Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease

Responsible Statecraft: Global South again shows ambivalence on the Ukraine war

The UN General Assembly voted to condemn Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian territories on Wednesday. The vote was 143 in favor, five opposed, 35 abstentions and ten absent. Two supporting votes (Myanmar and Afghanistan) were cast by delegates who did not represent their de facto governments. So the actual vote was something on the order of 141 for and the rest checking out or opposing.

Given the egregiously illegal nature of the issue — outright annexation of a neighbor’s sovereign territory — the fact that essentially 52 states did not back its condemnation after what must have been considerable pressure is more than remarkable.

These 52 states were almost entirely from the Global South, with Africa and Asia being the continents whose governments were most inclined to vote against, abstain, or stay home. Southeast Asia was generally not in this camp, though important states such as Vietnam and U.S. treaty ally Thailand abstained.

But Eurasia’s vast expanse, comprising (other than Russia) China, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, and all five Central Asian states that constituted part of the former Soviet Union, and also Iran, were not with the United States on the resolution. Almost all these states also belong to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — a rising, if still early-stage — international organization representing one of the core geographies of the global order. As many as 24 African states also abstained, opposed, or did not vote for the resolution. With the exception of Cuba, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua — most of whom Washington has poor or hostile relations with — Latin American and Caribbean governments voted to support the resolution.

The outcome mirrored almost exactly the General Assembly vote last March to condemn the Russian invasion. Since then, the Russians have been accused of war crimes, while at the same time losing ground on the battlefield in recent weeks. Putin is domestically weaker and a target of nationalist critics. In the last few days, the world watched as Russian rockets pounded civilian targets in several Ukrainian cities. Yet the global dividing lines have barely budged. By population, a majority of the Global South and governments representing nations with close to half of the world’s population did not agree with Washington’s position when put to a public vote.

RT: EU concerned over UN vote on Ukraine – Borrell

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has expressed disappointment that more countries didn’t support the UN’s latest resolution on the non-recognition of referendums on joining Russia in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and in Zaporozhye and Kherson regions.

Speaking at the European Diplomatic Academy on Thursday, Borrell said he was happy that “the system reacted very well” after 143 countries in the UN General Assembly voted to reject the referendums, with only five countries, including Russia, voting against the resolution.

“There was a lot of work behind [this result], a lot of outreach to many people in order to be sure that we were above the 140 line,” the top diplomat said.

However, Borrell went on to state that he was “worried because there were too many abstentions,” as 45 countries, including China, India, South Africa, Thailand and Cuba, chose to refrain from casting their vote for the resolution.

“When more or less 20% of the world community decided not to support or not to reject the Russian annexation – for me, it is too many,” said the diplomat, adding that “we are happy because the bottle is quite full, but it is a little bit empty.”

Borrell insisted that more work must be done to convince more countries to condemn Russia and “make the world reject” Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine.

TeleSUR: UN Resolution Against Russia is Diplomatic Terror, Lavrov Says

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the approval by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of a resolution against Russia was reached by intimidating developing countries.

“The methods of diplomatic terror were used by the West, shamelessly, openly twisting the arms of developing countries, and threatening them with all sorts of punishments.” Lavrov said.

“Only by such blatant blackmail, by such threats, was it possible to make that result possible,” he explained.

“We understand everything perfectly and the assertion of the Americans that they don’t pressure anyone and that everyone votes as they want is a lie. And they know it too.”

Climate Home News: US, Germany back ‘fundamental reform’ of World Bank to scale climate finance

On Tuesday, Germany and the US handed a joint proposal for “a fundamental reform of the World Bank” to its management, during this week’s annual meetings in Washington DC.

The proposals aim to make the bank fit to address global challenges, including climate action and biodiversity conservation.

A spokesperson for the German government told Climate Home News the proposed reforms were backed by 10 countries, including all of the G7 group.

Development minister Svenja Schulze, who serves as Germany’s representative on the World Bank’s board of governors, said: “The World Bank’s current model…. is no longer appropriate in this time of global crises. Challenges and investment needs are so great that the model needs to be adjusted.”

Schulze said the reforms should include “climate lending on better terms” and “targeted budget support for governments which want to pursue policy reforms to make their economies climate neutral”.

Germany expects a response from the bank by the end of the year.

Reuters: Yellen says Russian oil price cap in $60 range would allow Moscow some profit

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that a price cap on Russian oil exports in the $60-a-barrel range would likely be sufficient to reduce Moscow’s energy revenues while allowing profitable production.

Yellen told an event at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington that the United States and its Western allies are still discussing where to set the price for a capping mechanism meant to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine while keeping Russian crude on the global market.

TeleSUR: NASA Confirms DART Mission Changed Asteroid’s Motion in Space

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission has successfully changed the orbit of the asteroid Dimorphos when the NASA spacecraft intentionally slammed into the space rock, the agency said on Tuesday.

This marked humanity’s first time purposely changing the motion of a celestial object and the first full-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology, said NASA.

Prior to DART’s impact, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its larger parent asteroid, Didymos.

Since DART’s intentional collision with Dimorphos on Sept. 26, astronomers have been using telescopes on Earth to measure how much that time has changed.

Now, the investigation team has confirmed the spacecraft’s impact altered Dimorphos' orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, shortening the 11 hour and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes, said NASA.


TeleSUR: Fifteen European Countries Join Missile Shield Initiative

During a meeting of defense ministers on Thursday, Finland and 14 countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) signed a letter of intent for the development of the “European Sky Shield Initiative.”

This initiative proposed by Germany was also taken up by Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, the United Kingdom.

This “shield” aims to create a European air and missile defense system through the common procurement of equipment by European nations, which will strengthen NATO’s integrated air and missile defense.

TeleSUR: EU Energy Crisis Is Its Own Responsibility - Putin

Speaking today at the Russian Energy Week international forum, Putin said that, far from being related to the outcome of the current conflict in Ukraine, Europe’s energy crisis is “the result of a wrong policy in the energy sphere for several previous years.”

The Russian President criticized the EU’s spot price mechanism in this regard. This year alone, the bloc could lose up to 300 billion euros in spot prices, about 2 percent of the Eurozone’s GDP.

Putin said this could have been avoided if Brussels would instead choose long-term oil-linked contracts for gas imports. Mentioning the plight of Europeans due to rising electricity and gas bills, Putin took issue with those who claim it is Russia’s fault.

“The population, (in Europe) just as in the Middle Ages, has begun to stockpile firewood for the winter. What does this have to do with Russia? They constantly try to blame their own mistakes on someone else, in this case Russia. It is their own fault; I want to emphasize.”

RT: Council of Europe Assembly brands Russia ‘terrorist regime’

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on Thursday, urging its member states to “declare the current Russian regime as a terrorist one.”

The resolution was overwhelmingly backed by the PACE members present at the session, with 99 voting in its favor and one abstaining. The body has a total of 306 seats and twice as many members, half of which are principal members and half are substitutes.

The adoption of the resolution has been celebrated by top Ukrainian officials, including President Vladimir Zelensky, who addressed the assembly before the vote.

“This is a powerful signal to the world community and Russia that punishment for crimes is inevitable!” Zelensky said in a post on Twitter.


Oil Price: Russia’s Oil Revenues Drop To The Lowest Level This Year

Falling crude oil prices and declining oil exports resulted in a $3.2-billion drop in Russia’s oil revenues to $15.3 billion for September, the lowest monthly oil export revenue for Moscow this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.

Total crude oil and oil product exports out of Russia fell by 230,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 7.5 million bpd in September, the IEA said in its Oil Market Report out today. The September oil export level was 560,000 bpd lower compared to Russia’s oil exports before the invasion of Ukraine, the agency estimated.

Russian oil exports to the European Union fell by 390,000 bpd in September compared to August, the IEA’s data showed.

“With less than two months to go before a ban on Russian crude oil imports comes into effect, EU countries have yet to diversify more than half of their pre-war import levels away from Russia,” the agency noted.

Reuters: Russia is prepared to quit Black Sea grains deal, writes to UN with demands

Moscow has submitted concerns to the United Nations about an agreement on Black Sea grain exports, and is prepared to reject renewing the deal next month unless its demands are addressed, Russia’s Geneva U.N. ambassador told Reuters on Thursday.

The agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, paved the way for Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports that had been shut since Russia invaded. Moscow won guarantees for its own grain and fertiliser exports.

The agreement helped stave off a global food crisis: Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s biggest grain exporters and Russia is the number one fertiliser exporter. But Moscow has repeatedly complained about its implementation, arguing it still faces difficulty selling fertiliser and food.

In an interview with Reuters, Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said Moscow had delivered a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday setting out a list of complaints. U.N. officials are due in Moscow on Sunday to discuss the renewal of the agreement.

TeleSUR: Russia Won’t Recognize Nord Stream Probe if Experts Excluded

Without the participation of Russian experts, Moscow won’t recognize any results of investigations into leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

In a statement, the ministry said it had summoned envoys from Germany, Denmark and Sweden in recent days to express “bewilderment” over Russia’s exclusion from a joint probe into the sabotage.

If Russian experts are not allowed to take part in the investigation, “Moscow will proceed from the fact that the mentioned countries have something to hide or are covering up for the perpetrators of these terrorist acts,” the ministry said.

Reuters: Russia says several arrested in foiled attack on TurkStream pipeline

The Kremlin said on Thursday that several people had been arrested during a foiled attack on the TurkStream gas pipeline on Russian territory, Interfax news agency reported.

Russia has said it is stepping up security on the TurkStream pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Turkey, amid unexplained ruptures on the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea and an oil leak on the Druzhba pipeline in Poland.

United Kingdom

TeleSUR: UK Chancellor Kwarteng Sacked Amid Mini-Budget Chaos

“You have asked me to stand aside as your Chancellor. I have accepted,” Kwarteng said in his resignation to Prime Minister Liz Truss posted on Twitter.

Kwarteng’s time in office – 38 days – made him one of the shortest-serving UK chancellors in history.

Al Jazeera: IMF chief rebukes UK officials over ‘policy coherence’

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has rebuked the United Kingdom over its planned tax cuts, telling its finance minister and central bank chief that their policies should not be contradictory.

