AFL-CIO, union leaders, call for fast confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to SCOTUS / by Special to the People’s World

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a U.S. Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in her office at the court in Washington on Feb., 18, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin | AP

The following statement issued by the AFL-CIO was prepared by Liz Shuler, the president of the federation:

“We applaud the historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Jackson has had a distinguished legal career, and she is eminently qualified for this critical lifetime position.

“Working people need a champion on the bench who will defend and protect our civil rights, including our right to organize in the workplace. Judge Jackson has a strong legal track record of fighting on behalf of working people, including during her tenure as an assistant federal public defender in Washington, D.C., and we are confident that she will bring that leadership to the highest court in the land.

“Representation matters and that is especially true in our nation’s legal system, which can disproportionately impact or lift up Black and Brown communities. Today’s nomination aligns with President Biden’s ongoing efforts to diversify the roster of individuals who are nominated and confirmed for the judiciary.

“Being the first is never easy and Judge Jackson is doing what so many women have done before her, breaking barriers to ensure that she is not the last. We call on the U.S. Senate to deliver a speedy and fair confirmation process.”

AFGE National President Everett Kelley: “While serving as U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Jackson issued a deciding ruling in a lawsuit brought by AFGE and a dozen other unions challenging a set of executive orders issued by the Trump administration that illegally denied workers their right to representation. That single ruling safeguarded federal workers’ union rights and demonstrated the limits of a corrupt administration. Her reasoning demonstrated exactly the kind of principled, independent judicial thinking that should be a hallmark of the highest court in our land.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders: “Judge Jackson is a brilliant, fair-minded jurist committed to advancing civil rights and protecting equal justice under the law. Her lived experience and professional background reflect the nation’s diversity and show a deep understanding of the challenges facing everyday working families. She is uniquely qualified to serve on the highest court in the land, and we urge the Senate to move quickly on her nomination.”

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten: “The work of the Supreme Court impacts all of our daily lives. In nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the bench, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have chosen an experienced, exceptionally qualified jurist who is devoted to the rule of law, the Constitution, and our country’s rich history of democracy and freedom. Her life story is the story of America.”

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) International President Sara Nelson: “AFA first noticed Judge Brown Jackson in AFGE v. Trump when she ruled in favor of federal workers, issuing an injunction to halt three Trump executive orders that gutted collective bargaining rights, due process, and union rights. Judge Brown Jackson has a long record of protecting the constitutional rights of workers and everyday people. We urge swift confirmation of this eminently qualified jurist.”

Electrical Workers (IBEW) International President Lonnie Stephenson: “Judge Jackson has long stood with working people and is one of our nation’s brightest legal minds. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Judge Jackson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer before working as a public defender in Washington, D.C., where she won uncommon victories for her clients. She has served as Vice-Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission, as a judge for the United States district court for the District of Columbia, and as a United States circuit court judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It was in this role that she invalidated a 2020 rule by the Federal Labor Relations Authority that had restricted the bargaining power of federal-sector labor unions. These exceptional credentials, combined with Judge Jackson’s unimpeachable character and unwavering dedication to the rule of law, will serve her well as she serves the American people on the highest court in the land.”

Machinists (IAM) International President Robert Martinez Jr.: “Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of our nation’s brightest legal minds, is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. As a federal judge and in both private and public practice, Judge Jackson has built a lifetime record of fighting for the freedoms of all people. IAM and NFFE-IAM members in the federal sector saw her stand with them to block the Trump administration’s campaign to gut their collective bargaining rights.”

School Administrators (AFSA) President Ernest Logan: “Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court offers our nation a jurist with great experience and extraordinary qualifications. It shows America is moving forward, expanding representation and adding the voices of those who have not had an opportunity to serve on the nation’s highest court. It is inspiring not only for me but also for the next generation of children, who will understand they can do anything if the playing field is level.”

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART): “We commend President Biden’s historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Her experience, credentials, dedication to public service, and commitment to the rule of law illustrate that she will safeguard the rights and freedoms of working people. While serving as an appeals court judge, Judge Jackson issued a ruling ending a Trump administration policy that restricted collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers. The U.S. Supreme Court should reflect the diversity of the communities that it serves, and this nomination is an important step in helping achieve a fair judicial system. We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm her nomination.”

UAW President Ray Curry: “Judge Jackson played a key role in the U.S. Sentencing Commission on criminal justice reform and showed a keen understanding of the implications of the law on everyday lives. She has been a private attorney and a public defender and is recognized as one of the bright legal minds of our generation.”

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway: “As union members, we know all too well the profound impact that Supreme Court decisions can have on the everyday lives of American workers and families. We look forward to having an even-handed justice in Judge Jackson who is committed to upholding the American ideals of democracy, liberty, and equal opportunity for all. Judge Jackson has proven time and again that she has the credentials and the character to serve on our nation’s highest court. She has, for good reason, received bipartisan support for her two previous nominations. Senate leaders should move forward as soon as possible to make sure that her nomination to the Supreme Court receives the fair hearing and the swift confirmation that it deserves.”

Alliance for Retired Americans President Robert Roach Jr.: “Judge Jackson is exceptionally qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. We have every confidence that she will safeguard the civil rights of all Americans, including protecting older workers from discrimination and defending the right of every worker to join a union. We call on the Senate to confirm her quickly.”

A. Philip Randolph Institute Philadelphia Chapter President Thelma Clements: “We congratulate Judge Jackson on her nomination. She will bring exceptional credentials and extensive litigation experience at every level of the federal court system. As a District Court judge, she ruled on over 550 cases and is renowned for her careful, methodical approach to ensuring equal justice under law on reproductive rights, disability rights, and workers’ rights. This historic nomination confirms an end to the omission of women, especially black women in our legal institutions.”

Democracy Initiative Executive Director Charly Carter: “Judge Jackson will not only be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She will also be the first ever justice with a background as a public defender, bringing a vital perspective on individual rights to our nation’s judicial system. Her recent decision affirming the workplace rights of federal employees shows that Judge Brown Jackson is sensitive to the needs of working people, a welcome addition to a Court that has too often ignored the needs of working families.”

Michigan State AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber: “Judge Jackson has already proven her dedication to working families in the United States during her tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals and as an assistant federal public defender. The Michigan AFL-CIO is confident that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will use her years of legal experience to fight for working people as our country’s next U.S. Supreme Court Justice.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey: “North America’s Building Trades Unions applauds President Biden’s historical nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Throughout her career, Judge Jackson has called balls and strikes fairly in our justice system, stood up for democracy, and upheld the Constitution for the betterment of the American people. Her record demonstrates a deep understanding and concern for economic justice, workers’ rights, and the right to collectively bargain. Judge Jackson’s remarkable reputation and impeccable experience will serve America well at the highest court, and we look forward to her swift and bipartisan Senate confirmation.”

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

PW, February 27, 2022,

The U.S. is preparing war with China and Russia at the same time / by Deborah Veneziale

This was originally written for a Chinese audience and adapted and published in Guancha. —Eds.

ussian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics on 21 February means that tensions in Eastern Ukraine are likely to continue to rise, which is exactly what U.S. foreign policy wants to promote. Three days ago, Foreign Policy published an article on its website titled “Washington Must Prepare for War with Both Russia and China.” According to the article,

The United States remains the world’s leading power with global interests, and it cannot afford to choose between Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Instead, Washington and its allies should develop a defense strategy capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating Russia and China at the same time.

Matthew Kroenig, the author of this article, is from the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security-Atlantic Council, which published the Longer Telegram last year and advocated for comprehensive containment of China. As a key U.S. defense think tank, this article by the Scowcroft Center reflects the current mainstream U.S. diplomatic and military view of China and Russia, to which China should pay attention.

