Brazil, Amazon, World: Erections And Elections / by Jean Wyllys and Julie Wark

A 22-year-old Dilma Rousseff is tried at a military court hearing in Rio de Janeiro in 1970, after being tortured for more than 20 days – Brazil’s National Truth Commission Archives.

Brazil ranks tenth out of 142 countries listed in the Global Firepower Review and is deemed to be comparable in military strength to Great Britain, Pakistan, and Turkey. But another aspect of patriarchal potency seems to be well below par. The phallic symbolism of all the country’s weapons isn’t enough to assuage anxieties about the image of manhood military alpha males have created for themselves, especially when their boss, former paratrooper and army captain, President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, 67, has set the bar so high with his frequent claims of being imbrochável (immune to the broxada, or loss or non-event of erection) and public bragging about greeting his wife with his morning hard-on. If a recent armed forces shopping list is anything to go by, it seems that senior military men feel that they must rise to the occasion (it’s impossible to avoid bad puns when referring to this outlandishness) with all the help they can get, viz. 35,000 Viagra pills (most for the navy), $546,000 worth of Botox between 2018 and 2020, inflatable penile prostheses, and anti-baldness remedies, all paid for with public money. If their manhood was faltering, they were cheered up by the purchase, between February 2021 and 2022, of 1,184 tons of filet mignon, rump steak, and salmon, as well as whisky, premium beers, whipped cream, and codfish, delicacies worth about $12 million that the rank-and-file soldiers never get so much as a whiff of, unless they’re kitchen hands.

This pathetic scandal is about much more than the sexual anxieties and refined digestive systems of men who wield weapons. To quote poet Paulo César Pinheiro, it’s an “orgy of crooks”, true heirs of more than two decades of military dictatorship, for whom no crime is too foul when it comes to protecting their privileges. For them, the 1984 Diretas Já movement and the 1988 Citizen Constitution must be erased and suppressed by all means possible. Bolsonaro has therefore revived celebrations commemorating the military coup of 31 March 1964 against democratically elected president João Goulart, thus reversing a 2011 decision by then president Dilma Rousseff ordering the military to end any celebration of the coup, which was also a rejoicing over the removal from office of 4,841 elected representatives, the torture of some 20,000 people (including Dilma Rousseff), and the death or disappearance of 434 people, crimes for which no one has ever been held accountable.

These crimes are publicly endorsed by Bolsonaro. “I’m pro-torture, and the people are too” … “You’ll only change things by having a civil war and doing the work the military didn’t do… Killing. If a few innocent people die, that’s alright.” … “The dictatorship’s mistake was just torturing and not killing.” Making light of the high fatality rates of police violence in Rio de Janeiro, he insinuated that a policeman’s manly willingness to murder is the mark of his worth: “Policemen that don’t kill are not policemen.” These statements and Bolsonaro’s fanatical sex and masculinity obsessions may create a convenient smokescreen covering up his evident corrupt incompetence, but this isn’t just some exotic Brazilian or Bolsonaro aberration.

The connections between the present penis-enhanced military, ethnocide, ecocide, and other crimes against humanity go way back, and straight to the heart of US (Democrat) foreign policy, as Muckrock reports. “A memo detailing a White House meeting on April 1st (as the 1964 coup happened) also show US naval and military forces in position and poised to act in support of the Brazilian military, with the blessing of President Lyndon Johnson and top defense and intelligence officials.” So, in 1971, when members of the Brazilian clergy were denouncing the torture of nuns and priests, a scheduled visit to the US by president General Emílio Garrastazu Médici was a mere PR headache, a “potential embarrassment” for Médici and Nixon. But, in the end “constructive relationships are the most effective way to influence other nations”. And, back home in Brazil, when a declassified US State Department memo showed in 2017 that president Ernesto Geisel (1974 – 1979) gave explicit permission for Brazil’s intelligence service to carry on with its policy of executing dissidents, among them the journalist Vladimir Herzog who was tortured to death in 1975, Bolsonaro Trump-eted that this was fake news, a “coordinated campaign” against his candidacy.

Penis-fixated masculinity reached its lethal zenith with COVID-19 which was quickly identified at the top as a main chance for easy political and economic pickings. Within twenty-four hours of the Health Ministry beginning to take preventive measures against the pandemic on 13 March 2020, Bolsonaro scaled back its procedures. By 16 March, with the excuse that the “pandemic transcends public health”, he had placed the ministry under the control of the Casa Civil, the Executive Office of the Presidency, then headed by General Walter Braga Netto, who will probably be his running mate in the elections this year, the selfsame man who was responsible for the purchase of all the male sex and beauty aids plus the gourmet delicacies. Meanwhile, around the country, health services unable to deal with the pandemic, also lacked medicines for chronic diseases. Insulin for example.

Transcending “public health” meant transcending the public and transcending health in favour of neoliberal kickbacks on steroids (plenty of them) as Bolsonaro and Braga Netto oversaw crooked multimillion-dollar deals in vaccine purchases. With the COVID-19 death toll presently standing at 663,000, a Senate investigation into the government’s mishandling of the pandemic has produced strong evidence of fraud by Bolsonaro’s key allies in Congress and the military who attempted to buy vaccine from intermediaries like the firm Precisa Medicamentos with which Bolsonaro’s son, senator Flavio Bolsonaro, has close ties. There were also negotiations to acquire twenty million doses of Covaxin produced by the Indian company Bharat Biotech at above market rates. This involved inter alia a $45 million upfront payment to a company based in Singapore. Meanwhile, Roberto Dias, former head of logistics of the Health Ministry, demanded a $1 tip for each dose from a supplier that claimed it could provide 400 million AstraZeneca shots. Actually, the supplier couldn’t supply them, but it still managed to negotiate with Brazil’s top “health” officials. And there were other fraudulent contracts. As opposition politician Paulo Pimenta put it, “There is a direct relationship between denialism, corruption, and the way the pandemic has become the country’s greatest health tragedy and the greatest story of corruption”.

The sex problem of the imbrochável is part and parcel of all these deaths. One day after he had tested positive for Coronavirus, Bolsonaro used a homophobic slur to bait presidential staff who were using masks, which was, he said, coisa de viado (for fairies). A few months later, he called on Brazilians to stop being a “country of sissies”. For the imbrochável, Coronavirus was just a “little flu”. By this means, he was sending the double message that the people who were dying were already sick (or “fairies”) while also repeating, yet again, to the Brazilian people that LGBTI+-phobia is acceptable, that violence and discrimination against “fairies” is “normal”.

War on “gender ideology” is a cornerstone of the Bolsonaro power base which, to some extent, explains the extreme toxic masculinity of his regime. After winning the 2018 election, he wasted no time in setting the tone. His campaign had relied on the Bible which is “the toolbox to fix men and women”. The Bible is also enriching as evangelical Education Minister, Milton Ribeiro soon discovered. At Bolsonaro’s request, he ensured that the government prioritised municipalities whose requests for funds were negotiated by pastors, who then received bribes, even in the form of gold bars. Mayors reported that pastors had asked them to buy the Holy Toolbox, complete with a photo of the minister in return for access to educational funds. In the end, the gold bars scandal was more damaging than penis enhancers and Ribeiro was forced to resign.

War on gender ideology isn’t just a war of words but a brutal, bloody war on progressive gender and sexual activism. Gender ideology isn’t a thing in academic or theoretical terms, but a fantasy presented as a conspiracy to promote immorality and undermine family and religious values. The enemies are feminists, gays and trans people and anyone who stands up for their rights, so the “war” against it, justifying all kinds of violence, has become a veritable crusade for Pentecostal and evangelical politicians. Especially since the Supreme Court legally recognised same-sex unions in 2011, the powerful evangelical bloc in Congress (203 out of 594 members, from several political parties) has systematically tried to undermine all sexual and reproductive rights and, if it hasn’t been very successful in changing the laws, it has managed to present itself as the defender of family and Christian values and create moral panic among voters. Whipping up moral panic was a successful move in Bolsonaro’s 2018 presidential campaign when he accused his opponent, former education minister Fernando Haddad who had tried to combat violent homophobia and discrimination with educational materials for schoolchildren, of promoting a “gay kit”, a threat against the “natural” sexual binary. Such was the outcry that President Dilma Rousseff was forced to veto the measure. In a 2013 interview with actor Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro claimed that “homosexual fundamentalists” were brainwashing heterosexual children so they could “satisfy them sexually in the future”.

Forcing Rousseff to cede on the gender issue didn’t stop at that. The ploy played a significant role in the 2016 parliamentary coup against the Workers’ Party government. The “public rhetoric employing misogyny, ridicule and moralist appeals to traditional family values incited against Brazil’s first female president … paved the way for the return of white, male, sexist and authoritarian politics”. In the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, Bolsonaro delivered a special taunt by using his parliamentary immunity to dedicate his vote against her to Colonel Brilhante Ustra, head of the Doi-Codi torture unit (“who sparks fear in Dilma Rousseff”), and notorious for his sadism. Here is one example of the man eulogised by Bolsonaro: “Amelinha was naked, sitting in the electric shock chair, urinating and vomiting, when she saw her two children, 5-year-old Janaína and Edson, 4, enter the torture room. Ustra had sent for the two children because he wanted them to testify about their parents.”

Since Bolsonaro was immune from censure, the scandal was shifted to a co-author of this article, then congressman Jean Wyllys, who had responded by spitting at Bolsonaro. However, as commentator Gegorio Duvivier notes in a YouTube broadcast titled “Decency”, “many condemned him for missing but the saliva fell on the face of the then-ruralist congressman Luis Carlos Heinze, so he may have missed the target but he hit the mark because Heinze is about the level of Bolsonaro. And a congressman who defends pesticides can’t complain about saliva.” Not only does he recall Bolsonaro’s closeness to the bullet, beef, and bible lobby but makes the point that Wyllys spat at Bolsonaro “for the sake of decency” against “the most indecent statement a politician could make in democratic times”.

