Hong Kong: New international protest day for democratic rights

Vincent Kolo (China Worker) 4 April 2018
Noam Chomsky among signatories of worldwide petition launched by Stop Repression in Hong Kong campaign

The Stop Repression in Hong Kong campaign is planning a day of worldwide protests on Friday 4 May. urges readers around the world to participate in the protests against increasing political repression in Hong Kong and China. More information and campaign material can be found on the campaign’s website

The Stop Repression in Hong Kong campaign was launched last October with protests in 22 cities around the world. It explicitly targets support from left activists and workers’ organisations, explaining that capitalist politicians and the right are too enamoured by economic links with the Chinese regime and conflicted by their own undemocratic policies to offer real support for democratic rights in Hong Kong or China. Donald Trump’s response when China’s leader Xi Jinping changed the rules allowing him to rule for life, was to praise Xi and tell a public rally, “Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday!”

The Murder of Marielle Franco and the Birth of a Movement

The Real News Network 3 April 2018

Massive protests against the killing of Marielle Franco blanketed Brazil in recent weeks. An anti-police violence activist from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro was killed to silence her, it appears her assassination has done just the opposite

Lula Leads in Polls as Court Upholds Conviction

The Real News Network 29 March 2018

Former president of Brazil Lula da Silva’s corruption conviction was upheld by an appeals court, which, according to Brazilian law, mean’s he’s not allowed to hold office for 8 years. But that hasn’t stopped Lula from campaigning for the upcoming presidential election in October. Journalist Mike Fox explains

Russia: Election boosts Putin’s position but serious opposition can develop

Rob Jones, Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) 28 March 2018

There were no shock headlines as the votes for Russia’s new President were counted. The Kremlin had called for a 70% vote for Vladimir Putin, with a 70% turnout.

As it turned out, the Central Electoral Commission announced that he won nearly 77% of the vote on a 67% turnout.It didn’t take Putin long to return to work. At his victory concert he taunted the British government saying that his increased vote was a reaction to the anti-Russian hysteria whipped up over the murder of Sergei Skripol in Salisbury. He is expected to make some minor changes to the government as he appears to settle in for the next six years.

Coming a distant second, with just under 12%, was the ‘Communist Party’-nominated candidate, Pavel Grudinin, followed by right wing nationalist, Vladimir Zhirinovskii with under 6%. The ‘opposition’ Thatcherite-socialite, Kseniya Sobchak, got just 1.5%. The result, giving Putin the highest number of votes for any Presidential candidate since the collapse of the Soviet Union at over 56 million votes, has left the opposition, particularly the pro-western liberal opposition, demoralised and in despair.

There should be no doubt that even if there was a fair and democratic election in Russia today, with the current political parties and candidates, Putin would win, probably with a good majority of votes. He was almost guaranteed to increase his vote by 4 million due to the additional electorate in Crimea and the decision of the ‘Just Russia’ party to withdraw their candidate in favour of Putin.

The Kisan Long March and the living hell of Indian farmers

Liza Roy and Hamid Alizadeh 20 March 2018

On 6 March, some 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra marched to Mumbai, demanding of the state government land rights, loan waivers, fair compensation for their produce, respect and dignity for farmers from indigenous tribes (adivasis) and improvements in the agriculture sector, which makes up half of India’s workforce and 14 percent of the economy.

The march was led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and lasted six days, during which the farmers marched to the main area of Mumbai and then surrounded the state legislature building (Vidya Bhavan). On 12 March, the protest came to an end after the state government agreed to address the farmers’ demands. Inspired by the events in Maharashtra, farmers in Uttar Pradesh organized a similar march to Lucknow on 15 March, demanding the state government address their dire situation. Some of the farmers’ demands included loan waivers and removing private companies from their lands

West’s Anti-Russian Fervor Will Help Putin Win Election On Sunday

The Real News Network 18 March 2018

As Russia heads into a presidential election on Sunday, Vladimir Putin’s popularity soars with every accusation and sanction Western countries hurl against him, says Prof. Alexander Buzgalin

Brazil: PSOL councillor Marielle Franco murdered in Rio de Janeiro

CWI 16 March 2018

On 14 March, Marielle Franco, a veteran member of PSOL in Rio de Janeiro, was barbarically executed in the city centre. Anderson Pedro Gomes, the driver of her car, was also killed in the attack.

Police investigation identified 9 gun shots in the back window of the car, showing that the murderers targeted Marielle, and knew where in the car she was sitting despite the blacked-out windows of the car.

Marielle was 39 years old and has a 18 year-old daughter. A black, lesbian women, she lived in the Favela of Mare, in Rio, where she worked in defence of black women and human rights. She was a long-time militant activist for just causes in the interests of the poor in the city.

China: Xi Jinping plans to extend his rule reporters 3 March 2018

The news from Beijing is historic – nothing less than a political earthquake with repercussions around the world. At its upcoming “parliamentary session” (the National People’s Congress, NPC, which starts next week), China will remove the two-term limit for the presidency and vice presidency. This confirms what was widely expected; that Xi Jinping plans to extend his rule after his current second term finishes in 2023.

Xi has cemented his grip over the Chinese regime through a ruthless power struggle and anti-corruption purge, forcing factional opponents and recalcitrant regions to “bend the knee”. This was further confirmed by his “coronation” at the so-called Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th Congress in October, at which Xi imposed his own choice of leaders, eliminating or demoting possible challengers, and inserted his “thought” into the constitution.

Despite being widely expected, the latest move to allow Xi to indefinitely extend his reign as president (there is no limit on Xi’s other and actually more powerful position as CCP general secretary), has elicited shock and alarm from international commentators and Chinese dissidents alike.

