Inside The Fight For LGBTQ+ Rights In Africa

Efemia Chela – Photo: LinkedIn

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC) gained a historic win at the Kenyan Supreme Court on February 24, 2023. It was finally able to register as an official nongovernmental organization (NGO), after a 10-year legal battle in a country where homosexuality is outlawed.

However, the LGBTQ+ community’s celebrations were cut short by a wave of backlash.
A day later, local organizations reported an immediate increase in “verbal and physical attacks,” and in coastal cities, large anti-LGBTQ+ demonstrations were held.

Similar battles are currently being waged across Africa over what count as legitimate ways of loving and whose persecution is justified. Queerphobic rhetoric is used by politicians for narrow political gain. Ghanaian anti-LGTBQ+ campaigner Sam George said that “Ghanaian culture forbids homosexuality” and Kenyan MP Farah Maalim characterized existing as a person who is LGTBTQ+ as being “worse than murder.”

Old colonial laws that criminalized same-sex activity and gender variance were left intact after countries gained independence. Many Africans remained ignorant about precolonial Africa where queerness was present and regularly celebrated, because those histories were maligned. Today these colonial-era laws are still used to oppress LGBTQ+ Africans, who receive no state support and also find their attempts to support each other hindered by bigotry.

In the 21st century, Western influence has intensified state-sponsored homophobia in Africa. This form of neocolonialism mimics the initial colonization of Africa through Christian missionaries. Since 2007, at least $54 million from right-wing U.S. churches has flooded the continent to fight “against LGBT rights and access to safe abortion, contraceptives, and comprehensive sexuality education.” Prominent anti-LGBTQ+ politicians such as Ugandan Minister of State for Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives David Bahati have received $20 million to campaign heavily for more draconian legislation. It is perhaps no surprise then that in Uganda on March 21, 2023, a new law was passed that will “make homosexual acts punishable by death.”

Other sources of money are being levied positively to support LGBTQ+ people. The Trans and Queer Fund (TQF) is a hopeful example of grassroots organizing grounded in socialist and abolitionist values in Nairobi, Kenya. The fund was founded in March 2020 by Mumbi Makena, a feminist writer and organizer whom I spoke to two days after the NGLHRC win. She formed TQF with her friends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among left working-class movements in Nairobi, some TQF team members noticed many viewed “queerness as a distraction” from other socioeconomic issues and there was repeated hostility toward queer and women organizers. While weakening economic growth in Africa affects everyone, mainstream organizations were not ready to grapple with how LGBTQ+ identity further marginalized some Kenyans, nor reach out to them specifically.

However, TQF was committed, and it initially set up a mutual aid system to provide relief funds for LGBTQ+ people whose livelihoods disappeared due to mandated lockdowns. Makena explained that many queer and transgender Kenyans work in the service and hospitality industries, which are more accepting of them. During the pandemic, LGBTQ+-friendly NGOs were constrained by donors and could not repurpose previously allocated funds to COVID-19 relief. However, TQF was able to be agile and responsive from the start, working in an unbureaucratic, nonhierarchical way. TQF works on a volunteer basis online through Twitter and Instagram accounts and distributes funds through mobile money.

Over three years, TQF has raised and disbursed an impressive $50,000 and assisted over 1,000 individuals. It supports its community in inventive ways—covering bus fares for people to attend marches and managing furniture donations for those creating transgender safe houses. The ease of accessing the Trans and Queer Fund means LGBTQ+ people have somewhere to turn if they get disowned by their families or need money for medical treatment after experiencing homophobic violence. The mutual aid relies on contributions coming largely from individuals within Kenya, but also from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. It describes its initiative as “working toward a future where all people are free from imperialism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy and ethnonationalism.” It encourages everyone who comes into contact with TQF to try to understand it as a commons, a collective resource. The next step for the group, Makena says, is political education, so both fundraisers and beneficiaries can “start to form radical analyses of what is happening in the world.”

NGOs have been instrumental in achieving some successes on behalf of LGBTQ+ Africans. For example, they spearheaded advocacy that led to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Botswana and Angola, in 2019 and 2021, respectively. But the law has its limitations. Without a shift in social attitudes, societies like South Africa, home to what is described as “the most progressive constitution in the world,” still suffer from homophobic violence and discrimination. In 2019, NGOs tried to get the Kenyan Supreme Court to rule that sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code, which criminalize homosexuality, were unconstitutional, but the legal petition was unsuccessful.

As Makena points out, solely changing the law doesn’t automatically make LGBTQ+ people safer. She warns against narrowing queer liberation to a liberal rights framework that does not address the everyday realities faced by working-class LGBTQ+ people. Makena remarks, “We must forge greater solidarities within left movements in Kenya but also with LGBTQ+ people overseas who are often notably silent on the intersections between anti-imperialism and our fight for queer dignity and safety.”

A ripple effect of homophobic laws is that they can eliminate support for those with HIV/AIDS and sex workers, two groups that sometimes overlap with the LGBTQ+ community. Any outreach may be misrepresented as promoting homosexuality, and in the case of the new Uganda law, anyone “abetting homosexuality” will be punished. With a continent already facing the repercussions of the ‘global gag rule’ that decreased overseas funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights, this will certainly affect health care for both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual people alike.

Due to the severe consequences of foreign interference, it becomes even more crucial for African countries to fund their own welfare systems. While intolerance of LGBTQ+ Africans endures, efforts to organize to meet their needs through initiatives like mutual aid endure. TQF encourages others to set up similar mutual funds to strengthen community. “Long-term,” Makena says, “we don’t want LGBTQ+ people to only be passive beneficiaries of the funds or deradicalized; we want people to reflect on TQF and be active participants in their own liberation, collectively defining the agenda.”