The decent gay politician Jean Wyllys was forced to leave Brazil in 2019 after receiving death threats several months after his friend Marielle Franco, gay rights activist and Rio councilwoman, was shot and killed together with her driver, Anderson Gomes. Two of the “state agents” known to be involved in the crime are directly connected with the Bolsonaro family. One worked in the office of Flavio Bolsonaro and the other lives in the same private condominium as the president with whom he has been photographed at several social events. The legal process is still non-existent, and the families of Franco and Gomes have had no access to the police investigations. The message is loud and clear. Women and LGBTI+ people can be killed with impunity for trying to put policies in favour of gender and sexual justice on the agenda. Crazy lies whip up the violence. So, one story that went viral on WhatsApp had Haddad distributing “erotic baby bottles” in public childcare centres while his female running mate, Manuela D’Avila, was an atheist defiler of religious symbols.

At first sight, penis enhancers might seem to be unrelated with Brazil’s highest court of law, the Supreme Court. But the hypermasculinity of Bolsonaro and his men inevitably leads them into direct conflict with it, to the extent that the struggle, supposedly over family values (Bolsonaro’s factitious power base), will determine the country’s political fate. The Supreme Court has been the main protector of LGBTI+ rights, often in opposition to the much more conservative Congress with its Bancada Evangélica (evangelical caucus). This group (which, if a party, would be the largest in the legislature) is influential not only as a policy pushing gang but also as negotiators of debt forgiveness and tax concessions for churches, as owners of media, especially TV, outlets, recipients of electoral campaign funding who have managed to turn their churches into electoral “corrals”. For some, the aim is nothing less than a theocracy. For example, the Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor who, opposed to abortion and LGBTI+ rights and supporter of “traditional gender roles”, openly expresses the view that, “It is time for the church to tell the nation that we have come … It is time for the church to govern” because the “Brazilian family is being threatened by diversity policies”.

Now, with the appointment of pastor André Mendonça, the evangelicals have secured a place for one of their supporters in the eleven-member Supreme Court. This is understood—and, with elections looming, was meant to be understood—by other members of the flock, like pastor Kenner Terra, to mean two things. First, “Now is the time of moral issues and rollbacks in questions related to gay rights, gender issues and social policies. Now the evangelicals have taken power and these things will not have the same space in the country”. Second, separation between church and state is now moot.

The rapid rise of evangelicals in Brazil to represent more than thirty percent of the population has a perverse relationship with filet mignon and hair restorer for generals. The more the country’s public institutions in health, education, housing, and other social services go into decline, the more important the rapidly self-enriching evangelical churches become in poor communities where, usurping roles once played by left-wing organisations and progressive Catholics, they offer literacy courses, activities for children, and even financial support in some cases, all in a highly patriarchal framework often imposed by violent militia gangs, which also offer income for unemployed young males. All this means votes and more members of the flock to purvey their political agenda.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro claims that the Supreme Court is “committing abuses” after it authorised investigations into claims that he made police appointments for his personal benefit, as well as into rallies which, endorsed by Bolsonaro, called for military intervention in politics and a shutdown of the Supreme Court and Congress. Moreover, he has been further backed into a corner by the court’s decision in 2020 (on the grounds that the judge, Sergio Moro—later Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister—was biased) to annul the corruption changes against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who, after spending eighteen months in prison, is now able to run in this year’s election. More recently, Bolsonaro has pardoned a political ally, legislator Daniel Silveira one day after he was convicted of hate speech for posting a video online defending the military dictatorship and saying that the court justices deserved “a thrashing”. Bolsonaro defended his gesture of the pardon “in the name of freedom of expression, an essential pillar of our society” when it was, in fact, one more ominous episode of a long-running campaign to attack Brazil’s democratic institutions.

Lula now has a comfortable lead in the polls. The pollster FSB Pesquisa estimates he would win a first-round vote by 43 percent to 29 percent if the election were held today. Bolsonaro’s last chance seems to be a military coup with Trumpish echoes (“I don’t believe in polls, but the guy who practically destroyed Brazil is ahead …Either the surveys are fraudulent or people are not well informed.”), which might be why he’s filling the bellies, heads, and penises of key military men with public money. It’s no joke. Observers from other countries including José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Yanis Varoufakis, Jeremy Corbyn, Fernando Lugo, Caroline Lucas, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel have signed an open letter expressing their alarm at the signs, for example Bolsonaro’s military parade in Brasília last year as his allies in Congress pushed through sweeping changes to the electoral system, in preparation for a “counter-coup” against Congress and the supreme court.

Brazil’s reality today is one of rocketing food and energy prices, inflation, environmental disasters, all the COVID-19 deaths and devastation, rising poverty, violence, and social fragmentation and vulnerability. In the Rio City Council, Marielle Franco’s fellow lawmakers refused to get in the lift with this favela-born, openly bisexual woman who had the temerity to press for policies geared to combatting violence against women, better day care for kids, supporting working people, and improving facilities and social life in the favelas, activism that constantly drew attention to militia and state violence. The choice in this year’s election is stark, between the decent values Marielle Franco stood for and the brutish rapine represented by Bolsonaro. It may not even be a choice if Bolsonaro can use his fake-scalped, fake-penised, and full-bellied generals to get his “family-values” way. There’s nothing more wounding than being a loser in a macho culture, which makes this less-than-mediocre man even more dangerous than the earlier cocksure version who is already largely responsible for more than 663,000 COVID-deaths.

Jean Wyllys is a Brazilian lecturer, journalist and politician. He was also notable as being Brazil’s second openly gay member of parliament and the first congressman who was a gay-rights activist. He has been compared to Harvey Milk for his work. In 2019, citing death threats, he gave up on his Congress seat.

Julie Wark is an Australian/Spanish citizen, resident in Barcelona for twenty-seven years. She is a translator (Catalan/Spanish to English, literature, politics, philosophy), long-term human rights author/activist, and is on the editorial board of Sin Permiso. She is the author of The Human Rights Mainfesto (Zero Books).

Counterpunch, April 28, 2022,

Reject Raytheon AVL Shuts Down Pratt & Whitney/ by Ken Jones

Occupying the bridge over the French Broad River on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville. Photo: Melody Shank.

It was an Earth Day to remember. On a beautiful sunny spring day, our local citizen coalition Reject Raytheon in Asheville, NC pulled off a three-part demonstration for the protection of the earth and earthlings and against the US military-industrial complex. We rallied, we paraded, and we performed a direct action.

The event on Friday, April 22, began at 10 am in the Bent Creek River Park, on the banks of the French Broad River. The park sits exactly next to the new bridge being built for the 1.2 million square foot Pratt and Whitney plant and in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Parkway bridge over the river. Across the river from the park is a dirt road, called Old River Road, that provides access to the many trucks coming and going from the plant every day. On this morning, it was busy, full of power and commerce.

In the park, over 50 of us came together to call for conversion from the war economy to one that addresses the climate emergency. The theme of the gathering was Windmills Not War Machines. We had a number of speakers describe the dangers of the Pratt & Whitney plant and also what a better economic development plan for the Asheville area could look like.

Pratt and Whitney is wholly owned by Raytheon Technologies, the second largest war corporation in the world. Its new plant here will be making airfoil turbines for jet engines that will be used by both military and commercial aircraft. The military engines are for notorious fighter jets like the F-35 and F-16, which are sold for wars all over the world, including in Yemen and Palestine. Sales of these weapons have soared with the onset of the war in Ukraine. This is a war profiteer coming to our community.

Our rally not only emphasized the war machine production of Pratt and Whitney, but also called attention to its effect on the climate emergency. What we don’t need in this urgent time is more fossil fuel intensive jet engines, even if they are for commercial use, and even if they are supposedly more efficient.

At the end of our rally, the Brass Your Heart social justice marching band led the group on a parade. With music, chants, banners, and signs, we moved from the park up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we crossed the bridge to the other side of the river. It was festive as well as pointed.

While the parade was in process, eight of us took a position on the Old River Road and blockaded the oncoming construction traffic from both directions. Five of us spanned the entire road with a 20 foot banner that said “Make Wind Turbines, Not War Machines.” Another held a smaller banner that said, “Pratt and Whitney Fans the Flames of Climate Emergency.” And two of us stood in front and behind the blockade with the stop-sign shaped message: “No War Industry.”

As our parading friends came to the end of the bridge, they stood above us waving, cheering, and singing along with the band. Construction traffic came to a halt and backed up for as far as the eye could see.

Amazingly, this stoppage lasted a full two hours. Biltmore Farms, which owns all the surrounding land and donated 100 acres to Pratt & Whitney for its plant, sent its security guards very quickly. They said we were on private property and threatened to have us arrested. Truck drivers walked up to us with a range of emotions from anger to sympathy to amusement. Soon the site was swarming with confused workers and authority figures. Eventually, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) came and asked us to leave. When we didn’t, a prolonged series of phone calls ensued.

As we found out later, there was an uncertainty about jurisdiction. We were actually on the National Park Service (NPS) easement for the Blue Ridge Parkway, not on Biltmore Farms private property. Technically, this meant that NPS was the proper authority to remove us. It apparently was decided that they would ask BCSO to take charge.

It was probably also the case that executives from both Biltmore Farms and Pratt & Whitney were discussing how to handle this situation in a way that would get them the least amount of negative publicity.

