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


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.


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

Class forces behind U.S. genocide in Hiroshima, Nagasaki

by John Catalinotto

On the 70th anniversary of the mass murders of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9 respectively, a discussion in the U.S. corporate media has centered on the following question: Did the bombs force a Japanese surrender and avoid U.S. casualties?

Historic studies have shown this to be the U.S. pretext rather than the reason for using the bombs. Photographs show the horror. Here we want to focus on the following questions: What was the class character of the two principal regimes fighting this war in the Pacific? What were their goals? Why did their confrontation lead to Washington using unspeakable weapons against a civilian population?

Both the U.S. and Japan were imperialist countries. Both had capitalist economies, with wealth concentrated in a small number of ruling-class families in industry and banking. These ruling classes exploited the working classes at home. Japan ruled Korea and parts of China, where its ruling class invested capital, exploited local workers and looted raw materials. The U.S. ruled the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where it did the same.

The two imperialist powers’ competition for control of the Pacific islands and East Asia led to World War II in the Pacific. The goal of each ruling class was control of the Pacific islands and East Asia. In neither Japan nor the U.S. did the laboring workers and farmers have anything to gain by a victory of “their” rulers.

For U.S. imperialism, the goal was to smash the Japanese state so thoroughly that it would be subservient to Washington in the region. Today, U.S. imperialism still wants hegemony in that region, but this time with a rearmed Japanese ruling class as a junior partner in an alliance against People’s China.

The Chinese and Korean peoples are still trying to get the Japanese rulers to admit to the crimes their military committed on the road to conquest. The current rightist Japanese Premier Shinzō Abe refuses to apologize and instead wants a rearmed and aggressive Japanese military.

Crimes of U.S. imperialism

As communists in the U.S., we focus on the crimes of U.S. imperialism. The ruling class used the vilest chauvinist and racist propaganda against the Japanese people, portraying them as subhumans, to mobilize the population to go to war and kill Japanese. These included interning people of Japanese ancestry in U.S. concentration camps and firebombing and atomic bombing Japanese civilians.

The U.S. military learned how incendiary bombs can destroy cities from the British-U.S. attack on Hamburg in July 1943 that killed 43,000 German civilians and from the one on Dresden in February 1945 that burned or asphyxiated between 30,000 and 90,000 people, mostly refugees.

After the U.S. had captured islands close to the main Japanese islands, the Air Force opened an incendiary bombing campaign that struck 68 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

The largest and most devastating of these attacks took place on March 7-8, 1945, when hundreds of B-29 bombers dropped 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on a densely populated residential working-class suburb of Tokyo, burning 130,000 people to death. Washington had plans to continue this slaughter of Japanese civilians during an invasion, set to begin Nov. 1, 1945.

U.S. imperialism’s first atomic bomb was detonated in a test on July 16, 1945. The U.S. ruling class would not hesitate one second to use this weapon against Japanese civilians if it believed this was effective in promoting its property interests and its profits. World Wars I and II showed how ready the ruling classes were to sacrifice their own workers and farmers, let alone those of the “enemy.”

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were two of the few Japanese cities spared in the earlier firebombing campaign. They had no military value. With the war due to end soon in the Pacific — it ended in Europe on May 8 — Washington had a small window to test the two different types of nuclear fission weapons, one made with enriched uranium and the other with plutonium. In these two untouched cities the U.S. could observe what the weapons did as they killed 200,000 people quickly and another 150,000 slowly.

The U.S. military could show the world what it was capable of. It later openly used the threat of nuclear bombs during the wars against Korea and Vietnam.

Soviet Union declared war

The Japanese rulers, who already knew they were defeated, faced what they saw as an even greater threat than the A-bombs. The Soviet Union, a workers’ state, had just declared war. Wherever the Soviet Union occupied, it threatened not only Japanese sovereignty but the property rights of the Japanese ruling class.

Although they hated to surrender to anyone, the Japanese rulers preferred to submit to the capitalist United States than to the socialist-oriented Soviet Union. Under the U.S. occupation of Japan, which lasted until 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur repressed the Japanese Communist Party and the trade unions.

Where the Soviet Red Army marched in and helped force out the Japanese — in Manchuria, which is part of China, and northern Korea — the people freed themselves from Japanese imperialist rule and seized the property of the landlords and capitalists. That’s what the Japanese rulers feared more than the atomic bombing of their population.

This article first appeared in Workers World and can be accessed online at