Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

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Development finance helps China win friends and influence American allies

[Each day brings news of the every-sharpening contention between imperialist powers, who have long cooperated but are now more-ready to seize advantage at the expense of each other, and place burdens of more aggressive exploitation and more oppressive conditions on working people inside the imperialist countries (from US/EU to Chinese/Russian and others scrambling to expand their profits at each others expense).  One day, it is the seizure of energy resources, then it is trade routes and shipping, then monetary dominance, then credit dominance and wars, then military eyeball face-offs and surrogate/proxy hotspots, then it is digital battles and cyber wars.  There is no stopping this contention, nor any way for the people to see it but to raise the people’s struggles against all imperialism and all reaction.  Between these imperialists, working people have no horse in this race.  —  Frontlines ed.]
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Mar 21st 2015 | SINGAPORE | From The Economist

 

STRATEGIC rivalry between America and China takes many forms. Rarely does a clear winner emerge. An exception, however, is the tussle over China’s efforts to found a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). China has won, gaining the support of American allies not just in Asia but in Europe, and leaving America looking churlish and ineffectual. This month first Britain and then France, Germany and Italy said they hoped to join the bank as founding shareholders. China said other European countries such as Luxembourg and Switzerland are thinking of joining the queue.

Yet America has been sceptical about the AIIB. Its officials claim they have not “lobbied against” it, but merely stressed how important it is that it abide by international standards of transparency, creditworthiness, environmental sustainability, and so on.

Continue reading

Brazilian megaproject in Mozambique set to displace millions of peasants

UNAC, Via Campesina Africa, GRAIN | 29 November 2012

The Brazilian government and private sector are collaborating with Japan to push a large-scale agribusiness project in Northern Mozambique. The project, called ProSavana, will make 14 million hectares of land available to Brazilian agribusiness companies for the production of soybeans, maize and other commodity crops that will be exported by Japanese multinationals. This area of Mozambique, known as the Nacala Corridor, is home to millions of farming families who are at risk of losing their lands in the process.

brazil-mozambique-slide-1-638The Nacala Corridor stretches along a rail line that runs from the port of Nacala, in Nampula Province, into the two northern districts of Zambézia Province and ends in Lichinga, in Niassa Province. It is the most densely populated region of the country. With its fertile soils and its consistent and generous rainfall, millions of small farmers work these lands to produce food for their families and for local and regional markets.

But now ProSavana proposes to make these same lands available to Japanese and Brazilian companies to establish large industrial farms and produce low cost commodity crops for export. Through ProSavana, they intend to transform the Nacala Corridor into an African version of the Brazilian cerrado, where savannah lands were converted to vast soybean and sugar cane plantations.

Large numbers of Brazilian investors have already been surveying lands in northern Mozambique under the ProSavana project. They are being offered massive areas of land on a long-term lease basis for about US$1/ha per year.

GV Agro, a subsidiary of Brazil’s Fundação Getulio Vargas directed by the former minister of agriculture, Roberto Rodriguez, is coordinating the Brazilian investors.

Charles Hefner of GV Agro dismisses the idea that the project will displace Mozambican peasants. He says ProSavana is targeting “abandoned areas” where “there is no agriculture being practiced”.

“Mozambique has a tremendous area available for agriculture,” says Hefner.  “There is room for mega projects of 30-40,000 ha without major social impacts.”

But land surveys by Mozambique’s national research institute clearly show that nearly all the agricultural land in the area is being used by local communities.

“It is not true that there is abandoned land in the Nacala Corridor,” says Jacinto Mafalacusser, a researcher at the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM). Continue reading

US military’s Asia-Pacific strategic focus — and sailors charged with rape in Okinawa

US troops held over Okinawa alleged rape

Local residents rally against deployment of Osprey aircraft at Futenma air base,  Okinawa, on 4 Oct 2012 [Photo: There have been many protests over the US military footprint, like this one over the Osprey deployment]

BBC, October 16, 2012–Two US troops have been arrested over the alleged rape of a Japanese woman on the island of Okinawa.

