Category Archives: International

Cuba-Canada relations: A look at diplomacy from below

A review by Barry Weisleder of Other Diplomacies, Other Ties: Cuba and Canada in the Shadow of the U.S., Luis Rene Fernandez Tabio, Cynthia Wright, and Lana Wylie, ed., 363 pages, University of Toronto Press, 2018.

In the wake of Ottawa’s vocal support for the latest U.S.-backed attempt at a coup d’état in Venezuela, studies on foreign relations take on a profound sense of urgency.

Setting aside the cumbersome title, this book’s 12 chapters, produced by historians based both in Canada and Cuba, cover the subject of relations with Cuba thoroughly, even with some duplication. Convenient summaries conclude every segment.

For me, the chapter on Cuba’s pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal was particularly riveting. I remember visiting that World’s Fair, titled “Man and His World – Terre des Hommes”, and that unique pavilion. I and dozens of my fellow junior high school students were chaperoned from Toronto by our teachers. I recall the building’s futuristic cube structure, the huge, austere black and white photos, and the evocative, radical slogans on the walls: a combination that blew my then-apolitical mind.

The book puts in context a moment of world social upheaval, shaped by the revolutions in Cuba and Algeria; the example of Che Guevara, soon to be assassinated; and the multiple revolts of 1968, from France to Italy to Prague to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“Other Diplomacies” reminds us that defending a revolution is harder than making one. Exploiting the contradictions, however relative and small, between the imperialist powers is a high priority. Its examination of Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s differences with Washington over Cuba, not to mention whether to accept nuclear weapons on Canada’s territory, shows an autonomy that arises from a different relationship of class forces.

The fact that Canada and Mexico did not break diplomatic relations with revolutionary Cuba, unlike all the other countries of the western hemisphere in the 1960s, provided an important lifeline to the first workers’ republic west of Europe. The impact endures. Canada remains Cuba’s fourth biggest partner in trade. 1.3 million Canadian tourists visit Cuba every year. Sherritt International, the Canadian-based nickel extractor, is still the largest corporate investor in the island.

These and other features of the relationship are at least partly a product of a relatively more class-independent workers’ movement in the Canadian state, including Quebec, and the efforts of at least three generations of socialists and Cuba solidarity activists north of the U.S. border.  The Fair Play for Cuba Committees, on both sides of the divide, well deserve the recognition afforded by the book.

Diplomats as spies, and mass media scribes as shameless propagandists for a corporate agenda, continue to ply their trades. Educational and cultural exchanges continue to make inroads against anti-communist bias. Cuba is embraced by a world that has received its generous gifts of top-notch medical care and disaster relief aid. Washington remains powerful, but more politically isolated than ever, its economy in decline, its military apparatus strained by chronic overreach.

Following the 60th anniversary of the overthrow of the made-in-USA Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, Cuba’s leadership and people are wrestling with choices, the need to strike a balance of economic development, social equality and Poder Popular (people’s power), yearning for, anticipating, the next revolutions that will quicken the pace to world socialist transformation.

Not by conventional diplomacy, such transformations will certainly be informed by the “Other Diplomacies” that animate working class solidarity.

A version of this article originally appeared at https://johnriddell.wordpress.com

Ottawa caters to Trump’s anti-China campaign

by Barry Weisleder

What does the arrest in Vancouver of a senior executive with China’s tech giant Huawei, have to do with the “rule of law”? Precious little. What does it have to do with enforcing Washington’s illegal trade embargo of Iran? A bit more.

Meng is accused of committing fraud as part of a scheme to violate United States trade sanctions against Iran. She was arrested when she passed through Vancouver on her way to Mexico. U.S. officials want Ottawa to extradite her. Awaiting a decision by a Canadian judge, Meng is out on $10 million bail. The extradition procedure could take months, even years. Meanwhile, China detained three Canadians, two of them (ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor) on dubious charges of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. No less dubious is the American agenda. U.S. President Trump openly linked the fate of Meng to winning a better trade deal with Beijing.

