Category Archives: International

The Caravan that Defies Borders

by Elena Zeledon

San Jose, Costa Rica – The 8,000 poor people marching together through the states of Central America towards the United States, are another sign that the pillars of imperialist domination, already weakened by the blows of the global recession in 2008, are now shaken by the exploding social contradictions of this organic crisis.

The caravan participants, marching together as a precaution against attacks from both human traffickers (coyotes) and the drug gangs linked to the forces of state repression, are primarily from Honduras, the geographic keystone in the military and intelligence networks of US imperialism in Central America.

It was there that the mildly reformist liberal Mel Zelaya, the elected president, was expelled in a coup sponsored by the US intelligence community, and carried out by its surrogates in the Honduran military and Congress under the direction of Hillary Clinton. But it is not the first caravan from Central America which has fought its way northward.

In March of this year, a smaller caravan of 4,000 people from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala made its way to the US-Mexican border, despite threats from the racist and xenophobic regime of Donald Trump to send troops to the border to confront the refugees.

Why This Caravan, Why Now

It is hard to comprehend the hardships that these poor people are enduring in their flight to what they believe will be a better life. What drives them forward? The overarching reason is to try to escape a life of grinding poverty which afflicts the whole region, a condition of existence directly linked to the domination of the economic life of these countries by foreign, primarily US-based multi-national corporations (MNCs).

Those firms, working in conjunction with the ruling capitalist oligarchies and their repressive state apparatuses, act as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up massive amounts of surplus value created by the super-exploited working masses of the region. This leaves a portion for the oligarchs, who in general act as service and financial facilitators for this exploitation.  The sums are not insignificant, given the population of these semi-colonial countries which, if Mexico is included, exceeds that of France and Germany combined.

It has also resulted in a permanent fiscal crisis of the state, both because of outright looting of the treasuries (the wife of the former president of Honduras has been charged with stealing $40,000,000 USD from the social security fund, for example).  Indeed, the lack of a permanent tax regime upon which a robust social security program can be based, has worsened conditions over the past 10 years in the countries of the region.

Despite the states of Central America receiving above average rates of Foreign Direct Investment flows in the years immediately preceding the 2008 Great Recession, that rate was cut by 30 per cent after 2008. Now, with the US central bank raising interest rates, we witness direct capital outflows from the region (and likewise from many of the weaker developed capitalist economies, like Turkey and Argentina).

This has meant a rising unemployment and underemployment rate for the young people of Central America, and an attendant rise in the proliferation of gangs and illegal activities, especially working in the trans-national drug trade, where money is easy and life is short. These mass migration caravans are primarily made up of young people, many fleeing the threats of violence and death from gang members, and whose sole wish is to escape this poverty.

In addition, the increase in the present number of highly politicized migration incidents, despite a longer-term decrease in the trend of refugee applications, there is an increasingly tighter labour market in the United States itself. Tighter market conditions mean more jobs are available in the poorest paid sectors of the service industry, like migrant farm labour and household workers, not subject to minimum wage and working conditions laws. Undocumented immigrant workers make up almost 80% of these workers, a labour pool which is routinely doubly exploited.

Finally, in the specific instance of this caravan from Honduras, the increasing repression of the Honduran state against young people and a wide-open neo-liberal program of investments freed from any regulations and restraint, is a result of the December 2017 election.

The election, which even the normally docile lap dog of US imperialism, the Organization of American States (OAS) deemed to be fraudulent, was stolen by the oligarchy headed by Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) in broad daylight. The Popular Front candidate had a seemingly unsurmountable lead when the Election Tribunal called a halt to the counting, claiming a computer glitch. When the counting resumed, the lead slowly disappeared and JOH was declared re-elected (itself a violation of the Honduran constitution).

The reaction of the Honduran working class was a massive show of force repudiating the election result. In many of the poorer barrios of the country, and especially in the north part of the country. The uprising took on a semi-insurrectional character. Barricades were erected and the National Police were chased from the neighborhoods. In several cases involving los Tigres, a special anti-insurrectional police unit formed for that specific purpose, it refused to repress the mass movement and publicly declared its neutrality, saying it was a political, not a police problem.

