99 Years: The racist roots, and results, of the city manager system of government / by Samuel James

Ku Klux Klansmen marching through Portland in 1923 in support of the city manager form of government. photo/Collections of Maine Historical Society, http://www.MaineMemory.net, #1265

Originally published in the Mainer on October 2, 2022

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born into poverty in Galveston, Texas, in 1878, and he was an all-around genius. He was an intellectual and a poet. He was an engineer who held patents on improvements to wrenches that he used to fix the cars he owned, because Johnson eventually became rich. And if you couldn’t tell from his cars, his extravagant clothes and his nightclub, then his smile full of gold teeth would’ve given it away. 

Johnson was also incredibly handsome, stood over six feet tall, and was known to entertain a seemingly endless number of women. Whatever ideals of success or manhood existed in that time, Johnson transcended them all — except for one thing. Johnson was a very dark-skinned Black man. And that endless number of women? They were white. 

Of course, your everyday, run-of-the-mill white supremacists deeply hated Johnson, but there wasn’t a whole lot any of them could do about it. That’s because, on top of the genius and the poetry and the nightclub and the money and the good looks, Johnson was also a professional boxer. And in 1908, at age 30, he became the Heavyweight Champion of the World, the first Black man to ever hold the title. 

America was growing.

The following year, a group of activists, journalists and lawyers — including W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells — formed an interracial civil rights organization called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Their protests, lawsuits, and other organizing efforts were bringing Black rights further into the white zeitgeist.

Then, on July 4, 1910, Jack Johnson fought Jim Jeffries. A former champ dubbed the Great White Hope, Jeffries was tasked with returning the heavyweight title to the white race. Instead, Johnson administered a thorough, savage, bloody, one-sided, 15-round hammering, all the while flashing his golden smile far beyond the cheap seats. It was the only loss of Jeffries’ career, and he would later say, “I could never have whipped Johnson at my best. I couldn’t have hit him. No, I couldn’t have reached him in a thousand years.”

White supremacy had yet again been publicly proven false according to its own brutal standards.

Nineteen-ten was also the year The Great Migration began, when Black folks moved away from the Jim Crow laws of the South, seeking better lives out West and up North. The relocation of millions of Black people throughout the country had the potential to change everything. Many white people were indifferent to this national advancement, and some even welcomed it, but white supremacists saw The Great Migration as a terror. They envisioned thousands of frightening W.E.B. Du Boises coming to integrate their classrooms, and thousands of horrifying Ida B. Wellses coming to integrate their boardrooms, and thousands of big Black Jack Johnsons coming to integrate their bedrooms. White supremacists were scared out of their damn minds.

As Americans, we frequently dismiss the horrors of our history as “common for that era.” But when those horrors are examined, instead we often find a history written by the winners, and the uncomfortable truth that the good guys don’t always win. In fact, sometimes the winners are the worst among the worst.

One of those winners is Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States. An extremist white supremacist, Wilson’s life was spent in a continuous attempt to destroy the future, present and past of Black Americans. He was so successful in this pursuit that not only did other like-minded extremists emulate Wilson, he was also able to set many false standards for what we now believe was “common for that era.”

For example, in 1913, three years into The Great Migration and just four months into his presidential term, Wilson resegregated the federal government — an attempt to undermine half a century of Black American achievement following Emancipation. He also oversaw mass firings and demotions of Black people in government. On the rare occasion when circumstances prevented their demotion, firing or segregation, Black civil servants were forced to work inside actual cages to separate them from their white co-workers. 

Before becoming President, Wilson was Governor of New Jersey, where he signed a eugenics sterilization bill into law. Prior to that, as President of Princeton University, Wilson not only blocked Black admissions, he erased records of past Black admissions.

In his five-volume revisionist text, A History of the American People, Wilson expressed deep affection for the Ku Klux Klan and called white people “the responsible class.” Black people were “thieves,” “beggars,” “insolent,” “idlers” and “an ignorant and inferior race.” Wilson was especially bothered by “the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes.” In other words, Black participation in democracy meant corrupt governments and oppressed white people.  

The traditional white-supremacist answer to this problem was to stop Black people from voting, but Wilson had a more effective solution. He was a Southerner, and in the South at that time the primary instruments of segregation were white-owned businesses. Across much of the South during the Jim Crow era, it was expected, if not demanded, that white business owners refuse service to Black people. And so, to Wilson’s thinking, if a government was modeled on a business, the “ignorant and inferior race” would be rightfully and automatically excluded. 

Wilson’s plan would have to start small, at the local level of government. The elected mayor of a city or town could be turned into a symbolic leader with greatly diminished authority, or the position could simply be eliminated. That way, there’d be no publicly chosen leader for those Black “beggars” to appeal to, to hold to account, or, God forbid, become themselves. 

The electoral districts of a city or town could easily be redrawn — either expanded or reduced in size in order to divide and dilute the voting power of these “thieves.” And if the new, white representatives of these gerrymandered districts hired an executive-level bureaucrat to replace the elected mayor, their government could be safely maintained by and for “the responsible class,” unburdened by the “insolent,” and made efficient by the exclusion of “idlers.”

Thus, a plan for a local white-supremacist government was formed. Wilson promoted the plan in national journals using racist dog-whistle claims that it represented “anti-corruption,” “efficiency,” and was good for “business.” The loudest dog whistle of all was the title of the job that would replace that of a mayor: city manager.

It sounds innocuous now, but in 1910 the word manager had a different connotation. The idea itselfwas born out of slavery. The enslavers who owned plantations didn’t like having blood on their hands, so the position of manager was created. The manager was the middle man tasked with brutalizing the enslaved, piling up their bodies, and dealing with the enslavers’ children — those conceived, birthed, and enslaved against the will of their enslaved mothers. 

Managers also produced financial reports for the plantation owners. These reports were plain and bloodless, filled with language and concepts that, while common today, were uniquely vicious as they pertained to enslaved people at the time. For example, depreciation of assets specifically referred to the rate at which the savagery of slavery devastated Black bodies, eventually rendering them useless to the financial interests of their enslavers.

In 1910, a time when more than half a million Civil War veterans were still living, this was still a common understanding of what “management” meant. A revisionist historian like Wilson, whose father was an enslaver, would have known this intimately. But to many readers of those national journals and newspapers, the idea of installing a “city manager” sounded like a plan to enslave an entire city, so initial attempts to implement the concept faltered. 

Enter the city of Sumter, in central South Carolina.

If you didn’t hear the dog whistles, you may have been confused as to why the people of Sumter would want to change their government. In 1912, the town’s 8,105 citizens didn’t have many complaints about corruption or inefficiency in their local government, according to most observers. What the town did have, however, was a majority Black population and two powerful, extremist white supremacists.

Dr. S.C. Baker and A.V. Snell were the president and secretary of the Sumter Chamber of Commerce, respectively, and their ideas were as monstrous as Wilson’s.

“Prior to their emancipation,” Dr. Baker once said of Black South Carolinians, “the crime of rape was almost unheard of.… I am of the opinion that 95 percent of all crime in the third [state judicial] circuit is committed by the Negro and of this 95 percent 90 percent is committed by the free-born Negro.”

“The Negro here is shiftless and useless, ignorant and unsanitary,” Snell once said. “The Negro, in my opinion, is absolutely the worst drawback the South has, and no one can doubt that, if it were possible to move every colored man from the South today, replacing him with a white man, in ten years the South, with its rich soil and climate, its great possibilities, it would be the richest section of the United States, if not anywhere in the world.”

Baker and Snell campaigned to change the structure of Sumter’s government. The townspeople voted on the proposal they promoted, and in 1912, what became known as The Sumter Plan was adopted. The town’s eight electoral districts were reduced to three. The position of elected mayor was eliminated, and the town would henceforth be run by a city manager. These changes were heralded as proof that democracy worked, that citizens could break free of corruption and finally forge an efficient, business-friendly government, one that was virtuous and honest — unless, that is, you were a member of the town’s Black majority, or if you looked at literally any of the details of the plan.

The vote on the plan had been hastily arranged and barely publicized. Only 324 people showed up to cast a ballot, 252 of which voted for the plan. Three representatives of the prior electoral districts became representatives for the new districts. They included the previously elected mayor, a lawyer who was later forced by the bar association to pay restitution to clients he’d defrauded. After a lengthy search for a city manager, one was finally hired, but he quit after less than a year, having realized that his duties were not that of a manager so much as those of an assistant to the city council. Another city manager was soon hired to replace the first, but he also quit in under a year, citing the same arrangement of duties and suggesting that all three city councilors should be jailed.