Washington’s efforts to punish Huawei for trading with Iran are in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 that calls on all countries to drop sanctions on Iran as part of the 2015 treaty aimed at limiting Iran from developing nuclear weapons – a treaty praised globally for reducing the risk of nuclear war.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restored relations with Iran, and lifted economic sanctions in February 2016, overturning the policy of the previous Stephen Harper-led Conservative government. So, why knuckle under now to Trump’s rogue policy? There is no obligation in law to extradite Meng. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is blowing smoke when she claims that Canada is upholding the rule of law. It is a political decision, not a strictly legal one. And the politics cleave to imperialist ambitions to control the oil fields of the Middle East and Iran, regardless the character of the government in Tehran.

Bottom line: Should Ottawa back Trump’s bid to block Huawei from U.S. and other markets where it is making headway against American tech giants?

The answer is a resounding No. The working class has nothing to gain by backing any capitalist power against another. To that end, Labour, the NDP and all workers’ organizations should demand an end to Ottawa catering to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, Asia, and beyond. The release of Meng will likely bring the detained Canadians home. It won’t quell Trump’s simmering trade war with China, but at least there would be one less state accomplice.

Huawei and Military Power

by Gary Porter

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, recently passing Apple. The Chinese company sells over 10 per cent of the world’s smartphones. Yet its devices are effectively banned from sale in the United States due to suspicion of Chinese state involvement in the running of the company, and ties to China’s military that go right back to Huawei’s inception.

Would you be safe buying a Huawei phone? The quality of its tech is certainly compelling. The Huawei P20 Pro, for example, is widely considered to be the best camera phone on the market. But U.S. consumers may never get to own one.

China’s military is an important Huawei customer. It serves as the company’s political patron and R&D partner, according to Timothy Heath of the Rand Corporation.

“Huawei continues to receive contracts from the Chinese military to develop dual use communications technologies. In particular, it is helping develop 5G networks with military applications in mind”, Heath asserts.

Of course, exactly the same thing happens in the U.S. Telecom manufacturers collaborate with the U.S. military and spy agencies to enhance digital spying, military communications, command and control and cyber war applications. The U.S. is determined to maintain its hegemony, against this powerful and highly competent Chinese competitor.

To put it another way, the United States insists on being the one entity that spies on your entire life and does not want to share that capacity with powerful trade and military competitors like China.

Are Huawei devices safe from surveillance? Probably not. Are U.S. companies’ devices safe from surveillance? Definitely not. So my next phone will be a Huawei P20 Pro. If I am going to be spied upon anyway, why not get the best phone? Helping American imperialism maintain technical dominance is just not in my interest.

Photo: Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei

Interview of a Chinese Revolutionary Marxist on the recent political situation and the state of workers’ struggle

A1:The New York Times published an article recently about the radicalization of young chinese students. Do you witness the same trend ? How does it materialize for you locally ?

Ji Hengge:

First I should introduce the context of the article of New York Times. From May to July at 2018, As many as 89 workers who worked in Shenzhen Jasic(佳士) Technology Co., Ltd tried to established a Workers Union but not accepted by the official Pingshan(坪山) District Federation of Trade Unions, and most of them fired by the factory. These workers then protected in front of the gate of the Jasic and the police station in Pingshan, Shenzhen. And they also rush into the gate of Jasic factory and the police station, these activities let the event escalate and became a public event. Some workers arrested by the policeman. After that, some Maoist Left students and youth participated the protect and established a Solidarity Group to help these workers. Sometime there’s also people from other political tendencies participated in the solidarity active. From July to 23th August, these Maoist students and youth protected and lectured in street, communities, industrial areas, though the weather is so hot. In the morning of 24th August, all these Maoist students, youth and some workers in the Solidarity Group were arrested by the policeman, most of them were forced repatriation, but some of them, like Gu Jiayue(顾佳悦)(she were arrested in Beijing), Yue Xin(岳昕), Xu Zhongliang(徐忠良) and so on were imprisoned for trial. And before 24th August, an NGO named “Worker Empowerment”(劳动力) were closed down by the government and some member of this NGO were arrested because the government want to framed the movement as an event that support by the “overseas forces”, though they had no any real relationships with this event. Although there were not so many Maoist Left students (about 30-50 people) in the scene and most workers in Jasic factory were no action, it was so remarkable in the oppressive environment of China. So the Jasic event can reported by many foreign medias, and leads to discussions about the radicalization of young students in China.