However, since the ebb of this wave of protest, largely due to the tail-ist position of much of the left to the electoralist orientation of the bourgeois leadership of the Popular Front known as LIBRE, the government has increased its repression, taking the form of assassination of social movement leaders, particularly indigenous and trade union activists, beatings, threats and jailing of suspected neighborhood militants, and the firing of those with steady employment. This government is being advised by Alvaro Uribe, the death squad former president of Colombia.

Trump and the Politics of Immigration

As across Europe, immigration has become a rallying point for the right and the neo-Nazis in the United States. Trump, who now declares he is a nationalist, not unlike Viktor Orban, Marie Le Pen, and Nigel Farage, and has been busy pumping his political base with a series of rallies prior to the mid-term US elections on November 6.

Trump’s political repertoire portrays immigrants with the most vile, racist and xenophobic images: Mexicans are rapists and criminals; Central Americans are all members of MS 13, the Mara Salvatruchas, heavily tattooed young gang members active in El Salvador and Honduras.  Ironically, the name derives from a Salvadoran general whose exploits in 1858, as part of the United Army of Central America, helped in the defeat of William Walker and the Filibusters, a US mercenary force that tried to conquer Central America.

According to Trump and the Republicans, members of the caravans are being funded by billionaire Democratic Party contributor George Soros and criminals, many from the Middle East.  For Trump and his ilk, no epithet is too demeaning or too filthy. Soros, of course, is the primary initiator behind the university in Hungary, which anti-Semite Viktor Orban is trying to close. This International of Scum knows no limits.

The Democrats, fearing anything which might upset their perceived best chances in the election, have remained mute in the face of this onslaught. They know that any highlighting the plight of these poor people from Honduras will immediately raise the question of their complicity in creating the conditions causing this movement.

The racist, imperialist social culture of the United States is being used as a hammer against the poor working classes of its own “back yard”. Faced with this situation, what should the left do?

The first response from the militant Left should be to raise the demand “Open the Borders”, and “No One is Illegal”. This slogan cuts across the entire ideological construct of “US exceptionalism” — a constant smokescreen for the activities of North American imperialism.

The second is to find ways of mobilizing the populations of the border states of California, Texas, and Arizona. This area of the United States is heavily Latino. In fact, the majority of working class Californians have Latino roots. (The GDP of California is the 6th largest in the world, which underlines its importance). Already efforts are being made to organize actions to raise the need for cross-border solidarity in places like Los Angeles.  How wonderful it would be if the North American Left united in common actions to help mobilize those with the power to open the borders to desperate Mexican and Central American workers.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

OPEN THE BORDER! TEAR DOWN THE WALLS!

Open the Border for the Migrant Caravan

About 10,000 people are in transit from the south of Mexico. They are fleeing poverty and violence in their countries of origin to try to reach the United States. While President Trump continues to spout xenophobic threats we must reach out in solidarity to our migrant brothers and sisters.

Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas (Mexico)

Organización Socialista (Costa Rica)

Left Voice

October 26, 2018

Trump plans to cut “aid” from United States to the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the actual purpose of this “aid” is to fund the forces of repression, increase the fortunes of ruling politicians and businessmen and ensure “homeland security” in the United States.

It has been reported that 7,233 people registered for migrant services from the government of Mexico as of October 20. It has also been estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people have crossed the Suchiate River at the Mexican-Guatemalan border.

This new wave of migration is made up of women, children, young people, adults and elderly people who are driven by despair. They can no longer live in their countries, without job opportunities and subject to the violence spread by organized crime and the forces of repression, which often work together. They have resisted the brutal repression by the Mexican federal police at the border and are continuing their march. Along the way, they have been supported by the solidarity of the Mexican people, who have given them words of encouragement and donated clothing, shoes and food.

We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis caused by the criminalization and repression of the migrants by the servile governments of Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. They are doing the dirty work for Trump, a xenophobic racist who built his fortune on the backs of migrant workers in the construction and hotel industries in the United States.

The Trump administration continues a long history of imperialist aggression against the Central American region, to the point that for all intents and purposes Central America is viewed as “imperialism’s backyard.” As a result, the region suffers the worst ills of U.S. capitalism.