Fighting two wars at the same time

According to Kroenig’s article, “A major war in Ukraine may cross international borders and threaten the seven NATO allies bordering Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine…while other vulnerable Eastern European countries, Poland, Romania, or the Baltic states, may be the next target”, despite the fact that both Russia and Ukraine have stated that they have no desire in starting a war. Philip Davidson, a former commander of the U.S. India-Pakistan Command, was quoted in the article as saying that “China may invade Taiwan within the next six years…If China succeeds in gaining control of Taiwan, it will continue to undermine the American-led Asian order”. The U.S. feels threatened by the vacillation of its “global security commitment” with these possibilities.

In the eyes of the U.S., China and Russia are the two most important adversaries: their vast territory, long history, profound national culture, and strategic nuclear weapons are all threats to American global hegemony. According to the U.S., the only way to eliminate the threat is that the two great powers’ submit to U.S.’ global hegemony. As regards Russia, which has yet to recover from its weakness, the U.S. hopes to completely dismantle it and destroy its nuclear weapons, causing it to lose all global influence. As regards China, which has a more united people, a more stable ruling party, and a healthier economy, the U.S. hopes to overthrow its leaders through a “color revolution” and gradually erode the Chinese people’s faith in communism. Maintaining military containment of both countries is, in Kroenig’s view, a non-negotiable premise.

“The U.S. will not be forced to make distressing strategic choices about its national security due to limited resources”, Kroenig asserted. In order to support “defeating Russia and China in overlapping timeframes”, Kroenig proposes that the U.S. increase its defense spending. At market prices, although not in real terms, measured in purchasing power parities (PPPs) the U.S. accounts for 24% of global GDP, while China and Russia together account for only 19%. Against the backdrop of the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Kroenig not only argues against any cuts to military spending, but to double it to 5.6% of U.S. GDP, close to the percentage of the GDP spent on defense during the Cold War, because “this new Cold War is just as dangerous as the last one”.

Another proposal is to include U.S. “key allies in military planning, sharing responsibilities, and streamlining the division of labor for weapons procurement”. With the U.S. and its formal treaty allies accounting for nearly 60% of global GDP, Kroenig suggests that the U.S. supplement existing alliances (e.g., NATO, bilateral alliances in Asia) with new arrangements like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to “more easily mobilize resources and maintain military superiority over China and Russia”. He suggested that U.S. European allies invest in armor and artillery, while Asian allies purchase mines, harpoon missiles, and submarines, and the U.S. Army prioritizes Europe while the U.S. Navy handles the Indo-Pacific.

Kroenig finally put nuclear weapons on the table. “Relying more on nuclear weapons to offset our adversary’s local conventional advantage [is necessary]”, he states. He goes on to explain that “The U.S. can rely on threatening non-strategic nuclear strikes as a deterrent and as a last resort to thwart China’s amphibious invasion of Taiwan or Russia’s tank invasion of Europe”.

A continuation of decades of strategy toward Russia

The current U.S. policy towards Russia is not a blip on the radar, but a continuation of a decades-long Cold War strategy. In 1972, shortly after Kissinger’s secret visit to China, he told President Nixon that the Chinese were “just as dangerous as the Russians, and even more dangerous in certain historical periods”. He hoped that Washington could take advantage of Moscow and Beijing by playing “an unemotional balance of the power game”. In Kissinger’s view, 20 years later, the U.S. would lean towards Russia to restrain China,  if it could first use China to weaken the Soviet Union. Subsequent U.S. administrations (both Democrat and Republican) followed through on this strategy, working with China and weakening the Soviet Union, hastening its collapse.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 did not fully satisfy the U.S. During Yeltsin’s administration, the U.S. failed to persuade Russia—like Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan—to give up its nuclear weapons altogether. After the U.S. withdrew from the 1972 ABM Treaty in 2001, Russia also withdrew from the START II Treaty. At this time, Russia still deployed more than 5,000 strategic nuclear warheads and maintained a strong influence in Eastern Europe. The goal of the U.S. is to further weaken or destroy Russia economically, destabilize its politics, confuse the Russian people, and eventually dismantle Russia into smaller countries, and most importantly, eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

Dismembered Russia in Western Conception.

Washington, however, underestimated the patriotic sentiments of the Russian people. Historically, Russia has suffered many invasions by Western European countries, including Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the 14-state alliance’s armed intervention in the nascent Soviet regime in 1918, and the German fascist invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, which resulted in tens of millions of military and civilian casualties. The Soviet Union and China made the greatest sacrifices in the world war against fascism, shaping strong nationalism and patriotism in both countries at the same time. Patriotism became the most important factor influencing Russian politics, and every political party was judged by how they defended their country. Especially after the difficult period following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian people today are not as easily deceived as the U.S. might expect, and President Vladimir Putin has always enjoyed a high approval rating. Despite prolonged U.S. economic sanctions and domestic “color revolutions,” the Russian regime has remained stable for a long time. Eventually, the U.S. decided to escalate tensions in Ukraine on its own initiative, imposing the threat of war on the people of Eastern Ukraine and forcing Russia to defend itself, thus finding a pretext to launch a larger round of hybrid war and economic sanctions against Russia.

Contrary to Kroenig’s alarmist remarks in his article, Russia never claimed invasion amidst the Eastern Ukraine tensions, but complete self-defense. Donetsk and Luhansk, the two affected regions, have, historically, closer ties to Russia than to Ukraine. In the mid-18th century, Tsarina Ekaterina II developed the area into an industrial town, renamed it “New Russia” and migrated a large number of ethnic Russians to the land. Western Ukraine was occupied by Lithuanians, Poles, Austrians, Russians, and Germans for centuries, thus different from Russia ethnically, linguistically, and religiously. Its inhabitants have a lower sense of identity and even deep hostility towards Russia. In recent years, neo-Nazi forces have grown stronger in Western Ukraine, as exemplified by torchlight parades in cities like Kyiv and Lviv to commemorate the birth of Stepan Bandera, a Nazi leader. During the previous conflicts, ultra-nationalists in Western Ukraine raised Nazi banners and threatened to kill all Eastern Ukrainians and pro-Russians. Ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine had to organize resistance and seek assistance from Russia. Public opinion in Russia also agreed that Putin should help their Russian compatriots in the Eastern Ukraine region.

NATO’s eastward expansion has pushed the security issue in Ukraine to a boiling point. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand eastward because its original mission—to confront the Soviet Union and contain communism in Europe—had come to an end when the Cold War ceased. However, NATO reneged on this “gentleman’s agreement” after the Cold War by adopting 14 more member countries, including some former members of the Soviet Union. In 2018, Ukraine amended its constitution to make attaining NATO and EU membership its primary national strategy, which posed a serious threat to Russia’s national security. As Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, is only 760 kilometers in a straight line from Moscow, giving permission to NATO to deploy ultra-high-sonic nuclear weapons in Ukraine would almost certainly mean the total military surrender of Russia.

NATO’s Eastward Expansion.

After the end of the Cold War, the driving forces behind U.S. diplomatic strategy have gone beyond the containment of communism, coveting unquestionable and permanent hegemony in the military and economic arenas. In the strategic vision of the U.S., Russia should be disarmed to become part of Europe as a “sidekick” and a bridgehead to contain China, the “more dangerous enemy” as Kissinger described it. But the Russians’ history and current international status have made it unacceptable for them to be a “sidekick” to follow a U.S.-led Europe. Moreover, Putin is already suspicious of U.S. credibility in international affairs. There is no question that the Russian government had no desire in starting a war, not only because of the inevitable U.S. and Western European economic sanctions, but also because Putin does not want to put China in a dilemma. The tension in Eastern Ukraine today is a microcosm of U.S.-Russian relations: the U.S. is pressing forward, and Russia has no space to retreat.

