Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Labor, Race, South Africa.
Tags: anc, apartheid, jacob zuma, jon herskovitz, labor, labour, mine slaughter, miners, roger hollander, South Africa, unions
Roger’s note: the end of “official” apartheid and the ascendency of the ANC was only a first step. Genuine liberation will not occur in South Africa or anywhere else in the world until the absolute rule of Capital is challenged and destroyed. Sadly, the ANC in government has continued the neo-Liberal economic policies of its predecessors.
Published on Friday August 17, 2012
South Africa miners
SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS Police shoot at protesting miners outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km northwest of Johannesburg, on Thursday.
MARIKANA, SOUTH AFRICA—The police killing of 34 striking platinum miners in the bloodiest security operation since the end of white rule cut to the quick of South Africa’s psyche on Friday, with searching questions asked of its post-apartheid soul.
Newspaper headlines screamed “Bloodbath,” “Killing Field” and “Mine Slaughter,” with graphic photographs of heavily armed white and black police officers walking casually past the bloodied corpses of black men lying crumpled in the dust.
The images, along with Reuters television footage of a phalanx of officers opening up with automatic weapons on a small group of men in blankets and T-shirts, rekindled uncomfortable memories of South Africa’s racist past.
Police chief Riah Phiyega confirmed 34 dead and 78 injured after officers moved in against 3,000 striking drill operators armed with machetes and sticks and massed on a rocky outcrop at the mine, 100 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg.
Phiyega, a former banking executive who was only appointed to lead the police force in June, said officers had acted in self-defence against charging, armed assailants at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum plant.
“The police members had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group,” she told a news conference, noting that two policemen had been hacked to death by a mob at the mine on Tuesday.
However, the South African Institute of Race relations likened the incident to the 1960 Sharpeville township massacre near Johannesburg, when apartheid police opened fire on a crowd of black protesters, killing more than 50.
“Obviously the issues that have led to this are not the same as the past, but the response and the outcome is very similar,” research manager Lucy Holborn said.
In a front-page editorial, the Sowetan newspaper questioned what had changed since 1994, when Nelson Mandela overturned three centuries of white domination to become South Africa’s first black president.
“It has happened in this country before where the apartheid regime treated black people like objects,” said the paper, named after South Africa’s biggest black township. “It is continuing in a different guise now.”
South African President Jacob Zuma cut short a visit to a regional summit in neighbouring Mozambique to head to the mine. Zuma, who faces an internal leadership election in his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December, said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the violence, but made no comment on the police behaviour.
“We believe there is enough space in our democratic order for any dispute to be resolved through dialogue without any breaches of the law or violence,” he said in a statement.
Despite promises of a better life for all South Africa’s 50 million people, the ANC has struggled to provide basic services to millions in poor black townships.
Efforts to redress the economic inequalities of apartheid have had mixed results, and the mining sector comes in for particular criticism from radical ANC factions as a bastion of “white monopoly capital.”
As dawn broke, hundreds of police patrolled the dusty plains around the Marikana mine, which was forced to shut down this week because of a rumbling union turf war that has hit the platinum sector this year.
“There were no problems overnight. The problem is the hill over there where the shooting took place. I am not sure what will happen today,” said Patience, a woman who lives in a nearby shanty town. She declined to give her full name.
Crime scene investigators combed the site of the shooting, which was cordoned off with yellow tape, collecting spent cartridges and the slain miners’ bloodstained traditional weapons — machetes and spears.
Six firearms were recovered, including a service revolver from one of the police officers killed earlier in the week.
Prior to Thursday, 10 people had died in nearly a week of conflict between rival unions at what is Lonmin’s flagship plant. The London-headquartered company has been forced to shut down all its South African platinum operations, which account for 12 per cent of global output.
South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world’s known reserves of platinum, a precious metal used in vehicle catalytic converters. Rising power and labour costs and a steep decline this year in the price have left many mines struggling to stay afloat.
Although the striking Marikana miners were demanding huge pay hikes, the roots of the trouble lie in a challenge by the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to the 25-year dominance of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a close ANC ally.
