Monday, October 16, 2006

Dennis Brutus on the crisis in Darfur

“You shouldn’t send in killers to stop the killing”
DENNIS BRUTUS is a veteran of the South African liberation struggle, a leading figure in the global justice movement and a world-renowned poet. Imprisoned along with Nelson Mandela, Brutus led the movement to isolate racist South Africa from international sports--and since the fall of apartheid, he’s been a prominent opponent of the African National Congress (ANC) government’s neoliberal, pro-market policies.
Brutus spoke with LEE SUSTAR (Socialist Worker USA) about the political situation in Africa today--focusing especially on the crisis in Darfur, where African Union (AU) troops are already deployed, and which has prompted calls for U.S. or United Nations (UN) intervention.
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IS THERE A CASE for humanitarian intervention in Darfur?
WELL, there are people dying, and at a very great rate. Some of it is starvation, some of it is a lack of water, but some of it is killing by gangsters on both sides. The question is trying to identify the elements in the struggle, and right now, I don’t think there are any good guys. But the presence of the African Union troops, plus the possibility of the UN troops, is not going to solve the problem. My position is that you don’t send in the military. You don’t send in killers to stop the killing, when they themselves are, in some ways, implicated in the process.
I keep saying--and I am glad to see it finally beginning to appear as part of the debate--that one of the central issues in the Sudan is that: a) the Chinese are in there; and b) the Chinese have got more franchise rights for oil exploration in the Sudan than any of the Western powers. So, of course, to the West, the government in Khartoum are the bad guys.
Certainly, it appears that the Khartoum military have allowed the development of paramilitary forces, so they can do things and still claim not to be guilty. This is where the Janjaweed militia comes in.
This is the usual trick of the West. You create a monster, whether you call it Vietcong or Mau-Mau, or something else. Once you’ve chosen your side, you start demonizing the other side, particularly if you intend intervention.
I wish I could say there is a just solution in Sudan at this stage. But I think there are very suspect figures on both sides. The problem is very complicated, because it is very old and involves all kinds of tribal loyalties that we don’t even understand.
There are also very ancient conflicts that derive mainly from that fact that some people are pastoral, but other people are nomadic. In the past, these people worked out arrangements among themselves, which were largely territorial, but also seasonal--that is, when you could move your cattle or whatever.
But the modern conflict is about resources, and who is going to be in power to give out the franchises to exploit the oil.
It seems to me that, dominant on the whole agenda, are three elements. One is the notion of the New American Century, in which the U.S. is supposed to dominate the globe and control access to the resources. Point two: Everybody recognizes that China is the next superpower on the horizon. The third, and perhaps most significant point, is that China knows it will have the biggest, most gluttonous appetite for oil the world has ever seen.
Afghanistan is a neighbor of China, and, of course, the U.S. is there. One of the big fights is access to the energy in the Caspian Sea basin.
Also, the U.S. is nervous that it can’t predict how Saudi Arabia will behave in the future. And there are now reports that oil deposits in the Sudan are even greater than in Saudi Arabia. So clearly there is already competition for resources in the area, however large or small they may be.
Tellingly, one of the strongest voices for intervention, for sending increased UN troops and increased U.S. involvement, has been the pro-Israel lobby.
We have to go back to the Project for a New American Century document, which says that it’s not sufficient for Israel to be sitting on a portion of the land in the Middle East. They see the U.S. dominating a region that includes Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
As messy and bloody and murderous as the situation is, I don’t believe we should endorse an increased military presence in Sudan if it will have the effect of giving the U.S. an even stronger position there. Already, the United States is now setting up a military operation for Africa on the scale of what it calls its “Mediterranean operation.”
WHAT ARE the African states doing in regard to Darfur?
AFRICAN UNION troops are functioning as the peacekeepers in Sudan, but they also operate as peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the whole of the African Great Lakes region.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa is often seen as the principal negotiator for whatever peace settlement is arranged. So clearly, there is evidence of South Africa having a sub-imperial role.
This may also explain why South Africa has spent billions on arms, when it doesn’t have money for food, housing, water or roads. The priorities are military, but they are not justified by any military threat to South Africa itself. It is as if South Africa is being armed to be the principal military actor on behalf of the U.S. in Africa.
South Africa has a presence in Sudan and the DRC, through the AU, and Mbeki recently had a public intervention in peace negotiations in Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire was the crown jewel of the French empire in Africa. Suddenly, the French are out, trying to get back in, and the old imperial structure is clearly crumbling in that area.
My feeling is that you will have so-called rebel groups challenging legitimate governments. The real question becomes who is empowered to become the one who distributes the franchises which enable Western corporations to come in--whether for cocoa, oil or, in the case of the DRC, uranium.
In all these cases, there are armed groups fighting it out, often armed by Western powers. Britain, Germany and France are involved. Ultimately, these struggles are for Africa’s resources, and who is going to control the disposition of those resources.
In that, Thabo Mbeki and South Africa, via the AU, become a major player in deciding who’s going to win.
HOW DOES THE World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi in January fit into this picture?
THE WSF could be an event that will challenge globally the corporate agenda and insert, in a very significant way, a grassroots global agenda.
We don’t have money, and we don’t have resources. But I think we can have 100,000 in Nairobi and 100 countries represented there. And there is quite serious thinking about the WSF going on in Francophone Africa--in Mali, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.
My own feeling is that we have an enormous possibility to effect global political thinking the way the Seattle protests of the World Trade Organization and the way Zapatistas contributed to the way we see the world and how we see struggle. Our major problem right now is to make more people globally aware of the WSF.
WHAT ABOUT the left’s political positions at the WSF?
THERE IS a tendency in Europe, South America and, of course, in Africa that instead of being left, you begin to shift toward the center. For me, the most troubling example is not South Africa. I am even more disappointed by [President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva] in Brazil.
Meanwhile, Mbeki is more and more a leader in Africa. Even countries that could be taking an independent position, like Algeria, are happy to let South Africa spell out positions for them.
Most governments in Africa, via South Africa’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), have agreed to take their orders from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization. So when grassroots groups are annunciating their positions in Nairobi, they are not only taking on the international financial institutions, they are also taking on their own governments.
NEPAD is supposed to be the backbone of the AU. Unfortunately, my own sense of African organizations--even though they are saying they are against NEPAD--is that they are still rather vague about how to perceive the AU.
At the WSF in Brazil in 2005, there was a program put forward by the Group of 19, called the Porto Alegre Manifesto. At this year’s polycentric WSF in Bamako, Mali, there was the Bamako Appeal. At a recent conference in Durban, South Africa, the main presentation was given by [Egyptian author and activist] Samir Amin, the main spokesperson for the Bamako group.
There is a tendency in the Bamako group to say that you can’t go only with spontaneity, insisting on more centralized organization. My own view is that the success of the WSF has been precisely because it’s a forum, open to many conflicting points of view, rather than having a particular view adopted or imposed.
This doesn’t exclude decision-making. Remember the marvelous action before the war in Iraq, when an estimated 13 million marched around the world? Part of that came out of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Third World used as a dumping ground for toxic waste