Her comments on Thursday during the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Washington highlighted concerns about financial market turmoil triggered by the UK’s proposed “mini-budget” of increased spending and tax cuts that were threatening to overshadow bigger economic challenges, such as the fight against inflation and the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Georgieva told a news conference that she discussed with British finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng and Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey the need for “policy coherence and communicating clearly … so in this jittery environment there would be no reasons for more jitters.”

“Our message to everybody, not just to the UK, at this time: fiscal policy should not undermine monetary policy because, if it does, the task of monetary policy only becomes harder and it translates into the necessity of even further increases of rates and tightening of financial conditions,” Georgieva said. “So don’t prolong the pain.”

WSWS: Things to get much, much worse for UK workers

Rising interest rates, high inflation, and declining wages and welfare benefits will plunge vast numbers of UK workers into desperate poverty.

Thousands are set to lose their homes as due to crushing rises in mortgage rates and resulting rent increases. Close to five million homeowners face staggering increases in their mortgage payments over the next two years. For the first time since 2008, the average two-year fixed mortgage rate soared above 6 percent this month, with a further rise to 6.46 percent this week. UK Finance predicts that a rise in the Bank of England’s own interest rate to 6 percent would add an estimated £445 a month to repayments on a typical £200,000 loan—a staggering £5,340 a year.

Two million people already on variable rate deals will see an immediate increase. Over the next six months around 600,000 mortgages will renewed, resulting in nearly 3,300 households a day being forced to taking on hundreds of pounds a month in extra repayments of face repossessions. Around 2 million mortgages holders coming to the end of a fixed rate deal will have to do the same in the next year.

According to the Royal Bank of Canada, passing on these costs to tenants could lift already record-high rents by £280 a month.


Naked Capitalism: A Central Banker in Finland Just Told Finns to Stock Up on Cash, Just in Case of Disruption to Payments System

Households in Finland should make sure they have some cash on hand, just in case the country’s payments system were to go down, warns Päivi Heikkinen, the Head of the Payment Systems Department and Chief Cashier at the Bank of Finland. In an interview with the national broadcaster MTV3 on Tuesday, Heikkinen said (machine translated) her intention was not to ”fabricate catastrophic scenarios.” That was before saying that in the worst case scenario, the payments system could go down for a period of weeks.

“I don’t want to paint devils on the wall,” she said, “but now we are talking about more serious disruption than what has been brought up in the past.”

Since applying to join NATO in July this year, Finland has allegedly been the target of a number of cyber attacks, including a Denial-of-Service (DoS) attack that targeted the Finnish Parliament on August 9, 2022, temporarily disabling the organization’s website. Since then, the State has begun awarding grants of up to €100,000 to companies, large and small to help them bolster their cyber security.

Although Finland has not yet joined NATO, its foreign minister Pekka Haavisto recently said it would still receive help from its NATO partners in the event of direct threat, even before full membership. Now, a senior official of that country’s central bank is warning of a possible cyber attack against the payments system that could disrupt the system for over a week, and is urging people to have some cash savings at home just in case.

The irony is that Finland, like its Scandinavian peers, is among the world’s most cashless economies. According to the Bank of Finland, it is on track to become completely cashless by 2030. A survey conducted last year by the central bank found that only 7% of people use cash when making purchases. Ninety percent of the survey’s respondents said they pay for their groceries with a card or mobile payment app.


WSWS: French government requisitions refinery workers as strikes spread

On Wednesday evening, French police requisitioned four strikers at the Exxon refinery at Port Jérome-Gravenchon near Le Havre, as French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had threatened the previous day. They face a six-month prison sentence or a €10,000 fine. Two workers were requisitioned to resume fuel deliveries on Wednesday evening, and two more Thursday morning.

Workers at the ExxonMobil fuel depot in Dunkirk are also on strike. In response to Borne’s threats on Tuesday, the strike spread Wednesday morning, as workers at the Donges refinery and maintenance workers at five nuclear reactors walked out. Now six out of France’s seven oil refineries are on strike. By Wednesday night, 30.8 percent of petrol stations in France had no fuel.

The Macron government’s action is a frontal attack on the democratic right to strike. This right was guaranteed in the French constitution after the fall of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime, which formally outlawed the class struggle during World War II.

This action follows the precedent of the Sarkozy government’s use of the requisition order against refinery workers in 2010 to crush strikes that were ultimately isolated by the union bureaucracies. Today, the Macron government is mounting a massive offensive against the working class at a much more developed stage of the world capitalist crisis.

Macron’s aggressive actions are setting into motion an explosive confrontation between the police-state machine and the working class. The state aims to suppress strikes against inflation, in the refineries and by workers far more broadly. A wave of struggles is erupting in France and internationally amid a devastating surge in inflation, energy shortages, a resurgence of the pandemic, and the escalating war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine.

The Guardian: French ministers urge oil giant to raise wages as strikes continue

France has told the oil giant TotalEnergies it has a duty to raise wages, as the group’s two-week standoff with striking workers drags on, disrupting petrol supplies and causing a crisis for the government.


WSWS: “By mid-month we have no money left”—Workers speak out against war and inflation at Job Centres in Berlin and Duisburg

Workers and the unemployed, Hartz IV welfare recipients and students are being dramatically affected by soaring inflation and skyrocketing energy and gas prices—direct consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Ukraine war and economic sanctions against Russia. A number of workers at Job Centres spoke to WSWS reporters and opposed NATO’s proxy war against Russia, which only benefits the capitalist oligarchs.

Sara (not her real name), who spoke to the WSWS outside a Job Centre in Duisburg, is a single mother of three children. She said: “The war is bad news and the situation is catastrophic overall. Food has become so expensive. By the middle of the month I have no money left. Then I have to borrow money from wherever I can, pay back my private debts at the beginning of the month and then the whole thing starts all over again.”

Regarding increased electricity costs, Sara said, “I used to pay 50 euros a month for electricity. Then I got a high demand for additional payment from the public utility company, which caused me a lot of problems. That’s why I have increased my monthly instalment payments to 110 euros a month. I’m hoping for a refund, but haven’t heard anything yet [from the government] about the increased electricity prices. I don’t know how I’m going to pay them.'

East Asia and Oceania

Reuters: Putin seeks to kindle anti-Western sentiment among Asian leaders

President Vladimir Putin used a speech to Asian leaders on Thursday to develop a theme that he has pressed more intensely as Russia’s military fortunes have waned: that Moscow is fighting the West to establish a fairer world.

With Western economic sanctions also tightening, Putin has shifted his emphasis from fighting alleged “fascists” in Kyiv to confronting a “collective West” that is arming Ukraine with the supposed aim of expanding its influence at Russia’s expense.

“The world is becoming truly multi-polar,” Putin said. “And Asia, where new centres of power are emerging, plays a significant, if not key, role in it.”

At a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Kazakh capital Astana, Putin described the West as a neo-colonial power bent on stunting the development of the rest of the world and exploiting poorer countries.


TeleSUR: Unilateral Sanctions Are ‘Tumor of Human Society’: China​​​​

Describing unilateral coercive measures as a “tumor of human society,” a Chinese envoy urged the United States and some other Western countries to cancel their illegal and unreasonable sanctions immediately.

In fact, the unilateral sanctions by those countries under the pretext of human rights violate human rights in other nations, said Dai Bing, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

“Those Western countries must be held responsible and accountable for the systematic violation of human rights caused by their unilateral coercive measures,” Dai said at the side event of the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.

Reuters: China’s digital currency passes 100 bln yuan in spending - PBOC

Transactions using China’s digital yuan surpassed 100 billion yuan ($13.9 billion) as of Aug. 31, China’s central bank said on Wednesday, as the country continues its roll-out of a central bank digital currency.

The spending involved 360 million transactions in pilot areas in 15 provinces and municipalities, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said, adding that more than 5.6 million merchants could now accept payments with the digital currency.

China is at the fore of a global race to develop central bank digital currencies, although adoption is still in the early stages. Transactions using e-CNY rose from 87.6 billion yuan by the end of 2021, the PBOC said.

SCMP: 5 more years of Xi: the West doesn’t like the idea, but most Chinese do

“He has governed the country very well,” taxi driver Cheng Wenli said, explaining why he supported a third five-year term for Xi Jinping as general secretary of the Communist Party of China, as he drove past Zhongnanhai, the seat of the central government in Beijing. Like Cheng, most delegates to the party’s 20th National Congress, scheduled to begin on October 16, have probably made up their minds about Xi. His third term is all but certain.

Like any politician, Xi has his share of detractors. However, contrary to the general perception in the West, Xi enjoys immense popularity at home. According to a survey led by York University in Ontario, Canada that was published in 2021, Chinese citizens’ trust in the government led by Xi stood at 98 per cent.

The fact is that the Chinese people have found a strong and effective leader in Xi during his first two terms. As the National Congress approaches, he is riding a wave of popularity in the country, especially among the relatively underprivileged. Many of these low-income families would be among the 100 million people lifted out of extreme poverty over the past decade.

Indeed, most Chinese would attribute China’s spectacular economic growth to Xi’s leadership. Over the past decade, the country’s GDP has more than doubled to US$17.7 trillion, with China’s share of the world economy jumping from 11 per cent to 18 per cent.

China has also become a more liveable country. It has planted a quarter of the world’s new forest in the past decade, while carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product have fallen by 34 per cent. Mountains have become greener, rivers and lakes cleaner, and skies bluer.

Beijing, once plagued by air pollution for the better part of the year, logged 288 days of good air quality in 2021 – up from 176 days in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of heavily polluted days in a year went from 58 to eight over the same period.

Xi’s campaign against corruption and crime, which could have contributed to Washington’s claim that the Communist Party has become more “repressive”, has made most people in the country feel safer. Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are generally recognised as among the safest major cities in the world.

At a time of heightened geopolitical tensions and global recession fears, China needs a strong and steady hand at the helm. An experienced and proven leader is surely to be preferred to someone new and untested.