Brazil’s Military Takeover in Rio Sparks Authoritarian Fears

The Real News Network 2 March 2018

Deeply unpopular Brazilian President Michel Temer issued a decree to put the military in charge of security in Rio de Janeiro instead of police, dubiously claiming the purpose is to crack down on crime. But many Brazilians worry that it’s the first stage in a return to military rule, explains journalist Brian Mier

Cyril Ramaphosa relaunches neo-liberalism

Patrick Bond 27 February 2018

Cyril Ramaphosa’s soft-coup firing of Jacob Zuma from the South African presidency on February 14, after nearly nine years in power and a humiliating struggle to avoid resigning, has contradictory local and geopolitical implications. Society’s general applause at seeing Zuma’s rear end resonates loudly, but concerns immediately arise about the new president’s neo-liberal, pro-corporate tendencies, and indeed his legacy of financial corruption and class war against workers. There is still a lack of closure on the 2012 Marikana Massacre, in spite of his February 20 speech to parliament pledging atonement. New legislation Ramaphosa supports will limit the right to strike, while the new budget has cuts and tax increases that hurt the poorest.

Internationally, the emergence of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa alliance in 2010 (when Beijing invited Pretoria on board) was Zuma’s main legacy, he believed: BRICS offered enormous potential to challenge abusive Western hegemony. The reality, however, has been disappointing, especially in the most unequal and troubled of the five countries, South Africa, where Moscow-trained leadership expertly talked left… but walked right.

After Zuma, more extreme fiscal austerity and a return to mining-centric accumulation under Ramaphosa will amplify the misery locally – while likely leaving South Africa’s commitment to the BRICS project in the doldrums. The first evidence of this came on February 21 when Ramaphosa’s inherited finance minister, the corruption-tainted Malusi Gigaba, imposed austerity and liberalized exchange controls.

China: ‘Belt and Road’ – Imperialism with Chinese characteristics

Vincent Kolo: 24 February 2018

The Chinese dictatorship’s massive infrastructure plan is the spearhead for its whole economic and geopolitical strategy. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has assumed increasing importance for the regime of China’s ‘strongman’ Xi Jinping.

The BRI, also known as OBOR (One Belt One Road), is “the world’s biggest building project” according to the Guardian newspaper. Its ambition is to link more than 65 countries with a combined population of 4.5 billion people – three times that of China – into a China-led economic sphere spanning every continent bar the Americas. This is to be achieved through the construction of a series of vast “economic co-operation corridors” comprising fuel pipelines, highways, ports, railways, transnational electric grids and even fibre optic systems.

Movements of Millions Say No to Gene Drives as Brazil Attempts to Legalize Genetic Extinction Technology

ETC 22 February 2017

The largest rural movements in Brazil, representing well over a million farmers, are protesting a new Brazilian regulation that would allow release of gene drives, the controversial genetic extinction technology, into Brazil’s ecosystems and farms.

On February 3rd and 4th, the National Coalition of Farmworkers and Rural, Water and Forest Peoples met near São Paulo, Brazil and sounded the alarm about new Brazilian regulatory changes – a resolution passed on January 15th by Brazil’s National Technical Commission on Biosafety that would allow the release of gene drive organisms into the environment. The effect of this change is that Brazil becomes the first country in the world to establish a legal channel for the release of gene drives into the environment. The new rule could potentially make it even easier to release a living gene drive organism than a GMO seed.

The largest rural movements in Brazil, representing well over a million farmers, are protesting a new Brazilian regulation that would allow release of gene drives, the controversial genetic extinction technology, into Brazil’s ecosystems and farms.

On February 3rd and 4th, the National Coalition of Farmworkers and Rural, Water and Forest Peoples[1] met near São Paulo, Brazil and sounded the alarm about new Brazilian regulatory changes – a resolution passed on January 15th by Brazil’s National Technical Commission on Biosafety that would allow the release of gene drive organisms into the environment. The effect of this change is that Brazil becomes the first country in the world to establish a legal channel for the release of gene drives into the environment. The new rule could potentially make it even easier to release a living gene drive organism than a GMO seed.

President Ramaphosa: From Militant Revolutionary to Corporate Magnate

The Real News Network 16 February 2018

The ANC’s revolutionary leadership became low level allies of international capital and of all forms of exploitation of the working peoples of Southern Africa says scholar Horace G. Campbell.

Zuma’s Catastrophic Presidency Ends in Forced Resignation

The Real News Network 16 February 2018

South African President Jacob Zuma resigned under intense pressure from his political party, the ANC, which ordered him to step down or face a no-confidence vote. Zuma has had a disastrous effect on South Africa’s nascent democracy, but a surging countermovement gives reason for hope, says Vishwas Satgar of Wits University

Youth protests take place ahead of Russia’s ‘no-choice’ presidential election

Rob Jones, Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) Moscow 14 February 2018

Once again, a presidential election in Russia looms and for the fifth time since 2000 there is a simple choice; either Putin or one of the other candidates, none of whom has a chance of winning. The only exception to this was in 2008, when Medvedev stepped in to hold the presidential chair warm for four years before Putin could not stand for technical reasons.

After the last election in 2012, protests against voter manipulation broke out. This time protests are taking place in advance. A few weeks ago saw another wave of youth protests sweep Russia, affecting over 100 cities – from the several thousand who turned out in Moscow’s balmy minus six to the thirty people who managed to brave Yakutsk’s minus 45!

Police carried out widespread raids on dozens of offices of Alexei Navalnii, who called these protests in the days before Sunday. They stopped passengers at airports and stations and searched student hostels to confiscate any agitational leaflets. But on Sunday itself, “only” 300 protesters, including Navalnii himself, were detained by police. Undoubtedly, the regime is concerned that a crackdown before the election could provoke wider discontent. The Ministry of Defence, according to some soldiers, has been surveying the rank and file asking them who they think is the most popular pro-western politician, calling for a “coloured revolution”, and whether they would be “prepared to obey an order to use force against people calling for the forcible overthrow of the constitution in Russia”.

