Seeking Relief from Oppression, Peruvians Resist Castillo Removal and Wait / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo waves to supporters celebrating partial election results that show him leading over Keiko Fujimori, at his campaign headquarters in Lima, Peru, June 7, 2021, the day after a runoff election. | Martin Mejia / AP

“Pedro Castillo emerged from that deep, excluded, and marginalized Peru that has been the primordial object of nefarious consequences of treason by the elites,” according to an observer.  Castillo was the first progressive candidate ever to win a presidential election in Peru.

After harassing him for months, Peru’s rightwing-dominated unicameral Congress recently ordered Castillo’s removal from office. The authorities arrested him and now he is in prison.  Replacing Castillo was Vice President Dina Boluarte.  

Protesters have mobilized throughout Peru, blockaded over 100 highways, occupied five airports, and held rallies in various cities. The new government has instituted a 30-day state of emergency and imposed a strong police and military presence throughout the country. Security forces have killed almost 30 protesters and wounded hundreds.

Demonstrators are demanding Boluarte’s ouster, Castillo’s liberation, his return as president, new elections in 2023, and a constituent assembly.

As with Peru’s tumultuous history over recent decades, this conflict reflects division between Peruvians who are well-resourced, European-descended and living mainly in cities – one third of Peruvians live in Lima – and the majority of Peruvians who are distressed and deprived and who are likely to live in rural areas and be of indigenous heritage.  

They are the 51% of Peruvians who are food insecure, the 32.90% of them who are impoverished, the 76% who work in the informal sector, and the 14.9% of rural residents who are illiterate.   

Vladimir Cerrón a Cuba-trained neurosurgeon and founder of the Marxist-oriented Perú Libre (Free Peru) party, in October 2000 recruited Pedro Castillo as that party’s presidential candidate. Living in northern Peru, Castillo had never held political office. He was a small farmer, a teacher, and leader of a teachers’ union. He scored a surprise second-round victory in presidential elections on June 6, 2021.

Castillo’s hold on the presidency was fragile, beginning with a 42-day delay in taking office pending investigation of electoral fraud allegations. From then on, he was dodging attacks from Peru’s Congress, where conservatives are in charge. He frequently replaced cabinet ministers in vain attempts to ward off moves leading to his impeachment. The Congress repeatedly accused Castillo of corruption.

Cerrón, angered at Castillo’s dismissal of Perú Libre cabinet ministers, allowed the party’s congressional representatives to break their ties with Castillo. Pressured by Cerrón, Castillo withdrew from Perú Libre in July 2022. Dina Boluarte, his vice president, had earlier been expelled from that party. She and Castillo were not communicating.

Castillo survived two impeachment votes in Congress. But anticipating a successful impeachment vote, Castillo on December 7 dismissed Congress and called for new elections. The Congress then did impeach him on grounds of “moral incapacity” and proceeded to arrest him. He is imprisoned for 18 months. The next elections, according to Peru’s Constitution, would take place in 2026.

Conflict between President Castillo and the Congress has revolved around provisions of Peru’s 1993 Constitution created under the auspices of the Fujimori dictatorship. That Constitution authorizes removal of a president via congressional impeachment in a process known as “vacancy.” It also states that, “The President has the power to dissolve Congress if the latter has censured or refused to give a vote of confidence to two cabinet ministers.”

Castillo’s family has taken refuge in the Mexican embassy. The governments of Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, and some Caribbean nations denounced Peru’s parliamentary coup. The United States together with Chile are backing the new government. 

The U.S. government is heavily involved. Ambassador Lisa Kenna, an experienced CIA and State Department operative, met with Defense Minister Gustavo Bobbio Rosas on December 6, the day before the Congress impeached and removed Castillo. Bobbio is a retired brigadier general.

The next day, prior to resigning, Bobbio instructed Peru’s armed forces to oppose Castillo’s attempt to dissolve the Congress, which he characterized as a coup.  That day Ambassador Kenna tweeted: “The United States emphatically urges President Castillo to reverse his attempt to close the congress and allow the democratic institutions of Peru to function according to the constitution. We encourage the Peruvian public to remain calm.”

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador  in December 16 criticized the state of emergency in Peru. He denounced President Boluarte’s meeting with U.S. ambassador, adding that “Force must not be used, the people must not be repressed and freedoms must be guaranteed.” In response, Peru’s government on December 21 moved to expel Mexico’s ambassador in Lima.

The U.S. military has a presence in Peru, as with other Latin American and Caribbean nations. There are joint U.S. – Peru military exercises. U.S. personnel in 2017 participated in military exercises held jointly with Peru, Colombia and Brazil in the “triple borderland” in the Amazon region. The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit Six has long carried out infectious disease studies in Lima and Iquitos.  As of 2018, the U.S. Southern Command had built 15 Regional Emergency Operations Centers as part of its “Humanitarian Assistance Program.” 

Peru’s military may not uniformly support the coup. Troops stationed in the “VRAEM” area (a Spanish acronym meaning Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers) on December 18 declared that “The glorious Peruvian Army will not honor the state of emergency” and that they are “in rebellion against the usurper [President] Dina Arcelia Baluarte Zegarra. Their statement condemns “this exploitative, corrupt system endorsed by Peru’s Political Constitution of 1993.”

This rebelliousness may somehow relate to a Defense Ministry announcement on May 5 that 40 bases in the VREAM area would eventually be converted from drug-war installations to “production and development centers.” The VRAEM in 2020 accounted for 70% of Peru’s coca production. The Ministry’s plans to remove the military bases have been criticized.

The highly regarded Héctor Béjar, chancellor for the first 19 days of Castillo’s presidency, has the last word. He notes that, “Castillo is a humble man, not a man of the left. He is an evangelical … not a Marxist-Leninist, not a terrorist … His behavior is inexplicable because he is a labor leader at the national level and led two very important teacher strikes. It’s not that he had no experience.”

Béjar is perhaps alluding to Castillo’s unpreparedness in presuming to head a reform-minded progressive government, especially in comparison with similarly motivated regional leaders of the past and present. In their own ways Presidents like Morales of Bolivia, Petro of Colombia, Chávez of Venezuela, Castro of Honduras, Allende of Chile, and Correa of Ecuador had prepared. They had nurtured popular support, recruited reliable political associates, already were leaders within a left-leaning political movement, or they developed one.

Béjar declares that, “We have a dictatorship in Perú, a military and political dictatorship …[and] we are in a revolutionary movement without revolutionaries.”

It’s true. Masses of working and marginalized people in Peru are themselves prepared, as indicated by their surprise vote for Castillo in 2021 and currently by their vigorous and ongoing resistance to the coup.  Now as in the past, they are waiting for visionary and revolutionary leadership. 

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.

The US egged on the coup in Peru / by Vijay Prashad, José Carlos Llerena

Soldiers from National Police deployed on the streets and highways following the declaration of a state of emergency in Peru amid anti-coup protests (Arequipa, Peru). Photo: Zintia Fernández / Wayka

Originally Published in People’s Dispatch, December 14, 2022

On December 7, 2022, Pedro Castillo sat in his office on what would be the last day of his presidency of Peru. His lawyers went over spreadsheets that showed Castillo would triumph over a motion in Congress to remove him. This was going to be the third time that Castillo faced a challenge from the Congress, but his lawyers and advisers—including former Prime Minister Anibal Torres—told him that he held an advantage over the Congress in opinion polls (his approval rating had risen to 31 percent, while that of the Congress was just about 10 percent).

