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Praxisbeispiele sozial verantwortlicher IT-Beschaffung

WEED - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 23:00
12.12.2017:
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Positionspapier: Steuerflucht - Die internationale und europäische Dimension

WEED - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 22:00
16.06.2017: WEED-Referent Markus Henn beschreibt in dem Papier für die Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung den Stand der Bekämpfung von Steuerhinterziehung und Steuervermeidung.
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Gipfel für globale Solidarität - In Hamburg Nachhaltigkeit konsequent gestalten.

WEED - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 22:00
14.06.2017: 5. & 6. Juli 2017: Wie überwinden wir Armut, Ausbeutung, Unterdrückung, Krieg sowie die Zerstörung der Natur? Wie können wir soziale und demokratische Rechte global durchsetzen? Wie bekämpfen wir Rassismus, Frauenfeindlichkeit und Homophobie? Mit internationalen Vertretern aus Politik, Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft.
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The G20's Compact with Africa: Some demaging initiatives for sustainable developement

WEED - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 22:00
08.06.2017: 8 June 2017 - Comment by the C20 Finance Working Group (2nd revised version)
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François Houtart Has Passed Away

Alternatives International - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 13:36

François Houtart has passed away. He founded CETRI (Centre Tricontinental) in 1976 and was its director till 2004. We are sadly, painfully mourning. From ‘third-worldism' to alter-globalism, from liberation theology to the ecology of creation, François Houtart has been and will always remain an important thinker in favour of the emancipation of peoples. He was a reference, a voice and a heart for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, more particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, from heads of State to the most humble of landless peasants.

Better than any list of all his work, his articles, his speeches, his lectures and conferences, his trips, his qualifications, rewards and recognitions, François Houtart is best remembered for his personal qualities. Most of all, his stubbornness, his energy and his availability.

He stubbornly and systematically was on the side of the oppressed, the alienated, the marginalized. He scientifically and politically shed light on the mechanisms of domination, denouncing them and promoting alternatives for an environment-friendly egalitarian social organisation.

His never flinching energy, his untiring enthusiasm were characteristic. It is an understatement to say he never stopped working, he never counted the hours. Never ever did he stop acting, till just a couple of hours before the end … for the very first time.

His availability was endless, his accessibility proverbial. Never disturbed, always ready to welcome, to listen, to speak, to commit himself in some new initiative, in a new fight for more justice.

François also was the – sociological – conscience of the pregnancy of social relationships, of social determinants which made him humble and lucid concerning his own trajectory. ‘If I were born in a poor family in India, Mali or Nicaragua, I would never have had the social, cultural, symbolic resources that paved my way'. This is what he said to those who were close to him, at an anniversary some years ago. Yet, the choice was his, better than anyone else he chose the way of condemning injustice and promoting the liberation of the oppressed.

Bernard Duterme, director of CETRI

Dear François,

I thought you were immortal, indestructible. I saw you already at one hundred years old, this is what I hoped, and I was sure it would come true. It took me several hours and several messages of confirmation to really believe you passed away. Qué pena ! Your immense light of hope for the world was dimmed. For me, you have been the most human of human beings I ever knew. No one will ever convince me that you did not die of exhaustion. You were fighting and spending all your energy to relieve the misery of others, to protect the damned of the earth from the cruelty and the egoism of their likes. Always listening, always working, always in solidarity with the oppressed, in all corners of the world. Your commitment has been for half a century the example that I obviously was never able to follow, though it has always inspired me and given me courage. I thank you for this and I promise I will always follow the road you have shown us, as best as I can, for the time allotted to me before I will join you.

Guy Bajoit, president of CETRI

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Three Years Down the Lane, Has the Modi Government Taken the Citizens For a Ride?

Alternatives International - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 13:35

On May 26, 2017, the Modi Government completed three years in office. Various programmes such as the Modi fest were organised at various places and there are plans to celebrate them in different cities across the country. The underlying message of these programmes is that Modi government has done remarkable work and the country is moving towards prosperity for all. Modi has been labelled as ‘Garibon ka Masiha' (Prophet for poor) by his acolytes. Many channels and commentators gave him excellent grade citing various achievements.

As such, what has happened during last three years? Precisely, there has been centralisation of power in the hands of the Prime Minister. It seems the cabinet system has been given a go by.

Modi mirage and the politics of disillusion

To begin with, one does concede that this regime scores extremely high in image creation. It has been able to sell damaging moves like demonetisation as something good for the country. While a majority of the people are living under the illusion propagated by the government and its promotion by the subservient media, the situation on ground is degrading in the cases of production, prices of daily commodities, number of jobs created and the average standard of living.

The healthcare system has taken a further beating. Farmer suicides have gone up. Protest against anti-farmer policies by peasants from Tamil Nadu has been underplayed like most of the protests in the country.

Shift from black money to the Holy Cow

The fate of electoral promises is well reflected in non-fulfillment of the promise of deposition of 15 lakh INR in accounts of all and in absolute failure of job creation. After using Ram Temple issue for polarisation, now the Holy Cow has been brought into the arena of politics. This cow worship has led to the violent lynching of Muslims and Dalits. The cow-protection policies of the government have emboldened vigilantism and killings in the name of ‘gauraksha'. While those guilty of crime are let off, the victims have been penalised on several grounds.

Failures in the garb of achievement

The social scene is dominated by illusory promises and issues related to identity. One recalls that in the UPA regime, the propaganda was much less and the major issues to be debated were related to the rights of the people to have food, education, healthcare and employment.

Currently, a false bravado permeates the air. One surgical strike is touted to be the achievement of the Government, while regular skirmishes are going on at the border with serious casualties to the army men. The Kashmir policy has created a situation where not only the disgruntled boys but even girl students have taken to the streets, pelting stones. The anguish of Kashmiris remains unattended, while the failure to establish dialogue with Pakistan is aggravating the situation.

Redefining patriotism: The rise of Hindutva

In matters of political orientation, Hindutva is the overarching concern. Most glaring intrusions of ideological nature are in the field of education. The autonomy of Universities has been gradually taken away and the culture of erosion is dominating the field of academia. The new slogan is to revive the ‘traditional faith' as ‘knowledge' and to treat the mythology as history and to accord the status of science to the age-old empirical knowledge. Here, the traditional knowledge is cherry-picked which is elite or Brahmanical one, like the promotion of the Gita, Sanskrit and everything that is Hindu.

From among all sections of people who contribute to the well-being of society, the military has been given the exalted status of saviour of the country, while the food producers and other sections providing service to the nation have been marginalised. In the times of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the slogan was ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan' (Hail the army man, hail the farmer). Now, the farmer has been dropped.

The dawn of realisation

The overall democratic space has been stifled, with a large section of the media bowing to the ruling government and taking to task the Opposition. The media has given up its role of being the watchdog of the Government and the proverbial fourth pillar of any democracy. This trend of intolerance which began with murders of Narendra Dabholkar, who was a crusader against superstition, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi, has reached its zenith.

Favourable public opinion, in spite of all these failures on the part of the government, signifies how a propaganda can create an illusion of well-being. Nonetheless, the dissatisfaction of the people is rising. During the last three years, one has witnessed major uprisings against policies of the Modi Government.

While the mobilisation of farmers has forced the government to withdraw the Land Reforms Bill, the agitation by Kanhaiya Kumar, the protests in Ramjas College, Hyderabad University and the resentment in Una tell us that the goodwill of the Modi government is in retrograde motion. While Hindutva forces are becoming more assertive, these campaigns and movements raise our hope for a plural and liberal society based on values of the Indian Constitution.

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EU: Konfliktmineralien-Verordnung tritt in Kraft - Breites Bündnis der Zivilgesellschaft fordert Nachbesserungen

WEED - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 22:00
07.06.2017: Fast vier Jahre nach der politischen Ankündigung durch den damaligen EU-Handelsminister Karel de Gucht tritt am morgigen Donnerstag die Konfliktmineralien-Regulierung der Europäischen Union (EU) in Kraft.
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‘To Live or to Perish' — Norman Finkelstein on the Six-Day-War and its Mythology

Alternatives International - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 16:18

On May 2, James North and Phil Weiss talked with Norman Finkelstein in his Brooklyn home about the Six Day War, its history, its mythology and its impact on US Jewish life. Finkelstein then revised the transcript of that conversation.

Weiss: How important was the Six-Day War in your neighborhood when you were a kid?

Norman Finkelstein (NF): I was in 8th grade. My social studies teacher, Josh Abramson, was a religious Jew. I remember in the schoolyard—I can see the scene in my mind's eye—he had transistor radio to his ear. He was visibly worried about Israel's fate. It seems a lot of Jews worried. I recently read Professor Chomsky's reminiscences. He and his friends in Cambridge also feared the worst.

But it came, they won, it went.

It was the era of the Vietnam War and Black Power. Go back and look at the topical television programs. Laugh In, The Smothers Brothers, All in the Family. Israel never comes up.

It's historical revisionism that Israel figured prominently in Jewish life back then. When you say someone in ‘67 was a “Zionist”—well, Zionism, it wasn't an issue. There were a handful of idealistic young people, the Bernie Sanders type, who had romantic ideas of socialism, kibbutzim.

But folks like Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer—Schumer attended my high school, a few years ahead of me—wanting to experience the hard life? You've got to be kidding! Schumer was the son of an exterminator. The last thing he wanted to experience was a gritty life! He once said that his father “hated his job” and he was determined not to end up like his father. Schumer was his class valedictorian. He got a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT, a rare feat in those days. He was out to conquer the upper reaches and inner sanctums of American power, not sing Kumbaya on some kibbutz in a backwater.

Weiss: My mother's best friend, Golda Werman was born in Berlin in 1930. She and her husband moved from Bloomington to Jerusalem in 1968. My cluster may not be meaningful, but there were people for whom this was very important. Bernie Avishai, MJ Rosenberg—they were called by that, their lives changed.

NF: I, too, remember some classmates who did “aliya.” But I had in mind the top tier in my school, the soon-to-be movers and shakers.

North: In ‘71, ‘72, Chuck [whom North knew] would turn it around to Israel. I would say to Chuck, I admire Ho Chi Minh. Who do you admire? I'd have to think. No American politicians. Certainly David Ben-Gurion. But you're entirely right, he wasn't going to move there.

Weiss: What about your family?

NF: My eldest brother lived in Israel for a short while. He was there during the 1973 war. He was a bit of a loner. He went there in search of family. When he returned we argued bitterly. But he later turned against Israel with a vengeance. I suppose it was a feeling of betrayal, as the truth slowly sunk in. Now he makes me look like Alan Dershowitz.

My parents perceived the whole world through the prism of the Nazi holocaust. The Red Army defeated the Nazis, so the Russians could do not wrong. A Jew who didn't support the Soviet Union was a sellout and traitor. Those were the epithets they used. You can laugh, but for my parents it wasn't a laughing matter.

Israel Gutman was a director of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. My father knew Gutman in Auschwitz. They were on the Auschwitz Death March together, and then in the same Displaced People (DP) camp in Linz, Austria. They both belonged to Hashomer Hatzair, the Zionist youth movement that was pro-Soviet at the time. They were very close. Gutman eventually became—via revelation or prudence—very anti-Soviet. My father lost all respect for him. As far as my father was concerned, he was just another sellout and traitor.

My parents were, as my mother used to put it, the real McCoys. Starting in the 1970s, everyone who had immigrated from Europe after the war pretended to be a Holocaust survivor. Well, my parents were Holocaust survivors.

Every member of my family was exterminated on both sides. No grandparents, aunts, uncles. [He gestures to pictures on his wall.] That was my mother's father. My mother's mother. Her two sisters and her brother. If I can point to these pictures, it's because my mother had an aunt in the US, so before the war my mother's mother had sent over the pictures.

No pictures survived of my father's family. My mother once glimpsed from afar my father's sister in Majdanek before she was killed. Every so often during their marriage, my father would suddenly stand solemn, erect, pensive, as he pled with my mother, “Tell me what she looked like.”

When the Holocaust industry started up in the ‘7os, authentic survivors were in high demand. My parents were not indifferent to money—I'm not going to idealize them—they would not sneer at the opportunity to make a buck. My mother was a witness at a trial of Nazi concentration camp guards from Majdanek in 1979. The survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, several tens of thousands, including my parents, were deported to Majdanek. My mother was going to testify but—I'm not happy to admit this—at one point she wanted the German government to compensate her. I found that really wrong. I'm saying this in the context of, my parents could have cashed in on the Holocaust. Like Elie Wiesel, who was both a mountebank and consummate Holocaust entrepreneur. He accumulated tens of millions of dollars playing the role of a Holocaust survivor.

But the Holocaust industry only let survivors bear witness if they denounced the Soviet Union. The campaign to “Free Soviet Jewry” was in high gear—the Jackson-Vanik amendment, etc. As much as they liked money, there was no way on god's earth my parents would ever utter a single word critical of the Soviet Union. So they were never asked to speak.

I've always respected their fidelity. They loved Stalin even as the Communist Party blushed at his legacy. My mother was very smart. She knew many languages including Latin—to the end of her life she devoured books at a pace that bewildered the local librarian and she effortlessly summoned forth a better vocabulary than my own—was president of her high school class, and went on to study mathematics at Warsaw University. But she refused even to acknowledge that Stalin killed Trotsky. “It was the CIA.” Well, there was no CIA then.

You might call it fanaticism, but at bottom it was faithfulness: however unpopular it might be, you don't betray a friend. They might have been wrong, but my parents weren't up for sale. They despised Israel when it aligned with the US in the Cold War at the time of the Korean war. Up until Korea, it was still touch and go. It was unclear which way Israel was going to lean. Mapam, the second largest Israeli political party, was blindly pro-Soviet. It even supported Stalin during the 1953 Doctors' Plot.

My mother also couldn't fathom the Israeli psyche. She couldn't see anything redemptive in military service or war. She used to say, “Better 100 years of evolution than one year of revolution.” War was the ultimate horror. But Israel was a modern-day Sparta. After '67, Moshe Dayan came to embody this martial spirit. They reveled in death, killing.

North: Speaking of Moshe Dayan, if you could put blame on a single Israeli for what happened in ‘67, would you choose anyone?

NF: I wouldn't choose any single person. It was a collective decision. You can't understand ‘67 unless you remember that only a decade elapsed between it and Israel's forced withdrawal from the Egyptian Sinai in '57 after the Israeli invasion in '56. Israel first tried in '56 to knock out Egyptian president Nasser, and also to conquer the Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank. It turned out to be the dress rehearsal for ‘67.

Except in '67, Israeli leaders were divided on whether to attack without a green light from Washington. Prime Minister Eshkol didn't want to risk a repeat of '57, when President Eisenhower forced Israel to withdraw from the Sinai. Herein was the critical factor that separated so-called doves like Eshkol from the militants generals in ‘67. Eshkol wanted to ascertain that Washington would not pull the rug from under their feet.

North: They learned the hard way in '56.

NF: Yes. But once the US in effect gave Israel the green (or amber) light at the end of May and early June, Israel did a repeat performance of ‘56. Its primary goal was to neuter Nasser, to deliver a deathblow to these uppity Arabs and finish off what was called radical Arab nationalism.

Their secondary goal was to conquer the lands they had coveted but didn't manage to seize in '48: East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan. Tom Segev's book, 1967, is not great, but it does copiously document Israel's expansionist territorial aims on the eve of ‘67.

