”. [6] En la conclusión de ese artículo, los autores afirman: “Tememos el territorio inexplorado en el que estamos entrando ahora. Las condiciones se volverán muy angustiantes y potencialmente incontrolables para grandes regiones del mundo”. Este mismo temor llevó a Gavin Schmidt a afirmar:

“Es humillante y algo preocupante admitir que ningún año ha confundido más las capacidades predictivas de los científicos del clima que 2023 (…) Se espera una tendencia general de calentamiento debido al aumento de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI), pero este aumento repentino del calor supera con creces las predicciones hechas por los modelos climáticos estadísticos que se basan en observaciones anteriores”.

Sea como fuere, más importante que especular sobre la naturaleza del salto de calentamiento que se produjo en el último año y en los tres meses de 2024, es entender que la última década fue la más cálida no solo en los registros históricos (mediciones instrumentales), sino en todo el Holoceno, los últimos 11.700 años. [7] Por otra parte, si la frontera del Holoceno se cruzó irreversiblemente en la segunda década del siglo, es probable que ya se haya cruzado o se esté cruzando otra frontera en esta tercera década, cuando el calentamiento actual haya superado, o esté a punto de superar, las temperaturas medias globales más altas de un período de referencia mucho más remoto: el Eemiense, el último período interglacial (hace 130.000 a 115.000 años). Esta superación ha sido ampliamente admitida desde mediados de 2023, incluso por la ONU: “Es oficial: la temperatura media mundial en julio de 2023 fue la más alta jamás registrada y probablemente la más alta en al menos 120.000 años”. [8] La ONU hacía eco entonces de Copernicus, la agencia europea del clima, en voz de su directora adjunta, Samantha Burgess, que acababa de afirmar que “el planeta no ha estado tan caliente en los últimos 120.000 años”. [9]

Calentamiento de los océanos

El tercer punto que debe destacarse en el informe de la OMM se refiere al calentamiento de los océanos: “El contenido de calor de los océanos (OHC) ha alcanzado su nivel más alto en los 65 años de registro de observación. (…) Los 2.000 metros superiores del océano continuaron calentándose en 2023. Este calentamiento es irreversible en los próximos siglos y milenios. El calor almacenado en el océano en 2023 (…) superó el valor de 2022 en 13 ± 9 ZJ [ZJ = ZettaJoule, donde 1 ZJ = 10 J21], de acuerdo con las estimaciones publicadas a principios de 2024”. (OMM 2023).

Estas estimaciones de la OMM son, de hecho, consistentes con las de un artículo publicado por Lijing Cheng y sus colegas,[10] que reporta dos valores para el calor almacenado en los océanos (OHC), obtenidos por el Instituto de Física Atmosférica de la Academia China de Ciencias (IAP/CAS) y la Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica (NOAA). En el caso de la IAP/CAS, el calor almacenado en el océano (OHC) en 2023 superó al de 2022 en 15 ±10 ZJ, y en el caso de la NOAA, el OHC de 2023 superó al de 2022 en 9 ± 5 ZJ.

Es necesario entender bien la magnitud, en términos energéticos, de estas medidas dadas en Zetta Joules (ZJ). Para empezar, 1 ZJ es igual a 10 julios elevado a la 21ª potencia (1 Zj = 10 J21). En términos más concretos: a) todo el consumo de energía de la humanidad durante un año es actualmente del orden de 1/2 Zetta Joule; [11] (b) el consumo de energía de la humanidad entre el inicio del Holoceno (hace 11.700 años) y 1950 asciende a 14 ZJ, y este consumo entre 1950 y 2020, durante el Antropoceno, asciende a 22 ZJ. [12] Esto bastaría para entender que desde 1950 vivimos en una nueva época geológica, el Antropoceno, a pesar de las obstinaciones de ciertos geólogos (pero eso es para otro artículo). Lo que importa aquí es subrayar que la cantidad de energía absorbida por los océanos dio un gran salto en 2023, en comparación con 2022. Según la OMM, este aumento del calor contenido en el océano en 2023 corresponde al menos ocho veces al consumo actual de energía de la humanidad (13 ± 9 ZJ).

Dicho en otra escala, la de los grados centígrados, en 2023 y más aún en los tres primeros meses de 2024, la temperatura media de la superficie del mar (entre 60°S y 60°N) alcanzó y superó los 21 °C por primera vez en los registros históricos. En 2024, este límite se supera desde mediados de enero y se ha mantenido por encima de este nivel hasta el 21 de marzo de 2024. La Figura 1 muestra las anomalías diarias de la temperatura de la superficie del océano (entre 60°S y 60°N) en relación con el promedio de los años 1982-2011.

Figura 1 – Temperatura media diaria de la superficie del océano entre 60ºN y 60ºS en grados centígrados, que muestra las temperaturas de 2023 (naranja), de 2024 al 21 de marzo (línea negra continua) y la media de los años 1982-2011 con dos intervalos de confianza hacia arriba y hacia abajo (líneas punteadas). Fuente: ClimateReanalyzer a partir de datos de la NOAA.

Las temperaturas medias para el período 1982-2011 alcanzaron un máximo de 20,3 oC. Estas mismas temperaturas en 2023 y 2024 alcanzan un máximo de 21,2 °C, un aumento de casi 1 °C en un período de tiempo absolutamente irrisorio. Estamos en una aceleración desenfrenada del calentamiento. Así lo confirma, una vez más, un estudio publicado en 2023, que muestra que “la absorción de calor por parte de los océanos se ha acelerado drásticamente desde la década de 1990, casi duplicándose durante 2010-2020 en comparación con 1990-2000”. [13]

Aumento del nivel del mar

El cuarto punto a comentar en este informe de la OMM se refiere al aumento del nivel del mar: “En 2023, el nivel medio mundial del mar alcanzó un nivel récord en los registros satelitales (desde 1993 hasta la actualidad), lo que refleja el continuo calentamiento de los océanos, así como el derretimiento de los glaciares y las capas de hielo. La tasa de aumento del nivel medio del mar a nivel mundial en los últimos diez años (2014-2023) se ha duplicado con creces desde la primera década de registros satelitales (1993-2002)” (OMM 2023).

La aceleración del aumento del nivel del mar es uno de los aspectos más inequívocos y también una de las consecuencias más dramáticas de la aceleración del calentamiento. Según Copernicus, “la tasa combinada de pérdida de hielo [de Groenlandia y la Antártida] se ha más que triplicado desde la década de 1980, de una pérdida de 120 km3 por año en la década de 1980, a una pérdida de aproximadamente 460 km3 por año en la década de 2010. La pérdida de las capas de hielo de Groenlandia y la Antártida ha sido de 11.000 km3 desde 1970. [14] La Figura 2 muestra la aceleración de las tasas decenales de aumento del nivel del mar entre enero de 1993 y diciembre de 2023.

Figura 2 – Evolución mundial del nivel medio del mar entre enero de 1993 y diciembre de 2023 basada en la altimetría satelital. El área sombreada indica incertidumbre. La tendencia en estos 30 años es de un incremento de 3,43 ±0,3 mm/año. La aceleración es de 0,12 ±0,05 mm por año y la curva está segmentada en tres períodos, lo que indica tres tasas crecientes de aumento del nivel medio anual del nivel del mar: a) enero de 1993 a diciembre de 2002 (2,13 mm/año); b) enero de 2003 a diciembre de 2012 (3,33 mm/año) y c) enero de 2014 a diciembre de 2023 (4,77 mm/año)
Fuente: Organización Meteorológica Mundial, Estado del Clima Mundial 2023, Fig. 6

Pero es importante tener en cuenta que el aumento medio anual de 4,77 mm/año en la década 2014-2023, obviamente ya espectacular, no tiene en cuenta la cola final de esta curva decenal, ya que hay un aumento de 7,6 mm en 2023, respecto a 2022. [15]

El aumento de la inseguridad alimentaria y los refugiados climáticos

El quinto y último punto que se comentará en este rico informe de la OMM (otros se analizarán a su debido tiempo) se refiere al capítulo “Impactos socioeconómicos”, centrado en el aumento de la inseguridad alimentaria y los refugiados climáticos: “La seguridad alimentaria, el desplazamiento de la población y los impactos en las poblaciones vulnerables siguen siendo una preocupación creciente en 2023, con peligros meteorológicos y climáticos que agravan la situación en muchas partes del mundo. Las condiciones meteorológicas y climáticas extremas siguieron desencadenando nuevos y prolongados desplazamientos en 2023 y aumentaron la vulnerabilidad de muchas personas que ya habían sido desarraigadas por situaciones complejas y multicausales de conflicto y violencia. (…) Los fenómenos meteorológicos y climáticos extremos interactúan y, en algunos casos, desencadenan o agravan situaciones relacionadas con la seguridad hídrica y alimentaria, la movilidad de la población y la degradación del medio ambiente” (OMM 2023).

El informe aborda aquí uno de los efectos más trágicos del calentamiento global. Es importante subrayar, desde el principio, la advertencia de sus autores: los impactos más visibles de la emergencia climática, es decir, picos de calor, huracanes, sequías, inundaciones, pérdidas de cosechas, etc., no hacen más que “exacerbar” la inseguridad alimentaria en “poblaciones vulnerables”, víctimas de “situaciones complejas y multicausales de conflicto y violencia”. Pakistán, que ha registrado temperaturas superiores a los 45 °C (54 °C en Turbat en 2017; 52 °C en Jacobabad en 2022), sufrió inundaciones en 2022 que sumergieron cerca de un tercio de su superficie total, imponiendo el desplazamiento de unos 50 millones de personas y la pérdida de 18 mil km2 de su tierra cultivable. Es difícil imaginar que las crisis meteorológicas y climáticas que se avecinan permitan a su población el tiempo que necesita para recuperarse de la catástrofe de 2022. Como se indica en el informe de la OMM:

“En Pakistán, las inundaciones monzónicas de 2022, que desencadenaron el mayor desastre de desplazamiento en una década, siguieron teniendo efectos duraderos en 2023. Las comunidades desplazadas aún se estaban recuperando cuando las fuertes lluvias azotaron algunos distritos en junio de 2023, causando enfermedades transmitidas por el agua y otras enfermedades transmitidas por vectores”.

En septiembre de 2023, la tormenta Daniel inundó casi 3.000 hectáreas de tierras de cultivo clave en la parte oriental de Libia. Además, estas tormentas provocaron el colapso de una presa, afectando el sistema de riego, dañando caminos y el sistema de almacenamiento de granos. Este es un caso típico en el que un evento climático exacerba una situación creada en la esfera política. En 2011, en pleno Ramadán, la OTAN inició un bombardeo sobre Libia que duraría siete meses. La operación (llamada “Operación Protector Unificado”) llevó a cabo 26.000 misiones aéreas sobre Libia, incluidas más de 9.600 misiones de bombardeo. La destrucción del país por la OTAN contravenía directamente una resolución del Consejo de Seguridad, que sólo permitía la prohibición del uso del espacio aéreo del país por parte de las fuerzas gubernamentales. Después de asesinar a su dictador, Muammar al-Gaddafi, y matar e herir a un número indefinido de civiles, nunca reconocidos por la OTAN (se estima que miles), el entonces jefe de la OTAN, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, proclamó en una conferencia de prensa conjunta en Trípoli con Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, respaldado por la OTAN: “Juntos, podemos hacerlo. Libia es finalmente libre”. Y, dirigiéndose a los presentes, concluyó: “Habéis actuado para cambiar vuestra historia y vuestro destino. Actuamos para protegerlos”. [16] Desde esta invasión aérea y naval, se ha desatado el caos en Libia. Este bombardeo es, como es bien sabido, el punto de partida de un estado crónico de anomia y guerra civil. No es casualidad que, como afirma el informe, el país ya estuviera “en estado de crisis alimentaria y necesitado de ayuda externa en julio de 2023, antes de las inundaciones” de septiembre.

El reciente aumento de la inseguridad alimentaria es particularmente cruel en su aspecto más extremo, que es también la más brutal y primitiva de las causas de muerte y sufrimiento: el aumento del hambre aguda y las muertes por inanición a escala mundial desde al menos 2015, después de décadas de progreso en la reducción de la inseguridad alimentaria mundial. Esta sinergia es tanto más evidente cuanto que, como ya se ha dicho, el hambre es el resultado de una combinación de varios factores, entre ellos:

  1. El aumento de la desigualdad producido por el triunfo de los “mercados” sobre el modelo socialdemócrata heredado de la historia de conquistas sociales desde el siglo XIX, triunfo que es la primera y principal causa de la pobreza extrema.
  2. La escasez real de alimentos debido a las malas cosechas debido a la destrucción de la naturaleza y la desestabilización del clima. Los casos de Brasil y Argentina son ejemplares, pero 2023 fue un año de pérdida de productividad agrícola en todos los continentes. Y el 2023 pronto será recordado con nostalgia por los agricultores.
  3. La escasez artificial de alimentos, es decir, la hambruna provocada por la especulación sobre los precios de los alimentos en los mercados de futuros, el grado más sórdido de la patología financiera que hoy domina la economía globalizada, ya que los alimentos se han convertido en una mercancía blanda, es decir, en parte integrante del gran casino al que se ha reducido la economía mundial.
  4. La escasez real de alimentos provocada por la pandemia y las guerras.

Es importante detenerse un momento en este último tema, ya que los caudillos han utilizado hoy, como en el pasado, el hambre como arma en los genocidios y la depuración étnica de las poblaciones civiles. Alex de Waal, director de la Fundación para la Paz Mundial, escribió en 2024 que las grandes hambrunas están aumentando de nuevo, desmintiendo sus predicciones optimistas de 2016:[17].

“Me equivoqué. Las grandes hambrunas han vuelto. Subestimé la determinación despiadada de algunos señores de la guerra de emplear el hambre como arma. Y sobreestimé lo mucho que los donantes humanitarios más grandes del mundo se preocupan por alimentar a los hambrientos en las zonas de conflicto”.

“En todo el mundo”, continúa De Waal, “alrededor de dos tercios de las personas reducidas al hambre viven o intentan huir en zonas de guerra o violentas, como Sudán y Gaza”. Y el mundo de los ricos es cada vez más indiferente a esta situación. Basta recordar, según Alex de Waal, que hace cinco años, los presupuestos de ayuda de emergencia de una parte de los países donantes representaban el 60% de los llamamientos de la ONU. En 2023, cayeron al 35%. En realidad, los países ricos no sólo son indiferentes, sino que también y sobre todo son responsables en gran medida de la extrema pobreza de los países africanos, a través del saqueo de los recursos de estos países, los golpes de Estado, la venta de armas a los dictadores de turno, etc. En el caso del genocidio en curso de los palestinos en Gaza, Estados Unidos no hace más que confirmar una vez más su invariable preferencia por la guerra, mientras que las llamadas democracias europeas, por su alineamiento automático con Washington, han perdido su identidad histórica, su prosperidad y, sobre todo, el último remanente de capital moral que les queda.

Los datos de la FAO para 2021, reportados en el informe de la OMM, muestran que los contingentes de la humanidad más grandes se ven reducidos a la inseguridad alimentaria y el hambre:[18]

  • Alrededor de 2.300 millones de personas en el mundo sufrieron inseguridad alimentaria moderada o grave, un aumento de 350 millones con respecto a 2019.
  • Casi 924 millones de personas (el 11,7% de la población mundial) se enfrentaron a niveles agudos de inseguridad alimentaria, lo que supone un aumento de 207 millones en dos años.
  • Las mujeres, como siempre, sufren aún más: el 31,9% de las mujeres a nivel mundial padecían inseguridad alimentaria moderada o grave, en comparación con el 27,6% de los hombres, y esta disparidad se amplió en 2021 en comparación con el año anterior.
  • 45 millones de niños menores de cinco años sufrieron emaciación, la forma más aguda de malnutrición, que aumenta hasta 12 veces el riesgo de muerte de los niños. Además, 149 millones de niños menores de cinco años sufrieron retrasos en el crecimiento y el desarrollo debido a la falta crónica de nutrientes esenciales en sus dietas.

Entre 2016 y 2023, el número de personas que necesitan ayuda de emergencia para evitar la hambruna aumentó de 130 millones a 363 millones, un aumento del 180%. Y esas estimaciones ni siquiera incluían la hambruna a la que el gobierno israelí está reduciendo a los palestinos en su ofensiva genocida.

Unos 90 millones de personas padecen hambre aguda en Etiopía, Somalia, Sudán, Sudán del Sur y Yemen. “Estos países, desafortunadamente, tienen sus propias historias de escasez aguda de alimentos, pero el mundo nunca ha visto a todos estos países reducidos a la hambruna al mismo tiempo”. En Brasil, la proporción de brasileños sin recursos para alimentarse y/o sus familias aumentó del 30% en 2019 al 36% en 2021, “alcanzando un nuevo récord en la serie iniciada en 2006”. Entre el 20% más pobre, este porcentaje pasó del 53% en 2019 al 75% en 2021, con impactos mucho mayores entre la población femenina. [19] Esto no solo se debe a la pandemia, sino también a la regresión civilizatoria que trajeron, sobre todo, Temer y Bolsonaro.

Por último, hay que señalar que los países ricos son cada vez más indiferentes a su propia población hambrienta, porque el hambre también aumenta en estos países, empezando por los más ricos, los Estados Unidos. Según el Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés), “en 2022, 44,2 millones de personas vivían en hogares con inseguridad alimentaria. Estas personas constituían el 13,5 por ciento de la población civil no institucionalizada de Estados Unidos e incluían a 30,8 millones de adultos y 13,4 millones de niños”. [20] El avance del hambre en los EE. UU. no tiene precedentes en su historia reciente, ya que en 2021 el número de personas en hogares víctimas de la inseguridad alimentaria fue de “solo” 34 millones. Por lo tanto, se ha producido un aumento de más del 30% en la población en situación de inseguridad alimentaria y un aumento de casi el 45% en la inseguridad alimentaria infantil, el peor resultado desde 2014.

Digamos, para concluir, que el informe de la OMM confirma una vez más lo que nadie más ignora ni debería ignorar: en los últimos diez años, la economía globalizada ha hecho que el planeta sea más inhóspito para la vida. Para 2030, superar el peligroso límite del calentamiento medio global de 1,5 grados centígrados será irreversible, y en las próximas dos décadas, cuando el calentamiento haya alcanzado o superado los 2 grados centígrados, toda nuestra energía y creatividad se consumirán en la tarea de sobrevivir. La civilización termofósil que históricamente nos constituyó, y que hoy nos sigue definiendo, necesita ser superada y las dos primeras condiciones para superarla son la exigencia incondicional de paz y un renacido entusiasmo por la idea de que otro mundo es (todavía) posible.