For now it’s only sufficient to say that a small portion of young students have been radicalized, but young students as a whole haven’t. Some media have reported that young Chinese students are undergoing a widespread radicalization. Labor scholar Pun Ngai(潘毅) based in Hong Kong have also exaggerated the radicalization of young students recently when she talked about Jasic events. In China, the majority of young students are indifferent to politics, they care more about getting higher score at school, securing a job, and obtaining scholarship, and so on.

However, the authorities’ tightening authoritarianism on politics and culture, on one hand made more and more students disappointed, especially after they amended the Constitution in 2018, but the majority of students haven’t reached the degree of “radicalized”; on the other hand, it drove the polarization of the ideological trends of society:

One pole is students who oppose the establishment. Their number is gradually increasing. Leftist Maoist is their mainstream, and their number have grown ten times more comparing to 2012. (We call Maoists who support the CPC, see “the contradiction between Chinese nation and foreign imperialists” as main contradiction, or think today’s China is “still socialist”, rightist Maoists; and Maoists who oppose the authorities, and think of “contradiction of classes” as the main contradiction, leftist Maoists). The other pole includes nationalists, and most of liberals: they both oppose radical transformation. Although most liberals advocate the slogan, “against the establishment, for democracy”, but they are repelled by revolution more than autocracy. Their current goal is merely counting on the power struggle inside the authorities to promote “political reform”, and to defend market economy and private ownership.

Leftist Maoists in China have been growing since the 1990s, but they remained small before 2012. In 2012, the fall of Bo Xilai (薄熙来)devastated rightist Maoists. Many people at the upper levels chose to support the new leader, while many others went astray. During this time, the once small leftist Maoists carried out propaganda actively, made many rightist Maoists youth give up on believing in “reforms inside of the party”, and adopted the standpoint of opposing the Establishment. Those leftist Maoist took over many kinds of “Marxist academic society” (“马克思主义学会”)or public welfare college associations which mainly serve workers as their main channels to carry out their work. They even turned many rightist Maoist societies into leftist Maoist societies.

Since liberals firmly oppose radical transformation and holds hostility to workers’ participation in radical transformation, while leftist Maoists shout slogans like “democracy”, “freedom of speech”, “fight against bureaucratism”, “social equality”, “serve workers and peasants”, leftist Maoism became very attractive to radical youth who oppose autocracy and seek equality, and is drawing more and more youth who care about politics and the society. Some political events in recent years are related to those leftist Maoist youths, such as the Maoist book club incident of Guangdong University of Technology (广东工业大学)in December 2017. We can see their presence in the #MeToo Movement in 2018. The Jasic events which caught international attentions are essentially guided by those Maoist youths. Since September 2018, Maoist student organizations at Peking University(北京大学), Renmin University of China(中国人民大学), Nanjing University(南京大学) and some other universities have launched a movement to stop the university office shutting down and deregistering their societies. But in general, those leftist Maoist youth are still a very small portion of young students. Although they had caught more attentions because they took an active part in those public incidents, their activists won’t be more than a few hundred in the whole of China.

Trotskyism, despite being marginalized by Maoists, is getting more space for propaganda because of the tendency of a small portion of young people toward radicalization, and Trotskyists’ commitment to socialist democracy. In practical propaganda activity, Trotskyism can arouse young people’s sympathy more easily compare to Maoism, but due to Trotskyists’ small number and lack of strength, most radical Chinese youths do not have much chance to learn about Trotskyism. On the contrary, it’s easier to see articles written by Maoists that defame Trotskyism.