It also makes clear that Israel had already resolved at the end of May to conquer the West Bank even if Jordan stayed out of the war. The notion that Israel didn't covet the West Bank and even warned King Hussein not to enter the war so as to avoid a conflict with it—it's hogwash. King Hussein feared that Jordan would be isolated and an easy prey once Israel knocked out Egypt. He figured, rightly, that Israel was going to attack the Kingdom anyway, so better to join in while the Arabs still had a fighting chance of stopping Israel.

North: No one under 60 will have a grasp of the prominence and importance of Nasser, both within the so-called Arab world and in Israel, as well as the world at large. He's still the most famous Arab leader (though Saddam Hussein maybe kind of caught up with him).

NF: It was the era of the Nonaligned Movement. Of high hopes and expectations as the former European colonies gained independence after World War II. The heads of these newly independent states convened at the Bandung conference in 1955. The leading and representative figures at Bandung were Nasser, Tito, and Nehru.

North: Nasser gave a monthly speech, and every radio from Casablanca to Baghdad was tuned in.

NF: Yes. He was a galvanizing, mesmerizing, orator, who tapped into popular aspirations for a better, more dignified life. Washington had mixed feelings. It feared that he would overthrow the corrupt elites in thrall to the West, in particular, the Saudis. Nasser and the Saudis were fighting a protracted proxy war in Yemen just before '67.

But the US also hoped it could buy off Nasser and rein him in. Until the Kennedy administration. JFK finally despaired of trying to bribe him: he was proving too independent, intractable, unpredictable. In a sharp reversal of policy, it sold Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel.

Incidentally, '67 doesn't sit easily with the “tail wagging the dog” thesis—that the Israel lobby imposes on Washington a foreign policy alien to American national interests. What you see right on the eve of the ‘67 war is this: Walt Rostow, a key national security advisor to President Johnson, says “radical Arab nationalism represented by Nasser . . . is waning.” It just needs to be ministered one knockout blow. Rostow was prescient. It was a castle built on sand. In the last analysis, Nasser was a blowhard.

The Israelis got what they wanted in ‘67, but so did Washington. They both wanted Nasser done in.

Weiss: Why wasn't that a US interest in ‘56 too?

NF: In fact, ‘56 was not an exception. Eisenhower and his influential Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, both loathed Nasser. They just didn't think the timing was right for an armed attack, the moment wasn't yet ripe. Dulles was very conflicted once the British-French-Israeli invasion got underway. “The British, having gone in, should not have stopped,” Dulles told Eisenhower, “until they had toppled Nasser.”

So-called Arabists hold up Eisenhower as a model to be emulated. But he wanted to dispose of Nasser just as much as anyone else.

Even as things begin to shift under Kennedy, the real break comes after the ‘67 war. The US now sees Israel is a first-class fighting force—a “strategic asset”—that could protect its critical regional interests, while the radical Arab nationalist bubble has burst, the Arabs lay prostrate, they no longer need be taken into account.

North: What's your take on historians who allege Israel had no aggressive designs in 1967 and there was a lot of confusion and conflict among its leadership?

NF: Yes, there was some confusion and conflict. But there was a lot more unity of purpose. They all agreed on exploiting the opportunity of war to expand Israel's borders, but some disagreement did exist on which territories to conquer and in what sequence.

The sort of history you allude to is based mostly on self-serving interviews and memoirs, and statements made for public consumption. It's not serious scholarship. You might not like Benny Morris, but it's undeniable that, until recently, he's done solid if tendentious research.

It's telling that Morris suspends his archival history before the 1967 war. In my opinion—I can't prove it, it's only a hunch—it's because 1948 is, politically, a dead issue. As former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami shrewdly observed in Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, the salient outcome of the ‘67 war was it legitimized the borders that Israel conquered in ‘48. That is to say, after the ‘67 war, the Arabs had no choice except to recognize Israel as a state in its pre-‘67 borders.

So ‘48 was now a dead issue. Israel won '48 in ‘67. The only open question from '48 was the Palestinian refugees. But after '67 it starts being finessed as a “just” resolution of the refugee question “based on” the right of return and compensation.

Why did Benny Morris stop his myth-shattering history at the Sinai invasion? In my opinion, he recoiled at doing to ‘67 what he did to '48 and ‘56, because ‘67 is not a dead issue. The crucial result of ‘67 is the occupation. That's not a dead issue, it's a very live issue.

If Morris had written a true history of the '67 war based on the available documentary record, he would willy-nilly have to puncture a lot of sacred, propagandistic myths, just like he did in his account of '48 and '56.

North: So he preferred not to do it at all?

NF: Yes. Morris, the loyal citizen, recoiled at the prospect of such a scholarly undertaking because every commonplace about ‘67 is either a half-truth or an outright lie. The full truth casts Israel in a harsh light.

The countdown to June ‘67 begins with a dogfight over Syria in April. The Israeli air force downed several Syrian planes, one over Damascus. Who provoked it? We know the answer because Dayan himself later admitted it. Israel would dispatch bulldozers into the demilitarized zones (DMZs) along the Israeli-Syrian border to seize Arab-owned land. These repeated Israeli land grabs provoked Syrian retaliation. What happened in April was just one more in a long series of such Israeli provocations.

Every official history then goes on to say, the Kremlin falsely conveyed to the Arabs that Israel was readying an attack on Syria. But was the Soviet warning false?

North: No, it was accurate.

NF: Yes. The Israelis were going to attack. It's uncertain how big an attack, but there almost certainly was going to be an assault on Syria. The Israeli cabinet had taken a decision.

The best scholarly study on ‘67—it's rarely cited—is by the mainstream Israeli historian Ami Gluska, The Israeli Military and the Origins of the 1967 War. He confirms the Israeli cabinet decision. He says, “The Soviet assessment from mid-May 1967 that Israel was about to strike at Syria was correct and well founded.”

Nasser had a defense pact with Syria, so he was obliged to support it militarily.

He repositioned Egyptian troops in the Sinai and told UN Secretary-General U Thant to remove the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) separating Egypt from Israel, which U Thant proceeded to do. U Thant was widely condemned for acquiescing in Nasser's request, but the fact is, U Thant legally had no choice, he acted properly. It was within Nasser's sovereign right to order UNEF's removal. The UN peacekeeping force was stationed on Egypt's side of the border by agreement, and Nasser had the right to rescind the agreement.

Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously quipped—he was very clever, very witty—“What's the point of a fire engine if it's removed immediately as there's a fire?” That's all very funny except for one thing: the original agreement in 1957 was that UNEF was supposed to be stationed—

North: Fire engines on both sides of the Egyptian-Israeli border.

NF: Yes, on both sides. But Israel at the time refused. If it feared an Egyptian attack in ‘67, and believed UNEF was a deterrent, Israel could've redeployed this peacekeeping force on its side of the border….

After Egyptian troops entered Sinai and UNEF was removed, Nasser announced he was closing the Straits of Tiran. Israel officially declared this act to be a casus belli. In fact, legally, it wasn't. But the bigger point is, Nasser didn't really close the Straits. The closure lasted just a few days. I once talked to the guy who was head of UNEF—

North: Do you mean the Norwegian Odd Bull? A perfect name for a guy, I remember thinking at the time.

NF: No, Bull was chief of staff of UN forces in the Middle East. I spoke with Indar Jit Rikhye, who headed up UNEF. Laughing, he told me, “I personally flew over there, the Straits weren't closed.”

North: I remember at the time, I was 15 years old, I remember thinking, well, they're going to choke off Israel. Then I read your research that only 5 percent of their imports came through that port.

NF: The one critical Israeli import via the Straits was oil. But Israel had ample supplies, enough to last several months. Nasser then said, Let's take it to the International Court of Justice. In fact, right of passage in the Straits posed complex, unresolved legal questions. But Israel balked at adjudication by the Court.

[He grabs a book off his shelf]

Here's the ‘67 volume from the Foreign Relations of the United States series published by the US State Department. The volume's editors did not say the Straits were blockaded. They were very cautious as they referred to Egypt's “purported closing” of the Straits….

Every serious historian agrees, Nasser didn't intend to attack. There's some dispute whether Egypt's powerful defense minister was planning a preemptive strike, Operation Dawn, at the end of May. The legend continues, Nasser nixed it at the last moment. Anyhow, it's irrelevant. In the week immediately preceding Israel's first strike, Egypt wasn't going to attack, and Israeli leaders knew it.

In early June, Israeli major-general Meir Amit, who headed the Mossad, came to Washington. Israel was dispatching many emissaries to feel out how the US would react in the event it attacked. Amit told senior American officials on June 1 that “there were no differences between the US and the Israelis on the military intelligence picture or its interpretation.”

The key findings of multiple US intelligence agencies were, #1, Nasser was not going to attack—

North: And #2, Israel will trounce him if he did attack.

NF: Exactly. President Johnson told Israelis at the end of May, “our best judgment is that no military attack on Israel is imminent,” and even if, against all odds, the neighboring Arab states did attack, “you will whip the hell out of them.” Amit confirmed on his early June trip to Washington that Israeli intelligence was in full agreement.

North: Meanwhile I was watching TV: Will Israel survive? And the rabbis are getting all whipped up.

NF: The Israeli people and American Jews, they were scared. But not the leadership. In his biography of Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad, the historian Patrick Seale titled his chapter on the ‘67 war, The Six-Day Walkover. That's what it was, a walkover.

In fact, the war did not last six days; it lasted closer to six minutes. Once Israeli planes in a surprise blitzkrieg knocked out the Egyptian air force still parked on the ground, the war was over. Rostow later called it a “turkey shoot.” If the war lasted longer, it was only because Israel wanted to conquer the Egyptian Sinai, the Jordanian West Bank, and the Syrian Golan Heights.

The official story is, Israel attacked Syria because it was shelling Israel below from the Heights, and because of Palestinian commando raids sponsored by it. But if Syria occasionally shelled Israel from the Golan and backed the commando raids, it was in retaliation for the Israeli land-grabs in the DMZs.

Incidentally, the Palestinian commando raids were pretty much a joke. Head of Israeli military intelligence Yehoshaphat Harkabi assessed them after the war as “not impressive by any standard.”

The PLO touted hundreds of successful commando operations, but among themselves Palestinians used to laugh that every time a car crashed in Tel Aviv, this or that PLO faction would take credit. When Yasir Arafat's wife Suha became pregnant, the joke was, four Palestinian factions claimed responsibility. In any event, it's clear Israel conquered the Golan because it coveted the headwaters of the Jordan and the valuable agricultural land.

The major impetus behind Israel's attack in 1967 was to restore its “deterrence capacity”—i.e. the Arab world's fear of it.

North: You can't let Nasser get away with closing the Straits, even if he didn't close them.

NF: Exactly. Nasser was whipping up the so-called Arab street into a frenzy. When Nasser declared the Straits closed, he crossed an Israeli red line. It was the point of no return. Israeli general Ariel Sharon warned the cabinet that Israel was losing its “deterrence capability . . . our main weapon—the fear of us.”

Weiss: Why did Jews call Nasser the momser?

NF: In the West he was dubbed Hitler on the Nile.

Weiss: But why?

NF: I alluded to it before, it was the heady, postwar era of anti-imperialism, Third Worldism. Nasser was an emblematic figure. Of course, it all ended in disaster. I cannot think of anything good that came of it. As my friend, the Marxist economist Paul Sweezy, used to say, “Alas, for illusions.”

North: Nasser brought Nazi scientists to Egypt.

NF: Yes, Egypt purchased the services of Nazi scientists. So did the US and the Soviet Union. Everyone was recruiting them. When it came to mass killing, they knew their trade.

Weiss: But cartoons in the Arab press, Damascus, Cairo, showed Jews being pushed into the sea. In advance of the war.

NF: Yeah, the head of the PLO, Ahmed Shukeiri, gave idiotic speeches threatening to annihilate Israel.

Weiss: This is not meaningless.

NF: No, but Israeli leaders knew it was just bluster. They weren't deceived, fearful. The Israeli “panic” was all theater. Eban, over at the UN, was the stage manager and scriptwriter. He titled the chapter of his memoir on ‘67, “To live or perish.” A nice touch. He once observed, “Propaganda is the art of persuading others of what you do not necessarily believe yourself.” Eban was a virtuoso in the propagandist's craft.

Weiss: What did the cartoons reflect? It was folk, popular sentiment?

NF: Yes. But you have to look at the historical context. In his illuminating study Israel's Border Wars, Benny Morris shows that, upon attaining power in 1952, Nasser didn't want to go to war with Israel. He was a nationalist. He wanted to modernize Egypt. According to Morris, it was Israel—in particular, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and Dayan—that started to plot and provoke in the early 1950s. They dreaded the prospect of an Egypt that wasn't backward. They wouldn't brook a modern Egypt.

North: But you were saying that the propaganda, the war fever, spread to the Israeli public. When he answered the call up, Yossi Israel was genuinely afraid he was going to be pushed into the sea.

NF: Definitely.

North: So the leadership was culpable.

NF: It figured the Israeli people would give their all if they felt their backs were up against the wall. The leaders were culpable twice over: they provoked the crisis and then launched an unprovoked attack.

On the other hand, it cannot be said that the lead-up—at any rate, up until Nasser declared the Straits closed—was a precalculated, precalibrated prelude to the final showdown. The situation kept escalating, although at every point Israel could have put on the brakes. It could have repositioned UNEF on its side of the border, it could have gone to the ICJ on the Straits. U Thant delineated in his memoir numerous opportunities to defuse the crisis that Israel passed up.

North: Can you think off the top of your head of a relatively recent historical event in which the popular understanding is so different from the historians' consensus. Anything equivalent to ‘67 discrepancies?

NF: In the case of Vietnam, popular understanding eventually caught up with the scholarly one on many (but not all) critical points. We had teach-ins, alternative media, activist scholars, skillful popularizers, it was a real movement. But Israeli propaganda has been remarkably resilient on ‘67. In the public imagination, it's still “to live or perish.”

Weiss: To this day?

NF: Yep. My guess is, the 50th anniversary retrospectives will repeat the same tired story-line: the Soviets falsely claimed that Israel was planning an attack, Nasser closed the Straits strangulating Israel, Israel faced an existential threat when it attacked, Israel didn't want to conquer the West Bank, etc. etc. It's so painfully predictable.

Weiss: The New York Times will do that?

NF: It's doubtful anyone on the Times' editorial board has a clue what really happened. It's completely buried in an avalanche of Israeli propaganda.

North: Do you consider Michael Oren's book on '67 serious?

NF: No, it's worthless.

There's a very good scholar named Nathan Brown, he's at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I once attended a conference where I delivered a scathing assessment of Oren's book. Brown, who knew Oren personally, was also in attendance. After I presented, Brown commented, “I read your paper. I agree with a lot of what you say. Oren does go off the rails when he starts talking about Operation Dawn. But why are you so belligerent, why the hostile tone?”

“Because it's not scholarship,” I replied. “It's state propaganda.” This was before Oren became an official Israeli apparatchik. He was still wearing his historian's cap. “Had he been a serious historian, I would have adopted a different tone.”

Many years ago I dissected Benny Morris's seminal study on the Palestinian refugees. True, I was very critical, but I was also respectful. Oren, however, wasn't deserving of respect; he's always been a hack, and a liar. Once Oren outed himself as he became Netanyahu's official mouthpiece, I felt retrospectively vindicated in that exchange with Brown.

