The Biggest General Strike in the World: Over 200 Million Workers and Farmers Paralyze India, by Maria Aurelio

From Left Voice

On Thursday, some 200 million workers held a one day general strike in India. This massive day of action was called by 10 trade unions and over 250 farmers organizations and was accompanied by massive protests and a near total shutdown of some Indian states. According to the call put out by unions, the general strike was organized against “the anti-people, anti-worker, anti-national and destructive policies of the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” 

Their demands included:

  • The withdrawal of all “anti-farmer laws and anti-worker labour codes”
  • The payment of 7,500 rupees in the accounts of each non-tax paying family
  • Monthly supply of 10 kg of food to needy families
  • The expansion of the MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005) to include 200 workdays each year, higher wages, and the Act’s extension to urban industries
  • Stop the “privatisation of the public sector, including the financial sector, and stop corporatisation of government-run manufacturing and service entities like railways, ordnance factories, ports, etc.”
  • The withdrawal of the “draconian forced premature retirement of government and PSU (public sector) employees”
  • Pensions for all, the scrapping of the National Pension System and the reimposition of the earlier pension plan with amendments

Workers in nearly all of India’s major industries — including steel, coal, telecommunications, engineering, transportation, ports, and banking — joined the strike. Students, domestic workers, taxi drivers, and other sectors also participated in the nationwide day of action. 

In addition to the demands of the nationwide strike, certain sectors made industry-specific demands to fight back against the government’s attacks to their industries that affect the entire working class in India. For example, bank employees are fighting against bank privatization, outsourcing, and for a reduction in service charges and action against big corporate defaults. 

Other industries framed their demands in the context of the government’s appalling response to the pandemic and economic crisis hitting India. As the Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union’s statement stated:  

This strike is against the devastating health and economic crisis unleashed by COVID-19 and the lockdown on the working people of the country. This has been further aggravated by a series of anti-people legislations on agriculture and the labour code enacted by the central government. Along with these measures, the National Education Policy (NEP) imposed on the nation during the pandemic will further cause irreparable harm to the equity of and access to education.

The general strike occurred in the context of the devastation brought about by the coronavirus pandemic in India. India has more than 9.2 million people infected with Covid-19, the second highest count in the world. Since the pandemic began, nearly 135,000 have died, according to official data. It is likely the numbers are much higher. Added to this are the millions of people who have lost income and who now face increased poverty and hunger, in a country where even before the pandemic 50 percent of all children suffered malnourishment. 

The pandemic has spread from major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and other urban centers to rural areas where public health care is scarce or non-existent. The Modi government has handled the pandemic by prioritizing the profits of big business and protecting the fortunes of billionaires over protecting the lives and livelihoods of workers.

To stand up against these attacks — many of which began even before the pandemic — farmers and rural workers have been protesting for several months. They joined the national strike this week, staging actions across the country. Small farmers from three major agriculture-based states in India marched all the way to Delhi to protest laws passed by Modi’s government that would allow for larger corporate freedom and industrial farming. They were met with tear gas and brutal repression by the police upon entering Delhi. 

The nationalist and right-wing government has used the pandemic to intensify its persecution of Muslims and migrant workers. In New Delhi in April, migrant workers returning home after being stranded by the nation-wide lockdown were brutally hosed down with bleach used to disinfect buses. 

Modi has also escalated his nationalist rhetoric, especially against China, in an effort to capitalize on the trade war between the U.S. and China and deepen its strategic and military cooperation with the United States.

In the midst of the misery created by decades of neoliberalism and exacerbated by the pandemic, union leaders called the strike to allow workers to express discontent against the government. This one day strike demonstrated the anger of the working class and unity of farmers, workers and students. However, a one day general strike is not enough to impose all of the ambitious demands put forward by workers and farmers. The working class of India must fight to expand the strike, against the Stalinist-led union leaders of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), who try to reign in the anger of the working class with merely symbolic demonstrations.

Without a doubt, this massive coordinated action shows the great potential for unity in action of the Indian working class and farmers. It serves as an inspiration for workers all over the world to use one of our greatest tools against the capitalists: the strike.

Destabilized by US Imperialism, Central America Now Faces Climate Catastrophes, by Giovanni Bats

From The Red Nation

At the moment, Central America is suffering from the acceleration of climate change fueled natural disasters. On the heels of the recent Hurricane Eta and a raging pandemic, Hurricane Iota has hit the region, predominantly impacting Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and black communities. The situation has been made worse by violent and corrupt governments supported by the United States.

Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in Central America have long warned against climate change and environmental destruction caused by foreign-owned and operated extractivist projects. Some examples include hydroelectric dams, mining, African palm and petroleum extraction, among others. Land defenders and water protectors have been persecuted by repressive governments who have also used the pandemic to increase militarization and continue to receive arms and financial military aid from the United States. In Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras, five Garifuna land defenders were kidnapped by men dressed as police officers on July 18. Further, Maya activists have been kidnapped, killed, or persecuted; others have been forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.     

The US has historically intervened in Central America through their imperialist ambitions in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine, which views Latin America as their backyard. These include, but not limited to: occupying Nicaragua from 1912-1933, and installed the Somoza dictatorships; leading a coup against a democratically elected president in Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz, in 1954 after passing necessary agrarian reforms that redistributed land; aiding and working with the Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan dictatorships to commit massacres and genocide during the Central American Civil Wars; illegally equipping the counter-revolutionary Contras to create war with the Sandinistas’ who liberated their country from the Somoza dictatorships; the 1989 invasion of Panama; and the 2009 coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

These imperialist and interventionist polices by the US continue today, most recently through the Alliance for Prosperity under Obama which was strengthened under by Trump. The US sends millions in funding for militarization of the region, promotes neoliberalization and austerity, and furthers extractivism and US-monolopy control. The US also forced the Third Safe Country Agreements which deports refugees to Guatemala. Biden will only continue these policies and support corrupt and violent Central American governments such as those of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—governments which have not aided communities during the pandemic, nor during the chaos brought by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. For example, on November 18, Guatemalan congress rapidly voted to cut down funding for human rights, health and nutrition programs, and increase funding for their personal expenses and meals. Indigenous communities and ancestral authorities have denounced these actions.

The devastation of Hurricanes Eta and Iota have both short term and long term consequences. Crops, homes, infrastructure and roads have been destroyed, meaning people will not have access to food or shelter this upcoming year. Cases of Covid-19 are increasing due to lack of support and people are barely enduring starvation. The US continues to deport children and families, often times knowing that they have contracted coronavirus. We ask that folks support mutual aid efforts to support communities, especially indigenous, Afro-descendant, and black communities, who are in need.

We demand that:

  1. The US stop deporting people immediately;
  2. Eliminate military funding for Central America;
  3. Combat climate change by supporting indigenous communities and Red Deal.

Please refer to this comprehensive guide on how you can help with relief efforts:

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company’s Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups, by Lauren Kaori Gurley

From motherboard tech by vice

Dozens of leaked documents from Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center reveal the company’s reliance on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse workers and the extensive monitoring of labor unions, environmental activists, and other social movements.

A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company’s security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world. 

The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

Internal emails sent to Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center obtained by Motherboard reveal that all the division’s team members around the world receive updates on labor organizing activities at warehouses that include the exact date, time, location, the source who reported the action, the number of participants at an event (and in some cases a turnout rate of those expected to participate in a labor action), and a description of what happened, such as a “strike” or “the distribution of leaflets.” Other documents reveal that Amazon intelligence analysts keep close tabs on how many warehouse workers attend union meetings; specific worker dissatisfactions with warehouse conditions, such as excessive workloads; and cases of warehouse-worker theft, from a bottle of tequila to $15,000 worth of smart watches. 

The documents offer an unprecedented look inside the internal security and surveillance apparatus of a company that has vigorously attempted to tamp down employee dissent and has previously been caught smearing employees who attempted to organize their colleagues. Amazon’s approach of dealing with its own workforce, labor unions, and social and environmental movements as a threat has grave implications for its workers’ privacy and ability to join labor unions and collectively bargain—and not only in Europe. It should also be concerning to both customers and workers in the United States and Canada, and around the world as the company expands into Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and India. 

Amazon intelligence analysts appear to gather information on labor organizing and social movements to prevent any disruptions to order fulfillment operations. The new intelligence reports obtained by Motherboard reveal in detail how Amazon uses social media to track environmental activism and social movements in Europe—including Greenpeace and Fridays For Future, environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s global climate strike movement—and perceives such groups as a threat to its operations. In 2019, Amazon monitored the Yellow Vests movement, also known as the gilet jaunes, a grassroots uprising for economic justice that spread across France—and solidarity movements in Vienna and protests against state repression in Iran. 

Protesters from environmentalist groups including Extinction Rebellion, ANV-COP 21, Alternatiba, Attac block an Amazon depot in Saint Priest, near Lyon, France, on Black Friday 2019. (Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The stated purpose of one of these documents is to “highlight potential risks/hazards that may impact Amazon operations, in order to meet customer expectation.” 

“Like any other responsible business, we maintain a level of security within our operations to help keep our employees, buildings, and inventory safe,” Lisa Levandowski, a spokesperson for Amazon told Motherboard. “That includes having an internal investigations team who work with law enforcement agencies as appropriate, and everything we do is in line with local laws and conducted with the full knowledge and support of local authorities. Any attempt to sensationalize these activities or suggest we’re doing something unusual or wrong is irresponsible and incorrect.”

Levandowski denied that Amazon hired on-the-ground operatives, and said that any claim that Amazon performs the described activities across its operations worldwide was “N/A.” 

In a report from November 2019, however, an analyst wrote that Amazon hired Pinkerton spies who were “inserted” into a warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, to investigate an allegation that management coached job candidates on how to complete job interviews and possibly even conducted the process for them. 

The Pinkerton spies were posted in a Wroclaw warehouse known as WRO1, operated by the Amazon contractor ADECCO, to investigate the allegation, according to the Amazon report. “PINKERTON operatives were inserted into WRO1 ADECCO between 2019-11-19 and 2019-11-21. No identifiable evidence of coaching on behalf of the agency recruiters was observed,” the document states. “Investigative actions to prove/disprove this hypothesis are ongoing.” 

The report refers to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States supplied detectives to infiltrate unions and hired violent goon squads to intimidate workers from engaging in union activity in steel mills. Today, Pinkerton is a subsidiary of the Swedish security company Securitas AB, and has supplied operatives to monitor strikes in West Virginia as recently as 2018.

A confrontation between striking steel workers and the Pinkerton agents in Homestead, Pennsylvania, July 6, 1892. This confrontation was over unionization and contract negotiations at the Carnegie Steel Company’s Homestead Steel Works. It led to 16 deaths and several dozen injuries. (PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Levandowski, the Amazon spokesperson, confirmed that Amazon hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency. “We have business partnerships with specialist companies for many different reasons—in the case of Pinkerton, to secure high-value shipments in transit,” she said. “We do not use our partners to gather intelligence on warehouse workers. All activities we undertake are fully in line with local laws and conducted with the full knowledge and support of local authorities.”

Some of the internal reports obtained by Motherboard also suggest that Amazon’s risk analysts use the same tactics to monitor its hundreds of thousands of warehouse and delivery drivers throughout the Americas, the Middle East, Australia, and East Asia. 

“It’s not enough for Amazon to abuse its dominant market power and face antitrust charges by the EU; now they are exporting 19th century American union-busting tactics to Europe,” Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a global federation of trade unions that represents more than 20 million workers, told Motherboard. “This is a company that is ignoring the law, spying on workers, and using every page of the U.S. union-busting playbook to silence workers’ voices.” 

“For years people have been comparing Big Tech bosses to 19th century robber barons,” she continued. “And now by using the Pinkertons to do his dirty work, [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos is making that connection even clearer.”

In October, Leïla Chaibi, a member of European Parliament from France, wrote a letter to Bezos co-signed by 37 members of European Parliament, condemning recent reports about Amazon’s interference with worker organizing in Europe. 

“With Jeff Bezos, we’re confronted with someone who doesn’t simply run a business and sell products but with someone who is threatening our democracy,” Chaibi told Motherboard in response to the new reports about Amazon’s surveillance of workers and social movements throughout Europe. “This is a big danger to Europe.”

“These reports suggest that corporations like Amazon stand in the way of democracies and economies that work for everyone, and that we have every reason to be concerned,” said Dania Rajendra, the director of Athena, a coalition of dozens of grassroots organizations in the United States aligned against Amazon. “We have every right to expect that our elected officials will take this information and protect communities who are harmed by Amazon.”

