black agenda report

Standing with the Cuban People
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Jul 23 2021

The Movement for Black Lives has an interesting and sometimes contradictory political history. Popularly known as Black Lives Matter (BLM), they gave birth to a now international rallying cry against anti-Black racism. They are identified with the issue of police violence so much that any protest involving Black people is dubbed Black Lives Matter whether there is any connection with that group or not. But BLM has also been problematic. Its founders have close ties to the Democratic party and its funding apparatus. Its membership has always been more radical than its leadership, who disclosed that they raised $90m in 2020 alone. The public accountability came about because their local chapters demanded more transparency and accountability. Sometimes though they get things right, as happened when BLM released a statement demanding an end to the 60-year long sanctions imposed by the US against the Cuban government and its people. The impetus for their statement came after a well-orchestrated psyop was carried out against the Cuban government.

In early July there was a sudden burst of twitter posts using #SOSCuba. There were more than 1k posts over two days, with five retweets per second. These automated tweets originated in Spain and were connected with Agustin Antonetti, a right-wing Argentinian who used the same methods of subterfuge against Evo Morales in Bolivia and president Lopez Obrador in Mexico. A total of 2m #SOSCuba tweets were sent in July. The online bot attack succeeded, and there were protests in Cuban cities on Jul 11. They were immediately amplified by corporate media around the world. They were modest in size, but they were described as being spontaneous and of historic proportions. The media even posted photos of pro-government actions or those which took place outside of the country and represented them as home grown anti-government protests.

The manipulation added a new wrinkle which makes this campaign quite insidious. Suddenly Black Cubans were made the focus of commentary. The right-wing Cuban exile community and their allies could not get buy-in for their old regime-change argument if people like Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, were the face of Cuban discontent. The Mayorkas family were wealthy business owners in Cuba and when they left, they ended up living in Beverly Hills. That is not a good look when a high-level propaganda operation is needed. Now a new crop of Black faces have appeared on the Black News Channel, on Questlove’s Instagram page and in popular culture. The #SOSCuba tweets were directed to performing artists, some of whom like Yotuel Romero have recorded songs opposing the government. Romero now lives in Miami and the title of his song Patria Y Vida is the slogan used for 60 years by Cubans who are the staunchest opponents of the revolution. This operation is very well-orchestrated and if Black people in this country are not careful, they will end up amplifying the dictates of US imperialism.

It is important to clarify what sanctions are and how they are used against Cuba and 38 other countries around the world. Sanctions do more than prevent US individuals, banks and businesses from doing business with the target nation. The US also targets any nation that dares to defy its edict. Any country considering breaking a US embargo suffers the same fate as the target. Cubans, Syrians, Venezuelans, Iranians, Nicaraguans and others cannot conduct the international financial transactions that any nation needs in order to survive. Nor are food and medicine exempt from these restrictions. The same people who claim concern for the Cuban people are also in favor of continuing their suffering. The plight of the Cuban people cannot be separated from Washington’s sanctions. Cuban scientists developed their own Covid vaccine, Soberana, which has a high rate of efficacy. But sanctions have left them without enough syringes and they cannot provide their own people with protection from Covid.

The BLM statement was clear and principled. The ongoing blockade is causing great suffering and any critique of BLM in this instance supports US imperialism, whether that is the intention of commentary or not. The only way to show solidarity with Black Cubans is to expose US aggressions which create misery for them and their fellow citizens. Any claim of concern for their lives which does not include an unequivocal demand for ending sanctions is dishonest and does Washington’s bidding. After releasing their statement, BLM came under immediate attack from the self-declared right wing and from liberals who in fact have the same tendencies. The liberals are worse, as they make the case for imperialism under a variety of guises, in this case a desire to help Black people. A new trope appeared overnight, which alleged that the Cuban government is more racist than the one we live under, and that Black Cubans are supportive of the 60-year-old war which has devastated their country and their lives. The latest propaganda campaign against Cuba is well-orchestrated and it must not be allowed to succeed. That is why BLM’s statement must be defended. They are to be commended for stepping up at a critical moment and exposing an ongoing crime against another nation. That is the responsibility of everyone who claims to care about Cuba or about humanity anywhere in the world.

