Tariffs Don’t Protect Jobs. Don’t Be Fooled.

Richard D. Wolff

07-11-2024 ~ Both Trump and Biden imposed high tariffs on imported products made in China and other countries. Those impositions broke with and departed from the previous half century’s policies favoring “free trade” (less or minimal government intervention in international markets). Free trade policies facilitated “globalization,” the euphemism for the post-1970 surge in U.S. corporations’ investing abroad: producing and distributing there, re-locating operations there, and merging with foreign enterprises there. Presidents before Trump had insisted that free trade plus globalization best served U.S. interests. Both Democratic and Republican administrations had enthusiastically endorsed that insistence. Dutifully performing ideological support duties, they stressed how globalization’s benefits to U.S. corporations would “trickle down” to the rest of us. Globalizing U.S. corporations used portions of their profits to reward both parties with donations and other electoral and lobbying supports.

Our last two Presidents reversed that position. Against free trade they favored multiple government interventions in international trade, especially imposing and raising tariffs. Instead of advocating free trade and globalization, they promoted economic nationalism. Like their predecessors, Trump and Biden depended on financial support from corporate America as well as votes from the employee class. Many U.S. corporations and those they enriched had shifted their profit expectations in response to the competition they faced from new, powerful non-U.S. firms. The latter had emerged during the free-trade/globalization conditions after 1970, above all in China. U.S. firms increasingly welcomed or demanded protection from those competitors. Accordingly, they financed changes in the political winds and shifts in “public opinion” toward economic nationalism.

Trump and Biden thus endorsed pro-tariff policies that protected many corporations’ profits. Those policies also appealed to those for whom economic nationalism offered ideological comforts. For example, many in the United States grasped the relative decline of the United States and its G7 allies in the global economy and the relative rise of China and its BRICS allies. They welcomed an aggressive counteraction in the forms of tariff and trade wars. Both corporations (including mass media) and their subservient politicians worked to build popular and voter support. That was needed to pass the tax, budget, subsidy, tariff, and other laws that would realize the shift to economic nationalism. A key argument held that “tariffs protect jobs.” A political struggle pitted the defenders of “free trade” against those demanding “protection.” Over the last decade, those defenders have been losing. Read more

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French Elections: What The Global Left Should Learn About Defeating The Far-Right

C.J. Polychroniou

07-11-204 ~ A united left is a formidable opponent that cannot only halt the surge of neo-fascism, but can also offer a positive and inspiring vision for the future.

Far-right forces have gained ground across Europe, particularly in Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In fact, the Netherlands has a new government, a coalition between far right and right, and the far right came first in the first-round of France’s snap election. But fearful of the prospect of a neo-fascist and xenophobic party in government, French voters came out in record numbers and rallied not behind Ensemble—the centrist coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron—but behind the coalition of left forces calling themselves the New Popular Front (NFP), delivering in the end a blow to Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) which had made historic gains in the first round and topped the poll with 33.15 percent of the votes cast. NFP came in first in the run-off election, with 188 seats, but falling short of majority.

France’s snap parliamentary election results help us to make sense of the surge of the far right and offer valuable lessons for the left all over the world, including the U.S. where a centrist democrat and a wannabe dictator face off in November.

First, it is crystal clear that the main reason for the rise of Europe’s far right, authoritarian, and ethnonationalist forces is the status quo of neoliberal capitalism. The neoliberal counterrevolution that begun in the early 1980s and undermined every aspect of the social democracy model that had characterized European political economy since the end of the Second World War has unleashed utterly dangerous political forces that envision a return to a golden era of traditional values built around the idea of the nation by fomenting incessant and socially destructive change.

True to its actual aims and intent, neoliberalism has exacerbated capitalism’s tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer, reduced the well-being of the population through mass privatization and commercialization of public services, hijacked democracy, decreased the overall functionality of state agencies, and created a condition of permanent insecurity. Moreover, powerful global economic governance institutions—namely, the unholy trinity of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization—took control of the world economy and became instrumental in the spreading of neoliberalism by shaping and influencing the policies of national governments. It is under these conditions that ethnonationalism, racism, and neofascism resurfaced in Europe, and in fact all over the world.

