‘We’re here to call for climate justice,’ say Glasgow protesters / by Mark Hertsgaard

Photo: Courtesy of Covering Climate Now

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—“I’d feel ridiculous if I weren’t here,” said Tom Birch, a teacher from Edinburg, as he carried a sign reading “Soon Humanity Will Be Net-Zero.” Birch was among the many tens of thousands of marchers who filled the streets of Glasgow, host of the United Nations COP26 climate conference, on Saturday as part of a Global Day for Climate Justice. “You get lifted up seeing all these people who care, who aren’t just sitting at home in our silos complaining,” he added. “This is the moment to make our voices heard. It’s our last chance.”

“Pledges are not action,” read the back of Birch’s sign, summarizing many activists’ critique of the net-zero emissions pledges that governments and corporations have made at COP26. Eva Wewgorski, a librarian from Edinburgh who created the sign, said that “World leaders are acting like these pledges will solve the problem. But there’ve been countless pledges over the decades that haven’t been kept, so why should we believe them now?”

Coming at the midway point of the two-week COP 26 conference, the Global Day for Climate Justice also featured demonstrations in London, Paris, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The Guardian reported that there were more than 300 protests worldwide, with 100 in the United Kingdom alone.

Although the Glasgow march included representatives of Indigenous peoples from South America and youth activists such as Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, most of the crowd were locals judging from the paucity of umbrellas, despite bursts of heavy rain and gusty winds. “We’re used to the rain,” a local soccer coach and shopkeeper who gave only his first name, Niall, said with a grin.

Wearing uniforms of sparkling gold lamé, a dozen musicians with a local brass band called “Brass, Aye?” got marchers dancing with pulsing renditions of “When the Saints Go Marching In” and other New Orleans standards. “We’re here to call for climate justice and bring a bit of joy and vibrancy to this march,” said Scott, a blonde trombone player who directed the group.

A second group of street artists dressed head to toe in blood red, with faces painted white and set in grim expressions, stayed completely silent as they marched through Nelson Mandela Place in the heart of the city on their way to the march’s terminus on the Glasgow Green.

“Inside that conference of polluters, the climate criminals are hiding behind barbed wire and fences and lines of police,” Asad Rehman of the COP26 Coalition of activist groups, told the crowd on Glasgow Green. “We’re not going to accept their suicide pact.”

Police officers in yellow vests were especially noticeable around an office building of Scottish Power, the electric utility, at the intersection of St. Vincent and North streets. Positioned 10 paces apart behind metal barriers that confined the marchers to the middle of the street, the officers stood with hands folded across their waists, watchful but not aggressive. As the crowd passed by at 2 p.m., a rainbow briefly illuminated the northern sky, leading a mother pushing a toddler in a stroller to remark, “That’s a nice omen, isn’t it?”

“The right to protest is a cornerstone of democracy; it’s a direct way to speak to your leaders without having to wait for an election,” said Danielle, 19, a Glasgow resident marching with a contingent from Tear Fund, a Christian NGO working to alleviate poverty in the Global South through advancing social justice rather than conventional foreign aid. “Movements develop over time,” she added. “Generations of people have been doing this kind of witnessing for years, and world leaders are starting to listen because of that. Eventually, you reach a watershed moment, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Carrying signs quoting a verse from the Old Testament book of Micah—“Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly,” Danielle and three other young women with Tear Fund set off from a muddy hillside in Kelvingrove Park where long strips of yellow cloth spelled out, “Amazonia For Life: Protect 80% by 2025.”

“Countries in the Global South are paying more to service their debt than the $100 billion a year in climate reparations they’re supposed to get at COP,” said Mollie Somerville, a grandmother marching with a group whose yellow vests read, “Cancel the Debt for Climate Justice.” “That debt is owed mostly to private banks that are making huge profits and don’t need that money,” she said. “No, I haven’t heard COP leaders talk about this issue yet, but there’s still time, so I’m hoping that this march will put pressure on them.”

“Protests like this, it gives people a feeling of solidarity, knowing that we’re not alone,” added Somerville, who said she was “extremely worried” about the future awaiting her three grandchildren and a fourth expected next week. “I think government and business leaders see that these protests are getting bigger and the time for action is now. Standing here in the cold and the rain, that’s why we do this. At times, it feels like we’re drops in the ocean. But eventually, those drops add up to something big.”

The above article was sent to peoplesworld.org by and reprinted from Covering Climate Now

Author: Mark Hertsgaard is the executive director of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative committed to more and better coverage of the climate story. He is also the environment correspondent for The Nation and author of books including HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth.

Source, People’s World, November 8, 2021, https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/were-here-to-call-for-climate-justice-say-glasgow-protesters/

COP26: why advanced countries must proportionately make by far the biggest cuts in carbon emissions–factual briefing / by John Ross

Under threat: Reduced sea ice due to climate change might cut the polar-bear population by two-thirds by 2050. (Photo: A. Weith)

The COP26 conference on climate change is discussing an issue which will profoundly affect every person on our planet. Climate change, together with nuclear war, is one of the two issues which can overturn the present basis of human civilisation. Because of the extreme seriousness of this issue, the COP26 conference should therefore be an arena for strictly objective international scientific discussion and international cooperation. Fortunately, as will be seen, strictly objective scientific evidence on the issue of climate change has been put forward in the run up to the conference.