So much for democracy, efficiency and ending corruption, but at least they got their business in order. White supremacy had secured its hold on Sumter and it certainly wasn’t stopping there. By the time the town’s second city manager quit, The Sumter Plan was being promoted and implemented by locally powerful white supremacists in small cities and towns across the country. But it wouldn’t be called “The Sumter Plan” for long. It would soon be renamed after the first big city to embrace the idea.

In Dayton, Ohio, the locally powerful white supremacist who pushed the plan was John H. Patterson, the robber-baron owner of National Cash Register (now known as NCR Corporation), which was Dayton’s largest employer and, at the time, the supplier of nearly all cash registers sold nationwide. Patterson was a proponent of “scientific management,” which was essentially just another of the same old white-supremacist business practices, this one dressed up with science in the name. If you’re wondering how scientific management differs from segregation, apartheid, or similar white-supremacist practices allegedly justified by “science,” a 1905 edition of the Dayton Evening Herald has the answer:

“The management of the National Cash Register Company made a change in its janitor force on Friday afternoon by bringing in white men to take the places of the colored employees,” the paper reported. “The managers want every person working for the firm to have a chance for promotion through any of its various departments. Therefore, the company has decided to start good, bright boys in the positions that the colored men have filled so that they may be eligible for promotion in its service. This change in the janitor force will give 80 young men a chance to get into the company’s service and show their various qualities.… There is absolutely no hard feelings on the part of the company or its President [Patterson] towards colored people, as that gentleman has a number of them employed at his home, and has no intention of dismissing them. At the factory, however, there was no chance for these colored men to advance.”

The Dayton Journal reported on how the mass firing was received:

“On Friday evening, President Patterson asked Harry A. Pollard, who has been for sixteen years a faithful colored employee at the Officers’ Club, and among those dismissed at the N.C.R., to come to his residence. After speaking about the situation at the N.C.R., Mr. Patterson gave him five twenty and two ten-dollar gold coins. He requested Mr. Pollard to deliver the donations to the several colored churches. This action was bitterly denounced in every local colored pulpit Sunday morning.… Rev. W.O. Harper, pastor of the Zion Baptist Church, said: ‘The conscience of the colored churches cannot be covered by a twenty-dollar gold piece…. If we die, we die men. We will not accept his $20 as “hush money.”’”

In 1913, Patterson’s hubris and corruption led to antitrust convictions of not only his business, but also of Patterson himself. The mogul was facing a year in prison. But just when it seemed his comeuppance was on its way, that same year Dayton was hit with a devastating flood. Patterson used his enormous resources to support rescue efforts, and made sure members of the national press covering the disaster knew he was doing so. One reporter’s account:

“Newspaper reporters, shot off by their city editors without time to get so much as a toothbrush or a collar, found themselves sleeping in brand-new brass bedsteads, under down quilts, and rattling round in tiled bathrooms, where everything was supplied them, even — if they had time to use them — with buffers to polish their fingernails. When their clothing gave out they were given new ones — clean linen, overalls, pajamas, anything they needed. Hard-working clerks and attendants at once acquired all the special knowledge of valets with the gracious manners of Southern gentlemen. Men smeared with mud were asked, as they went to bed, to send their clothes to be pressed, and there were large signs posted in the lower corridor stating that clothes-pressers and barbers worked all night and accepted neither pay nor tips.”

Patterson also gave reporters as much liquor as they could drink and, by no coincidence, newspaper headlines began appearing nationwide deifying Patterson as the savior of Dayton. His conviction was soon overturned, and Patterson directed his efforts toward implementing the city manager system of government. “He turned the full sales and advertising force of the N.C.R. into the fight and sold the plan to the people the way the cash registers had been sold,” a business reporter wrote a decade later. As a result, in 1914, The Sumter Plan became The Dayton Plan.

“Patterson was one of the first business leaders to try to apply scientific management to local government, testing out his ideas in rebuilding the city after a disastrous flood ruined downtown Dayton,” notes Dr. Samuel R. Staley, a professor at the University of Florida.

How’d the rebuilding go? Well, with its new white-supremacist government plan in effect, Dayton rebuilt itself into a segregated city. White-only neighborhoods were established, white business owners banned Black customers, and Ku Klux Klan membership grew until Dayton became one of the most Klan-populated cities in the country.

This was the pattern across the United States. In town after town, city after city, locally powerful, extremist white supremacists successfully promoted this self-serving form of government, claiming it would operate uncorrupted and efficiently, like a business. Of course, supporters weren’t the only ones hearing these dog whistles. In cities with well-established Black communities, like Tampa, activists fought the implementation of unelected city managers, but had little success.

By 1920, The Dayton Plan was in effect in 157 municipalities, and in 1923 it came to Portland, Maine. As in Sumter, Dayton and elsewhere, the plan was pushed by the local Chamber of Commerce and extremist white supremacists. More than 7,000 Ku Klux Klansmen marched through the streets of Portland in support of the change in government.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan from various Maine communities — men, women and children — gathered in Portland for a field day on August 28, 1926. The Portland Expo building is to the right rear. photo/Collections of Maine Historical Society, http://www.MaineMemory.net, item #25109

Portland’s nine electoral districts were gerrymandered down to five, and the elected mayor was replaced with a city manager hired by the five new councilors. The previous mix of nine aldermen and 27 councilors was reduced to just five councilors. Those councilors were elected at-large, by a city-wide vote, ensuring that neighborhoods with high proportions of already-marginalized residents would have no representation. After their victory, a KKK official wrote a letter to the Catholic Bishop of Portland that read, “Hereafter no niggers, Catholics or Jews will ever hold office in Portland.”

So, there you go. In response to The Great Migration and gains achieved by Black Americans in government, business, sports and culture, extremist white supremacists reacted by designing, promoting and enacting a system of government that strengthened white supremacy across the country. Even in quaint and charming Portland, Maine.

But, so what? That was 99 years ago. Just because something starts off bad doesn’t mean it stays bad. I mean, surely some places have been able to make this system work, right? Black folks, Catholics and Jewish people have all held office in Portland. In fact, Portland has done a lot to help its Black population. Half the Black people in Portland are immigrants, and the city has programs that have successfully lifted many of them out of poverty, like zero-interest loans to start businesses. 

Unfortunately, the system of government championed by the KKK is still largely intact in Portland, and when you have a system designed to strengthen white supremacy, the outcomes are fairly predictable.

Nationally, the Black poverty rate is more than twice the rate of white poverty. The rate of Black poverty in Portland is more than twice the national Black poverty rate. In Maine, Black poverty is three times larger than the state’s white poverty rate. And in Portland, where the majority of Black Mainers live, Black poverty is four times higher than the white poverty rate. 

The most recent estimates indicate that Black Portlanders have the lowest median household income of any racial group (we’re the only group below $50,000), and we’re the only group with a home-ownership rate below 10 percent. We’re also the only group to have negative or non-existent earnings growth, having reached our peak in 2018, when our earnings growth was zero percent.  

Portland police arrest and issue citations to Black Portlanders at a rate far higher than that of white residents, based on each group’s proportion of the population. In Portland’s public schools, Black students are disciplined at a rate substantially higher than their white counterparts.   

By placing executive power in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat, the city manager system was designed to exclude members of the public from decisions that affect their lives. Redrawing electoral district lines in the manner Portland and other cities have done further disempowers marginalized communities by diluting their voting power. For example, as the aforementioned data on home ownership indicates, Black Portlanders are concentrated in on-peninsula neighborhoods, where most of the rental housing is. Their ability to influence City Council elections in the three off-peninsula districts, or in the three at-large and mayoral races decided by city-wide votes, is diminished in exactly the way the KKK planned. Electing enough city councilors capable of forming the five-vote majority needed to pass laws — or to hire or fire a city manager — is practically impossible under this scheme. 

How bad can city managers get?

In 2004, Jon Jennings lost a Congressional race in Indiana, where he ran as a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat. In Maine, he was a co-owner and general manager of the Maine Red Claws minor-league basketball team. South Portland hired him to be an assistant city manager in 2013, and two years later Portland hired him for the top job. 

While in office in Portland, Jennings pushed for policies around policing, poverty and immigration that were disproportionately harmful to Black and brown people. This led Black Lives Matter organizers and other activists across the city to call for Jennings’ resignation or his firing.

He did not resign and he was not fired. Instead, the Portland City Council literally stood in support of Jennings on the steps of City Hall, holding an emergency press conference to defend the city manger the morning after an eight-hour Black Lives Matter rally commemorating Georg Floyd’s life and demanding Jennings’ removal.

“A city manager’s contract is only as good as the council’s willingness to hold that individual accountable,” former Portland interim city manager Sheila Hill-Christian said during her testimony to the Portland Charter Commission last November. “City managers are usually counting votes on a regular basis, making sure they got their majority at all times. And as long as they keep that majority they usually keep their job.”