In France, the rise of the far right coincided with President François Mitterand’s turn to austerity in the 1980s as his government fell prey to the monetarist-neoliberal ideology of the Anglo-Saxon world. Once Mitterand made his infamous neoliberal turn, the rest of the social democratic regimes in southern Europe (Greece under Andreas Papandreou, Italy under Bettino Craxi, Spain under Felipe Gonzalez, and Portugal under Mario Soares) tagged along, and the eclipse of progressivism was underway. Read more

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The Sahel Stands Up And The World Must Pay Attention

Vijay Prashad

07-10-2024 ~ On July 6 and 7, the leaders of the three main countries in Africa’s Sahel region—just south of the Sahara Desert—met in Niamey, Niger, to deepen their Alliance of Sahel States (AES). This was the first summit of the three heads of state of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, who now constitute the Confederation of the AES. This was not a hasty decision, since it had been in the works since 2023 when the leaders and their associates held meetings in Bamako (Mali), Niamey (Niger), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso); in May 2024, in Niamey, the foreign ministers of the three countries had developed the elements of the Confederation. After meeting with General Abdourahmane Tiani (Niger), foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop (Mali) said in May, “We can consider very clearly today that the Confederation of the Alliance of Sahel States is born.”

There is a straight line that runs from the formation of this Confederation to the pan-African sentiments that shaped the anti-colonial movements in the Sahel over 60 years ago (with the line from the African Democratic Rally formed in 1946 led by Félix Houphouët-Boigny, and through the Sawaba party in Niger formed in 1954 and led by Djibo Bakary). In 1956, Bakary wrote that France, the old colonial ruler, needs to be told that the “overwhelming majority of the people” want their interests served and not to use the country’s resources “to satisfy desires for luxury and power.” To that end, Bakary noted, “We need to grapple with our problems by ourselves and for ourselves and have the will to solve them first on our own, later with the help of others, but always taking account of our African realities.” The promise of that earlier generation was not met, largely due to France’s continued interventions in preventing the political sovereignty of the region and in tightening its grip on the monetary policy of the Sahel. But the leaders—even those who were tied to Paris—continued to try and build platforms for regional integration, including in 1970 the Liptako-Gourma Authority to develop the energy and agricultural resources in the three countries.

Departure From Subordination
The current trend emerged because of the deep frustration in these countries with a host of problems, largely associated with the interventions of France. These include: the creation of a dangerous situation of al-Qaeda militancy fostered by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s destruction of Libya (2011); the failure of the French military intervention to stem that militancy and the anger at the civilian casualties due to the French and U.S. military operations in the three countries; the use of the French exchequer to benefit from all financial transactions in the three countries; and the manipulation of anti-terrorist discourse to create an anti-migration infrastructure to benefit Europe more than Africa.

These frustrations resulted in five coup d’états in the three countries since 2020. The three leaders of the countries are all products of these coups, although they have drawn in civilian leaders to assist them. What unites them personally is that two of them are very young (Assimi Goïta of Mali was born in 1983, while Ibrahim Traoré of Burkina Faso was born in 1988), all of them have had military careers, each of them seems to be informed by the frustrations against the French that they share with each other and with their populations, and none of them has any patience for the pro-Western “stability” politics of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

