The global rush to grab land and other resources

[The basic law of capitalism is “expand or die” — and quickly so, as the threat of being crushed or swallowed by competing exploiters also grows without a break.  Maximizing profits through ruthless exploitation of labor, manipulation of trade, and wholesale plunder of resources, all drive at immediate returns, and threaten and cause the destruction of the long-term survival of peoples across the planet. The article below details how the inherent malevolence of the capitalist-imperialist system, is driving billions of people in despair and into struggle against it.  — Frontlines ed.]

25 February 2013. A World to Win News Service. The planet is facing a serious food crisis. The unsustainable use of resources, from the land to the sea, due to the violent rush for profit, poses a great threat to humanity and the planet. But rivalry for control of food production and distribution under the profit-driven capitalist system is still sharpening, taking new forms and causing greater misery for the world’s people. The land-grab going on in Africa and other parts of the world is part of this trend.

Africa, whose people were kidnapped by the millions for the slave trade and ground down and bled under colonialism and since, a continent whose resources has been sacked for centuries and which has suffered so much from wars spurred by big-power rivalry, faces a new form of looting today. Corporations, private banks, pension funds and many multinational companies have grabbed fertile land all over the continent. With the connivance of corrupt and client governments dependent on foreign investment, they have secured long leases by paying as little as half a U.S. dollar per hectare per year.

Although this kind of land acquisition is far from new, there has been a spectacular jump since 2008. In the following year, investors bought or leased more than 56 million hectares in Asia, Latin America and especially Africa, roughly 15 times more land that the yearly average in the preceding half century. (Farah Stockman, Boston Globe, 24 February 2013) Continue reading

Wal-Mart’s Crimes in the Exploitation of Bangladeshi workers: Class war crimes

Wal-Mart wouldn’t pay for Bangladeshi factory safety improvements

Before a factory fire that killed 112, the retailer had decided supplier fire safety was too expensive to cover

By , Thursday, Dec 6, 2012

Wal-Mart wouldn't pay for Bangladeshi factory safety improvements[Bangladeshi police officials stand guard outside burnt garment factory in the Savar neighborhood in Dhaka (AP Photo/ khurshed Rinku)]

At a meeting in April 2011, more than a dozen retailers including Wal-Mart, Gap, Target and JC Penney met in Dhaka to discuss safety at their supplier Bangladeshi garment factories. Bloomberg News revealed minutes from this meeting Wednesday, which show that Wal-Mart nixed a plan that would require retailers to pay their suppliers enough to cover safety improvements.

Last month, a fire in a factory used by Wal-Mart killed 112 workers. There were no fire exits. Despite the fact that more than 700 Bangladeshi garment workers have died since 2005, Wal-Mart and Gap refused last year to pay higher costs for safety. Bloomberg cited comments from a document produced by Wal-mart’s director of ethical sourcing and a Gap official for the Dhaka meeting. It stated:

“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories. It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

Scott Nova, the executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium, commented on Bloomberg’s revelations to Josh Eidelson for the Nation. “No company that is unwilling to pay [factories] enough to make it possible for them to operate safely can claim to be interested in any way in the rights or safety of workers,”  said Nova. He described Wal-Mart’s position in the Dhaka discussions as “1) We know these factories are unsafe. 2) We know it will cost substantial sums to make them safe. 3) We are not going to pay for this. 4) We are going to keep using the factories anyway.” Continue reading

Mindanao: “MILF hails UN, EU, UK, US, other states’ support”

http://www.luwaran.com

October 11, 2012 — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today said the support of the international community for the recent breakthrough in the GPH-MILF peace process has been overwhelming as it expressed gratitude to world leaders and foreign envoys who have welcomed the Framework Agreement reached between the Government of the Philippines and the (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has hailed with great satisfaction and utmost gratitude these expressions of support from the United Nations, The European Union, Malaysia, The United Kingdom, Japan, United States Australia, Switzerland, and Indonesia.

“We are deeply honored and humbled, and assured by their support,” Murad told Luwaran in an interview this morning.