The economic crisis of 2008 had a profound impact on the region, resulting in unemployment, repressive governments, increased capitalist barbarity as well as migration. The government of Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras is a good example of what happened to the region after the 2008 crisis. The main causes of this migration wave are, therefore, both U.S. imperialism under the Trump administration and the Mexican and Central American governments, who are servile and submissive to imperialism but brutally repressive against their respective working classes and poor.

The repression unleashed by Mexican authorities is raising awareness among a sector of the migrants that is denouncing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s subordination to the imperialist Trump.

Mexico: One of the Most Dangerous Countries for Migrants

Year after year, migrants have embarked on one of the most dangerous journeys in the world to cross Mexico and reach U.S. soil with the hope of a better life. They take this risk to escape organized crime in their countries of origin, linked to parties representing corporate interests, and the extreme poverty in which these parties have submerged the countries of Central American.

On Mexican soil, the migrants are confronted with the brutality of immigration agents, the police, the army and navy, in addition to bad weather conditions. We will not forget cases such as the massacres of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, when the police handed over hundreds of migrants to the cartels, who executed them. Their hopes and dreams faded into the dismal mist of militarization and the spread of organized crime.

This caravan has brought together thousands who are trying to enter Mexico to cross the Rio Bravo, a perilous venture undertaken by thousands of Mexicans every day. They make this journey with no resources, with no money, with almost no luggage.

They are workers, poor peasants and their children, displaced by capitalist plunder, survivors of militarization. They are the brothers and sisters of the working class, communities, indigenous peoples, women and young people of Mexico, facing displacement in rural areas, drug trafficking and transnational projects for the extraction of natural resources. They also suffer extreme exploitation at the hands of multinationals operating in Mexico and have experienced firsthand the dire consequences of the “drug war” and militarization.

In 2017, other Central American migrants who were passing through stopped their march to support the rescue efforts after the earthquakes in September. The government and reactionary sectors of Mexico have forgotten this. We must fight against Peña Nieto’s wall and the xenophobia promoted by the government in mass media and social media.

Workers’ and People’s Solidarity With our Central American Brothers and Sisters

Today, they need the support of the workers and people of Mexico. We must take to the streets by the thousands to support full social and political rights for all migrants, for the free movement of people in the countries of the region. No human being is illegal!

We must spread effective solidarity with our migrant brothers. The trade unions and popular and left organizations must take the lead. We must collect food, clothing and first aid materials in every workplace, school and neighborhood. Proper accommodations must be provided in unions, schools and housing areas under the control of popular urban movement organizations. These places must offer migrants protection from deportation.

The working class is one, and has no boundaries!

A national conference of solidarity with migrant caravan must be organized during its passage through Mexico City, to create a national network to organize the reception of the caravan in the different states.

We must confront the xenophobia spewed by Trump, who separated thousands of migrant children from their families and is keeping them incarcerated. We are have had enough of his insults and threats, his wall and his private prisons. We must take to the streets, chanting “Down with the wall and all of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies!”

Against the servile subordination of the Mexican government, operating as an agent of the anti-immigrant offensive launched by U.S. imperialism, against the Central American governments that also follow its orders, we must build a continental movement against imperialist interference in the region, for full social and political for all migrants’ rights and for their free transit through the countries of the region.

B’nai B’rith Smear Campaign Protest (Aug 29, Toronto)

My name is Elizabeth Byce.  I am the federal treasurer of the NDP Socialist Caucus.  For thirty years I was an active member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.  At the national convention of the CUPW in 1998 I was the delegate who moved the motion to have CUPW endorse the global campaign in solidarity with the people of Palestine and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Zionist apartheid state.  That motion was adopted almost unanimously by the 700 delegates present.  It was an act of internationalism.  It was an act of working class solidarity against racism, occupation and murder.  The BDS campaign is global.  It is much stronger than it was 20 years ago, and it is growing fast on every continent.  That is why Israel and its Zionist apologists are desperate to portray BDS as anti-Semitic.  That claim is a lie which cannot conceal the crimes of Zionism.  Nor can it divert us from our duty of solidarity with the victims of occupation, the Palestinian people.