What this amounted to was a 2-hour shut down of business-as-usual for the corporations bringing a war industry to our county. It was just a small victory for us earth protectors, but still a moment to savor on Earth Day.

The decision the police finally made was to give us a choice. We could just walk away with no charges, we could walk away with a citation for misdemeanor trespass, or we could get arrested and taken to jail. We huddled up and decided on door #2: we took citations and walked away. We are hoping for our day in court where we can tell why we did this direct action and what is at stake with this war industry plant getting built. A trial will be a means of continuing to raise public awareness about it.

And it’s not just this one plant. What we also know is that Jack Cecil, owner of Biltmore Farms, is working with the local Chamber of Commerce to bring more businesses like Pratt & Whitney into this area. Some 1,000 acres have been set aside for an industrial park that will likely be centered on the toxic aerospace industry. The gas pipeline just put in by Dominion Energy will service not just Pratt and Whitney, but also the companies now being actively recruited to come here. The new interstate exchange on I-26 will likewise serve this future development.

Say goodbye to a lot more trees and worry about the health of the French Broad River. Pratt and Whitney is just the beginning of this Biltmore Farms project. It is like the anchor store in a mall. It is being used to attract others of the same ilk.

This is why Reject Raytheon is calling not just for conversion of this plant that is now nearing completion, but for a moratorium on any more approvals for industries that are connected to the military-industrial-fossil fuel monster that is devouring our earth and making life untenable for us and our children and grandchildren.

We who stood in the road are not the criminals here. The criminals are those who are making profits from the destruction of life on this planet. It is they who should be on trial and that is what we intend to do if we get our day in court. We, the Earth Day 8, hope you will follow us in solidarity.

We will also keep on showing up in the streets to raise the alarm. Ever since we found out in October, 2020 that the Buncombe County commissioners voted to give $27 million in tax incentives to Pratt & Whitney, we have been crying foul. But it’s even worse than that. If you take into account all the subsidies provided to this huge multinational corporation – state, local, and private – it comes to over $100 million. Think about how much we need that money for the many human needs of our community.

And don’t be deceived about the jobs being promised. Yes, there will be jobs, but there is no actual guarantee about how many nor who will get them. And we know very well that we would have many more jobs than the 800 they tout (counted cumulatively, over 10 years) if we put that same $100M into clean energy, education, health, housing – literally anything other than the military-industrial complex. Why would anyone think that a huge corporation like Raytheon cares about anything other than its own profits, notwithstanding all of its local greenwashing and public relations efforts?

It is this prioritizing of profits over people that we need to change. Visit Reject Raytheon’s website for more information:

Forward together for Mother Earth and for us, her children.

The Earth Day 8, who all live in and around Asheville, NC, are:

+ Rachael Bliss, 76, writer and founder of WNC4Peace
+ Claire Clark, 40, labor organizer and LGBTQ activist
+ Padma Dyvine, 72, retired nurse, healthcare and climate activist
+ Ken Jones, 73, retired professor of teacher education and VFP member
+ Steve Norris, 78, grandfather, carpenter, teacher, activist
+ Lyle Peterson, 73, blacksmith and founding member of VFP chapter
+ Gerry Werhan, 68, retired Medical Service Corps officer and VFP chapter president
+ Greg Yost, 55, former high school teacher and zip line guide

This Asheville action was one of 30+ events around the country carried out in a week of mobilization sponsored by the War Industry Resisters Network.

Ken Jones is a retired professor of teacher education living in Swannanoa, NC. He can be reached at

Counterpunch, April 27, 2022,

These Dark Times Are Also Filled with Light / by Vijay Prashad

Shengtian Zheng and Jinbo Sun, Winds of Fusang, 2017. ‘Fusang’ is an ancient Chinese word referring to what some believe to be the shores of Mexico. The work is an homage to Latin America’s influence on China, particularly that of Mexican artists on the development of modern Chinese art.

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

In early March, Argentina’s government came to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $45 billion deal to shore up its shaky finances. This deal was motivated by the government’s need to pay a $2.8 billion instalment on a $57 billion IMF stand-by loan taken out under former President Mauricio Macri in 2018. This loan – the largest loan in the financial institution’s history – sharpened divides in Argentinian society. The following year, the Macri administration was ousted in elections by the centre-left Frente de Todos coalition which campaigned on a sharp anti-austerity, anti-IMF programme.

When President Alberto Fernández took office in December 2019, he refused the final $13 billion tranche of the IMF’s loan package, a move applauded by large sections of Argentinian society. The next year, Fernández’s government was able to restructure the $66 billion debt held by wealthy bondholders and open discussions with the IMF to delay repayment of the debt incurred by Macri’s government. But the IMF was rigid – it insisted on repayment. Neither the Macri loan nor the new deal under President Fernández settles Argentina’s long-term struggle with its public finances.

Carlos Alonso (Argentina), La oreja, 1972.

The term ‘odious debt’ is used to describe the money owed by societies whose governments have been undemocratic. The concept was crafted by Alexander Nahum Sack in his book The Effects of State Transformations on Their Public Debts and Other Financial Obligations (1927). ‘If a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needs or in the interests of the State, but to strengthen its despotic regime, to repress its population that fights against it, etc.’, Sack wrote, ‘this debt is odious for the population of the State’. When that despotic regime falls, then the debt falls.

When Argentina’s military ruled the country (1976–83), the IMF generously lent it money, ballooning the country’s debt from $7 billion at the time the military took power to $42 billion when the military was ousted. Plainly, the IMF’s provision of funds to the Argentinian military junta – which killed, tortured, and disappeared 30,000 people – set in motion the ugly cycle of debt and despair that continues till today. That those ‘odious debts’ were not annulled – just as the apartheid debt was not annulled in South Africa – tells us a great deal about the ugly reality of international finance.

Gracia Barrios (Chile), Desaparecidos, 1973.

The deal cut by the IMF with the Fernández government is exactly like other deals that the IMF has made with fragile countries. During the pandemic, 85% of the IMF’s loans to developing countries came with austerity conditions that sharpened their social crises. Three of the most common conditions of these IMF loans are cuts and freezes to public sector wages, the increase and introduction of value-added taxes, and deep cuts to public expenditure (notably for consumer subsidies). Through its new deal with Argentina, the IMF will inspect the operations of the government four times per year, effectively becoming an overseer of the Argentinian economy. The government has agreed to reduce the budget deficit from 3% (2021) to 0.9% (2024) to 0% (2025); to accomplish this, it will have to cut large areas of social spending, including subsidies for a range of consumer goods.

After reaching the agreement, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva pointed out the great difficulties faced by Argentina, though these difficulties will not be ameliorated by the IMF plan. ‘Argentina continues to face exceptional economic and social challenges, including depressed per capita income, elevated poverty levels, persistent high inflation, a heavy debt burden, and low external buffers’, she said. Consequently, Georgieva noted, ‘Risks to the program are exceptionally high’, meaning that further default is all but certain.

Shengtian Zheng and Jinbo Sun, Winds of Fusang (close up), 2017.

A few weeks before Argentina came to terms with the IMF, President Fernández and China’s President Xi Jinping held a bilateral meeting in Beijing at which Argentina signed onto the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Argentina is the twenty-first country from Latin America to join the BRI. It is also the largest economy from the region to join, pending applications from Brazil and Mexico. Expectations rose amongst sections in Argentina that the BRI would provide a pathway to exit the grip of the IMF. This remains a possibility even as President Fernández returned to the IMF.

Our team in Buenos Aires has been looking carefully at China’s growing ties with the Caribbean and Latin America. These studies resulted in our most recent dossier no. 51, Looking Towards China: Multipolarity as an Opportunity for the Latin American People (April 2022). The main argument of the dossier is that the emergence of programmes such as the BRI offers countries such as Argentina choices for development finance. If Argentina has more latitude in choosing its avenues for finance, then it will be better positioned to reject harsh offers of stand-by assistance from the IMF which come with conditions of austerity. The possibility of these choices opens the door for countries such as Argentina to develop an authentic national and regional development strategy that is not written by the IMF staff in Washington, DC.

The dossier is quite clear that the mere entry of the BRI into the Caribbean and Latin America is not sufficient. Deeper projects are necessary:

It is possible for Chinese integration to further the ‘development of underdevelopment’ if the Latin American state projects produce a new relationship of dependency on China by merely exporting primary products. On the other hand, it will be far better for the region’s peoples if the relationship is based on equality (multipolarity) as well as the transfer of technology, the upscaling of production processes, and regional integration (national and regional sovereignty).

Josefina Robirosa (Argentina), Bosque azul (‘Blue Forest’), 1993-94.

The BRI’s annual disbursement of funds is around $50 billion, with projections suggesting that, by 2027, total BRI spending will be about $1.3 trillion. These capital flows primarily focus on long-term investments in infrastructure rather than short-term bailouts, although new studies suggest that China has offered short-term liquidity to several countries. Between 2009 and 2020, the People’s Bank of China entered into bilateral currency swap arrangements with at least 41 countries. These currency swaps take place between the local currency (the Argentinian peso, for instance) and China’s renminbi (RMB), with the local currency as collateral and the RMB used either to buy goods or to acquire dollars. The combination of BRI investments and RMB currency swaps provide countries with immediate alternatives to the IMF and its austerity demands. In January 2022, Argentina’s government asked China to increase its 130-billion-yuan swap ($20.6 billion) by an additional 20 billion yuan ($3.14 billion) to cover the IMF payment. A few weeks later, the People’s Bank of China provided the necessary swap to Argentina’s Central Bank. Despite this infusion of cash, Argentina still went to the IMF.

