Noam Chomsky: Right-Wing Insurrection in Brazil Held Strong Echoes of January 6

Noam Chomsky

Both cases reveal how fragile representative democracies have become — and we may not have seen the last of such events.

The right-wing riot and insurrection led on January 8 by followers of Brazil’s incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro had strong echoes of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters. Like Trump supporters’ mob attack on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., the January 8, 2023, insurrection in the capital city of Brasília grew out of weeks of protests by supporters of an incumbent president who refused to accept electoral defeat in a fall election. Both cases reveal how fragile liberal representative democracies have become in the neoliberal era, argues Noam Chomsky in the exclusive interview for Truthout that follows, adding that we may not have seen the last of such events either in the U.S. or in Latin America.

Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and laureate professor of linguistics and Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. One of the world’s most-cited scholars and a public intellectual regarded by millions of people as a national and international treasure, Chomsky has published more than 150 books in linguistics, political and social thought, political economy, media studies, U.S. foreign policy and world affairs. His latest books are Illegitimate Authority: Facing the Challenges of Our Time (forthcoming; with C.J. Polychroniou); The Secrets of Words (with Andrea Moro; MIT Press, 2022); The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power (with Vijay Prashad; The New Press, 2022); and The Precipice: Neoliberalism, the Pandemic and the Urgent Need for Social Change (with C.J. Polychroniou; Haymarket Books, 2021).

C. J. Polychroniou: Noam, on January 8, 2023, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings because they wouldn’t accept the defeat of their fascist leader — an event, incidentally, that you strongly feared might take place almost from the moment that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the presidential election. The insurrection of course has raised a lot of questions inside Brazil, as well as abroad, about the role of the Brazilian police, the failure of the intelligence services to warn Lula about what was going to happen and who orchestrated the riots. This was undoubtedly an attempted coup, just like the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and should serve as yet another reminder of how fragile liberal democracies have become in the neoliberal era. Can you comment on these matters?

Noam Chomsky: Fragile indeed. The January 6 attempted coup could have succeeded if a few people had made different decisions and if Trump had succeeded in replacing the top military command, as he was apparently trying to do in his last days in office.

January 6 was unplanned, and the leader was so consumed by narcissistic rage that he couldn’t direct what was happening. January 8, clearly modelled on its predecessor, was well-planned and financed. Early inquiries suggest that it may have been financed by small businesses and perhaps by agricultural interests concerned that their free rein to destroy the Amazon would be infringed. It was well-advertised in advance. It’s impossible that the security services were not aware of the plans. In Brasília itself — pro-Bolsonaro territory — they pretty much cooperated with the marauders. The army watched the coup being well organized and supplied in encampments outside military installations nearby.

With impressive unity that was lacking in the U.S., Brazilian officials and elites condemned the Bolsonarist uprising and supported newly elected president Lula’s decisive actions to suppress it. There is nothing like the U.S. denialist movement in high places. The uprising itself was savage and indiscriminate, as amply portrayed in the extensive TV coverage. The apparent intention was to create sufficient chaos so that the military would have a pretext for taking over and reestablishing the brutal dictatorship that Bolsonaro greatly admired.

International opposition to the insurrection was also immediate and forceful, most importantly of course, that of Washington. According to the well-informed Brazilian political analyst Liszt Vieira, who shared his thoughts with Fórum 21 on January 16, President Biden, while no admirer of Lula, “sent 4 diplomats to defend the Brazilian electoral system and send a message to the military: No coup!” His report is confirmed by John Lee Anderson in a judicious account of the unfolding events.

If the January 6 coup attempt had succeeded, or if its copy had taken place during a Republican administration, Brazil might have returned to the grim years of military dictatorship.

I doubt that we’ve seen the end of this in the U.S. or in “our little region over here” as Latin America was called by Secretary of War Henry Stimson when explaining why all regional systems should be dismantled in the new era of post-war U.S. hegemony, except our own.

The fragility of democracies through the neoliberal era is apparent enough, beginning with the oldest and best-established of them, England and the U.S. It is also no surprise. Neoliberalism, pretensions and rhetoric aside, is basically class war. That goes back to the roots of neoliberalism and its close cousin austerity after World War I, a topic discussed in very illuminating recent work by Clara Mattei.