Pro and anti-Zuma protesters face off outside the ANC’s headquarters

Daily Maverick 5 February 2018Buoyed by Cyril Ramaphosa’s win at the ANC’s elective conference, a growing negative perception and a series of damning court judgments against President Jacob Zuma, a group calling themselves Defend Luthuli House gathered at the ANC headquarters in the Johannesburg city centre to stop pro-Zuma supporters from handing over a memorandum at the offices.

Lula, Brazil Elections and the Left

Sabrina Fernandes (teleSUR English) 25 January 2018

In an exclusive interview with teleSUR, Brazilian professor and researcher Sabrina Fernandes discusses former President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s Jan. 24 corruption trial and forthcoming elections in the South American country.

What has been the response of the non-Workers’ Party, PT, left to the current situation and in the lead up to the presidential election?
The non-PT left is divided between the organizations in the left that were part of the PT governments and its base, and the left that has stood in a critical stance of the governments, pushing for a more radical agenda.

The first is standing together with Lula throughout the sentencing and appeal process and part of it supports him as their preferential candidate, with the notable exception of Manuela D’Avila, from the Communist Party of Brazil, PCdoB. The opposition left, which I call the radical left, is a very fragmented one, so its own positions are also fragmented.

Most of the Socialism and Liberty Party, PSOL, internal organizations are standing in solidarity with Lula for his right to be a candidate, which depends on a successful appeal, although the PSOL will have its own presidential candidate. Other parties such as the Unified Socialist Workers’ Party, PSTU, and the Brazilian Communist Party, PCB, have kept a wider distance from the troubles afflicting the PT, and it’s noteworthy that the PSTU promoted a “Out with all of them!” campaign during the former President Dilma Rousseff impeachment crisis and they are urging the working class to organize against President Michel Temer’s reforms, rather than focusing on the trial.

Cape Town Water Wars: A Literal Shitstorm

In Cape Town, one of the most unequal cities in the world, poor people are taking the buckets they use for chemical toilets and turning them into weapons, as the water shortage intensifies class conflicts.
Patrick Bond interviewed on the The Real News Network 22 January 2018

China: Tibetan activist latest victim of vicious crackdown

Adam N. Lee ( 17 January 2018

A nine-minute video made by the New York Times may cost Tibetan language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk fifteen years in prison. He is the latest victim in an unprecedented crackdown in which hundreds of dissidents and rights advocates have been arrested, abducted, ‘disappeared’, tortured, forced to appear in televised ‘confessions’ and in many cases served with harsh prison sentences as a deterrent to others who would challenge Beijing’s policies.

32-year-old Tashi, a shopkeeper from the Tibetan prefecture of Yushu in Qinghai province, was arrested two months after featuring in the Times’ video documentary. He was held for two years in secret detention and then tried on 4 January this year for “inciting separatism”. The video film (see link below) was played at the four-hour trial and, according to Tashi Wangchuk’s defence counsel, was the main “evidence” against him. The court will pronounce sentence at a later date but it is feared he could be handed a fifteen-year prison sentence.

China’s courts are under tight control by the regime and have a 99 percent conviction rate, 100 percent in the case of political trials like this one. International observers have condemned the detention and trial of Tashi Wangchuk, with Amnesty International calling it a “sham” based on “blatantly trumped-up charges”.

Campaign for jailed journalist Ali Feruz to join annual Moscow anti-fascist demo

Socialist Alternative in Russia (CWI) Reporters 16 January 2018

Nine years ago, in the centre of Moscow, a lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, and journalist, Anastasia Baburova, were both murdered by fascist thugs. They had been known for their anti-fascist activities and Stanislav was an activist with the Russian ‘Youth against Racism in Europe’. Each year since, there has been an anti-fascist demonstration to mark their murders, with the slogan, “Never again”. The19th January march is never more relevant; everyday hate crimes continue in Russia against immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community and increasingly the attacks come not just from far right radicals but from the state.  Therefore Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) takes part in the demonstration not just in memory of the two murdered anti-fascists, but also to openly speak out and organize against migrantophobia, islamophobia, homophobia and other hatreds.

The clearest example of this today is the case of the journalist Ali Feruz (actual name Khudoberdi Nurmatov). The Russian courts took the decision to deport Ali to Uzbekistan, where he was born, and where he faces repression and possible torture for his refusal to cooperate with the authoritarian regime’s police. Working for the Russian paper, ‘Novaya gazeta’, Ali Feruz exposed the death of conscripts in the army and the slave-like conditions in which many immigrants in Russia are forced to work. Ali is a member of a journalists and media workers union. He is an immigrant and openly gay. While Ali’s supporters from the newspaper and his friends have been lobbying in support of Ali, it has been the public and international campaign that has, so far, prevented the Russian courts from forcing Ali back to Uzbekistan.

China: Regime’s anti-pollution policies doomed to fail

Li Yiming ( 3 January 2018

The word environment was mentioned 89 times by Xi Jinping in his report to the 19th Congress of the ruling “communist” party, even more than ‘economy’. He has sent out investigative teams from the central government to the provinces to check on the progress of anti-pollution measures. Reports indicate that over 12,000 officials and 18,000 companies have been prosecuted.

The media claims that this is China’s largest environmental protection campaign in history. Xi seems to be an ardent champion of the environment, but in fact he is forced into action by increasing anti-pollution protests from below, as well as the enormous economic loss due to environmental destruction. However, economic pressure and an unofficial boycott by local governments mean Xi’s policies will not achieve substantial results.
In October, the medical periodical The Lancet published a study, reporting that more than 1.8 million Chinese were killed by pollution in 2015, accounting for one-fifth of all deaths in China. An earlier report published by Nanjing University reveals that among the 74 main cities of China, one-third of the deaths can be attributed to PM2.5 pollution (dangerous airborne small dust particles).