The answer to why Argentina took that decision can perhaps be found in the letter written by Martín Guzman (minister of the economy) and Miguel Pesce (president of the Central Bank) to the IMF’s Georgieva on 3 March 2022. In the communication, Argentina promises to ‘improve public finances’ and to restrain inflation, which are straightforward orthodox positions. But then there is an interesting obligation: that Argentina will expand exports and draw in foreign direct investment to ‘pave the way to an eventual re-entry into international capital markets’. Rather than use the opportunity afforded by BRI-currency swaps to develop its own national and regional agenda, the government seems eager to use whatever platform possible to return to the status quo of integration into the capitalist marketplace for finance dominated by Wall Street and the City of London.

On 12 April 2022, the Committee of Creditors of Internal Debt (CADI) announced that the people of Argentina refuse to shoulder the burden of the IMF debt. The people should not pay a single peso: those who squirrelled away the billions that Macri borrowed from the IMF should be the ones who pay the price. Banking secrecy laws need to be suspended in order to draw up a list of those who took that money and hid it in tax havens. The hashtag of CADI’s campaign is #LaDeudaEsConElPueblo – the debt is with the people. It should be paid to the people, not drawn from them.

As the Argentinian poet Juan Gelman (1930–2014) wrote during the reign of the military junta, these are ‘dark times, filled with light’. This phrase resonates even now:

dark times/filled with light/the sun/
pours sunlight onto the city/ torn
by sudden sirens/the police on the hunt/night falls and we/ make love under this roof

Gelman, a communist, fought the dictatorship, which killed his son and daughter-in-law and damaged the spine of his country. Even the dark times, he wrote, echoing Brecht, are filled with light. These are tough moments in world history, but even now there remain possibilities, there remain people gathered on the streets of Buenos Aires and Rosario, La Plata and Córdoba. Their slogan is clear: no to the pact with the IMF. But theirs is not only a politics of ‘no’. It is also a politics of ‘yes’. Yes to taking advantage of the new openings to shape an agenda for the well-being of the Argentinian people. Yes, also yes.



Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including “The Darker Nations” and “The Poorer Nations.” His latest book is “Washington Bullets,” with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

Tricontinental, April 21, 2022,

Zelenskymania and Switzerland’s ruined image / by by Guy Mettan

While negotiations seem to be progressing and the first contours of a possible solution in Ukraine are emerging (neutrality and partial demilitarisation of the country, handover of the Donbass and Crimea), the background to the conflict is beginning to be better understood. However, a quick ceasefire is not to be expected: the Americans and the Ukrainians have not yet lost enough and the Russians have not yet won enough to cease hostilities.

Before I continue with my reflections, however, I would like to ask those who do not share my realistic view of international relations to put this text aside. They will not like what is about to come, and it will save them heartburn and the time they would waste denigrating me.

I am of the opinion that morality is a very poor advisor in geopolitics, but in human affairs it is appropriate: the most uncompromising realism does not prevent us from investing time and money, as I am doing, to alleviate the fate of the population affected by the fighting.

The analyses of the most qualified experts (I am thinking especially of the Americans John Mearsheimer and Noam Chomsky), the investigations of investigative journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal, and the documents seized by the Russians–for example, the intercepted communications traffic of the Ukrainian army from 22 January and the attack plans seized on a computer left behind by a British officer–show that this war was both inevitable and highly improvised.

An inevitable and improvised war

Inevitable because since Zelensky’s declaration of his intention to retake Crimea by force in April 2021, Ukrainians and Americans had decided to trigger the war no later than early this year.

The concentration of Ukrainian troops in the Donbass since last summer, the massive arms deliveries by NATO in recent months, the accelerated combat training of Azov regiments and the army, the intensive shelling of Donetsk and Lugansk by the Ukrainians from 16 February onwards (all this was ignored by the Western media, of course), prove that Kiev had planned a large-scale military operation for the end of this winter.

The aim was to repeat the “Operation Storm” launched by Croatia against the Serbian Krajina in August 1995 and to take the Donbass in a lightning offensive, without giving the Russians time to react, in order to gain control over the entire Ukrainian territory and enable the country to join NATO and the EU quickly. Incidentally, this also explains why the USA has repeatedly announced a Russian attack since the autumn: they knew that, one way or another, it would come to war.Improvised because the Russian response was made under time pressure. When the Russians realised that NATO’s diplomatic moves–no U.S. response to their proposals, Blinken-Lavrov meetings in Geneva in January, Zelensky’s call for calm and Macron-Scholz mediation in February–did not clarify the situation and amounted to a classic stalling tactic, the Russians reacted in a masterful and at the same time very risky way. Within ten days (recognition of the republics, cooperation agreement and start of the military operation), they decided to attack first in order to pre-empt the Ukrainians.

And instead of attacking the well-equipped and heavily fortified Ukrainian army forces head-on, it was decided to bypass them with a large-scale encirclement/diversion manoeuvre. The invasion opened three fronts simultaneously–north, centre and south–in order to destroy the Ukrainian air force and as much equipment as possible in the first few hours and disorganise the Ukrainian counter-attack.

Had they let Ukraine attack first, their situation would have become critical and they would have either been defeated or condemned to an endless war of attrition in the Donbass. It should be remembered that Russian troop strength is ridiculously low: 150,000 men against 300,000 Ukrainians, including the National Guard.

Considering the circumstances and despite the initial mishaps and losses, the Russian operation was a success and will go down in military history, though of course not as a human example.

With this first phase completed, the Russians can now concentrate on their main objective, which is to liquidate the “pockets” of Kharkiv and Mariupol held by the neo-Nazi Azov regiments and to reduce the Kramatorsk cauldron where the bulk of the Ukrainian army is entrenched.

So much for the military component.

Winners and losers

Let us now look at the political situation. Who are the real winners and losers of this war? I see one main winner, smaller winners and many losers.

The biggest winner is undoubtedly the USA. One has to recognise that the Biden team has manoeuvred masterfully despite the senility of its president. By withdrawing from Afghanistan last August, it has cleared itself in the eyes of the public and avoided being blamed for the disastrous invasion and occupation of that poor country.

By drafting a script in which the born actor Zelensky can shine, they appear to the Western public as brave white knights, although they are the big masterminds in the background. The USA has closed ranks in NATO and turned the Europeans into useful idiots who willingly defend “the democracies threatened by the despicable butcher-dictator Putin”. In the process, they are forced by the USA to buy its shale gas, while the German left and the Greens rush to mobilise 100 billion euros in military loans to buy American F-35 fighter-bombers. Bingo! The only fly in the ointment is that the plan did not go according to plan. The Russians did not fall into the trap. Ukraine will be carved up, neutralised and will not be able to join NATO as hoped.

Other winners are China, India and the countries of the South, which are watching with glee as the West, especially the Europeans, tear each other apart and weaken themselves for a long time. In an unexpected way, they find themselves in the comfortable position of neutrality or non-alignment. The Chinese would have preferred an amicable settlement, but they had no choice: they know that if they drop Russia, they will be next on the list, as shown by the torrent of Sinophobia that the West is pouring out under the pretext of defending the rights of the Uighurs (while the West is completely indifferent to the rights of the Yemenis, who have been bombed mercilessly for six years).

The big loser will of course be Ukraine, which is being needlessly maimed, dismembered, devastated and massacred, as it now loses much more than what it would have lost if the Minsk agreement had been implemented. President Zelensky will have to bear the heavy responsibility for this in history, as he preferred the ruin of his country to a timely compromise.

The other big losers are the Europeans. In the immediate future, it is true, they can brag about their rediscovered unity, their accelerated rearmament, their strong will to defend democracy and freedom to the last Ukrainian, their generosity towards refugees, their future independence from Russia in the field of energy, and so on.

All this is indeed correct and true. But in the future the price they will pay for it will be extremely high. Their behaviour shows that they have absolutely no say vis-à-vis the Americans–they are mere vassals. Ursula von der Leyen’s decision last week to hand over the personal data of EU citizens to the Americans shows the extent of European subjugation.

The same applies to the economy: what sense does it make to free oneself from Russian energy dependence to fall into that of the Americans with gas prices four or five times higher? What will the German industry say when it has to foot the bill? Especially since there are neither LNG tankers, nor ports, gas de-liquefaction plants or pipelines in sufficient numbers in Europe. How is American shale gas to be delivered to the Slovaks, Romanians and Hungarians? On the backs of donkeys?

What will the German Greens say if they have to accept the construction of new nuclear power plants to meet the demand for electricity? What will the youth and the European environmentalists say when they realise that they have been ripped off and the fight against global warming has been sacrificed in the name of dirty geopolitical interests? Or the French when they see their country being declassified not only globally but also at the European level after having witnessed the rearmament of Germany and the massive purchase of American weapons by Poles, Balts, Scandinavians, Italians and Germans? How about the European public opinion when it has to entertain millions of Ukrainian refugees after offering them free train subscriptions?

And what will Europe gain if it finds itself split in two by deep hatred and a new Iron Curtain that has shifted just a little further east than that of the Cold War? And what will it do when it finds that it has not isolated Russia but is itself cut off from the rest of the world? If one looks closely at the vote on the UN resolutions, one finds that the 40 or so countries that abstained or did not participate in the vote, represent a majority of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s economy.

Far from melting, support for Russia has actually improved between the 2 March vote and the 25 March vote. As for the countries that refused to impose sanctions on Russia, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority abstained and only the Western countries accepted them…

Switzerland’s ruined image

Another big loser is Switzerland. Official Switzerland boasts that it has followed the sanctions demanded by the USA and the European Union with historic speed. Those in a hurry are already calling for swift accession to the EU and NATO. Well done.

