Month: August, 2020
AfricaFocus Bulletin 8/24/2020
worker | August 30, 2020 | 6:24 pm | Africa | Comments closed

USA/Global: Divest from Violent Policing and Endless Wars, Part Two

AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 24, 2020 (2020-08-24)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

The notion of policing as a war, in which more lethal force will lead to more security, is not a recent development, but is deeply rooted in U.S. history. The police and the military share the country’s legacy of white supremacy and violence against racial others, which has also given rise to mob and individual violence by white civilians. Both domestic law enforcement and the conduct of foreign wars continue to reflect the history of conquest, slavery, and U.S. empire of earlier centuries.

In previous essays in this series, we have argued that significant shifts in views on the home front are opening opportunities for similar changes in policy paradigms at the global level. Such is the case for action on the climate crisis, structural racism and class inequality, and economic rights such as the right to health and the right to a living wage. These trends were already underway early in the year, when we began this series by comparing the foreign policy platforms of the Democratic presidential candidates at the time. Since then, first the Covid-19 pandemic and then the nation-wide uprising against police violence and racism following the murder of George Floyd have accelerated the drive to change the narratives about the need for fundamental change.

In the two AfricaFocus Bulletins sent out today, we explore the potential and the limitations on making similar links between the domestic movement against violent policing and the need to make fundamental changes in the global role of the U.S. military in escalating violence rather than providing security.

In the first Bulletin, available at, we focused on the profound impact of the Black Lives Matter movement from its origin as a hashtag in 2013. In this Bulletin, also sent out today and available at, we turn our attention to the deadly feedback loop between policing and empire in U.S. history and to the current status quo of the global U.S. military apparatus.

[Note: if footnote links below do not work properly in your email program, click view in your browser above.]For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins in this series, visit

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Divest from Violent Policing and Endless Wars: Invest Instead in a New Social Contract, Part Two

by William Minter and Imani Countess*

* William Minter is the editor of AfricaFocus Bulletin. Imani Countess is an Open Society Fellow focusing on economic inequality. This essay is part of a series entitled “Beyond Eurocentrism and U.S. Exceptionalism: Starting Points for a Paradigm Shift from Foreign Policy to Global Policy,” which began in January 2020. Thanks to Catherine Sunshine for editing the essays in this series.

For the first part of this essay, go to

Policing and Empire: A Deadly Feedback Loop

The interactions between policing, racism, and the U.S. military vary enormously across time and place. In some instances the relationship is positive. In particular, the two world wars of the 20th century led to advances in international human rights law, such as the Geneva Conventions and the global human rights system constructed after World War II. Both within the United States and around the world, veterans of color returned home to demand that they and their communities should enjoy the same rights that they had been fighting for. Their actions contributed decisively both to the U.S. civil rights movement and to anti-colonial movements around the world.

Nevertheless, violence against racial “others” has been pervasive, with the history of conquest and slavery feeding into contemporary policing and U.S. wars. This is amply confirmed by recent scholarship and commentaries on the history of U.S. policing, usefully summarized in a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore.

A few examples, ranging over the course of U.S. history up to the present, well illustrate the point.

Let us briefly consider the iconic Second Amendment, the violent displacement of Native Americans over centuries, the territorial expansion of U.S. empire in the late 19th century, and the growth of domestic policing and its international expansion in the 20th century.

The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, after almost two centuries of colonial settlement in what was to become the United States. It reads in full: “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” As historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explains, this historical context is still relevant despite the passage of more than two centuries and the expansion of U.S. power across the continent and around the world:

“The elephant in the room in these debates has long been what the armed militias of the Second Amendment were to be used for. The kind of militias and gun rights of the Second Amendment had long existed in the colonies and were expected to continue fulfilling two primary roles in the United States: destroying Native communities in the armed march to possess the continent, and brutally subjugating the enslaved African population.”1The violent displacement of Native Americans within the territory that is now the United States began with Spanish settlers in Florida and New Mexico in the late 16th century, even before English settlers first arrived in Virginia in 1607. The violence continued with conquest of the East Coast and New Mexico in the 17th and 18th centuries. Then came the forced expulsion of Native Americans from the South in the infamous Trail of Tears, under the Jackson administration in the 1830s, to make way for white settlers to occupy the land and grow cotton on plantations using slave labor.

The conquest of the American West, then home to many of the continent’s indigenous peoples, followed in the second half of the 19th century. The assault on Native lands continued in the second half of the 20th century with displacement for construction of dams and, in recent years, pipelines—intrusions that are still being contested.2

From the Spanish-American War of 1898 onward, U.S. wars included not only the iconic World Wars I and II, but also the construction and defense of a formal and informal empire that spanned the globe.

August Vollmer is not a household name, but his career trajectory reflects the historical links between policing and the military. He served as the police chief of Berkeley, California, from 1909 to 1923. Vollmer was influential in shaping law enforcement around the country, becoming known as the father of modern American policing and a pioneer in the academic field of criminal justice. His drive to professionalize the police was built on his experience in counterinsurgency in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

Vollmer was not an exception. According to historian Stuart Shrader,3 writing in 2014 in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

“A close look at the history of US policing reveals that the line between foreign and domestic has long been blurry. Shipping home tactics and technologies from overseas theaters of imperial engagement has been a typical mode of police reform in the United States. … From the Philippines to Guatemala to Afghanistan, the history of US empire is the history of policing experts teaching indigenous cops how to patrol and investigate like Americans. … But the flow is not one-way: these institutions also return home transformed.”This mutual influence has manifested itself in open wars in Southeast Asia in the 20th century and in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 21st century. But it has also spawned pervasive global structures to manage not only these wars, but also the war on drugs, the policing of immigration, and the post-9/11 war on terror.

A Global Military

The Breathe Act, proposed by the Movement for Black Lives, includes a demand to dramatically reduce the budget of the U.S. Department of Defense. This is echoed in more detailed proposals put forth by antiwar activists and defense analysts. The global reach of the Black Lives Matter movement implies that a similar reckoning must come for the global security system. Progressives must scrutinize, expose, and challenge the endless wars pursued by the United States military along with the parallel failures of global counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies.

United States military spending far exceeds that of any other country, adding up to more than the total of the next nine countries. Despite rising criticism of wasted money and endless wars, however, in late July 2020 significant majorities, including Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, defeated an amendment to cut 10% from the total Pentagon budget of $740.5 billion. The vote was 324 to 93 in the House of Representatives and 77 to 23 in the Senate.

