US Primaries: Bernie Sanders for President?

Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF versionMedia coverage of the US presidential primaries is largely concentrated on the Republican Party. Among others, the performance of Donald Trump and other obscurantists, as well as the weak showing of Jeb Bush, have attracted particular attention. In this, the Republican candidates show some of the current limitations of US imperialism: alongside the “moderate” Jeb Bush, most of the remaining candidates represent the right wing of the party close to the Tea Party. These stand for isolationism and a confrontational policy against China, like Trump, and/or for an uninhibited attack on social benefits domestically (Cruz, Di Rubio) and anti-Mexican racism (all candidates) or even the construction of the fence on the Mexican border, Trump. Among the Republican candidates, Trump has emerged as the major challenge to the initial favourite, Bush. It is not only with regard to financial donations and media presence that Trump’s positions now take centre stage in the Republican primary.

The media have shown less interest in the Democrats. This is partly because there are fewer candidates, only five against the Republicans’ 15, but more particularly because of the candidacy of Hillary Clinton who, as the former Secretary of State and the candidate beaten by Obama in 2008, is the favourite to win the primary. She is presented as not only a continuation of Obama’s policies but also as the best-placed Democrat to win against the Republicans who currently have a majority in both houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

A socialist as US president?

In Europe, especially on the Left, the candidacy of Bernie Sanders has attracted great attention. He has raised a number of left demands and describes himself as “a democratic socialist”.

Sanders began his political career in the state of Vermont, where he was for many years the mayor of Burlington and sat in the House of Representatives from 1991 to 2007. At that time, he stood as an independent candidate who, nonetheless, joined the Democrat fraction just as he is now standing in the primaries for the Democrats. Since 2007, he has been active as a Senator from Vermont, a state with 600,000 inhabitants best known for tourism, the production of maple syrup and the processing of marble.

As an independent “democratic socialist”, Sanders made his name as an opponent of the anti-terrorism law, “the Patriot Act” of the last Bush government as well as of the tax cuts for employers and highly paid that both Obama and the Republicans adopted. In addition, he was critical of the free trade agreement TTIP. As a result, Sanders is well liked, and can mobilise support within, the trade union movement led by the two main confederations, AFL-CIO and SEIU. Other demands, such as “take the country back from the billionaires” and “for a political revolution against the establishment” and calls for crushing the big banks and corporations have also added to his reputation.

Sanders’ platform

Bernie Sanders considers himself a socialist, albeit what he once described as a “vanilla socialist”, but, in fact, his platform is not socialist. Although he certainly stands on the left of the American political class, in truth he is nothing more than an old-style Roosevelt-style Democrat. If some of his positions do go further than FDR did, they are nonetheless firmly within the framework of bourgeois democracy and capitalist rule over society. There is no clarion call for a social revolution to be heard from Bernie Sanders.

All of his economic policy prescriptions are based on the Keynesianism that held sway in the middle of the last century and was adopted by European Social Democratic and Labour Parties and that were then taken up in the US until the 1970s. Fighting income and wealth inequality by means of progressive taxation on wealthy individuals and profitable multinational corporations and using this taxation to fund government-sponsored infrastructure projects for job creation, free public education to university level, an expanded and single-payer healthcare system, strengthening and expanding the Social Security trust fund and funding a living wage for workers are not, in themselves, anything new. These programmes, and the means for paying for them, just a reworking of what most of Europe and even the United States had until the neoliberal attacks on such programmes began in the 1980s.

Even the policy prescriptions on the so-called “social issues”, such as racial injustice, immigrants’ rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, are just a rehash and expansion of the identity politics that have been used by the Democrats to win elections since the 60s. Once again, if Sanders takes these policies further than in the past, and sincerely supports them, they are still essentially Keynesianism.

However, it is in the area of foreign policy that the failings of Sanders’ policies can be most clearly seen.

Imperialism and Bernie Sanders

History has shown that neoliberalism is not the only way for capitalism to restore markets and profitability. In fact, neoliberalism is the easy way. War has always been the weapon of last resort to restore capitalism to growth and is always an available option. The production of arms and munitions to sell at a profit to governments for various wars, even if they are known as “police actions” and “humanitarian aid”, is always a way to boost the economy and profits in the short term and the destruction caused always opens up markets for rebuilding from the war itself. War and weaponry have always been empire’s most profitable export. Bernie Sanders, more or less, seems to support the concept of the American Empire.

Although he is on the left of American bourgeois politics, and has not supported all the empire’s wars, Sanders has nonetheless been prepared to support war in, for example, Kosovo and Afghanistan and gives tacit support to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. As a Senator, he has even brought war industries to Vermont. Now, as a candidate, he has pledged to support “American interests in the world”. Since the main American interest in the world is maintaining its empire, both militarily and economically, it is difficult to see how Sanders could resist the call to arms when that is presented as vital to American interests. In his support for the American bourgeoisie, he is reminiscent of the socialists of the Second International who supported “their” bourgeoisies at the outbreak of World War I.

That there is a “left” candidate in the Democrat primary is not altogether surprising. In a way this was also true of Obama in 2008 (although he was not so left with regard to social demands) or Howard Dean or, earlier, Jesse Jackson, who presented themselves as left populists. Apart from that, the trade unions that are close to the Democrats have repeatedly backed candidates in the primaries who supported their demands. In this respect, Sanders is initially taking over this role as a mouthpiece for the trade unions that have always supported the Democrats. After the primaries, little, if anything, is left of their demands. The workers’ votes that are mobilised by the trade unions, however, can be an important factor in the elections. This subordination to one of the two parties of US capital is one, if not the historically decisive, weakness of the US working class movement.

In contrast to some of the earlier “left” candidates, Sanders has, nonetheless, been able to mobilise tens of thousands to his electoral rallies. He has enthused masses of people with his demands for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, the abolition of student fees and loans, a massive increase in the taxation of the rich, the expansion of public services and of employment. While Hillary Clinton brought together 5000 to her New York rally, Sanders filled a sports stadium with 25,000 and, week by week, is closing the gap to the favourite. In the polls, Clinton’s advantage shrunk nationally from 35 to 15 percent and as a result the Clinton camp have had to take Sanders seriously and engage him in a real electoral struggle. All the same, we have to warn against illusions in Sanders. He will not be in a position to shift the balance of forces in the Democrats and at most will only pressurise Clinton to make compromises on social policy.