Recently, B’nai B’rith Canada launched a smear campaign against the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. As a result, CUPW has become the latest victim in a long list of smear campaigns launched by B’nai Brith Canada to silence human rights defenders who expose Israeli violations of international law.  But as you can see, we shall not be silenced, and we shall not be moved.  We will win the NDP and more unions to a principled stand against Israeli apartheid.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

My name is Barry Weisleder and I am pleased to speak on behalf of Socialist Action in solidarity with the CUPW and against deplorable smear tactics.  History is full of ironies.  The so-called Jewish Defense League, which is shouting threats at us today and that calls CUPW and Palestinians terrorists, is itself banned in Israel and the USA as a terrorist organization.  I want to mention one more irony.

B’nai B’rith was founded in New York‘s Lower East Side in 1843, by 12 German Jewish immigrants. It was a working class movement that organized Jews of the local community to confront what Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the founders, called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country”. It performed the traditional functions of Jewish societies in Europe: “Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”  B’nai B’rith, which means “sons of the covenant”, established a Lodge in Toronto in 1875.  But with the discovery of oil in the Middle East, and with the backing of the Zionist project by British and French imperialism, and later by American imperialism, B’nai B’rith became a cheerleader for the Occupation of Palestine and for ethnic cleansing.  Bourgeois Jewish organizations continue this regression into mouthpieces for an Apartheid state.  In 2011 the Canadian Jewish Congress dissolved into the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs.  In an ugly irony of history, the Jewish establishment and imperialism have turned the Palestinians into the Jews of the Middle East.  As Leon Trotsky explained in the 1930s, Zionism creates a death trap for the Jews, fostering anti-Semitism worldwide.  Increasingly, the Zionists are out of touch with their own supposed base.  A fast-growing minority of Jews are non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist.  This new political reality is the cause of desperation in the ranks of the reactionaries, so they lash out against great organizations, like the CUPW, which had the courage to be among the first supporters of the global boycott campaign.  The labels ‘terrorism’ and racism apply to Israel, not to CUPW.  A new feature of the constitution of Israel proves this again.

The “Jewish Nation-State Law”, adopted by the Knesset just weeks ago, declares Israel to be the “nation-state of the Jewish people”.  It enshrines Hebrew as the only official language.  It permits the creation and protection of “Jewish only communities’, and it directs the Supreme Court to refer to “Jewish tradition’ in rendering some decisions.  Non-Jews are officially relegated to second class status.  Apartheid practices are entrenched in Israel’s Basic Law, which since 1951 is the constitution of the Zionist state.  If any further proof of the racist character of the colonial settler state was required, this is it.

Socialists are here, not only to defend CUPW, but to support BDS, to demand the Right of Return of all refugees, to end the siege of Gaza, to tear down the Apartheid wall, and to advance the only solution to the present crisis, a Democratic and Secular Palestine.  “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

White Helmets should not be admitted to Canada

by John Ryan

Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels would have been astounded at the effectiveness of the American media’s propaganda, designed not only to affect the USA, but also most of America’s allies, including Canada. A recent prime example is how Syria’s White Helmets have been groomed by the media as courageous heroes who now need a place of refuge since the war in Syria is almost over. In response to this, Canada agreed to take in about 50 of them along with 200 of their family members.

A courageous Canadian investigative journalist, Eva Bartlett, has recently reported that the White Helmets: “Packaged as neutral, heroic, volunteer rescuers, who have “saved 115,000 lives”, according to White Helmets leader Raed Al Saleh, they are in reality a massively Western-funded organization with salaried volunteers, and have no documentation of those 115,000 saved. They contain numerous members who have participated in or supported criminal acts in Syria, including torture, assassinations, beheading, and kidnapping of civilians, as well as inciting Western military intervention in Syria.”

As renowned journalist John Pilger put itthe White Helmets are a “propaganda construct,” an Al Qaeda support group, whose prime purpose is to try to put a veneer of respectability on the vile head-chopping terrorists in Syria. The White Helmets have never operated anywhere in Syria except in areas that had been occupied by al-Qaeda affiliated groups such as Al-Nusra and Jaish al-Islam, even ISIS. In fact, their base of operations is frequently close to the headquarters of a terrorist group.