Castillo had been under immense pressure for the past year from an oligarchy that disliked this former teacher. In a surprise move, he announced to the press on December 7 that he was going to “temporarily dissolve the Congress” and “[establish] an exceptional emergency government.” This measure sealed his fate. Castillo and his family rushed toward the Mexican Embassy but were arrested by the military along Avenida España before they could get there.

Why did Pedro Castillo take the fatal step of trying to dissolve Congress when it was clear to his advisers—such as Luis Alberto Mendieta—that he would prevail in the afternoon vote?

The pressure got to Castillo, despite the evidence. Ever since his election in July 2021, his opponent in the presidential election, Keiko Fujimori, and her associates have tried to block his ascension to the presidency. She worked with men who have close ties with the US government and its intelligence agencies. A member of Fujimori’s team, Fernando Rospigliosi, for instance, had in 2005 tried to involve the US Embassy in Lima against Ollanta Humala, who contested in the 2006 Peruvian presidential election. Vladimiro Montesinos, a former CIA asset who is serving time in a prison in Peru, sent messages to Pedro Rejas, a former commander in Peru’s army, to go “to the US Embassy and talk with the embassy intelligence officer,.” to try and influence the 2021 Peruvian presidential election. Just before the election, the United States sent a former CIA agent, Lisa Kenna, as its ambassador to Lima. She met Peru’s Minister of Defense Gustavo Bobbio on December 6 and sent a denunciatory tweet against Castillo’s move to dissolve Congress the next day (on December 8, the US government—through Ambassador Kenna—recognized Peru’s new government after Castillo’s removal).

A key figure in the pressure campaign appears to have been Mariano Alvarado, operations officer of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG), who functions effectively as the US Defense attaché. We are told that officials such as Alvarado, who are in close contact with the Peruvian military generals, gave them the greenlight to move against Castillo. It is being said that the last phone call that Castillo took before he left the presidential palace came from the US Embassy. It is likely he was warned to flee to the embassy of a friendly power, which made him appear weak.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

José Carlos Llerena Robles is a popular educator, member of the Peruvian organization La Junta, and representative of the Peruvian chapter of Alba Movimientos.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Charlene Mitchell, a freedom fighter of unimpeachable integrity, passes at 92 / by Herb Boyd

Charlene Mitchell was nominated by the Communist Party USA as its presidential candidate on July 4, 1968. She was the first Black woman to be nominated for the presidency by any political party. (People’s World Archives)

Originally published in Amsterdam News, December 22, 2022

Charlene (Alexander) Mitchell was a serious unwavering champion of the oppressed and marginalized, never flinching in her advocacy for civil and human rights. Many remember her fearless commitment to free Angela Davis and as a member of the U.S Communist Party. Her intrepid fight for justice will now be taken up by those who admired her will and determination. Mitchell died on Dec. 14, at the Amsterdam Nursing Home in New York City, reportedly of natural causes. She was 92.

Still, for Angela Davis there was much more to Mitchell and her political resolve, and in a statement from Davis we gather some notion of her unimpeachable integrity and grit. “Having known Charlene Mitchell through political victories and defeats, through personal tragedies and triumphs, I can say with confidence that she is the person to whom I am most grateful for showing me a life path.

“What I have most appreciated over these years is her amazing ability to discover ethical connections between the political and the personal, the global and the local,” Davis continued. “I don’t think I have ever known someone as consistent in her values, as collective in her outlook on life, as firm in her trajectory as a freedom fighter.”

Born Charlene Alexander on June 8, 1930, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second child of eight, her parents were Charles Alexander and Naomi Taylor.  Much like her working class activist parents, Charlene by her early teens was a member of anti-racist campaigns. She was 16 and living in Chicago when she joined the Communist Party, USA. During an appearance on “American Masters,” a television program, she recounted how she met her idol Paul Robeson. Her organizing skills were quickly recognized by the Party and she was given leadership responsibilities, even as she raised her son, Steven, who was born in 1951, a year after her marriage to Bill Mitchell.

One of her most prominent positions was at the helm of the CPUSA branch in Los Angeles, widely known as the Che-Lumumba club, after the renowned revolutionaries, where she helped orchestrate a number of community activities in the areas of housing, police abuse and civil rights. 

In 1968, she became the first Black woman to run for president of the U.S. on the CP ticket, and at that time stated that she hoped anti-communist sentiments on voting laws “won’t prevent the American public from having a chance to engage with Communist Party USA policies.” In the campaign to free Angela Davis, Charlene was indefatigable, speaking at rallies and forums across the nation. She was equally vocal about other victims of racist and political repression, particularly in the fight to free Joan Little, who in 1975 was eventually acquitted on the charge of murdering a North Carolina prison guard who tried to rape her.  When the Wilmington Ten were wrongly convicted, Charlene was an indispensable leader in their fight for freedom.

The early ’90s found Charlene just as energetic in causes as ever and elected leader of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Her fight for justice was extensive and highly regarded internationally, especially in the anti-apartheid struggle. From this participation she later forged a relationship with Nelson Mandela.

Her reputation on the rampart was soon recognized by New York City’s Social Service Employees Union, Local 371, the progressive welfare workers’ DC 37 of AFSCME, where she was hired as special assistant to Charles Ensley, the union’s president. In 1998, she was among a coterie of activists who endorsed the founding of the Black Radical Congress.

Though somewhat impaired by a stroke in 2007 that partially paralyzed and impeded her speech, she found ways to lend her spirit to the fight for freedom, justice and the total liberation of the oppressed. She is survived by her son, Steven Mitchell, and her brothers, Deacon Alexander and Mike Wolfson.

Herb Boyd (born November 1, 1938)[1] is an American journalist, teacher, author, and activist. His articles appear regularly in the New York Amsterdam News. He teaches black studies at the City College of New York and the College of New Rochelle.

No contract, no coffee: Starbucks baristas strike, demand bargaining / by Mark Gruenberg

Starbucks baristas on strike in Memphis, Tenn. | via @Un1onBarbie on Twitter

In Seattle, Starbucks baristas at CEO Howard Schultz’s home store, The Roastery, brought Scabby the Rat to their picket line. Chants and signs from coast to coast—including in crayon on a Baltimore County, Md., car—declared: “No contract, no coffee!”

At an unidentified Starbucks, Santa had to strike: “Even my elves are in unions!” he said in a film clip. “Shame on you, Mr. Schultz.”

At the Starbucks store at Ashland Ave. and Irving Park Road on Chicago’s North Side, so many customers honored the picket line that at 11 a.m. on Dec. 16—the first day of a 3-day nationwide forced strike—managers closed the store.

“Who shut it down? We shut it down!” the exuberant picketers shouted via bullhorn.

“SHAME ON STARBUCKS” read a big bedsheet banner during what participants called “mega picketing” at three Starbucks St. Louis stores. Minnesota participants, joined by members of the Communist Party club there, thronged to the picket line, despite typical Minnesota December temperatures, even at midday: 5 degrees below zero.