“A lot of times, what councils do not want to do on a regular basis is hold that performance management meeting,” Hill-Christian continued, referring to job-assessment sessions for city managers conducted by the City Council. “I’ve known city managers that have gone years without a performance review.” 

Jennings went several years without a performance review before eventually being subjected to one in October of 2020. The review was conducted behind closed doors and all details of what transpired are secret. 

Last September, Jennings was hired as the city manager of Clearwater, Florida. Although the city is in a housing crisis, Jennings recently helped kill an affordable housing project three years in the making. Jennings will likely oversee the sale of the now-defunct project’s site to the Church of Scientology, as they already own over 140 downtown Clearwater properties. Residents have been fighting the Church of Scientology’s admitted attempts to literally take over Clearwater since the 1970s, but that’s another story for another time.

What can be done about any of this?

Over the past year, through carefully considered research, expert testimony and conversations with the public, the Portland Charter Commission has constructed a proposal that could bring an unprecedented level of democratic input and control to city government. Their plan includes returning Portland to nine electoral districts, with nine district and three at-large councilors, in order to broaden the scope of city leadership. The plan, which is Question 2 on the city ballot, would also give the elected mayor executive authority formerly vested in the city manager. Renamed the “chief administrator,” the top bureaucrat in City Hall would serve under the mayor’s direction. 

Under the current system, the only way to remove the city manager is with a majority of council votes. In the commission’s proposal, the mayor can be censured by the council, recalled by the council, recalled by the voters, fired by the council, or, of course, lose re-election.

The history of the city manager form of government is a story of a small group of powerful, extremist white supremacists using their power to successfully normalize their hate. The problem with normalizing hate is not just that we stop being able to see it. It’s also that we then defend it. We forget the progress this country was once moving toward. We forget that some cities weren’t always segregated. We forget why the KKK marched through our streets and we forget that they won. And even though we can clearly see their desired outcomes all around us, many will say we should do nothing. “It used to be worse,” they’ll say, leaving out that it also used to be better. “That isn’t the right way,” they’ll say, even though it is the only way. “It’s complicated,” they’ll say, and that’s usually true, but this one time it’s actually simple.

This November, Portlanders voting “yes” on Question 2 will be voting for more democracy. 

This article is partially a transcript from Samuel James’ new podcast, 99 Years, exploring why Maine continues to be the whitest state. More information is available at 99YearsPod.com.

Samuel James is a roots musician, storyteller, and writer known as a modern guitar master and is an award-winning songwriter. In his newly commissioned works, he delves into his family history, connection to Maine, and his relationship to home: https://www.therealsamueljames.com/home

Mainer, October 2, 2022, https://mainernews.com/99-years/

Cuban Adjustment Act of US Still Privileges Cuban Migrants, Hurts Cuba / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, the only one of its kind in the world, continues to encourage irregular emigration, the repeal of which will be essential to achieve normal migratory relations between the two countries | Credit: Granma – en.granma.cu

“Maybe if you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake.” President John Kennedy was berating New York Times editor Turner Catledge. The Times and the U.S. media generally had glossed over widely-known preparations for the Bay of Pigs attack in April 1961. Catledge had removed the revealing substance of reporter Tad Szulc’s detailed news story 10 days beforehand.

Media silence has attended other Cuba -related developments over the years. Many U.S. progressives and liberals also tend to mention little about U.S-Cuban affairs, the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba being one example.

The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA), which is about Cubans migrating to the United States, receives little attention, while fuss and fury grow over an unprecedented number of migrants, Cubans among them, crossing the U.S. southern border now. Officials there apprehended 1.8 million migrants between October 2021 and August 2022.

Most respondents to an NPR/Ipsos poll believe an “invasion” is taking place. Anti-migrant measures have led to political division and stalemate. Senators Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on October 5. The Biden administration’s migration policies, they claimed, represent “gross dereliction of duty … violation of your oath of office …[and] grounds for impeachment.”

Cubans, enabled by the CAA, find welcome in the United States. That 1966 law allows Cuban immigrants and their immediate families to become permanent U.S. residents. To be eligible, the Cuban migrant on arrival has to be “inspected, admitted or paroled.” He or she waits for one year, while receiving social services, and then applies for permanent residency, and gains a work permit. Other immigrants must wait five years to apply.

Why is Cuban immigration encouraged? The idea may have been that of displaying the failure of a Communist government through Cubans leaving, or of fracturing popular unity in Cuba through emigration, or of strengthening the Cuban-American voting bloc through new Cuban arrivals.

Numbers of Cuban migrants have increased recently. There were 9,822 “southwest border encounters” of border officials with Cubans in fiscal year 2020, 38,674 in FY 2021, and 174,674 Cubans in the FY ending on October 1, 2022. Between October 2021 and June border officials detained more than 1300 Cubans arriving by sea in Florida.

Cubans have been enduring shortages, high prices, and low income due mostly to the U.S. economic blockade and cut-backs on the remittances Cuban-Americans send to family members on the island. That’s one set of reasons for leaving Cuba.

Additionally, Nicaragua in November, 2021 began allowing Cubans to enter without an entry visa. Migrants can now start on their trip closer to the border than, as before, having to travel through South America.

And most of the 20,000 Cubans who would have entered the United States annually, as authorized by a 1994 bi-national agreement, have not done so. That’s because almost no processing of entry visas has taken place since 2017, when the State Department recalled most of its Embassy staff in Havana. That was in response to a mysterious neurological syndrome afflicting U.S. diplomats and staff.

Few Cubans have been able to afford travel to U.S. embassies in other countries to secure visas. Consequently, departing Cubans have resorted to irregular means. The State Department has recently begun to send diplomatic staff back to its Havana Embassy.

New rules are in place. The Obama administration in 2017 ended the government’s “wet foot, dry foot” policy, in force since 1995. During that period, Cubans apprehended at sea were returned to Cuba. Those who arrived and touched U.S. soil could stay and eventually gain permanent residency status.

Cuban migrants crossing at the U.S. southern border still receive preferential treatment. Unable to show the required evidence of “lawful entry,” they benefit from creative arrangements that convert an irregular entry into a legal one.

Presently, “nearly 98 %” of Cuban migrants entering the United States stay. Border officials apply public health (anti-Covid 19) regulations known as Title 42 to all would-be immigrants. They immediately exclude half of them, but not the Cubans. Excluded migrants wait in Mexico or elsewhere for immigration judges to decide on their applications for asylum.

Some of the entering Cubans receive “humanitarian parole.” Under CAA regulations, that status qualifies as “lawful entry” and the migrant is able to wait for a year in the United States and then apply for permanent residency – and usually receive it.

Other Cubans not receiving humanitarian parole also remain in the United States by means of a “bond” requiring them to appear before immigration judges “where they can launch a defense for staying.” Most migrants in this group whose appeals are successful can count on gaining permanent residency.

A few have been unsuccessful and that group received good news on February 23, 2022. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that Cuban migrants whose appeal for permanent residence had failed now may try again, with likely success. The agency was responding to an immigration court ruling in 2021 that any release of Cuban migrants from custody at the border, whatever the circumstances, actually does represent “lawful entry” or parole, as required by the CAA.

Most of the Cubans exiting from their country are young adults and children. They benefited from the high-quality education, healthcare, and social support that was their birthright. Their energy, talents, labor, and potential commitment would no longer be contributing to Cuba’s national project of development and recovery. Their departure, one supposes, weakens the bonds of family life in Cuba and thereby makes Cuban society less cohesive.

The U.S. leadership class likely has little regret. The U.S. intention, after all, is to cause distress in Cuba leading to regime change. Moreover, U.S. economic blockade of Cuba, occupation of territory in Guantanamo, destabilizing interventions inside Cuba, and the CAA, taken together, add up to attack on Cuba’s independence and national sovereignty. The silence of the media and of political activists on these matters takes on an ominous quality, that of complicity with crimes.

The community of nations enabled the United Nations to deal with international crimes. Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council may confront “any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” of one nation against another. The General Assembly in 1965 unanimously approved Resolution 2131 which states that, “No State has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any State.”

What situations would these authorizations be applied to, if not to the instances recited here of U.S. aggression against Cuba?

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Open Letter to Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on the need to Support Haitian Sovereignty / by Black Alliance for Peace Haiti/Americas Team

Protest at White House on October 9, 2022 (Photo: Twitter @GordonTWhitman)

An Open Letter to Her Excellency, Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on the need to Support Haitian Sovereignty

This letter was originally published on the Black Alliance for Peace website.

