US bloody hands on South Sudan's civil war

The following article first appeared on Counterpunch. We post here to give readers some background into the meaning of current events in South Sudan and particularly the role of imperialist rivalry in the conflict.

Another Proxy War

The USA v. China in South Sudan


If one asks the question "who benefits from the South Sudanese civil war?" the answer is clear. The USA is presently the ONLY beneficiary of the ongoing horrors in South Sudan for this latest round of conflict has once again shut down the Chinese run oil fields in the country.

The USA has determined that its in its "national interests" to deprive China of access to Africa's oil fields and has succeeded in its goal of again shutting down Chinese oil production in Sudan, the only majority Chinese owned oil field in Africa.

What other evidence links the USA to the South Sudanese civil war? Thanks to Wikileaks we know that the USA via the CIA has been paying the salaries of the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) since 2009. In other words, both the soldiers ("rebels") supporting Riek Machar and the soldier supporting President Salva Kiir are being paid by the USA, paid to kill each other? Don't take my word for it, go check Wikileaks.

Another question NOT being asked by the international media is how is Riek Machar funding his army? Where is he getting the funds to pay for his soldiers ammunition, the fuel to run their trucks and equipment, to pay for their food? Where is this money coming from in a country complete destroyed by the ongoing fighting? If its coming from funds stolen by Riek Machar while he was Vice President of South Sudan, where are the funds deposited and how is he accessing them?

The USA prefers proxies to do its dirty work so as to keep its self insulated from charges of foreign interference and to keep its "hands clean" so to speak. The fact that "rebels" supporting Riek Machar have been receiving weapons from Ethiopia is a matter of public record with reports from the past year exposing what is just the tip of the iceberg in the matter.

What is Ethiopia's interest in this, isn't the Ethiopian regime a "neutral party" hosting "peace talks"?

The fact that Ethiopia has some 10,000 soldiers/peacekeepers on the Sudan/South Sudanese border this past year including the oil fields is another matter being ignored by the media. Again, thanks to Wikileaks, we know that Ethiopia has an ongoing fuel crisis and spends up to 75% of its foreign currency earnings on fuel imports. The Sudanese oil fields are the only immediately available supply for Ethiopia's problem and with Brazil promising to build a $1 billion railway from the South Sudanese border to Addis Ababa this would be the quickest solution to Ethiopia's major headache.

I for one am really, really sick of Africans being portrayed as tribalistic animals murdering each other in never ending slaughters when the only real beneficiary of such are foreign powers, mainly the USA and its western vassals. If one does just a little research into these holocausts one begins to see who really benefits and when it comes to the civil war in South Sudan the only party presently benefiting from these crimes is the USA.

How this will play out will be an omen of things to come for the USA and China are certain to be at odds in the future when it comes to exploiting Africa's oil fields which today supply half of the USA's oil imports.

Thomas C. Mountain is a life long revolutionary activist, educator and cultural historian, living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain_at_gmail_dot_com

As Geneva 2 talks begin - US crimes and double talk

Today is the first day of the Geneva 2, "so-called" peace talks regarding the civil/proxy war in Syria. There is little hope that the talks will lead to any kind of peace as the constellation of "rebel" fighters on the ground don't take them seriously, nor do they accept the Syrian National Coalition and its weak Free Syrian Army that the US and its allies want to prop up as "legitimate" rulers. At the same time Assad's army seems to be winning against the opposition in battle and is unlikely to cede control of Syria, a key condition of the US and the West going into the talks. As imperialist powers led by the US one side and Russia on the other - along with regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran all jockey for stronger political position, the people of Syria continue to suffer and their is little prospect that the so-called "peace talks" in Geneva will do anything to improve their situation. Here in the US let's strongly condemn the role of the US government in the atrocities being carried out on the Syrian people and call for the US government to stay out of Syrian affairs. - Nat Winn

The following article by Ajamu Baraka appeared on the Counterpunch website. Baraka lays out quite powerfully the farce of the current talks in Geneva and the crimes of US imperialism that lay behind all its hypocritical talk of seeking out a "democratic" solution. 

Undermining the Peace Conference

The Obama Administration's Orwellian Subterfuge on Syria

by Amaju Baraka

There is one thing that the so-called peace conference on Syria is guaranteed to achieve and that is that when the last speech is made and the delegates leave the hall, the grotesque bloodletting and devastation will continue for the people of Syria. Why? Because for the Obama Administration, the diplomatic process was never intended to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war. Its main purpose was always to affect their main strategic objective – the removal of President Bashir al-Assad from power and the disappearance of Syria as an independent state.

Fidelity to this goal continues to drive U.S. policy. U.S. strategists care little about the fact that, in their quest to oust the Syrian President, they have created an unholy alliance between the U.S. and its Wahhabi allies from Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda as their "boots on the ground." It is an alliance that ensures that, should the Al-Assad government fall, the Syrian people will either live under totalitarian fundamentalist Wahhabi rule or see their country disappear as a coherent state and into warring factions.