India’s Capital of Delhi has the World’s Worst Air Pollution – Why?

The Real News Network 26 December2016

Fossil fuels, especially coal, is the main culprit, but despite the public health emergency, the government is not acting on this issue, says Shouvik Chakraborty, research fellow at PERI

On November 8th, the Indian capital city of Delhi gained the dubious distinction of becoming the most polluted city on the planet. The air quality is now so bad that it’s equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. So how did Delhi and India become so polluted, and what can be done about this severe public health problem?

Joining us to discuss this is Shouvik Chakraborty. Shouvik is currently a research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute, UMass Amherst. He received his PhD from the Center for Economic Studies and Planning at JNU in New Delhi. He’s published a variety of progressive economic articles, especially in the areas of development banking, international trade, food security, and energy and the environment. Shouvik’s current research focus is on the generation of jobs through investment in clean, renewable energy and developing an egalitarian green growth program.—Why%3F

Will New ANC President Ramaphosa Bring Real Change to South Africa?

The Real News Network 24 December 2017

Cyril Ramaphosa, who was recently elected to head South Africa’s ANC, is closely associated with major economic interests in South Africa, such as the Lonmin Mining Company, and is thus unlikely to bring about real change says Patrick Bond

Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert joining you from Quito, Ecuador. Last Tuesday, the African National Congress of South Africa, the ANC, had its 54th National Conference. Cyril Ramaphosa became its president by a narrow margin, replacing Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, as head of the ANC.

Many say it’s a foregone conclusion now that Ramaphosa will be the ANC’s next presidential candidate in 2019. As a successful businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa is strongly connected to the Lonmin Mining Company. Professor Patrick Bond of the Wits University in South Africa analyzes this connection in a recently published article, “In South Africa Ramaphosa Rises as Lonmin Expires.”

Joining me now is Patrick Bond, the author and also the co-editor of BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique. Welcome Patrick.

‘It’s likely Russia will interfere in ANC elective conference’

Eye Witness News 15 December 2017

Political scenario planner Jakkie Cilliers says it’s likely Russia will interfere in the African National Congress (ANC) elective conference when it chooses a successor to President Jacob Zuma in three days times.

Cilliers say this could affect his expectation that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will become the new ANC leader and South Africa’s new president.
Speaking at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Cilliers says Russia’s determination to sell a trillion-rand nuclear power plant to South Africa gives it a considerable stake in the ANC leadership contest.

He says South Africa cannot afford a nuclear power plant now and does not need one until 2040.

Kazakhstan: Angry coal-miners on strike in Karaganda

Committee for a Workers International 14 December 2017

A dramatic strike struggle has broken out in the Karaganda coal mines of Kazakhstan which now come under ‘Arcellor Mittal Temirtau’. Within the first few hours of their strike action, the miners were offered 20% rises and then 50%, but hundreds of the strikers have sworn they will stay below ground until they get the full claim. They are demanding face to face talks with the top owner – Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal who has flown to the country.

The thousands of miners involved had been trying to negotiate on their claim for six months but their patience ran out! Their claims include a 100% wage increase and better working conditions in the pits to put an end to the horrific level of injuries and deaths at work. They also want the restoration of retirement at 50.
The Minister of ‘Social Defence’ has inflamed the stuation by claiming they are already earning more than a thousand dollars a month! In fact, they get less than half that for risking life and limb every day.

In the last couple of days, strikers and journalists – some outside in sub-zero temperatures – have been making videos of the struggle and are calling for international support. As miners in the videos say, the majority of the population in Kazakhstan still depend on their labour for coal-fired power and heating.

Forced Privatization of The Greek Port of Piraeus, One Year Later

The Real News Network 13 December 2017

Dimitri Lascaris in Greece, speaks with Giogros Gogos, general Secretary of the Dockworkers Union at the Port of Piraeus. The Troika forced the privatization of 67% of Port of Piraeus, this means that the most secure and lucrative asset in Greece, that could have generated money to pay the debt, is now the hands of Chinese shipping company Cosco

China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat’s invasion threat

Ben Blanchard, Jess Macy Yu (Reuters) 12 December 2017

A threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan the instant any U.S. warship visits the self-ruled island has sparked a war of words, with Taipei accusing Beijing of failing to understand what democracy means.

China considers Taiwan to be a wayward province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help it defend itself and is its main source of arms.

Beijing regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue between it and the United States. In September, the U.S. Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2018 fiscal year, which authorises mutual visits by navy vessels between Taiwan and the United States.

Brazil’s Corruption Scandal Ensnares Anti-Corruption Judge

The Real News Network 6 December 2017

New testimony in Brazil’s on-going corruption investigations lays bare Judge Sergio Moro’s conflict of interest and the possibility that he and his wife might have taken bribes for reducing sentences. Brian Mier of Brazil Wire reports

Gregory Wilpert: Brazil’s top anti-corruption judge, Sergio Moro, who has been the driving force in uncovering the country’s vast corruption, himself became ensnared in a corruption scandal. Last week, Tacla Duran, who is a lawyer for the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht testified that his defense attorney, who happens to belong to the same law firm as Judge Moro’s wife, offered him a reduced sentence in exchange for $2 million. This testimony calls into question just how clean is Judge Moro’s investigation of corruption in Brazil.

Brazil’s corruption scandal began in March 2014 when Judge Moro prosecuted money laundering, kickbacks and bribes at the state oil company, Petrobras. Since then, the investigation and indictments have placed the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, at the center of much of the corruption. Meanwhile, between 100 and 200 politicians, many of them senators including Eduardo Cunha, the president of the legislature’s Lower House, are accused of having received millions of dollars in bribes from Odebrecht.

