Friday, December 23, 2011

China: ‘Developing’ or ‘developed’ country?

The COP 17 climate conference in Durban ended as expected, with no real agreement and commitment to reverse the destruction of the planet earth. Before and during this meeting, China positioned itself as a developing country so that it could align with the least developed societies from Africa, Asia and Latin America in calling for the countries of Western Europe, North America and Japan to stick to the Kyoto Protocol. In previous climate change meetings, the Chinese delegations had been reluctant to discuss any replacement of the existing Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, which was negotiated over 15 years ago before China exploded with its economic growth, only binds developed countries to cut their emissions. The treaty, the main provisions of which expire at the end of 2012, has been ineffective and failed to curb global emissions. In the United States (US), the most conservative forces have denied the existence of global warming, while the government failed to ratify the treaty.

Throughout the COP17 meeting, representatives of the Global South presented the arguments of the consequences of global warming with the evidence of droughts, floods, hurricanes and the breakup of arctic ice. Island societies from Oceania and other parts of the world provided graphic evidence of the threats to their survival. One term that came out of this meeting was that of ‘climate apartheid’. This formulation came out of the Africa group; Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International said that:

‘Delaying real action until 2020 is a crime of global proportions. An increase in global temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, Small Island States, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid, whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.’

Massive mobilisations by progressive organisations ensured that the deliberations among governments were exposed. From the international reports on the COP 17 deliberations, even with the exposure of the catastrophic conditions of the international financial organs, the leading polluters continued to negotiate within the confines of the liberal concepts of voluntarily established clean development mechanisms. There continues to be stiff resistance to the truth that the planet has been brought to this stage because of the forms of industrialisation of the western capitalism over the past 200 years. Understandably, the US government was identified as the country that is the greatest obstacle to an agreement on reversing global warming. It was in the face of the clear isolation of the US in this meeting where Xie Zhenhua, head Chinese delegation, told journalists that China was willing to be part of a new, legally binding global agreement to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions, which could come into force by 2020. China also sought to reassert its status as a ‘developing country.’ Read more

Democracy is more than voting and elections: Lessons from Guyana and the Caribbean

In this time of seismic changes internationally, it is becoming clearer each day that new forms of politics are needed to give expression to the deep desire for transformation of this social system that places profits before humans. From Egypt to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the people are finding out that the entire process of voting and elections is stacked against change. After rising up against the Mubarak regime in January and February, the electoral process in Egypt has handed a parliamentary majority to social elements who want to roll back the rights of women. In particular, the Salafists (one of the more conservative branches of the Islamic faith) have risen to second place after the November ‘elections’ in Egypt. Those who were able to use the mosque as a platform for political engagement during the era of repression have emerged with over 60 per cent of the Parliamentary seats, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists.

The Salafists, whose members follow a strict form of Islam, benefit from support from the most conservative forces in Saudi Arabia.

The other recent lesson has been that of the DRC where the state structures of Mobutism are now occupied by a clique around Joseph Kabila. This society which is larger than the size of Western Europe lacks the infrastructure to organise real elections but the United Nations and all of the top members of the United Nations Security Council supported a farcical procedure where voting was supposed to have taken place. As I wrote this article, the press reports were that Kabila was ahead of Mr Etienne Tshisekedi, the principal contender out of a field of more than nine presidential candidates.

Most of the media reporting on the elections in the DRC focused on logistical questions about how to count the votes of more than 30 million voters in a society where there were more than 18,000 parliamentary candidates competing for 500 parliamentary seats. As in many parts of Africa, politics is now a vocation for those involved in influence-peddling so that many of the politicians are not interested in question of social justice. This does not mean that the people do not want justice.

Today I draw from the lessons of the recent elections and the aftermath in Guyana in South America to draw attention to the clear reality that prolonged political mobilisation is needed for a new form of politics, because, even when people vote, their votes are not respected. The shooting of unarmed protesters in Georgetown Guyana, this week holds a very bad omen for the manipulation of racial divisions so that a discredited leadership can stay in power.

AFTERMATH OF ELECTIONS IN GUYANA

Another front in the global struggle for social justice is now opening in Guyana. Guyana, we should recall, was the home of Walter Rodney, who was assassinated in 1980. Much like the struggles now taking shape in the USA, the Middle East, and other places, workers, students, mothers, fathers, and the population of this South American nation have once again joined the global struggle for political and economic change. Since political independence, Guyana has been overseen by political careerists who manipulate racial insecurity between the Indian and African workers. Read more

Angola: Fifty years of continued uprisings

Angola is reputed to be the third fastest growing country in the world. This is a prime example of a society where growth does not have a positive impact on the quality of the lives of the 99 per cent of Angolans. From the Human Development Indices of the United Nations, the people of Angola are near the bottom of the pile, ranked 148 out of 187. Exploitation and social inequality are apparent in all areas of life of the society, witness the gated communities, high-rise buildings and the latest luxury vehicles in a space where there is little delivery of basic services such as water, electricity, sewage systems and malaria prevention. For international capital, this is success.

All of the major business papers and magazines wax lyrical with news of the possibilities for investment in Angola. It is difficult to get a seat on a flight to Angola because ‘entrepreneurs’ of varying levels are on the path to El Dorado in Angola. Luanda, the capital of Angola is one of the cities of the world where the skyline is rapidly changing with a major construction boom. Plans for the building of a million new houses across Angola have ensnared Chinese, Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese corporations with companies from every part of the capitalist world from Korea to Germany and from India to the United States jockeying to join the gravy train.

Massive and opulent shopping centres that seek to defy the laws of nature and high-rise residential complexes without water and electricity expose a political leadership who have completely lost any understanding of the society they live in. In the Bay of Luanda, a historic point of embarkation for millions of enslaved Africans, there is a US$2.3 billion dollar project to build offices, houses, and buildings for commerce, hotels, tourism and leisure. This project is dubbed the creation of a New Dubai. Although the project is marketed as a component of the reconstruction of the society involving the ministries of public works, and urbanisation and environment and the provincial government of Luanda, this multibillion project represents infrastructure projects where a few Angolans get rich in alliance with foreign construction companies.

Additionally, this massive construction project is one more effort for the very rich to enter the top league of those making illegitimate or excessively large windfall gains and enter the top league of financial entrepreneurs who are aligned to the ‘financialisation of energy markets.’ Sonangol (Sociedade Nacional de Petróleos de Angola – National Society of Petroleum of Angola), the state oil company, has entered the major league of top energy traders; one component of this trade is to build the financial infrastructure to move resources independent of government oversight. Sonangol shares some of the same characteristics as the massive operations that had been undertaken in Libya by the state-controlled Libyan Investment Authority.

Libya had entered into the opaque world of financing energy markets through the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) before their allies in Wall Street considered the unpredictability of Gaddafi of Libya too threatening. Libya is, like Angola, a top producer of petroleum products and after December 2010, the Central Bank of Libya took the controlling position in the Arab Banking Corporation based in Bahrain. The Arab Banking Corporation was owned by Kuwait Investment Authority, Central Bank of Libya, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and other shareholders with minor shares. At present very few reports have linked the Libyan dominance in the Arab Banking Corporation to the seismic events in Libya since February 2011.

