Month: January, 2018
Lies and deception reign in the White House
worker | January 30, 2018 | 7:23 pm | Analysis, Communist Party Britain, Donald Trump | Comments closed

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

ALBERT SCHARENBERG examines the Trump spectacle and the end of truth in the US

A US journalist recently commented in The New York Times that Donald Trump’s presidency marks the coming of age of The Society of the Spectacle — a society in which truth is essentially reduced to a mere hypothesis and consistently subordinated to orchestration.

Indeed, lies and deception reign in the White House. During his first year in office alone, The Washington Post counted more than 2,000 cases in which Trump lied or made misleading statements —equating to roughly five times per day.

The 45th US President, sworn into office just a year ago, may be a notorious denier of truth and understand next to nothing about politics but as a reality TV star and celebrity, however, he definitely commands the media.

Under his presidency, politics has been replaced by a frantic scramble for media coverage. This Twitter-President has made it his habit to hurl out daily insults against his domestic and foreign adversaries. Here, even scandals serve a purpose by drawing in the public as a consumer (ie audience), thus including them as part of the spectacle.

With scandals following the president’s every move, there is little time to analyse one incident before the next one makes the headlines.

The events occurring over the last couple of weeks impressively highlight this fact.

The US president decried African nations as “shitholes” and called for more Norwegian immigrants. His Republican henchmen immediately jumped to his aid, simply disavowing his remarks.

Then, as The Wall Street Journal reported, a Trump lawyer allegedly paid an adult-film star hush money shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her sexual affair with Trump.

Notwithstanding the resistance of even Republican governors, Trump intends to open the nation’s coastlines to offshore drilling—with the exception of the Mar-a-Lago-state of Florida.

Steve Bannon, formerly one of Trump’s closest allies, has been driven from his position, and the noose around Trump’s neck in the Russia affair is getting tighter every day. To make things worse, Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury reveals the grotesque and dilettantish nature of the new administration’s operations.

Few if any presidents have polarised the United States as much as Donald Trump has. The right-wing populist president’s ceaseless attacks on not only his political adversaries, but also the very democratic institutions of the nation — the rule of law, independent media, science — are shaking the country to its core.

While the liberal public does not tire of being incessantly appalled by the president’s erratic behavior, incompetence and permanent string of lies, this administration has pushed its agenda forward in certain policy areas.

Undoubtedly, numerous White House projects have fallen victim to the narcissistic president’s chaos and incompetence; the repeated attempts to reverse the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are the most infamous example.

Following a long warm-up phase, however, this right-wing government — stacked with representatives of big oil, Wall Street, and the military, and with its majorities in both houses of Congress — has nonetheless managed to implement cornerstones of its programme.

The administration’s greatest success came only a few weeks ago. In adopting the tax reform, the Trump administration has fulfilled the most important demand of Trump’s sponsors, namely to further cater to the rich and to corporations through massive tax reductions.

Interestingly, the Republicans—who had previously insisted on a balanced budget as the holy grail of budget policy under former president Barrack Obama — were not averse to financing the reform with debt, similar to their mode of operation regarding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Over the coming decade, this reform will lead to an increase of the public deficit of up to $1.5 trillion, unless further cuts are made in other areas. Republicans in Congress are therefore already discussing the alleged necessity of further cutbacks on (already meagre) social welfare payments.

But also below the legislative level, the Trump administration has used its executive powers to change the country’s course in important policy areas.

Headed by a Verizon lobbyist, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to repeal net neutrality regulations last December, a decision which is set to have far-reaching consequences. Moreover, by appointing the dyed-in-the-wool conservative Neil Gorsuch as Supreme Court Justice, Trump has consolidated the Court’s conservative right-wing majority.

Some changes have also taken place below the public radar. In August 2017, for instance, the Department of Labour eliminated all data on workplace fatalities and stipulated that companies with more than 10 employees no longer need to maintain records of occupational accidents and illnesses.

Regarding climate change, the course has changed as well. Against this backdrop, and by no means accidentally, Noam Chomsky dubbed the Republicans the “most dangerous organisation in human history.”

After announcing his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump proceeded to channel his full support into the oil industry, the economic base of many of his most important supporters.

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has largely replaced the scientists working for the Agency with energy sector lobbyists, lifted environmental regulations on water and air pollution, and removed all references to climate change from the government website.

Trump’s first year in office has conclusively disproved the notion that he is a non-ideological deal-maker and prime business partner. In reality, the exact opposite is the case. Thanks to Trump, the open racism that was quieted by the civil rights movement has found its way back into public discourse.

Indeed, Trump’s biography is pervaded by a continuity of racist thought and action. Incidents include his rallying against the (innocent) Central Park Five in the 1980s, his support of the racist Birther movement against Obama, his repeated slander of Mexicans and Muslims, the defamation of the protests by African-American athletes and, most recently, his description of African countries as “shitholes.”

For many observers, the moment of truth came with Trump’s remarks concerning the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

Armed with torches, white supremacists and neonazis marched through the town chanting: “Jews will not replace us!” One marcher even raced his car into a group of counter-demonstrators, killing anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer.

Instead of decidedly denouncing the fascist mob, Trump stated that there were “some very fine people on both sides” — a statement that even made many Republicans feel uneasy. His media patron Rupert Murdoch, of all people, was publicly looking for the emergency brake.

According to his biographer David Cay Johnston, Trump would love to be a dictator. After all, as one is inclined to add, President Trump would like to govern the nation like his corporation — in absolutist style, without opposition. His domestic and foreign policy, however, bears both the proof and burden of this fact.