Joe Biden is Wrong, Capitalism IS Exploitation
Danny Haiphong, Black Agenda Report, Jul 23 2021

“Disaster capitalism,” a term made popular by author Naomi Klein, describes the many ways in which massive profits are accumulated from tragedy. Hurricane Katrina provides one of the starkest examples of the parasitic nature of capitalism. After the lower 9th ward of New Orleans was decimated and countless Black Americans uprooted, the public school system was privatized in its entirety. The COVID-19 pandemic has also produced numerous examples of “disaster capitalism.” Billionaires such as Jeff Bezos have seen their profits grow handsomely over the past year amid mass death and economic devastation. A major limitation of the term “disaster capitalism” is that it insinuates that another kind of capitalism is possible. The myth that capitalism is not inherently exploitative or predatory is nothing new to the United States. Since the end of WW2, liberal economists such as Robert Reich have argued that a gentler form of capitalism is possible so long as New Deal-type reforms are a permanent fixture of economic life. Yet no amount of regulations or protections negate the fact capitalism doesn’t merely profit from disasters; it is the disaster. The owners of capital, the capitalist class, rely on a myriad of institutions to convince the masses otherwise. Government officials and politicians tend to be the most openly vocal champions of capitalism due to their leadership role over the state, the organization responsible for enforcing the suppression of one class to the benefit of another. In his announcement of an executive order comprised of a host of regulations, Joe Biden carried on this tradition by claiming that “capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.”

The problem with Biden’s formulation is that exploitation lies at the very root of capitalism. Capitalist competition has always rested at the foundation of the US settler colony’s economic base. Land theft, genocide, and mass enslavement of Indigenous and African nations gave the US an early competitive advantage over Western European rivals in the quest for global profit and supremacy. Capitalist competition has led to dozens of wars amongst capitalist powers. WW2, a war over colonial possessions, killed three percent of the world’s population—the majority occurring in China and the Soviet Union. History is clear that capitalist competition is sustained by an intense level of violence toward oppressed nations and classes. But outright violence in the form of war is only the most naked form of the exploitation inherent to capitalism. Capitalism is a system of production based upon the accumulation of private profit. Capitalists own the means of production for this purpose and workers must sell their labor to them to survive. On the surface, this exchange appears fair and “democratic.” Workers receive a wage for their labor so that they can purchase basic necessities and perhaps become rich themselves. Joe Biden is just the latest mouthpiece of the capitalist class to boast of the “opportunities” that supposedly arise for workers under the regime of capitalist competition.

Capitalist competition is defined by several contradictions, all of which form a nexus of exploitation for the working class. Biden’s executive order is reflective of a very important contradiction within this nexus. The policy is geared toward addressing excessive mergers yet monopoly is exactly what capitalist competition generates. In the hunt to maximize profits, capitalists seek to consolidate the capital necessary to expand production at the lowest possible cost. Monopolization is a natural byproduct of capitalist competition which socializes the production process and intensifies the exploitation of the laboring classes. But before a capitalist enterprise can compete, it must first extract surplus value from the workers who sell their labor in exchange for a wage. Workers are paid just enough to reproduce themselves. Whatever is left over from the exchange value of a commodity is pocketed by the capitalist as unpaid labor. The capitalist then uses its dictatorial ownership of profits to expand the enterprise, invest in new technology, and, of course, enrich themselves. However, the lust to squeeze every drop of surplus value from the working class has limits. The toiling masses cannot possibly consume the value that they produce nor can they be allowed to perish from starvation on a total scale despite hunger being a widespread problem under global capitalism. An economic crisis ensues whereby excess capital (otherwise known as overproduction) is eliminated, throwing scores of workers into unemployment. As capitalist enterprises compete, the tendency to monopolize is hastened by the dual incentive to keep production costs down, especially the cost of labor, and economic crises at bay for as long as possible. Monopoly then leads to imperialism. Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism in which finance capital assumes a commanding role in the reproduction of the system.

