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The Real Crisis Threatening Ukraine isn’t a Russian Invasion or US backed NATO Imperialism. It’s Capitalism

By Javier Sethness - The Commoner, January 27, 2022

published on The Commoner, 27 January 2022

This exclusive interview with Assembly, a magazine based in Ukraine, provides a fresh, on-the-ground perspective on the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Writers from Assembly have published articles with The Commoner before, which you can find here. You may otherwise find their website here.

Comrades, thank you for agreeing to this interview. We very much enjoyed your recent article in The Commoner, ‘The Time Has Come?’, about ongoing socio-economic resistance in Ukraine.

Today, the world looks on in horror as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military is amassing over a hundred-thousand troops on Ukraine’s eastern border. These forces are reportedly composed of sixty battalion tactical groups (BTG’s), including Spetznatz special forces, hundreds of tanks, and dozens of ballistic-missile units—not to mention either the Black Sea Fleet or aerial forces. Although Ukraine gained formal independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, Putin has repeatedly expressed nostalgia for Tsarist and Soviet imperialism, while Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, has long belittled the idea of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Currently, the UK is selling light anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, while the US has supplied billions of dollars in military aid to the country since 2014, when the Russian military occupied and annexed Crimea. Some media sources suggest that Putin has not yet decided whether to order the invasion, which could spark the most destructive conflict in Europe since World War II, even if Ukraine is not a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Now, following a breakdown in negotiations, President Joe Biden is reportedly considering sending thousands of NATO troops to the Baltic countries.

“That’s So F**king Imperialistic”: Responding to a Supporter of Cuba’s Government

By Daniel Fischer - New Politics, November 1, 2021

Following Cuba’s July 11th protests, University of Houston professor Bob Buzzanco posted on social media a strongly worded attack on New Politics, to which Lois Weiner and I responded with September’s “NP on Cuba: Consistent Opposition to US Imperialism and Support of Democratic Rights.” Buzanco’s subsequent critique titled “Doing Miami’s Dirty Work (Wittingly or Not): Responding to ‘New Politics’” asked the following questions of us anti-authoritarian and Third Camp leftists: “What will Left criticism of Cuba accomplish? How will it benefit the people in the streets of Cuba protesting? Where’s your solidarity?” These are fair questions, and they should be mainly asked to Cubans on the island. As a non-Cuban who hasn’t experienced Cuba’s everyday realities, I will respond with humility and with attention to local voices.

While Buzzanco claims that criticizing Havana aids Miami, a consistent defense of democratic rights actually makes our anti-imperialist movements more credible and strengthens our case for ending the unconscionable blockade. As critical leftists, we can provide a credible socialist alternative, both to the state-capitalist regime and to the neoliberal tendencies trying to co-opt the Cuban opposition. We can argue that respecting Cuba’s self-determination will not only improve the humanitarian situation but will also strengthen Cuba’s democratic dissidents by removing President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s ability to blame all his failures on Washington.

I actually agree with many of Buzzanco’s points, including his acknowledgement of Cuba’s accomplishments in ecology and health care. But I have my own questions for people like Buzzanco who stand fully behind the Cuban government. What is his message for Cubans who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with their leaders? What do you offer them beyond the bleak, Orwellian view that they should not protest until the U.S. blockade is lifted? Here is what he writes:

“[A]ny protest inside Cuba, no matter the intention, was going to have U.S. and Miami fingerprints on it and serve the interests of the Miami mafia and the American ‘National Security’ establishment […]

[A]ny disaffection in Cuba is generally engineered and absolutely and inevitably exploited by Calle 8 [8th Street in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood]”

I know that if I were Cuban, I would not take kindly to such condescending statements coming from a U.S. professor. I sent Buzzanco’s article to an Anarchist contact in Havana, and here was his response:

“That’s so fucking imperialistic in a pretty twisted way. We Cubans don’t owe shit to anyone. Not in Miami, not in Beijing, or in some office in Havana.”

Whatever a genuinely anti-imperialist approach toward Cuba might look like, it cannot be to rally behind a regime that denies Cubans some of their most basic rights. The most strategic way to build a socialist world, in fact the only way, is through critical though unwavering solidarity with the world’s oppressed. In consultation with Cuban leftists, we should explore what solidarity must mean when applied to a population that is suffering, firstly, from more than a century of U.S. imperialism, and secondly, from an authoritarian bureaucracy.

Building eco-socialism: A review of Max Ajl’s A People’s Green New Deal

By David Camfield - Tempest, July 22, 2021

There’s nothing more important today than the politics of climate change. How societies respond to global heating will increasingly shape all political life.

A People’s Green New Deal by Max Ajl, an associated researcher with the Tunisian Observatory for Food Sovereignty and the Environment and a postdoctoral fellow with the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, gives us some insightful analysis of different political approaches to global heating (a term I prefer since it packs more punch than global warming) and many good ideas about how society should be changed to respond to capitalism’s ecological crisis. However, the book is much less helpful for thinking about the political strategy we need to make these changes.