Dear Dr. Barnett: 

On September 19, 2022, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) issued a short statement expressing grave concern about worsening conditions in Haiti and pressing for “urgent and immediate attention from the international community.” In light of CARICOM’s more direct engagement in Haitian affairs in recent months, we call on your organization to respect Haitian sovereignty and to support the Haitian masses in their stand against the ongoing occupation of their country by foreign powers. Despite the erroneous representation of the current protests in Haiti as simply “gang violence,” the latest demonstrations are a direct result of two factors. First, they are a response to the everyday economic misery caused by rising inflation, especially through the staggering increase in the price of fuel. Second, they are part of a long history of demands for the end of foreign meddling in Haitian affairs, especially via the installation and maintenance of an unelected and illegitimate government by the Core Group, of which the United Nations is a part. 

We applaud your concern for Haiti. We have also noted the support your member nations have given to Caribbean and Latin American self-determination. For this reason, we would like to remind CARICOM members that the U.S., Canada, France, and other Western countries, along with the Core Group, and UN missions such as MINUSTAH, are directly responsible for the current conditions in Haiti. Attempting to solve the current crisis in Haiti through a dialogue between unelected and illegitimate Haitian “stakeholders” will not be successful. It will only serve the needs of non-Haitians.

We share with you the words of a coalition of Haitian grassroots organizations explaining the main reason for the currency protests: 

“[T]hese popular protests are part of a struggle for a Haiti free from suffocating foreign interference, gangsterization, this extreme manufactured misery and an anti-national, illegitimate, criminal political regime established by the Core Group of which the UN is a member.”

A brief historical contextualization is in order:

The UN Mission to Haiti Is a Foreign Occupation Repressing Haitian Sovereignty

As you surely are aware, the United Nations became an occupying force in Haiti after the U.S.-France-Canada-led 2004 coup d’état against Haiti’s democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We must note that, in addition to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, only Jamaica’s P.J. Patterson, in his capacity as leader of CARICOM, spoke up against the coup.  

Following the coup, the UN took over from U.S. forces. Under Chapter VII of the UN charter, the UN established the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (or MINUSTAH), for the tasks of military occupation under the guise of establishing peace and security. The Workers Party-led government of Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva then betrayed the Haitian people and undercut Haiti’s sovereignty by agreeing to lead the military wing of the UN mission in Haiti.

The history of the UN in Haiti has been a history of violence. An expensive, multi-billion dollar operation, MINUSTAH had between 6,000 and 12,000 military troops and police stationed in Haiti alongside thousands of civilian personnel. Like the first U.S. occupation (1915-1934), the UN occupation under MINUSTAH was marked by its brutality and racism towards the Haitian people. Civilians were brutally attacked and assassinated. “Peace-keepers” committed sexual crimes. UN soldiers dumped human waste into rivers used for drinking water, unleashing a cholera epidemic that killed between 10,000 and 50,000 people. The UN has still not been held accountable for this needless death.

The Core Group — an international coalition of self-proclaimed “friends” of Haiti — came together during the MINUSTAH occupation. Non-Black, un-elected, and anti-democratic, the goal of the Core Group is to oversee Haiti’s governance. Meanwhile, as with the first occupation, the United States and MINUSTAH trained and militarized Haiti’s police and security forces, often rehabilitating and reintegrating rogue members. The United States, in collusion with MINUSTAH and the Core Group, also over-rode Haitian democracy, installing both neo-Duvalierist Michel Martelly and his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), alongside Martelly’s protege and successor, the late Jovenel Moïse.

It is claimed that this occupation officially ended in 2017 with the dissolution of MINUSTAH. But the UN has remained in Haiti under a new acronym: BINUH, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. BINUH has had an outsized role in Haitian internal political affairs. For example, soon after Moïse was assassinated, its representative, Helen La Lime, asserted that Claude Joseph would be installed as Haiti’s leader. Later, the “Core Group” switched gears and demanded that Ariel Henry should be president. And this is exactly what happened when a “new” Haitian government was announced on July 20, 2021, with Henry as leader. This, without any say from the Haitian people, without any pretense of a democratic process, without any concern for Haiti’s sovereignty.

UN Occupation Increases Violence and Instability

Haiti currently has an unelected, unpopular, unaccountable, and illegitimate prime minister, propped up by the United States and the western nations. Meanwhile, Haiti’s security situation has deteriorated considerably as groups, armed by the transnational Haitian and Levantine elite, continue their attacks on the Haitian people. We must emphasize that, in the eighteen years that the United Nations mission has participated in the occupation of Haiti, the Haitian people have only experienced violence and political instability. You must recognize the foreign occupation of Haiti has left it in a state of disarray and violence. 

The consequences of Foreign Meddling and Occupation

We must remind you that this is the sixth week of protests of the Haitian people against both the U.S.-backed puppet government of Ariel Henry and the continued occupation and meddling of the Core Group and the UN itself. With all the talk of Haitian “lawlessness,” one would never know that the other main reason for the protests was the illegitimate government’s decision, under IMF austerity dictates, to cut fuel subsidies, amid spiraling inflation and economic insecurity. Hear the people’s words:

“This new decision, taken to the detriment of the interests of the people, has aroused his anger and also intensified a protest movement already initiated, whose objective is the recovery of our sovereignty, the recovery of Haiti’s destiny by Haitians, the establishment by Haitians of a legitimate government, capable of defending the interests of the people and meeting the various challenges of the moment.”

No to Occupation. Yes to Self-Determination.

The speed at which contemporary events are moving in Haiti makes it difficult for those outside the Caribbean republic to understand its internal political dynamics. Because of this, it is easy to resort to historical cliches and short-hand analyses in an attempt to neatly package and summarize or flatten what are oftentimes complex, structural, and historical formations whose origins are as much rooted outside than inside the country. Thus to outsiders Haiti is in the middle of a crisis, a never-ending crisis marked by lawlessness and violence, by the failure of government and the collapse of the state, and by a savage populism paired with well-armed, predatory gangs. 

We believe this representation of Haiti is fueled by an ancient racism premised on the notion that Haitian people (and African people more generally) are incapable of self-government, and this notion, in turn, nurtures the rationalization for the strengthening of the current mandate for the continued international occupation of Haiti. 

We ask that you think with all seriousness about the relationships among nations in our region. All nations should be able to chart their own destiny, not just some. You must know the history of the proud Haitian people whose Revolution changed the course of world history and material aid helped the liberation of the Americas from colonial rule and enslavement. Despite the continued affront to its self-determination, the people of Haiti will continue to fight for its liberation.

The Black Alliance for Peace, in alignment with the wishes of the Haitian masses and their supporters, absolutely stands against any foreign armed intervention in Haiti, and continues to demand an end to the unending meddling in Haitian affairs by the United States and Western powers. We call for the dissolution of the imperialist Core Group, an end to Western support for the unelected and unaccountable puppet government of Ariel Henry, and for the respect of Haitian sovereignty. 


The Black Alliance for Peace, Haiti/Americas Team

Black Agenda Report, October 12, 2022, https://www.blackagendareport.com/

Death toll mounting in growing cholera outbreak on Haiti / by Morning Star Editors

Patients with cholera symptoms sit in a centre at a cholera clinic run by Doctors Without Borders in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

DEATHS are mounting in a growing cholera outbreak in Haiti.

After more than three years with no cases, the national authorities reported two confirmed cases of Vibrio cholerae O1 in the Port-au-Prince area at the start of this month and, as of last week, the Ministry of Health had reported 47 cases confirmed and 35 deaths in the West and Central departments.

Civil unrest, lack of access to affected populations and fuel and logistics constraints are hindering the emergency response operations, according to the Pan American Health Organisation, and difficulties accessing water present a high risk that the outbreak will spread to other departments in the Caribbean country.

It follows Friday’s report that a record 4.7 million people in Haiti are facing acute hunger, including 19,000 in catastrophic famine conditions for the first time, in a slum controlled by gangs in the capital.

Haiti has been gripped by inflation and political gridlock that have sparked protests and brought society to breaking point.

Daily life in the country began to spin out of control last month hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said that fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double.

The rising prices have put food and fuel out of reach of many Haitians, and clean water is scarce.

“Harvest losses due to below-average rainfall and last year’s earthquake that devastated parts of the country’s south are among the shocks that worsened conditions for people,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, while violence, unrest and tensions in Cite Soleil have limited access by aid workers to the district.

“So, we don’t know necessarily how bad it’s getting, although it’s very clear it’s very bad indeed. And we need to get access to people: we need to make sure that we can get food to people,” he said.

Morning Star: The People’s Daily (UK), October 17, 2022, https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

China sets example by blazing green transition trail / by Erik Solheim

Wind turbines dominate the mountain ridge at the Baguanao Scenic Area in Shicheng county, Jiangxi province, on Aug 30 / Zhu Haipeng / For China Daily

Policymakers around the world have been facing a dilemma — how to deliver economic growth and at the same time preserve nature. Countries face the challenge of shifting to a path of win-win policies for the ecology and the economy.