After December 2010, Muhammad Layas of Libya had taken over in this major financial institution. Any move for making independent decisions in the Arab Banking Corporation threatened the web of speculators in the derivatives industry that depended on the recycling of petrodollars from the oil rich nations of Kuwait, Libya and the Emirates. After February 17 when the Libyans started to move to divest their funds from their over-exposure with British and US financial institutions, there was the freezing of the assets of Libya prior to the façade of protecting Libyans by Britain, France and NATO. Read more

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mao Zedong and modern China


Last weekend, 18-22 November, our department, the Department of International Relations of Tsinghua University took a school trip to Changsha and Shaoshan in Hunan Province, the birthplace of Mao Zedong. Mao, known to many older non-Chinese as Mao Tse-Tung was one of the great revolutionary leaders of the 20th century who led the Chinese Communist Party to a tortuous victory in 1949. Sixty years ago, the writings and teachings of Mao were very popular, especially his dictum that:

‘Revolution is not a dinner party, nor an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.’

As a Chinese leader who had emerged out of civil wars and revolutions, the Little Red Book of Mao had been popular in the 1960s. In a new era of revolution, (now expressed in the protracted battles in Egypt with reverberations around the world) this trip afforded us to reflect collectively on the contribution of Mao, despite the fact that his legacy is bound up with controversies on the paths forward for the transformation of China in the 21st century.

Although many in China and in the West seek to disfigure his contributions to revolutionary thought, it is important that in this era of the intellectual and political ferment unleashed by the capitalist depression, we are able to grasp the strength and weaknesses of Mao in order to build on the positive contributions that were made in relation to revolutionary theory and practice. Socialist values and the new culture that appreciates humans over commodities are now being discussed in a period of anxiety and uncertainties.

As we travelled on Lake Dongting Hu and appreciated the majestic architecture and art of the old Yueyang Lou Tower along the shore, we could see the traffic on this lake with the hundreds of barges transporting sand and coal on the water highway in the middle of China. This striking hothouse of commercial and industrial activity was an indication of the economic engine of China working overtime. Read more

Nanking and the lessons of genocide


The city of Nanjing in the People’s Republic of China stands as one more monument to genocidal thinking and genocidal actions. Far more important, however, is the reality that with new thinking, it is possible to reconstruct society and to create new humans. From Nanjing one can see the great possibilities for healing after wars if humans step back from the social system and ideas of human hierarchy that inspire genocidal politics and genocidal economics.

This week, I have been visiting Nanjing, formerly known as Nanking. This city sitting on the eastern end of the Yangtze River carries with it hundreds of years of transformation and politics of Chinese society and culture. Emperors had made this one of the historic capitals. After the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and after Ching Kai Shek became the leader of the Republic of China, Nanking was the capital of all of China. This city, now a vast conurbation of close to 8.5 million citizens, is the home of the mausoleum of Sun Yat Sen. Sun Yat Sen is a national hero of China who is revered by socialists and capitalists of Chinese origins at home and abroad. Located in the south eastern area of the present People’s Republic of China, Nanjing is a city rich with history, art, museums, industries, libraries, universities, lakes, mountains and most important people who now thrive to make a good life. Yet, these people live with the memory of one of the most horrific genocides of the 20th century.

After the 1911 revolution, the nationalists were seeking to consolidate power. In the midst of the last depression, the imperial forces of Japan invaded China in 1931 and fought to subjugate the Chinese people for 14 years. As one component of this subjugation by this imperial army, there was an attack on the Nanking. These Japanese imperial forces overran Shanghai in 1937 and proceeded to capture the capital, Nanking in 1937. On 13 December 1937, the Japanese army occupied Nanking and over a period of six week to eight weeks slaughtered over 300,000 persons in an orgy of rape, theft, arson and other unspeakable crimes against humanity. Nancy Chang chronicled the heinous deeds in the book, ‘The Rape of Nanking: The forgotten Holocaust of World War II’.

On the first page of the book she wrote:

‘The chronicle of humankind’s cruelty to fellow humans is a long and sorry tale. But if it is true that even in such horror there are degrees of ruthlessness, then few atrocities in world history compare to the intensity and scale of the Rape of Nanking during World War II.’ Read more

Why the attempted remilitarisation of Africa will fail: Lessons from the deployment of Kenyan troops into Somalia


At the same moment when the Libyan adventure backfired with the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) retreating from taking credit for the end of the Gaddafi regime, the US government announced the deployment of 100 troops to Uganda to assist the government of Yoweri Museveni to track down the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Later the same month in October 2011, there was news that the Kenyan army had been deployed into Somalia in pursuit of armed Somalians known as Al-Shabaab (‘The Youth’) that Kenya blames for a series of kidnappings on its soil. It was also revealed that France would be supporting the Kenyan invasion in Somalia.

Sensitive to the future relationship with Africans who want peace, the spokespersons for AFRICOM have been ‘leading from behind’ in this Kenyan operation. In this article, I argue that of the US-supported ventures in Africa, the foray into Somalia represents a heightened threat to peace and reconstruction in Africa, especially East Africa. I will argue that this Western-supported incursion is more against the Kenyan people than against the forces of Al-Shabaab, or whatever name that will be given to the musical chairs of military entrepreneurs in Somalia.

In the past 20 years, the US support for militarism in the Horn of Africa has destabilised this region of Africa. Since independence in 1963, Kenya has been the cockpit of imperial ventures in Africa. This was because the radical traditions of Kenya from the period of the Land and Freedom Army had to be contained. After three periods of containment using force, non-governmental organisations and sowing divisions among the progressives, the awakening in Africa pointed to the vibrancy and potential for people-centred change in Kenya. Thus, the security planners in Western states were not going to wait to be surprised by a Tahrir Square uprising in Kenya.

This process of remilitarisation will fail in Africa, just as support for Mobutism and support for apartheid failed decades earlier. The challenge for peace and social justice forces in North America and Europe is to take the question of the militarisation of Africa to the forefront of the struggles against the one per cent, and link the issues of militarism more closely to the banking industry and its private military contractors.

I will start with the six points that highlighted the catastrophic failure of AFRICOM in Libya, retrace the failure of the Operation Lightning Thunder of 2008 and then examine the fear of revolutionary uprisings in Kenya. The conclusion will retrace the intellectual and political crisis within the US ruling circles in this depression, and explore why the current remilitarisation of Africa is being opposed fiercely in Africa and will influence the present movement for peace and social justice in North America and Western Europe.

CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IN LIBYA Read more

G20 summit: Under the shadow of the Occupy Wall Street movement: Can China save decrepit capitalism in Europe?


WHO IS THE DECIDER? CHINA OR THE OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT?

"We will fight to defend Europe and the euro," Nicolas Sarkozy, November 4, 2011

With these words of fighting, President Nicholas Sarkozy gave notice to the world that the European leaders from the right will militarize the planet in order to save the European project. After the meeting of the G20 ended in disarray in Cannes, France with no real agreement on how to develop global rules to rein in the ‘vampire squids,’ the debacle of the creeping coup in Greece was overtaken by the reality of the more precipitous and calamitous state of the Italian economy. Newspapers such as the UK’s Guardian declared that the G20 meeting ended in disarray.

