Peru Sees Possible Transformative Change, and US Intervention / By W.T. Whitney Jr.

Photograph Source: Mayimbú – CC BY-SA 4.0

Critics of U.S. interference in Latin America and the Caribbean may soon realize, is such is not the case now, that Peru has a compelling claim on their attention. The massive popular resistance emerging now amid political crisis looks to be sustainable into the future. Meanwhile, a reactionary political class obstinately defends its privileges, and the U.S. government is aroused.

This new mobilization of Peru’s long-oppressed majority population manifested initially as the force behind left-leaning presidential candidate Pedro Castillo’s surprise second-round election victory on June 6, 2021. It exploded again following the coup that removed Castillo on December 7, 2022.

The politically inexperienced Castillo, a primary school teacher and teachers’ union leader in rural northern Peru, espoused a program of resisting both Peru’s corrupt and oligarchical elite and foreign exploiters.  Castillo had begun his 2020 presidential campaign prior to aligning with a political party.  His affiliation eventually would the Marxist-oriented Peru Libre (Free Peru) Party, which abandoned him during his presidency.  

Castillo was the first leftist to be elected president of Peru. The candidate he defeated was Keiko Fijimoro, standard-bearer of Peru’s oligarchs and militarists and daughter of dictator and former president Alberto Fujimori.

Castillo’s forced removal from office prompted massive popular resistance.  Since then, small farmers, indigenous communities, social organizations, students, and labor unions have sustained a national strike. Concentrated in Peru’s southern provinces at first, and later spreading throughout northern regions, strikers have been blocking highways, city streets, and access to government offices and airports. 

In their “March from the Four Corners” of Peru, protesters on January 19 occupied Lima massively in what they called the “Taking of Lima.” They have filled streets and plazas, marched, and impeded access to government offices. They say they will stay. Lima residents and social movements have stocked food for them and, with the help of schools and universities, provided shelter.

Anthropologist Elmer Torrejón Pizarro, from Amazonian Peru, was marching on January 19. He writes: “I saw no criminals next to me, much less terrorists. I observed young university students and mostly peasants, women and men from the south. I saw their faces, furrowed by the pain of life and death. They were next to me, their faces hard and burned by blows from life, from Peru. They were faces expressing generational hibernation of a country that, as a state, has failed.”

The protesters are demanding: resignation of de-facto president Dina Boluarte, liberation of the imprisoned Pedro Castillo, and dismissal of a Congress dominated by rightwing and centrist political operatives. They want new elections in 2023 and a popular referendum on instituting a Constituent Assembly. They, like Castillo, want a new Constitution.

Left-oriented news sources haven’t reported reactions to the strike from Peru’s leftist political parties. The few websites of those parties that are accessible add little.  The Communist Party of Peru Patria Roja, an exception, on January 16 condemned the coup government as a dictatorship, called for a transitional government, and expressed support for the demands outlined above.   

Popular resistance is one aspect of this crisis situation. The other is political repression. For weeks, the police and the military have been assaulting protesters throughout the country with lethal force. They have killed over 60 of them, wounded hundreds and jailed hundreds more.

In Lima on January 21, almost 12,000 police were in the streets blocking demonstrations and harassing residents and students; 14,000 more were otherwise engaged. The police that day violated a university autonomy law and entered San Marcos University where they arrested strikers sheltering there and students, over 200 in all.

The security forces and their handlers are heirs to repressors who, from Spanish colonization on, have repeatedly victimized masses of impoverished, mostly indigenous Peruvians.  Peru experienced three prolonged military dictatorships during the 20th century.

In dealing with Castillo and the threat he represented, forces of reaction turned to softer methods. These centered on congressional maneuvering aimed at harassing Castillo’s ministers and blocking his government’s program.

Finally, the Congress demanded that Castillo resign, and immediately soldiers seized the president. He was charged with “rebellion and conspiracy” and will remain in prison for at least 18 months.  He is held incommunicado.

Interviewed, Wilfredo Robles Rivera, the deposed president’s lawyer, spoke of a “parliamentary coup, a slow coup, a prolonged one organized on several fronts.” He explains that, “It was a strategy that began even before President Castillo took office. The rightwing … was pressuring election officials to recognize electoral fraud. An electoral coup, therefore. The true parliamentary coup began when Castillo became president.”

An earlier article by the present author elaborates on this terminal phase of Castillo’s downfall. Robles Rivera’s perspective appears in one of the addenda below.

Lastly, there is that aspect of Peru’s mounting crisis that relates to North Americans: U.S. intervention is possible. 

General Laura Richardson, head of the U.S. Southern Command, spoke to the establishment-oriented Atlantic Council on January 19. In regard to Latin America, she mentioned “rare earth elements,” “the lithium triangle – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,” the “largest oil reserves [and] light, sweet crude discovered off Guyana,” Venezuela’s “oil, copper, gold” and “31% of the world’s fresh water in this region.”  She concludes, crucially: “This region matters. It has a lot to do with national security. And we need to step up our game.”

On January 18, de facto President  Dina Boluarte and her Council of Ministers informed Peru’s Congress that they were submitting for approval a draft legislative resolution saying, in effect, that Congress would be “authorizing the entry of naval units and foreign military personnel with weapons of war” into Peru.

Who but U.S. troops and military machinery would be first in line? The U.S. military is already familiar with deploying in Peru.  And the day prior to Castillo’s removal from office. U.S. ambassador Lisa Kenna, a CIA veteran, was in the office of Peru’s defense minister, conferring.  

She is persistent. On January 18 Kenna conferred with Peru’s minister of energy and mining and his associates. Journalist Ben Norton attests to that minister tweeting about “a high-level institutional dialogue that day between Peru and the United States.” The minister expressed pleasure at “support from the North American government in mining-energy issues” and mentioned his government’s prioritization of the natural gas and energy sectors.

Presently all liquified natural gas produced in Peru goes to Europe. Energy supplies there are precarious due to U.S. anti-Russian sanctions. We imagine U.S. applause.

The author did the translating above and below.


Lawyer Wilfredo Robles Rivera describes some of the congressional maneuvering that led to President Pedro Castillo’s removal.

“Obstructionists in the Congress prevented that body from discussing hundreds of the [Castillo] government’s legislative proposals …They followed with demands for dismissing the president through the vacancy procedure. …Their request for vacancy came in response to the President’s speech of December 7 in which he called for dissolution of Congress. They did not have the necessary votes to present the request … [and so] there was an accelerated process backed by other institutions, especially the military and police. At this point, the military-police coup comes into play.”

We add that Peru’s Constitution, in force since 1993 and a product of the Fujimori dictatorship, does allow a president to dismiss the Congress under specified circumstances and the Congress to “request a vacancy” in order to remove a president. Twice before, the Congress failed in that attempt.

Héctor Béjar offers reflections. His interview with  Prensa Latina reporter Manuel Robles Sosa appeared on January 18.   [WW1]  

Béjar served for three weeks as minister of foreign affairs in ex-President Castillo’s new government. He resigned in response to unfounded charges from the military conveyed through Parliament. Béjar has taught and written extensively on revolutionary change in Peru. He and others founded the National Liberation Army in 1962 for which he was imprisoned.

Prensa Latina: How do you evaluate the protest movement forming in the South of Peru?

Héctor Béjar: It’s a many-faceted movement composed of the quechua and aimaras communities, especially the aimaras, of women vendors in the popular markets, of transport workers in the South, traders in general, small business owners in the booming city of Juliaca, students from universities and high schools, and people in general. Added to them are the “rondas campesinas” (autonomous peasant patrols in rural areas) active in Cajamarca, Amazonian communities, and within many other popular networks.

PL: The social organizations that are protesting are putting forth a platform of political demands … without being ready to back off in exchange for development projects. What are the implications of this characteristic of the current protests for the people’s movement?

HB: It’s a qualitative shift. It’s the first time in Peruvian history that a movement surging up from the people themselves is setting forth a clearly political agenda that takes precedence over immediate, isolated demands limited to local problems. 

PL: What about ex-President Pedro Castillo? 

HB: The protesters identify with him as a person, as a teacher and rural resident, quite apart from his questionable performance in governing. … I have to say also that the movement has already largely transcended the idea of simply rescuing Castillo.

PL:  Most political analysts assert that the failure of Castillo has been harmful for the left and its future. Do the social protests and participation of left forces call this idea into question?

HB: The big movement we are speaking about must not be defined as of the left. If we look at reality, it’s a people’s movement, from the base, much broader than left politics. It’s also certain that most militants of the different left movements existing in Peru are fully invested in supporting this movement.

PL: Opinion polls show that the demand for a constituent assembly is shared by a majority of the population. That has to have an impact on the protests. (NB: Opinion polling in mid-January indicated that 71 % of Peruvians reject the government; 19% approve; 88% of them object to the Congress. )

HB: Evidently so. We are already in the process of getting rid of the old system and the constituent is part of a new one. The most probable outcome is that as the days and weeks pass, and if this movement persists and grows, the demand of a constituent assembly and a new constitution will continue growing until it takes over.

PL: What is the future and what are the options that might open up after this struggle?

HB: If this struggle continues and is not betrayed … we would have the possibility of a true democracy open to all of the country’s cultures and nationalities – a social state and an economy open to investments by the people and closed to every kind of corruption ….

Lautaro Rivara’s interview with Héctor Béjar for the website appeared on January 3. Excerpts from  Béjar’s comments follow:

On Peru’s 1993 Constitution: It’s the bad result of a disastrous coup d’état and of entangled negotiations of de facto President Fujimori with the OAS and the international community. This resulted in a text full of legal patchwork…It also contains a famous economic chapter that shields foreign investment, making it invulnerable and paying no taxes in Peru. … What is happening is that this Constitution, already makeshift in 1993, has been patched up repeatedly since then. And it was the present Congress … that has made more than thirty modifications that Peruvians do not even know about. Some of these modifications repealed existing rights, such as the right to referendum.

In regard to a coup: The Army and Police know that they cannot carry out a coup d’état directly; there is no environment either in Latin America or the world that favors that. But as everybody knows, the patterns of coups now vary … Some military chief leaked information to the effect that the left will never govern the country while armed forces remain in Peru. The problem is no longer communism, which is what they used to say, but now it’s the entire left that these people are rejecting.