Scabby the Rat on the picket line at the Starbucks Roastery story in Seattle. | Starbucks Workers United Seattle

And in Ithaca, N.Y., at a store the giant chain keeps threatening to close—in retaliation for unionizing—workers added a song for their Jewish customers, just before Chanukah began, sung to the children’s tune of Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel:

“Union, union, union

A fair contract we say.

And if we don’t get it,

We will strike all day.”

The object of all this activity: To force Starbucks’ bosses back to bargaining with the workers who have unionized at 260-plus of the monster coffee chain’s stores since the grassroots organizing drive—aided by Starbucks Workers United (SWU), a Service Employees affiliate—achieved its first success in Buffalo just over a year ago.

The three-day forced strike #DoubleDownPicketing on the weekend of Dec. 16-19 was the latest effort by the workers to get the bosses to bargain in good faith, despite CEO Schultz. There were two short sessions in late October.

In the first, lasting about five minutes, the workers barely began to present proposals when the bosses’ union-buster called a caucus and led management in a walkout. They never came back. The second was even shorter: Bosses refused to talk because hundreds of Starbucks workers nationwide had tuned in via Zoom.

The weekend action, which SWU described as the longest against the giant coffee chain, showed yet again that Starbucks baristas, like other underpaid and overworked workers—especially in fast food eateries, coffee shops, and bars—have had it up to here with corporate exploitation and greed, and have taken to unionizing and to the streets, in response.

They join port truckers, retail workers, adjunct professors, museum workers, Amazon workers, and warehouse workers—among others in a mass movement agitating for union recognition, better pay, safer working conditions and respect on the job, in numbers infrequently seen in decades, and certainly not coast to coast. But that’s what happened here.

They also got wide public support—despite a few “brew your own coffee remarks”—from the Twitterverse.

St. Louis Starbucks workers on the mega-picket line. | via @CMRJB on Twitter

“Switching up my routine to support@SBWorkersUnited,” one tweet said. “This #Union brother won’t cross picket lines. #BoycottStarbucks Solidarity is more than just a word, it’s a conscious action that requires commitment. Be an active part of the #StarbucksStrike. Retweet in #Solidarity.”

“SCABS TRIED TO SLOW US DOWN AND WE CAME BACK STRONGER,” another reported. “#DoubleDownStrike #NoContractNoGiftCards #NoContractNoCoffee #SBWU #UnionStrong.”

“Those big executives that are sitting up in their offices picking their noses all day are about to find out real fast who actually runs the company,” a third tweeter commented.

The strikers picked up heavyweight intellectual backing, too, of a sort. A new study from the Harvard Business School of the nation’s 250 largest corporations, listing the 50 best for workers on various quality of life issues—not just pay, but benefits, diversity, and opportunities for advancement—showed Starbucks was second to last in its category, retail. Only McDonald’s was worse.

“Starbucks earned one of the lowest ratings in the study, placing it in the bottom 50 of the surveyed companies, beneath brands with notably poor reputations for worker treatment including Walmart and Dollar General,” the news story on the study adds. The study didn’t distinguish between unionized and non-unionized firms.

Starbucks’ exact finish in the multifactor rankings could not be determined, from the confusing way it posted its findings. But another pro-worker group posted the survey anyway, noting in irony the Howard Schultz Foundation—yes, the CEO’s non-profit—financed it. The overall #1? AT&T, which is unionized.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

People’s World, December 20, 2022,

Chinese modernization pursues China’s peaceful development / by Hujjatullah Zia

The Great Hall of the People in Beijing. [Photo/IC]

Originally published in on December 21, 2022

The Communist Party of China is seeking to push the Chinese nation towards modernization in all fronts. This includes social, political and economic issues as the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China states: “Chinese modernization is the modernization of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature and of peaceful development”.

The modernization theory is aptly enshrined in the Belt and Road Initiative, which will pave the ground for regional and global development in the economic sector and step up cultural exchanges between nations. That is, the BRI is designed to bring the world closer, connect the nations and contribute to the global economy. In addition to boosting economic development, social, cultural and financial interactions will lead to bilateral and multilateral understandings, smoothing the path for peaceful coexistence and prosperous life. Opening a global trade route will contribute to poverty alleviation in the rest of the world and facilitate other nations to engage further in business. So, it means that China is sharing its economic development with the world, adding to the cake of global development.

Domestically, all ethnic groups will enjoy the fruit of this modernization and rejuvenation of the nation, which will build China into a great modern socialist country. It is self-explanatory that the entire nation throughout China has so far reaped the benefits of China’s economic development and all facilities the government could provide.

Internationally, it is a win-win strategy as both China and the rest of the world will be the beneficiaries of Chinese modernization in terms of economic and cultural progress. It is believed that the nature of business and supply-and-demand is of mutual benefit since it will meet the needs of both sides. Meanwhile, global trade also carries nonphysical values with itself, which will lead to enriching the culture of nations. With this in mind, this modernization is indeed “of material and cultural-ethical advancement”.

This should be noted that, in the modern world, economic exchanges are a gesture of friendly interaction. It means shaking the hands of each other with good intention, sharing advantages and trying to meet the demands of your friends. On the contrary, if a country is seeking to show its discontent or punish a nation, it begins with economic boycott. As far as I am concerned, China has constantly reiterated opening up to the world and stepping up economic and cultural exchanges. Hence, friendly intention is deeply embedded in trades and China has always tried to convey its good intentions with all nations around the world through economic give-and-take.

To connect the dots, the Belt and Road Initiative will facilitate economic exchanges for a large number of nations around the world, and these economic exchanges will cement friendly ties and enrich cultural values and, finally, common prosperity will emerge. All these remain closely connected with China’s modernization drive.

It is believed that the modernization drive marks the second step to pursue the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the idea put forward years back. Based on this idea, all Chinese youths have to work hard and dream big so as to contribute to the revitalization of the Chinese nation. The second centenary goal, which carries modernization with all its vast definition and aspects, will be realized by hard work, strong loyalty to the nation and individual and collective support.

China’s fast development and its jaw-dropping achievement in poverty alleviation fill the sphere with a strong sense of hope that China, led by the CPC, will successfully achieve the second centenary goal. As the largest nation and second largest economy, China now enjoys strong self-confidence and the CPC has the widespread public trust in the wake of proving its promises and walking firmly on the path of development and modernization.

Hujjatullah Zia is a political analyst and senior writer with Daily Outlook Afghanistan. The views don’t necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines / by Struggle-La Lucha

Originally published: Struggle-La Lucha on December 16, 2022

From the Philippine Revolution Web Central:

The greatest Filipino of the past century bereaved us peacefully last night.

Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, passed away at around 8:40 p.m. (Philippine time) after two weeks confinement in a hospital in Utrech, The Netherlands. He was 83.

The Filipino proletariat and toiling people grieve the death of their teacher and guiding light.

The entire Communist Party of the Philippines gives the highest possible tribute to its founding chairman, great Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thinker, patriot, internationalist and revolutionary leader.

Even as we mourn, we vow continue to give all our strength and determination to carry the revolution forward guided by the memory and teachings of the people’s beloved Ka Joma.