There could be no agreement on global rules at the recent G20 summit when the question of the accountability of bankers was off the table. The assembled leaders issued a contradictory communiqué which in one line called for China and other countries ‘with strong public finances to take steps to boost domestic demand,’ while in another line continued the western chorus on undervalued currency with the call, for countries to move ‘more rapidly’ towards greater exchange rate flexibility, without specifically mentioning China. There was the usual bland statement from the summit on ‘the need reinvigorate economic growth’. Other non binding formulations came from the final communiqué:

- To support the IMF and give it more money if necessary
- Welcomes Italy's invitation to the IMF to monitor its economic reforms
- Welcomes the eurozone's plans to restore confidence and financial stability
- Sets up a task force on youth employment

In the week prior to this G20 summit, the political crisis inside Europe over the future form of this EU had been focused on the imposition of harsh measures on the workers of Greece. In that week, there had been another putting off of the day of reckoning with the European leaders leaning heavily on China after their acrimonious meeting in Brussels. The meeting of the leaders of Europe was barely over on Thursday 27 October when Klaus Regling the chief executive of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), jumped on the plane to fly to Beijing to seek over €60 billion investment from the government of the People’s Republic of China. Even before Klaus Regling landed in Beijing, the same Nicolas Sarkozy was on the phone to President Hu Jintao pleading for the government of the PRC to make a clear declaration of support for the decisions of the leaders of Europe to resolve the Eurozone crisis. European leaders such as Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy wanted the people of China to throw their money at a political crisis when the real question was the contradictions between the goals of the European project of having a monetary union without a political and fiscal union backed up by a single state called the European Union. The loose formation of leaders who were in a notional EU while trying to save old style national capitalism had deluded themselves that they had a plan and presented to the world a three pronged strategy to save the present arrangements that favor bankers and speculators. Greece had taken a front place in the stage of the drama. Thus that communiqué had narrowly focused on Greece with the following declaration:

a) Private banks holding Greek debt would accept a write-off of 50% of their returns
b) The main euro bailout fund – known as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – was to be boosted from the €440 billion set up earlier this year to €1 trillion, and
c) European banks would be required to raise about €106 billion in new capital by June 2012.

What was implicit in the third component of this bailout package was that the leaders of Europe were planning to pressure ‘emerging’ nations with large foreign reserves to rescue the Euro, because domestically, it will be very difficult for the European banks to recapitalise and find the billions needed to remain solvent. Overall, the EU rescue plan had hoped to maintain the status quo of the European Banks not having to accept losses, by forcing citizens of European nations like Greece, (with demonstrative effects for Ireland, Italy and Portugal) to pay for their losses with IMF like structural adjustment based austerity measures. Even the ‘successful’ bailed out countries like Ireland saw their real economy in ruins and their people suffering. The so-called rescue plan was simply postponing the day of the final crash of the present configuration of capitalism in Europe.

Chauvinism and hierarchy surged as Sarkozy openly declared that Greece should not have been admitted in the Eurozone in the first place. Within the period of over a week between the Brussels summit and the end of the G20 summit the decision of the Greek government to call a referendum on the package brought home the reality that confused strategies and political scuffles in Europe were all part of the political drama of a region in decline. The amount of the debt relief to Greece is only a small fraction of the total debt Greece owes to foreign creditors. Thus the ‘deal’ was insufficient to actually help Greece to get out of its debt crisis. Read more

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The execution of Gaddafi and the attempted humiliation of Africa

The inability of the Western media and other “information” sources to manage the news of the execution of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was compounded by the news, according to the New York based Human Rights Watch, that 53 supporters of the ousted regime were executed at a hotel in Sirte with their hands tied behind their backs (Huffington Post October 26, 2011). Wall-to-wall news bulletins of the demise of Colonel Gaddafi, which should have been a moment of victory for the imperial forces, has now turned into a public relations disaster and nightmare for those military planners who want to distance themselves from the gruesome details of the execution.

Gaddafi had vowed to fight to the end. Thus, the outcome of his death was not surprising. But the NATO forces tried to capitalize on Gaddafi’s cockiness and delusions by trying to re-package his death as a result of a firefight. But they could not cover up the truth. Video footage taken on camera phones show a wounded Colonel Gaddafi being dragged, beaten and tortured but very much alive. In the next set of footages he is dead. The videos are strong evidence that the Geneva Convention was violated.

According to international law, Gaddafi’s death would constitute a war crime because he was killed while in captivity. Article Three of the Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Third Geneva Convention), explicitly prohibits “the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”

The immoral and illegal actions by the NATO-backed military forces and private contractors in Libya were further exacerbated by the lack of respect shown towards the religious and cultural traditions of the Libyan people when the mortal remains of Colonel Gaddafi and his son, Muatassim, were kept in a meat locker until the bodies started to decompose. Read more

Celebrating China’s national day: One hundred years of revolution

From 1-7 October, the people of China celebrated Golden Week. October 1, 1949 is the day when the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was founded with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square. Since 1949, China has grown to be the second largest economy in the world, with a population of more than 1.3 billion. It is a new global player both within the international community and in the formation called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The new shopping malls across the grand urban conurbations, the gleaming airports, together with high-speed trains, the Beijing Olympics and major nuclear-power expansion, serves as a marker for the China’s emergence as a new contending force. In every part of China the bursting of energy and work to change is everywhere and also manifest in the National Day celebrations. There was a great outpouring of pride for a week as millions of citizens were on the , going home to see family and visiting historical sites to celebrate the history and culture of China and Chinese revolutions. This is the celebration of the revolution that brought the unity of the society and brought Communist Party of China (CPC) to power in 1949.

October 1, 2011 marked 62 years since the victory of the revolution that had been led by Chairman Mao Ze Dong and the Communist Party. This communist party survived the zigs and zags of great leaps, cultural upsurges and the period of the fall of the socialism that was practised in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. During this Golden Week, there were over 300 million people on the move, putting the transportation system of a planned economy to the test. The management and protection of national heritage sites was also put to the test as millions and millions of citizens who were proud of their country thronged to shrines, temples, and geoparks at the more than 119 designated scenic and historic spots. The national media reported that there were more than 24.3 million visitors to the spots that kept records. We do not know of the millions more who were on the move going to meetings and other forms of social connecting. Read more

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wangari Maathai: Reclaiming the Earth

‘In the process of helping the earth to heal, we help ourselves’ – Wangari Maathai

The implantation of British rule was brutal across the continent, particularly in Kenya. Out of this brutality has emerged a society that is continuously seeking to repair itself and repair Africa. This is the promise and numerous Africans have stepped forward to keep this promise. Kenyans have used many forms of struggle to organise for a new society: Legal, political, intellectual, moral, environmental, economic and spiritual. It is in this process of repair that Kenya has continued to be one of the firm bases for Pan-Africanism and African renewal and for new healthy humans.

This week, the material world lost one such Kenyan who has made her mark on the world, Wangari Maathai. She joined the ancestors but left her imprint along with those Kenyans who made the promise that Africa will be free and the environment will be reconstructed by thinking human beings. Wangari Maathai built a movement to reclaim the earth. She wrote, she campaigned and she toiled within the ranks of those who wanted a united and democratic Africa (in the ranks of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC). She struggled for over 40 years, developing new strategies of mobilisation to reclaim nature from the current destructive forms of production and consumption. Although her contribution to numerous movements in Africa will be celebrated, she is now known as one of the foremost internationalist and environmentalist of the Green Belt Movement of Kenya. As an African feminist who broke through the barriers imposed by the hierarchies in neocolonial Kenya, she had to be principled to survive the storms of chauvinism, regionalism, masculinity and repression. Yet, in the society where she made such a sterling contribution, her transition has refocused attention on the central link between health and gender. It is a reinforcement of the reality that a society cannot be free at the social and political level without the facilities for health care for all.

NYERI DISTRICT AND THE PROMISE

Wangari Maathai was born on 1 April 1940 in Nyeri district of Kenya. This is a District in the Central Province of that East African society that saw its share of cruelty, repression and barbarism of British colonialism. Read more

Africa and Palestinian statehood at the UN: Lessons for decolonisation


AFRICA, PALESTINE AND THE WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM

It was ten years ago in September 2001 at the World Conference against Racism (WCAR) when the collaboration between the anti-racist forces of the world and the anti-colonial forces came together in Durban. This WCAR brought the issues of racism, reparations and the oppression of the Palestinian peoples to the centre of the international agenda. A clear programme of action had been developed to reverse colonialism and for the repair of the harms done to humanity by colonialism, racism and all forms of oppression. Indeed, the full title of the conference was the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances.