by Emmanuel Kocou
People in one of Africa’s poorest countries are recovering from being flooded with toxic waste. The recent emergency in Ivory Coast has highlighted the way companies and governments dump waste in the Third World to evade controls and save money.

The scandal began with the arrival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, of a ship chartered by the Dutch company Trafigura Beheer BV. It unloaded 500 tonnes of petrochemical waste into a number of trucks which then dumped it at 15 or more sites around Abidjan.

The UN news service reports that the waste contained a mixture of petroleum distillates, hydrogen sulphide, mercaptans, phenolic compounds and sodium hydroxide.

A few days later, thousands of people started complaining of ill health and seeking medical help.

Symptoms have included nosebleeds, nausea and vomiting, headaches, and skin and eye irritations as well as respiratory distress, dehydration and intestinal bleeding.

More than eight deaths have been attributed to the waste.

Ivorian emergency medical officials said more than 74,000 people have gone to hospitals and clinics for evaluation.

The government then resigned—although all ministers were reappointed to the same posts, except for the ministers of transport and environment.

Such scandals are far from uncommon. Throughout the 1980s, African regimes allowed themselves to become European companies’ most popular dumping ground.

In 1987, an Italian ship dumped waste on Koko Beach, Nigeria. Workers who came into contact with it suffered from burns and partial paralysis, and began to vomit blood.

Thereafter, the UN drew up plans to regulate the trade in hazardous waste through the Basel Convention.

By 1998, the European Union had agreed to implement the ban, which prohibited the export of hazardous wastes from developed countries to the developing world, but the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign up.

In any case, the laws are often flouted. Inspections of 18 European ports in 2005 found that 47 percent of all waste destined for export was illegal.

The December 2004 tsunami resulted in massive quantities of toxic waste washed on to the shores of Somalia. It was presumed that these illegal toxic waste products, which had been buried in the Indian Ocean for some time, largely came from Europe.

In Europe the disposal of one tonne of toxic waste will cost over US$1,000, but the same operation in Africa will cost no more than US$8.

Korean Nuclear Bomb: the nightmare created by Bush

North Korea’s decision to conduct a nuclear weapons test on Monday of this week drew condemnation from all the world’s major powers. Across the globe people rightly fear a nuclear conflagration.