In January 2024, the AES states said that they would not seek to rejoin ECOWAS after their expulsions over the past few years. “Under the influence of foreign powers and betraying its founding principles,” the AES leaders said, ECOWAS “has become a threat to member states and peoples.” ECOWAS was founded in 1975 as part of the pan-African dynamic and in close association with the Organization of African States (OAS), set up under the leadership of Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah in 1963. ECOWAS expelled the three Sahel countries because of the military coups, when in fact ECOWAS itself was the product of several military Generals who ran their countries (such as Nigeria’s Yakubu Gowon, Togo’s Gnassingbé Eyadéma, and Ghana’s Ignatius Kutu Acheampong). At the founding of ECOWAS, General Acheampong said, “The major purpose of the formation of the community was to remove centuries of division and artificial barriers imposed on West Africa from outside, and to recreate together the kind of homogeneous society which existed before the colonialists invaded our shores.” At the Niamey summit to create the Confederation, the leaders said that they would no longer want to return to ECOWAS even though they have laid out plans for transitions to civilian rule.

Economics of the Confederation
In his powerful speech at the closing of the AES summit, Burkina Faso’s Traoré said that the “imperialists see Africa as an empire of slaves” and that they believe that “Africans belong to them, our lands belong to them, our subsoils belong to them.” Niger’s uranium lights up Europe, he said, but its own streets remain dark. This, Traoré noted, has to change. At the summit, agreements were made to allow for the free movement of people and goods, to create a stabilization fund in place of dependence upon the International Monetary Fund, and to develop an investment bank rather than rely upon the World Bank.

In February 2024, the UN Development Program (UNDP) released the Sahel Human Development Report 2023, which noted the immense wealth of the region that sits alongside the poverty of its people. These countries are blessed with reserves of gold and uranium, lithium and diamonds, but it is largely Western multinational mining companies that have been leeching the profits, including through illicit accounting practices. The UNDP report notes that the Sahel has “one of the world’s highest solar production capacities—13.9 billion kWh/y compared to the total global consumption of 20 billion kWh/y,” while the World Economic Forum notes that the region is capable of earning hundreds of billions of dollars from the export of health foods produced in the Great Green Wall that runs from Senegal to Ethiopia (such as Balanites, Baobab, Moringa, and Shea). These are untapped potentials for the people of the region.

In 1956, Niger’s Bakary had written that the people of Sahel needed to fix their problems by themselves and for themselves. In November 2023, the government of Mali hosted a meeting of ministers of the economy from the three countries along with experts from the region. They spent three days developing innovative projects in common. But none of this can advance, they said, in the context of the sanctions placed on them by their neighbors in ECOWAS. Sixty-three years after independence, said Niger’s Minister of Finance Boubacar Saïdou Moumouni “our countries are still seeking true independence.” This journey into the Confederation is one step in that process.

By Vijay Prashad

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 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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Photographers’ (Grand) Daughter

Photograph by Benjamin Gomes Casseres

Photography played a central role in the life of my family when I was growing up in Curaçao. This was certainly not the case for most others in the nineteen fifties and early sixties as it is today, when everyone carries a camera in their pocket and visual culture dominates our life. Then it was a matter of privilege that not many had.

Paíto, as we called my maternal grandfather Benjamin Gomes Casseres, began to photograph as a young man before 1910, and continued to do so throughout his life. Undoubtedly, he had the time and resources to devote himself to his passion of black and white photography. His many photo albums attest to his outstanding talent as an artist.

As the co-owner of a local camera store, my father, Frank Mendes Chumaceiro, and my mother, Tita Mendes Chumaceiro, had access to the latest equipment, allowing my father to become a pioneering cinematographer on the island, while my mother took color slides, having shifted her artistic talents from painting to photography. Through the years, she won many prizes with her color slides, and her photos of the island’s different flowers were chosen for a series of stamps of the Netherlands Antilles in 1955.

Together, my parents edited my father’s films into documentaries with soundtracks of music and narration and graphically designed titles and credits.
Sometimes these films were commissioned by various organizations and government institutions, including the documentation of visits by members of the Dutch royal family. Movie screenings were regularly held in our living room and at the houses of family and friends who would invite my parents to show their work, as well as at some public events. That was our entertainment in the nineteen fifties, long before television came to the island.