No programme of action could be carried out because very soon after the conference on 11 September 2001, the world was carried into a new period of militarism and imperial aggression. Questions of the injustice of capital and neoliberal exploitation took a back seat at UN meetings.

Now ten years later, the questions of the rights of the peoples of Palestine are again on the international agenda. This question is now being posed in the context of the recognition of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people and full UN membership. The president of the Palestinian State, Mahmoud Abbas, is at the present session of the UN General Assembly in New York pressing the historic claim by the Palestinian people to be recognised. His intention to go ahead with the request for recognition of statehood is on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as a capital.

Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN. The people of Palestine at home and abroad now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN. At present, the State of Palestine is recognised by 122 governments around the world (mostly from among countries in Africa, the Arab League, China and the progressive states of Latin America). For decades, those forces fighting for freedom in Africa have identified with the struggles of the Palestinian peoples. When many of these movements became governments, they fully recognised the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and opened diplomatic missions for the Palestinian peoples. This article is a statement of solidarity from the forces of the Global Pan African and peace forces in support for the right of the people of Palestine to be recognised by the United Nations. Read more

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Global NATO and the recolonisation of Africa: Lessons from the Libyan intervention


If there was any uncertainty about the real mission of the United States, France, Britain and other members of NATO in Libya, these doubts were clarified with the nature of the military campaign against the people of Libya that had been orchestrated under the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. It was a new kind of war, using third party forces in order to silence the global peace forces who were opposed to further military intervention. A robust propaganda and disinformation campaign by the corporate media covered up the real content of what was happening.

The economic crisis inside the Eurozone was too deep, however, and some of the members of NATO were hesitant about this recolonisation of Africa. France was desperate to get in on the act of intensifying the exploitation of African resources. France had not been a big player in Libya (a former colony of Italy) which until recently was Africa’s fourth-largest oil producer, and possessing one of the continent’s largest oil reserves of some 44 billion barrels – more than Nigeria or Algeria. France was also aware that Libya sits on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, an immensely vast underground sea of fresh water. The government of Libya had invested US$25 billion in the Great Man-made River Project, a complex 4,000km long water pipeline buried beneath the desert that could transport two million cubic metres of water a day

The energetic activities of Nicolas Sarkozy in guiding the military intervention took centre stage, while the US military could claim to ‘lead from behind.’ When France called a celebratory conference of ambassadors to rally them for the new imperial vision, Mr Sarkozy said Libya proved ‘a strong contrast’ to past European weakness, and justified his decision to integrate France into NATO’s military command in 2009. The nature of this war organised from the air with proxy armies and private military contractors showed the way for dictatorships like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fight for ‘democracy.’

This intervention clarified for many African military forces that their alliance with the United States and France will not spare them when it is in the interest of the NATO forces to dispense with former allies. Muammar Gaddafi had enabled the imperial forces by financing their governments, purchasing junk as weaponry and cooperating with their intelligence agencies. The news about the cooperation of Gaddafi with British and US intelligence services along with their collaboration in relation to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (translated as torture), the exchange of information and the secret transfers of opponents and ‘terror’ suspects should clarify to all that Muammar Gaddafi was no anti-imperialist. More damaging has been the most recent news of the regime’s collaboration with human traffickers to use African immigrants as political football in his conflict with Europe. When the rebels were at the gates of Tripoli, the Gaddafi government worked with human traffickers to release African migrants who wanted to go to Europe. Hundreds left Libya then and drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. (See ‘Gaddafi planned to flood Europe with migrants as final revenge’). Read more

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Samir Amin: A Tribute To A Fighter Against Global Capitalism


‘We are thus at the point where in order to open up a new field for the expansion of capital (modernization of agricultural production) it would be necessary to destroy - in human terms - entire societies. Twenty million efficient producers (fifty million human beings including their families) on one side and five billion excluded on the other. The constructive dimension of this operation represents no more than one drop of water in the ocean of destruction that it requires. I can only conclude that capitalism has entered its declining senile phase; the logic which governs the system is no longer able to assure the simple survival of half of humanity. Capitalism has become barbaric, directly calling for genocide. It is now more necessary than ever to substitute for it other logics of development with a superior rationality.’
‘Liberal Virus: Permanent War and the Americanization of the World’, p. 34

With these words Samir Amin was pointing to the choices before humanity. These were either one of expropriation of small farmers and later genocidal destruction or one where there was transformation of relations between humans. In the second and preferable alternative, humans would struggle to transcend capitalism to the point where there would be a new impetus for agricultural transformation where agriculture and forestry will provide for the wellbeing of billions of humans on planet earth. While acknowledging that the future transformation of agriculture was a ‘complex and multi-dimensional problem’ for humans, Samir Amin recognised that this task of transforming agriculture required new political alliances to break the present international division of labour. This vision is one where in the bio-economy of the 21st century, agriculture and forestry will ‘become new and lasting motors of the economy’ and a major source of new employment. Samir Amin was offering a vision of a new global system that integrated humans rather than excluding them.

The vision of another social system ‘abandoning the sacrosanct institution of private property’ has been at the core of the intellectual work of Samir Amin for six decades. Born in Egypt on 3 September 1931, Amin was well aware of the stability of the agricultural sector for thousands of years. Egypt represented a society where the national formation had survived thousands of years of invasion and Amin brought to the world insights from the struggles of this society where the devastating consequences of integration into the capitalist system had brought poverty and misery for millions in that society. Now as we celebrate the 80th birthday of this African revolutionary, the revolutionary upheavals in Egypt and the counter-revolution in Libya points to the sharpening of the lines as the struggles intensify. As one component of this celebration of the life of Samir Amin, Pambazuka is also launching the Samir Amin Award so that readers and the Pambazuka audience can pay tribute to the extraordinary contribution of Samir Amin. Throughout his rich life, Amin wrote and acted to strengthen effective forms of popular power and the ideas that could give coherence to that popular power. For Samir Amin, that idea was the idea of socialism and he has been a contributor to ideas of transformation to a new mode of politics and economics for six decades.

REFINING HISTORICAL MATERIALISM?
Read more

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Somalia: Global War on Terror and the Humanitarian Crisis

In Somalia, half of the population is at risk of famine. This famine endangers the lives of over 11 million people in the Horn of Africa. The scale of this crisis makes one raise questions. What is famine today? How is it possible to have famine today in the midst of plenty? How is it possible that nearly 20 years since Operation Restore Hope, the ‘development secretary’ of the United Kingdom Andrew Mitchell is warning that ‘humanity is in a race against time’ in Somalia? The famine is one wake-up call for us to realise that some of our priorities are wrong.

Andrew Adasi, an eleven-year-old boy in Ghana, showed the passion and care of real people when he went and mobilised money from among the people of Ghana for the children in Somalia. This mobilisation by this young man should inspire all of us to be concerned about the children who are now threatened all over the Horn of Africa. The African Union has appointed another Ghanaian, former president Jerry Rawlings, as its representative for Somalia. Only four countries in Africa have made donations, and up to this point, the response inside of Africa has not matched the scale of this human tragedy. Two days ago the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) pledged US$350m to help famine victims in Somalia.