Consensus of U.S. elite

When the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security released its report The Longer Telegraph last year, Chinese intellectuals accurately pointed out that the report was rife with antiquated worldviews, outdated methodologies, and poor-quality content. However, this does not mean that this report, and Kroenig’s recent article, should not be taken seriously by China.

In the field of U.S. foreign policy, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Atlantic Council, and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) are three of the most important U.S. think tanks, and all three consistently adopt a Cold War perspective on China and Russia. The CFR, the most influential in the diplomatic field, has produced an eye-opening timeline of “U.S.-China Relations: 1949-2021,” in which the vast majority of nodes reveal confrontation rather than—as many Chinese scholars would have it—friendly cooperation. CNAS was founded in 2007 when the U.S. political elite began to realize that China’s future leaders would not be the next Gorbachev or Yeltsin, and therefore needed to “design a path for U.S. engagement with China…to encourage a more responsible Chinese regime”—a euphemism for “containment” or “color revolution.” During the subsequent Obama term, CNAS played a key role in the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy. As for the Atlantic Council, which is mentioned several times in this article, it is a direct supporter of U.S. military hegemony. In the recent conflict in Eastern Ukraine, this think tank was the first to predict that Russia would “invade” Ukraine. The Atlantic Council has been involved in the war in Afghanistan, the Jasmine Revolution in North Africa, and the “Occupy Central” movement in Hong Kong. These think tanks are deeply integrated with the traditional military-industrial complex, forming a complete chain of inciting, manufacturing, and implementing hybrid warfare.

Despite the current deep bipartisan divide in the U.S., there is a high degree of agreement on foreign policy: Russia must be weakened and dismembered; China is the greatest threat to U.S. imperialist hegemony. While the U.S. economy has not recovered from the 2008 Financial Crisis and has recently been hit by the pandemic, China’s remarkable performance in these two rounds of global disasters makes it a strong challenger to U.S. economic hegemony. In purchasing power parity terms, China’s GDP has surpassed that of the United States in 2013; even in market exchange terms, China’s GDP will surpass that of the United States in 2028. The U.S. political elite is well aware that it will be difficult to defeat and contain China economically, so they have every incentive to resort to hybrid wars (including economic sanctions, legal wars, propaganda wars, etc.) and even hot wars to maintain U.S. hegemony.

John Bellamy Foster of the Monthly Review points out that the United States faces many intractable internal conflicts today, and that Trump, elected to the presidency by disaffected Americans, represents not populism but a brutal, war-hungry neo-fascism. And Biden and the Democratic Party have no contradiction with the Republican Party on the point of being anti-Russian and anti-Chinese. Pompeo, who served as secretary of state in the Trump administration and is likely to run for President in 2024, is a more rational and efficient neo-fascist, ready to plot a war in Taiwan; he will reportedly visit Taiwan this March to meet with “President” Tsai. It looks like he is already pushing the Atlantic Council’s proposed strategy of “defeating Russia and China in overlapping timeframes”.

The U.S. political elite may seem foolish and arrogant compared to China’s governance model of “selecting the noble and appointing the capable,” but our friends in China need to understand that these political elites have the will, resources, and power to wage two wars against China and Russia at the same time and are not afraid to use nuclear weapons. Their danger is not lessened by their stupidity and arrogance. Many Chinese still regard Nixon and Kissinger as “old friends of the Chinese people” after even 50 years since President Nixon visited China. But the reality is that relations between China and the United States are entering a long, cold winter, and the American political elite is already in cold war mode and are ready for a hot war.

Deborah Veneziale is an American journalist and editor who has worked in the global supply chain sector for 35 years. She is currently living in Venice, Italy.

MR Online, February 27, 2022,

Xi: Pursuit of human rights remains priority / by Cao Desheng

President notes huge strides, says Party has safeguarded social equity, justice

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, has emphasized unswerving adherence to China’s path of human rights development, saying that whether human rights are upheld in a country cannot be judged by the criteria of others.

While presiding over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Friday, Xi also said human rights cannot be detached from the context of countries’ different social and political conditions, history and cultural traditions. Therefore, the practices of applying double standards or using human rights issues as political tools to interfere in others’ internal affairs must be opposed, he added.

Noting that respecting and protecting human rights is a persistent pursuit of the Party, Xi said that since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Party has continued to make the respect for and protection of human rights an important agenda of national governance, and has prompted historic achievements in China’s human rights development.

The problem of absolute poverty has been resolved, and whole-process people’s democracy has been further developed, social equity and justice firmly safeguarded, and the world’s largest education, social security and healthcare systems established, Xi said while highlighting some of the progress in human rights development.

He added that China has effectively responded to COVID-19 to protect the health and safety of the people to the greatest extent possible, and the nation maintains that all ethnic groups across the country are equal, respects people’s religious beliefs, and safeguards the lawful rights and interests of people of all ethnic groups.

China has ensured long-term social stability, and it is the only major country in the world that has consecutively formulated and enforced four national human rights action plans, Xi said.

In September, China issued its fourth human rights action plan, which lists a range of goals for the 2021-25 period, including economic, social and cultural rights, civil and political rights, education and environment rights, and minority group rights.

It also reiterates that the Chinese government will hold fast to its people-centered approach and exert itself to meet the people’s growing expectations for human rights protection.

In the practice of advancing the cause of human rights, China has blazed a path of human rights development that is consistent with the trend of the times and suits the nation’s conditions, Xi said.

Upholding the Party’s leadership can ensure that people are the master of the country and people’s fundamental interests can be realized, safeguarded and well developed, Xi said.

He underlined the importance of protecting the people’s democratic rights to enable the people to be the participants, promoters and beneficiaries of the country’s human rights development, saying that concrete efforts must be made to advance people’s all-around development and the common prosperity of the whole of the people.

Saying that promoting human rights development should be based on national conditions, Xi stressed the need to ensure that people enjoy extensive, full, tangible and specific human rights that are effective and workable.

He said that living a happy life is the biggest human right for the people. The people-centered development philosophy must be upheld to strive for higher-quality, more efficient, much fairer, more sustainable and more secure development to allow the people to have a better sense of fulfillment, happiness and security.

Xi underscored the importance of protecting human rights in accordance with the law, urging efforts to improving legal systems to protect people’s life, property and other political rights.

He also emphasized actively promoting global governance on human rights, upholding the common values of humanity, and advancing the global governance on human rights in a fairer, more equitable, rational and inclusive direction.

Top photo: Tourists pose for a group selfie in front of the Temple of Heaven during the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday in Beijing, on Oct 4, 2020 | Xinhua

China Daily, Februray 28, 2022,

No moral high ground while Europe pursues a policy of death at its borders / by Martin Aidnik

Europe’s treatment of migrants and refugees at its border is in clear contradiction to its alleged defense of human rights and against international law

Europe’s treatment of refugees has come under increased scrutiny over the last several years. Brute force, deterrence, including push backs and barbed wire fences have become the instruments with which European governments have used to respond to the influx of irregular migration and refugees. Far-right leaders such as Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, and Viktor Orban have exerted a decisive influence on the politics behind this response. This has been accompanied by the rise of far-right groups and parties which have over the last decade have swayed opinions of large sections of populations across Europe. It is a sharp contrast from former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initially stated welcoming attitude towards refugees (Wir Schaffen das, We can do it). The “Fortress Europe” mentality which has become mainstream speaks to a callous disregard for humanity with authoritarian tendencies.

Although Member States of the European Union repeatedly chose to circumvent supranational institutions in order to stem the tide of refugees, they have been emboldened by the conduct of the EU. The Mediterranean can be considered the deadliest border in the world. It is the veritable global epicenter of lethal border crossings.