Notas

[1] Cf. World Meteorological Organization, Provisional State of the Global Climate 2023.

[2] Cf. World Meteorological Organization, State of the Global Climate 2023. WMO n. 1347

[3] Cf. Copérnico, «Febrero de 2024 fue el más cálido registrado a nivel mundial». 5/III/2024: “La temperatura media mundial de los últimos doce meses (marzo de 2023-febrero de 2024) es (…) 1,56 °C por encima de la media preindustrial de 1850-1900. (…) El mes fue 1,77 °C más cálido que una estimación del promedio de febrero para 1850-1900, el período de referencia preindustrial designado”. 

[4] Cf. Gavin Schmidt, “Los modelos climáticos no pueden explicar la enorme anomalía de calor de 2023: podríamos estar en territorio inexplorado”. Naturaleza, 19/III/2024.

[5] Cf. “Los impactos del cambio climático ‘se dirigen a un territorio inexplorado’, advierte el jefe de la ONU”. Noticias ONU, 13/IX/2022: “Los efectos nocivos del cambio climático nos están llevando a ‘territorios inexplorados de destrucción'”.

[6] Cf. William Ripple et al., “El informe sobre el estado del clima en 2023: Entrando en un territorio inexplorado”. BioScience, X24/2023.

[7] Cf. Shaun A. Marcott et al. “Una reconstrucción de la temperatura regional y global de los últimos 11.300 años”. Ciencia, 339, 6124, 8/III/2013, pp. 1198-1201; Darrel S. Kaufman y Ellie Broadman, “Revisando el enigma de la temperatura global del Holoceno”. Naturaleza, 2023, 614, 13/II/2023, pp. 425-435.

[8] Cf. “Es oficial: julio de 2023 fue el mes más cálido jamás registrado”. Naciones Unidas, 8/VIII/2023: “La temperatura media mundial de julio de 2023 fue la más alta registrada y probablemente en al menos 120.000 años”.

[9] Cf. Samantha Burgess: “no ha sido tan cálido en los últimos 120.000 años” (citado en la nota anterior).

[10] Cf. Lijing Cheng et al., «New Record Ocean Temperature and Related Climate Indicators in 2023» (Nuevos récords de temperaturas oceánicas e indicadores climáticos relacionados en 2023). Avances en Ciencias Atmosféricas, 2024.

[11] Cf. Zheng Lin, “Las temperaturas del océano ayudaron a hacer de 2023 el año más caluroso jamás registrado”. EurekAlert, AAAS, 11/I/2024.

[12] Cf. Jaia Syvitski et al., “El extraordinario consumo de energía humana y los impactos geológicos resultantes a partir de alrededor de 1950 d.C. iniciaron la época del Antropoceno propuesta”. Communications Earth & Environment, 1, 32, 2020: “El gasto energético humano en el Antropoceno, ~22 zetajoules (ZJ), supera al de los 11.700 años anteriores del Holoceno (~14,6 ZJ), en gran parte a través de la combustión de combustibles fósiles”.

[13] Cf. Zhi Li, Matthew H. England y Sjoerd Groeskamp, “Aceleración reciente en la acumulación global de calor oceánico por modo y aguas intermedias”. Nature Communications, 14, 6888, 2023

[14] Véase Servicio de Cambio Climático de Copernicus (C3S), Resumen sobre el estado del clima en Europa 2022.

[15] Cf. Phys.Org, “Un nuevo análisis ve un aumento en el nivel global del mar en 2023 debido a El Niño”, 21/III/2024, basado en datos de la NASA.

[16] Cf. Karin Laub, “La OTAN pone fin a la victoriosa campaña de 7 meses en Libia”. AP, 1 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2011.

[17] Cf. Alex de Waal, “Dije que la era de la hambruna podría estar terminando. Me equivoqué”. The New York Times, 9/III/2024: “Me equivoqué. Las hambrunas han vuelto. Subestimé la cruel determinación de algunos líderes de guerra de usar el hambre como arma. Y sobreestimé lo mucho que los mayores donantes humanitarios del mundo se preocupaban por alimentar a los hambrientos en las zonas de conflicto”.

[18] Cfr. FAO, FIDA, UNICEF, PMA y OMS, El estado de la seguridad alimentaria y la nutrición en el mundo 2022. Roma, FAO.

[19] Cf. Marcelo Neri, “Inseguridad alimentaria en Brasil: pandemia, tendencias y comparaciones internacionales”. Río de Janeiro, FGV Social, 2022.

[20] Cf. Matthew P. Rabbitt et al., “Seguridad alimentaria de los hogares en los Estados Unidos en 2022”. USDA, 2023: “En 2022, 44,2 millones de personas vivían en hogares con inseguridad alimentaria. Constituían el 13,5 por ciento de la población civil no institucionalizada de Estados Unidos e incluían a 30,8 millones de adultos y 13,4 millones de niños”.

Categories: D2. Socialism

O relatório da Organização Meteorológica Mundial. Um rápido comentário

Systemic Alternatives - Tue, 04/09/2024 - 07:30
Luiz Marques “O salto do aquecimento de 2023 nos introduz em ‘território desconhecido’?”

Por Luiz Marques

Em março de 2024, a Organização Meteorológica Mundial lançou seu relatório anual, The State of the Global Climate 2023 (doravante OMM 2023) confirmando oficialmente seu relatório provisório de outubro de 2023[1] e o que já fora antecipado pelas agências nacionais e europeia do clima, bem como pela literatura científica recente. Citemos e comentemos cinco dos pontos mais importantes desse relatório:[2]

O primeiro ponto refere-se, obviamente, ao aquecimento médio global em 2023: “A temperatura média global próxima à superfície em 2023 foi 1,45 ± 0,12 °C acima da média de 1850–1900” (OMM 2023). Isso, de janeiro a dezembro do ano passado. Segundo o Copernicus, a agência europeia do clima, a temperatura média superficial global, terrestre e marítima combinadas, dos doze meses entre março de 2023 e fevereiro de 2024 foi 1,56 oC mais quente do que a média do período pré-industrial (1850 – 1900) e a temperatura de fevereiro de 2024 foi 1,77 oC mais quente do que a da média dos meses de fevereiro nesse período de referência.[3] É possível, assim, que os 12 meses entre abril de 2023 e março de 2024 superem a marca de 1,56 oC e assim sucessivamente até que os efeitos do atual El Niño cessem ou diminuam.

O salto do aquecimento de 2023 nos introduz em “território desconhecido”?

O segundo ponto do relatório da OMM situa o aquecimento de 2023 em relação aos registros históricos do clima, iniciados por volta de 1850: “O ano de 2023 foi o ano mais quente no registro observacional de 174 anos, superando claramente os anos mais quentes anteriores. O aquecimento de 2016 atingiu 1,29 ± 0,12 °C (acima da média de 1850–1900) e o de 2020 atingiu 1,27 ± 0,13 °C. Os últimos nove anos, 2015–2023, foram os nove anos mais quentes já registrados. (…) A temperatura global média do decênio 2014 – 2023 é 1,20 ± 0,12°C acima da média de 1850 a 1900, o mais quente período de 10 anos já registrado” (OMM 2023).

Observou-se em 2023, portanto, um aumento no aquecimento médio global de quase 0,2 oC. No mesmo mês da publicação desse relatório da OMM, Gavin Schmidt, diretor do Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Nasa), publicou um artigo chamando a atenção para a excepcionalidade desse salto nos registros históricos do aquecimento. Já em seu título, o artigo diz a que vem: “Os modelos climáticos não podem explicar a gigantesca anomalia de calor de 2023. Podemos estar em território desconhecido” (uncharted territory).[4] O autor parte da constatação de que “nos últimos nove meses, as temperaturas médias da superfície terrestre e do mar ultrapassaram os recordes anteriores todos os meses em até 0,2 °C – uma margem enorme em escala planetária”. Para aquilatar quão enorme é efetivamente essa margem, basta lembrar que a taxa de aquecimento médio global entre 1970 e 2010 foi de 0,18 oC por década, o que já representava uma enorme aceleração, uma vez que a taxa de aquecimento entre 1920 e 1970 fora de 0,04 oC por década. Entende-se bem, nesse contexto, que Gavin Schmidt retome a hipótese de que o sistema climático pode ter entrado em “território desconhecido” (uncharted territory). Ele emprega essa expressão, contudo, com a máxima cautela, frisando que tudo ainda depende do comportamento do clima após o El Niño ainda em curso:

“Se a anomalia não se estabilizar até agosto – uma expectativa razoável baseada em eventos anteriores do El Niño – então o mundo estará em território desconhecido. Isto poderia implicar que o aquecimento do planeta já está alterando fundamentalmente a forma como o sistema climático funciona, muito mais cedo do que os cientistas previam. Poderá também significar que as inferências estatísticas baseadas em acontecimentos passados são menos fiáveis do que pensávamos, acrescentando mais incerteza às previsões sazonais de secas e padrões de precipitação”.

O termo “território desconhecido” no presente contexto alude aos mapas dos séculos XV e XVI que traziam a expressão terra incógnita para se referir às zonas ainda não mapeadas do planetaElefoi empregado ao menos desde 2022 por António Guterres, secretário-geral da ONU, que afirmou: “os impactos nocivos da mudança climática estão nos levando para territórios desconhecidos de destruição”.[5] O termo se tornou recorrente na comunidade científica e foi empregado, por exemplo, por William Ripple e colegas num artigo intitulado: “The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory”.[6] Na conclusão desse artigo, os autores afirmam: “Tememos o território desconhecido em que entramos agora. As condições vão se tornar muito angustiantes e potencialmente incontroláveis para grandes regiões do mundo”. Esse mesmo temor levou Gavin Schmidt a afirmar:

“É humilhante e um tanto preocupante admitir que nenhum ano confundiu mais as capacidades preditivas dos cientistas do clima do que 2023 (…) Espera-se uma tendência geral de aquecimento devido ao aumento das emissões de gases com efeito de estufa (GEE), mas este súbito aumento de calor excede em muito as previsões feitas por modelos climáticos estatísticos que se baseiam em observações anteriores”.

Seja como for, mais importante do que especular sobre a natureza do salto no aquecimento ocorrido no último ano e nos três meses de 2024, é entender que o último decênio foi o mais quente não apenas dos registros históricos (mensurações instrumentais), mas do inteiro Holoceno, os últimos 11.700 anos.[7] Além disso, se a fronteira do Holoceno foi irreversivelmente ultrapassada no segundo decênio do século, outra fronteira provavelmente já o foi também, ou está em vias de sê-lo, neste terceiro decênio, quando o aquecimento atual superou, ou está na iminência de superar, as mais altas temperaturas médias globais de um período de referência muito mais remoto: o Eemiano, o último período interglacial (130 mil a 115 mil anos atrás). Essa ultrapassagem começou a ser largamente admitida desde meados de 2023, inclusive pela ONU: “É oficial: a temperatura média global em julho de 2023 foi a mais alta já registrada e provavelmente a mais alta em pelo menos 120.000 anos”.[8] A ONU repercutia então o Copernicus, a agência europeia do clima, na voz de sua diretora adjunta, Samantha Burgess, a qual acabara de afirmar que “o planeta não esteve tão quente nos últimos 120.000 anos”.[9]

O aquecimento oceânico

O terceiro ponto a se ressaltar no relatório da OMM diz respeito ao aquecimento oceânico: “O calor armazenado nos oceanos (Ocean Heat Content, OHC) atingiu o seu nível mais alto no registro observacional de 65 anos. (…) Os 2.000 metros superiores do oceano continuaram a se aquecer em 2023. Esse aquecimento é irreversível nos próximos séculos e milênios. O calor armazenado no oceano em 2023 (…) excedeu o valor de 2022 em 13 ± 9 ZJ [ZJ = ZettaJoule, sendo que 1 ZJ = 10 J21], consistente com estimativas publicadas no início de 2024”. (OMM 2023)

Essas estimativas da OMM são, de fato, consistentes com as de um artigo publicado por Lijing Cheng e colegas,[10] que reporta dois valores para o calor armazenado nos oceanos (OHC), obtidos pelo Institute of Atmospheric Physics da Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS) e pelo National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Para o IAP/CAS, o calor armazenado nos oceanos (OHC) em 2023 excedeu o de 2022 em 15 ±10 ZJ, e para o NOAA, o OHC de 2023 excedeu o de 2022 em 9 ± 5 ZJ.

É preciso entender bem a magnitude, em termos energéticos, dessas medidas dadas em Zetta Joules (ZJ). Para começar, 1 ZJ é igual a 10 Joules elevados a 21ª potência (1 Zj = 10 J21). Em termos mais concretos: (a) todo o consumo energético da humanidade durante um ano é atualmente da ordem de ½ Zetta Joule;[11] (b) o consumo energético da humanidade entre o início do Holoceno (11.700 anos atrás) e 1950 monta a 14 ZJ, e esse consumo entre 1950 e 2020, durante o Antropoceno, monta a 22 ZJ.[12] Bastaria isso para entender que desde 1950 vivemos em uma nova época geológica, o Antropoceno, malgrado as recalcitrâncias de certos geólogos (mas isso fica para outro artigo). O que importa aqui é sublinhar que o montante de energia absorvida pelos oceanos deu um salto imenso em 2023, em relação a 2022. Segundo a OMM, esse aumento do calor contido no oceano em 2023 corresponde no mínimo a oito vezes o consumo energético atual da humanidade (13 ± 9 ZJ).

Dito em outra escala, a de graus Celsius, em 2023 e mais ainda nos três primeiros meses de 2024, a temperatura média da superfície do mar (entre 60°S e 60°N) atingiu e superou pela primeira vez nos registros históricos 21 oC. Em 2024, esse limite foi superado desde meados de janeiro e tem se mantido acima desse patamar até 21 de março de 2024. A Figura 1 mostra as anomalias diárias da temperatura superficial dos oceanos (entre 60°S e 60°N) em relação à média dos anos 1982-2011.

Figura 1 – Temperatura média diária superficial do oceano entre 60oN e 60oS em graus Celsius, mostrando as temperaturas de 2023 (laranja), de 2024 até 21 de março (linha preta contínua) e a média dos anos 1982-2011 com dois intervalos de confiança para cima e para baixo (linhas pontilhadas). Fonte: ClimateReanalyzer a partir de dados da NOAA.

As temperaturas médias do período 1982-2011 atingiram no máximo 20,3 oC. Essas mesmas temperaturas em 2023 e 2024 atingem um pico de 21,2 oC, um aumento de quase 1 oC num intervalo de tempo absolutamente irrisório. Estamos em uma desenfreada aceleração do aquecimento. Confirma-o, mais uma vez, um trabalho publicado em 2023, mostrando que “a absorção de calor pelos oceanos acelerou dramaticamente desde a década de 1990, quase duplicando durante 2010-2020 em relação a 1990-2000”.[13]

Elevação do nível do mar

O quarto ponto a ser comentado nesse relatório da OMM refere-se à elevação do nível do mar: “Em 2023, o nível médio global do mar atingiu um nível recorde nos registros dos satélites (de 1993 até o presente), refletindo o aquecimento contínuo dos oceanos, bem como o derretimento de geleiras e mantos de gelo. A taxa de elevação média global do nível do mar nos últimos dez anos (2014–2023) mais do que duplicou em relação à primeira década de registros por satélites (1993–2002)” (OMM 2023).

A aceleração da elevação do nível do mar é um dos aspectos mais inequívocos e também uma das consequências mais dramáticas da aceleração do aquecimento. Segundo o Copernicus, “a taxa combinada de perda de gelo [da Groenlândia e da Antártida] mais do que triplicou desde a década de 1980, passando de uma perda de 120 km3 por ano na década de 1980, para uma perda de cerca de 460 km3 por ano na década de 2010. A perda dos mantos de gelo da Groenlândia e da Antártida foi de 11.000 km3 desde os anos 1970”.[14] A Figura 2 mostra a aceleração das taxas decenais de elevação do nível do mar entre janeiro de 1993 e dezembro de 2023.

Figura 2 – Evolução global do nível médio do mar entre janeiro de 1993 e dezembro de 2023 com base na altimetria de satélite. A área sombreada indica a incerteza. A tendência nesses 30 anos é de uma elevação 3,43 ±0,3 mm/ano. A aceleração é de 0,12 ±0,05 mm por ano e a curva é segmentada em três períodos, indicando três taxas crescentes de elevação média anual do nível do mar: (a) Janeiro de 1993 a Dezembro de 2002 (2,13 mm/ano); (b) Janeiro de 2003 a Dezembro de 2012 (3,33 mm / ano) e (c) Janeiro de 2014 a Dezembro de 2023 (4,77 mm / ano)
Fonte: World Meteorological Organization, State of the Global Climate 2023, Fig. 6

Mas é importante ter em conta que a elevação média anual de 4,77 mm / ano no decênio 2014-2023, obviamente já espetacular, não leva em conta a cauda final dessa curva decenal, já que se registra uma elevação de 7,6 mm em 2023, em relação a 2022.[15]

O aumento da insegurança alimentar e dos refugiados climáticos

O quinto e último ponto a ser comentado nesse riquíssimo relatório da OMM (outros serão oportunamente objeto de análise) diz respeito ao capítulo “Impactos socioeconômicos”, focado no aumento da insegurança alimentar e dos refugiados climáticos: “A segurança alimentar, os deslocamentos populacionais e os impactos nas populações vulneráveis continuam a ser uma preocupação crescente em 2023, com os perigos meteorológicos e climáticos exacerbando a situação em muitas partes do mundo. As condições meteorológicas e climáticas extremas continuaram a desencadear novos e prolongados deslocamentos em 2023 e aumentaram a vulnerabilidade de muitos que já haviam sido desenraizados por situações complexas e multicausais de conflito e violência. (…) Os eventos meteorológicos e climáticos extremos interagem e, em alguns casos, desencadeiam ou agravam situações relativas à segurança hídrica e alimentar, à mobilidade populacional e à degradação ambiental” (OMM 2023).

