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India’s One-Day General Strike Largest in History

India’s One-Day General Strike Largest in History

If those who struck on Nov. 26 formed a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world after China, India, the United States and Indonesia, writes Vijay Prashad.

India’s general strike on Nov. 26, 2020. (IndustriALL Global Union, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Farmers and agricultural workers from northern India marched along various national highways toward India’s capital of New Delhi as part of the general strike on Nov. 26.

They carried placards with slogans against the anti-farmer, pro-corporate laws that were passed by India’s Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) in September, and then pushed through the Rajya Sabha (upper house) with only a voice vote.

The striking agricultural workers and farmers carried flags that indicated their affiliation with a range of organizations, from the communist movement to a broad front of farmers’ organizations. They marched against the privatization of agriculture, which they argue undermines India’s food sovereignty and erodes their ability to remain agriculturalists.

Roughly two-thirds of India’s workforce derives its income from agriculture, which contributes to roughly 18 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP). The three anti-farmer bills passed in September undermine the minimum support price buying schemes of the government, put 85 percent of the farmers who own less than 2 hectares of land at the mercy of bargaining with monopoly wholesalers, and will lead to the destruction of a system that has till now maintained agricultural production despite erratic prices for food produce.

One hundred and fifty farmer organizations came together for their march on New Delhi. They pledge to stay in the city indefinitely.

India’s general strike on Nov. 26, 2020. (IndustriALL Global Union, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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UPRISING: Goliath Is Not Invincible

UPRISING: Goliath Is Not Invincible

Revolutions are difficult, writes Vijay Prashad. They must chip away at hundreds of years of inequality, erode cultural expectations and build the material foundations for a new society. 

Comando Creativo, History is watching us, Bellas Artes, Caracas, 2011.

The streets in the U.S. are on fire once more because of the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer and his accomplices in Minneapolis. Malcolm X once said “That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s your foot on my neck.”

A week before George Floyd was murdered, João Pedro Mattos Pinto (age 14) was killed by the police in Rio de Janeiro while playing in the yard of his house; a few days after his murder, Israeli occupation forces murdered Iyad el-Hallak (age 32), who worked in and attended a special needs school in Old Jerusalem. The foot on the neck of George Floyd, João Pedro and Iyad el-Hallak is the same foot that suffocates the Venezuelan people, who suffer each day from the U.S.-driven hybrid war.

Luis Cario, Now we are breathing, 2020.

Last year, while in Caracas, I walked with Mariela Machado in her housing complex known as Kaikachi in the neighborhood of La Vega. After Hugo Chávez was inaugurated president in 1999, a group of working-class residents of the city saw an empty piece of land and occupied it. Mariela and others went to the government and said, “We built this city. We can build our own houses. All we want are machines and materials.” The government supported them, and they built a charming multi-story complex that houses 92 families.

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After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia

After Evo, the Lithium Question Looms Large in Bolivia

Photograph Source: Sámediggi Sametinget – CC BY 2.0

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was overthrown in a military coup on November 10. He is now in Mexico. Before he left office, Morales had been involved in a long project to bring economic and social democracy to his long-exploited country. It is important to recall that Bolivia has suffered a series of coups, often conducted by the military and the oligarchy on behalf of transnational mining companies. Initially, these were tin firms, but tin is no longer the main target in Bolivia. The main target is its massive deposits of lithium, crucial for the electric car.

Over the past 13 years, Morales has tried to build a different relationship between his country and its resources. He has not wanted the resources to benefit the transnational mining firms, but rather to benefit his own population. Part of that promise was met as Bolivia’s poverty rate has declined, and as Bolivia’s population was able to improve its social indicators. Nationalization of resources combined with the use of its income to fund social development has played a role. The attitude of the Morales government toward the transnational firms produced a harsh response from them, many of them taking Bolivia to court.

Over the course of the past few years, Bolivia has struggled to raise investment to develop the lithium reserves in a way that brings the wealth back into the country for its people. Morales’ Vice President Álvaro García Linera had said that lithium is the “fuel that will feed the world.” Bolivia was unable to make deals with Western transnational firms; it decided to partner with Chinese firms. This made the Morales government vulnerable. It had walked into the new Cold War between the West and China. The coup against Morales cannot be understood without a glance at this clash.