Let the immortal revolutionary spirit of Ka Joma live on!

December 17, 2022

Tribute of the 2nd Congress to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison

Resolution of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines – November 7, 2016

The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extends its profound appreciation and expresses deepest gratitude to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison for his immense contribution to the Philippine revolution as founding chair of the Party, founder of the New People’s Army and pioneer of the People’s Democratic Government in the Philippines.

Ka Joma is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist extraordinaire and indefatigable revolutionary fighter. He applied dialectical and historical materialism to expose the fundamental nature of the semicolonial and semifeudal social system in the Philippines. He put forward an incisive class analysis that laid bare the moribund, exploitative and oppressive rule of the big bourgeois compradors and big landlords in collusion with the U.S. imperialists.

He set forth the program for a people’s democratic revolution as immediate preparation for the socialist revolution. He always sets sights on the ultimate goal of communism.

Ka Joma was a revolutionary trailblazer. In his youth, he joined workers federations and helped organize unions. Ka Joma formed the SCAUP (Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines) in 1959 to promote national democracy and Marxism-Leninism and wage ideological and cultural struggle against the religio-sectarians and anti-communist forces among the student intellectuals. Together with fellow proletarian revolutionaries, he initiated study meetings to read and discuss Marxist-Leninist classic writings.

Under Ka Joma’s leadership, the SCAUP organized a protest action in March 1961 against the congressional witchhunt of the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities which targeted UP faculty members accused of writing and publishing Marxist materials in violation of the Anti-Subversion Law. Around 5,000 students joined the first demonstration with an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal character since more than ten years prior. As a consequence, Ka Joma became a target of reactionary violence and survived attempts on his life. Unfazed, he and the SCAUP continued to launch protests against the Laurel-Langley Agreement and the Military Bases Agreement and other issues as land reform and national industrialization, workers rights, civil and political liberties and solidarity with other peoples against U.S. acts of agression up to 1964.

He and other proletarian revolutionaries eventually joined the old merger Socialist and Communist Party in 1961. In recognition of his communist and youthful fervor, he was assigned to head the youth bureau of the old Party and appointed as member of the executive committee. He initiated meetings to study the classic works of Marx, Lenin, Mao and other great communist thinkers which challenged the stale conditions of the old Party.

He founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in November 1964 and led its development as one of the most important youth organizations in Philippine history. As KM chair, and as a young professor and militant, he went on campus tours and spoke before students as well as young professionals to espouse the necessity of waging a national democratic revolution. His speeches compiled in the volume Struggle for National Democracy (SND) served as one of the cornerstones of the national democratic propaganda movement. The KM would eventually be at the head and core of large mass demonstrations during the late 1960s up to the declaration of martial law in 1972.

As one of the leaders of the old party, Ka Joma prepared a political report exposing and repudiating the revisionism and opportunism of the successive Lava leadership as well as the errors of military adventurism and capitulation of the Taruc-Sumulong gang of the old people’s liberation army. The old party had deteriorated as an out-and-out revisionist party.

Despite Ka Joma’s effort, the old party proved to be beyond resuscitation from its revisionist death. Gangsters in the old party would carry out attempts on his life to snuff the revolutionary revival of the Filipino proletariat.

As Amado Guerrero, Ka Joma led the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines on the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. He prepared the Party constitution, the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and the document Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party and presided over the Congress of Reestablishment held in Alaminos, Pangasinan on December 26, 1968. In 1969, he authored Philippine Society and Revolution which presents the history of the Filipino people, analyzes the semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society and defines the people’s democratic revolution. He prepared the Basic Rules of the New People’s Army and the Declaration of the New People’s Army and directed the Meeting of Red commanders and fighters to found the New People’s Army (NPA) on March 29, 1969.

He led the Party in its early period of growth. He wrote the Organizational Guide and Outline of Reports in April 1971 and the Revolutionary Guide to Land Reform in September 1972 which both served to direct the work of building the mass organizations, organs of political power, units of the people’s army and the Party, as well as in mobilizing the peasants in waging agrarian revolution. He authored the Preliminary Report on Northern Luzon in August 1970 which served as a template in the work of other regional committees.

While directing the development and training of the New People’s Army from its initial base in Central Luzon to the forests of Isabela in Cagayan Valley, he also guided the youth activists in waging mass struggles in Metro Manila against the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship.

Ka Joma was ever on top of the revolutionary upsurge of the students and workers movement in 1970 and 1971. Chants of Amado Guerrero’s name reverberates in Manila and other cities in harmony with calls to join the people’s war in the countryside.

The CPP grew rapidly in its first few years under Ka Joma’s leadership. The Party established itself across the country and led the nationwide advance of the revolutionary armed struggle. He personally supervised the political and military training of Party cadres and NPA commanders in the forested region of Isabela from where they were deployed to other regions.

In 1971, he presided over the Central Committee and presented the Summing-Up Our Experiences After Three Years (1968-1971). He prepared in 1974 the Specific Characteristics of Our People’s War which authoritatively laid out the strategy and tactics for waging people’s war in the Philippines. In 1975, he authored Our Urgent Tasks, containing the Central Committee’s report and program of action. He served as editor-in-chief of Ang Bayan in its first years of publication.

In the underground movement, Ka Joma continued to guide the Party and the NPA in its growth under the brutal fascist martial law regime of dictator Marcos. He issued advisories to underground Party cadres and mass activists. Inspired by the raging people’s war in the countryside, they dared the fascist machinery and carried-out organizing efforts among students and workers.

The first workers’ strike broke out in 1975 preceding the growth of the workers movement. Large student demonstrations against rising school fees and the deterioration of the educational system were carried out from 1977 onwards completely shattering the terror of martial law.

Ka Joma continued to lead the Party in nationwide growth until 1977 when he and his wife Julie were arrested by the wild dogs of the Marcos dictatorship while in transit from one guerrilla zone to another. He was presented by the AFP to Marcos as a trophy. He was detained, subjected to severe torture, put under solitary confinement for more than five years interrupted only by joint confinement with Julie in 1980-1981, and later partial solitary confinement with one or two other political prisoners from 1982-1985.

While in prison, Ka Joma was able to maintain contact with the Party leadership and revolutionary forces outside through clandestine methods of communication. With the collaboration of Ka Julie, lifelong partner and comrade of Ka Joma, they produced important letters and advisories. In 1983, Ka Julie released the article JMS On the Mode of Production which served as a theoretical elucidation and clarification of the nature of the semicolonial and semifeudal social system in order to cast away confusion brought about by claims of industrialization by the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship. It counterattacked claims made by pretenders to socialism who insist that the Philippines had become a developing capitalist country under the fascist dictatorship.

A powerful upsurge of the anti-fascist mass movement followed the assassination of Marcos archrival Benigno Aquino in 1983. This was principally propelled by the workers and student movement which could mount demonstrations of 50,000 or greater from the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1984, Ka Joma released the paper On the Losing Course of the AFP under the pseudonym Patnubay Liwanag to assess the balance of forces and to signal to or sway the Pentagon to better drop Marcos, which would entail causing a split in the AFP. In September 1984, the Pentagon acceded to the Armacost formula and decided to join the U.S. State Department and other U.S. agencies to drop him. By early 1985 Reagan signed the National Security Directive with definite plan to ease out Marcos.

