Mexican Wall Stand-Off

17th February 2019

Trump WallTrump and cohorts examine a wall ‘prototype’

United States president, Donald Trump, has declared a “national emergency” on the country’s southern border with Mexico, in an attempt to secure the funds to build the controversial wall between the two countries.  Trump’s announcement was linked with his willingness to sign a bill to avoid another government shutdown, the last of which lasted for 35 days over the Xmas and New Year period, and affected 800,000 public sector employees.

Many of the federal workers, who were locked out or forced to work without pay for five weeks, still have not been paid, are struggling with rent and mortgage arrears and many are threatened by property repossession, such are Trump’s ‘man of the people’ credentials.

The bill, which released federal funds and avoided another government shutdown, sanctioned the release of $333 billion of which only $1.3 billion was designated for “border security”, Trump’s euphemism for the wall, which is well short of the estimated $5 billion + required to build a structure along the 2000 mile border with Mexico.

Opponents have already questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s declaration under the National Emergencies Act, which was designed to allocate funds to major natural disasters or catastrophic events.

Senator Bernie Sanders has made his opposition plain, stating,

“It is clear to me that there is not a ‘national emergency’ with regard to the southern border.  What President Trump is doing is unlawful and must be opposed vigorously in the courts and legislatively.”

Sanders is one of the promoters of two bills in Congress aimed at preventing the president from diverting military construction and disaster relief funds into the building of the wall.  House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi has been clear that,

“This is not a national emergency and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”  Adding that, “Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and…naked contempt for the rule of law.”

Attorney Generals from states across the US are preparing legal challenges if Trump looks to divert federal funds for the border wall project.

While the national emergency is widely seen by Democrats as a money grab by the President, the Communist Party of the USA has seen even more sinister intent behind the move.  In the People’s World (15/2/19) paper of the CPUSA, it was suggested that for most Republicans building the wall was not the main issue,

“What they really want is to keep the issue alive to stir up racism and fear among white voters. Their hope is that white voters in general, like much of the Trump base, will see immigrants and people of color as the enemy. That fear plus fear of socialism and communism and the fear that Democrats are the party of all those “invaders” and “socialists” seems to be the way they want to go for the 2020 Trump re-election campaign. And even if Trump is impeached the strategy will work, they hope, for the rest of the Republican Party. The phony “national emergency” helps lay the groundwork for this racist strategy while, at the same time, testing just how far the president can go in overthrowing constitutional norms.”

Pro-Latino groups in the US have certainly expressed concern that, whether or not the wall gets built, Trump is drumming up a racist agenda with more money for beds in detention centres and a massive increase in agents to run down undocumented migrants.  The scapegoating of the Latino community as criminals certainly appears to be a key focus of the funding package and one which representatives of the Latino communities in the US intend to vigorously oppose.

Trump himself has been his usual blasé self, announcing in a press conference,

“We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there, and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we’ll get another bad ruling and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court.”

Clearly Trump is relying upon the conservative Supreme Court to go his way but, even without this outcome, the legal wrangling will no doubt fuel his re-election campaign as 2020 approaches.  Without a single brick being laid in the building of a wall Trump’s racist agenda will set the tone for the next battle for the White House.  The Democrats will need a determined and pro-people based campaign to make sure the Trump bandwagon does not gather momentum.

 

Corbyn clears the way

9th February 2019                                                    

Corbyn letter                Corbyn outlines the way forward for Theresa May

The dead end option of a second Brexit referendum, beloved of the right wing in the Labour Party determined to oppose Jeremy Corbyn at all costs, slipped further from view this week.  The ostensibly unlikely cause of this retreat was correspondence from Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, setting out the basis for a Brexit which would avoid the dreaded No Deal option.

Corbyn, reflecting Labour Conference policy, has been consistent in his position in advocating a UK wide Customs Union with the EU, taking out the backstop argument at a stroke, and close alignment with the Single Market, “underpinned by shared institutions and obligations, with clear arrangements for dispute resolution.”

Corbyn goes on to outline the need for dynamic alignment with rights and protections for UK workers; commitments to engagement in EU agencies relating to the environment, education and industrial regulation; and agreements on the detail of future security arrangements.

In spite of the insistence of the BBC and other sections of the media that Labour has no policy on Brexit, it is clear from Corbyn’s letter that Labour clearly has and, if in government, would be prepared to implement it.