Besides, other ideological trends are also supported by radical youth, such as feminism, LGBT liberation, etc. These trends have broken through academia and became a radical political movement and turned around to push the radicalization of some youth. For example, the #MeToo movement got many students’ support and sympathy. But the main stream of these trends have a tendency to ignore class struggle, such as when most feminists’ emphasis on sexual difference and men’s original sin but overlook the question of class struggle.

A2: Do you see a radicalization within the workers movement as well ?

Ji Hengge:

The labor movement in the Mainland hasn’t shown tendencies of widespread radicalization for the time being. In general, most of strikes were spontaneous, fighting for pay rise, social security, worker’s compensation, and so on. As the economic crisis deepened from 2012 to 2016, many factories had gone bankrupt or moved to inland areas. Therefore, the number of strikes had gone up, but their demands were lowered comparing to the period before 2012. Most workers’ struggles was presented as fighting for economic demands like relocation compensation or social insurance contribution paid by the companies. It was hard to see the demand for a union. At that time, another feature was that many labor NGOs got involved in strikes. However, labor NGOs, especially those liberal ones, had fallen into the low tide after Zeng Feiyang(曾飞洋) got suppressed in 2016. Most of them reduced direct involvements in strikes, fell back and focused on community service. Some NGOs influenced by Maoism would advertise Maoism to active volunteers.

The real economy gradually recovered after 2016, so the workers’ demands also got higher. For that time, the most organized strike was the strikes of Walmart employees, which spread to a few provinces, lasted for months. In these Walmart strikes, the government worker unions wanted to calmed these strikes and the NGOs led and influenced by liberal labor scholars (although these scholars claimed they are “democratic socialists”, they firmly support a private ownership and have no any demands for nationalization and real welfare system) wanted to control these strikes that kept them away a radical struggle line, but many active workers had organized the Friendship Society(it like a miniature of independent worker union), these self-organized active workers even struggled with moderate liberal labor NGOs, mainstream labor scholars, and government unions.

But most of strikes hadn’t mentioned the demand for a union. The portion of strikes with the demand for a union or union democratization had become smaller comparing to 2009-2012. Even most of those unions founded during the strike waves of 2010 were hijacked by personnel from the government or the companies. During the strikes of tower crane operators in 2018, which spread across the whole country, strikers didn’t even know what a union is. Workers uses a Chinese online chat app called WeChat(微信) to do most of the organizing and communicating.

The struggle of Jasic workers in 2018 also brought up the demand for a union. Although advocates are the minorities of Jasic workers, those activists are still the few workers who have union consciousness in Mainland China. However, the majority of Jasic workers did not join in the struggle during the Jasic events. Only a few activists were fighting alone in the whole process. Hence, the company solved the problem by dismissing those activists. What’s more, after those activists were expelled, the company founded a union controlled by the government and the bosses through a formal voting procedure.

Beside the strikes of factory workers, shop assistants, couriers, tower crane operators, teamsters who are basically doing manual labor, and teachers’ strikes are relatively frequently seen in these years. That’s because of some local government has excessive fiscal debt, and unable to pay teachers’ salaries and welfare, or in some cases, teachers who was registered as casual laborer or contract laborer want to be enlisted into the civil servant system and get better treatment.

Other than that, the distribution of strikes as well as labor NGOs suggest that the coastal areas are hotter than inland areas. Cities like Shenzhen(深圳), Guangzhou(广州), and Dongguan(东莞) are the places where labor NGOs are located most densely, many strikes happen there. The city of Wuhan(武汉) in the central China has ten million population, with more than 5 million workers. It only has 1 labor NGO, which is operating poorly.

Overall, it’s not highly possible for workers to be radicalized in the near future. This has something to do with the tight totalitarian ruling approach adopted by the CPC. Since 2018, the authorities started once again to stress measures like Party organizations entering private enterprises or “union reform” in private enterprises. The goal is to take total control of workers’ activities in private enterprises, to cut off any possibility for other oppositions’ involvement of workers’ activities. Under this totalitarianism, most workers won’t be radicalized gradually. Instead, they may get radicalized rapidly in large scale when economic, political or military incidents occur. It also presented a significant challenge for revolutionary communists in China, i.e. it will be hard for us to get sufficient practical experience of labor movement in a long time.