Regrettably, however, COP26 has also become a site for geopolitical propaganda, primarily carried out by the U.S., to try to obscure the realities on climate change. This attempts to present the situation on climate change as being that the advanced countries, and in particular the U.S., are playing a leading role in the fight against climate change and that it is developing countries, and in particular China, which are the chief problem on climate change. This is shown by media reflecting this propaganda–for example the Financial Times, surveying the conference, declared: “China and India cast pall over climate ambitions ahead of COP26.”

As will be seen this claim is the exact reverse of the truth. It is the advanced countries, and in particular the U.S., which are the chief problem on climate change due to their far higher per capita carbon emissions than developing countries. Furthermore, the policy positions advanced by the U.S. are a demand that the advanced countries, and in particular itself, should be given a privileged position in terms of the right to emit far more carbon per person than developing countries. This is unacceptable from the point of view of justice, democracy, the equality of nations, and even racially–this policy demands that overwhelmingly white countries should be given a privileged position compared to people of colour.

Because of the seriousness of this a series of articles will be run here on the implications of climate change. But this article has a strictly limited aim of setting out the factual position. This shows why it is clear that the U.S. and advanced countries are demanding a privileged position for themselves and why this is unacceptable.

The IPCC’s scientific evidence

It is fairly well known that the U.S., and advanced economies, attempt to present the issue of climate change in a way that does not acknowledge their overwhelming historical responsibility for carbon emissions and therefore climate change. This criticism is entirely valid–it is simply because it is well known it will not be dealt with here. But what is not so well known is that before the COP26 conference objective scientific evidence has also been put forward on the current situation on climate change which shows exactly the same pattern. In particular, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published an important report: “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”. The purpose of this article is to analyse the data produced by the IPCC.. This clarifies clearly that the claim being made by the U.S. and other advanced countries is for a privileged position in current carbon emissions. This is therefore the issue concentrated on in this briefing.

Analysing the core of the present situation, the key factual data concluded by the IPCC is set out in Table 1. As will be seen the IPCC gives various probabilities of hitting the key goal of 1.5 degrees of warming compared to pre-industrial levels, depending on the number gigatons of carbon which is emitted after the beginning of 2020. Thus with 900 gigatons of carbon emitted there is only a 17% chance of hitting this target, with 650 gigatons of emissions there is a 33% chance, with 500 gigatons a 50% chance of hitting the target, with 400 gigatons of emissions a 67% chance, with 300 gigatons of emissions an 83% chance. All these variants are worth analysing but, as is it the most central one, what will be analysed in this article is the one with the 50% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. This requires that a global 500 gigatons of carbon is emitted.

Given this 500 gigaton figure it is then easy to calculate the per capita “carbon budget”, that is the maximum allowable carbon emissions for each person on the planet–which is  64.8 tons. Given the population of each country it is then also easy to work out the permissible carbon budget for each individual country. This means that any country asking for a per capita cumulative carbon budget above 64.8 tons is asking for a privileged position compared to humanity as a whole, and any country with a cumulative per capita carbon emission below 64.8 tons is making an above average aid to humanity in meeting this target.

Table 1

| Table 1 | MR Online

Changes in population

To complete the factual picture, it is then necessary to note that over long periods of time, up to 2050 or beyond, the population of individual countries will change. For example, on UN projections, between 2020 and 2050 the population of the U.S. will increase by 15%, India’s population will increase by 19%, but China’s population will fall by 3%, Germany’s population will fall by 4%, Japan’s population will fall by 16% etc. Therefore, it is necessary to make calculations based not only on present populations but on future population. For this purpose, in this article, projections from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs will be used.

High per capita carbon emissions are overwhelmingly concentrated in high income economies

Turning to the present situation, it is then completely clear that high per capita carbon emissions are overwhelmingly concentrated in high income countries.

This key data on this is summarised in Table 2, which shows a comparison to world average per capita emissions–to be clear it is not suggested present world emissions are sustainable, they are too high, but this is primarily to simply give a point of comparison for judging present relative emissions.

The pattern is evidently clear. Of the 213 countries (and 3 sub-country administrative regions), for which there is data, 78 have per capita carbon emissions above the world average. But of these 56, that is 72%, are advanced economies. Only 22, that is 28%, are developing economies. In contrast there are 138 countries which have below world average emissions–of which only 15, that is 11% are advanced economies, and 123, that is 89%, are developing economies.

In summary, the factual situation is entirely clear. It is the advanced economies which overwhelmingly have above average per capita CO2 emissions and it is developing economies which overwhelmingly have below average per capita emissions. In short it is advanced economies whose policies are by far most inadequate from the point of view of restricting emissions.

| Table 2 | MR Online

Table 2

The detailed situation of advanced and developing economies

Looking in more detail at the situation of advanced and developing countries this shows the situation is even worse. Table 3 shows the 213 countries and three sub-country administrative regions ranked by their level of per capita emissions. These are taken in groups of 20–the highest 20 per CO2 carbon emitters, then countries ranked 21-40 by carbon emissions, then countries ranked 41-60 etc.

The pattern is crystal clear. The higher the level of per capita carbon emissions the more the situation is dominated by advanced economies. Of the 20 countries with the highest per capita emissions 16, that is 80%, are advanced economies. Of the countries ranked 21-80th in terms of per capita carbon emissions 40, that is to two thirds, are advanced economies. Only once significantly below world average per capita emissions are arrived at are there more developing than advanced economies in each group.