O relatório aborda aqui um dos efeitos mais imediatamente trágicos do aquecimento global. É importante sublinhar, desde logo, a advertência dos seus autores: os impactos mais visíveis da emergência climática, isto é, os picos de calor, furacões, secas, inundações, quebras de safras etc. estão apenas “exacerbando” a insegurança alimentar nas “populações vulneráveis”, vítimas de “situações complexas e multicausais de conflito e violência”. Por enquanto, apenas “em alguns casos”, esses impactos climáticos “desencadeiam” tais crises. O agravamento da insegurança alimentar e dos contingentes de refugiados se deve, de fato, à sinergia entre fatores climáticos, ambientais em geral, econômicos, políticos e ideológicos. Mas o clima tem se mostrado um fator cada vez mais relevante nesse contexto socioambiental. O Paquistão, que tem registrado temperaturas acima de 45 oC (54 oC em Turbat em 2017; 52 oC em Jacobabad em 2022), sofreu em 2022 inundações que submergiram cerca de um terço de sua área total, impondo deslocamentos de cerca de 50 milhões de pessoas e a perda de 18 mil km2 de suas terras agricultáveis. É difícil imaginar que as próximas crises meteorológicas e climáticas consintam a seu povo o tempo necessário para se recuperar da catástrofe de 2022. Como afirma o relatório da OMM:

“No Paquistão, as inundações das monções de 2022, que desencadearam a maior catástrofe de deslocação numa década, continuaram a ter impactos duradouros em 2023. As comunidades deslocadas ainda estavam se recuperando quando fortes chuvas atingiram alguns distritos em junho de 2023, causando doenças transmitidas pela água e por outros vetores”.

Em setembro de 2023, a tempestade Daniel inundou quase 3.000 hectares das principais terras agrícolas da parte oriental da Líbia. Além disso, essas tempestades provocaram o colapso de uma barragem, afetando o sistema de irrigação, danificando estradas e o sistema de armazenamento de cereais. Tem-se aqui um típico caso em que um evento climático exacerba uma situação criada na esfera política. Em 2011, em pleno Ramadan, a OTAN começou um bombardeio da Líbia que iria se prolongar por sete meses. A operação (intitulada “Operation Unified Protector”…) empreendeu 26 mil missões aéreas sobre a Líbia, incluindo mais de 9.600 missões de bombardeio. A destruição do país pela OTAN transgredia frontalmente uma resolução do Conselho de Segurança, a qual permitia apenas a proibição de uso do espaço aéreo do país pelas forças governamentais. Após assassinar seu ditador, Muammar al-Gaddafi, e matar e ferir um número indefinido de civis, jamais reconhecido pela OTAN (as estimativas são da ordem de milhares), o então chefe da OTAN, Anders Fogh Rasmussen proclamou numa conferência de imprensa conjunta em Trípoli com Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, apoiado pela OTAN: “Juntos, conseguimos. A Líbia está finalmente livre”. E, dirigindo-se aos presentes, concluiu: “Vocês agiram para mudar a sua história e o seu destino. Agimos para protegê-los”.[16] Desde essa invasão aérea e naval, instalou-se o caos na Líbia. Esse bombardeio é, como se sabe, o marco inicial de um estado crônico de anomia e de guerra civil. Não por acaso, como bem afirma o relatório, o país já se encontrava “em estado de crise alimentar e necessitava assistência externa em julho de 2023, antes das inundações” de setembro.

O aumento recente da insegurança alimentar se demonstra de modo particularmente cruel em seu aspecto mais extremo que é também a mais brutal e primitiva das causas de mortes e sofrimentos: o aumento da fome aguda e das mortes por inanição em escala global desde ao menos 2015, após décadas de progressos na diminuição da insegurança alimentar global. Essa sinergia é tanto mais evidente porque, como já dito, a fome resulta da conjugação de vários fatores, entre os quais se contam:

1. o aumento da desigualdade produzido pelo triunfo dos “mercados” sobre o modelo social-democrata herdado da história das conquistas sociais desde o século XIX, triunfo este que é a causa primeira e principal da pobreza extrema;

2. a escassez real de alimentos por quebras de safras decorrentes da destruição da natureza e da desestabilização do clima. Os casos do Brasil e da Argentina são exemplares, mas 2023 foi um ano de perda de produtividade agrícola em todos os continentes. E 2023 será em breve lembrado com saudades pelos agricultores;

3. a escassez artificial de alimentos, ou seja, a carestia causada pela especulação sobre os preços dos alimentos nos mercados futuros, o grau mais sórdido da patologia financeira que domina hoje a economia globalizada, pois os alimentos tornaram-se soft commodities, isto é, parte integrante do grande cassino a que se reduziu a economia global.

4. a escassez real de alimentos causada pela pandemia e pelas guerras.

É importante se deter um momento nesse último item, pois os senhores da guerra têm hoje, tal como no passado, usado a fome como uma arma nos genocídios e limpezas étnicas das populações civis. Alex de Waal, diretor da World Peace Foundation, escreveu em 2024 que as grandes fomes estão novamente crescendo, desmentindo seus prognósticos otimistas de 2016:[17]

“Eu estava errado. As grandes fomes estão de volta. Subestimei a determinação cruel de alguns senhores da guerra de empregar a morte por inanição (starvation) como uma arma. E superestimei o quanto os maiores doadores humanitários do mundo se importam com alimentar os famintos em zonas de conflito”.

“No mundo todo”, continua de Waal, “cerca de dois terços das pessoas reduzidas à fome vivem em zonas de guerra ou de violência, como o Sudão e Gaza, ou estão tentando fugir delas”. E o mundo dos ricos está cada vez mais indiferente a essa situação. Basta lembrar, sempre segundo Alex de Waal, que há cinco anos, os orçamentos de ajuda emergencial de parte dos países doadores respondiam por 60% dos apelos da ONU. Em 2023, eles caíram para 35%. Na realidade, os países ricos não são apenas indiferentes, são também, e sobretudo, os grandes responsáveis pela pobreza extrema dos países africanos, através da espoliação dos recursos desses países, de golpes de Estado, da venda de armas aos ditadores de plantão etc. No caso do genocídio em curso dos palestinos em Gaza, os EUA apenas confirmam mais uma vez sua invariável preferência pela guerra, enquanto as chamadas democracias europeias, por seu alinhamento, doravante automático, a Washington, perderam sua identidade histórica, sua prosperidade e, sobretudo, o último resquício de capital moral que ainda lhes restava.

Os dados da FAO para 2021, reportados no relatório da OMM, mostram contingentes maiores da humanidade reduzidos à situação de insegurança alimentar e de fome:[18]

  • Cerca de 2,3 bilhões de pessoas no mundo sofriam de insegurança alimentar moderada ou grave, um aumento de 350 milhões em relação a 2019.
  • Quase 924 milhões de pessoas (11,7% da população mundial) enfrentavam insegurança alimentar em níveis agudos, um aumento de 207 milhões em dois anos.
  • As mulheres, como sempre, sofrem ainda mais: 31,9% das mulheres no mundo todo sofriam de insegurança alimentar moderada ou grave, em comparação com 27,6% dos homens e essa disparidade aumentou em 2021 em relação ao ano anterior.
  • 45 milhões de crianças com menos de cinco anos sofriam de emaciação, a forma mais aguda de subnutrição, que aumenta o risco de morte das crianças em até 12 vezes. Além disso, 149 milhões de crianças com menos de cinco anos de idade apresentavam atrasos no crescimento e desenvolvimento devido a uma falta crônica de nutrientes essenciais em suas dietas.

Entre 2016 e 2023, o número de pessoas necessitadas de auxílio emergencial para não morrerem de fome aumentou de 130 para 363 milhões, um salto de 180%. E essas estimativas não incluíam ainda a fome a que o governo de Israel está reduzindo os palestinos em sua ofensiva genocida.

Cerca de 90 milhões de pessoas estão agora sofrendo fome aguda na Etiópia, Somália, Sudão, Sudão do Sul e Iêmen. Como lembra ainda Alex de Waal, “esses países, infelizmente, têm suas próprias histórias de escassez alimentar aguda, mas o mundo nunca presenciou todos esses países reduzidos à morte por inanição ao mesmo tempo”. No Brasil, a parcela de brasileiros sem recursos para se alimentar e/ou alimentar sua família aumentou de 30% em 2019 para 36% em 2021, “atingindo novo recorde da série iniciada em 2006”. Entre os 20% mais pobres, essa porcentagem saltou de 53% em 2019 para 75% em 2021, com impactos muito maiores entre a população feminina.[19] Isso não se deve, sabidamente, apenas à pandemia, mas também à regressão civilizacional trazida, sobretudo, por Temer e Bolsonaro.

É preciso, enfim, ressaltar que os países ricos estão cada vez mais indiferentes aos seus próprios famintos, pois a fome está doravante aumentando também nesses países, a começar pelo mais rico, os EUA. Segundo o United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “em 2022, 44,2 milhões de pessoas viviam em agregados familiares vitimados por insegurança alimentar. Essas pessoas constituíam 13,5% da população civil não institucionalizada dos EUA e incluíam 30,8 milhões de adultos e 13,4 milhões de crianças”.[20] O avanço da fome nos EUA é sem precedentes em sua história recente, pois em 2021 o número de pessoas em agregados familiares vitimados por insegurança alimentar era de “apenas” 34 milhões. Houve, portanto, um aumento de mais de 30% na população com insegurança alimentar e um aumento de quase 45% na insegurança alimentar infantil, o pior resultado desde 2014.

Digamos, para concluir, que o relatório da OMM confirma mais uma vez o que ninguém mais ignora ou deveria ignorar: nos últimos dez anos, a economia globalizada tornou o planeta mais inóspito à vida. Por volta de 2030, a ultrapassagem do limite perigoso de um aquecimento médio global de 1,5 oC terá se tornado irreversível e nos próximos dois decênios, quando o aquecimento tiver atingido ou ultrapassado 2 oC, toda nossa energia e criatividade se consumirá na tarefa de apenas sobreviver. A civilização termo-fóssil que historicamente nos constituiu, e hoje ainda nos define, precisa ser superada e as duas condições primeiras para superá-la é a exigência incondicional de paz e um renascido entusiasmo pela ideia de que outro mundo é (ainda) possível.

Este texto não reflete, necessariamente, a opinião da Unicamp.

Notas

[1] Cf. World Meteorological Organization, Provisional State of the Global Climate 2023.

[2] Cf. World Meteorological Organization, State of the Global Climate 2023. WMO n. 1347

[3] Cf. Copernicus, “February 2024 was globally the warmest on record”. 5/III/2024: “The global-average temperature for the past twelve months (March 2023–February 2024) is (…) 1.56 °C above the 1850-1900 pre-industrial average. (…) The month was 1.77 °C warmer than an estimate of the February average for 1850-1900, the designated pre-industrial reference period”. 

[4] Cf. Gavin Schmidt, “Climate models can’t explain 2023’s huge heat anomaly — we could be in uncharted territory”. Nature, 19/III/2024.

[5] Cf. “Climate change impacts ‘heading into uncharted territory’, warns UN chief”. UN News, 13/IX/2022: “The harmful impacts of climate change are taking us into ‘uncharted territories of destruction’”.

[6] Cf. William Ripple et al., “The 2023 state of the climate report: Entering uncharted territory”. BioScience, 24/X/2023.

[7] Cf. Shaun A. Marcott et al.  “A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years”. Science, 339, 6124, 8/III/2013, pp. 1198-1201; Darrel S. Kaufman & Ellie Broadman, “Revisiting the Holocene global temperature conundrum”. Nature, 2023, 614, 13/II/2023, pp. 425-435.

[8] Cf. “It’s official: July 2023 was the warmest month ever recorded”. United Nations, 8/VIII/2023: “The global average temperature for July 2023 was the highest on record and likely for at least 120,000 years”.

[12] Cf. Jaia Syvitski et al., “Extraordinary human energy consumption and resultant geological impacts beginning around 1950 CE initiated the proposed Anthropocene Epoch”. Communications Earth & Environment, 1, 32, 2020: “Human energy expenditure in the Anthropocene, ~22 zetajoules (ZJ), exceeds that across the prior 11,700 years of the Holocene (~14.6 ZJ), largely through combustion of fossil fuels”. 

Luiz Marques. Professor aposentado e colaborador do Departamento de História do Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas (IFCH) da Unicamp. Atualmente é professor sênior da Ilum Escola de Ciência do Centro Nacional de Pesquisa em Energia e Materiais (CNPEM). Pela Editora da Unicamp, publicou Giorgio Vasari, Vida de Michelangelo (1568) , 2011, e Capitalismo e Colapso Ambiental , 2015, 3ª edição, 2018. É membro dos coletivos 660, Ecovirada e Rupturas.

Categories: D2. Socialism

How should socialists think about political tradition?

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 04/08/2024 - 21:42

One way we can think about tradition is who inspires us. Traditions of struggle against exploitation and oppression go back thousands of years. Think of peasant revolts around the world; the resistance of Indigenous people on Turtle Island (a term for North America mainly used by some Indigenous nations) that’s been going on since Europeans arrived; the resistance of enslaved Africans and their descendants; anti-slavery fighters like John Brown; the Industrial Workers of the World early in the twentieth century (a high point in the history of the working-class movement in the U.S.); and so many more down to the present. Which of these inspires us most or resonates most strongly with us depends on our experiences, our ideas about who we are, and our politics. When, in I Hope We Choose Love, Kai Cheng Thom urges people on the Left to take the idea of honour seriously, she writes “Honour means acting in a way that your ancestors would be proud of, even if it requires personal sacrifices to do so.” Who we consider to be our ancestors can include people from these various traditions.

Another way of thinking about tradition is more specific: Where do we get our politics from? Where do we get our ideas about our goals, our strategy, and our tactics? That’s what this article is about.

However, before tackling that question I want to make two initial points. First, for revolutionary victory, socialists need a developed and coherent strategy for how this can be achieved: in other words, a program. Second, it’s impossible for socialists to develop a genuine program unless we can synthesize the experiences of many socialist workplace and community organizers from across the range of sectors of the working class and oppressed people in our society and fuse them with the lessons of history distilled as theory. No socialist organization on Turtle Island is large and rooted enough to be able to make such a synthesis. For that reason, none of the organizations as they exist today can develop anything worth calling a program. Tempest doesn’t have a program; all we have is some ideas about goals, strategy, and tactics. This is true of all far-left groups in this part of the world, no matter what some of them claim.

We need ideas about goals, strategy, and tactics to help us answer the political questions we face. Our answers are provisional because they can change as the world changes and as we learn—they’re not set in stone. We should have an attitude of revolutionary humility about our ideas. There are some things we can and should be certain about, since the lessons of some past victories, defeats, and other experiences are so clear. One of these is that to start a transition to a classless and stateless society of freedom, what’s needed are social revolutions made by the working class that establish its democratic rule. But the history of the socialist left tells us that we’re no doubt wrong about some things about which we feel certain today. Today, our outlook about what to do next in our society is limited by how we’re mainly drawing on the experiences of a very small number of people in a time when social struggle is for the most part at a low level. (There are important exceptions, above all at present the Palestine solidarity movement.)

What questions do we face? Let’s start with three big ones. First, what kind of society are we ultimately aiming for? In other words, what’s our political horizon? Second, what would it take to break with capitalism and start a transition to that kind of society? And third, what kind of broad organizations of workers and oppressed people and what kind of socialist political organizations would be needed to make that happen?

Aren’t those questions about far-off, long-term matters? Yes, but they’re still important. Our answers serve as a compass that points toward where we want the working class to ultimately arrive, though we certainly don’t claim to have a path mapped out. Our ideas about what it would take to break with capitalism and start a transition based on democratic planning towards socialism/communism have direct implications for the here and now (Marx used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably, and never thought of socialism as a stage before communism. That idea comes mainly from Stalinism. On this, see Peter Hudis, Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism.)

Karl Marx. Image source: Picryl.

That’s because our ideas about these long-term issues should inform how we answer more immediate questions. For example, is it important to build democratic member-run membership organizations of the Palestine solidarity movement? (Yes!) To change unions, should socialists prioritize getting elected into executive positions and hired into staff jobs? (No!) Is there a wing of the capitalist class we should seek to include in alliances against the far right? (No!)

So where should we go for our political ideas? In the twentieth century, three major political traditions that considered themselves anti-capitalist dominated the Left. They all still have influence today, though less than they used to. One is parliamentary socialism. This is the dominant politics of the Democratic Socialists of America. The second is Marxism-Leninism.

This is the state ideology that took shape in the USSR in the 1920s and was spread globally through the Communist movement and by the rulers of China and other states modelled on the USSR. The last tradition is Third World nationalist socialism, of which the United Socialist Party of Venezuela founded under the leadership of Hugo Chavez is one example. All three of these traditions treat state ownership of the economy as the basis of socialism. All three act as if socialism could be achieved by a minority (a party or armed forces) acting on behalf of the masses, as a substitute for them (substitutionism), either with or without some kind of revolution. (To be clear, mass socialist political organizations are necessary for revolution, as are new institutions of radically democratic popular power in workplaces and communities. The role of socialist political organizations is to provide direction in the struggle for the working class as a whole to take control of society through such new institutions.) These are three versions of socialism from above.

Social revolution and the transition to socialism would involve the self-emancipation of the working class. No party or other minority acting on behalf of the class can substitute for the rule of the working class itself. One label for this kind of politics is socialism from below.

Fortunately, there are other traditions. The one we should start from—which doesn’t mean it’s got all the answers to today’s political questions—is a kind of revolutionary socialism with several core ideas that distinguish it. First, our goal is a classless and stateless society of freedom in which people democratically plan production to meet their needs and repair humanity’s relationship with the rest of nature. Second, to start a transition towards that kind of society would take a revolutionary rupture that breaks the existing state and establishes working-class rule in the form of new radically democratic institutions of popular power. Third, such a transition would have to be a liberatory process carried out by ordinary people themselves. In other words, social revolution and the transition to socialism would involve the self-emancipation of the working class. No party or other minority acting on behalf of the class can substitute for the rule of the working class itself. One label for this kind of politics is socialism from below, but what matters is the political content, not the term.

It’s because of these core ideas that we can say,

Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others — even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

1This quotation doesn’t mean I entirely agree with the politics of the group whose statement I’m quoting.