It is long past time that African communities learned to be more accepting of diversity and acknowledged that all our fates are linked. It is worth “returning to the source” to rediscover Indigenous African cultural traditions around gender variance to enable more flexible responses to gay and transgender people today. Freedom in its fullest sense includes the right to privacy, and the right to love and build family structures of one’s choosing. LGBTQ+ Africans, like every other group, should be allowed to organize for their own freedom. We will continue to despite the daily challenges to our humanity.

Author Bio:

This article was produced by Globetrotter

Efemia Chela is an editor and researcher at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research who manages publishing at Inkani Books. She has an MA in development studies from the University of the Witwatersrand and bylines in publications including the Continent and the Johannesburg Review of Books.

Source: Globetrotter

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Is A Livable Future Still Possible? Chomsky And Pollin Discuss The IPCC Report.

Noam Chomsky

The report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows how capitalism undergirds the climate crisis.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new climate report which updates and combines the findings from all past reports in the IPCC’s sixth assessment. The synthesis report urges immediate action to curb global warming and secure a livable future for all. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin offer remarkable insights on what the new IPCC report means and implications for action, on both the political and financial front, that its findings entail.

Noam 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 Environmental and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. One of the world’s most cited scholars in modern history and a critical 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, and climate change. Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. One of the world’s leading progressive economists, Pollin has published scores of books and academic articles on jobs and macroeconomics, labor markets, wages and poverty, and environmental and energy economics. He was selected by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers for 2013.” Chomsky and Pollin are co-authors of Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet (2020).

C.J. Polychroniou: The IPCC has just released a synthesis report which is based on the content of its Sixth Assessment Report, i.e., contributions from the Three Working Groups and the three Special Reports. In sum, we have a synthesis report of scientific assessments on climate change published since 2018, except that the new report paints an even more troubling picture: We are closer than ever before to reaching or surpassing a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise and “continued emissions will further affect all major climate system components.” Drawing on the findings of hundreds of scientists that have contributed to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), the IPCC’s synthesis report states that “in the near term, every region in the world is projected to face further increases in climate hazards (medium to high confidence, depending on region and hazard), increasing multiple risks to ecosystems and humans (very high confidence).” Accordingly, the authors of the synthesis report assert that limiting global warming requires “net zero” carbon dioxide emissions and that the window of opportunity “to secure a livable and sustainable future for all” is “rapidly closing” and call for urgent climate action on all fronts. Indeed, in the synthesis report, its authors contend that there are major opportunities “for scaling up climate action” and only lack of political will is holding us back.

Noam, what are your thoughts on the new IPCC report? I don’t suppose you are surprised by any of its findings or policy recommendations.

Noam Chomsky: IPCC reports are consensus documents. Hence, they tend to err on the side of understatement. This one strikes me as different. It seems that desperation within the scientific community has reached such a level that the gloves are off and they feel the time has come to be blunt. Time is brief. Decisive action is an urgent necessity. Opportunities exist. If they are not taken, vigorously, we might as well say: “Too bad, was nice knowing you.”

The report highlights the failure of “political will.” Fair enough. If we care enough about decent survival to act decisively, we should take a close look at this concept and what it means for existing societies; or better, for societies we have some hope of attaining within the constraints of the time span for necessary action. We must, in short, have a clear understanding of the institutional structures within which political will can have concrete consequences.

Where is political will exercised? In the streets, to adopt the familiar metaphor, meaning among an informed, active, organized public. Insofar as that form of political will is exercised, it may — in this case, must — reach and influence centers of power, private and state, closely linked.

Let’s be concrete. Congress just passed “landmark legislation” on climate, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. It is hailed as the most significant clean energy and climate legislation in the history of the nation, “a new day for climate action in the United States.”

That is accurate. It is also a sad commentary on the history and prospects for “climate action.”

While not without positive features, the Act is a pale shadow of the legislation proposed by the Biden administration under the impetus of intense popular activism, channeled primarily through Bernie Sanders’s office. In related developments, similar initiatives reached Congress in the Green New Deal Resolution reintroduced in 2021 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey.

The Biden proposal would indeed have been “landmark legislation” had it been enacted. While insufficient in light of the emergency we face, it would have been a long step forward. It was cut down step-by-step by 100 percent Republican opposition to anything that might address the most severe crisis of human history — and infringe on their passionate service to extreme wealth and corporate power. Joined by a few right-wing Democrats, GOP radicalism succeeded in removing most of the substance of the original proposal.

To understand our political institutions, it is important to recall that adamant GOP dedication to environmental destruction is not mere sociopathic sadism. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain introduced a limited climate initiative in his program, and congressional Republicans were also considering some measures.

For years, the huge Koch brothers’ energy conglomerate had been working hard to ensure that the GOP would not veer from climate denialism. When they heard of this deviation, they launched a juggernaut to restore orthodoxy: bribery, intimidation, lobbying, astroturfing, all the devices available to unaccountable concentrated economic power. It worked, quickly and effectively. From then until today it’s hard to detect any GOP departure from abject service to the demand of concentrated power that we must race to destruction (and profit, during the few years ahead in which it will matter).

This is perhaps an extreme example, but it is not very far from the norm in the reigning form of state capitalism. That is particularly so in the era of savage capitalism called neoliberalism, basically a form of bitter class war disguised in grossly misleading terminology of “free markets,” as practice reveals with brilliant clarity.