How does Peru’s government work? Today in Peru we have a media party, very active as a concentrated monopoly; a prosecution party, and the judiciary’s party. These three parties, and the Congress, are the four great actors that govern Peru, with support from big capitalists, both local and foreign … Closing the Congress is a national demand. Everyone wants that, apart from the congresspersons themselves. …. The same goes for the judiciary, which is highly corrupt. In my opinion, it should be reorganized, but also totally dismantled.

About Peru’s social movements: They have grown a lot. In Peru there is a political left, which is part of the political apparatus, the political system, and there is a co-called “social left”, which is not left in terms of strict political consciousness, but which includes many social activists who feel they are part of the left. They are very articulate in expressing political ideas … and have highly articulated political ideas. There are thousands of them in Peru now. However, corruption permeates everything in this country, including sectors of the social movement.

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.

U.S. Communists: Threat to democracy requires a united fightback / by Joe Sims

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Editor’s note: The following keynote address to the CPUSA National Committee was presented by CPUSA co-chair Joe Sims on January 14th. It’s been edited to reflect discussion that took place after the report was delivered. It lays out the latest analysis by the Communist Party USA of the political situation in our country, particularly the threat to democracy and the path we need to take in order to combat and defeat the danger the nation faces.

Welcome to this January meeting of our National Committee.  As we begin a New Year of struggle, let us pause for a moment to honor those who sadly are no longer with us, but without whom we would never have arrived on these winter shores.  Among them are Art Perlo, a member of the National Committee, head of our Economics Commission and leader in the Connecticut district,  Betty Smith, longtime head of International Publishers, Richard Castro, veteran leader of the South California District, Gary Hicks, formerly of Boston and long term member of the Northern California District, GL Morrison, Party leader in Portland, Irving Kessler, New York Party member and Cuba solidarity activist, and Esther Davis, veteran member of the Brooklyn club.

We also want to extend our revolutionary condolences to the family, comrades and friends of Charlene Mitchell. As most of us know, after the difficult days of the early 90s, Charlene left the Party, but we worked together with her in later years on the founding of the Black Radical Congress and fighting the right-wing danger, understanding we had more in common than separated us. Let’s take a moment to recall these comrades’ lifelong commitments to the struggle for equality, democracy, working-class power and socialism.

Before moving on we want to recognize another important milestone: the 80th birthday of comrade Margaret Baldridge from Baltimore.  A celebration was held in Baltimore honoring Margaret a few weeks ago but unfortunately we were in Minneapolis for a district school and unable to attend.  Happy Birthday Margaret! We wish you many more!

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Trumpism remains a force

As we meet this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the fight against the fascist danger remains front and center. Make no mistake: Trump’s MAGA movement may have been set back in November, but their eyes remain set on the White House door. And they’ve got almost everything they need to unlock it: unlimited dark money; a right-wing media network working overtime; and, most dangerously, a mass movement. Let’s face it: while damaged, the ex-president remains a force.

The MAGA faction of the ruling class and a big chunk of the broader right-wing public still support him. Of course, it’s possible Trump might be replaced by a DeSantis or someone else. But know this: whoever becomes MAGA’s public face and possibly the next president, we should never underestimate the danger they represent. As our party’s program points out, what’s at play here is a grab for control by one section of the capitalist class over all other sections and over society – that’s what January 6th was all about.

Power grabbers miss something

But they’re missing one important thing in this power grab: a majority of the American people. This was proven once again by the midterm elections. Outraged by the Dobbs decision, women and men – but mainly women – along with people of color and supported by labor,  limited the GOP’s gains in the House.

That’s important. But let’s be honest: that victory was a big negative. The Republicans will now act as if they have the largest mandate in history.  The GOP far right, as Mr. Gaetz from Florida pointed out, now has new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in “a straight jacket” — they are now in control. On the other hand, the grassroots mobilization that won the Senate was a big plus. It demonstrated once again, that if called upon, our class and people will respond. Unfortunately over the last two years they were rarely called upon.

The powers-that-be seem content to keep the political struggle confined to debates between elite groups inside the Washington Beltway. There’s a fear of rocking the boat – particularly with national demonstrations – in D.C. during an election year.  And what’s true of fear of demonstrations during election cycles, is doubly true with regard to strikes. That’s why the Biden administration violated the railway workers’ right to strike. They were afraid of rocking the economic boat.

Fight for democracy and class struggle

It is in these circumstances that the battle for democracy comes face to face with the class struggle. Yes, there’s a fascist danger and yes consideration must be given to the risks involved in actions taken by sections of the coalition that are fighting the fascist danger. But, it’s a big mistake to cede the people’s ability to make demands and compel concessions by tamping down on national protests or breaking strikes in order to “play it safe.”

The Democratic Party leadership, with one eye cast on the independent vote and the other on their corporate backers,  are making political calculations about what they think best serves the national democratic interest. But what’s best for them isn’t necessarily best for us. Why not? What’s best for them is to act in their class interests. They identify their class interest with the interest of the entire nation.

Mobilizing the base a must

But what they fail to comprehend is that there’s more than one approach to defining national interest – the working class also has the right to express and fight for its vision of what’s in the nation’s interest. Our role is to push that vision forward – that’s our plus.

It may be in the interests of the ruling elites to not rock the boat, to not offend bourgeois sensibilities with mass protests and strikes, but the railway workers, women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color may not see it that way. A word of caution here: none of the forces arrayed in the people’s front can afford to take the position of “it’s my way or the highway” – the fascist danger is clear and present. The point here, however, is that if you want to win this fight, you’ve got to mobilize your base. It took a mass movement to win the election, and that’s what it’s going to take going forward.  Everyone needs to take this into account.

Now, it’s not that the other side sat on their hands: the January 6th hearings were extremely important. They certainly helped shape the debate and turn the tide. But “air wars” are not enough – they have to be coupled with “battles for position” on the ground.  Build Back Better,  the child tax credit provision, the changed composition of the National Labor Relations Board were all positives, but the lack of mass demonstrative public pressure to get them passed proved their undoing. The successful pro-union change in the Labor Board was the exception.

Some have already learned this lesson as the re-election victory of Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia demonstrated. For over a decade, voting rights activists there have been registering voters door-to-door (over one million doors were knocked on) and organizing the turnout. They decided some time ago to break with politics as usual. Others are beginning to take notice — in Wisconsin and a few other places. Things seem to be shifting nationally as well. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration.  Other states are planning to follow suit.

Now’s the time to think through our contribution to this movement-building work, that is, on how we can strengthen the People’s Front. That includes making plans for how to get involved in voter registration, ballot initiatives and election campaigns supported by coalition partners. And yes, it also means giving consideration to fielding our own members as candidates. Here’s a radical idea: let’s stop talking about it and take some steps. The Michigan district is organizing a meeting, with comrade Tony, to discuss what it takes to run a campaign. That’s a great idea! Other districts might consider following their example.

Demand for equality is key

The road ahead, without a doubt, is going to be challenging.  A recession is coming, and  corporations have already started layoffs. Salesforce cut 10% of its workforce, Amazon shed 18,000 jobs, and McDonalds just announced cutbacks. It’s still winter but the class struggle has already started to heat up. In New York, 7,000 nurses hit the bricks this week and won important gains for patient safety, wages and working conditions. In March, the contract expires for 5,000 Caterpillar workers. Illinois get ready!  Two hundred thousand postal workers’ contracts are up at the end of May. And get this – the contract for 340,000 workers at UPS is coming up July 31 and the Teamsters are saying to hell with concessions. They’re ready to strike. And then in September, contracts at the Big Three automakers expire for 150,000 autoworkers. Getting rid of the two-tier wage system is a big issue for the UAW.

As workers go out on strike, we should be ready to hit the picket lines with them. In this regard, the Twin Cities club in Minnesota has provided a real model for strike support. Current and upcoming strikes and organizing drives are regularly posted in the club’s Signal chat. Members are organized to join the lines with coffee, donuts and even pizzas. And they’re doing this on a regular basis.

Speaking of strike support, the railway workers’ demand for greater control over their schedules and sick days has not gone away. In fact, the right to sick days is an issue for the working class as a whole. One in five workers don’t have it.  We should continue to look for ways to support their efforts.

While the class struggle burned red hot, the demand for equality was also at the center of the fire in recent months. In response to alarm at the Dobbs decision, a marriage equality bill was signed into law at the White House in December.  This was an important preemptive measure against a potential right-wing attempt to rescind the right to marry. And there’s real reason to worry: the far right has also pledged to step up their attack on trans rights. That must be met head on.

Supreme Court actions are also of great concern. The Court is considering challenges to college affirmative action programs. That case will be decided in June and it’s likely that affirmative action programs in the nation’s colleges and universities will be banned. When the White House tried to get rid of Title 42 which prohibited immigrants, including asylum seekers, from entering the country the Supreme Court blocked it. Legal arguments will be heard by the Court on Title 42 in February.

The ongoing battle against racist policing must also be at the center of our attention. Police murder has set new records since the killing of George Floyd.  African Americans are killed at a rate nearly three times that of whites. Despite these horrific figures, calls for police reform have fallen on deaf ears.  However, important progress has been made in advancing the demand for civilian control of police departments. In Chicago, a city commission was established after an outstanding campaign led by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Chicago’s Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance creates a three-person District Council in each of the city’s 22 police districts. The Councils will be elected in February and we encourage comrades to go Chicago and assist in the campaign’s final days.

Comrades, January 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Roe: the Supreme Court decision establishing women’s right to abortion care. The coup caucus  celebrated it this week by passing  an anti-abortion rights bill. Reveling in the Dobbs decision and the GOP House victory,  Republicans are now calling for a complete federal ban on abortion.

Now some 20 states are expected to implement abortion bans. However, the fight is far from over.  Recently the Biden administration and the FDA approved making abortion pills more widely available – a really important development. In the coming  year NARAL, Planned Parenthood and others plan ballot initiatives in 10 states, among them Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Missouri.  Clearly we should get involved in these campaigns in every way possible, including signature gathering.

Combatting male supremacy a must

This should not be seen as a “women’s issue.” What fighting racism is to the battle for equality for people of color, combating male supremacy is to women’s equality. We need to convince our male comrades that it is their special responsibility to champion the fight for reproductive rights. And the reality is that many of us don’t get it. A case in point: in a few instances some comrades declined to participate in the pro-choice marches because, they said, the actions were initiated by what they called the “bourgeois” women’s movement. Can you imagine? Hundreds of thousands of women in the streets around the country, fighting for the most basic of democratic rights, and some of us refused to participate!