Both my brother Fred and I owned simple box cameras from a young age, working up to SLR cameras as we grew older. Still, I did not take photography seriously as an art until the digital age, when I began to feel I could finally have more control over my output. That was in 2005, when I got my first digital point- and-shoot camera, gradually professionalizing my equipment through the years.

My father and mother with their cameras on top of the Christoffel, 1956, photographer unknown

It was only recently that I began to think about the many ways my rich photographic lineage impacted my life and the directions I have taken as an artist, how it has influenced the development of my own photography. I have discerned six ways that account for this influence by my background – ranging from the circumstances in which the photographs were produced and viewed, to the attitudes that underlie the practice of photography as an art.

A. A treasure trove of photographs

Countless photo albums could be found in our home in Curaçao, with photos by both my parents in their younger years, and later by my brother and me.
After Paíto died in 1955, my mother inherited his albums with family photos, as well as albums with larger prints of his more artistic photographs. Paíto’s family albums documented his leaving Curaçao for Cuba with my grandmother in 1912, where he joined another member of the Curaçao Sephardic Jewish community in buying a sugar cane plantation, which seemed a good business opportunity that also sparked his adventurous spirit.

My mother, Tita, her sister Luisa, and their much younger brother Charlie were born in Havanna. Paíto took their photos from infancy through their teenage years, mostly studio photos often printed in sepia, with the children dressed up for costume parties and other special occasions, posing with their toys and bicycles and with their friends. Paíto would set up his studio in a closed balcony in their house in Havanna with special lighting and curtains or a large painting of a landscape in the background.

The albums also contain photos of their excursions to the beach, where the children learned to swim at an early age, unlike their Curaçao agemates of the same social class, as well as many photographs of trips to the sugar cane plantation, a day’s train ride from Havanna, showing various stages of sugar cane growth and sugar production. With the fall of sugar prices in the twenties, the family was forced to move to a small town much closer to the plantation, where life would be less expensive. Those were exciting years for my mother, when they would play tennis on an improvised court, and ride horses into the fields – years that laid the foundation for her love of nature.

In 1929 my grandparents, returned to Curaçao with their Cuban-born children – totally bankrupt. With the help of his extended Curaçao family, my grandfather was able to establish himself again in business. Here he continued to photograph – landscapes and people in the Curaçao countryside, and especially his grandchildren playing in the yard of their house in Schaarloo, as well on his photographic excursions in nature.

The many photo albums in our house encouraged the ritual of listening to our family members’ stories, to imagine growing up in a different country. In today’s era of digital photography and especially after the cellphone camera came into popular use, every event in life is recorded, and immediately shared on social media. But do we preserve these photographs? Do they remain for others to see, in later generations? Do we view them together, telling their stories?

I am fortunate to have grown up with such a wealth of photographs to document our family history, to bring back memories that have strengthened my sense of who I am, that have fostered a sense of security and connection to the past and to a loving family. It is a sense of grounding. Clearly, many others who grew up in less secure material and emotional circumstances, did not have the same visual record of their families and of their own early years, especially people whose lives were uprooted and had to flee, leaving all visual relics behind. Read more

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PVV Blog 10 ~ The Ideology Of The PVV (Party for Freedom) In Practice

With the arrival of the new Dutch cabinet under prime minister Schoof, we will witness the ideology of the PVV put into practice. How will the ideas of the PVV be realized in daily policy?
We previously started this series under the name “The PVV in Power and Muslims” and in this ‘new’ series, the focus will again be on the Muslim community in the Netherlands and the effects of PVV policy on them. However, it doesn’t really matter what the series is called, as every decision and action by PVV powerholders always has negative effects on Muslims, migrants, and anyone who is not Dutch.

Today, the kickoff: about the government statement and the subsequent debate.