Weiss: What about the idea that strategically, this was Israel's biggest mistake? It got the occupation, which is delegitimizing Israel.

North: Well, it's worked for 50 years.

NF: I agree with James. I once attended the funeral of a former member of the Weather Underground. She had been released early as she was dying of cancer. When she and another woman were arrested, they were locked up in adjacent cells. The other woman was bawling. The woman whose funeral I attended shouted through the wall, “Knock it off! We had a great revolutionary run!”

They set off firecrackers in a couple of post offices. “We had a great revolutionary run!” Alas, for delusions.

But as James says, 50 years isn't a bad run.

To judge by the goals it set, Israel's first strike was a stunning success. Did it dispose of Nasser? Yes. Did it bury radical Arab nationalism? Yes. Did it inflict a deep wound on the Arab world? Yes.

North: And it has successfully maintained the occupation.

NF: Yes. The only thing Israel didn't anticipate was that radical Arab nationalism would be reborn as radical Islamic fundamentalism. But who could've predicted that?

North: What do you think happened to the USS Liberty?

NF: I corresponded with one of the surviving crew members, James Ennis, who wrote a book on the attack indicting Israel. His account was totally credible.

For example, a 5-by-8-foot American flag hoisted on the Liberty was fluttering in the wind on a crystalline summer day. Ennis recalled that before the assault an Israeli pilot overhead was flying so low they even waved to each other. So how could Israeli pilots have missed the flag?

It's ingenious—or hilarious—how Oren explains away this inconvenient fact. He says, “But Israeli pilots were not looking for the Liberty, but rather for Egyptian submarines.” In other words, the pilots didn't see what was staring them in the face above the water because they were in search of a vessel beneath the water. This explanation must have deeply impressed the Los Angeles Times, which awarded him the newspaper's annual book prize in history.

North: The reason for the attack?

NF: None of the standard explanations hold up. I have my own hunch but I readily admit it's highly speculative and unorthodox.

Weiss: The conventional theory is the Liberty had radio surveillance and knocking out the Liberty allowed Israel to continue the war another two days.

NF: It's alleged that the Liberty had gotten wind of the fact that Israel was going to seize the Golan, so Israel attacked it. But this theory doesn't hold up on close inspection.

My own hypothesis is, this is Israel's big moment, the climactic of the Jewish people, a collective paroxysm-cum-orgasm. All the armed services want to get a piece of the action. The air force, the army, the navy.

The navy hadn't yet seen real combat. As the war was winding down, they were probably anxious to be part of this glorious chapter. To play their part in the Jewish people's revenge on the goyim.

Remember, the Israelis don't just hate Arabs. They're in an eternal war with all the goyim. All the goyim wanted the Jews dead. Just read Daniel Goldhagen if you have any doubts. The Americans are goyim. They refused entry to Jews fleeing the Holocaust; they didn't bomb the railway tracks to Auschwitz; they, too, wanted all the Jews dead. Now they're butting into our war, dispatching a spy ship into our waters, trying to restrain us in our moment of glory. Fuck the Americans! Fuck the goyim! Long live the Jews!

Besides the Israeli air assault on the USS Liberty, the Israeli navy torpedoed the vessel. It got to share in the mock heroics and avenge the millennial suffering of the Jews. Everyone got their 15 minutes of drawing blood, in memoriam of the Jewish martyrs.

I am the first to admit gaps in my hypothesis but it probably gets closer to the truth than positing a rational motive.

North: How was the attack suppressed?

NF: Raison d'etat. Of course President Johnson knew what happened. But Israel was now the US's “strategic asset” in the Middle East, so Johnson gave it a pass.

Weiss: We're coming to a moment of reckoning in the Jewish community, per Alan Solow. There will be soul-searching, and the Israel lobby groups are going to have to come up with a very good narrative. Do you anticipate any sort of thoughtful examination of the war and will it have any consequences, not just historiographically, but in Israel's image?

NF: Whereas the real facts leading up to Israel's first strike will be consigned to Orwell's memory hole, the baneful effects of the war on Israeli society will probably be cause for reflection. It's arguable that Israel became a different place after '67. As journalist Gideon Levy recently observed, pre-'67 Israel was not a pretty place, far from it, but it also did not lack in virtues.

I hate the word nuanced, I hate the word complex—more often than not, they're moral cop-outs—but, still, it must be possible to reconcile that, alongside the crime that was inflicted on the indigenous population, there were—just as here in the US, burdened with its own “original sin”—redeeming facets of the Israeli experiment before ‘67.

You can't otherwise explain why many decent, progressive people, solidly anchored in the Left, found a lot to admire there. Professor Chomsky's wife, Carol, who was very smart, sensitive, down-to-earth—she wanted to stay. She liked the people and kibbutz life. Read Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher's admiring essays on Israel before ‘67.

Incidentally, the single shrewdest assessment of where Israel was heading after the war was Deutscher's 1968 interview in New Left Review. It's a withering portrait of, for example, the newly anointed King of the Jews, Moshe Dayan—“hero and savior, with the political mind of a regimental sergeant-major, ranting about annexations, and venting a raucous callousness about the fate of the Arabs in the conquered territories.” But if you read Deutscher up until '67, a lot of what he witnessed first-hand on his several visits there resonated with him.

The place inspired a lot of young, idealistic people. It was egalitarian, it was simple, it was austere, it was communal, it was hopeful. The leaders were relatively free from venality and animated by a collective ideal. Ari Shavit's bestseller, My Promised Land, is, for sure, schmaltz, but its rendering of these years does contain a kernel of truth.

The ‘67 war set in train a sequence of developments that turned it into a very ugly place. Yes, it can lay claim to an impressive high-tech sector, but that's about it.

Weiss: I would say you are actually now reflecting the conventional wisdom. What you are saying—which I think might take place around that anniversary—is that we will bury the beautiful, the dream, the miracle, the desert bloom. You say, yes you could maintain that illusion up till '67. Well I think that in this case the loss of the illusion is actually now the conventional wisdom and it will solidify on this anniversary. You're not such a seer.

NF: I don't harbor illusions about pre-'67 Israel. But it's polemical to deny that the country has changed, for the worse. While back then it practiced a Spartan equality, income inequality in Israel today is among the highest in the OECD. Another straw in the wind: Yitzhak Rabin was forced out of office in 1977 merely because his wife had opened a bank account in the US. Compare that with today, when every week another member of Israel's political elite is implicated in a big financial scandal. It's hard to gainsay that it's a different place.

North: You could both be right. Phil's right in that the realization that Israel was not what people thought it was, is growing all the time. But it might not come out in the half-century commemoration.

NF: I don't buy the notion of an inescapable “original sin.” Terrible things happened in '48. But it wasn't Israel's teleological fate to become what it has become. Choices were made along the way. No doubt, the choices were shaped by ideological and material factors. But still, they were choices.

We Americans have our original sins. The expulsion and extermination of the indigenous population mostly couldn't be undone. But the kidnapping and enslavement of African-Americans, well, the situation today is very far from perfect—Jacob's ladder has many rungs—but, even as it sounds like a cliché, progress has been registered.

There's a German word aufhebung. Hegelians, Marxists used it. It's variously and simultaneously translated as to “abolish,” “preserve” and “overcome.” Like other countries, Israel could have abolished, preserved and overcome its original sin. But after '67, Israel got carried away, it got intoxicated by power. It's now a lunatic place.

If not a qualitative, then a quantitative transformation occurred in '67. Still, it's perhaps not too late for Israel to repair some of the damage done to the indigenous population, and itself. Look at Germany and Japan. In the first half of the 20th century, they were perhaps the most racist, expansionist states on the planet. Now, in public opinion surveys they are typically ranked the world's most peace-loving states. Or, consider South Africa's abrupt volte-face.

North: I will say this about South Africa. I left there in 1982, ‘83. No one, no one, would have predicted that in ten years Mandela would be out of prison. All of us would have thought, Eventually we will win. But we would have thought it would take at least twice as long. And a lot more people would have died. We all thought Mandela was going to die in prison, just because the regime was so strong. There were a number of factors, Cubans, Southwest Africa. But yeah, the fact that I was standing there watching him walk out of prison in 1990, that was just astonishing to me in 1990.

Weiss: I remember in sixth grade, JR Krevans ran up to me and said, they knocked out the Egyptian air force on the tarmac. He is now a doctor, Jewish stuff isn't very important to him, but he had a sense of real solidarity.

NF: Until ‘67, our self-image was scrawny, nerdy, nebbishy Woody Allen types. But after the war Jews could brag about their martial prowess.

North: “Bring Moshe Dayan here and send him to Vietnam and run our war there.” He was the big hero.

NF: Dayan had a patch and he was a womanizer. A Jew who was half-pirate, half-Casanova! It was thrilling.

Weiss: The Life magazine cover of the bronzed Jewish soldiers in the desert was also thrilling to a WASP friend of mine. The reversal of the image of Jews in WW2; and they all loved it.

NF: That's very true. It's largely forgotten that, growing up in my generation, it was a badge of shame to be a Holocaust survivor. The mantra was that the Jews went like sheep to slaughter.

North: Even though that's not true.

NF: But that's how it was conceived. Jews felt embarrassed, ashamed. They were weaklings, cowards.

I mentioned earlier that my mother testified in Germany at a trial of Nazi concentration camp guards from Majdanek. I accompanied her. My mother was shocked to see the guards walking freely in the courthouse. She started to shriek. “Why aren't they in cages? They're animals!”

One night as we were exiting the courthouse, the most bestial guard, Birgitta, inched up next to me on one side while my mother was on the other side. I was like, What is this?! I was breathless, aghast.

I waited for Birgitta to get about 100 yards ahead of us. I then turned to my mother and said, “Do you know who that is?”

She squinted her eyes and then her whole body started to convulse: “Birgitta?”

“Yes! What do you want me to do?”

“Get her! Get her! They think we're sheep! Get her!”

(Norman Finkelstein, gesturing as his mother did about Birgitta, toward James North, May 2, 2017.)

My mother was a stereotypical hyper-protective Jewish mother. But at that moment, she didn't give a darn what happened to me. It was just “Get her! Get her! They think we're sheep! Get her!”

It's a wretched irony that, after the ‘67 war, American Jews rallied behind Israel as they proved their manhood and mettle and vindicated their honor by vicariously beating up on mostly defenseless Arabs.

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Israel Aims New Nakba-Style Weapon At Arab Citizens

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:44

The new so-called Kaminitz Law allows the Israeli government to carry out mass home demolitions in Arab villages and towns already hard hit by housing shortages and discriminatory state policies.

What Jewish Israelis call their War of Independence, Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” in Arabic. During the 1948 war and its aftermath, Israel depopulated and destroyed 600 Palestinian villages and expelled more than 700,000 Palestinians from the newly-established state in order to open up their land for Jewish settlement.

But the Israeli campaign to control land has never stopped. As Israel celebrates the 69th anniversary of its establishment — Palestinians commemorate the Nakba annually on May 15 — it is also brandishing its latest weapon against its remaining Arab citizens, designed to corral them into an ever-shrinking living space.

According to Israel, the new so-called Kaminitz Law, which was enacted in April 2017, is intended to consolidate and streamline state powers in enforcing planning and building regulations. But in practice, this law allows the Israeli government to carry out a new wave of mass home demolitions in hemmed-in Arab villages and towns already hard hit by severe housing shortages and a history of discriminatory state policies. According to official state statistics, 97 percent of the demolition orders issued between 2012 and 2014 were against homes in Arab communities in Israel.

Israeli policy is driven by the rationale that the implementation of planning and building regulations in Arab towns can and should be achieved only through a harsh policy of mass home demolitions and other punitive measures against home and land owners. Those punished under the new law can be imprisoned for up to three years, and could accumulate fines reaching hundreds of thousands of Israeli shekels.

The Kaminitz Law intends to make “building violations” simply disappear, while completely ignoring the conditions that created the phenomenon of unauthorized construction in Arab towns and villages in the first place, and absolving the state of all responsibility for this phenomenon.

It also ignores the harrowing human cost of the new law: hundreds of families will be left homeless and without alternative housing solutions.

The Kaminitz Law hides behind a cloak of neutrality and the guise of equal and universal implementation of the law across all sectors of the population. However, it will have a disproportionate impact on Arab citizens of Israel, because it intentionally ignores the decades of systematic discrimination that generated the housing crisis in Arab towns and villages across the country, and which resulted in extensive “unauthorized construction.”

It is therefore disingenuous to portray “unauthorized construction” in Arab towns simply as a deviation from the desired social norm, as one might any other legal transgression. One cannot view the state's intent to increase enforcement of planning and building regulations without considering the wider context of Israel's suppressive historic relationship with the Palestinian Arab minority, and its longstanding efforts to restrict and control the living space available to them.

From 1948 to the present day

The most violent and dramatic period of Israel's land grab was during the Nakba in 1948. Armed Zionist militias, and subsequently the Israeli military, forcefully seized and reconfigured the land. Israel expelled the residents of some 600 Arab towns and confiscated their land, later demolishing these towns entirely. Those Arabs who remained were concentrated in restricted areas of the country — 139 surviving Arab villages and the Siyagh zone in the Naqab (Negev) desert — where they lived for the ensuing 20 years under Israeli military rule.

Persisting in its efforts to exert control over the land, Israel adopted a cleaner but no less violent weapon: the law. Behind the façade of legal neutrality, Israel continued to confiscate Arab land. Property belonging to Palestinian refugees (even the internally displaced who remained within the new state's boundaries and became citizens) was transferred to a designated state authority, and as much as 50 percent of property owned by Palestinian Arabs who became Israeli citizens was expropriated and, in most cases, used for the “public purpose” of Jewish settlement.

Even today, Israel continues to use land and expropriation laws to wrest control of Arab-owned land, particularly in the Naqab and Jerusalem areas.

Following the military and legal stages of land takeover, Israel then turned to zoning and planning regulations to limit Arab use of land. For generations, Israel neglected to draw up any building or land development plans for Arab towns and villages. However, it did take care to map out the municipal boundaries of Arab communities in the early days of the state, very deliberately wrapping them tightly around the outermost homes in each town.

As the decades passed, the boundaries of most of these towns were never expanded. Most Arab-owned agricultural land was reallocated to surrounding Jewish regional councils. Deliberately-placed military bases and firing zones, state-managed forests, national parks, nature reserves, and highways today serve as barriers that encircle and confine Arab villages in Israel.

Rather than making up for the decades of discriminatory policies that have resulted in today's phenomenon of unauthorized construction, the Kaminitz Law threatens Palestinian citizens of Israel with heavy fines and prison time — criminalizing their right to shelter and their struggle to survive in the face of discriminatory policies.

If the 1948 Nakba was the opening shot in Israel's land grab campaign, this new law is its latest weapon in the arsenal designed to control and restrict Arab citizens, while reinforcing the state's Jewish character and giving clear preference to Jewish citizens.

Myssana Morany is an attorney in the Land and Planning Rights Unit at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Source : http://alternativenews.org/index.php/comment/417-israel-aims-new-nakba-style-weapon-at-arab-citizens

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Yemen - a Nation in Resistance Against Wahhabi Imperialism

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:41

Yemen was earmarked for a brutal military takeover the minute its people began to assert their sovereign rights against the diktat of Saudi Arabia.

