No, the Rich Don’t Deserve Their Wealth / by Tom Malleson

Cartoon of Andrew Carnegie, 1900. (Udo J. Keppler / Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)

Originally published in Jacobin on May 1, 2023

Capitalism is built on the meritocratic idea that everyone gets what they deserve in the marketplace. This May Day, let’s reject that idea — wealth creation is a fundamentally social process, and the rich have no right to hoard all the resources and power.

A foundational belief in capitalist societies is the notion that individuals deserve the income they receive in the market: your bank account reflects your talent and efforts and is therefore rightly yours, and yours alone.

A recent survey found that 66 percent of Republicans believe the rich are rich because they “worked harder” than other people, not because of other advantages in life. As the late conservative activist Herman Cain put it, “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”

Hence Bill Gates and Elon Musk truly deserve their mountains of wealth ($110 billion and $190 billion, respectively), whereas disabled people supposedly deserve their paltry earnings of only $25,000 on average per year. Such ideas of deservingness and merit are the mortar between the bricks of our society’s foundation.

But on International Workers’ Day, it’s worth asking: do the rich really deserve their piles of lucre?

The Ideological Origins of Meritocracy

The notion that inequality is justified because it reflects individual merit is an old one. Beginning in the decades after the French Revolution, as the old bastions of feudal privilege were decaying, a panicky elite worried that the masses might use their growing democratic powers to equalize wealth. Conservative thinkers started marshaling novel justifications for their riches. In 1872, Émile Boutmy, the founder of the prestigious Parisian university Sciences Po, expressed the mounting elite anxiety like this:

The classes that call themselves superior can preserve their political hegemony only by invoking the law of the most capable. Because the walls of their prerogatives and tradition are crumbling, the democratic tide must be held back by a second rampart made up of brilliant and useful merits, of superiority whose prestige command obedience, of capacities of which it would be folly for society to deprive itself.

The rising discipline of economics would provide much of the ideological ammunition for which the Right was desperately searching. In 1899, the economist John Bates Clark fretted that “workmen” were increasingly embracing the socialist idea that they “are regularly robbed of what they produce” and would thus “become revolutionists.”

To counteract the dreadful possibility of human beings sharing the fruits of their labor, Clark developed what came to be known as marginal productivity theory. His core claim was that a competitive market will distribute income to each “factor of production” — each worker or each business owner — in accordance with the marginal contribution of each person. Capitalism could thus be portrayed not an exploitative system but a deeply moral one: it gives every person precisely the value they have created.

That meritocratic shibboleth still has deep purchase today. When Occupy Wall Street protests broke out against economic inequality a decade ago, Greg Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, published an influential article entitled “Defending the One Percent.” He repeated Clark’s argument that market incomes, even for the very rich, are not a problem because they simply reflect the enormous value gifts the rich have made to our wellbeing.

John Bates Clark. (Gunton’s Magazine,
Vol. 19, 1900 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Root Problem of Meritocracy

Progressives typically reject the meritocratic argument, pointing out that the economic rat race is extremely unfair. Some people are blessed with private inheritance, elite schools, and well-connected family networks, while others are obstructed at every turn by economic insecurity, sexism, and racism. Since there is nothing like equal opportunity, the economy is an uneven playing field, and so the “winners” don’t really deserve their income any more than a heavyweight boxer “deserves” a prize for beating a featherweight, or a Lamborghini driver would “deserve” the yellow jersey for outracing cyclists in the Tour de France.
These progressive arguments are correct as far as they go. The problem is that they don’t go nearly far enough in diagnosing what is wrong with meritocracy.

The fundamental problem is that mainstream economics, as well as the dominant culture, typically conceives of earning an income as if we were Robinson Crusoes, producing our own private property out of nothing but the sweat of our brow, then trading newly created property with others in a free market.

This is deeply misleading. Economic production in a modern society is never a solo effort. No one produces anything by themselves. All production is, at root, a fundamentally social and collaborative process.

The often ignored — but truly vast — contribution of other people’s labor is what I call the “understructure.” Consider one mundane example: every day in every city in the Global North, thousands of semitrucks shuttle back and forth carrying our goods. Each one of these trucks can haul roughly seventy-eight thousand pounds and travel approximately two thousand miles before needing to refill its tank. Yet this stupendous feat is not just due to the individual truck driver alone; it is made possible by the countless miles of concrete highways, the years of labor that built them, and the generations of learning that developed concrete; so too with the trucks, with their fuel, and so on.

To get a sense of the potency of this single example, we can ask what it would take for human beings to accomplish this one simple task by simply carrying the goods on our backs. What one truck driver can accomplish in a single day today would take an individual without our modern understructure about 2,700 years.

All production relies on this understructure — the combination of infrastructures, physical assets, institutions, laws, norms, intellectual concepts, emotional supports, and natural resources that underlie and enable production.

What Powers the Economy

Start looking, and you’ll see it everywhere:

The physical infrastructure (such as roads, bridges, railways, water systems, sewers, electricity grids, and telecommunication networks) magnifies the productive capacity of any individual participating in the economy.

The political-legal infrastructure of the state provides the social stability and predictability that is necessary for any market to function well. There is no such thing as a literally “free market.” All market systems are embedded in a political-legal infrastructure; they are shaped and defined by rules, regulations, and institutions. These include a system of property rights that defines who owns what, what is allowed to be sold and what is not, the types of businesses that are permitted to operate (such as corporations or worker cooperatives), the various rights of business owners versus workers (do owners have full or limited liability? Do workers have rights to participate in board governance?), the taxes that must be paid by different parties, a police force to enforce such rights, and a judicial system to adjudicate them.

This means that the state and all the various workers who administer and maintain it are “silent partners” in the production of every new piece of private property. They are its cocreators.

Knowledge infrastructure. A major source of modern prosperity (if not the most important one) is the accumulated collective knowledge that we inherit from the past. The bulk of our modern wealth cannot be attributed to the effort or investment decisions of isolated individuals, but is rather the result of individuals building on the immense knowledge infrastructure passed down to us via vast networks of engineers, scientists, theorists, technicians, teachers, scholars, practitioners, and so on.

Workers on the southwestern pylon of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Sydney, Australia, 1932. (Powerhouse Museum via Wikimedia Commons)

Care infrastructure. Perhaps the most commonly neglected of this bunch, care is, among other things, the production of human capacity. None of us could walk, talk, or think were it not for our caregivers. This is most obvious in early childhood, but it persists more subtly throughout our lives as we rely on friends, families, and lovers. Care is thus the invisible infrastructure of (mostly feminine) labor that we all climb on to reach our goals.

Even the very paragon of liberalism, Adam Smith, would not have been able to walk, talk, or sit upright (much less produce economic theory) were it not for Margaret Douglas, his mother (and the broader web of care). Though Smith despised “dependency,” he was deeply dependent on his mother, who cooked his meals every day and provided continual emotional sustenance, allowing him to work away on the book — The Wealth of Nations — that would celebrate economic independence.