Last July, Former President Lula da Silva also ended up being accused and convicted as part of this wide-ranging anti-corruption drive. Lula was sentenced to nine and a half years of prison, but remains free while he’s appealing the case. In the meantime, he’s campaigning for the presidency again, which is scheduled to take place in late 2018.

Hong Kong: Only mass struggle can defeat repression

Editorial from Socialist magazine (Journal of the CWI / Socialist Action) 29 November 2017

A week hardly passes without the Chinese dictatorship stepping up its pressure on Hong Kong
Beijing is pushing for greater political control and to quell Hong Kong’s culture of mass democracy protests. Most recently it has been cranking up the volume with calls for Article 23, a national security law that would criminalise opposition to the Communist Party (CCP) regime.

China exporting state repression

China Worker 21 November 2017

Under Xi Jinping’s rule repression, censorship, and ‘Big Brother’ surveillance have reached new levels, resembling and in some aspects surpassing Orwell’s science fiction nightmare

This process has been helped by advanced cyber-technology, often developed and sold by Western ‘democracies’. China is investing massive sums in the development of advanced technologies for economic but also political purposes – to upgrade its repressive capabilities. It has more than half the world’s video surveillance cameras, 176 million out of 245 million globally, and is leading the way in face and voice recognition technology.
Google boss Eric Smidt also recently warned that China is on course in the coming decade to overtake the US in Artificial Intelligence, which Time magazine called “the space race of the 21st century”. The Chinese regime has made no secret of its plans to incorporate AI capabilities into its ‘stability maintenance’ programmes.

China has thus become the model for ‘digital authoritarianism’ around the world, emulated by countless other autocratic regimes including Russia, Iran and Ethiopia. More and more governments are copying China in the manipulation of the internet and social media for political purposes.

India Air Pollution Crisis Worsens: Government Plans to Spray Capital With Water

EcoWatch 14 November 2017

A four-day old noxious blanket of smog resting on the Indian capital, New Delhi, that officials expect to worsen over the weekend has prompted a plan to spray water over the city.

On Friday, the government announced, in an unprecedented move, it was finalizing plans to spray water from 100 meters above the city, Reuters reported. It remains unclear how much of the densely populated city of 22 million would be sprayed.

Government officials have closed 6,000 schools, banned all but the most essential commercial trucks, and are re-introducing an “odd-even” scheme which allows vehicle with plates ending in an odd number to operate on one day and even-numbered vehicles the next day.

Despite these measures, the air in New Deli has remained “hazardous” for days. Illegal crop burning, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution and dust from sprawling construction sites have contributed to the pollution emergency. By 11 am on Friday, the U.S. embassy air quality data for PM 2.5 showed levels had reached 550, while the safe limit is 50, according to U.S. embassy standards.

PM 2.5 is particulate matter about 30 times finer than human hair that can be inhaled into the lungs and blood stream, causing cardiac arrest, strokes, lung cancer and a host of other respiratory diseases.

Residents in New Delhi are reporting burning eyes, headaches and nausea. The air is filled with heavy metals and other carcinogens at 30 times WHO limits. Medical professionals consider those levels of pollution at least as harmful as 50 cigarettes a day.

Anti-mining Brazilian militants arrested in Zimbabwe

Stop Corporate Impunity 11 November 2017

November 10, 2017, three comrades were arrested in Zimbabwe: Frei Rodrigo Peret, a militant of the Pastoral Land Commission of Uberlandia, Minas Gerais state, Maria Julia Gomes Andrade and Jarbas Vieira, the later two members of the Movement of People Affected by Mining (MAM) and members of the secretariat of the Committee in Defense of the Territories Facing Mining.

There is unconfirmed information that other foreigners are also detained. They are at the central police station in the town of Mutare, which lies 270 kilometers from the capital, Harare, on the border with Mozambique.

The reason for the arrest remains unclear, but some information points that they have been accused of violating a conservation area. The group, which includes at least two other Brazilian women, participated in a community meeting – an action of dialogue of the peoples.

THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY IN ZIMBABWE has already been activated, and is in contact with local police to gather more information. The Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasilia is also following the case. The head of the Africa Department of that ministry has also been notified.

There is great concern with the situation of political instability in Zimbabwe. Several organizations and militants are mobilizing their networks to provide support and solidarity to their peers and the whole group.

Even Conservative Queenslanders Hate The Idea Of Adani Getting Government Handouts

Huffington Post 9 November 2017

Pay your own way, please.

These, as far as we know, were not the exact words Queenslanders used when asked how they feel about $1 billion in taxpayer funds being funnelled to Adani to help the Indian resources giant build its proposed Carmichael coal mine.

But they seem a pretty close approximation of the vibe, if a new poll released this week is anything to go by. And interestingly, coal miners are among those who are most strongly opposed.

The ReachTEL poll, commissioned by the Stop Adani movement, showed that approximately seven out of 10 Queenslanders believe Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did the right thing last weekend when she announced her Labor Government would have “no role in the future” of an assessment of the $1 billion loan to Adani.

In other words, she said “no thanks” and vetoed it.

Another Setback in Brazil

Mario Osava 3 November 2017

The wave of conservativism is testing its limits in Brazil, as reflected by a Labour Ministry decree that seeks to block the fight against slavery-like working conditions, which has been provisionally revoked by the justice system.

The powerful “ruralist” parliamentary bloc that represents agribusiness has been chalking up victories, such as keeping Michel Temer in the presidency, despite the disapproval of more than three-quarters of those interviewed in the latest polls, who see him as corrupt and are calling for his resignation.

According to political commentators, the weakening of the fight against slave labour, by means of the Oct. 13 ministerial resolution, was aimed at ensuring the ruralist bloc’s support for the government in the lower house of Congress which, on Oct. 25, blocked by a vote of 251 to 233, the judicial process against Temer on charges of obstruction of justice and criminal organisation.