Until recently, little had been made public about Amazon’s anti-worker initiatives and strategies—despite years of reports on Amazon’s opposition to union activity and alleged retaliation against workers who organize in the United States. In September, after public outcry, Amazon removed two job postings for intelligence analysts for its Global Security Operations Center who could track “labor organizing threats” to the company. “Fluency (written and spoken) of a second language such as Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese or Brazilian Portuguese highly desired,” the posting read, suggesting the company is tracking labor organizing activity around the world. 

UNI Europa, a branch of UNI Global Union, which represents 2 million workers in the European Union, responded to news of the job posts by demanding that the European Commission investigate Amazon’s effort to spy on workers in Europe, calling it “potentially illegal.” 

A source with knowledge of the company’s intelligence activities told Motherboard that in order to track protests and other labor organizing activity, Amazon intelligence agents create social media accounts without photos and track the online activity of workers leading organizing efforts. Motherboard granted the source anonymity because they feared retaliation from Amazon. 

“When that team stalked people, they’d use fake accounts on social media,” they said. “They’d use a fake name and a profile with no photo. The worst part is that they read tons of conversations and messages, and knew everything about the private lives of these people. They knew if they had a bad day with their family.”

Levandowski, the spokesperson for Amazon, said it is against company policy to create social media accounts with fake names and photo-less profiles. 

A team within Amazon’s Global Security Operation Center, which includes former military intelligence analysts, according to LinkedIn, closely tracks organized labor and union activity in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—noting where organized labor groups are strongest and could influence Amazon workers. 

In one set of documents, known as “security risk assessments,” analysts gather data on and evaluate potential risks to Amazon operations at the sites of future and currently operating Amazon warehouses, sorting centers, and delivery stations. These documents break down their analyses into at least four categories: crime, cargo crime, extremism and terrorism, and operational environment. For example, as part of its tracking of crime, analysts monitor the drug trade, noting how it could impact its warehouses but also specifically whether its workers are likely to be drug users. Requests for risk assessments of Amazon warehouse sites are sent to the team by email, according to an email viewed by Motherboard. 

The “operational environment” category of Amazon’s risk assessments covers labor activities, such as the presence of unions as well as protests and demonstrations and civil disobedience and unrest in areas where Amazon has warehouses or plans to build them, according to the documents. Each category is assigned one of five color-coded “risk ratings” “negligible,” “low,” “moderate,” “high,” or “critical.” The chart defines “critical” risk as “a strong possibility that the threat source will engage in an action that has potential to impact Amazon associates, business continuity, or assets.”

In one report from October 2019, an Amazon warehouse in the exurbs of Paris, known as DIF4, was deemed a “moderate” risk in the operational environment category. Although no unions had presence in Amazon logistics warehouses in France, so-called “anarcho-syndicalist groups,” including the Confédération Générale du Travail Unitaire (CGTU), one of France’s most powerful trade unions, “had attempted to garner the support Paris-based [Amazon Logistics] associates in the past.” The report noted that “such campaigns remain rare, limited in scope, and ultimately unsuccessful.” 

Two months later, in December 2019, warehouse workers at DIF4, in conjunction with CGTU, shut off power to the warehouse for eight hours in protest of the hiring of temporary workers, forcing a line of unfilled Amazon trucks to sit on the side of the highway for hours, according to a report in Le Parisien.

In two reports, the future site of Amazon warehouses on the outskirts of Milan and on the island of Sardinia in Italy were deemed a “moderate” risk in the operational environment category partly because trade unions, including CFGIl and Uiltrasporti, held protests on the sites of other Italian warehouses on behalf of their workers. 

“Until now, these labor actions are not of a large enough scale to significantly compromise Amazon operations or to create extensive delivery delays,” the reports said. “However, strike actions often take place unannounced or at very short notice.”

An Amazon warehouse on September 4, 2014 in Brieselang, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Two other reports from late 2019 on future warehouse sites in Lower Saxony and Bavaria in Germany highlighted the presence of the labor union Verdi (the union has led many multi-city strikes in Germany, including one on Prime Day in October of this year) and the increasing presence of environmentalist groups, including Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, and Greta Thunberg’s youth-led environmentalist group Friday For Future, as a threat, noting that Fridays For Future was “increasing their influence especially on young people and students” and “growing and attracting more and more people rapidly.” 

While Thunberg’s movement hasn’t specifically targeted Amazon, her call for a Global Climate Strike in 2019 inspired hundreds of corporate Amazon employees to stage their own walkout in protest of Amazon’s climate policies. 

“We are flattered that Amazon considers us a threat great enough to justify employing questionable practices like this,” Fridays For Future told Motherboard in a statement, responding to the news. “The fact that the youth protesting around the world is something that a multinational corporation feels the need to be surveilling—that means what we’re doing is working.”

Since Amazon posted job listings for two intelligence agents who could track “labor organizing threats,” journalists have obtained more documents that reveal some of the sophisticated technology and strategies the company has used to surveil its workforce and gain intelligence on worker organizing. In September, Motherboard obtained evidence that Amazon had been using a social media monitoring tool to spy on dozens of private Facebook groups for Amazon Flex drivers in the United States and Europe. Last month, a report in Recode revealed that Amazon has made significant investments in a new geospatial tool that tracks threats to the company. Out of 40 or so data points Amazon that tracks at least half are labor or employee-related, including “Whole Foods Market Activism/Unionization Efforts,” “union grant money flow patterns,” “and “Presence of Local Union Chapters and Alt Labor Groups.” 

In October, four U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, responded to these reports in a letter to Jeff Bezos demanding Amazon stop “actively interfering with workers’ rights by tracking and monitoring employees who might exercise their rights to freedom of association.” 

“Amazon needs to stop with the empty words, tell the truth about its failures to keep workers safe, and stop undermining its workers’ legal right to organize,” Warren said of the new reports obtained by Motherboard. “Until then, I won’t stop fighting for these workers, their rights, and their safety.”

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who also recently wrote a letter to Bezos requesting information about Amazon’s interference with workers’ right to organize, sent statements to Motherboard condemning Amazon’s interference with workers’ right to organize and the findings in the new reports. 

“Amazon’s spying on its own employees is especially odious,” Wyden said. “It’s exhibit A for the need to pass new laws that would beef up federal protections for labor organizing and hold bad actors accountable.”

“The magnitude of this surveillance, the lengths to which Amazon has gone to keep it hidden from its own workers, and its admitted purpose are extremely disturbing,” said Sen. Brown.

“The fact that Amazon has decided to heavily invest in systems and efforts to avoid unionization rather than improve the wages, hours, and working conditions of its employees demonstrates its reckless disregard for the welfare of its workforce,” Brown continued.

A second type of report written by Amazon intelligence analysts, called the Monthly Business Review, is broken down into sections by region detailing “highlights” and “lowlights” from each month, and how Amazon handled various threats to its operations spotted by the intelligence team that month. Amazon described its use of Pinkerton spies in this type of report. 

In the same report that mentioned the Pinkertons, an analyst explained that after receiving intelligence that then-UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had plans to visit an Amazon warehouse, known as DXS1, in Sheffield, Yorkshire in late November 2019, Amazon sent in security officers and members of its Security & Loss Prevention team to monitor the site. In a speech, Corbyn promised workers outside the Amazon warehouse that he would “tackle wage and cheat culture” at multinational corporations in the United Kingdom. 

A representative from GMB, the union for Amazon workers, during a protest over what it claims are ‘inhuman conditions’ at the Amazon Swansea fulfillment centre at Ffordd Amazon on November 23, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

“No unauthorized access was granted to anyone during the visit and one member of the public was prevented from entering the building by onsite security,” the report said of Corbyn’s visit to the site.   

In 2019, the same report states, Amazon warehouse workers redeemed $37,900 worth of customer gift cards in the United Kingdom, and that six of those employees were identified and fired. In Poland, Amazon “off-boarded” two employees suspected of writing threats “on inventory packaging and in bin locations” that “implied that the author would make a deliberate and malicious attempt to ignite” the warehouse. 

For each region, data is also provided on Amazon’s loss of inventory in dollars, the total amount of inventory recovered in dollars, the number of arrests and persons of interest fired and investigated, and the number of stolen vehicles. In October 2019, for example, the report states that Amazon lost $173,339.80 worth of inventory in the United Kingdom but regained $131,592.05 of those losses. In the span of that month, four UK employees were arrested, 35 employees “of interest” were “offboarded,” and 31 delivery vehicles were stolen. 

Employees of Amazon’s Global Security Operations also appear to receive regular email updates about the labor organizing activity of workers. 

One email obtained by Motherboard included a description of an hourlong incident on March 10, 2020. “Two members of CGT Union [one of France’s most powerful unions]” who were also Amazon warehouse workers “distributed leaflets in front of turnstiles” at an Amazon fulfillment center in Amiens, France. The email includes both the exact time of the leaflet distribution as well as the time it was reported to Amazon, and the name of a cluster loss prevention manager who initially reported the incident. “The distribution of leaflets ended and the activists left the site with no impact to operations,” the email said.

Another email obtained by Motherboard included a description of a warehouse strike in Leipzig, Germany, on February 28, 2020. According to the email, 339 Amazon associates were assumed on strike, which included no workers in lead positions and was “46.37% of expected” turnout.

Another set of reports, known as “peak-risk assessments,” document threats to Amazon between Black Friday and the end of the year. It has become typical for workers across Europe to stage mass strikes against Amazon between Black Friday and Christmas, when Amazon workers experience the highest injury rates and the workload becomes especially grueling.

‘Peak season’ documents obtained by Motherboard list all potential events that could impact Amazon operations. During this time, Amazon creates lists of dates, times, and the number of participants for protests planned in each country in Europe where Amazon operates, data seemingly gathered from events pages on social media. 

Police officers walk past a strike on November 23, 2018 at Amazon’s facilities in San Fernando de Henares, the biggest in Spain, on Black Friday. (OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

The source with knowledge of Amazon’s Global Security Operations surveillance practices told Motherboard that in 2019 analysts were sent to France to monitor the activity of the Yellow Vests social movement in an attempt to gain information about where they would stage their protests. 

A report on the 2019 peak season that mentioned Amazon believed there were ties between Amazon warehouse workers and Yellow Vests in Paris said, “Protests in Paris are planned, both by striking union members and [Yellow Vests], on 7 December. A march is planned by Yellow Vest activists [sic] from Bercy at 1130 CET to porte de Versailles via Austerlitz, Denfert, Place de la Catalogne and porte de Vanves. It is unclear whether striking unions will participate in the same march organized by [Yellow Vests] but it is expected of them to join starting at Montparnasse.”

Protestors block depot in Saint Priest, near Lyon, France, on Black Friday 2019. (Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A report on peak season risks to Amazon in Italy, deeming the risk level “moderate,” chronicles in detail ongoing union activities of its warehouse workers and delivery drivers, noting specific complaints made by delivery drivers and warehouse workers in union negotiations, such as Sunday shifts and excessive workloads, as well as the number of delivery drivers who joined unions and attended union meetings. 

“It was reported that in October at DLO1, 10 DAs [delivery associates] out of 51 became members of the [Italian General Confederation of Labour] and an assembly was organized with 14 green badge DAs attending,” the report reads. 

“Potential labor initiatives at Amazon by traditional unions may constitute an attractive opportunity for SiCobas to attend and gain visibility,” it continues, referencing an Italian labor union that has organized Amazon warehouse strikes on Black Friday. “The group is known for more disruptive and subversive protest MOs, although history of previous blockages and disruptive actions showed law enforcement generally react in a timely manner.”

Another one of these reports from 2019 describes the activity of environmental groups in Germany, highlighting information gathered from social media. 

“Greenpeace Germany also posted another video featuring Amazon on their social media on [December 5] in a similar style as previous campaigns. The video features a woman asking ‘Alexa’ about the best bargains for Christmas presents, to which ‘Alexa’ responds that they should make their own presents and spend time with family to protect the environment instead of indulging in consumerism,” a report from December 2019 says. 

“As of writing, the video has received over 100 likes and has been shared 28 times to date. The video does not call for any direct  action or indicate any upcoming protest activity, but future action such as boycott cannot be ruled out. It should be noted that increased social media activity by Greenpeace regarding a company or organization has, on occasions, preceded direct action against that company—this is the 3rd Amazon related post in 2 weeks.”

The international environmental organization Greenpeace has called out Amazon for its contracts with oil and gas companies, and criticized Bezos’s “climate pledge” in 2019 to reduce net zero carbon emissions by 2040 for failing to account for the carbon footprint of its supply chain. In 2019, Greenpeace protesters staged a demonstration on the roof of an Amazon warehouse in Germany. 

Rolf Skar, campaigns director at Greenpeace USA, told Motherboard, in response to news that Amazon was tracking the activity of the organization, that the company is mistaken in its assessment that Greenpeace is a threat to Amazon. 