In the most generous interpretation, these were the politics of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and, to name some important figures and forces from over a century ago, Rosa Luxemburg, the Bolsheviks, and others on the left wing of the socialist movement before the Russian Revolution, like Eugene Debs in the U.S. After the Russian Revolution, most supporters of these politics united in the Communist International. Those who remained committed to these politics sooner or later came to recognize that, under Joseph Stalin and his successors, the USSR and other so-called “socialist” societies weren’t “building socialism” and their rulers needed to be overthrown. These included Leon Trotsky and socialists for whom his ideas were important. Some of them then tried to go beyond some of the ideas of Trotsky and Trotskyism, like the idea that small socialist groups should try to organize themselves by applying a model developed for  sizeable revolutionary parties—the “micro-party” approach that Tempest rightly rejects.

Rosa Luxemburg. Source: Picryl.

There were also other anti-Stalinist Marxists, including a group in Russia called the Democratic Centralists and, in Spain, the Workers Party of Marxist Unification (Spanish initials: POUM). A minority of anarchists are part of this tradition too. Some of the people and groups mentioned were more consistent than others in applying a politics of working-class self-emancipation and rejecting substitutionism. And some strands of the tradition have been more insightful than others.

Supporters of these politics were nearly wiped out by fascism, Stalinism, and Cold War anti-communism between the 1930s and 1950s. The survivors were marginalized, which damaged their ability to act and think politically. In the 1960s and 1970s new forces took up these politics or were influenced by them—Walter Rodney, for instance. Unfortunately, in the decades that followed, these forces were then set back—as was the entire radical Left—by major defeats that capitalists and their states inflicted on unions, social movements, and the exploited and oppressed around the world.

Guyanese socialist Walter Rodney. Photo credit: National African-American Reparations Commission.

We should think about this tradition as a trove of political resources, not an identity. (Capitalism today pushes us to obsess about identity in narrow and static ways.) It’s an essential starting point. But its existing resources are far from perfect, and they aren’t sufficient for the politics we need today. We also shouldn’t be uncritical of this tradition: Its supporters’ answers to political questions have sometimes been wrong. Sometimes its supporters’ political practice left a lot to be desired—sectarianism has long been a problem for many political traditions. And sometimes they’ve been wrong about significant issues of analysis even when their politics were generally solid. A good example of this is Lenin’s mistaken idea that reformism—politics that seek only reforms within the existing social order2Radical reformists believe socialism could be achieved by accumulating reforms, without any convulsive rupture with capitalism.—is influential above all because of a  “labor aristocracy,” a minority of workers supposedly bribed by imperialist super-profits.

What’s more, the best answers of the past don’t necessarily answer the questions that face us today. For example, the theory of permanent (uninterrupted) revolution developed by Trotsky in the early 20th century was an important guide to socialist revolution in countries where capitalism wasn’t yet dominant. But today every society in the world is capitalist, and the theory has been superseded.

What’s still important is rejecting the idea of dividing the struggle for socialism into separate stages: first, a national liberation (or “democratic”) stage where capitalism isn’t to be challenged, followed, at some far-off day, a socialist stage. This idea has done enormous damage to the Left globally. It leads to socialists supporting governments that, regardless of what they say they’re doing, are administering capitalism through capitalist states. Examples include the African National Congress government in South Africa (which includes members of the South African Communist Party) and the Movement Towards Socialism government in Bolivia.

Vietnamese Trotskyist Tạ Thu Thâu. Source: Wikipedia.

There are no useful answers to be found in this tradition to some questions that face us today, after the passing of the classical workers’ movement. Above all, we won’t find answers about how to contribute to building unity, solidarity, democratic self-organization, and support for radical politics in a deeply divided and atomized working class in conditions shaped by contemporary capitalism, including the social industry and the deepening ecological crisis. But there are ideas that can help us as we work on this in cooperation with people who are influenced by various political traditions. One of these is the strategic concept of the united front. This theory was developed as a guide to action for revolutionary socialist parties that needed to relate to workers who supported larger and more influential reformist parties, and to the leaders of those parties. It can’t simply be applied by much smaller socialist groups in very different circumstances. Still, it’s valuable.

There are also valuable ideas from other traditions that supporters of this kind of socialism should draw on to help us develop our politics. For example, to take into account how racism confers advantages on white workers, we should build on the insights of W.E.B. DuBois and those socialists who most seriously grappled with those insights in the 1960s and 1970s, like the Sojourner Truth Organization. And there are valuable ideas to learn from today’s abolitionist, anti-racist feminism, and trans liberation politics.

Finally, we should aspire to develop this kind of revolutionary socialism in ways that confront the challenges of our times. Our task isn’t to guard a faith, a static tradition. We need to think for ourselves, collectively, using anti-racist, queer, feminist, and Marxist analyses of the society we’re trying to change. Yet, let’s remember that real advances for socialist ideas about strategy and tactics can only come from participating in and learning from upsurges of mass struggle. It’s those struggles that make real advances in political ideas possible.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Opinions expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Tempest Collective. For more information, see “About Tempest Collective.”

Categories: D2. Socialism

CSPOA Gathering Scheduled for North Idaho Anti-Mormon, Anti-LGBTQ+ Church

The troubling ties of Richard Mack and his far-right pro-paramilitary group, Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, have been well documented by IREHR and others. This weekend, Richard Mack looks to add to his organization’s list of bigoted associations when he makes an April 13 appearance at The Altar Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The senior pastor of the host church is former state representative Tim Remington (R-2B), appointed in 2020 by Governor Little.

Titled “LIBERTY, THE CONSTITUTION, AND KOOTENAI COUNTY,” the all-day CSPOA event is slated to include an afternoon session open to the public and a morning session “Open to Law Enforcement, Incumbents and Candidates,” in the words of a flyer circulating about the event.

Anti-Mormon Bigotry

Interestingly for Richard Mack and Sam Bushman, who are Mormon, the church also aims animus at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon church.

The website of The Altar Church features a section on “Apologetics,” which includes multiple videos attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In a December 2018 sermon, Pastor Danny Cleave quoted the Apostle Paul in Galatians warning against those that would “pervert the Gospel of Christ, directing, “But that we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.”[1] Cleave concluded, “I believe that that passage of scripture was prophetic in regards to both Mormonism and the religion of Islam.”

Pastor Danny Cleave

Cleave went further in another video on the topic. Describing a Mormon claim of experiencing a “burning in your bosom,” in part as evidence of the Book of Mormon’s veracity, Cleave said he would “caution anyone to base truth off of a feeling. Feelings can be given by things other than God for certain…it’s no question that Satan himself could generate those feelings and cause us to feel something.”[2]

Cleave criticized Mormonism for a lack of archaeological evidence in support of the history told in the Book of Mormon, even as his own church claims that “an honest” reader of the Bible would have “plenty of confidence” that the universe was created in “six literal days;” that the theory of evolution is a “lie;” and the idea of an earth millions-of-years old “unscientific.”[3]

Anti-LGBTQ+ and Anti-Abortion

The Altar Church makes clear its religiously-constructed bigotry against LGBTQ+ people, lumping “homosexuality, lesbianism, [and] bisexuality” with “bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography” as “sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex.” Continuing that, “We believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance,” the group declares, “We believe that the only legitimate marriage is the joining of one man and one woman.”[4]

The Altar Church also holds that the state should be “answerable to God and governed by His Word” and rejects rape, incest, and “physical mental well being (sic) of the mother” exceptions for abortion:

“Abortion is murder. We reject any teaching that abortions of pregnancies due to rape, incest, birth defects, gender selection, birth or population control, or the physical mental well being of the mother are acceptable.”[5]

CSPOA Idaho Connections

CSPOA and its leaders have some known interactions with Idaho law enforcement. In May 2021, sitting Idaho County Sheriff Doug Ulmer posted a photo of himself with CSPOA trainer KrisAnne Hall on his “Doug Ulmer Idaho County Sheriff” Facebook page. Ulmer wrote, “Had the opportunity to meet KrisAnn (sic) Hall…Great speaker if you get the opportunity to attend one of her events it’s very informative.”[6]

KrisAnne Hall is a CSPOA trainer who holds that the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution – cornerstones of civil and voting rights– are unlawful. Hall’s ideas have also influenced Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights network.

That same year, at a meeting of the Nez Perce County Republican Committee, Sheriff Ulmer was photographed with Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Lamb—head of the “Constitutional Sheriff” group, Protect America Now (PAN) and a CSPOA member. Lamb’s group PAN is a far-right sheriff group that, like CSPOA, has entered the fray of activism around allegations of electoral fraud. Ulmer thanked sitting Nez Perce County Sheriff Bryce Scrimsher (also in the photo) for the invite to the event.

In 2014, CSPOA circulated a petition opposing Obama-administration gun policies and a related list of “sheriffs, state sheriff’s associations, and police chiefs [that] have vowed to uphold and defend the Constitution against Obama’s unconstitutional gun control measures.” CSPOA described that “the list below includes members of the CSPOA and any others who have gone on record to uphold their oath by having made public statements, written open letters or contacted us personally and asked to be included.”[7]

Currently sitting sheriffs whose names appeared on the CSPOA list include Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter, described as a “CSPOA Member,” Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman, listed as signing the petition, and Bonner County Sheriff Darryl Wheeler, Canyon County Sheriff Kiernan Donahue, Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz, and Washington County Sheriff Matt Thomas.[8]

According to the Boundary County Sheriff’s Department, a corporal who “may have had contact with the CSPOA and/or Richard Mack” retired effective April 1, 2024.[9]

The website Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs described Sheriff Wheeler, Sheriff Donahue, Sheriff Goetz, and Sheriff Carter as CSPOA members. However, this claim’s source is unclear and may be based simply on their appearance on the CSPOA list.[10]

The Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs declares its website “designed to be a one-stop place where citizens in the state can see if their sheriff, or candidate running for sheriffs, has pledged to uphold the Constitution, rather then (sic) the whims of the Federal Government;” that the website “will include the details of why we gave them this rating;” and describing that “If the sheriff in your county belongs to CSPOA we’ve given them a rating of Constitutional Sheriff for the time being. That can change if you have verifiable information we can use. We’ll still include the detail that they are a member of CSPOA.”[11]

Writing in 2022 for the far-right Idaho Dispatch, Doug Traubel cited CSPOA-trained officers as those who “know what the Constitution is.” In contrast to “weak establishment office holders…up for re-election in two years,” Traubel named current Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler and Adams County Prosecutor Chris Boyd as “the only two exceptions I am aware of that put their oath in action.”[12]

IREHR has sent public records requests and our concern about CSPOA’s recruitment efforts to sheriffs across Idaho. In the meantime, community members and law officers must make clear that CSPOA has no business in law enforcement.

NOTES

[1] The Altar Church Dec. 5, 2018 Apologetics, Mormonism Part I Pastor Danny Cleave.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3bG_YInb7o

[2] The Altar Church Dec. 5, Dec. 18, 2018, Apologetics, Mormonism Part II, Pastor Danny Cleave. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tS2t1SF2D4

[3] The Altar Church. Did God Create the World in Six Literal Days?. https://altarcda.com/did-god-create-the-world-in-six-literal-days/; The Altar Church. Is the Theory of Evolution True?. https://altarcda.com/evolution/; The Altar Church. Dec. 18, 2018, Apologetics, Mormonism Part II, Pastor Danny Cleave. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tS2t1SF2D4Accessed April 5, 2024

[4] The Altar Church. Statement of Faith. https://altarcda.com/statement-of-faith/. Accessed April 5, 2024.

[5] The Altar Church. Statement of Faith. https://altarcda.com/statement-of-faith/. Accessed April 5, 2024.

[6] Doug Ulmer Idaho County Sheriff. Facebook. May 7, 2021.

[7] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. GROWING LIST OF SHERIFFS, ASSOCIATIONS AND POLICE CHIEFS SAYING ‘NO’ TO OBAMA GUN CONTRO. February 1, 2024. WayBackMachine. https://web.archive.org/web/20140530105709/http://cspoa.org/sheriffs-gun-rights/

[8] Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association. GROWING LIST OF SHERIFFS, ASSOCIATIONS AND POLICE CHIEFS SAYING ‘NO’ TO OBAMA GUN CONTRO. February 1, 2024. WayBackMachine. https://web.archive.org/web/20140530105709/http://cspoa.org/sheriffs-gun-rights/

[9] Boundary County Sheriffs Office. Email response to public records request. April 4, 2024.

[10] The Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs website states the following; Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman: “a solid Consitutional (sic) Sheriff. He has partnered with sheriffs from Washington and Payette counties, as well as Malhuer (sic) County in Oregon, in an effort to defend the citizens of their counties from federal government overreach.”

Bonner County Sheriff Darryl Wheeler: “Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler is a member of the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association.

Canyon County Sheriff Kiernan Donahue: “Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue is a member of the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association. However, there are reports that this is a recent development. According to sources Sheriff Donahue didn’t even know what the CSPOA was until recently and according to his opponent had called organizations like OathKeepers ‘anti-Law Enforcement’ organizations.”

Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz: “Clearwater County Sheriff Chris Goetz is a member of the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association.

Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter is a member of the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer Association.

Washington County Sheriff Matt Thomas: “Washington County Sheriff Matt Thomas is a solid Consitutional (sic) Sheriff. He has partnered with sheriffs from Adams and Payette counties, as well as Malhuer County in Oregon, in an effort to defend the citizens of their counties from federal government overreach. Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs. Adams County. https://www.idahocs.org/Adams.html; Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs. Bonner County. https://www.idahocs.org/Bonner.html; Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs. Canyon County. https://www.idahocs.org/Canyon.html; Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs. Clearwater County. https://www.idahocs.org/Clearwater.html; Idaho Constitutional Sheriffs. Twin Falls County. https://www.idahocs.org/TwinFalls.html; Idaho Constituti0nal Sheriffs. https://www.idahocs.org/Washington.html. Accessed April 5, 2024.

[11] Idaho County Sheriffs. https://www.idahocs.org/. Accessed April 4, 2024.

[12] Traubel, Doug. Op-Ed: WWCSD? What Would a Constitutional Sheriff Do?. The Idaho Dispatch. Octdober 28, 2022. https://idahodispatch.com/op-ed-wwcsd-what-would-a-constitutional-sheriff-do/

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Categories: D2. Socialism

IREHR’s Letter to Idaho Sheriffs and Governor

With the far-right pro-paramilitary group CSPOA attempting to infiltrate Idaho law enforcement, we alerted sheriffs across the state about the dangers and urged them to reject CSPOA’s advances. Here’s the letter we sent to sheriffs and Governor Brad Little. 

April 8, 2024

Dear Sheriff:

It has come to our attention that a notorious group with ties to insurrectionists and white nationalists is attempting to recruit law enforcement in Idaho, potentially including you and your deputies.

We are reaching out to your department with a sense of urgency and concern regarding the upcoming plans by the so-called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) for an all-day event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on April 13th. CSPOA leader Richard Mack also announced a special morning session “open to law enforcement.” It is crucial to consider the potential risks and implications of participating in this event.

In addition to the concerns of our organization, it is important to note that both the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center categorize CSPOA as an “anti-government extremist” group. This classification should raise serious concerns and prompt a cautious approach towards any involvement with the CSPOA.

The far-right pro-paramilitary group promotes the long-discredited idea derived from the violently racist and antisemitic Posse Comitatus that sheriffs can usurp the judicial branch’s role in interpreting the Constitution and unilaterally override federal, state, and local laws. The sheriff’s job is challenging enough without being saddled with these unconstitutional burdens.

Here are some facts about the group’s founder, the current CEO, the advisory board, and members for you to consider.

CSPOA Founder Richard Mack

The CSPOA was founded by former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack—a longtime militia movement figure and founding board member of the insurrectionist paramilitary group, the Oath Keepers. Six Oath Keepers leaders were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their part in the January 6th insurrection. According to the Department of Justice, the “manners and means” used by defendants convicted in two separate Oath Keepers trials included “using force against law enforcement officers while inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.”

While Mack told Reuters that he left the Oath Keepers’ board around 2016 because the group became too militant, he and other CSPOA leaders maintained a relationship with the insurrectionist group. In fact, on January 5, 2021, CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman had Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes on his radio program the day before the insurrection to encourage others to join his insurrectionary plans. Bushman continues to defend Rhodes on his program.

Mack has also made clear that he would support using private militias against government officials, writing, “People get all upset when they hear about militias, but what’s wrong with it? I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to call out my posse against the federal government if it gets out of hand.”

Before returning to efforts to infiltrate law enforcement, in 2021, Mack toured the country with an antisemitic conspiracy theorist spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

While Mack spends considerable time stressing his devotion to Constitutional rights, his record and that of other law officers affiliated with CSPOA has too often been wanting in this regard.

Richard Mack’s history in law enforcement is also worthy of consideration. In 1985, while serving in the Provo, Utah, police department, Mack’s apparent misconduct landed a man on death row and in prison for nearly 30 years. As described in a 116-page federal court ruling, during the investigation into a high-profile murder case, Mack arranged to pay the rent, heat, and phone bills of two key witnesses and give them cash – totaling some $4,000 across several months. As a result, a Fourth District Court Judge overturned the conviction and death sentence of the man based on the misconduct of Mack, other officers, and the prosecutor. One witness also “testified that Officer Mack threatened her and [her husband] with arrest, deportation, and loss of their son, and that this occurred three times.” In addition, witnesses testified that they were coached to lie about having received gifts and about the defendant planning to rape the murder victim. The judge wrote, “Officer Mack’s inconsistent statements—all aimed at painting the police and his own conduct in a more favorable light— seriously undermined his credibility.”

CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman

When Richard Mack took a $20,000-a-month position on the board of a group spreading COVID misinformation, Sam Bushman was promoted to CEO of CSPOA. Sam Bushman never served in law enforcement. He has, however, been involved with promoting troubling white nationalist organizations, including groups advocating secession and killing law enforcement.

Already facing growing pressure for ties to white nationalists, last October, Bushman appeared on the podcast of a Hitler-loving white nationalist. On that program, Bushman confessed that he’d been a longtime reader of and remains a supporter of the white nationalist publications Spotlight and American Free Press.

CSPOA CEO Sam Bushman has used his radio show to promote and build a relationship with the white nationalist, antisemitic, and secessionist League of the South. In 1990, League of the South Chief of Statt Michael Tubbs pleaded guilty to stealing M-16 rifles from Fort Bragg in North Carolina, serving four years in prison. In 2017, Tubbs was named commander of the League of the South’s paramilitary branch, the Southern Defense Force.