At the international level, Trump has publicly insulted and degraded Washington’s allies, among them Australia, France and Germany. At the same time, he openly embraces authoritarian leaders, from Riyadh to Moscow to Manila. He finds his friends and peers in the likes of European right-wing nationalists such as Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, or Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Trump’s ignorance of the workings of international politics makes him a seemingly unwitting target for continuous hoodwinking by his “bromances”— and threatens to isolate the United States internationally.

Disparaging countries as “shitholes,” foolhardily siding with one party in highly complex conflicts (as with the Jerusalem issue), or insulting nuclear-armed dictators such as Kim Jong Un is not a way to make friends.

By now, foreign leaders have long understood that in order to get what they want, they only need to flatter Trump and receive him in pompous style. After all, Trump’s wishes can easily be gleaned from the president’s Tweets.

Trump’s total incapability is particularly highlighted by his foreign policy actions. After all, Trump’s political decisions are, besides his narcissism, motivated by only one major aim: pleasing his supporters back home.

This holds true for his withdrawal from the climate agreement, the decision concerning Jerusalem, as well as his political sabre-rattling toward Iran.

Ultimately, this also applies to his “shithole” comment and his instrumental criticism of German refugee policy. Neither does he understand the effects his words have in other countries, nor does it interest him in the slightest.

Trump has never attempted to be the president of all US citizens. He always was, and continues to be, exclusively the president of his Republican base. In this group, his popularity remains high; around 80 percent of Republicans agree with his administration. These four-fifths of Republicans, however, translate only into a 35 per cent approval rate in overall society — too little to consolidate Trump’s rule.

Resistance against Trump is therefore as old as his presidency. The Women’s March, held on the day after his inauguration, constituted the largest demonstration the country has ever seen.

At the ballot box, Republicans have recently suffered a series of painful defeats. Much will undoubtedly depend on the results of the mid-term congressional elections in November.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the real problem is not Trump but his supporters — the Republican constituency and their mind-set.

Even if Trump were to be removed from office or simply not re-elected, his followers — along with their deep-seated hatred of Latinos and Black people, of those who think differently, of science — will not simply vanish.

In fact, such a development would conceivably lead to an even more emphatic insistence on the fulfilment of the right-wing populist promises. This bodes a lot of trouble and adversity for the post-Trump era.

This article appeared first on

Africa/Global: Humanitarian Attention Deficits
worker | January 29, 2018 | 9:22 pm | Africa | Comments closed

Africa/Global: Humanitarian Attention Deficits

AfricaFocus Bulletin January 29, 2018 (180129) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

The international system of response to humanitarian crises is flawed. And the often-repeated call to focus on addressing causes of crises and structural flaws in the system, instead of only providing short-term relief, is undeniably justified. But current trends, paralleling austerity programs and cuts in services at domestic levels in the United States and around the world, are not moving in the direction of fundamental reform. Instead, they are further diminishing the already inadequate resources devoted to saving lives.

These cutbacks, as is often noted, have disproportionate effects on the most vulnerable regions of the world, notably Africa. This effect is multiplied not only by racial and other stereotypes but by the structural flaw that funding depends not on reliably budgeted funds for timely responses, but on after-the-fact fundraising, itself reliant on media attention, with all its built-in biases and focus on sensational images.

Despite this reality, notes one of the foremost investigators of famine, Alex de Waal, the international humanitarian system developed in recent decades has in fact led to hundreds of thousands lives saved, in comparison with the record of the 20th century.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( is the lead inter-governmental agency coordinating such efforts. And the news agency IRIN News (, recently spun off from the United Nations as an independent non-governmental organization, provides regular first-hand coverage and analysis with priorities that prioritize understanding complex realities. This and other sources on-line mean that those who wish to do so do not have to rely only on the most visible “mainstream media” outlets for their news.

Despite such advances, the threat from U.S. attacks on multilateral institutions (though not only) leads de Waal to warn that the limited progress is both fragile and reversible.

This AfricaFocus contains several different sections related to this overaraching theme: (1) a set of key reliable links for updates on humanitarian crises and international responses, (2) brief excerpts from and links to reflections that go beyond noting the obvious racism in President Trump’s “shithole” remarks, (3) excerpts from an interview with Alex de Waal, author of the new book “Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine,” and (4) excerpts from IRIN’s look ahead to 10 humanitarian crises in 2018, including 5 in Africa.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on humanitarian assistance and related topics, visit and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Key Links

UNOCHA, Global Humanitarian Overview. 2018.

Includes humanitarian response plans for the following 21 countries, of which 13 are in Africa: * Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar, oPt, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen * Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan

This report also had a revealing chart of the proportion of funding raised for humanitarian appeals in 2017. At the end of November, only 52% of the $24.0 billion needed for the year 2017 had been committed. – IRIN Africa page – formerly UN, now independent non-profit news service. Coverage that goes beyond stereotypes from on-the-spot reporting and careful analysis. – Detailed reports collated by OCHA UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Racism Beyond Trump: Not Just Attitudes but Also Structures

The links below include several recent short commentaries in direct response to Trump’s remarks, but also two longer essays written more than a decade ago, one on the legal case for reparations for Africa as well as those of African descent, and the other on the structural persistence of race in the global world order as well as within nations. A common theme is the relevance of historical perspective and deeper analysis as well as acknowledging the racism in Trump’s attitudes and policies.