As such, a core principle is to insulate economic policy from public influence and pressure, either by placing it in the hands of professional experts (as in the liberal democracies) or by violence (as under fascism). The modalities are not sharply distinguished. Organized labor must be eliminated because it interferes with the “sound economics” that transfers wealth to the very rich and corporate sector. Investor rights agreements masked as “free trade” made their own contribution. A range of policies, legislative and judicial, left the political systems even more in the hands of concentrated private capital than the norm, while wages stagnated, benefits declined and much of the workforce drifted to precarity, living from paycheck to paycheck with little in reserve.

Of course, respect for institutions declines — rightly — and formal democracy erodes, exactly as neoliberal class war dictates.

Brazil, just like the U.S., is a deeply divided nation, virtually on the verge of a civil war. Having said that, I believe Lula has a very difficult task ahead of him in terms of uniting the nation and pushing forth a new policy agenda based on progressive values. Should we be surprised therefore if his government falls short of carrying out radical reforms, as many seem to expect a leftist president to do?

I don’t see any prospect of radical reforms, either in Brazil or in the neighboring countries where there has recently been a new “pink tide” of left political victories. The elected leadership is not committed to radical institutional change, and if they were, they would face the powerful opposition of internal concentrations of economic power and conservative cultural forces, often shaped by the evangelical churches, along with hostile international power — economic, subversive, military — that has not abandoned its traditional vocation of maintaining order and subordination in “our little region over here.”

What can realistically be hoped for in Brazil is carrying forward the projects of President Lula’s first terms, which the World Bank in a study of Brazil called its “golden decade,” with sharp reduction in poverty and significant expansion of inclusiveness in a dramatically unequal society. Lula’s Brazil may also recover the international standing it achieved during his first terms, when Brazil became of the most respected countries in the world and an effective voice for the Global South, all lost during the Bolsonaro regression.

Some knowledgeable analysts are still more optimistic. Jeffrey Sachs, after intense discussions with the new government, concluded that growth and development prospects are favorable and that Brazil’s development and international role could “help reform the global architecture — including finance and foreign policy — for the benefit of sustainable development.”

Of paramount importance, not just for Brazil but for the whole world, would be resuming and extending the protection of the Amazon that was a highlight of Lula’s first terms, and that was reversed by Bolsonaro’s lethal policies of enabling mining and agribusiness destruction that were already beginning to turn parts of the forest to savannah, an irreversible process that will turn one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks into a carbon producer. With the dedicated environmentalist Marina Silva now in charge of environmental issues, there is some hope of saving this precious resource from destruction, with awesome global consequences.

There is also some hope of rescuing the Indigenous inhabitants of the forests. Some of Lula’s first actions on regaining the presidency were to visit Indigenous communities that had been subjected to the terror unleashed by Bolsonaro’s assault on the Amazon and its inhabitants. The scenes of misery, of children reduced to virtual skeletons, of disease and destruction, are beyond words to describe, at least mine. Perhaps these hideous crimes will come to an end.

These would be no slight achievements. They might help lay a firmer basis for the more radical institutional change that Brazilians need and deserve — and not Brazil alone. A basis is already there. Brazil is the home of the world’s largest left popular movement, the Landless Workers Movement (MST), which takes over unused lands to form productive communities, often with flourishing cooperatives — to be sure, not without bitter struggle. The MST is establishing links with a major urban left popular movement, the Landless Worker’s Movement. Its most prominent figure, Guilherme Boulos, is close to Lula, representing tendencies that might be able to forge a path beyond the incremental improvements that are desperately needed in themselves.

The left, no matter where it comes to power, seems to fall short of expectations. In fact, often enough, it ends up carrying out the very neoliberal policy agenda that it challenges while in opposition. Is it because neoliberalism is such a formidable foe, or because today’s left lacks both a strategy and a vision beyond capitalism?

There has long been a lively left culture in Latin America, which the northern colossus can learn from. The internal and external barriers, which are formidable quite beyond their neoliberal incarnation, have sufficed to constrain hopes and expectations. Latin America has often seemed on the verge of breaking free from these constraints. It might do so now. That could help propel the developments towards multipolarity that are apparent today and that might, just might, open the way to a much better world. Entrenched power, however, does not just melt away.