“We’re not violent. We don’t destroy property,” he said. “Their problem is a lack of climate leadership. I’m not surprised but I’m disappointed that they’re putting energy in the wrong place. We have done a lot of work holding the tech giants accountable for their growing footprint. There’s a lot to suggest progress. But Amazon is an outlier. Amazon has refused to stop using powerful AI technologies to help fossil fuel companies drill around the world and they have a problem with morale internally on this.”

In September 2019, more than one thousand Amazon employees staged a walkout in protest of Amazon’s failure to reduce its carbon emissions and its contracts with oil and gas companies. 

The report also shared intelligence on a December 6, 2019 protest in Vienna in solidarity with protests in Iran over the rising cost of fuel. The report includes an image of the route for the protest obtained from Google maps. “Clear participation rates are not known,” the report reads. “However, no disruption to operations has yet been reported on 6 December.”

In response to allegations that Amazon’s Global Security Operations Centers tracked environmentalist and social justice movements, Levandowsi, the spokesperson for Amazon said, “Like most companies, we have a team of analysts that help prepare for external events such as weather, power outages, or large community gatherings like concerts or demonstrations that could disrupt traffic or affect the safety and security of our buildings and the people who work at them.”

Stefan Clauwaert, a legal and human rights advisor at the European Trade Union Confederation, told Motherboard that Amazon’s intelligence activities could potentially violate EU data collection laws and labor conventions and standards outlined by the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter, both of which guarantee workers the freedom to associate with unions as well as the right to organize and collectively bargain. The European Union’s 2018 data privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, requires companies to disclose their collection and usage of personal data—and explain why the data is being collected.

“In the EU, we have regulations which protect workers and trade unions,” said Clauwaret. “I can envision many legal avenues for actions against Amazon for these activities, many more than exist in the United States. But what we need to do now is make noise to our bodies about the violations and what Amazon is doing.” 

In addition to Chaibi, five other members of the European Parliament, including Emmanuel Maurel of France, Marie Toussaint of France, Younous Omarjee of France, Brando Benifei of Italy, and Manon Aubry of France who signed onto the October letter to Bezos criticizing Amazon’s surveillance of workers, responded to the documents obtained by Motherboard with strong disapproval. 

“Amazon’s systemic use of military surveillance methods against unionists and activists is deeply alarming,” said Aubry, who is also a senior member of France’s France Insoumise, France’s main radical left party. “Amazon and Jeff Bezos act as if they were above the law because they have accumulated unprecedented levels of wealth and power. This has to stop.”

“We already knew that the world within Bezos’ [empire] is a world of social suffering and environmental destruction,” Toussaint, another member of European Parliament, said. “Now, it becomes clear that this is also a world with no democracy.”

Do you work for Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center or have a tip to share with us about Amazon’s surveillance of labor or social movements? We’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with the author of this article by emailing or on Signal 201-897-2109.

Hoffman, president of UNI Global Union, which represents more than 20 million trade union workers around the world, says that Amazon’s use of anti-union tactics common in the United States in Europe and around the world is creating a global human rights crisis. 

“Most American companies that try to succeed in Europe have adapted to the fact that there are strong unions here. Those that haven’t, such as Walmart and Toy R’ Us have left. But Amazon is an outlier,” she said. “This isn’t the way companies operate in Europe—ignoring the law, spying on workers, using every page of the US union busting playbook, as if they don’t have enough power and money on their own. They need to know they’re not going to get away with that in Europe.” 

Amazon is Spying on You

From the Progressive International, 11.24.2020

Yesterday, shocking leaks revealed that Amazon has been spying on warehouse workers, environmental activists, social movements around the world.


Because CEO Jeff Bezos is scared of us — scared that we will come to collect on the debts that Amazon owes to its workers, to our societies, and the planet.

Two weeks ago, we asked you which corporation should be the target of the Progressive International’s first global action. Now, we are ready to announce it.

In the days to come, the Progressive International will launch a global campaign to take on Amazon, alongside dozens of trade unions, social movements, and organizations. And we will be calling on you to raise your voice and get involved.

So get ready. Our global day of action is coming soon.

The Farmers of Punjab vs. Modi’s Farm Bills [In Photos], by Rohit Lohia

Progressive International, 24.11.2020

Narendra Modi’s BJP is trying to neoliberalize India’s farming sector — the farmers of Punjab are fighting back.

Farmers have launched sit-ins across the state, blocking railroads, toll plazas, and gas stations and shopping malls owned by billionaire businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, who, with their hands in big agribusiness, are seen to be some of the major forces behind the bills.

Editor’s Note: This week, thousands of striking farmers are expected to demonstrate in Delhi, in the largest yet mobilization against Narendra Modi’s neoliberal Farm Bills. In this photo essay, writer and photographer Rohit Lohia takes us through the farm bills, and the mass resistance they’ve ignited across the country, focusing on the center of the protests: Punjab.

Since October 1, hundreds of thousands of farmers from across the Indian state of Punjab have mobilized in demonstrations, effigy-burnings, and blockades in protest against three new agricultural laws that they say risk their very lives and livelihoods.

Collectively known as “the Farm Bills,” the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, the Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act were passed by the central government of India in September to much praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and much fear and anger from smallholder and landless farmers across the country.

The Farm Bills are a drastic and pernicious step toward the privatization of the Indian agricultural sector, dismantling long-standing government protections in the name of so-called market efficiency. Among other things, the bills incentivize private hoarding of essential commodities, erode the “mandi” system, in which smallholder farmers could sell their goods to government-run wholesale markets at assured prices, and otherwise open farmers to the vagaries and brutalities of the private marketplace. While the old system may not have been perfect, to farmers, the new bills amount to a death warrant.

Though the Farm Bills affect the entire country, opposition has been strongest in Punjab, where the mandi system has played an especially critical role for local farmers. Now, farmers have launched sit-ins across the state, blocking railroads, toll plazas, and gas stations and shopping malls owned by billionaire businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, who, with their hands in big agribusiness, are seen to be some of the major forces behind the bills.

The Punjab protests were called by all 31 farmers’ unions in the state including Kisan Majdur Sangarsh Committee, Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), and Bharti Kisan Union (Dakonda), working together under the umbrella of the All India Kisan Sangarsh Coordination Committee.

Every morning, farmers arrive at the blockades from neighbouring villages carrying food, milk, and demands to unconditionally revoke all three ordinances, which they have nicknamed kala kanoon — the black laws.

Hurdyar Kaur, a woman in her late 60s, has attended protests at the Sangrur railway blockade for the last 20 days. Kaur, whose hand was fractured last month, said “How can I rest at home when my children and people of my age are sitting here? I am willing to die here if it is what it takes to make this regime listen.”

While the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) — led by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — has hailed the passage of the bills, others have fought back. The Punjab-based party Shiromani Akali Dal, with its constituency in the Sikh community, has left the NDA altogether, while the Punjab state assembly passed a resolution opposing all three, as well as the newly-proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020, which would advance similar privatizing interests in the energy sector.

One protester, 29-year-old Dharam Singh, remarked: “We’ve been sitting here for 19 days. PM Modi says there’s going to be MSP [Minimum Supported Price] but we demand this in written form in the law. We can’t understand what the hesitation is…Under the contract farming law, we can’t go to courts, which is going to mean slavery under these companies…We all know this regime has sold everything to Adani, Ambani, and other billionaires. First, they came for Kashmir last year, now they have come for us farmers. We farmers fill everyone’s stomachs but there’s no place for us. Even if emergency or military rule comes, we won’t move an inch.”

The state of Punjab has the highest Sikh population in the country. In 1984, following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, many of the communities here were the victims of widespread mob violence, resulting in the tragic deaths of thousands. Many who witnessed the riots, and still remember their wounds, evoke them today:

“The government will try to ruin our names and reputations,” said Darshan Singh, a 50-year-old District President of Bharti Kisan Union (Dakonda), Firozpur. “We have three solutions: the first is to kneel down before the government and accept our defeat. But that’s not in our blood. The other two are if military rule is applied: either we will die, or we will win. That is our solution, to die or to win. We will head towards victory. We are sitting on the land of martyrs.”

“We have been sitting on railway tracks since October 24th,” said Balveer Singh. Singh, at 75 years old, is protesting at Firozpur railway lines on the Pakistani border: “I have been home only four or five times in one month. Otherwise, I stay here day and night. We are ready to die.”

Photographer Rohit Lohia traveled 1500 km in 10 days across the state, documenting all the major protests from the edge of Haryana to the border of Pakistan. The results of his journey — the images of sadness, anger, and determination of the farmers of Punjab — are captured here.

More than 5,000 farmers, men and women, join in a railway blockade in Sangrur, Punjab.

More than 5,000 farmers, men and women, join in a railway blockade in Sangrur, Punjab.

A workers’ association joins the farmers in protest.

A workers’ association joins the farmers in protest.

A street scene in Sangrur, Punjab.

A street scene in Sangrur, Punjab.

A railway track has been blocked by the Kisan Majdur Sangarsh Committee at Firozpur, Punjab, which lies at the border of India and Pakistan.

A railway track has been blocked by the Kisan Majdur Sangarsh Committee at Firozpur, Punjab, which lies at the border of India and Pakistan.

Mansa, Punjab has seen large numbers of farmers joining from adjacent villages.

Mansa, Punjab has seen large numbers of farmers joining from adjacent villages.

Women and young children have been an important part of the protests.

Women and young children have been an important part of the protests.

People arrive in tractors, usually at 11 in morning, and stay until 4pm everyday.

People arrive in tractors, usually at 11 in the morning, and stay until 4 pm every day.

Protesters burn effigies of Narendra Modi, along with billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani. Sirsa, Haryana.

Protesters burn effigies of Narendra Modi, along with billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani. Sirsa, Haryana.

A railway blockade at Barnala, Punjab.

A railway blockade at Barnala, Punjab.

People 50 years old and above are active in the protests.  “We will die here if that’s what it takes.” Barnala, Punjab.

People 50 years old and above are active in the protests. “We will die here if that’s what it takes.” Barnala, Punjab.

The “Reliance malls,” owned by Ambani, have been blocked throughout the state. Many have switched from his to other telecommunications networks as a form of non-cooperation. Sangrur, Punjab.

The “Reliance malls,” owned by Ambani, have been blocked throughout the state. Many have switched from his to other telecommunications networks as a form of non-cooperation. Sangrur, Punjab.

A farmer holds a flag of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakonda). Barnala, Punjab.

A farmer holds a flag of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Dakonda). Barnala, Punjab.

Food and refreshments are handed out for free, as is the Sikh practice of langar seva.

Food and refreshments are handed out for free, as is the Sikh practice of langar seva.

Farmers carry cartons of milk that they have brought from home for refreshments and tea. Sangrur, Punjab.

Farmers carry cartons of milk that they have brought from home for refreshments and tea. Sangrur, Punjab.

As of October 22, 2020, farmers — after an appeal from Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh — have temporarily allowed certain trains to pass through the state. Firozpur, Punjab.

As of October 22, 2020, farmers — after an appeal from Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh — have temporarily allowed certain trains to pass through the state. Firozpur, Punjab.

A Mashal March (torch march) at a toll plaza near Jalandhar, Punjab. Toll Plazas have been blockaded throughout the state.

A Mashal March (torch march) at a toll plaza near Jalandhar, Punjab. Toll Plazas have been blockaded throughout the state.

An effigy which contains photographs of (from left to right) Gautam Adani, Narendra Modi, Captain Amarinder Singh, and Mukesh Ambani at the Firozpur junction in Punjab.

An effigy which contains photographs of (from left to right) Gautam Adani, Narendra Modi, Captain Amarinder Singh, and Mukesh Ambani at the Firozpur junction in Punjab.

Mukesh Ambani’s effigy is burnt along with those of Gautam Adani, Narendra Modi, and Captain Amarinder Singh. Ambani and Adani are considered to be the masterminds behind the new ordinances.

Mukesh Ambani’s effigy is burnt along with those of Gautam Adani, Narendra Modi, and Captain Amarinder Singh. Ambani and Adani are considered to be the masterminds behind the new ordinances.

Railroad blockade at Mansa, Punjab.

Railroad blockade at Mansa, Punjab.

A map of my journey through the state, which started from Sirsa, Haryana, which lies on the border of Punjab.

A map of my journey through the state, which started from Sirsa, Haryana, which lies on the border of Punjab.

The New Politics of the Poor in Joe Biden’s (and Mitch McConnell’s) USA, by Liz Theoharis

In the two weeks since Election 2020, the country has oscillated between joy and anger, hope and dread in an era of polarization sharpened by the forces of racism, nativism, and hate. Still, truth be told, though the divisive tone of this moment may only be sharpening, division in the United States of America is not a new phenomenon.