Paul Tinyambe Zeleza, “On Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Africa – the Homogenization and Dehumanization of a Continent,” Nyasa Times, January 15, 2017

Trump’s derogatory dismissal of shithole Haiti and Africa reflects enduring tendencies in the American social imaginary about Africa and its Diasporas. This is to suggest, as outraged as we might be about Trump’s provocative and pusillanimous pronouncements, the Trump phenomenon transcends Trump. The specter of racism, whose pernicious and persistent potency Trump has brazenly exposed to the world, has haunted America from its inception with the original sin of slavery, through a century of Jim Crow segregation, and the past half century of post-civil rights redress and backlash.

The disdain expressed for Haiti and Africa in the President’s latest vicious verbal assault is a projection of an angry racist project to rollback the limited gains of the civil rights struggle and settlement of the 1960s that has animated the Republican Party’s Southern Strategy and politics ever since. … The intersection of domestic and foreign affairs tend to reflect, reproduce, and reinforce national and global racial hierarchies.   more

Letter to President Trump from Former U.S. Ambassadors to Africa From 78 ambassadors who served in 48 African countries

As former U.S. Ambassadors to 48 African countries, we write to express our deep concern regarding reports of your recent remarks about African countries and to attest to the importance of our partnerships with most of the fifty-four African nations. Africa is a continent of great human talent and rich diversity, as well as extraordinary beauty and almost unparalleled natural resources. It is also a continent with deep historical ties with the United States.

We hope that you will reassess your views on Africa and its citizens, and recognize the important contributions Africans and African Americans have made and continue to make to our country, our history, and the enduring bonds that will always link Africa and the United States.   more

Howard W. French, “Trump’s profane description disregards Africa’s crucial role in making America a world power,” Washington Post, January 14, 2018

President Trump’s comments disparaging immigrants from Haiti and the African continent have stunned many in the United States and other parts of the world. I see this as an opportunity to challenge the American public to confront this reality: More than any other factor, it is the wealth derived from Africa, especially the labor of people taken in chains from that continent, that accounts for the rise of the West and its centuries of predominance in world affairs.

The facts of this history hide in plain sight, and yet Americans and others in the West have averted their eyes for 500 years. The West’s ascension over other parts of the world has been attributed, instead, to innate Western qualities, including rationality and a talent for invention and innovation, or Western institutions. It is this distortion of reality — a delusion, really — that fuels attitudes of white superiority, whether subtle and pervasive, or as crude as those exhibited by someone like Trump.   more

M Neelika Jayawardane,” The very American myth of ‘exceptional immigrants,'” Al Jazeera, 20 Jan 2018

… Part of why Americans are susceptible to this violent, xenophobic, and nativist rhetoric is not because they are exceptionally thick, but because of how the national mythology of the US – one constructed on Puritan ideals of egalitarianism, “hard work” and perseverance against adversity – is constructed.

Americans are told, since childhood, that hard work and perseverance not only build character, but allow them to overcome obstacles, and achieve their goals and dreams. Because this powerful myth is repetitively drummed into their heads – be it through apocryphal narratives of kids who came from impoverished backgrounds who went on to become multimillion-dollar earning athletes, or women who beat the odds and attained positions of leadership in fields dominated by men – they learn to believe that their country is a meritocracy.

It is obvious that (white) Americans need to be disabused of the notion that the US’s white population is special, and deserving, somehow, of privilege; it is time to get over the belief that they only received their privileges from having worked for it.

But just as importantly, those immigrants of more privileged backgrounds – those who are currently touting the percentage of people from their national group who have college and post-graduate degrees, as if waving these statistics and their material possessions are ways of proving that they are not, in fact, deserving of Trump’s racism – also need an antidote for their misplaced smugness.   more

Lord Anthony Gifford, “The Legal Basis of the Case for Reparations: A paper Presented to the First Pan-African Congress on Reparations, Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, April 27-29, 1993”

Once you accept, as I do, the truth of three propositions a. That the mass kidnap and enslavement of Africans was the most wicked criminal enterprise in recorded human history, b. that no compensation was ever paid by any of the perpetrators to any of the sufferers, and c. that the consequences of the crime continue to be massive, both in terms of the enrichment of the descendants of the perpetrators, and in terms of the impoverishment of Africa and the descendants of Africans, then the justice of the claim for Reparations is proved beyond reasonable doubt.

To those who may say that that is all very true in theory, but that in practice there is no mechanism to enforce the claim, or no willingness of the white world to recognise it, I would answer with a Latin legal maxim: ubi jus, ibi remedium: where there is a right, there must be a remedy.   more

William Minter, “Invisible Hierarchies: Africa, Race, and Continuities in the World Order,” Science & Society, July 2005

21st Century Color Lines

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2003) and other analysts, focusing on the current U. S. racial order, have posited an ideology of “color-blind racism,” which allows for continuation of racial inequality while firmly rejecting overt racial distinctions or discrimination. One of the key components of this ideology is to deny the link between past and present, so that people regardless of their background are seen as starting on a level playing field. This assumption fits well with the companion ideology stressing the virtues of the neutral market, which all are presumed to approach with similar possibilities of success.

Such an ideology gains credibility from the visible success of individuals from the subordinate group, which does in the case of race mark a break with earlier ideologies of rigid discrimination. With successful individuals in the foreground, and even celebrated as illustrating diversity, it becomes easier to view continuing structural inequality as relatively unimportant, or even to dismiss it altogether. Persistent poverty or other disadvantages can conveniently be attributed entirely to individual defects, and seen as unrelated to past or present discrimination. The dominant ideology thus diverts attention from the structural bases of persistent and rising inequality.   more

Mass starvation as a political weapon, January 19, 2018

by Heather Stephenson, Tufts University

Mass starvation killed more than three million people in Stalin-era Ukraine in the 1930s and more than 18 million in China during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet by the start of this century, famines like those were all but eliminated, Alex de Waal says in his new book, Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine ( The number of people dying in famines around the world has dropped precipitously, particularly over the last thirty to fifty years.