Ka Joma also asserted the need to weaken the reactionary armed strength in the countryside and expand the people’s army to a critical mass 25,000 rifles and one guerrilla platoon per municipality as constructive criticism of the plan to carry out a “strategic counter-offensive.”

The anti-fascist upsurge culminated in a people’s uprising supported by a military rebellion of elements in the reactionary AFP. The Party’s persevering and solid leadership of the anti-fascist movement and revolutionary armed struggle created favorable conditions that led to the overthrow the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Despite strong opposition by the U.S. and reactionary defense establishment, the Aquino regime was compelled to open the detested gates of the Marcos dungeons allowing Ka Joma to be released.

He wasted no time resuming revolutionary work. In a few months time, he mounted a major lecture series to propound a critical class analysis of the Corazon Aquino regime and expose it as representative of big bourgeois comprador and landlord rule. The series of lectures which later comprised the volume Philippine Crisis and Revolution countered the “political spectrum” analysis of populists which pictured the Aquino regime as a bourgeois liberal regime to goad the revolutionary forces along the path of class collaboration and capitulation.

These populists as well as other charlatans carried out a campaign to undermine the basic analysis of classes and production system in the Philippines to justify the convoluted concept of a strategic counter-offensive wishfully thinking that the people’s war can leapfrog to strategic victory bypassing the probable historical course. A number of key leaders of the Party and revolutionary forces were drawn to the self-destructive path of insurrectionism and premature regularization and military adventurism. This would later bring about grave and almost fatal losses to the Party and the NPA, as well as to the urban mass movement.

Forced to exile in 1987 by the Aquino regime which canceled his passport and travel papers, Ka Joma sought political asylum in The Netherlands while on a lecture tour. He eventually resided in Utrecht and work with other comrades in the international office of the National Democratic Front. Although thousand of miles away from the Philippines, he continued to maintain close contact with the Party leaders in the country and provide advise and guidance to help them in their work.

Ka Joma served as one of the steadfast exponent of the Second Great Rectification Movement launched by the 10th Plenum of the CPP Central Committee in 1992. The Party leadership actively sought Ka Joma’s theoretical insights and analysis. In preparing the key document Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors, the Party leadership referred to Ka Joma and the Party’s founding documents which he authored. With Ka Joma’s full support, the rectification campaign of 1992-1998 united and strengthened the Party to ever greater heights.

Ka Joma also played a key role in authoring the paper Stand for Socialism Against Modern Revisionism which illuminated the path of socialist revolution during the dark hours of the complete restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in 1990 touted in the monopoly bourgeois mass media as the fall of socialism, a refutation of communism, and the “end of history” and final victory of the capitalist system.

Reflecting Ka Joma’s sharp Maoist critique of modern revisionism, the paper presented a clear historical understanding of the process of capitalist restoration in the USSR from 1956 onwards. This served as key to understanding the continuing viability of socialism and to inspiring the Filipino proletariat to persevere in the two-stage revolution and the international proletariat to carry forward the socialist cause.

Ka Joma’s Utrecht base eventually became a political center of the international communist and anti-imperialist resistance movements. He played an important role in the centennial celebration of Mao Zedong in 1993 which served as a vigorous ideological campaign to reaffirm Marxist-Leninist views and to proclaim Maoism as the third epochal development of Marxism-Leninism.

Up to the early 2000s, he also played a lead role in the formation of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) which serves as a center for ideological and practical exchange among communist and workers parties which stood for socialism and opposed modern revisionism. He provided valuable insights and practical assistance to numerous communist parties from Asia to Europe and the Americas.

Over the past decade, he has led the International League of People’s Struggles or the ILPS which has served as coordinating center for anti-imperialist movements around the globe. He authored the paper “On imperialist globalization” in 1997 which clarified that the proletariat remains in the era of imperialism and socialist revolution.

Because of his role in guiding the advance of the international anti-imperialist struggle, Ka Joma was put in the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism. He was included in the U.S. list of “foreign terrorists”, together with the CPP and NPA. At 68 years old, he was arrested in 2007 by the Dutch police and detained for more than 15 days.

Since 1992, together with the NDFP Negotiating Panel, Ka Joma has also ably represented the interests of the Filipino people and revolutionary movement in peace negotiations with successive representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). He has been appointed as Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and has deftly guided it in negotiations with the GRP over the past 25 years.

Over the past several years, Ka Joma continued to provide invaluable insights into the domestic crisis and the situation of the revolutionary forces. He continues to provide advise to the Party and the revolutionary forces in the Philippines on resolving the problems of advancing the revolution to a new and higher stage.

He has set forth critical analysis of the objective international conditions. He has put forward a Marxist-Leninist critique of the capitalist crisis of overproduction which is at the base of the international financial crisis and the prolonged depression that has wracked the global capitalist system. He has reaffirmed that we are still at the historical epoch of imperialism, the last crisis stage of capitalism.

Ka Joma is the torch bearer of the international communist movement. Through the dark period of capitalist restoration, he has kept the flames of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism burning and inspired the proletariat to take advantage of the crisis of global capitalism, persevere along the path of socialism and communism and bring the international communist revolution to a new chapter of revival and reinvigoration.


The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) resolves to give the highest honors to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison, great communist thinker, leader, teacher and guide of the Filipino proletariat and torch bearer of the international communist movement.

In recognition of Ka Joma’s immense contribution to the Philippine revolution and the international workers movement, the Second Congress further resolves:
1. to instruct the Central Committee to continue to seek Ka Joma’s insights and advise on various aspects of the Party’s work in the ideological, political and organizational fields.

2. to endorse the five volume writings of Jose Ma. Sison as basic reference and study material of the CPP and to urge the entire Party membership and revolutionary forces to read and study Ka Joma’s writings.

The Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is certain that with the treasure of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist work that Ka Joma has produced over the past five decades of revolutionary practice, the Party is well-equipped in leading the national democratic revolution to greater heights and complete victory in the coming years.

MR Online, December 19, 2022,

The working class under neo-liberalism / by Prabhat Patnaik

Originally published: Peoples Democracy on December 11, 2022

A NEO-LIBERAL regime entails a spontaneous change in the balance of class power against the working class everywhere. This happens for a number of reasons. First, since capital becomes globally mobile while labour is not, such globally mobile capital gets an opportunity to pit the working class of one country against that of another. If the workers of one country go on strike, then capital has the option of relocating its production at the margin to another country; and its very threat to do so serves to keep down the militancy of the workers in every country.

If the workers had been internationally organised, so that strike actions were not just nationally organised but could occur simultaneously across several countries, then such a threat by capital would not have worked; but class actions by the working class alas are not yet internationally coordinated, because of which such threats work. True, even if workers had been internationally organised, capital could still have threatened to shift production to some entirely new location, but this would have been more difficult from its point of view. The fact that workers even in the current production locations of capital are not internationally organised, works in favour of capital and keeps down the level of militancy in each location.