We’ve got to deepen our understanding of the Marxist approach to women’s equality. The oppression of all women is a product of the early rise of classes; the oppression of all women is organically linked to the rise of class oppression; the capitalist class benefits from the oppression of all women through the promotion of cultural and social inequality, domination, and control, including the active cultivation of misogyny. Capitalism also benefits from the exploitation of working-class women where extra profits are reaped through employment segregation, lower-wages, and the so-called second shift where working-class women also engage in various forms of unpaid labor. This is the basis of the sexist social division of labor. Women of color also face exploitation based on race and nationality resulting in three forms of oppression under capitalism: class, gender and race.

This requires all working-class forces to increase their capacity to demonstrate a conscious understanding of and allegiance with all women in the democratic fight for full equality. Achieving this means confronting sexual harassment. It means confronting the horror of domestic violence. It means understanding and responding to the myriad challenges working-class women face. And we don’t do it from the curb – but from the middle of the street where the masses have gathered in struggle.

Understanding need for democracy

All of this argues for updating and deepening our understanding of the battle for democracy. That understanding is vital for moving forward in the present moment. It’s imperative in the struggle for the socialist future. As our Party Program makes clear, “The struggle to defend and enlarge democracy in every realm of life is therefore the only path to socialism in our country.” But what is meant by democracy? The GOP far right, Mitch McConnell included, paints anything to the left of Ronald Reagan as a symptom of anti-democratic socialism. The Democratic Party center, not to be outdone, uses the label “authoritarian” to falsely paint left and far-right as alike.

The main threat to democracy comes from the most right-wing section of our ruling class.

Biden’s Cold War 2.0 is a case in point. But pardon me, Mr. Biden, in this multipolar world, the main threat to democracy comes from the most right-wing section of our ruling class, not somebody else’s. We know who attacked the Capitol on January 6th and who, just the other day, hijacked the U.S. House. And we know who paid for it:  Lockheed, Comcast, and Walmart.  And we also know that the U.S. has done more than its part to contribute to the rise  in international tensions and that there’s a two-party consensus for doing so.

Take the situation with China and Russia. The two countries cooperate economically and have a defensive alliance. This is the result not of ideological alignment – nothing could be further from the case – but rather a perceived self-interest and desire to survive after being encircled, sanctioned and tariffed nearly to death. U.S. imperialism wants to impose its version of what it calls “democracy” – meaning capitalism. It plans to do so by means of economic pressure, or force, or a combination of both. But imperialism’s version of democracy is not the be-all and end-all of democratic practice. Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela have chosen different paths. Whether they employ single or multi-party systems, each was born out of their country’s history and the conditions under which their revolutions occurred.

It is not for us in the U.S. to decide which form of government other countries choose. Rather, we must insist on creating conditions under which all are able to make choices free of outside interference.

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Challenges of the peace movement

Creating those conditions means staying the hand of imperialism by building a mass movement for peace. That’s a difficult proposition in today’s circumstances. It’s rendered even more challenging by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Responses to the Ukraine war have split the U.S. (and world) peace movement in several different directions, with some supporting U.S. policy, others defending Russia’s actions, and still others seeing the conflict as a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Our position has been to oppose and condemn the invasion and call for a ceasefire and negotiations. Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign state.  Unfortunately, an October call for negotiations by progressive Democrats was quickly retracted after strong White House objection – a mass peace movement might have changed that. A meeting or conference of party peace activists this year will start an important process of thinking through specific steps we can take, understanding it’s going to be a long and difficult process.

Building the party

But if we carry out our work properly, not only will a stronger peace movement emerge, but so will a larger and stronger Communist Party. Everything is pointing in this direction. Some 6,000 people have applied to join the Party over the last two years, one-third of whom are paying dues.

2022 was a very good year. We completed the People’s World’s fund drive, brought close to 400 members to DC to participate in the Poor People’s March, were active in the fall election campaign and established a regular public presence in a number of states. We held regular educational seminars,  online festival for People’s World on May Day and a well-attended International Conference. Last year we were able to build multi-club districts in seven additional states. New York, Texas, Southern California, Northern California, Eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut already had a number of clubs in their states. In another 17 states, single clubs with members scattered around the state were either created or maintained.

A big achievement has been the growth of local Young Communist League (YCL) clubs in New York, DC, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In Kentucky and DC there are a couple of clubs located on college campuses.

In DC we have to congratulate the work of the Claudia Jones School, our first public Marxist school in the recent period. It’s doing an outstanding job in bringing the science of society to the broader public involving not only our thinkers but others as well. That said, we are still very much in the rebuilding stage of growing the party. If we were to compare it to building a house, we would have to say while we have a blueprint and have laid a solid foundation, we’re still very much on the ground floor.

We are still very much in the rebuilding stage of growing the party.

For example, while we welcome the Party’s rapid growth, we also have to acknowledge that a considerable section of the new membership have yet to receive an orientation as to our basic principles and concepts. In the next several months, at the initiative of the Education Department, we’re taking steps to remedy this situation. Weekend district schools will focus on the Party’s program.

While improving, the multiracial and gender composition of the party remains weak. Cis women are joining in far fewer numbers than cis men, though the non-binary and trans membership has grown. In the recent period, the influence of male supremacy has become increasingly apparent, particularly but not only, in online spaces, where men aggressively dominate the conversation, bully and dismiss women’s opinions. We’ve got to ask ourselves why are these patterns persisting? Why are so few women joining? And after joining, how many are sticking around? What is it about our public presence, both in person and online, that the masses of women are not responding to?

Comrades Rossana, Dee, Rebecca and Lisa  and others in the next weeks will take steps to convene a communist women’s collective with the aim of holding a conference out of which we hope to form a Women’s Commission. As we move forward and improve our work in this vital arena, we call on our male comrades to examine what we’ve done and haven’t done to contribute to this situation.

At the last convention we developed a sexual harassment policy and it’s stood us in good stead. As the Party continues to grow, our upholding of respectful and principled relationships, particularly with younger comrades, is a must. Party guidance and mentorship is essential, but in no case should it give license to inappropriate overtures or harassment – that’s deadly and the damage can be permanent.

CPUSA 2023

Going forward, the National Committee has a three-fold task: to stay focused on fighting the fascist danger; to continue building the party; and to lay the political, ideological and organizational basis for the next convention. With regard to the fascist danger, our goal must be to expose, organize and take initiatives. People’s World and are doing a wonderful job in continuing to shine a spotlight on this threat. Part of our expose must be to continue to reveal the corporate ties to the coup caucus and its sedition. And speaking of sedition, shouldn’t we actively support a demand to prosecute those responsible? This is too important an issue to leave to the sole discretion of the courts and Justice Department. Are there already campaigns on the issue, petitions, memes, protests? If not, shouldn’t we help initiate them?

Fundraising also remains an essential task in the year ahead. Long View, the publisher of People’s World has set a $200,000 goal this year – a must-do amount to stay in the black. Failure to make that goal is simply not an option.

With respect to the convention, as the summer and fall approach, collectives will have to be established to find a location, propose a date, as well as make initial plans concerning resolutions, the constitution and possibly the Party program.

Next year we’re sure to have a great convention that will help consolidate our current achievements and lay the basis for what we want the Communist Party to become: a mass party, a militant party of revolutionary working-class struggle, a party of initiative that fights for the unity of our class and people. We’re building an anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-fascist party, a party of consistent working-class democracy and peace.

This is a party led by women, by African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Middle Eastern, Native American and working-class white Americans, immigrant and citizen, documented and undocumented, straight and LGBTQ. We are building an internationalist party based on the best traditions of the American people. We defend what’s best in our multi-racial, multinational country, weaving together a mosaic of song and dance, prose and poem, film and play. We understand that the social revolution, at the end of the day, is a grand festival of the people. And make no mistake: we are a Marxist-Leninist party of social revolution, fighting for an American model of Bill of Rights Socialism, made in the USA.

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People’s World and loves biking.    

Maine’s housing affordability crisis needs a public option, says lawmaker / by Dan Neumann

The Kennedy Park public housing development in Portland. | Courtesy of the Portland Housing Authority

Originally Published in the Beacon on January 23, 2023

One major potential solution to the state’s runaway cost of housing never seems to get discussed by Maine lawmakers: Public housing.

For decades, the idea of building new publicly-owned, permanently affordable housing has been off the table, even as housing prices ballooned before the Great Recession of 2008 and have now reached new heights in Maine and across the country with national average home sale prices increasing by 35% in less than two years.

Large federal housing projects designed to serve only the poorest of the poor had become synonymous with urban blight, dilapidated highrises, crime and racial segregation. This seemingly unshakeable stigma opened the door for public housing’s dismantling under president Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who banned its expansion with the 1998 Faircloth Amendment. 

Kennedy Park in Portland was built in 1965 as a public housing project after much of the Bayside neighborhood was cleared of slums.| Courtesy of the Portland Housing Authority.

Left without a public way forward, state and local officials in Maine and across the country have searched for solutions to a worsening housing crisis in the private housing market. The centerpiece of last year’s legislative campaign by Maine’s Democratic leaders to increase the housing stock was passing a law altering local single-family zoning rules to allow for the private development of accessory dwelling units.

Those zoning changes to increase housing density were paired with the allocation of additional federal COVID relief funds to MaineHousing, the state’s housing authority, to build more affordable housing through the agency’s existing public-private partnerships, in which they issue tax subsidies to private developers to keep prices low.

Yet there is still a staggering shortage of affordable housing units for sale or rent.  

Housing remains a top priority for lawmakers again this year. Fifty-eight percent of Maine renters are considered low income with severe cost burdens, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And housing costs continue to outpace average household income in almost every Maine county, according to MaineHousing. This will likely only get more severe as rising interest rates make mortgages more expensive and shrink new construction.

And this is why Rep. Grayson Lookner (D-Portland) believes that a public housing option needs to be put back on the table.

“Maine has been in a housing crisis for a long time and it’s only become more and more pitched as time progresses,” Lookner said. “For the longest time, our elected officials at all levels were content to just throw their hands in the air and say, ‘We can’t do anything about it.’ Just letting the developers, landlords and real estate agents dominate the whole discussion.”

