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.


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


"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