The estimated cost of parenting (in other words, how much one would have to pay others to do it) is roughly 30 percent of GDP, a truly gigantic cost. Yet the true magnitude for private business is arguably even higher, since if there were literally no care, no business could function at all. If workers (and consumers) were not nurtured and socialized by their caregivers, they would either be dead or extremely debilitated. We see this in rare tragic cases like that of Genie — the mid-twentieth-century child locked away by her father from the age of twenty months to thirteen years. Her isolation left her severely disabled, incontinent, and unable to speak or make any noise beyond a croaking sound. Although she has now gone through over forty years of attempted rehabilitation, she continues to live as a ward of the state and, according to recent reports, is still speechless and severely impaired.

Natural environment. Ecological systems are a vital component of the understructure in that they provide the basic prerequisites for life itself. The environment is a vital support, a container, and a fixed boundary for every economic system. Natural resources — in particular, energy resources (oil, gas, coal, wood, sun, wind, etc.) — furnish the basic fuel for the economy.

Our cars, homes, workplaces — indeed, much of complex industrial life itself — are only possible because they are powered by a massive natural inheritance of fossil fuels. And if we are able to transform our economies to use renewable energy, they will still be fed and sustained by the immense power contained within various natural resources.

Wealth Creation Is a Social Process . . .

Defenders of meritocracy love holding up Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, justifying their wealth by pointing out that millions of people voluntarily, and eagerly, purchase their products.

But we can now see the truth of the matter. Bill Gates, for instance, was only able to create Microsoft products with the help of an immense understructure: a wide network of parents and teachers who socialized him; a safe community; generations of scientists and computer engineers who created the vast intellectual edifice for him to build on (plus the countless ancillary workers and caregivers supporting them); and a political-legal infrastructure providing him with all kinds of legal rights, such as “shareholder primacy” (allowing him to appropriate the bulk of the profits made by thousands of workers while depriving those workers of any say in firm governance), and perhaps even more important in this case, the privilege of copyright.

Without copyright protection Microsoft products would simply be shared for free, and profits would tank. Copyright is a state-provided monopoly, but there is nothing natural about it. If it were replaced by open-source access (an arguably more efficient system) and coupled with public funding and prizes to reward innovation, Gates’s income would plummet.

Bill Gates is not a giant. He is a regular human being, but one sitting in an operating cabin, controlling a giant and powerful tower crane, looming over all of us.

The essential point is this: one’s total productivity comes in small part from personal inputs (such as talent and effort) but in large part from the societal inputs that one can access. Not only are the societal inputs much more important in terms of one’s total productivity, but they are also a matter of luck, which dramatically advantages some over others, and so undermines any claim of deservingness. The understructure is really a vast social inheritance.

. . . And So It Belongs to Us All

Imagine living in simple hunter-gatherer societies with little accumulated capital, technology, and legal structures. All the “income” generated in such societies stems entirely from the talents and efforts of individuals working in that society. Such income, in other words, may be said to be completely deserved.

How large is this “income”? Angus Maddison has estimated subsistence at roughly $810 per person per year (in 2020 dollars); the World Bank defines “extreme poverty” or “absolute poverty” by the international poverty line of $2.15 per day (in 2017 USD PPP), or $783 per year. So let’s use $800 as a very rough ballpark approximation and compare it to the median income in the United States today — $38,000 — and the average income of the top 1 percent, which was roughly $824,000 (it would be much higher if we included accumulated wealth in addition to income). This means that 98 percent of the income of the contemporary median worker, and a whopping 99.9 percent of the income of the top centile, cannot be attributed to individual effort or talent but is in fact due to the social inheritance provided by the understructure. It is therefore entirely underserved.

The standard meritocratic view of deservingness is a lie and a deception. Modern production is a deeply interdependent process involving the background labor and background institutions of much of the community as well as millions of our ancestors long dead.

The wealth of the rich is not deserved. It is our social inheritance. And we have every right to take it back.

Tom Malleson is an associate professor of social justice and peace studies at King’s University College at Western University, Canada and the author of Against Inequality: The Practical and Ethical Case for Abolishing the Superrich.

Marge Piercy’s Silly War / by Chris McKinnon

Marge Piercy | Source:

Marge Piercy is an award-winning author of twenty books of poetry, eighteen novels, and works of non-fiction, including memoir and autobiography. Economic democracy and social justice are central themes in her work. Race, class, and environmentalism are woven into that framework. Her literary creativity, informed by her own sustained engagement with feminism, leans intelligently into the lives of working-class women.

Marge Piercy | Source:

Born in Detroit in 1936, Piercy’s world view is shaped by her Jewish heritage, working-class context, and the impact of the Great Depression on her family and community. Her maternal grandfather, Morris, was a labor organizer. Her maternal grandmother, Hannah, an adored storyteller, was born in a small Lithuanian village.

Much of Piercy’s poetry is written in quick free verse. But it betrays the serious, life-long commitment, of a champion of the people and the planet, over profit and power.

She was the first in her family to attend college, winning a scholarship to the University of Michigan, before earning an MA from Northwestern University.

Marge Piercy lives in a house of her own design, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts with her husband, Ira Wood.

The Silly War

Government officials, police,
media rant against legalizing
pot. Opiates were handed out
by doctors like Halloween candy.
Now we live with those deaths.

Police say pot’ll cause accidents.
Yet alcohol is legal most places.
Hasn’t anyone noticed that making
guns accessible to angry crazies
selling assault rifles to teenagers

and fanatics kills folks every day—
just shopping, going to the movies,
concerts, church, synagogue can
earn you bullets from strangers.
Those same legislators love

guns of any size and shape.
They’re as ignorant about pot
as about critical race theory.
Do they even get the difference
between THC and CBD?

I wonder, do they have any idea
what their children are vaping?

[Published in Monthly Review on April 1, 2023]

Chris McKinnon has been a day-laborer, librarian, and addictions counselor. He is retired and currently lives in central Maine with his wife, Maryanne and their beloved Aussie-Samoyed, Sally.

Amazon shows us the many faces of worker alienation and resistance today / by Sarrah Kassem

Originally published: Marxist Sociology Blog  on April 5, 2023 

Once again we find ourselves in moments of economic crisis. As we battle through inflation and rounds of devaluation, thousands of workers around the world have lost their livelihoods. Yet amidst this all, we have seen workers across the globe go on strike and protest. A manifestation of these inequalities of our world today can be seen in the platform economy with transnational players like Amazon, Google and Meta. This also includes platforms which have become a contemporary embodiment of precarity: gig platforms like Uber and its Uber Eats or Amazon Mechanical Turk.

In my book, I take a closer look at the workers who power the platform economy behind the interfaces to investigate more closely the different ways by which platforms alienate workers and how workers claim their agency and collectively organize.

Before diving into the world of workers, it is important to historicize and contextualize the platform economy in order to understand how it came about, how it developed, and how it can be redeveloped differently for a fairer working world. As with all developments, the platform economy did not develop in a vacuum, but has resulted from the coming together of a specific set of political-economic, societal and technological conditions. The central characteristic of platforms is their mediating role via the Internet and thus only took off once the Internet was not only developed, but also began disseminating in wider society in the 1990s.

