TeleSUR: Five Countries Start Responsibilities as UNSC Members
On Tuesday, Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland began to assume responsibilities as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
WSWS: Central bank gold purchases highest in more than half a century
It has not attracted much attention in the financial press but the World Gold Council (WGC), a think tank and lobby group for the industry, has reported that purchases of the precious metal, once the basis of the international monetary system, were the highest in 2022 for 55 years.
The buying surge has been led by Russia and China with a number of smaller countries also increasing their holdings. It appears to be a response to two developments—the freezing of the Russian central bank’s dollar holdings after the invasion in Ukraine and growing uncertainty over the stability of US financial markets and its political system.
TeleSUR: European Countries Cull Poultry to Fend Off Avian Flu
Poultry farmers across Europe have been forced to cull their flocks in the latest effort to slow the spread of the highly-contagious avian influenza on the continent. On Wednesday Swedish authorities announced they would cull around 165,000 chickens at a single farm in the southern part of the country after a salmonella outbreak.
WSWS: UK government announces new anti-strike laws for education, health, transport, and other workers
The UK government is proceeding with its authoritarian crackdown on workers’ right to strike. Ministers intend to use the legislation to ram through pay cuts, job losses and speed-ups, amid the biggest fall in living standards in generations, to fund increased corporate profits and a surge in military spending.
Before Christmas, the ruling Conservative Party announced plans to introduce minimum service levels (MSLs) on the railways, requiring a certain number of employees to stay on the job during a strike. On Thursday, the government announced this frontal assault on democratic rights will be extended to workers in eight sectors, including teachers and nurses.
WSWS: Britain’s National Health Service faced with deliberate collapse
TeleSUR: Macron Asks for Lower Electricity Rates for Small Businesses
On Thursday, France’s President Emmanuel Macron Macron demanded that electricity companies renegotiate supply contracts with those companies that have less than ten employees on their payroll.
“The anxiety and the anguish of small producers for their bills is legitimate. I feel disgusted with the fact that power companies make excessive profits by crisis”, he highlighted, arguing that the energy crunch will never end if these companies continue to take a dishonest and irresponsible stance amid it.
Climate Change News: German CO2 cuts stall as coal, oil use cancel out renewable gains
Germany’s energy consumption in 2022 fell by 4.7% year-on-year to the lowest level since its reunification, thanks to spiking energy prices, mild weather, and a government appeal to citizens to save energy in light of a sudden drop in Russian gas imports.
“However, the increased use of coal and oil nullified the reductions in emissions through energy savings,” the Berlin-based think tank said in a statement on Wednesday (4 January).
East Asia and Oceania
TeleSUR: Chinese Economy Set to Deliver Steady Recovery in 2023
While the global growth outlook is clouded by uncertainty in 2023, economists and experts are upbeat about the prospects for China, expecting stronger policy support and domestic demand to buoy a steady recovery of the world’s second largest economy.
Though China’s optimized epidemic response may disrupt economic activity in the short term, it is set to shore up growth for the year as a whole, said Han Wenxiu, executive deputy director of the office of the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs.
He believes the recovery will pick up pace in the first half of this year, especially in the second quarter, when more factories crank up production and businesses reopen.
TeleSUR: Myanmar Grants Amnesty to 7,012 Prisoners on Independence Day
On Wednesday, Myanmar’s Military Junta led by Min Aung Hlaing granted amnesty to 7,012 prisoners to mark the country’s 75th Anniversary of Independence Day. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, however, denounced that over 13,300 people remain in detention.
WSWS: US and South Korea hold talks on “nuclear sharing”
The US and South Korea are actively discussing closer collaboration in the deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons, which is part of the far broader US-led military build-up throughout the region. While nominally directed against North Korea, US war preparations including with South Korea are above all aimed at China.
Central Asia and the Middle East
Common Dreams: Israeli Government Accused of ‘Assassinating Democracy’ With Proposed Judiciary Overhaul
Israeli liberals and critics around the world sounded the alarm Thursday over a plan by Israel’s new far-right government to dramatically limit the power of the country’s judiciary, in part by allowing a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings.