Outsourcing border control to Libya

Over the past years, as the EU and its Member States have decreased their maritime search and rescue operations, the Libyan Coast Guard has increased its role in intercepting migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea and returning them to Libya. In 2020, at least 10,352 migrants were intercepted and returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard, compared to at least 8,403 in 2019.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has repeatedly stressed that Libya cannot be considered a safe place for the return or disembarkation of migrants intercepted or rescued at sea. Furthermore, such returns may constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulment, which forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in danger of persecution. Migrants returned to Libya systematically face the risk of death, disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and gender-based violence by both State and non-State actors.

Pressure from the EU and Italy has been decisive in making Libya more proactive in search and rescue/interception operations. The country has also dramatically increased their search and rescue zone, barring NGOs from entering their waters.

Among the EU’s machinations with Libya is the unlawful policy whereby the Frontex (European Border and Coast Guard Agency) flight crews or drones provide coordinates of refugee vessels to the Libyan coast crew for interception (or so-called ‘pull-backs’). This coordination has paved the way for Member States’ further human rights violations (for instance, Greece’s decision to stop accepting asylum applications in 2020). This strategy has relied on a denial of Europe’s responsibility for Libyan coast guard operations. Brussels and Rome have flouted international law in the name of controlling migration.

Table 1. Migrant deaths by route from 2014 to August 12, 2021 (IOM Missing Migrants Project 2021).

The violations of non-refoulement principle through cooperation with the Libyan state and criminalization of NGO search and rescue operations are some of the key policies that exemplify what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the “lethal disregard” shown by the current EU’s migration regime. It thus should not come as a surprise that a recent inquiry into search and rescue and the protection of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea, titled “Lethal Disregard: Search and rescue and the protection of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea,” argued that the real tragedy of the death and damage along the central Mediterranean route is that so much of it is preventable. If saving lives was a priority, then, Frontex would be above all else a rescue agency instead of a border-patrolling security enforcement at the EU’s external border. Nation states and Frontex would clearly also cooperate with NGOs. However, in reality, Italy and Spain have criminalized a large part of the search and rescue activities of NGOs.

At Europe’s doorstep, the Mediterranean, the EU’s and the nation states’ defense of territorial sovereignty is prevailing against humanitarian efforts to save lives. Those who dare to try to enter Europe’s closed border risk perishing. This is a calamity which continues daily — each new sunken vessel fails to bring change. Sporadic, ritualized mourning attended by Europe’s political classes fails to conceal that racialized refugee lives matter little in Europe and for the EU.

Passing responsibility for these (avoidable) deaths on smugglers or blaming refugees’ recklessness means that European institutions and states often shirk theirs. The EU, as a force for a better, more livable world, is on its way to becoming irrelevant, something that was obvious well before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is what is principally at stake today, rather than the Union’s ability to survive an authoritarian nationalist turn in Europe, which has not helped its cause.

The refugee calamity that occurred at the border of Poland and Belarus in December 2021 is another instance of ‘hardening of hearts’ towards people seeking access to Europe. Refugees from mainly Iraq but also from Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries were trapped in a no man’s land between Poland and Belarus in sub-zero temperatures, with limited access to food, water and shelter. Regular push backs of refugees were carried out by Polish border guards. At least 21 deaths were recorded along the border areas in this period. This signifies a declining importance of the 1951 Refugee Convention which shaped the humanitarian refugee policy of postwar Europe. The right to seek and be given refuge was an integral part of this policy. But 70 years on, proliferating barriers and fences together with a defensive rhetoric testify to far harsher conditions on the increasingly inward-looking continent.

The freezing to death of 19 refugees at the beginning of this month near the border of Greece and Turkey should dispel hopes that 2022 will be different and more hospitable. Circumstances surrounding this tragic incident remain unclear: Greece denies that its guards deliberately pushed people back across the border to deny them entry. Instead, the country argues that Turkey should shoulder the blame for its inability to stop vulnerable people undertaking such a dangerous journey. What we, however, do know is that another 12 lives have been lost at the hands of either state violence or criminal state negligence. The impunity of violent states and the suffering inflicted by border enforcement practices continues unabated in Europe.

Top photo: Rescue operation on the Mediterranean Sea carried out by MSF in August 2020 | MSF/Hannah Wallace Bowman

Martin Aidnik is an Estonian sociologist and Postdoctoral Fellow at Nottingham University, England. His interests include European Studies and Utopian Social Thought.

Peoples Dispatch , February 27, 2022,

Russia, Ukraine and the chronicle of a war foretold / by Chris Hedges

I was in Eastern Europe in 1989, reporting on the revolutions that overthrew the ossified communist dictatorships that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a time of hope. NATO, with the breakup of the Soviet empire, became obsolete. President Mikhail Gorbachev reached out to Washington and Europe to build a new security pact that would include Russia. Secretary of State James Baker in the Reagan administration, along with the West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, assured the Soviet leader that if Germany was unified NATO would not be extended beyond the new borders. The commitment not to expand NATO, also made by Great Britain and France, appeared to herald a new global order. We saw the peace dividend dangled before us, the promise that the massive expenditures on weapons that characterized the Cold War would be converted into expenditures on social programs and infrastructures that had long been neglected to feed the insatiable appetite of the military.

There was a near universal understanding among diplomats and political leaders at the time that any attempt to expand NATO was foolish, an unwarranted provocation against Russia that would obliterate the ties and bonds that happily emerged at the end of the Cold War.

How naive we were. The war industry did not intend to shrink its power or its profits. It set out almost immediately to recruit the former Communist Bloc countries into the European Union and NATO. Countries that joined NATO, which now include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia were forced to reconfigure their militaries, often through hefty loans, to become compatible with NATO military hardware.

There would be no peace dividend. The expansion of NATO swiftly became a multi-billion-dollar bonanza for the corporations that had profited from the Cold War. (Poland, for example, just agreed to spend $ 6 billion on M1 Abrams tanks and other U.S. military equipment.) If Russia would not acquiesce to again being the enemy, then Russia would be pressured into becoming the enemy. And here we are. On the brink of another Cold War, one from which only the war industry will profit while, as W. H. Auden wrote, the little children die in the streets.

Firefighters hose down a burning building following a rocket attack on Kiev, Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022. Photo | AP

The consequences of pushing NATO up to the borders with Russia — there is now a NATO missile base in Poland 100 miles from the Russian border — were well known to policy makers. Yet they did it anyway. It made no geopolitical sense. But it made commercial sense. War, after all, is a business, a very lucrative one. It is why we spent two decades in Afghanistan although there was near universal consensus after a few years of fruitless fighting that we had waded into a quagmire we could never win.

In a classified diplomatic cable obtained and released by WikiLeaks dated February 1, 2008, written from Moscow, and addressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO-European Union Cooperative, National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State, there was an unequivocal understanding that expanding NATO risked an eventual conflict with Russia, especially over Ukraine.

“Not only does Russia perceive encirclement [by NATO], and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests,” the cable reads.

Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. . . . Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, expressed concern that Ukraine was, in the long-term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership . . . Because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention. Trenin expressed concern that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the U.S. and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.

The Obama administration, not wanting to further inflame tensions with Russia, blocked arms sales to Kiev. But this act of prudence was abandoned by the Trump and Biden administrations. Weapons from the U.S. and Great Britain are pouring into Ukraine, part of the $1.5 billion in promised military aid. The equipment includes hundreds of sophisticated Javelins and NLAW anti-tank weapons despite repeated protests by Moscow.

The United States and its NATO allies have no intention of sending troops to Ukraine. Rather, they will flood the country with weapons, which is what it did in the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.

