There is no end to the catastrophes that capitalism inflicts on workers. Covid, climate change, Haiti, and devastating wars to control resources: Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Vietnam, to name a few. After 20 years of US occupation in Afghanistan, the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban has taken power – again. Like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, the US is leaving Afghnistan without maintaining political or economic control. Altogether about 241,000 people, including 71,000 civilians and over 2400 American soldiers were killed from 2001-2021 and $2 trillion was spent by the US, to no avail.
Now the Taliban are back and, based on prior behavior, will install a sharia state of orthodox Islamic practices, from the relatively benign mandate of beards for men to the horrendous rules forbidding education and employment for women and girls. They punished enemies with beheadings, stonings, rapes, and imprisonment. However, to many Afghans they represent relief from the rampant corruption of the American supported government and military and from US drone attacks that killed and injured thousands indiscriminately. Primarily urban women and girls, who benefited from years of education, employment, and health care, will again be subject to the sharia practices of seclusion, burqas, and constant supervision by male relatives. Many Afghanis anticipate arrest, torture, and death because they have opposed the Taliban ideologically or cooperated with the US or the deposed government.
Haitian communists in the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) let us know how they are affected and helping at the earthquake’s epicenter. Translated from French original.
8:30 in the morning, the sun is struggling to rise as the country’s problems pile up: Corona virus, five million starving, no functional institutions, no government. Haiti is in a coma.
8:31 am the earth began to shake like it did a little more than a decade ago. The departments of the South, Nippes and Grand-Anse are the most affected. The numbers are mounting of dead, wounded and especially displaced.
Edgar Snow, widely known for his portrayal of the Chinese Communist Revolution, Red Star Over China, also chronicled conditions in the Soviet Union in late 1944 to early 1945. Although not a communist, Snow looked at the struggles to create a communist society with an honest and appreciative eye. In The Pattern of Soviet Power completed in April, 1945, Snow described conditions in the USSR and policies and plans of the Communist Party.
Although the massacre in Gaza has halted as of May 21, there are no victors – – only 258 killed and thousands of maimed and displaced Palestinians and 13 dead Israeli workers. Around the world and in the Occupied Territories, there is an upsurge in the endless anger at the cruel and illegal Israeli occupation. Predominantly there are calls for Palestinian liberation and self-determination.
UPDATE, May 21, 2021. Under pressure from immigration justice activists, Biden granted Temporary Protective Status, TPS, to Haitian asylum seekers who are in the United States by May 21, affecting 100,000 Haitians. Citing the political instability and violent uprisings in Haiti, the Administration reversed Trump’s denial of TPS. Could it be that it fears growing rebellion that could threaten the US’ exploitation of Haitian workers?
Since enslaved Haitian people abolished slavery in 1804, the imperialist nations, primarily the US, have attacked its economy and installed its presidents. They used Haiti as a cash cow, extorting reparations and interest payments on loans. From the beginning of Haiti’s liberation, France demanded reparations of $21 billion dollars in 2004 currency. The US CitiBank assumed the debt in 1911 in order to receive interest payments that Haiti repaid by 1947.
US troops occupied Haiti from 1915-1934 and supported the vicious governments of the Duvaliers under Papa Doc and Baby Doc. Reagan refused admission of Haitians to the US under the false assumption that they were likely to have HIV. US administrations overthrew the Aristide presidency. Clinton forced rice producing Haiti to import US rice, wiping out its rice farmers who then migrated to overcrowded cities where jobs were scarce. He established enterprise zones where foreign or international textile corporations employed Haitian workers, mostly women, who they grossly exploited with non-living wages and sexual intimidation under the guise of providing jobs. (See the article on migration here, Migration: A Reflection of Capitalism – The Multiracial Unity Blog).
The 2010 earthquake destroyed even more infrastructure that was weak to begin with. Over 300,000 people died, and survivors were forced into miserable refugee camps where little medical care or sanitation existed. Yet, tens of millions of dollars filled the coffers of NGOs who rushed their contractors to help Haiti rebuild. Known as the land of the NGOs, Haitian workers rarely if ever benefit from their programs. Organizations as revered as CARE were found to hoard the food sent to Haiti. The United Nations reported that NGOs and governments distributed only 43% of the promised $4.6 billion in aid for rebuilding. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a liberal economic think tank founded by Dean Baker, reports the discrepancies in the promises of foreign aid and its reality (Haiti by the Numbers, Haiti by the Numbers, Ten Years Later – Center for Economic and Policy Research (cepr.net):
May Day, May 1, a day celebrated by workers around the world for 130 years. What many don’t know is that it all began right here in the US, in Chicago, in 1886. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) passed a resolution in 1884 to decrease the 10-16 hour workday to 8 hours. By May 1, 1886, over a quarter of a million workers became involved in this campaign, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialist Labor Party and the Knights of Labor. Much of the leadership of these organizations was made up of socialists and anarchists, so there was also a consciousness of the evils of capitalism and the limits of the 8 hour demand.
Nothing demonstrates, nothing verifies the chasms of race, power and wealth in this world better than the differential rates at which the rulers of wealthy countries are distributing Covid-19 vaccines. On March 10, protestors demonstrated at Pfizer and Moderna headquarters in New York City, Boston, London, South Africa and other places to demand equitable availability of vaccines around the globe. As of that date, 130 countries had not received a single dose of vaccine, and many are not on track to be fully vaccinated before 2024. In order to attain herd immunity for the approximately 7.8 billion people in the world, 11 billion doses are needed to give 70% of adults two shots. According to Duke’s Global Health Innovation Center, high income countries, which represent one-fifth of the world’s population, possess six billion doses, but poor countries representing four-fifths of the population have only 2.6 billion. This figure includes the 1.1 billion doses under COVAX, the international plan to vaccinate in poor nations.
Burma or Myanmar? Neither name connotes any progressive political position. Burma is what the British colonialists called their territory. The military victors in a 1989 coup changed the country’s name to Myanmar. Many local opposition groups prefer Burma, so we’ll go with that.
Every day the news from Burma grows more shocking. The military leaders of the February coup are shooting at and killing large numbers of peaceful demonstrators, at least 51 over the March 13-14th weekend alone. Over 1800 protestors have been arrested. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands continue to protest the military seizure of power, reflecting hatred of the many brutal military regimes during recent Burmese history. A general strike was called on March 8, demanding a return to democracy. Even several hundred police have resigned rather than fire on their own people; youth have set up self-defense committees.
The largest strike in history, a truly awe-inspiring struggle, has been underway in India since September 2020. Over 250 million farmers and other workers from finance, transport, steel, energy and power, health care, communications, ports and docks have participated in this ongoing uprising(1). It is a response to policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that aim to increase the control of private corporations over the Indian economy and decrease the income and rights of workers. Where, we must ask, will this struggle lead?
In many respects the early decades of the last century resembled our own disordered and perhaps calamitous moment, though the differences between the two periods were equally apparent. In the two decades between the two world wars, fascism was on the rise, particularly in Western Europe, notably in Italy, Spain, and Germany and, in the East, China and Japan. Benito Mussolini, the head of the Italian National Fascist Party, became Prime Minister in 1922. In the decade before Hitler became the Chancellor in January, 1933, post-war Germany was roiling with street battles between fascists belonging to roughly thirty different parties and at least eight left-wing parties, most significantly the KPD (the pro-Soviet German Communist Party) and various factions of the Social Democratic Party.