Paper to be delivered on the occasion of the
6th Naorem Sanajaoba Memorial Lecture
30th December 2016
at Imphal, Manipur (India)
Drafted by Paul Quintos and Malcolm Guy
Of the International League of People’s Struggle
As this paper is being written and updated in early December 2016, the US President-elect Donald Trump is selecting his cabinet of billionaires and multi-millionaires and trying to decide which of his many often-bewildering promises he will actually keep.
As the cabinet choices show, despite some hypocritical criticisms of the “elite” and big bankers, this will be business as usual for the world’s No. 1 superpower as it steps up its aggressive anti-people policies. Such policies, both within the US and globally, will simply be carried out more blatantly and in your face by a billionaire businessman and his Wall Street buddies without the “liberal” veneer provided by outgoing African American President Barack Obama and the unsuccessful Democratic Presidential woman candidate, Hillary Clinton.
It is direct rule by a capitalist for the capitalist class, of a billionaire for the billionaires, without the necessity of relying on the smokescreen of an Obama or Clinton.
Clinton, by the way, if her record and pronouncements were anything to go by, including supporting a “no fly zone in Syria,” would have been just as, if not more, aggressive and militaristic than Trump. As Julian Assange notes, “Under Hillary Clinton, the world’s largest ever arms deal was made with Saudi Arabia, [worth] more than $80 billion. In fact, during her tenure as Secretary of State, total arms exports from the United States in terms of the dollar value, doubled.”
And as for Obama, among other things he perfected drone warfare, embarked on a $1 trillion nuclear modernization program, gave even more money to the Zionist state of Israel, all the while deporting hundreds of thousands at home and further militarizing police forces that have proceeded to gun down working people, especially black men, in record numbers.
The US is a superpower in decline, as was illustrated in large part by the US elite’s inability to ensure the election of Clinton and their now desperate attempts to “normalize” and legitimize this foul-mouthed and more transparent fellow member of the ruling elite. The disarray among factions of the US elite has led to accusations of voting manipulation and serious calls for a recount.
As Trump reveals, a fading superpower can be even more dangerous and reactionary and the possibilities of a true fascistic regime, in which US imperialism completely sheds its democratic shell and the true face of the capitalist class dictatorship is exposed, like that of Hitler in the 1930s, remains extremely high.
Besides the election of Trump, 2016 has been a major year for events exposing the profound and deepening crisis of imperialism. These include the 52-48 BREXIT decision to support the exit of Britain from the European Union, the devastating purges, arrests and detentions of opponents and critics of NATO-ally and strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey following a failed military coup, the widening chaos in Libya, the prolonged migration crisis, as well as the dead-end COP discussions as the globe faces an unmitigated climate crisis.
As if to exemplify the growing divide between rich and poor and North and South as 2016 draws to a close, while countless millions of the world’s toiling people mourned the loss of a beloved and respected revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, the ruling elites in the US and their imperialist allies (including Canada’s “pretty boy” Justin Trudeau) boycotted Castro’s funeral.
It’s currently 3 minutes to midnight according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. By that they mean the world is as close as it has ever been to the brink of nuclear holocaust that threatens humanity’s very existence.
If we go by the mainstream press who parrot every lie and spin from Washington and Brussels, the enemy of peace is clearly Russia for annexing Crimea, for propping up a murderous regime in Syria, even for hacking Clinton’s emails in order to influence the outcomes of the US elections. Iran is another war-mongering state that threatens world peace by attempting to develop nuclear weapons and for supporting other evil regimes in the region.
In truth, as John Pilger wrote in May 2016, “In the last eighteen months, the greatest build-up of military forces since World War Two — led by the United States — is taking place along Russia’s western frontier. Not since Hitler invaded the Soviet Union have foreign troops presented such a demonstrable threat to Russia. What makes the prospect of nuclear war even more dangerous is a parallel US campaign against China.”
US-led militarization and war
Pilger points out that it is the US “that has attacked and sought to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democracies, and bombed from Asia to the Middle East, causing the deaths and dispossession of millions of people. (And) most of America’s wars (almost all of them against defenseless countries) have been launched not by Republican presidents but by liberal Democrats: Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.”
“Donald Trump is a symptom of this, but he is also a maverick. He says the invasion of Iraq was a crime; he doesn’t want to go to war with Russia and China.” As a result, Pilger, in an article written before the US elections, quite rightly points out the dangers of a Hillary Clinton. “She is no maverick. She embodies the resilience and violence of a system whose vaunted ‘exceptionalism’ is totalitarian with an occasional liberal face.”
Indeed, under Trump, as under Obama, US imperialism stands as the principal purveyor of militarism and war, and the biggest destabilizing factor in the world today. The protracted economic crisis of the global capitalist system has impelled US imperialism to become ever more aggressive in controlling more territory as sources of raw materials and low-cost labor, as captive markets and supply routes, and as launching pads for projecting military force overseas. Its aim is “full-spectrum dominance” of the entire planet.