The conflict in Ukraine echoes the novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  In the novel, it is acknowledged by the narrator that “there had never been a death more foretold” and yet no one was able or willing to stop it. All of us who reported from Eastern Europe in 1989 knew the consequences of provoking Russia, and yet few have raised their voices to halt the madness.  The methodical steps towards war took on a life of their own, moving us like sleepwalkers towards disaster.

Once NATO expanded into Eastern Europe, the Clinton administration promised Moscow that NATO combat troops would not be stationed in Eastern Europe, the defining issue of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations. This promise again turned out to be a lie. Then in 2014, the U.S. backed a coup against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who sought to build an economic alliance with Russia rather than the European Union. Of course, once integrated into the European Union, as seen in the rest of Eastern Europe, the next step is integration into NATO.  Russia, spooked by the coup, alarmed at the overtures by the EU and NATO, then annexed Crimea, largely populated by Russian speakers. And the death spiral that led us to the conflict currently underway in Ukraine became unstoppable.

The war state needs enemies to sustain itself. When an enemy can’t be found, an enemy is manufactured. Putin has become, in the words of Senator Angus King, the new Hitler, out to grab Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. The full-throated cries for war, echoed shamelessly by the press, are justified by draining the conflict of historical context, by elevating ourselves as the saviors and whoever we oppose, from Saddam Hussein to Putin, as the new Nazi leader.

I don’t know where this will end up. We must remember, as Putin reminded us, that Russia is a nuclear power. We must remember that once you open the Pandora’s box of war it unleashes dark and murderous forces no one can control. I know this from personal experience. The match has been lit. The tragedy is that there was never any dispute about how the conflagration would start.

Top photo – A man inspects the damage at a building in Kiev, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 (Photo: Emilio Morenatti | AP)

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

MR Online, February 26, 2022,

Opinion: How Western War-Mongering Led To Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine / by Yanis Iqbal

Russia has launched the invasion of Ukraine. On February 24, 2021, in a televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation”. Within minutes of the broadcast, at about 5 am Ukrainian time, explosions took place near major Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kiev. Since then, strikes have been taking place on Ukrainian military infrastructure, air defense sites, airfields and military aircraft. What are the structural roots of this escalation? 

On February 9, 1990, US Secretary of State James Baker told Mikhail Gorbachev – final leader of the USSR – that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not move “one inch to the east” from the Oder-Neisse line that divides Germany from Poland. Earlier, on January 31, 1990, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher had already declared in a speech that “an expansion of NATO territory to the East, in other words, closer to the borders of the Soviet Union, will not happen.” The UK and France also made the same promise. 

These commitments to non-expansionism were formalized in the Russia-NATO Partnership for Peace (1994), the NATO-Russia Founding Act (1997), and the Charter for European Security by the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) (1999). Imperialist ambitions soon overrode these agreements. In 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO, while in 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were incorporated into the alliance. In other words, NATO’s forces have advanced over 800 miles eastward over the last 30 years, deep inside the borders of the former Soviet Union. 

In 2002, the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan opened up a framework for Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO. This posed a military threat to Russia since NATO missiles from Ukraine could reach Moscow in five minutes. Further, Ukraine is the buffer between Russia and Europe. All the attacks on Russia earlier, from Napoleon to Hitler, came through Ukraine. These security concerns were overlaid with ethnic conflicts. Since the dissolution of the USSR was carried out by a counter-revolutionary elite, no efforts were made to respect the right of nations to their self-determination. 

Ethnic groups which were the majority in the regions they inhabited, for example the Russians of the Crimea and Donbas, were left out of Russia. In fact, one fourth of the Russian nation was left outside Russia. The same happened with the Serbs, who were a majority of the inhabitants of Krajina in Croatia but suddenly found themselves a minority in a foreign country. These new ethnic realities led to 10 million refugees in the former USSR, five wars in former Yugoslavia and 10 in the former USSR. 

Post-Soviet ethnic chaos meant that one in five Ukrainians speaks Russian. This Russian community was heavily impacted by the developments of 2014. The then President Viktor Yanukovych tried to play Russia and the European Union (EU) off one another to get the best economic deal for Ukraine. Thus, he became the target of Western-backed business interests and Russophobic neo-Nazi groups. With US backing, the latter staged a coup and forced Yanukovych to flee to Moscow. 

The overthrow of the elected president came to be known as the Maidan Revolution, named after the Kiev square that hosted the protests. On February 6, 2014, an anonymous entity leaked a call between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. They could be heard saying that Arseniy Yatsenyuk is America’s choice to replace Yanukovych, which he did. The new government adopted pro-EU and pro-NATO policies. It imposed restrictions on the teaching of the Russian language in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, provoking resistance among the inhabitants. With the support of the majority of the population, expressed in a referendum, Putin joined Crimea to Russia. 

In the same year as Russia’s annexation of Crimea, separatist leaders supported by Moscow seized Donetsk and Luhansk – populated primarily by Russian ethnic minorities striving for independence – and declared the “People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk”. These events angered ultra-nationalist Ukrainian forces; they declared war on the people that were opposing Yatsenyuk’s Euro-American posture. 

To defuse the conflictual situation, talks were held between Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE, leading to the Minsk Protocols of 2014 and 2015. This Protocol proposed a ceasefire, which involved the devolution of power without granting autonomy to the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and a pulling out of forces and heavy weaponry 15 kilometers from the Line of Contact.

Breakdowns of the ceasefire led to the death of over 14,000 people and displaced over 2.5 million, with nearly half of them seeking refuge in Russia. Talks in 2019 between France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, called the Normandy-Paris Process, were unsuccessful because the West refused to give Russia a legal guarantee of security. 

A belligerent Western attitude that promoted the military encirclement of Russia was evident from the very beginning of the Minsk Protocols. The West only offered Russia the right to examine offensive missiles placed on its borders, simultaneously establishing three additional bases with such missiles, two in Slovakia and one in Poland.

These simmering security contradictions were exacerbated by NATO’s constant efforts to induct Ukraine, which emboldened right-wing Ukrainian nationalists – including fascists such as the Azov Battalion – to initiate an anti-Russian campaign. Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko put forward a language law in 2017 that impeded the teaching of minority languages in the country’s schools.

When Volodymyr Zelensky – elected in 2019 – attempted to implement the provisions of the Minks agreement, large-scale ultra nationalist protests broke out, accusing Zelensky of “capitulation” to Russian pressure and threatening to force him to resign. This made Zelensky adopt a “tougher” rhetoric on Russia, blaming it for the problems in Donbass instead of advancing an agenda of ethnic peace.

Zelensky’s shrill anti-Russian rhetoric was supported by US President Joe Biden’s government which has increased pressure on Moscow as part of its geopolitical subversion of the process of multipolarization. The Biden Administration approved the Ukrainian military’s use of drone warfare in the Donbas in October 2021, when aerial weapons were strictly prohibited by the Minsk agreements. It additionally intensified NATO exercises in Ukraine – the summer 2021 Cossack Mace exercise in the south, between Odessa and Crimea, for instance.

When Putin reiterated his demand that the US and NATO remove all weapons from Ukraine, and that a guarantee be issued Ukraine will not join the alliance, the West showed no willingness to respond to this issue in a diplomatic manner. This was troubling for Russia because it was legitimately concerned about how NATO membership would give Ukraine additional muscle to forcefully assert control over Donbas and also move into Crimea and hold the ports in the Black Sea region. As a result, Russia decided to invade Ukraine so as to pre-empt such a scenario. 