In summary, it is the advanced economies which have by far the worst results in the world in terms of excessive per capita carbon emissions. And the higher the level of per capita carbon emissions the more the situation is dominated by advanced countries. Therefore, not merely historically but in terms of current emissions, the advanced economies have the policies which most diverge from what is required for the planet. By far the greatest violators of what is required on climate change are the advanced economies, and the biggest proportional reductions which are required are therefore also in advanced economies.

Table 3

| Table 3 | MR Online

The fake criteria for climate emissions put forward by the U.S.

Once the facts on global climate emissions are grasped then the fake character of the criteria for U.S. “leadership” in fighting climate change becomes transparently clear.

The U.S. attempts to present the situation as the criterion for success in fightin climate change is the percentage reduction from current emissions. Thus, Biden has announced that the U.S. aims at “to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels” of emissions which is supposed to represent “Building on past U.S. leadership” Given that in 2005 U.S. per capita CO2 emissions were 20.8 tons this means that the U.S. proposes to reduce per capita carbon emissions by 2030 to 10.4 tons.  But this means that by 2030 the U.S. proposes that its level of per capita CO2 emissions should be 220% of the present world average!

That is not leadership, it is carbon damage on an incredible scale, and a claim for a completely privileged position for the U.S. in the world. It means, for example, that by 2030 the U.S. claims its per capita carbon emissions should be 42% higher than China’s are today. This is not U.S. leadership; it is to be a total climate change laggard.

The entire method put forward by the U.S., based on percentage reduction from present emissions levels, is fraudulent–a distortion of reality. Because all this method does is to protect the position of the highest CO2 emitters! To take a few examples, if the U.S method of aiming at a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 was aimed at, and applied to present levels, this would mean a claim that the U.S. was allowed to emit per capita 8.0 tons of CO2, China was entitled to 3.7 tons, Brazil to 1.2 tons, India to 1.0 tons, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 0.02 tons! Such comparisons have  nothing to do with U.S. leadership on climate change–on the contrary it shows the U.S. is claiming a privileged position for itself. It also shows why similar claims for a privileged position by advanced economies must be rejected.

What is being shown by the U.S. is not leadership on climate change but a claim for privilege by advanced countries and, in reality, for the white population of these countries against the overwhelming majority of humanity who are people of colour and who live in developing countries. Such an approach is not merely unacceptable from the point of view of justice but it is also ineffectual–it will obviously never be accepted by the 84% of the world’s population who live outside the advanced economies.

The real situation on climate change

Fortunately, the scientific data produced by the IPCC makes it possible to calculate the real changes which are required to combat climate change. These are summarised in Table 4.

To analyse the effect of this, as with most issues in the world–such as the percentage of world population, the percentage of world GDP etc–the key consequences for climate change are concentrated in a small number of countries. Only 17 countries each have carbon emissions accounting for more than 1% of the world total. Together these countries account for 75% of world carbon emissions. Therefore, analysis of these countries is sufficient to follow the world trends.

The key data for these countries is set out in Table 4. The pattern is clear. Of the world’s largest emitters of carbon only two, Saudi Arabia and Australia, have higher per capita emissions than the U.S. Furthermore, despite their extremely reressive policies, these are small emitters of CO2 compared to the U.S.-  Australia accounts for 1.2% of world carbon emissions, and Saudi Arabia 1.8%, compared to the U.S.’s 14.8%.

In summary, the U.S. stands in a higher league all of its own in terms of its per capita CO2 emissions. In particular, making the comparison to the largest developing countries, China’s per capita CO2 emissions are only 46% of those of the U.S., Indonesia’s 15%, Brazil’s 14%, and India’s 12%. Any attempt to portray the U.S. as a leader in fighting climate change is therefore grotesque.

Because U.S. per capita carbon emissions are so much higher than any other major country it makes clear why U.S. CO2 emissions cuts must be correspondingly much more rapid than any other major country to fit within its carbon budget. As shown in Table 4 U.S. annual average reduction of CO2 emissions from 2020 onwards must be 20.2% a year–compared to 10.2% a year for China and 3.0% for India. (To be clear, for all countries, this is not the precise annual average that must be achieved but the annual average achieved over time–so if emissions fall more slowly, or rise, in the initial period there must be correspondingly rapid falls after this initial period). To give a comparison, this average means that by 2030 U.S. emissions per capita should have fallen to 1.3 tons per capita, compared to its proposed target of 8.0 tons per capita. That is the U.S. is proposing that its per capital carbon emissions by 2030 should be more than 6 times what is required to fit within its carbon budget. This has nothing to do with climate change leadership, it is climate change vandalism.

Table 4

| Table 4 | MR Online


The above data does not all detract from the fact that climate change is one of the two most serious threats facing humanity–together with nuclear war. The world needs to radically reduce CO2 emissions. As China, fortunately, is the most advanced of the developing countries, it needs to limit CO2 emissions. But the attempt to present developing countries, and in particular China, as most responsible for the danger of climate change is purely propaganda by the U.S.–China ranks number 50 in the world in terms of per capita carbon emissions. The U.S., and advanced economies in general, are not leading on climate change, they are claiming a privileged position for themselves.