The US also sees the emergence of new powers such as Russia and China as a threat to its global hegemony. The US is worried by the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alliance to counter the US-NATO alliance, as well as the establishment of the BRICS economic bloc made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China is also pursuing its own regional trade accord, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which excludes the United States.
To preserve its global dominance the US has proceeded to unleash wars of terror throughout the world under the guise of waging a global war “on terror”. Over the last 15 years the US and its allies have bombed, invaded or occupied at least seven countries. In 2015, the US officially dropped over 22,000 bombs, including drone strikes, on Iraq and Syria alone, an average of over 60 bombs per day.
As a result, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other countries the terrorist groups that were supposedly the targets of these US-led attacks have grown in number and spread even farther. The fundamental failure of these policies has led to what writer Samir Amin calls the “empire of chaos”.
The US military has trained and armed surrogate armies and paramilitary groups including jihadists such as Al Qaeda and the Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) to attack or destabilize countries not aligned with US imperialist designs in the oil-rich region of West and Central Asia and North Africa.
Together with its NATO allies, the Zionist State of Israel and the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the US has deliberately stoked sectarian divisions within the region and has sought to destroy or weaken any regime that upholds the cause of national independence and self-determination of the Arab peoples. The specific aim to dismember and balkanize Syria, for example, was confirmed in a recently declassified August 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency report. Washington also just committed $38 billion over the next decade to sustain Israel’s apartheid policies and brutal occupation of Palestine.
The US-led war for oil in the Greater Middle East has resulted in the deaths and injury of millions in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and of course Libya.
Across the African continent, US-led militarization has escalated over the last two administrations of Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush, Jr. and will undoubtedly continue under Trump. The founding of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in early 2008 has led to instability and displacement on the continent.
As Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor of the Pan-African News Wire (Nov. 2016) points out: “The bombing of Libya under false pretenses, its destabilization and brutal assassination of longtime leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi can still be felt. (…) Today Libya has become a major source of human trafficking and flight from the African continent across the Mediterranean into Europe. Pentagon bombing operations are being conducted on a daily basis in this North African state. Several attempts by Washington and its allies to create a stable neo-colonial dominated regime in Tripoli have failed miserably. (…)
“In the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, a burgeoning military base at Camp Lemonier is serving as a staging ground for an ongoing air and ground campaign under the guise of fighting ‘Islamic terrorism’ in Somalia. The Republic of Sudan, once the largest geographic nation-state in Africa, was partitioned at the aegis of Washington in order to undermine the emerging country’s oil industry that was in partnership with the People’s Republic of China.”
Crimes against humanity
US, NATO and allied forces have committed the most despicable crimes against humanity such as the massacre of civilians, torture and murder of prisoners of war and the use of weapons of mass destruction. US forces have used white phosphorus bombs and depleted uranium ammunition banned under international conventions for causing painful deaths and cancer among the affected population.
These wars of aggression and proxy wars using jihadist groups have leveled towns, villages and industrial centres, wrecked civilian infrastructure such as dams, bridges, hospitals, schools, energy facilities, historical sites, churches and mosques, etc. 80% of casualties of these wars have been civilians, including women, children and the elderly.
According to a report released in 2015 by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, at least one million Iraqis were killed between 2003 and 2012 as a direct result of the US invasion and occupation. That same study found that at least 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as the result of the so-called “War on Terror” waged in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. (Testimony presented at the People’s Tribunal on Iraq held on December 1-2, 2016, in Washington D.C.)
And these figures do not include the more than 12 million people displaced from their homes, which has resulted in the largest stream of refugees since World War II – straining the governments of neighboring countries and Europe where they have become targets for rising xenophobic and racist attacks.
Young Americans sacrificed
The US is the biggest military spender in the world. In 2012, its military spending of US$ 711 billion dwarfed those of the next 2 big spenders: China with US$ 166 billion and Russia with US$ 91 billion.
In 2015, the US spent close to 600 billion dollars – accounting for 37 percent of total world military spending and more than the combined amount spent by the next nine biggest military spenders. Its resort to a kind of military Keynesianism with stepped up production by the military/industrial complex to create jobs and economic activity back home has not checked but has accelerated its strategic decline and served to aggravate its economic and political crisis. Faced with its own debilitating economic difficulties, the US has begun pressuring its NATO allies to increase their military spending and contribution to NATO.
A new arms race has commenced between the US, Russia and China to develop hypersonic missiles, new drones, anti-satellite systems and tactical nuclear weapons to enhance the pre-emptive first-strike capabilities of their respective armed forces. The Obama government has green lighted the spending of 1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” all aspects of its nuclear arsenal. The US also leads the world in arms sales. Super profits for US corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and General Dynamics skyrocket together with the spread of death and destruction.