Returning to the IRA, one basic component is an array of devices to induce the fossil fuel industry and financial institutions that support it to please act more nicely. The devices are mainly bribery and subsidy, including the gift of federal lands to exploit for oil extraction for decades to come, long after we pass tipping points for irreversible climate destruction.

The choice of tactics is understandable given existing institutional structures. It is well understood in the elite culture that all concerns must be subordinated to the welfare of the masters of the private economy. That is Moses and the Prophets, to paraphrase Marx. Unless the masters are happy, we are lost.

During World War II, the whole of society was mobilized for the war effort. But as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson observed, “If you are going to try to go to war, or to prepare for war, in a capitalist country, you have got to let business make money out of the process or business won’t work.” Business leaders were called upon “to run the agencies that coordinated production, [but] they remained on company payrolls, still cognizant of the interests of the corporations they ran. A common pattern, which provided an incentive to businesses to cooperate, was the cost-plus-a-fixed-fee system, whereby the government guaranteed all development and production costs and then paid a percentage profit on the goods produced.”

First things first. It is important to win the war, but more important “to let business make money out of the process.” That is the real Golden Rule, the Rule that must be observed, not only during the most destructive war in history, but even in the far greater war in which human society is now engaged: the war to preserve organized human life on Earth.

The highest principle of our institutional structures also reveals their intrinsic lunacy. It is as if the Mexican government were to appeal to the drug cartels to reduce their mass slaughter by offering them some bribes and payments.

We can hardly be surprised that when oil prices shot up after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the oil companies politely informed us: Sorry folks, No Dice. Their bulging profits could be enhanced even further by curtailing their very limited commitment to sustainable energy and running after the big money, whatever the consequences for life on Earth.

It is all too familiar. We may recall the COP26 Glasgow UN Conference on climate in October 2021. U.S. delegate John Kerry was ecstatic that the market was now on our side. How can we lose? BlackRock and other asset managers were promising to provide tens of trillions of dollars to the cause of sustainable development — with two small provisos: their benevolent investments must be profitable, and accompanied by firm guarantees that they will be risk-free. All thanks to the friendly taxpayer, who is regularly called upon to ride to the rescue in our neoliberal bailout economy, to adopt the phrase of economists Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein.

I’ve occasionally cited Adam Smith’s observation that in all ages, the “masters of mankind” — those who hold economic power — adhere to their “vile maxim”: “all for ourselves, nothing for other people.”

In the present context, the observation is a little misleading. Rulers with supreme power can afford some degree of benevolence to their subjects, even at a cost to their immense wealth. Capitalist systems do not permit such deviation from the vile maxim. The basic rules are that you pursue profit and market share, or you’re out of the game. Only insofar as an organized public compels bending of the rules can we expect deviation from the vile maxim.

Many have expressed puzzlement that CEOs of fossil fuel companies and the banks that lend to them can consciously sacrifice their grandchildren to amassing even more wealth than what already surpasses the dreams of avarice. They can offer a convincing answer: Yes, that’s what I’m doing, but if I depart from this practice, I will be replaced by someone who keeps to it, and who may not have my good will, which might mitigate the tragedy somewhat.

Again, it is the lunacy of the institutions that prevails.

We can add some of Adam Smith’s closely related words of wisdom: thanks to their control of the economy, the masters of mankind become the “principal architects” of state policy and ensure that their own interests are “most peculiarly attended to” no matter how “grievous” the effects on others. Hardly an unfamiliar sight.

he same unaccountable power has a substantial impact on prevailing doctrines, what Gramsci called “hegemonic common sense.” Polls show that voters who identify as Republicans have little concern for “climate change” — to adopt the conventional euphemism for boiling the planet. That’s not too surprising. What they hear from their leaders and echo chambers like Fox News is that if climate change is even happening, it hardly matters. It’s just another concoction of “liberal elites” in their insidious campaigns, along with “grooming” of children by the “sadistic pedophiles” who run the Democratic Party (believed by almost half of GOP voters), fostering the “Great Replacement” to destroy the repressed white race, and whatever may be devised next to keep the rabble in line while legislative programs stab them in the back.

I don’t want to suggest that the GOP is alone in the infamy. Far from it. They have just driven class war to extremes that would be comical if the impact were not so ominous.

I mentioned one component of the IRA: gifts and subsidies to the malefactors to induce them to act more nicely. There is a second component: industrial policy, a radical departure from professed neoliberal doctrine. In this case, substantial subsidies to private power to restore a domestic chip industry. That raises further questions: Should the profits from public largesse be directed to the pockets of wealthy shareholders and stock options for the super-rich management class? Or should the social product be distributed differently, including the forgotten general public? Questions that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Also not to be overlooked is the broader context of the effort to reconstruct part of the industrial economy that was dispatched abroad by the masters of the economy for their own welfare. The effort is part of the broader commercial war against China, designed to prevent its economic development. One priority in that war is to coerce European, Korean and Japanese advanced industry to give up their major market and source of raw materials in China in order to serve Washington’s campaign to preserve global hegemony. How this will turn out, we do not know. But it merits attention and thought.

These are broad brush strokes, overlooking much of great import. Nevertheless, I think the general picture is a useful framework for thinking about the tasks ahead. One plausible conclusion is that there is little hope within the institutional structure of savage capitalism. Can this be changed sufficiently within a realistic time span, with the savage element of the amalgam reduced or eliminated? It’s hardly utopian to think that the savagery can be reversed with a return to something like the capitalism of the Eisenhower years, which, with all its severe flaws, is regarded with some justice as the “golden years” of state capitalism. Taming the worst excesses of the class war of the past decades is surely feasible.