We speak of political crises, economic crises and an ecological and climate crisis, among others, but it seems to me that we should also be talking of a humanity crisis. By that, I mean we may be on the verge of the dawn of an anti-Enlightenment era, with capitalism and irrationality having gone berserk and being at the root of a widespread ontological transition. Do you have any thoughts to share on this matter? Are we confronted with the possibility of the rise of an anti-Enlightenment era?

We should bear in mind that the Enlightenment was not exactly a bed of roses for most of the world. It was accompanied by the unleashing of what Adam Smith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” a horrific onslaught against most the world. The most advanced societies, India and China, were devastated by European savagery, in its latter stages the world’s most awesome narcotrafficking racket, which ravaged India to raise the opium that was rammed down the throats of China by barbarians led by England, with its North American offshoot not far behind, and other imperial powers joining in what China calls the century of humiliation. In the Americas and Africa, the criminal destruction was far worse, in ways too well-known to recount.

There were lofty ideals, with limited though significant reach. And it is true that they have been under severe attack.

The fact that unrestrained capitalism is a death sentence for humanity can no longer be concealed with soothing words. Imperial violence, religious nationalism and accompanying pathologies are running rampant. What is evolving before our eyes raises in ever starker form the question that should have struck all of us with blinding fury 77 years ago: Can humans close the gap between their technological capacity to destroy and their moral capacity to control this impulse?

It is not just a question, but the ultimate question, in that if it does not receive a positive answer, and soon, no one will long care about any others.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political scientist/political economist, author, and journalist who has taught and worked in numerous universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. Currently, his main research interests are in U.S. politics and the political economy of the United States, European economic integration, globalization, climate change and environmental economics, and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published scores of books and over 1,000 articles which have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into a multitude of different languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. His latest books are Optimism Over DespairNoam Chomsky On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change (2017); Climate Crisis and the Global Green New DealThe Political Economy of Saving the Planet (with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin as primary authors, 2020); The PrecipiceNeoliberalism, the Pandemic, and the Urgent Need for Radical Change (an anthology of interviews with Noam Chomsky, 2021); and Economics and the LeftInterviews with Progressive Economists (2021).

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The U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment Proves In Ukraine That It Forgot The Lessons of Vietnam

James W. Carden – Photo: Independent Media Institute

Friday, January 27th, marks 50 years since the signing of the Paris Peace Accords by representatives from the United States, North and South Vietnam effectively ending American participation in the Vietnamese civil conflict. What the Georgetown University international relations scholar Charles Kuphan calls an “isolationist impulse” made a “significant comeback in response to the Vietnam War, which severely strained the liberal internationalist consensus.”

As the Cold War historian John Lamberton Harper points out, President Jimmy Carter’s hawkish Polish-born national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski scorned his intra-administration rival, the cautious, gentlemanly secretary of state Cyrus Vance as “a nice man but burned by Vietnam.” Indeed, Vance and a number of his generation carried with them a profound disillusionment in the aftermath of Vietnam which shaped their approach to the world. And for a short time, the “Vietnam Syndrome,” (shorthand for a wariness and suspicion of unnecessary and unsupportable foreign interventions) occasionally informed policy at the highest levels and manifested itself in the promulgations of the Wienberger and Powell Doctrines which, in theory anyway, were set up as a kind of break on unnecessary military adventures.

But only hours after the successful conclusion of the First Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush declared, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.”

And kick it Bush did: In the decades following his 1991 pronouncement, the United States has been at war in one form or another (either as a belligerent or unofficial co-belligerent as is the case with our involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and in Ukraine) for all but 2 of the 32 years that have followed.

The political-media atmosphere that now prevails in Washington makes it exceedingly difficult to believe such a thing as a ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ ever existed. Indeed, President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Ukraine has been met with rapturous approval from the Washington media establishment, winning plaudits from all the usual suspects.

But what kind of success is it really, when the entire thing might have been avoided by judicious diplomatic engagement? Are we really to believe that a war resulting, so far, in 200,000 dead and 8 million displaced, has been worth an empty promise of NATO membership?

While the war has currently ground to a stalemate, the legacy media and various and sundry think-tank-talking-heads issue regular assurances of steady progress in the field and victory soon to come.