Those gains, though, are fragile, and could be starting to be reversed, says de Waal, who is the executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at the Fletcher School. For his book, he compiled the best available estimates of global famine deaths from 1870 to 2010, and used that data to analyze trends. Tufts Now sat down with him recently to find out what he learned.

Tufts Now: In the popular imagination, famine is often connected with too many people and too little food–that is, with overpopulation and low agricultural production due to natural disasters such as drought. How does that line up with reality?

Alex de Waal: That is nonsense. Famine is a very specific political product of the way in which societies are run, wars are fought, governments are managed. The single overwhelming element in causation–in three-quarters of the famines and threequarters of the famine deaths–is political agency. Yet we still tend to be gripped by this idea that famine is a natural calamity.

You can actually show that the population theory of famine is wrong. Not just wrong at a global scale–because famine mortality has gone down precipitously while world population has gone up–but also at a country level. In the countries that have historically been very prone to famine, like Ethiopia or India, famine mortality has gone down and continues to do so even while population goes up. This is not to say that there isn’t a problem of resource consumption in the world. It’s just to say famine is not part of that.

Tufts Now: You say that mass starvation was almost eliminated, with famines becoming less frequent and less lethal. How did that happen?

de Waal: There are multiple reasons: the background economics, the improvements in transport systems, information systems, massive improvements in public health. The big historic killers in famines used to be infectious diseases. Those are now much less likely to kill large numbers of people.

One big factor is the international humanitarian industry. The humanitarians are much better at addressing the symptoms than the causes. But nonetheless if you can reduce the lethality of famines to a small fraction of what they used to be twenty, thirty, fifty years ago, even if you’re not addressing the causes, you’re still doing something substantially positive.

The last reason for the decline in famines is undoubtedly the decline in wars, the decline in totalitarian rule, and the spread of democracy and liberal values. There’s something very tangibly precious to be held onto about democracy, liberalism, and humanitarianism. You can demonstrate that this has saved tens of millions of lives. It shouldn’t be treated lightly.

Tufts Now: In addition to sending humanitarian aid, outsiders have sometimes argued for intervening with military force to protect civilians who are suffering during famines in conflict zones. What do you think of that?

de Waal: I think it’s a terribly bad idea–it’s very likely to go wrong. Twenty-five years ago, when President Bush the elder sent his troops to Somalia, I resigned from Human Rights Watch over it. I was asked to support it, and I refused. I still think it’s a bad idea. Almost every instance where you see troops sent in, it has not worked out well. These are not problems that can be solved by the military.

Tufts Now: You say that the success in combating famine is now stalling and that world leaders should help by making the act of starving people a war crime or a crime against humanity. Isn’t it already against international law?

de Waal: Lawyers will argue about this. Some will say there is no law that outlaws faminogenic acts–acts that create famines–and there are so many loopholes in international law that you can fly fighter jets through it, as the Saudis are doing now in Yemen. Others will say the law is there if interpreted correctly.

What can’t be denied is that it’s an issue that we collectively don’t care enough about to make the criminalization work.

Let me give a parallel, which is sexual and gender crimes. Rape has always been unlawful, but it was only relatively recently that the international community– global public opinion–cared enough about criminalizing rape to actually make it into an issue that could be stopped. In the same way, I think we need to care enough about starvation, in places like Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, and South Sudan, to make it an issue that is so toxic that it is stopped.

Tufts Now: You mention Yemen, where an ongoing armed conflict and blockade imposed by a Saudi-led coalition have left millions in need of humanitarian assistance. What should be done about the people starving there?

de Waal: Yemen is the greatest famine atrocity of our lifetimes. The Saudis are deliberately destroying the country’s food-producing infrastructure.

The United States and the European countries, if they cared about it enough, have enough leverage to get the Saudis and the Emeratis to stop bombing agricultural, health, and market infrastructure, open the ports, and have a much less restrictive definition about what food is allowed in. They also need to start a peace process. This is not a war that is going to be won in any meaningful sense. It’s a political, created famine and it will have to be solved by political, created means. One can ameliorate the impact by enabling a humanitarian response, which would save many lives, and allowing the economy to regenerate a bit, but a proper solution has to be a political one.

Tufts Now: How hopeful are you about the possibility of ending famine?

de Waal: At any time up to a couple of years ago, I would have been extremely hopeful. The default mode of the national and global governance systems was in favor of humanitarian systems and against faminogenic actions. That was the way history was going. That was the direction of global politics.

Now I’m much less certain about that, as we are seeing some of this introverted, xenophobic, transactional, zero-sum politics. It’s not just here in the U.S. You also see it in Europe, with Britain as a particularly sad example.

Humanitarianism cannot cope with the political causes of famine. Humanitarians know that. But there’s still an assumption by political leaders, who are somewhat culpable, that if we put the humanitarians on the case, we don’t need to deal with the politics. That is wrong.

Ten humanitarian crises to look out for in 2018

IRIN’s editors sketch out the gloomy-looking horizon for next year

Geneva, 31 December 2017 – direct URL:

From the Rohingya to South Sudan, hurricanes to famine, 2017 was full of disasters and crises. But 2018 is shaping up to be even worse. Here’s why.