The measure could be a fatal blow to the actions of the Mobile Inspection Group which has already freed more than 50,000 modern-day slave labourers, warned Xavier Plassat, a Dominican friar who coordinates the campaign against slave labour in the Catholic Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
The operations of the group, created in 1995 with Labour Ministry inspectors, federal police officers and prosecutors from the Labour Public Prosecutor (MPT), have already decreased sharply in recent years due to a shortage of budget and staff.

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown

NPR 23 October 2017

In the gritty industrial town of Yiwu, workers prepare jeans to be dyed in a vivid range of colors.

Two months ago, this factory — and this entire city, located in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang — was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China’s environmental laws and who wasn’t.

The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he’s never seen anything like it.

“It had a big impact on our business,” he says. “We couldn’t make the delivery date since we [were] shut down. It’s not just our factory. All the factories out here had this issue.”

This is happening across the country: Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China’s government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.

Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens

Rachel Botsman (Wired UK) 21 October 2017

The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it’s already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance “trust” nationwide and to build a culture of “sincerity”. As the policy states, “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”

Brazil’s Donald Trump?

Mark Weisbrot (US News & World Report) 24 October 2017

Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro, who has been compared to Donald Trump, just finished a visit to the United States, which was cut short as he canceled an appearance at George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is currently polling second in Brazil’s 2018 presidential race.

The cancellation was not surprising (and there were some others in New York City). A letter signed by dozens of academics argued that his appearance at the university “would be helping a racist, sexist, homophobic right-wing extremist to achieve international recognition and solidify the political viability of his candidacy.” This was apparently the purpose of his trip. But opposition and protests here made it clear that he would have to answer questions at GWU that nobody would want to answer.

Bolsonaro greatly upped his international notoriety when he cast his vote in April last year in favor of impeaching then-president Dilma Rousseff. He announced that his vote was dedicated to Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, an army colonel who ran an infamous torture center under the dictatorship. Dilma herself was tortured by Ustra’s unit.

Putin main player in Middle East

Robert Fisk (The Independent) 21 October 2017

After Israel’s victory in the 1973 Middle East war, Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko went on 22 October to see President Brezhnev at his dacha at Zavidovo just outside Moscow. The Israelis were not much interested in accepting a ceasefire set to begin the previous day, and, according to Anatoly Chernyaev, a Soviet official present at the talks, Brezhnev wanted to encourage the Israelis to keep the truce by offering a Soviet guarantee of Israel’s borders. Gromyko replied that the Arabs would take offence – but Brezhnev burst out that “we have been offering them (the Arabs) a sensible course of action for so many years. They wanted war and they are welcome to it … To hell with them.”

It was a view long shared by Soviet military officers. I recall the remaining anger of a former Soviet instructor in Yemen during the 1962-70 civil war, who, showing me Red Square one cold afternoon, made a remark almost as contemptuous as Brezhnev’s. “We helped to train the Arabs [against the monarchists] and they were useless and I think they should be on their own. Let someone else save them. Why should it be us all over again?”

In October 1973, Brezhnev was saying the same thing. He swore at Gromyko, said Chernyaev, for “wanting to keep our flag and bases in the Middle East”. And Brezhnev then shouted out: “We will not let these f***ing people involve us in a world war!” According to author and former British intelligence official Gordon Barrass, who wrote one of the best books on the Cold War eight years ago, the Soviet airlift of military equipment to Syria stopped that very day.

How lucky now are the Arab potentates and dictators to have a Russian rather than a Soviet to talk to, and a fit – some might say almost too fit – Vladimir Putin to rely on, rather than a Brezhnev. A vacillating Obama and a lunatic Trump, of course, do the impossible: they make Putin look like a Roosevelt or an Eisenhower – perhaps even the swashbuckling Theodore Roosevelt with his Rough Riders.

Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle and the dead-end of the ruling class

Ben Morken 19 October 2017

President Jacob Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle is deepening the troubles of the ANC and could be the prelude to the eventual breakup of the tripartite alliance of the ANC, COSATU and the SACP.

Zuma reshuffled his cabinet for the second time in six months on Tuesday. While he made six changes to the executive, it was basically done to achieve two aims: the first is to consolidate his hold on all leading positions in government. The second is to push through a corrupt nuclear power building program that he is pursuing with Russia.

The latest move by Zuma is another salvo being fired in the factional war in the ANC. The party is polarized and the centre collapsed a long time ago. What we are now witnessing is a fast-paced race to the bottom where every move the factions make has the effect of widening the divisions and tearing the organisation apart.

Russia: Preparing for the fall-out from the presidential election

Rob Jones, Socialist Alternative (CWI Russia) 18 October 2017

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the October revolution in Russia, this world-historic event is largely being ignored by the Putin regime and mass media. If the revolution that ushered in the first workers’ state in the world is mentioned at all, it is usually to condemn it as an historic “tragedy” or “mistake”. This should come as no surprise given character of the pro-capitalist regime, authoritarian Putin government. Nevertheless the legacy of the socialist October revolution hangs over the regime today and poses stark questions about life in capitalist Russia today. Rob Jones looks at these issues, the prospects for new protest movements and the struggle for a new socialist society.

Hong Kong: International solidarity campaign launched as government steps up repression

Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) 24 September 2017

Hong Kong is facing an unprecedented attack on democratic rights orchestrated by its pro-Beijing government. In recent months young activists have been jailed and elected legislators have been ousted from the partially elected local parliament (‘Legco’) on the flimsiest of ‘legal’ pretexts.
Tens of thousands marched against the repression in August, but the pro-government camp is stepping up its vicious attacks on the pro-democracy camp and democratic rights, especially singling out supporters of independence.

Support for independence has become increasingly popular among young people, especially since the 2014 mass Umbrella Movement, as the Chinese dictatorship’s repression intensifies and spills into Hong Kong. A June opinion poll showed 21.9 percent of those aged 25-39 support Hong Kong independence, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016. But clearly, the ferocious campaign by the establishment and mainstream media to demonise independence has only had a very limited effect.