“There is clearly an element in this that a key supporter of the ANC — the NUM — has come under threat from these protesting workers,” said Nic Borain, an independent political analyst.
AMCU leaders have been criticized for telling the striking miners — many of whom are barely literate — that they were “prepared to die” rather than move from their protest hill.
Pre-crackdown footage of dancing miners waving machetes and licking the blades of homemade spears raised questions about the habitual use of violence in industrial action 18 years after the end of apartheid.
“This culture of violence and protest, it must somehow be changed,” said John Robbie, a prominent Johannesburg radio host. “You can’t act like a Zulu impi in an industrial dispute in this day and age,” he said, using the Zulu word for armed units.
World platinum prices spiked nearly 3 per cent on Thursday as the full extent of the violence became clear, and rose again on Friday to a five-week high above $1,450 an ounce.
Lonmin shares in London and Johannesburg fell more than 5 per cent to four-year lows at Friday’s market open, although later trimmed their losses. Overall, they have shed nearly 15 per cent since the violence began a week ago.
Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
Tags: alice walker, Alice Walker Protest, apartheid, Books News, color purple, Color Purple Hebrew, desmond tutu, human rights, International law, israel, israel boycott, Palestinians, roger hollander, russell tribunal
Alice Walker is protesting Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians by refusing permission for an Israeli publisher to translate her most famous book, “The Color Purple.”
The novel won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. It deals with the inhuman treatment of a poor black girl in the American South.
The American author sent a letter to the publisher, Yediot Books, a copy of which was published with her permission on the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The New York Times confirmed with Walker’s agent that the letter was genuine.
In her letter, she thanked the publisher for the request, but then slammed their country’s treatment of their neighbors, referring to a citizen’s tribunal made up of human rights activists, including Walker, that last year investigated Israel’s alleged violations of international law.
As you may know, last Fall in South Africa the Russell Tribunal on Palestine met and determined that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories. The testimony we heard, both from Israelis and Palestinians (I was a jurist) was devastating. I grew up under American apartheid and this was far worse. Indeed, many South Africans who attended, including Desmond Tutu, felt the Israeli version of these crimes is worse even than what they suffered under the white supremacist regimes that dominated South Africa for so long.
She went on to mention that she successfully lobbied against the distribution of the movie adaptation of her book, directed by Steven Spielberg, in a South Africa that at the time still maintained the system of apartheid.
She ended her letter, “In faith that a just future can be fashioned from small acts, Alice Walker.“
However, New York-based website the Jewish Telegraph Agency reports that“It was not clear when Yediot Books, an imprint of the daily Yediot Achronot newspaper, made the request, or whether Walker could in fact stop translation of the book. At least one version of the book has already appeared in Hebrew translation, in the 1980s.“
In an interview with Foreign Policy last year,
Walker claimed to have been active in the Palestininian cause since 1967, describing the United States and Israel as “great terrorist organizations.” She went on, “This is David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians
Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, War, Racism, 9/11, Genocide.
Tags: 9/11, africans, apartheid, attica, cambodia, chiapas, Chile, Colombia, disappeared, El Salvador, EMMANUEL ORTIZ, fallen timbers, genocide, guatemala, hiroshima, indigenous, iraq embargo, laos, moment of slience, nagasaki, nicaragua, Palestinians, pine ridge, poem, Poetry, political poem, roger hollander, sand creek, slavery, somalia, steve biko, torture, trail of tears, Vietnam War, wounded knee
BEFORE I START THIS POEM
by Emmanuel Ortiz
Before I start this poem,
I’d like to ask you to join me in
a moment of silence
in honour of those who died
in the World Trade Centre
and the Pentagon
last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
a moment of silence
for all of those who have been
harassed, imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed
in retaliation for those strikes,
for the victims in both
Afghanistan and the U.S.
And if I could just add one more thing…
A full day of silence
for the tens of thousands of Palestinians
who have died at the hands of
U.S.-backed Israeli forces
over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence
for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation
as a result of an 11-year U.S. embargo
against the country.
Before I begin this poem:
two months of silence
for the Blacks under Apartheid
in South Africa,
where homeland security
made them aliens
in their own country.