Top: File photo of Russia military troops. Photo Credit: Fars News Agency

Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India and can be contacted at His articles have been published by different magazines and websites such as Monthly Review Online, Tehran Times, Modern Diplomacy, ZNet, Canada Files, Anti-war, Midwestern Marx, Anticonquista, Anti-Capitalist Resistance, Challenge, Big News Network, CGTN, Quint, Federación Anarquista, Akademi, South Asia Journal, International Magz, Green Social Thought, New Age, Frontier Post, Green Left, Palestinian Media Center in Europe, Rebelion, Newsclick, Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt, Weekly Worker, Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, News and Letters Weekly, Economic and Political Weekly, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Counterfire, Journal of People, Peasants and Workers, The Greanville Post, Plateforme altermondialiste, Dandelion Salad, Scribe, Arena, Eurasia Review, Coventry University Press, Culture Matters, Press TV, Global Research, Independent Australia, Dissident Voice, Axis of Logic, Marxism-Leninism Today, Scoop, United National Antiwar Coalition, Gauri Lankesh News, Kashmir Times, Good Morning Kashmir, Countercurrents, Counterview, Syria 360, Revolutionary Strategic Studies, Socialist Project, Hampton Institute, Orinoco Tribune, Intrepid Report, Ecuador Today, People’s Review, Eleventh Column, Pressenza, Karvaan India, Clarion India, OpEd News, Janata Weekly, The Iraq File, Iraq Sun, Portside and the Institute of Latin American Studies.

Eurasia Review, February 27, 2022,

Russian anti-war activists call for end to war and for radical change to country’s ‘whole political system’ / by Steve Sweeney

Demonstrators hold signs ‘No war!’, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, February 24, 2022

RUSSIAN anti-war activists called for a radical change in their country’s government and “whole political system” today as well as an end to war on “the fraternal Ukrainian people.”

Activists have urged an increase in anti-war agitation among Russian citizens as police crack down brutally on dissent.

More than 1,700 people were arrested in 53 cities on Thursday evening as mass protests took place across the vast country, according to monitoring groups.

Russian authorities have warned that anti-war activities and “negative comments” will be treated as treason.

However, further demonstrations were expected last night after the Morning Star went to press, with thousands of people taking to the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities.

More than 250 journalists have signed an open letter condemning the war and similar letters have been signed by scientists and municipal councillors.

Today’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper was printed in both Russian and Ukrainian, explaining that its journalists “do not consider Ukrainian the language of the enemy.”

Editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov wrote in a leading article that “only the anti-war movement of Russian citizens can save life on this planet.”

Evgeniy Stupin, a Communist Party of the Russian Federation deputy in the Moscow State Duma, was one of a group of members of left-wing organisations and trade union activists who demanded an end to “the aggressive war unleashed by the leadership of Russia.” His stance is opposed to his party’s official position.

An anti-war statement issued by the group condemned President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, warning that it would lead to the death of thousands of people on both sides.

“The economic position of working people in both countries will worsen. This invasion serves merely to satisfy the unhealthy foreign policy ambitions of a narrow circle in the country’s leadership and to distract attention from the Russian government’s failures in domestic policy,” the statement said.

It called for an immediate end of the war against “the fraternal Ukrainian people” and for Russians to engage in anti-war agitation among friends, relatives, workers and other citizens.

“If the present government is not capable of securing peace for the peoples, the path to achieving it lies through a radical change of the government and the whole social and political system,” the statement concluded.

The Morning Star, February 25th, 2022,

The Capitalist Roots of U.S. Racial Oppression  / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Painting by Eyre Crowe, A Slave Sale in Charleston, South Carolina, 1854

A recent BBC report attributes climate-change damage in Africa to “racialized capitalism.” That confusing term reflects a new understanding of U.S. slavery on the part of many historians. Here the term signifies the commanding role of capitalism in the oppression of Africans and of African-descended peoples in the United States. Racial hatred, by implication, takes on a secondary role as a tool useful for enforcing oppression.

What follows is an attempt to highlight the contribution of capitalism to racial oppression in the United States.

W.E.B. DuBois describes Europeans “scurrying down the hot, mysterious coasts of Africa to the Good Hope of Gain until for the first time a real commerce was born […] That sinister traffic, on which the British Empire and the American Republic were largely built cost black Africa no less than 100,000,000 souls, the wreckage of its political and social life, and left the continent in precisely that state of helplessness which invites aggression and exploitation.” (“The African Roots of War,” 1915).

Basic Books, 2021

In his recently published book The Ledger and the Chain, historian Joshua Rothman studies three wealthy U.S. slave traders. He points out that, “By 1860, four million enslaved people in the United States were a pillar of American prosperity, cumulatively worth more than the whole country had invested in manufacturing, railroads, and banks put together.” Slave traders “helped define the financial, political, legal, cultural, and demographic contours of a growing nation.”

Profit rules

Reflecting on Rothman’s observations, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie suggests that, “we should not think of the slave system or the slave trade as somehow about racism and hatred. It was about profit. That’s why — and how — it lasted so long.” He regards “chattel slavery … as part of a larger class system.” That characteristic, claims Bouie, accounts for “the ideas, ideologies and institutions” produced by slavery. 

The northern side in the Civil War freed enslaved workers in the South. Reconstruction followed; it shocked the southern political establishment. Formerly enslaved people proved to be adept at organizing, articulating demands, and making politics work. Even the new National Labor Union briefly extended its organizing into the South. As described by Communist author James S. Allen in his 1937 book Reconstruction, “A strong tendency for solidarity with Negro workers and for alliance with the Negro people made itself felt early.”

International Publishers, 1937

The old order took charge again after congressional shenanigans over the presidential elections of 1876 finished off Reconstruction. The freedmen were fodder for the profitable convict-leasing system. As tenant farmers, they provided a lifeline for the survival of plantations. Although some of them slowly and tenaciously gained land ownership, over time local oligarchs and lending agencies cut back on their acreage; the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be complicit.

Oppression continued through institutional means. That’s significant in that public institutions in the United States by and large reflect capitalist priorities.

Local and state governments and the courts sharply restricted voting rights and managed police, judicial, and prison affairs in oppressive ways. Local authorities provided low-quality and scanty education for the descendants of enslaved people. Poor schooling confined already marginalized workers to a future of diminished hopes and low wages.

The U.S. Supreme Court legitimized exclusionary legislation and administrative actions, especially in regard to higher education. African-Americans missed out on important benefits provided under the New Deal.  Until the mid-twentieth century, their military service was debasing and discriminatory. 


Oppression came from directions other than governmental action, or inaction. In the post-Civil War period, a trade-off arranged by higher-ups saw northerners tolerating continued abuse of African-descended workers in the South in return for the appearance of North-South harmony, viewed as essential for growing the nation’s capitalist economy.

Theirs was a bargain similar to the one struck by European workers in the early 20th century. As recounted by DuBois, “the laborer at home is demanding and beginning to receive a part of his share” on condition that the labor movement and other progressive forces go along with the imperialists’ plundering of “the darker nations of the world.” 

Racial oppression rested on the same social and political attitudes that allowed U.S. capitalism to flourish. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner, explains that the frontier experience itself instilled “anti-social” attitudes in the European settler, who manifested “antipathy to control.” Indeed, “democracy born of free land, strong in selfishness and individualism, intolerant of administrative experience and education, and pressing individual liberty beyond its proper bounds, has its dangers as well as benefits. Individualism in America has allowed a laxity in regard to governmental affairs.”

Since then, capitalist enforcers have taken advantage of the precariousness of workers’ lives. They’ve used poverty-stricken African-Americans as strike breakers to weaken labor unity. And very poor European-descended workers, mainly in the South and resentful of their own desperate economic conditions, have colluded in oppressing African-Americans. Intent upon preserving a modicum of status, they curry favor with the upper echelons

Some miscellaneous observations: first, the Thirteenth Amendment in 1965 abolished slavery, but it also legalized “involuntary servitude” as punishment for crime. It led to the convict leasing system that would continue for the next half century. It contributed to the profitable prison-industrial system of today.