This is simply an instance of the well-known fact that centralisation of capital is a means of subduing the militancy of workers: since centralisation of capital is typically associated with the deployment of such centralised capital across a set of scattered activities or across scattered geographical locations, militant action by the workers in any particular location or branch of activity faces the threat of capital shifting to another branch or location. Neo-liberal globalisation entails centralisation of capital but with a global dispersion, and hence imposes similar effective restraint upon the militancy of the workers.

The second factor working in the same direction is this: even as activities shift from the metropolis to some countries of the periphery, thereby weakening the workers’ bargaining and striking strength in the metropolis, the vast labour reserves of the periphery do not get exhausted, so that the workers in the periphery acquire no greater strength.

The fact that workers in the metropolis get restrained by being linked to the vast labour reserves of the periphery, which is what neo-liberalism ensures, is well recognised. The increasing gap between the conditions of the metropolitan workers and those in the periphery that had characterised capitalism in the earlier period when it had segmented the world economy into two parts, across which neither labour nor capital moved, can no longer be sustained; but  neo-liberalism had always held out the promise that relocation-aided rapid growth of the peripheral economy, would use up the labour reserves there, i.e., that these reserves which are a legacy of colonialism and semi-colonialism (though neo-liberal ideology does not recognise this fact), would finally dwindle.

This promise however gets belied. In fact rather than reduce the magnitude of labour reserves in the periphery, the neo-liberal regime actually increases it. Neo-liberalism is associated there with an increase in unemployment, though this fact may manifest itself as a reduction in the number of days that each worker works rather than as a decrease in the number of workers employed.

This increase in unemployment follows from two characteristics of neo-liberalism. One is the withdrawal of State support from petty production and peasant agriculture with a view to opening up this sector to encroachment by big capital and agribusiness. The second characteristic is the opening up of the economy to freer cross-border flows of goods and services which greatly increases the compulsion of every producer to introduce technological progress in order to defend market shares against imports. Since saving on labour is the typical form taken by technological progress under capitalism, this means a rise in the rate of growth of labour productivity and hence a decline in the rate of growth of employment. Thus, as displaced peasants and artisans enlarge the number of job-seekers in the capitalist sector of the economy, the growth in the number of jobs shrinks in that sector, causing a swelling of the relative size of labour reserves. This fact weakens the position of the working class in all countries.

The third factor that weakens the position of workers everywhere is the privatisation of public sector units. Workers in public sector units are invariably better organised than those in private sector units, a fact evident from the extent of unionisation in the two sectors. In the US for instance almost a third of public sector employees (including in the sphere of education) are unionised, compared to only about 7 per cent of private sector employees. It follows that privatisation has the effect of subduing working class militancy. This in turn subdues workers’ militancy in the economy as a whole.

It is for this reason that France which still has a sizeable public sector continues to witness militant workers’ struggles. In India where there had been a substantial public sector with a history of glorious struggles, gradual privatisation has made such struggles undoubtedly more difficult; it has led to a shift in the locus of unionisation to the small-scale sector.

What is striking however is not so much the fact that neo-liberalism weakens the working class in its struggle against capital, but that despite this weakening neo-liberalism is witnessing at present an upsurge of workers’ militancy. In Britain rail workers have staged several strikes this year, including, during the previous summer, the biggest strike seen for decades. Even at present, the rail workers have rejected the pay offer made by the employers as being too paltry and are threatening further strike action in December and January. Railway workers however are not alone. Postal workers, nurses, ambulance workers and others have been either engaged in strike action or going to be, so much so that the chairman of the ruling Conservative Party has talked of bringing in the army to run “essential services”. In Germany, port workers, public transport workers, aviation security workers, construction workers, and railway workers have all been either engaged in strikes or are soon going to be. The same is true of other European countries. In other words, the relative quiescence of workers that had characterised the neo-liberal era until now is coming to an end.

The typical explanation for this upsurge of militancy that one comes across in the western press attributes it to inflation. Inflation in turn is believed to have been caused by factors, like the Ukraine war or Covid-induced disruptions in supply chains, that are supposedly wholly extraneous to the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism.

This explanation however is inadequate for two obvious reasons: one, neither the Covid episode nor the Ukraine war is extraneous to the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism. This is clear in the case of the Ukraine war whose genesis lies in the attempt to maintain the hegemony of western imperialism that neo-liberal capitalism also seeks to buttress. But even the Covid episode is not extraneous to neo-liberal capitalism: its sweep and intensity owe much to the western reluctance to part with monopoly control over vaccine technology; besides, even the origin of Covid, it now appears from the report of a Lancet-appointed committee, has been in a laboratory which could well make it a fall-out of military-linked research on behalf of imperialism.

The second reason why the current inflation is not extraneous to neo-liberal capitalism is the following. Capitalist crises have this characteristic that attempts to resolve them often simply lead to crises in a different form. The tendency towards over-production that neo-liberal capitalism has generated because of the rise in the share of surplus in output in the world capitalist economy as a whole, as well as in individual capitalist economies, has been sought to be overcome for a long time in the US, the leading metropolitan country, by keeping interest rates close to zero and pumping in huge amounts of liquidity into the economy through what is called “quantitative easing”.

Now, capitalists, in deciding any course of action, evaluate the risks associated with that course. The availability of huge amounts of liquidity at very low interest rates greatly reduces the risks for corporates associated with jacking up their profit margins. This is why several American corporations at the first opportunity jacked up their margins, precipitating the current inflation. Other factors no doubt played a role but this basic cause of the current inflation must not be forgotten.

It is this direct assault on their living standards that workers everywhere are vehemently protesting against. This assault in turn is symptomatic of the dead-end of neo-liberalism.

Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian political economist and political commentator. His books include Accumulation and Stability Under Capitalism (1997), The Value of Money (2009), and Re-envisioning Socialism (2011).

MR Online, December 10, 2022,

International Support for Assange May Not Prevent His Extradition / by W. T. Whitney Jr.

A banner in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seen outside the High Court in London, which ruled on December 10, 2021 that Assange can be extradited to the US. A lower court judge earlier this year refused the US request for extradition. Photo: VCG, Global Times

Australian Julian Assange founded and managed Wikileaks, the international organization that famously has collected and passed on secret political documents. The campaign to prevent Assange from being extradited to the United States from Britain has intensified recently just as legal remedies for him to avoid extradition are fast disappearing.

The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel on November 28 issued a joint letter stating that the U.S. indictment against Assange “sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.” A recent statement from the International Federation of Journalists points out that, “None of WikiLeaks’ media partners have been charged … because of their collaboration with Assange.”

High officials have weighed in. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on November 30 assured legislators he made it  “clear to the US administration—that it is time that this matter be brought to a close.” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet indicated that Assange’s “potential extradition and prosecution of Assange raises concerns relating to media freedom.” 

Supporters on October 8 created a human chain outside Parliament in London. Assange’s allies claim he is a journalist and that criminalization of reporting violates the democratic right of press freedom. The American Civil Liberties Union long ago opined that, “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange would be unprecedented and unconstitutional.” 

Among the many U.S. charges against Assange are accusations that he disseminated government secrets and thereby violated the Espionage Act of 1917. Conviction on those charges could send him to prison for up to 175 years.

It seems presently that the campaign to prevent Assange’s extradition to the United States is falling short and perhaps inevitably so.  In particular, political agitation on his behalf his failed to arouse significant popular support for his cause in the international arena.