The UN has appealed for record levels of funding to help those whose lives have been torn apart, but the gap between the funding needs and the funding available continues to grow.

And what makes the outlook especially bad for 2018 is that the political will needed to resolve conflicts, welcome refugees, and address climate change also appears to be waning. What a difference a year, a new US president, and a German election make.

Here’s our insider take on 10 crises that will shape the humanitarian agenda in 2018 (See 2017’s list here):

Syria’s sieges and displacement

As Syria heads towards seven years of war and Western governments quietly drop their demands for political transition, it has become increasingly clear that President Bashar al-Assad will stay in power, at least in some capacity.

more in original article

Congo unravels

Democratic Republic of Congo. Sylvain Liechti/UN Photo.

You know the situation is bad when people start fleeing their homes, and it doesn’t get much worse than the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Here, violence in its eastern provinces has triggered the world’s worst displacement crisis – for a second year in a row. More than 1.7 million people abandoned their farms and villages this year, on top of 922,000 in 2016. The provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Kasai, and Tanganyika are the worst affected and the epicentres of unrest in the country.

New alliances of armed groups have emerged to take on a demoralised government army and challenge President Joseph Kabila in distant Kinshasa. He refused to step down and hold elections in 2016 when his constitutionally mandated two-term limit expired – and the political ambition of some of these groups is to topple him. These rebellions are a new addition to the regular lawlessness of armed groups and conflict entrepreneurs that have stalked the region for years. It is a confusing cast of characters, in which the army also plays a freelance role and, as IRIN reported this month, as an instigator of some of the rights abuses that are forcing civilians to flee.

As we enter 2018, more than 13 million people require humanitarian assistance and protection – that’s close to six million more people than at the start of 2017. Over three million people are severely food insecure in the Kasai region alone, their villages and fields looted. Aid is only slowly trickling in. The $812 million appeal for Congo is less than 50 percent funded. That lack of international commitment represents the single largest impediment to the humanitarian response.

Yemen slips further towards famine

If we repeat the words “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” so often that they starting to lose gravity, here are a few numbers that might help hammer home just how grim life has become after more than two and a half years of war in Yemen, a country of more than 29 million: 8.4 million people are on the verge of starvation; 400,000 children have severe acute malnutrition (that’s as bad as it gets), and more than 5,500 civilians have been killed.

more in original article

South Sudan – it could get even worse

South Sudan. Diana Diaz/UNHCR.

A much-anticipated ceasefire in South Sudan didn’t last long.

It came into effect at midnight on Christmas Eve, and a few hours later government and rebel forces were fighting around the northern town of Koch in Unity State. The violence hasn’t derailed the peace talks underway in Addis Ababa, but it does point to how difficult it will be for the internationally-backed diplomatic process to shape events on the ground.

The ceasefire is between President Salva Kiir and several rebel groups, but confidence is low that negotiations can bring a quick and decisive end to a war entering its fifth year.

South Sudan has fragmented, with a host of ethnic militias emerging with shifting loyalties. The various members of this so- called “gun class” all want a seat at the table, in the belief that any future agreement will be based on a power-sharing deal and a division of the country’s resources along the lines of the last failed settlement.

The international community lacks leverage and neighbouring countries don’t have the unity of purpose necessary to achieve a broad-based and sustainable peace agreement.

What that means is that more refugees – on top of an existing two million – will continue to pour across the country’s borders as the fighting season resumes.

It also means some seven million people inside the country – almost two thirds of the remaining population – will still need humanitarian assistance; hunger will also continue to threaten millions as a result of the war, displacement, and collapse of the rural economy. And yes, there will be the threat of renewed famine.

One final ingredient in the brew of despair is that the humanitarian community’s access to those in need will be constrained by both the prevailing insecurity and the government’s cynical taxation of aid operations.

CAR – where humanitarians fear to tread

Central African Republic. Philip Kleinfeld/IRIN.

There are many reasons why Central African Republic was officially the unhappiest country in the world in 2017.

You can start with the 50 percent increase in the number of displaced, bringing the total to 633,000 people. Then there are the more than two million hungry people, and the half a million who have figured it’s just too hard to stay and have left for neighbouring countries.

It’s not much fun being an aid worker either. In November another humanitarian worker was killed in the north of the country, bringing to 14 the number to have died this year. The level of violence has forced aid agencies to repeatedly suspend operations as their personnel, convoys, and bases are deliberately targeted.

Behind the insecurity is a four-year conflict between competing armed groups that neither a weak government nor an under-staffed UN peacekeeping mission can contain. It pits mainly Muslim ex-Séléka rebels against Christian anti-Balaka, but some of the worst fighting has its roots in the splintering of the Séléka coalition and a feud between former allies.

The violence across the country boils down to the lucrative control of natural resources and the taxes the groups raise from checkpoints. Such is the insecurity that the government’s writ doesn’t even cover all of the capital, Bangui.

Rohingya refugees in limbo; forgotten conflicts simmer elsewhere in Myanmar

more in original article

Afghans return to flaring conflict

more in original article

Venezuelan exodus to strain neighbours

more in original article

Libya: Africa’s giant holding cell

Libya. Alessio Romenzi/UNICEF.

An AU-EU summit at the end of 2017 seemed to offer a glimmer of hope for the 700,000 to one million migrants stuck in the nightmare that is Libya.

It produced a plan to repatriate those who want it, and to move others from squalid detention centres into better conditions.