For the developing world, this opens a new pathway to development, creating jobs and prosperity by going green. In this sense, China is setting an example for the developing world at large, which can take a leaf out of China’s book.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, China has abolished extreme poverty — 10 years ahead of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development target — and made remarkable achievements in economic development.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the nation’s average contribution to global economic growth was the highest during the 2013-21 period, exceeding 30 percent. In 2021 alone, China’s economic aggregate accounted for 18.5 percent of the world’s total after currency translation based on average annual exchange rates — the second largest in the world and up 7.2 percentage points from its 2012 global share.

As a response to the call for all-out war against pollution, the concept of an ecological civilization was elevated to be a national strategy in 2012. An ecological civilization is a concept promoted by President Xi Jinping for balanced and sustainable development that features harmonious coexistence between mankind and nature.

This concept brings us a very different way of environmental thinking. It is positive, being focused on creating a better world for everyone.

An ecological civilization is predicated on the belief that humans can and should live better, healthier lives in harmony with nature. The emphasis is on how to organize the global community in a new way to work on issues with global implications. We should act out of respect for Mother Earth, on whom we all depend, and in so doing increase the happiness and dignity of human beings.

To build a beautiful China, the country has launched an ambitious plan for a system of national parks. China is on track to keep a total area of 230,000 square kilometers of land under national-park protection and give space to endangered species such as the giant panda, Siberian tiger and Tibetan antelope. The 10 national parks, which are spread across 12 provinces, are dedicated to protecting the habitats of vulnerable species such as snow leopards and bringing them back from the brink of extinction.

In addition, China is now by far the most enthusiastic tree planting nation in the world, having planted more than 78 billion trees in the past four decades, doubling the forest coverage rate from the early 1980s.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the nation is now taking the lead in renewable energies. Over the past decade, global solar panel manufacturing capacity has increasingly shifted from Europe, Japan and the United States to China, which has become a leader in investment and innovation in solar panels. The International Energy Agency said in a special report in July that China now holds a market share in excess of 80 percent in all the stages of solar panel manufacturing.

The latest UN projections suggest that the world’s population could grow to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050, before reaching a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s. The population is expected to remain at that level until 2100.

The planetary crises such as climate change are putting the living environment of humans and other species in jeopardy. We need the concept of ecological civilization to achieve a harmonious relationship with nature.

The 20th CPC National Congress is an opportunity for China to celebrate more than 40 years of the most unprecedented economic growth anywhere and at any time in world history and the success of bringing nearly 100 million rural residents out of poverty. It is also the opportunity to highlight the country’s resolve to accelerate its green transition.

The author is president of the Belt and Road Initiative Green Development Institute and former executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

(Web editor: Zhang Wenjie, Du Mingming)

People’s Daily Online, October 17, 2022, http://en.people.cn/

Chinese party congress envisions domestic growth and equality, less reliance on exports / by Roger McKenzie

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. Xinhua News Agency via AP

Chinese leader Xi Jinping opened the Communist Party’s 20th Congress Sunday promising to reinforce “a new pattern of development” focused on domestic rather than export-led growth and reducing inequality.

Vowing to continue “the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” in an address to the congress’s 2,000 delegates, Xi was joined on stage by his predecessor as Communist Party general secretary Hu Jintao, former prime minister Wen Jiabao, and 105-year-old communist revolutionary veteran Song Ping to emphasize the continuity of the Chinese Revolution.

“We must fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy on all fronts,” he said, referring to changed targets that emphasize “all-rounded development” rather than simply economic growth.

Reducing inequality has been a major theme of Xi’s leadership, with China celebrating the elimination of absolute poverty last year and cracking down hard on corruption in both the party and the government.

Promoting domestic demand and a higher quality of life within China rather than settling into a position as a manufacturer of goods for the developed West has also been a hallmark policy, one accelerated by U.S. economic attacks seeking to cut China out of global supply chains.

The leader attributed the progress China has made to its reliance on socialist ideology in the development of policy. “Our experience has taught us that, at the fundamental level,” he said, “we owe the success of our party and socialism with Chinese characteristics to the fact that Marxism works.” 

Xi said Beijing would maintain its zero-COVID policy, in which coronavirus outbreaks are quickly isolated and suppressed. China, he argued, had “protected life and health” in contrast to Western governments which let the virus rip.

Official state statistics report that China has recorded just 10.38 COVID-19 deaths per million inhabitants, a figure far lower than Britain (2,689 per million) or the U.S. (3,099 per million).

The party leader also pledged to stand up to attempts to divide China, praising his administration’s handling of anti-China protests in Hong Kong and saying it would continue to pursue peaceful reunification with Taiwan. He did emphasize, however, that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force” to settle the Taiwan question and said the nation would “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

Xi is expected to be elected to serve a third five-year term as general secretary at this congress.

Since 1993, the general secretaries of the Communist Party of China have also been elected president of the country and chair of the Central Military Commission, positions he is also likely to retain over the next five years.

Roger McKenzie is a journalist and general secretary of Liberation, a UK-based human rights organization which fights for economic and social justice, and opposes neo-colonialism, economic exploitation, and racism.

People’s World, October 17, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Don’t Just Worry About Nuclear War: Do Something to Help Prevent It / by Norman Solomon

Image credit: Getty

This is an emergency.

Right now, we’re closer to a cataclysmic nuclear war than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. One assessment after another has said the current situation is even more dangerous.

Yet few members of Congress are advocating for any steps that the U.S. government could take to decrease the dangers of a nuclear conflagration. The silences and muted statements on Capitol Hill are evading the reality of what’s hanging in the balance — the destruction of almost all human life on Earth. “The end of civilization.”

Constituent passivity is helping elected officials to sleepwalk toward unfathomable catastrophe for all of humanity. If senators and representatives are to be roused out of their timid refusal to urgently address — and work to reduce — the present high risks of nuclear war, they need to be confronted. Nonviolently and emphatically.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled, extremely reckless statements about possibly using nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war. At the same time, some of the U.S. government’s policies make nuclear war more likely. Changing them is imperative.

For the last few months, I’ve been working with people in many states who aren’t just worried about the spiking dangers of nuclear war — they’re also determined to take action to help prevent it. That resolve has resulted in organizing more than 35 picket lines that will happen on Friday, October 14, at local offices of Senate and House members around the country. (If you want to organize such picketing in your area, go here.)

What could the U.S. government do to lessen the chances of global nuclear annihilation? The Defuse Nuclear War campaign, which is coordinating those picket lines, has identified key needed actions. Such as:

**  Rejoin nuclear-weapons treaties the U.S. has pulled out of.

President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002. Under Donald Trump, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. Both pacts significantly reduced the chances of nuclear war.

**  Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.

Four hundred intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are armed and ready for launch from underground silos in five states. Because they’re land-based, those missiles are vulnerable to attack and thus are on hair-trigger alert — allowing only minutes to determine whether indications of an incoming attack are real or a false alarm.

**  End the policy of “first use.”

Like Russia, the United States has refused to pledge not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

**  Support congressional action to avert nuclear war.

In the House, H.Res. 1185 includes a call for the United States to “lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war.”

An overarching need is for senators and representatives to insist that U.S. participation in nuclear brinkmanship is unacceptable. As our Defuse Nuclear War team says, “Grassroots activism will be essential to pressure members of Congress to publicly acknowledge the dangers of nuclear war and strongly advocate specific steps for reducing them.”

Is that really too much to ask? Or even demand?

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Counterpunch, October 13, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/

U.S. eyes military intervention in Haiti, again / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Protesters calling for the resignation of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry run after police fired tear gas to disperse them in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

The news story begins: “The Council of Ministers [on October 8 in Haiti] authorized the prime minister to seek the presence in the country of a specialized military force in order to end the humanitarian crisis provoked by insecurity caused by gangs and their sponsors.”

The circumstances are these:

Masses of Haitians have been in the streets protesting intermittently since August. Their grievances are high costs—thanks to the International Monetary Fund—and shortages of food and fuel. Banks and stores are closed. Students are demonstrating. Labor unions have been on strike.

The pattern has continued intermittently for ten years. Pointing to corruption, demonstrators have called for the removal, in succession, of Presidents Michel Martelly and Jovenel Moïse, and now de facto prime minister Ariel Henry.

Recently, violence has aggravated the situation, and foreign powers, including the United States, have paid attention. That’s significant because U.S military interventions and other kinds of U.S. intrusions have worked to trash Haiti’s national sovereignty, and, with an assist from Haiti’s elite, deprive ordinary people of control of their lives.

Presently, 40% of Haitians are food insecure. Some 4.9 million of them (43%) need humanitarian assistance. Life expectancy at birth is 63.7 years. Haiti’s poverty rate is 58.5%, with 73.5% of adult Haitians living on less than $5.50 per day.