In contrast to the Vietnam War era, there is currently no strong antiwar movement in the United States with links to progressive movements focused on domestic policy. The default assumption in public debate is that U.S. wars are waged in order to protect the security of the United States. And with no military draft to spread the pain widely throughout society—as during the Vietnam War—the loss of U.S. lives in wars abroad remains largely invisible to the media and the public. Nonetheless, there are abundant critiques, across a wide political spectrum, of the U.S. military posture, and a widely shared uneasiness about “endless wars.” 4

The toll of U.S. wars, of course, is by no means limited to the U.S. personnel who lose their lives. The wars involve a scale of violence against civilians that systematically violates international human rights law, primarily targeting those seen as racially “other.” In the Indochina wars of the 1960s and 1970s, in covert interventions throughout the post-World War II period, and in the Middle East wars and the global war on terrorism of the years since 9/11, there has been little accountability to international standards.5 Moreover, U.S. policy systematically rejects any international obligation to allow independent review of the U.S. military presence around the world.

Violent Repression but No Security

Impunity for abusive state violence and failure to provide security are more common around the world than respect for the rule of law. The United States is no exception. It is important to explore the unique U.S. history and legacy of white supremacy that underpins the resistance to change. But it is also important to recognize that the United States, however powerful, is far from alone in its failures. No nation can claim to have found the solutions or to be above the need for accountability.

Because of the global scope of its military force, the United States is indeed the largest force for state violence outside its own borders in the current era. But in many active conflicts this country is neither the exclusive nor even the primary factor driving these wars, which are also shaped by internal forces and by other outside actors. As Elizabeth Schmidt has extensively detailed in her two-volume study, the scope, nature, and impact of foreign intervention in Africa varies enormously across cases.6 However iconic, U.S.-dominated interventions such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq are the exception rather than the rule worldwide.

Much more common, throughout the years of the Cold War as well as the post-9/11 era, is U.S. complicity with authoritarian regimes to wage aggression without the presence of large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground. U.S. involvement in such cases can unfold largely without attracting the attention of the U.S. media. The slaughter of as many as one million Indonesians in 1965–1966 has no resonance in U.S. public memory, unlike the Vietnam War. But U.S. officials both encouraged and collaborated with the slaughter of as many as half a million people, directed by the military forces that brought General Suharto to power and kept him in office for 31 years. “Jakarta” became a code word in Latin America for anti-communist mass killings, which the United States supported over decades.7

Whether the United States is actively involved or plays a secondary role to other actors, however, the post-9/11 counterterrorism and counterinsurgency wars tend to operate with the same logic. With a relatively low toll in American lives, they have little visibility to most of the U.S. public. But these forever wars have produced mounting costs in U.S. resources as well as violence and insecurity in the nations where the wars are staged. At best there have been occasional military victories and temporary restoration of a semblance of normality. More often, escalation has increased insecurity and civilian suffering, whether or not U.S. involvement is front and center.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with which the two of us are most familiar, that pattern is most visible in three long-running conflicts: the Nigerian army against Boko Haram in Nigeria, the African Union military mission in Somalia, and French and regional military forces fighting in Mali and other countries in the West African Sahel. In all these cases, unlike in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the United States has a minimal presence of combat troops on the ground. But U.S. involvement is significant nonetheless: the United States is training African military forces, flying armed as well as reconnaissance drones, and mounting occasional actions by special forces, most notably in Somalia. Neither the U.S. government nor the affected African governments are willing to prioritize diplomacy and development over military aid and arms sales. 8

During the Cold War, extreme repression sometimes bought years or decades of stability for authoritarian governments at the expense of their citizens. In the period following the Cold War and particularly in the post-9/11 period, even nominal stability is elusive, as state violence often provokes increased insurgent violence and/or the growth of organized criminal violence, such as drug trafficking.

This then provides the incentive and the excuse for security forces to double down on violence. Despite revelations by investigative journalists, monitoring by human rights organizations, and calls for reform,the mission and the organizational culture of both the police and the military ensure that reform efforts are strong on rhetoric and weak on implementation.

Structural Obstacles Thwart Internal “Reforms”

To some extent, racism, violence, and impunity can be tempered by reforms within police and military institutions, such as policies to encourage diversity in the ranks and to prohibit or change certain practices. The U.S. military is subject to codes of conduct such as the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Convention against Torture, and the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some local jurisdictions have attempted to reform their policing through measures such as barring chokeholds, requiring use of body cameras, and establishing civilian review boards to investigate misconduct.

These reforms can have some limited effects, but they are by no means universally applied. There are significant differences among agencies, within both law enforcement and the military, with respect to the rule of law. Many officers in the U.S. military hold strong personal commitments to professional codes of conduct; this is reflected in the rising tensions between some levels of the military and the lawless Trump administration.9 Among federal and domestic law enforcement agencies, norms, policies, and practices are highly variable. In times of crises, these differences between agencies will continue to be central in the choices either to escalate violence or to deescalate violence while considering alternatives.

However, the organizational culture of security agencies is most often highly resistant to significant reforms or checks, and credible penalties for violations are rarely enforced. Moreover, the criteria for “success” in achieving their missions—numbers of enemy forces killed in war, arrests made in policing—are not measures of success in achieving actual security. Continued threats are turned into justification for increased budgets and for doubling down on failed strategies.

Without external accountability for violations of human rights and for ineffective policies, internal reforms can only have marginal impacts. And vested interests in violent organizational cultures, growing in proportion to exorbitant budgets, create strong incentives for politicians to avoid enforcing outside accountability.

Shifting Resources through Divestment and Investment

The domestic debate on police violence has significant momentum, with continuing local protests and high national visibility. A central question is whether, how, and to what extent localities should divest from violent policing and reinvest some funds in alternative means to ensure community security.

With U.S. military engagement abroad largely invisible to the wider U.S. public, there is no parallel, high-profile debate on the role of the U.S. military in fomenting global violence, nor much public discussion of redirecting the Pentagon’s budget or priorities. The U.S. military itself is unlikely to question the fundamental premises of its global engagement, which centers on the competition with major powers such as Russia and China. The traditional conception of security—as protection against violent threats from enemies—largely persists. And the vested interests and policy assumptions that protect funding for the military-industrial complex are even more strongly entrenched than those that defend local police budgets.