Some flights home did subsequently take off, and a first group (of 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen) was even evacuated by the UN on 22 December from Libya to Italy. But we’ve yet to see how this scheme will play out, and there are some serious obstacles. Many migrants have nowhere safe to return to, and it’s not clear how a UN-backed government that controls little in the way of territory or popular support will manage to move and protect migrants in a country with multiple governments, militias, and tribes.

That the meeting even got press (in large part thanks to a CNN film of what appeared to be a slave auctions) in an oft-ignored country is a sign of how little the world cares about the mostly sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya, for whom kidnapping, extortion, and rape have become the norm.

European policy has largely focused on keeping migrants from boarding boats in the Mediterranean or reaching their shores – creating a situation that is bad enough for Libyans and shockingly worse for Africans. At the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron mooted a military and police initiative inside Libya, plus UN sanctions for people-smugglers. How this could actually work is anyone’s guess, and it seems unlikely to get at the source of many migrants’ woes: the lack of legal avenues to get out of the desperate situations that brought them to Libya’s hell in the first place.

A year of turmoil in Cameroon

It’s taken just over a year for political agitation in Cameroon’s anglophone region to turn into armed opposition against the government of President Paul Biya.

Separatism was only a fringe idea until the government cracked down hard on protesters demanding greater representation for the neglected minority region. Now, government soldiers are being killed, Biya is promising all-out war, and thousands of refugees are fleeing into neighbouring Nigeria.

Anglophone Cameroon is becoming radicalised. Refugees recounting experiences of killings by the security forces talk of revenge, and commentators worry that the opportunity for negotiations with more moderate anglophone leaders – those pursuing a policy of civil disobedience and diplomatic pressure on Yaoundé – may be rapidly shrinking.

If the government believes there is a military solution to the activists’ demands for an independent “Ambazonia”, made up of the two anglophone regions of western Cameroon, they may well be mistaken. Where the separatists’ training camps are being established, next to the Nigerian border, is a remote and heavily forested zone – ideal for guerrilla warfare.

Biya, 85 in February and in power for the past 35 years, is standing in elections once again in 2018. The “anglophone crisis” and the potential of an even larger refugee exodus will not only leave him politically damaged but could be regionally destabalising, especially as Nigeria faces its own separatist challenge.


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worker | January 28, 2018 | 8:18 pm | About the CPUSA, Gus Hall, Party Voices | 1 Comment

The Marxist Theory of the State
worker | January 28, 2018 | 11:05 am | A. Shaw, Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin | Comments closed

Roza Shanina- The Soviet Army’s sniper who became the nightmare of the Nazis
worker | January 28, 2018 | 10:49 am | Red Army, USSR | Comments closed

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Roza Shanina- The Soviet Army’s sniper who became the nightmare of the Nazis

Roza Shanina, In Memoriam.
1924 – 1945.
It was January 28, 1945 when the heroic senior sergeant of the Soviet Red Army, Roza Shanina, died after being seriously wounded in combat. She was 20 years old and already a legendary fighter of the Soviet Army against the Nazis.
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was born in the village of Yedma, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia to logger Georgiy Mikhailovich Shanin and milkmaid Anna Alexeyevna Shanina. After completing elementary school in Yedma, she studied at a middle school at the nearby village of Bereznik.
In 1938, she walked 200 kilometers (120 miles) to the city of Arkhangelsk, Russia to continue her education. In the same year, she joined All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol). In 1941, after the Soviet Union introduced tuition fees for college courses, she took on a job at a kindergarten in Arkhangelsk to help her own finances. 
After the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union, she took on yet another role as a firefighter; she often spent many hours on the rooftops at and near the kindergarten of her employment to protect the children and the other employees.
In Dec 1941, her 19-year-old brother Mikhail Shanin was killed in combat at Leningrad, Russia. In 1942, after she completed her studies, she visited the local military commissariat for permission to serve. In Jun 1943, she was accepted in the Vsevobuch universal military training program. After some time, she was accepted into the sniper school; she excelled in this specialty and was offered a position as an instructor, but she turned it down, preferring to go to the front lines.
In Apr 1944, she was made the commander of the all-female 1st Sniper Platoon of the Soviet 184th Rifle Division, in the same month she would kill her first German soldier in Byelorussia and then was awarded the Order of Glory 3rd Class. In Jun 1944, all female snipers in her sector were ordered to be withdrawn, but she (along with many of the women in her platoon) disobeyed her orders and joined an infantry unit. She participated in the Vitebsk Orsha Offensive in Byelorussia and then the Battle of Vilnius in Lithuania. In Sep, she was awarded the Order of Glory 2nd Class. 
Roza Shanina / Colour by klimbim.
In Oct, she was honored by the Central Committee of Komsomol and received the Medal for Courage. In Dec 1944, she was wounded in the right shoulder by a Nazi German sniper.
In Jan 1945, she received official authorization for her to fight on the front lines. While fighting in East Prussia, her final confirmed kill count reached 59. 
On 27 Jan 1945, she was seriously wounded in combat, and died on the following day. Her final rank was senior sergeant. She was initially buried on the shore of the Alle River (German: Alle, Russian: Lava), but her remains were later re-interred to Znamensk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.
Her death notification was writing:
Please notify Shanina, Anna Alexsandrova, resident in city of Arkhangelsk, 15 Leningrad Avenue, that her daughter Sn. Sergeant Shanina, Roza, in battle for the Socialist Motherland, in loyalty to the military oath, showing heroism and honor, was wounded and died from wounds on 28 January, 1945.
Beginning in Oct 1944, Shanina kept a combat diary against orders; the entries were published in the magazine Yunost in 1965, and the diary collection itself, consisted of three notebooks, was given to the Regional Museum of Arkhangelsk Oblast.
Timeline of Roza’s life.
3 Apr 1924 Roza Shanina was born in the village of Yedma, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia.
11 Sep 1941 Roza Shanina took on a job at kindergarten No. 2 in Arkhangelsk, Russia to help pay for her tuition.
22 Jun 1943 Roza Shanina was accepted into the Vsevobuch program for universal military training.
2 Apr 1944 Roza Shanina was made the commander of the all-female 1st Sniper Platoon of the Soviet 184th Rifle Division.
5 Apr 1944 Roza Shanina killed her first German soldier southeast of Vitebsk, Byelorussia.
17 Apr 1944 Roza Shanina was awarded the Order of Glory 3rd Class while fighting in Byelorussia; she was the first woman of 3rd Byelorussian Front to receive this award.
9 Jun 1944 Roza Shanina was featured on the front page of the Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga.
22 Jun 1944 Roza Shanina, with the rest of female snipers in her platoon, received orders to be withdrawn from front line combat. She disobeyed her orders and continued to fight with an infantry unit in Byelorussia.
31 Aug 1944 Roza Shanina reached 42 confirmed kills.
16 Sep 1944 Roza Shanina was awarded the Order of Glory 2nd Class.
17 Sep 1944 Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga credited Roza Shanina with 51 kills.
6 Oct 1944 Roza Shanina began keeping a combat diary against orders.
Roza Shanina and Alexndra Maksimovna Ekimova.