A progressive campaign?

Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency has certainly had some positive and progressive results. To deny that, as some on the far left do, would be to ignore objective reality. Millions have been drawn into the political process for the first time, many of them young people and many of them from formerly marginalised social strata. His candidacy has shown that, especially on economic issues, there is an audience for a more left-wing view than has been espoused over the last 50 years. His self identification as a “socialist” has raised an interest in the word that has not been seen in almost a century. It is a shame that his platform can only be seen as “socialist” by the fevered right-wing hacks of Rupert Murdoch’s chain of propaganda businesses like Fox News and their supporters in the Republican Party.

Even leaving aside the weaknesses of his platform, Sanders’ decision to run as a Democrat makes it unprincipled for any anti-capitalist, let alone a socialist, to support his candidacy. The Democrats are one of the two main parties of the American bourgeoisie. This does not mean, however, that it would be wrong to support campaigns for some of the policies he promotes. On the contrary, revolutionaries should support movements for reform that can improve the position of workers and the oppressed within capitalism. Moreover, by arguing for mass mobilisations and direct action to achieve such aims, not only the living conditions but also the morale and organisational ability of the working class can be raised. In this way, the position of the working class can be advanced, despite, and probably against, the Democrats.

When tens of thousands can be mobilised for “left” demands and ideas for the first time since the Occupy movement in the USA, then this is something that the labour movement and the “radical” left has to take up. Of course, it has to be made clear, that the “independent” Sanders is not at all independent if he is standing as a representative of the capitalist Democrats. As the Obama administration has shown, this would change nothing in the character of US capitalism. Although a small supplementary health insurance has been introduced Obama has, at the same time, agreed with the Republicans the biggest austerity package and programme of cuts ever seen in US history. By 2025, $10 billion is to be cut annually from the public services. Anti-capitalists and socialists must therefore be very clear in their opposition to any support for the Democrats, including any support from the trade unions, and must fight for a “political revolution” in the party system in the USA.

Despite presenting themselves as more “humanitarian”, the US Democrats are not fundamentally different from the Republicans. Both are parties of the ruling class in the USA, openly bourgeois parties to which the trade unions are merely hangers on. As far as their social base and their relationship to the working class is concerned, they are fundamentally different from the European Social Democratic and Labour Parties that, despite their thoroughly bourgeois politics, emerged historically and socially from the working class and are still organically linked to it today. The Democrats, however, are not comparable to these “bourgeois workers’ parties” and therefore even the most critical support for left candidates in this party is categorically excluded for revolutionaries.

For a workers’ party in the USA

This is the key question for the US working class, the antiracist movement and the left. It will not be solved by so-called left candidates of the Democrats who will once again tie the trade unions to that party. What is needed is a clear political break with the two-party system. Even to win those policies that Sanders rightly proposes, such as the minimum wage, higher taxation to the rich, perhaps even the destruction of US monopolies or liberation from student fees and loans, will require an independent class politics and and a party of the class, not an “independent” candidate of a bourgeois party.

The two biggest “socialist” organisations in the USA, the Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organisation, have raised correct criticisms of Sanders. However, what they lack is a perspective for the building of a workers’ party. The ISO even goes so far as to take over the Green party, that is a petty bourgeois party which itself can only be an obstacle to the building of a workers’ party. The Socialist Alternative, with its independent candidates such as Swant in Seattle has been able to celebrate electoral successes at a local level however it lacks a revolutionary programme as well as any tactics with which to break the trade unions from the Democrats.

The minimum wage campaign, which is essentially maintained by the SEIU, is currently trying to persuade democratic local majorities in cities and states, little is left of the strike actions and demonstrations of 2014.

There are still over 16 million workers organised in the two confederations, AFL CIO and “Change to Win”. Instead of becoming the left wing of the apparatus, as does the ISO in particular, what is needed is an initiative for the building of a class struggle rank and file movement and for a workers’ party independent of all bourgeois forces. Then it would be possible to present an alternative to the Democratic party for the tens of thousands who are at the moment inspired by Sanders, an alternative that can take up and continue the struggle the justified demands of the workers, Blacks and Hispanic population even after the primaries. The USA does need a “political revolution” but in the form of a workers’ party which fights for social revolution and declares an uncompromising struggle against US imperialism.


In Defense of Marx’s Labor Theory of Value

In Defense of Marx’s Labor Theory of Value
by Rob Sewell, Socialist Appeal


Between Sludge Pond and Old Growth:

A Look at Glaring Oversights in the Proposal for New Federal Prison in Eastern Kentucky

by Jordan E. Mazurek / Prison Ecology Project

Early Kentucky twilight trickles through the canopies of towering trees, softly illuminating the post-dawn fog as we fill our lungs, gulp after gulp, with the cool, sweet air of one of the last vestiges of old-growth forest in the country. Each step up a path so unobtrusive that only our guide can see it takes us further into the heart of the Lilley Cornett Woods. Clear cutting for logging, coal mining and mountaintop removal have, at one point or another, decimated nearly every last inch of forest in Kentucky.

But not here.

The thickness of each trunk whispers of how, centuries ago, its seedling first tasted the sweetness of the soil as it shot out the roots that we now step, and gently stumble, over. A bastion of biodiversity, this small, sacred patch of old-growth, 252-acres in total, greets us at every twist and turn by American Beeches, Eastern Hemlocks, Chestnut Oaks, Hickories, and over a hundred more species of trees. Within their shadows 530 species of flowering plants bloom, above our heads over 700 breeding pairs of birds find refuge in the dense branches, extending over every ridge and into every valley a dense network of flora and fauna thrives.

Unfortunately, we are not here to solely soak in this woods wonder, but are working as part of thePrison Ecology Project to figure out how to protect it. The Lilley Cornett, maintained by Eastern Kentucky University and owned by the Department of the Interior, is the longest preserved of only three old-growth forests left in Kentucky, and danger is literally on the horizon. “A couple miles as-the-crow-flies to the east”, as our guide puts it, a very flat yet devastatingly traumatic scar is scorched across the earth where a mountain once stood.  