Further on this, Vanessa Beeley, a British journalist who has often reported from nearby fighting zones in Syria, wrote a detailed article noting that just 200 metres from the White Helmets centre in the then terrorist occupied part of Aleppo, was the city square where in July 2016 a 12-year old Palestinian boy, Abdullah Issa, was savagely tortured and then slowly beheaded with a short knife. As she reported, “Issa begged his torturers to shoot him, but he was decapitated and his head was held aloft by his executioner standing on the back of a pick-up truck.” There was never a mention of this by the White Helmets.

The White Helmets organization was created and funded by US and British efforts back in March of 2013, with an initial input of $23 million by USAID (US Agency for International Development). Since then they’ve received over $100 million, including at least Can$7.5 million.  Max Blumenthal has explored in some detail the various funding resources and relationships that the White Helmets draw on, mostly in the United States and Europe.  Overall, the CIA has spent over $1 billion on arming and training the so-called Syrian “rebels” who in actuality constitute a variety of Al Qaeda forces. 

Philip Giraldi in a detailed recent article stated that at the present time there is no bigger fraud than the story of the “heroic” White Helmets. The story that’s been put forth is that with the Syrian army closing in on the last White Helmet affiliates still fighting in the country, the Israeli government, aided by the USA, “staged an emergency humanitarian evacuation” of 800 White Helmet members, including their families, to Israel and then on to Jordan. Pleas were then put forth to resettle them in the USA, Britain, Germany and other countries.

As Giraldi explains, more than likely the USA urged Israel “to rescue” these White Helmets not because they would have been killed by the Syrian forces, but because their capture by the Syrians would have produced embarrassing revelations about how the group was funded and what its affiliation with terrorists was all about.

Giraldi continues to say that “Israel’s celebrated rescue of the White Helmets was little more than a theatrical performance intended to perpetuate the myth that the al-Assad government was thwarted in an attempt to capture and possibly kill an honorable non-partisan group engaged in humanitarian relief for those caught up in a bloody conflict seeking to oust a ruthless dictator. The reality is quite different. The White Helmets were and are part and parcel of the attempt to overthrow a legitimate government and install a regime friendly to western, American and Israeli interests.”

With substantial irrefutable evidence indicating that the White Helmets are a dangerous and fraudulent group, how is it that Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, addressed them as “courageous volunteers” and immediately pledged to accept 50 White Helmets and around 200 family members? There was no vote in Parliament on this or any public discussion.

This is particularly galling, since as Eva Bartlett wrote:  Why did the Canadian government refuse the entry of 100 injured Palestinian children from Gaza in 2014, a truly humanitarian effort, and yet will fast-track the entry of potentially dangerous men with potential ties to terrorists?”

And where is the New Democratic Party on this? So far not a murmur from them on this issue has been reported in the media. But is this surprising considering that the NDP urged the federal government in 2016 to nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize? At that time I denounced their naïve and ill-advised action in an open letter to the party. Fortunately, at that time Canada’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion ignored the NDP request.

John Ryan, Retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar, University of Winnipeg, is a member of Socialist Action in Winnipeg. 

Canada joins war in Mali

By Roger Annis, from A Socialist In Canada

On June 24, the first significant components of Canada’s military mission to Mali in north-central Africa touched down. The presence will eventually count 250 soldiers.

Although operating under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council’s ‘MINUSMA’ mission (The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), the Canadian intervention is “not necessarily a peacekeeping mission” according to General Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of defence staff.

There was no vote in Parliament on the intervention into Mali, but a vote would have been moot. The intervention enjoys cross-party support. Indeed, the soft-left, labour-based New Democratic Party has criticized the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for not acting more decisively to send more Canadian soldiers abroad.

Canada’s recent history in Africa is scarred by two military interventions. In 2011, the Canadian government and military participated in the violent overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi and his government. The overthrow caused the dismemberment of Libyan society.