By juxtaposing U.S. rhetoric that expresses concerns for democracy, pluralism and the human rights of the Syrian people with actual U.S. decisions, we see a dramatic illustration of the astonishing hypocrisy of U.S. policies. The Obama Administration understood the scale of human suffering it would unleash in Syria by arming, funding, training and providing political support for the opposition—opposition that it moved from a non-violent protest movement to a violent insurgency, as part of its larger geo-strategic plan for the region.

That is why commitment to regime change, rather than to a peace based on Syrian realities and the needs of the Syrian people, is the price of admission to this week's conference in Montreux, Switzerland. It is a conference that it would be more accurate to call a 'war conference' rather than a 'peace conference' due to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's insistence on keeping the scope of the conference confined to the terms of the Geneva I communique, which calls for a political transition in Syria.

The Syrian National Coalition is a mirage. Its "Free Syrian Army" has no standing and the most effective fighters are the al-Qaeda linked jihadists armed by the U.S. and the Saudi government. They are now the real power brokers on the ground.

For these fighters, Geneva II is an irrelevant sideshow that has no bearing on them and they have rejected the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. So who does the Syrian National Coalition represent, when the bulk of the fighters have shifted to al-Qaeda and the other more than 1,000 Islamist rebel groups that between them have 100,000 fighters, all united in their commitment to a post-Assad state in which Sharia, or Islamic Law, will be established throughout Syria?

Yet on January 16, Kerry restated the U.S. position on Geneva 2 "It is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body — governing body — with full executive powers established by mutual consent," he told reporters.

The consent of whom? Who assumes power and will a new government represent the aspirations for democracy, civil liberties, workers' rights, respect for religious and community difference that the "revolution" promised or is Syrian's future already written from the Libyan experience?

There are now voices inside and outside the Administration saying that the U.S. should abandon the Syrian National Coalition and work instead with the Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalists who have joined together under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF) and are being presented as the "moderate" alternative to the radicalism of al-Qaeda. However, the Syrian people, who have a history of secularism and respect for different religions, have not signed on to a post-Assad society and government ruled by a group that has publically stated its opposition to democracy and intention to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law.

But who cares what the Syrian people want? It does not seem to matter to the U.S. that supporting Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalism is the antithesis of the justification it gave for supporting the "revolution" against al-Assad. It does not matter because in the end the interests of the Syrian people are of little concern to these policymakers who prioritize U.S. imperialist interests above every other consideration.

In the long annuals of crimes by U.S. and Western imperialism, the slow, protracted destruction of the Syrian state, including the tens of thousands of lives sacrificed, is starting to emerge as one of its most significant crimes, if not in numbers then in terms of scale. It can be listed with crimes like the Christmas season carpet bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 and the millions murdered in Iraq during the period of sanctions and full-blown military attack.

In this era in which war is peace and wars are fought for "humanitarian purposes," it is hard for many to get to the truth. But one thing is certain—the humanitarian disaster in Syria that was supposed to be the justification for intervention by the U.S. and its allies will continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and writer. He is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka's latest publications include contributions to two recently published books "Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA" and "Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral."


First Statement from the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán

In the past week Mexico's federal government moved into towns in the southwestern state of  Michoacán to disarm self defense groups that have emerged to fight a powerful drug cartel in the region named the Knights Templar. In many of the towns the local people resisted the government forces and supported the defense groups. In the struggles a number of civilians have been killed by federal troops. Reporters in the mainstream press are reporting that the self defense groups are shady and have ties to rival drug cartels. The following statement comes from one of the defense groups in the municipality of Aquila. It appeared in english on the El Enimigo Comun website. It is dated January 18, 2014. 

First Statement from the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán

Aquila, Michoacán
January 18, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell
From the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán to the general public:

Today, the residents of the municipal seat of Aquila, tired of the extortions, rapes, killings, kidnappings and all sorts of criminal acts committed by the Knights Templar; given the complete abandonment of the citizenry by the municipal and state governments who for 12 years did not provide the security needed for our people to have a peaceful and dignified life; we have decided to organize our self-defense group in order to expel organized crime from our town, and we invite the rest of the people of the municipality to rise up against crime, so they never again feel fear or pay protection fees.

As is known from the national and international media, our municipality previously attempted to remove the yoke of organized crime. This movement was led by members of the indigenous community of San Miguel Aquila. This community is one of the four that comprises the municipality, and is owner of an iron mine whose resources are exploited by the transnational mining company Ternium. This company pays a royalty to the indigenous community for the extracted iron, which it hauls from Aquila, Michoacán to Tecomán, Colima, and organized crime charges them a monthly quota. That is to say, they ask the residents to part with the money they receive. If they don't pay, they kill them. So the indigenous from this community decided to form their community guard in order to protect their heritage, life and dignity. They invited us to join them, but we, as prisoners of fear of the reprisals from organized crime, decided not to support them.