Writing in the Journal of Democracy this past September, political scientist and author of the End of History and The Last Man Francis Fukuyama exulted: “Ukraine will win. Slava Ukraini!”

Washington Post reporter Liz Sly told readers in early January 2023 that “If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to definitively end Russia’s threat, Western officials and analysts say.”

Newsweek, reporting in October 2022, informed readers by way of activist Ilya Ponomarev, a former member of the Russian parliament, that “Russia is not yet on the brink of revolution…but is not far off.”

Rutgers University professor Alexander J. Motyl agrees. In a January 2023 article for Foreign Policy magazine titled ‘It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse’ Motyl decried as “stunning” what he believes is a “near-total absence of any discussion among politicians, policymakers, analysts, and journalists of the consequences of defeat for Russia. … considering the potential for Russia’s collapse and disintegration.”

Also in early January, the former head of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lt. General Ben Hodges told the Euromaidan Press that, “The decisive phase of the campaign…will be the liberation of Crimea. Ukrainian forces are going to spend a lot of time knocking out or disrupting the logistical networks that are important for Crimea…That is going to be a critical part that leads or sets the conditions for the liberation of Crimea, which I expect will be finished by the end of August.”

As Gore Vidal once quipped, “There is little respite for a people so routinely—so fiercely—disinformed.”

Conspicuous by its absence in what passes for foreign policy discourse in the American capital is the question of American interests: How does the allocation of vast sums to a wondrously corrupt regime in Kiev in any way materially benefit everyday Americans? Is the imposition of a narrow, sectarian Galician nationalism over the whole of Ukraine truly a core American interest? Does the prolongation of a proxy war between NATO and Russia further European and American security interests?

In truth, the lessons of Vietnam were forgotten long ago. The generation that now largely populates the ranks of the Washington media and political establishment came of age when Vietnam was already in the rearview. Today, the unabashed liberal interventionists who staff the Biden administration came up in the 1990s when it was commonly thought the United States didn’t do enough, notably in Bosnia and in Rwanda. As such, and almost without exception, they have supported every American mis-adventure abroad since 9/11.

The caution which, albeit all-too-temporarily, stemmed from the “Vietnam Syndrome” is today utterly absent in the corridors of power in Joe Biden’s Washington. The Vietnam Syndrome is indeed kicked: Dead and buried.

But we may soon regret its passing.

Author Bio:
This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord.

James W. Carden is a former advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department and a member of the Board of ACURA.

Source: Globetrotter

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Why A Small City In Ukraine Is A Focal Point In The War

John P. Ruehl

The small Ukrainian city of Bakhmut has seemingly limited strategic significance. But coupled with its growing psychological value, Russia will continue attempting to take the city, despite high casualties, by whatever means necessary.

Since the Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive started gaining momentum in September 2022, the Russian army has largely been on the defensive. Russian drone and missile strikes continue to target Ukraine’s major cities, but its military forces have retreated from attempts to take Kherson, Kharkiv, or any other major Ukrainian settlement. Strong defensive fortifications built by Russian and Ukrainian armed forces across the frontline have stalled major advances as troops from both sides have mostly opted to dig in.

But the Kremlin has directed thousands of its forces since August 2022 to attack the small Donetsk city of Bakhmut. The war has in several ways been an “old-fashioned conflict, based on attrition, on devastating artillery strikes, and on dug-in positions reminiscent of the trenches of World War I,” as opposed to some of the quick offensives and counteroffensives that were seen during the first part of the current conflict.

According to a January 10, 2023, article in PBS NewsHour, the Ukrainian-backed governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, “estimated more than two months ago that 90 percent of Bakhmut’s prewar population of over 70,000 had fled since Moscow focused on seizing the entire Donbas.” The fighting and destruction have only intensified since Kyrylenko made this statement, but the Kremlin appears intent on capturing Bakhmut for propaganda purposes and to tout a tactical victory after months of retreats. According to a Ukrainian analyst, “Bakhmut is mostly a political goal for Russia—it’s being done mostly for the sake of propaganda reasons to show everybody that after so many months and utter failures in Kherson and Kharkiv, it still can capture a more or less significant city,” stated a TRT World article.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has sought to prove that Ukrainian forces still have the capability to hold back the Russian advance, and made a surprise visit to Bakhmut on December 20. On January 9, 2023, Zelenskyy declared that the defense of the nearby city of Soledar had led to the gain of “additional time and power for Ukraine.” But the Ukrainian armed forces have had to divert “significant reinforcements” to the battle from other parts of the country since January, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense. And despite heavy Russian casualties, high Ukrainian casualties have also become a concern for Kyiv.