Yet in the midst of this crisis we must look beyond the hype of fundraising and go deeper. Famine and drought makes good business for NGOs and international organisations that have ulterior motives for their ‘humanitarianism’. I must reassert the view that only a confederation of democratic societies in the Horn can protect the people from the devastation of further disasters such as this famine. It is also in the context of African unity with democratic leadership where it will be possible to lay the foundations for the conditions to prevent future famines and the militarism that has spread behind droughts and dislocation of citizens. Some entrepreneurs have travelled to the region to sell to the people the technology to make rain. This is a travesty. International cooperation to end famine and starvation should not be an exercise for people to make money. I want to use my personal journey with the struggles for peace in Somalia to raise my voice to support the Somali and East African people in this hour of need.

MILITARISM AND OPPORTUNISM IN SOMALIA

Somalia is the most homogenous country in Africa. But this homogeneity has been shattered by the imperialist partition of Africa that divided the Somali people in five different places – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the different parts of Somalia (one dominated by British colonialism and the other by Italian colonialism). These forms of colonial divisions and partitioning were compounded by the internal colonialism of the Somali Bantu by other Somalis. Somali independence became compromised during the Cold War. After independence in 1960, the military coup of Siad Barre in 1969 brought a populist regime that proclaimed itself socialist and aligned with the Soviet Union. This same leader became an avowed supporter of the West after the Ethiopian revolution in 1974. Siad Barre invaded the Ogaden region of Ethiopia in 1977 and the US and the Soviet Union immediately switched sides. The US, which had been the main supporter of Ethiopia, supported Siad Barre. Before the Ethiopian revolution, the Soviet Union had supported Siad Barre. The only principled leader and society that did not join this opportunism was Fidel Castro of Cuba. This was the time when the decomposition of the politics of Somalia set in as the link to Saudi Arabia brought in resources for political leaders who were supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Islamic influence increased through Saudi financial and ideological support for the political leadership in Mogadishu. Read more

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost: US Credit Downgrade

On Friday 5 August 2011, one of the world’s leading credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s (S&P), downgraded the United States’ top-notch AAA rating for the first time ever in the United States’ history. S&P cut the long-term US rating down to AA+ with a negative outlook, citing concerns about budget deficits and political gridlock. In their statement justifying the downgrade S&P stated that:

‘The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.

‘More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges.’

Additionally, Standard &Poor’s indicated that it might further lower the US long-term credit rating to AA within the next two years if the United States’ deficit reduction measures were deemed inadequate. These are strong statements from a private agency bent on disciplining the government of the United States with the threat of a further downgrade. What gives this agency such power? In answering this question, we would seek to understand what is a credit rating agency; the source of a credit rating agency’s power; what is S&P’s track record and what implications do its decisions have for the international political system, especially for humanity.

In all major capitalist countries, the power of the dominant faction is hidden behind ideology (free market), law (protection of private property), propaganda (corporate-controlled media), the coercive organs of the state (military, police and prison) and the power of finance capital (banks, insurance and financial instruments). Credit rating agencies represent the power of financial capitalists and are usually held in the background to discipline corporations and governments. In moments of crisis these agencies show their hand.

These agencies along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the US military have been the weapons against the true self-determination of humanity. United States citizens are now beginning to pay attention to the power that the IMF, credit rating agencies and the military wielded over most countries in the world. US Treasuries (or T-bills) are traditionally considered to be a risk-free investment precisely because in the country’s 200+ year history, its rating has never been downgraded and the securities are backed by the government.

The downgrade of the credit rating of the United States by Standard & Poor’s is much more than a psychological blow to the prestige of the imperial overlords in the United States. This is a sign of a power shift and another blow to the position of the US as the sole superpower. The most oppressed must organise to break the power of capital and the imperial overlords or humanity will pay a high price.

WHAT IS A CREDIT RATING AGENCY?

Credit rating agencies provide information on issuers of securities whether the issuers are corporations or countries. A credit rating agency informs investors whether issuers of securities (such as debt obligations, fixed income securities) can meet their obligations to those securities. The top three credit rating agencies with international influence are Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings, and Moody’s Investor Services. Read more

Saturday, August 6, 2011

US Debt Ceiling Debate and the Alternatives

On 2 August, a few hours before the deadline for the US government to raise its debt ceiling or face default, President Barack Obama signed into law the Budget Control Act, after Congress passed it by wide margins. This debt ceiling agreement calls for over $2 trillion ($900 billion now and $1.2 trillion by the end of the year) in fiscal spending cuts spread over 10 years. These cuts are expected to only reduce GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2012 by 0.1 per cent. However, if an agreement is not reached on the $1.2 trillion spending cuts, the debt deal contains automatic spending cuts which some estimates suggest could reduce GDP growth by 0.8 per cent in 2013. Note that current 2013 GDP growth forecast is 3 per cent. The combined impact of reduced government procurement spending, reduced government support for personal incomes and continued high levels of unemployment seems to indicate a two-year period of lower levels of GDP growth, consumption as a percentage of GDP and subsequently total non-oil imports relative to their respective levels prior to America’s financial crisis.

This kind of deficit reduction that spares the wealthy from higher taxes and protects the bloated military budget from cuts is an assault on the ordinary citizen who depends on government programmes as social safety nets.

This week, I heard extended discussions on the mainstream media about the positive aspects of socialism. One popular progressive TV anchor, Keith Olbermann, charged ordinary folks to rise up against the assault on social safety nets. Usually, such discussions on socialism are carried out by small groups of the left, away from the mainstream media. Now however it is clear from the depth of the multiple crises that people are now thinking out clearly about alternatives. Keith Olbermann called on the people to rise up. In a passionate commentary, Olbermann called for a new movement to rise up and build a protest movement against the Budget Control Act. Olbermann stated on his show:

‘Where is the outrage to come from?’

‘From you! It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins … it will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the “free press” … it will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue.’

Without a protest movement, the ‘tide’ that had brought the debt deal ‘will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent. And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return.’

Olbermann was calling for self-organisation and self-mobilisation to meet the challenges of the financial–military complex.

Drawing inspiration from the anti-war and anti-racist struggles of the past generation, Olbermann called on the US population to ‘find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960s and early 1970s and we must protest this deal and all the goddamn deals to come, in the streets.’

This is a call to non-violent arms. It was the most explicit call from the progressive side. Olbermann’s call for organisation was a far cry from those who were looking to Obama for answers or those who called the deal a defeat for progressives. The reality is that progressives have not yet begun to fully organise. They have allowed the conservative forces to dominate the debate about the debt, the dollar and the budget for war and oppression.

POPULIST CONSERVATISM, CLASS POWER AND THE BUDGET CONTROL ACT

On 3 August 2011, the editorial of the New York Times commented that this Budget Control Act:

‘is as contrived as the artificial crisis that spawned it. The bill, like a tired opera production, is full of clumsy staging and failed gimmicks left over from previous decades. It is not only bad policy in its goals of cutting spending too much, but it is bad procedure. It allows members of Congress to avoid responsibility for their actions through a cutout committee, a spending limit and the pretense that this Congress can tell the next one what to do.’

This paper did not however explain to the readers the fact that this bad procedure was serving a clear purpose, that of ensuring the dominance of a small 2 per cent of the population. The outrage in the society from all sides had been too great, so this platform for the liberal wing of the ruling class came out with these words. While it is true that the mainstream media has been carrying the talking points and spin of the two dominant parties, there can be no hiding from the fact that millions are now paying attention to the realities of the economic crisis in the United States.