But there is also a strand of strategic thinking and internal criticism within the defense community that is open to considering other threats to security, most notably global disease pandemics and climate change. A notable example is the internal military investigations of the impact of climate change. In his new book All Hell Breaking Loose, Michael Klare analyzes internal Pentagon documents, finding evidence that “of all major institutions in U.S. society, none is taking climate change as seriously as the U.S. military.”10

Military planners realize that they must prepare for complex clusters of climate disasters, such as the sequence of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017. Such events have already stretched the military’s capacity for humanitarian response and pose a growing threat to military bases, both within the United States and around the world. The military has focused its planning more on adaptation to climate change than on mitigation by reducing carbon emissions. But it has also taken steps to diminish its reliance on fossil fuels through proactive research and investment in renewable energy. And it is acutely aware of the likely increase in instability due to the effect of climate crises in areas already plagued by other causes of conflict.

These Pentagon reports and their implications have not been widely publicized, given the imperative not to openly contradict the climate-denying commander-in-chief. But under different national political leadership, some military voices could potentially be advocates for addressing the causes, rather than only the consequences, of rising conflicts. This would also require rethinking the mission of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

No single conflict, in Africa or elsewhere, currently has the potential to shift thinking about fundamentals of the U.S. global military posture. Even Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which earned bipartisan condemnation, is discussed only as an exceptional case. Nor is the movement to curb violence within the United States likely to fully extend its scope to the global arena. What can have significant effects, however, are the fiscal pressures from new initiatives on other issues, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. And changes in the Pentagon’s priorities may also come, in indirect ways, from its own research and planning to deal with the climate crisis, the threat of pandemics, and other humanitarian crises. Those factors, together with the emerging consensus against endless ground wars, have potential to eventually change the minds of Republican as well as Democratic voters.

        Credit: Costs of War Project

The costs of the post-9/11 wars have been well documented by the Brown University Costs of War Project, with a budgetary cost of $6.4 trillion through fiscal year 2020. Peace activists and analysts have advanced credible alternatives to save on military spending.11 Polls from foreign policy establishment organizations may highlight support for ongoing military alliances as essential to U.S. global engagement. But when other pollsters asked more detailed questions, 58 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats supported ending U.S. ground wars.

When asked to identify the top threats to our security, a plurality of voters (46 percent), and 73 percent of Democrats, said that the US primarily faces nonmilitary threats. In light of the covid-19 pandemic, along with disastrous hurricanes, fires, and floods, public pressure for spending on such other threats is likely to grow. And critics will find many in the military who agree with them.

Trump has vowed to end wars, but this is a false promise, notes Peter Certo in Foreign Policy in Focus. Democratic candidates, for their part, have not yet taken full advantage of public disenchantment with shooting wars to advance a robust agenda of funding for alternative security initiatives.

A New Social Contract?

In the previous essays in this series, we argued that significant shifts in views on the home front open an opportunity for similar changes in policy paradigms at the global level. Such is the case for action on the climate crisis, gross economic inequality, and economic rights, such as the right to health and the right to a living wage. The major obstacle is political will rather than lack of compelling alternative visions, which are now highly visible in public debate. The same applies to state violence, although the potential for domestic change on this front is still much more visible than the alternatives to global U.S. military overreach.

The current convergence of global crises, none of which shows any signs of ending, threatens mass devastation on the scale of the Great Depression and World War II, in the United States and around the world. In rapid succession in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic, its economic repercussions, and resistance to state violence have had unprecedented cumulative effects. While further turmoil is inevitable, this might also offer the opportunity for fundamental changes—if urgent demands for immediate action are grounded in an understanding of the deep roots of injustice and the global scope of the challenge.

One of the most striking signs of hope is the fact that progressive activists as well as many mainstream analysts are seeing the issues not as isolated and competitive but as linked and complementary. The Black Lives Matter movement has continuously stressed the intersectionality of identities and issues. More and more activists are following their lead, which implies focusing on providing mutual aid and solidarity across boundaries of all kinds, including national borders.

Policy changes to implement such a vision will not be easy. One measure of success, whether at the local, national, or global level, will be to what extent government budgets begin to shift from investing in state violence to social investment in fulfilling a new social contract.


  1. The quote comes from page 203 in the conclusion to Dunbar-Ortiz’s short book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, published in 2018. She addresses the same theme in a January 2018 article on settler colonialism and the Second Amendment.  
  2. For an indispensable overview, read Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. For the conquest of the inland South and the expulsion of Native Americans to lands west of the Mississippi, see the recent detailed accounting in Unworthy Republic, by Claudio Saunt. In an eloquent account entitled Our History Is the Future, Nick Estes highlights how the displacement of the peoples of the Dakotas, as well as their resistance, continued in the 20th century and into the present.  
  3. Schrader is also the author of the 2019 book Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing. 
  4. For a sampling of recent commentaries, see articles in the Boston Review, Foreign Policy in Focus, Just Security, and Common Dreams. A similar vision is available in the recent paper proposing a feminist foreign policy for the United States, paralleling similar proposals in other countries.  
  5. Particularly useful recent accounts include Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam and the edited volume by Mark Pavlick and Caroline Luft reminding us that the unrestrained violence of the U.S. wars extended beyond Vietnam to other countries in Southeast Asia. For post-9/11 counterterrorism interventions, Jeremy Scahill provides a wide-ranging account in Dirty Wars.  
  6. Schmidt’s two volumes on foreign intervention in Africa cover the period after World War II up to the Cold War and the post-Cold-War period. The second is available for free download from the publisher.  
  7. See the new book by Vincent Bivens, The Jakarta Method
  8. See in particular the second volume by Elizabeth Schmidt, cited above. For more current material see the work of Nigerian journalist Obi Anyadike on Boko Haram and on the Sahel. On Somalia see the recent article by Paul Williams and the review by Alex de Waal of the book by Williams on AMISOM. For additional resources on conflicts in specific countries check the country pages of the International Crisis Group and African Arguments, and search the New Humanitarian news service. On U.S. involvement in particular, see the 2015 book by Nick Turse, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, as well as the many recent articles available through his website. For Turse’s most recent investigative report, see the August 8, 2020 issue of The Continent
  9. It is significant that the federal forces deployed to Portland, Oregon, and other cities include agencies particularly notable for their lack of such professional codes. The US Border Patrol, for example, despite the fact that over half its agents are Latino, has a long history of racial profiling and violence, as detailed in the classic history Migra by Kelly Lytle Hernández. And the Federal Protective Service is primarily composed of private contractors who have no professional codes of conduct at all.  
  10. For a brief summary, see the September 2019 review and interview in Rolling Stone.  
  11. See, for example, the specific suggestions from defense analyst William Hartung, as well as the overview from the Friends Committee for National Legislation.  