17 Oct 1944
Roza Shanina visited her family in Arkhangelsk, Russia.
27 Oct 1944 Roza Shanina was awarded the Medal for Courage.
10 Nov 1944 Roza Shanina recorded in her diary the death of her lover Misha Panarin.
12 Dec 1944 Roza Shanina was wounded in the right shoulder by a German sniper.
8 Jan 1945 Soviet 5th Army formally granted Roza Shanina the permission to fight on the front lines.
15 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina reached Eydtkuhnen, Ostpreuen (East Prussia), Germany (now Chernyshevskoye, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia).
16 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina wrote in her diary “What I’ve actually done? No more than I have to as a Soviet man, having stood up to defend the motherland.”
Roza Shanina / Colour by klimbim.

17 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina wrote a letter to a friend, in which she noted that she might be on the verge of being killed in combat as the numbers of her battalion dwindled.
24 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina made her final entry in her combat diary.
27 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina was seriously wounded while shielding a wounded artillery officer.
28 Jan 1945 Roza Shanina passed away in near the Richau estate three kilometers (1.9 miles) southeast of the village of Ilmsdorf, Ostpreuen (East Prussia), Germany (now Novobobruysk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia) from wound received in combat on the previous day.
Sources: / / Wikipedia. 
Unifor and CLC: get back to the table!
worker | January 27, 2018 | 7:44 pm | Canada, Communist Party Canada, Labor | Comments closed

Unifor and CLC: get back to the table!

January 23, 2017

The announcement on January 17 by the National Executive Board of UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union, that it was disaffiliating from the Canadian Labour Congress, effective immediately, is a shock to millions of workers in Canada – over 3 million of whom are members of unions affiliated to the CLC, and 300,000 who are members of UNIFOR.

Many remember an earlier split in the late ‘90s, ostensibly over the same issues, which fractured the labour movement for almost a decade. During that time governments and corporations drove a vicious austerity agenda that cut jobs and wages, closed plants and factories, destroyed defined benefit pension plans, orchestrated bankruptcies under the CCAA that stole workers’ wages, pensions, and benefits – just like US Steel, Nortel Networks, and Sears are doing today. Union density was undermined, the pay gap grew wider and part-time and precarious work replaced good union jobs. Public and post-secondary education and healthcare were under sharp attack, core funding for public services and universal social programs was slashed, and the trade union movement itself came under sustained attack. Corporations raked in super-profits, half a million manufacturing jobs disappeared, and real wages, purchasing power, and living standards fell.

This was all part of the neo-liberal agenda to expand corporate control, and to smash the power, influence and capacity of organized labour to become the backbone of an organized Canada-wide resistance, and the starting point to mount an effective counter-offensive.

But the top leadership, burdened under the weight of right-wing business unionism, was unable to recognize its role and responsibilities to unite its ranks and lead a militant struggle against austerity. While workers chafed, instead of exposing the political advocates of austerity in Ottawa and the provinces, many labour leaders embraced the Liberals and NDP, and doused militant, independent labour political action as destructive to these new (and not so new) political partnerships.

At the same time, labour conventions became increasingly centralized, leaving less and less time to debate issues, and making it much harder for delegates not already in leadership – or without a nod from leadership – to run for office. Votes were whipped and slates were the order of the day in too many union meetings and conventions. The labour movement settled in for a long sleep under CLC President Ken Georgetti, and few of the affiliates complained. As union density declined, raiding became a widespread way to maintain membership and the dues income needed to maintain operations. It was the norm, not the exception.

But workers’ interests are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the Big Business parties and the corporations they speak for. Tri-partism and bi-partism are poison, aiming to block and blunt the workers’ struggles.

As economic conditions worsened, workers in some of the lowest paid industries began to demand more, asking their unions to protect them against poor contracts, wages and conditions. Pressure was building for change, for the labour movement to be stronger, more militant, and more independent of employer influence.

The response of right-wing business unionism was to tighten up the organization of the trade union movement even more.