Here we are again discussing the human tragedy that has become Yemen - this bleeding scar of a nation that was unilaterally declared war to by Saudi Arabia back in late March 2015. For two long years, two incredibly trying years Yemen's sovereignty, Yemen's right to self-defend its borders and its people, Yemen's right to religious freedom, and more importantly Yemen's right to political self-determination have been trampled over by an elite that calls itself democratic while arguing despotism.

Yemen has suffered so many injustices it would be now impossible to list them all, nevermind calling for reparation … There are however crimes so grave and so flamboyantly despicable in their nature that we must speak them - never to waver in our calls for vindication.

Beyond the bloodshed, the inhumane humanitarian blockade and the disappearing of a people‘s cultural heritage lies a betrayal far more biting and vile … Yemen you see was denied the truth of its Resistance Movement so that it could be reduced to an illegitimate rebellion against the so-called legitimacy of the former presidency.

Western capitals, those wannabe beacons of democracy and human rights, have systematically defiled, vilified and otherwise criminalized Yemen's Resistance Movement so that the world would not wake up to the reality of its main regional partner: Saudi Arabia.

A violent theocracy raised on the ideology of Takfir, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been instrumental over the past decade in the spread of radicalism - as expressed by groups such as al-Qaida, the Taliban, Boko Haram and of course Daesh (aka ISIS). A profoundly reactionary regime that rejects the notion of religious freedom, al-Saud's monarchy has nevertheless been hailed a model of stability and steadfastness against Terror by western powers.

Takfiri is frequently used in reference to Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS) but the term has a hidden universal applicability that surpasses our era while exposing the dark ideology languishing in the core of the phenomenon.

Since they started calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in June 2014, the gun-wielding occupiers of Iraq and Syria have been referred to as Takfiris by many Islamic scholars.

Derived from the word kafir, meaning infidel, the Arabic word could refer to any ideology that is based on declaring the dissent apostate, and therefore eligible to be killed by the members of the group. Takfirism is mostly rooted in Wahhabism, the official religion of the absolute autocratic regime of Saudi Arabia.

How could any democracy worth the ink on its constitution ever align itself with the kingdom you ask? The answer I'm afraid is only too predictable: money. Actually, it is more complicated than just money … capitalism rather lies at the heart of this crass alliance in between Wahhabist Saudi Arabia and western capitals.

Defined by Lenin at the turn of the 20th century as the most perverted expression of capitalism, imperialism has been the agenda behind most fought wars since World War II. The force behind nations' implacable will to enslave others to their will, unfettered capitalism or globalist corporatism has hidden behind many faces to justify its ambitions. Might it be under the flag of counter-terrorism, national security or even democracy-building, how many sovereign nations over the decades have fallen prey to western interventionism or that of its allies?

Too many would the beginning of an answer …

Yemen here sits a cautionary tale.

Yemen I would personally argue - and argued I have indeed, is THE cautionary tale par excellence, the one catastrophe we cannot possibly turn away from without risking to condemn the entire region to the folly of Wahhabism.

Yemen was earmarked for a brutal military takeover the minute its people began to assert their sovereign rights against the diktat of Saudi Arabia - that tyrant who since the 18th century has sat in ownership of the Hijaz through bloodshed and oppression.

But Yemen was never meant to resist as it did … Little could the western world expect that impoverished Yemen to rise such a tide against the House of Saud when capitulation would have been easier.

Yemenis do not look kindly on foreign invaders. The kingdom there might have done better should its officials had bothered reading up on their neighbors' history since never once was the Yemeni nation tamed.

Two years into this genocidal war Yemen has already taught the world a lesson in resistance and bravery, History will unlikely forget. For all the many dances Riyadh will hold to entertain its foreign host as to boast of its foreign friendships, Yemen will need only the arms of its sons and daughters to cry its freedom alive.

Maybe now western media could learn to speak Yemen's Resistance as it is, and not as it would like the public to perceive it.

Too many times have I read Reuters, AP, AFP and others sell Yemen down the proverbial river by labeling its freedom fighters under a great many misapprehensions: Iran-backed Shiite rebels they all have written ad nauseam so that Resistance could be tainted both by sectarianism and ethnopolitical-centrism.

Yemen's Resistance is no one's movement but its own. Yemen's Resistance is as pluralist and multicolored as the people that move it … Yemen is many schools of thoughts and traditions. Yemen is more than a sectarian punchline … if only you could climb down from your high horse and recognize a people in the throes of a brutal war, maybe you would see the dignity of a people in righteous resistance.

It requires more than just courage to stand alone before a system that sole purpose is to disappear life.

It takes faith and the depth of a tradition born in allegiance to stand firm on its truth before the fury of many world nations.

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Yemen---a-Nation-in-Resistance-Against-Wahhabi-Imperialism-20170529-0016.html?utm_source=planisys&utm_medium=NewsletterIngles&utm_campaign=NewsletterIngles&utm_content=34

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‘Naxalbari': Fifty Years Later

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:38

Today, May 25, will commemorate 50 years of the Maoist uprising of Naxalbari in West Bengal. In March, 1967, a decision was taken in Naxalbari to carry out an armed rebellion for the rights of peasants and workers. This isolated revolt led to a movement that has lasted half a century.

ON May 25, 1967, in a village called Prasadujot in the Naxalbari block in West Bengal, a group of peasants forcibly tried to seize land from the landlords who controlled it. The peasants had legal entitlement to the land. They were led by two left-wing activists Kanu Sanyal (1929-2010) and Jangal Santhal (?-1981), and supported by a communist ideologue, Charu Mazumdar (1918-1972). This resulted in a violent confrontation between the peasants and the police, who were supporting the landlords. This seemingly isolated revolt in a far-flung village eventually gave birth to a movement that attracted the attention of the world. An English-language journalist or commentator gave it the name “Naxalite”, and this name has stuck. It has even been adopted by the supporters of the movement.

Fallout on Indian politics

Almost 50 years on from what seemed at first to be an isolated revolt, the fallout for Indian politics may be judged by a remark in 2010 by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He had said that the movement was the single biggest internal security threat to India.

There were three armed communist rebellions in India right after Independence in 1947. All three rebellions revolved around control over and ownership of land and produce from the land. One was in the Telangana region of the erstwhile southern state of Hyderabad in 1947; the second one was in the Tebhaga region in West Bengal in 1948, and the third one was a Lal Communist Party-led revolt in the erstwhile PEPSU region of the present state of Punjab in 1948. All three rebellions were militarily crushed by the Indian state, with large-scale human rights violations in all the three regions.

Paradoxical as it may sound, the military suppression of these three armed rebellions spread the mass influence of the communist movement in these three states. This can be attributed primarily to the land reforms introduced by the Indian state to take the heat out of the communist movement. This ended up increasing the popularity of the communists.

The land reforms boosted communist influence because immediately after the Indian state had suppressed the armed rebellions in the three states, it initiated land reforms. These were mainly in the form of granting better propriety rights to the peasantry in order to deal with the perceived socio-economic causes of the rebellions. In the mass consciousness of the peasantry, it was not the Indian state which was seen as their main benefactor — it was the communists, whose multiple sacrifices were seen as having forced the Indian state to grant concession to the peasants and tenants. In all three states — Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab — the electoral performance of the CPI was impressive in the 1950s. This suggests that the two distinct paths in communist politics — that of armed struggle and that of parliamentary work — could be complementary. This has not been recognised either in the political perspectives of both — the armed struggle tendency and the parliamentary tendency — in the Indian communist movement, or in the academic literature on the subject. The failure to recognise this complementarity and an over-emphasis on the competitiveness between the two streams have contributed to sectarianism in the Indian communist movement.

The Naxalite movement emerged from the conflict between two tendencies in the global and Indian communist movement — the parliamentary constitutionalist path and the path of armed struggle. Its timing and political approach was also shaped by global political movements such as the 1968 radical youth upsurge. In its first phase (1967-69), the support base of the Naxalite movement was mainly among the peasants and tribal communities. In the second phase (1969-72), its main support base shifted to urban students and youth. During this second phase, it represented some of the radicalism and the iconoclasms of the wider global student and youth movements of 1968.

After suffering a decline from mid-1970s to late 1970s, over the past three decades the Naxalite movement has re-emerged, especially since 2004. It is a powerful challenger to the hegemony of the centralist Indian state. After its revival, the movement has taken a leading role in developing social welfare, human development and educational activities in the tribal areas where it has operated for decades and where it has de facto administrative control. The Maoists-run schools, health centres, rural credit and seed bank, water-management projects and social reforms are aimed at gender equity in families and the wider adivasi society. It is an unusual insurgent movement that has a strong social welfare and egalitarian management components to it. What began in the early 1980s as a campaign against forest, revenue and police departments and money-lenders, has added social reform as a significant aspect to its political arsenal. The social base and even the leadership profile of the movement has significantly changed from urban middle class students and intelligentsia to young tribal young men and, even more significantly, to tribal women.

Influence on art & literature

Regarding the impact of the movement on literary and artistic productions, it is most well known in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal and Kerala. In Punjab, the poets Paash, Sant Ram Udasi and Lal Singh Dil and the theatre artiste Gursharan Singh clearly represent the impact of the movement. In Andhra Pradesh, Naxalite folk songs have become part of the mainstream and Gaddar, a celebrated Telugu poet, openly supports the movement. In Bengal, Satyajit Ray's 1971 film Seemabaddha was based on the life of an upper-class family during the Naxalite movement. Khwaja Ahmad Abbas made a critically acclaimed film, The Naxalites in 1980. In 2005, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi was set against the backdrop of the movement. From Kerala, K. Satchidanandan, an internationally recognised poet, has been inspired by the movement.

Politically, the single-most importantthreat to the left and democratic movement in India is the rise of Hindu nationalism incorporating fascist/semi-fascist tendencies. The leadership of the Naxalite movement seems aware of this threat, how this awareness results in building wider alliances outside its restricted area of influence remains to be seen.

The writer is Professor of Economics at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/-naxalbari-fifty-years-later/412218.html

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Two Different Daughters of India

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:35

Both Jyoti Singh and Bilkis Bano were brutalised and gangraped. What happened to them holds a mirror to the darker side of our society and yet their narratives do diverge, a separation that deserves serious introspection.

This is the story of two daughters of India, both victims of horrific sexual crimes. Jyoti Singh was a bright 23-year-old, dreaming of a career in medicine that would lift her family out of poverty when she was brutally gangraped and murdered in the heart of the national capital in December 2012. Bilkis Bano was just 19 and five months pregnant when she was gangraped while trying to escape the mob in her village in Gujarat's Dahod district during the 2002 communal riots. Bilkis's three-year-old child was killed in front of her while 13 members of her family were also murdered. Jyoti and Bilkis hold a mirror to the darker side of our society and yet their narratives do diverge, a separation that deserves serious introspection.

Last week, Jyoti Singh's killers were given the death sentence by the Supreme Court. It meant that within four-and-a-half-years of the date of the original crime, justice had been delivered. Just a day earlier, the Bombay High Court affirmed the life sentences of 11 accused in the Bilkis case, while sentencing the six police officers and a government doctor who tried to cover up the case to three years jail. While Jyoti Singh's verdict was the top headline and received 24 x 7 carpet coverage across television channels, the Bilkis ruling did not attract screaming banner headlines or prime time debates.

The difference is not surprising. Jyoti Singh's sickening death occurred in the national capital where most television channels and newspapers are headquartered and barely a few kilometres away from parliament where our law-makers reside. Within hours of her death, thousands of people had converged on Rajpath, with constant live coverage magnifying the surge of protests. The anger echoed in parliament, the country mourned her death, leaders went and met her family members and eventually a high level committee was set up to examine the troubling issue of sexual violence.

Bilkis Bano, by contrast, was languishing in a refugee camp for riot victims in Dahod, a tribal-dominated district of southern Gujarat, about 200km from Ahmedabad. Bilkis had attempted to register a case with the local police station who chose to ignore her pleas and threatened her instead to drop the charges. It was only with the support of highly committed NGOs, the National Human Rights Commission and a strong legal team that Bilkis managed to get the Supreme Court to direct the CBI to take over the investigation and transfer the case out of Gujarat. For over a decade, Bilkis fought her case bravely even as she had to move home repeatedly and couldn't return to her village out of sheer fear that her attackers were still around.

Bilkis's case slowly became just another Gujarat riots case even as the Jyoti Singh case became a cause celebre, a symbol of the fight for gender justice. Those who supported and fought for Bilkis were accused of being pseudo-secular “jholawallah” liberals only seeking to malign the government in Gujarat. Those who took up the Jyoti Singh case were seen as being at the vanguard of redefining rape laws. Global documentaries were planned in memory of Jyoti Singh's courage, hardly anyone wanted to visit Bilkis and her family.

While the accused were punished in both the cases, the judges final orders reflected the contrasting public mood. Describing the Delhi gangrape case as ‘demonic', the judges saw it as a “crime against humanity” and ruled that it was a “rarest of rare” case that deserved the death penalty. In the Bilkis case, the judges rejected the conspiracy charge, claiming that the crime had occurred on “the spur of the moment” even while admitting that the accused were “hunting for Muslims”. While rejecting the death penalty for the rapists, the judges said, the “accused were boiling with revenge” after the Godhra train burning.

Ironically, when I asked Bilkis if she was satisfied with the verdict, she softly replied: “I always wanted justice, never revenge!” My counter-question to the world at large is simply this: is ‘justice' then for a gangrape victim in a communal riot different from ‘justice' for a gangrape in a bus in Delhi?

Post-script: Bilkis is now 34. The child she was pregnant with when she was gangraped is now 15. “He wants to be a lawyer”, she tells me with a smile. Maybe, he will one day be able to tell ‘new India' the true meaning of justice.

Rajdeep Sardesai is senior journalist and author. The views expressed are personal

Source : http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/jyoti-singh-and-bilkis-bano-two-different-daughters-of-india/story-7olpgSe53ot1H8TAKTA3GJ.html#disqus_thread

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The Nixonization of Donald Trump

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:32

In the aftermath of Watergate, the country turned to the left. Are progressives positioned to capitalize on Trump's stumbles today?

The comparisons are multiplying. There was Trump's appeal to the “silent majority” during the presidential election, his later adoption of the “mad man” theory in his foreign policy, his possible taping of conversations, his arm-twisting of top officials, and his all-around involvement in the scandals enveloping his administration.

In a late night monologue last week, Jimmy Kimmel delivered a particularly apt zinger: “When we said Trump should act more presidential, we probably should have specified — we didn't mean Nixon.”

But it's worse than that. I knew Richard Nixon (well, not directly), and Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. For all of his manifest flaws, Nixon at least had an idea of what he was doing in the White House. Despite being a pro-business racist who detested environmentalists, Nixon supported new environmental laws, championed economic policies that would have placed him on the left side of the Democratic Party, and even expanded affirmative action.

But it was foreign policy that ultimately defined Nixon's non-Watergate legacy, for better or worse. Even as he was becoming entangled in domestic scandal, Nixon was executing the foreign policy equivalent of a Simone Biles balance-beam routine. In the early 1970s, along with his national security advisor Henry Kissinger, Nixon was opening up China, negotiating arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, trying to extricate U.S. troops from the quagmire of Vietnam, and attempting to prevent tensions in the Middle East from escalating into all-out war.

Indeed, it was these deviations from the hardline anti-Communism of the militarist wing of the Republican Party that ultimately caused Nixon's downfall, according to a detailed account by Len Colodny and Tom Schactman in their book The Forty Years War.