Although some hard right-wing politicians are still intoxicated by the climate change denial nonsense that organizations funded by fossil capital have been spewing for years, smarter ruling-class strategists are planning for what Ajl calls “Green Social Control.” This “aims to preserve the essence of capitalism while shifting to a greener model in order to sidestep the worse consequences of the climate crisis.”

The European Commission’s announced measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union are an example of this approach. It’s what Joe Biden had in mind when he appointed John Kerry as a Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. It’s also the vision of the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative, a group of finance capitalists headed by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. It’s a vision that Ajl skewers.

Iran oil workers’ strike: a spectre haunting neoliberalism

By Simon Pirani - People and Nature, July 16, 2021

More than 60,000 Iranian oil workers have joined a strike for better pay and contracts – the biggest such action since the general strike of 1978-79 that helped toppled the Shah’s regime.

The stoppage is supported by teachers, pensioners, and families seeking justice for their relatives killed during the big wave of protests in November 2019.

The protest began on 19 June, the day after the elections won by the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who takes over as president next month.

The Iranian oil industry is dominated by the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company. But in recent years it has employed a host of contractors – many owned and controlled by state officials and their relatives – who have slashed pay levels and undermined working conditions.

The Strike Organisation Council for Oil Contract Workers, that has been set up during the action, is reported to have said that the workers’ main demand is higher wages, and added:

We will no longer tolerate poverty, insecurity, discrimination, inequality and deprivation of our basic human rights. Given the skyrocketing cost of expenses, the [monthly] wages of workers should not be less than 12 million tomans ($491).

The strikers are demanding the elimination of temporary contracts, an end to the use of contract companies and the recognition of the right to form independent unions, according to other reports.

The strike is supported both by contract employees and by skilled workers in less precarious jobs, according to interviews published by the Kayhan Life media outlet.

Iranian Oil Workers Organize the Country’s Biggest Strikes since the Iranian Revolution

By Maryam Alaniz and Salvador Soler - Left Voice, July 15, 2021

For almost a month, Iranian oil workers, along with workers in other industries, have organized demonstrations and wildcat strikes in response to a dire economic and health crisis accentuated by U.S. sanctions.

A nationwide strike by Iranian oil and gas workers on fixed-term contracts — which started a day after the June 18 Iranian presidential elections — has spread to 112 oil, gas, and petrochemical companies in at least eight of the provinces that house Iran’s main oil and gas centers. The strikes are the biggest workers’ protest since the oil workers’ strikes in late 1978, which brought the U.S.-backed shah’s regime to its knees.

The widespread demonstrations underscore the growing economic pressures placed on a country that is living under crippling U.S. sanctions and that is facing a fifth wave of the pandemic. In the past month more than 120,000 mostly temporary and contract workers have taken part in the strike. They have refused to work and joined rallies and hunger strikes outside Iran’s strategic refineries and power plants.

These workers’ demands include an increase in wages as inflation rises, wages that are paid on time, and back pay. Many workers complain that they haven’t been paid in months. The workers are also demanding better working conditions, improved health and safety standards, and freedom of association and protest. Their main demands, however, are to end contract employment, to ban the firing of workers, to reinstate the 700 protesting workers who were recently fired, and to abolish special economic zones, which allow employers to skirt labor protections.

The workers have also called for independent organizations of the working class across all sectors of labor. Since independent unions are not recognized in Iran, the wildcat strike action is coordinated by strike committees, including the Council for Organizing Contract Oil Workers’ Protests, which organizes 41,000 contract workers in the oil industry. The workers, mainly contracted scaffolders, fitters, welders, and electricians, have announced that they will not return to work unless their demands are met.

The growth of strikes by oil and petrochemical workers — the beating heart of the country’s economy and the clerical government’s main source of foreign exchange — has led many to believe that these strikes could become a turning point in the history of workers’ protests and strikes against the ayatollahs’ regime, installed more than four decades ago.

The expansion of these strikes, which recently grew to include the militant workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory, can have a rapid and paralyzing effect in all parts of the country, bringing solidarity from other industrial branches in the face of the country’s deep economic crisis, caused not only by the U.S. imperialist blockade but also by the repressive regime, which represents the interests of Iran’s ruling elite.

Though the Iranian regime is known to crack down hard on protesters, workers are now entering the national scene more prominently and using methods like wildcat strikes. As a result, the use of conventional methods of repression is thrown into question. Furthermore, dissatisfied workers in the energy sector represent a threat of a much higher, given that hydrocarbons are the government’s main economic artery and that petroleum workers have played a historic role in the country’s politics.