A3: Do you see new links between the youth movement and the workers ?

Ji Hengge:

This kind of connections are mainly present in Maoist societies. Because they advocate the slogan “serve the people”, they emphasize the connections with underclass workers, especially industrial workers. The methods they chose to connect with workers are as varied as their factions.

One of the methods is to infiltrate into the All-China Federation of Trade Unions(中华全国总工会) and become one of its staff. But the outcome was not visible for the time being. And many Maoist activists were assimilated by the system, and became a bureaucrat of the establishment.

The second method is approaching underclass workers through public welfare activities such as voluntary medical consultation and voluntary art show, or labor research. Some would use labor NGOs as an intermediary, which is the most common method due to its convenience, but the propaganda and agitation effect among workers of this method is yet to be evaluated.

The third method is sending graduate groups to work in factories, immerse them into factories, so that they can introduce worker activists into their underground groups, and mobilize a strike to attract more workers. But this method doesn’t seek to establish a stable trade union or other kinds of worker organization. It’s a kind of guerrilla warfare: a group would move to another factory after the strike.

The recent Jasic events presented a new method, i.e. voicing support for protesting workers. There had been rightist Maoists voicing support for workers before. Although it had been rare to see leftist Maoists using this method, it did cause relatively bigger social influence this time. However, despite the determination and courage showed by those leftist Maoists youths who supported workers at the scene, their flaws are also exposed:

1) The characters of far-left adventurism, sectarianism, and bureaucratic ultimatism; For instance, they caused direct conflicts with the instrument of power like the police and state security without considering their own weakness: only a few dozen people participated in the action and then exposed their organization network. The CPC is very strict about organized political activities. Besides, they didn’t fall back when the sighs of suppression was shown, which is when the police had sent the supporters’ parents to persuade them, on the contrary, they still claimed to be “the victor”; If some participant had different opinion about the situation or strategy, they would criticize him or her for “not being supportive for the workers”, and even called them “spy” in some cases. They often refused leftist youth of other factions to join the voice support activities in the name of “safety concern”.

2) They put “strategy” above principle in their declarations. They wrote their declarations like oaths of loyalty to the CPC leadership hoping to reduce political risk and obtain support from rightist Maoists. They put the hope of defending workers’ right in the CPC leadership rather than workers themselves in those declarations, even though most participants of the support group do not support the CPC in their heart.

The above two points hindered their strength, and dispirited liberals and many other leftist youths. Even the majority of Jasic workers didn’t show their support for the protest. The result is that the protest failed, worker activists got heavier repression, and a labor NGO which didn’t have much to do with the protest was shut down.

The CPC had started to notice these links between students and workers, so they have smashed some leftist college societies. For example, they suppressed the Maoist society of Guangdong University of Technology in November 2017, and arrested their activists. They suppressed and interrogated Zhiyuan Society(致远社) of Nanjing Agricultural University (南京农业大学)in 2017. After the Jasic events of 2018, they hindered the annual registration of Maoist societies of Peking University, Renmin University of China and Nanjing University, and put their activists under surveillance. The CPC leadership would think that those leftist students may walk the path that they themselves had walked in the 1920s, and become a threat to the regime, so they hope to suffocate their program in the cradle.

A4: Do you see a new interest in the works of Trotsky ?

Ji Hengge:

Some writings of Trotsky have been published openly since 1990, such as Literature and Revolution; Stalin–An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence; My Life, which is the most widely published and sold one with many translation versions. In recent years, Trotsky on Chinese Revolution, Trotsky on Anti-Fascism, Trotsky Recounts the October Revolution, which collected and translated by Shi Yongqin(施用勤), and the History of the Russian Revolution translated by Ding Duben( 丁笃本) have been published. And Problems of Everyday Life translated by Shi Yongqin haven’t been published. Books like Selected Works of Trotsky and Selected Writings of Trotsky, collected and translated by official scholars, had been published during 2006-2012. Besides works of Trotsky’s, three-volume biography of Trotsky by Isaac Deutscher got published in 1992, and republished in 2013.