Identity Dixie leader Jim O’Brien, aka Padraig Martin, a guest on Bushman’s radio show, League of the South ally, and co-editor of a pro-secessionist book promoted by Bushman, wrote this troubling passage about murdering law enforcement:

“The lesson of the egregious Stewart Rhodes prison sentence – as well as every other J6 Protester languishing in a prison, – is the following: if you are going to start a revolution of any kind, even if your purpose had legal or Constitutional merit, you better not stop at the gates. You better go all in. Do not leave a single police officer, Congressman, judge, or any other functionary of government alive…[T]he next time you take part in a rightwing protest be prepared to kill them all. Half measures are no longer an option.”

Bushman also recently announced on his radio show that he is a member of fugitive paramilitary figure Ammon Bundy’s People’s Rights network. While the group is most well-known for threatening hospitals and public health officials, one People’s Rights network member is serving an 18-year sentence for a northern Idaho shootout with law enforcement. Another is awaiting trial in Nevada for threatening law enforcement.

CSPOA Advisory Board

Mack and Bushman aren’t the only CSPOA figures of concern. The group’s advisory board includes a former member of a white nationalist secessionist group and a sheriff involved in an attempt to seize voting machines.

Michael Peroutka was a national board member of the white nationalist secessionist group, the League of the South, a group that seeks a whites-only ethnostate in the U.S. South, promotes vicious antisemitism, and has forged alliances with neo-Nazis. Peroutka has denounced the Union’s victory in what he calls the “War Between the States.” Peroutka even led the League of the South convention in singing what he called the “national anthem” – “Dixie.” While Peroutka later backed away when his ties were exposed, he stated, “I don’t have any problem with the organization.”

Peroutka currently leads the Institute on the Constitution (IOTC). This group promotes anti-Muslim bigotry and state nullification. It has distributed material stating that “We see no reason why men should not discriminate on grounds of religion, race, or nationality if they wish.” Peroutka even pledged to use the Institute on the Constitution to aid the League of the South and advance the cause of imposing biblical law.

CSPOA Advisory Board member Barry County, Michigan, Sheriff Dar Leaf was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Michigan voting machine tampering case. Emails obtained by Bridge Michigan show that Sheriff Leaf tried to enlist fellow “constitutional sheriffs” to seize Dominion voting machines at the heart of the election conspiracy promoted by then-President Donald Trump.

In May 2020, Sheriff Leaf shared the stage with members of the Michigan Liberty Militia, including one of the men arrested in the plot to kidnap the governor.

Other CSPOA-Affiliated Sheriffs

CSPOA ranks are filled with members who have tarnished the image of law enforcement and harmed communities. Multiple CSPOA-affiliated law officers have engaged in intimidation and illegal and potentially illegal practices.

  • Former Edwards County (TX) Sheriff Pam Elliot, a CSPOA member featured on the cover of Mack’s book, Are You a David?, and her department engaged in activity that intimidated political opponents and voters, including Edwards County deputies appearing at polling stations. Election attorney Buck Wood described the latter as “pure and simple intimidation.”
  • In 2022 Real County (TX) Sheriff Nathan Johnson, who attended a Texas CSPOA training, was put under criminal investigation for repeatedly seizing money from undocumented immigrants, even if they were not charged with a state crime – actions to which he admitted.
  • Culpepper County, Virginia, Sheriff Scott Jenkins, a featured speaker at CSPOA’s 2020 conference, was indicted in June on a slew of corruption charges related to a scheme that offered police badges and gun permits in exchange for payments or political contributions.
  • CSPOA member Frederick County, Maryland Sheriff Charles “Chuck” Austin Jenkins was indicted in April by a federal grand jury for breaking federal gun laws. Jenkins is alleged to have defrauded the United States by interfering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by making false statements and representations in paperwork submitted to the ATF to obtain machine guns that were used by campaign supporter Robert Justin Krop’s firearms business, The Machine Gun Nest.
  • Riverside County, California Sheriff Chad Bianco, is not only a prominent CSPOA member, he’s also been a member of the insurrectionist group, the Oath Keepers.
  • Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff who received a 2012 CSPOA award, was convicted of criminal contempt in 2017 after refusing to end his department’s racial profiling practices. As of 2015, taxpayers had paid $8.2 million for the case.
  • In 2019, CSPOA presented former Republic, Washington Police Chief Loren Culp with its “Police Chief of the Decade” award. On April 3, 2024, the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs issued Loren Culp a “notice of…proposed expulsion” from the Association because of “numerous offensive public social media posts and comments” deemed to be “unbecoming of a WASPC member.”

We could go on, but I think you get the idea. At a time when law enforcement and community relations are already strained, efforts of a far-right group to infiltrate law enforcement pose a grave and growing threat to both officers and department credibility. I think we can all agree that groups like CSPOA have no place in law enforcement. We urge you to speak out to make it clear that CSPOA has no place in American law enforcement. As this issue is time-sensitive, we would appreciate a rapid response. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Devin Burghart
Executive Director
IREHR

 

 

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Categories: D2. Socialism

Presentación del libro “El cóndor necio y el dragón al acecho”

Systemic Alternatives - Sat, 04/06/2024 - 08:00

Por Juan Pablo Neri
Discurso presentado en la Casa Museo Solón, 4 de abril de 2024

Agradecimientos,

Antes de iniciar la presentación, me gustaría realizar algunos apuntes de contexto, que me parecen cruciales. Creo que no puede caber duda que ya estamos en un periodo de transformación profunda del sistema mundial. Es decir, no es que esa transformación va a llegar en el futuro, como vaticinaron tan reiteradamente intelectuales como Wallerstein, Samir Amin o Giovanni Arrighi. Ya estamos en ese momento. Por lo tanto, es urgente que nos detengamos a pensar ¿En qué consiste esta transformación? Y ¿Cómo nos afecta?

La hegemonía de occidente, entendido como un bloque y una alianza de potencias, se halla en un proceso de declive. Por ejemplo, la unidad europea, que era uno de los indicadores del final de la historia fukuyamista, está cada vez más en tela de juicio. En la actualidad, no existe un liderazgo europeo, como todavía ocurría hace un par de años con la figura de Angela Merkel. Personajes como Schulz o Macron quisieran ocupar ese lugar, pero esa es una causa que parece perdida. En contrapartida, no solo hay un resurgimiento de movimientos fascistas en el viejo continente, sino que también han vuelto a soplar aires de guerra. Llamados de los gobiernos a armarse y prepararse para una economía bélica, y la idea de reponer el servicio militar obligatorio. Todos acá sabemos cuál es el resultado plausible de esa combinación de factores.

Por otra parte, durante las últimas cinco décadas, por decir lo menos, la relevancia global de Europa dependió, casi plenamente, de una relación servil y subordinada con Estados Unidos. ¡Lógicamente! La recuperación del viejo continente, después de la WWII, fue posible gracias a una planificación colosal, dirigida expresamente a devolver a Europa su posición económica privilegiada. Sin embargo, esa posición económica privilegiada y dominante de las potencias occidentales ya ha sido ampliamente puesta en cuestión. ¿Cómo? Notablemente, a partir del ascenso económico y geopolítico de nuevas potencias. Principalmente, China e India, entre otras economías emergentes.

Ahora bien, esto no quiere decir que exista un proceso de sustitución entre cuál o cuáles serán las nuevas potencias dominantes. Eso es algo que debe quedar claro. Pero, el simple de hecho de que estas nuevas potencias menoscaben, en la práctica, el predominio geopolítico de las potencias occidentales, constituye una amenaza palpable para su hegemonía. Por ejemplo, la capacidad de China de promover flujos comerciales masivos que dejan de lado a occidente; el hecho de que estas potencias lograron controlar la mayor parte de la producción industrial; y la contestación fáctica de la denominada “Pax americana”, no solo a partir la incursión militar convencional de Rusia sobre Ucrania, sino también por la creciente presencia militar de China en el sudeste asiático. Todos estos elementos son indicadores claros del proceso de transformación al que me refiero.

Desde luego, Europa y Estados Unidos cargan con la mayor parte de la responsabilidad sobre este proceso. Por un lado, fueron los gobiernos de las principales potencias de este bloque, sobre todo Estados Unidos y Reino Unido, los que decidieron arbitrariamente, sin ningún fundamento económico serio, quebrar la relación Estado-Capital, para darle rienda suelta al segundo. Esto es lo que hasta el presente conocemos como “neoliberalismo”. En consecuencia, se produjo una migración de las actividades industriales hacia paraísos de superexplotación laboral, como lo fue y lo sigue siendo China. En ese contexto, China había decidido ingresar en la economía capitalista, pero lo hizo con la formula opuesta. Con un sistema en el que Estado y Capital tienen una relación rígida y planificada.

Por el otro lado, aunque este es un tema sobre el que no voy a ahondar ahora, las potencias occidentales decidieron abandonar por completo su legado histórico de valores y principios liberales, ilustrados y universales. Es posible argumentar que lo hicieron para promover intereses privados y para fortalecer su posición geopolítica. Pero esta es otra crisis, más de orden civilizatorio, que es fundamental examinar. La manifestación más brutal y abyecta de este abandono, es el infame genocidio que impulsa el Estado de Israel en territorio palestino en el presente, con el apoyo y el auspicio incondicionales de Occidente. Esta incursión es también un síntoma claro del declive de la hegemonía occidental. Esta preocupación fue expresada por el propio presidente de Estados Unidos y otros altos funcionarios europeos.

Nuevamente, con todos estos apuntes no es mi intención indicar que el poderío de estas potencias esté llegando a su fin. Simplemente, que existen elementos en la arena internacional, que lo están poniendo en cuestión. Por lo demás, el poderío norteamericano continúa siendo incontestable, tanto en términos militares, como económicos. Sin embargo, el hecho que estos cambios estén ocurriendo, en particular, el ascenso de nuevas superpotencias, como dijo Kissinger, constituye en sí mismo una amenaza para esta potencia y sus aliados. Y, como sucede con toda potencia imperial que ve su existencia amenazada, la respuesta solo puede ser una afirmación violenta de poder.

En este sentido, se pueden señalar algunas dinámicas que pueden resultar problemáticas en los siguientes años. 1.- las potencias occidentales, a la cabeza de Estados Unidos han iniciado una serie de políticas de reforma económica que son abiertamente anti-globalistas. Así es, los grandes paladines de la globalización, ahora intentan contenerla. 2.- las amenazas militaristas y bélicas que profieren las potencias europeas, para evitar la victoria de Rusia sobre Ucrania. En este caso, la oposición a Rusia es, para mí, el camino correcto, pero una escalada de este conflicto a nivel continental sería catastrófica. 3.- una vez más, el apoyo al genocidio en territorio palestino es un tema que pone en juego el destino de la humanidad moderna.

Estos son algunos temas del contexto que nos toca vivir, que me parece que son cruciales para cualquier análisis geopolítico y de relaciones internacionales. Nos toca atravesar un proceso que va a estar plagado de contradicciones. Si bien en el libro señalo que estamos ingresando en un mundo multipolar, eso es algo que puede tomar más tiempo y que, con seguridad, intentará ser contenido por las potencias occidentales.

Después de esa brevísima introducción, voy a realizar algunos apuntes sobre temas que son discutidos en este libro. Seguramente, a muchos les ha llamado la atención el título. ¿Por qué el cóndor necio y el dragón al acecho? En primera instancia, en lo que respecta al dragón, no me refiero a una amenaza de China. Ese juicio de valor se lo dejo a los think-tanks reaccionarios norteamericanos. Me refiero a un dragón sigiloso y paciente. Estar al acecho implica observar de manera cautelosa. Eso es lo que ha hecho China, durante las últimas décadas.

Desde luego, si eres un pescador filipino, o un patrullero fronterizo en Kashmir, la política exterior china no la experimentas como “al acecho”, sino como una amenaza frontal. Pero a nivel global o macro, la cimentación que lleva a cabo China de su posición geopolítica ha sido sobre todo paciente. Por ejemplo, otorgan créditos pacientes; no les interesa especular inmediatamente con los activos de otros países; tampoco consiguieron su posición económica ventajosa a partir de intervenir, colonizar y saquear, como lo han hecho las potencias occidentales, desde el siglo XVI, hasta ahora. Y, como aprendí de la tesis te Alejandro Zárate, el relato histórico que esta potencia promueve sobre su desarrollo es de muy larga data. Se remonta a 5000 años atrás, cuando inicia su historia imperial. Por lo tanto, también se proyecta en el largo plazo.

Dicho esto, salvo por la política cada vez más agresiva de China sobre su área de influencia directa, que es bastante lógica considerando que se trata de una potencia en ascenso; no existen indicadores concluyentes como para afirmar que esta potencia impulsa, en el presente, un proyecto de hegemonía global y de sustitución de las potencias occidentales. Sencillamente, se trata de una potencia que intenta afirmar una posición favorable y enfocada en fortalecer sus propias capacidades. Un objetivo pragmático y auto-centrado. En este sentido, la narrativa promovida desde occidente, sobre el peligro del ascenso de China, más que señalar una amenaza, son una cantaleta de potencias -sobre todo las europeas- que son cada vez más irrelevantes.

Ahora bien, esto no quiere decir que estamos ante una potencia benevolente. Lo que intento señalar es que ese enfoque pragmático y auto-centrado es también la manera en cómo China se relaciona con los demás países y regiones del mundo. Es decir, con el principal objetivo de seguir fortaleciendo sus capacidades y su desarrollo interno. Por el otro lado, ¿Qué sucede en el caso del cóndor, o sea, Bolivia?

Las dos críticas centrales que elaboro en el libro tienen que ver con 1.- el modelo de desarrollo boliviano y 2.- el enfoque de nuestra política exterior. Entre ambos temas, el primero es el que me parece más importante. Este es un tema sobre el que he insistido bastante, en discusiones, columnas y, desde luego, acá. Bolivia tiene la característica perniciosa de ser una economía de exportación y dependiente. ¿Qué quiere decir esto? Por un lado, que los sectores más importantes de la economía, en términos de generación de riqueza nacional, han sido y continúan siendo la extracción, producción y comercialización de bienes primarios. Por otra parte, esto significa que la mayor parte de los bienes de consumo acabados (autos, electrodomésticos, ropa, etc.) son importados. Ya sea por canales formales o informales.

Adicionalmente, estos grandes sectores vinculados con los bienes primarios, no son productivos, en el sentido de que, 1.- implican un proceso reducido de industrialización y 2.- en consecuencia, tienen una capacidad muy reducida de generar empleo formal. La mayor parte del empleo formal en Bolivia tiene que ver con el sector de comercio y servicios. Pero, lo mismo sucede en el caso del empleo informal que, incidentalmente, es el que mayor fuerza de trabajo moviliza, a través de arreglos laborales precarios o el extenso “cuentapropismo”. Es más, se puede realizar la inferencia lógica de que la mayoría de los medios de subsistencia de los bolivianos se desarrollan en la economía informal, precisamente porque somos una economía de exportación y dependiente.

Esto, a su vez, acarrea otras consecuencias. 1ro. La capacidad de recaudación del Estado es bastante reducida y, como el resto de la economía, depende del dinamismo de los mercados de los bienes primarios. 2do. Por esta razón, la capacidad redistributiva y de ejecución de políticas públicas de diversa índole, del Estado, también es bastante reducida. Eso explica que también exista una significativa dependencia en los fondos de cooperación internacional, la cooperación técnica y el trabajo de las ONG, por ejemplo, para cubrir los múltiples vacíos que deja el Estado. 3ro. Al ser una economía de exportación, otra característica perniciosa es la tendencia a la fuga de divisas. Ya sea porque los sectores que exportan de manera privada, como es el caso del agronegocio, deciden retener las divisas en el extranjero, en forma de ahorro individual, o convertirse en burguesías comerciales e importar bienes acabados. O, en el caso de los sectores públicos, como las exportaciones de hidrocarburos, todo el dinero generado es consumido rápidamente en: importaciones (notablemente, el subsidio a los carburantes); el gasto público y el pago de las obligaciones financieras que tiene el país. Incidentalmente, la 4ta consecuencia es el incremento sostenido de la deuda externa.

(De hecho, en lo que respecta al tema de las divisas, su principal destino es, o la especulación en mercados financieros externos, sobre todo en Estados Unidos; o la importación de bienes de consumo. En general, en cualquier lugar del mundo, a no ser que la economía este dolarizada, además de lo señalado, no tiene mucho sentido tener divisas extranjeras guardadas. A no ser, como sucede ahora en Bolivia, para esperar pacientemente el colapso, con la esperanza tonta de que vas a poder hacer algo con tus dólares después).

Ahora bien, esto no tiene que ver con el “socialismo” o el “comunismo totalitario del MAS”, como suelen vociferar algunos políticos y “líderes de opinión”. Todo lo que he descrito es una característica bastante duradera de la economía boliviana, que fue reforzada y consolidada durante el periodo de las políticas de austeridad del neoliberalismo. Así es. Cuando Bolivia negociaba la condonación de su deuda externa, por la crisis de deuda que estalló en los años 80, el FMI nos dijo, expresamente: “Está bien, les condonamos la deuda. Pero ustedes aplican una serie de políticas de austeridad, de privatización y, además de eso, se especializan en la producción y exportación de hidrocarburos”. Esta información se encuentra en los documentos de negociación de la deuda externa, que están publicados en la página del Banco Central.

Por lo tanto, considerando toda esta información ¿Cuáles fueron las grandes contradicciones del masismo durante los últimos 20 años? Por un lado, pretender impulsar un Estado benefactor, con amplias políticas sociales y de gasto público, sostenidas en el mismo modelo de economía de exportación especializada que nos fue prescrito por los organismos financieros multilaterales, como parte de las recetas de choque del neoliberalismo. Y, por el otro, seguir apostando por la economía de extracción y de exportación de bienes primarios, como fuente principal de recursos para el Estado. Incluso, a pesar de las promesas de industrialización y de sustitución de importaciones.

Entonces, si me han seguido hasta este punto, ¿Cuáles fueron los resultados? A.- Continuó la fuga de divisas, es decir la generación de mucho excedente sin acumulación de capital. Tanto en el sector privado, como público. B.- Consecuentemente, se incrementó la deuda externa, para sostener un gasto público que no tiene un correlato en la riqueza nacional. Insisto, no somos un país que crea riqueza, solo generamos excedente. Son dos cosas distintas. C.- Y, por lo tanto, llegamos al momento actual, estamos nuevamente en las puertas de un escenario de crisis de déficit fiscal y crisis de deuda externa. Ya nos vimos en esa situación en el pasado y, es simplemente lógico concluir que, mientras sigamos con el mismo de modelo de economía de exportación y dependiente, vamos a volver a la misma situación en el futuro.