Over the past days, I’ve found myself returning to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who, in 1967, just a year before his own assassination, gave a speech prophetically entitled “The Other America” in which he vividly described a reality that feels all too of this moment rather than that one:

“There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful… and overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits…

“But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

In Dr. King’s day, that other America was, for a time, laid bare to the nation through mass social unrest and political change, through the bold actions of the freedom fighters who won the Voting Rights Act and then just kept on fighting, as well as governmental programs like the “War on Poverty.” And yet, despite the significant gains then, for many decades since, inequality in this country has been on the rise to previously unimaginable levels, while poverty remained locked in and largely ignored.

Today, in the early winter of an uncurbed pandemic and the economic crisis that accompanies it, there are 140 million poor or low-income Americans, disproportionately people of color, but reaching into every community in this country: 24 million Blacks, 38 million Latinos, eight million Asians, two million Native peoples, and 66 million whites. More than a third of the potential electorate, in other words, has been relegated to poverty and precariousness and yet how little of the political discourse in recent elections was directed at those who were poor or one storm, fire, job loss, eviction, or healthcare crisis away from poverty and economic chaos. In the distorted mirror of public policy, those 140 million people have remained essentially invisible. As in the 1960s and other times in our history, however, the poor are no longer waiting for recognition from Washington. Instead, every indication is that they’re beginning to organize themselves, taking decisive action to alter the scales of political power.

For years, I’ve traveled this country, working to build a movement to end poverty. In a nation that has so often boasted about being the wealthiest and freest in history, I’ve regularly witnessed painful divisions caused by hunger, homelessness, sickness, degradation, and so much more. In Lowndes County, Alabama, for instance, I organized with people who lived day in, day out with raw sewage in their yards and dangerous mold in their homes. On Apache land in Oak Flats, Arizona, I stood with native leaders struggling to cope with generations of loss and plunder, most recently at the hands of a multinational copper mining company. In Gray’s Harbor, Washington, I visited millennials living in homeless encampments under constant siege by militia groups and the police. And the list, sadly, only goes on.

As the future administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris heads for the White House (no matter the recalcitrant loser still ensconced there), the rest of us must equip ourselves with both courage and caution, living as we do in a divided nation, in — to be exact — two very different Americas. Keep in mind that these are not the insulated, readymade Americas of MSNBC and Fox News, of Republicans and Democrats, of conservatives and liberals. All of us live in a land where there are two Americas, one of unimaginable wealth, the other of miserable poverty; an America of the promised good life and one of almost guaranteed premature death.

Unleashing the Power of Poor and Low-Income Voters

One enduring narrative from the 2016 election is that poor and low-income voters won Donald Trump the White House, even if the numbers don’t bear it out. Hillary Clinton won by 12 points among voters who made less than $30,000 a year and by 9 points among voters who made less than $49,999; the median household income of Trump voters then was $72,000.

Four years later, initial estimates suggest that this trend has only intensified: Joe Biden attracted more poor and low-income voters than President Trump both in the aggregate and in key states like Michigan. Trump, on the other hand, gained among voters with annual family incomes of more than $100,000. Last week, the director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab noted that this “appears to be the biggest demographic shift I’m seeing. And you can tie that to [Trump’s] tax cuts [for the wealthy] and lower regulations.”

In 2016, there were 64 million eligible poor and low-income voters, 32 million of whom did not vote. In 2020, it’s becoming clear that poor and low-income voters helped decide the election’s outcome by opting for a candidate who signaled support for key antipoverty issues like raising the minimum wage, expanding health care, and protecting the environment. In down-ballot races, every congressional member who endorsed Medicare for All won reelection, even in swing states. Imagine then how many dispossessed and disenfranchised voters might have turned out if more candidates had actually been speaking to the most pressing issues of their lives?

Seventy-two percent of Americans said that they would prefer a government-run healthcare plan and more than 70% supported raising the minimum wage, including 62% of Republicans. Even in districts that went for Trump, voters passed ballot measures that, only a few years ago, would have been unheard of. In Mississippi, people voted to decriminalize medical marijuana, while in Florida a referendum for a $15 minimum wage got more votes than either of the two presidential candidates.

If nothing else, Election 2020 revealed a deeply divided nation — two Americas, not one — though that dividing line marked anything but an even or obvious split. A startling number of Americans are trapped in wretched conditions and hungry for a clean break with the status quo. On the other hand, the rampant voter suppression and racialized gerrymandering of the last decade of American politics suggests that extremists from the wealthier America will go to remarkable lengths to undercut the power of those at the bottom of this society. They have proven ready to use every tool and scare tactic of racist division and subterfuge imaginable to stop poor Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous, and white potential voters from building new and transformative alliances, including a new electorate.

It’s time to move beyond the defeatist myth of the Solid South or even the dulling comfort of a Midwestern “blue wall.” Across the South and the Midwest, there are voter-suppression states still to win, not for a party, but for a fusion movement of the many. The same could be true for the coasts and the Southwest, where there remains a sleeping giant of poor and low-income people yet to be pulled into political action. If this country is ever going to be built back better, to borrow Joe Biden’s campaign pledge, it’s time to turn to its abandoned corners; to, that is, the other America of Martin Luther King that still haunts us, whether we know it or not.

Fusion Politics in the Other America

When Dr. King gave his “Other America” speech, he was preparing for what would become the last political project of his life: the Poor People’s Campaign. At a time when the nation appeared to be fraying at the seams, he grasped that a giant social leap forward was still possible. In fact, he envisioned a protracted struggle that might catapult this country into a new era of human rights and revolution not through sanguine calls for unity, but via a rousing fusion of poor and dispossessed people from all walks of life. And that, as he imagined it, would also involve a recognition that systemic racism and other forms of hate and prejudice were crucial to the maintenence of the two Americas and had to be challenged head-on.

The idea of such fusion politics echoed earlier chapters of political reckoning and transformation in this country. From the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction into the 1890s, newly emancipated Blacks built unprecedented, if fragile, alliances with poor whites to seize governing power. Across a new South, fusion parties expanded voting rights, access to public education, labor protections, fair taxation, and more. In North Carolina in 1868, for instance, legislators went so far as to rewrite the state constitution to codify for the first time the right of all citizens to “life, liberty, and the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor.”

For nearly 30 years, I’ve been part of a modern version of fusion organizing, even as I studied earlier examples of it — and this country’s history is rich with them. Indeed, the modern Poor People’s Campaign that I co-chair is itself inspired by such past fusion movements, including the version of politics I was first introduced to by multiracial welfare rights and homeless organizing in the 1980s and 1990s.

Organizations like the National Welfare Rights Union and the National Union of the Homeless first grew in response to the neoliberal politics of President Ronald Reagan and his attacks on the poor, especially the Black poor, or, as he put it, “welfare queens.” In response to such myths and deep, divisive cuts, out of shelters and from the streets, poor people began to organize projects of mutual aid and solidarity, including “unions” of the homeless.

By the 1980s, the National Union of the Homeless had been created and had upwards of 30,000 members in 25 cities. Meanwhile, organizers across the country soon escalated their efforts with waves of coordinated and nonviolent takeovers of vacant federally owned buildings at a time when the government had abdicated its responsibility to protect and provide for its poorest citizens. Those poor and homeless leaders also helped the Homeless Union secure guarantees from the federal government both for more subsidized housing and for protections of the right of the homeless to vote.

Today, in the middle of an economic crisis that could, in the end, rival the Great Depression, I’m reminded not just of those moments that first involved me but of the fusion movements of the early 1930s. After all, in those years, shanty towns called “Hoovervilles” — given that Herbert Hoover was still president — cropped up in cities across the country.

Not unlike the tent cities of the Homeless Union and the Welfare Rights Movement in the 1980s and the ones appearing today, those Hoovervilles were where masses of the unemployed and homeless gathered to survive the worst of that depression and strategize on how to resist its misery. Multiracial Unemployed Councils organized and fought for relief for workers without jobs then, preventing thousands of evictions and utility shutoffs.

Meanwhile, in the abandoned fields of the Southern Delta from Arkansas to Mississippi, groups like the Southern Tenant Farmers Union pioneered the dangerous work of organizing Black and white tenant farmers and sharecroppers. When the New Deal coalition bet its future on compromise with white Southern extremists, members of that union were among the last guardians of the rights of poor agrarian workers. Their lonely clarity on the significance of fusion politics in the South stood in stark contrast to the rise of an unmitigated politics of white reaction there.

Today, as top Democrats like Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claim the legacy of Great Depression-era President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, remember the fusion organizing that helped bring him to power and pushed him to enact change. I’m thinking in particular of the more than 40,000 unemployed veterans of World War I who arrived in Washington D.C. in 1932 to demand the early payment of promised bonuses, previously only considered redeemable after 1945. That Bonus Army, as the veterans called it, collected many of the fraying threads of the American tapestry, making camp, sometimes with wives and children, on seized public land just across the Potomac River from the capital’s federal office buildings, while holding regular nonviolent marches and rallies.

Eventually, President Herbert Hoover ordered the U.S. Army to tear down the camp in a violent fashion. The mistreatment of those poor and war-weary veterans in the process proved to be a lightning rod for the public and so Hoover lost to FDR in the presidential election later that year, setting the stage for a decade defined by militant organizing and major shifts in national policy.

The Mandate of the Poor Today

There are already those in the media and politics who are counseling restraint and a return to the pre-Trump days, as if he were the cause, not the consequence, of a nation desperately divided. This would be nothing less than a disaster, given that the fissures in our democracy so desperately need mending not with nice words but with a new governing contract with the American people.

The battleground states that won Joe Biden the presidency have also been battlegrounds in the most recent war against the poor. In Michigan, hit first and worst by deindustrialization, millions have struggled with a failing water system and a jobs crisis. In Wisconsin, where unions have been under attackfor years and austerity has become the norm, both budgets and social welfare policies have been slashed by legislatures. In Pennsylvania, rural hospitals have been closing at an alarming rate and, even before the pandemic hit, the poorest large city in the country, Philadelphia, had already become a checkerboard of disinvestment and gentrification. In Georgia, 1.3 million renters — 45% of the households in that state — were at risk of eviction this year. And in Arizona, the climate crisis and Covid-19 have ravaged entire communities, including the members of Indigenous nations who recently turned out to vote in record numbers.

The people of these states and 15 more helped elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and count on one thing: with their votes, they were calling for more than just an end to Trumpism. They were demanding that a new era of changebegin for the poor and marginalized. The first priority in such an era should, of course, be to pass a comprehensive relief bill to control the pandemic and buoy the millions of Americans now facing a cold, dark winter of deprivation. The House and the Senate have a moral responsibility to get this done as soon as the new administration takes office, if not before (though tell that to Mitch McConnell). The first 100 days of the Biden administration should then be focused, at least in part, on launching a historic investment in securing permanent protections for the poor, including expanded voting rights, universal healthcare, affordable housing, a living wage, and a guaranteed adequate annual income, not to speak of divestment from the war economy and a swift transition to a green economy.

That should be the mandate of our next government. And that’s why we, the overflowing millions, must harness the fusion politics that was so crucial to the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and organize in the best tradition of our predecessors. Real social progress rarely comes slowly and steadily, but in leaps and bounds. The predictable stalemate of the next administration and its Republican opposition can’t be broken by grand speeches in the House or Senate. It can only be broken by a vast social movement capable of awakening the moral imagination of the nation.

It’s time to get to work.

Your Computer Isn’t Yours: 12 November 2020, by Jeffrey Paul

There have been several updates appended to this page as of 2020-11-16, please see below.

Also available in:

It’s here. It happened. Did you notice?

I’m speaking, of course, of the world that Richard Stallman predicted in 1997. The one Cory Doctorow also warned us about.

On modern versions of macOS, you simply can’t power on your computer, launch a text editor or eBook reader, and write or read, without a log of your activity being transmitted and stored.

It turns out that in the current version of the macOS, the OS sends to Apple a hash (unique identifier) of each and every program you run, when you run it. Lots of people didn’t realize this, because it’s silent and invisible and it fails instantly and gracefully when you’re offline, but today the server got really slow and it didn’t hit the fail-fast code path, and everyone’s apps failed to open if they were connected to the internet.

Because it does this using the internet, the server sees your IP, of course, and knows what time the request came in. An IP address allows for coarse, city-level and ISP-level geolocation, and allows for a table that has the following headings:

Date, Time, Computer, ISP, City, State, Application Hash

Apple (or anyone else) can, of course, calculate these hashes for common programs: everything in the App Store, the Creative Cloud, Tor Browser, cracking or reverse engineering tools, whatever.

This means that Apple knows when you’re at home. When you’re at work. What apps you open there, and how often. They know when you open Premiere over at a friend’s house on their Wi-Fi, and they know when you open Tor Browser in a hotel on a trip to another city.

“Who cares?” I hear you asking.