EIS map of roxana site

The Federal Bureau of Prisons calls this mountaintop removal scar “the Roxana site” and is desperate to rip it open anew by tearing from the ground over 3.8 million cubic yards of earth, extending the boundaries of the scar across 700 acres, so that it may construct one more crown jewel in the bloated war chest of mass incarceration. At a price tag of several hundred million dollars it would be the 6th federal prison in Eastern Kentucky alone, all to ‘alleviate overcrowding’ in a prison system that cages over 2.2 million people nationally, with another 5 million under state surveillance via probation or parole. It is telling that the Bureau of Prisons does not bring updecarceration as a possibility, instead advancing yet another environmentally and socially disastrous prison construction project.

Attempting to get ahead of the environmentally disastrous part of it, in July the BOP released its final 800+ page Environmental Impact Statement complete with public comments on the preferred Roxana site and the alternate Payne Gap site, amounting to little more than a bureaucratic footnote to smooth over construction and provide the illusion of public participation. The Prison Ecology Project, working through the Human Rights Defense Center, submitted a 21 page public comment, signed by 23 organizations and individuals including three professors from Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, on the original EIS draft detailing the documents significant shortcomings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the BOP largely ignored the concerns we raised and altered virtually nothing of substance between the draft and final EIS (check out the August 31st letter we sent to the BOP in regards to that). Worse though, the final EIS perpetuates two glaring omissions, the extent of which has only come to light after our visit to Letcher County and follow up research.

Walking the Lilley Cornett Woods in Letcher County, October 2015

The first omission is that the Lilley Cornett Woods, “a couple miles as-the-crow-flies” from the Roxana site, is entirely absent from the final EIS save for one footnote on our very own public comment. At the time of writing the original public comment we did not realize just how close the Lilley Cornett Woods was to the Roxana site, nor did we realize the environmental significance of its old-growth status. The final EIS gives no mention as to how the massive construction project, extended periods of heavy machinery use (both on site and on the surrounding roads for transportation), the eventual 24/7 flood lighting on the property, extensive noise pollution from the construction and proposed firing range, the impact of 4 million gallons of permitted daily water use (water which must come from somewhere), and copious amounts of raw sewage, might impact the delicate ecosystem of the Lilley Cornett Woods that has, up until this point, been able to escape our society’s voracious environmental destruction. Within two miles of the proposed site it is unequivocal that the networks of flora and fauna extending out from the Lilley Cornett will be harmed by its construction and continued operation.

The second glaring omission and outright falsity maintained by the BOP in the EIS will undoubtedly result in extensive environmental harm and victimization to the potential prisoners themselves (not to mention guards and other prison staff). In response to our original public comment indicating that the BOP has done nothing to address the health impact on prisoners of ongoing mining activity and apparent coal slurry storage in the area, the BOP maintained that they expected no health impacts since the “proposed project is not located near coal mining waste facilities [and] [t]here are no active coal mines on either of the proposed [Roxana or Payne Gap] sites,” further claiming “no [coal] slurry ponds are located within Letcher County,” providing a link to the EPA’s coal ash impoundment regulation website as evidence.

Oldhouse Branch sludge impoundmnet Roxana KY

The only misleading ‘truth’ in these claims is that there are no active mines literally on the proposed sites. Let it be noted that there are no active mines literally on the majority of land in Eastern Kentucky, but somehow that doesn’t stop the region from having some of the highest lung cancer rates correlated to some of the highest coal production numbers. Exploring the Kentucky Division of Mine Permits Surface Mining GIS map quickly reveals that there is an active surface mine under two miles to the northeast of the Roxana site, and additionally an active underground mine a half-mile due south of the Roxana site. Both mines are operated by Enterprise Mining Company LLC (a subsidiary of coal giant Alpha Natural Resources Inc.) and neither are mentioned in the final EIS despite the fact that:

“Numerous studies have indicated that communities hosting coal mining in general, and mountaintop removal mining in particular, are susceptible to increased health hazards. For example, a 2011 study of Appalachian localities found that even after controlling for socioeconomic factors, residents of counties with mountaintop removal mining suffered significantly higher rates of poor physical and mental health than other Appalachian communities. Another study concluded that chronic cardiovascular disease mortality is more prevalent in mountaintop removal areas. A water-quality study published in 2011 found increased concentrations of selenium, sulfate, magnesium and other inorganic solutes in rivers downstream from active and reclaimed mining sites. And a 2010 study of coal mining counties in West Virginia found that, even after controlling for cigarette smoking, cancer mortality rates increased for residents who lived near mining operations.”

                               from the HRDC Response to Proposed USP/FPC Letcher County Final EIS, pg. 9

Coal slurry and Lilley Cornett proximity to proposed prison


The BOP’s false claims are further brought to light by data from the Kentucky Division of Mining and information collected by Washington State University graduate student Pierce GreenbergThese sources show that the active surface mine operated by Enterprise Mining due northeast of the Roxana Site is also home to an active coal slurry impoundment that has been operating since at least 1979. Thus, the BOP’s claim that there are no coal slurry ponds in Letcher County is categorically false (the data indicates there are at least 3). Further, the BOP tries to back up this claim by referencing the EPA website, but the EPA doesn’t regulate coal slurry impoundments. That job falls jointly to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (Department of Labor) and the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation (Department of the Interior), along with state regulatory agencies. Greenberg, who studies coal impoundments and the communities near them, obtained the impoundment data through public records requests to MSHA and the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources.

-Screenshot from the Kentucky Division of Mine Permit’s Surface Mining GIS Viewer. The light blue Polygon is a rough outline of the proposed Roxana prison site. The dark blue and orange outline at the upper right is an active surface mine and coal slurry impoundment. The red and green outline at the bottom right is an active underground mine.

The oldest active impoundments in the country date back at least four decades and in order to qualify as MSHA-class they must contain 6.5 million gallons of coal slurry mixture at minimum, while the notorious Brushy Fork Impoundment in West Virginia recently received a permit to hold more than 8 billion gallons. Having been in operation for at least 40 years it’s safe to assume that the aging impoundment near Roxana is holding a significantly larger amount of coal waste than the 6.5 million gallon minimum. The potential negative impact of the active surface and underground mine and coal slurry impoundment on the health of prisoners (to be read: environmental victims), again, is left unaddressed and ignored by the BOP’s final EIS. Given that our system of mass incarceration is overwhelmingly used at a vastly disproportionate rate to discipline and cage black and brown bodies, the unwillingness of the BOP to even account for these environmental hazards is indicative of institutional environmental racism that has the potential to cause serious harm and possible premature death to prisoners.