The two men, identified as 23-year-old sailors, were detained by police on the southern island on Tuesday. Continue reading

Philippines: Subic Bay “makeover” as new pivot for US warships

[This year has seen US power beginning to shift its central focus from the middle east to Asia.  In line with this, the Pentagon has been making new deals for military force “visitations” and deployments, from Okinawa to Guam, Australia, and Philippines, along with new force buildups in Hawaii, Taiwan, Korea, and “joint operational and training” arrangements with India, Vietnam and elsewhere.  This article, from Stars and Stripes (US military media) in June, discusses the refurbishing — “makeover” — of Subic Bay, the former and future US navy base in the Philippines. — Frontlines ed.]
By Travis J. Tritten, Stars and Stripes (US military media)

Philippine government gives OK for US to use old bases

Published: June 7, 2012
philippines125

[A Filipino father and son watch the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin get under way after participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Philippines (CARAT) exercise in October, 2010. U.S. and Philippine officials have agreed to expand joint military training in the Philippines, raising the prospect former U.S. bases could be reopened, the Marine Corps Times reported July 17, 2012.  Thomas Brennan/U.S. Navy]

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Philippine government said this week that the United States military is again welcome to use Subic Bay and the sprawling Clark Air Base, two decades after the installations were abandoned due to political friction with Manila, according to media reports.

Philippine Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta said U.S. troops, ships and aircraft can make use of the old bases, as long as prior approval is granted by the government. Azcueta made the comments following a meeting with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who traveled to the country as part of a regional trip to generate support for a military pivot toward Asia, according to the Philippine Star newspaper.

The United States had key bases in the Philippines for decades after World War II, but relations broke down in the early 1990s, and the facilities were returned.

The announcement of an expanded military relationship this week comes after months of talks between Washington and Manila, and appears to be another step forward in the U.S. plan to bolster forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Azcueta said following the meeting at the Philippine military headquarters of Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, according to the Philippine Star newspaper. “That’s what we want … increase in exercises and interoperability.” Continue reading

US hegemony-media on the US’ military “pivot” to Asia

[This year has seen US power beginning to shift its central focus from the middle east to Asia.  In line with this, the Pentagon has been making new deals for military force “visitations” and deployments, from Okinawa to Guam, Australia, and Philippines, along with new force buildups in Hawaii, Taiwan, Korea, and “joint operational and training” arrangements with India, Vietnam and elsewhere.  This article, from TIME magazine in July, explores the responses to, and embraces of, these US moves in the Philippines. — Frontlines ed.]

American ‘Pivot’ to Asia Divides the Philippines

Recent trouble in the South China Sea has renewed debate as to whether the U.S. is a trusted friend, or an old foe

By Catherine Traywick , TIME magazine, July 23, 2012

Romeo Ranoco / Reuters — Members of a militant women’s group hold up placards condemning the joint Philippine-U.S. military exercises during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Manila on April 27, 2012 

Bai Ali Indayla, a human-rights worker and antimilitary activist, has met just one American soldier. They convened at a picnic table inside a Philippine army camp in Mindanao in 2010 to discuss the alleged suicide of a Filipino who died under mysterious circumstances after starting a job with the U.S. military’s counterterrorism program. Indayla believed the death was suspicious, and she wanted answers, but her first and only interaction with a U.S. soldier earned her none. He was dismissive, she says, as well as arrogant and profane. After a brief and terse exchange, he walked out of the meeting without warning, and she walked away with all of her prejudices soundly affirmed.

The encounter, colored by her mistrust and his apparent indifference, reflects an enduring dynamic at play between two forces in Philippine society: the U.S. military, whose decades-long occupation of the islands eventually gave way to civil unrest, and a small but historically significant network of activists who believe the former’s presence is tantamount to neocolonialism. As China more aggressively asserts its claim over the South China Sea and the U.S. ponders a “pivot” to Asia, the gap between these groups seems to widen, calling fresh attention to the question of U.S.-Philippine ties.

The relationship between ordinary Filipinos and U.S. armed forces is a tortured one, dating back to America’s “liberation” of the Philippines from colonial Spain more than a century ago. The U.S. takeover of the Philippines in 1899 kicked off a short, bloody war, during which Filipinos were forced into reconcentrados (a type of concentration camp), massacred in their villages and subjected to a new torture technique now known as waterboarding. When the U.S. finally gave the Philippines its independence in 1945, sprawling American military bases remained — and with them, an exploding sex industry and a legacy of human-rights violations widely publicized by the national press.

A decades-long antimilitary movement culminated in the 1991 closure of American bases and the ousting of U.S. troops. Yet American forces have nevertheless maintained a limited but continuous presence in the country, where they conduct regular joint training exercises and have, in recent years, extended antiterrorism efforts. Dubbed “the second front of the war on terror” in 2002, western Mindanao has played host to 600-strong U.S. troop rotations as they pursue two al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups. Though officially base-less, barracks, ports and communications infrastructure emerged within and near the Philippine military camps that host American soldiers. This year, the Aquino administration granted the U.S. Navy permission to use the former U.S. base in Subic Bay for the service of U.S. warships. Continue reading

South Korea’s Boom Leaves Workers in the Dust

[Another report on the further globalization of exploitation and resistance–class struggle. —  Frontlines ed.]