Well, it’s not just Apple. This information doesn’t stay with them:

  1. These OCSP requests are transmitted unencrypted. Everyone who can see the network can see these, including your ISP and anyone who has tapped their cables.
  2. These requests go to a third-party CDN run by another company, Akamai.
  3. Since October of 2012, Apple is a partner in the US military intelligence community’s PRISM spying program, which grants the US federal police and military unfettered access to this data without a warrant, any time they ask for it. In the first half of 2019 they did this over 18,000 times, and another 17,500+ times in the second half of 2019.

This data amounts to a tremendous trove of data about your life and habits, and allows someone possessing all of it to identify your movement and activity patterns. For some people, this can even pose a physical danger to them.

Now, it’s been possible up until today to block this sort of stuff on your Mac using a program called Little Snitch (really, the only thing keeping me using macOS at this point). In the default configuration, it blanket allows all of this computer-to-Apple communication, but you can disable those default rules and go on to approve or deny each of these connections, and your computer will continue to work fine without snitching on you to Apple.

The version of macOS that was released today, 11.0, also known as Big Sur, has new APIs that prevent Little Snitch from working the same way. The new APIs don’t permit Little Snitch to inspect or block any OS level processes. Additionally, the new rules in macOS 11 even hobble VPNs so that Apple apps will simply bypass them.

@patrickwardle lets us know that trustd, the daemon responsible for these requests, is in the new ContentFilterExclusionList in macOS 11, which means it can’t be blocked by any user-controlled firewall or VPN. In his screenshot, it also shows that CommCenter (used for making phone calls from your Mac) and Maps will also leak past your firewall/VPN, potentially compromising your voice traffic and future/planned location information.

Those shiny new Apple Silicon macs that Apple just announced, three times faster and 50% more battery life? They won’t run any OS before Big Sur.

These machines are the first general purpose computers ever where you have to make an exclusive choice: you can have a fast and efficient machine, or you can have a private one. (Apple mobile devices have already been this way for several years.) Short of using an external network filtering device like a travel/vpn router that you can totally control, there will be no way to boot any OS on the new Apple Silicon macs that won’t phone home, and you can’t modify the OS to prevent this (or they won’t boot at all, due to hardware-based cryptographic protections).

Update, 2020-11-13 07:20 UTC: It comes to my attention that it may be possible to disable the boot time protections and modify the Signed System Volume (SSV) on Apple Silicon macs, via the bputil tool. I’ve one on order, and I will investigate and report on this blog. As I understand it, this would still only permit booting of Apple-signed macOS, albeit perhaps with certain objectionable system processes removed or disabled. More data forthcoming when I have the system in hand.

Your computer now serves a remote master, who has decided that they are entitled to spy on you. If you’ve the most efficient high-res laptop in the world, you can’t turn this off.*

Let’s not think very much right now about the additional fact that Apple can, via these online certificate checks, prevent you from launching any app they (or their government) demands be censored.

Dear Frog, This Water Is Now Boiling

The day that Stallman and Doctorow have been warning us about has arrived this week. It’s been a slow and gradual process, but we are finally here. You will receive no further alerts.

See Also

Probably Unrelated

In other news, Apple has quietly backdoored the end-to-end cryptography of iMessage. Presently, modern iOS will prompt you for your Apple ID during setup, and will automatically enable iCloud and iCloud Backup.

iCloud Backup is not end to end encrypted: it encrypts your device backup to Apple keys. Every device with iCloud Backup enabled (it’s on by default) backs up the complete iMessage history to Apple, along with the device’s iMessage secret keys, each night when plugged in. Apple can decrypt and read this information without ever touching the device. Even if you have iCloud and/or iCloud Backup disabled: it’s likely that whoever you’re iMessaging with does not, and that your conversation is being uploaded to Apple (and, via PRISM, freely available to the US military intelligence community, FBI, et al—with no warrant or probable cause).

Use Signal.


Update, 2020-11-16 16:06 UTC:

“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

— Robert Heinlein

That guy jacopo who supposedly debunked my primary claim is lying. It’s evidenced on his own page, which you can go see for yourself:


He also claims that “macOS does actually send out some opaque information about the developer certificate of those apps”. It’s actually not opaque at all: it’s a publicly known unique identifier for the developer of an app (which for almost all apps is a public unique identifier for that app, as most developers only publish a single app).

This nicely illustrates the danger of trusting any expert that jams some technical gibberish in your face under a clickbait Betteridge headline. Make sure you do your homework, and, always, always, our guiding light: What are the facts?

The thing that’s sent is indeed a hash, is indeed a unique identifier for almost all apps, and is indeed sent to Apple unencrypted in realtime with your IP. I simplified the explanation above to avoid having to explain OCSP and x509 and the PKI, and was deliberately careful not to claim that it was a hash of the file content of the application binary.

TL;DR: This post is, was, and remains accurate. Clickbait gonna clickbait.

The good news is that Apple has, just today, publicly committed, presumably in response to this page, to:

  1. deleting the IP logs
  2. encrypting the communication between macOS and Apple to prevent the privacy leak
  3. giving users an option of disabling these online checks that leak what apps you’re opening and when.

(Their update is at the very bottom of that page, under the oddly-capitalized headline “Privacy protections”.)

A quote from Apple’s 16 November update:

Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.

Notarization checks if the app contains known malware using an encrypted connection that is resilient to server failures.

They use deliberately confusing language here to lead you into conflating Gatekeeper with Notarization, so that you will believe that the connections are currently encrypted, while not lying. The Gatekeeper OCSP checks described in this post (“Gatekeeper performs online checks”) are not encrypted. (The notarization ones, which aren’t relevant here, are.)

Apple’s spin doctors are among the best in the world, and my hat’s off to them.

This even totally fooled Jon Porter at The Verge into misreporting their insinuation as a statement of fact, inside of a hyperlink to the Apple post itself which says no such thing! Honestly, I’m amazed and impressed, this sort of say-one-thing-but-readers-read-another is to me like magic tricks to a 6 year old. The Verge, to their credit, amended their reporting after I emailed them to point this out, but still: wow. That’s world-class work.


In addition, over the the next year we will introduce several changes to our security checks:

A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks

(All of you that are too-clever-by-half incorrectly commenting about TLS trust circular dependencies and how OCSP has to be unencrypted to work can stop now.)

It sucks that they’ve let the NSA, CIA, your ISP, et al slurp up this unencrypted pattern-of-life data off the wire for the last 2+ years, and they’re still going to transmit the data (encrypted) to Apple in realtime, on by default every single mac, but at least the 0.01% of mac users who know about it now can turn it off, so Apple will only get a realtime log of what apps you open, when, and where for the other 99.99% of mac users. Cool.

It’s possible they’ll use a bloom filter or some other privacy-preserving way of distributing the certificate revocation data that doesn’t actually transmit app launch activity, but given that every single version of iOS now begs me to re-enable analytics no matter how many times I repeatedly opt out, I’m not holding my breath here. We won’t know until they update this process, which they’ve only committed to doing sometime in the next year, which shows you how much of a priority your privacy is to them.

This is, sadly, about as close as you can possibly get to a “we fucked up” from Apple PR: they’re deleting their IP logs, encrypting their shit, and letting you turn it off. This is great, but they have remained totally silent on the fact that their OS apps will still bypass your firewall and leak your IP and location past your VPN on Big Sur and how they’re still not fixing the key escrow backdoor in iMessage’s encryption so Apple sysadmins and the FBI can keep seeing your nudes and texts in iMessage.

We need to be happy with little victories, I guess.

dhh puts it best:

The whole process of having Apple mix these “protections against malware” into a system that’s also a “protection of our business model” remains deeply problematic.

We need to remain vigilant, and resist these power grabs masquerading purely as benevolent security measures. Yes, there are security benefits. No, we don’t trust Apple to dictate whether our computers should be allowed to run a piece of software. We already lost that on iOS.

Anyway, this is promise of progress. Right now, Apple is still linking your IP address to app openings in an unencrypted way over the open internet. And in Big Sur, have prevented tools like Little Snitch from blocking that. So until the fixes roll out, maybe don’t upgrade?

What this change to logging and promise of future improvements also does, though, is hanging all the Apple apologists that were oh-so-quick to dismiss these revelations as nothing out to dry. Yikes jumping on that boat the day before Apple sinks it themselves with this admission.

Three cheers for intelligent voices of reason. Thanks, dhh!

Update, 2020-11-14 05:10 UTC: There is now a FAQ.


Q: Is this part of macOS analytics? Does this still happen if I have analytics off?

A: This has nothing to do with analytics. It seems this is part of Apple’s anti-malware (and perhaps anti-piracy) efforts, and happens on all macs running the affected versions of the OS, independent of any analytics settings. There is no user setting in the OS to disable this behavior.

Q: When did this start?

A: This has been happening since at least macOS Catalina (10.15.x, released 7 October 2019). This did not just start with yesterday’s release of Big Sur, it has been happening silently for at least a year. According to Jeff Johnson of Lap Cat Software, this started with macOS Mojave, which was released on 24 September 2018.

Each new version of macOS that comes out, I install on a blank fresh machine, turn analytics off and log into nothing (no iCloud, no App Store, no FaceTime, no iMessage) and use an external device to monitor all of the network traffic that comes out of the machine. The last few versions of macOS have been quite noisy, even when you don’t use any Apple services. There have been some privacy/tracking concerns in Mojave (10.14.x), but I don’t recall if this specific OCSP issue existed then or not. I have not yet tested Big Sur (keep in touch for updates), and the concerns about user firewalls like Little Snitch and the Apple apps bypassing those and VPNs have come from reports from those who have. I imagine I’ll have a big list of issues I find with Big Sur when I install it on a test machine this week, as it just came out yesterday and I don’t use my limited time testing betas that are in flux, only released software.

Q: How do I protect my privacy?

A: It varies. There’s a ton of traffic coming out of your mac talking to Apple, and if you’re concerned about your privacy you can start with turning off the things for which there are knobs: disable and log out of iCloud, disable and log out of iMessage, disable and log out of FaceTime. Ensure Location Services is off on your computer, iPhone, and iPad. These are the big tracking leaks that you’ve already opted in to, and there is a way out that could not be simpler: turn it off.

As for the OCSP issue, I believe (but have not tested!) that

echo | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

will work for now for this specific issue. I block such traffic using Little Snitch, which still works correctly on 10.15.x (Catalina) and earlier. (You have to disable all of the Little Snitch default allow rules for “macOS Services” and “iCloud Services” to get alerts when macOS tries to talk to Apple, because Little Snitch permits them by default.)

If you have an Intel mac (which is pretty much all of you right now), don’t worry too much about OS changes. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty and change some settings, you’ll likely always be able to modify every OS that Apple ever ships for your machine. (This is especially true for slightly older intel macs that do not have the T2 security chip in them, and it’s likely that even T2 Intel macs will always be permitted to disable all boot security (and thus modify the OS) if the user desires, which is the case today.)

The new ARM64 (“Apple Silicon”) macs that were released this week are the reason for my sounding the alarm: it remains to be seen whether it will be possible for users to modify the OS on these systems at all. On other Apple ARM systems (iPad, iPhone, Apple TV, Watch) it is cryptographically prohibited to disable parts of the OS. In the default configuration for these new ARM macs, it will likely be prohibited as well, although hopefully users that want the ability will be able to disable some of the security protections and modify the system. I’m hoping that the bputil(1) utility will permit disabling of the system volume integrity checks on the new macs, allowing us to disable certain system services at boot, without disabling all of the platform security features. More information will be forthcoming when I have the new M1 hardware in hand this month and have the facts.

Q: If you don’t like Apple or don’t trust their OS, why are you running it? Why did you say you’re buying one of the new ARM macs?

A: The simple answer is that without the hardware and software in hand, I can’t speak authoritatively about what it does or does not do, or steps one might take to mitigate any privacy issues. The long answer is that I have 20+ computers that comprise ~6 different processor architectures and I variously run all of the OSes you’ve heard of and some of the ones you probably haven’t. For example, here in my lab, I have 68k macs (16 bit, almost-32 bit (shoutout to my IIcx), and 32 bit clean), PowerPC macs, Intel 32 bit macs, Intel 64 bit macs (with and without the T2 security chip), and I’d be a total slacker if I didn’t hack at least a little bit on an ARM64 mac.

Q: Why is Apple spying on us?

A: I don’t believe that this was explicitly designed as telemetry, but it happens to serve insanely well for that purpose. The simple (assume no malice) explanation is that this is part of Apple’s efforts to prevent malware and ensure platform security on macOS. Additionally, the OCSP traffic that macOS generates is not encrypted, which makes it perfect for military surveillance operations (which passively monitor all major ISPs and network backbones) to use it for the purpose of telemetry, whether Apple intended that when designing the feature or not.