Electoral politics is fractured. It was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who arranged for Martelly to be a presidential candidate in 2011. Moïse in 2017 was the choice of 600,000 voters—out of six million eligible citizens. He illegally extended his presidential term by a year. As of now, there have been no presidential elections for six years, no elected mayors or legislators in office for over a year, and no scheduled elections ahead.

Washington’s man: De facto Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry holds power, even though he wasn’t elected. Some believe he may have been involved in the murder of the previous president and now he’s seeking U.S. troops to stem protests against his government. | Odelyn Joseph / AP

Gangs mushroomed in recent years, and violence has worsened. Moïse’s election in 2017 prompted turf wars, competing appeals to politicians, narcotrafficking, kidnappings, and deadly violence in most cities, predominately in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Violence escalated further after Moise’s murder in July 2021. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced, wounded, or kidnapped.

The U.S. Global Fragility Act of 2019 authorizes multi-agency intervention in “fragile” countries like Haiti, the U.S. military being one such agency designated to do the intervening. The influential Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) wants U.S. soldiers instructing Haitian police on handling gangs. Luis Almagro, head of the Organization of American States, calls for military occupation. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres wants international support for training Haitian police.

Former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote weighs in with a choice: Either “send a company of special forces trainers to teach the police and set up an anti-gang task force, or send 25,000 troops at some undetermined but imminent period in the future.” The Dominican Republic has stationed troops at its border with Haiti and calls for international military intervention.

Meanwhile, foreign actors intrude as Haitians try to reconstruct a government. Their tool is the Core Group, formed in 2004 following the U.S.-led coup against progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The Core Group consists of the ambassadors of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, and representatives of the United Nations and Organization of American States.

Haiti’s government is now in the hands of Ariel Henry, whom the Core Group approved as acting prime minister, overruling Moïse’s choice made before he died. Some believe Henry, a U.S. government favorite, may even be complicit in Moïse’s murder.

Henry insists he will arrange for presidential elections at some point in the future. Prevailing opinion, however, holds that conditions don’t favor elections any time soon.

The Core Group backs an important agreement announced by the so-called Montana Group on Aug. 30, 2021. It provides for a National Transition Council that would prepare for national elections in two years and govern the country in the meantime. The Council in January 2022 chose banker Fritz Jean as transitional president and former senator Steven Benoit as prime minister. They have still not assumed those jobs.

The Montana Group consists of “civil society organizations and powerful political figures,” plus representatives of political parties in Haiti. One leader of the Group is Magali Comeau Denis, who allegedly participated in the U.S-organized coup that removed Aristide in 2004. Henry also has a connection to coup-plotting, having worked with the Democratic Convergence that in 2000 was already planning the overthrow of Aristide.

The CFR wants the U.S. government to persuade Henry to join the Montana Group’s transition process. U.S. Envoy Foote supports the Montana agreement because it shows off Haitians acting on their own. Recently, some member organizations have defected, among them the right-wing PHTK Party of Henry and of Presidents Martelly and Moïse.

The weakness of Haiti’s government in the face of dictates from abroad was on display during Moïse’s era. The perpetrators of his murder, who had been recruited by a Florida-based military contractor, were 26 Colombian paramilitaries and two Haitian-Americans. Their motives remain unclear, and there is no apparent movement toward a trial.

Moïse, the wealthy head of an industrial-scale agricultural operation, became president through fraudulent elections in 2017. He was the target of massive protests a year later. Prompting them were fuel and food shortages and revelations that the president and others had stolen billions of dollars from the fund created through the Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program of cheap oil for Caribbean nations.

Foreign governments, the United States in particular, may now be on the verge of intervening in Haiti. But the ostensible pretext—gang violence—turns out to be muddled. Progressive Haitian academic and economist Camille Chalmers makes the point. He claims that “gangsterism” in Haiti actually serves U.S. purposes.

Interviewed in May 2022, Chalmers explains that the “principal [U.S.] objective is to block the process of social mobilization, to impede all real political participation … through these antidemocratic methods, through force using the police … and above all these paramilitary bands.” Terror is useful for “breaking the social fabric, ties of trust, and any possible resistance process.”

By means of gang violence, the Haitian people “are removed from any political role, and the economic project of plundering resources from the country is facilitated.” Also, Haiti becomes “an appendage of the interests of the North Americans and Europeans.” Chalmers refers to gold deposits on Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic and big investments by multinational corporations.

He sees a bond between reactionary elements in Haiti and the gangs. The gangs “have financing and weapons that come from the United States. Many of their leaders are Haitians who have been repatriated by the United States.”

A U.S. Army soldier arrests a Haitian man during the U.S. military occupation following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 3, 1994. | John Gaps III / AP

Within this framework, Haiti’s police must be ready and able to fight the gangs in order to achieve maximum turmoil. The U.S. government provided Haiti’s police with $312 million in weapons and training between 2010 and 2020, and with $20 million in 2021. The State Department contributed $28 million for SWAT training in July. As of 2019, there were illegal arms in Haiti worth half-a-million dollars, mostly from the United States.

In view of U.S. tolerance or even support of the gangs, the zeal to suppress them now is a mystery. Perhaps some gangs have changed their colors and now really do pose danger to U.S. interests.

The so-called “G-9 Family and Allies,” an alliance of armed neighborhood groups led by former policeman Jimmy Cherizier, may qualify. Not only has it emerged as the Haitian gang most capable of destabilization, but the words “Revolutionary Forces” are a new part of its name.

Cherizier observed in 2021 that, “the country has been controlled by a small group of people who decide everything …They put guns into the poor neighborhoods for us to fight with one another for their benefit.” He noted that, “We have to overturn the whole system, where 12 families have taken the nation hostage.” That system “is not good, stinks, and is corrupt.”

Referring to a mural depicting Che Guevara, Cherizier declared, “we made that mural, and we intend to make murals of other figures like … Thomas Sankara and … Fidel Castro, to depict people who have engaged in struggle.”

These are words of social revolution suggestive of the kind of political turn that repeatedly has prompted serious U.S. reaction. Beyond that, the words of Haitian journalist Jean Waltès Bien-Aimé represent for Washington officials the worst kind of nightmare.

He told People’s Dispatch: “Activation of gangs is part of a strategy to prevent Haitian people from taking to the streets.” He scorns Ariel Henry “as a present from the U.S. embassy,” adding that the “Haitian people do not need a leader at the moment. Haitian people need a socialist state … We have a bourgeois state. What we need now is a people’s state.”

In the background are U.S. racist attitudes. They flourished initially as a consequence of the slavery system’s central role in developing the U.S. economy. They still show up, it seems, as discomfort with the ideas of formerly enslaved Haitians gaining autonomy and securing independence for their own nation.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

Peoples World, October 12, 2022, https://peoplesworld.org/

Capitalism’s senility and socialism’s vigor are increasingly apparent to world / by Global Times

Photo: VCG

Editor’s Note:

For the Chinese people, the past decade has been epic and inspirational. The country, under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, has made great endeavors in boosting its economy, deepening reforms, improving the rights of its people and acting as a responsible power globally.

The world has been increasingly turbulent in recent years due to multiple crises triggered by the US-led West, while there is an obvious tendency that the West is more and more difficult to maintain its development momentum like in the last century. After the 2008 financial crisis, economic growth in Western countries has remained low, in stark contrast to China’s boom. Global Times (GT) reporter Yan Yuzhu talked to Radhika Desai (Desai), convenor of International Manifesto Group and professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba in Canada, about her opinion toward the weakness of capitalism, the adverse consequences of neoliberalism for Western development, as well as China’s role in making a way to pluripolarity. 

This is the 25th of the series about this special decade.

GT: After the 2008 financial crisis, especially in the last decade, economic growth in the West has remained very low and the crisis of their domestic political system has been highlighted time and again. In contrast, China has maintained a relatively stable momentum of development, and the gap between China and the US has gradually narrowed. What do you think are the reasons for this difference? 

Desai: The low economic growth of major capitalist countries since 2008 is the result of the turn to neoliberalism. It never managed to restore the growth of the 1970s. It occurred because production had outstripped demand and, rather than solving the demand problem, neoliberalism only made it worse. Its attack on organized labor and social spending restricted consumption demand while its encouragement towards financial and rentier activity reduced investment demand, siphoning away funds into speculation and predatory activity. The attempt to compensate for low demand, low growth and low government revenues by extending credit to consumers and governments has only led to mountains of debt and asset bubbles that have regularly burst, weakening economies further. 

This process has been ongoing for more than four decades. At the start, the major capitalist countries were much healthier thanks to their “golden age” of robust growth and the broad-based distribution of incomes. But over time, the disastrous effects of neoliberal policies were assailing ever weaker economies. 