Lookner sits on the legislature’s newly established Select Committee on Housing, which was formed to address the housing crisis and consider a slew of recommendations and proposals this year to study land use, increase housing density, mitigate the impacts of short-term rentals, and provide rental assistance.

“It’s a real piecemeal approach. We’re sort of nibbling around the edges and we’re not getting to the heart of what’s causing the crisis, which is the commodification of housing,” Lookner said. “The U.N. has recognized that the commodification of housing is a human rights issue. And it’s not unique to Maine.” 

Lookner has submitted legislation to establish the “Maine Community Housing and Rural Development Authority.” While the details of the bill have not yet been published, Lookner said the plan is to create a revolving fund to build mixed-income housing. Unlike MaineHousing’s development model, this proposed public developer would maintain ownership of the housing it develops which would be governed by the renters themselves. 

The issue of ownership is key, public housing advocates say, as the private-ownership development model that the U.S. has pursued for the last four decades has created an expensive and inefficient way to provide low-income housing. And it produces nowhere near enough.

The end of public housing and the turn to the market

Built by the federal government in 1943 as wartime housing for shipyard workers, Sagamore Village in Portland is now owned by the Portland Housing Authority and provides low-income housing to 200 families. | Courtesy of the Portland Housing Authority

The U.S. has never really done workforce housing. Unlike the well-maintained examples of “social housing” around the globe such as in Austria, where 80% of the country’s population is eligible to live in community-owned housing, public housing here has always been restricted to the very poor. 

This was by design. The real estate industry in the 1930s pressured Congress to exclude middle-class residents from housing projects because they didn’t want to compete with the public sector. Limits were also placed on how much could be spent per housing unit. Concentrated poverty led to the segregated and underfunded housing projects that have defined the American model since.

Now, with the Faircloth Amendment blocking new federal public housing, local housing authorities manage a dwindling number of properties funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administer long waitlists for Section 8 rental assistance vouchers. 

“From the 30s through the 80s, public housing authorities were in high gear, building a lot. Now, they’ve basically cycled down to first gear,” said Paul Williams, the founder of the Center for Public Enterprise, a think tank that advocates on behalf of public goods and services. “They don’t really do much of anything, for the most part. They just manage an existing portfolio of housing and handout vouchers to the next person on the list.”

There are 27,000 Mainers currently on the Section 8 waitlist. People also spend years on waitlists for the few remaining public housing options in Maine, which prioritize the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income families with small children.

As large-scale public housing development fell by the wayside, policymakers attempted to fill the void with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), a program introduced by HUD under the Reagan administration. The tax credit today produces 90% of the nation’s affordable housing. 

Local housing authorities like MaineHousing use the federal tax credits to entice private businesses to build affordable housing. LIHTCs offset construction and operation costs so that developers can put the units on the market at an affordable rate. Developers are required to maintain those rates for 15 to 30 years.

“It’s pure Reaganomics,” Lookner said. “It’s so the biggest and most profitable developers can get handouts to create temporarily affordable housing.”

Several states have tried to address the limitations of the prevailing public-private model through various fixes. These include placing covenants on LIHTC housing to keep it affordable for longer periods.

But critics of the LIHTC model say these fixes don’t get to the root of the problems inherent in relying on the market to produce affordable housing — namely that it is inefficient and doesn’t receive nearly enough federal funding to produce enough housing to meet the overwhelming need. 

After the financial crisis of 2008 and the collapse of a housing bubble, demand for LIHTCs plummeted as the construction industry tanked. As a result, LIHTCs now produce fewer units than they did 20 years ago, while costing the public 66% more through tax subsidies. The program produced more than 70,000 housing units nationwide in 1997, but that number fell to 59,000 in 2014, according to the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

Desperate to meet the demand for low-cost housing, state and local officials from around the country have begun to look outside of the LIHTC program for solutions. 

They’ve rediscovered an old idea. 

Social housing in America

A rendering of a publicly-owned, mixed-income apartment building in Montgomery County, Maryland. | Courtesy of the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission

A few years ago, a housing authority in Montgomery County, Maryland leveraged $100 million in public money to create a revolving fund to build publicly-owned, mixed-income apartments in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.. County officials have been slowly building a portfolio of mixed-income properties and they are on track to own 9,000 apartments over the next few years. 

Since they’re not using federal money, Montgomery County’s public housing expansion is not blocked by the Faircloth Amendment.

And similar to the social housing seen around the globe, the key to Montgomery County’s success has been creating publicly-owned housing for all income levels, not just low-income residents. 

Williams explained that a process called cross-subsidization makes their apartments sustainable without being dependent on federal funding to stay afloat. Residents pay different rates. While the rents in LIHTC buildings that only serve low-income residents will never be enough to cover the building owner’s debt payments and operations and maintenance costs, Montgomery County’s cross-subsidized buildings can cover those costs.

“If you set aside, say, a third of the homes for people below the poverty line, a third for people near the area’s median income and a third for people above it, you can break even — or even come out on top, bringing in funds to help finance another mixed-income project,” Williams wrote in Noema Magazine last year.

The mixed-income model also pushes back on several of the old problems associated with public housing in the U.S., Williams said, namely racial segregation and the concentration of poverty. 

While the fledgling attempt at social housing in Montgomery County has caught the notice of housing advocates around the country, Williams warns that the model is operating at nowhere a large enough scale to take the place of LIHTC developments, which still make up the vast majority of new affordable housing in the country. For the moment, he thinks advocates need to see locally-initiated public housing as a supplement to existing federal programs. And such efforts should be pursued in conjunction with rent control, zoning reform, short-term rental regulations and a host of other ideas communities are trying.

“My pitch is that publicly-produced housing allows states and cities to produce more affordable housing than they would otherwise be able to with the existing federal subsidies. It’s a way to kick local housing authorities back into high gear,” he told Beacon.

Williams added that scaling up public developers like the one in Montgomery County will take time. “This is by no means an overnight solution — it requires careful planning, competent bureaucracy, an expansion of state capacity and decades of time to grow our portfolios and house the many,” he wrote. “But it is a way out of the mess we are in.” 

States are becoming public housing developers

Several states and cities are now following in the footsteps of Montgomery County to become public housing developers. 

California, Hawaii, Maryland and now Maine have all introduced legislation to build social housing. Colorado recently created the Middle Income Housing Authority, which plans to build 3,500 units of workforce housing. Seattle voters will weigh in on a referendum in February to build renter-governed housing.

Last summer, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a $10 million pilot program as part of the state’s budget to build mixed-income public housing. The proposal was advanced by state lawmakers with grassroots support from Reclaim RI, an activist group formed by local leaders of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Affordable housing construction in Sacramento. | Mark Hogan, Creative Commons via Flickr

“It’s clear that the private sector, even when it’s booming, is neither willing nor — perhaps better put — able to build enough housing, let alone for the people who need it the most,” said Reclaim RI co-chair Daniel Denvir. “It’s just simply a fact that only the public sector has the potential to build our way out of this housing crisis.”

Reclaim RI is backing a revised piece of legislation this year that would expand on last year’s pilot. The proposal includes using COVID relief funds to establish a permanent revolving fund for a public housing developer and creating a land bank to acquire “unimproved land” or properties that are “tax delinquent, tax foreclosed, subject to municipal receivership, vacant or abandoned.”

Denvir said he has been surprised at the broad-based support the proposal has received so far. 

“I think it is really remarkable that certain things that were previously unthinkable — like new forms of public housing which have been unthinkable since the rise of neoliberalism — suddenly become thinkable and then doable,” he said. 

It remains to be seen how much support a proposal for publicly-developed housing in Maine will gain. Lookner said the housing situation here is as dire as anywhere, and hopes Mainers will be ready to see the tarnished ideal of public housing in a new light.

“Maine has been one of the least affordable states in which to live when comparing rents to wages. This is not news to anyone,” Lookner said. “It’s time to see the problem is the commodification of housing — developers and interested parties treating our homes and our communities as assets to profit from.”

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

The US blockade of Cuba hurts medical patients in both countries / by Natalia Marques

US and Cuban attendees of the Building Our Future conference receive a detailed presentation at the Center for Immunology (CIM) in Havana, on November 24 (Photo: Julia Dratel)

Originally published in People’s Dispatch on January 24, 2023

By lifting sanctions against Cuba, people in the US could have access to life-saving treatments being developed in Cuba for diseases which ravage working-class communities each year.

Scientists in Cuba believe that the breakthroughs they have made in the healthcare and technology sectors should be used to save and improve lives beyond the country’s borders. This is why the island nation has developed important scientific and medical partnerships with organizations and governments across the globe, including with those in MexicoPalestineAngolaColombiaIran, and Brazil. However, such collaborations are difficult due to the blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, which has now been in place for the last six decades.

In a conference, “Building Our Future,” held in Havana in November 2022, which brought together youth from Cuba and the United States, scientists at the Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM) stated during a presentation that the blockade hurts the people of the United States, too. By lifting the sanctions against Cuba, the scientists argued, the people of the United States could have access to life-saving treatments being developed in Cuba, especially against diseases such as diabetes, which ravage working-class communities each year.

A cure for diabetes

Cuban scientists have developed both a lung cancer vaccine and a groundbreaking diabetes treatment. The new diabetes treatment, Heberprot-P, developed by the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), can reduce leg amputations of people with diabetic foot ulcers by more than four times. The medication contains a recombinant human epidermal growth factor that, when injected into a foot ulcer, accelerates its healing process, thereby, reducing diabetes-related amputations. And yet, despite the fact that the medication has been registered in Cuba since 2006, and has been registered in several other countries since, people in the United States are unable to get access to Heberprot-P.

Diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killing more than 100,000 patients in that year. “Foot ulcers are among the most common complications of patients who have diabetes,” which can escalate into lower limb amputations, according to a report in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Each year, around 73,000 “non-traumatic lower extremity amputations” are performed on people who have diabetes in the US These amputations occur at a disproportionate rate depending on the race of a patient, being far more prevalent among Black and Brown people suffering from diabetes. Many point to racial economic disparities and systemic medical racism as the reason for this.