However: Apple recently backdoored iMessage’s cryptography with an iOS update that introduced iCloud Backup, and then didn’t fix it so the FBI could continue to read all the data on your phone.

As Goldfinger’s famous saying goes: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.” There is a finite and small number of times Apple (who employs many absolute stone-cold cryptography wizards) can say “oops sorry it was an accident” that their software transmitted plaintext or encryption keys off of the device and to the network/Apple and remain credible in their explanations.

The last time I reported an issue to Apple involving the transmission of plaintext across the network back in 2005, they fixed it promptly, and that was only for dictionary word lookups. Shortly thereafter they introduced App Transport Security to help third-party app developers stop fucking up their use of network crypto, and made it way more difficult for those same app developers to make unencrypted requests in App Store apps. It’s quite strange to me to see Apple making OCSP requests unencrypted, even if that is the industry default.

If Apple truly cares about user privacy, they should be looking long and hard at every single packet that comes out of a mac on a fresh install before they release a new OS. We are. The longer that they don’t, the less credible their claims about respecting user privacy will become.

Q: Why are you crying wolf? Don’t you know that OCSP is just to prevent malware and keep the OS secure and isn’t meant as telemetry?

A: The side effect is that it functions as telemetry, regardless of what the original intent of OCSP is or was. Additionally, even though the OCSP responses are signed, it’s borderline negligent that the OCSP requests themselves aren’t encrypted, allowing anyone on the network (which includes the US military intelligence community) to see what apps you’re launching and when.

Many things function as telemetry, even when not originally intended as so. The intelligence services that spy on everyone they can take advantage of this when and where it occurs, regardless of designer intent.

It’s not worth putting everyone in a society under constant surveillance to defeat, for example, violent terrorism, and it’s not worth putting everyone on a platform under the same surveillance to defeat malware. You throw out the baby with the bathwater when, in your effort to produce a secure platform, you produce a platform that is inherently insecure due to a lack of privacy.

Q: They backdoored iMessage’s end-to-end encryption?! WTF?!

A: Yup. More technical details in my HN comments here and here.

TL;DR: They even say as much on their website; from

Messages in iCloud also uses end-to-end encryption. If you have iCloud Backup turned on, your backup includes a copy of the key protecting your Messages. This ensures you can recover your Messages if you lose access to iCloud Keychain and your trusted devices. When you turn off iCloud Backup, a new key is generated on your device to protect future messages and isn’t stored by Apple.

(emphasis mine)

Note that iCloud Backup itself is not end-to-end encrypted, which is what results in the iMessage key escrow issue that backdoors the end-to-end encryption of iMessage. There’s a section on that webpage that lists the stuff that is end-to-end encrypted, and iCloud Backup ain’t in there.

Neither are your iCloud photos. Apple sysadmins (and the US military and feds) can totally see all your nudes in iCloud or iMessage.

Further Reading

The Chinese Uyghur Dark Legend and Washington’s Campaign to Counter Chinese Economic Rivalry, by Stephen Gowans

Dig below the surface of the allegations that Beijing is abusing its Muslim population, and you won’t find concentration camps and genocide, but a US-led effort to create a Chinese dark legend. The roots of the demonization campaign are to be found in Washington’s desire to counter China’s challenge to US economic supremacy.


US presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden has referred to the US empire obliquely as “the international system that the United States so carefully constructed.” The late Italian philosopher Domenico Losurdo called Biden’s “international system” an “international dictatorship of the United States.” That Biden might implicitly agree with Losurdo’s characterization is evidenced by the fact that Biden referred to the US-constructed international system in a Foreign Affairs article he wrote earlier this year to argue the case for “why America must lead.” [1] (Foreign Affairs is considered the unofficial journal of the US State Department.) “Why America must lead” can also be expressed as “why every other country must follow.” Biden promised that as president he would “take immediate steps to…have America lead the world” and by implication make the rest of the world submit to US leadership. He would, in other words, defend and expand a US empire in which Washington dictates to other countries.

The carefully constructed international system to which Biden refers is, at its base, a system of international trade based on the proposition that barriers to the expansion of US economic activity are an anathema; the world economy must be Americanized.

“More than 95 percent of the world’s population lives beyond our borders,” Biden observed, and “we want to tap those markets.” To do so, Biden pledged to take “down trade barriers” and resist foreign “protectionism” and ensure that the United States writes the “rules that govern trade”. When “American businesses compete on a fair playing field, they win,” boasted Biden. One can’t help but think there’s a certain “tails I win, heads you loose” circularity in Biden’s reasoning. Is a fair playing field defined as one on which US businesses win, and is it unfair, by definition, if US businesses lose?

But what if part of the 95 percent of the world’s population that lives beyond US borders doesn’t care to share its markets with US investors and corporations? Are they to be permitted the liberty to decide how to organize their own economies? And what if they’re willing to open their markets, but only on terms suitable to their own requirements? Is there a reason, beyond the self-interest of corporate USA, why a country tilting the playing field to favor its own enterprises, is wrong?

In a world led by the United States, economic sovereignty—except for that of the United States—is verboten. The international dictatorship of the United States makes two demands of the world: First, the economic playing field must be global; no country can opt out. Second, the playing field must allow US businesses to win; it can’t be tilted to achieve a country’s legitimate public policy objectives—not, for example, full employment, or overcoming a historical legacy of underdevelopment.

While China has agreed to the first demand, it has rejected the dictatorship’s second. “If China has its way,’ Biden warned, it will continue to use “subsidies to give its state-owned enterprises … a leg up.” It could, by this means, end up “dominating the technologies and industries of the future.”  And, from the point of view of the US ruling class, Beijing’s realization of this possibility must be prevented.

US free enterprise, of course, has long had a leg up in international markets. Over more than two centuries, US land speculators, slave-owners, manufacturers, and financiers grew immensely wealthy, by the plunder of the first Americans, centuries of chattel slavery, and years of expanding colonialism, both veiled and overt. Their wealth came at the expense—indeed, from the labor—of the people and countries they exploited, plundered, and held down. Having accumulated a rich storehouse of capital, corporate USA is in a position to win whatever economic contest is conducted on a “fair” playing field (one on which it wins.) Is it any wonder, then, that “tapping the world’s markets” and “fair playing fields”—the guarantors of continued US domination and wealth-accumulation—are the foundations of US trade and investment policy?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so too is fairness. The “fair trader” Joe Biden, who demands the permanent opening of all foreign markets to US businesses, and the prohibition of state subsidies and assistance to foreign firms, is prepared, if he wins the presidency, to introduce “an ambitious ‘Buy American’ proposal that would earmark more federal funds for U.S. companies.” [2] This hardly sounds fair to foreign firms competing in the US market.

Biden’s proposed Buy American program would complement numerous state subsidies Washington showers upon US businesses.  “In 2004, the U.S. took European countries to the WTO over subsidies to Airbus, and Europe responded soon after with a case against U.S. support for Boeing. WTO rulings since then have found that both sides provided prohibited subsidies.” [3]

On another front, the U.S. Energy Department spends “over $6.5 billion a year on research in the basic sciences,” more than any other country. US government-conducted basic research finds its way into tomorrow’s technologies, to be sold by US firms for private gain. [4] The same firms that benefit from Uncle Sam’s largesse will sing paeans to their ingenuity and inventiveness, while concealing the swindle that their role has been limited to privatizing the ingenuity and inventiveness of government scientists on the public payroll.

And then there’s 5G, robotics, and artificial intelligence, the so-called industries of the future, which China has said it wants to dominate, to the alarm of Washington. Any move to dominate these industries would be unfair to corporate USA, Washington contends. And so, the United States fights back with its own subsidies and government-financed R&D, while thundering sanctimoniously against Beijing’s assistance to China’s state-owned enterprises. “Through the AI Next campaign, a next-generation AI research project by the Defense Department-affiliated Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US has been pursuing government-led R&D on areas such as AI and heterogeneous chip stacking and integration and neuromorphic chips,” reports the South Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh. [5] Meanwhile, “Biden aides say they would expand the American-government-backed campaign to compete in strategic high-tech sectors such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and the next-generation 5G wireless standard”. [6] At the same time, Biden, along with Trump and his cabinet, US business lobbies, and The Wall Street Journal, grouse about the Chinese government doing the same.

The hypocrisy of fulminating against Beijing lavishing subsidies and assistance on state-owned enterprises while Washington heaps public subsidies on privately-owned US enterprises, goes largely unmentioned in public discourse. Instead, the backlash against China’s refusal to accept the international dictatorship’s demand that it place the profit-making interests of US firms first, and return to its assigned role as a source of cheap labor for US manufacturers and a vast market for US goods and services, uncontested by Chinese competitors, is waged in another domain: that of human rights.

“The most effective way to meet” the “challenge” of China getting “a leg up on dominating the technologies and industries of the future” is “to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China’s abusive behaviors and human rights violations,” Biden argued. If he had said that Chinese human rights violations in their own right merit a campaign to confront Beijing, the sincerity of his entreaty might, for a brief moment, appear to have an iota of credibility. But he didn’t say that China ought to be confronted because it has engaged in human rights abuses; he said that confronting China over human rights is an effective way to deal with China as an economic rival. In other words, human rights are to be treated as an instrument to protect and promote the profit-making interests of corporate USA, not as ends in themselves. In this is revealed the origin of US-directed campaigns to create a Chinese dark legend based on Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses in Hong Kong, the former British colony, and Xinjiang, the autonomous region in northwestern China, which is home to dozens of minorities, including the largely Muslim Uygurs.

The United States and its Western allies have accused Beijing of locking up Uygurs in concentration camps and seeking their destruction as a people, in a campaign spearheaded by a fanatical anti-communist crackpot, Adrian Zenz, who believes a supernatural being has given him a mission to destroy Communist China. [7] The campaign is funded by a US government foundation whose first president, the historian Allen Weinstein, confessed to The Washington Post that  ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA’.” The CIA has a long history of trying to destabilize foreign governments that aren’t sufficiently accommodating of US free enterprise. [8] Under pressure by the Church Committee, a US Senate select committee that investigated abuses by the CIA and other US governmental agencies, the CIA spun off part of its destabilization apparatus to an organization that would work openly under the banner of democracy promotion. It is called the National Endowment for Democracy, a major source of funding for activists involved in confronting China over human rights.

The United States is not a credible interlocuter on either human rights or democracy promotion. Its retinue of allies is littered with despots who unabashedly reject democracy and oppress their people, but buy US weapons, preside over friendly foreign investment climates, and accept that the United States must lead the world. As one of numerous examples of tyrants who count themselves as valued US allies, consider Mohammad bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

Doted on by Washington, MBZ, as he is known, “has long argued that the Arab world is not ready for democracy.” [9] In place of democracy, he favors a socially liberal autocracy. [10] MBZ  is so vehemently opposed to even the mildest campaign for suffrage, that last year, he arrested “five activists for organizing a petition for democratic reforms (signed by only 132 people).” He crushes dissent, observed The New York Times. [11]

Will Biden urge the self-professed human rights champion and democracy promoting US government to confront MBZ, as it is confronting China? Of course not. MBZ obediently does what foreign rulers are supposed to do under “the international system that the United States so carefully constructed”, namely,  promote US economic and strategic interests, and he is able to do so precisely because he denies Emeritis the suffrage they seek. If Washington demanded its allies free their people to organize their economies and politics as they see fit, and not as Washington does, the US empire would immediately collapse. The international dictatorship is based on servitude, not democracy. Indeed, the entire notion that the United States must lead the world is anti-democratic to its core.

The UAE, then, is a perfect example of how the US empire is based on the creation of an Americanized world without borders. The emirate is an extension of the Pentagon, CIA, and US economy. Any notion of a genuine, meaningful, sovereignty is illusory.  (China is neither an extension of the Pentagon or the CIA, and, while its economy is partly integrated with that of the United States, it is also its key economic competitor.)

MBZ “has recruited American commanders to run his military and former spies to set up his intelligence services.” Before becoming secretary of defense, Jim Mattis worked as an unpaid advisor; at the time, he was a board member of General Dynamics, which did extensive business with the UAE. [12]

“Prince Mohammed hired a company linked to Erik Prince, the founder of the” US mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater, “to create a force of Colombian, South African and other” soldiers for hire. [13] The “800-member battalion”, assembled at a cost of $529 million, includes among its missions the suppression of “internal revolts”. [14]  The Emeriti population objects to being tyrannized by an aristocrat who asserts that Emeratis are ill-suited to democracy owing to their lack “of education” and “backward religious attitudes”. [15]

From 2006 to 2010, the UAE filled the coffers of the US arms industry with proceeds from the purchase of 80 F-16 fighters and 30 Apache helicopters. [16] Last year, the country entered into a deal with the Trump administration to buy a further $8 billion worth of US weapons. [17] Investors in the US arms industry smiled. MBZ is clamoring to buy a fleet of F-35s, which Israel has agreed to waive its objection to, in exchange for Washington supplying Tel Aviv with even more advanced weaponry than it supplies the UAE, in order to maintain its Congress-mandated QME—qualitive military edge over all other countries in the region. US arms industry investors smiled with ever greater pleasure. The so-called Abraham Accords, the formalization of the informal anti-Iran, anti-Syria, anti-Hezbollah alliance between Israel and Washington’s veiled colonies in the Arab world, is proving to be a boon for shareholders with interests in US arms companies.