Visualization of high rates of lung cancer and coal production.


Those seedlings in the Lilley Cornett Woods that tasted the earth for the first time so many centuries ago whisper of unrealized worlds, paths down which our society might have walked that was in balance with the environment. The scar scorched across the earth at the Roxana site, however, screams of the destructive path we are still on as it threatens to grow even larger, devouring and threatening the surrounding environment, the Lilley Cornett Woods and the delicate network of flora and fauna it supports, and the very lives of our (overwhelmingly black and brown) brothers who will be caged there. We must not let this be the path we continue to walk. We must take a stand against the Bureau of Prisons and demonstrate how our continued reliance on mass incarceration, the New Jim Crow, both destroys the environment and people’s lives. When it comes to the proposed prison in Letcher County, we have no choice. We must shut it down.

Shut it Down EIS Roxana map

World Bank report highlights poverty in Africa

Despite reports for the last several years that there have been significant declines in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, a recently released World Bank study indicates that, despite “growth,” the actual number of people living in poverty has increased by 100 million over the last 15 years.

In an attempt to reinforce the view of poverty decline, figures are presented that the proportion of people living in severe economic deprivation has declined. But with rising populations, those who are in distress are in fact numerically increasing.

The World Bank presented its report on “End Poverty Day” in Ghana, the first country south of the Sahara to gain national independence from Britain in 1957. Ghana is now often championed by Western financial publications as a “success story” in the broader effort to ameliorate poverty and underdevelopment in Africa.

A World Bank press release states: “The report finds that progress in ending poverty in all its forms has varied greatly across countries and population groups, with the levels of achievement remaining challengingly low. Africa posted the slowest rate of poverty reduction of all major developing regions, with the share of people living in extreme poverty (less than US$1.90 a day) declining only slightly, from 56% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. But since 2012, extreme poverty fell to a projected 35 percent in 2015 in the region, based on the World Bank’s new poverty line of $1.90 a day. Globally, according to Bank estimates released earlier this month, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty will likely fall to under 10 percent for the first time, to 9.6 percent this year.” (Oct. 16)

These figures are plagued by conjecture due to the lack of credible measurement tools and, moreover, whether reliable data was collected on these subjects. In rural areas the number of people living without adequate supplies of water, fuel, food and communications technology often goes overlooked.

The report itself acknowledges this fact: “Gauging Africa’s human well-being remains tremendously difficult. The report shows that in 2012, just 25 of the region’s 48 countries had conducted at least two household surveys over the past decade to track poverty. The authors urge action across Africa in improving the availability and access to regular and reliable data on income poverty and other dimensions of well-being. They also stress that national support for adhering to methodological and operational standards is essential.”

How is growth, development measured in Africa?

The World Bank report reveals the contradictions between foreign direct investment growth and actual income levels, quality of life improvements and socioeconomic development. Setting an extreme poverty level at below $1.90 for individuals and households is problematic.

Many of the advances made in Africa involve the availability of mobile phones and other consumer goods. These goods have enhanced the standard of living in many states by facilitating communications and therefore economic, political and social interactions. Nonetheless, these products come at a price, whether they are manufactured outside the country, as is the case more often than not, or domestically.

Consequently the cost of living is increasing, creating hardship despite the rising household income generated through increased production and trade. Recent strikes in Ghana by private, public and educational workers have largely centered on the decline in the value of the cedi (national currency), requiring larger amounts of money to cover expenses.

In Nigeria, proclaimed in 2014 by the Western-based financial publications as having the largest economy in Africa, many strikes involve workers who are more skilled and have higher incomes. Work stoppages in the medical, educational and oil sectors demand not only higher wages and better employment conditions, but also that employees actually receive their salaries on a regular basis.

In various state departments in Nigeria, public sector workers have gone months without salaries. This has also been a major issue in Ghana among junior physicians and educators.

The distribution of national wealth is the most important factor in determining actual development. Africa has produced billionaires in Nigeria, South Africa and other states. However, the existence of abject poverty remains. Class structures inherited from colonialism have not been eliminated. Those who are in a position to benefit from the continuing integration of Africa into the world capitalist and imperialist system stand to advance their social positions in society.

In Nigeria and South Africa, the largest and most advanced states on the continent, both labor unions and community organizations have demanded that the mining and other extractive multinational corporations reinvest in the environmental and social well-being of the areas where they derive their wealth. Although the workers may earn more than people living in and confined to the rural areas, if resources are not reinvested into creating schools, improving education, cleaning up chemical and industrial waste, and constructing roads and health care facilities, it is not possible to define such a set of circumstances as genuine development.

Wealth must be equitably distributed to foster development

The issues of wealth distribution and production relations must be addressed before there is real qualitative development in Africa and other geopolitical regions. Of course, the World Bank cannot address these issues due to the inherent class bias of its approach to economic growth.

Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were founded by the U.S. capitalist class at the conclusion of World War II to facilitate its dominant position in the imperialist world. In the earlier phase of this development, tremendous resources were poured into Western Europe to rebuild industry and infrastructure destroyed from 1939 to 1945.

However, after the emergence of independent African states during the 1950s and 1960s, IMF-World Bank officials arrived, ready to restructure the postcolonial political economy, emphasizing a neoliberal approach to development by shrinking the size of the public sectors and lowering the value of currencies. Rather than establish import-substitution industries, a path to growth was engineered to emphasize Western foreign investment.

With fluctuations of energy and commodity prices, such a set of international relations leaves the postcolonial states dependent upon the strength of the economies in the former colonial and still imperialist countries. This vulnerability of the oppressed nations, largely located in Africa, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America, stifles and even obliterates the capacity to engage in long-term planning for the benefit of the broad populations in these states.

The constraints placed on making major advancements in agricultural, industrial, educational and social service industries and sectors requires alternative approaches. Socialist economic planning could channel earnings from worker productivity and trade into those aspects of the economy that would produce the most desirable outcomes.