The illegitimate municipal president, Juan Hernández Ramírez, was invited to join the movement and to stop paying fees to the criminals in the region, but instead decided to flee and to leave his people at the mercy of organized crime. It is known that this president obtained his post as a result of fraudulent elections, during which the Knights Templar cartel undertook to intimidate people into voting for Juan Hernández. They also burned ballot boxes where he had a clear disadvantage. But all of their tricks were not enough, as the rival candidate won the elections. So the criminals threatened him with death so he would not take the position. And that was how Hernández Ramírez became municipal president at the hands of the Templars. The period of July 24 to August 13, 2013 – when the community guard of the indigenous from the community of San Miguel Aquila operated in the area – was one of immense calm. The rapes, kidnappings and payments of protection fees disappeared as the criminals fled. Seeing the results of the community movement, we became inspired to support the cause of the community. However, on August 14, a joint state and municipal government operation, together with the Marines, entered Aquila and dismantled the community movement. They took 45 prisoners. The Special Operations Group (GOES) and State Judicial Police killed two and also beat women, children and elderly who called for them to return the men who were defending them from organized crime. When the community guard was dismantled, the Knights Templar, under the auspices of the state and municipal governments, decided to "exterminate" all the residents of San Miguel Aquila. Miguel Alcalá Alcalá, Emilio Martínez López and Miguel Martínez López were tortured and murdered by Templar criminals. Later, Ignacio Martínez de la Cruz, Francisco Javier Ramos Walle and Carlos Zapien Díaz were disappeared on November 25, 2013 and haven't been heard from since. The remaining residents were displaced, prisoners of panic and sadness as their government did nothing to protect them.

Once the community guard was completely dismantled by the tripartite alliance of the Knights Templar-State Government-Municipal Government, the Knights Templar decided to charge fees from the entire population, which particularly impacted our humble neighbors who are of limited means. We thought that if we didn't support the community guard, the Templars would have compassion on us and wouldn't charge us fees, or at least would not increase them, nor hassle our families. However, they returned more ambitious and bloodthirsty. The Templars increased the fees because they lost income from those who were jailed, murdered, disappeared and displaced. Only some in the community hand over payment to the Templars, but they are the ones who have ties to them. They are José Cortes Méndez, Miguel Zapien Godínez, Fidel Villanueva Espinosa, Juan Carlos Martínez Ramos, Juan Zapien Sandoval, among others.

The self-defense phenomenon in Michoacán has great momentum, every day there are more people who decide to expel the criminals from their regions, which has caused the Templars to migrate to neighboring regions, in particular into our area, increasing the wave of violence in Aquila. So we are faced with the panorama of violence which we are returning to live in again, with the complicity of our state and municipal government and the apathy of our federal government. It is for these reasons that the residents of the municipal seat of Michoacán opened our eyes and decided to organize as a self-defense group in order to expel all criminals from the area. Our social struggle will not end just when Federico González, alias "El Lico," the boss of the Knights Templar cartel in the Aquila-Coahuayana region, falls, but when all his partners and gunmen do.

Our self-defense movement organized by the residents and people in general of the Aquila area is inclusive. Because of this we gave a vote of confidence to municipal president Juan Hernández Ramírez and invited him to join the struggle against crime. But the mayor once again showed his Templar leanings, he decided to leave the area. As such, our self-defense group and the people who support the movement condemn the criminal and indifferent attitude of Juan Hernández Ramírez. Let it be clear that our self-defense movement was born of social necessity, against organized crime. It seeks to reestablish peace and order for our people. We invite other towns, villages and communities in the municipality of Aquila to join our struggle, as we seek only well-being and social peace.

The Self-Defense Council of Aquila, Michoacán

Mexican people form self-defense groups to battle cartels

 The following appeared on

In Pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

Styling themselves as 'self-defence groups', militias in the state of Michoacan are battling powerful drug cartels.

In Mexico, a country home to powerful drug cartels, groups of armed vigilantes known as "fuerzas autodefensas", or self-defence groups, have formed in the past year. In recent weeks, they have even taken over communities in the state of Michoacan; in one case surrounding a city thought to be a key stronghold for the Knights Templar cartel and taking over nearby towns after violent street clashes.

In these newly occupied towns the citizen militia have disarmed and detained local police, claiming that both police and government forces are corrupt and in league with the cartels. 

Mexico's drug war has wreaked havoc on the country, bringing staggering levels of crime and violence. These civilians, armed with AK-47s, have been fighting back in what they see as a bid to liberate the country.

On December 29, Manuel Mirel - the leader of the Michoacan militia - harangued people in Churumuco after his forces took the town.

On December 29, Manuel Mirel - the leader of the Michoacan militia - harangued people in Churumuco after his forces took the town.

The militias advanced through the streets of Paracuaro on January 4.

The militias advanced through the streets of Paracuaro on January 4.


The militias have detained people they suspect of involvement with the drug cartels.

The militias have detained people they suspect of involvement with the drug cartels.

Many members of the militias are armed with rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Many members of the militias are armed with rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Militia members in the town of Paracuaro on January 6.

Militia members in the town of Paracuaro on January 6.

This truck bears the logo of one of the militia groups.

This truck bears the logo of one of the militia groups.

On January 10, the leader of the militia made a speech in the church square to explain to the people of Antunez the goal of their presence in the town.