Western and Ukrainian officials have often downplayed the strategic importance of Bakhmut, depicting it as a sinkhole for Russian forces that may result in a “Pyrrhic victory.” Nonetheless, the phrase “hold Bakhmut” has become a Ukrainian rallying cry, and Zelenskyy’s visit demonstrated the growing symbolic importance of controlling the city.

Bakhmut, however, does possess some strategic value. Few major settlements exist to its west until the Dnieper River, and the flatter and open terrain would make Ukrainian attempts to reinforce from this direction vulnerable to Russian surveillance and firepower. Ukraine also has relatively poor road infrastructure, and Bakhmut serves as a critical juncture of transport and communication lines for Ukrainian forces in the region, including strategic supply lines to the Ukrainian-controlled settlements of Siversk, Lyman, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk.

For Russia, seizing Bakhmut would allow it to disrupt these supply lines, as well as take pressure off the battle over Russia-controlled Kremmina, which Ukrainian forces have been fighting to recover. Bakhmut is therefore key to Russian attempts to consolidate and stabilize the Donbas, where Russia has fought since 2014 and initially made gains in 2022, before the Ukrainian counteroffensive in September.

Taking or destroying key industrial centers in the Donbas region will also reduce Ukraine’s industrial output, leading to its economy suffering further.

Bakhmut stands out as the only major area where Russian forces are on the offensive, but the frontline has been relatively stable up until recently. Yet throughout January 2023, Russian forces have moved to the city’s flank and made increasing gains in the nearby town of Soledar. After weeks of fighting, the Kremlin stated that Soledar had been captured on January 13, this was later confirmed by the Institute for the Study of War and Ukrainian armed forces.

Russian forces have enjoyed an advantage over Ukrainian forces in artillery numbers, and an early transition to a wartime economy by the Kremlin has further helped sustain months of relentless artillery strikes by it. Nonetheless, Russia has turned to countries like North Korea in recent months to obtain more artillery, and its artillery fire has decreased in recent days, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

But Ukraine’s more limited artillery capabilities have also recently been threatened. Despite pleas for more 155-millimeter artillery rounds, Western manufacturers have struggled to supply an adequate quantity and ramp up production. This has forced the U.S. to ask South Korea for artillery and Washington also secured hundreds of thousands of 155mm artillery shells for Ukraine from its stockpiles in Israel. Meanwhile, according to U.S. defense officials, “A third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time.”

Western countries have now been focusing on delivering more advanced weapons to Ukraine, such as missile defense systems, tanks, and armored vehicles. Recent pledges by the UK and Canada to supply Ukraine with heavy vehicles (as well as pressure on Germany and the U.S. to do so as well) will no doubt help Ukrainian forces on the frontline. But with Russia currently dictating where the fiercest fighting will take place, Bakhmut’s vulnerability to artillery has made holding it a significant challenge.

Local militia groups and the Russian military have naturally played essential roles in the ongoing battle for Bakhmut and its surrounding regions. But perhaps most notable is that much of Russia’s recent progress has been made by the Russian private military company, Wagner.

Wagner has operated in Ukraine since 2014 and has expanded its reach to countries across Africa and the Middle East, while the company’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been keen to demonstrate his private army can accomplish major military objectives. Additionally, the deaths of Wagner mercenaries are not counted as official Russian casualties, making the costly effort to take Bakhmut easier for the Russian public to stomach. In early January 2023, the first Wagner fighters, who were “secretly pardoned convicts” recruited by the company returned home after completing their contracts, causing controversy in Russia and highlighting the role of the non-state actor in the conflict.

Western and Ukrainian observers believe that Wagner troops have suffered casualties in the thousands. Prigozhin, meanwhile, stated on a telegram channel in November 2022 that “Our goal is not Bakhmut… [itself] but the destruction of the Ukrainian army and the reduction of its combat potential, which has an extremely positive effect on other areas, which is why this operation was dubbed the ‘Bakhmut meat grinder.’”