The majority of the pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong oppose independence, while some smaller more radical parties adopt a vague position, listing it as “one of the options”, without putting forward a coherent strategy to realise it.
Nevertheless the independence issue is used incessantly by the pro-government camp to justify greater repression. This is linked to the shrill Chinese nationalism of the Beijing regime.

With the start of the new school term in September, pro-independence banners appeared on the campus of Chinese University of Hong Kong, attracting huge publicity and controversy. Similar banners then appeared at several other campuses. The university authorities, egged on by the Beijing loyalist camp, have taken a hard line against the banners, removing them and vowing to punish those responsible.

Brazil’s Corruption Scandals: No Winners, No End in Sight

The political elite has completely lost control of the situation, but the left is unable to take the reins, says blogger Alex Hochuli, who produces the Aufhebunga podcast
The Real News Network 13 September 2017

A People’s Forum on OBOR and BRICS meets in Hong Kong

Robin Lee 5 September 2017

Over the weekend (2nd-3rd September) more than 100 participants met in Hong Kong for a People’s Forum on One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and BRICS. As BRICS leaders begin to meet for their 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen this week and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council prepares to host its second Belt and Road summit in Hong Kong aiming to attract investors and others in the business community next weekend, civil society members from eight countries and local Hong Kong people came together to share their experiences, offering a counter narrative to the neoliberal agendas usually promoted by the official summits that largely exclude these critical voices. Discussion at the forum showed how globalisation from above, as imposed by BRICS and OBOR, is being carried out at the expense of people and the environment.

Mung Siu Tat, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (photo above), opened the forum speaking of the challenges and repression currently being faced by Hong Kong people in their struggles for democracy and against the government’s top down development projects. Asking whether democratic rights would really solve all the problems affecting people’s lives, he observed common problems faced by people around the world and how even in “democratic” countries, free trade agreements are often concluded through backdoor details without proper democratic consultation, and stressed the importance of international solidarity and the globalisation of struggle.

Clamour grows for Brazil’s President Temer to resign

Katy Watson (BBC) 30 May 2017

It was a miserable day on Sunday in Rio de Janeiro. But the heavy fog smothering the normally sunny beaches did not put thousands of people off from heading down to Copacabana to join calls for President Michel Temer to step down.

It was a show of anger typical of Rio – lots of samba and singing mingled with loud calls for political change.

Brazil has got used to political surprises – from major corruption probes to last year’s impeachment of Dilma Rousseff – but the past few weeks here have been tumultuous.

After the leaking of audio recordings where Mr Temer appears to be encouraging bribes, the country’s leader is now under investigation. People are angry.

Well-known Brazilian artists and musicians including the singer-songwriter and political activist Caetano Veloso took part in the concert, joining the people on the streets to make their voices louder.

Brazil’s Spiraling Corruption Scandal Deepens with Temer at the Centre

A political earthquake hits Brazil again as the highly unpopular president Michel Temer is implicated in new corruption allegations and the calls for immediate elections grow stronger, reports Mike Fox from Brazil
The Real News Network 20 May 2017                                                                                                                                                                            

China: Regime steps up repression in Xinjiang

Li Yiming (Chinaworker) 11 May 2017

Xinjiang is the vast Muslim-majority region in China’s far west where Turkic speaking Uighur Muslims are the largest ethnic group. Under Chinese rule it has been transformed into a 1.7 million square kilometre prison. Rich in mineral wealth and almost twice the size of Pakistan, Xinjiang has assumed even greater strategic importance for the Chinese ‘Communist’ Party (CCP) dictatorship, as president Xi Jinping’s grandiose ‘One Belt One Road’ rolls out.

This is the regime’s master plan to head off increasing anti-globalisation pressures in the world economy and industrial overcapacity in China by linking 60 countries with a combined 40 percent of the world’s GDP to China’s economy. Xinjiang, as the gateway to the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia to Europe, is a vital piece of this jigsaw puzzle.

Xinjiang is also experiencing an unprecedented escalation of state repression in which every aspect of Uighur culture, religion and sense of a homeland is under attack. In parts or all of Xinjiang, the authorities have banned long beards, Muslim headscarves, fasting during Ramadan, and recently even certain “overly religious” children’s names. The list of proscribed names includes Muhammad, which is the most common given name in the world. Parents that choose these names are warned their children will be ineligible for ID papers, to attend school, get a job or own property.

Service delivery protests explode across SA

Neo Goba‚ Taschica Pillay‚ And Shenaaz Jamal (Rand Daily Mail) 9 May 2017

Service delivery protests caused havoc in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng on Monday as residents demanded access to housing.In Durban mayor Zandile Gumede was forced to send a team to meet informal settlement residents who set fire to a school and blockaded roads.

Residents of Banana City‚ the informal settlement on Varsity Drive‚ in Reservoir Hills‚ were protesting after their requests for housing went unanswered.

They demanded that Gumede address them.

On Sunday night two classrooms at Hillview Primary School on Varsity Drive in Reservoir Hills were set alight‚ forcing the school to close.

On Monday morning several roads in the area were closed as informal dwellers burned rubbish and threw stones.

Hong Kong: Ruled by the 0.02 percent

Dikang, Socialist Action (CWI in Hong Kong) 3 May 2017

On 26 March the Chief Executive (CE) election charade completed its final act. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was chosen by a grand total of 777 votes. Less than 1,200 voters are eligible to cast ballots in the election, including the 70 members of the city’s legislature plus some district politicians, business groups, professional unions, pop stars, priests and professors.

In a city of 3.8 million registered voters the top political post has been chosen by 0.02 percent! Her main rival, the former finance secretary, John Tsang Chun-wah, got 365 votes mostly from the pan-democrats sitting on the elite Election Committee.