On January 10, the leader of the militia made a speech in the church square to explain to the people of Antunez the goal of their presence in the town.

Vigilantes advanced on Antunez on January 11.

Vigilantes advanced on Antunez on January 11.

On January 11, vigilantes detained three teenagers after they stole a car from a journalist. They were allegedly working for the Templar cartel as "punteros", or watchers, and had set fire to two trucks on the road to Antunez.

On January 11, vigilantes detained three teenagers after they stole a car from a journalist. They were allegedly working for the Templar cartel as "punteros", or watchers, and had set fire to two trucks on the road to Antunez.

The Knights Templar set up a roadblock by burning trucks and buses in order to slow the advance of vigilantes on Antunez.

The Knights Templar set up a roadblock by burning trucks and buses in order to slow the advance of vigilantes on Antunez.

On January 11, as the militia advanced on Antunez, smoke from a roadblock set up by the cartel filled the air.

On January 11, as the militia advanced on Antunez, smoke from a roadblock set up by the cartel filled the air.

The militia awaited the signal from their leader to move towards Nueva Italia on January 12.

The militia awaited the signal from their leader to move towards Nueva Italia on January 12.

Fighting between vigilantes and the Templar cartel raged for more than three hours on January 12 in downtown Nueva Italia before the militia was able to claim victory.

Fighting between vigilantes and the Templar cartel raged for more than three hours on January 12 in downtown Nueva Italia before the militia was able to claim victory.


PSL on Nepal: a heroic struggle for socialism

Originally by Liberation News here.

Issues behind the election boycott in Nepal

A heroic attempt to reinvigorate the struggle for socialism.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, one of the largest political forces in the country, is leading a boycott of the country's upcoming Constituent Assembly elections, scheduled for Nov. 19. Thirty-two other political parties initially joined in the boycott movement.

A one-day general strike across Nepal’s urban centers shut down transportation, business, industrial facilities and education houses Nov. 11. This is being followed by a transportation strike to last through election day. The state has responded with violent repression, arrests and raids against strike and election boycott organizers. The government’s election “security” plan involves the deployment of 61,000 soldiers across the country along with 54,000 police, 20,000 paramilitary Armed Police Force officers and 40,000 temporary police, a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the 1996-2006 People’s War led by the Maoists.

There have been scores of arrests targeting CPN-M cadre. Many activists were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night without official warrant.

The first Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, was constructed after a 10-year armed struggle led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). That struggle led to the 2006 “People’s Movement 2,” which finally overthrew the brutal feudal monarchy headed by King Gyanendra. The Constituent Assembly’s term finally expired in 2012, after multiple extensions, without having produced the constitution. This left Nepal in a state of political limbo that the ruling elites hope to break with the second CA election on Nov. 19.

The CPN-M argues that the election is a plot, primarily authored by India, to impede Nepal’s self-determination. There is a long history of Indian expansionism infringing on the sovereignty of smaller South Asian nations–the classic example being the annexation of Sikkim in 1975. The ruling classes of Nepal and India coordinate closely, with the latter playing the dominant role while subjecting the former to unequal trade terms.

The first CA election in 2008 fulfilled a key demand of the communist-led People’s War: abolishing the monarchy and breaking up the feudal land holdings. These were key tasks of the country’s bourgeois democratic revolution, along with the demand for a federal system that respected the rights of Nepal’s many nationalities. The stated doctrine of the Maoists was that this stage would facilitate, not impede, the ultimate seizure of power by the workers and peasants.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)–which added the word “Unified” after a series of controversial mergers–enjoyed the prestige of leading the People’s War and scored huge electoral victories. 

Sharp differences among communist forces


Filipino Maoists: All out mobilization for typhoon relief

Originally published at Democracy and Class Struggle here.


CPP Information Bureau
11 November 2013

Carry out all-out mobilization for relief support to disaster victims


The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on the entire Filipino people, including those overseas, to mobilize and generate the maximum possible emergency funds and supplies for the victims of the recent super typhoon Yoland (international name Haiyan).

An estimated nine million people, or 10% of the entire Filipino population, suffered the wrath of the storm considered to be the strongest in recorded history, which barreled through 36 provinces. Majority of the victims of the storm are small peasants, farm workers, fisherfolk, mountain people, workers and other poor people who are the most vulnerable to the storm.

Wide swathes of land were engulfed by the surging seas resulting in massive destruction of public infrastructure, homes, property and agricultural land. It is feared that the number of deaths may run up to several thousand people.

The revolutionary forces under the CPP commiserate with the entire Filipino people, especially those who lost friends and family members and who are suffering from the grave impact.

The CPP calls on all progressive and democratic forces to immediately organize the collection of funds and supplies for relief and rehabilitation work and ensure their immediate transport of these to the affected areas. Main attention is justifiably centered on extending assistance to Tacloban and the Eastern Visayas provinces. There should also be sufficient attention given to other areas in Central Visayas, Panay, Negros, Masbate, Mindoro and Palawan as well as in Bicol, Southern Tagalog and Eastern and Northern Mindanao.