Socialist Worker opposes all nuclear weapons, but there is immense hypocrisy in George Bush and Tony Blair’s sabre rattling at North Korea.

Bush has been threatening North Korea ever since he named the country as part of the “axis of evil” in 2002. The country’s decision to go nuclear is a direct consequence of that.

The Bush regime recently discussed plans for a nuclear attack on Iran - plans that were only blocked by a near mutiny by US generals.

Bush has made clear he is ready to use tactical nuclear weapons. Meanwhile,
the British government is set on commissioning a replacement for the Trident
nuclear weapons system at the cost of £76 billion.

The warmongers are now using North Korea’s nuclear test as an excuse to pile on pressure for an attack on Iran.

Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in reaction to the test, “What is happening with North Korea is the ‘coming soon’ occurrence in Iran, and we must not let that happen.”

The US is now pushing for the United Nations to impose sanctions against North Korea.

This is likely to target civilians already suffering from a regime which puts weapons above feeding its own people. Such sanctions will do nothing to make the world safer or to encourage nuclear disarmament.

That can only be achieved by halting the US’s war drive - a war drive that this week took a step closer to going nuclear.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another World is Possible…Through Struggle

The rallying slogan of the Zimbabwe Social Forum is “Another Zimbabwe is Possible”. This follows from that of the World Social Forum (WSF) of “Another World is Possible.”
This slogan expresses the yearning of the vast majority of society for a different society from that of today – A society, internationally where 3 multinational capitalists like Bill Gates have more wealth than 3 billion people, where the IMF, World Bank and WTO demand that the last dollars of poor countries be used to pay off debts accrued by local elites when hospitals are collapsing and millions are hungry, a society where tens of thousands are killed in Iraq, Lebanon and DRC so that the oil and mining barons can make more dollars…
A society where government and the Reserve Bank splash billions of dollars on fighter jets, Pajeros and newspaper adverts whilst 3 000 people die weekly of AIDS because of lack of ARVs, where hundreds of thousands of children drop out from school because they cannot pay school fees and levies; a society where bosses pay workers starvation wages whilst they pocket billions, a society where capitalists close down factories and bakeries retrenching thousands of workers when millions are without jobs or food. A society, where when women and workers come out in the streets to say they are hungry, they are instead fed with police buttons, truncheons and teargas and the head of state boasts – “vamwe vaakuchema kuti takarohwa, ehe unodashurwa” - as if tens of thousands did not sacrifice their lives so that we could have a free and democratic society.
In short the demands of this country’s and world’s people are for an alternative to the barbarism of the system of capitalism and imperialism.
This is what motivated the formation of the World Social Forum in Brazil in 2001 and the Zimbabwe Social Forum in 2003. To create an open space for working people, the poor, the oppressed and exploited to discuss and strategise and share ideas on how to link up our struggles and liberate ourselves, just as the rich, the capitalists and their governments, annually meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) and their various national, regional and international forums.
Along with the WSF, the ZSF has grown. Whereas in 2003 less than 300 people attended our first event in Harare Gardens, in 2004 we hosted the Southern Africa Social Forum (SASF) attended by nearly 3 000 people. In 2006 we have had regional social forums with over 500 attending in Chitungwiza and 200 – 300 in Mutare and Bulawayo. Whereas in 2003 and 2004 we only discussed and mourned about our problems, in 2005 we resolved to become a living social forum of struggle, with the ZSF massively supporting the ZCTU called Action Against Poverty of 8 November 2005 and scores arrested. So was the support on the World AIDS Day on 1 December 2005.
Challenges and Way Forward!
However, as we again meet in Harare Gardens on the 29th September 2006, many challenges we still face. The most urgent challenge is to accelerate the transformation of ZSF into a truly living forum that relates to the bread and butter struggles of the ordinary people as well as the struggles against dictatorship in our country and for a truly people driven and anti-ESAP new constitution. To meet these challenges, we recommend a few ideas on the way forward:
-Adoption of Campaigns / Action Programme: Instead of various organisations doing individual little demonstrations, we need to unite our forces – united we stand divided we fall. We should come with a few well selected agreed campaigns, which all clusters and organisations will mobilise and support, just like we did with the ZCTU Anti-Poverty Demonstrations of 8 November. An example is a possible big demonstration on or around Budget Day in November when the chefs decide on how to share the money they have looted from the povo instead of using it for social services, drugs, housing, education and removing taxes on workers below the PDL. Besides these big campaigns we should also do small cluster based campaigns and actions including the guerrilla ones that residents and WOZA have been doing.
-Build Township and Industrial Social Forums: The social forum process must now go down right to the grass roots. If the big campaigns, demonstrations and general strikes are to be successful, mobilisation has to start right at the grass roots, where the poor live and work. The experience from South Africa in the 1980s is that the way forward is regular social forums in the townships and industrial areas, combining the different clusters, supported by festivals of art, culture and sports.
-Build regional and international solidarity: Whenever we organise the big campaigns and demonstrations we must mobilise for progressive solidarity actions regionally and internationally especially through the coming Southern Africa Social Forum in Malawi and World Social Forum in Kenya in January.
-Build a democratic, accountable and non-commodified ZSF. The culture of buying activists and plane – hotel activism has seriously undermined our struggle. Like during the war of liberation, we must promote commitment, discipline and sacrifice as the true qualities of cadres. Leaders must be accountable and decisions made democratically by the decision of the majority in meetings. Structures of regions and clusters must be revitalised.
-Ideology! Ideology! Ideology! The social forum is an open space but with an ideological straight jacket. It is a platform for the poor, for peasants, for workers, for women, for youths for those denied health, education, housing. It is not for fat cats and chefs. It is against capitalism, against neo-liberalism, against imperialism, against dictatorship against the multinationals, the capitalists. We argue that only socialism offers the way forward for the vast majority of humanity. The challenge is to organise teach-ins, video shows and educational materials for members to learn more about these things and past struggles and not just shout slogans.
Shinga Murombo! Penga Murwere! Ahoy Union! Qina Msebenzi! Penga trader!
Pasi ne Capitalism! Amandla Awethu! Forward to Socialism!