Internal conflict is cited in the World Bank report as a major factor in preventing economic growth. However, the World Bank cannot acknowledge the imperialist destabilization of Africa through military operations and covert activity, since it would directly challenge the foreign policy imperatives of the ruling classes in North America and Western Europe.

article from Workers World

Sanders’ campaign raises questions about socialism

A Marxist Response

The large rallies and recent gains in the polls following the debate for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “socialist,” have many workers wondering what “socialism” is. Many more are confused because his ideas do not seem fundamentally different from those of others in the Democratic Party.

chart_1024Sanders added to the confusion during the debate on Oct. 13, 2015, when questioned about socialism. Instead of clearly defining the term, he attacked wealth inequality as “immoral and wrong,” a view even some capitalists espouse, and promised universal health care and paid family leave, benefits that are available in many countries with capitalist economic systems. He did not distinguish socialism as an entirely different structure for society.

Whatever Sanders means by “socialism,” one thing is clear from his popularity, workers in the U.S. are open to discussing the idea and want to know more about what it means. A lexicographer associated with the Merriam Webster dictionary tweeted about searches for the definition of socialism after the debate: “’Socialism’ spiking off the charts.”

Confusion about socialism stems not only from the decades of anti-socialist propaganda by the capitalist media, but also from the fluidity of its definition. Like any concept, the idea of socialism is not fixed or static; people use the word to mean many very different things. Even the co-author of the “Communist Manifesto,” Friedrich Engels, had to carefully distinguish the version of socialism he and Karl Marx described from earlier, “utopian” socialist experiments.

One reason why people with such varied and conflicting ideas all use the same word to describe their politics is that most of these ideas, parties and organizations had historic roots in the same socialist or social democratic parties of the 19th century, parties which were based on the ideas of Marx and Engels. (Workers World, April 26, 2012,

V.I. Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, was a member of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Over the last 150 years, disagreements over two main ideas led to the big differences between groups claiming the term socialist. Those main points of contention are over the issue of ownership of the means of production and the idea of revolution.

Ownership of the means of production

The “means of production” is a term used by Marx to mean all the infrastructure of modern society that produces and transports goods and services. It includes factories, trains, stores, farms and warehouses. In a capitalist society these are all owned by a relatively small number of people, even though millions of people worked to build them and work to make them useful. Even when workers own shares of stock directly or through their pensions, the control of these industries remains in the hands of the ruling class. The owners take huge profits while people who work there their whole lives barely survive.

Engels wrote in his book, “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” that prior socialist experiments failed because they were not based upon an understanding of the progression of society and its productive forces. The scientific socialism that Marx and Engels described would be based upon workers seizing the “socialized means of production,” from the capitalist class that currently owns them, the “1%,” (really one-tenth of one percent) and converting them into socialized production, based upon a planned economy, with the output of production put to the use of all of society rather than simply to produce profit for the few.

Sanders does not advocate taking the ownership of factories and corporations away from billionaires, ending the profit system that exploits workers, or creating a system where decisions about how and what to produce are made based upon human need rather than private profit. He describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” and seeks to keep the capitalist system in place, only expanding the social safety net, providing universal health insurance, lowering barriers to education and increasing taxes on corporations.

Several European capitalist countries provide more benefits for workers, better health care, more vacation time and higher wages, similar to what Sanders proposes. Those countries are often labeled “socialist” or “social democracies,” even though they still have predominantly capitalist systems, where corporations generate massive profits by exploiting workers.

Some ruling-class political scientists have said that Sanders is really more of a “social democrat” than a “democratic socialist,” terms that only further confuse many workers. (Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2015, What they mean is that a social democrat would, like Sanders, keep the capitalist system in place but seek to reform it. On the other hand, as the Washington Post goes on to say, “Democratic Socialists in the United States want a system where workers or the government own factories and other means of production.”

In the April 26, 2012, editorial referred to earlier, WW wrote, “When Workers World describes someone or some party as socialist without quotes, this means they are for taking the means of production — including land — out of the hands of the capitalist ruling class and having it owned publicly.” Some who describe themselves as democratic socialists also demand public ownership of the means of production, but what they usually mean is nationalized property, industries owned by a capitalist government, or worker-owned collectives within a capitalist society, not the planned, socialized production described by Engels, where everything is held collectively for the benefit of all.

This brings us squarely to the second key question that separates socialists like Workers World Party from democratic socialists or social democrats, an understanding of the state and the necessity for revolution.


When Bernie Sanders talks about a “political revolution,” he makes clear that he is not talking about the kind of revolution made by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1917. Lenin thought it necessary to smash the capitalist state because the state itself is a tool of the capitalist class used for oppression and exploitation. Sanders rhetorically calls for a “political revolution,” asking for people to vote for him and others who promise various reforms to the capitalist system, but he opposes fundamental changes to the government. He praises “American [U.S.] democracy” even though it is founded on the genocide of Native Americans and slavery and continues to deny even basic democratic rights to women, people of color and immigrants.

Social democrats and democratic socialists, even those who advocate some form of collective ownership of the means of production, believe that sufficient changes to society can be made by working within the existing “democratic” process, that is, within what Marxists call bourgeois or capitalist democracy. History has proven this is false. Where socialist candidates have been elected who seek to make revolutionary change, world imperialism has used violent methods to overthrow them, such as with Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, or with the imperialist coup in 2002 against Hugo Chávez, when he was subsequently defended by a mass uprising. The tiny ruling class refuses to give up capitalism — and the huge profits it makes for the capitalists — without a violent response.

Even the modest promises of Bernie Sanders, as attractive as they are to workers, clash with the current corporate drive to increase profits while constantly decreasing the number of workers employed. Corporations worldwide are demanding “austerity” from the workers, which means expropriating even more of what workers produce. Any concessions to workers can only be won through struggle.

In its statement, “What is WWP,” the party writes, “Workers World Party is a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party dedicated to organizing and fighting for a socialist revolution in the United States and around the world.” (  That means that WWP recognizes that only through revolutionary struggle can the racist exploitation of the capitalist system be overthrown. Capitalism won’t allow systemic change to be simply voted into policy.

Article from Workers World |

The Indonesian bloodbath, Part 2

What it has meant for the world

In Part 1 of this article, we wrote about the U.S. role behind the scenes in bringing about the horrendous massacre of up to a million people in Indonesia in 1965-66.