The ‘Rule of Law Paper’

The Debate
Political enthusiasts likely followed the debate that ensued after the government statement of the Schoof cabinet on Thursday, July 4, with cringing toes, raised eyebrows, clenched buttocks, pricked ears, and weary eyes. The opposition rose up against PVV ministers
Marjolein Faber and Reinette Klever due to their statements about “replacement” and the wearing of headscarves. The opposition parties were outraged, arguing that the two mentioned PVV ministers, with their statements, had already violated the unity of cabinet policy on day one. Prime Minister Schoof responded by asserting that his cabinet was there for all Dutch citizens, and, to emphasize his point, he looked at Labour – Green Left Party MP Lahlah, who wears a headscarf, and declared that he saw a person who is one of us.

On Paper, Everything is Correct
What is the issue here? Well, columnist Sita Sitalising articulated it strongly in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant on Saturday, July 6. Everyone is lulled into complacency by the fact that the entire team of ministers, including the PVV officials, as well as the leaders of PVV and its coalition partners VVD, NSC, and BBB, have signed a document declaring their adherence to the principles of the rule of law and democracy. This paper reality is something the prime minister never fails to emphasize: “My team is there for everyone, and we all adhere to democratic rules.” As everyone knows, paper is patient, but the law, also written on paper, exists precisely to indicate how to act when someone breaks the rules. The document signed by the cabinet and coalition parties is a kind of law: it comes into effect because we can assume that the rules will be broken. After all, if there are no violations, there is no need for a law.

Reduce it ‘a bit’
In the debate, the following discussion took place. DENK (Islamic party) MP Stefan van Baarle told Wilders, “Those people in djellabas, that Islamic butcher, that is the Netherlands. That belongs to the Netherlands. Get used to it, I say to Mr. Wilders.” Wilders, however, responded, “We have gone too far. People are rightly worried about it (i.e. foreigners living in the cities; he said earlier). And I say: guys, we can’t handle it anymore. We need to reduce it a bit. That is finally going to happen now. That’s really good.” The attentive listener hears Wilders use the word ‘reduce’, albeit ‘a bit’, but still reducing, and in this fragment, he means to say that he looks forward to ‘people who feel strange in their own neighborhood and city’ feeling at home again because ‘reducing that is going to happen now’ and ‘that’s really good.’

The House paid little attention to these words, especially not the leaders of the other coalition parties, nor the prime minister. This, despite these words being a violation of the solemnly signed rule of law document. After all, does ‘reducing’; not mean an ethnic cleansing of the neighborhood and city?

Football match Turkey-Netherlands
And there were more violations of the document of the rule of law by the leader of the largest party. On Saturday, July 6, the European Championship football match between Turkey and the
Netherlands took place, with the Netherlands winning. Wilders posted this tweet online, and this was the text: ‘They curse us and hate us. Leave for Turkey, no one is forcing you to stay here!
This is why the PVV is the largest party in the Netherlands." Legally, this statement is undoubtedly allowed in light of freedom of speech, but morally it stands in stark contrast to the rule of law document also signed by Wilders, which has already been degraded to a rag.

Patriots for Europe
Another action Wilders took was aligning his party with the new group in the European Parliament, ‘Patriots for Europe,’ an initiative of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. This
group consists of similar parties to the PVV, with Orbán's Fidesz party being the most prominent. Orbán has reduced his country to the democratic pariah of Europe, and one of his first actions,
now that Hungary holds the EU presidency for this half-year, was to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin: My goal was to open the channels of direct communication and start a dialogue
on the shortest road to #peace ,said Orbán, whom I consider a useful idiot who has likely never signed a ‘rule of law document’. Meanwhile, Dutch Defense Minister Brekelmans (VVD) and Foreign Minister Veldkamp (NSC) visited Kyiv around the same time to support Ukraine: the new Dutch cabinet continues to back the country. But how credible is that when the now most powerful man in the Netherlands aligns himself even more closely with Putin’s friend Orbán?
What does the rule of law document say about this?