But after the Federal Council gave in in the cases of Jewish funds and bank client confidentiality, this is the third time in twenty years that our government has submitted to American dictates: what is left of our law and sovereignty?

Worse still, we have capitulated by surrendering our neutrality in the open field because no one asked us to do so. After standing firm for two centuries, we are now submitting without a fight in less than five days!

This renunciation is serious not only for the country’s identity but also for its credibility. The fact that federal councillors bow to Zelensky on the Bundesplatz and wear scarves in the Ukrainian colours still gets a pass. That is political folklore. But the sacrifice of neutrality is seriously damaging the country, because by aligning ourselves with the West we have gambled away our credit with the rest of the world.

What are we to think of the reliability of our banks when they block accounts on mere American orders? What will become of international Geneva and our foreign policy, which is now boycotted by Russia and probably many other countries, if we are no longer able to articulate it ourselves without appealing to Brussels and Washington? How can Geneva claim to remain the capital of multilateralism when CERN and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] suspend Russia’s participation and Switzerland boycotts Lavrov’s speeches at the Human Rights Council in the slipstream of EU countries?

This departure signals the shipwreck of the inclusive multilateralism that Switzerland and Geneva claimed to defend, and is proving serious for our humanitarian policy and the Geneva Conventions, as evidenced by the alarming ICRC communication of Tuesday 29 March.

By unconditionally backing Ukraine and Europe, we are putting the ICRC’s neutrality and impartiality at risk. The two are inseparable in the eyes of the world. And that is why the ICRC had to respond forcefully to Ukrainian attempts to sabotage its work when it was accused of doing business with the Russians, even though neutrality is at the heart of its mission.

How can one trust an institution whose host country has betrayed the spirit and even the letter of neutrality, which is after all enshrined in its constitution, in order to please Western political leaders and a public opinion inflamed by anti-Russian propaganda?

The silence of the Geneva authorities and political parties will cost dearly, especially since Switzerland is making a fool of itself by leaving the Good Offices initiative to countries like Israel, Turkey or Belarus!

Finally, there is Russia. Winner or loser? Both, actually. On the one hand, Russia will probably win militarily and strategically. At the end of the fighting, Russia could achieve the neutralisation of Ukraine, its partial demilitarisation (no foreign military bases and nuclear weapons) and a possible partition of the country.

Russia will leave the fanatics of American hegemony haunting the offices in Washington and Brussels utterly shocked. It will have shown that there will be no compromise on its security and that of its allies. And Russia will have shown the world that it does what it says and says what it does, having made its red lines clear three months before the conflict. And it will have done so without rocking its economy and currency, as the West had hoped.

Contrary to the opinions of Western countries, economic sanctions, however harsh, will only strengthen Putin, as recent polls by the neutral Levada Institute show, confirming the support of a large majority of the population for the “special operation”. Never before has a sanction succeeded in toppling a government, neither in Cuba, nor in Iran, nor in North Korea.

But Moscow will have to bear the stigma of the warmonger, the aggressor, even if legally its concerns are no less bad than the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the NATO aggression against Serbia in 1999 with the subsequent secession of Kosovo a few years later. The human, cultural, economic and political price to be paid will be high. The tensions created by the conflict will not magically disappear and the Russians will have to deal with the consequences of this war for a long time to come.

Cyber war and Stratcom

We conclude this overview with a word about the incredible success of the Ukrainian propaganda campaign in the West. This war offers the opportunity to witness live the first full cyberwar operation.

If press freedom is suffering in Russia, it is not much better here: we have banned Russian media and forbid dissenting viewpoints, even though we pretend to defend press freedom! Within a few days, there was a zelenscisation of minds, with everyone competing in subservience to listen to the Great Hero and fulfil his wishes. President Macron even wore a three-day beard and an olive-coloured T-shirt to underline his support for the cause, while the media renounced all journalistic ethics in order to give full support to Ukraine. Such a breakdown of sanity in such a short time is unheard of.

Outrageous, but not inexplicable. Dan Cohen, correspondent for “Behind the News”, has closely analysed the sophisticated mechanisms of Ukrainian propaganda and the reasons for its colossal success in our countries.

A NATO commander described the campaign in the Washington Post as “a massive stratcom (strategic communications) operation mobilising media, info ops and psy ops”. In essence, it was about mobilising the media and hypnotising the public with a constant stream of real news, fake news, images and narratives that were likely to stun people in order to keep emotional levels high and shut down the public’s ability to judge.

This resulted in a flood of spectacular images and often false information: the alleged death of the soldiers on Snake Island, the ghost of Kiev who is said to have shot down six Russian planes alone, the threats against the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the fake bombing of the Zaporozhye power plant, or the cases of the maternity ward and the theatre in Mariupol whose victims were never seen, apart from two women, at least one of whom was recognised as alive.

Add to this the accelerated whitewashing of the Azov battalions, who were transformed into patriotic soldiers after their neo-Nazi patches were removed, and the denial of the existence of American bacteriological laboratories in Ukraine, although their existence was explicitly admitted by Victoria Nuland at a Senate hearing on 8 March. It is true that “wording” was immediately disseminated to deny their existence. The very next day, people started talking about “biological research structures” and warning the public about alleged Russian chemical attacks in order to stifle the issue of secret bacteriological laboratories (Cf. BFM TV).

It turns out that Ukrainian communications, under the aegis of the PR Network Group, uses no less than 150 PR firms, thousands of experts, dozens of news agencies, renowned media, Telegram channels and Russian opposition media to spread its messages and format Western public opinion.

People make fun of the Russians, who have banned the use of the word war in favour of the word “special operation”. But the Western media do no better, constantly feeding them key messages and language elements, banning, for example, the use of phrases like “Crimean referendum” or “civil war in the Donbass”. For more details, see Dan Cohen, Ukraine’s Propaganda War: international PR firms, DC lobbyists and CIA cutouts,

However, this brilliant success in Western countries masks an obvious failure in Latin America, Africa and Asia, the remaining 75 per cent of the inhabited world. The countries of the South are no longer falling for our lies and interests, and Zelensky’s star is beginning to fade.

His pathetic performance in the Knesset, where he made the mistake of comparing the Russian offensive to the “Final Solution”, even though it was the Russians who liberated Auschwitz and pushed back Hitler, and it was the ancestors of his allies from the Ukrainian nationalist far right who participated in the Holocaust with firearms, will have been the last straw.

At the risk of repeating myself, I will close this long article by saying: one can, indeed one must, condemn this war. But please let us stop blinding ourselves. Let us regain our critical spirit and our sense of reality. Only in this way can we rebuild a lasting peace on the shambles that Ukraine has become.

(Translation “Swiss Standpoint”)

Originally published: Verein Schweizer Standpunkt on April 10, 2022

Guy Mettan is a political scientist and journalist. He started his journalistic career with Tribune de Genève in 1980 and was its director and editor-in chief in 1992–1998. From 1997 to 2020, he was director of “Club Suisse de la Presse” in Geneva. Nowadays he is a freelance journalist and author.

MR Online, April 26, 2022,

Lenin’s ‘The State and Revolution’ / by Louise O’Shea

If they do me in, I ask you to publish my notebook: Marxism on the State (it got left behind in Stockholm). It’s bound in a blue cover… There are a number of remarks and notes… I believe it to be important.

So wrote Lenin with characteristic modesty in July 1917. He was referring to what later became known as The State and Revolution, one of the most important contributions to Marxist thought of the last century.

The short pamphlet was written in response to the turmoil that engulfed the socialist movement following the outbreak of World War One. Many socialist organisations that had previously professed to be revolutionary, and aligned themselves to the ostensibly Marxist Second International grouping, succumbed to the nationalist hysteria sweeping Europe at the time.

The slow drift towards accommodation to capitalism resulted in 1914 in open support for their national governments and bourgeoisies. Where they held seats in Parliament, such as in Germany, socialist MPs voted to support the bloodshed and mass murder of workers. This abandonment of principles on the part of professed socialists horrified Lenin, along with other genuine Marxists.

The State and Revolution represented his attempt to reassert the Marxist attitude to the state in order to show why the capitalist state needed to be destroyed—not tamed—and replaced with workers’ power. Such a restatement was important not simply to discredit the so-called socialists of the Second International, but also as a guide to action for the millions of workers across Europe whose struggles against war and the accompanying deprivation were beginning to rock the foundations of European capitalism.

As Lenin wrote in the preface to the first edition:

The unprecedented horrors and miseries of the protracted war are making the people’s position unbearable and increasing their anger. The world proletarian revolution is clearly maturing. The question of its relation to the state is acquiring practical importance.

The starting point for his argument was the class nature of the capitalist state. Drawing on the writings of Marx and Engels, Lenin demolishes the idea that the state is a neutral body standing above social classes. Instead, he argues that the state exists as a means for one class to maintain its dominance over another. Far from being able to legislate away the conflict between workers and bosses under capitalism, “the state is a product and manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonisms objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable… The state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression by one class by another; it is the creation of ‘order’, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between the classes.” The arbitration system, courts and prisons, insofar as they legitimise wage labour and enshrine the property rights of the rich, are all examples of this today.

Coercion is also central to the power of the capitalist state. As Lenin puts it:

What does this power [of the state] mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc. at their command… A standing army and police are the chief instruments of the state power.

Given the capitalist state exists to enforce the interests and property rights of the capitalist class, it cannot be taken over by representatives of the working class and used to introduce socialism as the reformists of the Second International ultimately argued. It must instead be destroyed and dismantled in order that the power of the capitalist class be neutralised, and the capitalists prevented from reasserting their dominance following a successful workers’ revolution.