It is now 50 years since the military coup and slaughter began that drowned in blood the Indonesian Communist Party and also decimated the mass organizations of workers, peasants, women and youth that the party had built up over decades of struggle. Together, at least 15 million activists had participated in this broad progressive movement, which was then crushed by the reactionary, pro-imperialist forces in the military, backed by U.S. imperialism and much of Indonesia’s capitalist and landlord ruling classes.

We look now at what effect this monstrous setback had on the world struggle against imperialism, which had been gaining momentum as more countries won their liberation from the colonial powers.

After World War II, Washington tried to turn back the revolutionary tide that was sweeping Asia. A key part of this effort had been the U.S. imperialists’ massive invasion and war in Korea, which lasted three years. But even though the U.S. Air Force dropped more bombs on People’s Korea in the north than it had on Europe in all of World War II, the conflict ended in 1953 with a stalemate at the 38th parallel, where it had begun. In reality, this was a hard-won victory for the Korean people’s struggle for sovereignty. It was the first time that U.S. imperialists had been fought to a draw.

By the 1960s, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was strongly moving ahead with reconstruction on a socialist basis after the ravages of the war.

The People’s Republic of China, which had assisted the Korean struggle in the 1950s by sending more than a million volunteer soldiers and workers to the front, had hundreds of millions of mouths to feed. It was now focused on modernizing agriculture through the revolutionary development of communes.

Socialist North Vietnam was building up industry and agriculture while at the same time supporting the struggle in the south for liberation and national reunification.

Communist-led guerrilla movements were fighting for national liberation in the Philippines, Malaya and Laos.

How did the massacres in Indonesia affect the liberation struggles going on in Vietnam, Laos and later Cambodia? Certainly, the success of Washington’s maneuvering with the Indonesian generals emboldened the U.S. ruling class in their anti-communist crusade in Asia. They continued their terrible wars in Southeast Asia for another 10 years, until the U.S. itself was engulfed by anti-war and anti-racist struggles.

‘Jakarta is coming’

The bloody massacres in Indonesia were hailed by hardliners in the imperialist countries and by the regimes they had cultivated and brought to power in areas formerly “owned” outright by the colonial powers. These reactionaries hoped that the ferocious elimination of those fighting for the rights of the masses in that large and strategic country would undercut similar movements elsewhere.

Indeed, what the forces of imperialism and reaction had achieved in Indonesia was soon used to intimidate progressive movements as far away as South America. One can see the hand of the CIA in graffiti that appeared on the walls in Santiago, Chile: “Jakarta is coming.” Similar threats were directly conveyed to members of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende before the fascist coup there. (Andre Vltchek in Counterpunch, Nov. 22, 2013)

Most leaders of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) had refused to back down or grovel before the fascist generals, speaking out forcefully at the phony “trials” that preceded their deaths. But the international left movement was painfully lacking in their support. Much of this was due to the internal crisis that had occurred in the Communist movement with the Sino-Soviet split.

Sino-Soviet split

The Chinese leaders had rightfully opened up criticism of the policies advocated by the Communist Party of the USSR, beginning several years after Nikita Khrushchev became its general secretary in 1953. They accused it of accommodating to the pressures of U.S. imperialism and the Cold War by openly revising principles that had been basic to communism, at least on paper, since the time of Lenin.

However, this split between the two socialist giants degenerated from a political struggle to a state-to-state one, leading many imperialist analysts to gleefully predict war between the two. That did not happen — beyond a very brief ­border clash in 1969 — but the effects on the international movement were severe. In almost every country, the parties divided into pro-Moscow and pro-Beijing wings. The PKI was not immune to this.

Nor were the parties in most of the imperialist countries themselves. Instead of mobilizing in defense of the PKI and the left in Indonesia, the opposing factions blamed each other for the defeat.

This needs to be brought up because the need for a united front against capitalist reaction must be understood in the movement. Political differences should not be papered over; they are real and need to be debated to achieve clarity. But in the struggle with the capitalist enemy, the working-class movement must seek to present a united front.

Environmental destruction

There is another area of great concern to today’s progressive movements that is directly connected to the bloodbath in Indonesia: the destruction of the environment.

The victory that imperialism achieved through the bloody elimination of Indonesia’s progressive forces opened up the country for massive exploitation by transnational corporations, especially those that had greedily eyed Indonesia’s abundant natural resources.

Corporations like Mobil Oil, Freeport Sulphur, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Uniroyal, Union Carbide and Unilever rushed in, sometimes availing themselves of virtually free labor from the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners. Of course, the military overlords got their cut.

Once the imperialists were in control of Indonesia’s underground resources and its precious trees, some of which had been growing for centuries in rainforests teeming with life, the result was an ecological disaster.

In the words of “Indonesia is a treasure chest of biodiversity; it is home to between 10 and 15 percent of all known species of plants, mammals and birds. Orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, more than 1,500 species of birds and thousands of plant species are all a part of the country’s natural legacy. The mass destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands for palm oil and paper threatens this and is the main reason why Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases.”

Solidarity with the young workers’ movement now struggling to breathe in Indonesia is one of the important ways to fight for a better future — for them, for us and for the planet.


Erdogan regime opened door for massacre in Ankara

by John Catalinotto

Unions in Diyarbakir, Turkey, hold general strike and march one day after Oct. 11 massacre.

Unions in Diyarbakir, Turkey, hold general strike and march one day after Oct. 11 massacre.

Oct. 12 — No matter who set off the bombs in Ankara on Oct. 10, the Turkish regime led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is responsible for the explosions that killed more than 128 peace demonstrators and wounded hundreds more in the country’s capital. That is the view of leaders of the leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and other observers.

The two explosions, apparently set off by suicide bombers, went off as tens of thousands of people had gathered for a march, called by the HDP, youth groups and unions. The marchers were demanding that the Erdogan regime conclude a cease-fire and make peace with the guerrilla forces from the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK). The PKK itself had just declared it would honor a cease-fire if the regime also refrained from attacks.

Demonstrations and marches mourning the dead and vowing to continue the fight have already taken place across Turkey and in many European cities, especially where there are Kurdish immigrants. The DISK and KESK labor union coalitions called for a general strike on Oct. 12 and 13. The target is the regime.