The national mobilization of resources is necessary to sufficiently extend assistance to all areas devastated by the storm. There must be appropriate national coordination and cooperation in order to appropriately distribute help and supplies. Priority should be given to those requiring immediate medical attention, the children and the elderly.

The CPP calls for the formation of organizations of disaster victims in order to facilitate the distribution of emergency supplies and prevent the situation from leading to widespread chaos. The people need these organizations of disaster victims in order to extend information about their situation and needs.

The commands of the New People’s Army (NPA) units operating in the devastated areas have immediately changed their mode of operation and have carried out search, rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.


Within the guerrilla front areas, barrio (village) committees, provisional revolutionary government units, and revolutionary mass organizations have immediately been mobilized to carry out efforts to assist the people and organize rehabilitation efforts to help the people resume production and other aspects of their normal lives.


In line with policy, the concerned NPA commands, including the NPA Mt. Amandewin Command (NPA-Leyte Island), and leading committees of the CPP can issue appropriate ceasefire orders to their respective units, putting NPA units on defensive mode but ever vigilant to enemy offensive operations. These can seek to facilitate the entry of organizations and agencies extending relief and emergency supply and ensure the safety of relief workers. The people should vigorously oppose continued suppression activities being conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under Oplan Bayanihan, especially in areas ravaged by the storm.


The Filipino people are angered over the Aquino regime’s slow and terribly inadequate response to the disaster. They critize Aquino for blaming the people for being unprepared. In the hours immediately after the storm, the Aquino government was practically absent in

Tacloban and other parts of the country. They further criticize Aquino for making use of the disaster to make a pitch for the much-detested President’s Social Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program when, in fact, it has allotted only a minuscule for calamity response.

On the other hand, the CPP extends the people’s gratitude and commendation to various local and international media agencies which have made use of their resources to provide crucial information service to disaster victims. The Filipino people welcome local and foreign volunteer civilian organizations and agencies whose contributions have been invaluable.

The CPP calls on all international civilian agencies to extend maximum possible support to the victims of the disaster. The CPP denounces the Aquino and US governments for taking advantage of the disaster to again deploy more US warships and armed US soldiers in various areas in violation of Philippine sovereignty. The CPP urges foreign governments who wish to extend aid and direct help to course their assistance through their civilian agencies or organizations.

Obama and Syria: this is a bloodletting

U.S. preparations for attacking Syria and Obama's speech

The Middle East is a pivotal region for the whole world – economically and geopolitically – and the U.S. has dominated it since WW 2. Everything it has done and continues to do is based on maintaining and deepening that domination. Right now the region is in tremendous upheaval – the old arrangements that "held things together" (for the imperialists and local butchers) have come under increasing strain and in some cases begun to disintegrate, and there is a massive scramble by all kinds of forces. These include rivals like the Russians, who back Assad; "friendly" imperialists like the French, who back the rebels; all kinds of local butchers; etc. And, painfully, there is no coherent progressive force acting within this mix. ...

In this situation, the U.S. may be pulling a page from the bloody playbook it used in the Iran-Iraq War. In that war, the U.S. aimed for both sides to devastate each other, and the result was a million deaths.

Many people will see this as a situation in which "something must be done." Even people who have some sense that the U.S. is driven by anything but humanitarian motives will argue that at least U.S. intervention will stop the horror right now.

But reality doesn't work that way. It matters – in fact it is decisive – to understand the nature of a U.S. attack on Syria, and what would be driving it. It would be an attack driven by the needs of a global capitalist-imperialist superpower intent on maintaining its domination of the planet. How is any move on that basis going to contribute anything positive to a humanitarian nightmare in Syria?


2 September 2013. Following are excerpts from two articles that appeared in Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. The first, posted on 27 August 2013, is entitled "Only Worse Suffering and Horrors Can Result from a U.S. Attack on Syria". The second, signed by Larry Everest, was called "Obama's Speech on Syria: Lies to Justify an Immoral War".

There is a growing danger of a direct U.S. military attack on Syria – which is being framed as a "surgical strike"– using planes and/or Cruise missiles. U.S. Secretary of "Defence" Hagel announced that "the U.S. military is "ready to go" if ordered to attack Syria.

These attacks must be opposed with determined political protest and clear-eyed understanding of how they would make the situation worse. It is essential that people understand what is behind U.S. moves and not be duped into passive complicity with a U.S. attack on Syria that would make the situation much worse for the people of Syria, and the world.

The rulers of the U.S. view atrocities and war crimes – real, or invented – through the warped and twisted lens of "How does this work for us." Shelling hospitals, like Israel did in the 2008-9 massacre in Gaza is ignored. Staged, fake human rights outrages, like false testimony in the U.S. Congress that Iraqi troops disconnected incubators killing babies in Kuwait are concocted and then invoked to justify all kinds of U.S. crimes. The incubator hoax was invoked to justify the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, "Operation Desert Storm", that killed 100,000 Iraqis and created great suffering for millions, including babies who died as a result of cutbacks in medical care resulting from U.S. sanctions that followed that war.


