Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will Obama End Up Like Toussaint L'Ouverture? Tax Cuts Debates in the USA

In revolutionary moments laws, ideas and politics are challenged by new circumstances. These circumstances force the convergence of revolution and counter-revolution in the same moment. New social forces emerge on the scene and there are always leaders who are thrown up by the moment. Oftentimes these leaders are not themselves revolutionaries but are caught up in the general convulsion that shakes the foundations of the old society. Toussaint L'Ouverture was one such revolutionary in Haiti who joined the revolution in 1793 and agreed that the old system of slavery must end. But Toussaint believed in the plantation model and wanted to restore the economic relations of the plantation where the former enslaved were supposed to work for a planter class.

Toussaint dithered when the people wanted a new mode of economic organisation and in the midst of these dithering internal and external forces removed Toussaint and he ended up as a tragic figure who emerged out of a revolution. While Toussaint is still celebrated as a great revolutionary, the tragedy of the bloodletting and stagnation of Haitian society cannot be separated from the fact that as a political leader he could not grasp the reality that the mass of the people wanted a new form of economic organisation.

Barack Obama as the president of the United States risks ending up being irrelevant like Toussaint as he continuously dithers and places his faith in a system that is now obsolete. Barack Obama believes in American capitalism at a moment when the environmental crisis, the economic recession, the changed international situation along with the financial meltdown demanded a new turn in social and economic relations. Read more

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights, Livelihoods and Ubuntu for the 21st Century

The celebration of Human Rights Day across the world will be meaningless without interrogating the significance of peoples’ rights in relationship to human livelihood and peaceful co-existence among humans and between humans and planet earth in the 21st century. Such interrogation should be geared towards unravelling the implications of new phenomena for our collective humanity in the 21st century. These phenomena include the Western conception of human rights based on exclusions and hierarchies, biotechnology and robotics revolution, genetic perdition and cloning, capitalist plundering of the earth, as well as the dehumanisation of human beings by neo-liberal capitalism.

Following the devastating war associated with the capitalist depression of 1929-1945, an international organisation, the United Nations, was formed with a mandate to promote world peace. There were four salient objectives outlined in the UN Charter: 1) to maintain world peace and security; 2) to protect the fundamental human rights and uphold the dignity and equality of all humans; 3) to create a forum for cooperation in solving international problems and in providing respect for international law; and 4) to promote freedom, advance human progress and achieve better standards of living.

In 1948, the UN agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which codified a common universal standard for the upholding of human dignity. Today, 10 December 2010, 62 years after the declaration, it is important for all people to reflect deeply on the meaning of human dignity in the 21st century. We want to remind our readers that the challenges of the moment demand that, in tandem with the ideals of Ubuntu, we elevate the new principle of the collective rights of human beings in the 21st century. The principle of Ubuntu which is now emerging as a core organising principle links humans to each other, to nature, and to the universe. It is this concept of shared humanity that we want to reflect on today so that we can promote an inclusive concept of peace, human dignity, and human rights. More

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Resistance Beyond Borders: Irish Lessons and International Workers’ Solidarity

The news of the draconian measures that have been inflicted on the people of Ireland so that the banks can be repaid brings into sharp focus again the turning point in the international capitalist system. From the streets of Ireland there are now discussions of the need for a system change. From the pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times we are confronted with headlines that cry ‘Banks’ exposure stirs EU contagion worries’. We are then told that according to the figures of the Bank for International Settlements, ‘European Banks were sitting on more than 650 billion Euros exposure to Ireland as of March 31. The UK banks are the international lenders with the most at stake, the banks had exposure of about $222 b to a variety of Irish institutions.’ One of the burning questions for all of humanity is whether the survival and health of the banks and the financial services industry are more important than the health and livelihoods of human beings. It has been revealed that the government of Ireland will have to raid its national pension fund and other cash reserves for €17.5 billion as a condition to bail out the banks. This structural adjustment package – which Africa, Latin America and the entire Third World have seen for the past 30 years – includes steep tax increases and sharp cut backs in the programmes for the working poor. According to the New York Times:

‘The austerity plan calls for cuts of nearly 15 percent in Ireland’s social welfare budget … .More