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter. For an archive of previous Bulletins, see,

Current links to books on AfricaFocus go to the non-profit, which supports independent bookshores and also provides commissions to affiliates such as AfricaFocus.

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worker | August 6, 2020 | 7:36 pm | US Peace Council | Comments closed

U.S. Peace Council
August 3, 2020

For many decades, the US antiwar movement has been calling on Congress to cut the Pentagon budget, now officially at $740 billion.

These demands were almost always ignored by Congress where the great majority of Republicans and Democrats have long been in the grip of the military-industrial complex. Every year Congress would ignore the antiwar movement and pass a bigger war budget. Only a few enlightened members of Congress would voice an objection.

But now, perhaps, there are the first glimmers of hope that the silence of Congress about the Pentagon budget may be coming to an end. It has taken crisis piled upon crisis to make Congress budge. It will take a movement to make Congress move further.

The sheer power of the military-industrial complex in U.S. politics can be measured by what it has taken to begin to shift Congress, even a little bit.

It has taken a pandemic that has killed upwards of 150,000 and infected 4.5 million Americans. It has taken unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression, leading to immense federal, state and city budget deficits and looming savage cuts to public services and public employee jobs, wages and benefits.

The pandemic has exposed the inadequacy of an already weakened and tattered U.S. health care system, now called upon to meet an unprecedented public health emergency. The botched and callous Trump Administration response to the pandemic has laid bare all the racial and class inequalities in U.S. society.

The pandemic has exposed the gross disparity in access to decent health care suffered by Black, brown and other working people of color. These communities already faced structural inequalities in housing, education, income, and household wealth. These communities make up a disproportionate number of the essential workers who must expose themselves to the virus to put food on the table. They are disproportionately among the victims of the pandemic.

On top of this, the May 25 police murder of George Floyd triggered weeks of protests against the wanton violence of militarized police departments against Black people. The demand to take funds away from militarized police departments has evolved into a broader discussion of defunding the Pentagon — the very institution militarizing the police departments — to generate funds to meet the country’s genuine needs.

In response to this disastrous situation, on May 19, 2020, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland CA), along with Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair, Representative Mark Pocan, led a group of 29 Democrats calling upon the Congress to cut the Pentagon budget by $350 billion. In their letter to the House Armed Services Committee, the authors stressed: “The enemy we’re fighting right now is COVID-19, so our sole focus should be on expanding testing, tracing, and treatment, funding towards vaccine development, and relief for the American people. Increasing defense spending now would be a slap in the face to the families of over 90,000 Americans that have died from this virus.”

However, within less than a month, the demand for $350 billion cut was reduced to a meager 10% ($74 billion), in the actual amendment introduced by Lee and Pocan on June 15, 2020. This $74 billion cut was also supported by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey in their amendment introduced to the Senate. According to Rep. Pocan, these amendments “would take $74 billion in annual savings from the Pentagon — exempting salaries and health care — to create a domestic federal grant program to fund health care, housing, childcare and educational opportunities for cities and towns experiencing a poverty rate of 25 percent or more.”

Yet, in less than a month, despite the fact that the majority of the American people and more than 60 national economic, environmental, racial justice, and peace groups had endorsed the amendment, the 10% cut amendment failed in the House on June 21, 2020. The House vote for the Lee-Pocan Amendment was only 93 in favor (92 Democrats and 1 independent; no Republicans), and the NDAA passed with 139 Democrats and 185 Republicans voting for it.

According to the National Priorities Project, had this meager 10% cut passed, the funds thus saved could be re-allocated to cover:

  1. Housing every one of the United States’ over half a million homeless people.
  2. Creating more than one million infrastructure jobs across America, especially in many of the most economically depressed locations.
  3. Conduct two billion COVID-19 tests, or six tests per person (44 times as many as has already been done).
  4. Easily close the $23 billion funding gap between majority-white and majority non-white public schools.
  5. Fund free college programs for more than two million of the poorest American students.
  6. A revolution in clean energy. $74 billion could create enough solar and/or wind energy to meet the needs of virtually every American household.
  7. One million well-paid clean energy jobs, enough to transition most dirty industry workers into renewables.
  8. Hire 900,000 new elementary school teachers, or nine per school, creating a golden age of education.
  9. Send a $2,300 check to the more than 32 million currently unemployed people across the country.
  10. Purchase enough N95 masks for all 55 million essential workers to use, one per day, every day for a year, with change to spare.

Yet, the grip of the military-industrial complex and the defense contractors proved itself too strong for the majority of U.S. Congress to act in the interest of the American people.

Nevertheless, this phase of the struggle for 10% cut in the Pentagon budget signified a new beginning. It was the first time that the taboo of cutting the military budget was broken and 93 members of Congress defied the pressures of military establishment lobbyists and openly voted for it. On July 28, 2020, Reps. Lee and Pocan formed a new Congressional caucus, the Defense Budget Reduction Caucus, to continue the fight. “For too long, Congress has put the profits of defense contractors above the needs of the American people,” said Congressman Pocan. “Last week’s $740 billion defense budget represents a 20% increase in just four years at a time of relative peace. From unnecessary new nuclear weapons to the Space Force to the ballooning use of outside contractors — our Pentagon spending is growing more rapidly than needed with abundant waste and endless wars. With this new caucus, we hope to lead Congress in decreasing and redirecting the defense budget,” he said.

The Way Forward

Spending colossal sums on a bloated Pentagon and endless wars was always mad. But in conditions of mass unemployment, fiscal crisis and an historic uprising against racial injustice crying for new political priorities, such spending is more insane than ever. The better forces in Congress already see these truths. The more a united antiwar movement and its allies can generate grassroots Move the Money campaigns in cities around the country, the sooner a majority in Congress will see it. (The Poor People’s Campaign, and the National Priorities Project, for example, are calling for cutting the Pentagon budget in half).