“If you go into low-income African American neighborhoods, it is a war zone… You see people wheeling themselves around in wheelchairs,” Dr. Dean Schillinger, a medical professor at the University of California-San Francisco, told KHN. According to the KHN article, “Amputations are considered a ‘mega-disparity’ and dwarf nearly every other health disparity by race and ethnicity.”

The life expectancy of a patient with post-diabetic lower limb amputation is significantly reduced, according to various reports. “[P]atients with diabetes-related amputations have a high risk of mortality, with a five-year survival rate of 40–48 percent regardless of the etiology of the amputation.” Heberprot-P could help tens of thousands of patients avoid such amputations, however, due to the blockade, US patients cannot access this treatment. People in the US have a vested interest in dismantling the US blockade of Cuba.

“So after five years [post-amputation], that’s the most you can live, and we are preventing that from happening,” said Rydell Alvarez Arzola, a researcher at CIM, in a presentation given to the US and Cuban youth during the conference in Havana. “And that also is something that could bring both of our peoples [in Cuba and the US] together to fight… to eliminate [the blockade].”

Cuban healthcare under blockade

Perhaps one of Cuba’s proudest achievements is a world-renowned healthcare system that has thrived despite economic devastation and a 60-year-long blockade.

After the fall of Cuba’s primary trading partner, the Soviet Union, in 1991, the island saw a GDP decrease of 35 percent over three years, blackouts, and a nosedive in caloric intake. Yet, despite these overwhelming challenges, Cuba never wavered in its commitment to providing universal healthcare. Universal healthcare, or access to free and quality healthcare for all, is a long-standing demand of people’s movements in the United States that has never been implemented largely due to the for-profit model of the healthcare industry and enormous corporate interests in the sector.

As other nations were enacting neoliberal austerity measures, which drastically cut social services in the 1980s and 1990s, Cuba’s public healthcare spending increased by 13 percent from 1990 to 1994. Cuba successfully raised its doctor-to-patient ratio to one doctor for every 202 Cubans in the mid-1990s, a far better statistic than the United States’ ratio of one doctor for every 300 people, according to a 2004 census.

As the blockade begins its seventh decade, Cuba is not only upholding universal healthcare but also continues to be at the forefront of scientific developments globally.

This was evident during the COVID-19 crisis. Cuba, faced with the inability to purchase vaccines developed by US pharmaceutical companies due to the US blockade, developed five vaccines. The nation not only achieved its goal of creating one of the most effective COVID-19 vaccines but also launched the first mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign for children from two to 18 years old in September 2021.

To share knowledge without restrictions

Despite its achievements, Cuban healthcare still faces serious, life-threatening limitations due to the economic blockade. CIM, for example, has struggled to find international companies willing to carry out vital services for them. Claudia Plasencia, a CIM researcher, explained during the conference that CIM had signed a contract with a German gene synthesis company which later backed out because it had signed a new contract with a US company. “They could not keep processing our samples, they could not keep doing business with Cuba,” Plasencia said.

Arzola explained how it is virtually impossible to purchase top-of-the-line equipment due to trade restrictions. “A flow cytometer is a machine that costs a quarter-million dollars… even if my lab has the money, I cannot buy the best machine in the world, which is from the US, everyone knows that,” he said. Even if CIM were to buy such a machine from a third party, it cannot utilize the repair services from the United States. “I cannot buy these machines even if I have the money, because I would not be able to fix them. You cannot spend a quarter-million dollars every six months [buying a new machine]… even though you know that this [machine] is the best for your patients.”

I spoke to Marianniz Diaz, a young woman scientist at CIM. When asked what we in the US could do to help CIM’s scientists, her answer was straightforward: “The principal thing you can do is eliminate the blockade.”

“I would like us to have an interaction without restrictions, so we [Cuba and the US] can share our science, our products, [and] our knowledge,” she said.

Natalia Marques is a writer at Peoples Dispatch, an organizer, and a graphic designer based in New York City.

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

Police violence reached an all-time high last year—are we ready to shrink police budgets? / By Sonali Kolhatkar

Photo by Glenn Halog/Flickr

Originally published in Canadian Dimension on January 19, 2023

In spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people

The year 2022 was the deadliest year on record in the United States for fatalities at the hands of law enforcement. According to the Washington Post’s police shootings database, law enforcement officers shot and killed 1,096 people last year. In comparison, there were 1,048 shooting fatalities at the hands of police the year before, 1,019 the year before that, 997 the year before that, and so on.

These numbers are most likely underestimated. According to Abdul Nasser Rad, managing director of research and data at Mapping Police Violence, the Post “only captures incidents where a police officer discharges their firearm and the victim is killed.” This means that it doesn’t count events like the 2014 killing of Eric Garner in New York and the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, as both deaths resulted from asphyxiation.

In contrast, Mapping Police Violence includes any action that a law enforcement officer takes that results in a fatal encounter. For example, Rad’s project concluded that police killed 1,158 people in 2021 compared to the Post’s figure of 1,048 (final results for 2022 are not yet available).

There are other databases of police violence like Fatal Encounters, run by the University of Southern California, that have their own criteria for counting police-related killings. Such projects track police violence because the federal government refuses to, in spite of a 1994 law requiring the Justice Department to keep records. Moreover, there is evidence that biased reporting by medical examiners and coroners in individual cases is helping significantly to cover up the extent of police violence.

The upshot is that in spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people. We can expect 2023 to be even deadlier if the years-long trend continues.

Another clear conclusion is that police violence is dramatically focused on communities of colour. According to the Washington Post, Black Americans “are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans,” while Mapping Police Violence finds that “Black people are 2.9x more likely to be killed by police than white people in the US.” Police killings of Latinos and Indigenous people are similarly disproportionate.

Recall that in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder in 2020 at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin, activists demanded a defunding of the police. The well-documented assumption underlying that demand was that generously funded police departments were using their resources to kill people, especially poor people of colour whose needs in turn were not being funded.

Rad explains that the disproportionate police killings of people of colour are “due to historical disinvestment and how the US state has used punitive and carceral responses to social problems, specifically to Black and Brown communities.” Therefore, the only just conclusion is to divert tax revenues from fueling death to fueling life.

Instead of city governments embracing the life-affirming idea of diverting money away from murderous police, media pundits and politicians led a reactionary backlash. President Joe Biden, in a clear clapback at the defund movement, promised to fund the police, and even begged local governments to use federal stimulus funds to bolster their police departments in 2022.

In Minneapolis, which became the focus of international attention in the wake of Floyd’s murder, lawyers Doug Seaton and James Dickey opined in a piece titled “Minneapolis Needs a Fully-Funded Police Department,” that “the city’s most vulnerable… have suffered from” the demand to defund police. One might conclude that Minneapolis’ police are struggling for funding, but in fact more than a third of the city’s entire general fund is poured into police coffers. Mother Jones’ Eamon Whalen rightly concluded that “The Police Are Defunding Minneapolis.”

According to Rad, “In 2022, funding actually continued to increase across US cities into law enforcement agencies.” He adds, “what might be the media narrative actually doesn’t match up to what is actually going on.”

Does giving police more money result in greater public safety, as Seaton and Dickey claim, and as Biden assumes? One recent study analyzing funding of hundreds of police departments over nearly three decades concluded that “new police budget growth is likely to do one thing: increase misdemeanor arrests.”

One of the study’s authors, Brenden Beck, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Denver, writing in Slate about his team’s results, said, “The trend was clear: When cities decreased the size of their police departments, they saw fewer misdemeanor arrests and when they increased them, they saw more.”

According to Beck, “misdemeanor enforcement is concentrated in poor neighborhoods and in communities of colour.” He is confident that, “One thing… [increased police funding] is likely to do, even if paired with community policing, is generate more misdemeanor arrests. Arrests that will disproportionately hurt poor and Black people.”

It is during such arrests that police tend to kill Black and Brown people. Those cities that specifically took steps to reduce arrests for petty crimes saw a decrease in police killings, according to data scientist and cofounder of Campaign Zero Samuel Sinyangwe. He also concluded that crime rates in those cities did not increase.

There is so much data bolstering the fact that more police funding means more violence and death at the hands of police. And yet, police departments remain flush with cash.

How can we simply accept that police will continue to kill more and more people each year?

Not everyone accepts this deadly status quo. In spite of the backlash, police abolitionists are continuing to organize. They have created a powerful internet tool,, to help communities put police spending into perspective and reimagine their city budgets. The site includes a detailed video tutorial on how to use tools like a “people’s budget calculator.”

In Los Angeles, whose police budget receives massive infusions of private foundation cash on top of generous public funding, activists have been using the idea of a “people’s budget” to “reimagine public safety.” Vocal critics of police funding like Eunisses Hernandez and Kenneth Mejia have won elections to powerful local offices.

It’s not enough to call out police when they kill people. It’s not enough to march in the streets or write op-eds. Police will continue to murder more people every year with impunity, their violence nurtured by powerful allies. If we want to see a significant reversal to the ruthless march of police savagery, we’re going to need to put our money where our mouths are: toward people’s needs, not police’s deadly deeds.

Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist and the host and producer of Uprising, a popular, daily, drive-time program on KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. She is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit organization that works with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

FBI wants to put me on trial for fighting for Black freedom: Instead put the colonizer State on trial! / by Omali Yeshitela


Originally published: CovertAction Magazine  on January 21, 2023

There are strong indications that in early 2023, I, Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, founder of the Uhuru (“Freedom”) Movement, will be indicted, along with other Uhuru leaders and members, by the federal government of the United States.

Omali Yeshitela speaking before crowd in late 1960s. [Source:]

Using the bogus and slanderous charge that we are “Russian agents,” the U.S. government and its “Department of Justice” will attempt to put us on trial and imprison us for fighting for the liberation of African people in the U.S. and around the world.

But they will fail. We will win.

I am 81 years old. My political work for the last 60 years or so is influenced by the fact that in my entire life I have not known a single day when my people were not experiencing oppression, exploitation and humiliation. For most of my life, I have worked to build the movement for freedom for black people in the U.S. and around the world, most significantly beginning with my work as an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s.

Since 1972 I have organized and led the African People’s Socialist Party and the Uhuru Movement, a worldwide organization fighting for the self-determination of African people everywhere. Our organizational presence extends to nearly every continent. We exist throughout the U.S., Europe, the U.K., Africa, and the Caribbean.