TeleSUR: Zimbabwe Expects Flooding Ahead of Heavy Weekend Rains
Zimbabwean authorities have warned of possible floods in most of the country due to heavy rains expected to fall between Friday and Sunday.
Responsible Statecraft: Failing F-35 fighter grounded once again
Defense News reported on Wednesday that defense contractor Pratt & Whitney is suspending its deliveries of new F-35 engines, following a setback on a Texas runway last month. Video from the December 15 incident shows a Lockheed F-35B Lightning II crashing during a quality check and the pilot ejecting.
Common Dreams: 100+ Groups Push North American Leaders to Act on Guns, Climate, and Immigrant Justice
Three days before U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are set to meet in Mexico City, more than 100 grassroots groups from all three countries called on the leaders on Thursday to take action together to help solve the climate crisis, end gun violence, and address injustices facing migrants across North America.
Common Dreams: Climate Chaos Continues as Dangerous Megastorm Hits California
Hot on the heels of a major winter storm that inundated Northern California with torrential rains and deadly flooding, residents of the Golden State braced Wednesday for what’s expected to be an even more devastating storm—the latest climate chaos to wreak havoc in the U.S. West amid a worsening planetary emergency.
TeleSUR: California Calls State of Emergency Over Powerful Winter Storm
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday proclaimed a state of emergency throughout the most populous state in the United States, to support the ongoing response to a powerful winter storm.
“California is mobilizing to keep people safe from the impacts of the incoming storm,” and the state of emergency will allow the state to respond quickly as the storm develops and support local officials in their ongoing response, said Newsom in a news release.
Jacobin: Good Riddance, Juan Guaidó
Juan Guaidó was supposed to be the appealing, human face of US-backed regime change in Venezuela. His ouster as “interim president” this week is another signal that those efforts have failed.
TeleSUR: Colombian Government Suspends Ceasefire With ELN
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Alfonso Prada announced the suspension of the decree that established a ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), since this rebel group stated that it has not reached any agreement with the representatives of President Gustavo Petro.
TeleSUR: Colombia: FARC Dissidents Still Operative in 237 Municipalities
On Thursday, the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office alerted about the presence of dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 237 municipalities of the country. Currently, the dissidences are in 29 of the 32 departments of Colombia, although they are mainly concentrated in Antioquia, Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo, Caqueta, and Valle del Cauca.
TeleSUR: Brazil Returns to the UN Global Compact for Safe Migration
On Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that Brazil will once again adhere to Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), which is an intergovernmentally negotiated agreement prepared under the auspices of the United Nations.
TeleSUR: President Fernandez Grants 597 Houses To Vulnerable Citizens
On Wednesday, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez delivered 597 dwellings to vulnerable citizens in the Itaembe Guazu neighborhood in Misiones province as part of the “Your Own House” program, which has assisted over 3,900 Argentinian families so far.
TeleSUR: Peruvians Block Roads in Cusco and Puno
After a few days of truce due to the festivities, Peruvian farmers, workers, merchants, transporters, and other citizens of the Cusco and Puno regions resumed massive protests to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, the call for early general elections, and the release of former President Pedro Castillo.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
AntiWar: The High Cost of Blowing Up the World: Ukraine and the 2023 NDAA
Bipartisan insanity was on display again last month as the U.S. congress responded to Biden’s requested $37 billion in additional aid to Ukraine by giving him $45 billion bringing the total US support to its Davos-managed disposable ward up to $111 billion.
The aid was part of an overall omnibus spending bill passed by both houses of Congress was a gargantuan $1.7 trillion and included $858 billion in defense spending which far exceeds any sum ever spent by a US government in history.
Of that $858 billion, $817 billion is allocated directly to the US Department of Defense while the remaining $29 billion will be allocated to national security programs within the department of energy.