A review of how his case has played out may be helpful. Through Wikileaks, Assange collected, and was supplied with, cables and documents, classified and unclassified, having to do with U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence activities. Beginning in 2010, Wikileaks distributed material to news outlets worldwide, furiously at first and intermittently later on. 

Revealing and often embarrassing information emerged regarding U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; interventions in Iran, Yemen, and Turkey; U.S. prisoners held in Guantanamo; and U.S. involvement in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere. U.S. authorities claim Assange endangered U.S. interests and personnel.

Sexual assault charges against Assange emerged in Sweden in 2010. Authorities in the U.K., where he was living, first imprisoned him in preparation for extradition to Sweden and then released him on bail.  Assange sought judicial protection from being extradited, mainly to avoid extradition from there to the United States.

Court rulings and appeals continued until 2012, when Britain’s Supreme Court authorized Assange’s extradition to Sweden. He took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London.

A new rightwing Ecuadorian government in 2019 ended that sanctuary and British authorities, invited into the Embassy, transferred Assange to Belmarsh prison on bail-violation charges. The sexual assault charge had already been dropped. The U.S. government in June 2019 requested Assange’s extradition and also released a previously secret indictment created the year before.

Reports have circulated that Assange has suffered from neurological and psychological illnesses while in prison. Beginning in 2020, British courts at various levels ruled on Assange’s extradition until mid-2021, when the Supreme Court approved a British government order to extradite him. 

An appeal of that decision is in the works; a hearing is scheduled for early 2023.  Assange’s lawyers have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Whether or not the British government would honor that court’s rejection of Assange’s extradition is uncertain.

Assange is apparently on the verge being imprisoned in the United States. The headline of John Nichols’s article in The Nation says, “A United Front Is Needed to Fight the Threat to Journalism Posed by the Assange Prosecution.”

A united front of sorts is already in place.  As noted above, political officials and journalists have spoken out in opposition to Assange’s extradition. In that vein, Wikileaks top editor Kristinn Hrafnsson and an associate conferred with Latin American heads of state in early December.  Colombian president Gustavo  Petro, his Argentinian counterpart Alberto Fernández and Brazilian president-elect  Lula da Silva have signaled their support for Assange.

The suggestion of mounting a united front to bolster Assange’s defense is a serendipitous gift to this inquiry. A united front indeed does have the potential to build mass support for a defendant as an adjunct to his or her legal defense.  Effectiveness, however, depends on its composition. 

We recall a united front that did create a widespread people’s mobilization that helped to secure the liberation of political prisoners in Alabama. That one differed from the one developing now on Assange’s behalf. 

A court in that state in 1931 convicted nine African-descended boys and young men of having raped two white women; eight of them were going to be executed. These were the “Scottsboro Boys,” and they were innocent. The national group International Labor Defense (ILD) not only provided lawyers but also orchestrated publicity and protests that extended worldwide and contributed hugely to the prisoners’ eventual liberation.  

Initiated by the Communist Party, the ILD recruited activists from all quarters of the American left in order to defend “victims of class warfare.” The Communist party was pursuing a united-front strategy, of which ILD was one manifestation. Communist parties of the world were on that track as they prepared for a world war thought to be inevitable. They were forming coalitions in their various countries with other political parties of the working class. 

Tapping into the grief of oppressed peoples’ daily existence, ILD was offering relief for one aspect of that grief, persecution by local civil authorities.  The ILD was providing grounds for hope, and, that way, encouraged people to seek justice and think of freedom for prisoners.

The problem for Julius Assange, however, may be that the issue of press freedom, while certainly an important democratic right, does not register as serving people’s basic needs at the grassroots. It’s an abstraction and doesn’t qualify as a call likely to provoke the mass mobilization needed by Assange. A united front of experts, journalists, politicians, human rights organizations, and international agencies advocating for Assange is one thing. Peoples of the world calling for the liberation of the Scottsboro Boys was quite another. 

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.

Senate Republicans block proposed heating relief, housing assistance plan / by Evan Popp

Photo of chamber voting board for LD1 | Republicans block emergency winter energy relief plan

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on December 8, 2022

Senate Republicans on Wednesday rejected Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to provide immediate aid to Mainers through direct checks, other relief for home heating and investments in housing assistance, dealing a blow to efforts to get funds to people before the winter. 

Mills announced the details of the $474 million spending package late Tuesday, and lawmakers were poised to take swift action on the first day of the new legislative session, with the governor pushing for passage of the plan with a two-thirds majority that would allow funds to get to Mainers more quickly.

The House overwhelmingly passed the measure, but the bill failed to reach the two-thirds threshold in the Senate. The vote in the Senate was 21-8 in favor of the measure, with 6 senators excused from voting. All Democrats voting in the Senate supported the plan, while all Republicans voting rejected it. In addition, five of the six excused senators were Republicans, who as a party made high energy prices a centerpiece of their failed campaign to win back control of the Blaine House and the Maine House and Senate in the November election.    

Republicans criticized the bill for not going through a public hearing, the normal path a bill takes before being considered by the full legislature, arguing that lawmakers shouldn’t approve hundreds in millions in spending without such a process. A Republican-led motion to refer the bill to a committee for a public hearing also failed Wednesday.

However, Mills pushed back against the GOP’s argument in a statement released Wednesday night, reiterating the seriousness of the issues facing Mainers as winter approaches, with heating costs high and a dire housing crisis facing the state. She also noted that the proposal had been negotiated beforehand with both Democrats and Republicans.

“The plan I proposed incorporates the feedback of Republican and Democratic leadership in the Legislature. It builds on the nation-leading inflation relief measure we delivered earlier this year — and it is the fastest, most direct way to get help to Maine people as we work to bring down energy costs in the long-term. Tonight, a minority of the minority choose to reject this help for Maine people,” Mills said, calling for Republicans to approve the plan.

Mills’ proposal, which would have been partially paid for using a forecasted $283 million budget surplus, was headlined by checks of $450 to a projected 880,000 Mainers, meant to help people pay for household heating. The checks were income-targeted, but a wide swath of Mainers, including those in upper-income brackets, would have received the money. Those eligible included single filers making less than $100,000, heads of household making less than $150,000 and couples filing jointly making less than $200,000. The governor’s office said in a news release that the plan would have provided an estimated $900 for the average Mainer, with funds arriving by mid-January.  

Along with the direct checks — a similar proposal to the $850 checks Mainers received earlier this year — Mills’ plan included other spending such as $40 million for the Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps homeowners and renters pay for heating costs. In addition, the measure contained $10 million for the Maine Community Action Partnerships to help that group deliver emergency fuel for people who need it. 

Separate from the spending bill, Mills also took executive action to help distribute heating aid to older, low-income Mainers, announcing that the state will provide a payment of $500 to about 13,000 households.

Also in the spending plan proposed to the legislature was $21 million meant to aid the Emergency Housing Relief Fund formed by Mills and the legislature earlier this year, which works to prevent people from experiencing homelessness.