The people stand up in Colombia

While everyone's eyes have turned toward an impending US attack on Syria, another people's uprising has emerged, this time in Colombia. Campesinos originally initiated the uprising in opposition to free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. These trade agreements are ruining their way of life, by driving down prices of agricultural goods and driving many into the slums around Bogota. Starting on August 19th as a movement of campesinos, the protests have grown as miners, students, and others joined and declared their indignation with the current situation.

The mainstream media has been deafeningly silent about the uprisings in Colombia which have involved hundreds of thousands of people and have faced heavy police and even military repression. As we post this the miltary has occupied Bogota and the situation has calmed down. 

The Colombian government has been the main US ally in Latin America in the context of a situation where a number of left wing governments have been elected into power. This makes the events in Colombia all the more significant.

The following article from Green Left Weekly sharply lays out some of the context and details of the current rebellion. I encourage others to share more information, including on the clashes between tens of thousands of students and police on Thursday (August 29th), that the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has used to red-bait and to call in the army. (intro by Nat Winn)

Colombia: Rural uprising breaks out for fair prices, against 'free trade'

by Christian Tym

An uprising of the rural poor (campesinos) in Colombia entered its 11th day on August 29. An estimated 250,000 people took part in strikes and highway blockades across the South American country's highlands, where most of Colombia's population of 42 million is concentrated.

The central objective of the uprising is to guarantee minimum prices for agricultural products, and to annul Colombia's free trade agreements (FTAs) with the United States and the European Union.

The blockades are strongest in the provinces of Boyaca and Cundinamara, in the centre of the country around the capital, Bogota. The region is home to 8.5 million people.

Despite worsening food scarcity, residents in Bogota have shown their support for the uprising by blockading highways on the outskirts of the city, where they have engaged in a running battle with riot police.

In the south of the country, blockades in the provinces of Narino, Caqueta and Cauca have cut off traffic between Colombia and Ecuador and countries further south.

Protesters have also temporarily blockaded highways around Cali and Medellin, Colombia's second and third-largest cities, over the past week and a half. As of August 27, 48 highways were blockaded across eight provinces.


As of August 25, one police officer had been killed and more than 160 wounded in the uprising, according to the government.

The casualty list for the campesinos remains unknown. Though none have been killed, there have no doubt been several hundred if not a few thousand injured among the protesters.

The campesinos' central negotiating committee has denounced the "criminalisation of the protests, the disproportionate use of force, and the police use of firearms" to create fear and intimidation.

A student journalist arrested at the site of one blockade also denounced police violence. Along with five others arrested with him, he was beaten by police after being captured. After being charged and released, the journalist had to be hospitalised.

Oscar Gutierrez, spokesperson for Dignidad Cafetera (Dignity for Coffee-Growers), told Associated Press: "We are fighting [the riot police], but it is a very difficult situation. The government is really sticking it to us."

Further intensifying the situation, on August 25 a guerrilla attack in the south-east reportedly killed 14 Colombian army soldiers. The attackers were unknown, but may have been guerrillas from the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN). The ELN is not taking part in the peace negotiations being held in Cuba between the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the largest guerrilla army on the continent.


When the uprising began on August 19, the central concern was the collapsing prices for agricultural products provoked by FTAs with the US and EU. The campesinos want minimum price guarantees for their products, along with government support for fertilisers and other inputs.

Agriculture in the US and EU is heavily subsidised. An estimated 18% of US farmers' income comes from government subsidies, and in the EU the figure is 35%. In this context, the "free-trade" deals cut between Colombia and the US and EU have left Colombian campesinos in an impossible situation.

"Before, we used to earn 800 pesos [$0.46] for every litre of milk sold," said Moisés Delgado, a campesino spokesperson.
"Now, with the free trade agreement, we only get 500 pesos and we cannot live off this."

The FTA with the US came into effect in May last year.

This situation has forced many campesinos to sell their lands and join the burgeoning slums in Colombia's cities. This has led to the further concentration of land in the hands of agribusiness.

This also fits with one of the FTA's central aims ― to increase the profitability of Colombian textile factories, which rely on cheap urban labour.

President Juan Manuel Santos claims to want to find a solution to the problem, "so that the campesinos can have a dignified income, can stay in the countryside, and can see the future with hope and optimism". But his trade policies tell a different story.

As Cesar Pachon, leader of the potato-growers sector, made clear, the uprising follows protests in November 2011 and May, each of which led to negotiations with Santos's administration, but no real change.

"We have been tricked twice now," Pachon said. "This time we are not going to yield until we see dramatic solutions."

The rural uprising has since become a lightning rod for discontent against the US-backed Colombian government. This extends to opposition to privatisation of social services and cheap concessions to multinational mining corporations.

On August 28, campesinos were joined in protest by unions representing teachers, health-sector workers, students and industrial workers. Truck drivers are also striking alongside the campesinos.

regional implications

Colombia is the highest recipient of US military aid in Latin America and is the US's key ally in the region. In a region of left and left-leaning governments pursuing policies aimed at regional independence from Europe and North America, Colombia hosts several US military bases.