The excited commercialization of the Internet led to a frenzy in the dot com era—also referred to as the dot com bubble. This translated into an influx of venture capital and financial capital from Initial Public Offerings that fueled their ‘growth before profit’ models. One such example of what I call the first generation of platforms was Amazon—the e-commerce platform and its mantra to ‘get big fast’ and later become the ‘everything store’.

The dotcom bubble burst in the early 2000s and the following co-evolving conditions brought about a second generation of platforms that had to find new ways to grow in the absence of financial capital (like models of advertising with the then Facebook or Google). The further dissemination of the Internet around the globe also translated into new conditions to mediate work not just traditionally within a location like a warehouse, but now additionally directly through the web as seen with Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk).

While Amazon developed MTurk initially for its own internal use to identify for instance duplicates on its page, MTurk is essentially a digital form of outsourcing. In its own words, on MTurk you can, “access a global, on-demand, 24×7 workforce”. MTurk is not the only platform Amazon had initially developed for its own internal use—but is joined by Amazon Web Services—the thus far monopolizing cloud providing platform.

MTurk signaled the beginning of the growing contemporary world of piece work in the platform economy. It was then following the economic crisis of 2006-2008, and the rising numbers of unemployment, that we saw a third generation of platforms defined precisely by their precarity: the gig economy for ride hailing or food delivery for instance.

As platforms have come to hold varying degrees of technological, political-economic and societal power—all of which became even more so evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for us to take a closer look at those who power the platform economy behind the interfaces. As capital co-evolves alongside the wider conditions, so too does the world of workers: both in how platforms organize them but also in terms of how they push back and organize.

Two cases in the platform economy that differ across their dimensions, meaning the nature of the platform and the nature of the work, are the Amazon warehouse workers and Amazon Mechanical Turk workers. They constitute the core focus of my book. In the former case—labor is tied to the location, hence the nature of the platform is location-based, while the nature of the work translates to an hourly wage. Accordingly, these workers can be understood as organized in more traditional ways. MTurk workers on the other hand are neither tied to a location, nor do they receive an hourly wage: they are web-based and gig workers. The ways by which these dimensions interact hold implications in turn both for the working conditions and realities of workers, but also the ways by which they express their agency.

I turn to Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to examine more closely the different dimensions by which a worker is alienated from the work they do, the product of that work, their life outside of it and their relationship to other humans.

In Amazon’s warehouses, we see workers are organized along a hypertaylorized division of labor across the circulation line: meaning workers are divided up into tasks like prepping, stowing, picking or packing an item with the aim of getting product of to the customer as efficiently as possible. This traditional organization of workers is combined with technology in order to ensure efficiency and productivity. These are characterized by assigned Units Per Hour (UPH) rates all whilst facing both social and technological surveillance. Within these warehouses, the individual labor of workers comes together under its slogan “work hard. have fun. make history.”

MTurk workers on the other hand are dispersed across the globe and do not encounter anyone while on the interface: they are alienated both from the capital that employs them (dubbed ‘requesters’) and other workers who could be located anywhere across the globe (though on MTurk workers are predominantly in India and the U.S.). While one receives an anonymized ID, so too can the requester posting the task anonymize themselves. Essentially workers are also laboring across a hypertaylorized data production line—yet one that is not visible to them. While they complete tasks such as transcribing receipts or identifying emotions or objects—they may not in fact know what this will be used for. Generally speaking we can regard it as data for machine learning algorithms for AI. Whereas warehouse workers are disciplined by their UPH rates, MTurk workers are by their approval rating based on submitted and approved tasks. Only then do they receive their gig-wage.

While laboring digitally, and laboring manually, brings about certain alienating working conditions under capitalism—this does not mean that workers do not form solidarity and collectively organize. The Power Resources Approach, which primarily draws on the work of Beverly Silver and Erik Olin Wright, presents us with analytical tools to study labor’s agency more concretely. In doing so it is essential to consider the larger political-economic contexts and their industrial relations which can both support but also undermine labor’s struggle.

Given that Amazon’s warehouse workers are organized within warehouses more traditionally—they encounter one another, and can speak to one another. This can be grounds for them to form solidarity and organize locally and (trans)nationally against their alienating conditions, under their slogan of “we are not robots”. While workers must navigate both the legal frameworks of where they are located, and face off against Amazon, its anti-union stance and union-busting tactics—workers have time and time again demonstrated their different forms of protest, strikes and unionization for better wages and working conditions.

The terrain of the MTurk workers fundamentally differs given that the platform extends across borders and time zones, and workers do not encounter one another on the platform. Traditional forms of organizing and striking appear rather difficult when laboring for a web-based gig platform considering that their work is defined by its precarity and piece-nature. Once we move away from these understandings of solidarity and organization, we can identify alternative ways by which MTurk workers organize: across forums of Reddit like Turker Nation and workers’ run Turkopticon. Essentially, workers form and participate in online communities where they exchange tips and advice on how to navigate MTurk.

By examining more closely the shop floor level of Amazon warehouses and the digital shop floor of MTurk—it is possible to identify more clearly the working conditions and realities of these workers. We can thereby also grasp the ways by which platforms reproduce trends on the labor market (like precarity), but also produce new ones (like algorithmic management). Engaging with this is central to any contemporary discussions on labor and the future of work, as well as labor organization itself. It is essential to recognize the different ways these workforces organize traditionally and alternatively to push for better conditions. In doing so we too can identify ways by which to support the workers and push for better regulation.

To read more, see: Sarrah Kassem. Work and Alienation in the Platform Economy: Amazon and the Power of Organization. Bristol University Press, 2023.

Sarrah Kassem is Lecturer and Research Associate in Political Economy at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Tübingen. Her work focuses on workers in the platform economy and their different forms of labor organization.

Women hold up 76.2% of the sky / by Vijay Prashad

Billie Zangewa (Malawi), Ma Vie En Rose, 2015.

Originally published: Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research on April 6, 2023

There is no need to delve too deeply into statistical data when the findings are obvious. For instance, when women and men work at the same job, women are paid—on average—20 percent less than men. To raise awareness about this persistent disparity, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Women host the International Equal Pay Day every year on 18 September and, through their Equal Pay International Coalition, lobby corporations and governments to close the yawning gender pay gap. The idea of ‘equal pay for equal work’ was established in the ILO’s Equal Remuneration Convention (1951) in recognition of the fact that women had always worked in industrial factories, increasingly so during the Second World War. The convention adopted ‘the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value’, yet governments and the private sector have refused to follow suit.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an intensified focus on the health care sector, including health care workers, who were applauded universally as ‘essential workers’. In March 2021, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research published a dossierUncovering the Crisis: Care Work in the Time of Coronavirus, which reflected the views of women workers in the health care industry. Janet Mendieta of the Argentine Workers’ Central Union reflected on this idea of ‘essential work’:

First, they should recognise that we are essential workers, and then we should be recognised with wages for our work because we work much more than we should have to. We do a lot of work promoting gender equality and health, we work as cooks in canteens and in eateries, and none of this is recognised or made visible. If it isn’t made visible, it certainly won’t be recognised or remunerated.

| ALBA Movimientos is called Chrysalises Feminist Memories from Latin America and the Caribbean | MR Online

None of this is recognised, she said, neither during the height of the pandemic nor as we begin to drift out of it. In 2018, the ILO published an important reportCare Work and Care Jobs for the Future of Decent Work, that estimated that the value of unpaid care and domestic work amounts to 9 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or $11 trillion. In some countries the value is far higher, such as in Australia, where unpaid care and domestic work amounts to 41.3 percent of the GDP. Based on time-use survey data collected in 64 countries, the report found that 16.4 billion hours are spent on unpaid care work every day, with 76.2 percent of the total hours of unpaid care work carried out by women. In other words, the daily unpaid care work of women around the world is equivalent to having over 1.5 billion women working eight hours a day for no pay.