There are three main forces in the world who are fighting for a just response to the common threat to humanity posed by climate change:

  • The Global South–that is developing countries, who as the data shows, are being fundamentally discriminated against by the advanced countries and in particular the U.S.
  • China, which as the most advanced and powerful of the developing countries, is a particular target of U.S. distortion and propaganda.
  • Progressive sections of the Western movement against climate change–while, as noted, the U.S. is primarily engaging in propaganda and attacks on developing countries and China there are nevertheless undoubtedly forces within the Western movement against climate change which reject such positions. Furthermore while scientists, and research by organisations such as the IPCC,  tries to be careful not to become too involved in policy questions their research entirely undermines the claims of the U.S.

To put matters in a nutshell, the U.S. is regretably attempting to carry out a crude propaganda campaign around COP26. The facts show clearly that what the U.S. is attempting to claim for itself is a privileged position against climate change. It is not the leader on climate change but the world’s greatest climate change laggard. It is advanced economies which are claiming a privileged position on climate change. Any force fighting climate change in the West has to take this as a fundamental starting point. The U.S. is not leading the world on the fight against climate change, it is simply claiming a privileged position for itself.

The fight against a climate change is a very real one for the whole of humanity. But its starting point, as the facts show, must be that it is the advanced countries that must make by far the biggest proportional reductions in CO2 emissions. The attempt by the U.S. to present the main problems as being in the developing countries, not the advanced ones, is a pure statistical distortion.

Author: John Ross is a senior fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He was formerly director of economic policy for the mayor of London.

Source: MR Online, October, 31, 2021, Originally published: Learning from China (October 29, 2021 ) https://mronline.org/2021/10/31/cop26-why-advanced-countries-must-proportionately-make-by-far-the-biggest-cuts-in-carbon-emissions-factual-briefing/

China develops its first hydrogen hybrid locomotive / by Zheng Xin

The first China-developed hydrogen fuel cell hybrid locomotive in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Photo:Xinhua

China has recently localized the manufacture of a locomotive fueled by hydrogen, with the first China-developed hybrid locomotive starting a trial run on Friday on a railway line for coal transport in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The hydrogen energy locomotive project was jointly launched by the Inner Mongolia subsidiary of the State Power Investment Corporation Limited, CRRC Datong Co Ltd and SPIC’s Hydrogen Energy Co Ltd.

The new energy locomotive, which will have zero pollution during operations and only emitting water, has broad market prospects for use in large factories, mines and ports.

According to SPIC, the locomotive, with a set speed of 80 kilometers per hour, has a maximum traction load of around 5,000 metric tons on a straight track.

Source: China Daily, 11/01/2021, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202111/01/WS617fa784a310cdd39bc729f9.html

China Walks The Walk On Climate / ‘By Any Means Necessary’ (Radio Show)

 “The reality behind China’s carbon emissions and its climate change mitigation efforts, how the Chinese economic system facilitates those efforts, and the hypocrisy of the West using the threat of climate catastrophe as part of its cold war drive against China.

In this segment of By Any Means Necessary, Sean and Jacquie are joined by Carlos Martinez, author and activist, co-founder of No Cold War, and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China to discuss the misleading attacks on China over climate, the reality behind China’s carbon emissions and its climate change mitigation efforts, how the Chinese economic system facilitates those efforts, and the hypocrisy of the west using the threat of climate catastrophe as part of its cold war drive against China.

The Marxist Classes: Neofascism and Neoliberalism: A Marxist Exploration

Join Dr. Prabhat Patnaik, a leading Marxist professor and active member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), in sharing his examination of the relationship between the inner workings of neoliberalism and the upsurge of neofascism. Dr. Patnaik’s presentation will be followed by questions and comments. Date: Sunday, November 14, 2021 | Time: 11 AM eastern; 10 AM central; 8 AM pacific. Register NOW to attend and receive the recording.

China’s first clinic for transgender children and adolescents set up in Shanghai / by Global Times

China’s famous transgender female artist Jin Xing Photo: VCG

China’s first multidisciplinary clinic for transgender children and adolescents was set up at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai recently to safely and healthily manage transgender minors’ transition. 

Experts expect that the clinic, integrated with psychology, endocrine and genetic metabolic, urology departments among other departments, will serve as a bridge between transgender children, parents, doctors and the various circles of society. 

The Global Times learned from the hospital on Thursday that the clinic was set up after the hospital had encountered such cases in its clinical practice. 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) defines a transgender person as someone whose gender identity is inconsistent with his or her birth sex. 

In a case shared by the hospital, an adolescent girl named Xiao Lin (pseudonym) suffered repeated anxiety and depression after she entered puberty and her female physiological characteristics became more obvious. 

Through searching on the internet, she learned that she is a transgender person. 

However, talking to her parents about this increased her psychological pressure since her parents tried to dismiss the concept as being in her mind but their efforts eventually turned out to be in vain. 

The preliminary evaluation on her psychology at the hospital showed that Xiao Lin is indeed transgender. 

The medical advice given by the psychological doctors and endocrinologists at the hospital was to stabilize and improve her mood first and suppress her menstruation with medication to ease her anxiety. It is up to herself whether she wants surgery when she grows up.