For two and a half years the Tea Party forces had seized the public political space. Loud and aggressive, these Tea Party forces of populist conservatism reproduce the values of white supremacy and militarism. It is now well documented that the financial supporters of the Tea Party are some of the crudest billionaires from the financial services sector.

These politicians thrive on progressive people’s political apathy, but the drama had been running for too long so people want the details. They want to know what it means that the Budget Control Act grants a $400 billion increase in the government's debt ceiling to stave off the threat of default, with an additional $500 billion increase available from February to be effective on the president's authority. There will be a further increase of $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion that will become available only if a balanced budget amendment is considered by Congress by the end of the year. Read more

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The American Debt Ceiling Debate: A Symptom of Class Warfare

WHAT IS THE DEBT CEILING?

The United States public debt limit stands at US$14.3 trillion dollars. This was an increase from US$12.394 trillion by the Democratically-controlled Congress on 12 February 2010. This US$14.3 trillion represents the most amount of money that the Unites States government can borrow without receiving additional authorisation from the Congress. Under US law, when the national debt reaches a certain limit or ceiling, the Congress must authorise the raising of the debt to a higher limit in order for the government to continue to borrow more money. The United States’ actual accrued debt exceeded the US$14.3 trillion mark in May 2011. The current debt as of 27 July 2011 is US14,349,973,387.96.

The United States Department of the Treasury (equivalent to a Ministry of Finance) is authorised by Congress to issue such debt as is needed to fund government operations (per each federal budget) as long as the total debt does not exceed the statutory ceiling. Since 1979, the House of Representatives without debate has automatically raised the debt ceiling when passing a budget, except when the House votes to waive or repeal this rule. During the profligate military spending of the Reagan administration 1981-1988, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times. George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling seven times in order to fight against peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the sole power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. More importantly, the 14th amendment of the US Constitution states simply that, ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States…..shall not be questioned.’

The Obama administration wants to raise the debt ceiling to US$16 trillion. When the US economy went into a recession in 2008, as a result of the financial crisis on Wall Street and the subsequent bailout it received, President Obama attempted to assist the real economy by increasing fiscal spending to help maintain levels of domestic demand. These acts coupled with formal inclusion (in the budget) of the US$10 billion per month that the US government is spending on two wars have increased the debt. These expenditures along with the maintenance of the tax cuts enacted by President Bush are the primary reasons why President Obama’s administration has sought an increase in the debt ceiling. However, for the first time in decades the conservative forces of the US are using this debt ceiling debate to create a false sense of fiscal crisis and thus, use the false fiscal crisis to pursue their desire to force greater cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These are entitlement programmes for the majority of the population, particular for the poor and elderly. Read more

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Magnus Malan and Crimes Against Humanity in Africa


General Magnus Malan, the chief architect of the total onslaught of the apartheid military, passed away on 18 July 2011. This total onslaught strategy was the idea that South Africa was threatened by a communist conspiracy and that the South African apartheid state must respond with economic, political, ideological, psychological and military tools to defend capitalism and white supremacy. Malan was minister of defence for 11 years, 1980–1991, and it was under his tenure that the apartheid war machine spread death and destruction across Africa. Under his tenure as minister of defence this illegal state decided to weaponise biology. The results are still being felt across Africa today with the ramifications of the biological warfare project that was called Project Coast. Malan’s life and death should remind young people that the fight for freedom must be protracted and that the economic, military and political defeat of apartheid is still a task to be completed. Africans may occupy positions of political power in South Africa but the economic legacies of apartheid are very much flourishing.

Internationally, the crimes of the Nazis are condemned. German society no longer celebrates Hitler and the Nazis as great leaders, but in South Africa the publishing houses and think-tanks that were nourished and financed by Magnus Malan thrive and distort history. Many of these think-tanks have changed their names, but not their basic philosophy. Yet the people of South Africa have tried to transcend the ideation system of revenge and bitterness. The people have attempted to draw on the principles of Ubuntu I practise. Hiding behind the new philosophy of Ubuntu, the war criminals of South Africa have sought to rehabilitate themselves as servants of the South African state and as fighters against communism. The central place of the military in the processes of accumulation and enrichment has been taken over by sections of the African National Congress (ANC). Younger South Africans must work harder to completely understand the real consequences of apartheid and to remember that one cannot dismantle the system with the same ideas that built a system.

APARTHEID AS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
Link
Magnus Malan was born into white privilege in South Africa in 1930 when the ideas of Hitler and white supremacy had not yet taken over the leadership of the organisation that was to later become the National Party. By the end of the Second World War, the National Party had completely absorbed the ideas and principles of Nazism and codified these ideas into a series of laws and forms of organising society that still cripple South Africa to this day. Operating through a secretive organisation called the Afrikaner Broederbond, some of the adherents of the National Party had been interned during Second World War because of their overt support for Adolf Hitler and the ideas of the Nazis. Read more

Thursday, July 14, 2011

South Sudan and the Meaning of Independence


WELCOME PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN TO THE COMITY OF NATIONS

On 9 July 2011, the people of the Republic of South Sudan raised their flag in Juba to symbolize the declaration of political independence. This ascension to independence was one more step in the peace process that is supposed to bring the peoples of the Sudan from war to peace. This peace came after the second civil war. The first civil war which began a year before the independence of Sudan lasted from 1955 to1972. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed after 23 years of war (1982-2005). This agreement stipulated that after six years there should be a referendum where the people of South Sudan would make a decision whether they would remain part of the Sudan or become an independent state.

A referendum was held in January 2011 and South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence. The present political leaders of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) had campaigned for independence as the option. One other option would have been for the leaders in the Sudan to fight for transformation for all people of the Sudan and to become a force to beat back the conservative fundamentalists in the northern part of the Sudan. We respect the choice of the leaders of South Sudan and this new state will be welcomed to be the 54th member of the African Union and the 193rd member of the United Nations. With more than 2.5 million persons perishing in the last war that lasted for 23 years, the people paid a very high price for this independence and serious engagement will be needed by the pan African community along with all progressive persons to ensure that the sacrifices for independence would not be in vain.

PAN-AFRICANISTS, AFRICAN UNITY AND SECCESSION OF STATES

In welcoming the Republic of South Sudan to membership of the African Union, our branch of the Pan-African movement does not in any way diminish the call for the urgency of the unity of all the peoples of Africa. With each passing day and the crisis of capitalism, rampant militarism and imperialist military interventions, gradual implosion of the dollar, regional trade blocs and challenges of global warming, it is clearer that only a democratic and united people of Africa can negotiate with the new emerging powers to ensure that Africans can have the space for transformation, peace, and social reconstruction.

Commenting on this question of South Sudan before the referendum, I highlighted our most recent experience in Africa of an emerging state that was carved out of an existing state, the case of Eritrea. Twenty years after independence, the peoples of Eritrea are now fighting against the government that was supposed to be a leading force for liberation. Eritrea and Ethiopia have fought wars senselessly over strips of land, mainly Badme. Both societies have diverted scarce resources to military projects instead of concentrating on the health and wellbeing of the people. Read more

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Peace and Justice Movement and the NATO Bombing of Libya: The Need for Clarity on the AU Roadmap for Peace











MISSED OPPORTUNITY

On 26 June 2011 there was a community meeting in our home town of Syracuse to oppose the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) bombing of Libya. This meeting was the last stop of the Eyewitness Libya tour featuring Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, (former US congresswoman from Georgia and presidential candidate for the Green Party) was on a tour of the United States to draw attention to the illegal bombing of NATO in Libya and the terror being unleashed against innocent people in the name of protecting civilians. The other speakers at this community event were Akbar Mohammed of the Nation of Islam and Derek Ford, a local organiser for Answer. Answer is one faction of the US peace and justice movement that has been opposed to US militarism, organising under the banner of ‘Act now to end war and oppose racism’. The event to oppose the NATO bombing was held at the Alibrandi Center of Syracuse University and co-sponsored by the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY).