Scene from military-style raid outside Omali Yeshitela’s home on July 29, 2022. [Photo: Burning Spear Media]

Our Party presides over more than fifty institutions of economic development and self-reliance for the African community including numerous projects in north St. Louis, Missouri known as the Black Power Blueprint.

On July 29th of 2022, the FBI violently and militarily raided my home in north St. Louis, Missouri where I live with my wife, the Deputy Chair of the African People’s Socialist Party, Ona Zené Yeshitela, along with six other homes and offices of Uhuru Movement leaders. See CAM’s coverage of the raid here.

Now the U.S. government is attempting to discredit our righteous struggle to free our people from the perpetual immiseration we face in this country stemming from America’s unresolved “original sin” of slavery and colonialism, a sin whose existence was given testimony by U.S. president Joseph Biden on December 15, 2022.

Their “case” against us is baseless and ridiculous. Our case against them is backed by an undeniable history of centuries of ongoing atrocities against our people and our movement by the U.S. government, who have often used the FBI and Department of Justice as their political weapons against us.


When they put us on trial, we will put them on trial.

The U.S. government must be made to explain this attack on us in light of the well-known history of COINTELPRO and other covert and overt acts of surveillance, harassment, imprisonment and/or assassination of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Fred Hampton and many others.

The U.S. is attempting to hide this blatant attack on black people by saying that it is an attack on Russia, not the African Liberation Movement.

How will they defend this absurd notion against the overwhelming evidence of the criminal colonial assaults by the FBI and Justice Department against African people historically, often using the specter of “the Russians” or “the Communists” as their legal cover?

This case is not about whether or not I went to Russia, or whether or not I have a position around the war in Ukraine that was the same as what the Russians had. This attack was perpetrated against us because we have always fought for the liberation of Africa and African people everywhere.

The legal statutes the U.S. will use to execute this political attack will include the so-called “Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA),” which they also used in 1951 to construct their indictment of W.E.B. DuBois on nearly identical charges of working for “the Russians.”

This is selective prosecution. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other Israeli lobbying organizations are seemingly immune from prosecution under the FARA law despite their obvious public function as agents of the Israeli government. The “Foreign Agents Registration Act” is almost never enforced unless it is used as a tool against Africans and other colonized peoples.

We will raise up our supposed legal rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly, but more importantly, the government must be made to answer for their oppression and terror against black people historically.

Beginning in the 1970s, our Party laid out a strategic approach to winning the freedom for black people that included building relationships with people all around the world to support the struggle for African self-determination in the U.S.

At our First Party Congress held in Oakland, California in 1981, we received solidarity statements from organizations and governments from around the world, including FECOPES in Colombia, Casa El Salvador, the Pan African Congress of Azania (South Africa), the FSLN government from Nicaragua, the New Jewel Movement-led government of Grenada, Casa Chile, the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Argentina, the Association of Vietnamese Patriots in the U.S., and the National United Movement of Barbados.

This helps to give lie to the notion that our connection to a Russian NGO is evidence of an illicit relationship that we would have with a “foreign” power.

I traveled to Ireland more than 40 years ago to meet with the Irish Republican Socialist Party at a time when the Irish people were engaged in a struggle for their independence from British colonialism.

In 1983 The Burning Spear newspaper published an article covering how we won the Irish Republican Socialist Party to support our demand for reparations. They held a press conference with us in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The IRSP came out and said that they didn’t want any monetary donations from any Irish people in America who were not supporting the liberation struggle of black people in the U.S.

Our Party has a half-century long historical trajectory that precedes anything that the U.S. government is talking about now in terms of Russia. I was in Nicaragua representing black people after the Nicaraguan Revolution, based on our relationship with the Sandinista National Liberation Front with whom we worked closely in San Francisco leading up to their victory in 1979.

In 1982 we held the first World Tribunal for Reparations for Black People in history. We indicted the U.S. government based on international law and the right of an oppressed people to wield our own state power.

One aspect of the international law used for the Reparations Tribunal was the question of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

An international panel of judges ruled at the end of two days of testimony that the United States is guilty of genocide against African people. It took another 40 years for the United States to ratify this genocide convention, and only in a fashion that freed itself from any possible trial or repercussions.

The reason the U.S. wouldn’t ratify the Genocide Convention was because they wanted to evade responsibility for their treatment of the colonized African and Indigenous peoples in this country.

The U.S. government and the FBI’s attacks on the Uhuru Movement did not begin in 2022. It goes back decades.

In 1996 more than 300 militarily armed police attacked the Uhuru House in St. Petersburg, FL, with airplanes and helicopters. They pumped the entire reserve of tear gas in the city into the Uhuru House where a mass meeting was going on following the police murder of an 18-year-old African teen. This was the same Uhuru House they just invaded and raided again on July 29.


Omali Yeshitela stands before his home and speaks to supporters after FBI raid on July 29, 2022. As I mentioned earlier, Biden himself, when he was trying to win the loyalty of our people in Africa, had to confess the “original sin” of this country: the stolen labor of African people on the stolen land of the Indigenous people, the foundation on which the United States rests.

Let’s call Biden as a witness to testify about this original sin. Let’s cross-examine him with these questions: Did the original sin ever go away? Can we explain the police murder of George Floyd by the original sin? Can we explain the attacks on the Uhuru Movement by this original sin?

After the FBI raids on seven offices and homes of the Uhuru Movement in two cities in the pre-dawn hours of July 29, 2022, there was a tremendous amount of interest, support and outrage coming from literally millions of people and organizations throughout the U.S. and the world.

Numerous organizations and individuals including St. Louis Alderman from Ward 18, Jesse Todd, Zaki Baruti, President-General of the Universal Afrikan People’s Organization, New York councilpersons Charles and Inez Barron, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Nellie Bailey and others sent messages of support, all of which are cited on our website

But as indictments loom, now is the time to escalate the campaign to mobilize massive public support for the Uhuru Movement, the African People’s Socialist Party, its leaders and members and the right of African people everywhere to organize and advocate for our liberation.

Zaki Baruti [Source:]

Resources are urgently needed for our legal defense and campaign work. We are recruiting into our legal support team. We urge all supporters to sign the emergency response pledge form in preparation for political actions once the indictments come down: see

Our victory will be won in the streets. Join the movement. Put the colonial state on trial. Turn the tables. Win broad mass support from African people and other forces inside this country and around the world.

Join the Hands Off Uhuru! Hands Off Africa! Defense Campaign and get involved wherever you’re located. Build a committee. Donate. Hold a fundraiser. Be a part of making history and winning a landmark victory for the African Liberation Movement that will forever change the world.

Omali Yeshitela (born Joseph Waller) is the founder and chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party, which leads the Uhuru Movement.

Yeshitela is credited with popularizing the demand for reparations to African people in the U.S. and worldwide, having served as the People’s Advocate at the First International Tribunal on Reparations to Black People in the U.S., held in Brooklyn, New York in 1982.

He is the author of numerous books and pamphlets including Vanguard: Advanced Detachment of the African Revolution and An Uneasy Equilibrium: The African Revolution versus Parasitic Capitalism.

If America Had Fair Laws, 60 Million Workers Would Join a Union Tomorrow / by Luke Savage

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union on strike for higher wages. (Getty Images)

Originally published in Jacobin on January 21, 2023

According to the latest data, the ranks of unionized workers grew by 200,000 between 2021 and 2022. If the United States’ unionization rules in place weren’t so biased toward bosses, tens of millions more workers indicate they would have joined a union, too.

According to data newly published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Labor Relations Board, the number of American workers belonging to unions rose over the past year. Amid the general trajectory of decline that has defined the last several decades of American labor organizing, the total number of unionized workers across the country rose by roughly 200,000 — with especially large increases visible in Alabama (40,000), Maryland (40,000), Ohio (52,000), Texas (72,000), and California (99,000). Between October 2021 and September 2022, the number of petitions to the National Labor Relations Board for union elections jumped by an astonishing 53 percent.

Driving the increase was a wave of unionization among workers of color, 231,000 more of whom now belong to unions (the number of white workers belonging to unions actually decreasing by 31,000). While 88,000 of new union jobs were added in the public sector, successful organizing in industries like entertainment, transport, and warehousing added 112,000 new union jobs in the private sector.

But in their analysis of the data, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explain why the new data, taken as a whole, are less than encouraging. For one thing, the economy added nonunion jobs at a greater rate than unionized ones, so the overall share of workers with union membership actually declined very slightly from 11.6 percent to 11.3 percent. Also, the raw numbers, though not insubstantial, were driven in part by unusually strong job growth that won’t necessarily persist into the coming years. Still, seen in relation to other developments such as the fifty-year high in public support for unions registered by Gallup in 2021, the data offers some evidence that a nascent fightback against the long-term decline of unionized work has begun.

But perhaps the most remarkable statistic highlighted in the EPI’s analysis concerns the number of workers who wanted to join a union in 2022 but couldn’t: some 60 million, or 48 percent of the entire nonunion workforce. It’s ironic, given the political right’s frequent justification of anti-union laws under the auspices of choice and voluntarism (evident in Orwellian phrases like “right to work”) that the appetite for union membership is so much higher than current union density would suggest. As the EPI’s researchers also pointedly note, “the large increase in the share of workers expressing a desire for unionization over the last four decades has occurred at the same time the share of workers represented by a union has declined.”

This divergence is owed, in significant part, to employer-friendly laws and regulations that make it incredibly difficult to organize a workplace even when a majority of workers might be in favor. A recent study by University of Oregon labor scholar Gordon Lafer, for example, finds that the climate facing workers at many companies effectively resembles that faced by democratic opposition movements during sham elections in one-party dictatorships. For one, existing laws governing unionization are almost comically slanted toward employers. Furthermore, when management does break the rules — employers are charged with violating federal law in more than 40 percent of union elections — penalties are often so lax that they can be treated as little more than the cost of doing business: a state of affairs that allows for rampant intimidation and election-rigging. As Lafer illustrates, using several examples from the auto industry:

[At Tesla] the Labor Board recently concluded that the company committed a series of violations, including illegally firing one union supporter and disciplining another because of their union activity; threatening employees with a loss of stock options if they joined a union; restricting employees from speaking with the media; coercively interrogating union supporters; and barring employees from distributing union information to their co-workers. So too, the CEO at Fuyao Glass — the country’s largest producer of automobile glass — was filmed openly reporting to the firm’s chairman that he had fired employees who tried to organize a union.