The first reaction of the Turkish police reinforced the argument that the regime was responsible. Just after the explosions, police launched an attack with water cannon, tear gas and clubs on demonstrators who were trying to aid those wounded by the bombs.

HDP and other left spokespeople also accuse the Turkish political police — who are ubiquitous and claim to know every detail of political events inside Turkey — of knowing about this planned bombing and allowing it to happen.

Erdogan’s Justice Party (AKP) government has conducted a long-range strategy with the goal — shared with and encouraged by U.S. imperialism — of overthrowing the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria and establishing a Turkish client state there. To do this, the AKP regime has worked closely, if quietly, with anti-Assad groups similar to al-Qaida and those now known as the Islamic State group.

Besides the Syrian army and Hezbollah from Lebanon, the most effective anti-Islamic State fighters in Syria have been from the PKK and the PKK’s sister organization in the Kurdish regions of north and northeast Syria.

Ankara regime aided Islamic State group

Since the AKP and the Turkish military consider the Kurds to be the biggest threat to Turkish nationalism, they have sided with the Islamic State group against the Kurdish fighters. The Islamic State group and others have been able to move in and out of Turkey, resupplying and resting their fighters. As some HDP spokespeople have said, this strategy has led to “bringing the Syrian war inside Turkey.” (Democracy Now!, Oct. 12)

Following the bombing, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu from the AKP made a 20-minute talk accusing the PKK and revolutionary Turkish groups essentially of bombing themselves; he mentioned the Islamic State group for only a minute.

Recent electoral struggles have also made the Erdogan regime focus its attacks on the HDP as well as on the PKK and Kurds in general. Erdogan had schemed before last June’s national election for his ruling Justice Party to increase its majority to 60 percent of the seats in Parliament. This would allow him to change the Turkish Constitution and consolidate his rule by strongly increasing presidential powers.

Instead, the AKP lost 71 seats, winning only a minority — 258 — of the 550 seats. The new leftist/Kurdish coalition party, the HDP, won a surprising 79 seats. By sowing turmoil, the AKP, still the biggest party in parliament, hopes to disrupt the HDP campaign and intimidate the women, workers and youth who voted for HDP.

From its overall strategy against Syria and its narrower focus on the November elections, the AKP as well as the Turkish state — military and army — can logically be held responsible for the massacre of the demonstrators. This is true even if Islamic State suicide bombers carried it out.

U.S. imperialism also shares responsibility because of its decades-long strategy in the West Asian region of sowing religious and civil war in order to weaken any sovereign states. Washington has done this even though it resulted in creating and strengthening the Islamic State group and related forces that are incompatible with establishing a stable puppet regime. While this strategy has brought no clear victory for imperialism, it has created havoc and misery for the people there.

Habitual hospital bombers

Doctors Without Borders staff members at the hospital in Kunduz destroyed by a U.S. military bombardment.Photo: Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders staff members at the hospital in Kunduz destroyed by a U.S. military bombardment. Photo: Doctors Without Borders

A fluke or a war crime?

U.S. warplanes bombed and destroyed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF) in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Oct. 3. For 65 minutes, an AC-130U gunship circled the hospital, aiming cannon fire and incendiary munitions at its main building, housing the intensive care unit and operating and emergency rooms.

Some 180 patients and staff were inside. At least 12 MSF personnel and 10 patients, all Afghans, were killed; some burned to death. Another 37 were wounded; 33 are still missing as of Oct. 12.

To prevent such an attack, hospital staff had repeatedly reported their GPS coordinates to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces. During the bombing, MSF officials called U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington, including the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, pleading for them to stop the airstrikes. But the strikes continued for another 30 minutes.

Consequently, MSF left Kunduz. Northern Afghanistan is now without a trauma center to treat war injuries. The aid organization charges the U.S. with committing a war crime in violation of basic human rights, and humanitarian and international law. MSF asserts the bombing was an attack on the Geneva Conventions, which protect civilians, including medical workers, and prohibit bombings of hospitals in war zones. The U.S. ratified these principles in 1955.

Hearing a global outcry, the Pentagon changed its story four times. It kept insisting the airstrikes were “accidental.” Now Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, admits the lethal assault was the result of a “U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command.” So far the military refuses to provide details.

In a rare wartime act, President Barack Obama apologized to MFS. The Pentagon has even offered compensation to victims’ families. This falls far short of earning a pardon for such a heinous crime.

MSF strongly repudiates the investigations set up by the U.S., NATO and Afghanistan, and is demanding an independent fact-finding probe of the bombing, under a body set up under Geneva Convention protocols.

After 14 years of occupying Afghanistan, the imperialists are still losing. In their desperation, the U.S. ruling class and its NATO allies are ready to commit any crime, violate any international treaty, flout human rights and disregard human life. It’s their standard behavior in the quest for super-profits.

Bombing hospitals – nothing new for U.S.

U.S. imperialism is a repeat war crime offender, with a long, sordid history of bombing hospitals and killing injured civilians and medical personnel. These were no accidents. They were acts aimed at terrorizing populations and forcing governments to submit. The record speaks for itself.

During the 1950s’ U.S. war on north Korea, U.S. warplanes bombed hundreds of hospitals. Pentagon B-52 bombers obliterated Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, the largest medical facility in North Vietnam, during the “Christmas bombings” in December 1972.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, a U.N. “peacekeeping force” from Turkey and the U.S. bombed a Digfer hospital in 1993.

When the U.S. and NATO waged war to dismantle Yugoslavia, NATO launched cruise missiles against a Belgrade hospital and dropped cluster bombs on a Nis hospital in May 1999 — and bombed four other hospitals.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, ostensibly to pursue Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. U.S. warplanes then bombed at least six hospitals and clinics in Kabul, Kandahar and elsewhere. In a stunning blow, U.S. planes even dropped a 1,000-pound cluster bomb on a hospital in Herat.

In the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign against Iraq, Pentagon aircraft bombed a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, killing and wounding medics and patients. A year later in Fallujah, U.S. rockets razed the newly built Hai Nazal hospital. U.S. bombs killed 63 staff and patients at the Fallujah Central Health Clinic.

With much international support, Doctors Without Borders continues to demand truth and accountability from the Pentagon and Obama administration.

More must be done. The filthy-rich U.S. ruling class must pay reparations for its war crimes!