Would that suffice to allow the “political will” of the streets to deter the worst, to open the way to the better future that can realistically be envisioned? There’s only one way to find out: Dedication to the task.

Robert Pollin

Bob, what are your own thoughts on the new IPCC report? Can “net zero” carbon dioxide emissions be reached across all sectors before mid-century? If so, where do we start, and how? But before you answer this part of the question, does “net zero” mean zero emissions? To be sure, is there such a thing as “net zero” or “zero carbon?”

Robert Pollin: For 2022, total global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached 40.5 billion tons. Of this total, 36.6 billion tons, or 90 percent of all 2022 CO2 emissions, were produced by burning oil, coal and natural gas to produce energy. The remaining 3.9 billion tons, equal to 10 percent of the total, were generated by land use changes, primarily deforestation to clear land for corporate agriculture and mining. The 2022 global emissions total was slightly below the peak figure for 2019, i.e., the year just prior to the COVID lockdown. Global emissions did fall in 2020 due to the lockdown, but only by about 6 percent, and then began rising again in 2021, as the global economy emerged out of the lockdown. Since its landmark 2018 report, the IPCC has become increasingly insistent that, in order to have even a reasonable chance of stabilizing the rise in the average global temperature by 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, global CO2 emissions need to be cut roughly in half, to 20 billion tons, as of 2030 and then to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050.

You are absolutely on target to ask what exactly the term “net zero” really means here. In fact, by itself, that one small word “net” in the phrase “net zero emissions” creates massive opportunities for fudging and outright obfuscation around climate solutions. Fossil fuel producers and anyone else now reaping profits from selling fossil fuels are committed to exploiting these obfuscation opportunities to the maximum.

The point is that the term “net zero” allows for scenarios in which CO2 emissions remain at some significant positive level by 2050, i.e., that we are still burning oil, coal and natural gas to produce energy and are still razing forested areas, starting with the Amazon rainforest. The way we would supposedly reach net zero emissions under such scenarios would entail extracting the ongoing emissions out of the atmosphere through various measures falling under the term “carbon capture” technologies.

What are carbon capture technologies? To date, there is exactly one, and only one, such technology that has been proven to be effective and safe. That is to plant trees. More specifically, I am referring to afforestation — i.e., increasing forest cover or density in previously non-forested or deforested areas. Reforestation, the more commonly used term, is one component of afforestation. Afforestation works for the simple reason that living trees absorb CO2. This is also why deforestation releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global heating. Read more

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Sub-Imperialism And Multipolarity: Brazil’s Dilemma

Justin Podur – Photo: EUC/York University

Galeano Names the Problem
In the Open Veins of Latin America Eduardo Galeano described an 1870 genocidal war of regime change waged on Paraguay by a Triple Alliance of its neighbors, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, on behalf of British imperialism. The target, nationalist president Solano Lopez, died in battle. The country lost 56,000 square miles of territory. Paraguay’s population was reduced by 83.3 percent. By the end, Galeano wrote: “Brazil had performed the role the British had assigned it.” Before the intervention, “Paraguay had telegraphs, a railroad, and numerous factories manufacturing construction materials, textiles, linens, ponchos, paper and ink, crockery, and gunpowder… the Ibycui foundry made guns, mortars, and ammunition of all calibers… the steel industry… belonged to the state. The country had a merchant fleet… the state virtually monopolized foreign trade; it supplied yerba mate and tobacco to the southern part of the continent and exported valuable woods to Europe… With a strong and stable currency, Paraguay was wealthy enough to carry out great public works without recourse to foreign capital… Irrigation works, dams and canals, and new bridges and roads substantially helped to raise agricultural production. The native tradition of two crops a year, abandoned by the conquistadors, was revived.” After the war: “it was not only the population and great chunks of territory that disappeared, but customs tariffs, foundries, rivers closed to free trade, and economic independence… Everything was looted and everything was sold: lands and forests, mines, yerba mate farms, school buildings.”

Summarizing all this, Galeano wrote: “Paraguay has the double burden of imperialism and subimperialism.”

“Subimperialism,” Galeano continued, “has a thousand faces.” Paraguayan soldiers joined an intervention against the Dominican Republic in 1965, under the command of a Brazilian general, Panasco Alvim. Paraguay “gave Brazil an oil concession on its territory, but the fuel distribution and petrochemical business [was] in U.S. hands.” The U.S. also controlled the university, the army, and the black market as well, of which Galeano wrote: “Through open contraband channels, Brazilian industrial products invade the Paraguayan market, but the Sao Paulo factories that produce them have belonged to U.S. corporations since the denationalizing avalanche of recent years.”

Elaborating on Brazil’s sub-imperial function since 1964, Galeano wrote: “A very influential military clique pictures the country as the great administrator of U.S. interests in the region, and calls on Brazil to become the same sort of boss over the south as the [U.S.] is over Brazil itself.”