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, a lot of people thought that neoliberalism would be abandoned, but it wasn’t. The reason is simple: neoliberalism, which is really not about free markets or competition but about giving ever greater freedoms to big corporate capital, is the only way to keep these economies capitalist. 

But doing so at a time when capitalism can no longer generate growth, and can only make societies more and more unequal can only lead to economic and political malaise. In essence, people in these countries are paying the price of keeping their economies capitalist. They can choose capitalism, or they can choose growth. They cannot have both. Capitalism is no longer capable of delivering growth. 
Radhika Desai Photo: Courtesy of Desai

Radhika Desai Photo: Courtesy of Desai

GT: Western political parties are constantly fighting internally without solving real problems, leading the approval ratings of many ruling parties to be at a record low. What do you think are the advantages of people’s democracy in China? Can electoral politics solve social problems?

Desai: Liberal democracy is a contradiction in terms. Keeping societies liberal and capitalist is incompatible with making them truly democratic. Capitalism is not in the interests of the vast majority of working people. Major capitalist states were not democratic in any real sense until after the World War II. The “socialistic” reforms of the “golden age” meant that the contradiction between liberalism and democracy was subdued as ordinary people got some welfarist concessions. 

Neoliberalism since about 1980 has rolled back most of these concessions and contradictions have sharpened. To keep winning elections, ruling elites must now resort to more and more propaganda, secrecy and outright lies. This requires money and electoral politics in these societies, particularly in the US, has come to revolve around money and the media.  

However, money and media can only do so much and, over time, politics and democracy are being hollowed out. Voters are disengaged. Politicians become “independent” of the popular will and rely on “experts,” essentially people whose opinions are conveniently neoliberal. Such mutual alienation between people and the politicians opens the door to the senseless Brexit vote and the shocking election of Donald Trump. 

Today, this process has reached such a point that the UK government can announce a budget in which the rich enjoy tax cuts, while the poor suffer the resulting economic crisis, unemployment and inflation. Similarly, European politicians put their populations last and commit economic suicide only to obey the unreasonable demands of the US. In this context, there is no question of democracy. It has become a joke. 

China, by contrast, adheres to a more rounded concept of “whole process democracy” in which elections are only one part of a larger process which includes a commitment to providing people with economic security and progress. 

GT: The Manifesto refers to today’s capitalist world as a “political tinderbox,” where capitalism’s suitability is questioned as never before, political establishments are losing their grip and the credibility of the mainstream media is threadbare. How do you think the West has gradually fallen to this point? How will pluripolarity efforts reduce the likelihood of future conflicts in the world? What role does China play in this regard?

Desai: As I have already explained, in major capitalist democracies, politics is no longer about articulating and addressing popular needs and desires, but about keeping the lid on them so that governments can carry on the business of serving corporate and financial interests. Inevitably the political establishment is widely held with suspicion and even hated. Meanwhile, with the left on the defensive for decades, in confusion and disarray, far right and fascist forces are on the ascendant. This is what makes them political tinderboxes.

Right wing and fascist forces are tolerated by the political establishment: Bernie Sanders had to be stopped, while Trump could hold the highest office. Western countries support a regime in Kiev that relies on neo-Nazi forces and has banned the left wing opposition. This has required the wholesale distortion of Europe’s history, and that can only make the advance of the right and fascism easier. 

The weakness of the left today is a profound irony. The neoliberal era, with its attack on working class people, with its built-in misogyny and racism, should have been a prime opportunity to mobilize the masses against it. Instead, the traditional parties of the left have capitulated to neoliberalism and US imperialism. 

This has left the working masses in the major capitalist countries without serious representation. Only small numbers of left groups and intellectuals truly appreciate the need to marry progressive domestic politics with anti-imperialism and express solidarity for socialist countries. 

As for the media, the first alternative news websites began appearing in the late 1990s. Already then it was clear that the “mainstream media” could not be trusted and such outlets have proliferated since with the rise of the internet. Corporate ownership of the mainstream media ensures adherence to neoliberalism, but it also makes serious investigative journalism impossible by thinning staffing levels.  

This left wing weakness in the imperialist countries relates directly to pluripolarity. As our manifesto says, humankind will journey to socialism through pluripolarity as different countries will embark on the long road from capitalism and imperialism to socialism in their own time and in their own manner. However, given the sorry state of the left in the imperialist countries, rather than both socialist class forces and socialist nations walking hand in hand towards socialism, as ideally they should, the role of socialist nations in showing the way has become more prominent, particularly that of China. 

China’s leadership in this process will also involve supporting measures to turn the institutions of international governance, including the United Nations, back to their original purpose. As you know, in recent decades, Western imperialism has tended to distort and corrupt them. Returning them to their original purposes, which included the right of nations to exercise true sovereignty by freely choosing the path and pattern of their development, including socialist forms, is critically important. 

The resulting pluripolarity can only advance the cause of socialism and expand the range of efforts and experimentation that advance the cause of socialism. 

GT: You once mentioned in a webinar that the West’s willingness to engage with China in the 1990s and early 2000s is based on two illusions: one, the expectation that the CPC would simply be transformed into some sort of social democratic party at best or even a neoliberal party; two, the belief that China would remain a low-cost producer of low-tech goods. In your opinion, why does the West show such fear and anger after the disillusionment? How do you see the relationship between China’s rapid development and its adherence to socialism with Chinese characteristics?

Desai: China’s development is entirely attributed to the country’s adherence to socialism, both in the early period under Mao and in the later reform and opening-up period.

China’s socialism was an affront to US capitalism but, perhaps even more importantly, China’s development was an affront to US imperialism because US capitalism requires the subordination of the rest of the world. After refusing to recognize the People’s Republic of China for decades, engaging in the ridiculous charade that the government of tiny Taiwan island was the true government of the whole of China, even giving it China’s seat in the UN and the UN Security Council. When US power sank to a postwar nadir in the early 1970s, with defeat impending in Vietnam, the then dollar in deep trouble and the Third World up in arms, Nixon came to China. His purpose was also to drive the wedge between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China deeper. 

After reform and opening-up, the US stepped up economic engagement with China and the idea, particularly after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 was that such engagement would also make China more or less capitalist, even neoliberal. However, for China this engagement was only another means to advance socialism. This became clear particularly after 2008. Rather like when, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, people the world over could see that while the capitalist countries were mired in a Great Depression, with mounting economic misery, the Soviet Union was going from strength to strength and had become the second industrial power, in the 2000s, particularly in the 2010s, it became clear that China’s economic success was going from strength to strength while the major capitalist countries were languishing in a mire of low growth, rising inequality, increasing financialization, deteriorating public services, and rising political dissatisfaction. The difference could only be attributed to China’s socialist system.  

The US policy of engagement was really one of attempted subordination. However, China’s leaders refused to permit this, engaging with the US and the rest of the world, in the process engineering the greatest industrial revolution ever witnessed. The CPC leadership also put China on the path to technological superiority in many fields, demonstrating clearly that Chinas’ successes are due to the efforts of Chinese firms and institutions and to any “technology theft” as US leaders are fond of saying. 

As the failure of the US to subordinate China became more and more obvious, it led to Obama’s Pivot to Asia and the mounting US hostility to China that has followed since. After many years of rising military tensions, trade and technology wars and diplomatic tensions, President Biden is today taking this hostility to new heights, fomenting a fourth Taiwan Straits Crisis that is needless and dangerous. Many even in the US are saying this, despite the consensus, uniting both Democrats and Republicans, both “realists” and “liberal internationalists,” that China is the main “threat” the US faces. This tendency to see the relations with China as a zero-sum game is the chief sign of US decline and its desperation. 

The simple fact is that capitalism under US leadership is losing its hold over the world. The world can see that there are more attractive ways of organizing economies. Capitalism’s senility and socialism’s vigor are increasingly apparent. 

GT: In the COVID-19 pandemic, China and many other socialist countries had a much lower mortality rate from coronavirus than did the neoliberal Western countries such as the US and the UK. How do you understand China’s life-saving epidemic prevention strategy, as well as the public health system built on it?

Desai: The contrast between the West’s failures in the face of COVID and China’s success is staggering. From the start, I argued that the West’s failures – on public health and on the economic, social, political and cultural fronts – during the pandemic have been entirely due to neoliberalism. Western countries, particularly the two leading neoliberal countries, the US and the UK, have clocked up the worst COVID death rates among all their peer countries. Their public authorities were willing, from the start, to sacrifice lives on the altar of capital, above all, financial and corporate capital. The profound irony is that in pursuing this goal, they ended up with an even worse capitalist induced crisis, as well as the worst death rates among peer nations. 