The steady drip of resentment over his radical alterations to U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to his overtures to the Soviet Union and China, accumulated until it leached away many former supporters on the right. As he weakened, his foreign policy opponents' attacks grew bolder, taking away more support. Attacks from within the executive branch added to the erosion. Eventually, with no conservative friends left, Nixon opted to resign.

In other words, Nixon went up against his era's version of the Blob, and the Blob struck back. In so doing, Nixon's right-wing enemies redefined themselves. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Fred Ikle, Albert Wohlstetter: Aghast at Nixon's apostasies, these figures became the core of what would become the neoconservative movement.

There are some parallels between the problems that have dogged Trump and Nixon. The ur-scandal of the Trump administration involves its closeness to Russia at a time when the foreign policy establishment has preferred a more hardline stance. Trump, as candidate, seemed to want to extricate U.S. troops from quagmires overseas. And the neocons were so upset with his foreign policy utterances that they again crossed party lines — just as many neocon Dems did back in the 1970s — to back Hillary Clinton for president.

But Trump is not Nixon, and these parallels are superficial. The focus on impeachment, while satisfying as an example of delicious comeuppance, is a distraction. The truly important question remains: What kind of backlash will Trump's apostasies create and who will take advantage of the political opportunity?

Trump and Russia

Maybe Trump was making nice with Russia, some speculated early on, because he hoped to better contain China. Or perhaps he simply wanted Moscow's help in bombing the Islamic State into smithereens.

But Trump doesn't have a Kissinger in his pocket. The president's recent sit-down with the grey eminence cum war criminal was just a quick refresher before Trump takes his standup routine overseas. His foreign policy “brain trust” is paralyzed by inexperience, ideological incompatibilities, and just plain incompetence. Let's be clear: Trump had no particular geopolitical aims in mind when he urged closer relations with the Kremlin.

The dealings with Russia that may ultimate deep-six Trump have had an entirely different character.

First, Trump is drawn to autocrats with high popularity ratings. Second, Putin is a favorite figure among the far right in the United States — white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville last Saturday, for instance, chanted “Russia is our friend” — and Trump wanted this constituency on his side during the campaign. Third, Putin is putting together a hard-right coalition of leaders in Europe (the National Front in France, the UKIP in England, the Alternative for Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria) who promise to undermine the European Union and support Russian aims in Ukraine. Trump is competing for the affections of the same group.

Then there are the economic benefits that will accrue to Trump and his pals in the extraction industries from better relations with Russia. Lift the sanctions imposed against Russia in the wake of its interventions in Ukraine and U.S. oil and gas companies can resume their deal-making with the oligarchs.

These cultural sympathies and economic interests combine to form the circumstantial evidence behind possible political collusion. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to go on. Yes, during the transition, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had some discussions with Russia ambassador to the United States and lied about them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions misled the Senate Judiciary Committee about his contacts with Sergei Kislyak. Two other national security aides, Carter Page and J.D. Gordon, also had conversations with Kislyak.

Somebody hacked into the Democratic National Committee's server as well as John Podesta's email account and passed on the information to WikiLeaks, which released it to maximum effect during the campaign. It's more than likely that the hackers were connected to the Russian government — and even Trump himself seemed to accept this allegation in his tweets last July and remarks to the press a week before his inauguration — but definitive proof has not materialized. A dossier compiled by a former British intelligence operative suggests that Russia has compromising material about Trump that it can use to blackmail him. But this, too, remains speculative.

So, Trump advisers met with Russians, and the Russians probably interfered in the U.S. election (as they likely did recently in the French elections as well). He even shared classified material with the Russians. This is stupid, with profound ramifications for U.S. standing among its allies, but it's not illegal. The smoking gun remains elusive.

With its attempts to cover up its Russian connections, however, the Trump administration has been blowing a lot of smoke. Why did Flynn and Session lie? Why did Trump try to prevent former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying on Russia before a Senate committee? Why, most recently, did Trump fire FBI chief James Comey after he'd asked for more money for the Russiagate investigation? Did the president ask Comey to back off from the Russiagate investigations, which would amount to an obstruction of justice?

Where there's smoke, there's likely to be a smoking gun. Nixon, too, was undone by the cover-up.

The first project of his covert band of “plumbers” was a break-in of the office of a psychiatrist to gather information to discredit Daniel Ellsberg, who'd leaked the Pentagon Papers to the news media. Oddly, the papers covered U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War only up to 1967, before Nixon was elected to his first term as president. He'd have been better served to ignore the revelations.

In June 1972, the “plumbers” attempted to plant bugs in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate apartment building. Even though the police caught the operatives, the scandal didn't immediately gather force. That fall, Nixon went on to win the presidential election by the largest margin ever. His foreign policy initiatives, meanwhile, continued to reshape global politics.

But the “plumbers” weren't the only thing rotten about the Nixon crowd. Misconduct was rampant in the GOP, the Nixon campaign, and his administration — corruption, abuse of power, even a spy ring run by the members of the military to keep tabs on the administration's foreign policy initiatives. Infighting and dissatisfaction at the highest levels was producing leak after leak that not even the best plumbers could plug.

So far, it would appear that the Trump people are simply too incompetent to run the kind of covert ops that the Nixon and company attempted. But the pure avarice of Trump and his family, their ignorance of the law they don't know and their flouting of the law they do know, and their general contempt for democratic procedure all make misconduct a certainty. Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, the obvious subversion of the emoluments clause, and the rewards that the Trump empire will reap from executive orders and pending legislation all add up to the same kind of environment of misconduct that surrounded Nixon as well.

Impeachment would remove the rotten head, but we'd still be stuck with the rest of the stinking fish.

The Backlash

Nixon, as Colodny and Shachtman point out, was undone by forces to his right, not his left. Today, the left is even weaker than it was in the early 1970s. Republicans control Congress, have a majority of state legislatures, and now, with Neil Gorsuch installed in the Supreme Court, have an edge in the judicial branch as well.

Today, some Republicans are beginning to edge away from their party's standard-bearer — but not for the same reasons that they let Nixon twist in the wind.

Trump has backed away from his most Russia-friendly proposals, even refusing to issue a waiver that would have allowed Exxon to bypass sanctions and drill for oil in Russia. The president no longer threatens to pull out of NATO. He bombed the Syrian army. He is even considering a surge in Afghanistan of several thousand U.S. troops. This assertion of American power should appease both the hawks in the Republican Party and the neocons who were skeptical of Trump's “America First” policies.

Rather, it's Trump's handling of crises, his mercurial policy shifts, his constant gaffes, and his half-baked proposals on banning Muslims from entering the country, replacing the Affordable Care Act, and overhauling the tax system that have alienated some of the party's rank-and-file from the president.

The Republican Party is in a quandary. They tried to get rid of Trump during the presidential primary last year and failed miserably. They made their accommodation to their new leader, but he has galvanized the opposition, which has been so evident at town meetings throughout the country. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin ponders the future of the Republican Party:

Perhaps the tribal instinct and abject fear of Trump's wrath will keep elected Republicans tethered to the failing president through next year. At that point, the potential for a wave election for Democrats looms large. If Trump is still around by November 2018, a thrashing at the polls may be the only thing to persuade Republicans to walk away from Trump.

The key question is: Who will take advantage of this opportunity?

In the aftermath of Watergate and Nixon's resignation, the country turned to the left. Détente with Russia and China continued, the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam, and various congressional committees exposed U.S. wrongdoing around the world and sought to rein in the abuses of power. George McGovern, despite his trouncing in the 1972 election, had renewed energy and authority, and the Democratic Party surged leftward.

This time around, the Republican Party will be reeling even if Trump isn't impeached. Perhaps the Sanders wing will take over the Democratic Party. Perhaps a new progressive party will emerge to channel the widespread discontent with the political elite and the status quo. Or perhaps a Macron-like figure will come along to revitalize the “vital center” and appeal to voters tired of polarization.

Trump is a forest fire raging out of control, destroying everything in his path. The sooner we put out the flames, the sooner we can expect new growth.

Let's just hope that, as in the immediate post-Nixon era, what doesn't kill us will ultimately make us stronger.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and the author of the dystopian novel Splinterlands.

Source: http://fpif.org/the-nixonization-of-donald-trump/

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En Marche to Uncertainty

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:30

The French election was fought within a narrow spectrum of nationalist anxiety

For embattled western liberals, it was like emerging into a new dawn of hope. On May 7, Emmanuel Macron, deftly deploying the image of an unsullied outsider, won the French presidential election by a decisive two to one advantage over his Right-wing opponent, Marine Le Pen of the National Front (NF). Key to Macron's success was the distance he managed to establish from the discredited political establishment, through the artifice of launching his own party hardly a year before the presidential race. With the rousing, but ultimately rather vacant title of En Marche! (or “Forward!”) , the party revealed no deeper political doctrine, except an intent to efface older distinctions in a new synthesis.

With national assembly elections in June being the first test of the new politics, the former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has already pronounced the demise of his party and vowed to line up behind the newly-elected President. A bloc of Right-wing politicians and voters too could presumably rally to Macron's flag by then.

Macron comes to the powerful French presidency with the briefest of résumés in public service: four years as minister for the economy under his deeply unpopular predecessor, François Hollande. His effort then to shed older political orthodoxies, was seen to undermine key premises of the compact which kept France's labour unions active and involved. Despite widespread scepticism within the ruling Socialist Party, the Macron reforms were pushed through parliament using a rarely invoked procedural manoeuvre.

Shortly afterwards, Macron announced his parting of ways with the Socialists, embracing an ideological neutrality and a posture of pragmatism that placed the “nation” at its core. The French party system has always been more fungible than elsewhere. Socialists and communists, with nominal identities that have remained stable over the years, are now in a state of electoral irrelevance. Parties that have survived have had to reinvent and rebrand themselves.

In the first round of the presidential election this year, three of the top six performers chose to contest under newly-fashioned names that were exhortatory rather than ideological. Macron's En Marche! led the field with its urgent call to resume the historical forward march of the French nation. Then there was the Left-winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon under the banner of La France Insoumise, or “Unbowed France”, who finished fourth in a tightly contested first round, where the first four candidates were clustered around the 20 per cent vote share mark. Mélenchon, also a former Socialist, broke to the Left, essentially charting his own course and winning the late and rather reluctant endorsement of mainstream communists.

The mainstream party of the Right, with the scandal-plagued François Fillon as its standard bearer, had rebranded itself the “Republicans” in 2015, and finished narrowly ahead of Mélenchon. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who swept up the Right-wing fragments that stayed away from the Republicans, fought under the banner of Debout la France, or “Arise France” and came in sixth.

In the deep political and economic malaise that prevails in France, ideology has been replaced by inchoate appeals to national loyalty, largely indistinguishable in formal terms across the political spectrum. This genuflection before an abstract ideal of French national glory pays unwitting homage to the xenophobia that has been the NF's unique appeal. The NF seeks to turn the perceived erosion of national glory on a vulnerable immigrant population and France's partners in the European project. Others seek routes towards national aggrandisement that preserve newly-acquired embellishments of civility and liberalism.

Those embellishments are clearly of less value when economic anxieties are becoming the main determinant of voting behaviour, and this shows in Le Pen's electoral performance. In a very crowded field in the 2002 presidential election, her father Jean Marie won through to the second round by what was a statistical fluke. The top three candidates all had vote shares clustered around the 17 per cent mark, and Jean-Marie narrowly beat a popular Socialist candidate to qualify. His luck ran out by the second round: he barely managed to increase his vote share and was out-voted nearly five times by Jacques Chirac.

The daughter has done considerably better, increasing her vote share by a substantial 12 per cent between the first and second rounds. In the ideological flux and turmoil of France today, substantial numbers of voters are breaking for the far-Right. That could become a stampede if the Macron formula for restoration of French glory fails to gel.

Macron sees France's economic future tied to a reinvigoration of the faltering European project, an enterprise in which German endorsement is essential. Modesty is out of place here. High European Union officials are hinting at an autonomous course in world affairs, stepping into the void caused by the regime of clownish ineptitude in the US and rescinding the privileges enjoyed by the British financial services industry in the continent.

Other plans that Macron brings to the table include a common budget for the Euro currency area and a mutualisation of debt that would enable the lesser economies to overcome sovereign debt issues by leveraging the credit-worthiness of the more solid performers. Germany is sceptical but has to sustain a strong partnership with France to prevent the fragmentation of Europe. The road ahead is uncertain, but the European project will continue to flounder if it stays within the halfway house of monetary union devoid of fiscal coordination. “Fortress Europe” may well be the continental response to the gathering Brexit momentum across the channel and cries of “America first” across the ocean.

Sukumar Muralidharan teaches at the school of journalism, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat

Source: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/know/en-marche-to-uncertainty/article9693438.ece
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Terror of the Witches' Prophecy

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:27

In a phenomenally wired world like ours we should ideally be more enlightened and connected. The reality is the opposite, bordering on the occult. There seems to be more focus on the witches' prophecy to divine the truth, in a manner of speaking, than on Macbeth's lurking ambitions.

As revealed with damning proof by Messrs Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, people are being steadily shepherded towards the opaque, to become more bereft of rational reasoning than was their lot earlier.

Consider the readily advocated logic of more pervasive security — as opposed to an honest appraisal of the malaise, say, in the aftermath of the Manchester slaughter. Take any other devastating moment in any other part of the world — the attack on Christians in a bus in Egypt, on the heels of the Manchester carnage. It is not difficult for our frayed minds to grasp the link between the two tragedies.

Stretch the logic further though, and one feels a stubborn lack of comprehension, an inability to see the connection between the drowning of three-year old Alan Kurdi in the Mediterranean Sea on a bad day and the death of Saffie-Rose Roussos, the angelic eight-year-old who died in a Manchester music hall with 21 other mostly young beautiful people.

Jeremy Corbyn saw the link but Theresa May shouted him down. It's useful to recall what he said just three days after the attack on one of Britain's most cosmopolitan cities: “Many experts including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed out the connections between wars that we have been involved in, or supported or fought in other countries such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.”

That's exactly what Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky have been saying too. Corbyn added, to be sure, that his “assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those that attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions”.

Traditionally, jumbling fair with foul is associated with witchcraft. There are no witches, of course, only humans playing their roles while blaming it on the supernatural. Professor Bradley likened the witches' prophecy in Macbeth to “equivocation of the fiend”, which is a reasonably familiar human trait, is it not? It's commonly called double-speak.

Three apparitions on the heath brought happy tidings to Macbeth, which are said to have contained the seeds of the hero's doom, never mind his own lurking ambitions. Shakespeare's use of the occult (or Bimal Roy's for that matter) did not preclude rational thinking.

Cassius (like Corbyn in Manchester), we can recall, was quick to identify the material explanation for Brutus's quandary. It was not the stars up there but human frailties within that nursed many of the world's failures. The words from Julius Caesar were cushioned in dialectical reasoning, a rare commodity today.

It is difficult to see the Manchester tragedy without reference to Tony Blair and David Cameron who both took turns in stirring the witches' brew. Ms May was a member of the Conservative establishment that hunted down Muammar Qadhafi, reportedly with the help of those that struck Manchester the other day. Both the former prime ministers equivocated through their teeth to adverse outcomes for their country and the wider world.

The Chilcot inquiry report hasn't left a fig leaf for Blair to hide his complicity in the destruction of a secular Iraq, a country that could have saved many tragedies, possibly including the cold-hearted attack on the music halls in Manchester and Paris. And no inquiry is needed to determine Britain's complicity in the ongoing dismantling of a secular Syria. The problem it seems is that all three — Syria, Libya and Iraq — were Cold War allies of Moscow.