Luo Feihong, director of the endocrine and genetic metabolic department of the Children’s Hospital explained that the professional assessment, diagnosis, psychological treatment and necessary medicine intervention by doctors of multidisciplinary professions are of great help to reduce the negative emotions of these children and adolescents, improve their academic performance, improve their family relations and build a harmonious society. 

A study in 2016 showed that an estimated 1.4 million people – around 0.6 percent of US adults identified as transgender. Many transgender people had serious problems with medical treatment and misdiagnosis. These problems also contributed to high rates of drug abuse, infections, mental illness and cancer among transgender people. 

A research on transgender people’s suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts conducted among 1,309 people from 32 provinces by Chinese scholars in 2019 showed that transgender students had much higher rates of severe depression and anxiety than the general population. 

If their problems are not discovered or they are not directed in time, they may have problems in school and with social adaptation, or there may be confrontation between family members, or unexplained self-harm behaviors and even suicide tendencies. 

Source: Global Times, November 4, 2021, https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202111/1238161.shtml?s=04&fbclid=IwAR33gu2BLmSLAMRXo2LsQ3ZBEncDTkXlSrvyLH2qHdaZU_OzFLRk5uPd97U

Solidarity Harvest 2021


Solidarity Harvest is a project organized by Food AND Medicine and sponsored by the Eastern, Southern and Western Maine Labor Councils that distributes locally-sourced Thanksgiving meal baskets, each with nearly 30 pounds of produce, enough food for 8-10 people. Funds are raised to purchase produce from smaller Maine farms and food producers, which is assembled by hundreds of volunteers and distributed to Mainers in hard times. The project is solidarity, not charity. It supports unions, farmers, community and faith groups, other nonprofits, and hundreds of volunteers. Solidarity Harvest benefits many while shining a light on the growing issue of food insecurity in Maine. Want to help?https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfI9T3iv0B6xCwDYOk0v68m2YC594qahEPgqyR5NEZNrR9Fnw/viewform

Prospects for Chile: New President New Constitution, Continuing Turmoil / by W.T. Whitney. Jr.

Photograph Source: Rodrigo Fernández – CC BY-SA 4.0

The 1973 U.S.-supported military coup against Chile’s socialist government, and the murder of president Allende, may be old history. The Pinochet dictatorship may have ended in1988 and democratic forms – elections, political parties, debate – are in place. And Chile’s economy, recovering from the pandemic, is booming. For the U. S. State Department, Chile is now “a leader in promoting respect for the rule of law, economic stability, education, environmental protection, human rights, and sustainable development.”  Besides, “Bilateral trade in goods and services between the United States and Chile were worth approximately $31.1 billion in 2020.”

But turmoil and volatility prevail, as evidenced in presidential elections taking place on November 21, continuing street demonstrations, and preparations for a new Constitution.

Elections at hand

Gabriel Boric, narrowly favored to win Chile’s presidency, was a leader in the student uprisings of 2011-2012. He’s been a parliamentary deputy since 2014 and the first to enter parliament without party affiliation. In 2016 Boric founded the Autonomous Movement.

Boric is the candidate of the newly formed Social Convergence party that absorbed the Autonomous Movement and three other small left-leaning parties. Social Convergence seeks a “socialist, democratic, libertarian, and feminist society.”

Boric scored a 60% plurality in primary elections in July. The Broad Front coalition, which supported Boric, was competing with the Communist Party-led coalition behind Daniel Jadue, mayor of Recoleta.  Jadue led in opinion polls during most of the campaign.  The Communist Party now supports Boric, candidate for Approve Dignity, a new and enlarged leftist coalition.

Presently Boric registers 29% approval in opinion polls. The extreme rightwing candidate José Antonio Kast has advanced rapidly to a 25% favorability rating, overcoming the conservative Sebastián Sichel, who has fallen to 14% approval.

A lawyer and former parliamentarian, Kast is said to be homophobic, an opponent of women’s rights, and a climate-change denier.  He supposedly admires Brazilian president Bolsonaro and former U.S. president Trump. Critics regularly characterize Kast as fascist or neo-fascist.

His father Miguel Kast, a German Army officer in World War II, emigrated to Chile, established a large family and, with his sons, founded a restaurant chain, a food-manufacturing company, and accumulated large landholdings. Family members have been politicians, economists, and bankers.

In 2006 lawyers in Panama, a so-called “fiscal paradise,” assisted the Kast family in reconstituting their assets.  José A. Kast departed from the family businesses with a “patrimony” of $4 billion.

Reports have surfaced alleging that immediately after the Pinochet-led military coup of 1973, Kast’s father and brother Miguel participated in, or failed to stop, the disappearances of leftist agrarian-rights agitators active in Paine, the Kasts’ rural home base.

Presumably the 20% of Chileans who accounted for 51% of income generated in 2017 overlap with the 20 % of the electorate who think favorably about the former dictatorship.  Presidential candidate Kast fits into at least one of these categories, maybe both.

Street Heat

On October 18, student-led demonstrations burst forth nationwide; 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Santiago and thousands more in 50 other cities. The carabineros, Chile’s notoriously brutal national police force, arrested 450 people, killed two, and wounded 56. The carabineros have enjoyed virtually free rein since the Pinochet dictatorship.