Hyundai workers protesting in Seoul in February 2011 (Mi Jin Lee, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Monday September 24, 2012

By Michelle Chen, In These Times

South Korea is sometimes touted as an exemplar of capitalist progress in Asia–a sophisticated economy with global brands and an educated populace (not to mention a stunning contrast to its miserable Communist analog to the north). But the lives of South Korean workers tell a different story. In recent months, they’ve been slammed by a much-maligned free trade deal, tussled with Hyundai in a bitter strike, and, according to an international assessment, become examples of how an economic boom can be a bust for labor.

According to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), published as part of the World Trade Organization’s periodic Trade Policy Review, Korean workers have faced major challenges in organizing independent unions, and women, migrants, and other marginal workers face widespread discrimination and exploitation.

Though unionization is generally legal, in practice, labor activities are regularly suppressed by employers, and independent organizing may be preempted by “management-controlled” or “paper” unions. Restrictions on public-sector union activities–in the name of protecting the public–parallel the limits on labor activism imposed on U.S. civil servants, according to the report:

[T]here are numerous categories of public officials who are still denied their trade union rights, including managers, human resources personnel, personnel dealing with trade unions or industrial relations, and special public servants such as military, police, fire-fighters, politically-appointed officials, and high level public officials. … The law also prohibits public sector unionists from engaging in “acts in contravention of their duties prescribed in other laws and regulations when doing union activities”. This very broadly worded provision leaves the door open for abuses.

For any issue that isn’t limited to the workplace, including broader economic justice demands, the strike is simply not a tool available to activist workers:

Strikes are illegal if they are not specifically called for labour conditions, such as wages, welfare and working hours. In addition, given the complicated legal procedures for organising a strike, collective actions on labour conditions often become “illegal” for breach of procedure. Unauthorised strikers often are punished with imprisonment for one year or/and heavy fines.

The weakness of organized labor is accompanied by structural inequalities in the workforce. Like many other “developed” economy, migrant workers have streamed in to fill low-paid, less desirable jobs, generating a two-tiered workforce that leaves the poorest workers socially and politically marginalized:

The government has paid insufficient attention to workplaces that employ foreign workers as only 5 to 6 per cent of roughly 75,000 such workplaces were inspected by labour inspectors. Reportedly, in such workplaces there are numerous cases of sexual harassment of migrant women workers and differences in pay. Continue reading

Tens of thousands converge in Okinawa to protest Osprey deployment

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thousands protest in Okinawa against the Osprey deploment

An aerial photograph shows thousands of people gathering in Naha to protest the deployment of the controversial Osprey aircraft. KYODO PHOTO

Kyodo

NAHA — Tens of thousands of people gathered for a rally in Okinawa on Sunday to protest against the planned deployment of U.S. Ospreys in the prefecture in the face of a series of problems involving the tilt-rotor military aircraft.

An elderly demo participant holds a sign bearing the kanji character for 'anger.'
An elderly demo participant holds a sign bearing the kanji character for “anger.”

“It cannot be considered normal to live under conditions in which an Osprey may fall from the sky at any moment,” Masaharu Kina, chairman of the Okinawa prefectural assembly, told the protesters at a seaside park in Ginowan, which hosts the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station.

Organizers said 101,000 people took part in the rally.

The protest was held after safety concerns over the deployment of the aircraft in Japan were amplified following Osprey crashes earlier this year in Morocco and Florida. Pentagon reports suggest human error was a factor in both crashes.

On Saturday, it was also reported that an Osprey made an emergency landing at a field behind a church in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Thursday.

Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima told the rally the U.S. and Japanese governments “aim to bring Ospreys, whose safety cannot be assured, into Futenma without making any improvements.”

Among the participants was Yoshitaka Shinjo, 45, a neighborhood community leader from Ginowan. “While I oppose the Osprey deployment, I also believe in the need to remove the dangerous Futenma air base.”

The rally on Sunday was organized by the prefectural assembly as well as Okinawa municipality leaders and business circles. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima did not attend.

In a message sent to the rally organizers and read out to participants, Nakaima said, “I will continue to convey Okinawa residents’ opposition to the deployment to the Japanese and U.S. governments.” Continue reading