History is replete with a range of compelling explanations for Manchester-like calamities. One could go back to Colonel T.E. Lawrence without disturbing the logic of cause and effect to explain the unending terror attacks stalking men, women and children. Without Lawrence setting up a kingdom of the most puritan sect of Muslims the story would be quite different.

My personal starting point to explain Manchester would be in Fez 1981. Often known for witchcraft and sorcery, the Moroccan resort was the venue of an Arab summit — two summits in fact, one failed and the other had to be revived.

When Salman Abedi blew himself up at the concert hall the president of the United States had just won billions of dollars of arms contract in Riyadh, which he followed up by a round of frolicking and sword dance with the Saudi royalty. Moments later, he was meeting his friend Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel when the Manchester terrorists struck. He called the attackers “losers” without saying who the winners were, if any.

Israel and Saudi Arabia were the topic at the Fez summit, but Saddam Hussein, Qadhafi and Hafez al-Assad boycotted it. Representing them instead were their deputies, Tariq Aziz, Abdusselam Jalloud, who later defected against his Libyan boss, and Abdul Halim Khaddam, Assad's vice president.

The Saudi proposal was carried by crown prince Fahd. He sought a hurried Arab recognition of Israel's right to exist in return for a Palestinian state. Because of the Cold War or out of stubbornness by the big three, Fahd's plan was thrown into the dustbin. The Shia-Sunni, Iran-Saudi narrative promoted by Riyadh was an afterthought. Remember that Riyadh's first quarries, in collusion with Britain, were the Sunni PLO, the Sunni-ruled Iraq and the Sunni-ruled Libya.

An alternative way to understand the pain and suffering set off by mindless killers could require us to accept the witches' mumbo jumbo: “Double, double toil and trouble;/ Fire burn and caldron bubble./ Cool it with a baboon's blood, / Then the charm is firm and good.”

Taking the witches' war dance in Macbeth seriously, as some of us can be lulled into doing, would require us to be looking for a baboon, a fall guy, but where? In Iran? China? Or perhaps in Moscow?

The writer is Dawn's correspondent in Delhi.

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1336249/terror-of-the-witches-prophecy

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Migration and Capitalism, in the Age of Trump

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:25

“We are people! We are not illegal!”— Kiwi Ilafonte

This past May 1st, across the United States and here in Quebec, the spirit of May Day was alive and well. Immigrant workers have given International Workers' Day a new breath of fresh air since the historic mobilizations of a “day without an immigrant” in the United States in 2006. This year in the U.S., broad coalitions of migrant communities and trade unions took to the streets in solidarity with immigrant workers to resist Donal Trump's racist and xenophobic policies. In Montreal the Immigrant Workers Centre, community organizations, and trade unions marched in solidarity with precarious immigrant workers and the “Fight for $15” campaign. The struggles of immigrant workers for migrant justice, against racism and broad workplace struggles that impact heavily immigrant workers for decent work and wages are critical for any renewal of working class politics in North America and beyond.

The world is still reeling as Donald Trump is turning his anti-immigrant rhetoric into reality, with a second attempt at implementing the ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, pushing forward the expansion of the wall between Mexico and the United States, and increased deportations. Migration has become one of the most profound issues of our time, shaping contemporary politics in the advanced capitalist states in Europe and North America. Not only in the United States, but in the first two months of 2017, 1,134 migrants crossed from the U.S. into Canada in harsh conditions in order to claim refugee status as a result of the crackdown on migrants in the USA. It is critical for the Left to put forward a clear position of solidarity with migrants and open borders at this juncture, not only in order to pose a challenge to the far right's xenophobic agenda but also for building a working class movement for more radical social transformation.

Analyzing Migration

Across the advanced capitalist states, a few sections of the broad left have currently taken positions on migration based on a game of catch-up to the right. These policies have unfortunately begun to have a significant impact on how the Left is analyzing the question of migration, as well more broadly for how it relates to the questions of class and to whom we should begin to re-orient our discourse in this current moment of disorientation.

Some sections of the Left seek to rebuild a lost connection to the “rust belt” working class, in particular states in the U.S., and de-industrialized regions in Canada, abandoned by the Left, thus rebuilding the weakening power of trade unions. As a result, the strategy of this section of the Left has been to present a more tame position of regulated migration, in order to reorient their demands toward such sections of the working class. Similarly, elements of the trade union movement seek a tightening of the labour market through restricting migration rather than organizing migrants and immigrant workers, due to their own inability to adapt their organizing strategies and forms to the current historical juncture. This only reinforces a false vision that pits migrants and immigrants against a narrow vision of the working class.

Such a view of the working class distorts our perception of how work has transformed, and of who is performing that work. To simply speak of a national working class is impossible; we need to think of the class in a true internationalist and local way, understanding the role migration plays. It is precisely at this moment that we need to be organizing more with immigrant and migrant workers, not simply to rebuild the labour movement, but more profoundly to create working class politics that can lead to radical transformation. To engage in organizing that can bring about solidarity in local communities to defend their neighbors; coworkers who face exploitation and deportation as a manner to frame how work has shifted. Why is there such profound migration, and how can they challenge their employers and racist policies by finding the local commonalities.

Interventions and Migrations

The massive wave of migration over recent years has its roots in the dispossession of people by the devastating impacts caused by global capitalism, and U.S. imperialism, which have their roots here in the Global North. A testament to this is the recent ban of migrants from seven states that the U.S. has actively attempted to destabilize, force regime change, or has occupied directly. Canada's role as an imperialist state has also fueled the destabilization of the Middle East, has contributed immensely to the creation of 60 million refugees by 2015 – mainly displaced in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. The U.S. is also pursuing the same strategy to shut the borders to Latin America, in particular to those devastated by NAFTA and displaced from their lands as a result of U.S. intervention in Central America.

A similar pattern has taken root with the role of Canadian capital in Central America. In Guatemala, for example, entire communities have been displaced violently from their lands and livelihoods with destructive mining projects on their territory. This displacement has fueled labour migration by over 5,000 Guatemalans in the agricultural program in Canada as a mechanism of development for rural indigenous communities in Guatemala who were originally displaced by Canadian capital. As journalist Juan Gonzalez describes Latino migration to the U.S., “you cannot understand the enormous Latino presence in the United States unless you understand America's role in Latin America, and in fact that the Latino presence in the country is the harvest of the empire.”

Those that have become en masse displaced by U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism will have no refuge from its carnage. From the dangerous journey to “El Norte” to the death boats on the Mediterranean, migration has become the last desperate scream of humanity searching for a better future, making our solidarity and the opening of borders a must for the global working class.

Global migration has reached historic proportions, reaching 244 million people in 2015, according to the United Nations. The massive wave of migration by 2015 was a signal in terms of both the desperation of a global working class and the increasing inequalities produced by the expansion of global capital, as those whose collective wealth and resources have continued to be drained, accumulated and concentrated. A recent study has shown that from 1980 up to the present, the developing world has lost $16.3-trillion in capital flight to the Global North. Developing countries have paid $4.2-trillion in interest payments on international debt. This has resulted in those populations without state social services, decent work, as a result of structural adjustment, and the integration into global capitalism. The integration of the developing world into U.S.-led global capitalism did not lead to a trickle-down effect of wealth and prosperity on a global level, but has in reverse led to a profound trickle-up effect – and concentration of capital in particular states and regions across the globe. As capital becomes more mobile and seeks competitive advantage, this has had a great impact on local populations.

As capital flight generates unemployment and forces workers to migrate to seek work, at the same time generates the needs for workers in other regions. One of the largest flow of migration globally has been internal migration in China from rural regions into industrial hubs. Asia has also now become the second largest destination of migrants globally outside of Europe. As production chains become more global as a result of the compression of time to be able to move goods across the globe, has resulted in the need for greater low wage disposable workers in other regions. Shifting the nature of migration globally, already coupled with historical imbalances as a result of imperialism and uneven development maintaining particular migration corridors. The crisis of 2007/08 in the core countries resulted in push factors of new corridors such as African migration toward Brazil, and Asia. Thus as the power of capital globally strengthens and becomes more mobile it makes migration one of the major forms that workers have individually to cope with such capital flight, and uneven development under capitalism.

Is Global Migration Necessary for Global Capitalism?

One faulty assumption is that capitalists and conservative politicians are outright anti-migration. Trump had actually declared that his aim was to transform the U.S. immigration system into one modeled on Canada's immigration system, which is based on meeting the needs of capital and ensures that those who come through regulated means remain temporary, vulnerable and deportable at any given moment. Global elites, and states in the Global North have in fact been immensely supportive of global migration that suits the needs of capital. Migration has not only provided mass pools of cheap exploitable labour across the globe but has also shored up entire economies in the Global South. In essence it has become the last escape valve that has prolonged the crisis in the Global South, through large financial flows from migrants in the form of remittances. Labour migration is the largest percentage of migration globally. According to the ILO, there are an estimated 150 million migrant workers in 2015 worldwide. The overwhelming majority of labour migration takes place in the form of migrant worker programs, either under trade agreements, through the International Organization of Migration, or Guest Worker programs. These migration regimes allow for mass, temporary migration that suits the need of capital rather than workers.

States have increasingly opted for such models, based on temporary labour migration where workers are tied to a single employer without the freedom of movement. This can be seen as a globalization of the Kafala system. The Kafala system is a sponsor-based system of migration where the employer sponsors the migrant worker for the visa. This creates in essence a privatized form of migration where the employer has the power over the migrant to determine if they are allowed to remain in the host country. The kafala system is associated with temporary migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Countries, forcing workers into situations with single employer visas, without fundamental worker rights, and with deportation being the consequence of challenging their work conditions. This model is not simply a phenomenon in the Gulf, but has been expanded as a model of regulated migration globally.

Canada has become an example of this system for other states to replicate – migration has become regulated and stratified in two forms: one for wealthier migrants, and skilled workers, who have access to citizenship and permanent residence under the point system; and the other form, extreme exploitation without the ability to become permanent residents under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Canada. The program has brought over 300,000 workers on temporary work visas without the right of permanent residency, tied to a single employer and thus constrained in their capacity to defend their basic rights for fear of facing deportation. This form of stratified migration is now upheld by the World Bank as an effective model to ensure continuing flow of remittances from the Global North to the South, while guaranteeing a supply of cheap labour that can be quickly accessed and disposed of. Ensuring that workers remain temporary in the countries to which they migrate ensures that they remit more to their countries of origin. This has become a central aspect of capitalist development in the Global South.

The failure of neoliberal policies (free trade, privatization, and freedom of movement for capital) in the Global South has led to a new discourse by the World Bank – promoting ideas of sustainable development aid; not eliminating debt and allowing countries to pursue sovereign forms of economic development, but repackaging neoliberal policies through aid. To no one's surprise, the mantra of sustainable development also became an epic failure.

The World Bank has since promoted what it sees as the only safety valve left to governments and capitalists in some zones of the Global South to release mounting pressure over unemployment, low value and low-paid work in global supply chains, and lack of state services as a result of economic restructuring – exporting, not commodities, but populations!

Multi-lateral coordination between the UN, the EU, and the IMF through the Forum of Global Migration and Development, the World Bank has moved to promote and expand regulated migration as a mechanism for development, further locking certain zones in the Global South into exploitative neoliberal capitalism. By 2015, the remittances of migrants to developing countries had reached an estimated $601-billion. Without such remittances back to the Global South countries permitting them to purchase commodities from the Global North, they would not meet their international debt obligations, and people's ability to survive would be in peril. Further, remittances and migration become the only means left for Global South populations to secure services, such as health and education, that were previously provided for publically but have now become privatized. Entire economies (such as that of the Philippines and Egypt) are now built around providing export labour.

The Philippines, considered one of the great hopefuls of American-led globalization, although moving labour intensive industries to the Philippines has not improved conditions of poverty for workers there. This led to an increase of its labour export policy, which has led to sending 20 per cent of its workforce abroad. The Philippines has become dependent on remittances which account for 10 per cent of its GDP. Other states such as Egypt have pursued similar strategies, to shore up their economies. Egyptian migrants fill the fisheries of Greece, the agricultural sector in Cyprus, and construction in the Arab world. Egypt too was considered a darling of the World Bank with growth rates at 5 to 6 per cent during the early 2000s. Remittances from Egyptian migrants alone were equivalent to the revenue of the Suez canal, or 5 per cent of the GDP. Not only are the immediate remittances crucial for foreign currency reserves, but also for replacing state services such as welfare, and education, as those in poverty rely on remittances of family members who are sent as workers abroad.

Remittances have become an increasingly important lifeline for developing countries. According to the World Bank, developing countries need to leverage remittances in order to gain access to international capital markets due to the counter cyclical nature of remittance flows. This has been the particular strategy proposed by World Bank economist Dilip Ratha. According to Ratha, “[r]emittances can improve a country's creditworthiness and thereby enhance its access to international capital markets. Hard currency remittances, properly accounted, can significantly improve country risk rating.” This has only reinforced countries in the Global South to pursue labour export programs in order to have steady access to capital markets. This only benefits corporations in the Global North and South, instead of eliminating international debt, countries in the Global South can seek new loans to continue to pay their unjust debt obligations to international lenders. Labour migration has become a win-win for global capitalism – it has allowed countries in the Global South a mechanism to continue to integrate into global markets, avoid crisis, and maintain imports, but at the same time giving countries in the Global North unprecedented amounts of cheap exploitable labour.

Migration and Class in the Global North

Immigrants and migrant workers have been at the fault lines of global capitalism – they are at the heart of the global economy as expressed with such clarity by journalist Michael Grabell around migrant workers in the U.S. and the rise of the logistics industry. “The people here are not day labourers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America's largest companies – Walmart, Macy's, Nike, Frito-Lay... They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.”

Beyond this, immigrant workers are concentrated in industries that cannot be off shored, such as: agriculture, food-processing, services, and logistics, where these workers face the same conditions as they would in the Global South. As conditions facing all workers become more precarious, immigrant and migrant workers become increasingly vulnerable facing lower-wages, precarious conditions, as temporary agency workers, as day labourers, and as a result of being undocumented and without having trade union representation. Despite this, they have organized against the odds, self-organizing against unjust laws, and employers. Organizing not only to defend their own labour rights, but for the working class as a whole.

In the United States immigrant workers brought back to life a militant tradition to May Day as witnessed by the historic mass mobilizations, in 2006 on the “day without an immigrant” where a million people mobilized in the streets of Los Angeles and mobilizations across the United States. In France the sans papier actions in the Paris region in 2008 under the banner “we work here, we live here, we stay here” migrant workers organized wild cat strikes, and occupations of restaurants to demand regularization. In Canada immigrants have been central to broad based working class movements such as the fight for $15 in Canada.

Migrant and immigrant workers have been forming new models of worker organizations along class lines, which has opened up the possibilities of going beyond business unionism. From the creation of hundreds of workers' centres across the U.S. and in Canada, despite the contradictions and limits, migrant and immigrant workers continue to self-organize. Immigrants have formed their own unions on industrial lines, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, taxi workers have organized in Toronto to build new types of organization, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain which has organized migrant workers who are cleaners in London, and large networks such as the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in the USA. These examples of worker self-organization and a renewed labour movement by immigrant workers have been central to giving hope for a renewal of working-class politics.