The demonstrators were memorializing October 18 in 2019. That day over a million people filled newly-named Dignity Plaza in Santiago. Large demonstrations took place throughout Chile. Violence at the hands of carabineros led to 34 deaths, and, bizarrely, 450 or so serious eye injuries. Onset of the Covid-19 pandemic ended regular protests five months later, although they’ve continued sporadically.

Then and now, demands center on social and economic opportunities for young people, women, and indigenous peoples, on pension reform and the release of political prisoners. Protesters have denounced neoliberal changes introduced during the dictatorship such as privatization of education, healthcare, and pensions, austerity, deregulation, and sell-offs of water rights and publicly-owned mineral, fishery, and forest resources.

All along, they’ve condemned the abuse of Chile’s indigenous peoples, a prime cause of instability in Chile. The Mapuche people, excluded from Chilean society, have suffered oppression since the late 19th century, when Chile’s military invaded the four southern provinces where they have lived. Oppression accentuated recently as corporations commandeered natural resources and carabineros cleared the way.

President Sebastian Piñera on October 12 announced a state of “emergency” as troops occupied Mapuche regions. The Mapuche demand autonomy and return of their land.

Protesters have called upon Piñera to resign. Piñera in mid-November, 2019 met with representatives of political parties. Rattled by the massive street demonstrations of the previous few weeks, he agreed to preparations for a new constitution, a longstanding demand.

New Magna Carta

In October, 2020, Chileans voted in favor of a constitutional convention. They elected delegates in May, 2021. The constitutional convention began its work in July, 2021, mainly on procedural matters. Deliberation on substance began in mid-October. There will be a referendum on approving a new constitution in 2022.

From the viewpoint of progressives, the Convention’s main burden is to remove or replace provisions of the Pinochet-era constitution. Targeted particularly are provisions authorizing neoliberal reforms. The hope also is that a new constitution will no longer enable the harsh policing and judicial measures used now to repress political dissent.

Delegates are divided equally between men and women.  A Mapuche woman, Elisa Loncón, is presiding. Seats are reserved for indigenous peoples. In elections in May, the center-right gained 37 seats; the leftist Approve Dignity coalition, 28 seats; a center-left coalition, 25 seats; and independents and the indigenous, 65 seats.

Opinion polls in Chile have shown massive popular distrust of political parties. Unaffiliated activists and others associated with social movements participated hugely in preparing for the referendum authorizing the Constitutional Convention. Insofar as a two thirds majority is required for approval of new constitutional provisions, and what with the unpredictability of unaffiliated delegates, it’s far from certain that the new constitution will bring about much progressive change.

Whether a new constitution leads to significant change or not, troubles won’t soon disappear. As harbinger of things to come, the “Reject” voting bloc, losers in the referendum authorizing the Convention, has launched a social media slander-barrage against delegates and the Convention’s president.

Class conflict will be continuing. The undiminished political strength of the extremely wealthy makes that so.

Incriminating information recently emerged from a new investigation of the “Pandora Papers” scandal involving money stored in various tax-free havens.  According to alainet.org, president Piñera during his first presidential term, in 2010, “sold his 33% ownership share in the Domino [mining] project to his friend, convict Carlos Alberto Délano, for $152 million …  He received $14 million which was deposited in his account in Santiago. The balance, $138 million, was deposited in a Virgin Islands fiscal paradise, along with most of his fortune.”

The amount included a of $10 million payment conditioned on “there being no modifications in environmental legislation that would reduce production.”

Mr. Piñera’s net worth as of October 27 was $2.8 billion. Chile seemingly incorporates two worlds different enough as to be irreconcilable. One is the world of students, unionists, teachers, women, indigenous people, and others protesting in the streets. The other is that of Piñera, J.A. Kast, the Harvard Economics Department, and the University of Chicago.

But why the Harvard Economics Department? The title of Piñera’s Ph.D. thesis presented there was: “The Economics of Education in Developing Countries: A Collection of Essays”. According to a biography produced by Chile’s government in 2013, the president “understood that this social science (economics) was a formidable tool to help improve the quality of life of the less fortunate.”

And why bring in the University of Chicago?  That was where graduate student Miguel Kast, J.A. Kast’s brother, learned about saddling Chile with neoliberalism; he was a “notable Chicago boy.”

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Source: CounterPunch, October, 29, 2021, https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/29/prospects-for-chile-new-president-new-constitution-continuing-turmoil/

Cuban foreign minister tells U.S. audience of blockade’s impact on COVID fight / by Gary Bono

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. | Ramon Espinosa / AP

NEW YORK—When Cuba’s main oxygen production facility went down in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and threatened access to life-sustaining treatment, the U.S. blockade magnified the danger and suffering for the Cuban people. The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, described the barriers presented by the blockade which stood in the way of access to the parts needed for repairs, a policy he called “criminal.” Rodríguez spoke at a gathering of solidarity activists on Sept. 25 at Cuba’s United Nations mission here.

Cuba’s main oxygen production facility went down in the midst of the pandemic. Repairs proved costly and time-consuming because of a parts shortage due to the U.S. economic blockade on the country. | via Radio Angulo

In April this year, the World Health Organization labeled medicinal oxygen as an essential drug for the treatment of COVID-19. Producing medical-use oxygen is a complex process, but having the material available is a life-or-death issue. In the production of oxygen, the air is cooled down to minus 186 degrees Celsius. The gas condenses and, once liquefied, is transported in tanker trucks to hospitals, where it is introduced into tanks returning it to the gas state to be administered to patients. According to General Manager of OxiCuba S.A., José Manuel Gámez, Cuba worked from 1997 to 1998 to create its own oxygen-producing capabilities, but the main plant which supplied 95% of the island’s supply suffered a breakdown on May 26 this year.

