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Eve's Review

The Left Demobilized -- the Usual Suspects Are To blame

A Left Green New Deal

Bernd Riexinger, Lia Becker, Katharina Dahme, Christina Kaindl

Monthly Review Press, 125 pages

$17

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

Just two years ago, the sky was the limit for progressives: Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and a Sanders' candidacy for president. There was serious talk of forgiving student debt, of free community college, paid parental leave, finally lowering the costs of essential medicines and more. Now, the best progressives can muster is primarying the treacherous, corporate, bought-and-paid for Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema. What a difference a couple of years make!

 

This was all entirely predictable. The Democratic party has mainly functioned since the 1930s to demobilize left movements, and these latest weren't even movements. (Certainly thin soup compared to the militant communism FDR set out to dilute.) These were platforms in a candidacy. Platforms that the cautious, billionaire-sycophant likes of Barack Obama had no intention of ever seeing signed into law – so he coordinated the withdrawal of all other Dem presidential candidates at a critical juncture to boost Biden over Sanders.

 

Another reason for this repulsive electoral jujitsu was that Obama doubtless believed Biden not Sanders was the only one who could defeat Trump. But he did not take the long view. Obama didn't look past 2020. Had Sanders won, and got a few executive orders like forgiving student debt under his belt, we wouldn't be looking at a possible fascist catastrophe in 2024. These halcyon mid-election cycle days would not feel so much like a Weimar interregnum.

 

It may all be moot, however, if, as the war and peace expert Michael Klare says, there is a 100 percent chance of a Cuban Missile-type crisis, between the U.S. and Russia and/or China in three years. The anti-war left in the U.S. is tiny. It commands no media attention. When Trump launched his public opinion war against China in 2018 and then busied himself laying the groundwork for militarily confronting the nuclear-armed superpower, the left barely uttered a peep. Meanwhile, quite horribly, liberal Dems, depressingly embodied in media host Rachel Maddow, beat the drums for war by demonizing Russia. She's literally made her career out of such war-mongering. If nuclear Armageddon arrives, it will be too late for Maddow to say, "oh, I didn't mean that."

 

So, no massive, left-wing anti-nuclear war movement, as the biggest issue of this or any time threatens to engulf the planet. Similarly, the climate protest, weakened by the ridiculous – but better, I guess, than nothing – COP26 summit, which did absolutely zip, nada, zilch, sputters and stalls.  Americans are apparently content to leave these two massive monsters in the very negligent care of their worse than do-nothing government.

 

Because what we have in Washington is barely a government. It's more like a puppet show manipulated by a voracious military industrial complex, one that controls the biggest and one of the most violent, globe-spanning empires in human history. And it does so by sucking the blood out of the American people. The republic is on life support, losing blood to the imperial military industrial vampire at the dizzying rate of nearly a trillion dollars a year. And now that vampire prepares to sink its fangs fatally deep, with an all-out war with Russia and China. Yet this prospect so far neither energizes nor mobilizes a mass movement for peace. Blame Democrats, blame bloodthirsty Republicans, blame the second-rate mediocrities who compose the ruling class in Washington, and blame the belligerent propaganda machine, the most deafening and total of its kind in world history, the horrid thing we call our corporate media.

 

Biden came to power based on many promises to the left. He also said, "Nothing will fundamentally change." Most of his promises, unsurprisingly, died on the vine, leaving the left fragmented at a historical moment that screams for solidarity. Yet despite this disarray caused by the amoral Washington circus, workers strike in great numbers, people quit their jobs in the millions rather than toil for wretched pay and corporations find themselves bewildered by the Great Resignation. Trade unionism is still the hope of the future – if that future doesn't vanish under a mushroom cloud.

 

Meanwhile in Europe, events parallel those in the U.S. Corbyn was done in and his massive following dispersed. Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise, Syriza in Greece, all stumbled and a hostile media amplified their missteps. Their corporate enemies, having machinated to produce such errors, then piled on.

 

Also sputtering along is the left party, Die Linke, in Germany. One of its biggest successes, as recounted in a new book, A Left Green New Deal, by Bernd Riexinger and three other activists, was the Berlin rent cap, passed by the city in January 2020 and overturned by a court in April 2021. The rent ceiling was wildly popular, making hundreds of thousands of households eligible for reduced payments. But real estate investors and landlords hated it and ultimately killed it. The April 23 Guardian said, "landlords may have scored a pyrrhic victory, with suggestions activists could move to expropriate empty flats." One can only hope. Despite its judicial defeat, the rent cap, and especially the organizing that brought it about, remains a model for mobilizing around issues of concern to ordinary people.

 

As part of its push for a Green New Deal, die Linke also agitates for closing coal and nuclear plants and shifting to renewables. Germany actually has achieved much in this regard, thus leading many to hope that the "green" part of the green new deal will be implemented – even if the "new deal" part isn't. But it's an uphill battle. All left causes are, because capitalist misrule is planetary. Only a handful of governments on the globe eschew it.

 

Worse, fascists aim to forge an International. Steve Bannon's seedy and bedraggled visage recently appeared in brief videos, where he whoops up the idea of a global, unified, right-wing juggernaut. The left should take a page out of that book. Jean Luc Melenchon, leader of La France Insoumise, pointed the way in mid-January by demanding that France leave NATO. This would be a twofer: chip away at the military industrial empire and hopefully, indefinitely postpone humanity's day of reckoning with its nuclear weapons. Three years to nuclear winter, as has been predicted, are too terrifyingly short.