The waters are muddied not just by the media however but by the right wing in both the Labour and Tory parties.   The European Reform Group (ERG) of Jacob Rees-Mogg et al, would happily leave the EU without a deal and go straight to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.  At this stage in the negotiations, with Parliament set against a No Deal option and business unprepared for anything more than a transition period, the ERG position is more out of touch than ever.

The ERG, in cahoots with the DUP, do command enough votes to torpedo any deal May puts to Parliament, unless she can win Labour support.  Corbyn’s programme offers that opportunity but May fears that the right wing in her party will split and the Tories fall apart.  The ERG so far have supported May in crucial votes, if only to keep a General Election at bay.

Labour progress is hampered by the antics of the so called People’s Vote group of MPs around Chuka Umunna, who insist that a second referendum is the only way forward.  The People’s Vote is essentially a Remain front organisation, convinced that a further vote would change the result of the 2016 referendum.  This is a huge gamble but the MPs associated with this group are equally concerned to discredit Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership, taking to social and any other form of media, as often as they can to do so.

The People’s Vote response to Corbyn’s letter has been described as apoplectic, a sign that they are being outmanoeuvred.  Other EU leaders have welcomed the approach outlined by Corbyn as a way forward.  There are rumours that a breakaway party of right wing Labour MPs could be formed as early as next week, a reflection of the tactics adopted by the Social Democrats (SDP) splitting from Labour in the 1980’s.

Any so called ‘centre’ party is likely to suffer the same political ignominy as the SDP but could still do untold political harm in the short term.  Ironically, although they may never admit it publicly, the Labour splitters share the same aim as the Tory ERG; keep Corbyn out of 10, Downing St.

Whether the backstabbers in Labour make their move, or dither hopelessly as the ERG did in its failed coup against Theresa May, remains to be seen.  What is clear however is that the only way out of the present impasse is not being offered by the right wing of Labour, or the right wing of the Tories.  It is not being offered by the Government.  The only credible way forward, currently on offer, is coming from the Leader of the Opposition.

White House hawks have no answers

2nd February 2019

PompeoBolton

White House hawks – Mike Pompeo and John Bolton

With US intervention back on the international agenda in Venezuela, White House hawks, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton, have not taken their eye off US long term ambitions in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, managed to squeeze in a tour which took in eight Middle East countries in the space of a week last month, summing up his mission in a speech in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as

“The need to counter the greatest threat of all in the Middle East, the Iranian regime and its campaigns of terrorism and destruction.”

Pompeo’s aim has been to build a coalition of the willing in the Middle East with the ostensible aim of rolling back Iranian influence in the region, for which can be read, asserting US dominance wherever possible.

While the United States has clear allegiances with both Saudi Arabia and Israel in the region its influence elsewhere has been diminished due to its history of military and economic intervention.    The Iranian regime is an easy target because of its history of opposition to the United States, its support amongst the Shia Muslims in the region, in opposition to Sunni led Saudi Arabia, and its adventurous foreign policy which the US can characterise as a threat.

Pompeo’s message appears to have been well received among Sunni Arab leaders, with Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, saying in a news conference with Pompeo in Amman,

“We all have problems with Iran’s expansionist policies in the region.  All Arab countries, and I think the United States too, would want healthy relations based on the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the other, and respecting the sovereignty of other countries.”

In Cairo, Pompeo said that Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan had been “instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions,” adding that Bahrain was working to combat Iran’s “illicit maritime activities” in the region.

Quite how close this is to a unified Arab coalition against Iran, the long term goal of the US, is hard to gauge and Pompeo may have been offered warm words in friendly capitals just to make sure military and economic aid keeps flowing.

The Pentagon are certainly concerned that US leverage may be on the wane, due to the recent announcement that troops will be pulled out of Syria, and concern has been expressed that the hawkish position taken by John Bolton could precipitate a conflict when US influence is at a low ebb.

Bolton directed the National Security Council to ask the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran. Since Bolton took on his role in April, he has intensified the administration’s policy of isolating and pressuring Iran, being instrumental in persuading President Donald Trump to withdraw from the nuclear deal last year.

The twin offensive was continued when Pompeo was interviewed via video link to delegates to the World Economic Forum in Davos recently, where he stated,

“…the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran is very real. You mentioned Yemen. You mentioned Syria. I think you talked about the challenges of Lebanese Hizballah in Lebanon. It’s still the case that Iran is striving to reduce Iraqi freedom, sovereignty, and independence. Those are places where Iran is truly the malign actor, and it’s why we’re so happy that the coalition that we’ve built out…. is so central to creating the stability that the people of the Middle East so richly deserve.”