Leading neoliberal financialized nations initially considered the murderous strategy of letting the pandemic rip through the population until “herd immunity” was reached (by infection, not vaccination). Public outcry and fear of the economic consequences made them choose the only slightly less murderous strategy of “flattening the curve” so that public health systems – mostly private in the US, mostly public, though excoriated by decades of privatization and contracting out, in the UK – would not be overwhelmed. However, this led to repeated lockdowns as wave after wave of the unconquered pandemic swept over these societies. 

Priority for corporate capital also involved huge corporate subsidies – for testing and tracing, for example – which was usually performed badly and at great cost to the public purse. And it meant subsidizing vaccine production while letting the producers reap huge profits, again at public expense. Once vaccines could be produced, moreover, these countries relied on them alone. However, thanks to a combination of distrust of a public that already suspected that saving lives was not their governments’ first priority, distrust of Big Pharma corporations, and much media and social media disinformation, vaccine uptake has remained low and the pandemic is far from over.

It is both tragic and darkly comedic that, despite this comprehensive failure before the pandemic, Western countries still criticize China’s dynamic zero COVID strategy that has proved so effective against the pandemic for causing economic disruptions when their strategy has been far more economically disruptive on top of being a public health disaster. I read in the news that in the UK at least, another wave is already appearing. There may be more death and economic disruption to come.

The Chinese strategy is effective because it has prioritized saving lives above all else and that has also proved most effective in saving and advancing the economy. 

GT: What do you think are the differences between the “rules-based international order” repeated by the US and “building a community with shared future for mankind” advocated by China?

Desai: The answer is simple. The system of international governance created after the World War II with the United Nations at its core was deeply marked by popular empowerment worldwide – of working people mobilized in unions and for the war effort in the First World, of victorious Communist parties in the Second or Communist World and of nationalist movements in the Third World. That is why it made the principle of equal sovereignty its cornerstone. The US’ attempts to use the preponderant power it got thanks to the war to vitiate this principle was only partially successful. So, the imperialist countries, with the US as their leader, has never been happy about these institutions and more or less immediately set about creating counter institutions, beginning with NATO (with Five Eyes having already originated during the War). However, during the Cold War, particularly once the Warsaw Pact was created after Germany joined NATO in 1954, imperialist countries’ room for maneuver was limited. 

Undimmed US and Western imperialist impulses mean that the post-Cold War world would not enjoy a peace dividend while the neoliberal decline of these countries has meant that there was also no unipolarity but, with the decline of the West and the rise of China and other emerging economies, pluripolarity has become the new reality. This combination has brought us to the current dangers of unremitting US and Western aggression dressed up in the rhetoric of human rights and democracy which is also doomed to fail. 

The so-called rules-based international order is two things at once. First, it is a project to corrupt and distort the workings of the United Nations system that has been ongoing for some time, to reorient it away from an organ of international democracy into an organ of imperialism. Second, failing that, it is an attempt to set up an alternative system of international governance outside the UN, to displace it. 

On the other hand, the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind reflects the original spirit – of international democracy and cooperation and respect for sovereignty – of the UN and seeks to deepen it in a new anti-imperialist spirit that builds an apparatus for the peaceful and cooperative evolution of our wonderfully diverse and creative world. 

Global Times, October 11, 2022, https://www.globaltimes.cn/

Canadian Elites Are Engineering a Recession to Discipline Workers / by David Moscrop

Orthodox responses to recession favor “stabilizing” the economy through punishing workers and privileging capital. (Jens Büttner / Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Economic orthodoxy blames inflation on everyone except corporations and their windfall profits. It’s time to think about responding to inflation and recessions with policies that make corporations pay, not average workers.

In some quarters, it is accepted as an article of faith that a recession is on the way — and that such an eventuality is a necessary corrective to economic imbalance. As inflation persists and central banks jack up interest rates, orthodox logic suggests short-term pain for long-term gain is the only way forward. Naturally, the pain isn’t to be spread around equitably or equally. It never is. We aren’t all in this together. We never are.

Economists and other observers warn the recession could become a global phenomenon. The World Bank warns that recession might be accompanied by a further economic shock. Stagflation — sluggish economic growth alongside soaring inflation — could follow the downturn. Canada is not immune to such risks and people know it. One survey suggests more than 80 percent of people worry a recession is coming, and many have started to behave accordingly.

Debates about whether a recession and stagflation are imminent occupy plenty of column inches and television hours. Just as important, however, is the question of who will suffer the most should the worst come about — and whether it is preordained to happen. Let’s start with who will bear the burden of recession. As Jenna Moon reports in the Toronto Star, Canadians who are carrying hefty consumer debt will be hit hard. That’s a lot of us. As Moon notes, non-mortgage consumer debt in Canada is roughly $591 billion — $1.81 for every dollar of income — with total debt resting at over $2.3 trillion.

The economic fundaments in Canada don’t look good. Debt is rising. Interest rates are increasing. High inflation is ongoing. Purchasing power is falling. More people are carrying mortgages they can’t afford. That’s a wicked brew that few can afford swallow — which is to say, it’s a prelude to bankruptcy, foreclosures, and unemployment.

Is a recession inevitable? Is it necessary?

In July, columnist Linda McQuaig called interest-rate hikes “class war.” Too many people in Canada have bought into the myth that class cleavages don’t exist in the peaceful, well-ordered north. Too many people have bought into the delusion that technocratic experts in the capital and financial centers of the country know what’s best and have the interests of Main Street at heart. That’s why so few are inclined to use the term “class,” let alone “class war.”

As McQuaig argues, unemployment stemming from an engineered recession is a tactic and not an inevitability. “High unemployment disciplines workers,” she writes. “A large pool of idle workers makes other workers insecure and reduces their leverage to demand higher wages. This tames inflation, even as it diminishes the overall bargaining power of labor, quietly advancing a class war.”

Economist Gustavo Indart makes a similar argument but highlights the gap between monetary policy designed to keep workers in their place and a lack of policy action to address corporate depredation. “The underlying intention is to increase unemployment — that is, to cause an economic recession — to prevent workers from demanding a wage hike similar to the price-increase that already took place,” writes Indart.

In other words, the intention is to avoid a wage-price spiral . . . at a cost to workers in the form of higher unemployment and lower real wages. And with almost absolute certainty, the size of [the recent] policy rate hike will achieve this goal, and real wages will remain low while corporations’ profit margins will remain high.

In the United States, critics of the Federal Reserve’s inflation strategy of aggressive rate hikes make the same point. University of Texas economist James Galbraith echoes McQuaig. He opposes interest-rate hikes as a means to restrain price increases, noting — and drawing on ideas offered by Democratic congressman Jamaal Bowman — that governments have policy tools at their disposal. Those tools include “steps to prevent price gouging and unjust enrichment.” These ideas barely register within the realm of consideration, let alone likelihood, in Canada. But they should.

Underlying critiques raised by McQuaig, Indart, Bowman, and Galbraith is the point that inflation is being driven by producers and what Indart calls the “pervasive exploitation of their market power.” The leverage producers and the wealthy class who backs them enjoy isn’t new. Indeed, it’s as old as the free market itself. What’s changed is that we are living through a series of overlapping crises — including the pandemic and supply-chain shocks caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — that have caused the simmering exploitation of workers to boil over.

Odds are that orthodoxy will win the day. Central banks will get the recession they believe they need, producers will get the kneecapping of workers they want, right-wing Margaret Thatcher cosplayers will get a chance to preach — and introduce — austerity, and the gap between the wealthy and the poor will grow.

Eventually, things will stabilize, assuming some other catastrophe (for instance, of the nuclear variety) doesn’t render the classic cycle moot. But by “stabilizing” the economy through punishing workers and privileging capital, we’ll sink further into the mire. Not only will this hurt the vulnerable among us — a much greater cohort than one might think — it will also swell the ranks of right-wing populists. The prescriptions peddled by the likes of Pierre Poilievre are useless, but his rhetoric is tailor-made for moments like this one.

If, by some miracle, politicians in Canada and elsewhere decide to use public policy to break the cycle of recession orthodoxy, the worst of what may be coming might be moderated — or even largely avoided. But that won’t happen unless we collectively demand concessions from power, including the rejection of the same old ideas that continue to reproduce the same miserable outcomes. Instead, we must defeat the doctrinaire hydra as Hercules did the mythological one: by cauterizing the source of our despair. In our case, we must cauterize wounds made by elite economic orthodoxy with accurate analyses and new policy approaches.

David Moscrop is a writer and political commentator. He hosts the podcast Open to Debate and is the author of Too Dumb For Democracy? Why We Make Bad Political Decisions and How We Can Make Better Ones.

Jacobin, October 8, 2022, https://jacobin.com/2022/10/