Twenty years before that, the Canadian military disgraced itself in Somalia. In 1992, it sent its crack Canadian Airborne Regiment into the country alongside its U.S. partner. The regiment earned infamy when later revelations showed many of its members to be racists and extreme rightists. They engaged in abuse, torture and even murder of Somali detainees. The scandal led to the dismemberment of the regiment and the resignations of two successive chiefs of staff of the Canada armed forces.

The Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien elected in 1993 was obliged to convene a formal inquiry into the affair, but it was cancelled in mid-stream soon after Chrétien and the Liberals won re-election in 1997. The government did not pay a high political price for the cancellation, but the affair contributed to Canada’s decision to limit to a support role its participation in the U.S. attack against Iraq in 2003.

Western intervention into Africa

As with the Security Council’s ongoing, 14-year-old military mission in Haiti, the purpose of the Security Council mission in Mali is to ‘stabilize’ the country in favour of foreign investors and the military. Established in 2013, MINUSMA numbers some 11,000 soldiers, most of whom are drawn from African countries. Some 150 MINUSMA soldiers have been killed in action.

France is the largest foreign military presence in Mali as part of its ‘Operation Barkhane’ across northern Africa. That mission aims to maintain the imperialist stranglehold over the region which contains valuable gold and uranium deposits.

France does not operate under the UN ‘peacekeeping’ fig leaf in Mali, instead calling its own shots. It invaded Mali in January 2013, seizing on the chaos created when the Mali military overthrew the country’s elected president in April 2012. The coup aimed to forestall peace talks with the ethnic Saharan minorities that live in the north of the country. They have long sought autonomy amidst Mali’s majority Black population.

The United States is the largest imperialist military presence in Africa. For more on that story, read:

*  America’s war-fighting footprint in Africa, by Nick Turse, published in Tom Dispatch, April 27, 2018

*  The US military is conducting secret missions all over Africa, by Nick Turse, VICE News, Oct 24, 2017

France’s military adventuring in Africa enjoys broad domestic support, including from the moderate political left in that country. Much of the radical left issues rather tame critiques of the mission, accepting the premise that ‘something’ needs to be done about the problem of ‘jihadism’ in Mali and north Africa. In Canada, the broad political left is largely silent on Canada’s military adventuring in Mali and elsewhere in the world.  Critical journalists merely argue that Mali is too dangerous and too chaotic to be worth the demise of any Canadian soldiers.

The deployment into Mali follows Canada’s disastrous military intervention into Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, and its ongoing, military/political intervention into Haiti. The Haiti mission began in February 2004 when Canada joined in assisting the overthrow of Haiti’s elected president of the day. The Security Council’s ‘MINUSTAH’ mission in Haiti began in June 2004 and is ongoing. (The name of the mission was recently changed to ‘United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti’).

In Afghanistan, 158 Canadian soldiers died. The prestige of Canada’s military suffered greatly following revelations of participation in routine practices of torture and abuse by the Afghan police and army. Growing numbers of Canadians began to see that the U.S.-led Western intervention into Afghanistan, now dating back nearly 20 years, has had nothing to do with human development for the country and everything to do with projecting imperialist power and diktat. The 2013 book Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan tells this story.

The Liberal Party federal government elected in October 2015 cancelled a formal investigation into Canada’s role in detainee torture and abuse in Afghanistan.

Mali is scheduled to hold a presidential election on July 29, 2018. But the vote may not proceed, considering the volatile political and military situation in the country. This writer published extensive reports on the situation in Mali between 2012 and 2015.  One is titled Mali war and occupation, which is in the archive of articles by Roger Annis and other writers on the April 2012 military coup d’etat in Mali and its aftermath. One of the feature articles in that archive is: The political left in France and in Mali assess the French military intervention and its aftermath, by Roger Annis, March 30, 2013.

One of the foremost writers in English on the history of northern Africa is Jeremy Keenan. He is a professor of anthropology at the University of London and author of the 2012 book The Dying Sahara: U.S. Imperialism and Terror In Africa. In 2012, he wrote this article, ‘Algerian state terrorism and atrocities in northern Mali‘.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It sits on the periphery of the Sahara Desert, whose boundary is moving steadily south as global warming increases. Mali desperately needs social, economic and environmental assistance. The last thing it needs is more imperialist military intervention and foreign exploitation of mineral and other natural resources.