Murad particularly took note of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commendation of President Benigno Aquino III for his vision and courage, as well as the commitment of the MILF leadership, in reaching the landmark agreement. Continue reading

Africa: Rio+20 Summit Under Corporations’ Undue Influence

18 June 2012, Friends of the Earth (London) –press release

Rio De Janeiro — On the eve of the Rio+20 United Nations Earth Summit [1] on June 20-22, Friends of the Earth International warns world leaders that multinational corporations such as oil giant Shell have an undue influence over the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

According to a briefing released today by Friends of the Earth Netherlands [2], the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell is influencing the Rio+20 Summit thanks to senior company representatives in several corporate lobbying groups active in the Rio+20 negotiations, including: the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the UN Global Compact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the International Emissions Trading Association

“It is not acceptable that companies like Shell who cause massive pollution and human rights abuses should be in the driving seat of processes for sustainable development. That is a recipe for disaster for our planet and peoples. Corporate polluters should not help making laws, they should face the law,” said Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. Continue reading

Standing Army – A Journey Into The World of Us Military Bases

[For 100 years, revolutionaries have identified imperialism  as the highest stage of capitalism — marked by the domination, and export, of finance capital, thereby dominating and controlling economic, political, military, and cultural affairs on a global scale.  Earlier forms were characterized by an overt colonialism, whereby entire countries were owned and operated as properties or subsidiaries of imperialist powers.  After the second global inter-imperialist war (World War II), imperialism developed an even more extensive, and somewhat camoflaged structure of controls, with the establishment of the monetary system, the World Bank, IMF, WTO, G8, the ICC, and the extensive NGO-ization of “civil society.”   The US military, alliances and bases were extensively developed to enforce the corporate imperialist systems of investment, plunder, exploitation, and capital accumulation.  Imperialism is not the military — the military is in service to imperialism.  In US politics, this is referred to as “civilian” (ie., corporate-imperialist) control of the military.  Those within the system who get this twisted find themselves out of a job, in due time.  Those outside the system who are in opposition to imperialism, and who get it twisted, find themselves chasing the smoke, but not the fire. — Frontlines ed.]

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Steeper33 on Aug 7, 2010

The US has encircled the world with a web of military bases that today amount to more than 700, in 40 countries. It’s one of the most powerful forces at play in the world, yet one of the less talked-about.
Why do countries like Germany, Italy, Japan still host hundreds of US military bases and thousands US soldiers?
What stance has president Obama taken on this subject?

This documentary answers these and other questions both through the words of experts Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Chalmers Johnson and through those directly affected by US bases in Italy, Japan and the Indian Ocean.
EFFENDEM FILM, TAKAE FILMS presents: Standing Army
http://www.standingarmy.it/
http://www.effendemfilm.com/

A closer look: Obama’s hypocritical claim of the Apple/Steve Jobs allure

[A comment from Revolutionary Frontlines:  “Capitalist Crisis and Empire Quandary leads to media hyperbole, political hypocrisy, empty promises and false claims of better days ahead”

Barack Obama, the political leader of US imperialism, is heading into a re-election campaign with growing discontent and opposition across the country, including among traditional supporters of the Democratic party.  In his State of the Union address this week, he made a string of new and repeated promises to re-capture these drifting and angry voters,   as he promised to bring jobs back from overseas and support domestic innovation and business.  Apple electronics and Steve Jobs got special mention and praise from the President.  Apple, making record profits from its popular iPhone and iPad products, produces most of its goods overseas–the largest part being made by Foxconn in China and India, in factories holding hundreds of thousands of workers being paid $1 an hour.  If Foxconn increases pay rates and regulates safety and working conditions, China’s global edge in maintaining  cheap labor pool will lose its allure.  If the cost of production rises, Apple’s profit edge and competitiveness will suffer.  Therefore, every Foxconn adjustment in pay and conditions is matched by increased demands on productivity.  The NY Times article, below, details the situation at Foxconn.

The Chinese workers are caught in the middle of this.  They are not the enemies of workers in the US–they suffer from the same exploitation for profits, at the hands of the same crisis-wracked and bankrupt capitalist system, as we, and people worldwide, are suffering from.  There is no solution in workers fighting each other for a place in the exploiters’ production line.  The path forward is made with solidarity, with finding the ways to support each other and to unify our struggles against the capitalist-imperialist system.  With each day, millions more are seeing that the capitalist system, in its ever more vicious and desperate turns, is losing its credibility and legitimacy as a leading or organizing force in human affairs. — Frontlines ed.]

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Click this link to see video:  Made in China

An explosion last May at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. It built iPads.

January 25, 2012

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad

By and , New York Times

The explosion ripped through Building A5 on a Friday evening last May, an eruption of fire and noise that twisted metal pipes as if they were discarded straws.

When workers in the cafeteria ran outside, they saw black smoke pouring from shattered windows. It came from the area where employees polished thousands of iPad cases a day.