The US capitalist system is indeed in its most advanced stage of imperialist development. Finance capital provides endless credit to all sectors of the economy and has profited immensely from speculation as productive investment becomes steadily more costly and saturated. Workers in the United States are burdened with a myriad of debts in the form of unpaid medical expenses, student loans, automobile leases, credit card bills, and mortgages. Imperialism has facilitated the growth of debt by expanding supply chains into every nook and cranny of the planet. This has not only worsened the condition of labor, but has also increased the cost of production in the aggregate and placed downward pressure on long-term profits, a trend also known as the rate of profit. Finance capitalists have responded to these contradictions by subsidizing massive short-term gains from speculative schemes, mergers and cost-cutting austerity measures. The dominance of finance capital is therefore dependent upon the super-exploitation of the working class around the world in low-wage production occurring anywhere from Alabama to Bangladesh. Surplus value extraction remains a central feature of capitalism regardless of how far the capitalist class has gone to obscure the social relations of the system. The theft of value from workers in all corners of the globe has led to obscene levels of inequality and rendered overproduction a permanent fixture of capitalism. Just five individuals possess more wealth than half of the world’s population. More than 100m people have fallen into extreme poverty since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than one year ago.

The Biden administration’s inadequate stimulus packages and regulations fail to address the exploitation at the core of capitalism. It is thus unsurprising that a system which offers so little to so many has emphasized state repression and war as key mechanisms of social control. US capitalism is the undeniable leader in the war industry with no shortage of clientele. Trillions of US dollars are spent on wars abroad to keep the resource-rich Global South disunited and China and Russia “contained.” The US is also home to the most advanced surveillance system in the world and nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. The war at home relegates a large section of Black America to a permanent “underclass” status and a larger portion of the population compliant with declining living standards. Endless war abroad keeps US capital dominant in the global market. “Foreign adversaries” serve as scapegoats for merchants of death whose profits thrive from the manufactured consent developed in non-stop demonization campaigns against nations such as Cuba, Iran and the DPRK, to name just a few. None of this has changed in a fundamental way under Joe Biden’s regime. In fact, Biden’s policies coupled with the ideological return of “good capitalism” threaten to arrest the development of socialist and anti-imperialist political consciousness in the years to come. A more “stable” ruling class provides no panacea from a world capitalist system seeking respite from an unprecedented moment of crisis. Capitalism is defined by exploitation. Its continued supremacy guarantees more violence, poverty, and environmental destruction, not less. The best hope for the class struggle in the US is for emerging activists and organizers to engage in a serious study of capitalism; its history, how it works, and what the exploited and oppressed have done, and continue to do, to put an end to its tyranny.

The TPLF Attack on Ethiopia Contains the Accumulated Evil of the War
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Jul 23 2021

The International Military Tribunal for Germany wrote in 1946:

War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Although the Nuremberg Trials were, like most international criminal tribunals, a victor’s court, that became the foundation of the UN Charter, which, above all, empowers the UNSC to organize a multilateral response to a war of aggression, also called a crime against peace, in which one nation attacks another. It’s a good foundation, far from fully realized, but a good foundation nevertheless. The UNSC is also empowered to organize a multilateral response if all five of its permanent members agree to a determination that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or genocide are being committed within a nation. Right now the UNSC is deadlocked on Venezuela, Syria, Palestine and Ethiopia, and probably more, with the veto power of the FUKUS on one side and the veto power of Russia and China on the other, as it was during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Many people complain that “the UN,” meaning the UNSC and the UN Charter, are therefore useless and ineffective, but deadlock is far better than domination by the US, as was the case during the 1990s, when the US had installed a drunken puppet, Boris Yeltsin, and turned Russia into a Wild West for domestic and foreign privatizers. It took some years for Russia to recover from the Yeltsin era and to reemerge as a world power. And international law, even as an ideal codified in the UN Charter but far from realized, is better than no international law at all. Deadlock of course hasn’t prevented the US from unilaterally going to war in Iraq, Syria, Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and a long list of other sovereign nations since the Nuremberg Trials, the writing of the UN Charter, and its ratification by sovereign member states. However, the US keeps seeking the UNSC’s approval for its own wars of aggression, disguised as humanitarian intervention or War on Terror, and Russia and China keep exercising their veto power to say no. And they now have back-up from member nations now united in an alliance of 17 member nations, the “Groups of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the UN.”