In June, it also made overtures towards participation in Nato. Its right-wing, US-friendly stance therefore stymies further integration between the left-wing ALBA alliance, and particularly between Venezuela and Ecuador. With elections due in May next year, any change in the political climate in Colombia would be of dramatic significance for South America.

Colombia's right-wing status quo is, however, sustained by perpetual political violence. The country has been repeatedly condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for the high rates of assassination of journalists, human rights workers and trade unionists.

The campesinos' negotiating committee has denounced paramilitary intimidation of protesters at several sites. They also report that police have been offering up to 10 million pesos ($5000) to protesters who identify the uprising's leaders.

A serious campaign for political change has begun in Colombia, but significant progress will come about only through further, intense struggle.



India: The Right to the City

Dr. Parthosarathy Ray gives a lecture entitled, "India: An Urban Battleground," on urban struggles and the right to the city in India.

Bennett D Carpenter: One review of The Tailor of Ulm

  In his extremely critical review of Jodi Dean's The Communist Horizon, Jeffrey Isaac opens with a gesture towards The Tailor of Ulm, Lucio Magri's memoir-cum-history of the Italian Communist Party. In contrast to Dean's "dismissive and disparaging polemic," Isaac praises Magri's "profound reckoning with historical experience" as a "model of honest recollection and reflection." In effect, he seems to be playing a Left-liberal version of good cop/bad cop: "good" communists are mournful and apologetic, "bad" communists polemical and unrepentant. This dichotomy is born out in his tone: his fretful-sounding Magri "worries" and "bemoans"; meanwhile Dean "challenges," "endorses" and "insists." Readers, like myself, more sympathetic to Dean's unabashed communism might conclude that Magri's book is just one more in a line of public recantations from remorseful ex-communists, with little or nothing to offer to the contemporary Left.

This would be unfortunate, because The Tailor of Ulm is one of the most engaging, insightful and unrepentant histories of communism that I have ever read.

As others have noted, the English translation of Magri's subtitle is misleading: it is not, as Verso would have it, the story of "Communism in the Twentieth Century." The original Italian (Una possibile storia del PCI) does better, for this is indeed a "possible history" of the Italian Communist Party, from its inception to its precipitous demise. In fairness to Verso, Magri does provide a succinct (and, in my opinion, excellent) evaluation of the global communist movement, and a reader unfamiliar with the shifting policies of the Kremlin, the details of the Sino-Soviet split, or the configuration of Tito's Yugoslavia could learn a great deal from these pages. But Magri's main focus is on the triumphs and the trials of the PCI.

The Italian Communist Party has been burdened with an unfortunate reputation—viewed by many liberals as irredeemably "Stalinist," by Stalinists as irredeemably "reformist," and by the autonomists as both.1 Indeed, it is to the last that we owe our stock stereotype of the PCI as hopelessly outdated and simultaneously opportunistic—a vision which, admittedly, bears some resemblance to the PCI's policy of "historic compromise" in the 1970s, although one might retort that a party is never static and though one wishes the autonomists could match their ruthless critique of actually-existing communism with an even roughly comparable degree of self-criticism. (The "historic compromise" was, it seems to me, based on an overly pessimistic reading of the situation; autonomist "politics"—such as these were—on an overly optimistic one.) While it seems unwise to leave history to the victors, a dearth of English-language materials has thus far left the story of the PCI in the hands of Negri and friends;2 Magri's memoir thus serves as a welcome corrective.

And it is a bracing one: at once nuanced and wide-ranging, avowedly partisan yet admirably judicious, unsparing in both criticism and praise, mournful yet optimistic. This last might seem a strange assertion, considering the undeniable demise (or self-implosion) of the PCI, but Magri is careful to evaluate every historical misstep with an eye to paths not taken—suggesting how, with the slightest of twists, defeat might have been transformed into resounding victory. Not only do we have no comparable taking-stock among historians of the Anglophone Left, we have no one who so clearly indicates the "possible" paths forward.

The history of the PCI was not, however, merely one of regrettable errors; from their mass base at the end of the Second World War they wrought a lasting coalition of some two million members, receiving their highest proportion of the vote in 1976 (34%) and their second-highest in 1984—at a point when most other communist parties were in disarray, if not active retreat. Along the way they managed to draft Europe's most progressive constitution, carve out an enduring place in Italian politics, and (at first hesitantly, then more confidently after the invasion of Prague) to distance themself from the abuses of the Soviet Union while remaining firmly committed to the achievement of communism.

Magri takes us through each stage in this complicated saga, offering not just a summary of events but also a critical analysis and, at times, a first-hand perspective. (Magri joined the Party in the early '50s, was expelled in '69, and rejoined in 1984.) Occasionally he breaks with historical sequence to assert his own contemporaneity, at times quite viscerally: "I confess that at this point, a profound doubt paralyzed my work on the book for weeks and months." Far from disrupting the narrative, such passages convey the tremendous difficulty of coming to grips with the past in its dialectical relation to the present. I was reminded of Walter Benjamin's insistence that sequence becomes history only posthumously, and that "the historian who proceeds from this consideration ceases to tell the sequence of events like beads on a rosary. He grasps the constellation into which his own era has entered, along with a very specific earlier one."