Retrospectives, History, and Theory
Monthly Review: Marx, the ‘Metabolic Rift’ and Capitalism’s Assault on Nature
In recent years millions of young and working-class people have engaged in protests against the climate and ecological crisis as devastating wildfires, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes and floods have increased in regularity and intensity around the world. “System change, not climate change!” has become the main slogan, reflecting a sense that we need a fundamental transformation of society to avoid catastrophe.
It is no surprise that this has emerged alongside a renewed interest in the ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and their critique of capitalism. They argued that capitalism was based on exploitation, both of workers and of nature, and that it would inevitably provoke environmental crises. In particular, Marx’s theory that capitalism created a “metabolic rift” between human society and nature has re-emerged as an indispensable tool for understanding the crisis we face today.
Monthly Review: Imperialism and the agrarian crisis
The hegemony of imperialism is invariably associated with an agrarian crisis in countries of the global south; in fact agrarian crisis is just the other side of the ascendancy of imperialism. This is evident from the case of Indian agriculture. The colonial period saw a more or less perpetual agrarian crisis, whose starkest manifestation was in the form of recurring famines. Colonial rule in India began with the East India Company acquiring the revenue-collecting rights over Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam in 1765. Within five years, in 1770, Bengal was devastated by famine, perhaps the worst famine ever in world history, in which according to Company officials themselves, 10 million people out of a total population in Bengal of 30 million, died. British rule ended once more with a massive famine in 1943-44, in which at least 3 million people in Bengal are estimated to have perished.
The famine at the beginning of British rule was because of exorbitant revenue demands; the famine at the end of British rule too was because of excessive exactions from the people of Bengal, in the form of inflation caused by an abnormally high level of deficit financing, in addition to tax collections, for financing the Allied war spending in South Asia. The victims of the famine were always predominantly the rural population, consisting of the peasantry and the agricultural labourers. But in addition to famines, debt, destitution, and dispossession of the peasantry were common features of colonial rule.
Such rapacity on the part of the colonial rulers was not just an arbitrary phenomenon; it was necessarily linked to the development of capitalism in Britain, and in the metropolis in general. Capitalism in the metropolis requires a number of primary commodities, consisting of raw materials and foodgrains which it cannot do without and at the same time cannot grow within its own boundaries, either at all, or in sufficient quantities, or all the year round. The case of oil, of which only 11 per cent of the total known reserves of the world are located in the temperate regions that constitute the home base of capital, is much discussed. But the same reliance on the rest of the world, especially the tropical and subtropical lands, for a variety of agricultural goods, is often lost sight of.
Jacobin: Tech Giants Are Building a Dystopia of Desperate Workers and Social Isolation
Tech companies like Amazon and Uber are creating a society divided between the served and their servants, where the “friction” of in-person interaction is eliminated. That friction is the stuff of social connection — a world without it is nightmarish.
The Left and the Right
Jacobin: The Work of Nicos Poulantzas Is Vital for Understanding the Authoritarian Right
The Greek political thinker Nicos Poulantzas was one of those Marxists who attempted to think about fascism as a challenge that was both theoretical and strategic. His writings on fascism were not motivated simply by theoretical considerations but also by urgent political exigencies. He sought not only to describe what led to fascism but also to distinguish fascism from other forms of “exceptional state.”
Poulantzas rejected the liberal approach that presented fascism as an anomaly in the history of capitalism that told us nothing about the system in general. Yet he also challenged the economic determinism of those Marxists who depicted fascist regimes as a necessary function of capitalist development during the interwar period. According to Poulantzas, the potential for fascism existed within capitalist states, but the realization of that potential depended on the outcome of class struggles.
With the rise of far-right political movements in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, the question of whether those movements will repeat the experience of interwar fascism, in whole or in part, is being widely debated. Poulantzas can be an important reference point for such debates. His warning that capitalist democracies were shifting toward a kind of “authoritarian statism” that would preserve the forms of liberal-democratic rule while trampling upon civil liberties now seems especially prescient in the light of contemporary trends.