While burning obscene amounts for war, an estimated US$ 3 trillion for the war on Iraq alone, the US government denies needed social services in health and education for the American people, and to come to the aid of refugees fleeing from US wars and policies.
Young Americans, especially people of color and the unemployed, have been sacrificed in these wars of aggression overseas. The US government has admitted that 4,448 US soldiers died and 32,221 of them were injured in the Iraq war. Many of the US soldiers who survive these wars suffer from post-traumatic brain injury and post trauma disability.
Washington’s European NATO allies, meanwhile, have suffered the blowback from their support of the US wars of aggression in the Middle-East/West Asia with the terrorist bombings in Paris and Brussels that have victimized civilians and created an atmosphere of terror among the people.
As the terrorism that imperialist countries have exported comes home to roost, these states also become even more repressive at home by enacting more laws and regulations that curtail civil liberties, increasing mass surveillance, and militarizing the police and border controls. Across the US, for example, heavily armed Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are forcing their way into working people’s homes in the middle of the night, often deploying explosive devices such as flashbang grenades to temporarily blind and deafen residents, simply to serve a search warrant on the suspicion that someone may be in possession of a small amount of drugs.
US expands global military boot print
Despite the massive military setbacks and growing resistance, US militarism is now further intensifying as it sets its aim at other imperialist powers, placing humanity in ever-greater peril.
The US is expanding its global military boot print by establishing a new network of bases in countries stretching from Africa to East Asia. There are now more than 800 US bases overseas in more than 70 countries – compared to no more than 30 foreign military bases for all other countries combined, mostly owned by US allies such as France and the UK.
US overseas facilities include at least four new large-scale bases or “hubs” plus a greater number of smaller camps and “lily pads” which serve as “spokes” to house drones, surveillance aircraft, or pre-positioned weaponry and supplies for US troops and other military personnel present in about 160 foreign countries and territories. The new bases network – along with the US Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers – will provide more launching pads for US military intervention, destabilization and aggression as well as intelligence activities and counter-insurgency operations in all corners of the planet.
Even before Hillary Clinton announced the US’ Strategic Pivot to Asia in 2011, the US navy has been stepping up military exercises as well as provocative air and sea- based surveillance and patrol activities near Chinese borders – raising the risk of direct confrontations and war escalation in the Asia-Pacific region. It has also imposed blockades and military provocation against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
While targeting DPRK’s (North Korea) nuclear program, the US continues to stock nuclear weapons in South Korea. The US was the first-user of atomic weapons against civilian populations in Japan at the close of World War II and President Obama refused to issue an “unequivocal no-first-use pledge.” (Counterpunch)
The US is using South Korea as the launch pad for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system, known as THAAD, ostensibly aimed at North Korea, but really targeting China.
In The Coming War with China, John Pilger writes: “Across the East China Sea lies the Korean island of Jeju, a semi- tropical sanctuary and World Heritage Site declared ‘an island of world peace’. On this island of world peace has been built one of the most provocative military bases in the world, less than 400 miles from Shanghai. The fishing village of Gangjeong is dominated by a South Korean naval base purpose-built for US aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and destroyers equipped with the Aegis missile system, aimed at China.”
The nearby Japanese island of Okinawa has 32 military installations, from which Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq have previously been attacked by the United States. Today, the principal target is China.
No room for progressive governments in the US backyard
In Latin America, the US has been supporting local oligarchs and right-wing politicians since 2002 in their relentless campaign to overthrow the Bolivarian government in Venezuela. It has directed or sponsored coup d’états in Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras, Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil to reassert its control over the Americas and reverse the advances of “leftist” or progressive governments in the region since the turn of the century.
With Fidel Castro gone, the US will step up its ongoing attempt to overthrow the socialist government in Havana, which provides a beacon of hope throughout the Americas and the world, and stands as proof that you can stand up to the monster. The US was forced to admit its deadly decades-long embargo has been unsuccessful. The US has thus been forced to start negotiating and opening up ties with the Cuban government, but to date has refused to remove the embargo.
Despite US policies, Cuba provides quality healthcare and education to its people, unlike the US where both are a privilege of income. Castro’s legacy has been to put the needs of working people first and to provide a quality of life far beyond that of the neighbouring island nations of Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, each of which has been subjected to devastating imperialist intervention.
This is why Obama’s pronouncements during his trip to the island, and Trump’s parroting of the same mantras of “democracy and human rights”, reveals astounding arrogance. They are the incoming and outgoing Presidents of the No. 1 imperialist country which at war with the world’s working peoples, that continues to occupy Cuban territory through the US base and prison at Guantanamo, and which imprisons a full quarter of the entire world’s prison population, disproportionately comprising blacks and other minorities.
Protracted crisis of the global capitalist system
Underlying this trend towards US-led militarism and war is the protracted crisis of the global capitalist system.