Nine months of silence
for the dead in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, where death rained
down and peeled back
every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin
and the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence
for the millions of dead
in Vietnam–a people, not a war-
for those who know a thing or two
about the scent of burning fuel,
their relatives’ bones buried in it,
their babies born of it.
A year of silence
for the dead in Cambodia and Laos,
victims of a secret war … ssssshhhhh ….
Say nothing .. we don’t want them to
learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence
for the decades of dead
in Colombia, whose names,
like the corpses they once represented,
have piled up and slipped off
Before I begin this poem,
An hour of silence
for El Salvador …
An afternoon of silence
for Nicaragua …
Two days of silence
for the Guatemaltecos …
None of whom ever knew
a moment of peace
45 seconds of silence
for the 45 dead
at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence
for the hundred million Africans
who found their graves
far deeper in the ocean
than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing
or dental records
to identify their remains.
And for those who were
strung and swung
from the heights of
in the south, the north,
the east, and the west…
100 years of silence…
For the hundreds of millions of
from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots
like Pine Ridge,
Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers,
or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced
to innocuous magnetic poetry
on the refrigerator
of our consciousness …
So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust
Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be
And the rest of us hope to hell it won’t be.
Not like it always has been
Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about
what causes poems like this
to be written
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th poem
for Chile, 1971
This is a September 12th poem
for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977
This is a September 13th poem
for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem
for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem
for every date that falls
to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories
that were never told
The 110 stories that history
chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC,
The New York Times,
and Newsweek ignored
This is a poem
for interrupting this program.
And still you want
a moment of silence
for your dead?
We could give you
lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces
of nameless children
Before I start this poem
We could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.
If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit
If you want a moment of silence,
put a brick through
the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses,
the jailhouses, the Penthouses and
If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton’s 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt
fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered
You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the
In the space
between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
But take it all
Don’t cut in line.
Let your silence begin
at the beginning of crime.
Tonight we will keep right on singing
For our dead.
EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002
Emmanuel Ortiz (born 1974) is a Chicano/Puerto Rican/Irish-American activist and spoken-word poet. He has worked with the Minnesota Alliance for the Indigenous Zapatistas (MAIZ) and Estación Libre and as a staff member of the Resource Centre of the Americas. Ortiz has performed his poetry at numerous readings, political rallies, activist conferences, and benefits. His works appeared in The Roots of Terror a reader published by Project South, as well as others. His readings of his poems have appeared on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!.  His controversial poem, Moment of Silence, circulated the internet a year after September 11th, 2001. 
Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
Tags: anti-semitism, apartheid, bernie farber, Canada, canadian jewish congress, check-points, cupe, david ahenakew, gaza, hamas, israel apartheid, israel apartheid week, jason kenney, Michael Ignatieff, palestinian state, palestinine, rick salutin, roger hollander, sid ryan, toronto, west bank
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
March 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
What is the sound of one side condemning? It’s the media rendering of Israel Apartheid Week, now under way. B’nai Brith ran full-page newspaper ads asking universities to “prevent” it and the attendant “anti-Semitism on campus.” There were no ads from organizers, so we didn’t hear them being anti-Semitic in their own words – or denying the charge.
Here’s the Toronto Star’s Rosie DiManno: “That detestable, despicable annual campus hate-fest … Jew-bashing cloaked in self-righteousness … students who don’t recognize racism when they’re spewing it.”
I don’t know if she meant to be ironic, spewing hate at the spewers. But I’ve talked with friends, Jewish and non, about these claims. They’re disturbed, they don’t want to witness the rise of a new horror. Here’s my take.
Cabinet minister Jason Kenney calls Israel Apartheid Week “a systematic effort to delegitimize the democratic homeland of the Jewish people” by linking it to racism, a line virtually mouthed by Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff. That is way too cute. Any “settler state,” such as Canada, which took someone else’s land, can be seen as illegitimate. But it’s an abstract point. “Apartheid” became widely used in this context only when Israel began building what came to be called an apartheid wall, looming over Palestinians, sequestering more land, cutting them off from each other.