SCMP: China is working on ‘invisible’ missile launchers for ‘future combat’

China is developing launchers for its Dongfeng series of road-mobile missiles that could evade detection by satellites, radars and drones, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

They are part of a push to develop new-generation weapons for future warfare, according to the latest episode in a CCTV series on the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army.

Yang Biwu, a PLA Rocket Force researcher who worked on the launch vehicle for the DF-17 hypersonic missile, said artificial intelligence technology would be used to make the missile launchers more tactical and “invisible”.


MEMO: Malaysia to sign contract with Turkish defence firm for drone manufacturing

Malaysia has selected Turkish Aerospace Industries to provide three unmanned aircraft, Defence News reports.

According to the report, the Malaysian government has decided to contract with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), the country’s Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said in a statement.

The purchase will be funded under the country’s five-year spending plan, rather than its defence budget, the Minister added.

Central Asia and the Middle East


MEMO: Putin courts Erdogan with plan to pump more Russian gas via Turkiye

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, proposed to his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, to export more gas via Turkiye and turn it into a new supply “hub”, Reuters reports.

According to the report, Putin said Turkiye offered the most reliable and fastest route to deliver gas to the European Union.

During a mutual meeting in Astana, Putin told Erdogan the hub would be “a platform not only for supplies, but also for determining the price, because this is a very important issue”.

“Turkiye proposes a platform that would allow prices to be set without politics,” Putin also said.

Reports say Russia is searching for a different route to redirect supplies away from the Nord Stream Baltic gas pipelines, damaged in explosions last month, which are still under investigation.


Iraqi News: Iraq records highest economic growth rate in history

The financial advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mazhar Muhammad Salih, explained the reasons behind Iraq’s highest growth rate among Arab countries in 2022.

Salih explained that Iraq’s growth rate exceeded nine percent, according to a report issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), describing this percentage as the highest in the history of Iraq.

“The growth rate reached 9.4 percent in one year because Iraq’s oil exports increased by about one million barrels compared to the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, oil prices increased by 40 percent, and several large reconstruction projects are taking place in cities liberated from ISIS,” Salih said.


TeleSUR: Syrian Farmers Suffer From Prolonged Drought

In Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakah, known as the food basket of the country, farmers have been reeling under a severe drought.

Abdullah Hussain, a farmer from Hasakah, told Xinhua that “we have been plagued by drought over the past two years, and before that, we had struggled with wildfires caused by the U.S. forces and their subordinates.”

For Karmo Ali, another farmer whose village used to enjoy wetter weather, the situation is also bad as poor rainfall wrecks hope of a harvest, forcing people to leave their farmland to find jobs in urban areas.

“This is our reality and most people have fled their homes due to the lack of work and harvest,” he told Xinhua.

The United Nations said in March that Syria saw 2021 the worst drought in more than 70 years, affecting access to drinking water, electricity generation, and irrigation water for millions of people.

The water crisis decimated the country’s wheat harvest, with production down from 2.8 million tons in 2020 to just 1.05 million tons in 2021, it added.


MEMO: Russia wants just settlement to Palestine-Israeli issue, says Putin

Russia wants a just settlement to the Palestine-Israel issue in line with UN resolutions, President Vladimir Putin said in a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, on Thursday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Russia has “a principled stance based on the fundamental resolutions of the United Nations and it remains unchanged,” Putin told Abbas during talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, on the sidelines of a regional summit.

He said Moscow continues to closely monitor developments in the Middle East.

On bilateral cooperation with Palestine, he said “a lot” needs to be done to enhance economic ties.

Abbas hailed Russia’s position on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

“We believe and know that Russia has a clear position on the settlement, and I am absolutely sure that it will never change. We know perfectly well that Russia stands for justice, for international law,” he said.

Abbas stressed the need for a greater role of the Middle East Quartet, which comprises the UN, US, EU and Russia.

He said the group should take the lead on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, instead of an individual country or organisation.

“We do not want America, under any pretext, to be solely engaged in solving the Palestinian problem,” Abbas asserted.

“It can be a part of the quartet, play a role there, but we will never accept its monopolisation of the settlement issue,” he added.

He also underlined the food crunch in Palestine and asked for Russia to expedite grain deliveries.


Climate Home News: Funds for Pakistan flood relief come too little, too late

Two months on from devastating, climate change induced floods, millions of Pakistanis are still living on roadsides and struggling for food, shelter and clean drinking water.

But the wealthy nations who bear most responsibility for causing climate change have yet to deliver all the funds they have promised, let alone enough funds to cover the damage done.

Immediately after the floods, Pakistan’s planning minister Ahsan Iqbal said a conservative estimate of the damage done was $10bn. “It is a preliminary estimate likely to be far greater,” he said.

Despite this, Pakistan and the United Nations (UN) put out an appeal on 30 August for just $160m, a figure roughly 60 times smaller than Iqbal’s estimate for damages.

Oxfam’s humanitarian lead Magnus Corfixen told Climate Home this figure was low because the UN’s assesment “didn’t include some of the worst affected districts as they were not hit by the first floods”.

Last week, the UN upped its appeal to $816m. “We need all of these funds, and we need them quickly,” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan Julien Harneis.

But UN data analysed by Climate Home shows that rich countries have so far failed to deliver even enough aid to meet the UN’s original appeal. This data relies on donor countries to report to it so is not comprehensive but it is used by the UN and updated daily.


Africa News: Africa and Ukraine ‘in the same boat’, says Ukrainian diplomatic chief

Somebody’s panicking about the UN votes over the last nine months.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba was on a tour of the African continent last week and earlier this week, visiting Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Kenya, among others. Mr. Kouleba had cut short his stay in Africa on Monday, following the massive Russian strikes on Ukraine.

“We are in the same boat,” said Mr. Kouleba during a virtual press conference organized with African media, mentioning, in particular, the impact of the war on “global food security.

He added that “830,000 tons of grain have been delivered to African countries” since July.


Africa News: Niger to pump more crude as pipeline works accelerate

Masked and helmeted Chinese and Nigerian workers hoist giant steel pipes over mounds of earth. Farther away, smoke billows from blowtorches. Camouflaged in the millet fields, heavily armed soldiers are on the lookout.

In Gaya, in southwestern Niger, near Benin, the largest oil pipeline in Africa is taking shape. Nearly 2,000 km long - 1,250 km of which is in Niger - the pipeline is to link the oil wells of the Agadem field in the far east, the scene of deadly jihadist incursions, to the Beninese port of Sèmè, from where Nigerien crude will be evacuated for the first time.

With a modest production of 20,000 barrels per day, Niger, one of the poorest states in the world, became an oil producer in 2011.

The black gold extracted by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is so far transported by pipelines to Zinder (south-central Niger), where it is refined.

Initially, Niger had planned to evacuate its crude through the Cameroonian port of Kribi via neighboring Chad, before opting for the Benin corridor.

Launched in 2019, the project was supposed to be completed in 2022, but the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed it down, Nafiou Issaka, the deputy general manager of the West African Oil Pipeline Company (Wapco), the project owner, told AFP.

Wapco, a subsidiary of CNPC, is now working hard: more than 600 km of pipes have already been laid, “i.e. a 51.5% completion rate”, and Niger could sell its crude on the international market in “October or November 2023”, he hopes.

South Africa

Al Jazeera: SA port and rail workers reject revised pay, continue strike

South African rail freight and port workers have rejected a revised offer from state-owned logistics firm Transnet and decided to continue the strike that started last week, a union leader said on Thursday.

Transnet, which operates South Africa’s rail freight and ports, said on Tuesday it had raised its wage offer to 4.5 percent from 3-4 percent previously, with additional 5.3 percent annual increases over the next two years.

North America

United States

People’s Daily: GOP members of Congress question aim of continued U.S. aid to Ukraine

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict is trending toward further escalation and the Joe Biden administration of the United States remains committed to providing continuous assistance to Kiev, Republicans on Capitol Hill have been doubtful of the administration’s end goal - if there is one.

Projecting a bumpy road ahead for additional U.S. security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine if the Republican Party wins back the House in the upcoming midterm elections, The Hill in a Wednesday report quoted Scott Perry, GOP congressman representing Pennsylvania, as saying the Biden administration lacks a clear goal for arming Ukraine while problems at home remain to be tackled.

“We all want to help. At the same time, you know, we’ve got problems in our own country that remain unresolved, and we have no idea what the administration’s plan is. Like, what’s the end state? Where are we headed?” Perry, also chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, was quoted as saying. “Are our tax dollars being used wisely?”

On Twitter, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, one of the current administration’s most cynical critics, slammed Biden’s request that Congress approve 13.7 billion dollars in additional aid for Ukraine. “Biden needs to understand that we are the USA not the US-ATM,” she tweeted last month.

Damn. I hate Boebert but that’s pretty good.

WSWS: White House draws up blueprint for World War III

Less than one week after US President Joe Biden warned that the US conflict with Russia could trigger a nuclear “Armageddon,” the White House published a national security strategy pledging to “win” American global hegemony through military violence.

The document pledged to expand the US military, “integrate” economic life with war-making, and “win the competition for the 21st century” in what it called the “decisive decade.”

Embracing in all fundamentals the 2018 national defense strategy published by the fascist would-be dictator Donald Trump, Biden’s national security strategy affirms that the United States is locked in an existential national conflict with Russia and, most of all, China.

“We are now in the early years of a decisive decade for America and the world,” declares Biden’s personal introduction to the document. “The terms of geopolitical competition between the major powers will be set.”

These opening remarks echo Biden’s declaration in March that the world is on the brink of a “new world order,” and that “we’ve got to lead it.”

Biden’s strategy, like Trump’s 2018 national security strategy, is violently nationalistic, declaring that the United States acts not in the interests of humanity or of its allies, but fundamentally to preserve its selfish interests. “Our strategy is rooted in our national interests,” Biden declares.

“Our military power continues to grow,” the document menaced, pledging to “Modernize and strengthen our military so it is equipped for the era of strategic competition.”

For these reasons, the document threatens, “nations are seeing once again why it’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America.”

