The Political Economy of Ebola

[Arrogant claims that “there is no alternative” to capitalism explode when held up to stubborn facts like the spread of Ebola in Africa–a disease whose most damning feature is that the racist profit system requires that an entire continent be kept in a state of permanent vulnerabilty, because the resources which could solve the scourge of this disease are tightly held for profitable pursuits and issues closer to the hearts of the privleged.  The people deserve, and, in time, will create a system based on our common interests and needs, (which will put the profit-oriented inhumanity of today in museums for generations of bewildered people to study.)  —  Frontlines ed.]
Ebola is a problem that will not be solved, because it isn’t profitable to do so.

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler / Library of Congress

The Onion (a satirical newspaper in the US — ed.), as ever, is on point with its “coverage” of the worst recorded outbreak of Ebola, and the first in West Africa, infecting some 1,779 people and killing at least 961. “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” read the cheeky headline of the July 31 news brief.

Our shorthand explanation is that if the people infected with Ebola were white, the problem would be solved. But the market’s role in both drug companies’ refusal to invest in research and the conditions on the ground created by neoliberal policies that exacerbate and even encourage outbreaks goes unmentioned.

Racism is certainly a factor. Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist and the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the largest medical research charities in the world, told the Toronto Star: “Imagine if you take a region of Canada, America, Europe, and you had 450 people dying of a viral hemorrhagic fever. It would just be unacceptable — and it’s unacceptable in West Africa.”

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Slave ships and supermarkets: Modern day slavery in Thailand

[Representatives of capital, and of modern capitalist-imperialism, have often claimed that their exploitative system has been a civilizing force, promoting and spreading democratic rights along with social and economic development wherever it has gone throughout the world.  These claims could not be further from the truth, as these masters of global plunder of human and all natural resources continue to force marginalized and desperately migrating peoples–peasants and proletarians alike–into the most dangerous conditions of slavery, enforced by the repressive regimes and the enslaving corporations they serve.  The following exposure by The Guardian exposes one aspect of this malevolent and highly profitable system, which then offers the inexpensive and tasty shrimp/prawn delicacies to unaware and/or uncaring consumers in imperialist countries. — Frontlines ed.]

By Kate Hodal, Chris Kelly, Felicity Lawrence, www.theguardian.com

June 12th, 2014

Slaves forced to work for no pay for years at a time under threat of extreme violence are being used in Asia in the production of seafood sold by major US, British and other European retailers, the Guardian can reveal.

A six-month investigation has established that large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns (commonly called shrimp in the US) sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

Men who have managed to escape from boats supplying CP Foods and other companies like it told the Guardian of horrific conditions, including 20-hour shifts, regular beatings, torture and execution-style killings. Some were at sea for years; some were regularly offered methamphetamines to keep them going. Some had seen fellow slaves murdered in front of them. Continue reading

We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement

 Prof. Umoja discusses why he wrote We Will Shoot Back

The notion that the civil rights movement in the southern United States was a nonviolent movement remains a dominant theme of civil rights memory and representation in popular culture. Yet in dozens of southern communities, Black people picked up arms to defend their leaders, communities, and lives. In particular, Black people relied on armed self-defense in communities where federal government officials failed to safeguard activists and supporters from the violence of racists and segregationists, who were often supported by local law enforcement.

In We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, Akinyele Omowale Umoja argues that armed resistance was critical to the efficacy of the southern freedom struggle and the dismantling of segregation and Black disenfranchisement. Intimidation and fear were central to the system of oppression in Mississippi and most of the Deep South. To overcome the system of segregation, Black people had to overcome fear to present a significant challenge to White domination. Armed self-defense was a major tool of survival in allowing some Black southern communities to maintain their integrity and existence in the face of White supremacist terror. By 1965, armed resistance, particularly self-defense, was a significant factor in the challenge of the descendants of enslaved Africans to overturning fear and intimidation and developing different political and social relationships between Black and White Mississippians.

This riveting historical narrative relies upon oral history, archival material, and scholarly literature to reconstruct the use of armed resistance by Black activists and supporters in Mississippi to challenge racist terrorism, segregation, and fight for human rights and political empowerment from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. Continue reading

What Will It Take to Free Our Political Prisoners?

July 16, 2013

By Liz Derias

The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a revolutionary organization based in the u.s. that fights to uphold the self-determination and the human rights of Black people in the world, has been working to free political prisoners for over three decades. The organization has actively worked on the cases of Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt, the San Francisco 8 (SF8), the MOVE 9, the Cuban 5, and more. Additionally, MXGM has worked with the founding Black August Organizing Committee of California to popularize Black August, a month of commemoration and action in support of political prisoners.