Some miscellaneous observations: first, the Thirteenth Amendment in 1965 abolished slavery, but it also legalized “involuntary servitude” as punishment for crime. It led to the convict leasing system that would continue for the next half century. It contributed to the profitable prison-industrial system of today.

Secondly, the purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 was to assure “due process of law [and] equal protection of the laws” for formerly enslaved people. Instead, according to historian Eric Foner, it became “a vehicle for protecting corporate rights rather than those of the former slaves.”

Thirdly, members of one’s own family in the U.S. South, no stranger to social-class distinctions, formerly employed that stock regional term “uppity.” They were referring to African-descended neighbors deemed to be rising above their “station in life.”

A clear message

In pursuing their own economic interests, the upper orders of society arranged for the enslavement of Africans in the United States and, later on, for the oppression of their descendants. That’s clear, as is the fact that race-based hatred persists because it’s useful as an enforcement mechanism and can be readily applied to victims identifiable through their physical appearance.

Hatred has many applications. Inciting fear, it theoretically inhibits open rebellion among the oppressed. Hatred in the form of organized terror – the lynchings, massacres, and police violence – maybe assures quiescence, or maybe not. Hatred frequently leads to divisions within racially-diverse political coalitions, and to their demise.

Protest mobilizations against hatred and its manifestations are necessary. But unless they are directed against the class-based origins of the oppression, they won’t do much to end it. Jamelle Bouie, the New Times columnist, agrees.

Citing the 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery, authored by Trinidadian historian and political leader Eric Williams, Bouie describes the settlers’ reliance first on Native Americans to provide forced labor and then on indentured white servants. The former did not survive long, and the latter were in short supply, independent-minded, and desirous of land once they were free.   Plantation owners turned to enslaved Africans.

Penguin Classics, 2022
3rd edition

Bouie quotes Williams: “The Negro, in a strange environment, conspicuous by his color and features, and ignorant of the white man’s language and ways, could be kept permanently divorced from the land.” Williams adds that, “Racial differences made it easier to justify and rationalize Negro slavery … to demand that resignation and that complete moral and intellectual subjection which alone make slave labor possible.

Moreover, “The features of the man, his hair, color and dentifrice, his ‘subhuman’ characteristics so widely pleaded, were only the later rationalizations to justify a simple economic fact that the colonies needed labor and resorted to Negro labor because it was cheapest and best.”

Bouie concludes: “One thing I’d like you to consider […] is the extent to which racial distinctions and racial divisions are rooted in relationships of class, labor and property, even when they take on a life and logic of their own. And if that’s true, I would like you to think about what that means for unraveling those divisions and distinctions, and consigning the ideology of ‘race’ to the ash heap of history.”

Author: W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine.

A Citizen of the World (Still) Speaks / by Robert Koehler

I decided to honor Martin Luther King Day this year by reading — and trying to absorb, more fully than ever before — the entirety (nearly 7,000 words) of the iconic speech he gave at Riverside Church a year to the day before his assassination.

The speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” is remembered and celebrated (or not) as MLK’s official condemnation of LBJ’s war, inappropriately “mixing peace and civil rights” and shattering ties with the country’s pro-war liberals. My takeaway after reading it: The speech is a lot more than that.

Not only is it a detailed analysis of the politics of colonialism and the cruel absurdity of war, but it’s a deep plunge into the human future, pulsating with complex sanity and more relevant than ever 50-plus years later — so relevant I could scream. For instance:

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

Or this:

“I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.”

Imagine if mainstream media coverage of a looming confrontation, with, oh, Russia, let us say, or China, included awareness that we are all citizens not simply of a bordered country but the whole planet, or that the first step to take in dealing with an “enemy” is listening to that enemy, understanding his or her point of view and, in the process, reassessing our awareness of ourselves. What if this, rather than clueless (but heavily armed) confrontation were the geopolitical norm?

“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

Uh . . . are you listening, President Johnson? Nixon? Ford? Carter? Reagan? Bush the Elder? Clinton? Bush the Younger? Obama? Trump? Biden?

Loyalty to mankind as a whole? Almost 55 years later, this still seems preposterously idealistic, at least from the conventional — a.k.a., Know Nothing — point of view. Why? Nothing that has happened in the half century since King’s death has done anything but confirm the wisdom of his words. As Desmond Tutu, who passed away last month, put it: “. . . my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong to the whole, to the community, to the tribe, to the nation, to the earth.”

Why is this too much to grasp — socially, politically, militarily? Why are we still caught up geopolitically in an I-win-you-lose mentality after 20 years and counting of endless war that cost a few trillion bucks, killed and displaced millions of people and accomplished virtually nothing, even from a limited political point of view? America’s door of conventional understanding still has refused to let in the wisdom of King and Tutu . . . the wisdom, indeed, of indigenous awareness, as summed up in the tribal South African word “ubuntu,” one possible translation of which is: “I am because you are.”

My God, what if this is true? It shatters our hyper-individualism and creates endless inconvenience for the military-industrial complex. It interrupts the easy creation of enemies. To acknowledge this word, one cannot dehumanize another person, let alone a whole nation.

In his speech, King quotes a Vietnamese Buddhist leader: “It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat.”

This may be the ultimate takeaway. The United States of America is a nation dying of self-inflicted wounds. Now is the time to step beyond the cruel stupidity of militarism. It was also the time to do so on April 4, 1967, the day of King’s speech. But despite the emergence of an unprecedented antiwar movement, and despite the fact that the U.S. was forced to flee Vietnam eight years later, the military-industrialists managed to stay in control of both the national budget and the mainstream consciousness. Wage war, go shopping!

Far more serious to the military than its defeat in Vietnam was the end of the Cold War, which many Americans assumed would mean a steep decline in the military budget and an increase in spending on social needs and such. To the militarists, this was known as “Vietnam syndrome” — the sudden national disgust for war. It took a few decades to fully transcend Vietnam syndrome and required, among other things, the elimination of the draft, so that most of the public (those not subject to the poverty draft) had nothing on the line, such as their lives, when war was finally declared again. And the plan worked! We substituted terrorists for communists and eventually got the war machine up and running. Our new enemy was evil itself.

The only problem was our national hubris and deep psychological defeat, which we succeeded only in aggravating, making the words of MLK even more relevant than they were in 1967:

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. . . . We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

CounterPunch, February 20, 2022,

NATO and Africa: A Relationship of Colonial Violence and Structural White Supremacy / by Djibo Sobukwe

NATO is the means of continuing colonial aggressions against African countries.

Considering the public media attention and concern about possible expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it is worth reminding people about NATO’s bloody history in Africa. NATO was founded in 1949 after WWII at a time when African countries were still under the yoke of colonialism. In fact most of the original founders of NATO had been Africa’s principal colonizers such as UK, France, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the USA as lead NATO organizer and dominant partner. The organization was established as a collective defense against the Soviet Union with the requirement (Article 5) that any attack on one was considered an attack on all and therefore requiring a collective response.

Since NATO was founded with the purported purpose of halting possible Soviet aggression and stopping the spread of Communism it would seem to follow that after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there would no longer be a need for NATO. Since then however, NATO has expanded from the founding twelve to at present thirty member states many of whom are eastern European countries, formerly Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact allies. Today, NATO has become a huge axel in the wheel of the military industrial complex controlled by US empire for the purpose of full spectrum dominance , driven by the ferocious appetites of corporate capital.