Common Dreams: Protests in 40+ US Cities Demand Deescalation as Poll Shows Surging Fear of Nuclear War

As new polling showed this week that Americans' fear of nuclear war has steadily grown since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, anti-nuclear campaigners on Friday called on federal lawmakers to take action to mitigate those fears and ensure the U.S. is doing all it can to deescalate tensions with other nuclear powers.

Anti-war groups including Peace Action and RootsAction organized picket lines at the offices of U.S. senators and representatives in more than 40 cities across 20 states, calling on lawmakers to push for a ceasefire in Ukraine, the revival of anti-nuclear treaties the U.S. has exited in recent years, and other legislative actions to prevent nuclear catastrophe.

“Anyone paying attention should be worried about the rising dangers of nuclear war, but what we really need is action,” Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction, told Common Dreams. “Picket lines at so many congressional offices across the country convey that more and more constituents are fed up with the timidity of elected officials, who’ve refused to acknowledge the extent of the current grave dangers of nuclear war, much less speak out and take action to mitigate those dangers.”

Al Jazeera: Soaring rent, food costs keep US consumer inflation high

US consumer prices increased more than expected in September as rents surged by the most since 1990 and the cost of food also rose, reinforcing expectations the Federal Reserve will deliver a fourth 75-basis-point interest rate rise next month.

The report from the Department of Labor on Thursday also showed a measure of underlying inflation posting its biggest annual increase in 40 years as consumers also paid more for healthcare. The data followed on the heels of last week’s strong employment report, which showed solid job gains in September and a drop in the unemployment rate to a pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent.

Reuters: U.S. dollar surges to new 24-year high versus yen; sterling rallies

The dollar climbed to a fresh 24-year peak versus the yen on Wednesday, holding above levels that prompted intervention by Japanese officials last month, while sterling rose after a sharp fall in the previous session as investors pondered the Bank of England’s next steps.

The pound gained following a drop to a two-week low versus the dollar and euro late on Tuesday, after the Financial Times reported that the BoE has signalled privately to lenders that it is prepared to prolong its bond purchases.

WSWS: Rising protests among Amazon workers throughout the United States

Amazon workers protested at multiple locations around the United States on Tuesday against unsafe working conditions and low pay in the face of record inflation.

The wave of protests struck the logistics employer following job actions by workers at New York City’s JFK8 facility last week. Workers on the facility’s night shift refused to return to work after a cardboard compactor caught fire, leaving chemical fumes and smoke lingering in the air. The company responded by suspending as many as 80 workers, including local leaders of the Amazon Labor Union.

On Tuesday, Amazon workers protested during lunch breaks at two adjacent distribution centers in Joliet, Illinois to protest inadequate pay hikes from about $18 to $19. Before the walkout, at least 600 workers at the facility signed petitions demanding a wage increase to $25 an hour.

“It’s us that put our bodies and minds behind this behemoth that is Amazon and keep it going, and it’s not us that see the benefit of it,” Cesar Escutia, an Amazon worker at the MDW2 fulfillment center, told local news station WTTW. Escutia said the facility was so unsafe that workers “wear masks, not necessarily to protect themselves from any kind of virus or disease, but because there’s so much dust and small particulates.”

Common Dreams: Inspired by Starbucks and Amazon Worker Wins, 300 T-Mobile Customer Service Staff Unionize

Citing “mass layoffs and recent pay deductions” and inspiration from unionizing workers at Starbucks and Amazon, hundreds of workers at telecommunications giant T-Mobile on Wednesday announced that they are forming an independent union, the T-Force Social Care Alliance.

The nascent TSCA—which represents around 300 T-Mobile social media customer service workers—said in a statement that it has “tried to work with” the company, whose U.S. branch alone is worth over $170 billion, but “has been brushed aside.”

Common Dreams: Poor Hit Hardest as ‘Maternity Care Deserts’ Grow Across US

A new study released Tuesday reveals that more than a third of U.S. counties are now considered “maternity care deserts,” without any obstetric healthcare providers, hospitals, or birth centers—and states with proposed or current abortion bans are especially likely to have few resources for pregnant people.

March of Dimes, which advocates for the health of pregnant people and babies, released the report, showing that since the group last analyzed maternal care deserts in the U.S. in 2020, 5% of counties “have less maternity access than just two years ago.”

As many as 6.9 million women have little to no access to maternal healthcare, including 2.2 million women of childbearing age. Nearly 150,000 babies were negatively affected by a lack of practicing obstetricians, certified midwives, nurse midwives, hospitals, or birth centers.

Low income women are far more likely than middle- and high-income women to live in maternity care deserts, the report said:

The proportion of women living in counties below the national median household income is twice as high for maternity care deserts as it is in full access counties (90.1% and 45.2%, respectively).

Common Dreams: More Than 57,000 US Sites Contaminated by Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’

The authors of a new study showing that tens of thousands of sites across the United States are believed to be contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often called “forever chemicals,” warned that their findings likely vastly underestimate the prevalence of the chemicals, because they’re used in so many products.

Scientists at Northeastern University in Boston led the study, which was published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology Letters and identified 57,412 sites where per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination is presumed.

“While it sounds scary that there are over 57,000 presumptive contamination sites, this is almost certainly a large underestimation.”

“Forever chemicals”—so named because they do not break down and instead remain in the environment and people’s bodies for decades—are especially likely to pollute areas where firefighting foam is discharged, such as military bases and airports.

Al Jazeera: US to take in some Venezuelans but will send most back to Mexico

The United States and Mexico have announced a joint migration plan that will see most Venezuelan asylum seekers trying to enter the US through its southern border sent back to Mexico while granting access to the US to thousands of others who come by air.

The effort, announced late on Wednesday, aims to address the growing number of Venezuelans arriving at the US-Mexico border.

Under the new programme, which came into effect immediately, up to 24,000 Venezuelans will be allowed to enter the US by air, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. Others who try to enter the US through the border without documentation will be returned to Mexico.


WSWS: Indigenous women account for almost half of Canada’s female federal inmate population

Recently released figures from the Office of the Correctional Investigator show that indigenous women comprise almost 50 percent of Canada’s female inmate population in federally run prisons. Indigenous men are also grossly overrepresented among Canada’s prison inmates, albeit not to the same degree. Overall, indigenous people account for 37 percent of the federal prison population despite comprising just 5 percent of the Canadian population.

The report notes that the indigenous inmate population has risen by some 18 percent over the past decade, even as the number of non-indigenous inmates dropped by 28 percent during the same period as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of indigenous incarceration are even higher than the average in Ontario and Canada’s western provinces. In the period from 2011 to 2012, for example, indigenous inmates comprised 78 percent of the total prison population in Saskatchewan, while the indigenous population comprises only 12 percent of the province’s inhabitants.

Caribbean and South America

Dominican Republic

WSWS: Dominican Republic militarizes border with Haiti, cracks down on migrants

Dominican President Luis Abinader announced the deployment of troops to the Haitian border on October 9 to stop the flow of refugees fleeing poverty and violence in crisis-stricken Haiti.

Speaking at a press conference in Dajabón, on the northwest frontier with Haiti, Abinader echoed his Haitian counterparts in calling for a foreign military intervention to quell the popular uprising against the US-installed regime of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

Abinader, speaking for the venal ruling elite of the Dominican Republic—itself a deeply unequal and poverty-stricken nation—no doubt views the mass movement of the Haitian working class with extreme nervousness. He praised the Haitian government’s plea for foreign troops as “wise, reasonable and patriotic.”

He went on to declare that, in the event of an intervention, his government would seal the border and accept no refugees: “We understand that this international force will have the methods to prevent a massive migration of Haitian citizens to our country, because we, in that case, would block the border. … It’s very dangerous for the integrity of the Dominican Republic to receive asylum seekers in the country.” Abinader promised even harsher controls on migrations, while boasting that “the Migration Directorate has deported the largest number of Haitian people that has been documented in recent years.”

The president added that the government would purchase six helicopters, 10 aircraft, 21 armored vehicles and four anti-riot trucks, the nation’s biggest military procurement since 1961. Troops and tanks were deployed in Dajabón, with Abinader announcing the construction of 400 residences as well as pay raises for the soldiers.

The wealthiest public official in the Dominican Republic—with an official net worth of some $70 million—Abinader was elected in 2020 on a platform of “law and order” and cracking down on migration from Haiti. During the election, he cultivated close ties with the likes of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and then-Secretary of State and former CIA director Mike Pompeo, signaling his desire to faithfully serve the interests of US imperialism. In 2021, he was named in the Pandora Papers leak, which revealed the hidden wealth that he and other world leaders had stashed away in tax havens.


TeleSUR: Close to 1.4 Million Travelers From January and August

According to official data released Friday, Cuba received 1,396,921 travelers in the first eight months of 2022, more than double the 573,944 who visited the island in the whole of the previous year.

That number of visitors is five times more than the same period of the previous fiscal year, when 251,178 international travelers visited the island, according to the report by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (Onei).

Of the total number of international visitors, 971,456 came from Canada (298,410), traditionally the island’s largest source of tourists. They were joined by tourists from the United States (60,885), Spain (55,102) and Russia (38,488).

Likewise, the total number of travelers includes 212,485 Cuban emigrants who visited the country during that period.


TeleSUR: Venezuela to Hold Indigenous Movement Congress: Pres. Maduro

On Wednesday, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced that his country will host “the Congress of the Indigenous Movement’s New Era” in Nov. 12.

During a ceremony held at the Miraflores palace, the Bolivarian leader reported that said congress will formulate a “work plan” to promote actions in favor of the indigenous peoples.

“We have to hand over Indigenous lands to continue supporting food production, the dissemination of native culture, the in-depth education of our Indigenous children and youth, technological development, and ancestral knowledge,” Maduro said.

Proposed by the United Indigenous Movement of Venezuela (MIUVEN), the Indigenous Congress will invite delegations from Central American countries, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, the United States, and Canada.


Inquirer: Argentines feel the pain of 100% inflation

Argentines facing an inflation rate set to top 100 this year are grappling to survive, turning to recycling from garbage dumps or lining up to trade their belongings in barter clubs.