Ruy Mauro Marini Analyzes the Phenomenon
It is perhaps no coincidence that the leading scholarly authority on sub-imperialism is the Brazilian scholar Ruy Mauro Marini. Mauro’s 1977 article was published shortly after Galeano’s book. To understand “global capitalist accumulation and subimperialism” some background on the theory of imperialism set out by Lenin is in order, and more recent books like Zak Cope’s The Wealth of Some Nations and Patnaik and Patnaik’s A Theory of Imperialism teach the theory eloquently. The key concepts are unequal exchange and value transfer, magical processes through which the wealthy countries exchange smaller amounts of labor for larger amounts of labor from the poor countries. The mechanisms are many: patent regimes, Western corporate control of Global South resources, denomination of oil and other commodities in U.S. dollars, IMF and Western-bank loan terms and draconian rescue packages, Western arms sales and military training programs—all backed up by the threat of sanctions, coups, invasions, and “color revolutions,” which happen frequently enough to remind Global South governments to stay in line. In Imperialism, Lenin described the pressure on wealthy countries to “go imperialist:” winners in the Western domestic market invariably consolidate and tend towards monopoly; these winners are invariably coordinated increasingly through banks and financial interests; throwing new investments in to a mature market brings lower returns than they can get in newly opened ones, so the financiers seek colonies to get high returns on their growing piles of capital; the colonies also address their interests in labor and raw materials that are cheap (or ideally, free, through theft).

Mauro shows how this dynamic can lead to sub-imperialism if the context is right. Sub-imperialism, he writes, is “the form assumed by the dependent economy when it reaches the stage of monopoly and finance capital,” and it has two basic components.

The first is a “relatively autonomous” expansionist policy that functions under the overall umbrella of U.S. hegemony.

The second is what Mauro calls a “medium” organic composition of capital. To explain this concept an example comparison will suffice: an economy with a high organic composition of capital is one where workers use advanced, costly machinery that itself required a lot of labor to produce (the word “composition” refers to how much so-called “dead labor” went into the machines on which the “living labor” is now laboring). These are the workers in the vacuum labs making nanometre-precise computing chips. An economy with a low organic composition of capital is one where workers labor with their hands or simple tools, cutting sugar cane with machetes as day laborers. Their work is called “unskilled” and their wages are proportionately lower.

In 1977, Mauro argued that in Latin America, only Brazil had both the medium organic composition and the relatively autonomous expansionist policy. But what about today? And what about in other regions?

Generalizing the Concept
Are there sub-imperialists in South Asia? Pakistan exercises its ambitions in Afghanistan under U.S. hegemony. Imran Khan was overthrown in a coup for withdrawing support for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan; his successors have worked hard to prove their subordination to the hegemon. India meddles in the affairs of its small neighbors like Bhutan and does so under U.S. hegemony; Western corporations certainly have an immense footprint in both India and Pakistan.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Turkey qualify as sub-imperialists though both showcase how each sub-imperialist is a special case. In Africa, South Africa has been analyzed as a sub-imperialist and tiny Rwanda could well qualify as a Central African version.

Who doesn’t fit? None of the U.S. Five Eyes partners (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or UK) nor Japan, nor Israel, since all are high-income countries with higher than “medium” organic composition of capital.

Nor do China, Russia, or Iran fit the sub-imperialist mold. They may exercise hegemony—or contest it—in their regions, but they do not do so under the umbrella of U.S. hegemony.

This brings us back to Brazil and to the changes in the world since the writings of Mauro and Galeano on sub-imperialism.

Sub-Imperialism and Multipolarity
Until very recently, unilateral U.S. hegemony was the basic fact of world affairs.

No one could contest the U.S. invasions of Grenada, Panama, Iraq, or Haiti or its destruction of Yugoslavia and Libya. But Russia and Iran did contest the U.S. plan to dismantle Syria in 2015.

When Yemen voted against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1990, they were told that it was “the most expensive vote they ever cast” and punished economically. But by 2022 many countries remained neutral in the Russia-Ukraine War despite Western demands that they support Ukraine. India and China ignored Western demands that they refuse to buy Russian energy, expanding a series of options for trading commodities in currencies other than the U.S. dollar. African countries need not beg Western commercial banks for development finance: they can examine Western offers side-by-side with the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. In 2023, China brokered a peace deal that restored relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

These developments reveal a historical change from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The world has been under unipolar Anglo-American hegemony since the 1750s. There were world empires prior to that (notably the Spanish and Portuguese) but China and India each had around 25 percent of the world economy even at that time; a few centuries earlier, before the devastation of the Americas, the world was even more multipolar, if much less globalized.

If we are indeed moving away from the unipolar historical pattern, current sub-imperialists have some re-thinking to do: the U.S. umbrella is not what it once was.

Sub-Imperialism or Multipolarity? Which Way for Brazil?

With Lula (Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) back in the president’s office in Brazil as of 2023, the country faced this precise dilemma. In his previous tenure, Lula acted as both a multipolarist and a sub-imperialist. An early proponent of multipolarity (before the moment had even arrived) through his advocacy of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and of Latin American integration, Lula’s Brazil played the sub-imperial role as well, leading the morally compromised and disastrous UN mission to take over the U.S. occupation of Haiti. Some of the military officers who led the Haiti occupation helped overthrow Lula’s party in the coup that led to his jailing and eventually to Bolsonaro’s destructive presidency.

Bolsonaro was certainly, symbolically sub-imperialist: he saluted the U.S. flag and marched under the Israeli one. But most of his time in office was characterized by a disastrous COVID-19 response, genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, and a general incoherence on foreign policy. Bolsonaro participated in a regime change stunt in Venezuela but tried to stay out of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Lula returned to office in a context of weaker domestic left-wing movements but a stronger multipolar context. Lula’s Brazil voted with the West in the condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but Brazil was told by Russian diplomats that Russia understood the vote.