The global financial and economic crisis, which erupted in 2007-2008, has persisted. Even bourgeois economists and financial analysts now acknowledge that the global economy has not really recovered.
The present third wave of the crisis is centered in the so-called “emerging economies” with the end of debt-driven growth in China, the end of the commodities boom for raw material exporting countries such as Brazil and South Africa, and capital flight from developing countries as a whole.
The results of the measures taken in relation to the crisis are paving the way to greater and more dangerous convulsions. Bank bailouts and the ultra-loose monetary policy adopted by the imperialist central banks have put more money in the hands of the financial oligarchy but has inflated global debt by US$ 57 trillion in just eight years from 2007. Global debt is now over US$ 200 trillion and growing at a much faster pace than global GDP. This unpayable debt is the ticking time bomb that is inevitably going to explode and plunge the world into another and more severe financial seizure.
Meanwhile, the richest 62 monopoly capitalists in the world have increased their stock of wealth by US$ 542 billion since 2010 while the most exploited 3.6 billion people have lost US$ 1 trillion over the same period. The official figures show joblessness is at an all-time high of 200 million people globally, with another three million expected to join the ranks of the unemployed over the next two years.
Among those employed, precarious conditions of work are now the norm even in the biggest and wealthiest monopoly firms. For instance, only 6% of the total workforce of the top 50 global corporations is recognized as direct employees while the rest are hired as short-term contractual workers or informal workers. More workers are also forced to seek employment abroad, adding to the 150 million plus global migrant work-force. Monopoly capitalists are dismantling workers’ rights previously won through the heroic struggles of the labor movement, including the right to a living wage, social benefits, job security, the eight-hour workday, and safe working conditions.
Never satisfied, the monopoly bourgeoisie is carrying out a new wave of neoliberal offensives aiming to increase profits amidst crisis conditions. They are implementing more severe austerity measures and labor flexibilisation; privatizing the public sector and the commons most prominently in the form of land grabs; deepening the denationalization and compradorisation of third world economies by extending the global supply chains of their monopoly firms; and strengthening protections for monopoly-capitalist property and profits, especially by extending intellectual property rights over technologies and knowledge.
In behalf of monopoly firms and local elites in their countries, imperialist states have been competing to rewrite international and national legal systems and regulations through trade and investment agreements such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Economic Partnership Agreements and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They include institutionalizing mechanisms for Investor-State Dispute Settlement that grants de facto veto power to multinational corporations over regulations or reforms that governments might adopt under increasing popular pressures for immediate relief and reforms amidst the crisis.
Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the TPPA and TTIP in the face of rising popular resistance to these imperialist trade deals. But this is fundamentally a smokescreen. In future many such deals could be forged bilaterally as opposed to multilaterally. Trump will push to grant the major US corporations the right to veto other governments, and continue efforts to open up other economies to US imperialist monopoly interests, while granting the major corporations tax holidays and handouts at home while facilitating their right to attack workers.
This can be attested by the soaring value of stocks of some of the world’s biggest and deadliest corporations – arms, fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals – in the wake of the Trump election.
All these can only be expected to further impoverish the toiling masses of the world, increase the concentration and over accumulation of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie, and exacerbate the crisis of overproduction that neoliberalism was intended to resolve in the first place.
Breaching planetary boundaries
Meanwhile, the election of Trump and continuing control of the global economy by the oil, gas and coal barons and their elected fossil fuel supporters has the world facing an ecological catastrophe of the highest degree.
As commentator Tom Engelhardt writes: “With both the CIA’s coup-making and the military’s regime-change traditions in mind, could the United States also overthrow a planet? If, as the head of what’s already the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, Trump carries out the future energy policies he promised during the election campaign — climate-science funding torn up, climate agreements denounced or ignored, alternative energy development downplayed, pipelines green-lighted, fracking and other forms of fossil-fuel extraction further encouraged, and the US fully reimagined as the Saudi Arabia of North America — he will, in effect, be launching a regime-change action against Planet Earth.”
Of course Trump is not alone, just more transparent. Canada’s so-called “progressive” government of Justin Trudeau, who came to power on the promise of climate justice and a new relationship with indigenous people, has just green-lighted two major pipeline developments, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Project and Enbridge Line 3 Replacement. These will massively increase the extraction of dirty oil from the Alberta Tar Sands, endangering the mainly indigenous as well as other communities along its route with pipeline leaks, explosions and ship wrecks, and rendering it impossible for Canada to respect its climate change promises made in Paris.
In the wake of events unfolding in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told business leaders that Canada is prepared to deploy the military against anti-pipeline actions deemed “not to be peaceful,” raising the possibility the country could face a scenario last seen during the Oka Crisis in 1990. Business as usual also for Canadian imperialism.
As people around the globe stand up for planet earth and environmental justice, the imperialist offensive is already “not peaceful”.