At the same time, the rapid spread of workers’ strikes across Iran, coinciding with the election of a new government in Iran, has made it more likely that strikes will spread to other sectors of labor and trade unions. This further complicates the unstable situation in the Middle East, where a revolting sector of working youth has played an active and important role on the streets in recent years and has been joined by an increasingly dynamic labor movement, like the Iranian one, that is gaining experience in struggle and organization.

The current strike in many ways continues a monthlong wave of strike action by more than 10,000 workers that took place in the South Pars oil and gas fields last summer. The 2020 strike action forced employers to improve wages and living conditions, but one year later, as the social crisis in Iran has deepened and a new administration is preparing to take power, the strikes have expanded in both scope and scale.

Read the rest here.

Wind energy on the Northeast Brazilian coast and the contradictions between ‘clean energy’, injustices and environmental racism

By Cris Faustino and Beatriz Fernandes - World Rainforest Movement, July 9, 2021

In dominant models of energy production and consumption, the centralization of the energy matrix and the concentration of decision-making power remain, and with all the marks of inequalities, patriarchy and environmental racism, even if the source of energy has changed.

Energy production in the face of demand to sustain, develop and expand predominant urban-industrial-capitalist ways of life in so-called global society, does not take place without high levels of interference on a daily basis in nature and the environment, as well as in multiple societies and peoples, their territories and experiences. Regardless of the source of energy and of the technology used to generate it, in these dominant models, energy ventures produce countless socio-environmental conflicts, risks and damage in contexts of deep-seated inequalities.

It just so happens that in Brazil and Latin America, the dynamics of demand for, access to and use of land, water and territory, as well as the ecological and socio-environmental harm that results from them, carry the inheritance of historical facts. An example of this is the expropriation of others’ territories and the setting up of a political, economic, legal, military and religious power based on the supremacy of the colonizer, white men and women, over indigenous and black people. In these processes, violence, subjugation and violation of bodies, of history and of dignity, were instituted as methods. To this day, despite all the achievements in terms of winning rights, these inheritances are encrusted in the dominant political, economic and socio-cultural powers. In the current socio-environmental conflicts, such inheritances manifest themselves in the naturalization of white privileges over state policies and in the relations of the state and the private sector with each other and with black populations, indigenous peoples, riverine peoples, fisherfolk, quilombola communities and others. These do not necessarily have as a reference the consumerist and energy-intensive models of living and organizing life.

In these circumstances, even if the source for producing energy via the wind industry in Brazil, and particularly in the Northeast Region, is considered technologically and ecologically cleaner, the concrete way in which wind farms are implemented is marked by the productivist/consumerist logic. According to the values of this logic, the provision of human needs is only viable in the form of hyper-exploitation and profits at the expense of the environment, of territories and their peoples. And this does not take place without being cut across by structural racism and its expressions in the environmental reality and in the democratic fragilities involved in ensuring the rights of peoples.

Anti-imperialist Manifesto in Defense of the Environment

Biden-Kerry International Climate Politricks

By Patrick Bond - CounterPunch, February 1, 2021

Is U.S. President Joe Biden’s January 27 Executive Order to address ‘climate crisis’ as good as many activists claim, enough to reverse earlier scepticism?

To be sure, it’s great that the word crisis is consistently deployed, not just ‘climate change.’ Applause is due Biden’s commands to halt fossil fuel subsidies and new oil and gas drilling leases on national government lands, and phase out hydrofluorocarbons. There is a welcome promise to instead subsidize new solar, wind, and power transmission projects. Cancelling the nearly-finished Keystone Pipeline extension (from Canada to Nebraska) is praiseworthy, although surely the Dakota Access Pipe Line should be shut, too.

Moreover, a weakened and often climate-unconscious U.S. labor movement did extremely well, with quite a few paragraphs of the Executive Order – e.g. in the box way below – promising well-paying union jobs in a Just Transition. There is an unusual race consciousness, too, as ‘environmental justice’ is invoked to address the discrimination that so often characterizes pollution in the U.S. Much of the Order resonates with Green New Deal demands, so the Sanders-AOC team pulling Biden leftwards can claim some excellent language.

However, caveats and hard-hitting criticisms of the Order were immediately offered by long-standing Climate Justice organizations, e.g.:

Indigenous Environmental Network: “we stand by our principles that such justice on these stolen lands cannot be achieved through market-based solutions, unproven technologies and approaches that do not cut emissions at source. Climate justice is going beyond the status quo and truly confronting systemic inequities and colonialism within our society.”

Food & Water Watch: “Biden’s orders fall well short of what’s needed and must be paired with serious plans to stop our deadly addiction to fossil fuels. We need a White House that is committed to stopping all drilling and fracking, and shutting down any schemes to export fossil fuels.”