The meeting represented a missed opportunity. While the platform opposed the NATO bombing in Libya, there was a lack of clarity on what the meeting stood for, especially in relation to the equivocation of Cynthia McKinney over the character of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the face of the reality where there is no moral or political support in the world for the present NATO bombing, the peace and justice movement must be clear about not only what they are against, but what they are for. It is up to the peace movement to clarify the paths to peace and to push for an end to the military campaign of the West. The West has lost credibility with the stalemate after more than 100 days of bombing. It is now clear that there is no military solution and only the African Union roadmap for a ceasefire provides a framework for an end to the illegal bombing. Read More

Friday, July 1, 2011

Science, the Future, and the Revolutionary Moment: A Review of Michio Kaku’s "Physics of the Future"

Review of Michio Kaku’s "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100."


We are still in the early stages of the 21st century, yet with every passing day, humans are confronted with rapid transformations in the fields of genetics, robotics, information technology, cognitive sciences and nanotechnology. We are promised longevity and trips to space even while harnessing the power of the sun with the potential for unlimited energy for everyone on earth. The transformations in high-energy physics, bio-molecular medicine and quantum computing have revolutionary potentialities to change social relations among humans and between humans and the universe. The question of how these technologies will further revolutionise the current century is the subject of a new book by Michio Kaku, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’. This book attempts to convey to the lay person the most up to date directions in the fields of science and technology. In separate chapters, Kaku examines the future of computers, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, energy and space travel over the next one hundred years. In each chapter he splits the future into three sections – the Near Future (Present to 2030), the Mid-Century (2030 to 2070) and the Far Future (2070 to 2100) – and he discusses the development and impact of science in each futuristic period. My critique of the book stems from the need to voice what is missing in the book: a note of reminder to Western scientists that while they seek to dominate nature and harness its full power, there are still billions of humans who live without the basic necessities of life. Scientists, like Michio Kaku, who are ensconced in laboratories in Europe and North America fail to understand that while neoliberal and corporate support for research may foster an economic environment conducive to a particular type of technological innovation, this same neo-liberal capitalism also accelerates inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation for the majority of humans on the planet.

WHO IS MICHIO KAKU?

Michio Kaku is a Japanese-American physicist who explores the terrain of the fourth dimension (usually referring to time) in physics. As a high school youth, he attended the National Science Fair with a home-made atom smasher he built in his parents' garage. Because of his creativity he was spotted as a promising physicist by Edward Teller, known by some as ‘the father of the atom bomb.’

Edward Teller was one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century who was associated with the Manhattan project, the collaborative effort of the West that led to the development of the atom bomb. Hungarian-born theoretical physicist Teller is also credited for passing on the scientific information on how to build a nuclear bomb to the Israelis. Teller was co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the numerous scientific labs across the world that was placed in the service of the United States military and consumed billions of dollars from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Kaku is a descendant of Japanese immigrants to the US, and his parents were interned in a concentration camp in California during the Second World War. After being mentored by the ultra-conservative physicist Edward Teller, Kaku wrote a very critical book critiquing the United States’ plans for nuclear war entitled, ‘To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plan’. This was a public break with his mentor and the physicists associated with the military-industrial complex. For decades, Michio Kaku consciously associated himself with the progressive media. As a presenter on WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York City, he has been popularizing the ideas of theoretical physics. Kaku is currently the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of the City University of New York. He is co-founder of string field theory in physics and is the author of 10 books and over 70 scientific articles in physics journals. His latest bestseller, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science will Change Daily Life by 2100’, became number seven on The New York Times Bestseller List just a few weeks after publication.

PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE

In the first chapter of ‘Physics of the Future’, Kaku predicts that computer power will increase to the point where computers, similar to the fates of electricity, paper, and water will, ‘disappear into the fabric of our lives, and computer chips will be planted in the walls of buildings.’ In Chapter 2, ‘Future of Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Machines,’ Kaku discusses robotic body parts, modular robots, unemployment caused by robots, surrogates and avatars, and reverse engineering of the brain. Kaku shares the perspective of many in Silicon Valley who believe that emerging technologies are qualitatively unique in the capacity to manipulate human beings at the genetic level thereby potentially altering ‘human nature’ or even changing the meaning of life itself. It is in chapter 3 on the ‘Future of Medicine’ that Kaku imagines a future, ‘where surgery is completely replaced by molecular machines moving through the bloodstream, guided by magnets, honing in on a diseased organ, and then releasing medicines or performing surgery. This would make cutting the skin totally obsolete. Or magnets could guide these nano machines to the heart in order to remove a blockage of the arteries.’ Read more

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From Aid and Humanitarianism to Solidarity: Discourses on Development and the Realities of Exploitation


At a moment when the global Pan African Movement was working to educate Western NGO’s on their role in the imperial chain of command, Tajudeen started a publication called the NGO Monitor. This was designed to educate those who did not want to be accomplices to imperial crimes. One of the efforts was to popularize a code of conduct for international non-governmental organizations. The following were some of the ideas that the Pan African movement have been mooting as a Code of Conduct.

1. Do they respect the laws of the host country that they work in?
2. Are they involved in Bribery and Corruption?
3. What percentage of their operating budget is spent on administration?
4. Do they submit annual reports to the host government and are they accountable?
5. How do they procure their goods?
6. At what exchange rate do they operate?
7. And, if they operate on the parallel market, do they report to Headquarters?
8. What is their attitude towards racism? Do they have a history of belonging to anti-racist organizations?
9. Are the workers sensitive to issues of the rights of women and young girls and the rights of persons of fluid sexualities?
10. Are they involved in Child prostitution or paedophilia?
11. What kind of training do they establish for local personnel?
12. Do they work to facilitate the deployment of foreign military mercenary organizations and private military corporations to undermine the sovereignty of African states and societies?
13. Do they undermine the health and welfare of the people?
14. Do they collect information that could be used for warfare and violence; specifically do they knowingly work for Western intelligence organizations?
15. Do they do essential work that could be carried out by local personnel? Read more

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Time to Bury the IMF: Towards an International Bank for Reconstruction and Reparations


It was a fitting metaphor as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was arrested on charges of assault, attempted rape and sexual abuse. The charges were brought after Strauss-Kahn assaulted an African woman from Guinea, who worked as a housekeeper in a hotel in New York City. The image of Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs was fitting insofar as this is the image that should be presented of the entire international financial system that is anchored in the Bretton Woods Institutions. For over 60 years, these institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) raped citizens of the world, especially the citizens of the poor countries, on behalf the United States and the top capitalist nations in Europe. The IMF has been a front for the lords of finance of Wall Street in the USA, and the linkages between the IMF/Wall Street and the US Treasury ensured that the poor of the world subsidised the US military. As junior partners in the imperial chain of domination, the Europeans worked with the Wall Street-Treasury alliance to ensure that despite presenting arguments about free market competition, agriculture in Europe and the USA was subsidised. In pursuit of the alliance of financial rapists and economic terrorists, it was an unwritten rule that the managing director of the IMF should be a European.