At least 185 environmental activists were killed in 2015, the highest annual death toll on record. Global Witness documented lethal attacks in 16 countries. Brazil was worst hit with 50 deaths, many of them killings of campaigners who were trying to combat illegal logging in the Amazon. The Philippines was second with 33. Colombia had 26 fatal attacks; Peru, 12; Nicaragua, 12; and Democratic Republic of Congo had 11.
“As demand for products like minerals, timber and palm oil continues, governments, companies and criminal gangs are seizing land in defiance of the people who live on it,” said Billy Kyte, a senior campaigner for Global Witness and author of the report. “Communities that take a stand are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers. For every killing we document, many others go unreported.”
The most deadly industry to protest against was mining, with 42 deaths in 2015 related to anti-mining activities. Agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and logging were also key drivers of violence, and many of the murders occurred in remote villages deep within rainforests.
Workers and peoples resistance
But despite the repression, the people continue to resist and fight back, even in the heart of the beast.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets across the US immediately following the announcement of the Presidential win of Donald Trump. As the ILPS USA chapter stated:
“This indicates the people in the United States are not paralyzed by fear, nor are we willing to tolerate fascism and state repression. We must organize to ensure this fight back movement is sustained and advanced. “
“The electoral results unmask the gravity of the social and economic crisis in the United States, the deep-seated slave-owner mentality still dominant with the ruling class, and the gains of the divide and conquer tactics unleashed on by the people in the US to blur and diffuse the reality of class struggle and to protect the wealthiest in this country. “
The last period has also seen a resurgence of the African American people’s progressive and revolutionary organizations working for the self-determination of black people in the United States. This includes the ongoing mass movement Black Lives Matter and events marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party.
Hundreds of thousands have protested the fact that one out of three African-Americans is in prison and are thus being used as the main fodder and modern-day slave labor for the increasingly privatized prison industrial complex.
They are likewise protesting the fact that US cops accost African-Americas and shoot down many of them, killing an African-American every 28 hours.
In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux nation, along with 200 other Native nations and up to 7000 people from all over the world, have stood firm to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which would carry fracked oil from the Bakken shale in North Dakota across several states and under the Missouri River.
There have been dozens of arrests, tear gas and dog attacks and violent dispersals by police and militia. While the battle is far from over, with Trump promising to support the DAPL, the protestors won a halt to construction of the pipeline along its present route.
The Standing Rock indigenous-led struggle is part of a number of such worldwide battles to confront and tame the fossil fuel giants and other extractivist monopolies in the face of growing militarization of indigenous territories. Nina Gualinga, an Ecuadoran activist visiting Standing Rock, told the Bill Moyers report, “The world needs indigenous people. The statistics say that we are 4 percent of the world’s population, but we are protecting more than 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.”
Elsewhere in the US, workers are fighting for a $ 15 an hour minimum wage to enable working people and their families to get enough to eat and have proper housing; the struggle is paying off for many. Several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and Washington have passed ordinances that gradually increase the minimum wage to $ 15. On July 1, 2018, San Francisco is expected to become the first US city to reach a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour. Meanwhile, in Chicago and other cities, teachers continue to fight for good schools for their students and decent wages for themselves.
In Europe, workers and the people have conducted large mass actions demanding a stop to government cutbacks in spending on social welfare and public services, higher wages for working families, protection of trade union organizing and bargaining rights. In Greece they are demanding freedom from debt bondage to the EU banks and other instruments of imperialist globalization. Tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Brussels, Madrid, Helsinki, Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, Munich, Paris and other European cities last year and more recently to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US.
In Asia, the factory floor of the global economy, protests and strikes against multinational corporations and governments have been increasing, including in China.
According to CNN.com, from 2011 to 2013, China Labor Bulletin (CLB), a Hong Kong-based workers’ rights group, recorded around 1,200 strikes and protests across China. In 2014 alone, there were more than 1,300 incidents. The following year, that number rose to over 2,700 — more than one a day in Guangdong province — a pattern that has continued into 2016 with no province of China unaffected by strikes or worker protests. A 2010 strike at the Nanhai Honda car plant in southern China was a turning point for the country’s labor movement — showing for the first time that a young migrant workforce could stand up and successfully fight for their rights, according to Eli Friedman, author of Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China.
“The production line was brought to a halt by 23-year-old Tan Guocheng, who shouted: ‘Don’t work for such low wages! Don’t work for such low wages!’ as he hit the emergency stop button. Dressed in matching, formless white uniforms and red Honda-branded baseball caps, dozens and then hundreds of young workers filled the factory’s courtyard, chanting slogans and singing patriotic songs.
The strike would last 19 days and grow to include almost the entire factory’s workforce, crippling its production schedule and forcing management and government officials to cede to strikers’ demands in a rare decisive victory for workers.”