A todo esto, se suma la segunda gran contradicción o necedad del cóndor, que es el enfoque de su política exterior. O lo que hemos denominado campismo, tomando el concepto de otros análisis. Con “campismo” nos referimos a una valoración excesivamente geopolítica de las relaciones internacionales. No me voy a extender sobre este tema, para no aburrirlos más. Pero otra contradicción de la política exterior boliviana ha sido la tendencia recurrente a la ponderación de ciertas relaciones bilaterales y a la alineación con ciertas narrativas y agendas internacionales.

Para que me entiendan, es de una ironía gigantesca leer análisis de personajes nefastos como Sánchez Berzaín y otros analistas reaccionarios, señalar “el servilismo” de Bolivia por decidir relacionarse con países como Irán, China o Rusia; solo para argumentar que deberíamos volver al redil de las potencias occidentales. Yo pienso deberíamos estar abiertos a relacionarnos con todos. Desde luego, con un alto grado de pragmatismo. Es decir, priorizando nuestros intereses y capacidades. Pero, por supuesto, sin descuidar los principios internacionalistas que se hallan en nuestra Constitución. Es decir, construir una política exterior seria, libre de recelos y vilezas.

De esa manera podremos evitar los vicios del campismo, tanto el que se dice de “izquierda”, como del campismo reaccionario. Bueno, éstas son algunas de las necedades del cóndor, a las que me refiero en el libro. Espero que, con estas provocaciones, los convoque a leer el libro, para seguir discutiendo estos temas y afinando la investigación.

¡Muchas gracias!

Categories: D2. Socialism

Los cipayos neoliberales defienden el arbitraje

Systemic Alternatives - Fri, 04/05/2024 - 14:21

Por Alberto Acosta, Ecuador

“¿Está usted de acuerdo que el Estado ecuatoriano promueva la inversión extranjera y reconozca el arbitraje internacional como método para solucionar controversias en materia de inversión, contractuales o comerciales, de manera que se ofrezca a los inversores extranjeros un entorno apropiado de seguridad jurídica que genere mayores oportunidades de empleo y afiancen la dolarización?” -Pregunta (4) del referéndum del 21 de abril del 2024

El discurso de esta pregunta sintetiza una visión ampliamente difundida. La inversión extranjera sería fundamental para el desarrollo, así como para la generación de empleo. Sus defensores, los que defienden el Mundo de los Dueños, la repiten hasta el cansancio. Y como sucede con cualquier medida de política económica, tal como aconteció con el alza del IVA, la inversión extranjera asoma también como una suerte de artilugio todoterreno que apuntala la dolarización, devenida en el objetivo supremo de la economía ecuatoriana.

Por lo tanto, para que lleguen esas tan ansiadas inversiones extranjeras es preciso crear todas las condiciones apropiadas para que eso acontezca. Entonces, nada mejor que ofrecerles la posibilidad de acceder a instancias internacionales de arbitraje para que no estén forzadas a litigar únicamente en los tribunales ecuatorianos. De eso se trata el retorno a los tratados bilaterales de inversión, que plantea el presidente Daniel Noboa, quien, en su reciente participación en el conclave minero más grande del mundo, en Toronto, Canadá, dijo que con el referéndum quiere reformar la Constitución para permitir la aprobación de este mecanismo de protección de las inversiones extranjeras.

Para poder comprender los alcances de esta pretensión gubernamental, nada mejor que ir por partes.

Tratados bilaterales de inversión, una explicación

Con este tipo de tratados, partiendo de la premisa expuesta en el primer párrafo de este texto y en la misma pregunta del referéndum, se quiere atraer inversión extranjera. Para eso hay que ofrecerles un marco de seguridad jurídica súper fuerte, apropiado dicen. Es decir, que en caso de disputas que puedan surgir entre el inversionista extranjero y el Estado, cuando no se las pueda resolver en el marco de la justicia nacional, se abre la puerta de dilucidarlas a nivel internacional, en alguna corte de arbitraje.

Estos tratados bilaterales de inversión parten de una definición extremadamente amplia del concepto de inversión enmarcada claramente en relaciones contractuales con múltiples posibilidades. Tengamos presente, además, que la legislación de inversión está incorporada en la legislación de comercio; este es un punto medular para entender como las inversiones están íntimamente imbricadas con los temas de comercio: los tratados de inversión normalmente forman parte de los “tratados de libre comercio” o TLCs, los que, bien sabemos, no son libres ni solo de comercio.

Con estos tratados bilaterales de inversión se asegura un tratamiento preferencial para las inversiones extranjeras. Se establece la prohibición de requisitos de desempeño a dichos inversionistas; la prohibición de la nacionalización o expropiación directa o indirecta; la prohibición de toda restricción al movimiento y repatriación de capitales; entre otros muchos beneficios. Y, por cierto, se blindan sus ganancias ante cualquier efecto negativo que pueda provocar un cambio en la normativa nacional, como podría ser alguna nueva medida laboral o ambiental o tributaria.

Todo lo anterior deriva en el establecimiento de mecanismos de solución de disputas entre inversionistas extranjeros y el Estado, en el marco de esquemas de arbitraje internacionales que terminan por socavar la soberanía de los Estados. Estos tratados son ampliamente conocidos como “la industria del arbitraje”, tanto por sus resultados, normalmente favorables a los inversionistas extranjeros, como por sus integrantes, con demasiada frecuencia al servicio de los intereses transnacionales.

Estos tratados ampliaran las posibilidades de negocios protegidos para el capital extranjero en el país. Tengamos presente las opciones que se abren con los incrementados beneficios establecidos en la Ley de Eficiencia Económica y de Generación de Empleo, aprobada en el parlamento a fines del 2023, en el marco de las “zonas francas” y “alianzas público-privadas”. Consideremos también las privatizaciones anunciadas por el gobierno, en las que participarán inversionistas extranjeros, que contarán con este tipo de sobre protección; tan aplaudida por el Fondo Monetario Internacional – FMI. Con estos tratados se asegurarán inclusive las ventajas adicionales que tienen ya muchas empresas extranjeras, por ejemplo, extractivistas, como las mineras, que cuentan con una serie de beneficios tributarios en tanto se les exoneró del pago del impuesto a la renta hasta no haber recuperado la totalidad de su inversión o los subsidios que obtienen vía reducidas tarifas de electricidad.

Todas estas ventajas y otras muchas se cobijan con el paraguas protector de los tratados bilaterales de inversión.

Origen de esta “industria del arbitraje”

Los Tratados Bilaterales de Inversión surgieron de un intento fallido por establecer una suerte de constitución económica global que proteja los derechos de los inversionistas internacionales; es decir que asegure la hegemonía plena del capital transnacional. Este Acuerdo Multilateral de Inversiones (AMI) -en inglés Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)- se discutió -a espaldas de la mayoría de estados del planeta- en la segunda mitad de los años noventa del siglo pasado. No fue nunca visto como una herramienta para el desarrollo de los países del Sur global o algo por el estilo.

En esa época, en pleno auge neoliberal, dichas inversiones, en el marco de la OCDE (Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico), se pretendió hacer realidad este marco jurídico supranacional con alcance global. Con este Acuerdo Multilateral se pretendía establecer límites a los derechos laborales, a las políticas sociales, a la pluralidad cultural planetaria, a la relación con la Naturaleza y, por cierto, a los ámbitos del ejercicio de la democracia.

Huelga decir que no pudo ser aprobado por la resistencia de amplios segmentos sociales en varios países de la propia Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico, que entendieron con claridad los riesgos que esto implicaba.

A partir de esta realidad se empezó a buscar otros mecanismos de protección supranacional para los inversionistas extranjeros por vías bilaterales; recordemos que los mecanismos instalados anteriormente, que recurrían incluso al uso de la fuerza para cobrar la deuda externa, por ejemplo, estaban proscritos por la creciente vigencia de la Doctrina Calvo.[1] De aquí saldría el principio de la no intervención y, poco después, el principio moderno de la Igualdad Jurídica de los Estados; igualdad que, como vemos casi a diario, no se compadece con la realidad, menos aún cuando a los Estados se les pone al mismo nivel que las empresas extranjeras en tribunales internacionales.

El escaso atractivo real de los tratados bilaterales de inversión

La experiencia de Ecuador con estos tratados es larga, compleja y muy onerosa. La lista de demandas planteadas y de sentencias que afectan los intereses nacionales demuestra la realidad de esta relación. Basta revisar el informe final de la Comisión para la Auditoría Integral Ciudadana de los Tratados de Protección Recíproca de Inversiones y del Sistema de Arbitraje Internacional en Materia de Inversiones (CAITISA) [2], creada en el año 2013 y que concluyó sus funciones en el 2017.

Profundicemos en esta cuestión. La misma CAITISA y otros tantos estudios en diversas partes del planeta, han concluido que estos tratados firmados por Ecuador no fueron determinantes en la atracción de la inversión extranjera directa. Los inversionistas van a países en donde puedan hacer negocios y, además, que cuenten con un marco institucional estable. En suma, la entrega agresiva de este tipo de privilegios o la desregulación de normas nacionales no es una suerte de imán para atraer inversiones.

Recordemos, a la fecha de dicho informe, el Ecuador tenía más tratados que muchos países de la región, y sin embargo recibía solo 0,79% de dicha inversión que llegaba del mundo a América Latina y el Caribe. El principal flujo de inversiones extranjeras directas hacia Ecuador provenía de Brasil, México y Panamá, países con los que Ecuador no tenía un tratado bilateral de inversiones.

Con seguridad, la existencia de dichos tratados no fue ni el detonante menos aún el argumento fundamental para realizar esas actividades de tipo comercial en el Ecuador. Y como si lo anterior no es un argumento suficiente, téngase presente que -comparando dos países de la región de tamaño relativamente similar- Brasil, sin tratados bilaterales de inversión, superaba en inversiones extranjeras a México, uno de los países con más tratados de inversión.

El oneroso y complejo impacto de estos tratados bilaterales de inversión

Tengamos presente que el Ecuador ya acumula un monto de pagos forzados a través de dichos arbitrajes, sobre en el Centro Internacional de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones (CIADI), por unos 3 mil millones de dólares, con perspectivas de que este monto se incremente de forma exponencial. El Ecuador está entre los veinte países del mundo que ha recibido más laudos o fallos arbitrales derivados de estos tratados de inversión.

Todo es por nuestra culpa porque no respetamos los contratos”, dirán los cipayos neoliberales, defensores de estos tratados de inversión. No les importa, para nada, que las empresas atropellen los mismos contratos, los que en muchos casos no se apegan a las normas constitucionales y legales ecuatorianas.

Cabría simplemente traer a colación los arbitrajes en el mundo petrolero y minero, como son los de Chevron-Texaco, Oxy-Occidental, Perenco-Burlington, Murphy, Cooper Mesa, CODELCO; a más de otros en campos como el de la electricidad, telecomunicación, industria, etc.

También se puede recordar el chantaje de las transnacionales mineras, las que, a pesar de realizar actividades que afectan la Constitución y las leyes, es decir la esencia de la seguridad jurídica, amenazan con demandar usando este mecanismo si se permite el cumplimiento de un derecho constitucional: las consultas populares, establecido en el artículo 104 de la Constitución. Es más, estos tratados bilaterales de inversión, que abren la puerta a los arbitrajes internacionales, desarman muchos elementos de la Constitución, como podrían ser, por ejemplo, las posibilidades de llevar adelante consultas populares como las del Yasuni o del Chocó-Andino, si están en juego los intereses de empresas extractivistas extranjeras.

En este punto cabría señalar que -como se ha visto a la saciedad en los casos de arbitraje en los que ha estado envuelto el Estado ecuatoriano y otros Estados- los árbitros son muchas veces abogados con estrechos vínculos con las empresas transnacionales; eso explica también porque se piede con tanta frecuencia este tipo de arbitrajes. En otras ocasiones la responsabilidad radica en el Estado, que, a pesar de gastar enormes candidades de dinero en su defensa, no ha tenido la firmeza y claridad para llevar adelante estos procesos.

En varios casos se ha registrado una serie muy compleja y hasta oscura de relaciones entre diversos factores que terminan por afectar el interés nacional. Basta ver lo que sucedió en las enredadas relaciones entre Petrobras, Odebrecht y Oxy-Occidental[3] o las peripecias que caracterizan las relaciones con la Chevron-Texaco[4]. Estos casos emblemáticos develan la lógica perversa con la que funciona el capital transnacional en contra de la soberanía de los estados-nación, incluso en contubernio con los gobiernos.

Sin pretender agotar esta cuestión, simplemente recordemos que los “beneficios” de estos arbitrajes -una instancia de protección jurídica supranacional adicional- no son para los inversionistas nacionales, lo que ya demuestra graves afectaciones en términos constitucionales, como veremos más adelante.

Los tratados de inversión desaparecen en Montecristi

En la Asamblea Constituyente de Montecristi se fijó como el objetivo fundamental construir una sociedad democrática a partir de la vigencia plena de los Derechos Humanos y los Derechos de la Naturaleza. Esta decisión planteaba como un punto clave la posibilidad de que como sociedad podamos definir autónomamente nuestro futuro, sin permitir mecanismos o estructuras que puedan afectar la soberanía nacional. Es más, había claridad sobre las amenazas que representan los Tratados de Libre Comercio y los Tratados Bilaterales de Inversión, hermanos siameses del intento para imponer normas transnacionales que cristalicen el sistema del capital globalizado.

En concreto, con el fin de erradicar tratamientos de privilegio a los inversionistas extranjeros, en Montecristi se prohibieron los tratados bilaterales de inversión. Con esta disposición se estableció un marco para que no se protejan los derechos de las inversiones extranjeras afectando los derechos de los seres humanos y del ambiente, poniendo en riesgo inclusive políticas sociales y de otra índole, impidiendo inclusive situaciones que privilegien a dichos inversionistas en perjuicio de los empresarios nacionales. Esta normativa quedó claramente establecida en el capítulo segundo Tratados e instrumentos internacionales, del Título VII Relaciones internacionales, en el artículo 422:

No se podrá celebrar tratados o instrumentos internacionales en los que el Estado ecuatoriano ceda jurisdicción soberana a instancias de arbitraje internacional, en controversias contractuales o de índole comercial, entre el Estado y personas naturales o jurídicas privadas.

Se exceptúan los tratados e instrumentos internacionales que establezcan la solución de controversias entre Estados y ciudadanos en Latinoamérica por instancias arbitrales regionales o por órganos jurisdiccionales de designación de los países signatarios. No podrán intervenir jueces de los Estados que como tales o sus nacionales sean parte de la controversia.

En el caso de controversias relacionadas con la deuda externa, el Estado ecuatoriano promoverá soluciones arbitrales en función del origen de la deuda y con sujeción a los principios de transparencia, equidad y justicia internacional.”

El Ecuador llegó a suscribir una treintena de tratados bilaterales de inversión. Si bien, el año 2009, el país se retiró del sistema de Solución de Controversias Inversionista – Estado (ISDS, por sus siglas en inglés), que incluye al CIADI, no todos los tratados fueron denunciados, como dispone la Constitución. Faltó voluntad política para cumplir con lo que ordenó el pueblo al aprobar la carta magna.

No solo eso, incluso, en el año 2018, hubo un audaz intento de reinterpretación de la Constitución por parte de un grupo minoritario de asambleístas, que intentaba echar abajo la prohibición de los tratados bilaterales de inversión; pretensión que fue rechazada por la Corte Constitucional el año 2022. Y, por cierto, no podemos olvidar, que se retornó a los mecanismos de Solución de Controversias Inversionista – Estado en el año 2021, sin que haya aprobación legislativa, porque así lo determinó la Corte Constitucional.

No más privilegios para los inversionistas extranjeros

Decir que con estos tratados se asegura un mejor ambiente de negocios y de condiciones de inversión, es decir un mejor ambiente comercial, es incompleto. Hacen falta muchos más factores, puesto que, entre otras cosas, se deben crear las condiciones para un desenvolvimiento dinámico de la economía nacional en los términos establecidos en la Constitución, la que, en su artículo 283, dispone la construcción de un sistema económico social y solidario.[5]

Este es el punto de partida para crear las mejores condiciones para la actividad económica en Ecuador. Con esta disposición constitucional -artículo 422- no se pretende simplemente recuperar espacios de soberanía económica y por cierto jurídica. Lo que se busca es un sistema que asegure una verdadera equidad para inversionistas extranjeros y nacionales. Es más, en la Constitución en el artículo 339[6], se establece con claridad que se otorgará “prioridad a la inversión nacional” y que “la inversión extranjera directa será complementaria a la nacional”.

Pongamos también sobre la mesa lo que dispone el artículo 9 de la Constitución, que determina que las personas extranjeras tendrán los mismos derechos y deberes que las ecuatorianas, no privilegios, pues, quienes provengan del exterior, siempre estarán sujetas a “un estricto respeto del marco jurídico y de las regulaciones nacionales”: como determina el mismo artículo 339.

Recordemos también que la Constitución de Montecristi establece dos salvedades para los arbitrajes internacionales. Una posibilidad, cuando se trata de sistemas constituidos a nivel regional, lo que está en línea con el mandato constitucional de construir una soberanía regional; punto en el que se registran pocos avances. La otra opción, hasta ahora no concretada, pero si discutida en foros internacionales, incluso en Naciones Unidas, es un tribunal internacional de arbitraje de deuda soberana.[7]

Un punto adicional a ser considerado, en el artículo 416 numeral 12 de la Constitución, en línea con la no sesión de soberanía nacional y si con la construcción de una soberanía compartida, se plantea la creación de mecanismos de control internacional a las corporaciones multinacionales y el establecimiento de un sistema financiero internacional, justo, transparente y equitativo.[8] De lo que se sabe, nada de esto ha sido impulsado por los gobiernos desde que el pueblo ecuatoriano en las urnas aprobó la Constitución en el año 2008.

En este punto, es preciso alertar el riesgo de confundir estos esquemas de arbitraje internacional con la posibilidad del arbitraje nacional, establecido en el artículo 190 de la Constitución, en la sección dedicada a los medios alternativos para la solución de conflictos. Son temas completamente diferentes.