Two people were killed immediately, and over a dozen others hurt. As the injured were rushed into ambulances, one in particular stood out. His features had been smeared by the blast, scrubbed by heat and violence until a mat of red and black had replaced his mouth and nose.

“Are you Lai Xiaodong’s father?” a caller asked when the phone rang at Mr. Lai’s childhood home. Six months earlier, the 22-year-old had moved to Chengdu, in southwest China, to become one of the millions of human cogs powering the largest, fastest and most sophisticated manufacturing system on earth. That system has made it possible for Apple and hundreds of other companies to build devices almost as quickly as they can be dreamed up.

“He’s in trouble,” the caller told Mr. Lai’s father. “Get to the hospital as soon as possible.”

In the last decade, Apple has become one of the mightiest, richest and most successful companies in the world, in part by mastering global manufacturing. Apple and its high-technology peers — as well as dozens of other American industries — have achieved a pace of innovation nearly unmatched in modern history.

However, the workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.

After a rash of apparent suicide attempts, a dormitory for Foxconn workers in Shenzhen, China, had safety netting installed last May. Foxconn said it acted quickly and comprehensively to address employee suicides.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

“If Apple was warned, and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,” said Nicholas Ashford, a former chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, a group that advises the United States Labor Department. “But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that.”

Apple is not the only electronics company doing business within a troubling supply system. Bleak working conditions have been documented at factories manufacturing products for Dell, Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M., Lenovo, Motorola, Nokia, Sony, Toshiba and others.

Current and former Apple executives, moreover, say the company has made significant strides in improving factories in recent years. Apple has a supplier code of conduct that details standards on labor issues, safety protections and other topics. The company has mounted a vigorous auditing campaign, and when abuses are discovered, Apple says, corrections are demanded.

And Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports, in many cases, are the first to report abuses. This month, for the first time, the company released a list identifying many of its suppliers.

But significant problems remain. More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have violated at least one aspect of the code of conduct every year since 2007, according to Apple’s reports, and in some instances have violated the law. While many violations involve working conditions, rather than safety hazards, troubling patterns persist. Continue reading

Statement exposing and opposing the World Economic Forum

[On the event of the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Austria, a number of European anti-imperialist and revolutionary organizations have released this joint statement, analyzing the present world economic crisis, the role of the WEF, and the growing revolutionary struggles against the imperialist system. — Frontlines ed.]

Attack WEF summit in Vienna, Austria, June 2011!

Smash imperialism and all its institutions!

From 8 to 9 June the summit of World Economic Forum (WEF) will take place in Vienna, Austria. Then more than 1000 representatives of various governments and companies with meet to coordinate on “economic, political and academic issues” and draw common plans on that. At least when reading the self-definition of WEF about “membership” one sees clearly who is meeting whom at this summit and which forces are convening for this summit: “A typical member company is a global enterprise with a turn-over of more than 5 billion US dollars.” The WEF summit is more than a mere conference for discussion, it is an important board of coordination of the biggest monopoly enterprises (banks and trusts) in the world sharing their plans for further and further maximizing their profits. The governments of the imperialist as well as the puppet governments installed by them in the dependent countries take part in the meeting to secure the translation of their plans into action. The contents of their coordinated plans are their attacks against the masses of the peoples and the working class. It’s about the interest of those who produce austerity programs, wage-cuts, longer working hours, abolishing political rights und much more against the workers for creating better conditions for the capitalists. It’s about the interest of those who have de-industrialized the Balkans and have destroyed social rights there, who have transformed Greece into a mere colony of EU- and US-Imperialism. It’s about the interest of those who have destroyed environment by ruinously exhausting the soil or by “profitably running” nuclear power plants (such as in Japan). It’s about the interests of those who suppress the peoples around the globe and instigate imperialist wars to enable them shape the conditions according to their profit interest.

It’s not the WEF alone but a long line of various international organizations and cooperations (e.g. International Monetary Funds – IMF, World Bank, General Agreement on Trades in Services – GATS etc.) that are very important for the interest of the capital of the imperialist countries and unions (US, EU, Russia,…). The WEF is however not the most important international meeting but it must nevertheless not be underestimated. As the spheres of exploitation and influence have already been distributed on a global scale the imperialist robbers unavoidably come into conflict with each other during their chase for profits. These contradiction emerging from the struggle for further maximum profits lead to conflicts increasing up to wars among the contending states for world domination. Continue reading