Socialist Action strongly criticised the pan-democratic parties not only for lending “legitimacy” to the sham election process but for supporting Tsang – a central establishment figure who, like Lam, stands for neo-liberal and anti-democratic policies.

World Economic Forum-Africa hosts a turf battle

Patrick Bond 3 May 2017

At a time US and South African presidents Donald Trump and Jacob Zuma personify controversies over crony capitalism, corruption, populist rhetoric and self-serving economic strategies, will big business calm down the politicians – or just egg them on?

Business elites are confused, even while mass opinion against rancid rulers consolidates: huge marches against Trump in Washington by scientists on April 22 and climate activists on April 29; and in the central South African city Mangaung, Zuma was forced to rapidly retreat from a May Day speech with his fellow trade union and Communist Party allies (who now demand that he resign) due to mass jeering by the majority of workers there. Collaboration with Zuma and his patronage machinery is now seen as fatal for political longevity.

To be sure, partial business sanctions against both the Zuma and Trump regimes are already well underway. So when global corporate leaders and African rulers visit Durban this week, they might end up tripping into the country’s and world’s political potholes.

South Africa: Mass protests

Patrick Bond 29 April 2017

On South Africa’s political left, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party dominated recent news by leading a mass march on President Jacob Zuma’s office in Pretoria, following a government power shift seen as amplifying corruption. The move also catalysed a ‘junk’ rating by two neoliberal credit ratings agencies. And an impeachment process on the immediate horizon represents the first real parliamentary threat to Zuma’s eight-year reign.

Brazil hit by first general strike in two decades

BBC News 28 April 2017

Brazilian cities went into partial shutdown on Friday as the country observed its first general strike in more than two decades.

Millions of workers, including public transport staff, bankers and teachers, have been urged to take part by trade unions and social groups.

Protesters are taking a stand against the president’s proposed pension reforms.

President Michel Temer says the changes are needed to overcome a recession.

“It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil,” said Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of trade union group, Forca Sindical.

Demonstrations are taking place across the country, with organisers saying they would focus attention on disrupting cities rather than small towns and rural communities.

Brazil’s Corruption Investigation Expands to Almost Entire Political Class

The Real News 19 April 2017

The corruption investigation of Brazilian politicians expanded dramatically and is less biased against the center-left. However, the danger is that it will lead to de-politicization and opportunistic anti-politics explains Brazil analyst Alex Hochuli

#AntiZumaMarches hit streets

Johannesburg – Despite some confusion regarding anti-Zuma protests taking place across the cities of Joburg and Ekurhuleni, several pickets had been confirmed for Friday morning.

Residents will be marching, picketing and facilitating human chains in the inner city, Saxonwold, Sandton, Kensington, Wychwood, Park Meadows and Linksfield.

Joburg metro police spokesperson Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said on Thursday several streets would be closed off due to the DA’s March for Change taking place in the inner city on Friday morning.

The BRICS New Development Bank meets in Delhi to dash green-developmental hopes?

Patrick Bond (Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal) 30 March 2017

Will the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) bloc ever really challenge the world financial order? The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) leadership is meeting in New Delhi from 31 March to 2 April with a degree of fanfare unmatched by accomplishments. It is a good moment to assess progress since the BRICS Summit in 2013 when rumour had it that the then host city of Durban would also be the NDB’s home base. (It ended up in Shanghai, launched in 2015.)

BRICS leaders often state their vision of establishing alternatives to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Indeed the NDB leadership began with environmentally-oriented loans last year, and in 2017 wants to add $3 billion in new credits.

But looked at it from the South African vantage point, questions immediately arise about key personnel, as well as the willingness of the only local NDB borrower so far – the electricity parastatal Eskom – to support renewable energy, and perhaps most importantly whether the country and the continent can afford more expensive hard-currency loans.

SA bans import of meat from Brazil

Business Report 22 March 2017

Johannesburg – The South African government on Wednesday suspended imports of meat from establishments suspected to be involved in the Brazil meat scandal.

South Africa is joining a chorus of other countries after China, the European Union, South Korea and Chile on Monday announced restrictions of red meat imports from Brazil due to recent evidence showing that Brazilian meat-packers have been selling rotten and substandard produce for several years, especially to export markets.

Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat processing units.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said it has requested the Brazilian authority to provide official information and a list of establishments that have been identified in the meat scandal.

“DAFF has also advised the Brazilian authority to ban all exportation of meat from such establishments until the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the South African Veterinary Authority” the department said.

“It is not known how many consignments may have already left Brazil and are on their way to South Africa, however, DAFF is in the process of ensuring that the establishments implicated are suspended from exporting meat to South Africa until the Brazilian Veterinary Authority have fully investigated the matter and can give the necessary assurances for compliance to the South African requirements for importation of meat into South Africa.”

Brazil: National day of strikes and protests shows Temer can be beaten

André Ferrari LSR (CWI in Brazil)

15 March was a national day of struggle and paralysis throughout Brazil against anti-worker reforms applied by the illegitimate government of Michel Temer. This was the most important workers’ and popular mobilisation since Dilma Rousseff (PT) was removed from power.

These mobilisations were preceded and stimulated by very important women’s protests on 8 March. The day of struggle on 15 march was called in a united manner by the various trade union confederations  and by the ‘People without fear’ front (which includes the MTST, homeless workers movement, which is its main promotor) and the ‘Brazil Popular Front’ (which is dominated by social movements which are closer to the PT and Lula).

In practically every state capital there were work stoppages, road blockades and mass demos. Education workers carried out a 24-hour strike and in some states even went on indefinite strike. Transport workers also went on strike in various cities, including metro and bus drivers in Sao Paolo, South America’s biggest city, which affected millions of people.

BRICS People’s Forum

trevor-at-bricsBRICS People’s Forum Ngwane reads endorsement of BDS Click on image to view video

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