The industrial action by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance to refuse to go to JFK airport on the eve of the implementation of Trump's first immigration ban ... was the very first political industrial action by workers against Trump and his policies.”

The industrial action by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance to refuse to go to JFK airport on the eve of the implementation of Trump's first immigration ban despite the action being limited was the very first political industrial action by workers against Trump and his policies. This is the kind of struggle and organization that will rebuild the Left and where we need to concentrate our forces, if we truly want to move from protest to power. But that means a Left that takes a serious effort to relate to such struggles.

Under Trump, as capital becomes more mobile and more power is given to finance through deregulation, and borders become increasingly tightened – the call for open borders is not simply a humanitarian demand or one that may seem simply an impossible one, it is very much a necessary one in our moment, and at its heart a working-class demand. That is if our conception of working class is a truly international one, and we aim to root our struggles with all of those who are dispossessed by global capital from their land, and their livelihoods. Where we can be the most effective now is not to call for regulated migration but to actually call for open borders, and to be vigorous in our support for migrant workers in their organizing, not just against employers but their struggles for immigration status, and freedom of movement. As a Left, we also need to find the commonalities in terms of their struggles with those having their livelihoods displaced, whether it be in the rust belts in the U.S., or those having their livelihoods displaced in Mexico, the Philippines, or Syria. They all have had their livelihoods and dignity displaced by the same common enemy – global capitalism and imperialism. This is where we can build the common struggle against the tensions, and build working-class struggles based on solidarity and internationalism. We must, as the Left, call for freedom of movement for people, not for capital.

Mostafa Henaway is a long time organizer at the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal, and was a member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), and the Toronto Coalition of Concerned Taxi Drivers.

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Brazil's Political Rupture and the Left's Opportunity

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:22

Fora Temer – eleições diretas já!

“Out with Temer – direct elections now!” Amid meltdown in Brazil, the left calls for democracy, while the right must find ways to deny the people a voice.

The Brazilian Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) won the country's presidential elections four times in a row; first with Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-06, 2007-10), then with his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff (2011-14, 2015-16). During its 13 years in office, the PT changed Brazil in many ways; four are principally worth mentioning, as they would come to play key roles in the elite conspiracy to impeach Dilma Rousseff and destroy her party.

First, the PT democratized the state. It implemented the social and civic rights included in the 1988 ‘Citizen's Constitution', and advanced Brazil's emerging welfare state across several fields of social provision.

Second, the PT changed the social composition of the state through the appointment of thousands of leaders of mass organizations to positions of power. For the first time in Brazilian history, millions of poor citizens could recognise themselves in the bureaucracy and relate to close friends and comrades who had become ‘important' in Brasília.

Third, PT policies contributed to a significant improvement in the distribution of income, through the creation of millions of unskilled jobs, a rising minimum wage, and higher transfers and benefits.

Fourth, although the government never abandoned the neoliberal macroeconomic policy framework imposed in the 1990s, it gradually introduced, in parallel, neodevelopmental (that is, expansionary Keynesian) policies that helped to secure faster growth, higher profits and wages, and distributional gains.

Successes and Failures

Yet the PT failed to reform media ownership, which secured the space for a virulent opposition aligned with the country's neoliberal elites. The party also endorsed a model of distribution based on financialization, consumption, low-paid jobs, and transfers: essentially, both the rich and the poorest gained, while millions of skilled jobs were lost through the ‘globalization' of production, privatizations, the simplification of managerial structures and new information technologies. They sliced not only the number of ‘good jobs' in manufacturing, but also middle management posts, and increased precarity even for relatively senior jobs.

The Workers' Party elicited mounting opposition by the neoliberal elite and the upper middle class both because of what it did do, and because of what it failed to do. PT economic policies irked finance and most of the bourgeoisie; they suffered losses because of greater state intervention, the reduction of interest rates and the economic downturn since 2011; they also resented the perceived loss of their control over state policy under Rousseff.

The upper middle classes were alienated from the PT because of their ideological commitment to neoliberalism, and because the party supported the economic and social ascent of the working class. The upper middle classes were also tormented by losses in their income and their dislocation from the outer circle of state power.

Rousseff repelled most professional politicians because of her unwillingness to conform to the established principles of pork-barrel politics. The government lost the support of large segments of informal workers, notably the flocks of Pentecostal churches that opposed the expansion of civic rights and progressive values, with flashpoints around Dilma's opening toward the liberalization of abortion and citizenship rights for homosexuals.

Finally, the expansion of the courts, the Attorney General's Office and the federal police – in terms of size, resources and powers – enabled them to launch a devastating attack on the PT.

These elite groups converged around an aggressive ‘alliance of privilege' that was cemented ideologically by the mainstream media. The weakness of the political parties of the right enabled the media to take up the mantle of the opposition, hunting down the PT systematically, drawing upon a discourse which incorporated right-wing values, neoliberal economics, and strident allegations of corruption.

The Revolt of the Elite

The revolt of the elite was triggered by Dilma Rousseff's re-election in 2014. Her victory came as a surprise to the alliance of privilege, who underestimated the capacity of the PT and the left to mobilise a progressive coalition drawing upon the working class and the poor.

However, Rousseff's triumph was fragile, and coincided with the continuing deterioration of the economy, which has plunged the Brazilian economy into the worst crisis in its recorded history. The distributional improvements that had legitimised the PT administrations stagnated. Repeated policy failures, the media onslaught, and the disorganization of the government's base within the most right-wing congress in decades, combined to create a generalised dissatisfaction that focused on the state.

Since 2005, the mainstream media and the judiciary launched successive waves of attack against the PT, with corruption emerging as the ideal tool to fell the Rousseff administration. The lava jato (carwash) operation, pioneered by the federal police since 2014, revealed that a cartel of engineering and construction companies had bribed a group of politically-appointed directors of the state-owned oil conglomerate Petrobras, in order to secure a virtual monopoly over oil and other contracts. Those bribes allegedly channelled funds to several political parties, among them the PT.

The federal police and public prosecutors made overt political use of these investigations. They disregarded evidence that right-wing parties were involved in similar cases, selectively leaked compromising information to the media, and sought to implicate the PT wherever this was possible. Prominent politicians and the managers of several large firms were routinely arrested in order to extract plea bargains. Those refusing to co-operate were imprisoned indefinitely. When they finally surrendered, the aspersions cast on the PT were blatantly used to fuel the scandal mill. Accusations against the other parties were normally ignored.

The unfolding scandal catalysed the emergence of a mass right-wing movement populated by the upper middle classes, whose grievances included a laundry list of deeply felt but unfocused dissatisfactions articulated as demands for the ‘end of corruption' and Dilma's impeachment. Their excitement was misguided, for three reasons.

First, the anti-corruption discourse of the alliance of privilege was selective. It targeted the institutions and parties aligned with neodevelopmentalism, suggesting that their most important goal was to change government policy, rather than eliminate corruption.

Second, chatter about corruption provided a convenient figleaf, obscuring meaningful debate on economic policy. For example, the neoliberal bourgeoisie would find it difficult to campaign to curtail labour rights, cut pensions, weaken domestic industry and cripple Petrobras. However, if these goals were disguised as a ‘struggle against corruption', policy changes could be smuggled in later, regardless of the interests of the vast majority.

Third, the coordinated attack by the judiciary and the media disconnected the PT from its sources of funding and its mass support. The loss of millions of jobs and billions of dollars in output and investment were merely collateral damage.

Lava jato was remarkable for another reason, unrelated to corruption: it was indicative of a severe distortion of Brazil's constitution, by which guarantees of the independence of the judiciary supported the emergence of a self-appointed group of ‘pure' investigators, in fact aligned with the political right, who called upon themselves to clean up the political system.

Their mission was fortuitously supported by elites' mounting animosity toward the PT, the sensitivities of the middle classes, the deepening economic crisis, and the paralysis of the Rousseff administration. In the mêlée, the economic crisis, rising unemployment, gargantuan corruption and a torrent of scandals became thoroughly enmeshed.

The mainstream media began trumpeting a message that the PT was at the centre of a web of thievery without precedent: Lula and Dilma were robbing the republic by day and at night, they conspired to turn Brazil into a satellite of Venezuela. Rousseff lost a voter on her impeachment in the Chamber of Deputies by 367-137, on 17 April 2016, and by 61-20 in the Senate, on 31 August.

Dilma Rousseff's impeachment was a grotesque spectacle. Her trial was overtly political, all legal niceties having been abandoned long ago, and it was transparently orchestrated by a cabal of thieving politicians. They claimed the right to impose an unconstitutional vote of no confidence on a President who had made mistakes, but committed no crime.

The impeachment process was driven by an unholy coalition between the leadership of the opposition, bitterly regretting their four consecutive defeats in Presidential elections, leading figures in the judiciary, Rousseff's traitorous Vice-President, Michel Temer, and the Machiavellian speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, who was struggling with heavy corruption charges in Brazil and in Switzerland (he would end up in prison soon afterwards, his usefulness to the coup overwhelmed by the heavy political cost of the allegations being made against him). They were trailed by a motley crew of minor characters, many of whom were accused of egregious crimes – not least corruption – and by a parade of business leaders whom the media fêted as if they were the nation's saviours.

After the Impeachment

In the following months, the administration led by Michel Temer engaged in a fully-fledged attempt to restore orthodox neoliberalism, undermine employment rights and internationalize the economy. The government's attack was impeded only by its own venality, incompetence and endless tribulations, as Temer stumbled against the law, emerging mass resistance and the ongoing threat that his parliamentary base of support would disintegrate.

This was expected. What came as a surprise was the recent split in the alliance of privilege. The main interest of capital as a whole was the restoration of orthodox neoliberalism, relying on the judiciary to continue dismantling the PT.

But by now the judicial attack had already gained its own momentum, and it has been strongly backed by the upper middle classes, which treat the judges and public prosecutors as major celebrities. In the country of football megastars, soap operas and Carmen Miranda, this is important. And indeed the media has harnessed huge revenues from popular interest in the investigations.

On 18 May, the owners of JBS, the world's largest meat processing conglomerate, agreed a plea bargain. They revealed JBS funding to 28 parties and almost 2,000 politicians, and produced evidence of large cash payments to the leader of the right wing PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) and runner-up in the 2014 presidential elections, Aécio Neves, against whom multiple accusations had already emerged but were never investigated seriously. Finally, JBS produced the recording of a conversation between one of its owners and President Temer, suggesting that JBS would pay Eduardo Cunha for his continuing silence while in jail, in order to avoid incriminating his old friend Temer.

The reaction in Brazil was explosive. Temer, already tainted by multiple allegations of corruption and other misdemeanours, and facing difficulties pushing his neoliberal agenda in congress, was abandoned by parts of the mainstream media, who spotted a lame duck and called for his resignation or, failing that, impeachment. His political allies are jumping ship. Temer is probably doomed.

The problem for the remnants of the alliance of privilege is what to do next: the constitution suggests that congress should elect an interim president to steer the ship until the 2018 elections. The left is calling for direct elections now. Elections are unacceptable for the alliance of privilege, because the political right is divided and has no readily viable candidate.

In contrast, the left could field Lula, who is leading in the polls in spite of the attacks he has been enduring for several years, and despite the fact he is facing investigations that are certain to find him guilty of something: in a few months, he is likely to be unable to run for public office.

Despite the political chaos, the Brazilian left finds itself in a good position for the first time in several years. The genie has not only escaped from its bottle; it has gone berserk. Temer is damaged goods rather than a statesman; it has become incontrovertible that Dilma Rousseff was overthrown by a criminal gang; the alliance of privilege is split, and the left is calling for elections while the right must find ways to deny the people a voice.

The left can win this battle, and upend the conspiracy of the elites. Now is the time to fight, on the streets, in the offices, factories, and neighbourhoods: Fora Temer – eleições diretas já! •

Alfredo Saad-Filho is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London. This article first published on the openDemocracy website.

Source: https://socialistproject.ca/bullet/1419.php

Hunger Strike Ends, Palestinian Prisoners Declare Victory

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:19

GAZA: After 40 days without food, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have suspended their hunger strike in Israeli jails.

The end of the strike came after 20 hours of intense negotiations between the strike's leaders, including imprisoned Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti, and the Israel Prison Service, according to a statement issued Saturday morning by the prisoners solidarity committee.

The committee hailed the agreement as a “victory for the Palestinian people and the prisoners in their epic defense of freedom and dignity.”

It added that Israel was forced to negotiate after realizing that the prisoners “were ready to continue until victory or martyrdom and that the use of oppression, violence and other violations failed to weaken them, but rather strengthened their resolve.”

The statement says Israeli authorities accepted some of the demands of the prisoners, but does not provide details.

However Israel Prison Service sources told the Ma'an News Agency that the agreement, reached between Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Palestinian Authority, would grant prisoners a second monthly family visit to be funded by the PA.

“The move effectively reinstated the number of family visits that were traditionally provided to Palestinian prisoners, before the ICRC reduced the number of visits they facilitated last year from two to one visit a month, sparking protests across the Palestinian territory,” according to Ma'an.

But the Israeli prison spokesperson reportedly “declined to comment on whether any of the other demands were met.”

Some 1,500 prisoners began their hunger strike on 17 April to demand improvements in conditions and an end to solitary confinement, heavy restrictions on family visits and administrative detention – prolonged imprisonment without charge.

They also called for Israel to ease restrictions on the entry of books, clothing, food and other items from family members.

Israel quickly resorted to harsh punitive measures in its effort to break the strike, including transferring prisoners between prisons, subjecting leaders to solitary confinement, blocking visits by lawyers and confiscating personal belongings.

As the strike continued and the health of many prisoners sharply deteriorated, Israel increased psychological pressure: media reports suggested Israel would resort to the dangerous and medically unethical practice of force-feeding and Israeli ministers publicly smeared Marwan Barghouti in an apparent effort to discredit him and break the strike's unity.

By Friday night, 834 prisoners remained on hunger strike, according to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, and 18 remained hospitalized.

Activists in Palestine and around the world have organized solidarity actions with the hunger strikers. Many posted on social media about taking the “salt water challenge” – symbolically drinking only salty water, as the hunger strikers do, to raise awareness about their struggle.

The last mass hunger strike occurred in 2014, when hundreds of prisoners protested the use of administrative detention. Before and since, individuals have waged individual hunger strikes, in some cases reaching three months.

The end of this strike coincides with the beginning of Ramadan. Some prisoners had announced the intention to fast by refusing even salt and water during the hours of sunrise to sunset. This could have placed their already weakened bodies in even graver danger, and sharply increased pressure on Israel.

(Cover Photograph: Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate after hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails suspended a 40-day hunger strike on 27 May. The end of the strike, which coincides with the start of Ramadan, came after marathon negotiations between Israeli prison authorities and strike leaders. Ashraf AmraAPA images)

Wednesday, May 31,2017

Source: http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/6/10830/Hunger-Strike-Ends-Palestinian-Prisoners-Declare-Victory

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Labour Movement in Pakistan

Alternatives International - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:17

Karamat Ali, Executive Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), is one of the most well known faces of the labour movement in Pakistan. In his 40-year journey as a trade unionist, he has figured prominently in most of Pakistan's significant labour movements, always leading from the front.

Hailing from a working class family, Karamat was born in Multan, two years before Partition. Karamat's father was a textile factory worker and his mother and four older sisters were home-based workers. Karamat himself worked in a factory and attended college. He moved to Karachi in the 1960s to live with his eldest sister. And it was from Karachi that his life-long journey for workers' rights began.