There are economic considerations beyond the organic composition of capital that can drive Global South leaders back into the criminal arms of the U.S.—dependence on natural resource exports and foodgrain imports are tendencies that are difficult to reverse, especially in democracies like Brazil that are vulnerable to coups or regression when the right-wing returns to power.

Perhaps Brazil will be the vanguard of multipolarity in the Americas, or the sub-imperialist agent undermining BRICS from the inside. The changing world includes possibilities never contemplated by Galeano, Mauro, or Lenin.

Author Bio:
This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and a writing fellow at Globetrotter. You can find him on his website at and on Twitter @justinpodur. He teaches at York University in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change.

Source: Globetrotter

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20 Years After Catastrophe In Iraq, The War Apologists Still Dominate U.S. Foreign Policy

Katrina vanden Heuvel – Photo: wikipedia

In Warsaw last February, President Joe Biden condemned the lawless Russian invasion of Ukraine: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country—since World War II, nothing like that has happened.” One month later marked the 20th anniversary of the greatest U.S. foreign policy debacle since Vietnam: America’s “war of choice” against Iraq, with 130,000 U.S. soldiers invading the country to overthrow its government.

Given the scope of the folly, it is understandable that Biden would want to bury it in a memory hole. Although not as Orwellian as Biden, much of the commentary around the 20th anniversary similarly sought to explain or justify or diminish the calamity. This isn’t surprising, since few of the perpetrators, propagandists, and cheerleaders who drove us into the war suffered any consequence. Their reputations were re-burnished; their stature in America’s foreign policy establishment was retained. Bizarrely, those who led us into the disaster continue to dominate America’s major media platforms, while those who warned against it are largely pushed to the margins.

Putting a blush on the Iraq War is not an easy task. The Bush administration touted its preventive war doctrine, scorned the need for America, at the height of its unipolar moment, to seek authority from the United Nations, approval from NATO allies, or adherence to international law. Iraq was a target for neoconservatives long before 9/11, as the propagandists at the Project for the New American Century made clear. The push for the war began hours after 9/11, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein was an avowed enemy of Al Qaeda. The Bush administration campaigned to sell the threat, making it—as Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote at the beginning of the Cold War—“clearer than the truth.” For message advice, the administration hired professional PR gurus—like Charlotte Beers, the Queen of Madison Avenue, straight from award-winning campaigns hawking Uncle Ben’s Rice and Head & Shoulders Shampoo. From the president on down, they sought to associate Saddam Hussein with 9/11, although they had no evidence of a connection that did not exist. Then they focused on the threat posed by Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. To overcome skeptical CIA analysts, Vice President Dick Cheney formed his own intelligence group, while über-lobbyist John Rendon invented an Iraqi National Congress headed by the nefarious financier Ahmed Chalabi, who provided “intelligence” on demand.

Despite the fearmongering, the administration faced the largest demonstrations ever organized against a war before it began—what The New York Times termed “a new superpower.” Germany, France, and NATO refused support; the UN denied sanction. But reporters and editorialists for the mainstream media echoed the administration’s claims; liberal pundits rushed to show their patriotic fervor. With few exceptions, liberal politicians signed on to preserve their “credibility.” The daily barrage of distortions and deceptions worked: on the eve of the war, two-thirds of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, and nearly four-fifths thought he was on the verge of having nuclear weapons.

And so the catastrophe. The war cost the United States 4,600 dead, and over 30,000 wounded. Estimates of Iraqi casualties top 400,000, with a staggering 7 million refugees and millions more internally displaced. Sectarian conflict savaged Iraq. A new generation of jihadists arose and spread. Iran gained influence in the region.

America’s reputation has not recovered to this day. Most of the world has stayed out of the Russian-Ukraine conflict, dismissing U.S. hectoring about the “rules-based international order” as hypocrisy. China’s influence spread as the United States floundered in the endless wars in the Middle East. Americans are tired of wars without victory. The press squandered its credibility. And the arrogance and irresponsibility of foreign policy establishment was exposed—all contributing to Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.

Twenty years later, the war’s advocates and apologists struggle to justify their calamitous course, or to mollify judgments and achieve, in the words of Richard Haas, former president of the Foreign Policy Association, “an elusive consensus about the war’s legacy.”

One frequent excuse is that the war was a mistake or a tragedy, not a crime. The administration, it’s argued, really did believe that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It was, Hal Brands writes in Foreign Affairs, “an understandable tragedy, born of honorable motive and genuine concerns.” Despite the lack of evidence, a “critical mass of senior officials…talked one another into believing the most readily available justification,” concluded Max Fisher in the Times. In fact, the “war of choice” was the product of hubris, at a time when the United States was at the height of its power, driven by zealots who scorned law, evidence, and the “rules-based order.” Or as Secretary of State Colin Powell put it, reviewing the material provided for his UN speech, “This is bullshit.”

Others, risibly, suggest that Iraq is better off today as a result of the invasion. Saddam Hussein was a bad man, “the one indisputably real WMD in Iraq,” Times columnist Bret Stephens writes, justifying his support of the war. Getting rid of him is a boon for the Iraqis, Stephens argues, with “Iraq, the Middle East and the world better off for having gotten rid of a dangerous tyrant.” This breathtaking conclusion can only be made by ignoring the devastation wrought on the country, the region and America’s credibility. It is the same arrogance that led to regime change in Libya, with the result once more a bloody civil war.

Some, like David Frum, the Bush speechwriter said to have coined the term “the Axis of Evil” (the preposterous grouping of Iraq and Iran—two fervid enemies—with a North Korean regime that neither had any connection to), suggest the Iraqis bear much of the blame. We “offered Iraq a better future,” Frum tweeted. “Whatever West’s mistakes; the sectarian war was a choice Iraqis made for themselves.”