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The 12-Step Method of Regime Change

The 12-Step Method of Regime Change

On 15 September 1970, US President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger authorised the US government to do everything possible to undermine the incoming government of the socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Nixon and Kissinger, according to the notes kept by CIA Director Richard Helms, wanted to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile; they were ‘not concerned [about the] risks involved’. War was acceptable to them as long as Allende’s government was removed from power. The CIA started Project FUBELT, with $10 million as a first instalment to begin the covert destabilisation of the country.

CIA memorandum on Project FUBELT, 16 September 1970.

US business firms, such as the telecommunication giant ITT, the soft drink maker Pepsi Cola and copper monopolies such as Anaconda and Kennecott, put pressure on the US government once Allende nationalised the copper sector on 11 July 1971. Chileans celebrated this day as the Day of National Dignity (Dia de la Dignidad Nacional). The CIA began to make contact with sections of the military seen to be against Allende. Three years later, on 11 September 1973, these military men moved against Allende, who died in the regime change operation. The US ‘created the conditions’ as US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger put it, to which US President Richard Nixon answered, ‘that is the way it is going to be played’. Such is the mood of international gangsterism.

Phone Call between Richard Nixon (P) and Henry Kissinger (K) on 16 September 1973.

Chile entered the dark night of a military dictatorship that turned over the country to US monopoly firms. US advisors rushed in to strengthen the nerve of General Augusto Pinochet’s cabinet.

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A Workers’ Struggle in India to ‘Make the Land Proud’ as Global Unrest Spreads

Struggles That Make the Land Proud: The Second Newsletter (2019)

Over two days—Jan. 8 and 9—more than 160 million workers went on strike in India. This has been one of the largest general strikes in the world. The workers, exhausted by almost three decades of neoliberal policies and by the attack on their rights, came onto the streets to make their case for better livelihoods and workplace democracy. Blockades on train tracks and on national highways closed down sections of the country.

In Bengaluru, information technology workers joined the strike. In Himachal Pradesh workers gathered to demand an end to precarious employment in government service. Workers from a broad range of sectors, from manufacturing to health care, joined the strike. There has been no response from the government. Please read my report on the strike.

My report is written from Kerala, where almost the entire workforce went on strike. This strike comes after the powerful Women’s Wall that was built on Jan. 1. For a fuller sense of what brought 5.5 million women to form a wall along Kerala, see my report. The title for this newsletter comes from a well-known poem by the late radical poet Vayalar Ramavarma (1928-1975). When workers struggle, Vayalar wrote, “isn’t it something to make the land proud?”

Morocco, Sudan, Nigeria and Los Angeles

This two-day strike comes as workers around the world greeted 2019 with a wave of demonstrations—from the “month of anger” launched in Morocco by trade unions, to the protests in Sudan over rising prices; from teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, to the potential general strike in Nigeria over wages. An International Trade Union Confederation report from last year showed that ‘More countries are excluding workers from labour laws’ – 65% of countries, at last count, excluding migrant workers and public sector employees and others from the rights afforded to them. There is every indication that the attack on workers’ rights and workplace democracy will continue despite the unrest amongst workers.

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There is No Legitimate Reason to Impose Sanctions on Iran

There is No Legitimate Reason to Impose Sanctions on Iran

Photo Source Blondinrikard Fröberg | CC BY 2.0

A friend in Tehran tells me that he marvels at the attitude of the United States ruling establishment towards Iran. ‘Why do they hate us so much’, he asks? It is a fair question. His country, he says, is not perfect, but it is certainly not a threat to the world. The current government – led by Hassan Rouhani (Iran’s seventh president since the 1979 Revolution) – is moderate in many ways, its foreign minister – Javad Zarif – a man of dignity. Certainly, my friend says, there are elements inside the higher reaches of government that are erratic. But, ‘don’t all countries have such people in power’, he says, the smile pointing towards India’s Narendra Modi and Donald Trump of the United States. Can any country these days, he eggs me on, say that it does not have its own version of Trump?

In 1953, the United States and its allies overthrew the democratically elected government in Iran. The reason why Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh bothered the West was that he began to nationalise the oil sector. Oil firms could not tolerate this. He had to go. The overthrow of Mosaddegh brought to power the repellent Shah of Iran, who then ruled Iran with an iron fist till the Revolution of 1979. Two years into the Shah’s reign, the United States and Iran signed a Treaty of Amity – a normal agreement signed between countries to promise fair treatment on a wide variety of matters. It is important to underscore that the US signed this treaty not with a democratic government – which it had overthrown – but with the autocratic regime of the Shah – which it had installed.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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