In Indonesia and Cambodia workers have mounted nationwide actions for wages, and have won significant increases in the last few years. These are linked to the global supply chains of multinational corporations, thus defying the global race to the bottom in wages.
In India, the largest strike action in history was held last September with over 150 million workers marching in the streets against the neoliberal policies of the Narendra Modi government. Strong resistance has greeted Modi’s sudden demonetization decision, which has hit peasants and working people particularly hard. In Kashmir, 2016 has seen the people once again rise up despite increased military operations and sweeping civilian arrests. In Manipur and Northeast India, resistance continues to the heavy militarisation, policing, proxy wars and suppression of democratic voices as well as the use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, National Security Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Seditious Act and other repressive laws.
In South Africa and Senegal, workers and people are resisting the privatization drive and fighting courageously to improve wages and living standards. In Nigeria, workers and people are opposing the price increase of basic commodities like petrol. In Burkina Faso, protesters took to the streets to topple the three-decade-old dictatorship. In both countries, anger is growing against the militarism and terrorism backed or instigated by US imperialism.
There is also rising resistance in Africa, as in Latin America and elsewhere to transnational corporations scooping up farmland and war resources, more commonly referred to as “land grabbing” and “water grabbing”, which is putting food security at risk.
In Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere the economic slowdown, resulting from the end of the commodities boom, is being exploited by the persistent big comprador-landlord oligarchs and rabid US puppets with attempts to reverse social gains achieved under progressive governments. But workers and social movements are condemning and opposing US intervention and destabilization attempts in Paraguay, Honduras, Venezuela and other countries in the region.
Meanwhile, opposition to the imposition of US overseas military bases is sharp in several locations, including Okinawa Island in Japan, Jeju Island in South Korea as well as the Philippines.
In the face of the worsening atrocities being committed by the US, its imperialist allies and its proxies, more and more people are resisting the US-led imperialist war machine. Peoples’ anger against the US runs wide and deep in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and throughout West Asia where the worst crimes against humanity have been committed by US imperialism and its allies in recent decades. The struggle of the Palestinian and Kurdish peoples are some of the heroic examples of people’s resistance in this region. They are showing the path of people’s resistance against US imperialism and against the violence spread in the regions by US-backed terrorist groups.
Elsewhere progressive and revolutionary movements are also waging struggles for national liberation and democracy, including wars for liberation in the Philippines, India, West Papua and Columbia.
All over the globe the people are increasingly opposed to the wars of aggression that their governments are waging in their name. To assist in widening and strengthening this movement, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), in coordination with the International Womens’ Alliance (IWA), will be organizing a major international anti-imperialist war conference in Toronto, Canada in August 5- 7, 2017. It is entitled, “Solidarity and Fightback: Building resistance to US-led war and militarism”.
As the imperialist system descends further into barbarism, workers and peoples everywhere must link their struggles to one another and to a broader resistance movement against monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism, state terror and imperialist wars. We must maximize opportunities to arouse, organize and mobilize amidst the worsening global crisis and inter-imperialist contradictions. Only the struggle against imperialism and for socialism will truly end capitalist crises and imperialist wars; liberate the masses from exploitation and oppression; and realize greater freedom, democracy, social justice, all-round development and lasting peace.
Note: This paper is based on a presentation in October 2016 to ILPS USA by Paul Quintos, ILPS Head of Research, with updates and additions by ILPS Secretary General, Malcolm Guy.
Felix Randy P. Malayao Jr
The Philippines is mired in the old oppressive and exploitative semicolonial and semifeudal system which brings great misery and difficulties for the Filipino people. The system ensures large monopoly profits for imperialist firms in the country. It enriches the big capitalist compradors such as Ayalas, Pangilinans, Sys, Tan, Cojuangcos, Consunjis and others, in collaboration with the big landlord class and big foreign capitalists. They extract superprofits from the sweat of the toiling masses.
In the countryside, they exact feudal land rent from land monopoly. They continuously grab up the lands and natural resources. They control vast tracts of plantation lands operated directly by foreign-controlled agro-corporations and indirectly through so-called “contract-growing” agreements.
The exploiting classes collaborate with bureaucrat capitalists to benefit from control of state funds and contracts. The reactionary government fleeces the people with burdensome taxes while social services continue to deteriorate amid budget cuts, rationalization, rampant corruption and state neglect.
The productive classes of workers and peasants are wallowing in poverty and socio-economic difficulties as they suffer from chronic mass unemployment, underemployment, low wages, contractualization and other oppressive labor policies, landlessness and landgrabbing, environmental plunder, rising costs of living and more frequent and more destructive natural calamities.
The Filipino people are fed-up with the rotten ruling system. They seethe with revolutionary rage. They aspire to end the system of exploitation and oppression and are ever ready to wage revolutionary struggle under the leadership of the Party.