En síntesis, con estos tratados bilaterales de inversión se establecería, atropellando la Constitución en varios y fundamentales puntos, una posición privilegiada a las inversiones extranjeras, que, como vimos anteriormente, tendrían una suerte de blindaje múltiple. De esta manera la inversión extranjera se encontraría en una situación en la que no estaría obligada a respetar de manera estricta el marco jurídico nacional, empezando por nuestra Carta Magna. En este contexto de irrespeto institucionalizado, puede hasta haber aflorar la viveza criolla: ecuatorianos que tienen capitales en el exterior tratarían de retornarlos camuflados como inversiones extranjeras.

Seguridad jurídica integral, no privilegios para el capital internacional

Cerrar la puerta a los arbitrajes mencionados no implica negar el potencial aporte que pueden brindar las inversiones extranjeras; aporte que, en cualquier caso, amerita un análisis detenido. No toda inversión extranjera contribuye a abrir nuevos mercados externos. Su potencial para generar empleo puede ser mínimo, pues en muchas ocasiones utilizan tecnologías ahorradoras de mano de obra, si pensamos en especial en el sector de la manufactura. En otros, cuando se trata de grandes cadenas de comercialización, por ejemplo, pueden afectar a los pequeños y medianos negocios que sumados generan normalmente más puestos de trabajo. En ocasiones estas empresas no transfieren la tecnología que dominan y con frecuencia utilizan tecnologías de vieja generación. Inclusive su aporte de capital puede ser limitado, no solo porque el monto de las utilidades remesadas supera los recursos invertidos -algo normal tratándose actividades inspiradas en el lucro-, sino que, no faltan ejemplos, de cómo estos inversionistas se aprovechan de créditos locales para realizar sus inversiones.

En este punto debe quedar absolutamente claro que, en lugar de privilegiar a los inversionistas extranjeros con estas normas supranacionales de justicia, lo de fondo es construir un sistema de justicia equitativo para todos los inversionistas, nacionales y extranjeros. Eso demanda una profunda reestructuración de la justicia. A estas alturas nadie duda que requerimos una justicia independiente y autónoma. Nadie debería poder “meterle la mano a la justicia”.

Es más, la seguridad jurídica debe ser para todos. En el artículo 82 de la Constitución establece con claridad el “derecho a la seguridad jurídica”, sin excepciones o privilegios. Dicho esto, insistamos, no puede haber “un entorno de seguridad jurídica apropiado” solo para los inversionistas extranjeros, como plantea la pregunta del referéndum.

La seguridad jurídica debe ser apropiada para los individuos, las comunidades y las organizaciones sociales, el gobierno central y los gobiernos descentralizados, por cierto, también para la Naturaleza, no sólo para el capital privado. Esta seguridad jurídica demanda integralidad, a partir de la premisa de que en este país el eje es el ser humano viviendo en armonía con la Naturaleza, lógica que debe normar los acuerdos y convenios internacionales.

De la mano de la Constitución se puede plantear una vigorosa estrategia económica para impulsar el Buen Vivir. Por falta de espacio, recordemos apenas el tema de las soberanías en plural: soberanía económica, soberanía alimentaria, soberanía energética; el mandato para lograr el desarrollo, fortaleciendo y dinamizando los mercados internos, así como la producción nacional, en línea con una inserción estratégica en la economía mundial; la prohibición de las prácticas monopólicas y oligopólicas. Esto demanda que se garantice la vigencia plena de los Derechos Humanos y los Derechos de la Naturaleza.

Ahora, tratar de acomodar la Constitución a los nuevos vientos aperturistas y flexibilizadores -que chocan con la esencia de la misma Constitución- sería no solo una violación de la carta magna, sino una muy mala señal, incluso en el exterior, al irrespetar las instituciones existentes (que tampoco fueron respetadas en su totalidad en los años inmediatamente posteriores a su aprobación, cabe recordar). La Constitución no puede ser una suerte de plastilina manipulable de conformidad con las apetencias de los grupos de poder. Y “la guerra” al crimen organizado no puede ser un pretexto para seguir profundizando la neoliberalización de la economía.

En síntesis, la sobre protección al capital foráneo es otra de las manifestaciones de sumisión, tan pro­pia de las oligarquías, pre­sas de la “co­lo­nia­li­dad del po­der”, puesto que, en este caso concreto creen ingenuamente que “la solución es el capital extranjero”. Eso explica porque es­tos defensores del Mundo de los Due­ños están siempre prestos a priorizar lo “made in cualquier parte” que no sea lo propio, incluso por su desconfianza en sus propias capacidades.

Así las cosas, es evidente que los tratados bilaterales de inversión son herramientas estratégicas y de protección para los intereses del capital extranjero, que cuenta con el respaldo de sus fieles servidores criollos en el gobierno y fuera de él. No son de ninguna manera instrumentos para el bien común, por más que se diga solemnemente lo contrario.-

Sobre el término cipayo: Se denomina cipayos a las personas que sirven a los intereses extranjeros en detrimento de los de su país. El nombre se extendió a raíz de la práctica del ejército inglés en la India que contaba en sus filas con soldados indios al servicio del Imperio británico, a quienes se les conocía como cipayos.

Notas:

[1] Venezuela en 1903 sufrió el bombardeo de sus puertos por parte de una flota anglo-germano-italiana -con la complicidad de los Estados Unidos-, cuando ese país que no pudo pagar su deuda. Situaciones similares se vivieron en la República Dominicana, Haití, México, Nicaragua, Argentina entre otros países. Recordemos la respuesta de Argentina a inicios del siglo XX, como consecuencia de la agresión a Venezuela: el ministro de Relaciones Exteriores Luis Drago envió una nota de rechazo al uso de la fuerza -agresión militar u ocupación de territorios- para lograr el pago de las deudas por parte de los Estados, por ser atentatoria contra el derecho Internacional. Este planteamiento, que se conoce como la doctrina Drago, fortaleció la doctrina Calvo, formulada décadas antes por otro argentino Carlos Calvo, quien, como representante del Paraguay en París, protestó por la injerencia británica en los asuntos internos de ese país.

[3] Recomendamos leer este texto del autor, escrito con John Cajas-Guijarro (2019); “Petrobras, Odebrecht, OXY: Recordando un billar a tres bandas… en contra del país”. Disponible en https://www.planv.com.ec/historias/sociedad/petrobras-odebrecht-oxy-recordando-un-billar-tres-bandas-contra-del-pais

[4] Se puede leer el artículo preparado por el autor de estas líneas con John Cajas-Guijaro (2020); “La mano sucia del capital: estragos del Chernóbil ecuatoriano”. Disponible en https://www.planv.com.ec/historias/sociedad/la-mano-sucia-del-capital-estragos-del-chernobil-ecuatoriano

[5] Artículo 283: El sistema económico es social y solidario; reconoce al ser humano como sujeto y fin; propende a una relación dinámica y equilibrada entre sociedad, Estado y mercado, en armonía con la naturaleza; y tiene por objetivo garantizar la producción y reproducción de las condiciones materiales e inmateriales que posibiliten el buen vivir. El sistema económico se integrará por las formas de organización económica pública, privada, mixta, popular y solidaria, y las demás que la Constitución determine. La economía popular y solidaria se regulará de acuerdo con la ley e incluirá a los sectores cooperativistas, asociativos y comunitarios.”

[6] Artículo 339: “El Estado promoverá las inversiones nacionales y extranjeras, y establecerá regulaciones específicas de acuerdo a sus tipos, otorgando prioridad a la inversión nacional. Las inversiones se orientarán con criterios de diversificación productiva, innovación tecnológica, y generación de equilibrios regionales y sectoriales. La inversión extranjera directa será complementaria a la nacional, estará sujeta a un estricto respeto del marco jurídico y de las regulaciones nacionales, a la aplicación de los derechos y se orientará según las necesidades y prioridades definidas en el Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, así como en los diversos planes de desarrollo de los gobiernos autónomos descentralizados. La inversión pública se dirigirá a cumplir los objetivos del régimen de desarrollo que la Constitución consagra, y se enmarcará en los planes de desarrollo nacional y locales, y en los correspondientes planes de inversión.”

[7] Tribunal que debe partir con un ejercicio de auditoria ciudadana independiente, que establezca las posibles ilegalidades e ilegitimidades de las deudas externas contratadas, liberándolos de las ataduras impuestas en los contratos de dichas deudas que parten por la sesión de soberanía a la justicia de los países acreedores.  Posteriormente en los acuerdos a los que se llegue después de dichas auditorias, se debe considerar la real capacidad económica para cumplirlos, en ningún caso se pueden afectar las inversiones sociales; todo en el marco de una -todavía inexistente- institucionalidad financiera internacional que asegure la justicia y la transparencia, teniendo los Derechos Humanos y también los Derechos de la Naturaleza como su fundamento. Se recomienda la propuesta para conformar un tribunal Internacional de Arbitraje de las Deudas Soberanas de Óscar Ugarteche y Alberto Acosta,, presentada desde inicios del siglo XXI: Ugarteche, Oscar; Acosta, Alberto (2003); “A favor de un tribunal internacional de arbitraje de deuda soberana (TIADS)”, Caracas, revista Nueva Sociedad N° 183; o, “Global Economy Issues and the International Board of Arbitration for Sovereign Debt (IBASD)”, El Norte, Finnish Journal of Latin American Studies, núm. 2 (diciembre), 2007. Los elementos fuerza de esta iniciativa ya han sido debatidos y aprobados en el seno de las Naciones Unidas, aunque con el esperado rechazo de las grandes potencias beneficiarias de estas estructuras inequitativas en el ámbito financiero internacional.

[8] “Artículo 416.- Las relaciones del Ecuador con la comunidad internacional responderán a los intereses del pueblo ecuatoriano, al que le rendirán cuenta sus responsables y ejecutores, y en consecuencia:

12. Fomenta un nuevo sistema de comercio e inversión entre los Estados que se sustente en la justicia, la solidaridad, la complementariedad, la creación de mecanismos de control internacional a las corporaciones multinacionales y el establecimiento de un sistema financiero internacional, justo, transparente y equitativo. Rechaza que controversias con empresas privadas extranjeras se conviertan en conflictos entre Estados.”

Alberto Acosta: Economista ecuatoriano. Presidente de la Asamblea Constituyente 2007-2008.

Publicación original: https://rebelion.org/los-cipayos-neoliberales-defienden-el-arbitraje/

Categories: D2. Socialism

Confronting the backlash

Tempest Magazine - Wed, 04/03/2024 - 21:54

In 2020, some 15 to 20 million people participated in the largest anti-racist protests in history in a sustained national rebellion that inspired international solidarity. But our political leaders–both Democrat and Republican–have retrenched and pursued racist law-and-order agendas. Black people remain three times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than white people. In this conversation held at the Socialism 2023 convention, Haley Pessin and Phil Gasper think through what it will take to build a lasting and effective struggle against the racist state.

Haley Pessin: Confronting the backlash against the anti-racist uprising is what we are discussing today. From the vantage of today, it’s very difficult to remember, or put ourselves in, the time and place of what it was like to be in a context where people were openly talking about abolition.

The rebellion of 2020 was an incredible experience even for those who have been radicals for many years. Some 15 to 20 million people participated in the largest anti-racist protests in history, in a sustained national rebellion that inspired international solidarity.

The entire criminal legal system was on the defensive. In New York City alone, 47 police cars were damaged or burned. Within the first two weeks of the uprising, police had arrested more than 17 thousand people across the country, the largest such wave of arrests since the Vietnam War. In Washington D.C., protests outside the White House temporarily forced President Donald Trump to flee to his bunker–allegedly to inspect it and not in abject fear of the riots.

This all occurred in defiance of curfews and stay-in-place orders imposed by mayors and governors in every major city. The struggles were led primarily by Black youth, but the consciousness, participation, and solidarity they generated extended to non-Black people, including those in rural, majority-white regions, and even former sundown towns.

At the height of the protests an astounding 54 percent of Americans felt that the burning of a police station in Minneapolis was either justified or partially justified. And in exit polls for the November, 2020 elections, voters cited racial injustice as the second most important issue facing the country after the economy.

Yet these protests were not just about police brutality. They were also a reaction to the failure of state and federal governments to respond to the horrific death toll and economic devastation caused by a world historic pandemic and a form of resistance to the multi-pronged wave of attacks on oppressed and working-class people from the Trump administration on down.

We saw this in the evolution of the Black Lives Matter protests between 2014 and 2020. A whole layer of activists, who began with demands for more Black police officers and body cameras, came out six years later as committed abolitionists saying we needed to dismantle the whole system. The protests popularized connections between racial and economic injustice and drew attention to the social and economic priorities that require billions in funding for police at the expense of all other life-giving resources and social services.

They came to define abolition not just as the absence of police but also as the presence of a society where everyone has everything they need to thrive. The opening for connecting that struggle to the struggle for socialism— a society based on social need, not profit —should be obvious. But despite that potential, the Left by and large missed the opportunity to build mass organizations at the height of these struggles, or, in their aftermath, to push the movements as far as they could go.  There are a number of reasons for this. They include divisions on the Left around how to understand the nature of anti-racist struggle.

Fast-forward to the present, and aside from notable exceptions—like the ongoing battle to stop the building of Cop City in Atlanta—mass protests have largely receded from the streets.

Protesters holding up a Philadelphia Police armband in front of a burning police cruiser during a George Floyd Protest in May 2020. Photo by Joe Priette.

Instead, the widespread opposition to policing that the movement had forced into mainstream conversation has been largely replaced by a crime wave narrative. This continues a trend of the last four decades during which police budgets have skyrocketed whether crime rates were rising or falling as the flip side of imposing austerity budgets.

For example, in New York City where I am, former cop Mayor Eric Adams is waging a war on houseless and mentally ill people on the subway. And more recently he’s added scapegoating migrants to that list in tandem with massive budget cuts. Meanwhile, the NYPD’s budget grew to $11 billion, making it the largest police budget in the entire country.

But while homicides did spike during the pandemic, violent crime in New York remains at historic lows overall and has dropped by an additional 5.6 percent in recent months. Even according to the NYPD’s own statistics, the city’s murder rate was five times higher during the 1980s and 1990s than it is today. Of course, they’ll claim credit for this, but we know that’s not true.

Nationally, even in cities like Chicago, L.A., and D.C. where rates of deadly gun violence reached their highest point in a decade, other violent crimes actually decreased during the pandemic. But the new frightening atmosphere produced by the backlash was encapsulated earlier this year in New York following the murder of Jordan Neely, an unarmed, unhoused Black man who was choked to death by another passenger on the subway.

Neely’s murder reflects the extent to which the ruling class has succeeded in reinforcing public fears about crime and the idea that more police are necessary to address it. This is something that both Republicans and Democrats agree on regardless of their differences. On the right, Republican legislation from the top  comes in tandem with open white supremacists willing to intimidate and act with extralegal violence on the ground. Armed far-right groups like the Oath Keepers or the Three Percenters came to at least 100 of the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, often with the tacit or explicit support of the police.

Since May 2020, at least four states have expanded the definitions of penalties for protesting. At least eight states have created or enhanced penalties for protesters who obstruct streets, sidewalks, or gas and oil pipelines, along with bills that allow cars to run over protestors in 2021 and 2022.

Federal, state and local government officials introduced 563 anti-Critical Race Theory measures, of which 241 have been enacted. But the Democratic Party is also complicit in this backlash. The same politicians who say Black Lives Matter are actively leading the charge against the central demand of the movement to defund the police.

In fact, it has largely been Democrats at both the federal level and in major urban centers who have pursued racist law-and-order policies with police as the first line of defense, especially as ongoing economic instability has prompted city officials to embrace austerity, which in turn will require more police to control the fallout.

Arguably Biden, who was elected in the wake of the uprising, was the primary beneficiary of the movement in the absence of a truly left-wing alternative to Trump. Yet Biden not only vehemently opposed defunding the police, he called for increased funding for police departments, which at the time of his presidential campaign already received a combined annual $115 billion.

This was nothing new. Biden has a  long record of bolstering policies such as the 1994 Crime Bill, which produced the greatest expansion of policing and prisons in U.S. history. It increased contact between those living in segregated predominantly Black neighborhoods and the armed forces of the state.

Black people remain three times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than white people, regardless of whether they are unarmed, had called the police for help or were merely existing in their own homes like Breonna Taylor.

Unlike Republicans, the Democrats pay lip service to the movement while leaving the means of death and destruction of Black life full intact. Biden’s 2021 plan for criminal justice reform mimicked Obama’s 21st-century task force on policing in its focus on improving so-called community police relations.

This points to the necessity of building an anti-racist struggle that is both independent of the two capitalist parties and clear about the challenges we’re up against. But it also matters that the Left understand what it will take to resist this multi-pronged backlash against workers and the oppressed.

Meanwhile, other Democrats’ proposals to address police misconduct like the 2021 George Floyd Justice and Policing Act merely recycled some of the same meager policy changes like body cameras, diversity training, and chokehold bans. These are things that had already been implemented and failed to stop police brutality in Minneapolis, meaning that the act named for George Floyd would have not even saved his own life.

Ultimately as Naomi Murakawa notes: “Unflagging Democratic support for police sharpens the blade for Republican spearheaded criminalization of dissent, reproductive autonomy, and gender-affirming healthcare.” In other words, the consequences of the backlash impact issues beyond the resistance to police racism.

They facilitate the rollback of the rights of queer and trans folks, abortion rights and reproductive justice, and are aimed at hampering our resistance. And we’ve seen this most recently in the major police apparatus that exists to survey mosques in a call to crack down on protests in solidarity with Palestine.

This points to the necessity of building an anti-racist struggle that is both independent of the two capitalist parties and clear about the challenges we’re up against. But it also matters that the Left understand what it will take to resist this multi-pronged backlash against workers and the oppressed. And that requires clarity from the beginning on the nature of racism, the struggle for socialism, and the strategies that flow from this.

Phil Gasper: To try to understand racism without class, or to analyze class oppression without race, is really to misunderstand both forms of exploitation and forms of oppression.

In the U.S, we’re very familiar with attempts to address racism without a class perspective, because that’s the approach of the liberal establishment in politics, the business world, and the mainstream media and education system. In the immediate aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, suddenly almost everyone claimed to be an anti-racist.