In July 2022, the ILO and World Health Organisation published another report on the pay gap, this time with an emphasis on the health care sector. Their reportThe Gender Pay Gap in the Health and Care Sector: A Global Analysis in the Time of COVID-19, established that, in the health and care sector, women earn on average up to 24 percent less than men. Despite women accounting for 67 percent of the jobs in this sector, only a small number of them work in upper management, and the gap between the wages of hospital administrators and nurses, for instance, only grows wider each year.

The report offers a number of explanations for this pay gap. Among them, it argues that women are paid less due to the ‘lower pay associated with highly feminised sectors and occupations’. Health care fields such as nursing are paid less than others not because of objectively lower skill levels, but due to their association with ‘women’s work’, which is routinely less valued across the world. Furthermore, the report points out that there is a ‘motherhood gap’ in pay, not often talked about but visible in statistical data and in the demands made by health care workers’ unions. There are low levels of part-time work in the health care industry, except for women in their late twenties and into their thirties, when, the report notes, ‘women have to either leave the labour market or reduce their working hours in order to balance work with unpaid caregiving for offspring’. When women leave the industry and return later or opt for part-time work, they do not get the promotions and wage raises that their male counterparts receive and therefore spend the rest of their work lives with lower wages than men who do the same work.

Bu Hua (China), Brave Diligent, 2014.

Women have fought against these social conditions for hundreds of years, and it was struggles led by women that established many of the international conventions on labour and on human rights. At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, we have been lifting up the stories of such struggles and the women who have led them. One of our latest publications, produced in collaboration with ALBA Movimientos, is called Chrysalises: Feminist Memories from Latin America and the Caribbean. Here, we shine a light on Nicaragua’s Arlen Siu (1955—1975), Brazil’s Dona Nina (b. 1949), and the Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Peasant Women of Bolivia (whose members are known as Las Bartolinas), founded in 1980. Each of these women and their organisations have been part of the global fight against the wretched social conditions of inequality.

It is women like Arlen, Dona Nina, and Las Bartolinas who drafted the World March of Women’s demands for economic autonomy. This week’s newsletter ends with their words, as they call for:

  • The rights of all workers (including vulnerable workers, such as domestic and migrant workers) to employment with safe and healthy working conditions, without harassment and in which their dignity is respected, throughout the world and without discriminations (nationality, sex, disability, etc.) of any kind.
  • The right to social security, involving income transfers in the case of sickness, disability, maternity and paternity leave, and retirement that permit women and men to have a decent quality of life.
  • Equal salaries for equal work for women and men, also taking into account the remuneration of work in rural areas.
  • A fair minimum wage (one that reduces the difference between the highest and lowest salaries and permits workers to support themselves and their families) instituted by law that serves as a reference for all paid work (public and private) and public social payments. The creation or strengthening of a policy of permanent valorisation of the minimum wage and common values for sub-regions or regions.
  • The strengthening of the solidarity economy with low interest credit, support for distribution and commercialisation, and exchange of local knowledge and practices.
  • Women’s access to land, seeds, water, primary materials, and all necessary support for production and commercialisation in agriculture, fishing, livestock rearing, and handicraft.
  • The reorganisation of domestic and care work so that the responsibility for this work is shared equally between men and women within a family or community. For this to become a reality, we demand the adoption of public policies for the support of social reproduction (such as crèches, collective laundries and restaurants, care for the elderly, etc), as well as a reduction in working hours without cuts in salaries.

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

Yoon Administration Takes Jeju Massacre Out of History Textbooks / by TK

Photo: “Flying Snow 비설”, a memorial statue in the Jeju April 3 Peace Park. Credit: Jeju Peace Foundation.

Originally published: The Blue Roof on 26 December 2022

Ministry of Education justified the move as “exploring the foundation of the Republic of Korea based on liberal democracy.”

After he was elected president in March, Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 was praised for being the first conservative president or president-elect to attend the memorial for the Jeju Massacre, also known as the April 3 Incident 4.3 사건. But just a few months later, the Yoon administration is on its way to removing discussion of the massacre from high school history books.

The Jeju Massacre is one of the most horrific acts of state violence in South Korean history. From 1947 to 1949, the Syngman Rhee 이승만 regime slaughtered as many as 30k civilians on the southern island of Jeju-do 제주도 at the behest of the United States. Under the pretext of rooting out communist insurrectionists, the Rhee dictatorship destroyed nearly 60% of Jeju’s villages and wiped out 10% of the entire island’s population. (See previous coverage, “Remembering the Jeju Massacre.”)

In 2015, the Ministry of Education 교육부 added the Jeju Massacre as one of the modern historical events that must be included in history textbooks. But in the “2022 Revised Educational Program 2022 개정교육과정” proposed by the Ministry, the Jeju Massacre was taken out as a mandatory element of learning. The Ministry said the revised guidelines were intended to “explore the foundation of the Republic of Korea based on liberal democracy,” and to simplify history education.

The Blue Roof is the first English language site dedicated solely to news and analysis of South Korean politics

On Why Capitalists Are Guilty of Social Murder / by Friedrich Engels

Friedrich Engels directing the construction of a barricade in the streets of Elberfeld during the riots of May 1849 in Prussia. (Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Originally published in Jacobin on November 28, 2022

In 1845, Friedrich Engels wrote a scathing condemnation of English capitalism, The Condition of the Working Class in England. In it, he accused the bosses of carrying out “social murder” against workers and the poor.

The following is an edited extract from Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in Englandfirst published in 1845. You can read the full text here.

Atown, such as London, where a man may wander for hours together without reaching the beginning of the end, without meeting the slightest hint which could lead to the inference that there is open country within reach, is a strange thing. This colossal centralization, this heaping together of two and a half millions of human beings at one point, has multiplied the power of this two and a half millions a hundredfold; has raised London to the commercial capital of the world, created the giant docks and assembled the thousand vessels that continually cover the Thames.

I know nothing more imposing than the view which the Thames offers during the ascent from the sea to London Bridge. The masses of buildings, the wharves on both sides, especially from Woolwich upwards, the countless ships along both shores, crowding ever closer and closer together, until, at last, only a narrow passage remains in the middle of the river, a passage through which hundreds of steamers shoot by one another; all this is so vast, so impressive, that a man cannot collect himself, but is lost in the marvel of England’s greatness before he sets foot upon English soil.