The working class movement in Canada should speak out and demand ‘Canada Out of Mali’.

Mainstream news reports:

*  Canadian peacekeepers begin arrival in Mali as yearlong mission begins, by Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press, June 24 2018

*  Mali ‘far messier’ than other peacekeeping missions, says Canada’s defence chief, CBC News, June 24, 2018

Related news:

*  36 civilians dead in militia attack on village in central Mali, reports Fulani ethnic group, The Associated Press, June 25, 2018  Attack took place in area populated by ethnic Fulani, accused of al-Qaeda ties

*  Mass grave in Mali holds 25 bodies tortured and murdered by Mali army, Reuters, June 19, 2018

*  Twenty-five bodies found in central Mali after army sweep, Agence France presse, June 18, 2018

*  Executions by Malian government troops highlight human-rights challenges for Canadian soldiers, by Geoffrey York, Globe and Mail, June 22, 2018*  Bomb attack against UN military base in central Mali kills six, Deutsche Welle, June 29, 2018

*  UN Security Council approves Sahel counterterrorism force, Deutsche Welle, June 21, 2018

[The UN Security Council has approved an African counterterrorism force in the Sahel region of central Africa. The resolution creating the force was introduced by France. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – known as the G5 – agreed in March to deploy a counterterrorism force in the region alongside the African Union and sought UN backing.

[The force is under a separate command but will complement the UN’s 15,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali and the 4,000-strong French troop presence in the region, known as Barkhane. Germany participates in an EU training mission in southern Mali and has a mandate to contribute up to 1,000 troops in support of the UN mission.]

No to Trump’s Trade War!

A joint statement by Socialist Action, Canada and Socialist Action, United States of America

The recent imposition of a 25% tariff on steel imports to the United States and a 10% tariff on aluminum from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union follow the earlier imposition of these tariffs on the rest of the world, and even earlier tariffs on solar panels and washing machines aimed at China and South Korea—all by the U.S. Donald Trump administration.

Trump has also threatened to place heavy tariffs on automobiles and parts imported from abroad, and on numerous industrial and technological products from China. He has also re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran and put new sanctions on Russia.

Understanding Trump’s intentions is no easy matter.  He seems motivated more by sheer bravado than rational thought. Trump’s rhetoric often appears to be aimed at playing to his base rather than reflecting any meaningful thoughts about the future. “Make America Great Again” and “America First” are the shibboleths that appeal to his populist supporters.

At the same time, these notions do speak to the interests of a section of the U.S. capitalist class that is falling behind in global capitalist competition. They are supported by a layer of trade-union leaders who hanker for a return of smokestack America with its millions of well-paid manufacturing jobs. These bureaucrats seek to tie the future of U.S. workers to the “success” of their “own” capitalist corporations and their twin parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, as opposed to furthering the independent organization of workers to challenge the root cause of the problem—the fundamental, for-profit-only operations of the capitalist system.

The United States no longer has the only powerful economy in the world. As global competition relentlessly heats up, and the rate of profit tends to fall, the methods of past times don’t work. For many years after World War II—years of American economic hegemony—free trade was the battering ram to force open foreign markets to cheaper U.S. goods. This was likewise the policy of the U.K. during the height of the British Empire, before World War I. In general, capitalist nations operating with the highest, or most advanced levels of technology tend to be “free-traders” while their weaker competitors are “protectionists.”

Trump’s repeated reference to “many jobs, good jobs” appears to mean the re-creation of jobs that have largely disappeared in the United States, such as coal mining, steel making, and auto manufacturing jobs. Most of these have been lost to automation in auto and steel plants. The U.S. makes about as much steel now as in 1960, but with 20% of the previous labor force. Car manufacturing automation is similar.

Underground coal mining is foul, lung-destroying work that hopefully will never return. But the jobs have disappeared only because they are less profitable in the U.S. and worldwide, and not out of any concern on the part of the coal magnates for the health of the miners. Unfortunately, the labor bureaucracy, tied to capitalism hand and foot, prefers to advocate for capitalism’s most polluting jobs rather than challenge the entire deadly energy system in a fight for a just transition that would guarantee all fossil-fuel workers new jobs at union wages in a 100 percent sustainable and nationalized energy system.