The blockade, Rodríguez said, had been carefully designed to provoke the maximum damage to the Cuban people. He mentioned, in particular, the 200 new restrictions that were imposed by the Trump regime. While some progress was made during the Obama era, he said, the blockade continues.

Rodríguez called on Biden to honor commitments he made to roll back the Trump sanctions, highlighting three important areas: remittances sent from Cubans abroad to the island, lifting of restrictions on travel, and restoration of consular services by the U.S. in Cuba.

Rodríguez cited the difficulties faced by Cuban citizens in getting visas to the U.S. Any Cuban citizen wishing to travel to the U.S. must travel to Guyana to apply for a visa. As part of the process, the applicant must show proof of having had a medical examination; however, medical exams done by Cuban doctors are not accepted, and the applicants are forced to pay exorbitant costs for examinations by Guyanese doctors.

Rodríguez also addressed the demonstrations that occurred in early July in Cuba. He singled out six Miami-based social media sites in asserting that many acts of violence and vandalism had been incited by private Facebook and Instagram groups. Evidence has emerged of payments having been offered for attacks on police, he reported. One demonstrator was killed when a policeman had to use deadly force in defending himself from attack. While some demonstrators were briefly detained, none were held and most were released with cautions.

Rodríguez decried the use of false images by media in reporting on the July events. For example, crowd scenes from Egypt and Argentina were presented as anti-government crowds in Cuba and a demonstration of government supporters, led by Cuba President Miguel Diaz-Canel, was described as a demonstration of government opponents.

Rodríguez reflected on the challenges faced by the Cuban people as the blockade’s severe restrictions magnified the damage of the pandemic. Nevertheless, as difficult as the challenges are, he said, it’s not as bad as it was during the “special period” which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now 63, Rodríguez was elected in 1990 at age 32 to the Central Committee of the country’s Communist Party, just before the beginning of the “special period.” The year 1994 was particularly bad, he recalled, but today’s young Cubans, such as his own son who is 21, don’t remember that period. Even during this pandemic, he noted, basic development projects have not been abandoned.

A girl gets a dose of the Cuban-made Soberana-02 vaccine for COVID-19 in Havana, Aug. 24, 2021. The Cuban vaccine has proven to be just as effective as Pfizer’s. | Ramon Espinosa / AP

In fact, despite the blockade, the pandemic situation in Cuba compares favorably to that of the rest of the hemisphere, and the Cuban public health system has managed to keep the fatality rate much lower. A vaccine developed in Cuba is as effective as the U.S.-made Pfizer vaccine, Rodríguez reported. That vaccine is being used in Haiti, where Cuban doctors were present before the pandemic and where they continue their humanitarian work. In addition, Cuba has recently sent many doses to Vietnam. The oxygen plant was restored to full operation in late September and depleted backup oxygen supplies across the island are being replenished.

The pandemic has had the effect of weakening imperialism, Rodríguez argued. Imperialism, he said, had held itself up as some kind of model or ideal. “This was starkly revealed as false. The pandemic revealed the worst face of imperialism and its near total dysfunction,” he declared.

Rodríguez expressed his confidence in progress and a future of prosperity and social justice. He predicted that the U.S. will no longer be able to impose conditions unilaterally. He emphasized the importance of support and solidarity of the progressive and fair-minded people in the U.S. Although imperialism remains powerful, he contended, “No force can obstruct such support and solidarity.”

Roberta Wood contributed to this story.

Author: Gary Bono is an activist and retired transit worker writing from New York.

Source: People’s World, October 27, 2021, https://peoplesworld.org/article/cuban-foreign-minister-tells-u-s-audience-of-blockades-impact-on-covid-fight/

Forty-seven trillion dollars: exploitation writ large / by Greg Godels

“Exploitation” is a word seldom encountered today. Its common usage roughly spans the heyday of socialist thinking, especially the era of Marx’s influence over socialist theory. It was and should still be the cornerstone of Marx’s critique of capitalism.

But the idea of labor exploitation– capitalists taking uncompensated advantage of workers’ labor– has largely disappeared outside of the Communist Parties. It is more common to find the word attached to sexual or animal abuse, cultural appropriation, or other sins outside the bounds of class. But class exploitation, the structural exploitation once fruitfully viewed as the centerpiece of capitalist relations of production, the basis for the era of capitalism, is out of fashion with today’s Western left.

That’s not to deny a concerted outrage over inequality of income and wealth; certainly, the broad spectrum of opinion from the center to the left decries the vast gap between the obscenely wealthy and those equally obscenely impoverished. But there is little attention paid to how that enormous chasm is produced and continually reproduced. Nor is there much imagination of life without it.

Hopefully that might change.

A recent article in Time magazine– a popularization of a scholarly paper from the staid, ultra-conservative Rand Corporation– declares dramatically in sensational headlines: America’s 1% Has Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%.

The Rand paper, Trends in Incomes From 1975 to 2018 argues with a great deal more nuance, but equal force, that if the thirty-year (1945-1975) trend of household income distribution had been maintained over the next forty-two years (1976-2018), the bottom 90% would have earned $47 trillion more over that period! 