The recent intervention by the United States in Venezuela has seen both Pompeo and Bolton leading the charge in the misinformation campaign against the legitimate government of Nicolás Maduro and flying the flag for greater US interference in the affairs of Venezuela.

The government of Iran by no means enjoys the popular support that the Maduro government does but the future of Iran should be in the hands of its people.  The human rights record of the Iranian regime and its suppression of political and trade union rights has been widely condemned.  That does not mean that the answer to the situation in Iran lies with the hawks in the White House, far from it, and the Iranian people continue to deserve our support in their struggle for peace, human rights and democracy.

 

 

Stop US interference in Venezuela

27th January 2019

maduro

Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, under pressure from a US backed coup

The creeping coup d’etat against the government of Venezuela took a new turn this week when minor right wing senator, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president.  The move was immediately backed by right wing allies in the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Canada in what has clearly been a co-ordinated move to intensify the interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

CIA backed opposition groups have been active within the country since the death of former president Hugo Chavez in 2013, resulting in a steady flow of economic and civil disruption.  The clear aim has been to reverse the progressive gains of the Chavez years by undermining his successor, Nicolás Maduro, in an attempt to make Venezuela safe once again for international capital.

US foreign policy has been left in the hands of administration hawks such as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who have spearheaded the disinformation campaign against the Venezuelan government.

Pompeo has called for the Organisation of American States (OAS) to side with the opposition in an attempt to isolate Maduro stating, without a hint of irony,

“All OAS member states must align themselves with democracy and respect for the rule of law.”

Bolton has hinted at US action to undermine the revenues of the Venezuelan government stating,

“We think consistent with our recognition of Juan Guaidó as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela that those revenues should go tot the legitimate government.  It’s very complicated we’re looking at a lot of different things we have to do, but that’s in the process.”

As a state which has maintained an illegal economic blockade against the island of Cuba for almost 60 years, the threats by the United States against Venezuela should not be taken lightly.

A resolution discussed by the OAS calling for the recognition of Guaidó passes over its founding Charter and was endorsed by only 16 of the 34 members of the body. It was firmly rejected by Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Bolivia, El Salvador and Dominica, while Mexico recognised the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their political system without external pressure.

The representative of Venezuela, Asbina Ixchel Marín, declared,

“In Venezuela, a coup took place, promoted by a group of countries that claim to justify it here in the OAS. It is a violation of the rules of international law. This session is an outrage to the OAS Charter, the Constitution of Venezuela and our people. We reject your call and no act that occurs here will be valid. ”

US action in Venezuela has not yet had the unequivocal backing of European nations but it appears to be only a question of time.   UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has echoed positions taken in Germany, France and Spain that the coup d’etat government would be recognised if Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, did not call elections in eight days.  Pedalling the US line that the 2018 elections which endorsed Maduro as president were “deeply flawed”, in spite of being recognised as transparent by a range of international observers, the UK action is in danger of adding to chaos in Venezuela.

So far the military have continued to back the legitimate president, Nicolás Maduro, with defence minister Vladimir Padrino stating that the coup attempt risked bringing “chaos and anarchy” to the country, going on to state,

“I have to alert the people of Venezuela to the severe danger that this represents to our integrity and national sovereignty.”

Given the recent history of US military interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria there is a growing fear that this option will not be off the table for the US in Venezuela.  John Bolton, in particular, has been particularly hawkish in his attitude towards Iran, calling openly for military intervention.  He is unlikely to be less strident in his approach to Venezuela.

The US has always been keen to ensure that it own so called ‘backyard’ is safe for US capital, hence the fact that Cuba remains a thorn in its side.  It is no surprise that the coup attempt in Venezuela follows closely upon the election of right wing Donald Trump supporter, Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil.

Unless checked now, US interference across South America, either through economic pressure or direct military intervention is only likely to increase.  That is an issue not just for the people of South America but for progressive people across the world.

All Washed Up

20th January 2019

may washed(2)

Washed up UK Premier, Theresa May

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has nowhere left to go.  Politically she is all washed up. On Tuesday night she suffered the biggest Parliamentary defeat of any Prime Minister in history, when her Brexit deal was lost by a margin of 230 votes.  A day later she won a vote of confidence in her government by a margin of 19 votes.  What do these seemingly contradictory votes tell us?