Use the ‘Rule of Law Paper’ Against the Cabinet
The opposition would do well to challenge this cabinet primarily on ideological grounds: address the ideological principles underpinning its actions; do not attack the individual PVV ministers
personally, as that is ineffective. Confront the government with the ‘rule of law paper’ knowing that it functions like a law and also knowing that laws exist because they are broken. The prime minister still believes in the paper, but we now know better (and perhaps he does too), and the more often the paper is violated, the greater the pressure on the other coalition parties, aside from the PVV, to ideologically expose the PVV faction. For my part, I will continue to do this in this series, and I fear there will be many more parts to come.

The debate about the government statement (it only takes 11 h and 54 min)

See: https://rozenbergquarterly.com/pvv-blog-introduction

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Neoliberalism Fueled Far Right Win In First Round Of France’s Snap Election

C.J. Polychroniou

07-04-2024 ~ The far right led in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections. The second round takes place July 7.

President Emmanuel Macron’s risky gamble to call a snap legislative election after his party suffered a humiliating defeat at the European Parliament elections on June 6-9 did not pay off. In fact, it backfired in a big way as voters, who turned out in record numbers, abandoned the center and cast their ballot for the far right and the left-wing parties that came together to form a new “Popular Front.” But arrogance, such as ripping up labor law and making it easier for companies to fire employees, has defined Macron’s long-term tenure in power (he won office in 2017 and was reelected in 2022) and his political legacy will be as the president who made the far right National Rally the dominant French political party, opening the path that would lead the fascists to power.

Marine Le Pen’s far right National Rally (RN) party came first in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections by securing 33.1 percent of the vote. The leftist New Popular Front (NPF) followed in second place with 27.99 percent, while Macron’s center-right Ensemble alliance came third with just 20.76 percent of the vote. RN did not cross the 289-seat mark for an absolute majority, but as Macron’s prime minister Gabriel Attal said, noting the obvious, the far right is now “at the gates of power” and the second round will indeed be decisive.

According to France’s complicated political system, if no candidate reaches 50 percent in the first round, the top two finishers automatically qualify for the second round, as well as those with over 12.5 percent. Thus, the second voting round, which takes place on July 7, will be a three-way contest, and this will work to the advantage of RN. But indicative of the fear that has spread across the rest of the political spectrum of the prospect of a far right government taking power in Paris, Gabriel Attal said that candidates from the Ensemble alliance that qualify for the second round but have no chance of winning will be withdrawn so as to give non RN candidates the best chance to win, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the veteran leftist who leads the NPF, will withdraw all its candidates who placed third in the first round. The strategy is to block RN from gaining any more votes. Even the European Trade Union Confederation chairperson called for a “blockade” of the far right.

Having said that, it must be acknowledged that the first round’s results are nothing short of historic. This is the first time that the far right has won the first round of a French parliamentary election and the prospect of the 28-year-old RN party leader Jordan Bardella being installed as prime minister looms quite large. Indeed, RN is projected to win between 230 and 280 seats once the run-off election is over, a huge bump from the 88 that it had before the National Assembly was dissolved by president Macron on June 9.

Macron is expected to stay on as president until his term expires in 2027, so France will experience yet again one of its political cohabitation moments. The last time France had a divided government was under conservative president Jacques Chirac, with socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002. The two men clashed openly many times on domestic issues, especially around combatting unemployment. The second round will likely yield a forced “cohabitation” between Macron and a prime minister from another political tendency, so the risk of political paralysis should not be underestimated as the government will surely seek to implement policies that conflict with the president’s plans.

The critical question here is this: How could a party that is a “political heir” of the Vichy regime (i.e., the French government that ruled in collaboration with the Nazis during the occupation) become so popular to the point of becoming the dominant French party? After all, France has a grim colonial legacy but is also a country with long-established progressive values and traditions (for example, unlike in the U.S., in France there were never laws prohibiting interracial marriage, even back in the 18th and 19th centuries) and a rich history of revolutionary politics. Read more

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