The usage grew as Israel expanded settlements, built Israeli-only roads and set up checkpoints so Palestinians would at best be left with “Bantustans,” such as those that apartheid South Africa offered blacks, rather than a true state of their own. A small but real Palestinian state would be accepted by almost everyone. The Arab League has offered peace in return for Israel just leaving the West Bank. Even Hamas has a (nuanced) position on living with Israel. You can look it up.
What of the “new anti-Semitism” that Jason Kenney says is “based on the notion that the Jews alone have no right to a homeland”? Well, who are these new anti-Semites? I never see names or quotations. Canada has always had anti-Semites, but they’ve felt no need to hide their hate behind a screen of anti-Israel criticism. Think of David Ahenakew. A cartoon banned from hallways at the University of Ottawa showed a helicopter marked Israel rocketing a kid in Gaza holding a teddy bear. It’s crude, but that’s cartooning. There’s no anti-Semitism in it. A front-page National Post cartoon showing CUPE Ontario’s Sid Ryan offering David Ahenakew a job was far more scurrilous. No one can say Sid Ryan embraces anti-Semites, though he criticizes Israel strongly. Opposition to Israel seems well delineated from anti-Semitism to me.
Most of the specifics come down to shouts at protests. As in: “Cries of ‘Die, Jew’ and ‘Get the hell off campus’ were heard.” The Canadian Jewish Congress’s Bernie Farber says he’s “never” seen it this bad “on the streets of Toronto and university campuses.” Well, I spend lots of time on streets in Toronto and it doesn’t look like Kristallnacht to me. But wait, that’s glib. It’s these images that scare my friends: They evoke Nazi Germany. I know that.
But Nazi Germany wasn’t about name-calling and group hate. Those will persist, perhaps always. The Holocaust occurred largely because anti-Semitism was historically rooted and respectable there: religiously, socially, intellectually, politically. Writers and politicians were proudly anti-Semitic. Here, anti-Semitism is unacceptable in all those ways. This whole debate proves it. We should be glad for that, and keep it in perspective.
Why does perspective matter? Because Israel is now a state among nations and must be held to account, not absolved for fear of igniting a new Holocaust. Israel Apartheid Week should be gauged on its critique of its subject, not anathematized due to shadows and terrors from another time.
Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Economic Crisis.
Tags: Africa, africa debt, aids south africa, apartheid, Bill Clinton, Economic Crisis, Federal Reserve, IMF, jubilee usa, lawrence summers, naomi klein, nyerere, Obama, patrick bond, paul volker, rhodes, robert rubin, roger hollander, shock doctrine, South Africa, stiglitz, thabo mbeki, tim geithner, transafrica, treasury department, volker shock, Wall Street, wall street journal, washington consensus, World Bank
Kenyans celebrate Obama’s victory.
November 12, 2008 — One of Barack Obama’s leading advisers has done more damage to Africa, its economies and its people than anyone I can think of in world history, including even Cecil John Rhodes. That charge may surprise readers, but hear me out.
His name is Paul Volcker, and although he is relatively unknown around the world, the 82-year-old banker was recommended as “a legend!” to Obama by Austan Goolsbee, the president-elect’s chief economic adviser (and a professor at the University of Chicago). Volcker was recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal: “The cigar-chomping central banker from 1979 to 1987, he received blame for driving up interest rates and tipping the US into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.”
We’ll consider the impact of Volcker’s rule on Africa in a moment. But why dredge up crimes nearly 30 years old?
This kind of reckoning is important, as three current examples suggest:
- Reparations lawsuits are now being heard in New York by victims of apartheid who are collectively requesting US$400 billion in damages from three dozen US corporations who profited from South African operations during the same period. Supreme Court justices had so many investments in these companies that in May they had to bounce the case back to a lower New York court to decide, effectively throwing out an earlier judgment against the plaintiffs: the Jubilee anti-debt movement, the Khulumani Support Group for apartheid victicms, and 17 000 other black South Africans.
- Last month a San Francisco court began considering a similar reparations lawsuit — under the Alien Tort Claims Act — filed by Larry Bowoto and the Ilaje people of the Niger Delta against Chevron for 1998 murders similar to those that took the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa on November 10, 1995.