Essentially May is a hostage to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) thugs in Northern Ireland and the so called European Reform Group (ERG) in her own party, led by the Member for the eighteenth century, Jacob Rees-Mogg.  Both groups are dead against May’s Brexit deal, along with many other MPs, but could not bring themselves to vote down the government itself, as they have vested interests in preventing a General Election which could hand the keys of 10, Downing St to Jeremy Corbyn.

Both groups know that a Corbyn led government would re-open negotiations with the EU, something the EU would have to accept on the basis of the government having a new mandate, and seek to negotiate a Brexit in the interest of the people of the UK, not the banks, corporations and the City of London.

This is exactly why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rejected the offer of talks extended by Theresa May as a stunt.  May, having failed to negotiate a deal in the so called ‘national interest’ over a two year period, had the temerity to suggest that it was the duty of opposition leaders to meet with her to find a solution to the Brexit impasse.  Corbyn has made it clear that he will only meet if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is off the table.  May will not make that promise for fear of alienating the DUP and ERG.

Ironically, those leaders from the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Scottish Nationalists, who have met with May, have demanded that taking no-deal off the table is a condition of any progress.  Only Corbyn was brave enough to make it a condition of talking to May in the first place, hence the usual vitriol from the right wing press about Corbyn not acting in the national interest.

The national interest for Corbyn is not the interests of the banks, corporations and City of London but the interests of ordinary people, for whom the EU has been a disaster for most of the 40 years of UK membership, and certainly over the past ten years of enforced austerity.

As ever though the Labour leader is having to walk a fine line.  There is a cohort within the Labour Party still believing that remain is the best solution and that the EU is the greatest political protection for peace and workers rights.  Others have threatened resignations if there is a second referendum. as they see that as a betrayal of the first vote and the expressed majority desire to leave the EU.

As Corbyn has consistently argued, the only real way out of the impasse is a General Election which gives a new government the mandate to negotiate with the EU.  In the short term that would require a suspension of Article 50 and an extension of any transition period before departure.  That election would need to be fought on the basis of Labour being clear that it will negotiate a Brexit deal; that the EU does not act, or allow a UK government to act, in the best interests of its people; and that the election itself would be a genuine people’s vote, as opposed to the spurious demand from some in the political centre.

In short it is not a campaign for a so called people’s vote that is required but a clear articulation of the need for a people’s departure from the EU.  Any other solution, usually characterised as bringing together a divided nation, is merely fudge.  The nation is divided over Brexit, the challenge is to takes sides and raise the standard for a people’s leave, that puts to bed the delusion that the EU is an expression of internationalism and defender of workers’ rights once and for all.

 

The Second Vote Delusion

13th January 2019                                                    

pro eu protest

Pro EU demonstrations – London March 2018

The British political establishment are increasingly mobilising for a second referendum in order to break what they describe as the impasse over Brexit.  General opinion appears to suggest that little public change has taken place since the 2016 referendum and the outcome could be exactly the same.  The real driver behind the second referendum call is not a desire for democracy, the cloak in which it is draped, but a desire to get a ‘remain’ outcome and thereby halt the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The craven pro EU Liberal Democrats back the second referendum, as do the Green Party, much of the liberal media and increasing sections of the anti-Corbyn Parliamentary Labour Party.   Tony Blair has periodically been wheeled out by the media to trumpet his call for a centrist alliance, possibly even a new centre party, anything to dilute the influence of a left leaning Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

The problem for Corbyn over the coming weeks is that he will not be able to rely upon the support of his Parliamentary colleagues in his effort to expose the failure of the government and bring about a general election.  Theresa May, it is widely expected, will lose the Parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday.  It is now widely expected that Jeremy Corbyn will follow that defeat with a call for a vote of no confidence in the government, on the basis that the call being made any later would not allow for an election before the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019.

However, Corbyn will not win a vote of no confidence in the government because the DUP, unless things change in the next couple of days, will not back such a move, Tory MPs are equally unlikely to defect in favour of a general election, which could see them losing their seats, and the Parliamentary Labour Party is not a body of support which can be relied upon.

So, May loses the Brexit vote and Corbyn does not succeed in winning a vote of no confidence in the government; where to go?

The pressure for May to resign will increase from inside her own party, especially if she loses heavily.  However, trading one Tory for another is ultimately neither here nor there.  Apart from the hard core Little Englander right wing, of the Jacob Rees-Mogg variety, the Tories are predominantly pro-EU.  They can see the EU for what it is, the continuation of Thatcherism by other means, and they have been desperate since the outcome of the referendum to find a way back to a remain position and to revoke Article 50.