Here is how you can help:

  1. If your member of Congress was among the 93 who voted for saner Federal priorities on July 21, send a thank you email or phone call. If your member of Congress voted the wrong way, let him hear your displeasure. The list is here.
  2. Demand that your member of Congress joins the newly formed Defense Spending Reduction Caucus in Congress.
  3. Most important, join the growing number of local Move the Money to Human Needs! campaigns around the country. Increase pressure on Congress, most of whom refuse even to mention the huge military budget. These campaigns generate an urgently needed, local discussion and insist that the City Council in each city demand that the Congress members representing the city vote to move a significant portion of our tax money from militarism and violent policing to human, community and clean-environment needs. Priority must be placed on poor and under-served communities and on working people. These campaigns insist that each City Council hold public hearings on the dollar amounts that the city desperately needs but that get diverted to the Pentagon.

For more information on how to get a local campaign started go to the new Move the Money to Human Needs! Campaign website:


U.S. Peace Council • P.O. Box 3105, New Haven, CT 06515 • (203) 387-0370 •

Africa/Global: Preventing the Next Pandemic
worker | August 6, 2020 | 7:29 pm | Africa | Comments closed

Africa/Global: Preventing the Next Pandemic

AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 3, 2020 (2020-08-03 )
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases – from Ebola to MERS to West Nile and Rift Valley fevers – caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population. … The rising trend in zoonotic diseases is driven by the degradation of our natural environment – through land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, climate change, and other stresses.” – Press release from UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Nairobi, July 6, 2020

While the world is still struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, which originated from bats in China, zoonotic diseases are a far more general issue, linked not only to wildlife but to domestic animals, particularly those in factory farming environments. Unless the impact of human economies on the natural environment can be managed differently, zoonotic diseases are certain to continue to be more prevalent, and some among them will become pandemic.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the press release and excerpts from “Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission. “ This new report from two Nairobi-based global organizations makes the case that preventing such a development by catching diseases at an early stage depends on global coordination of research and policy on the intersection of animal health, human health, and the health of the environment. UN agencies are referring to this approach as “One Health,” and stepping up cooperation of specialized agencies to promote it.

Covid-19 has led to new attention to this need, as illustrated by recent articles in The Guardian, Foreign Affairs, Monthly Review, and SciDev Net.

Unfortunately there have also been stereotypes and rumors attached to the Chinese origin of Covid-19, such as the allegation that the virus may have originated from one of the foremost institutions involved in research on bat viruses and the erroneous stereotype that eating bats is a Chinese tradition, neither of which have any credibility among knowledgeable scientists. For a refutation of the bat-eating myth and an explanation of its origin, see this post by anthropologist Osten Cramer who has specialized in the wildlife trade in China and other Asian countries. And for more about Shi Zhengli, the leading virologist who began her work on bat viruses with SARS in 2004, see recent articles in Science magazine and Scientific American.

Shi and her work illustrate the kind of international scientific collaboration which Lancet editor Richard Horton has recently lauded as “the truly global collective effort” by scientists to respond to Covid-19, contrasting it to the failure of politicians, including the “crime against humanity” in President Trump’s cutoff of funding to the World Health Organization.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on health, visit

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on agriculture, visit

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Unite human, animal and environmental health to prevent the next pandemic – UN Report

Press Release, 6 July, 2020, Nairobi

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) * International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

* COVID-19 is just one example of the rising trend of diseases – from Ebola to MERS to West Nile and Rift Valley fevers – caused by viruses that have jumped from animal hosts into the human population.

* A new assessment offers ten recommendations, and identifies One Health as the optimal way to prevent and respond to future pandemics.

* The rising trend in zoonotic diseases is driven by the degradation of our natural environment – through land degradation, wildlife exploitation, resource extraction, climate change, and other stresses.

Nairobi, 6 July 2020 – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take lives and disrupt economies across the world, a new report warns that further outbreaks will emerge unless governments take active measures to prevent other zoonotic diseases from crossing into the human population, and sets out ten recommendations to prevent future pandemics.

The report, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, is a joint effort by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

It identifies seven trends driving the increasing emergence of zoonotic diseases, including increased demand for animal protein; a rise in intense and unsustainable farming; the increased use and exploitation of wildlife; and the climate crisis. The report finds that Africa in particular, which has experienced and responded to a number of zoonotic epidemics including most recently, to Ebola outbreaks, could be a source of important solutions to quell future outbreaks.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies, and as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.”

A “zoonotic disease” or “zoonosis” is a disease that has passed into the human population from an animal source. COVID-19, which has already caused more than half a million deaths around the world, most likely originated in bats. But COVID-19 is only the latest in a growing number of diseases – including Ebola, MERS, West Nile fever and Rift Valley fever – whose spread from animal hosts into human populations has been intensified by anthropogenic pressures.

Every year, some two million people, mostly in low- and middle- income countries, die from neglected zoonotic diseases. The same outbreaks can cause severe illness, deaths, and productivity losses among livestock populations in the developing world, a major problem that keeps hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers in severe poverty. In the last two decades alone, zoonotic diseases have caused economic losses of more than $100 billion, not including the cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is expected to reach $9 trillion over the next few years.

African countries have an opportunity to lead pandemic prevention efforts

Zoonotic diseases are on the rise everywhere on the planet, and African countries – a number of which have successfully managed deadly zoonotic outbreaks – have the potential to leverage this experience to tackle future outbreaks through approaches that incorporate human, animal and environmental health. The continent is home to a large portion of the world’s remaining intact rainforests and other wild lands. Africa is also home to the world’s fastest-growing human population, leading to an increase in encounters between livestock and wildlife and in turn, the risk of zoonotic diseases.

“The situation on the continent today is ripe for intensifying existing zoonotic diseases and facilitating the emergence and spread of new ones,” said ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith. “But with their experiences with Ebola and other emerging diseases, African countries are demonstrating proactive ways to manage disease outbreaks. They are applying, for example, novel risk-based rather than rule-based approaches to disease control, which are best suited to resource-poor settings, and they are joining up human, animal and environment expertise in proactive One Health initiatives.”

The report’s authors identify the One Health approach — which unites public health, veterinary and environmental expertise — as the optimal method for preventing as well as responding to zoonotic disease outbreaks and pandemics.

Participants in media sensitization activity held on 15 November 2019 at ILRI Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).]