The decades-long decline of unionized labor, as the EPI’s analysis concludes, has thus not occurred because workers don’t want to join unions, but rather because the design of current labor law is prohibitive to forming them even when the appetite for doing so is strong. Through determination, grit, and courage, and with the winds of unusually strong job growth at their backs, hundreds of thousands of workers across America successfully joined unions last year. With more democratic labor laws in place, tens of millions more would eagerly have done the same.

Luke Savage is a staff writer at Jacobin.

Fanatical MAGA Republicans hold the country hostage over debt limit / by John Bachtell

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks about Twitter, April 28, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Once shunned as a political pariah for her extremist rhetoric, the Georgia lawmaker who spent her first term in Congress stripped of institutional power by Democrats is being celebrated by Republicans and welcomed into the GOP fold. | Jacquelyn Martin

On January 19, the U.S. government reached its debt limit. Without raising the debt ceiling, the government risks defaulting and shutting down functions and services, possibly triggering a domestic and global economic crisis.

Instead of raising the debt limit, which is nothing more than agreeing to pay bills already owed, the new GOP-MAGA fascist House majority is inching to create a political crisis by holding the country hostage. In exchange for raising the debt limit and reopening the government, they will demand a balanced federal budget in ten years, and draconian cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, something President Biden, and the Democrats will never agree to.

The fanatical GOP-MAGA House Majority’s first order of business was the passage of a phony populist bill, the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act.” The hastily drawn legislation repeals funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) adopted in the last Congress.

If this wasn’t loony enough, GOP-MAGA introduced another even more extreme bill – the Fair Tax Act, which would abolish the IRS, eliminate income, payroll, and estate and gift taxes and impose a 30% national sales tax on all goods and services, which the states would administer.

The GOP knows these bills will never become law. Senate Democrats will let them die, and President Biden vowed a veto if it ever reached his desk. “National sales tax, that’s a great idea,” Biden said sarcastically. “It would raise taxes on the middle class by taxing thousands of everyday items from groceries to gas while cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.”

The GOP-MAGA dysfunction and radical agenda have resulted in a 64% unfavorable rating (26% favorability) in the latest polls, matching polling following the January 6 insurrection.

Repealing IRS funding and eliminating income taxes is meant to provide a populist cover for the GOP and MAGA fascists, their billionaire backers, and allied movement’s quest to capture absolute governmental power and the presidency in 2024. The GOP and radical MAGA movement want to undemocratically and violently, if necessary, impose minority rule on the majority.

The MAGA movement and its billionaire backers envision a class, racial, and patriarchal hierarchy and theocratic order that turns back decades of progress on democratic rights and expansion of social benefit programs. Their goal is unfettered capitalism without restraints on profitmaking and wealth accumulation and eliminating social benefits, constitutional democracy, and democratic rights.

And the GOP and MAGA fascists aim to use the state’s power, including the courts and security apparatus, to guarantee their permanent rule through voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, elimination of citizen-initiated referendums, suppression of organized labor and other democratic movements. The GOP-MAGA movement is imposing this autocratic model in states where they have entrenched power.

Obsession with gaining power

The obsession with gaining power, infighting, rivalry among MAGA radicals, political polarization, obstruction, chaos, and enshrining their permanent rule are hallmarks of fascism. People become alienated, and confidence in government is undermined – fertile grounds for the entrance of a “strong man” to impose order and “restore America to its glory days.”

The MAGA-GOP and their billionaire backers have long vilified the IRS and called for eliminating it. They demagogically claim to be the party of lower taxes for working people and small businesses. But inevitably, the GOP unabashedly cuts taxes on the very wealthy and corporations and then demagogically uses resulting deficits to cut social benefit programs.

The GOP began actively slashing corporate taxes under Reagan and IRS funding under Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress in 1994. The words of Grover Norquist guide them: “My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Today, the GOP is blatantly lying about funding for the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). They claim, without basis, that it goes to hiring 87,000 IRS agents to invade the private lives of ordinary Americans. What’s worse than an IRS agent knocking on your front door while you’re eating breakfast?

In fact, the popular IRA, passed by the Democratic Congress and signed by President Biden in 2022, bolsters the severely underfunded IRS to clear a backlog of unprocessed returns, overhaul technology, and improve customer service, including services to working-class taxpayers needing help.

But the IRA also directs substantial funding to collect unpaid taxes by super-wealthy people and corporations. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the bill will generate $204 billion in revenues through 2031. Congress also passed a 15% minimum corporate tax as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The act is a step toward clawing back from the wreckage caused by Trump and the GOP Congress from the 2017 GOP tax cut to corporations, a massive boondoggle for the rich. The CBO estimated in 2018 the legislation would increase deficits by about $1.9 trillion over 11 years. Repealing IRS funding will add another $114 billion to the deficit over ten years.

The rich get away with not paying taxes because the IRS enforcement division was deliberately defunded and disabled by past GOP Congresses and presidents. Between 2010 and 2018, funding fell by 24%, leading to the loss of 17,000 employees.

“Funding cuts have cost the IRS much of its most experienced staff: the number of Revenue Agents fell by 35 percent between 2010 and 2018, to the lowest number since 1954,” testified Chye-Ching Huang, Director of the Economic Policy Institute, before Congress.

In 2021, the IRS reported that the federal government was losing $1 trillion in unpaid taxes annually, mainly by the wealthy and corporations. The top 5% of rich people avoided paying $307 billion in taxes, and the top 1% alone avoided paying $163 billion.

Voters have rejected the GOP in three straight elections, and Democrats have won the majority vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. The GOP-MAGA extreme right and fascists know their agenda is unpopular with most American voters and can only achieve it through undemocratic means. Only a mobilized anti-MAGA majority stands in the way of this nightmare scenario. There are signs that the majority is beginning to turn back the right-wing assault, but more on that in coming Peoples World articles.

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People’s World. He served as national chair of the CPUSA from 2014 to 2019. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

People’s World, January 20, 2023,

Climate justice in so-called Canada / By Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, David Gray-Donald, Joël Laforest, Crystal Lameman, and Bronwen Tucker

Photo by Light Brigading/Flickr

Orignally publishd in Canadian Dimension on January 17, 2023

Indigenous rights and sovereignty must be at the centre of our collective efforts to rescue a habitable planet

The following is an excerpt from The End of This World: Climate Justice in So-Called Canada by Angele Alook, Emily Eaton, David Gray-Donald, Joël Laforest, Crystal Lameman and Bronwen Tucker, released this year by Between the Lines. For more information, visit

In 2009, the oil sands (or tarsands) company Nexen gave funding to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) to prepare a now-forgotten study called Resource Industries and Security Issues in Northern Alberta. The institute hired Tom Flanagan, a conservative academic often called “the man behind Stephen Harper,” to write it. Flanagan warned of a possible “apocalyptic scenario” if there were ever prolonged and deep collaboration between environmentalists, First Nations, and the Métis people, among other groups. By “apocalyptic,” he meant that industries like oil and gas would have trouble continuing to extract resources and profits in northern Alberta and would no longer be able to flagrantly disregard Indigenous rights. If these groups were to “make common cause and cooperate with each other,” Flanagan wrote, they could form “a coordinated movement with the ability to block resource development on a large scale.”

A lot has changed since then—the think tank CDFAI has been rebranded as the more benign-sounding Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Nexen no longer exists after being bought out by CNOOC Ltd., and Flanagan has largely fallen out of the public eye—but we think his central point is more relevant than ever. In fact, it’s a big part of why we wanted to write this book. Except, from our perspective, “a coordinated movement” between Indigenous peoples, settler environmentalists, organized labour, and many others is the precise opposite of an apocalyptic scenario. We think it’s the one thing that could bring us back from our current slide into climate collapse, colonial genocide, and extreme inequality, and towards a better world where we live in balance with land and life.

But this is, of course, much easier said than done. Flanagan predicted that deep and sustained collaboration between groups was unlikely because they wouldn’t be able to overcome their different interests and mount a sufficiently large-scale challenge to the fossil fuel and colonial power structures in so-called Canada. Despite recent inspiring moments of solidarity—from Idle No More, to Québec and east coast coalitions to stop Energy East and Alton Gas, to cross-country Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades to stop the Coastal GasLink pipeline—Flanagan has, unfortunately, largely been correct on this point. And since he wrote the report in 2009, the stakes have become so much higher. As we write in the early 2020s, the COVID-19 pandemic has facilitated a growth in wealth estimated at $78 billion for the 47 billionaires in Canada while 5.5 million Canadian workers have been thrown out of their jobs, the oil and gas industry is securing plans to expand its production this decade more than any country other than the United States, and chronic underfunding and resource development without consent continue to undermine Indigenous sovereignty.

One reason a sufficiently powerful and coordinated movement hasn’t emerged to counter these threats is the targeted efforts from politicians and the oil and gas industry to stop one from emerging. Flanagan himself was actively working to prevent Indigenous solidarity movements, despite dismissing them as unlikely to emerge in the CDFAI report; while he was writing it, he was also working on a book on “how to voluntarily introduce private property rights onto First Nations lands in Canada.” Flanagan’s proposal, which would extinguish collective Indigenous land rights, found industry backers keen on stopping Indigenous rights from impeding resource development. Meanwhile Harper’s Conservative federal government introduced further measures to impede Indigenous and cross-movement resistance to resource extraction, with legislation that criminalized land defence and allowed surveillance of movements by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). And in 2012 Harper introduced an omnibus bill that undermined Indigenous land rights and removed protections for the environment. In the words of Mi’kmaw lawyer Pamela Palmater, resistance was undermined by the government making “conditions so unbearable on reserves that First Nations are forced to leave their communities and give up their lands for resource extraction.”

Though later federal Liberal and provincial New Democratic Party governments have used much softer-sounding language, their strategies have been largely the same. Successive governments at both levels talk about “reconciliation,” “consultation,” and “partnership” with the original peoples of these lands, yet First Nations continue to be subject to boil water advisories, Indigenous children’s health and education programs continue to be underfunded compared with those of settler children, companies continue to extract on lands that they have no consent to be on, and the Canadian state continues to undermine Indigenous sovereignty at nearly every turn.