- In Boston last month, Harvard University’s Pride Chigwedere released a study into preventable deaths — at least 330 000 — caused by former African National Congress and South African President Thabo Mbeki’s AIDS policies during the early 2000s. The ex-president has “blood on his hands”, according to Zackie Achmat of the Treatment Action Campaign, requesting a judicial inquiry.
The same critical treatment is appropriate for Volcker, because of the awesome financial destruction he imposed, within most Africans’ living memory. His policies stunted the continent’s growth when it most needed internal economic coherence.
Even the International Monetary Fund’s official history cannot avoid using the famous phrase most associated with the Fed chair’s name: “The origins of the debt crisis of the 1980s may be traced back to and through the lurching efforts of the world’s governments to cope with the economic instabilities of the 1970s… [including the] monetary contraction in the United States (the ‘Volcker Shock’) that brought a sharp rise in world interest rates and a sustained appreciation of the dollar.”
Volcker’s decision to raise rates so high to rid the US economy of inflation and strengthen the fast-falling dollar had special significance in Africa, write British academics Sarah Bracking and Graham Harrison: “1979 marked a radical change in global economic policy, inaugurated with the ‘Volcker Shock’ (so called after Paul Volcker, then chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve) when the United States suddenly and dramatically raised interest rates, [which] increased the cost of African debt precipitously, since a majority of debt stock was held in dollars. The majority of the newly independent states had been effectively delivered into at least twenty years of indentured labor. From that point on access to finance became a key policing mechanism directed at African populations.”
Adds journalist Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, “In developing countries carrying heavy debt loads, the Volcker Shock was like a giant Taser gun fired from Washington, sending the developing world into convulsions. Soaring interest rates meant higher interest payments on foreign debts, and often the higher payments could only be met by taking on more loans… It was after the Volcker Shock that Brazil’s debt exploded, doubling from $50 billion to $100 billion in six years. Many African countries, having borrowed heavily in the seventies, found themselves in similar straits: Nigeria’s debt in the same short time period went from $9 billion to $29 billion.”
The numbers involved were daunting for low-income countries. According to University of California economic geographer Gillian Hart, “Medium and long-term public debt shot up from $75.1 billion in 1970 to $634.4 billion in 1983. It was the so-called Volcker Shock… that ushered in the debt crisis, the neoliberal counterrevolution, and vastly changed roles of the World Bank and IMF in Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia.”
Elmar Altvater of Berlin’s Free University recalls how the world “slid into the debt crisis of the 1980s after the US Federal Reserve tripled interest rates (the so called ‘Volcker Shock’), leading to what later has been described as the ‘lost decade’ for the developing world.”
How “lost”? The British Medical Journal complained in 1999 of orthodox World Bank structural adjustment policies that immediately followed: “According to Unicef, a drop of 10-25% in average incomes in the 1980s-the decade noted for structural adjustment lending-in Africa and Latin America, and a 25% reduction in spending per capita on health and a 50% reduction per capita on education in the poorest countries of the world, are mostly attributable to structural adjustment policies. Unicef has estimated that such adverse effects on progress in developing countries resulted in the deaths of half a million young children-and in just a 12-month period.”
A few honest mainstream economists also explain Africa’s economic crisis in these terms. “The external shock that might have precipitated the developing country slowdown is the increase in real interest rates after the Volcker Shock in 1979″, wrote World Bank senior researcher William Easterly in 2001. “The interest on external debt as a ratio to GDP has a statistically significant and negative effect on growth.”
A few blocks away from the Federal Reserve, one of Volcker’s closest allies was World Bank president Tom Clausen, formerly Bank of America chief executive officer. As the Volcker Shock wore on, in 1983, Clausen offered his board of directors this frank confession: “We must ask ourselves: How much pressure can these nations be expected to bear? How far can the poorest peoples be pushed into further reducing their meagre standards of living? How resilient are the political systems and institutions in these countries in the face of steadily worsening conditions? I don’t have the answers to these important questions. But if these countries are pushed too far, and too much is demanded of them without the provision of substantial assistance in their adjustment efforts, we must face the consequences. And those will surely exact a cost in terms of human suffering and political instability.”