How does that earlier era measure up from the vantage of the present? In this complex balance sheet, Togliatti (who led the party from 1927 to his death in 1964) comes off reasonably well. With both courage and flexibility—and partly thanks to the legacy of Gramsci's Prison Notebooks—he managed to transform a small vanguard into a genuine "people's party," to steer it through the Stalin era and the shock of de-Stalinization, and in his last years to foresee (but alas, not to prevent) the devastating consequences of the Sino-Soviet split as well as the vital importance of the new youth movements.

Unsurprisingly, Luigi Longo (party secretary from 1964 to 1972) comes in for greater criticism, and the Berlinguer of the 1970s for much stronger critique. What is surprising is that Magri identifies a "second Berlinguer" of the 1980s, one who took a quite radical turn towards class struggle and the wholesale critique of the existing political system. Unfortunately, Berlinguer's death in 1984 led to a period of internal division from which the Right of the PCI emerged triumphant, only to seal their Pyric victory by dissolving the PCI into a new "Democratic Party of the Left"—which, through several name changes and while hemorrhaging members, ultimately merged into an anodyne "Democratic Party" stripped of all vestiges of its communist heritage.

The death or suicide of the Italian Communist Party was by no means pre-ordained; in 1991 it still counted 1.5 million active members and some 28% of the vote, and had sufficiently distanced itself from the Soviet Union to survive the latter's collapse. Only one year later, Italy was engulfed in corruption scandals (posthumously confirming Berlinguer's critique) which destroyed the entirety of the existing political spectrum. The PCI, virtually the only major party to have avoided implication in the scandal, would have stood a good chance of emerging as the victor from these ruins, had not the leadership just concluded, with tremendous historical irony, that the conditions for the existence of a communist party were no longer fortuitous.

This conclusion had been bitterly contested by a substantial minority of the leadership, primarily organized around Ingrao. The so-called "No Front" commissioned Magri to draft a platform defending the continued relevance and vitality of the communist tradition, and to address the challenges and promises facing the party in the post-Cold War period. After the No Front went down to defeat, Magri put this document away in a drawer, only to exhume it as the final, unaltered chapter of his "possible" history. "It must have been a good drawer," he writes, "because twenty years later, to my eyes at least, it doesn't seem to have aged so much."

This is an understatement. Magri's platform, addressing everything from the ecological crisis to the women's and social movements to the transition to post-Fordism, presents a compelling case not just for the relevance but the indispensability of a renewed Communist Party. With incredible prescience, he predicts the increase of unwaged and precarious labor, the irreversible decline of the first-world industrial sector, the rise of financialization, and the corresponding reduction in the role of the nation-state (which remains vital, but in a largely reflexive, managerial capacity—what Margi calls the "impotent sovereign"). Perhaps his most poignant contribution is to note that such developments, far from revealing the redundancy of "traditional" Marxism, in fact confirm Marx's essential hypothesis: that "the exploitation of living labor will become a paltry basis for the general development of wealth," which "should mean that the discourse of communism, in its original, emancipatory meaning, has come of age for the first time in history."

Magri is not naïve about the obstacles, nor about the need to fundamentally rethink the role and nature of the party in the post-industrial era. In a manner which prefigures Dean's conception of "the people," Magri calls for the party as "the stimulus and synthesis of a whole system of autonomous political movements, through which a multiplicity of social subjects together weld a new historic block." Unlike Dean, he believes such a synthesis must mobilize beneath the banner of democracy, not despite but because of the self-evident vacuity of bourgeois democratic forms; with Lenin he insists that genuine democracy is achievable only through socialism, but adds that socialism is inconceivable without democracy. His conception of an innovative party which compensates for capitalism's "democratic deficit" with the construction of a collective political subject should be read alongside Dean's proposal, not (pace Isaac) as its antithesis, but as its comradely counterpoint.

And who is the Tailor of Ulm? Magri refers to the poem of Brecht in which an enterprising tailor constructs a flying machine and summons the bishop of Ulm to watch him take flight—only to plummet precipitously back to earth. And yet, Magri concludes, hundreds of years later humans did learn how to fly; how many tries will it take before communism, too, lifts off the ground?

Forget the twentieth century, anyone interested in the "possible history" of communism in the twenty-first century should—no, must—pick up this book.

1 On page 9 of his Precarious Rhapsody, Franco ("Bifo") Berardi writes: "The heirs of Leninism[...] are no longer capable of interpreting the signs that come from the new social reality, and oscillate between a 'reformist' position of subordination to liberal hyper-capitalism and a 'resistant' position that re-proposes old ideologies." In his subsequent analysis of the Italian "long '68" this oscillation collapses into a single (contradictory) condemnation: the PCI is simultaneously faulted for being too reformist and too Stalinist. Thus he speaks of "the political agenda of the Stalinist-reformist party" (p. 22) and "this special blend of reformist Stalinism that the PCI embodied" (p. 23).


2 One (slightly dated) exception is Donald Sassoon's Strategy of the Italian Communist Party (New York: St Martin's, 1981), now unfortunately out of print.