For this to happen, workers must become the dominant class in society. As Lenin described: “The overthrow of the bourgeoisie can be achieved only by the proletariat becoming the ruling class, capable of crushing the inevitable and desperate resistance of the bourgeoisie, and of organising all the working and exploited people for the new economic system.

“The proletariat needs state power, a centralized organisation of force, an organisation of violence, both to crush the resistance of the exploiters and to lead the enormous mass of the population—the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, the semi-proletarians—in the work of organising a socialist economy.” So it is not enough to simply abolish the capitalist state, it must be replaced with organisations that embody and defend workers’ control of society.

But such a state would have little in common with all previously existing states which have enshrined minority rule. The Paris Commune of 1871 provided the first example of what workers’ power might ultimately look like. A keen observer of the Commune, Marx described how:

The first decree of the Commune… was the suppression of the standing army and its replacement by the armed people… The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of Paris, responsible and revocable at any time. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class… The police, which until then had been the instrument of the government, was at once stripped of its political attributes and turned into the responsible and at all times revocable instrument of the Commune… From the members of the Commune downwards, public service had to be done at workmen’s wages. The privileges and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the dignitaries themselves.

The significance of the Commune and its contrast with the capitalist state for Lenin could not be overstated:

The Commune [has] replaced the smashed state machine ‘only’ by fuller democracy: abolition of the standing army; all officials to be elected and subject to recall. But as a matter of fact, this ‘only’ signifies a gigantic replacement of certain institutions by other institutions of a fundamentally different type.

Lenin also argued that a workers’ state differs from previous forms in its transitory nature. Societies in which the ruling class relies on the day-to-day exploitation and oppression of the majority require a permanent state structure to ensure social stability and compliance.

Once in control, the working class does not have to oppress any other social class in order to run society effectively and provide for people’s needs. Without class divisions, there is no need for a state. In the long run therefore, a genuine socialist society would be one without the need for an oppressive state structure.

The main function of a workers’ state then is to ensure the defeat of the capitalist class, and to prevent it being able to regroup or rearm to destroy the revolution and workers’ power.

As Lenin explained:

The organ of suppression, however, is here the majority of the population, and not a minority, as was always the case under slavery, serfdom and wage slavery. And since the majority of people itself suppresses its oppressors, a ‘special force’ of suppression is no longer necessary! In this sense, the state begins to wither away.

For the organisations of the Second International, that had integrated themselves into the capitalist state and ruling structures in a way that did not incline them towards its smashing, Lenin’s arguments were somewhat unwelcome. The State and Revolution was decried as Blanquist and anarchist amongst the mainstream of the socialist movement.

By contrast, among left-wing critics of the orthodox socialist movement of the time, including some anarchists, The State and Revolution was a revelation. Syndicalist Alfred Rosmer recalled its reception in France:

for revolutionaries situated outside the mainstream of orthodox Marxism, for the syndicalists and anarchists, this… was a pleasant revelation. They had never heard such language from the Marxists they knew. They read and re-read this interpretation of Marx, which was quite unfamiliar to them.

The all-too-common characterisation of Lenin as an authoritarian by anarchists today is thus both ironic and woefully inaccurate. Again and again throughout his political life, including in The State and Revolution, Lenin stressed the conscious activity of workers as crucial to the struggle to create a new and better world. In 1906, he wrote of his eagerness to see the working class “smash all the instruments for oppressing the people, seize power, and take what was regarded as belonging to all kinds of robbers of the people—in short, when the intellect and reason of millions of downtrodden people awaken not only to read books, but for action, vital human action, to make history.”

The revolution Lenin lived through and led shortly after completing The State and Revolution is a testament to this. John Reed, and American journalist who was in Russia during the revolution described how “for the first time, millions of ordinary workers and peasants found themselves able to participate in the major decisions that affected their lives. Control of the factories was taken over by the workers, land was seized by the poor peasants, the embryo of an entirely new form of society was created.”

The official structures of workers power reflected this: “At least twice a year delegates are elected from all over Russia to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets… This body, consisting of about two thousand delegates, meets in the capital in the form of a great soviet, and settles upon the essentials of national policy.” According to Reed, “no political body more sensitive and responsive to the popular will was ever invented.”

The contrast between the participatory democracy of the most advanced form of workers’ power ever seen and the oppressive nature of the capitalist state could not be greater. It makes a mockery of those who reject state power as authoritarian regardless of which class is in control.

More than one hundred years after it was written, The State and Revolution remains the clearest exposition of the role of the state and the need for the masses to destroy it in order to bring about a society without class divisions of any sort.

Originally published: RedFlag on April 18, 2022

MR Online, April 25, 2022,

You can’t have it both ways—just transition requires demilitarization / by Joshua K. McEvoy

An F-35A Lightning II during a flight near the Vermont Air National Guard Base, South Burlington, Vermont, December 9, 2021. Photo courtesy United States Air Force/Wikimedia Commons.

We must recognize the role of militarization in perpetuating climate and ecological destruction

As many others have pointed out, last month’s announcement of the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement included very few new commitments. Many headline items, such as pharmacare, are just reiterated Liberal campaign promises the party has yet to act upon. This is especially true for the commitments aimed at addressing climate and ecological destruction. Although it received little attention when the deal was announced, one such rather vague commitment was to “move forward” with so-called “just transition” legislation; a promise the Liberals first made in their 2019 election platform.

Within a week of recommitting themselves to just transition legislation, however, the government critically undermined its position when it announced its intention to purchase eighty-eight F-35 fighter jets from weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The emissions, monetary cost, and purpose of such weaponry cannot be reconciled with a commitment to a meaningful just transition. Moreover, there is simply no way to achieve a just transition while simultaneously pursuing further militarization—a process dependent upon and often performed in the service of fossil fuel extraction.

Ironically, the origins of just transition can be traced to the involvement of trade unionists in disarmament movements like “Ban the Bomb” and “Jobs with Peace.” These initiatives aimed to soften the blow and gain support for the peace movement’s demands among workers in the arms industry. Jobs with Peace, for example, attempted to combat the combined austerity and high military spending of the Reagan era with a demand to shift government spending toward social services and the stimulation of non-militarized jobs. The German Greens of the same era took the idea further by incorporating “concerns of material well-being, antimilitarism, ecological balance, and general social renewal” into their demands for economic conversion.

Today, the concept of just transition is most often associated with the need to include climate and social justice principles and practices in moving to a more sustainable economy. For example, Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), describes just transition as “a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.” Further, the “transition itself must be just and equitable; redressing past harms and creating new relationships of power for the future through reparations.” This interpretation of just transition is largely consistent with how many in movements at the intersection of labour and climate and social justice use the term today.

But regardless of whether one interprets just transition narrowly or expansively, it is clear its aims are incompatible with the type and scale of military spending the Liberal government is undertaking. This is, of course, partly because the world’s militaries are among the largest contributors to climate change, conservatively accounting for approximately six percent of global carbon emissions.

The F-35 fighter jet is likely to only intensify these emissions. A US Air National Guard environmental impact statement estimated that basing just eighteen F-35 jets at Truax Airfield in Madison, Wisconsin, would emit 12,478 tons of CO2 annually. The City of Madison estimates this is equivalent to 2,438 passenger vehicles driving about 18,500 kilometres a year—a 135 percent increase over the F-16s they are meant to replace. However, the City of Madison believes the Air National Guard’s estimate to be artificially low, and it should also be noted that the estimate above does not include emissions from the manufacturing of F-35s nor construction related to retrofitting airfields for their use. It is clear, then, that despite uncertainty around the precise lifespan of the F-35 due to its poor reliability and maintenance record, the Canadian government’s investment in these jets has locked-in significant emissions for decades to come.

Direct emissions from continued militarization are important, but it is also essential to recognize the vast sums of money and resources devoted to military spending that could otherwise be used for a just transition. As James Wilt recently pointed out, the Canadian government has committed over half-a-trillion dollars in military spending over the next twenty years. The F-35 alone will account for a huge portion of this sum. The widely reported $19 billion price tag only represents the cost of acquisition. It is thought the actual total cost of the jets could be more than two to three times that amount, with a 2014 Department of National Defence report estimating the life-cycle cost of sixty-five F-35s to be over $45 billion.

In contrast to this huge outlay, the government’s recently announced Emissions Reduction Plan commits a relatively paltry $9.1 billion to meeting its 2030 emission targets—targets which many in the environmental movement view as inadequate. Estimates concerning the amount of investment required to achieve a just transition in Canada suggest we likely need to spend at least $16.5 and possibly more than $20 billion on an annual basis, with spending declining over time. Not only, therefore, does continued militarization increase emissions and raise the cost of climate action, it also diverts needed resources away from the pursuit of something like a just transition in the first place.

Finally, it is critical that we acknowledge the role militarization plays in perpetuating our fossilized economy. By locking-in future emissions, and diverting resources away from a just transition, the government is contributing to the continued militarization of global fossil fuel extraction and trade. As Simon Dalby puts it in his book Anthropocene Geopolitics, “security has always been about mitigating the contradictions of capitalism and providing the conditions necessary for its reproduction.” Central to this is securing uninterrupted access to fossil fuels which power “carboniferous capitalism” through the use of military force. It also involves the sale of military hardware to major fossil fuel-producing states like Saudi Arabia which is currently waging a war in Yemen that the United Nations says, “has produced the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

It is, therefore, clearly not possible to achieve a just transition in any sense of the term so long as our governments pursue a course of continued militarization. Rather, to achieve a just transition and avoid or mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we must recognize the role of militarization in perpetuating climate and ecological destruction. We must push against the current wave of calls for increased military spending and seek to reinvigorate the inherent connection between the environmental, labour, and peace movements.