“The United Arab Emirates began allowing American forces to operate from bases inside the country during the Persian Gulf war of 1991. Since then, the prince’s commandos and air forces have been deployed with the Americans in Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan and Libya, as well as against the Islamic State.” [18] MBZ has also paid for jihadists to wage war against the Syrian government. The UAE is home to 5,000 US troops. [19]

As The New York Times’ David D. Kirkpatrick wrote, “To many in Washington, Prince Mohammed” has “become America’s best friend in the region, a dutiful partner who” can “be counted on for tasks from countering Iranian influence in Lebanon to funding construction in Iraq.” It is well known that if you need something done in West Asia, the Emiratis will do it. [20]

The Heritage Fund/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom—which measures the degree to which countries cater to US free enterprise—ranks the UAE as the freest (the most US investor-friendly) country in the Arab world, and the 18th freest in the world. (China, in contrast, is ranked 103rd.) Kirkpatrick’s colleague, Robert Worth, likens the U.A.E. to “a hyper-capitalist slave colony” [21]—just the kind of place business-connected US politicians and state officials can love. Is it any surprise, then, that they turn a blind eye to MBZ’s crushing of even the mildest petition for suffrage?

This, then, is the record of a valued US ally. Not the slightest censure of the UAE passes the lips of even the most muscular of self-declared human rights champions and democracy promoters among US politicians and officials.

But we don’t have to scrutinize the records of Washington’s valued allies to recognize that the US commitment to human rights and democracy is a sham. The United States’ own record shows the country’s self-professed leadership on the question of human rights is the acme of hypocrisy. Indeed, the gulf between US rhetoric and US reality is so wide that Stalin’s observation that the US view of itself is the exact opposite of its record [22] can hardly be contested.

Limiting consideration to the US war on Al Qaeda and allied Islamists who challenged US domination of the Arab world, consider the following:

  • The US invasion of Iraq, by itself, is a gross human rights violation and assault on democracy. (Democracy does not consist of coercing others to organize their economies and politics to suit US goals.)
  • Abu Ghraib, the US prison in occupied Iraq, at which US military and CIA personnel committed a litany of vile abuses against prisoners, including torture, beatings, sexual assault, rape, indecencies against dead bodies, and murder. [23]
  • Guantanamo Bay, the prison on US-occupied Cuban soil, in which militants who have fought against veiled US colonialism in the Arab world have been subject since 2002 to torture under a regime of indefinite detention.
  • In 2009, US General Barry McCaffrey admitted, “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the CIA.” [24] In fact, 100 prisoners or more were tortured to death by US thugs. [25] Former US president Barak Obama offered an anodyne description: “We tortured some folks,” he said. [26]
  • Obama ended the detention and torture of Islamist militants, in favor of deploying the presidency’s unaccountable army, the CIA, to assassinate Islamist militants by means of drone strikes. The definition of an eligible target was expanded to include all military age males in whatever zone the CIA chose to strike. [27]
  • The US invasion of Syria, under the pretext of fighting ISIS, apart from being an assault on human rights and democracy, is a flagrant violation of international law—revealing Washington’s commitment to ‘the rule of law’ to be yet another case of US mendacity. The truth is that the class of laws the US ruling class follows is whatever law in the moment happens to serve its interests; otherwise, “the rule of law” is ignored.
  • US president Donald Trump admitted that US troops are in Syria for one reason: not to fight ISIS, but to plunder Syria’s oil fields; [28] US special representative to Syria, James Jeffrey, revealed that the US goal is to impose a level of control over Syria commensurate with the control Washington had over Japan at the end of the Second World War; [29] the United States had planned a full scale invasion of Syria in 2003, as a complement to the invasion of Iraq, but abandoned its plan after the occupation of Iraq presented unanticipated challenges. [30]

Amnesty International summed up US human rights abuses against Muslims as follows:

  • “People have been held for years at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba without even being charged with a crime. Prisoners have been tortured and mistreated, and they are not given fair trials.
  • “Surveillance and targeting of Muslims – based on who they are, not what they’ve done – has fueled harassment, discrimination, and violence.
  • “For years, the U.S. government allowed officials to torture people through horrific techniques that violate U.S. and international law. President Trump has vowed to expand the use of torture even further in the years ahead.” [31]

These abuses are mechanically acknowledged by US officials and US media and then quickly forgotten. They fade from the public mind because the golden legend of fundamental US benevolence is carefully and unremittingly cultivated by US politicians, US mass media, and US schools, until it crowds out all inconsistent data. Even the acknowledgement of US abuses is carried out within the framework of the golden legend. Torture, invasion, occupation, rape, physical abuse, colonialism, arbitrary detention, assassination, chattel slavery, despoliation of the first Americans—these actions and institutions never reflect “who we are as a nation,” but are said to be aberrations or mistakes made with the best of intentions.

According to this carefully nurtured mass deception, the United States is forever “the beacon on the hill,” no matter what it does; the golden legend can never be tarnished, for it is impervious to experience, invulnerable to reality.  One contribution to the strengthening of the golden legend is the claim made with astounding boldness that fundamental US benevolence is evinced by the abolition of slavery! Reparations to the descendants of the vile institution the United States allowed to flourish for four and half generations, much to the benefit of slave holders, including a number of US presidents and the country’s revered founders, would evidence a desire to correct an intolerable injustice; but it’s not on the agenda.

This is the record of a country that professes to be “a shining light on the hill” and “the world’s last best hope.” It is indeed a “shining light on the hill” for exploiters and “the world’s last best hope” for a system of exploitation that makes the labor of many the wealth of the few. But it is no emissary of a better future, no sentinel of the oppressed, and no champion of human rights, least of all those of Muslims.

China’s Response to Radical Islam

Xinjiang, officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is a territory in the northwest of China with a population of 25 million. It shares borders with eight countries: Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, and Tajikistan. It is home to dozens of minorities. The Uygurs – a Turkic, mainly Sunni Muslim people – constitute the largest ethnic group in Xianjang.

Xinjiang is China’s top natural gas-producing region and is an important rail and pipeline route linking China to the rest of Eurasia.

The Uyghurs have a long history of armed struggle aimed at establishing political control over a territory they regard as their homeland. In pursuit of this goal, they have operated under the banners of Islam and Turkism. Uyghur jihadists have carried out attacks on civilians for political objectives, i.e., engaged in terrorism.

In 2014:

  • Two Uighur militants staged a suicide bombing outside a train station in Urumqi, the regional capital, that injured nearly 80 people, and killed one.
  • Militants with knives went on a “rampage at another railway station, in southwest China, killing 31 people and injuring more than 140.”
  • Uyghur “assailants tossed explosives into a vegetable market in Urumqi, wounding 94 people and killing at least 39.”[32]

Five years earlier, “156 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured when angry Uighurs attacked Han civilians and battled with security forces.” [33]

Noting that some Uyghur militants had received or were likely to receive “real-war training in Syria and Afghanistan” which they might use “at any time launch terrorist attacks in Xinjiang,” [34] the Chinese government responded.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping advocated a two prong program. First, develop the economy to give Uyghurs jobs and train them in the skills they would need for employment. This would stifle unrest in Xinjiang, he argued. Second, implement educational programs to overcome religious extremism. [35] This was the rationale for developing a system of vocational training and ‘deradicalization’ detention facilities.

The detainees would include:

  1. “People … who participated in terrorist or extremist activities in circumstances that were not serious enough to constitute a crime;
  2. “People who … participated in terrorist or extremist activities that posed a real danger but did not cause actual harm;
  3. “People who were convicted and received prison sentences for terrorist or extremist crimes and after serving their sentences, [were] assessed as still posing a potential threat to society.” [36]

In other words, the detainees comprised Uyghurs, inspired by political Islam, who were not currently serving a sentence in the regular prison system, and were deemed to constitute a continuing terrorist threat.

The centers delivered a curriculum that included “standard spoken and written Chinese, understanding of the law, vocational skills, and deradicalization,” according to government documents. [37] Detainees were enrolled in courses on distinguishing “between lawful and unlawful religious activities,” and understanding “how religious extremism runs counter to religious doctrine,” with a view to persuading militants to renounce political Islam and violent struggle. [38]

In 2018, The Wall Street Journal described the detention program this way: “China began the mass detentions about two years ago as part of a drive to snuff out an occasionally violent Uighur separatist movement that Beijing says has links to foreign jihadists. Some Uighurs have joined Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” [39]

The United States has subjected the detention facilities to fierce criticism, but US censure represents the height of hypocrisy. Consider how the United States has dealt with violent jihadists, including Uyghurs who have joined ISIS. Rather than rehabilitating them and giving them jobs, as the Chinese have done, the United States has tortured them at CIA black sites, immured them indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, and deployed a drone strike program to assassinate them.

US hypocrisy has not been lost on the veteran foreign affairs correspondent Patrick Cockburn. It “would be naive to imagine that the sudden interest of the west in” the fate of the Uyghurs, wrote Cockburn,  “has much to do with” their cause. “President Xi Jinping has been chosen as the new demon king in the eyes of the US and its allies, his every action fresh evidence of the fiendish evil of the Chinese state.” The US criticism of Xi, Cockburn noted, amounts to “manipulation of public opinion” by calling attention to the acts of “one’s opponents and keeping very quiet about similar acts … by oneself and one’s allies.” [40]

All of this is true, except that the response of the United States to violent jihadists and that of China can hardly be called similar. The US response has been based on overwhelming violence; the Chinese response, on raising living standards and education.

That difference may explain why “the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a group of 57 nations that has been a vocal defender of the Rohingyas and Palestinians” has “praised China for ‘providing care to its Muslim citizens.’” [41] And in July, 2019, “a host of Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria and the United Arab Emirates”, signed “a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council praising China’s governance of Xinjiang.” [42]

Compare the approval of China’s approach, to Amnesty International’s condemnation of the US approach, cited above. To repeat:

  • “People have been held for years at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba without even being charged with a crime. Prisoners have been tortured and mistreated, and they are not given fair trials.
  • “Surveillance and targeting of Muslims – based on who they are, not what they’ve done – has fueled harassment, discrimination, and violence.
  • “For years, the U.S. government allowed officials to torture people through horrific techniques that violate U.S. and international law. President Trump has vowed to expand the use of torture even further in the years ahead.” [43]

If the US response has been decidedly violent, the response of governments with significant Muslim populations has been similar to that of China. Egypt and the Gulf states detain jihadists and Islamist radicals and enrol them in ‘deradicalization’ programs. [44]  It is the similarity in approach to China, according to The Wall Street Journal, that accounts for why Muslim-majority countries have not censured China for its response to Islamist violence, [45] and, on the contrary, have praised China for its treatment of its Muslim population.

In contrast, China’s efforts to quell radical Islam have been described by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as Orwellian, a “gross human rights violation” and “one of the worst stains on the world of this century”. But The New York Times has observed that US “diplomats have offered only muted public criticism of” a litany of anti-Muslim abuses by the Hindu-nationalist Modi government in India. US silence on India, the newspaper noted, originates in US hostility to China. “Both the United States and India oppose … China’s Belt and Road Initiative to link the economies of Asia, Europe and Africa — and put Beijing at the center of global trade and enhance its geopolitical ambitions.” To avoid alienating the Modi government, Washington has raised no objection to Hindu-nationalist antagonization of India’s Muslim community. “We need like-minded partners,” Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said in New Delhi in August, adding that Washington needed to preserve “the vitality of the U.S.-India partnership” in order to enlist India in efforts to counter China.  [46]

Meanwhile, the actions of Paris to stifle radical Islam in France are accepted by the US government and US media with equanimity, despite their resemblance to the actions of China. French President Emmanuel Macron plans to outlaw what he calls “Islamic separatism” in communities where he says “religious laws are taking precedence over civil ones.” “Groups that practice radical forms of Islam, Mr. Macron said, were trying to create a parallel society governed by different rules and values than those espoused by the Republic.” To supress the rough equivalent of the Islamist-inspired Uyghur separatist movement, Macron is seeking the authority to “shut down associations and schools that he” claims “indoctrinate children,” while at the same time, monitoring “foreign investment in religious organizations in France.” [47]

“France’s banlieues—the working-class suburbs that ring its major cities—have become fertile recruiting grounds for Islamist groups. France was one of the West’s biggest sources of Islamic State militants when the terror group controlled swaths of Iraq and northern Syria. Hundreds of French nationals traveled to Islamic State territory, many bringing children. Others have mounted terrorist attacks in France that have killed more than 250 people over the past five years.” [48] The parallels with Islamist-inspired Uyghurs in Xianjang are obvious, though never remarked on in US media or by US officials.