The first step towards military “intervention” in a domestic conflict is censure. It’s typically followed by sanctions, international criminal court indictments, and financial strangulation by the IMF and World Bank. The US and its allies haven’t even been able to get past the first step of censure with regard to Syria, Burundi and now Ethiopia. Russia and China have exercised their veto power in all three instances. That didn’t stop the US in Syria, but in that case Syria asked Russia, along with Iran and Hezbollah, to join them in a legal international defense coalition. Russia and China repeatedly vetoed motions to censure Burundi in 2015 and then failed to rally an African Union intervention to overthrow then President Pierre Nkurunziza, despite the usual shrill barrage of Western media on human rights abuses and atrocities in that country. With the help of Russia and China’s vetoes on the UNSC, Burundi survived its David and Goliath battle with the US. Tigray is in Ethiopia. It’s a state, province, region or however you translate it. An administrative region with a local government. So the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front attack on a federal army base in the Tigrayan capital in Mekelle last November did not initiate a war of aggression as defined by international law. It initiated a civil war. However, it’s only rational to say that the initiation of a civil war also “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” That’s not to say that atrocities have not been committed by both sides or to diminish the suffering of Tigrayans or any Ethiopians in this conflict, but atrocities are typically committed by all sides in a war, including WW2, which began with Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. That is why the attack that starts a war of aggression or a civil war “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

And that’s why Western officials and media, who would like to see their long-time TPLF puppets back in power, have tried so hard to blame Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian army. State and corporate imperialist media, and even Democracy Now, used phrasing like “an Ethiopian military offensive” and “the war began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attacked Tigray, claiming that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front had attacked a federal army outpost,” as though the well-documented attack were nothing but Abiy’s claim. Tigray also fired rockets at Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and Eritrea responded by entering Tigray to defend itself and support the Ethiopian army. Ethiopia, excepting Tigray, is now a close ally of Eritrea. International law professor Francis Boyle told me that US imperialist mouthpieces like Michael Rubin champion this proposed war of aggression. Rubin concludes his essay “Could the Tigray Defense Force Invade Eritrea? with:

The choice is simple: March into Eritrea. Isaias may believe that he will die in Eritrea and that his son will continue his rule. The next steps in the Tigray conflict will likely prove him wrong on both counts.

The rest of his essay is of course an argument that Eritrea deserves this, without mention that Afwerki refuses to collaborate with AFRICOM or indenture Eritreans to the World Bank and IMF. Or that he has largely socialized property in Eritrea. Eritreans in diaspora are sharply divided on whether or not Isaias Afwerki has realized or betrayed socialist ideals, but either way the US has every reason to take his government down, which have nothing to do with humanitarian intervention. Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed’s decision to make peace with Eritrea after decades of war and the two countries’ subsequent alliance represent more independence than the US empire has been willing to tolerate. But on the UNSC, Russia and China keep saying no even to censure, the first step toward intervention, leaving the US and its NATO allies only the option of naked, unilateral imperial aggression in defiance of international law.

Memo to France as Its Soldiers Leave Africa: “Get Out and Stay Out!”
Marl P Fancher, Black Agenda Report, Jul 23 2021

France has thrown its military weight around in Africa for years, but recently, in the wake of troop casualties, and with the prospect of more soldier deaths, French imperialist punks have signaled their plan to withdraw more than 2k troops from the continent. France began “Operation Barkhane” in 2013, supposedly to rid the Sahel region of al-Qaeda cells and sympathizers. However, resistance to the military campaign has left about 55 French soldiers dead. French President Emmanuel Macron said:

Many of our soldiers have fallen, I have a thought for their families. We owe them consistency, clarity.

When it comes to Africa, France has always been both consistent and clear about its plan to dominate and exploit. Also, while other western powers, including the US have participated in neo-colonial projects, French efforts have included an extra dose of nasty. For example, as colonialism breathed its last gasps in 1958, France arrogantly strong-armed most of its African colonies into relationships designed to perpetuate the colonial model in a different form. When, by referendum, Guinea alone stood tall and strong for true independence and rejected the French proposal, France threw a tantrum. Author Elizabeth Schmidt wrote:

France retaliated with a vengeance. Even before the vote, France began its withdrawal, sabotaging archives, infrastructure and the economy. After the referendum, France attempted to isolate Guinea diplomatically, economically and militarily.