The price for failing to hold the perpetrators of this debacle accountable is that their worldview still dominates America’s national security establishment. Biden came into office pledging to create a foreign policy for the middle class, but he has proceeded to reaffirm America’s imperial delusion—that we have the resources, wisdom, and charter to police the world, to counter Russia and China in their own neighborhoods, while chasing terrorists, dropping bombs from drones in seven countries, and dispatching forces to over 100 countries across the world. We sensibly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international law. Yet Richard Haass, a charter member of our foreign policy establishment, can write—apparently without irony—that the lesson to be drawn from Iraq is not opposition to aggressive war but that “wars of choice should be undertaken only with extreme care and consideration of the likely costs and benefits.” Surely, one of the enduring horrors of Iraq is that despite the calamity, our foreign policy establishment remains unshaken, and its worldview remains unchanged.

Author Bio:
Katrina vanden Heuvel is the editorial director and publisher of the Nation and is president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord (ACURA). She writes a weekly column at the Washington Post and is a frequent commentator on U.S. and international politics for Democracy Now, PBS, ABC, MSNBC and CNN. Find her on Twitter @KatrinaNation. This article is distributed by Globetrotter in partnership with The Nation.

Source: Globetrotter

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Why EU Strategic Autonomy Apart From The U.S. Is Currently Impossible

James W. Carden – Photo: Independent Media Institute

Among the wreckage the riots that have convulsed Paris may leave in their wake include President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform; Macron’s ability to effectively govern for the next four years; and, quite possibly, the Fifth Republic itself.
As The New York Times reported in March, protesters have been heard chanting, “Paris Rise Up…We decapitated Louis XVI. We will do it again, Macron.”

But another, less noted, casualty of Macron’s high-handed attempt to impose a neoliberal “reform” opposed by large pluralities of French citizens, may well be the idea of European strategic autonomy on matters relating to defense and foreign policy.

Hall Gardner, a professor of international relations at the American University of Paris tells me in his view, “Macron saw himself as the mediator between Russia and the West, but Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and seeming refusal to compromise hurt Macron’s international credibility, while Macron’s apparent inability to foresee the extent of French social protest against his proposed reforms in the French system of retirement reveal him to be a weak leader, who is not in touch with his citizens, so that Putin will attempt to play the Far Right and Far Left, and increasingly the Center, against him, so as to reduce French diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.”

“At the same time,” says Gardner, “the domestic crisis in France is so deep that it will weaken Macron’s efforts to play a constructive role in building an all-European foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia, the U.S. and other states.”

Macron had been pushing the concept of strategic autonomy for years, and during his first campaign for president in 2017 he pledged to “bring an end to the form of neoconservatism that has been imported to France over the past 10 years.”

From the perspective of American restrainers, this should have been welcome news; after all why, eighty years after the end of the Second World War and thirty years after the end of the Cold War is the United States, with $31 trillion in debt, still subsidizing the defense of Europe, which has over 100 million more people and a GDP of roughly $18 trillion?

But then the war in Ukraine came, and with it, a swift and effective effort by the Biden administration—through any means necessary—to impose a strict discipline among its NATO allies.

And so, in the aftermath of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, strategic autonomy’s future began to look bleak and the riots in Paris have now only served to further drive a stake through its heart.

Some might argue, however, that EU leaders are in fact pursuing a strategy of strategic autonomy as a result of the war in Ukraine. After all, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton’s recently announced plans to transform the European Defense Industry Reinforcement Through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA) into a vehicle through which the EU can meet the new defense requirements for the war in Ukraine. Still more, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in his much-heralded “Zeitenwende” (“Turning Point”) speech of last year, pledged €100 million in new defense spending.

But an increase in spending—something the Americans have, after all, been demanding of its European partners for years—is not an alternative strategy. The fact is, the war in Ukraine has consolidated American hegemony in Europe. Firstly, the financial and military contributions to Ukraine by the United States dwarfs the contributions made by EU member states.

And then there is the curious non-reaction by the leaders of the Germany parliamentary coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD) to the destruction of Nord Stream 2. As the German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck, emeritus director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies recently wondered:
How long the German government can remain as subservient to the United States as it has now promised to be is an open question, considering the risks that come with Germany’s territorial closeness to the Ukrainian battlefield – a risk not shared by the U.S.”

After conversations with German parliamentarians and activists from across the political spectrum over the past week, one comes away with the impression: Quite a good deal longer.

In Germany, the appetite for a freer hand in the formation of their own national security policy exists in pockets (on the part of the Left that still understands the value of Ostpolitik, and the far-right) but is nowhere evident among the political establishment and still less among Scholz’s coalition partners, particularly the bellicose Greens, who now seem to relish their role as a proxy for the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Yet over the long term, Germany’s economic, energy and national security interests will likely dictate it come to reject (or take a polite pass on) American demands to sign up for the now looming global confrontation between Western democracies and Eurasian authoritarian regimes led by China and Russia.

Over time, Ostpolitik (The “Eastern Policy” of normalized relations with the communist states of Eastern Europe pursued by German Chancellor Willy Brandt in the late 1960s and early 1970s) may have a second life after all, given the German industry’s dependence on cheap natural gas and its ever-increasing trading ties with China: In 2021 two-way trade between Germany and China hit a record $320 billion.