For the number of publications, biography was the best seller. The History of the Russian Revolution wasn’t so bad, but other political works were very hard to sell. It reflects the fact that most people are reading Trotsky’s works out of curiosity about Russian history rather than political causes. And some people bought them for academic purposes.

Besides publications, The Chinese Marxists Internet Archive (https://www.marxists.org/chinese)have organized translation projects for many writings of Trotsky’s. It helped to spread Trotsky’s works. But only those who were close to or already accepted Revolutionary Marxism would read them. Only a few people have interests in Trotsky’s works.

In Mainland China, Trotskyism is still on the margin of political trends of thought. “Anti-totalitarianism” such as The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System by Milovan Djilas, and George Orwell’s and Bukharin’s works were more popular. But the most welcomed are Friedrich August von Hayek’s works. In the eyes of official scholars and most intellectuals, the struggles between Trotsky and Stalin were just for supreme power. Most of them think that Trotsky and Stalin are both dictators inherently. “Socialist Democracy” that Trotsky talked about were just fancy words. He wouldn’t have been a lesser dictator than Stalin.

As for leftist Maoist youth, which are the mainstream of radical youth, most of them are still hostile to Trotskyism. They continued the utterance which the CPC used to criticize Trotskyism in the time of Stalin and Mao. Most radical youths accepted those slanders and misrepresentations, made by Maoists about Trotskyism, when they started to learn politics. This is a difficulty we have to face while doing propaganda.

A5: Is the youth organizing against oppression of minorities ?

Ji Hengge:

There is no sign of this for the time being. On the contrary, Islamophobia is very common among youth. It made many people acquiesced the authorities’ high-pressure policies in Xinjiang(新疆). Besides, many liberal youth oppose the national recognition policy adopted by the CPC. They even oppose nominal national autonomy, thinking that there should be only one “Chinese nation”. This is actually a kind of Han chauvinism(大汉族主义).

Ethnic minorities are rare to be seen in discussions of radical youths. Many leftist Maoist youth would sympathize with the Uyghurs(维吾尔族) under high pressure, but they seldom speak about it openly. There are two reasons: first, discussion about nationalitiesis strictly confined, it’s difficult to talk about them openly. Second, most Maoist youth do not support the right of self-determination, which is inherited from the time of Mao for there was no self-determination when he was in power.

Some religious Uyghur and Tibetan(藏族) people would hate Han Chinese(仇视汉族) for religious reasons or social polarization, but only a few people would like to start an independent nation. Among Uyghur and Tibetan intellectuals, those who support independence are usually in exile. Those who remain in China usually oppose independence. Many of them even support the CPC, for they think Xinjiang would be controlled by extreme Islamists while Tibet would return to unification of the state and the church easily without the CPC’s high-pressure policies. Some liberal intellectuals of those nations would advocate more autonomous and democratic rights for Xinjiang and Tibet.

Many young students even dare not to discuss politics due to high-pressure control in Xinjiang and Tibet, especially among Uyghur students, because snitches are so common that they would be persecuted or suppressed by the school or the government as soon as they talk about politics. For this reason, it’s hard to tell what’s on the minds of Uyghur and Tibetan youth.

Trotskyists are one of the few forces among radical leftists in China that supports the right of self-determination. We would strive to combat national oppression and Islamophobia, to promote solidarity of working class among all nations, at the same time, to propagate against extreme Islamism(极端伊斯兰主义), extreme Lamaism(极端喇嘛教主义) and discrimination against Han Chinese, despite the fact that few people accept these ideas in a China where Han chauvinism prevails. We hope for the chance to spread Revolutionary Marxism to those radical workers and youth of oppressed minorities. This is the important foundation of socialist movements in minorities like Uyghur and Tibetan.

November 15, 2018

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.”