Friedrich Engels

But the sacrifices which all this has cost become apparent later. After roaming the streets of the capital a day or two, making headway with difficulty through the human turmoil and the endless lines of vehicles, after visiting the slums of the metropolis, one realizes for the first time that these Londoners have been forced to sacrifice the best qualities of their human nature, to bring to pass all the marvels of civilization which crowd their city; that a hundred powers which slumbered within them have remained inactive, have been suppressed in order that a few might be developed more fully and multiply through union with those of others. The very turmoil of the streets has something repulsive, something against which human nature rebels. The hundreds of thousands of all classes and ranks crowding past each other, are they not all human beings with the same qualities and powers, and with the same interest in being happy? And have they not, in the end, to seek happiness in the same way, by the same means?

And still they crowd by one another as though they had nothing in common, nothing to do with one another, and their only agreement is the tacit one, that each keep to his own side of the pavement, so as not to delay the opposing streams of the crowd, while it occurs to no man to honor another with so much as a glance. The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest, becomes the more repellent and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together, within a limited space.

And, however much one may be aware that this isolation of the individual, this narrow selfseeking, is the fundamental principle of our society everywhere, it is nowhere so shamelessly barefaced, so self-conscious as just here in the crowding of the great city. The dissolution of mankind into monads, of which each one has a separate principle, the world of atoms, is here carried out to its utmost extreme.

Hence it comes, too, that the social war, the war of each against all, is here openly declared. Just as in Stirner’s recent book [The Ego and Its Own], people regard each other only as useful objects; each exploits the other, and the end of it all is that the stronger treads the weaker under foot; and that the powerful few, the capitalists, seize everything for themselves, while to the weak many, the poor, scarcely a bare existence remains.

What is true of London, is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, is true of all great towns. Everywhere barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand, and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man’s house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law, and all so shameless, so openly avowed that one shrinks before the consequences of our social state as they manifest themselves here undisguised, and can only wonder that the whole crazy fabric still hangs together.

Since capital, the direct or indirect control of the means of subsistence and production, is the weapon with which this social warfare is carried on, it is clear that all the disadvantages of such a state must fall upon the poor. For him no man has the slightest concern. Cast into the whirlpool, he must struggle through as well as he can. If he is so happy as to find work, i.e., if the bourgeoisie does him the favor to enrich itself by means of him, wages await him which scarcely suffice to keep body and soul together; if he can get no work he may steal, if he is not afraid of the police, or starve, in which case the police will take care that he does so in a quiet and inoffensive manner.

During my residence in England, at least twenty or thirty persons have died of simple starvation under the most revolting circumstances, and a jury has rarely been found possessed of the courage to speak the plain truth in the matter. Let the testimony of the witnesses be never so clear and unequivocal, the bourgeoisie, from which the jury is selected, always finds some backdoor through which to escape the frightful verdict, death from starvation. The bourgeoisie dare not speak the truth in these cases, for it would speak its own condemnation. But indirectly, far more than directly, many have died of starvation, where long-continued want of proper nourishment has called forth fatal illness, when it has produced such debility that causes which might otherwise have remained inoperative brought on severe illness and death. The English workingmen call this “social murder,” and accuse our whole society of perpetrating this crime perpetually. Are they wrong?

True, it is only individuals who starve, but what security has the workingman that it may not be his turn tomorrow? Who assures him employment, who vouches for it that, if for any reason or no reason his lord and master discharges him tomorrow, he can struggle along with those dependent upon him, until he may find someone else “to give him bread”? Who guarantees that willingness to work shall suffice to obtain work, that uprightness, industry, thrift, and the rest of the virtues recommended by the bourgeoisie, are really his road to happiness?

No one. He knows that he has something today and that it does not depend upon himself whether he shall have something tomorrow. He knows that every breeze that blows, every whim of his employer, every bad turn of trade may hurl him back into the fierce whirlpool from which he has temporarily saved himself, and in which it is hard and often impossible to keep his head above water. He knows that, though he may have the means of living today, it is very uncertain whether he shall tomorrow . . .

Friedrich Engels was a German socialist instrumental to the development of Marxism

Haiti in the Caribbean: A political economy perspective on the urgent crisis of imperialism / by Tamanisha J. John

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, and former president Bill Clinton at opening of garment factory in Haiti on October 22, 2012 (Photo: Getty Pool)

Originally published in Black Agenda Report on November 23, 2022

Often, when you mention Haiti in conversation and the anti-imperial struggle that has consistently been waged by the Haitian people against imperialist forces for centuries, you are met with minor acknowledgement and some confusion by the listener. Even in cases where there are those who understand Haiti’s battle against imperialist interventions and incursions—many people are still unclear about: “why Haiti.” This is especially true in the present, where there exists a propagandized belief that there are no broader imperialist aspirations in the Caribbean, insofar as those interests cannot be tied to interests in Latin America, and especially to Cuba.  Persistent myths about Haiti and confusion about the nature of politics in the Caribbean have allowed systematic investigations into (neo) imperial enterprises in the broader region to go largely uninvestigated. This is all at the peril of failing to contextualize sustained foreign meddling in the Caribbean region and the consistent need by those forces for sustained violence to maintain their dominant position.

On November 10th, 2022 I was invited by the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) Haiti/Americas Team to participate as a panelist on a teach-in webinar discussing the urgent crisis of imperialism in Haiti. Although my invitation on the panel was to focus on the role of states like Jamaica in helping to facilitate imperialism and persistent intervention in Haiti, I spent a major part of my own analysis discussing “Why Haiti.’” This is because unlike most states in the Caribbean region—Haiti stands out as one that not only had a revolution, but one in which the rights and freedoms for all Black people were guaranteed. This is quite different from other states like Jamaica, for instance, whose radical and revolutionary fervor were cut short or co-opted by liberal reformists. Co-opted revolutionary defeat in the states which this occurred, has made those states’ exploitation amenable to strong political rhetoric and sustained conservative governance, especially as it relates to security. With a revolutionary history less forgiving towards co-option, Haiti poses a constant threat to European and Anglosphere economic and ideological investments and interests in the region. The analysis below comes from an extended version of my discussion on that day.

Today, there is an ongoing narrative—largely popularized by Europe and the Anglosphere (referred to collectively as “the West” from here on)—that Haiti is poor and that nothing good is in or comes out of Haiti. This lie is so persistent, that many people do not know that Haiti is the manufacturing hub in the Caribbean—and that Haiti continues to compete against countries in Asia for foreign corporations to set up shop to exploit cheap labor. While the manufacturing and assembly line exploitation in Asia are made much more readily available by Western media sources, less widely recognized is how these same exploitations also happen systematically in Haiti, perpetuated by foreign corporations and co-signed by local elites and political puppeteers to those interests. Component parts are shipped from the U.S. and Canada for assembly in Haiti, as finished products are reimported back to these developed countries, essentially duty-free, with a small charge or tax on the cheap labor used in Haiti.

This is expressly stated in U.S. tariff code 807, whereby in the 1980s, “the major part of the total duty-free content of item 807.00 imports from the principal Caribbean countries [included] almost 80 percent for the Dominican Republic, 60 percent for Haiti, and more than 90 percent for Costa Rica and Jamaica” (U.S. International Trade Commission, 1970). This same sort of exploitative trade policy that screws over workers also expresses itself in deals like NAFTA, wherein U.S. HTS 9802.00.80 allows for “a reduction in duties for articles assembled abroad in whole or in part of U.S. components” (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2014). Thus, when examining Haiti, what you essentially have is a nearby site in the Americas with cheap and exploited labor, that must remain so for external interests. Or, as Democratic representative William J. Green III stated in 1970, “item 807 merely promotes a competition between Hong Kong and Haiti for lower wage labor to serve this market—without building markets worldwide” (House of Representatives).