Working people have no interest in trade wars. We simply end up bearing the cost.

The United States produces just below 60% of the steel it uses, while importing the rest from 85 other countries. Canada provides 17% of the imports. Other sources of steel to the U.S. include Brazil 14%, South Korea 10%, Mexico 9%, Russia 8%, Germany 4%, and China 2%. If foreign steel and aluminum become much more expensive as a result of the tariffs, U.S. manufacturers who use such materials will no doubt respond in order to protect their profits. Their options include striving even harder to keep wages low, passing on the price rises to consumers, or even closing down U.S.-based manufacturing plants.

Of course, Canadian, Mexican, and European capitalists have all responded with tariffs on American goods. In this way, too, U.S. workers lose jobs. But workers in Canada, Mexico, and Europe will likely face similar problems—higher prices and the loss of more jobs than tariffs can possibly create.

Global capitalist competition is a completely unavoidable aspect of the system of private profit. As competition results in new innovation, and automation increases the rate of profit for the innovator temporarily, these gains are offset again by the rapid adoption of the new technology by competitors and the resulting fall of profit rates.

In their desperate struggle to fight the falling rate of profit, capitalists try to reduce costs by attacking trade unions and workers’ rights, by attacking pay and benefit levels, by attacking general social benefits such as education, medical, and pension benefits, by refusing to accept any responsibility for the massive environmental damage caused by cutthroat capitalist competition, and by transferring production to low-wage, unregulated areas both within and outside their own countries.

In decades past, the volatile world capitalist system sought to mitigate its inherent contradictions through organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this context, the leading representatives of the world’s most important corporations hammered out comprehensive agreements that sought to meet the needs of all the ever-competing capitalists. The stronger capitalists, like the ruling rich in the United States, always had the upper hand because the U.S. market was the largest in the world.

Nevertheless, each sector of capital understood that one or another competitor had an edge in specific commodities that were traded on the world market. Their objective was to balance their various needs with deals. A modicum of French wine was allowed into the United States, for example, while a certain amount of U.S. products was allowed into France under reciprocal conditions.

NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was in truth, despite its name, a mass of literally thousands of separate negotiated agreements between the ruling elite of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. These include all kinds of protectionist measures for weaker U.S. corporations, and the same for those in Mexico and Canada.

In the face of intensified cutthroat competition between capitalist powers, the old rules of the game are incapable of resolving the growing contradictions of the system. Trump sounded the alarm for the wing of the U.S. capitalist class whose interests he thinks he represents. Ignoring the delicate or fragile balance that has been hitherto established by his predecessors, he proposes to upset the world capitalist system’s apple cart to advance the interests of his favored elites.

When Trump gifted $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the entire ruling class, there were no complaints. But when Trump departed from measures that benefit the broad sectors of the ruling rich, he faced serious opposition internally, not to mention from the potentially wounded lesser capitalist nations. Hence Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, cried foul and collectively threatened to retaliate.

The world’s working people have no interest in this potential world conflagration. In the end, when capitalists win, workers lose—a fundamental law of the capitalist system that has been verified many times. The common interest of workers lies in defending working people everywhere against all the onslaughts of capital. This means international solidarity on every front, from united worldwide efforts to organize workers into powerful unions, to united opposition to capitalist wars and capitalist destruction of the environment.

There is no such thing as peaceful and/or regulated competition among capitalist nations. No self-respecting capitalist is in business to be the world’s “nice guy.” There are only winners and losers in this deadly game of production for private profit. Donald Trump simply tore the mask off the brute face of a predatory system in decline. Justin Trudeau plays the same game as Trump on the world scene and makes sure that everyone knows that Canadian capitalism can bare its own claws in the profit game.

Reliance on any of these representatives of the world’s elite to advance the interests of working people is sheer folly. Breaking with their corporate parties in the political arena is the beginning of a serious challenge to capitalist prerogatives. But only the abolition of the capitalist system itself by the direct action of the vast majority of working people can ensure a permanent end to capitalism’s endless trade wars and its actual military wars that plague humanity.

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