The South American country is set to post its sharpest rise in prices this year since a period of hyperinflation around 1990, an extreme case even in a world widely battling to tame inflation pushed up by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“My income is no longer enough,” said Sergio Omar, who spends 12 hours a day trawling through mountains of waste from a landfill in Lujan, 65 kilometers (40 miles) outside capital Buenos Aires, in search of cardboard, plastic and metal which he sells.

Omar, 41, said food costs had spiked so much in recent months that it had become hard to feed his family with five kids. He said an increasing number of informal workers would come to the waste dump to find any items they could sell in the struggle to survive.

“Twice as many people are coming here because there is so much crisis,” he said, explaining he could make between 2,000 and 6,000 pesos ($13-$40) per day selling recyclable waste.


The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

RT: Macron outlines stance on use of nukes against Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron has said Paris would not respond with nuclear weapons if Russia deployed nukes against Ukraine. The comments immediately drew the ire of critics, who said he had divulged too much information.

Reuters: Russian-installed governor of Ukraine’s Kherson urges residents to evacuate

This has been an entire saga of its own, and one I only partially understand, but my understanding of the situation is that Saldo, the head of the Kherson admin, without consulting any of his staff, wanted to be able to evacuate a group of 300-400 people away from Kherson city due to the shelling it was facing from Ukraine. However, the message itself has been really muddled - he only said that he wanted to evacuate people from the city, not how many - so when his staff heard about it, they were immediately in damage control mode as they knew what it looked like, and then the Russian soldiers there got pissed off and were like “We aren’t leaving, our friends have died to protect this territory, and if we’re ordered to, well…” and it began spiralling and the western media got a hold of it and so really, what this proves is that Russia is really not good at their messaging, nor propaganda. For what it’s worth, the situation in Kherson has remained stable for the last week or so, and the Russian defensive lines look quite solid, despite 50-60k Ukrainian soldiers desperately trying to fight to gain control of the city and the territory around it before winter sets in.

Financial Times: Ukraine’s Starlink problems show the dangers of digital dependency


This week, Chris Bryant, a British politician, floated a once unimaginable idea(opens a new window) in parliament: “Is there a moment at which we might have to consider sanctioning Elon Musk [the American billionaire]?” he asked. The reason? He “seems to be playing a double game” in the Ukraine war.

The defence minister brushed it off. But Bryant raised this for two reasons. First, Musk has posted tweets(opens a new window) that appear to echo some elements of Vladimir Putin’s ideas about Ukraine (such as Moscow’s claim to Crimea).

Second, a strange tangle has erupted around Starlink, the mobile satellite internet system created by Musk’s SpaceX company. And while this is still partly swathed in the fog of war, investors and policymakers should pay attention, since it has implications that extend well beyond Ukraine.

To understand why, we need some history. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Musk agreed to transfer Starlink terminals into the country, to provide internet to civilians and the military alike. These small devices, which were initially intended for a consumer market, work via a link to SpaceX’s satellites.

Musk deserves praise for this, in my view. As I have written before, one crucial attraction of Starlink is that it creates a “distributed” system — ie one that is spread about. This is much harder to destroy with missiles than something centred on a cell tower.

And with some 25,000 Starlinks now sitting in Ukraine, according to Musk, this network has kept vital civic and humanitarian functions running, ranging from hospitals to banks. Starlinks have also been extensively used by the Ukrainian army to fight its savvy campaign, funded by multiple sources.

But recently events became odd. Last month Musk suddenly tweeted that “Starlink is meant for peaceful use only(opens a new window)” (even though American officials tell me that SpaceX is selling thousands to Nato groups at ever-increasing prices). Ian Bremmer, head of the risk consultancy Eurasia Group, alleged in a subscriber note sent on Monday that Musk told him he had declined Ukrainian requests to turn on coverage in Crimea, fearing Russian retaliation. Musk retorted that “nobody should trust Bremmer”. Other officials have corroborated Bremmer’s point.

Then, in late September, Starlink terminals stopped working in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that Putin claims to have annexed, but which have been recaptured by the Ukrainian army. Kyiv officials say this has created some “catastrophic” situations.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Or possibly a technical glitch or Russian jamming. But well-placed Ukrainian observers wonder whether SpaceX officials were trying to slow Ukraine’s advance. To add to the rumour mill, Vladimir Solovyov, the Russian television personality, said this week(opens a new window) that Musk was taking a pro-Russia stance to avoid sparking attacks on his satellites.

I and others have asked Musk’s team about this, without response. (Musk previously tweeted that the coverage issue was “classified”, SpaceX had provided $80mn subsidies for Ukraine and he desired peace). But since the malfunctions were first reported last week, coverage has apparently mostly returned. And when Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, posted praise for Starlinks this week, Musk tweeted(opens a new window) in reply that he was “Glad to support Ukraine”.

But while it remains unclear exactly what has (or has not) really happened, the saga raises unsettling questions for western policymakers and investors. To what degree will US politicians permit a capricious billionaire to exert influence in fields ranging from social media to a foreign war? How should investors price the policy risks when private companies supply military agencies, or venture into space? Could the US government invoke the Defense Production Act over SpaceX? Is it acceptable for Musk to talk with the Russian government, as Eurasia suggests he has done?

Then there is a wide lesson about utility dependence — and diversification. Ukraine became dependent on using Starlink to get internet coverage this year since it needed to act fast, and the system was far better than alternatives, and initially quite cheap. As Fedorov notes, it has delivered enormous benefits. But this reliance also creates a potential vulnerability (not dissimilar to Germany’s previous heavy use of Russian gas, or US dependence on Taiwanese computing chips).

I have little doubt that if Ukraine needs to reduce its exposure to a billionaire in the future, it would eventually find a way. But in the meantime, the events will be carefully studied by other small nations — be that Taiwan or Estonia — who fear they might also need to defend themselves one day, and need distributed internet systems.

And, more widely, the saga should be a big wake-up call for any business leader, investor and policymaker. The war in Ukraine underscores in a very extreme form the degree to which we live in a digital world, where platforms are the lifeblood of the economy and much else. The question of who controls them, and whether we trust their reliability, thus matters deeply in these unstable times. Trust when shattered is hard to restore. Diversification matters.

Hopefully, Musk will demonstrate that he is reliable — and Starlink will continue to deliver miracles for Ukraine. But if more strange twists occur, Bryant’s question might not seem quite so crazy. Meanwhile, we should all consider our own digital dependencies.


Responsible Statecraft: Tigray faces a new onslaught by Eritrean-Ethiopian forces

After 50 days of day-and-night fighting, the joint Eritrean-Ethiopian federal offensive has ground down Tigrayan defenses to a point of collapse. There’s chatter about peace talks, but sharp disagreement on mediator and agenda. The Tigrayans want an immediate cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access, while the federal government wants to negotiate “without preconditions” — code for allowing its offensive to continue.

Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had planned to conclude the war in Tigray with a decisive military victory over the weekend of October 8-9. Under Eritrean command, they mounted a joint offensive by the two national armies focused on the northwest of Tigray, aimed at capturing the town of Shire, which would have opened the road to controlling other urban centers including the capital Mekelle. Celebrations were planned for the opening of the Ethiopian parliament on October 10.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, announced peace talks in South Africa for that weekend. Headquartered in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the AU Commission has worked hand-in-glove with the Ethiopian government since the war began almost two years ago. Abiy was confident that by the date of the talks, the Tigrayan leaders would be dead, hiding in caves — or he could take them in handcuffs to accept their surrender.

The Eritrean and Ethiopian armies didn’t meet the deadline, but they haven’t stopped trying. New attacks were launched on three fronts on October 14.

The carnage is said to be obscene. The Ethiopian conscripts’ job is to attack and die in large enough numbers to use up their enemies’ bullets, after which Eritrean armor can charge through to capture the towns. Two weeks ago, the best estimate was that the Ethiopian army had suffered over 90,000 casualties in a month. With rudimentary medical facilities, many of the wounded will die.

The Tigray Defense Forces losses are also horrifyingly high. The Tigrayans have every motive to fight to the death; they expect that if they yield, the occupiers will repeat the mass atrocities — killing, torture, rape, pillage — that they inflicted when they controlled Tigray in late 2020 and early 2021.

The TDF has fighting spirit but is short of arms and ammunition. The Eritrean and federal armies have a huge advantage in material, especially tanks and heavy weapons — and are buying more. In a war of attrition, the demographics favor them too: Ethiopia has 120 million people, of whom just seven million are Tigrayans.

They also have their most reliable weapon, starvation, to fall back upon. The fighting and aerial bombardment have caused many civilians to flee their homes. Tigrayan hospitals have long since run out of basic medical supplies, such as painkillers and insulin. Food aid deliveries are at a halt.

Abiy’s diplomatic strategy is aimed at buying time, and it’s working.

Having spurned U.S. demands for a cessation of hostilities in September — and suffered no adverse consequences, Abiy confidently dictated the terms of a peace process to the African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki. On October 1, Faki wrote to Debretsion Gebremichael, president of the Government of Tigray, inviting him to peace talks in South Africa, led by AU High Representative General Olusegun Obasanjo. The letter broke several cardinal rules of diplomacy. The AU did not consult the two senior statespersons named to “support” Obasanjo, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The AU Commission is staffed by officials for whom the process and protocol of peace negotiations is everyday business. Details of the letter — including an error in the date, sometimes made by Ethiopians translating from their national calendar to the Gregorian calendar — pointed the finger of suspicion at the Ethiopian government as the originator of the draft. As the Ethiopian government’s own announcement emphasized, it aligned exactly with their terms for a settlement. It was a slapdash conspiracy — explicable because Addis Ababa expected to declare victory in the meantime.

Kenyatta issued a devastating rebuke, with the line: “My attention has been drawn to a communique…” He made it clear he hadn’t been consulted. Privately, the South Africans are also fuming. And the special envoys of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations had to accept that they had been taken for a ride.

The sole virtue of the AU debacle is that it clears the fog of disinformation. There’s an opening to be seized to stop the killing.

Kenyatta has positioned himself to revive this mediation effort. In his riposte to Faki, he avoided using the words “AU-led” peace process, thus hinting at an initiative led by Africans with the AU playing a convening role. It’s a year since Kenyatta met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House, with the Ethiopian war on their agenda. He and other senior African leaders may contact the White House directly to ensure that, if they act, they have the highest level of backing from Washington.