U.S. Wars Caused Refugee Crisis

by Sara Flounders

U.S. wars, starvation sanctions and planned destabilization are the overwhelming cause of the surge of hundreds of thousands of war refugees flooding across European borders and across the Mediterranean Sea. The major European-NATO powers collaborated with U.S. imperialism in each war.

The corporate media are publishing painful pictures of drowned children, sinking boats, news stories of suffocating trucks and reports of thousands camped in train stations and along roadways. They rob these reports of context by omitting the cause of the refugee crisis. Some people fear the  enormous media coverage could even be cynical preparation to justify a new military offensive by NATO countries against Syria.

U.S. aircraft bombing Libya.

The real dimensions of the humanitarian disaster are largely hidden. The 340,000 destitute refugees who have reached Europe constitute only 3 percent of the over 10 million displaced people barely surviving in refugee camps in Syria or in countries bordering Syria. These neighboring countries are also destabilized by the surge of refugees and disruptive sanctions against Syria that ripple throughout the region.

The European governments dismissed the war-caused havoc as long as the crisis was kept off their doorstep.

The refugees’ dire conditions worsened because the meager United Nations Food Program has exhausted its funds and is now cutting hundreds of thousands of refugees off its aid in U.N. administered refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The U.N. agency needed a mere $236 million to keep the program funded through November.

According to, the U.S. government has spent that much on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria every 28 hours since 2001.

The largest numbers of refugees are fleeing from war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and South Sudan. U.S. corporate power, driven by its  insatiable drive to secure control of valuable resources and push back progressive change, had targeted each of these countries. Not one of these wars was for humanitarian purposes. Each war is a source of enormous super profit in military contracts for U.S. and European Union corporations … and ruin for millions of people.

Washington’s strategy in each of these imperialist wars has been to enflame sectarian, ethnic, national and religious differences. This means organizing contending militias, pitting group against group to break down national pride and unified resistance. Divide and conquer is the strategy that dates back to the U.S. wars against Indigenous peoples on the North American continent.

The Pentagon cynically targets civilian infrastructure, including electric grids, fuel depots, irrigation, water purification, sanitation, local industries and especially schools in an effort to demoralize and disorient the population. Washington arms and empowers the most reactionary forces and corrupt warlords as collaborators.

Refugees of current U.S. wars

Syria today has the highest number of people displaced by war. U.S. sanctions as of 2010 were followed in 2011 by U.S./NATO and Saudi arming and financing of mercenary forces. This war has destroyed a formerly prosperous country where the population had modern infrastructure, quality free health care and free education.

Now almost half of Syria’s 23 million population is displaced. More than 4 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. Mercenary and fanatic sectarian forces within Syria now number about 125,000 in a thousand competing bands from 80 or more countries.

The U.S. war in Iraq from 1990 to 2003 included massive, systematic destruction of infrastructure and 13 years of economic sanctions. The 2003 U.S.-British invasion and occupation of Iraq brought catastrophic ruin and orchestrated sectarian violence unknown in Iraqi history. Refugees and internally displaced people reached 4.7 million people. Almost half of the Iraqi refugees received shelter in overburdened Syria.

Since the 1978 Saur Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has provided more than $3 billion to counterrevolutionary and warlord forces to destroy the revolution. For three decades, war-torn Afghanistan led in the U.N. lists in the number of war refugees. Through the 1980s, there were 3.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 2 million in Iran.

The 2001 U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan created new waves of refugees. There are currently 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and 1 million Afghan refugees in Iran and millions of displaced people within Afghanistan itself.

In Libya, seven months of U.S./NATO bombing in 2010 destroyed the entire infrastructure of a modern state where nationalized oil helped achieve the highest standard of living in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of workers throughout Africa had found jobs in Libya, which had also provided economic development aid throughout Africa.

In appealing for assistance, Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki explained that two million Libyans, or one third of Libya’s pre-NATO-intervention population, have taken refuge in Tunisia. The number is equivalent to one fifth of Tunisia’s population.

Today, South Sudan has the largest number of refugees in Africa. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, there are 2.25 million refugees and spiraling civil war in this oil-rich country. As the Jan. 3, 2014, New York Times explained, South Sudan is in many ways a U.S. “creation, carved out of war-torn Sudan in a referendum largely orchestrated by the United States, its fragile institutions nurtured with billions of dollars in American aid.”

More than 2 million refugees in Ukraine represent the newest refugee crisis, caused by the expansion of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance to the borders of Russia. While Washington fails to provide funds to feed refugees from U.S. wars of aggression, the U.S. government spent $5 billion to fund the fascist forces and social networks that overturned the elected government in Ukraine. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even bragged of this funding. The Kiev coup government is now waging war against anti-fascists in east Ukraine.

According to Russian Federal Migration Service-FMS statistics, a total of 2.6 million Ukrainians are currently in Russian territory. Some 1 million are from Ukraine’s southeastern regions, fleeing armed conflict in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Past waves of U.S. war refugees

U.S. wars in Southeast Asia ripped Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos apart in the 1960s and 1970s. The effort to dominate the region failed but the massive destruction left 4 million dead, millions maimed and 2 million Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees desperate for resettlement.

Funding militias, warlords and drug lords was U.S. policy in Central America in the 1980s. The U.N. estimated that one-third of the workforce of El Salvador fled the country in the 1980s. More than a half million reached the U.S.

The war to expand NATO and dismember Yugoslavia, in Bosnia in 1995 and in Serbia in 1999, again used destruction of civilian infrastructure and enflaming sectarian differences.According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 3.7 to 4 million people were displaced and became refugees.

It should not be forgotten that it is more than 60 years of U.S. funding and equipping of Israel that enabled the expropriation of hundreds of thousands of people from Palestine, the longest and most protracted refugee problem in the world. BADIL, a research and advocacy center focusing on refugee rights, estimates that there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees and displaced persons. This figure includes the 4.2 million Palestinians registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other Palestinians displaced in 1967 and still displaced internally in Israel.

While billions of dollars continues to be allocated for war preparation, the World Food Program cut 1 million Iraqi refugees and millions of Syrian refugees from receiving $14 monthly food coupons. This confirms in the most violent terms that capitalist rulers are incapable of solving the humanitarian disaster that they have created. War preparation is profitable. Distributions of surplus food are not.

Article originally published in Workers World