The great sufferings of the people under the exploitative and oppressive semicolonial and semifeudal system are the deep roots of armed conflict in the Philippines. With AFP and all the machinery of oppression of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the ruling classes defend the oppressive system; while the oppressed class promote its overthrow to build the People’s Democratic Government with the people’s power and strength of the New People’s Army.
Unity and Struggle with the Duterte regime
In the 2016 elections, the Left, particularly the party list groups and mass organizations under the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan, did not endorse the candidacy of then presidential bet Rodrigo Duterte. At the onset of his term in July, the new President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, from a list of recommendees prepared by the NDFP, appointed known leftist personages from the national democratic mass movement to his cabinet and other government agencies; resumed peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and released a number of political prisoners, mainly the consultants of the NDFP with the promise to release more.
This was not surprising. For those in the know, Rodrigo Duterte always claimed to be a “socialist” and presented himself as the first “Leftist president.” He was a former member of the Kabataang Makabayan and student of communist party founder Jose Maria Sison. He has had long friendly relations with the revolutionary forces in Mindanao and had expressed willingness to address the roots of the armed conflict. In his years as mayor of Davao City, Duterte established close ties with the NDFP and New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao, often facilitating the release of prisoners of war and addressing the concerns of the communities where the revolutionary groups operated.
Accordingly, the Party issued a policy of alliance and struggle, as an expression of the willingness of the revolutionary forces to forge cooperation along the patriotic and democratic aspirations of the people.
The Party is fully aware that Duterte has become the chief representative of the local ruling classes. He oversees a corrupt and elitist government that has, by and large, served the interests of the country’s oligarchs and foreign powers over that of the ordinary folk. His gutter language notwithstanding, Duterte comes from the same elite, reactionary class of politicians that have lorded it over the country for decades. With his fiery temperament, acerbic language, brutal approach to crime and admiration for the late president Ferdinand Marcos, many fear he is a budding dictator. The Party is also cognizant that key positions in his government remains in the hands of the Right. In particular, the reactionary armed forces remains firmly in the command of pro-US generals.
He is a staunch critic of US imperialism, especially its military interventionism and hypocrisy in upholding human rights and democracy. The Left supports Duterte’s distancing from the United States and his pursuit of an independent foreign policy. This is what sets him apart from previous presidents who played the role as US puppets to the hilt. The Left has always called for an end to our neocolonial relations with the US and for the government to uphold Philippine sovereignty and the national interest above those of any foreign power.
However, for several times lately, he has announced his intention to abrogate the EDCA or the VFA only to backtrack soon afterward. He has also approved of the plan for the US military to conduct military exercises in the Philippines next year, including the annual Balikatan exercises after having declared several times that US troops must be out of Philippine territory.
In terms of economic policy, he has largely relied on top managers and bureaucrats who are known exponents of the neoliberal prescriptions of the US-led International Monetary Fund-World Bank-World Trade Organization which perpetuated the worst of the neoliberal policies of the past regimes. The govern- ment’s main economic managers and planners remain obsessed with attracting foreign investments by lowering wages and allowing foreign entities to own and operate large enterprises in the country. They repeatedly declare the need to do away with the constitutional limits on foreign ownership.
The left are content with the government’s constructive engagement with China but are wary that China will take advantage of our weaknesses and impose its own imperialist agenda on our country. This is something that they will have to struggle with Duterte and the local comprador class.
In general, leftists share Duterte’s vision of an industrialized Filipino economy that can feed and provide enough jobs and incomes to our people. But how to get there is another thing. They vehemently object to the neoliberal prescriptions of Duterte’s economic team. They are against continued efforts to privatize public utilities and government services, liberalize and deregulate the economy, and allow foreign banks and corporations to dominate and rule the Philippine economy.
Duterte has allowed the AFP to continue its armed operations in the countryside under Oplan Bayanihan (now dubbed Oplan Kapayapaan). Not only do these trample on the spirit of the reciprocal ceasefire declarations, these have also brought about rampant cases of human rights violations.
These is also widespread condemnation of police and vigilante killings instigated by Duterte in his “war against drugs.” As a matter of principle and practice, the Left objects to Duterte’s endorsement of extrajudicial killings and other shortcuts in the campaign against illegal drugs and criminality. The Communist Party even formally withdrawn its support for Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
Various leftist organizations have repeatedly expressed their concern and objection to a brutal campaign that targets the victims, especially the poor. They want greater efforts in cleaning up the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces and the Judiciary. They want more focus on rehabilitating drug users and educating the public on the dangers of drug use.
As the most persistent enemy of the Marcos dictatorship, the Left certainly condemned to the burial of the former tyrant at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. They have been at the forefront of organizing rallies and filing petitions in the Supreme Court against the burial. This as a matter of principle and a deeply personal issue for many activists who suffered at the hands of the Marcos dictatorship.