On May 1, 1982, he founded PILER, a non-profit company that he established with other like-minded unionists, activists and academia in Karachi. PILER spearheaded a pivotal case, that involved campaigning for compensation for the families of 260 garment factory workers who were killed in the horrific 2012 Baldia factory fire, from the German company that bought 90 per cent of the factory's production.

As a committed human rights and peace activist, Karamat has also been an unwavering advocate for promoting peace between India and Pakistan, building linkages and bridges between civil society groups in both countries. He co-founded the Pakistan-India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy and, in 2013, became the first recipient of the Didi Nirmala Deshpande Peace and Justice Award in Patiala, India, which is awarded to individuals promoting peace in the region. He is also a member of the International Advisory Committee, Hague Appeal for Peace, and the International Council World Social Forum. Recently, Karamat Ali was invited to Brussels to brief the European Parliament on the labour situation in Pakistan, especially with reference to the Baldia factory fire.

In this interview with Newsline, Karamat Ali recalls events of his 40-year-long journey as a trade unionist.

How were you introduced to the world of labour and trade unions?

One day, in the early 1960s, we found a group of student union leaders from the National Students Federation (NSF) sitting outside our college gates in Multan. They had been externed from Karachi and landed up in Multan after being denied admission in several colleges in other cities. They were being punished for organising a student agitation against Ayub Khan's military dictatorship in Karachi. We had not heard of a students' movement or strike till then.

The agitating students explained the issues they were protesting about, and we offered to help when they proposed a students' strike. Students boycotted classes to hear them speak, and then later took a rally to the local commissioner's office for a sit-in to demand that NSF students be allowed to remain in Multan. The commissioner was finally compelled to give in to our demands and further, promised to speak to the Nawab of Kalabagh, the governor of West Pakistan, who personified terror. The commissioner got an assurance from the governor that the NSF students would not be sent back to Karachi and that they would be allowed to complete their studies in Multan. That was the first time I had organised and participated in a strike – and what's more, it was successful.

When I came to Karachi in 1963, I was 18. I joined S. M. Science College and got in touch with those NSF student union leaders whom I had met in Multan, like Mairaj Muhammad Khan, and they asked me to join the NSF, which I did. The D.J. Science College, S. M. Law College and the S.M. Arts College were all located within a radius of three to four kilometres and was the centre of the students' movement. And that's how all of us became part of the anti-Ayub Khan movement in the late 1960s.

While Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was Pakistan's Foreign Minister, we invited him to the S.M. College's annual sports day, after which we got to know him closely. In 1966, after being kicked out of Ayub Khan's government, Bhutto started meeting with students' organisations. In 1967, Bhutto was invited to the annual convention of the NSF where he announced his intention of forming a political party. [In a sense] that was his first public meeting.

Did you feel that Bhutto had a socialist bent of mind at that point?

My colleagues and I were regular visitors at Bhutto's 70 Clifton home. In his own way, he showed his concern for the poor by raising issues of the common man, but I never believed that he was a true socialist because, after all, he came from a big feudal family. When he formed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in November 1967, he invited all of us to join. I told him that I would support him, but not join him, because, “I don't believe that you are a socialist.”

In the meantime, I had commenced discussions with my co-workers on the formation of a union in the factory where I worked. The management found out and the factory's general manager, who incidentally was an old, very well-known Communist, Anis Hashmi, called me to his office to say that while he was around, there was no need for a union. But I was determined that the workers should have a union, and told him that he was not going to be around forever. So one fine day, my employment was terminated.

I took up odd jobs after that and became more deeply involved with the students' movement, which was successful in removing Ayub Khan from office in 1969.

However, after completing my BSc in 1970, I was not allowed to join Karachi University, as my name was among the list of some 20 plus student activists who were denied admission, as we were perceived to be agitators. Some of us decided to work in the rural areas and organise the peasantry, while the rest of us decided to continue with our union work in the city.

My colleagues and I joined a new trade union federation in Karachi – the Muttahida Mazdoor Federation (MMF) led by Usman Baloch. In 1974, I became the general secretary of that Federation. Our goal was to eventually create a single organisation that would bring the workers under one umbrella.

Why was 1972 particularly brutal for the labour movement?

There were two major mobilisations and general strikes during Bhutto's tenure, which resulted in the brutal killing of workers. The workers were agitating for the fulfillment of two major demands: an increase in wages and a share in the profit to be paid as, per the law of the time, the workers' share. This law was introduced in 1968, but it became operational under Bhutto, who had raised it from 2.5 per cent of the profit to five per cent. That law still exists.

On June 7, 1972, the employers of a textile factory in the SITE area said they were unable to pay wages, which enraged their workers, and they took over two of the factories. The workers were highly charged and the government decided to go for a crackdown. The first firing took place when the police broke into one of the factories and started firing indiscriminately on the workers, killing three of them.

We, the labour union leaders, had all been arrested from the SITE area prior to the crackdown, but we had a system in place to alert workers in other factories. When factory workers in other areas learnt that three of their colleagues had died as a consequence of police action, they converged on this particular factory, and they were fired upon yet again, leading to the death of even more workers.

We were able to get hold of the dead body of one of the three who were killed first. The next morning, we took out a procession, carrying with us our comrade's dead body, with the intention of placing it in front of the Governor's House and demanding the arrest of those who had ordered the firing. But as we were coming out of the Frontier Colony, in SITE township, a large number of policemen had already taken up positions, and they started firing without any warning, killing another eight workers that day. This culminated in an industrial strike that completely shut down the whole of Sindh for nearly 12 days. The agitation spread to Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as many of the workers came from those places.

Nobody knows how many workers were killed – but it was said to be in the dozens. The strike finally ended on June 18, after a settlement had been arrived at according to which a tribunal was to be set up by a High Court judge, to investigate and take action against those police officers responsible for the indiscriminate firing. Several of the promises that were made in the settlement were not kept, but at least some of the demands were met, such as the provision of running water, electricity and dispensaries to the workers.

A brutal repression of workers followed: the Karachi Jail was packed to capacity – out of its 1,300 inmates, 1,200 were workers. We got them released and had their cases withdrawn. Three-and-a half months later, in October 1972, the same thing happened in the Landhi Industrial Area – this time on a much larger scale. We don't even know how many workers were killed in that episode but the figures were reportedly higher than those in the SITE industrial area.

Both these incidents took place under Bhutto's government. He was sworn in as prime minister on December 19, 1971 and on February 10, 1972, he announced a labour policy which the trade unions rejected, because they expected much more, given his election campaign promises. People were getting impatient, which is why they mobilised in large numbers prompting Bhutto to use force. “…people should stop this agitation, otherwise the strength of the street will be met with the strength of the state,” he warned.

Didn't Bhutto try to make amends, after so many workers had been killed?

While we were in jail, Bhutto asked a mutual friend to bring us to Islamabad so that he could speak to us directly. We asked to be released from jail first. We made it clear that we were willing to meet him – but not as his prisoners. To which Bhutto said, “Let them rot in jail.”

In 1973, Bhutto declared emergency soon after the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution, suspending fundamental rights. The status quo continued till July 1977, when General Zia-ul-Haq dislodged Bhutto with a boastful announcement – “I have lifted the emergency” – and proceeded to impose martial law.

This great labour upheaval had subsided by 1975, and all those who were part of it were implicated in several cases. We were blacklisted. It became impossible for us to continue our work as there were cases against us, as well as the union leaders.

How did the trade union and labour unions become so fragmented?

Bhutto had repressed the trade unions and the students' movement very effectively. Subsequently, the trade unions as well as the students unions, were gradually taken over by the right-wingers, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)-affiliated student wings like the Jamiat-e-Talaba and other similar organisations. Bhutto tried to form his own trade union by the name of the ‘People's Labour Federation.'

Basically, whatever was left of the trade unions split up into political party-affiliated organisations. Now almost every political party has its own labour wing. Recently there was a referendum at the Pakistan Steel Mills, where Tehreek-e-Insaaf's trade union won against the People's Party one. In reality, this effectively divides the labour movement.

What, would you say, was the golden era of the labour unions?

The golden period lasted till the first martial law under Ayub Khan. Ayub Khan's 10 years and Zia-ul-Haq's 10 years were the worst period in our labour history.

Then came the Structural Adjustment Programme of the IMF in November 1988, courtesy an agreement entered into by a caretaker government three days prior to the elections. The government itself was illegal as there was no caretaker prime minister and General Aslam Beg ran the government from behind the scenes, which was unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, the IMF agreement was imposed upon the government that followed. Benazir was either not able, or not willing to undertake full-scale privatisation. The allegations of corruption levelled against her government was probably not the only reason why she was removed. Nawaz Sharif was brought back, and large-scale privatisation took place under his government.

So we lost more unions and union membership in all firms, companies and banks where privatisation took place. Employees were given the option of the so-called golden handshake and their jobs were terminated or they were given the option of rejoining as contract workers.

The unions had a membership of 1.2 million when Zia-ul-Haq came to power in 1977. By the time he was killed in 1988, we had lost about 30 per cent of the union membership due to closures [of mills and factories], and the induction of contract workers on a large scale that made unionisation impossible.

What is the current status of the labour unions in Pakistan?

During the first martial law imposed by Ayub Khan in 1958, he did away with the labour legislation that existed prior to independence. By 1968, Ayub Khan had completely repealed the law that had been passed in 1926 through Muhammad Ali Jinnah's efforts and brought in his own law, which could not be implemented because of the movement against him.

During Yayha Khan's regime in 1969, there was another highly mobilised mass movement comprising students and workers. A labour conference was convened after which a labour policy was announced that merged the two previous laws of union formation and administration, and the one for industrial disputes. It was an amalgam, with several new provisions that allowed only for enterprise-based unions, and not industrial unions. It also allowed the multiplicity of unions in each enterprise.

Now, there are some 8,500 plus registered trade unions with a combined membership of not more than 500,000 workers. And these unions exist in not more than 1,500 enterprises. On an average, there are more than four or five unions in each plant. It is a total fragmentation, which was the objective of merging the two laws, making the unions totally ineffective. That is why we don't see labour mobilisation anymore.

The agricultural sector was totally excluded to keep the agricultural workers completely devoid of rights.

The International Labour Organ-isation (ILO) review mission of 1986 found that as far as the Right of Association was concerned, Pakistani law excluded 75 per cent of the workforce from the Right of Association. And the remaining 25 per cent could not access this right without difficulties.

Similarly, the Essential Services Act, which is for wartime only, could be implemented, which means that no union activity or right to strike, or both, were allowed. Similarly, by declaring a place as a public utility, the union ceases to exist.

The highest level of unionisation achieved in this country has never been more than 10 per cent. In 1950, the combined population of both East and West Pakistan was about 70 million, with a labour force not exceeding 10 million – with women's participation being very poor. Yet there were 500,000 union members. Now we have the same number of union members or even less, while the labour force is approximately 61 million. So the labour force is six times larger, but less than one per cent of it can unionise.

On a positive note, after the 18th Amendment, the agricultural sector in Sindh has been given the right to unionise.

What is the situation in the factories after the fragmentation of unions?

Under the law, a factory must be inspected at least once a year. But that stopped under Zia-ul-Haq, when he formally announced that no inspection could take place without the concurrence of the employer.

The 1986 ILO review mission on health and safety said that going by the current capacity of the inspectorate, a factory inspected in 1986 would only get its next turn for inspection after 30 years. The Baldia garment factory fire of 2012 – one of the worst in Pakistan's history – was the result of no inspection.

When you say that all the parties have their labour wings, are you implying that labour has become politicised?

There is nothing wrong with the politicisation of labour. In fact every citizen should take part in politics and join a party of his or her own choice. However, dividing workers along party lines has a negative impact on the unions.

How disruptive have labour unions been in certain industries such as PIA and KESC?

Trade unions play a positive role. It is better to deal through an organisation rather than 10,000 individuals, and settle matters for both sides through a collective bargaining agreement. The issue of workers' rights is a bigger problem in our society in which feudal attitudes prevail even in the non-feudal sectors of society.

In Pakistan, industrialisation literally started with the public sector (courtesy PIDC), which was then handed over to the private sector. And on close examination, it appears that the private sector made a mess of it. A union does not have the right to recruit people. And yet when the issue of overstaffing arises, the question should be, who did the actual recruiting in the first place?

Secondly, unions are not involved in management functions. Had nationalisation been done properly, you would have had a system of workers' participation. That was never done. Instead, the private sector managing director was removed only to be replaced by a bureaucrat and nothing else changed.

I will not deny that there were excesses, which are bound to happen when things are done in a haphazard manner. The management of nationalised companies enjoyed almost absolute powers and they indulged in malpractices. Then, of course, some trade union leaders who were given promotions would end up supporting the management, while the rest would become reactionary.

There was a small private airline called Orient Airways, which later became Pakistan International Airlines, set up in the public sector where the workers were unionised from the very beginning. It remained one of the best airlines in the world for a very long time. So how come PIA was the best while there was a union? Did you know many of the best airlines of the world today, such as Emirates and Malaysian airlines were set up by PIA personnel who were sent around the world as trainers.

What, in your view, should the real wage of a worker be now?

In my calculation, the real wage in Pakistan should be at least Rs. 30,000. In the olden days it used to be equivalent to the price of one tola of gold, but now a tola of gold is valued at over Rs. 50,000.

The current minimum wage is Rs. 14,000, with purchasing power going down. The fact is that a minimum wage is determined for unskilled workers and it should not apply to skilled workers. The gap between our minimum wage and the average wage our workers earn is getting wider. In practice, the average wage earned by male workers in the garment sector is not more than Rs. 10,500 a month, and for female workers it is presently around Rs. 6,000-7,000. And this, after working for 14 to 15 hours to make ends meet. This is particularly true of those doing piece work in order to earn just enough to survive on.

Where does Pakistan stand regionally as far as the labour laws are concerned?

Pakistan has ratified all eight conventions of the ILO pertaining to the Right of Association, collective bargaining, forced labour, abolition of forced labour, minimum wage, worst forms of child labour, equal remuneration and discrimination.

Unfortunately, our legislation is not in full conformity with ILO conventions. On the contrary, they actually contravene them by changing the definition of a worker, for instance. In the banking sector if you are working as an associate clerk or a cashier your designation is changed to a cash officer, thus taking away your right to unionisation or forming an association. But an association does not have the legal right to bargain collectively. So such devices are violative of ILO's Convention 87 in letter and spirit.

Similarly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees these economic and social rights to every human being – and Pakistan is a signatory to it. In Pakistan's 1973 constitution, article 17 guarantees the Right of Association to all citizens, including the employer and the employees – with the exception of those instances where the sovereignty of Pakistan can be affected negatively. But one would have to really prove how the sovereignty of Pakistan is compromised.

In the Industrial Relations Ordinance there is a provision that the law does not apply to anything that is directly or incidentally related to the defence of Pakistan. A factory where we had formed a union in 1972 used to produce and sell water coolers to the armed forces as well. The owners went to court saying that since they were providing goods to the armed forces, their workers could not form a union. Then we found out they were also exporting their coolers to India. So we went to court. Obviously they were a commercial concern, and had nothing to do with the defence of Pakistan, otherwise they wouldn't be selling their goods to India.

Source: http://newslinemagazine.com/magazine/interview-karamat-ali/

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