The distance to Haiti for states like Canada and the U.S. makes the costs of doing certain kinds of business cheaper there than in Asia. So, when popular talking points such as “Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas” are repeated—it is imperative to understand that what is really going on is that Haiti is made to have the lowest wages in the Americas, because Haiti is—and there is interests in keeping Haiti–the most exploited manufacturing hub in the Americas. It is not accidental that prior to the onset of the Global COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti was being touted as the future “manufacturing Taiwan of the Caribbean” due to the impacts of the 2010 Earthquake and the worsening of the cholera epidemic in the country due to UN intervention. Part of that potential—it is admitted—lay in the fact that Haiti is seen as “a low-wage economy lying just south of the huge U.S. market and just north of the emerging economies of Latin America” (Edwards, 2015). Not ironically pushing this narrative are the same corporate entities which have made Taiwan, in the present, a supplier of military and security gear to Haiti to suppress protests (Blanchard, 2022).

In order to maintain this situation and to strengthen aspirations for a continuous site of cheap exploitation, Haiti is the most intervened-in country in the hemisphere. Worst yet, when we consider interventions into Haiti by Canada, for example, we see how it has been enabled by Haiti’s own neighbors like Jamaica. In the 1990s when Aristide was first ousted from Haiti by a CIA-backed coup d’etat, weapons sent into Haiti from apartheid South Africa landed in Kingston first. After the second coup d’etat against Aristide in 2004, weapons sent to Haiti from South Africa yet again landed in Jamaica before being sent to Haiti—highlighting the crucial role of Jamaica as an arms shipment site into Haiti (BBC Caribbean, 2004).This reality is due to conservative governance in Jamaica which allies with Western imperialisms in its history of revolutionary suppression and liberal co-option. After all, it was Jamaican politicians who agreed to aid the U.S. in its invasion of Grenada in 1983—so it is not surprising that it was also Jamaica who, in the 1990s, pushed the call for multinational forces in Haiti after the coup. Today it is in Jamaica where Canada has its “Latin America and the Caribbean” military base, which specifies Haiti as a site for military intervention while using seaports and airports in Jamaica’s capital as its staging post.

While it is easy to dismiss Jamaica as a counterrevolutionary force in the region, understanding why Jamaica’s role is this way matters. The Jamaican Defense Forces were created in the interest of Western Capitalist Imperialisms in the Caribbean region, helping to stop Black rebellions and alleged burgeoning communisms. Shortly after independence, Jamaica allowed states like Canada to conduct espionage operations from Kingston against Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and other countries in which the West had a fear of growing communism or socialism (Maloney, 1988). Jamaica’s proximity to states like Haiti and Cuba has made it a strong historical, and present, ally of Western security objectives in the region, whereby Jamaica gets the most amount of military and security funding from external donors in the Caribbean. This is also why Jamaica’s security doctrine and mandates, including its stance on Haiti, are beholden to Western interests. While there is some nuance in this very brief and quick history, it helps to contextualize the present-day actions of Jamaica—as well as CARICOM (The Caribbean Community Market) as a whole. CARICOM’s stance on security actions cannot be discussed outside of the fact that 52% of its security funding, thus its security objectives and goals, are externally determined (Hoffman, 2020).

Jamaica, and other CARICOM states, while having the ability to espouse activist rhetoric often times are tied in the kinds of ensuing governmental actions that can be taken. While Haiti is exploited due to its resistance against imperialism, other countries in the region are subservient to Western capital and other elite interests which purport an unattainable dream of development—so long as they stay in their exploitable or minor reform friendly positions. After all, it was during Manley’s administration that Jamaica spied on its more radical regional neighbors. And it is during times of conservative governance where Jamaica experiences an increase in security funding, aids, and grants (the difference in this type of Western support is most clearly illustrated in comparing external support that Manley got versus Seaga).

Jamaica’s security history and its acceptance of a Canadian military base in its country (OSH-LAC), makes its political class a willing participant in ensuring Haiti remains under western occupation. Thus, when Canada calls on CARICOM to intervene in Haiti, we can expect Jamaica to be a leading force in that intervention—unless our opposition to it is vocal, as our understanding of the ‘why’ becomes clearer.

Tamanisha J. John is an Assistant Professor of International Political Economy in Clark Atlanta University’s Political Science Department. She studies Caribbean development, sovereignty and politics, as well as economic imperialism, financial exclusion, and corporate power.

MRonline, November, 28, 2022,

French ambassador: U.S. ‘rules-based order’ means Western domination, violating international law / by Ben Norton

France’s Ambassador to the US Gérard Araud with President Barack Obama in the White House in 2016

Originally published in Multipolarista on November 21, 2022

France’s former ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, has publicly criticized Washington, saying it frequently violates international law and that its so-called “rules-based order” is actually an unfair “Western order.”

The top French diplomat warned that the United States is engaged in “economic warfare” against China, and that Europe is concerned about Washington’s “containment policy,” because many European countries do not want to be forced to “choose a camp” in a new cold war.

Araud condemned U.S. diplomats for insisting that Washington must always be the “leader” of the world, and stressed that the West should work with other countries in the Global South, “on an equal basis,” in order “to find a compromise with our own interests.”

He cautioned against making “maximalist” demands, “of simply trying to keep the Western hegemony.”

Araud made these remarks in a November 14 panel discussion titled “Is America Ready for a Multipolar World?“, hosted by the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank in Washington, DC that advocates for a more restrained, less bellicose foreign policy.

Gérard Araud’s credentials could hardly be any more elite. A retired senior French diplomat, he served as the country’s ambassador to the United States from 2014 to 2019. From 2009 to 2014, he was Paris’ representative to the United Nations.

Before that, Araud served as France’s ambassador to Israel, and he previously worked with NATO.

He was also appointed as a “senior distinguished fellow” at the Atlantic Council, NATO’s notoriously belligerent think tank in Washington.

This blue-blooded background makes Araud’s frank comments even more important, as they reflect the feelings of a segment of the French ruling class and European political class, which is uncomfortable with Washington’s unipolar domination and wants power to be more decentralized in the world.

The ‘rules-based order’ is actually just a ‘Western order’

In a shockingly blunt moment in the panel discussion, Gérard Araud explained that the so-called “rules-based order” is actually just a “Western order,” and that the United States and Europe unfairly dominate international organizations like the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF):

To be frank, I’ve always been extremely skeptical about this idea of a ‘rules-based order.’

Personally, for instance, look, I was the permanent representative to the United Nations. We love the United Nations, but the Americans not too much, you know.

And actually when you look at the hierarchy of the United Nations, everybody there is ours. The Secretary General [António Guterres] is Portuguese. He was South Korean [Ban Ki-moon]. But when you look at all the under secretaries general, all of them really are either American, French, British, and so on. When you look at the World Bank, when you look at the IMF, and so on.