It’s a wicked problem, and its core is Eritrea. Isaias is going for broke and will take advantage of any American half-heartedness to pursue his war. He is also signaling that he can be spoiler-at-large. No seasoned observer doubts that the recent attacks in neighboring Djibouti by long-dormant rebels, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy, have Eritrean fingerprints on them.

Abiy has spurned all calls to cease hostilities. In any case, he can’t order a ceasefire because the Ethiopian army is no longer his to command.

Whatever happens, the pillars of the Ethiopian state — security institutions, finance, and an elite bargain — have crumbled. State collapse is a matter of time. Expect Abiy to blame Ethiopia’s national crisis on Western perfidy and turn to the international donors, telling them that it’s their problem to solve.

For now, the issue is how to stop Isaias directing another genocidal onslaught on Tigray. That will take more than words. Every day counts.

Analysis and Retrospectives

The Left, Broadly Construed

Canadian Dimension: Thomas Sankara remains a global icon


“We encourage aid that aids us in doing away with aid,” asserted Thomas Sankara, president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. “But in general welfare and aid policies have only ended up disorganizing us, thus beguiling us and robbing us of a sense of responsibility for our own economic, political and cultural affairs.”

In order to restore that sense of responsibility, Sankara implemented a socialist, anti-imperialist agenda aimed at cultivating a self-sufficient economy run by the Burkinabè people, for the Burkinabè people. His agenda included, among other things, refusal to pay Burkina Faso’s debts to Western-run institutions on the grounds that, one, it was illegitimately accrued, and two, constant debt serving was anathema to African development.

As ideologically void military coups rock Burkina Faso and the debt crisis across the African continent grows more urgent by the year, the Burkinabè people are readying to commemorate Sankara on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his assassination. Sankara’s four years in power proved that alternative development models that do not subscribe to the imported precepts of neocolonial institutions are not only possible, but necessary if underdeveloped nations want to develop in endogenous and sustainable ways.

When Sankara seized power in 1983, his government represented a radical break from the past. Named “Upper Volta” by the French and underdeveloped in a classic colonial fashion, formal independence brought little material change to the country. A series of puppet rulers kept the country in France’s neocolonial dominion, while the majority of Upper Volta’s population remained undereducated and undernourished. When Sankara, a military captain who espoused the tenets of Marxism-Leninism, took power in a coup, continent-wide hopes for African socialism were reinvigorated. The Zanzibarian socialist A.M. Babu summed up the hopeful feeling:

Captain Thomas Sankara… can be instrumental in reviving that post-colonial enthusiasm which most people had hoped would be rekindled by [Mugabe’s] Zimbabwe but was not; the enthusiasm that cleared bushes, built thousands of miles of modern roads, that dug canals on the basis of free labour and the spirit of nation-building.

A man of informal style and modest values, Sankara nevertheless espoused an ambitious development program for the African continent. Firstly, he renamed his country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso⁠—“the land of upright people”⁠—and nationalized the majority of its resources, most importantly the farmland and mineral reserves. He launched a series of “commando” operations to build a nation-spanning railroad (the people constructed almost 100 kilometres of railway in two years), increase literacy in the countryside (tens of thousands were taught to read), and vaccinate children against measles, meningitis, and yellow fever (two million children were vaccinated in two weeks, saving 18,000 to 50,000 kids who usually died in the yearly epidemics). All these initiatives were undertaken without accepting funds from international financial institutions or encouraging foreign investment.

“We don’t want anything from anyone,” said Foreign Minister Basile Guissou. “No one will come to develop Burkina Faso in place of its own people.” At a time when Africa’s debt was around $200 billion and 40 percent of the continent’s export earnings were going toward debt payments, this was a brave stance to take. Sankara went one step further when, in 1987, he urged the rest of Africa to reject its foreign debt and follow Burkina Faso’s successful model of self-sufficiency.

Sankara’s goal was to ensure the population’s access to food and clean drinking water, a basic but demanding ambition on a continent where hunger and thirst were enforced on whole peoples through the financial institutions and foreign policy agendas of the “civilized” Western world. “Our economic ambition,” he said, “is to use the strength of the people of Burkina Faso to provide, for all, two meals a day and drinking water.”

His policies bore fruit. Between 1983 and 1986, cereal production rose 75 percent and the new Ministry of Water helped many communities dig wells and water reservoirs. Journalist Ernest Harsch recalls: “Ordinary Burkinabè seemed to readily embrace Sankara’s approach, as they mobilized in their local communities to quickly build new schools, health clinics, and other facilities that had once seemed but a remote fantasy.”

Sankara’s independent development policies, combined with a non-aligned foreign policy that saw him enjoy good relations with Cuba, Libya, and the Soviet Union, led the Europeans (and particularly the French) to turn against the revolutionary government. Much like other revolutionary processes in Cuba and Venezuela, Sankara’s government was successfully implementing a new development strategy that spurned the racist paternalism and interventionist austerity of Western financial institutions in favour of a model of self-sufficiency rooted in popular mobilization. Moreover, Sankara demanded respect from the Global North, and especially from Burkina Faso’s former colonizer. “What is essential,” he stated, “is to develop a relationship of equals, mutually beneficial, without paternalism on one side or an inferiority complex on the other.”

The French government’s attitude toward Sankara grew increasingly negative during his time in power. For example, during a brief border war between Mali and Burkina Faso in 1985, France sold weapons to Mali. Overall, Sankara had deprived France of influence in West Africa, and the success of his alternative path portended an even greater diminishment of French influence as other peoples in the region would likely realize that self-sufficiency was possible. As such, the French retained close ties with conservative governments in neighbouring Togo and Côte d’Ivoire, especially the Ivorian president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, whose country was home to many Burkinabè exiles who opposed the Burkinabè revolution.

When Sankara traveled to Côte d’Ivoire in May 1984, he was initially banned from visiting Abidjan, the largest city, because Ivorian authorities were worried he would be welcomed more enthusiastically than the country’s own president.

Everything fell apart on October 15, 1987, when former Sankara compatriot Blaise Compaoré launched a coup of his own. His soldiers murdered Sankara and his closest allies and unceremoniously buried their bodies in a mass grave. Harsch reported that, when word of Sankara’s death spread, mourners flocked to the mound to lay flowers and weep.

Compaoré ruled until 2014. Some of his earliest actions included reversing the state monopoly on the mining industry and allowing the International Monetary Fund and the World to return to the country. “Without shame, we must appeal to private investors,” he announced in a clear break from Sankara. “We need to develop capitalism… We have never considered socialism.”

In further contrast to his predecessor, Compaoré built an opulent presidential palace and purchased a luxury jet once owned by Michael Jackson. The West’s immediate embrace of Compaoré and the new leader’s closeness to France (and particularly French ally Félix Houphouët-Boigny) have fed theories that the coup was launched at the behest of Burkina Faso’s former colonizer. To this day, the French government refuses to open its archives on Sankara.

By the late 1990s, foreign exploration teams had discovered huge gold reserves in Burkina Faso. Canada, with its growing investments in gold, was especially interested. By 2003, the following Canadian companies were exploring or developing mines in Burkina Faso: Axmin, Orezone Resources, Etruscan Resources, St. Jude Resources, SEMAFO, and High River Gold. Within fewer than twenty years, Canadian interests would own the majority of gold operations in the country, dominating Burkina Faso’s most profitable export.

In 2014, a popular uprising overthrew Compaoré, bringing an end to decades of openly neocolonial rule. However, the political process that followed failed to break with the past as Sankara would have advised. Canadian pressure was instrumental in preventing substantial reform. As Business Monitor Online explained, “Burkina Faso is heavily dependent on foreign aid, much of it from Canada, the home jurisdiction of most of the miners that would be hurt by significant review.” Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper further protected Canadian investments by finalizing a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), negotiated with the Compaoré regime, while the unelected transition government was in power.

A 2015 meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré revealed the continuing prevalence of Canadian capital in the country today. As Canadian mining investments in Burkina Faso and all West Africa continued to rise, Kaboré shook hands with Trudeau and “underscored the importance of Canadian investments to Burkina Faso’s economy.”

This year, Burkina Faso has been the site of two military coups. The first, on January 24, overthrew Kaboré and brought officer Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba to power, and the second, on September 30, dislodged Damiba and elevated officer Ibrahim Traore to the head of the military regime. Neither of these coups impacted Canadian investment in the country. An October 3 article in Canadian Mining Journal notes that operations owned by Canada’s Endeavor Mining and IAMGOLD “have not been affected by spreading social unrest following an internal coup d’état.”

Sankara’s vision of an independent, socialist, pan-Africanist model of development⁠—one in which wealth produced in Africa remains in Africa to develop the majority of the population⁠—was not buried with him. He remains an inspiring symbol for people in Africa and beyond. In a recent interview with Democracy Now!, Aziz Fall, coordinator for the International Campaign Justice for Sankara, explained that Sankara “symbolized for most African youths the hope of a sovereign Africa. He actually gave his life for that… And so he’s an icon, I think.”

The Right, Broadly Construed

Mint Press News: The New York Times Has Been Friendly To Nazis For 80 Years

The New York Times loves a good Nazi. And I don’t just mean this past year. I mean, going back to World War II to the OG Nazis, the guy with the mustache. If any of you out there are still New York Times lovers; then you really shouldn’t watch this episode. Just go back to playing with your Legos or something.

Back in 2019, an Australian white supremacist murdered 49 people in New Zealand. As discussed this week by Fairness And Accuracy in Reporting, at the time, the New York Times correctly reported that “On his flak jacket was a symbol commonly used by the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian neo-Nazi paramilitary organization….” So, at least in 2019, the New York Times was opposed to Neo-Nazis. How good of them!

Yet, that has very much changed this year. Just last week, the New York Times wrote of that same neo-Nazi organization: “Commanders of Ukraine’s celebrated Azov Battalion have held an emotional reunion with their families in Turkey, Ukrainian officials said, honoring the fighters released from Russian confinement last month….”