At that point, “Africa was not even on my radar screen”, Volcker told interviewers Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin.
Meanwhile, the World Bank’s sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, was described by Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere as “a neo-colonial institution which exploits the poor to make them poorer and serves the rich to become richer”. Volcker had, ironically, played a central role in the destruction of the Bretton Woods system’s dollar-gold convertibility arrangement, effectively a US$80 billion default on holders of dollars abroad, when in 1971 he served Richard Nixon as under-secretary of the Treasury.
Eight years later, he was chosen to chair the Federal Reserve, which sets US (and by extension world) interest rates. As Jimmy Carter’s domestic policy advisor Stuart Eizenstat explained, “Volcker was selected because he was the candidate of Wall Street. This was their price, in effect.”
In 1985, Ronald Reagan offered Clausen’s job to Volcker, but he decided to stay on at the Fed until 1987, when he went back to a high-paid Wall Street job.
Now he is back, and according to a recent profile by the Wall Street Journal, “Obama is increasingly relying on Mr. Volcker. His staff now routinely reviews policy proposals and speeches with Mr. Volcker. Conference calls and face-to-face meetings of the Obama economic team are often reorganized to accommodate his schedule. When the team discusses the financial crisis, ‘The most important question to Obama: What does Paul Volcker think?’ says Jason Furman, the campaign’s economic-policy director… When Sen. Obama raised the prospect of a package of spending and tax measures to ‘stimulate’ the economy, Mr. Volcker disapproved. ‘Americans are spending beyond their means,’ he told the group. A stimulus package would delay the belt-tightening and savings needed, he added, proposing instead better regulation and assistance to banks.”
By November 8, the odds of Volcker being appointed US Treasury Secretary were 10%, according to the WSJ‘s betting pool. The race was between New York Federal Reserve Bank president Tim Geithner and former Bill Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, at 40% odds each. Geithner served under Summers and Robert Rubin in Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department during the 1990s.
Summers is best known for the sexism controversy which cost him the presidency of Harvard in 2006. But 15 years earlier he gained infamy as an advocate of African genocide and environmental racism, thanks to a confidential World Bank memo he signed when he was the institution’s senior vice president and chief economist: “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that… I’ve always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted, their air quality is vastly inefficiently low…”
After all, Summers continued, inhabitants of low-income countries typically die before the age at which they would begin suffering prostate cancer associated with toxic dumping. And in any event, using marginal productivity of labour as a measure, low-income Africans are not worth very much anyhow. Nor are African’s aesthetic concerns with air pollution likely to be as substantive as they are for wealthy northerners.
Such arguments were said by Summers to be made in an “ironic” way (and in his defence, he may have simply plagiarised the memo from a colleague, Lant Pritchett). Yet their internal logic was pursued with a vengeance by the World Bank and IMF long after Summers moved over to the Clinton Treasury Department, where in 1999 he insisted that Joseph Stiglitz be fired by World Bank president James Wolfensohn, for speaking out against the impeccable economic logic of the Washington Consensus.
Volcker, Summers and a whole crew of similar capitalist economists are whispering in Obama’s ear for a resurgent US based on brutal national self-interest. They need Obama to relegitimate shock-doctrinaire neoliberalism — and in turn, they need Obama’s Africa advisers (like Witney Schneidman) to promote military imperialism in the form of the Africa Command.
Whose advice will prevail?
Can Obama instead hear supporters like Bill Fletcher, Imani Countess and Danny Glover, who made TransAfrica (as one example) a visionary economic justice organisation, by fighting the policies of Volcker and Summers? Can AfricaAction, the Institute for Policy Studies, the American Friends Service Committee, Jubilee USA, ActionAid and other genuine advocates for the continent get a word in edgewise, between fits of cackling from the corporate liberals who think they own Obama? Will the president-elect ever get advice from economists James K. Galbraith of the University of Texas or Center for Economic and Policy Research codirectors Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot, who correctly read the various financial crises way ahead of time, and whose records promoting social justice would serve Africa far better?