So that’s the first element: this order is our order.

And the second element is also that, actually, this order is reflecting the balance of power in 1945. You know, you look at the permanent members of the Security Council.

Really people forget that, if China and Russia are obliged to oppose [with] their veto, it is because frankly the Security Council is most of the time, 95% of the time, has a Western-oriented majority.

So this order frankly–and you can also be sarcastic, because, when the Americans basically want to do whatever they want, including when it’s against international law, as they define it, they do it.

And that’s the vision that the rest of the world has of this order.

You know really, when I was in–the United Nations is a fascinating spot, because you have ambassadors of all the countries, and you can have conversations with them, and the vision they project of the world, their vision of the world, is certainly not a ‘rules-based order’; it’s a Western order.

And they accuse us of double standards, hypocrisy, and so on and so on.

So I’m not sure that this question about the ‘rules’ is really the critical question.

I think the first assessment that we should do will be maybe, as we say in French, to put ourselves in the shoes of the other side, to try to understand how they see the world.

Araud argued that if the international community is serious about creating a “rules-based order,” it must entail “integrating all the major stakeholders into the managing of the world, you know really bringing the Chinese, the Indians, and really other countries, and trying to build with them, on an equal basis, the world of tomorrow.”

“That’s the only way,” he added. “We should really ask the Indians, ask the Chinese, the Brazilians, and other countries, really to work with us on an equal basis. And that’s something – it’s not only the Americans, also the Westerners, you know, really trying to get out of our moral high ground, and to understand that they have their own interests, that on some issues we should work together, on other issues we shouldn’t work together.”

“Let’s not try to rebuild the Fortress West,” he implored. “It shouldn’t be the future of our foreign policy.”

French diplomat criticizes U.S. new cold war on China

Gérard Araud revealed that, in Europe, there is “concern” that the United States has a “containment policy” against China.

“I think the international relationship will be largely dominated by the rivalry between China and the United States. And foreign policy I think in the coming years will be to find the modus vivendi … between the two powers,” he said.

He warned that Washington is engaged in “economic warfare” against Beijing, that the U.S. is trying “basically to cut any relationship with China in the field of advanced chips, which is sending a message of, ‘We are going to try to prevent you from becoming an advanced economy.’ It’s really, it’s economic warfare.”

“Really on the American side is the development of economic warfare against China. It’s really cutting, making impossible cooperation in a very important, critical field, for the future of the Chinese economy,” he added.

Araud pointed out that China is not just “emerging”; it is in fact “re-emerging” to a prominent geopolitical position, like it had for hundreds of years, before the rise of European colonialism.

He stressed that many countries in Asia don’t want to be forced to pick a side in this new cold war, and are afraid of becoming a zone of proxy conflicts like Europe was in the first cold war:

Asia doesn’t want to be the Europe of the Cold War. They don’t want to have a bamboo curtain. They don’t want to choose their camp.

Australia has chosen its camp, but it’s a particular case. But Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, they don’t want to choose their camp, and we shouldn’t demand they choose their camp.

So we need to have a flexible policy of talking to the Chinese, because talking is also a way of reassuring them, trying to understand their interests, also to define our interests not in a maximalist way, of simply trying to keep the Western hegemony.

Araud challenged the idea that the United States must be the unipolar “leader” of the world, stating:

The Americans entered the world, in a sense, being already the big boy on the block. In 1945, it was 40% of the world’s GDP.

Which also may explain what is American diplomacy. The word of American diplomats, the word of American diplomacy is ‘leadership.’

Really, it’s always striking for foreigners, as soon as there is a debate about American foreign policy, immediately people say, ‘We have to restore our leadership.’ Leadership. And other countries may say, ‘Why leadership?’

West must ‘try to see the world from Beijing’

Gérard Araud similarly criticized Western media outlets for their cartoonishly negative coverage of China. The top French diplomat called on officials to “try to see the world from Beijing”:

When you look at the European or Western newspapers, you have the impression that China is a sort of a dark monster which is moving forward, never committing a mistake, never really facing any problem, and going to the domination of the world–you know, the Chinese work 20 hours a day, they don’t want a vacation, they don’t care, they want to dominate the world.

Maybe that if we will try to see the world from Beijing, really we will consider certainly that all the borders of China are more or less unstable, or threatened, or facing unfriendly countries, and that’s from the Chinese point of view.

Maybe they want to improve their situation. It doesn’t mean that we have to accept it, but maybe to see, to remember, that any defensive measure of one side is always seen as offensive by the other side.

So let’s understand that China has its own interests. You know, even dictatorships have legitimate interests. And so let’s look at these interests, and let’s try to find a compromise with our own interests.

Araud went on to point out that the U.S. government is constantly militarily threatening China, sending warships across the planet to its coasts, but would never for a second tolerate Beijing doing the same to it:

When I was in Washington, just after the [hawkish anti-China] speech of Vice President Pence to the Hudson [Institute] in October 2018, I met a lot of specialists on China in Washington, DC, but when I was trying to tell them, you know, your [U.S.] ships are patrolling at 200 miles from the Chinese coast, at 5000 miles from the American coast, what would be your reaction if Chinese ships were patrolling at 200 miles from your coast?

And obviously my interlocutors didn’t understand what I meant. And that’s the question, you know, really trying to figure out what are the reasonable interests of the other side.

Araud stressed that China “is not a military threat” to the West.

French diplomat: Western sanctions on Russia are causing us to ‘inflict pain on ourselves’

With this new cold war between the United States and China, Gérard Araud explained, “in this context, Russia is a bit like Austria-Hungary with Germany before the First World War, is a bit doomed to be the ‘brilliant second’ of China.”

While Araud harshly denounced Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, he also criticized the Western sanctions on Moscow, which he cautioned, “on the European side, it is inflicting to ourselves some pain.”

He warned that Europe is in a “dead end” with Russia, “because as long as the war in Ukraine will go on, and my bet unfortunately is that it may go on for a long time, it will be impossible for the Europeans, and the Americans in a sense, but also for the Europeans to end the sanctions on Russia, which means that our relationship with Russia may be frozen for an indefinite future.”

“And I think it’s very difficult to have diplomatic activity [with Russia] in this situation,” he added.

You can watch the full panel discussion hosted by the Quincy Institute below:

MRonline, November 23, 2022,

Burning of Odessas House of Trade Unions Building on May 2, 2014 / By Jeremy Kuzmarov

Burning of Odessa’s House of Trade Unions Building on May 2, 2014.

“The once bright city became gloomy and sad:” survivor of 2014 Odessa Massacre reflects back on tragedy.

On May 2, 2014, at least 48 people were killed when right-wing Ukrainian forces burned down the Trade Unions Building in Odessa. The victims had taken refuge in the building after opposing the February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine that was backed by the U.S. State Department.

Eight years after the massacre, the International Action Center, a New York-based anti-war group founded by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, hosted a public commemoration that included testimony from a survivor named Alexey who currently lives in Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

Alexey spoke movingly about his friend and comrade, Andrey Brezevsky, who was beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs with a metal bar after he jumped out of the Trade Unions Building to escape the fire.