What a touching reunion the Times is heralding for their beloved Nazis. The welcome home cake probably had a swastika made of marzipan. Maybe they had a pinata shaped like Martin Luther King jr. or something.

And by the way, in case this needs to be said again: You can be against the Russian invasion, against the US/NATO proxy war, and against Ukrainian Nazis. You can be against all of those things at once because you’re an adult with a functioning brain, one hopes. At least, if you’re an American, then there’s a 35 percent chance you’re intelligent and thoughtful.

But the New York Times – one of the most important papers in the world – has celebrated these Nazis over the past several months. Reporting things like, “Some of the [mobilization] activity appears to be centered on the Azov Battalion, a unit of the Ukrainian National Guard that has drawn far-right fighters from around the world…” and the Azov messages, “…pointed volunteers toward recruitment resources online.”

The New York Times is practically serving as an advertisement for neo-Nazi recruits. I’m surprised they didn’t end the article with a link to the Azov website and Tinder account.

But what’s even scarier is the New York Times’ friendliness with Nazis didn’t start this year. It goes back generations.

In the lead-up to World War II, after the world had witnessed the racist, fascist spectacle that was Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics, where thousands gave the Nazi salute and the streets were lined with swastikas, the New York Times wrote, “Perfect in setting, brilliant in presentation and unparalleled in performance, the Olympic Games of 1936 stand apart in history as the greatest sports event of all time.”

I’m not kidding! Ashley Rindsberg documented that genuine quote in his 2021 book “The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’s Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History.”

And it wasn’t like Hitler’s antisemitism was a secret at that point. The 1936 Olympics were a year after Hitler had already stripped Jews of citizenship and forbade them from entering most professions.

Throughout their entire review of the games, the New York Times left out one word that many might view as moderately important – the word Nazi! That’s like going to a white supremacist bowling league event and just telling people, “it was one of the best bowling experiences of my life.” I feel like you’re burying the lede!

Jacobin: In Brazil’s Elections, Bolsonaro’s Far-Right Mass Appeal Proved Durable

In 2018, Jair Bolsonaro shocked the world by rising from relative obscurity to become president of Brazil. In these pages, I described a paradox thrown up by his unexpected success. Bolsonaro’s core support clearly lay in Brazil’s predominantly white middle and upper classes. But this is not sufficient to win a majoritarian election in a country where 70 percent earn less than two minimum wages (around US$450 per month) and more than half identify as black or mixed race. If we were to understand Bolsonaro’s victory, I argued, we also needed to understand his appeal to many low-income, black and brown Brazilians.

This seemed particularly paradoxical in the wake of thirteen years of government by the center-left Workers’ Party (PT) (2003–2016), during which it oversaw impressive levels of poverty reduction. While lower-income voters had tended to support the PT during this period, the middle classes fiercely opposed them. Bolsonaro’s victory seemed to defy such established logic. I therefore posed the following questions: “How has Bolsonaro been able to bring together elites wishing to block the social mobility of the popular classes, and a significant proportion of those they seek to block, within the same electoral coalition? And how long can this last?”

After four years of the Bolsonaro government, and in the heat of another presidential election, it is an apt moment to revisit these questions. Certainly, we now have a clear answer to the second: Bolsonaro’s mass appeal is far more durable than many assumed. In last Sunday’s vote, despite having overseen the world’s worst pandemic response, a huge increase in deforestation rates, and launched constant attacks against democratic institutions, Bolsonaro has fallen only slightly short of his previous first-round vote (43 percent compared to 46 percent in 2018). He will now face a tense runoff against the PT candidate, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who gained 48 percent of first-round votes.

Even if Bolsonaro loses, it is clear that Bolsonarismo — his ideological agenda, presentational style, and the political forces grouped around him — will continue to shape Brazil in the years to come. His newly adopted party, the Partido Liberal (PL), has become the largest in both houses of congress, definitively displacing traditional center-right parties and presenting a formidable barrier to the reforming ambitions of a prospective Lula government.

But if Bolsonarismo has clearly become a resilient political force, what about the first question? Does Bolsonarismo still rest on a socially heterogeneous electoral coalition, and, if so, how has this coalition been held together since 2018? A comparison of first-round election-eve polling by Datafolha, Brazil’s leading polling company, for 2018 and 2022 offers some clues to how the social composition of Bolsonaro’s vote has evolved.

In 2018, Bolsonaro led by huge margins in the top two income bands: those earning more than ten times the minimum wage, and those earning between five and ten. However, he also had a very significant lead in the third band (two to five times the minimum wage) and only trailed narrowly in the lowest band (under two times the minimum). In the 2022 poll, his vote has fallen by similar margins — around 6-8 percentage points — in each of the three lower bands, and about twice as much for the wealthiest band.

By contrast, the PT vote has increased significantly — around 15-17 percentage points — in the lower three bands, and a huge 25 points among the wealthiest. Taken together, these figures suggest a uniform swing away from Bolsonaro among the lower three groups (albeit from very different baselines) and a much larger one among the highest earners.

On the other hand, thanks to the huge size of his advantage in 2018, Bolsonaro still enjoys narrow leads within the three upper bands and still retains the support of over 20 percent of the poorest voters. Broadly, then, we can say that Bolsonaro continues to exercise significant cross-class appeal today.

However, such analysis only takes us so far. Preelection polling this year appears to have significantly underestimated Bolsonaro’s vote. Meanwhile, these income bands all capture very large populations, each containing significant socioeconomic and political diversity. The very fact that each of these bands is, to some degree, split between the two candidates suggests that other factors must be taken into account if we are to identify the sources of Bolsonaro’s resilient cross-class appeal.

In this regard, the first-round results themselves offer greater insight. While they cannot capture individual-level demographic variables, they do reveal that changing geography of Bolsonaro’s vote. This geography reveals a key fracture that now cuts across the Brazilian electorate: between those who still support and those who now oppose the incomplete project of building a functioning, democratic, and at least moderately redistributive state in Brazil.

Outside the Imperial Core

CounterPunch: Cuba in the Eye of Washington’s Hurricane

Since the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, the United States has been at odds with the island’s independent path. This led to the start of a blockade on all trading activities between Cuba and the United States in February 1962, and the continued imposition of the blockade has put maximum pressure on the 11 million people who live on the island. Cubans have been resilient while dealing with these sanctions, which is “the longest embargo in modern history.” However, over the past five years, the United States has tightened its blockade by putting in place 243 new sanctions, reversing the process of normalization that began under former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014 (and culminated in Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016). Despite Biden’s campaign promise to ensure a more balanced foreign policy toward Cuba, compared to the approach followed by former President Donald Trump, Biden has increased pressure on the country.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Cuba was fortunate to have a robust public health care system and an innovative biotechnological industry. However, under Trump—and later Biden—sanctions put enormous pressure on Cuba’s ability to respond to the pandemic. As the number of Delta variant cases grew in Cuba, its only oxygen plant was rendered nonoperational due to the inability of the plant’s technicians to import spare parts because of the U.S. blockade. As thousands of Cuban patients gasped for air, oxygen had to be rationed. Washington refused to make an exception. Cuban scientists created five vaccine candidates; only after most Cubans were vaccinated with these vaccines did Washington make an offer of donating U.S.-made vaccines to Cuba.

Back in 2017, the United States said that the Cuban government had used sonic weapons to attack its embassy—a phenomenon called “Havana syndrome”—which was shown to be untrue. Nonetheless, it served as a pretext for the United States to freeze relations with Cuba. For example, tourism began to collapse, and the island lost revenue as more than 600,000 people from the United States stopped traveling to Cuba annually. The U.S. government’s sanctions under Trump led to Western Union’s seizing operations on the island in 2020, cutting off the ability of families to send and receive remittances. Visa services were suspended by the U.S. Embassy in Havana, and the largest wave of irregular migration since 1980 began as Cubans were forced to trek through Central America or across the Florida Straits to arrive in the United States.

Cubans suffered through this tightened blockade with the U.S. offering no respite. The gross domestic product of the country began to shrink as the government and other entities could no longer purchase food, medicine, and oil because banks refused to handle these basic commercial transactions.

On July 11, 2021, people across Cuba took to the streets to protest the difficult living conditions due to the scarcity brewed by the sanctions imposed by Washington. The U.S. government, from Biden to the lowest employee at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, did not waste any time before making a statement about the need to change the government in Cuba in response to the protests. They tried to spin the Cuban people’s protests over sanctions-related deprivation into an uprising for regime change, a core demand of a Miami mafia of Cuban exiles. The Cuban government was able to withstand that attempt by being as forthright as possible with the people about the range of problems that they face.

The year 2022 has not been any easier for the Cuban people. In August, the national energy grid began to suffer major signs of decay after years without repairs or renovations. Power cuts, a stark reminder of the “special period” during the 1990s when Cuba faced a similar power situation, have become ever-present from one end of the island to the other. Some provinces go without electricity for eight to ten hours. Then came the explosion of the Matanzas oil storage facility that left Cuba without urgently needed fuel and resulted in dozens dying while fighting the fire that raged on for five days. While Mexico and Venezuela immediately sent firefighters and equipment, the United States could only contribute with technical advice over the phone despite the call by U.S. activists, clergy, and intellectuals to provide more sizable aid.

Hurricane Ian’s assault on the island on September 27, 2022, has left behind devastation, with more than 50,000 homes damaged, Cuba’s tobacco crop deeply impacted, and its electricity grid damaged (although it is functional again for now).

All eyes turned to Washington—not only to see whether it would send aid, which would be welcome, but also if it would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and end the sanctions. Cuba’s inclusion on the list had been a last-minute decision made by Trump as he was leaving the White House (despite Cuba’s recognized role in the Colombian peace process). These measures mean that banks in the United States and elsewhere are reluctant to process any financial transactions, including humanitarian donations, for the island. The United States has a mixed record regarding humanitarian aid to Cuba.