Put another way, the bottom 90% would have received 67% more income than it actually did in the one year, 2018– the final year of the study; those below the upper 10% threshold would share $2.5 trillion more than they actually received for their labor, $2.5 trillion in 2018 that went instead into the bank accounts of the highest 10% of earners.

As the authors of the Time article emphasize,
“This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation…”, but a rigorous conclusion based upon the premise that 1945 to 1975 was a period of relative stability of inequality. That is, in the thirty-year post-war period, the gap between the rich and everyone else grew little and declined little. The French elites celebrate a similar era in Europe with the expression “les trente glorieuse”– the thirty glorious years of relative prosperity. The majority maintained its lower status, but lost little ground to the rich.

While the Rand authors, C. Price and K. Edwards, do not explain this ‘equilibrium’ of inequality, an explanation is readily at hand. The Western powers were in an intense, winner-take-all competition with socialism and its friends after World War II. The ruling classes made an unspoken compact with respective labor movements in Europe and the US that they would encourage the idea that labor’s income would move proportionally with increases in productivity, effectively “freezing” social inequality in place.

In return, labor was expected to accommodate, even participate in Cold War foreign policy and embrace capitalism. In the political sphere, this compact guaranteed that the urge to reform or change would be contained in the Democratic Party or the European Social Democracies. Where mass Communist Parties emerged, the securities services would go to any length to aid and abet the center-left in denying them access to power.

In the US, the informal compact produced the purging of the left in the labor movement, cultural and intellectual conformity, and entrenchment of the two-party system.

As Price and Edwards demonstrate, the stability of income distribution, of class-income differences, changed dramatically after 1975. Income distribution shifted sharply to the benefit of the top 10% and even more so to the top 1%. The shift was so great in the post-1975 period that the authors calculate that 90% lost $47 trillion by 2018. But, again, they have no clear and comprehensive explanation, beyond noting that the “rise in inequality has been attributed to many different factors including technological advancement, decline in union membership, and globalization.”

While these conventionally cited factors may well have played some role in the shift in income distribution, they were hardly sufficient to explain the extremely sharp turn that Price and Edwards show.

Rather, the reversal came with the profound economic crisis of the 1970s: the oil crisis and intractable stagnation and inflation, two conditions that conventional economics (then Keynesian-influenced) could not even conceive of as occurring together. The concurrent fall in the rate of profit forced a radical reexamination of policy on the part of the ruling class (in the US as well as Europe). Welfare policies and class accommodation were jettisoned for a raw, no-holds barred assault on the income and living standards of the 90%.

With the decline and disappearance of Soviet and Eastern European power, a decade or more later, the last elements of the post-war compact with labor and its allies were also jettisoned. The US ruling class perceived no need for any further accommodation with US working people. Capital mobility and the availability of an enormous new pool of skilled, but low-cost labor capped the period and placed enormous pressure on the incomes of Price and Edward’s 90%. Labor unions received this shock treatment and, without a militant left, struggled to respond. New logistical technologies smoothed the way for a sharp increase in global trade, investments, and job migration.

While Price and Edwards struggle with an explanation for the qualitative changes that occurred after 1975, Marxist theory offers a ready answer. Capital mounted a concerted offensive in the 1970s resulting in a massive increase in the rate of exploitation in response to a profound crisis and the failure of the policies of the immediate postwar era to answer that crisis. 

With the rate of profit under siege, the US ruling class unilaterally cast aside the Cold War compromises and ruthlessly attacked the income and living standards of the working-class majority. Wages have been essentially stagnant since the 1970s, while productivity and national product have grown, filling the coffers of the corporations and the bank accounts of the rich.

Characterizing this period as the rise of “neoliberalism,” as much of the left favors, obfuscates the deeper processes that spawned the dramatic shift in the rate of exploitation, the appropriation of an additional $47 trillion from one class to another in a forty-two year span. It wasn’t an intellectual victory in the policy wars, a spark of evil intent, the domination of the political right, or a temporary or contingent aberration of capitalism, but a strategic adaptation– accepted by nearly the entire ruling class and its political minions— in the appropriation of surplus value– the exploitation of labor– that accounts for the dramatic gains of the capitalist class and its hangers-on. 

Though they were agents in the change, Carter, Reagan, and Thatcher were only the faces of another stage in capitalism’s course correction. Those who think that the super-exploitation exposed by Price and Edwards can be tempered by a return to the “glory” of the immediate postwar period fail to understand the logic of capitalism. That period has long given way to a new dynamic. 

But the Price and Edward revelations succeed in exposing an important point. If the super-exploitation of the last forty-two years– the appropriation of the $47 trillion– is recognized as unjust, as the Time headline suggests, then the “ordinary” exploitation of the previous period is equally unjust since both lead directly to inequalities.

There is no escaping the conclusion that the economic inequality that more and more people are rejecting is itself deeply rooted in capitalism and its profit-generating, exploitative mechanism. Surely the scope of super-exploitation that Price and Edwards spotlight should challenge the legitimacy of capitalism, not only as it is today, but also how it was before it took a vicious turn. 

Source: ZZ’s Blog, October27, 2021, https://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/2021/10/forty-seven-trillion-dollars.html