It is also suspected that Prigozhin aims to seize the salt and gypsum mines in the region, similar to other Wagner efforts to gain access to resources across conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East.

The outsized role of Wagner in the battle, as well as Prigozhin’s growing profile in Russia, has led to significant tension between the oligarch and the Russian military. After the capture of Soledar, Prigozhin claimed this was solely due to Wagner, while the Russian Defense Ministry claimed a few days later that victory was thanks to the Russian armed forces without mentioning the Wagner mercenaries.

The dispute between the Russian military and Wagner has come amid a leadership shakeup among the top brass of the Russian military. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, replaced Sergei Surovikin as the Ukraine campaign’s overall commander on January 11. The change indicates the Kremlin’s frustration with the fledgling promises of the Russian armed forces. Nonetheless, the slow success of Russian artillery strikes in Soledar combined with Wagner troops shows that the two can work together.

But Bakhmut, so far, remains elusive for the Kremlin. Whichever side controls the city will have an advantage over any potential offensives later in 2023 and will have more say over where the next major battles take place. While Ukraine’s armed forces remain united under a more centralized command, the Kremlin will have to be careful of the growing tension between its armed forces, local militia groups, and private military companies.

Author Bio:
This article was produced by Globetrotter

John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. His book, Budget Superpower: How Russia Challenges the West With an Economy Smaller Than Texas’, was published in December 2022.

Source: Globetrotter

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Burkina Faso Ejects French Troops

Vijay Prashad

On January 18, 2023, the government of Burkina Faso made a decision to ask the French military forces to depart from the country within a month. This decision was made by the government of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, who staged the second coup of 2022 in Burkina Faso in September to remove Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who had seized power in a coup d’état in January. Traoré, now the interim president of Burkina Faso, said that Damiba, who is in exile in Togo, had not fulfilled the objectives of the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, the name of their military group. Traoré’s government accused Damiba of not being able to stem the insurgency in the country’s north and of colluding with the French (alleging that Damiba had taken refuge in the French military base at Kamboinsin to launch a strike against the coup within a coup).

France entered the Sahel region in 2013 to prevent the southern movement of jihadist elements strengthened by the war in Libya, prosecuted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the past few years, anti-French sentiment has deepened in North Africa and the Sahel. It was this sentiment that provoked the coups in Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Guinea (September 2021), and then in Burkina Faso (January 2022 and September 2022). In February 2022, Mali’s government ejected the French military, accusing French forces of committing atrocities against civilians and colluding with jihadi insurgents. Burkina Faso has now joined Mali.

The ejection of France does not mean that there will be no NATO countries in the region. Both the United States and Britain have a large footprint from Morocco to Niger, with the United States trying to draw African countries into its contest against China and Russia. Regular trips by U.S. military leaders—such as U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley (commander of U.S. Africa Command) to Gabon in mid-January – and by U.S. civilian leaders—like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia—are part of a full-court press to ensure that African states forge closer ties with the United States and its allies over China. The designation of Russia’s Wagner Group—which is said to be operating in the Sahel—as a “transnational criminal organization ” by the United States and the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, held in mid-December, are both attempts to draw African states into a new cold war.

Almost half of the Burkinabé population lives below the poverty line, and “more than 630,000 people are on the brink of starvation,” in the country, according to the UN. The country is, however, not poor with its gold export reaching $7.19 billion in 2020. These gains do not go to the Burkinabé people but go to the large mining companies. Ejection of the French military will not be the answer to these deep-seated problems faced by Burkina Faso.

Author Bio:
This article was produced by Globetrotter.

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

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An Ancient Recipe For Social Success

Zona Arqueológica Monte Albán Vista – Photo: wikimedia commons

New evidence and understandings about the structure of successful early societies across Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere are sweeping away the popular assumption that early societies tended toward autocracy and despotism.

Archaeology has a more valuable story to tell: Collective action and localized economic production are a recipe for sustainability and broader well-being. The Mesoamerican city of Monte Albán, which was a major regional urban center for 1,300 years, is a shining example. It is a powerful case study that early investments in public infrastructure and goods foster longer-term sustainability.