Amazon, Nike, and Walmart all put out statements opposing racism. Ben and Jerry’s said, ‘We must dismantle white supremacy. Silence is not an option.” But the actions that went along with these announcements amounted to very little–training programs for their employees, perhaps some money being directed towards scholarships and education, and an effort to get a few more people of color into management positions or into the boardroom.

Colleges and universities also declared themselves to be anti-racist. The Chronicle of Higher Education in the summer of 2020 declared that this may be a watershed moment in the history of higher education and race. I wish that were true; the actions that went along with statements like this amounted to very little.

If you take diversity training in higher education, the focus is almost invariably on individuals and their ideas. There will be plenty of discussion of unconscious bias, microaggressions, and white privilege, which are all certainly real. On the other hand, there will probably be no discussion, let alone distinction, of the class interests that racism serves, or how to take collective action to challenge those interests. That’s approaching racism while ignoring class.

On the US Left, we sometimes see the reverse phenomenon, a focus on class that downplays the significance of race. One person who’s taken this position is the left-wing academic Adolf Reed. Certainly, Adolf Reed is a distinguished Black political scientist. He has often had valuable things to say. He has written a lot of books and articles, and he is often celebrated as a contrarian. I think that he and a number of people who are influenced by him have gone badly off the rails in their writing about race and class.

They start from the same place that I would start from: We need a class analysis of racism. But from there, they make a series of mistaken conclusions. First, they argue that if we have a class analysis, then we can explain racial inequality mainly in terms of class inequality and pay less attention to race.

One striking example of this was an article in Catalyst (Jacobin’s theoretical journal) a few years ago by John Clegg and Adaner Usmani, which argued that mass incarceration isn’t a product of racism. Reed himself published an article in 2020 arguing that racial inequality in health outcomes is due to underlying class inequalities, and that even to draw attention to the fact that Blacks have it worse will simply open the door to racist pseudo-summits that try to explain Black-White differences in biological terms.

Reed and his co-thinkers conclude that socialists should focus on universal demands like raising the minimum wage or Medicare For All, not on specifically anti-racist demands. So Reed, for instance, was hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement and to the call for reparations. He’s even argued that anti-racism is counterproductive. According to Reed, racism is not the principle source of inequality today. Anti-racism functions more as a misdirection that justifies inequality than a strategy for eliminating it. Elsewhere he says that anti-racism gives cover to neoliberal identity politics, which elevates a few Blacks, women, and gays to prominent positions but doesn’t challenge underlying inequalities.

Now, Reed’s critics accuse him of class reductionism. He doesn’t like that term, but I think it fits. He counters by accusing his critics of being race reductionists, trying to explain everything in terms of racism. There may be some people who count as race reductionists, but that’s not the position of most of Reed’s left-wing critics.

Left-wing critics agree that we need a class perspective, but we think that race and class are intertwined in a much more complex way than Reed allows. To explain how race and class have been intertwined in the U.S. particularly, we have to discuss the history of capitalism and its relationship to racism.

My view is that capitalism created racism. That’s actually a controversial view. Not everyone on the Left, certainly not in the mainstream, agrees with that. I can’t give a detailed defense of it in a few minutes, but I’ll point to one important piece of evidence in its favor.

Race didn’t exist before the late 14th century. You don’t find it in any ancient writings. It’s not even in Marco Polo’s Diaries, which were written in the 13th century. Its emergence coincides with the wave of European colonial expansion that began in the 15th century and with the start of the modern African slave trade. It was used to justify both colonialism and the slave trade.

Photo by Terence McCormack.

The Black historian Eric Williams argued in his classic study Capitalism and Slavery that racism doesn’t explain slavery. Slavery explains racism. The slave trade was vital to the development of capitalism in the 16th century. Enslaved Africans were used to extract wealth from the new world that was essential to the primitive accumulation of capital in Western Europe.

Racism was absolutely central to the regime of labor relations that allowed capitalism to develop, but it also played a variety of other key roles. Almost immediately, ruling elites recognized its value as a divide and rule strategy in capitalism where, like all class societies, a minority monopolizes most wealth and power.

How can a small minority maintain its dominance over the vast majority? It will use open repression whenever necessary, but it’s hard to run a society just on repression. So ruling classes need to find ways to stop the majority from organizing together. And racism has played this role, especially in North America since at least the 17th century, starting with Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1676.

There were significant upheavals in the American colonies with poor whites and enslaved Blacks often joining forces to fight against their masters and ruling elites, who responded by passing slave codes to discipline Blacks while giving small privileges to poor whites.

According to the historian Theodore Allen, this amounted to the invention of the white race. Allen conducted a detailed survey of seventeenth-century records and concluded: “I have found no instance of the official use of the word white as a token of social status before its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691.”

Because capitalism and racism are intertwined and because of the role that racism plays in dividing the working class, if we want to fight against capitalism and class inequality, anti-racism has to be at the center of our activity.

Soon afterwards, the Virginia Assembly proclaimed that all white men were superior to Blacks and passed a law requiring masters to provide white servants whose indenture time was up with money, supplies, and land. Such measures kept poor whites as well as blacks subordinated to their masters. As Frederick Douglass later put it, “They divided both to conquer each.”

This is why racism survived the end of slavery and persisted both as a method of justifying continued racial inequality embedded in the labor market, housing, education, health care, and every other area of society, and as the most effective divide-and conquer-strategy available to the ruling class.

Racism also continued to play an important role in the justifications offered for colonial and imperial wars and conquest, which remain another central feature of capitalism. This raises an important question. Could capitalism exist without racism? I think that this question can be approached in two ways.

First, racism is thoroughly embedded and integrated in the capitalism we actually have. In order to end racism, we would have to dismantle the economic system that it is part of because at the very least ending racism will require an enormous redistribution of wealth and power. Second, at a more abstract level, we can ask whether in different historical circumstances, capitalism could have emerged without racism.

I’m willing to entertain that possibility. However (and this is a big “however”), I don’t believe that capitalism could have emerged without some other functionally equivalent, brutal system of oppression. Capitalism is a system of economic exploitation, but it’s a system that can’t operate without methods of dividing the mass of the population by using harsh systems of oppression. And, of course, in our society, race is not the only basis for oppression. We have sexism, homophobia, nationalism, ableism, and many other forms of oppression. So perhaps capitalism without racism is a theoretical possibility, but capitalism without oppression is not.

So what practical conclusions should we draw? Because capitalism and racism are intertwined and because of the role that racism plays in dividing the working class, if we want to fight against capitalism and class inequality, anti-racism has to be at the center of our activity.

It’s not enough, as Reed and his supporters propose, to raise universal class demands. One of the things that makes it difficult to win such demands is racism. For example, one of the reasons why social benefits are so much worse in the United States than in other developed capitalist countries is because racism is so strong here.

The standard way of opposing government programs is to portray them as handouts to undeserving people of color. Even though most whites would benefit enormously from such programs, this trick has been enormously effective. So there’s absolutely no reason to see anti-racist struggles as a diversion.

They are vital if we want to build the kind of class unity necessary to take on the whole system. But it’s worth adding that the barriers that we have to overcome are not easily overcome. Even though the argument that I’m making is that it’s really not in the material interests of workers of whatever race to hold racist ideas, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to break down those ideas.

Anti-Trump protesters gather in London’s Trafalgar Square . Photo by Alisdare Hickson.

The great Black historian W.E.B. Du Bois talked about the psychological wage that racism provides to poor whites. It makes them feel superior even if it is of no real material benefit to them. These ideas can be a very hard thing to break down. We see a lot of that in U.S. society today. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break down these ideas. Racist ideas can be broken down, and the time that this happens is in heightened periods of struggle.

We have a kind of chicken-and-egg situation here, because racism acts as a way of dividing and making unified struggle more difficult. But if struggle can take off even in complicated and fragmented ways to begin with, it offers the possibility of fighting back against and breaking down the racial divisions.

It’s also worth adding that there’s no sharp boundary between struggles for racial justice and fights for broader class demands. The experience and victories of struggles against racism can, and often have, laid the basis for fighting class exploitation.

Many of the militants who led the upsurge in labor militancy at the end of the 1960s, like the successful postal workers’ national wildcat strike in 1970, the leadership was predominantly people of color and women. And I would bet 99 percent of them were veterans of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Struggle, the anti-war movement, the women’s movement, and the Gay Liberation Movement. The experience of fighting against those forms of oppression gave them the experience to lead.

The postal strike was one of the most important labor struggles of the last half century. Fighting racism and other forms of oppression strengthened the class struggle. If that’s right then the fight against racism is not a diversion or an optional extra. It’s a vital and central part of the fight against class oppression and for socialism.

Haley Pessin: Phil has taken us through why a Marxist approach requires that socialists understand anti-racism as essential to the fight against capitalism.

While it’s true that liberals reduce racism to a problem of bad ideas and ignorant individuals, they don’t address structural racism or the class power that racism serves to perpetuate. It’s also true that the far right is gaining a hearing today by blaming the real decimation of living standards on Black people, immigrants, women, queer and trans people. This lets corporations and the politicians responsible for those conditions off the hook.

In a 2020 survey of Republicans, a slim majority agreed with statements like: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it”; “discrimination against whites is as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities”; “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country speaking English”; “English is essential for being a true American”; and “Black people need to stop using racism as an excuse.”

So any alternative the Left presents needs to be able to challenge both the ideological racism and racist institutions like the criminal legal system that create the material basis for those ideas to gain a hearing, because it’s far easier for vigilantes to feel justified in gunning down Black people, as happened this summer in Jacksonville, Florida, where three Black people were killed by a white supremacist, or in the fatal stabbing of O’Shae Sibley, a Black gay man in Brooklyn.

When this happens legally at the hands of police and the criminal system on a regular basis, uniting a working class that is structurally divided by racism requires fighting racism wherever it appears, along with every other form of oppression. And because racism is so central to maintaining class inequality, resistance to racism, particularly anti-Black racism, tends to raise bigger questions about the unequal nature of our entire society–not just for Black people, but for everyone.

The key question is what the Left can do to facilitate the process of building and rebuilding democratic, accessible institutions of resistance that are clear about the centrality of anti-racist struggle—not if, but when, the next rebellion comes—because the movement is on the defensive today.

We know that all of the conditions that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 uprising in the first place have not been resolved. Figuring out exactly what we need to do next is not an easy task. There is no easy answer, but history offers some useful guides for how radicals have successfully forged unity within the working class, not by neglecting or downplaying racism, but by actively confronting it.

There are a couple of examples I would like to emphasize. Phil gave one example when talking of the labor struggles of the 1970s. I want to talk about the Communist Party (CP), the Scottsboro Boys, and the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) during the 1930s.

In 1931 in Alabama, nine Black boys were falsely accused of raping two white women. All except the youngest (who was 13) were sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The Communist Party reached out to their families and organized their legal defense alongside a national campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys. This campaign ultimately mobilized thousands of protesters, Black and white, around the country and internationally, to stop their execution. It also exposed the broader racism of the U.S. legal system.

Scottsboro Boys and Juanita Jackson Mitchell – Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, William Roberson, Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Charles Weems, Clarence Norris, Haywood Patterson, Laura Kellum, Andrew Wright, Eugene Williams. Photo by Britton & Patterson.

The pressure of this mass grassroots campaign from below ultimately led the Supreme Court to overrule the Boys’ death sentences. Although the campaign was not able to win their release from prison, it did succeed in saving their lives. As a result, the CP recruited a slew of Black comrades who were leading struggles in their own communities; they gained a strong reputation as among the most committed opponents of segregation, particularly among Black working-class and agricultural workers. The families of the Boys spoke out against red-baiting and other efforts by more moderate civil rights groups like the NAACP to distance themselves from the campaigns or break it from its roots in the Communist Party.

To quote Janie Patterson, the mother of one of the boys, “I don’t care whether they are reds, greens, or blues. They’re the only ones who put up a fight to save these boys, and I am with them to the end.”

Throughout the Great Depression, the CP further solidified its anti-racist reputation when workers who were members of the Party or influenced by its organizing formed the CIO. Whereas the American Federation of Labor (AFL) had been unwilling to challenge segregated locals or racist wage differentials, the CIO made a priority of organizing Black workers within industrial unions, which ignored distinctions among unskilled and skilled workers, whether they were Black or white.

With Black organizers—some of whom were Party members leading the charge, working together with the National Negro Congress, a CP-led organization allied with civil rights organizations—the union was able to undercut reluctance or hostility among Black people toward unions given their prior experience facing exclusion or even violence when they attempted to organize themselves.

They also challenged white workers’ racism under the slogan, “Black and White, Unite and Fight.” As a result of this, and through the experience of successful strikes in which Ford Motors proved unable to play on racial divisions by using Black workers as strikebreakers, the number of Black workers in unions grew from 56,000 in 1930 to 25 million by 1945.

This strong link between the CP and anti-racist struggles was broken before the start of the Civil Rights movement. Stalin’s Popular Front policy during which the Party abruptly shifted away from criticizing the U.S. or capitalism undermined the Party’s commitment to fighting racism and left its Black allies feeling that their needs had been subordinated to Soviet foreign policy interests.

Nevertheless, Communists had become so closely associated with anti-racist activism that, during the Red Scare, McCarthyites frequently attacked anti-racists by accusing them of being Communists. The purging of Communists from the labor movement and the capitulation of some labor leaders to Cold War politics meant removing some of the most committed opponents of racism from the AFL-CIO, and its efforts to enforce desegregation declined.

Meanwhile middle-class Black organizations who cooperated with Cold War anti-communism did not actually succeed in protecting themselves from racist attacks. In fact, the NAACP’s literature was banned along with the Communists’. In a scathing indictment, Left historian Manning Marable concluded that by serving as the left-wing of McCarthyism, middle-class Black leaders retarded the black movement for a decade or more. This is a pretty strong indictment.

Another example of mass anti-racist struggle is from the 1960s. The Civil Rights movement began as a struggle for equal rights predicated on the dismantling of this country’s Jim Crow system of racial apartheid in the South. Polls throughout the 1960s did not show a ready-made, multiracial coalition behind black demands for civil rights.

A 1963 Gallup poll found that 78 percent of white people would leave if Black families moved into their neighborhood, with 60 percent having an unfavorable view of the March on Washington. However, the truly heroic and persistent struggle of Black people in the face of police dogs, water cannons, and police and Klan violence not only shifted public opinion but also changed those participating and ultimately led them to more radical demands around the limits of integration for addressing racial as well as economic inequality.

The leading organization of this period was without a doubt the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The Panthers were an explicitly socialist organization with a mass following. Their newspaper had a circulation of a hundred thousand copies per issue at its height, and they saw their role as raising people’s consciousness, capturing this mass mood and organizing its vanguard.

Most importantly, they saw the overthrow of capitalism as essential to the project of anti racism. Today, there’s a lot of focus on different community projects that the Panthers engaged in, like their free breakfast program or the fact that they carried guns. But I really like this quote from Eddie Conway, a former Panther:

The state targeted the Panthers because we were socialists, not because we were armed. The most dangerous thing about the Panthers was that they had a mass audience and saw their project as linking up with different groups of oppressed peoples, whether they be Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, or even poor whites.

That is the context in which the Panthers and other wings of the movement were targeted for violent repression by the state, and even murder, as Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor argues in her book  From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

The backlash was intended not only to discipline rebelling African-Americans but also to reestablish order in a society where demonstrations, illegal strikes, riots, and rebellions had become legitimate means of registering complaints against the state and forcing reforms from hostile political forces, including those of ordinary working-class white people.

More threatening still was the example set by movements like the anti-war and womens’ liberation struggles, which made the Black struggle in Keeanga’s words, “a conduit for questioning American democracy and capitalism.”

Struggle creates the context in which racist ideas and divisions can be broken down. But that is only a possibility if we actually fight for it. An organization is critical. Socialists should see our contribution as helping to bring coherence to the experience and lessons of militants, particularly of many Black activists who have become leaders in these struggles in lasting organizations, including our own.

Ultimately, rolling back the gains of this movement—which had included an expanded welfare state–and instituting a neoliberal agenda that produced the upward transfer of wealth through privatization, austerity, and the gutting of what little social safety net we have—required attacking the most radical wing of this struggle. It required both racist attacks and attacks on explicit demands for socialism or burying that history.

This massive upward transfer of wealth required justification: Enter the racist myth of the “Black welfare queen” to justify the rollback of welfare reforms, obscuring the fact that the majority of people on welfare were white.

In addition, the expansion of the carceral system and the criminalization of Black people—questions that the Black Power Movement had begun to raise around racial and economic inequality but which are left unresolved until the present—has meant far more poor and working class people of all races and genders are caught up in its web today.

There are hundreds of white people killed annually by the police, and the fastest growing prison population is white women. That points to a basis for solidarity and fighting for abolition, but also to the importance of understanding that dismantling these systems requires fighting racism and the priorities of the ruling class in tandem.

To summarize, racism is ultimately an essential tool for maintaining inequality on a class basis. How do we get to a revolutionary consciousness? Marx says,

Revolution is necessary not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of the ages and become fitted to found society anew.

That is, struggle creates the context in which racist ideas and divisions can be broken down. But that is only a possibility if we actually fight for it. An organization is critical. Socialists should see our contribution as helping to bring coherence to the experience and lessons of militants, particularly of many Black activists who have become leaders in these struggles in lasting organizations, including our own.

In this way, we can help lay the basis for stronger, more organized struggles that are better able to fight for and win our demands in the future, especially the next time that the police kill a Black person or a city cuts social services while wasting billions of dollars on policing.

We also need to tie these struggles against racism in the here and now to the need for an entirely different society. Capitalism needs to divide our side in order to rule, and any of the reforms we win can be rolled back if and when they happen to conflict with the needs of the ruling class. We can see that in the Supreme Court’s recent rolling back and putting the final nail in the coffin of affirmative action, the attacks on critical race theory and the very teaching of Black history (or rather of American history as it actually happened), and the violence of an emboldened far right.

Progress isn’t linear. White supremacy is deeply rooted in every level of capitalist society. It’s primed and ready to be mobilized when it’s in the interest of the capitalist class. This is why our struggle needs to be for more than reforms. We need revolution, and I give the last word to Fred Hampton who was a Black Panther fighting for the unity under the Rainbow Coalition of all different groups in Chicago. He was literally murdered by this government for doing that. He said,

We’re going to fight racism, not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say, we’re not going to fight capitalism with Black capitalism, we’re going to fight it with socialism.

Featured image credit: Joe Piette; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

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