The CAW, at that time a union with a reputation as a militant, class conscious and fighting organization with a commitment to social unionism, was also in a difficult and vulnerable situation with the loss of the Auto Pact. The Big three auto companies seized the moment to squeeze the CAW with threats of closing plants and layoffs of hundreds, even thousands of workers, unless concessions were adopted. The union looked to the Liberal Party for help to stop the closures and layoffs, while also expanding its membership drives well beyond the automotive sector. Many other workers were attracted by the high wages and good contracts for autoworkers, and by the union’s militant history, and today autoworkers account for only 25% of UNIFOR’s members. As to the Liberals, their main contribution to the union was photo-ops with union leaders, and support for the contract stripping that the Tories ordered after the 2008 economic meltdown.

In the late ‘90s the SEIU charged the CAW with raiding, after SEIU locals in Canada opted to leave SEIU and join CAW.

As the CLC’s umpire noted in his report to the CLC, there was no method within the CLC Constitution for Local unions to disaffiliate without the agreement of the parent union. The reason was that the CLC’s affiliates are the unions, not the union Locals. The conundrum facing local unions that want out of CLC affiliates (which are often international unions, located in the US) must convince their union leaderships that they should be allowed to leave to join another union. With the exception of progressive unions like UE, which jointly negotiated a fraternal split at the border, almost every other union has responded by imposing a trusteeship of the local union, as Unite-HERE in the US did to Local 75 in Toronto last month.

Article 4 of the CLC Constitution has been a burning issue in the trade union movement for more than 20 years, with no resolution in sight to date. This is at the heart of the current dispute, according to the UNIFOR letter of disaffiliation. The CLC’s decision not to include UNIFOR in a sub-committee struck to review the issue suggests that a resolution was not being seriously considered.

But questions have arisen about UNIFOR’s constitution and the legality of its National Executive Board’s decision to disaffiliate without any reference to a convention or to the membership more broadly. UNIFOR members heard about the decision in the same way that everyone else did – on the news and on the internet.

They also heard that the CLC had directed that UNIFOR members are not to be seated at provincial labour federations or Labour Councils. Many UNIFOR members are Labour Council delegates, sitting on Committees, or elected Presidents and Executive members. Labour activists are distressed and angered that the on-the-ground centres of labour and community struggles across the country are being disrupted by struggles “at the top” that appear to have little to do with the bread and butter struggles on the ground: against austerity, against Trump’s NAFTA plans, against war and military spending, and much more.

Labour Councils in Hamilton, Durham and London have already refused to ask UNIFOR delegates to leave, and that is exactly what the doctor ordered for labour unity and solidarity. The inability of the CLC and UNIFOR leaderships to resolve key issues at the top levels should not tear apart the movement at the base, in the communities, in the struggles now and just ahead.

There is no doubt that the fight for Canadian autonomy, sovereignty and democracy is directly related to the ability of the labour movement to unite against austerity and the corporate assault. It’s directly related to a labour movement in which class struggle leadership prevails and business unionism is a disappearing relic. It’s related to a trade union movement that utilizes the energy, initiative and capacity of its members to build its strength, and which cooperates instead of competing with its sister unions here at home, and globally.

The decision of UNIFOR’s National Executive Board will not help to resolve the real problems that exist in the CLC. Disaffiliation will divide and weaken the labour movement at a very dangerous time for workers, their families, and for all those who are unorganized, precarious and racialized workers, and the million unemployed and under-employed. This includes our youth, whose future is both poor and uncertain.

The CLC should be equally concerned, as it too will be weakened. Raiding will gather steam everywhere, to the detriment of the unorganized workers and the labour movement as a whole. This will include raids on UNIFOR as well as on CLC affiliates. There is no doubt the employers will take every advantage possible.

Instead of sudden divorce, UNIFOR and the CLC should go back to the table and work to resolve the problems created over many years, and which must be honestly and openly addressed now. The voices of workers in Canada must be heard on this issue: they are not on-lookers but the substance of Canada’s injured labour movement.

Statement by the Central Trade Union Commission, Communist Party of Canada

The Death of Stalin: Vulgar anticommunism under the veil of “comedy”
worker | January 27, 2018 | 7:38 pm | Discrimination against communists, J. Stalin, Russia, struggle against anti-communism | Comments closed

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Death of Stalin: Vulgar anticommunism under the veil of “comedy”
“The Death of Stalin” is the title of the anticommunist film which is going to be screened on cinemas. The two-minutes trailer of the movie is enough for someone to understand that it is another case of crude and vulgar anticommunism, of distortion and counterfeiting of History, as long as it shows Stalin as the “fear and terror of the nation” and other personalities of the time (e.g. Marshall Zhukov) as miserable caricatures.
But the text of the [film’s] synopsis by the distribution company ODEON which accompanies the movie and has been published in the media is also revealing. Promoting the film, the distribution company refers to it as “a comedy based on real events”: “On the night of March 2, 1953, a man is dying. A terrible stroke is wracking his entire body. He is drooling. He is pissing himself… The man is Joseph Stalin, dictator, tyrant, butcher as well a Secretary General of USSR. ‘The Death of Stalin’ is a satire about the days before the funerals of the Nation’s Father. Days that shine a sardonic light on all the madness, depravity and inhumanity of totalitarianism. Days that will see the men surrounding him fight to inherit his supreme power. And it’s all based on true events.”
“Dictator”, “tyrrant”, “inhumanity”, “totalitarianism”, “supreme power”… All the components of vulgar anticommunism, mixed in a blend and garnished with “satire” and “comedy”, so it can become more digestible and penetrating to the public.
Source: Rizospastis / Translation: In Defense of Communism.