More serious than internal Tory strife will be the pressure from within Labour for Corbyn to back the call for a second referendum.  Angela Smith, Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge for example has said,

“The time for prevarication is over.  If May’s deal fails we have to test the will of the House and if we fail, we must consider all options including campaigning for a second referendum as this is party policy.”

Quite what the question would be in a second referendum however is not clear.  London Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is leading the push for a second referendum and seems to be even more deluded about its likely outcome saying,

“A public vote would not only allow us to move beyond the current stalemate but would actually start the desperately needed process of healing the deep divisions that have opened up within our society.”

Khan has not been living in the real world if he really believes the ‘deep divisions’ within our society only emerged as a result of the referendum.  He is even further removed if he thinks the outcome of a second vote is a solution.  What if ‘leave’ wins again? What if there is a small margin in favour of ‘remain’?

Khan is keen to suggest that “the EU has been a force for good for generations – boosting our living standards, strengthening workers’ rights and acting as the greatest movement for peace and democracy the world has ever seen.” (The Observer 13th January 2019)

How far those on universal credit, or austerity driven zero hours contracts feel the boost in living standards, might be something for Khan to contemplate.  The same considerations apply to workers’ rights, which have been progressively eroded over the whole period of EU membership, with increasing constraints on trade union activity and membership.  As for peace and democracy, the migrant crisis is just one example of the EU siding with US policy in the Middle East, to support interventions which have resulted in the deaths and displacement of millions.

Given the current alignment of political forces, and the overwhelming desire of the UK political establishment, a second referendum may well be on the cards.  Just don’t expect it to provide any magic solutions.

 

Resistance to reactionary Bolsonaro

6th January 2019

lula

The largest economies in both North and South America are now under the control of deranged right wing, anti-people populists, avowedly anti-socialist, anti trade union, anti climate change, anti abortion and generally anti  progress in the interest of ordinary people, of any kind.  The United States has already suffered two years of the presidency of Donald Trump.  Some mitigation, in the form of Democrat control of the House of Representatives, may be in prospect but that has yet to be tested.

This month saw the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as the president of Brazil.  Bolsonaro’s election is the culmination of a creeping right wing coup in Brazil which began with the demonisation and imprisonment of Workers Party president Lula de Silva, followed by the impeachment of his successor Dilma Rouseff on trumped up corruption charges.

The main ‘crimes’ of these Workers Party presidents had been to enact policies which began the shift in the distribution of wealth, away from the banks and corporations in Brazil, and towards the poor and disenfranchised. Following the ongoing example of the Cuban revolution, the Chavez government’s transformation of Venezuela, the progressive polices adopted by Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia, the long term ‘loss’ of Brazil to the international corporations was too much to contemplate.

In his swearing in address Bolsonaro promised to help Brazil free itself from “corruption, criminality and economic responsibility and economic submission.” For Bolsonaro this translates into plans to allow commercial mining and farming on protected indigenous reserves.  Little wonder that the powerful agribusiness sector in Brazil, for whom he has promised “less bureaucracy”, have given him its backing.

Bolsonaro has already ditched plans to host a key UN climate conference next year and has appointed a foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, who regards climate change as a Marxist plot.

Bolsonaro’s social agenda takes little working out from his promise that,

“We have a unique opportunity before us to reconstruct our country and rescue the hope of our compatriots.  We are going to unite the people, rescue the family, respect religions and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat genre ideology, conserving our values.”

His appointment of anti abortion evangelical preacher, Damares Alves, to head a new ministry overseeing families, women, human rights and indigenous communities reinforces the reactionary nature of Bolsonaro’s programme.

The link between Trump and Bolsonaro is by no means fanciful with Trump heralding Bolsonaro’s “great inauguration speech” and the Brazilian president responding that,

“I truly appreciate your words of encouragement.  Together, under God’s protection, we shall bring prosperity and progress to our people.”

On his first day in office Bolsonaro immediately reduced the proposed increase in the minimum wage, an adjustment which will immediately impact upon 48 million workers in Brazil.

Bolsonaro has expressed support for the military dictatorship which ran Brazil from 1964 – 1985.  His vice-president is retired army general, Hamilton Mourão.

The Workers Party continue to lead resistance to the Bolsonaro government and, through the Popular Committee for the Defence of Lula and Democracy, the ongoing campaign against the imprisonment of former president Lula and the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.  Progressive Brazil is in for a long struggle.

http://www.pt.org.br/artigos/