Rather than lift the sanctions even for a limited period, the U.S. government sat back and watched as mysterious forces from Miami unleashed a torrent of Facebook and WhatsApp messages to drive desperate Cubans onto the street. In Havana, a few hundred people spread across the city banged pots and pans and demanded water, electricity, and food. Foreign journalists eagerly expected scenes of heavy repression and mass arrests, but this time Cuba’s response was one closest to its political tradition. Leaders of the Communist Party began to arrive at protests to speak to the people. Angel Arzuaga Reyes, responsible for the party’s international relations department, while speaking of his experience in the Diez de Octubre neighborhood, said that in those tense moments, promises or immediate solutions couldn’t be made, but explanations and information could be given to all those protesting.

The Cuban people are not the kind to give up easily and have a history of resilience. Many Cubans are facing the crisis by laughing and fighting through it. Walking in Havana only a few days after the hurricane, the signs of recovery were clear. Brigades of electricians working nonstop reestablished power back in record time and volunteers have cleaned most of the city leaving very little trace of Hurricane Ian’s destruction. After his fourth visit to Pinar del Río since September 27, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, surrounded by an anxious crowd, said, “what we can’t do is surrender or remain with our arms crossed.” There is yet much to do, but Cubans are determined to overcome all obstacles that come their way.

Venezuela: US Foreign Policy Impasse Over Venezuela

The seamless official policy of the Trump and Biden administrations has been that Juan Guaidó is Venezuela’s “interim president.” The US is thusly caught in the self-inflicted fiction of having to deal with a powerless puppet because it does not accept the democratically elected Nicolás Maduro. Although Trump has at least retreated to Mar-a-Lago, Guaidó keeps on asking to be invited to the party, much to Biden’s embarrassment.

A related conundrum of its own making is the US sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and at the same time needing the fuel. It wasn’t so long ago that Venezuela supplied the US with a significant amount of its daily petroleum consumption. Now Uncle Sam finds himself confronted with price inflation at the gas pump and the inevitability of negotiating with a government it does not recognize.

Similarly, the US is faced with an influx of Venezuelan immigrants fleeing economic conditions themselves caused by the US sanctions. “Because the US ended diplomatic relations with the Maduro government,” the New York Times reports, “Venezuelan migrants cannot be easily sent back – a key reason they are arriving at the border in waves,” in the first place.

Developing Economics: Floods in Pakistan: Where is the ‘International Community’ for the imperialized zones of the world-system?

The world’s brief concern for the plight of more than 35 million Pakistanis deprived of their homes, livelihoods and dignity by this summer’s unprecedented monsoon-related floods was summed up in late August by a suitably passionate video appeal by Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Gutierrez. He implored the ‘international community’ to step up and take responsibility; as he rightly noted, Pakistan has contributed a pittance to the global emissions that drive climate change, and it is not ‘just’ for the country’s long suffering people to be left isolated.

Of course the UN does not deploy terms like empire and reparations, which a truly meaningful message would have contained. Mr. Gutierrez subsequently travelled to Pakistan on September 8, presumably to try and sustain what little media and donor attention the floods had garnered. As it turned out, Queen Elizabeth II passed away on the same day. Unsurprisingly, the imperial monarch’s death became a global concern overnight, while Pakistan’s colonial peripheries faded even further from the public eye. Let alone other bilateral and multilateral donors, the UN itself has to date disbursed only a small fraction of the US$160 million that it promised to raise for flood relief in late August.

A spade, as the proverbial saying goes, ought to be called a spade. Over the past two decades, at least some of the underlying structural causes of global warming and climate change have been identified and articulated, time and again, most notably at gatherings of the world’s richest and most powerful people. But even where emissions targets are agreed, the biggest polluters – western imperialist powers – are simply not doing enough. There is now very little chance that we will contain warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and as the Pakistan example demonstrates, there will be more and more hell to pay for the historically imperialized zones of the world-system.

Developing Economics: Marx and Colonialism

It is widely believed that Marx did not systematically consider the role of colonialism within the process of capital accumulation. According to David Harvey, Marx concentrated on a self-closed national economy in his main work. Although he did mention colonialism in Part 8 of Capital Volume 1 on the so-called primitive accumulation, this would only belong to a pre-history of capital, not to its everyday development. Based on a similar assumption, some postcolonial scholars criticise Marx for being Eurocentric, even a complicit supporter of Western imperialism, who ignored the agency of non-Western people.

If we read some passages from the Manifesto we could think that they are right. How can we explain otherwise Marx and Engels praising the role of the bourgeoisie drawing even the most barbarian nations into civilisation or the view that the liberation of colonised peoples depended on the victory of the revolution in Europe?

Before I start, let me make a short premise. In my first book I read Marx’s Capital in the light of his writings and articles on Ireland, China, India, Russia, and the American Civil War. At the time I believed that Marx only published a significant, but still limited amount of writings on the colonial question, those available in the Collected Works and in collections like Marx & Colonialism. But then in 2007 I worked at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, contributing to the complete edition of Marx’s and Engels’s writings. I thus “discovered” some of Marx’s 20,000 print page long notebooks (just to give you an idea, the printed notebooks alone would look like a new Collected Works). These writings show that Marx was interested in colonialism all his life, including when he wrote the Manifesto.

What came out of my reading? Let me start with the question of Marx’s field of analysis in Capital Volume 1. To analyse capital reproduction ‘in its integrity, free from all disturbing subsidiary circumstances’, Marx treats the world of commerce as one nation (1976: 727) and presupposes the full worldwide imposition of the capitalist mode of production. Does this mean that Marx analysed a “self-enclosed national economy” as Harvey and others believe? In my view, this abstraction means exactly the opposite. Marx’s positing a coincidence between the national and global levels is a premise for conceptualising the world market, which includes both internal and foreign markets of all nations participating in it. This abstraction makes it possible to include expansionism into the analysis of capital accumulation. In this framework, a country’s economic system is not confined within its national borders but consists of all production branches where capital is freely transferable, including the colonies and dependent economies.

Accumulation of capital happens internationally

Accumulation, for Marx, leads to the concentration and centralisation of capital internationally, including through the rise of big corporations and financial capital. Processes of violent dispossession of direct producers, forced market expansion and colonisation do not belong only to a pre-history of capital but are constitutive of the process of capital accumulation on a global scale. Following the period of “primitive accumulation”, however, it’s the power of the state that depends on capital, rather than vice versa. The competitive process of capital accumulation tends to concentrate higher value-added production and capital in the system’s most competitive centres, leading to a forced specialisation of dependent countries in lower value-added sectors, repatriating profits extracted in these countries, and leading to forms of unequal exchange between nations with different productivity levels.

To make up for their losses, capitalists in less developed nations increase the amount of absolute surplus value they extract from the working class. They do so by lengthening and intensifying the working day and, crucially, pushing wages to below the value of the labour power. Marx himself had these processes of “super-exploitation” in mind when he affirmed that wages in India were depressed even below the worker’s modest needs (CW31: 251).

One of the main ways in which capital counteracts the fall of the rate of profit, for Marx, is by expanding its ‘field of action’ and swelling the ranks of the global reserve army of labour. This process was particularly evident in the case of British domination of Ireland. Along with slave-grown cotton in the United States, primary production by impoverished Irish farmers was one of the pillars of English industry. Irish dispossessed peasants, moreover, fled the country in search for better conditions, swelling the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed in British industrial centres. Processes of colonisation and impoverishment in Ireland thus affected the condition of the working class in England as well, from both material and moral points of view. Workers in England did not just compete against each other. The anti-Irish racism instigated by the English ruling class fomented antagonism between Irish and English workers, the latter being seen by the Irish as complicit in English domination over Ireland. And this antagonism, for Marx, “is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power.”

“Marx was aware of the role of racism in capital reproduction”

By looking at Britain as an imperialist economy, by conceptualising the process of capital accumulation on a global scale, Marx grasped the inter-linkages between workers’ labour and living conditions internationally. Processes of imperialist expansion are not external to the condition of the working class in imperialist countries but are inter-related. Marx was also aware of the role of racism within the process of capital reproduction.

It was in the wake of the American Civil War and European workers’ solidarity with the struggle for the abolition of slavery that the First International Workingmen’s Association was born. Its very project emerged because workers and trade unionists understood that only by organising internationally could they oppose the means the bosses used to smash their organisation: moving production to countries in which wages were lower, or “import” immigrant workers from abroad to put workers in competition to each other. Of course, at the time all this happened at a smaller scale, since industrial production was concentrated in Europe and the United States.

If this is the case, would Marx and Engels today repeat the same arguments they advanced in the Manifesto? The point is that Marx’s position on these issues changed over time. Over the years he integrated imperialism into his critique of political economy and overcame his unidirectional view of international revolution. He realised that material improvements in the condition of the working class in imperialist countries could make international solidarity more difficult. And colonised peoples were not passive actors that had to wait for the industrial proletariat in Europe to wake up and overthrow capitalism. They had their own initiative.

At the very beginning of 1850 Marx and Engels greeted the social upheaval in China: by enhancing the factors of crisis in Europe, the Chinese revolution could spark a social revolution in Europe itself. Marx also supported the Indian Sepoy uprising against British colonialism insisting that, independently of the insurgents’ consciousness, it had a national character. At the end of the 1860s, moreover, he changed his mind on the relationship between proletarian struggle in England and Irish liberation. The working class in England had to support the Irish struggle for independence not as a humanitarian issue, but as the precondition for its own emancipation. This was the condition for building real working-class unity in England as well. “The lever must be applied in Ireland”.

Not only, therefore, has Marx something to say about the role of colonialism within the process of capital accumulation, this has also very much to do with the “secret” of working-class power.

Climate Change

Common Dreams: ‘Lights Are Flashing Red’: Study Finds 69% Average Drop in Animal Populations Since 1970

A sweeping report published Thursday by one of the world’s largest conservation groups finds that Earth’s vertebrate animal populations experienced an average decline of nearly 70% between 1970 and 2018, a staggering drop that experts attribute to the worsening climate crisis, pollution, the large-scale destruction of forests, and continued human exploitation of wildlife.

The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2022, which the group calls its most comprehensive study to date, estimates that tens of thousands of monitored mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, and fish populations have seen an average 69% decline in relative abundance over just a 50-year period, a blaring signal that the planet is in the midst of a devastating biodiversity crisis.

Link back to the discussion thread.