There is a rich vein of insight here for some of the most pressing challenges faced by humanity: billions of people living in poverty, and collapsing social structures in the developing world. And in the wealthy industrialized world, many are increasingly disillusioned by the flaws in our political and economic models.

But if we’re going to use the models from the ancient past, can we be confident about how early societies really operated?

Researchers have begun to identify archaeological evidence that works as indicators for political and social behaviors and institutions:

– Is there evidence of extreme wealth disparity or equality in lifestyle or burial?
– Does monumental architecture foster exclusivity (elite tombs, aggrandizing monuments, evidence of dynastic legitimation) or access (e.g., open plazas, wide access ways, community temples)?
– Are palaces prominent or is it not clear where the leader resided?
– Does art emphasize lineal descent, divine kingship, and royal patron deities or does it feature more abstract themes such as fertility or integrative cosmological principles?

There is a lot we can determine from a society’s tendency toward the first or second option in each of these questions about whether it was more autocratic or associated with collective/good governance.

In a study of 26 early urban centers in Mesoamerica, Monte Albán was one of 12 that was characterized as a collectively organized city based on a series of indicators. Prior to the city’s abandonment, Monte Albán was not highly unequal: there were few, if any, lavish tombs, no great caches of household riches or other evidence of extreme wealth differences, and no large, ornate palace that was unequivocally the ruler’s residence.

From early in the site’s history, the city’s core was centered on a large plaza that could have accommodated a significant proportion of the site’s population. Flattening the hill’s rocky top and then defining and creating this large open space entailed planning, coordination, and cooperation. Until very late in the city’s history, material representations of rulers were relatively rare, and there is an overall lack of ruler aggrandizement. During the city’s first four centuries (500–100 BCE), there were few depictions of seemingly important individuals or leaders. Rule was largely faceless.

How did it happen?

In this light, let’s travel to the early sedentary villages (c. 1500–500 BCE) in the Valley of Oaxaca—the largest expanse of flat land in Mexico’s Southern Highlands. They were situated on or near well-watered land.

Around 500 BCE, however, a new hilltop center, Monte Albán, was established at the nexus of the valley’s three arms, where agriculture was far riskier due to unreliable rainfall and a dearth of permanent water sources. During the era of its establishment, not only was Monte Albán larger than any earlier community in the region, but many other settlers moved into the rural area around Monte Albán.

This marked shift in settlement patterns and the underlying processes associated with the foundation of Monte Albán have long been debated. How can we account for the immigration of people, some likely from beyond the region itself, to an area where they faced greater risks of crop failure?

One perspective, reliant on uniform models of premodern states as despotic, viewed the process from a basically top-down lens; leaders coerced their subjects to move near the capital to provide sustenance for the new center.

Yet more recent research has found that governance at Monte Albán was generally more collective than autocratic, and in its growth period, productive activities were collective, centered in domestic units and not managed from above.

By the time Monte Albán was established in the Valley of Oaxaca, more than a thousand years had passed since foragers transitioned from mobile lifeways to sedentary communities. Maize, beans, and squash, which had been domesticated prior to village formation, were key elements of an agricultural economy, with maize providing the bulk of calories. Early villagers also exploited a mosaic of other natural resources including clay for making ceramic vessels and figurines, stone for making tools and ornaments, and plant materials for processing into a range of woven products.

The shift to sedentary life was a long social process through which formerly dispersed populations not only adjusted but committed to living in larger communities and interacting with more people on a daily basis.

The Valley of Oaxaca has a climate that is semiarid, rainfall is unpredictable and spatially patchy across the region, and not all sectors of the valley floor receive the minimum annual precipitation necessary for reliable rainfall farming of maize, the region’s staple and culturally most important crop.

The prime factor that determines the productivity of maize is the availability of water, and a diversity of water management practices have been used since prehispanic times. These manipulations, which increase agricultural yields, include wells and pot irrigation, check dams, and small-scale canals, all of which were easily managed or implemented at the household level.

The Valley of Oaxaca was a core politico-economic region. Prior to Monte Albán’s founding, most of the populace resided in one of three clusters of settlements that were separated from the others by largely unoccupied areas, including the center of the valley where Monte Albán was later situated. In each arm, a cluster of smaller communities surrounded one larger settlement that had special functions and served as the “head towns” of small competing polities.