These are absolutely valid misgivings, and apply locally and globally. My additional concerns are about how during the 2010s, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) policy was manipulated by Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry (Secretary of State from 2013-17) and other staff from the Obama-era State Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (including former pro-fracking EPA head Gina McCarthy, now Biden’s senior climate advisor). From Copenhagen’s 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties COP15 to the 2016 Marrakesh COP22 – and especially at Durban COP17 in 2011 and Paris COP21 in 2015 – their corporate neoliberal agenda held sway. This group’s climate-policy imperialism did enormous harm and it’s vital to recall why.

Ukraine: neither NATO nor Moscow!

By staff - Anarchist Communist Group, January 29, 2022

The Western media is pounding the drum for a conflict between Putin’s Russia and the Western powers over Ukraine.

Let us be clear. Vladimir Putin leads a gangster regime in Russia, sometimes referred to as a kleptocracy (rule by thieves). He runs an oppressive regime and as an ex-high up in the Russian secret police, the KGB, he has extremely close relations with its latest incarnation, the FSB (Federal Service Bureau of the Russian Federation). He has come down heavily on any form of opposition, and the anarchist movement in Russia has suffered, with anarchist militants, arrested tortured and given heavy prison sentences. The Putin regime is massing large numbers of troops on Ukraine’s borders for a number of reasons. The domestic situation is far from healthy and the Covid pandemic has aggravated this. Putin is wary of growing discontent and hopes that his belligerent attitude will unite the Russian masses behind him and make them forget their economic woes. This is a gamble, as the Russian masses are in general not keen to engage in warfare with their fellow Slavs in Ukraine, and remember the disastrous consequences of the war in Afghanistan, when Russian troops sent in to save the pro-Russian regime there were bogged down for years with massive casualties.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of republics emerged that had separated from the Russian Federation. Among these was Ukraine, the largest in terms of landmass and the most important in terms of industrial development, an industrial development that had reached its climax under Stalin and his successors.

The fall of the Soviet Union seriously weakened Russia but thanks to rising oil prices coupled with the rise to power of Putin, it began to re-assert itself. It was determined to control and influence the surrounding countries on its borders, both for defence reasons and to re-affirm its control over those regions which it had established after World War Two.

The political-military alliance it had established with its satellites, the Warsaw Pact, was dissolved. However, the corresponding political-military alliance developed by the United States and the Western European powers, NATO, was not wound up and remains an instrument of both the USA and various component Western countries. In fact, NATO sought to increase its influence and has intervened in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Despite promising the Russian regime that it would not expand its influence east of what was East Germany, it has invested its forces in the countries surrounding Russia, including the Baltic States.

NATO is an aggressive military machine, not a body there to passively defend the West. It has intervened in Libya, in Afghanistan and Iraq. It actively seeks to recruit not just former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Georgia into its alliance, but also so called neutral countries like Finland and Sweden, both very close to Russia. It demands that each component country of NATO spends at least 2% of its Gross Domestic Product on military expenditure.

Fighting the wrong battles: how obsession with military power diverts resources from the climate crisis

By Sam Perlo-Freeman - Campaign Against Arms Trade, February 15, 2020

The first duty of government, it is often said, is to provide for the security of its people. But what is security? For whom, and from what? UK governments typically view security through a military lens; but the real threats affecting the security of people in the UK and worldwide, most urgently the climate crisis, are not susceptible to military force, and indeed military interventions by the UK and its allies this century have had an overwhelmingly disastrous impact on peace and security.

The central role of the military in the government’s understanding of security is reflected in budgetary allocations. There is thus a widespread consensus on maintaining military spending at a minimum of 2% of GDP, the NATO target, with many politicians calling for far higher levels. Meanwhile, the climate crisis, the most urgent threat to human security worldwide, receives far less funding.

Military security or sustainable security

This report argues for a shift of focus both in understanding of security and in resources away from military security and towards a concept of sustainable security that prioritises the security of people over that of states and addresses the underlying causes of conflict and insecurity. In particular, the climate crisis needs to be treated as the urgent, devastating and present threat to human security that it is, with resources allocated accordingly.

Arguments for higher military spending typically start from the premise that the world is an ever more dangerous place. While this contains an element of truth, such arguments are based on a narrow and fundamentally flawed understanding of security centred on military power. The conclusion that what is needed is greater military force from the west is fallacious. Indeed, it has often been the actions of the UK and its allies that have made the world more dangerous, as in Iraq.

Non-military security challenges are minimised or ignored. Climate change, for example, is barely mentioned in the Government’s most recent Strategic Defence and Security Review. When mentioned, they are often framed in terms of the impact on national security, and approached with ‘hard’ security responses, such as militarised borders to deal with mass migration. Meanwhile, ambitions for the UK to retain or regain status as a ‘great military power’, able to project military force around the world, are presented as essential requirements for security, on a par with ensuring the survival and sovereignty of the nation.

Read the text (PDF).

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