Recently, “two people were seriously wounded in a knife attack near the former office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo,” [49] which should have recalled “a bomb-and-knife attack in April 2014 that rocked Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi”, [50] but in the West’s frenzy to build a Chinese dark legend, wasn’t.

Paris “has been working on a plan for years to tackle radical Islam. It recently started rolling out pilot programs in 15 different areas. Since February 2018, it has shut down 212 bars and restaurants, 15 mosques or prayer rooms, 13 associations, 11 children’s homes and four schools.” [51]

Adrian Zenz, the US-government-supported propagator of an anti-Chinese dark legend will not be leading a God-given mission to destroy Republican France over its “suppression” and “maltreatment” of its “Muslim population.” However, were France a formidable US economic competitor, refractory to the idea that the United States must lead the world and write the rules of international trade and investment (to suit the US ruling class), his indignation against Marianne may very well be aroused.

Partisans of the US effort to counter Chinese economic competition by building a dark legend as a basis for a confrontation with China on human rights have gone so far as to accuse Beijing of perpetrating a genocide against the Uyghurs. If rehabilitating jihadists is genocidal, then the Gulf states, Syria, Egypt, France, and every other country that has implemented ‘deradicalization’ programs are engaged in a genocide against their Muslim citizens. Inasmuch as the US response to radical Islam is to exterminate radical Islamists (not to rehabilitate them), a stronger case can be made that it is the United States that is perpetrating a genocide.

What’s more, if genocide means population reduction, the charges against Beijing collapse. Uyghur women are allowed to “give birth to more than one child without having to pay a fine, unlike the Han” [52]—hardly the kind of policy you would expect from a government bent on genocide. “Between 2010 and 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang rose from 10.17 million to 12.71 million, up by 25 percent, a growth rate much higher than that of the Han population or the whole population of Xinjiang. There are 24,000 mosques in the region, one for every 530 Muslims,” a higher ratio than in many Muslim countries. [53]

Not only is China not perpetrating a genocide, its efforts to rehabilitate violent Islamist-inspired militants is for from the stain on humanity of Pompeo’s Goebbelsian propaganda. On the contrary, it is largely of the same stamp as the ‘deradicalization’ programs of US allies with significant Muslim populations. It is, moreover, far more defensible than the preferred US practice of dealing with radical Islam by bombing campaigns, secret torture sites, indefinite detention, assassination, illegal occupation (Syria), and predatory war (Afghanistan). US actions serve two purposes: to suppress radical Islamist challenges to US domination of the Arab and Muslim worlds; and to fill the coffers of the US ruling class with profits from arms sales.

Constructing a Chinese Uyghur dark legend also serves a US foreign policy goal, as revealed by one of the US ruling class’s most valued lieutenants, Joseph Biden. The goal is to counter China’s challenge to a future in which US investors monopolize the profit-making opportunities of tomorrow’s industries. A bipartisan article of faith is that the United States must lead the world, shared as much by Donald Trump, as Biden.  Any country that defies the international dictatorship of the United States will become the object of a campaign of vilification whose end state is the construction of a dark legend.  The US ruling class faces a formidable challenge to its international dictatorship from the Chinese Communist Party and has prepared a formidable information war, of a Goebbelsian stamp, to counter it.

  • 1 Joseph R. Biden, “Why America Must Lead Again,” Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2020
  • 2 Jacob M. Schlesinger, “What’s Biden’s New China Policy? It Looks a Lot Like Trump’s,” The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2020
  • 3 Josh Zumbrun and Daniel Michaels, “Boeing Subsidies Merit EU Tariffs on $4 Billion in U.S. Goods, WTO Rules,” The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2020
  • 4 Daniel Yergin, “The New Geopolitics of Energy,” The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2020
  • 5 S. Korea, US, China, Taiwan embroiled in fierce competition to dominate AI semiconductors, The Hankyoreh,  October13, 2020
  • 6 Jacob M. Schlesinger, “What’s Biden’s New China Policy? It Looks a Lot Like Trump’s”, The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2020
  • 7 See my “Washington’s Xinjiang smear,” what’s left, January 1, 2020,
  • 8 Hernando Calvo Ospina, “US: overt and covert destabilization,” Le Monde Diplomatique, August, 2007,
  • 9  David D. Kirkpatrick, “The most powerful Arab ruler isn’t MBS, it’s MBZ,” The New York Times, June 2, 2019
  • 10 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020
  • 11 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019
  • 12 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019
  • 13 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019
  • 14 Mark Mazzetti and Emily B. Hager, “Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011.
  • 15 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020
  • 16 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019
  • 17 Ruth Eglash and Karen DeYoung, “Peace deal or arms race? Proposed sale of F-35 jets to UAE prompts fears in Israel”, The Washington Post, September 14, 2020
  • 18 Kirkpatrick, June 2, 2019
  • 19 Miriam Berger, “Where US troops are in the Middle East and Afghanistan, visualized,” The Washington Post, January 4, 2019
  • 20 Kirkpatrick,  June 2, 2019
  • 21 Robert E. Worth, “Mohammed bin Zayed’s dark vision of the Middle East’s future,” The New York Times, January 9, 2020
  • 22 William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, W.W. Norton & Company, 1972, p. 20
  • 23 Seymour M. Hersh, “Chain of Command”. The New Yorker, May 17, 2004.; Mark Benjamin, “Taguba denies he’s seen abuse photos suppressed by Obama: The general told a U.K. paper about images he saw investigating Abu Ghraib – not photos Obama wants kept secret”,, May 30, 2008 ; Seymour M. Hersh, “The general’s report: how Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties”, The New Yorker, June 25, 2007
  • 24 Glenn Greenwald, “The suppressed fact: Deaths by US torture,”, June 30, 2009
  • 25 Seaumus Milne, “Sending troops to protect dictators threatens all of us,” The Guardian, December 10, 2014
  • 26 Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland, “Obama says that after 9/11, ‘we tortured some folks’”, Reuters, August 1, 2014
  • 27 Milne, December 10, 2014.
  • 28 “US convoy transports stolen Syrian oil to Iraq: SANA,” Press TV,  20 September 2020
  • 29 Patrick Cockburn, “A choice between bread and masks’: Syrians face calamity as Trump’s new sanctions combine with surging coronavirus,” The Independent, August 21, 2020
  • 30 “Lawrence Wilkerson on Trump’s Iran aggression: same neocon lies, new target,” The Grayzone, January 7, 2020.
  • 31 Amnesty International, NATIONAL SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTS,
  • 32 Austin Ramzy and Chris Buckley, “‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims,” The New York Times, November 16, 2019
  • 33 Edward Wong, “Clashes in China Shed Light on Ethnic Divide”, The New York Times, July 7, 2009
  • 34 Ramzy and Buckley, November 16, 2019
  • 35 Ramzy and Buckley, November 16, 2019
  • 36 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019
  • 37 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019
  • 38 “Vocational Education and Training in Xinjiang: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Languages Press Co. Ltd., Beijing, China August 2019
  • 39 Eva Dou, “China acknowledges re-education centers for Uighurs,” The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2018
  • 40 Patrick Cockburn, “The rise of nationalism has led to increased oppression of minorities around the world – but the Uighur and Kashmir are reported differently,” The Independent, August 7, 2020
  • 41 Jane Perlez, “With pressure and persuasion, China deflects criticisms of its camps for Muslims,” The New York Times, April 8, 2019
  • 42 Jon Emont, “How China persuaded one Muslim nation to keep silent on Xinjiang camps,” The Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2019
  • 43 Amnesty International, NATIONAL SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTS,
  • 44 Jared Malsin, Corinne Ramey, and Summer Said, “ Shooting at navy base in Florida is probed as terrorism,” The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2019
  • 45 Yaroslav Trofimov, “The Muslim world looks on as China persecutes its Muslims,” The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2019
  • 46 Lara Jakes, “Why the State Dept. has largely been muted on India’s moves against Muslims,” The New York Times, December 17, 2019
  • 47 Noemie Bisserbe, “France’s Emmanuel Macron Targets ‘Islamic Separatism’ With Proposed Law”, The Wall Street Journal, October 2, 2020
  • 48 Bisserbe, October 2, 2020
  • 49 Bisserbe, October 2, 2020
  • 50 Chun Han Wong, “Xi Says China Will Continue Efforts to Assimilate Muslims in Xinjiang”, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 26, 2020
  • 51 Bisserbe, October 2, 2020
  • 52 Edward Wong, “Clashes in China Shed Light on Ethnic Divide,” The New York Times, July 7, 2009
  • 53 Li Mengyuan, “A flawed investigation of the Uighurs”, The Washington Post, September 11, 2020

Stephen Gowans is the author of Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform (2019); Patriots, Traitors and Empires: The Story of Korea’s Struggle for Freedom (2018); and Washington’s Long War on Syria (2017). For notification of updates, send an e-mail to with “subscribe” in the subject line.

Lawsuit seeks information on increase in asylum rejections, from the Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is seeking information about why the federal government is referring a greater percentage of asylum cases from Maine to immigration court.

The approval rate by the Boston office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for asylum seekers from Maine dropped from 40% in late 2016 to below 8% at the end of 2019, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Immigration judges turn down asylum seekers in droves in Fiscal Year 2020

Asylum seekers who lose their cases are referred to immigration court, where half of them are ultimately successful. But the trend toward more court referrals can keep asylum seekers from reuniting with their families and cause uncertainty while they wait years for their cases to be heard.

The FOIA lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine after getting no response to a public records request in 2019.

“These patterns of disproportionate denials and referrals have led to lengthy immigration court proceedings that burden the immigration court system, and delays in work permits and family reunification,” the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff’s attorneys said they have noticed a decrease in approvals for applicants from central African countries.

They are asking the court to force USCIS to hand over case files, written policies and other documents that could explain why the New England office now has one of the lowest approval rates in the nation.

A USCIS spokeswoman did not answer a question about the decrease in approvals and the disparity with the national rate.

Democratic Socialism in the Democratic Party, from Bernie Sanders

I am very proud of the hard work that the progressive community put into electing Joe Biden as our next president.

And let’s be clear: This election was not just a normal election between two candidates. It was much more important than that. It was an election about retaining our democracy, preserving the rule of law, believing in science, and ending pathological lying in the White House. And with a record-breaking turnout, the American people voted to reject President Donald Trump’s racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, religious bigotry, and authoritarianism. That is very good news.

Even so, truth be told, the election results in the House and Senate were disappointing. Despite Joe Biden winning the popular vote by more than 5 million votes, the Democrats lost seats in the House and, so far, have only picked up one seat in the Senate.

Now, with the blame game erupting, corporate Democrats are attacking so-called far-left policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal for election defeats in the House and the Senate. They are dead wrong.

Here are the facts:

  • 112 co-sponsors of Medicare for All were on the ballot in November. All 112 of them won their races.
  • 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal were on the ballot in November. Only one of them have lost an election.

It turns out that supporting universal health care during a pandemic and enacting major investments in renewable energy as we face the existential threat to our planet from climate change is not just good public policy. It also is good politics. According to an exit poll from Fox News, no bastion of socialism, 72% of voters favored the change “to a government-run health care plan,” and 70% of voters supported “increasing government spending on green and renewable energy.”

The lesson is not to abandon popular policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, living wage jobs, criminal justice reform and universal child care, but to enact an agenda that speaks to the economic desperation being felt by the working class—Black, white, Latino, Asian American, and Native American. People are hurting, and they are crying out for help. We must respond.

All over America, voters approved progressive policies to improve the lives of millions of people:

  • Florida voters passed an initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
  • Colorado voted to provide 12 weeks of paid family leave.
  • Arizona voted to increase taxes on those making over $250,000 to increase funding for public education.
  • Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota voted to move away from the “war on drugs” and approved legalizing marijuana.

The American people are sick and tired of seeing billionaires and Wall Street become much richer, while veterans sleep out on the streets, our infrastructure crumbles, and young people leave school deeply in debt.

They want a government that works for all, not just the few. That’s the right thing to do, that’s the moral thing to do, and, for the Democratic Party, that is the way to win elections.

The above article was circulated to national media by Our Revolution, the group that sprang from Bernie Sanders’ campaigns in the Democratic primaries.