Inside the Imperial Core
Multipolarista: US now world’s top LNG exporter, as Europe boycotts cheaper Russian gas
Monthly Review: The Progressive Left is maintaining systemic racism in New York City
Workers in the United States once united across trade and background to fight for the 8-hour workday. Today, many lament how weak the labor movement has become, often pointing to attacks from the right to strip unions and workers of power. The fight against the 24-hour workday in New York City shows that the racism of the progressive left, including a union, 1199SEIU, and some socialists, is also to blame for worsening conditions for the working class.
Naked Capitalism: How Austerity Caused the NHS Crisis
Originally at openDemocracy, but with some added flavour from Yves.
Naked Capitalism: Worst of Europe’s Energy Crisis May Be Yet To Come
Again, originally at Oil Price, but with some added flavour from Yves.
To recap the progression of worry about European energy in light of sanctions against Russia: Initially, the concern was that Europe would not get through the winter without blackouts and other hardship. Then with scrounging for LNG plus conservation measures, the new only mildly optimistic forecast was that Europe would scrape through winter if it were not too cold. But even that scenario didn’t solve Europe’s continuing shortfalls for 2023, which could become acute even before the next winter.
As we’ve indicated before, the problem has been remedied only via damage to Europe’s economy, as in cutbacks in energy-intensive industries. So the lack of an energy crisis this winter due to warm weather should not be mistaken for absence of economic harm., as in demand destruction.
You’d think the US would be worried at a fall in actual or potential economic activity from a major trade partner. But first, as Macron has complained specifically in the context of the Inflation Reduction Act, the US hopes chronically high energy costs in Europe will allow the US to steal some production capacity. Second, the US is delighted to sell its high price LNG to Europe in place of cheap Russian gas, bugger the harm to Europe. Third, China exports in 2021 to Europe were close to exactly twice as high as those from the US. So other things being equal, China will suffer more from shrinkage of European demand than the US.
Outside the Imperial Core
Monthly Review: The hope of a pan-African-owned and controlled electric car project is buried for generations to come
The United States government held the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in mid-December, prompted in large part by its fears about Chinese and Russian influence on the African continent. Rather than routine diplomacy, Washington’s approach in the summit was guided by its broader New Cold War agenda, in which a growing focus of the U.S. has been to disrupt relations that African nations hold with China and Russia. This hawkish stance is driven by U.S. military planners, who view Africa as ‘NATO’s southern flank’ and consider China and Russia to be ‘near-peer threats’. At the summit, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin charged China and Russia with ‘destabilising’ Africa. Austin provided little evidence to support his accusations, apart from pointing to China’s substantial investments, trade, and infrastructure projects with many countries on the continent and maligning the presence in a handful of countries of several hundred mercenaries from the Russian private security firm, the Wagner Group.
The African heads of government left Washington with a promise from U.S. President Joe Biden to make a continent-wide tour, a pledge that the United States will spend $55 billion in investments, and a high-minded but empty statement on U.S.-Africa partnership. Unfortunately, given the U.S. track record on the continent, until these words are backed up with constructive actions, they can only be considered empty gestures and geopolitical jockeying.
There was not one word in the summit’s final statement on the most pressing issue for the continent’s governments: the long-term debt crisis. The 2022 UN Conference on Trade and Development Report found that ‘60% of least developed and other low-income countries were at high risk of or already suffering in debt distress’, with sixteen African countries at high risk and another seven countries—Chad, Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—already in debt distress. On top of this, thirty-three African countries are in dire need of external assistance for food, which exacerbates the already existing risk of social collapse. Most of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was spent pontificating on the abstract idea of democracy, with Biden farcically taking aside heads of state like President Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria) and President Félix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo) to lecture them on the need for ‘free, fair, and transparent’ elections in their countries while pledging to provide $165 million to ‘support elections and good governance’ in Africa in 2023.
Climate Change News: World Bank moots stronger strategic focus on climate action
The World Bank is considering making climate action more central to its mission, according to a draft “evolution roadmap” drawn up by bank staff.
The 20-page document, dated 18 December and seen by Climate Home, says the bank will “broaden” beyond its current “twin goals” of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
I’m sure THIS time it’ll work!