There is bound to be much uncertainty regarding the prospects of an alliance between the revolutionary movement and the Duterte government. There will be increasing instances of sharp differences and struggle as the people become increasingly restive over their worsening socio-economic plight. They are fully-justified in advancing the national democratic struggle and demanding an end to the pro- imperialist, anti-people and anti- democratic policies.
The Duterte government has yet to fully unfold and take a definite character. As president, leader on a national scale, it remains to be seen how he will relate to and engage with such dominant and powerful forces as the imperialist powers, multinational firms and banks and the national array of big compradors, bureaucrat capitalists and landlords and to the national democratic movement and the broad masses of the people.
There is a possibility that Duterte would prove to be a valuable tactical ally or even more a strategic ally. Let us suppose that the peace negotiations keep on succeeding and the US and the local reactionaries do not like the reforms being agreed upon and being implemented. If they try to overthrow the Duterte government, Duterte might decide to fight back to an extent that he becomes a strategic ally of the revolutionary movement.
It is unclear how long the critical alliance with Duterte will be sustained. A key factor would be the peace negotiations with the NDFP and whether Duterte can deliver on existing agreements and pull off new ones on socio-economic and political reforms. He will need to hold back the rabid war mongers in the AFP who are itching for an all-out war.
The Party continues to support the peace talks and other means for possible agreement with the Duterte government on cooperation to realize basic patriotic and social reforms for the benefit of all Filipinos, especially the marginalized and oppressed.
For Just Peace
The peace negotiations with the GRP arise precisely because of the people’s war. The crisis of the ruling system is worsening. Landlessness remains the most lingering problem along with US imperialism and bureaucrat capitalism. Administration after administration of reactionary governments is bound to negotiate with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines now has a people’s army and organs of political power with mass organizations spread in 71 out of the 81 provinces in the country. It has more than 120 guerilla fronts all over the country. There exists dual political power in the country since 1969.
In 1992 emissaries of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) held exploratory talks at The Hague, The Netherlands and signed an agreement which has since been the framework of the peace negotiations between two parties. The agreement defined the objective, the common goal, the agenda, the guiding principles and the adoption of goodwill and confidence-building measures. These are as follows (The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992):
a) The formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF shall be held to resolve the armed conflict.
b) The common goal of the aforesaid negotiations shall be the attainment of a just and lasting peace.
c) Such negotiations shall take place after the parties have reached tentative agreements on substantive issues in the agreed agenda through the reciprocal working committees to be separately organized by the GRP and the NDF (the substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations shall include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces).
d) The holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice and no precondition shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.
e) Adoption of specific measures of goodwill and confidence building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations.
After years of interregnum since its formal reopening in 2011 in Oslo, peace talks between the NDFP and GRP resumed under a new government in accordance with past agreements, mainly, the Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements, especially the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence, and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (Joint Agreement on RWCs), the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), among other agreements.
Prior to the reopening, GRP president Rodrigo Duterte freed 17 NDFP consultants and 2 political detainees and promised to release other political prisoners through amnesty. These provided healthy incentives for the resumption of peace talks.
Two formal rounds of peace negotiations have been held in Oslo, Norway since Duterte took office. In both rounds (August and October Oslo Talks), both parties reaffirmed the previously signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration, CARHRIHL, JASIG, and other agreements. They have also agreed to work for the granting of amnesty to all political prisoners and to declare their respective ceasefire while working on a more stable bilateral ceasefire agreement.
Both parties also agreed to accelerate the pace of talks. While negotiating the economic reforms, simultaneous negotiations for the political and constitutional reforms (PCR), and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EHDF) are also being held.
The earlier enthusiasm over the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations has considerably diminished because Duterte has refused to release all 400 political prisoners through a presidential amnesty proclamation despite promising twice and agreeing to do so in the first round of peace talks. Also, armed units of the AFP continue to be deployed in NPA guerrilla zones and guerrilla bases to conduct counterinsurgency intelligence and psywar operations resulting in widespread military abuses.
The unilateral ceasefire of the CPP and NPA has become increasingly untenable. Continuing Oplan Bayanihan operations, in particular, is forcing the NPA to engage in evasion maneuvers. There are bound to be armed skirmishes as the AFP conducts armed provocations. Thus, the termination of the CPP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration becomes inevitable.
Nonetheless, the Party and the NDFP remain open to forging a bilateral ceasefire that would take effect simultaneous with the release of all political prisoners. They look forward to the next round of talks on January 18-23 to be held in Rome, Italy.
The revolutionary forces estimate that negotiations on socio-economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms can be completed in one or two years. This will give the Duterte government and the NDFP at least four more years to implement the agreements and help improve the situation of the people.
The Filipino people are fully aware that anything achieved in the peace talks is based on the vitality of their collective struggles and revolutionary armed force. Peace talks or not, what is more important is for them to strengthen and expand their unity and advance their struggle.