Probably not. So it is vital for Africans to wake up to the danger that the likes of Volcker and Summers represent. Anyone paying attention to the continent’s economic decline since 1980 knows the damage they did, but Obama apparently needs to hear more of their sins against his father’s people before he chooses his Treasury Secretary next week. And while he’s at it, how about a revision of Obama’s utterly neoliberal ‘fundamental objective’ for the continent, which is “to accelerate Africa’s integration into the global economy”?
[Patrick Bond directs the Centre for Civil Society in Durban, South Africa: http://www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs; this article was originally a ZNet commentary.]
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: amy goodman, apartheid, conflict, denis moynihan, gaza, hamas, israel, ki-moon, Middle East, Obama, olmert, Palestine, raids, roger hollander, tutu, war
Posted on Nov 25, 2008
By Amy Goodman
As President-elect Barack Obama focuses on the meltdown of the U.S. economy, another fire is burning: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
You may not have heard much lately about the disaster in the Gaza Strip. That silence is intentional: The Israeli government has barred international journalists from entering the occupied territory.
Last week, executives from the Associated Press, New York Times, Reuters, CNN, BBC and other news organizations sent a letter of protest to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert criticizing his government’s decision to bar journalists from entering Gaza. Israel has virtually sealed off the Gaza Strip and cut off aid and fuel shipments. A spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry said Israel was displeased with international media coverage, which he said inflated Palestinian suffering and did not make clear that Israel’s measures were in response to Palestinian violence.
A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the group that won Palestinian elections nearly three years ago and controls Gaza, broke down after an Israeli raid killed six Hamas militants two weeks ago. More Israeli raids have followed, killing approximately 17 Hamas members, and Palestinian militants have fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel, injuring several people.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized Israel over its blockade of the overcrowded Gaza, home to close to 1.5 million Palestinians. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is warning that Gaza faces a humanitarian “catastrophe” if Israel continues to blockade aid from reaching the territory.
The sharply divided landscape of Israel and the occupied territories is familiar ground for South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Tutu was in New York last week to receive the Global Citizens Circle award. I sat down with him at the residence of the South African vice consul. Tutu reflected on the Israeli occupation: “Coming from South Africa … and looking at the checkpoints … when you humiliate a people to the extent that they are being—and, yes, one remembers the kind of experience we had when we were being humiliated—when you do that, you’re not contributing to your own security.”
Tutu said the embargo must be lifted. “The suffering is unacceptable. It doesn’t promote the security of Israel or any other part of that very volatile region,” he said. “There are very, very many in Israel who are opposed to what is happening.”
Tutu points to the outgoing Israeli prime minister. In September, Olmert made a stunning declaration to Yedioth Ahronoth, the largest Israeli newspaper. He said that Israel should withdraw from nearly all territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war in return for peace with the Palestinians and Syria: “I am saying what no previous Israeli leader has ever said: We should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights.”
Olmert said that traditional Israeli defense strategists had learned nothing from past experiences and that they seemed stuck in the considerations of the 1948 War of Independence. He said: “With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless.”
Olmert appears to have come closer to his daughter’s point of view. In 2006, Dana Olmert was among 200 people who gathered outside the home of the Israeli army chief of staff and chanted “murderer” as they protested Israeli killings of Palestinians (Archbishop Tutu was blocked from entering Gaza in his U.N.-backed attempts to investigate those killings). Ehud Olmert recently resigned over corruption allegations, but remains prime minister until a new government is approved by parliament.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki criticized Olmert for waiting until now to call for an end to the settlements: “We wish we heard this personal opinion when Olmert was prime minister, not after he resigned. I think it is a very important commitment, but it came too late. We hope this commitment will be fulfilled by the new Israeli government.”
Israel is a top recipient of U.S. military aid. Archbishop Tutu says of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “When that is resolved, what we will find [is] that the tensions between the West and … a large part of the Muslim world … evaporates.” He said of Obama, “I pray that this new president will have the capacity to see we’ve got to do something here … for the sake of our children.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.