But as things now stand, with Paris distracted by a populist revolt, Washington—with the enthusiastic backing of Warsaw, London, Prague, Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius, and the foreign ministry in Berlin—is exercising a kind of hegemony on the continent not seen since the days when President Reagan, against vast popular protests, placed Pershing II missiles in West Germany in late 1983.

To his great credit, Macron realizes—as did his model, the great Charles de Gaulle—that protracted U.S. hegemony over Europe is both unsustainable and indeed, given Washington’s ever-deepening involvement in the Ukraine war and the new cold war posture it has taken with regard to China, dangerous. But now he is likely helpless to pursue his favored alternative strategy.

In the end, a politically stable France and German buy-in are the two foundational prerequisites for strategic autonomy to succeed. And as of this writing, there is neither.

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

James W. Carden is a former adviser on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the State Department. He is a member of the board of ACURA and a writing fellow for Globetrotter.

Source: Globetrotter

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The Long Arm Of Washington Extends Into Africa’s Sahel

Vijay Prashad

On March 16, 2023, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced—during his visit to Niger—that the United States government will provide $150 million in aid to the Sahel region of Africa. This money, Blinken said, “will help provide life-saving support to refugees, asylum seekers, and others impacted by conflict and food insecurity in the region.” The next day, UNICEF issued a press release with information from a report the United Nations issued that month stating that 10 million children in the central Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger need humanitarian assistance. UNICEF has appealed for $473.8 million to support its efforts to provide these children with basic requirements. According to the Human Development Index for 2021, Niger, despite holding large reserves of uranium, is one of the poorest countries in the world (189th out of 191 countries); profits from the uranium have long drained away to French and other Western multinational corporations. The U.S. aid money will not be going to the United Nations but will be disbursed through its own agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

Northeast of Niger’s capital Niamey, near the city of Agadez, is Air Base 201, one of the world’s largest drone bases that is home to several armed MQ-9 Reapers. During a press conference with Blinken, Niger Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou affirmed his country’s “military cooperation” with the United States, which includes the U.S. “equipping… our armed forces, for our army and our air force and intelligence.” Neither Blinken nor Massoudou spoke about Air Base 201, from where the United States monitors the Sahel region, trains Niger’s military, and provides air support for U.S. ground operations in the region (all of this made clear during the visit by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass to the base at the end of December 2021). The U.S. will spend $280 million on this base—twice the humanitarian aid promised by Blinken—including $30 million per year to maintain operations at Air Base 201.

Blinken is the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Niger, a country that his own department accused of “significant human rights issues” like “unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by or on behalf of government” and torture. When a reporter asked Blinken during the press conference what the U.S. will do “to bring democracy” to Burkina Faso and Mali, he accused that the United States is monitoring the “democratic backsliding, the military coups, which so far have not led to a renewal of a democratic constitutional process in these countries.” The military governments in Burkina Faso and Mali have ejected the presence of the French military from their territories and have indicated that they would not welcome any more Western military intervention. A senior official in Niger told me that Blinken’s hesitancy to directly speak about Burkina Faso and Mali might have been because of the distress about the faltering democracy in Niger.

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum has faced serious criticisms within the country about corruption and violence. In April 2022, president Bazoum wrote on Twitter that 30 of his senior officials had been arrested for “embezzlement or misappropriation,” and they would be in prison “for a long time.” This was a perfectly clear statement, but it obscured the deeper corruption within Bazoum’s own administration—including the detention of his Communications Minister Mahamadou Zada on corruption charges—which was revealed through an audit of the country’s 2021 spending that highlighted millions of dollars of missing state funds. Furthermore, a third of the money spent by Niger to buy $1 billion in weapons from arms companies between 2011 and 2019 was pilfered by government officials, according to a report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

In December 2022, during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, President Bazoum joined Benin’s President Patrice Talon to be part of the U.S. project known as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The U.S. government pledged $504 million toward facilitating transportation between Benin and Niger, to help increase trade between these two neighbors. The MCC, set up in 2004 in the context of the U.S. war on Iraq, has been expanded into an instrument used by the U.S. government to challenge the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Senior officials in Niger, who requested anonymity, and several studies by independent authorities indicate that this MCC money is being used to upgrade African farmlands and that the corporation has been working with U.S.-funded institutions such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations), and turn these agricultural resources over to multinational agribusinesses. The MCC grants, the senior officials said, are used to “launder” Niger’s land to foreign corporate interests and to “subordinate” Niger’s political leadership to U.S. government interests.

At the press conference, Blinken was asked about Russia’s Wagner Group. “Where Wagner has been present,” Blinken said, “bad things have inevitably followed.” Statements have been made recently about the Wagner Group operating in Burkina Faso and Mali by the U.S. State Department’s Vedant Patel after the second coup in the former country in September 2022, and by the RAND Corporation’s Colin P. Clarke in January 2023. Governments in both Burkina Faso and Mali have denied that Wagner is operating from their territory (although the group does operate in Libya), and informed observers such as the Nigerien journalist Seidik Abba (author of Mali-Sahel, notre Afghanistan à nous, 2022) said that countries in the Sahel region are being wary about any foreign intervention. Despite repeating many of Washington’s talking points about Wagner, Niger Foreign Minister Massoudou conceded that focus on it might be exaggerated: “As for the presence of Wagner in Burkina… the information that we have does not allow us to say that Wagner is still in Burkina Faso.”

Before Blinken left for Niger and Ethiopia, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee said that Niger is “one of our most important partners on the continent in terms of security cooperation.” That is the most honest assessment of U.S. interests in Niger—largely about the military bases in Agadez and Niamey.

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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