Through the heed of political prisoners Assata Shakur and Nehanda Abiodun, MXGM has also taken a lead in inspiring and mobilizing the Hip Hop generation to take action in support of political prisoners, particularly through the annual Black August Concert, which has featured artists such as Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Dead Prez, and others. MXGM works with other leading organizations that have championed action to free political prisoners, such as the National Black United Fund, the Prisoners of Consciousness Committee, the Nation of Islam, and numerous support committees around the world.black august

This article will describe the history and current context of political prisoners in the u.s., the conditions for them while incarcerated, and the organizing strategies employed by MXGM over the years to free them.

The Legacy of COINTELPRO

We cannot discuss the case of political prisoners in the u.s. without having an understanding of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO, or the Counter Intelligence Program, was the federal government’s secret program during the 1950s-1970s used against many forces of the Black Liberation movement, leftists, and political dissidents in the u.s., including the Chicano Nationalist Movement and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement. It was secret because it was illegal.

Under COINTELPRO, the FBI and local police forces assassinated, arrested, tortured, and framed hundreds of leftists, particularly Black leftists, who were considered to pose the greatest threat to the racist status quo of u.s. society. The tactics of COINTELPRO can be categorized in four main areas: infiltration of organizations, psychological warfare from the outside, harassment through the legal system, and extralegal force and violence, including extrajudicial killing and outright murder. The FBI’s stated motivation for the program was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order. Continue reading

Obama in South Africa: Washington tells Pretoria how to ‘play the game’ in Africa

Protesters greet Obama, June 28, 2013.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

July 1, 2013Links International Journal of Socialist RenewalUS President Barack Barack Obama’s weekend trip to South Africa may have the desired effect of slowing the geopolitical realignment of Pretoria to the Brazil-India-Russia-China-South Africa (BRICS) axis. That shift to BRICS has not, however, meant deviation from the hosts’ political philosophy, best understood as “talk left, walk right” since it mixes anti-imperialist rhetoric with pro-corporate policies.

Overshadowed by Nelson Mandela’s critically ill health, Obama’s implicit denial of a US imperial agenda could not disguise Washington’s economic paranoia. As expressed on June 25 by White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, “What we hear from our businesses is that they want to get in the game in Africa. There are other countries getting in the game in Africa – China, Brazil, Turkey. And if the US is not leading in Africa, we’re going to fall behind in a very important region of the world.”

Over a century earlier, another Rhodes – Cecil John – explained that very game: “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” Although there is no longer formal slave labour within formal colonies, this sentiment readily links the neoliberal agenda of both the BRICS and the US.

Perhaps embarrassed, Obama himself retracted Ben Rhodes’ confession of inter-imperial rivalry when asked by the White House press corps: “I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier. A lot of people are pleased that China is involved in Africa.”

This must have raised cynical eyebrows, because he added, “China’s primary interest is being able to obtain access for natural resources in Africa to feed the manufacturers in export-driven policies of the Chinese economy.” Continue reading

The Caribbean case for Reparations from Britain

Reparations: a case for settlement

A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain's Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. - AP
[A Rastafarian man holds up a cardboard placard calling for reparations during a demonstration as Britain’s Prince Harry visited the non-governmental organisation RISE in Kingston on March 6, 2012. – AP]

Courtenay Barnett, Guest Columnist, The Gleaner (Jamaica, West Indies), Sunday, June 30, 2013

This month, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) was required to pay 19.9 million pounds in compensation to some 5,000 elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. This case bears lessons for the Caribbean and it also has much to teach about the true nature of the British Empire.

The British imposed themselves in Kenya and confiscated land. In 1948, a quarter-million Kenyans were confined to 2,000 square miles, while 30,000 English settlers lived on 12,000 square miles of the most fertile lands in Kenya. Africans under an apartheid and colonial policy were forbidden to enter certain areas and confined away from the most arable land.

Not surprisingly, the Kenyans rebelled and started a violent campaign against the white settlers in 1952. The colonialists responded, and the Kenya Human Rights Commission estimated that 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed. There was the use of literal concentration camps as a nationwide network of detention for some 160,000 who were detained in the most appalling conditions.

TORTURED

President Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, happened to be one of those detained persons. He had pins placed into his fingernails and in his buttocks and his testicles were squeezed between metal rods. Other Kenyans were forcibly relocated in new villages. Within the camps, the British inflicted beatings, castrated, raped and performed other forms of sexual abuse and torture applying brutal interrogation techniques against the Kenyans.

It was against this background that elderly Kenyans who had suffered abuse when detained filed a claim in the English High Court. Two of the original five claimants had been castrated and an African lady who had been raped was included in the claim. Continue reading