But beyond governments’ efforts to maintain the status quo, a key reason cross-movement collaboration has been limited is that potential allies have not managed to go much beyond a narrow common cause—saying no to harmful resource development. To transform away from economies built on destruction and death, we need to say yes to much more together. We need a shared vision for a future that is just: where Indigenous and other rights are respected, where everyone has their basic needs met, and where our economies operate in a respectful relationship with nature. In this book, we call this a just transition.

We are a group of six authors who have been working to build this future. Each of us on the author team came to this work in a different way, and we think that together our experiences and the lessons we have learned from our elders and others have taught us what a just future could look like, what stands in the way, and some pathways for how to get there together. This is the vision we hope to share.

Through our diverse work and experiences at the intersection of Indigenous rights and climate justice, we’ve noticed that while these movements are getting closer, we do not yet mount the critical threat to business as usual that Flanagan identified. Something holding us back has been that settler-led climate discussion in Canada—including in reports, books, mainstream media, and at environmental NGOs—has been treating Indigenous rights as an afterthought. When Indigenous rights are mentioned at all, they appear as an add-on, in a separate chapter, under their own subheading, or in special reporting focusing specifically on how climate justice relates to Indigenous peoples. In this book, we want to challenge this practice by putting Indigenous rights and sovereignty at the centre of what needs to be done to rescue a habitable planet. We cannot repair our relationship to the environment without also acknowledging and restoring our relationships to one another.

Canada’s fossil fuel industry is powerful and organized. It wields tremendous influence over our political, social, and cultural institutions, a theme thoroughly explored in William Carroll’s book Regime of Obstruction: How Corporate Power Blocks Energy Democracy. But the fact is that Canada’s extractive economy only exists in these lands because of a long history of false promises in which the Crown (representatives of the British monarchy, Canada’s official head of state) swore Indigenous peoples would maintain their inherent rights and only benefit from the incoming settler societies. From the start, and continuing until today, instead of working within this framework of mutual benefit and respect, so-called Canada has been stealing Indigenous lands and resources and handing them over to fossil fuel corporations to make relatively few people very wealthy.

More and more settlers are coming to realize that an ongoing theft and denial of Indigenous rights is happening here. And this brings up big feelings. Indigenous peoples, who have long known and lived this reality, continue to face systems of colonial control today, despite royal commissions, apologies, and new rounds of promises from successive governments to get things right. And for settlers relatively newly confronted with this reality, the realization can bring a sense of unease and uncertainty. For some, it has prompted a backlash—and an even more fervent assertion of Canada’s supremacy and control over Indigenous Nations, peoples, and lands. But it doesn’t need to be this way. In this book we acknowledge the ongoing reality of land theft and oppression and offer a vision of how we might begin to undo it. We encourage you to work with us to build a new world, one where Indigenous sovereignty is fully recognized and we live in good relations with each other and the earth.

In brief, we are calling for mass movements, grounded in shared demands for Indigenous sovereignty, that can make big, positive changes happen. Climate action in so-called Canada can’t be considered separate from Indigenous rights. In fact, asserting Indigenous sovereignty will require putting limits on the capitalist economy of Canada that has been wreaking so much havoc. Attempting an energy transition without asserting Indigenous rights is simply greening theft—and it is also doomed to fail. Indigenous knowledges and cultures have invaluable lessons for how to live on these lands, knowledges that we need to move from economies of destruction to economies that repair lands and life. We can diminish the power of the fossil fuel industry and move to renewable energies, while reducing inefficient and wasteful uses of energy. We can enjoy comfortable, safe, reliable low-emissions public transit and buildings in both rural and urban areas. Cities and towns can provide great social services like healthcare and education, and can be far less car-dependent. The gaps between rich and poor can be rapidly closed so we can all live better and with a heightened sense of belonging and trust. Far from being unattainable, these changes are already happening, though not fast enough. And joining in social movements pushing for these changes has the added benefit that, instead of being stuck in feelings of despair and isolation, you can participate in hopeful, creative, and engaging communities.

We believe it is important for just transition discussions to be accessible to all audiences because, fundamentally, what we are talking about in this book is repairing relationships. Repairing relationships with each other and with the land. And key to any relationship is to listen deeply to each other. With that in mind, we invite you to read this book with an open heart and mind.

The Authors: “A coordinated movement between Indigenous peoples, settler environmentalists, organized labour, and many others is the precise opposite of an apocalyptic scenario. We think it’s the one thing that could bring us back from our current slide into climate collapse, colonial genocide, and extreme inequality, and towards a better world where we live in balance with land and life.”

U.S. Deaths Highlight Need for Far-Reaching Change / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Demonstrators carry a coffin over Brooklyn Bridge during a march against gun violence, 06.02.18, in NY. | Mary Altaffer – AP

Under U.S. capitalism, industrial production and consumerism expand. Greenhouse gases increase, the climate changes, and people die. U.S. imperialism leads to wars and potentially nuclear war.

U.S. life expectancy has fallen. According to government statistics released in December, 2022, life expectancy at birth (LEB) for 2021 was 76.4 years. LEB was 77.0 years in 2020 and 78.8 years in 2019. Public health officials claimed this “was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

Mothers fare badly. In 2020,19.1 mothers in general and 55.3 Black mothers died per 100,000 live births. They died from illnesses related to childbearing, most of them preventable. In the Netherlands that year, the maternal mortality rate was 1.2 mothers per 100,000 live births. In 2018, 55 nations showed a rate more favorable than that of the United States. 

Americans, mostly working-age adults, die from “diseases of despair” – substance abuse, accidental drug overdose, alcoholism, and suicide. They also died of Covid 19 infection, the U.S. rate of 332.81 Covid deaths per 100,000 population being the 16th highest in the world.

During most of the pandemic, Black people died at two or more times the rate of infected white people. Now the cumulative death rates of each group are similar, with 355 deaths of whites and 369 deaths of Blacks per 100,000 population. Cumulative Covid deaths for American indigenous peoples register at 478 deaths per 100,000 population. Vaccine skepticism may account for increased vulnerability of whites. 

The pandemic aside, Blacks and American Indians live far shorter lives than white people do. As of October 2022, LEB for Hispanics was 77.7 years; white people, 76.6 years; Blacks, 70.8 years; and American Indians, 65.2 years. In 2020, 65 nations showed longer LEB than did the United States.

Healthcare failings may have contributed to the high U.S death rates. Proposals for reform, especially for universal healthcare, center on its financing. The United States is the top healthcare spender among all nations.

Paying  $12,914 per capita for healthcare in 2021, the United States outspent second-place spender Germany whose outlay was $7383 per capita. Total spending on health that year amounted to $4.3 trillion –18.3% of the U.S. GDP. The United States accounted for 42% of healthcare spending in the world in 2018.

Healthcare in the United States is a profit center. The pricing of drugs, medical equipment, medical insurance, and services provided by hospitals and outpatient facilities in general is exorbitant.  Executives of medical supply and pharmaceutical companies, specialty physicians, and administrators of hospitals and healthcare networks receive enormous salaries.

Profitmaking hospital chains, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies generate enough revenue to allow for stock buybacks and dividend payments. Over nine recent years 14 pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion on stock buybacks. Payments to private insurance companies and private hospital networks are large enough to cover astronomically high administrative costs and profit-taking.

Some healthcare and health-promotion activities produce no revenue, or very little. They tend to receive relatively little support and skimpy funding.

  • The U.S. public health sector, charged with health education and illness prevention, is a low-priority item. Inadequate preparation and preventative measures largely accounted for the U.S. Covid-19 debacle. 
  • Insurance companies dedicate effort to denying coverage for particular diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
  • Multi-hospital, multi-service conglomerates are cutting back on health services in rural and economical depressed areas because of decreased “productivity.” 
  • Many hospitals have recently dropped children’s hospital services as being less remunerative than care for hospitalized adults.
  • Small rural hospitals unable to pay bills have been closing down in droves throughout the nation, depriving area residents of care.
  • Specialty practitioners and hospitals often prioritize expensive medical procedures and high-technology diagnostic modes over care centering on provider – patient interaction and communication.
  • Many physicians during training opt for a specialty rather than a primary-care career, often because of income considerations. Primary care physicians now comprise only 20% of all U.S. physicians.
  • Diminished emphasis on a “medical home,” that hallmark of primary care, opens the door to inefficient, low-quality care.

Other capitalist countries have achieved long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy for 2021 in eight European countries plus Australia and Japan was 82.4 years. Their average per- capita health spending was $6,003. Japan spent $4,666 per capita on healthcare; LEB was 84.5 years.

Those countries protect healthcare as a public good, mainly because labor unions and social democratic or labor political parties apply pressure. Universal access to care is the norm. 

Universal care in the United States is but a dream. U.S. unions are weak and there is no working people’s political party. Some 25 million working age adults had no health insurance in 2021; insurance for 23% of them was inadequate. Too many have no care or fragmented care.

Reform efforts will continue in the United States, propelled perhaps by worsening life expectancy. But healthcare has its limitations. Steven Woolf, retired director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, told an interviewer recently that better healthcare is “only a partial answer” to extending life expectancy, accounting “for about 10 to 20 percent of health outcomes.”

He explained: “Our health is really shaped by our living conditions, jobs, the wages we earn, our wealth accumulation, the education that enables us to get those jobs … The country that we live in is the richest in the world, but we have the highest level of income inequality. So, much of the resources that we need for a healthy population are not available to most of the population.”

Woolf is saying, in effect, that people die early because of inequalities, oppression, and organized greed. The United States appears as different from other rich capitalist counties. Social guarantees are fragile. The wealthy have few restraints on satisfying their wants. A besieged working class lacks voice and agency.

The prospect that reforms, alone, will restore justice and decent lives for working people is nil. They confront a voracious, extreme kind of capitalism.  Its rulers tolerate, promote, and seek out collaborators for actions and policies leading to die-offs. Think climate catastrophe, wars, and nuclear war.

In response to impending disaster, Americans desiring better and more secure lives for everyone would adjust their forward vision. Working for reforms, they would aim at something new, which is top-to-bottom social and political change. New motivation, determination and hope would be a shot in the arm.

Revolutionary change is a worldwide project, and not to be left to one people – except in special circumstances. One such was pre-1917 Czarist Russia and another would be that anomaly among capitalist nations which is the death-dealing U.S. 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.