10 recommendations

The report identifies ten practical steps that governments can take to prevent future zoonotic outbreaks:

  1. Investing in interdisciplinary approaches, including One Health;
  2. Expanding scientific enquiry into zoonotic diseases;
  3. Improving cost-benefit analyses of interventions to include full-cost accounting of societal impacts of disease;
  4. Raising awareness of zoonotic diseases;
  5. Strengthening monitoring and regulation practices associated with zoonotic diseases, including food systems;
  6. Incentivizing sustainable land management practices and developing alternatives for food security and livelihoods that do not rely on the destruction of habitats and biodiversity;
  7. Improving biosecurity and control, identifying key drivers of emerging diseases in animal husbandry and encouraging proven management and zoonotic disease control measures;
  8. Supporting the sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes that enhance sustainable co-existence of agriculture and wildlife;
  9. Strengthening capacities among health stakeholders in all countries; and
  10. Operationalizing the One Health approach in land-use and sustainable development planning, implementation and monitoring, among other fields.

The report launch comes on World Zoonoses Day, observed by research institutions and nongovernmental entities on 6 July, which commemorates the work of French biologist Louis Pasteur. On 6 July 1885, Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a zoonotic disease.


Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission


Section Four Managing  and preventing  zoonoses

This section sets out the One Health approach as the  most promising way to manage and prevent zoonoses; it also gives examples of its past successes and discusses some of the potential barriers to a wider uptake. Lessons from managing previous zoonotic outbreaks, including pandemics, are shared and discussed.

The One Health approach to controlling Zoonoses

Humanity’s experience in public health over the past centuries allows us to draw some broad lessons about effective management of zoonoses. The One Health approach can be defined as the collaborative effort across multiple disciplines to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. This approach has emerged as a key tool for preventing and managing diseases occurring at the interface of human, animal and environment health. At the same time, a closely related approach, known as “EcoHealth” has been defined as a set of systemic, participatory approaches necessary to understanding and promoting both health and well-being in the context of social and ecological interactions. Both the One Health and EcoHealth approaches emphasize multidisciplinary collaboration for holistic interventions that attain not only human health goals but also animal and environment health targets, the latter two of which are central to improving the control of neglected and emerging infectious diseases, many of which are zoonoses.

Though both One Health and EcoHealth approaches sit at the nexus of human, animal and environmental interactions, they have subtle differences: One Health, as generally practiced, emphasizes biomedical animal and human health, while EcoHealth pays more attention to the broader relations between health and ecosystems, focusing on the environment and related socio-economic systems. A third concept, “Planetary Health,” focuses on human health in relation to global sustainability. As none of these terms has an agreed or standardized definition, and given their convergence and similarities, this assessment report adopts One Health as the umbrella term, as it can be most easily understood by decision- makers and the general public.

As we have seen, zoonotic diseases involve and affect human health, animal health and environment health.

The pathogens originate in animals, and the emergence or spillover of the diseases they cause in humans is usually the result of human actions, such as intensifying livestock production or degrading and fragmenting ecosystems, or exploiting wildlife unsustainably. As such, their management should be inter-sectoral. At the global level, three intergovernmental organisations, from different sectors, have specific mandates that address zoonotic diseases: the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In response to the bird flu (HPAI) pandemic, these three intergovernmental organisations along with UNICEF, the United Nations System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC), and the World Bank developed a strategic framework for reducing the risks of emerging zoonoses.

This framework has five strategic elements that remain relevant today:

1. Build robust and well-governed public and animal health systems compliant with the WHO International Health Regulations (the amendment entered into force in July 2016) and OIE international standards through the pursuit of long-term interventions.

2. Prevent regional and international crises by controlling disease outbreaks through improved national and international emergency response capabilities.

3. Promote wide-ranging collaboration across sectors and disciplines.

4. Develop rational and targeted disease control programmes through the conduct of strategic research.

5. Better address concerns of the poor by shifting the focus from developed to developing economies, from potential to actual disease problems, and through a focus on the drivers of a broader range of locally important diseases.

In 2010, FAO, OIE and WHO started collaborative work to address risks at the human-animal-ecosystems interface as described in the FAO/OIE/WHO Tripartite Concept Note. In 2019, they updated their joint 2008 tripartite guide on zoonoses and other One Health issues. Other intergovernmental organisations also have interests in environment, animal and human health, notably the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), some Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and the World Bank. The Convention on Biological Diversity has developed Biodiversity-inclusive One Health Guidance. And there are many other organisations, institutes, programmes, government agencies and nongovernmental organisations working in this space. CGIAR, for example, is the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network; one of CGIAR’s constituent centres, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), has programmes working on livestock and human health and sustainable livestock systems.

In general, environment health initiatives have been less well represented than animal, livestock and human health initiatives in global zoonoses prevention and control programmes. But the environment is key to the emerging One Health approaches that are spearheading zoonoses risk reduction and control at regional and national levels.

Role of environmental health and its practitioners in Uganda’s One Health programmes

Environmental health practitioners in Uganda have significantly helped to reduce sickness and deaths caused by zoonotic disease outbreaks such as Ebola. These practitioners work at the frontlines of disease surveillance. Their tasks include the following:

• Inspecting livestock before slaughter as well as the meat in slaughterhouses and butcheries;

• Monitoring the destruction of condemned meat;

• Investigating zoonotic disease outbreaks and monitoring disease control programmes;

• Ensuring the control of disease vectors and vermin such as rats, fleas, mosquitoes and monkeys;

• Providing communities with health education on pertinent issues such as vaccination of children and pets;

• Involving themselves in all matters related to food safety; and

• Helping to enforce Uganda’s public health legislation.

In short, Uganda’s environmental health practitioners are the very embodiment of the One Health approach to healthy people, animals and the environment. To stop disease outbreaks in the future, Uganda will be relying on this remarkable group of “environmental health activists” to advise on, plan, implement, manage and monitor the country’s many One Health activities.


Frequently Asked Questions

Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission

By the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

What are zoonotic diseases?

  • Zoonotic diseases (also known as zoonoses) are illnesses that are caused by germs that spread between animals and people.
  • Examples of zoonoses include HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Lyme disease, malaria, rabies, West Nile virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), in addition to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Certain animals are more likely to harbor zoonotic pathogens. These include rodents, bats, and non-human primates, as well as economically important livestock such as pigs, cows and chickens.
  • The pathogens most likely to jump species from animal to human are those that are widely distributed, mutate rapidly and have multiple hosts.