The current French finance minister is campaigning hard to becoming the next managing director and has received the support of an institution that is as moribund as the IMF, the Group of 8 (G8). It is a measure of the disrespect that the capitalists have for Africa that they could propose Christine Lagarde as the candidate to be the next managing director. France has been at the forefront of the massive plunder of Africa by European states, and the IMF has been complicit in this plunder. France continues to be a safe haven for the money stolen from Africans by African kleptocrats and Western elites and corporations. The IMF has assisted in granting immunity to Europeans and North Americans for crimes of economic rape against Africans.

Many in France who call themselves socialists have been in denial about the rape of Africa. Instead of supporting activists such as Eva Joly who have been exposing the fraud and corruption of France in Africa, these ‘socialists’ are claiming that Strauss-Kahn was set up. A former culture minister Jack Lang described the treatment of Strauss- Kahn as a ‘lynching’ that had ‘provoked horror and aroused disgust’. Clearly, these members of the French socialist confraternity do not understand the real lynching that is part of the racist structure of western capitalism. Indeed, this moment of the prosecution of the French-born high priest of the IMF over the physical sexual assault of an African is an opportune moment for persons who have been affected by the decades of economic rape perpetrated by the IMF around the world to call for the dismantling of the Bretton Woods system and set about the establishment of a new international financial architecture dedicated to repairing the planet earth and for the reconstruction of livelihoods. Read more

Saturday, May 28, 2011

African Liberation and the Quest for a United, Democratic Africa: The Inspiration of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem


On May 29, four days after African Liberation Day celebration, Nigeria will swear in its third democratically elected president since its return to civilian rule in 1999 after decades of military dictatorship. As Nigeria makes strides towards achieving the aspirations of the people for a better society, many challenges stand on its way. Throughout the recent election season, political careerists who are gung-ho about the old politics of exploiting ethnic, regional, and religious differences continued to use languages such as zoning, Christian south vs Muslim north, southern candidate vs northern candidate, etc, in attempts to clog the wheel of Nigeria’s democracy and unity. As they risk being swept aside by the new wind of change in Africa, these old style politicians still lurk in the dark after the elections, seeking to sharpen their tools of divisiveness and chauvinism.

The freedom, unity and genuine independence of Nigeria are linked to the unity and freedom of all of the peoples of Africa. Africans in all parts of the world understand that the international struggles to end racism and exploitation is linked to the current struggles for emancipation in Nigeria and in Africa. Africa is now in a revolutionary moment and the forces of plunder and economic rape are seeking to maintain the old relations of exploitation and division. To confront the old style politics, we want young Africans to draw inspiration from the life of an illustrious Pan Nigerian democrat and towering Pan Africanist and humanist, the late Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, who passed away on African liberation Day (May 25, 2009) in the course of organizing for better society. As we pay tribute to Dr. Tajudeen on this 2011 African Liberation Day celebration, we want to remind younger Nigerians that a better Nigeria and a stronger and united Africa is realizable

TAJUDEEN AS AN ICON OF PAN NIGERIANISM AND SYMBOL OF PAN AFRICANISM

Tajudeen was born in Funtua, Katsina, in Northern Nigeria to a Yoruba father from Ogbomosho in South-West Nigeria. He would have been fifty in January 2011. While cherishing his Yoruba/Ogbomosho heritage, Tajudeen was culturally Hausa, energetically Nigerian and politically African and Pan African. He identified with other Nigerians in a national context so that it was difficult to box him into any particular ethnic category. He lived above the fault lines of religion and ethnicity. Tajudeen was at home in Kampala, Nairobi, Abuja, Funtua, London , Barbados or any part of the Pan African world. He connected with democrats from across Nigeria, Africa, and the Diaspora. He spoke Hausa fluently and identified with all oppressed people across ethnic and religious lines. He practiced his Islamic religion while advocating that Christians and followers of other religions (including non-believers) have equal religious freedom as did he. He reviled the religious hypocrisy and ethnic chauvinism of leaders and politicians who exploit diversity for political ends. He worked to defend the rights of women and constantly humanized the actual conditions of women who were dehumanized by sexism and male chauvinism. He wrote about his sister who died in child birth and properly remarked that women should not die while trying to bring new life into being. Read more

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beyond the Privatization of Liberation


South Africa is a society where the actions of political leaders in the state machinery are threatening to reverse of the popular struggles for liberation. Seventeen years ago, the formal shackles of apartheid were rattled. But the structural basis of apartheid was never dismantled. When Nelson Mandela became the head of state in 1994 there had been euphoria all over Africa, indeed all over the world, that a new road toward a non-racial democracy was being taken. The majority of the people wanted a better life: an end to racism, access to health, life, peace and a decent environment. However, very soon after the integration of the ANC (African National Congress) into the structures of apartheid, the political leadership of the African National Congress turned their backs on the ideas of transforming the society and embraced the ideas of liberalisation and the privatisation of the economy. The ANC embraced unbridled capitalism. Using the cover of reconciliation, the former powerful transnationals supported a class of blacks to enter banking, insurance and retailing as long as they accepted the standards of racist hierarchy and sent their children into the schools that taught Eurocentism.

The ANC was a party that was based on a tripartite alliance: the ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Of these three partners the most forthright in calling for fundamental change was COSATU. The South African Communist Party aspired to be the intellectual and ideological standard bearer for the alliance. At one level the path toward liberalisation should have been opposed by the SACP, but the South African Communist Party found a convenient formulation to support the capitalist road. Their understanding of the stages theory of Marxism meant that South Africa had to pass through a period of capitalist development before the working class could be ready for an alternative to capitalism. This theoretical understanding of Marxism that twisted the revolutionary ideas of class struggles justified the support for the privatisation of large sections of the economy. In a very short time, international capital understood that the faces at the top may have changed but the conditions of exploitation and plunder would not fundamentally change. Read more

Friday, May 20, 2011

Haiti: Reparations and Reconstruction


For two hundred years the peoples of Haiti have been struggling to reconstruct their society. Before the Haitian revolution of 1791-1804 could be consolidated, the French and other imperial powers worked to isolate the revolution for fear that the ideas of freedom would be contagious and spread. But they could not turn the tide of freedom. Failing to stem the idea that the African enslaved wanted freedom, the government and political leaders of France demanded reparations from Haiti, thus distorting the essence and meaning of reparative justice for 100 years. Despite this, the fears of the imperial west that the Haitian Revolution would inspire other slaves in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States came to fruition. Haiti played its role of supporting freedom and independence throughout the region. Simon Bolivar and other revolutionaries from Latin America flocked to seek assistance from Haiti. Every act of freedom by Haiti scared the imperial powers; these powers slowly consolidated the ideas of capitalist exploitation and white supremacy so that these racist ideologies of the 19th and 20th centuries began to take root in Europe and North America.

United States revolutionaries, such as Thomas Jefferson, who internalised chauvinistic ideas about European and male superiority opposed the reconstruction of Haiti and refused to recognise the independence of Haiti. It was only after the bloody US Civil War (1861-1865), when the enslaved in the United States won their freedom that the US government recognised Haiti. This diplomatic recognition was followed by the destruction of the capacity for the Haitians to reconstruct their society. Western bankers, financiers and merchants and Jim Crow architects worked with a small clique inside of Haiti to frustrate efforts for reconstruction. To guarantee that reconstruction did not take place the bankers, financiers and the militarists organised a military occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). This occupation by the US, supported by France and Canada, laid the foundations for brutal militarism to contain the spirit of the people of Haiti. In the book, ‘Haiti: The Breached Citadel’, author Patrick Bellgrade Smith brings to life the epic struggles of the Haitians to be independent and how the forms of peasant agriculture gave them social solidarity outside of the urban centres where the évolué aped France. Read More