Colonial Africa as NATO Bases

Walter Rodney accurately describes the early foundation of colonial Africa’s relationship with NATO which continues today as he described in How Europe Underdeveloped Africa:

“Needless to say, in the 1950’s when most Africans were still colonial subjects, they had absolutely no control over the utilization of their soil for militaristic ends. Virtually the whole of North Africa was turned into a sphere of operations for NATO, with bases aimed at the Soviet Union. There could have easily developed a nuclear war without African peoples having any knowledge of the matter. The colonial powers actually held military conferences in African cities like Dakar and Nairobi in the early 1950’s, inviting the whites of South Africa and Rhodesia and the government of the USA. Time and time again, the evidence points to this cynical use of Africa to buttress capitalism economically and militarily, and therefore in effect forcing Africa to contribute to its own exploitation. [emphasis added] [1]

Kwame Nkrumah had already warned in his 1967 Challenge of the Congo that there were at least seventeen air bases, nine foreign naval bases, three rocket sites and an atomic testing range operated by NATO in in North Africa, in addition to military missions in about a dozen other African countries, not to mention the exploitation of raw materials for the production of nuclear weapons occurring in the mines of Congo, Angola, South Africa and Rhodesia.[2]  Nkrumah called for the urgent need to counter the challenge of NATO in the strategy he outlined in his Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare which included the call for a military high command and an All African People’s Revolutionary Army (AAPRA).[3]

The example of Portugal, as one of the original members of NATO is worth exploring. The great freedom fighter of Africa, Amilcar Cabral, called Portugal “a rotten appendage of imperialism” he said, “Portugal is the most underdeveloped country in Western Europe. Portugal would never be able to launch three colonial wars in Africa without the help of NATO, the weapons of NATO, the planes of NATO the bombs- it would be impossible for them.” [4]

Cabral goes on to explain that the only reason Portugal was able to hold on to its colonies in Africa is because it had been a semi-colony of Britain since 1775 and Britain defended Portugal’s interest during the partition of Africa. Furthermore NATO, a creation of the US, uses Portugal and its colonies as part of the larger objective of domination of Africa and the world.[5] Portugal conducted a vicious war against its colonies in Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Angola, and Mozambique much like the US did in Vietnam. In both cases, colonizing powers used the most modern weapons including napalm and cluster bombing campaigns killing thousands, against guerilla armies that refused to bow down. The Portuguese dictator Marcelo Caetano was forced to give up economic interests in Angola to some of the NATO powers in exchange for the NATO armaments and supplies used.[6] Yet, Portugal still lost the war against the heroic anti-colonial forces.

NATO’s Strategy of Neo-colonialism

Imperialism has always used its strategy of divide and rule. To enable the acceptance of the idea of a ‘benevolent’ NATO, the colonial powers knew that they had to convince and recruit a neo-colonial class of indigenous Africans who would do their bidding. This divide played itself out in the national liberation movements between those who were friendly to imperialist forces and those who wanted a real break from colonialism. Nkrumah explains in Neo-colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism, the wide array of methods employed by neocolonialism, ranging from economic, political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres. To do this, NATO works hand in hand with other mechanisms of imperialism like the CIA[7] which was instrumental in the coup against the Nkrumah government and the murder of Patrice Lumumba .

The settler colony of Azania/South Africa would be another example of a NATO outpost. From the beginning it was obviously on the side of the Western/ NATO powers since it was essentially a colony of Britain and therefore was a NATOsurrogate. In 1955 South Africa and Britain formulated the Simonstown agreements which contained provision for the naval surveillance and defense of the African continent from Cape to Cairo. In spite of a purported arms embargo, NATO countries and Israel also provided South Africa with the necessary technology to develop nuclear weapons.


AFRICOM is actually a direct product of NATO via EUCOM, the US European command. EUCOM is a central part of NATO and originally also took responsibility for 42 African states. In 2004 NATO ended a five-year period of expansion; in 2007 the EUCOM commander proposed the creation of AFRICOM. James L. Jones Jr. explains how he came to make the proposal for AFRICOM from his position as commander of EUCOM as well as commander of operational forces of NATO.

The US/NATO role in the destruction of Libya in 2011 is important to highlight because it offers some important lessons. First, US imperialism and its western lackies do not accept any country that decides to be an independent force outside of its sphere of influence. Secondly, it also demonstrates how NATO can work hand in hand with other US/western dominated world structures like the UN. In 2011 the UN (resolution 1973) gave political authorization for a “no fly zone” and blockade of Libya purportedly to “protect” its citizens but which ultimately resulted in the destruction of Africa’s most prosperous country with the highest Human Development Index.

US led NATO forces launched a bombing campaign that killed thousands of civilians and caused tens of billions of property and infrastructure damage. This shows that although US-led NATO sometimes uses the UN for political cover, it has no problem illegally overstepping its UN mandate to commit its crimes against humanity and achieve its regime change goals. Even a few countries that abstained from the UN vote like China said they did so as not to offend the reactionary Arab League and the African Union which approved of the resolution. In this case indirect and direct cooperation between NATO, the UN, the AU, and the Arab League (which includes the GCC countries ) shows the expansive and deeply woven web of US and NATO reach.

The book The Illegal War on Libya edited by Cynthia McKinney, includes the chapter titled “NATO’s Libya War, A Nuremberg Level Crime” in which Stephen Ledman writes:

“The US-led NATO war on Libya will be remembered as one of history’s greatest crimes, violating the letter and spirit of international law and America’s Constitution. The Nuremberg Tribunal’s Chief Justice Robert Jackson (a Supreme Court justice) called Nazi war crimes ‘the supreme international crime against peace.’ Here are his November 21, 1945 opening remarks:

‘The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.’ ” 

Jackson called aggressive war “the greatest menace of our times.” International law defines crimes against peace as “planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.”

All US post-WWII wars fall under this definition. Since then, America [US] has waged direct and proxy premeditated, aggressive wars worldwide. It has killed millions in East and Central Asia, North and other parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as in Central and South America.[8]

Those mentioned here are but a small sampling of NATO/AFRICOM’s bloody works in Africa’s past. NATO continues to operate under guise the of “training” and “humanitarian” peacekeeping assistance. Jihadist terrorist violence on the continent has increased since the founding of AFRICOM and NATO’s destruction of Libya resulting in civilian casualties and instability which the west has used as pretext and justification for the continued need for AFRICOM. As the Black Alliance for Peace’s AFRICOM watch bulletin reported , since the founding of AFRICOM there has also been an increase in coups by AFRICOM trained soldiers.

Consistent with what Nkrumah, Rodney and others warned of in the 1960’s and 1970’s NATO continues today in the form of AFRICOM facilitating wars, instability, and the corporate pillage of Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for example is continuously plundered for its strategic raw materials such as cobalt, tantalum, chromium, coltan, and uranium etc. These minerals are strategically important not only for electronic devices but also for the technologies that drive the military industrial complex. AFRICOM continues to rely on its neocolonial African proxies to fight wars on its behalf in the DRC and throughout Africa to achieve its objectives. With the rise of China, the US/NATO now seek to ensure full spectrum dominance that seeks to shut China or any other country out of the competition to control global capital.

End Notes:

[1] Rodney, Walter How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, p189

[2] Nkrumah, Kwame Challenge of the Congo p.xi

[3] Nkrumah, Kwame, Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare p56

[4] Cabral, Amilcar, Return to The Source p.82

[5] Ibid p.83

[6] Fogel, D, Africa in Struggle National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution p.230

[7] Nkrumah, Kwame, Neo-Colonialism The Last Stage of Imperialism p.247

[8] McKinney, Cynthia ed., The Illegal War on Libya p. 79

Djibo Sobukwe is on the Research and Political Education Team of the Black Alliance for Peace. He is also a former Central Committee member of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party who worked with Kwame Ture on the political Education Committee. He can be contacted at

Black Agenda Report, February 23, 2022,