Mixed reaction to plan from progressive lawmakers

While Democrats ultimately backed the plan before it was sunk by Republicans, some progressive lawmakers said the $450 checks could have been better targeted. They argued that those on the upper end of the income threshold — individuals making nearly $100,000 and couples making nearly $200,000 — didn’t need the money and that targeting the plan could have opened up funds to provide additional help for low-income people. Mills said she and other Democrats agreed to raise the income thresholds to include wealthier people at the request of Republicans, who still rejected the measure. 

“There is necessary relief in the package to keep the most vulnerable Mainers housed and warm during the winter, but at the same time, the state will be sending checks to well off individuals and families who don’t need the help,” Rep. Grayson Lookner (D-Portland) said of the plan Wednesday morning before the legislature voted on it. 

“We simply cannot continue governing crisis to crisis with the governor giving the legislature limited options for shaping budgets that fund desperately needed programs for all Mainers,” Lookner added. 

Rep. Sophia Warren (D-Scarborough) also expressed concerns with the plan. She said while newly-elected House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland) pushed hard for a more equitable measure, other stakeholders were not willing to support such a package.

Like Lookner, Warren criticized the direct checks, arguing that high-income earners would receive money they don’t need. She said a better plan would be to lower the income threshold for checks to under $75,000 for single filers, which would free up additional money for the emergency rental assistance program, which is slated to soon run out of funds. Warren said securing funding for that program is an emergency and is something frontline communities have been asking for. 

“This emergency measure has misplaced priorities inconsistent with the needs of Maine people,” she said, adding that the package did not “meet this moment and address this crisis.” 

Other legislators also expressed concern about the plan even as they praised some aspects of the measure. 

Rep. Sam Zager of Portland said the bill was good but not perfect. Zager said he fully supported the $21 million within the measure for emergency housing, which he noted Talbot Ross and others negotiated into the package. However, he said an even better bill would adjust the qualifications for the checks to better help low and middle-income people heat their homes and stay sheltered or use some of that money for other important policy priorities the legislature will consider this session. 

“Longer term, we would be well served to optimize insulation and rapidly move to renewables like solar and wind. But the bill takes us some steps in a good direction … in time for winter,” Zager said Wednesday afternoon before the vote. 

Rep. Ben Collings (D-Portland) added that while the bill is 95% beneficial, he and some other lawmakers “want to end the precedent of emergency relief going to households with close to 17k in monthly income,” calling it “absurd” that such households would have received the money.  

Overall, Rep. Chris Kessler (D-South Portland) said the Democratic caucus worked hard to get aid to people who need it the most, such as those who are at risk of losing housing and those who are homeless. While the heating assistance plan could have been improved, Kessler said the bill would have helped people.

“I am not going to throw away the baby with the bathwater,” he said Wednesday morning.

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Harvard study: Restricting sovereignty has stifled Wabanaki economic development / by Dan Neumann

Originally published in the Maine Beacon on December 8, 2022

new report from Harvard University finds that the state of Maine’s unique control over the Wabanaki Nations has significantly stifled their economic development. 

The report indicates that this is largely the result of the restrictions of the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980, which limits the tribes’ ability to exercise self-governance over their own affairs.

The tribes are unique among the 574 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S. due to the Settlement Act, which has excluded the tribes from rights and protections created through federal law since its passage 40 years ago.

“Today, all four of the tribes in Maine — Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot — are stark economic underperformers relative to the other tribes in the Lower 48 states,” reads the December 2022 research report authored by Joseph Kalt, Amy Besaw Medford and Jonathan Taylor for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Wabanaki economic growth not keeping up with other tribes

Graph in the report, “Economic and Social Impacts of Restrictions on the Applicability of Federal Indian Policies to the Wabanaki Nations in Maine” by the the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Since 1989, the researchers found, the income for the average resident of a reservation outside of Maine has increased by more than 61%. But for members of the Wabanaki Nations, average per capita income has only increased by 9% during the same period, while the rest of Maine saw a 25% increase.

The researchers further found that the tribes are significantly underdeveloped economically compared to the rest of Maine. 

Houlton band of Maliseet and Mi’kmaq Nation citizens have the lowest average annual per capita income of the Maine demographic studied at $11,320 and $11,431, respectively. Citizens of the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s two reservations, Indian Township and Pleasant Point, have annual incomes of $14,435 and $13,741. And Penobscot Nation citizens have the highest per capita income of the Wabanaki Nations at $18,809. Yet Maine’s per capita income is nearly double that at $34,593. 

And while Maine’s five-year average child poverty rate is 15.1%, the rate is 40.2% at Passamaquoddy’s Indian Township and 76.9% for children in Mi’kmaq Nation.

A multi-year legislative effort to overhaul the 1980 Settlement Act died in the legislature’s budget-making committee earlier this year. The reforms, pushed for by the tribes and their allies, would have altered tribal-state relations on matters from taxation to gambling to wildlife management. Gov. Janet Mills opposed the legislation, as did Attorney General Aaron Frey, instead signing into a law a compromise that her office brokered that will allow the tribes exclusive control of online sports betting markets.

At the federal level, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden has sponsored legislation that would allow the Wabanaki access to all future federal legislation passed on behalf of tribes. Golden’s legislation has been opposed by members of the forest products industry.

Despite passing the U.S. House last summer, Golden’s bill appears to have stalled in the Senate, where Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has said he opposes the bill. Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she has not taken a position on the measure.

The economic advantages of self-determination

The Harvard University researchers advocate for lifting the 1980 Settlement Act, arguing the economic growth associated with allowing the tribes to fully self-govern would spill over to surrounding communities and the state as a whole.

“The subjugation of the Wabanaki Nation’s self-governing capacities is blocking economic development to the detriment of both tribal and nontribal citizens, alike,” the report reads. “For the tribal citizens of Maine held down by [Settlement Act’s] restrictions, loosening or removing those restrictions offers them little in the way of downside risks and but much in the way of upside payoffs.”

The researchers further warn, “Against these upside prospects is a status quo in which all sides leave economic opportunities on the table and ongoing cycles of intergovernmental conflict, litigation, recrimination, and mistrust continue.”

The research focuses on the economic impacts of legislation that ushered in what tribal scholars call the “Self-Determination Era,” which began with the the 1975 passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act and continued with the 1989 signing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which freed tribal governments to decide to operate gaming enterprises within tribal nations.

While gaming played a significant role in the economic growth in tribal communities over the last three decades, the researchers stress that the broader benefits of self-determination, not just gaming rights, was a key factor in the economic development.

“By the end of the 1980s, economic development in Indian Country began to take root as tribes built enterprises in, for example, ski tourism, light Defense Department manufacturing, forestry and wildlife management, livestock and crop agriculture and gaming,” the researchers explained, noting that by 1999, 47% of Indigenous people residing on reservations lived on reservations whose tribe did not own and operate a casino.

“Nonetheless,” the report reads, “those reservations experienced inflation-adjusted per capita income growth nearly three-fold greater than the U.S. did as a whole, compared to the slightly greater than three times performance of tribes with casinos.”

The report concludes, “For the tribal citizens of Maine, loosening or removing [the Settlement Act’s] restrictions offers few downside risks and many upside payoffs. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

Photo: Mainers hold signs supporting Wabanaki sovereignty at the State House earlier this year during a legislative campaign to amend the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980. | Beacon

Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at