Joshua K. McEvoy is a PhD candidate in Political Studies at Queen’s University. His research focuses on environmental politics and just transition movements.

Canadian Dimension, April 20, 2022,

The great inflation debate rages on / by Michael Roberts

If the major economies slow down sharply or even enter a slump by the end of this year, inflation too will eventually subside—to be replaced by rising unemployment and falling real wages. Image from Shutterstock.

The inflation debate among mainstream economists rages on. Is the accelerating and high inflation rate of commodities here to stay for some time and or is it ‘transitory’ and will soon subside? Do central banks need to act fast and firmly to ‘tighten’ monetary policy by cutting back purchases of government bonds and hiking interest rates sharply? Or is such tightening an overkill and will cause a slump?

I have covered these issues in several previous posts in some detail. But it is worth going over some of the arguments and the evidence again because high and rising inflation is severely damaging to the livelihoods and prosperity of most households in the advanced capitalist economies and even a matter of life and death for hundreds of millions in the so-called Global South of poor countries. Being made unemployed is devastating for those who lose their jobs and for their families. But unemployment affects usually only a minority of working people at any one time. Inflation, on the other hand, affects the majority, particularly those on low incomes where basic commodities like energy, food, transport and housing matter even more.

In a recent book, Rupert Russell pointed out that the price of food has often been decisive historically. Currently the global food price index is at its highest ever recorded. This hits people living in the Middle East and North Africa, a region which imports more wheat than any other, with Egypt the world’s largest importer. The price of these imports is set by the international commodity exchanges in Chicago, Atlanta and London. Even with the government subsidies, people in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Algeria and Morocco spend between 35 and 55 percent of their income on food. They’re living on the edge: small price rises bring poverty and hunger. Russell reminds us that grain was key to almost every stage of the First World War. Fearing the threat to its grain exports, imperial Russia helped provoke that global conflict. As the conflict dragged on, Germany also suffered from a dearth of cheap bread and looked to seize Russia’s bountiful harvest. “Peace, Land, and Bread” was the Bolshevik slogan, and success had much to do with bread and the control of the new grain pathways inside Russia. Now the Russian invasion of Ukraine puts the harvest of these two leading grain exporters in jeopardy.

Indeed, when you consider food prices (one of the key contributors—along with energy prices—to the current inflationary spiral), it exposes the inadequacies of mainstream explanations of inflation and their policy remedies. Current inflation is not the product of ‘excessive demand’ (Keynesian) or ‘excessive monetary injections’ (monetarist). It is the result of a ‘supply shock’—a dearth of production and supply chain breakdown, induced by the COVID pandemic and then by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The recovery after the COVID slump in the major economies has been faltering. Every major international agency and analytical research consultancy has been lowering its forecast of economic growth and industrial production for 2022. At the same time, these agencies and central banks have revised up their forecasts for inflation and for the length of time it will stay high.

Central banks have little control over the ‘real economy’ in capitalist economies and that includes any inflation of prices in goods or services. For the 30 years of general price disinflation (where price rises slow or even deflate), central banks struggled to meet their usual two percent annual inflation target with their usual weapons of interest rates and monetary injections. And it will be the same story in trying this time to reduce inflation rates. As I have argued before, all the central banks were caught napping as inflation rates soared. And why was this? In general, because the capitalist mode of production does not move in a steady, harmonious and planned way but instead in a jerky, uneven and anarchic manner, of booms and slumps. But also, they misread the nature of the inflationary spiral, relying as they do on the incorrect theories of inflation.

I would argue that this supply side ‘shock’ is really a continuation of the slowdown in industrial output, international trade, business investment and real GDP growth that had already happened in 2019 before the pandemic broke. That was happening because the profitability of capitalist investment in the major economies had dropped to near historic lows, and it is profitability that ultimately drives investment and growth in capitalist economies. If rising inflation is being driven by a weak supply side rather than an excessively strong demand side, monetary policy won’t work.

The hardline monetarists call for sharp rises in interest rates to curb demand while the Keynesians worry about wage-push inflation as rising wages ‘force’ companies to raise prices. But inflation rates did not rise when central banks pumped trillions into the banking system to avoid a meltdown during the global financial crash of 2008-9 or during the COVID pandemic. All that money credit from ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) ended up as near-zero cost funding for financial and property speculation. ‘Inflation’ took place in stock and housing markets, not in the shops. What that means is that US Federal Reserve’s ‘pivot’ towards interest rate rises and reverse QE will not control inflation rates.

The other mainstream theory is that of the Keynesians. They argue that inflation arises from ‘full employment’ driving up wages and from ‘excessive demand’ when governments spend ‘too much’ in trying to revive the economy. If there is full employment, then supply cannot be increased and workers can drive up wages, forcing companies to raise prices in a wage-price spiral. So there is trade-off between the level of unemployment and prices. This trade-off can be characterised in a graphic curve, named after A.W. Phillips.

But the evidence of history runs against the Phillips curve as an explanation of the degree of inflation. In the 1970s, price inflation reached post-war highs, but economic growth slowed and unemployment rose. Most major economies experienced ‘stagflation.’ And since the end of the Great Recession, unemployment rates in the major economies have dropped to post-war lows, but inflation has also slowed to lows.

Keynesian Larry Summers takes the ‘excessive demand’ approach. His view of inflation is that government spending is driving price hikes by giving Americans too much purchasing power. So it’s the Biden administration’s fault; the answer being to re-impose ‘austerity’ (cutting government spending and raising taxes). Again, you could ask Summers why there was no high inflation when governments spent huge amounts to avoid a banking collapse in the Great Recession, but only now.

Following the Keynesian cost-push inflation theory inevitably comes the policy call for ‘wage restraint’ and even higher unemployment. For example, Keynesian guru Paul Krugman advocated raising unemployment to tame inflation in one of his recent New York Times columns. So much for the claim that capitalism can sustain ‘full employment’ with judicious macro-management of the economy, Keynesian-style. It seems that the capitalist economy is caught between the Scylla of unemployment and the Charybdis of inflation after all.

As for wage restraint, both Keynesians and central bankers have been quick to launch into such calls. Keynesian Financial Times columnist Robert Armstrong called for monetary policy to be “tight enough to … create/preserve some slack in the labour market.” In other words, the task must be to create unemployment to reduce the bargaining power of workers. Bank of England governor Bailey made the same call in order, he said, to stop runaway inflation. But there is no evidence that wage rises lead to higher inflation. We are back to the chicken and the egg. Rising inflation (chicken) forces workers to seek higher wages (egg). Indeed, over the last 20 years until the year of the COVID, US real weekly wages rose just 0.4 percent a year on average, less even that the average annual real GDP growth of around two percent plus. It’s the share of GDP growth going to profits that rose (as Marx argued way back in 1865).

US inflation is much higher than wages which are only growing at between three to four percent, that means real wages are going down for most Americans. Financial assets are rising even faster. Housing prices are up by roughly 20 percent on an annualized basis. Just before the pandemic, in 2019, American non-financial corporations made about a trillion dollars a year in profit, give or take. This amount had remained constant since 2012. But in 2021, these same firms made about $1.73 trillion a year. That means that for every American man, woman and child in the US, corporate America used to make about $3,081, but today makes about $5,207. That’s an increase of $2,126 per person. It means that increased profits from corporate America comprise 44 percent of the inflationary increase in costs. Corporate profits alone are contributing to a three percent inflation rate on all goods and services in America.

Then there is the ‘psychological’ explanation of inflation. Inflation gets ‘out of control’ when ‘expectations’ of rising prices by consumers takes hold and inflation becomes self-fulfilling. But this theory removes any objective analysis of price formation. Why should ‘expectations’ rise or fall in the first place? As a paper by Jeremy Rudd at the Federal Reserve concludes:

Economists and economic policymakers believe that households’ and firms’ expectations of future inflation are a key determinant of actual inflation. A review of the relevant theoretical and empirical literature suggests that this belief rests on extremely shaky foundations, and a case is made that adhering to it uncritically could easily lead to serious policy errors.

All these mainstream theories deny that it is the failure of capitalist production to supply enough that is causing accelerating and high inflation. And yet, evidence for the ‘supply shock’ story remains convincing. Take used car prices. They rocketed over the last year and were a major contributor to US and UK inflation rises. Used car prices rose because new car production and delivery was stymied by COVID and the loss of key components. Global auto production and sales slumped. But production is now recovering and used car prices have dropped back. Indeed, prices of home electronics are now falling.

A Marxist theory of inflation looks first to what is happening to supply and, in particular, whether there is sufficient value creation (exploitation of labour) to stimulate investment and production. Guglielmo Carchedi and I have been working on a Marxist inflation model, which we hope to publish soon. But the key points are that the rate of price inflation first depends on the growth rate of value creation. Employing human labour creates new value and using technology reduces the labour time involved in the production of goods and services. So more output can be produced in less labour time. Therefore prices over time will tend to fall, other things being equal. Capitalist production is based on a rise in investment in fixed assets and raw materials relative to investment in human labour, and this rising organic composition of capital, as Marx called it, will lead to a fall in general profitability and an eventual slowdown in production itself. This contradiction also means price deflation is the tendency in capitalist production, other things being equal.

But other things are not always equal. There is the role of money in inflation. When money was a (universal) physical commodity like gold, the value of commodities depended partly on the value of gold production. In modern ‘fiat’ economies, where money is a unit of account (without value) created by governments and central banks, money becomes a counteracting factor to the tendency for falling prices in value creating production. The combination of new value production and money supply creation will ultimately affect the inflation rate in the prices of commodities.