The bullying of Africa has been driven entirely by self-interest and greed. In more recent years, and as just one example, the French military presence in Niger has been for the purpose of protecting French uranium mines, notwithstanding claims the mission’s focus is anti-terrorism. For its own exploitative purposes, in 2014 the US chose to become militarily involved in Mali and other countries in the region. In response, a French Special Forces officer said:

The Americans want to get involved in Africa. That’s good for us. We know that with the Americans it will be more efficient. We use American logistics. That’s what we are missing. On the other hand, we provide the local knowledge.

US involvement may have been good for France, but ultimately it proved costly for the US. In 2017, four US soldiers were killed in Niger, and the public reaction was so strong that the US was forced to substantially reduce its troop presence in Africa. Nevertheless, then as in preceding years, the imperialist imperative demanded alternative approaches to the domination of Africa. In the case of Niger, the US intensified and expanded its use of armed drones. Notwithstanding the devastation generally caused by French and US military operations in Africa, a crime that left Africa reeling, and from which it has not yet recovered, was the depraved, barbaric assassination of Moammar Gadhafi and the destruction of Libya in 2011. AFRICOM and France armed anti-Black and other reactionary forces in Libya which carried out a protracted process of genocide and mass destruction that culminated in a mob’s use of a bayonet to murder Gadhafi by rectal disembowelment. Unlike many imperialist operations of this kind where we are left to connect the dots, we have damning evidence of the motive. An Apr 2 2011 State Dept memo frankly and bluntly states:

[Libya’s 143 tons of gold] was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:

  1. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production;
  2. Increase French influence in North Africa;
  3. Improve his internal political situation in France;
  4. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world; and
  5. Address the concern of his advisors over [Gadhafi’s] long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.

In more recent years, French military efforts in the Sahel region have failed to defeat the forces they have been fighting, and this along with French opposition to decisions by African governments in the region to talk with these groups have played a role in the decision to cut and run. French troops have had a substantial presence in Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso for years. Yet, these military operations have succeeded only in increasing the number of violent attacks. When African governments decided to negotiate truces and begin a dialogue with those forces, Macron declared France would cease collaboration with countries that “decide to negotiate with groups that shoot at our children.” However, studies show that in regions where truces are in effect, there have been dramatic decreases in the number of deaths. In one region civilian deaths decreased from 65 in Q1 2020 to 26 in Q1 2021. In the Sahel they dropped from 487 to 191, and in still another region they dropped from 66 to zero.

These results demonstrate yet again that the imperialists’ long-standing efforts to shoot and bomb their way into domination of devastated regions is a manifestation of clueless arrogance and a failure to consider Africa’s realities. When neo-colonial African governments fail to meet the most basic needs of their people, the way is clear for so-called terrorists to win the support of the people both by presenting themselves as opponents of neglectful or oppressive governments, and by also helping the people survive. When imperialist military forces engage in combat and cause civilian deaths, the support for the so-called terrorists grows. So-called terrorist organizations are not what Africa needs for its revolution, but for some desperate, oppressed people attempting to resist neo-colonialism and imperialism, such groups may appear to be the only game in town. While France may be scaling down its military operations, it is not removing all its troops, and the country’s interest in Africa has not evaporated. Macron has explained his plan to encourage greater military engagement by the US and other imperialist and neo-colonial forces. In true cowardly style, France hopes to hide within an imperialist coalition to do its dirty work in Africa. Consequently, Africa is still faced with the challenge of overcoming foreign military intervention.

There may nevertheless be reasons to be encouraged by these developments. Notwithstanding the fact that imperialist governments are chronically stuck on stupid when it comes to using armed force to impose their will in underdeveloped regions, there is ever-diminishing patience and tolerance for such activities among the broad masses of people in France, the US and other western countries when the cost of these operations is the deaths of soldiers. The US government felt pressure from its own citizens when four soldiers were killed in Niger in 2017. France is now feeling heat because of deaths of its soldiers. The public pressure triggered by military casualties may not signal significant growth of revolutionary consciousness, but it does have a limiting effect that is useful to those resisting the militarization of Africa. It even presents for Africans born and living in imperialist countries the best opportunities to fight for Africa by taking advantage of direct access to those who can, through force of mass movement end the militarization of the continent. Africa’s potential for using its resources to save not only itself, but its diaspora can’t be realized until the imperialist combat-booted foot on the continent’s neck is removed.

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