This millennial pattern was broken when Monte Albán was built on a steep hilltop in the center of the valley. The settlement’s establishment and rapid growth in size and monumentality set off a dynamic episode of innovation and change that included demographic, dietary, and other economic shifts. Populations grew rapidly not only at the new center, which became the largest and most monumental city in the valley’s early history, but also in the surrounding countryside. The center and rural communities were integrated through an emergent market network that provisioned the city.

This dramatic episode of change required the coordination of labor to build the new city. The rocky hilltop was flattened into a large main plaza with monumental buildings constructed along its edges. The scale and orientation of this central plaza represent a key transition from prior community plans in the region. Residences for the city’s burgeoning population were constructed on the steep slopes of the hill by creating flattened spaces, or terraces, shored up by stone and earthen retaining walls, each of which sustained a domestic unit.

The allocation of the hill’s apex for civic-ceremonial space and the lower slopes for commoner residences was a blueprint for a broad social accord. Built environments are not neutral, but political, and Monte Albán’s footprint with a large, relatively open central space and little display of hierarchical leaders points to a collective arrangement.

The city’s concentrated residential precincts comprised strings of artificially flattened terraces that shared long retaining walls. Construction of the terraces required allotments of domestic labor to clear trees, flatten steep inclinations, erect stone walls to retain flat spaces where houses would be built, and construct drainage channels to divert rainwater from living spaces. The construction, sharing, and maintenance of front retaining walls involved high degrees of interhousehold cooperation between neighbors.

Additionally, commoners adopted construction techniques and basic ceramic wares that previously were the domain of high-status families. In the early city, most houses included contiguous rooms with plaster floors, often constructed around a patio; they were built with adobe bricks on stone foundations instead of the mud and thatch typical of earlier commoner houses. The pottery wares that previously were largely used by higher-status families or as ceremonial vessels became more broadly distributed in the centuries after Monte Albán was established. This level of cooperation and coordination is evidence of a social charter or norms, in which a wider array of residents had access to what previously had been higher-status materials and goods.

No large-scale production has been uncovered, and there is no indication of central-governmental food storage at Monte Albán, as one might expect with top-down economic control or redistribution.

Economic production at Monte Albán was situated in domestic contexts. Instead of being coerced to move to Monte Albán, people were attracted to the city. Monte Albán was settled by a sizable group, possibly as large as 1,000 people, and rapidly grew to about 5,000 people within a few hundred years. Populations also increased in the rural areas around Monte Albán, and the annual rate of population growth in the valley exceeded what could have been maintained by natural increase alone. Populations expanded again in and around Monte Albán after c. 300 BCE. The threefold growth was too large to be accounted for by local, “natural growth,” so that people must have been drawn to Monte Albán and the valley from more distant, extra-regional locations.

Evidence indicates that the agricultural catchment for feeding Monte Albán likely extended 20 kilometers from the city. The market and exchange networks that moved food to the city created a high degree of interconnection among small settlements and Monte Albán. This interdependence required cooperation, infrastructure, and institutions that together provided the means of moving food and distributing seasonal surpluses.

Prior to Monte Albán, early “head towns” were generally positioned adjacent to good farmland. But the new city was located in an area of the valley where agriculture was riskier and largely dependent on unpredictable rainfall. Why would people move to a place where they faced a high risk of crop failure, where they could have been taxed more highly, and where, if governance were coercive, they had little voice? Such a scenario seems improbable, and it is far more likely that people moved to Monte Albán to take advantage of economic opportunities, a parallel to most migrants in the world today.

Author Bio:

Linda M. Nicholas is an adjunct curator of anthropology at the Negaunee Integrative Research Center at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.
Gary M. Feinman is the MacArthur curator of Mesoamerican, Central American, and East Asian anthropology, also at the Negaunee Integrative Research Center.

Source: Independent Media Institute

Credit Line: This article was produced by Human Bridges, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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The U.S. Blockade Of Cuba Hurts Medical Patients In Both Countries

Natalia Marques – Photo Twitter

The blockade of Cuba limits its ability to share its scientific and technological advances with the rest of the world.

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

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

A Cure for Diabetes

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

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

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

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

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

Cuban Health Care Under Blockade

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

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

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

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

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

To Share Knowledge Without Restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Globetrotter

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