In our initial research, we showed that when money growth was moderate, but value creation was strong, inflation rates were high and rising (1963-81); but when value creation weakened, money creation avoided deflation but was not enough to stop price inflation from subsiding (1981-2019). This tells you that if the major economies slow down sharply or even enter a slump by the end of this year, inflation too will eventually subside—to be replaced by rising unemployment and falling real wages.

There is an alternative to monetary or wage restraint, these policy proposals of the mainstream, acting in the interests of bankers and corporations to preserve profitability. It is to boost investment and production through public investment. That would solve the supply shock. But sufficient public investment to do that would require significant control of the major sectors of the economy, particularly energy and agriculture; and coordinated action globally. That is currently a pipedream. Instead, ‘Western’ governments are looking to cut back investment in productive sectors and boost military spending to fight the war against Russia (and China next).

Michael Roberts is a Marxist economist based in London, England. He is the author of several books including The Great Recession: A Marxist view (2009), The Long Depression (2016), and Marx 200: A Review of Marx’s Economics 200 Years After His Birth (2018).

Canadian Dimension, April 19, 2022,

Subsidies for JPMorgan Chase, Market Discipline for Hard Hit Americans / by Pam Martens and Russ Martens

Photograph Source: Ben Sutherland – CC BY 2.0

Under just three of the emergency bailout programs offered by the Fed to Wall Street, units of the megabank JPMorgan Chase tapped over $6 trillion in cumulative (term-adjusted) loans from September 17, 2019 through the first quarter of 2020. That figure will definitely go higher as the Fed is releasing the names of the banks and the amounts they borrowed on a quarterly basis for its repo loan program.

Thus far, the numbers stack up as follows: a trading unit of JPMorgan Chase borrowed $6.19 trillion from the Fed’s repo loan program from September 17, 2019 through March 31, 2020. (Those are cumulative, term-adjusted figures.) A significant chunk of that money was borrowed at interest rates as low as 0.10 percent. The loans were collateralized with mostly treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

A trading unit of JPMorgan Chase also borrowed $400 billion in cumulative, term-adjusted loans from the Fed’s Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) during 2020. All of those loans were made at a fixed rate of 0.25 percent even though the Fed accepted lower-grade collateral, such as asset-backed securities, for some of the loans.

JPMorgan Chase’s money market funds also needed to borrow a cumulative $24.8 billion from the Fed’s Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to bail themselves out during March and April of 2020. Some of those loans didn’t mature until 2021. JPMorgan borrowed from the Fed’s MMLF at rates between 0.50 and 1.25 percent.

While JPMorgan Chase, which has admitted to five criminal felony counts since 2014, was getting these sweetheart deals from the Fed, it was charging Americans who were struggling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as much as 17 percent on their credit cards. You can read one of its credit card customer’s complaints about that 17 percent interest at this link at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) complaint database.

Another JPMorgan Chase customer wrote to the CFPB that their employer filed for bankruptcy during the pandemic, leaving them unemployed. The customer said that when they asked JPMorgan for assistance in reducing the monthly amount they had to pay on their credit card, they were offered the following options: convert to a 60-month repayment plan with interest rates starting at 12 percent; no payment for 90 days but interest would continue to accrue at 14.24 percent; negotiate a payoff of the total principal balance of $14,000 with a 10 percent discount. (Where exactly would an unemployed person get $12,600 when they can’t meet their monthly credit card payment.) You can read the text of that complaint here.

We asked the CFPB database to show us just complaints against JPMorgan Chase since it started receiving those cozy low-interest repo loans from the Fed on September 17, 2019 – months before any COVID-19 cases had been reported anywhere in the world. The database turned up 28,974 complaints. You can browse through them here.

If you want to gauge the compassion that JPMorgan Chase has for its own low-wage tellers, you can read our report here. Despite the five felony counts and a rap sheet that would make the Gambino crime family blush under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s Board has turned Dimon into a billionaire – on the backs of its low-wage tellers and customers paying double-digit interest rates on credit cards during a pandemic and declared national emergency.

This article originally appeared in Wall Street on Parade, April 21, 2022,

Counterpunch, April 25, 2022,

Opinion: Restoring fairness for the Wabanaki requires Congressional action, too / by Garrett Martin

The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Passamaquoddy Tribe, Penobscot Nation, and Mi’kmaq Nation are recognized under federal law. But unlike the 570 other federally recognized tribes, these four tribes in Maine – collectively known as the Wabanaki nations – are unfairly excluded from the very laws and programs Congress creates to benefit Indigenous peoples. Contrary to the aims of these federal programs, the intentional exclusion of the Wabanaki tribes has resulted in increased injustice and economic harm to Indigenous people in Maine. A new bill sponsored by Representative Jared Golden would help restore fairness. HR 6707, the Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act, would ensure that tribes in Maine are included in future federal laws and programs intended to benefit all federally recognized tribes.

The exclusion of the Wabanaki tribes is a direct result of the restrictive language of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA) and its corresponding Maine legislation, the Maine Implementing Act (MIA). When ratified by Congress through MICSA in 1980, MIA diminished the tribes’ sovereign claims and reduced their standing to that akin to municipalities. Even more harmful, MICSA contains unusual provisions that block most federal Indian law – past, present, and future – from applying to tribes in Maine if the federal law affects the application of Maine law. The Wabanaki are the only federally recognized tribes excluded in this way.

Since 1980, Wabanaki tribes as well as their surrounding rural communities have lost out on the benefits of more than 150 federal laws1 including the Violence Against Women Act, which allows tribes to prosecute non-Indian defendants for domestic violence crimes against tribal members within tribal territory; the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which allows tribes to hire urgently-needed medical professionals licensed in another state; the Stafford Act, which allows tribes to directly seek disaster relief and emergency assistance, and the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, which authorize tribes to assume primary regulatory authority for administering federal environmental programs on tribal lands. In each of these cases, Maine weaponized MICSA’s restrictive language to wage lengthy and expensive legal battles to deny Wabanaki tribes both the funds and authority granted to all other recognized tribes.

A preliminary analysis suggests that exclusion from federal grant programs cost Wabanaki tribes an average of at least $1.69 million each year in lost funding. Those funds, targeted to support agriculture, infrastructure, education, transportation, justice systems, and food security can never be reclaimed. The state also used MICSA to repeatedly block tribal efforts to launch gaming enterprises while allowing non-tribal commercial operators to reap almost $147 million in gross revenue in 2021.2 Tribal gaming authorized through the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is currently the largest generator of revenue in Indian Country. Nationwide in 2019, Indian gaming generated more than $34 billion in gross revenue.3

In 2019 the Maine legislature authorized a task force to review MIA and recommend consensus changes. The task force, which included among its members chiefs of each of the four Wabanaki tribes as well as legislators who voted to pass MIA back in 1980, submitted 22 consensus recommendations.4 Addressing the inability of the Wabanaki to access the benefits of federal legislation is among them. Most of the other recommendations are included in LD 1626, currently awaiting funding approval in the Maine legislature and the support of Governor Mills to become law. Addressing the inequity endured for generations by the Wabanaki requires bold action in both Augusta and Congress.

Rep. Golden’s Advancing Equality for Wabanaki Nations Act updates MICSA to allow the Wabanaki tribes to benefit from future laws enacted to benefit Indian tribes. The bill also allows the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) to apply to the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and Mi’kmaq Nation in the same way that the law applies to the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe. These changes represent an important step towards equalizing the federal treatment of Wabanaki tribes with that of tribes in the rest of the country. The Maine Center for Economic Policy joins the leaders of the four Wabanaki tribes as well as a coalition of more than 90 Maine organizations representing tens of thousands of Mainers to support this bill as well as LD 1626. Together we understand that improving tribal-state relations, reducing costly legal battles, and providing tools for prosperity benefit all who live in Maine.


[1] Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act

[2] American Gaming Association 2021 State of Play Report

[3] 2019 Indian Gross Gaming Revenues of $34.6B Set Industry Record and Show a 2.5% Increase | National Indian Gaming Commission (

[4] Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Implementing Act

Maine Center for Economic Policy, April 20, 2022,

Report: Gaps in data limit Maine’s ability to support marginalized women / by Maine News Service

Photo: Lewiston resident Rose Walker, who works as an Ed Tech, has struggled to find and afford childcare for her own children throughout the pandemic. | courtesy of Rose Walker

A new report finds the pandemic disproportionately impacted women, but that gaps in data limit Maine’s ability to help those in need.

Women are more likely than men to be caregivers in their families —whether for their children, family members with disabilities or the elderly — and they’re also more likely to be employed in the care economy.

Anne Gass is an independent historian and the report chair for Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, which released the report. She said there are barriers to adequate data collection, such as privacy concerns and lack of uniformity in the way data is collected.

“How many of the women are women of color?” asked Gass. “How many of them are refugees? How many of them had children who have disabilities, or are women with disabilities themselves? What we find is that, it’s just really difficult sometimes to parse that data out and find that information out.”

The report says better data is needed regarding women in the care industry and those who provide unpaid care to their families.

It also stresses the need for information on how many women are enrolled in social-service or public-assistance programs, and how eligibility and demand for programs lines up with enrollment.

Gass noted that many assistance programs are siloed, meaning they don’t share any data with each other.

She said when Mainers apply for assistance programs, they have to share personal information with intake workers they’ve never met — and sometimes having to do that over and over again keeps folks away from these benefits.

“We do need to make sure that they’re eligible, and that involves asking some questions,” said Gass. “But is there a way to do it so that it doesn’t just re-traumatize these women with as they’re going about trying to find help for themselves and their families?”

The report notes 141 child-care centers closed in Maine during the pandemic, and many more closed temporarily. Gass said two years since the start of the pandemic, child-care costs and availability is still hampering many women’s ability to return to work.

Beacon, April 25, 2022,