In China’s Guangxi province in 2004, Shi Zhengli releases a fruit bat after taking a blood sample. Credit: Shuyi Zhang. Source: Scientific American.

What is driving the spread of zoonotic diseases?

* In the last hundred years, the world has seen massive increases in human populations, resulting in massive decreases in natural environments. These two parallel trends are critical parts of the complex chain of events that has triggered a rise in the emergence and spread of new zoonoses.

* Many of the new zoonoses have emerged in low- and middle-income countries.

* Seven specific factors are driving this trend:


o Increasing demand for animal protein
o Unsustainable agricultural intensification
o Increased use and exploitation of wildlife
o Unsustainable use of natural resources accelerated by urbanization, land use
change and extractive industries
o Travel and transportation
o Changes in food supply chains
o Climate change 

Africa has an opportunity to lead pandemic prevention efforts

* Many African countries have significant experience managing pandemics – including the recent Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and can use this experience to prevent future pandemics. In Uganda, for example, officials have been able to reduce sickness and deaths caused by zoonotic diseases, including Ebola, malaria and Rift Valley fever. Their techniques include using satellite systems to anticipate heavy rainfall events, which can produce mosquito swarms that can trigger outbreaks.

* By adopting a One Health approach that unites human, animal and environmental health, African countries can take the lead in developing and implementing strategies to prevent future pandemics.

[more FAQ in full document on-line]

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Crisis of Sanity
worker | August 1, 2020 | 7:02 pm | Action | Comments closed

Crisis of Sanity

by J. Thompson and A. Shaw

The recent article by Greg Godels is excellent and identifies some of the main crises that people in the United States face to include, “Epidemiological crisis, political crisis, economic crisis and crisis of racial justice.

There is another crisis that the people of the United States are facing and it is a Crisis of Sanity. The current President of the United States (POTUS) has distinguished himself from all other world leaders, current and past, by rigidly clinging to the most absurd ideas ever conceived. He generally transmits these segments of his imagination via tweets in the middle of the night.

He clings to the idea that the drug hydroxychloroquine is the panacea for COVID-19. Scientific evidence indicates that this drug is useless in the treatment of COVID-19. Indeed, it has been shown to be harmful because it side effects include cardiac problems which can be fatal. It is reported that Trump has some investments in the company that manufactures hydroxychloroquine.

This same POTUS put forth the idea that people should inject themselves with Clorox or other disinfectants. He also uses vile racial slurs to characterize COVID-19, such as “Kung Flu” and the “China Virus.”

His cronies and hangers on also promote weird ideas. Representative Gohmert from Texas has contracted the virus and claims that someone put the virus in his mask and he breathed it and when he had the mask on. There is a doctor in Houston, Stella Grace Immanuelle, who says that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID-19 and people do not need to mask or social distance. The same distinguished doctor, who Trump adores, has also lectured about “demon sperm” and other weird ideas. Lieut. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas has advocated for seniors to sacrifice themselves for the economy.

Greg Godels is right when he says we need an organized Left movement. However, the Left in the United States appears to be paralyzed and bamboozled by the bourgeoisie. The Left in the United States does not appear capable of mounting any real resistance to impending fascism.

Trouble Ahead! Detour
worker | August 1, 2020 | 6:34 pm | Action | Comments closed

Trouble Ahead! Detour!
There is little good news to digest in the US.

We are deep in the midst of an epidemiological crisis, with the US leading the world in infections and deaths. The daily totals have grown to 65,000 or more infections and over 1,100 deaths. To give context to the numbers, the total number of US Covid-19 deaths so far this year amounts to over 22% of all the US battle deaths since 1775. In the worst year of the Vietnam War (1968), combat deaths averaged over 1,400 per month. Those monthly totals are surpassed today in a day and a half, with the virus killing the most vulnerable, especially the elderly, African Americans, Latinos y Latinas, and the poor.

The US is losing the war against the coronavirus.

US infections account for as much as one-fourth of all infections globally, an embarrassing number for the supposed wealthiest country in the world, the self-styled beacon of democracy. How can a state claim to be democratic that cannot minimally guarantee the health and safety of its most vulnerable citizens? How can a state lecture, even intervene in other states to bring them the bounty to be won by emulating the US?

If democracy has anything at all to do with delivering the will of the people, then it must answer to the poor US showing against the coronavirus. A robust democracy would deliver a robust public health service, a universal and comprehensive system available to all, and not a broken, overwhelmed, profit-infected, catch-as-catch-can, class-privileged monstrosity. A real democracy would recall the failed career politicians, deny the soulless lobbyists, and sweep away the preening consultants who pollute our political system.


The failed response to the coronavirus is only one aspect of the acute political crisis sweeping the US. With a little over three months to the national election, the two-party circus is reaching new lows. What has been a bi-partisan fiasco in response to the virus, has been politicized into universal finger-pointing. Democrats overlook the disastrous earlier outcomes in New York, much of New England, and now in California, while witlessly blaming Trump. Republicans refuse ownership of the deadly results coming from states suffering Republican governance, while boasting of mindless allegiance to Trump. And President Trump stumbles through contradiction after contradiction, while candidate Biden wins support through reticence, with a shamefully inadequate answer to the coronavirus.

When not blaming each other, the two parties blame The People’s Republic of China (PRC).

With the compliance of the media, the two parties are ginning up a new Cold War hysteria against PRC and Russia unlike any seen since the missile-gap panic of the early 1960s. Trump and Biden are sparring over who can produce the tougher policy against PRC. This senseless conflict can only end in disaster for the world.

It’s increasingly clear that the anti-PRC project reflects the growing consensus among US elites that the PRC economy is dynamic and resilient and the US economy is declining, posing a threat to US global dominance. Nor is it a secret that previously secure ties to international “friends” are fraying. While the UK remains supplicant, Germany, France, and many other allies are reluctant to turn on PRC or Russia, and resent the US’s demands for conformity. A stronger PRC and a weaker US will only accelerate this trend. The US is an empire in decline.