Brezevsky’s mother, after her son’s death, lost her teaching position at a local university after being denounced by right-wing groups.

Alexey emphasized that none of the perpetrators of the Odessa massacre was ever punished. In the aftermath of the atrocity, neo-Nazi groups mocked and persecuted the relatives of the victims, like Alexey’s mother.

Memorial to victims of the Odessa Trade Unions Building massacre. [Photo:]

The once bright city became “gloomy and sad,” Alexey said. The massacre had not happened by accident, but was a “planned act of intimidation” by Ukraine’s post-coup government. It was “designed to intimidate the opposition [and] was an act of political terrorism perpetrated by the Ukrainian state targeting unarmed civilians [the victims in the fire were all unarmed].”

Alexey believes that the power of the Nazis will soon come to an end in Ukraine. He said that now “they are dying every day. The Russians are destroying these murderers, and rapists and justice will prevail. The people guilty of the Odessa trade union massacre will finally be brought to justice.”

“A Human Rights Disaster”

Leonid Ilderkin, a Ukrainian communist in exile and member of the coordination council of the Union of Political Refugees and Political Prisoners of Ukraine, followed Alexey, stating that Ukraine has become a “human rights disaster” following the 2014 Maidan coup.

Leonid Ilderkin. [Photo:]

Since that time, the Ukrainian government under Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky have tried to demolish all types of political opposition and to hunt down everyone who does not like them.

The CIA, it should be noted, has assisted in these latter operations and helped to produce blacklists that are used to pinpoint dissidents for arrest.

The unrest led not only to the coup ousting pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych but the resurrection of Nazi ideals in the country, resulting in this situation where anyone who is progressive and on the left of the political spectrum is being hunted down.

Ilderkin said that he was a witness to the protests in Maidan Square which began in November 2013, and saw the kinds of groups that were supporting them.

Petro Poroshenko, left, Volodymyr Zelensky, right. [Photo:]

According to Ilderkin, the Odessa massacre followed a pattern of state repression that was also exemplified by the crushing of demonstrations after the 2014 coup in Mariupol, Odessa and Zaporizhzhia, where the people almost took back control from the central government.

Kyiv army bringing in tanks and shooting at civilians in Mariupol on May 9, 2014. [Photo:]

OnMay 9, 2014, seven days after the burning of the Odessa Trade Unions Building, an unknown number of unarmed demonstrators were shot and killed by state security forces and neo-Nazi militias in a massacre that was never reported on in the West.

The resistance to the new regime, Ilderkin said, was more successful in Donetsk and Luhansk, where armed struggle developed.

Which Side Are You On?

Besides fueling state repression and civil conflict, the disastrous 2014 coup, according to Ilderkin, brought in leaders—Poroshenko and Zelensky—who have demolished workers’ rights and accelerated Ukraine’s deindustrialization.

Far from being a beacon of democracy as is presented in the U.S. and Western media, Ukraine is a police state where people considered disloyal to the regime are arrested and then vanish—no one knows where they are taken. The Azov Battalion is only one of many group of Nazi regiments which constitute the core of the Ukrainian army.

Ilderkin compared the Ukrainian army today to the morally bankrupt armies that fought with U.S. forces under the puppet Lon Nol regime in Cambodia and Thieu-Ky governments in South Vietnam during the Indochina War.

Azov Battalion troops. [Photo:]

Ilderkin asked audience members: Who are you going to support: the South Vietnamese or Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam?

Zelensky, he said, is like Lon Nol—who courted Western intervention that destroyed his country. Another similarity is to General Francisco Franco and the Fascist forces in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Ilderkin ended his talk by asking the audience: Which side are you on?

Indeed, which side are you on?

Jeremy Kuzmarov ( is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of The Russians Are Coming, Again, with John Marciano (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

MRonline, May 16, 2022,

A failure to review America’s nuclear posture / by Joe Cirincione

Originally published: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on October 28, 2022

President Joe Biden has passed on his best chance to operationalize his stated goal of reducing the role in U.S. security policy of America’s more than 5,400 nuclear weapons with the public release on October 27 of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

Biden is now the 14th president over eight decades to attempt to reconcile the risks that derive from nuclear deployments with the demands of deterrence. He has discovered how difficult this can be.

Biden’s NPR adjusts nuclear policy and programs at the margins while making no significant changes to the Pentagon’s budgets and deployments. It endorsed dozens of nuclear-weapons programs that will cost an estimated $634 billion over this decade, according to a May 2021 assessment from the Congressional Budget Office. Including in that estimate missile defense programs, weapons programs added after the Congress report and expected inflation could bring the cost to almost $1 trillion per decade for several decades to come.

This includes proceeding with a new land-based, long-range missile rushed toward production in the last months of the Trump administration without examining less expensive and less dangerous alternatives to its production. That project alone could cost $264 billion overall.

This failure is not unique to Biden. Every president in the nuclear age has struggled to control the weapons supposedly under his sole authority. Primarily this is because U.S. nuclear posture is not a rational response to an external threat environment. It is driven by those who see nuclear superiority as a tool of global power, those who use nuclear security as a wedge issue in partisan politics, and by those powerful arms corporations that realize vast profits from manufacturing, marketing, and maintaining these deadly arsenals.

The question is complicated by a process that gives those most interested in continuing nuclear programs the authority to write the policy governing these weapons. The Pentagon controls the pen. Biden appears to have concluded that it is too costly in political terms to fight for his views, which included repeated statements that the United States has no need to ever use a nuclear weapon first. He has let the Pentagon dictate his strategy rather than challenge a bureaucracy resisting any alteration of current programs and doctrine.

Elsewhere, I have detailed how a safer, more rational nuclear policy could have included, among other steps, reducing the number of deployed strategic warheads by one-third, to about 1,000, taking nuclear-armed missiles off hair-trigger alert, embracing no first use or sole purpose doctrines, and requiring an additional senior official to authorize launch. Pacts such as AUKUS that encourage the spread of nuclear weapons technology must also be rethought.

But consideration of these and other steps were effective excluded early in the process when the Defense Department fired then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Leanor Tomero, whom Biden had placed in charge of nuclear and missile defense policy and who had been pressing, following Biden’s presidential guidance, for consideration of some of the alternatives. According to knowledgeable sources, Pentagon staff complained to Republican staff on the Senate Armed Services Committee that Tomero wasn’t sufficiently supportive of “nuclear modernization”—the euphemism for the mountain of contracts that drive the nuclear posture.

Tomero was an early casualty of an entrenched nuclear bureaucracy fiercely protective of its contracts, secrecy, and privilege. As American University Professor Sharon Weiner wrote: “The nuclear weapons establishment will limit choice by presenting everything as an interlocking set of military requirements instead of multiple options for meeting deterrence goals.” She was right.

As Weiner predicted and the NPR reflects,

These options will likely allow, at best, only narrow deviations from the status quo.

President Bill Clinton was the first to issue an NPR in 1994; Biden should be the last. Policy should flow from the White House to executing departments, not the reverse. Let this be the end of a flawed, inadequate, and dangerous nuclear posture review process.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists equips the public, policymakers, and scientists with the information needed to reduce man-made threats to our existence.