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How CIA Plots Undermined African De-Colonization

White Malice, The CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa

Susan Williams

Public Affairs, 651 pages

$35

 

 

 

Eve Ottenberg

For those who believe Africa was decolonized decades ago, it's time to wake up from dream-world. True, colonial European powers no longer impose direct rule on African nations, which are nominally "independent." But those European countries, beaten back from their African colonies in the second half of the twentieth century, had no intention of losing their investments or access to Africa's vast mineral wealth. So, with the help of groups like the CIA, Europeans and Americans covertly recolonized the continent, with bribes, murders, loans, privatizations (aka looting) and the installation of western-friendly regimes.

 

The latest and most noxious of these colonial iterations is the U.S. military's AFRICOM, although a French oligarch "controls 16 West African ports through bribery and influence peddling," as Margaret Kimberley recounted in Black Agenda Report, December 1. "Canadian companies control gold mining in Burkina Faso, Mali and D.R.C.…British soldiers are still stationed in Kenya." So the west never stopped strangling African nations. In this effort, the vile 1961 assassination of Patrice Lumumba was key. Needless to say, the CIA was involved up to its eyeballs.

 

As Congo's first freely elected leader after the Belgian rout, Lumumba made the honest mistake of trusting western democratic ideals.  Then, when he discovered they were phony, he tilted – very slightly – toward the Soviets. That sealed his fate. "President Eisenhower authorized the assassination of Lumumba," writes Susan Williams in her newly published book, White Malice, the CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa. The consequences were ghastly. After Lumumba's murder and dismemberment, for well over three decades, "the Congo was ruled with an iron fist by Mobutu – a dictator chosen by the U.S. government and installed by the CIA."

 

Now Congo again leaps into headlines – not because of its rich uranium deposits, so coveted by Washington in the 1940s and '50s, but because of cobalt and other minerals essential to a green energy transition. Mining cobalt is an ugly business. Roughly 40,000 cobalt miners are children, out of 255,000 Congolese cobalt miners. They work in nearly slave labor conditions, earning less than $2 per day. Their intensive labor is extremely hazardous and there have been charges that AFRICOM indirectly oversees these mines. Context is key here. D.R.C. is an extremely poor country. Life expectancy is 60 years. But the U.S. craves D.R.C. resources, as it has, going back to the 1940s. So pretty much anything goes.

 

Once again in Congo, Washington finds itself snarling imbecilically at a communist competitor – this time China. But unlike the struggle with the U.S.S.R., which had safely sequestered its economy from western capitalism, China is the U.S.'s biggest trading partner; the two economies are inextricably intertwined. Insulting and threatening someone you regularly do business with may seem cretinous to the casual observer, but somehow it's the best the American politicos can come up with lately.

 

So Washington fulminates in fury at being outmaneuvered by a supposed foe – when in fact China, recently an American friend until idiotic sachems in the U.S. declared it otherwise, has long invested in Africa, occasionally quite generously handed its infrastructure over to local governments, and, contrary to western financial barbarism, forgiven loans when African countries couldn't pay! The U.S. government long knew about the nature of these Chinese investments, but lately goes out of its way to distort and lie about them.

 

Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo fibbed about a port in Sri Lanka, which those supposedly devious Chinese had, he lied, repossessed as part of their "debt trap" for Africa. (This repossession never happened.) Even comedian Trevor Noah flogged this bogus story, demanding to know what is going to be done about how those Asiatics ensnare poor nations to steal their infrastructure. And the most recent propaganda has been some nonsense about an airport in Uganda, supposedly stolen by China. (It wasn't.)

 

The description of the CIA's viperous attitude toward Lumumba, made by journalist Cameron Duodu and recounted in Williams' book, unfortunately, still holds for today: "His country has got resources. We want them. He might not give them to us. So let us go get him." In addition, Washington bigwigs regard the entire African continent as a stage for their Great Game competition with China, which is disastrous. Africans of all nationalities will only suffer as a result.

 

So a history like White Malice could not arrive at a more opportune time. It shows how Ghanian President Kwame Nkrumah – ousted by a CIA plot in 1966 – dreamed of a united states of Africa. While Washington ensured that never emerged, African countries can still coordinate and work toward shared goals. Williams' account spells out the cost of not doing so.

 

This book showcases three main villains – CIA director Allan Dulles, diplomat and arts patron William Burden (a one-time director of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, which boosted the abstract expressionism the CIA so vigorously funded and promoted) and the crudely murderous Leopoldville CIA station chief, Larry Devlin. But behind these three monsters loomed a vast, homicidal military empire, piloted by capitalist ideologues, who did not value human life, to put it mildly, especially if that life belonged to black, brown or communist people.

 

In that sense, little has changed from the 1950s and '60s to the present. Which should be cause for alarm. It probably is, to the Chinese, and to the Ethiopians, who find their prosperous country in imperial crosshairs, much as another once wealthy African nation, Libya recently did. But otherwise, most of the world sleeps through this repeat performance of the African tragedy.

 

It shouldn't. The CIA committed atrocious crimes in the '50s and '60s, and not just on the African continent. Williams cites the suspiciously premature deaths of left-leaning African notables, as well as that, in Paris, of the great African American novelist Richard Wright. And one of the most despicable of the CIA's many murders was that of Congo's first elected leader. "Lumumba, Malcom X believed, was the 'greatest black man who ever walked the African continent,'" Williams writes. Malcom X was not alone in this judgment. Which is why, as Williams notes, when CIA hands got together to boast of their dirty exploits, the CIA's man in Congo, Devlin, so pivotal in schemes to trap and murder Lumumba, always carefully kept his mouth shut.

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