Trump’s previous renegacy– rapprochement with Russia, the DPRK, and PRC, deserting NATO, leaving Syria and Afghanistan, etc.– has been tempered or extinguished by the security services, the military, and the political Old Guard, leaving him an unconventional, conventional politician. Domestically, his tax policies won the allegiance of Wall Street and the super-rich, dispelling the illusion that the ruling class could not live with him, his vulgarity, and his ill-manners.

While it may be understandable that sectors of the working class would have viewed him as representing an alternative to the unfriendly globalist, corporate vision offered by the Democratic Party, that illusion should now be crushed as well. And as his poll numbers shrink, his “wilding”– his erratic behavior– only intensifies. In conventional times, Trump would be a dead fish.

But this is not a conventional time. The Democrats have attributed their past failures to intervention and subversion. The last refuge for a decadent political party is to place the blame elsewhere: Julian Assange, Wikileaks, dirty tricks, RussiaGate, the Chinese, etc. etc. The Democrats have no electoral strategy other than to ridicule and demonize Trump. Their pre-convention set of issues is unremarkable. It will be further diluted when it becomes a platform. And it will be turned into tepid dishwater when it becomes policy, should Biden be elected. This is a pattern repeated election after election, and Democratic Party loyalists learn nothing from it.


Looming over the election like an ominous storm cloud is a US economic crisis of unprecedented potential. Despite the stock market’s seeming independence from any reality, the collapse of employment and economic activity is real.

Just as pundits think they see a flash of light from amongst the billowing clouds, the coronavirus strangles any tentative economic recovery. In the US, the great contradiction of 2020 is between a sinking economy and the deeply ingrained, wide-spread ideology of immediate satisfaction and narrow, individual self-interest that produces and reproduces tens of thousands defying the virus protocols. Decades of voracious, immoderate consumerism and the demagoguery of unqualified, personal rights have produced an allergy to selfless collective action.

But the coronavirus is ideologically biased: it retreats before rational collective action and advances against self-centered, self-serving choices. Thus, the dogma of liberty as action without restraint, reason, or responsibility so widely preached in the US since the country’s birth comes face-to-face with a danger that devours its true believers.

Since the 1980s, finance capital has accounted for a greater and greater share of putative US economic activity. The character of that activity is further and further removed from productive activity and more and more engaged in accumulating and valorizing the chits of future and potential economic activity (speculation). Obviously, the viability of this process rests on thin subjective factors: public confidence. In a moment, economic disruptions can wash away the necessary confidence, resulting in a collapse as occurred in 2000-2001 and 2007-2009. We are there again.

Of course capitalism is resilient. But the disruptions of 2020 are far more dangerous than in the past, unleashing enormous, latent deflationary pressures. As investor and consumer confidence recedes, speculative “values” come into question, further eroding confidence and perceived value. A deflationary spiral ensues. And the tools available to Central Banks and Treasuries are depleted and less effective today.


If there is an encouraging development in the US, it is the remarkable burst of anti-racism activism that has spread from major urban areas to small Midwestern towns.
Impressively, white people in large numbers have joined, even organized these actions which began as outrage at police violence against Black people and enlarged to tackle the systemic racism of US society. This may well be the most significant counter to the crisis of racial justice since the Civil Rights Movement of the last century.

As a result of these actions, US public opinion has undergone a striking shift. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (July 9-12) shows that 56% of the US people “hold the view that American society is racist”!

Significantly, the most popular explanation for US racism with respondents was: “People of color experience discrimination because it is built into our society, including into our policies and institutions.”

In addition, 57% of the people surveyed “totally” support the “protests and demonstrations” that emerged after George Floyd’s murder.

Other significant findings of the survey include:

● 75% of respondents “are encouraged that America is finally addressing long standing issues about racism in our society and working to ensure that all Americans are treated equally.”

● 71% of respondents “feel angry because our political system seems to only be working for the insiders with money and power, like those on Wall Street or in Washington, rather than it working for everyday people to get ahead.” [This number has only slightly changed since 2015].

● 50% of respondents “feel concerned that the protests on racial issues are creating social unrest and bringing too much change to the country, including erasing America’s history and significant figures in the country’s story.”

Arguably, there has never been a time in US history when a majority deemed US society to be racist and supported street action to oppose the injustices associated with racial injustice.

Surely this moment offers great opportunity and should not be wasted.

Fundamental to seizing this moment is clarity about the essence of racism, avoiding false steps, dead ends, and foolishness. Too many of today’s anti-racism warriors scratch away at the margins, confusing language, symbols, and postures with racial inequality. They attack straw men, words, statues, and buildings rather than the many barriers to equality. They fail to grasp that jobs, homes, security, and health are the substance of racial equality, and not the attitudes and interactions that spring from inequality. In the immortal words of the great Nina Simone: “You don’t have to live next to me, just give me my equality.”

Sensitivity training, street drama, and verbal hand-wringing will not remove the burden of low income, the absence of wealth, decaying neighborhoods, poor schools, and inadequate health care. They require political and economic solutions, redistributive solutions. The polls show that the US people are ready for a modern version of “forty acres and a mule,” a dedicated and effective round of economic affirmative action. Are the politicians? The leaders? The pundits?

If this potentially historic moment is not to be lost, it must not be appropriated by Democratic Party politicians bent on using it as a bludgeon against the Republicans and subsequently cast aside. It must not serve as a frivolous expression of youthful rebelliousness, only to offend the forces now supportive of fundamental change.

The interdependence of these four crises— epidemiological, political, economic, and racial– offer a unique opportunity to enact fundamental change in the US. Does anyone believe that either Biden or Trump is up to the task?

The challenge requires a mature, committed, and ideologically sound Left to drive it. It is hard not to disagree with BAR’s Glen Ford: “…the U.S. Left is so weak, it has been unable to put forward a narrative that explains the multiple crises that have been so devastating to the American people, or to even minimally fulfill our obligations in solidarity with victims of U.S. imperialism around the world.”

But that doesn’t change the urgent need to now forge a Left that understands the severity of the crisis, a Left that has a vision beyond capitalism, a Left that has a well formed notion of a socialist future, and a Left that has a proposal on how to get there. That is the job before us.

Greg Godels
What’s Happening?
worker | August 1, 2020 | 6:21 pm | A. Shaw | Comments closed

By A. Shaw and J. Thompson

Healthcare is collapsing.

The economy is collapsing.

The schools are collapsing.

The environment is collapsing.

The top two bourgeoisie leaders – Trump and Pelosi –appear to be irreconcilable.