AIDS/HIV Struggles Fire the NAC Board!

Gure rabuda — the cat is out of the bag! AIDS / HIV activists and workers have always argued that the chefs are looting the AIDS Levy and other money meant for people suffering with AIDS under the National Aids Trust Fund. The government has always denied this.

Now that the chefs are fighting amongst themselves on how to divide the money looted from workers, the truth is coming out. Edwin Muguti, the deputy minister of Health revealed that the National Aids Council was wasting money on expensive hotel workshops, cars, furniture, trips and salaries whilst no drugs are being bought for the sick. Drugs are available only for 42 000 people whilst over 1.8 million need them. When the chefs realised how gure ravo had been exposed they put pressure on Muguti to retract his statements saying donors would withdraw funds, and spoil their party!

Enough is enough AIDS/HIV activists, workers and the poor in general must urgently organise demonstrations at the Ministry of Health and NAC offices demanding the immediate dissolution of the NAC Board and its replacement by one whose majority of members must come from people living with AIDS/HIV and the labour movement. Such Board must ensure free drugs and ARVs for all, together with support for subsistence. There must price controls on drugs and take-over of companies that make super-profits on drugs essential for life. ARV’s have gone up from $10 000 in July to $25 000 in September. We must organise pickets at such companies demanding lower and subsidised drugs just as we must at big supermarkets in our communities to give subsidised food and goods.
Penga Murwere!

Why Rand And File Activism

The daily struggles waged by workers against capitalism and dictatorship open their minds to be more conscious about the society in which they live in. But their development is not even, they develop on different paces causing the whole working class to be a multi layered class according to workers political development .In our case in Zimbabwe we have a layer of workers who were directly involved in the successful late 90s ZCTU struggles against the effects of ESAP and have from then been fighting both the effects of neo-liberal ESAP and dictatorship. Most of these are now in powerful political positions and some have just remained factory activists in their unions not necessarily being leaders anywhere. These people are indispensable, as they constitute a very fundamental portion of the working class them as simply potential trade union and political leaders trained and groomed by struggle.
In the current scenario where it has become extremely difficulty for unions to negotiate meaningful wages due to ever-spiraling inflation, ordinary workers and that layer of potential leaders feel that unions are not simply doing enough to protect them. Confronted with an uneven up and down working class mood to fight the Mugabe‘s dictatorship because of the long way and time it have taken workers are prompted to slightly shift that fighting spirit from not just fighting Mugabe only but to their immediate oppressors (bosses) , causing them again to cast a more focused eye on their unions . They begin to see life through their unions only hence the need for proper unions administration..
Workers are beginning to demand their space and full accountability in unions and at several times in many unions they have been at crossroads with union leaderships. Unfortunately these rising workers have not been taken well by their union leaders as they fail to recognize where they are coming from alleging them to be puppets used by ZANU PF to disturb ZCTU affiliates. Some of them are undisputedly puppets of course but some are genuinely products of the past struggles, which trained them to be leaders and therefore feels responsible for building better unions .
The idea of organizing grass roots workers to fight for their involvement in their unions is quite noble as it averts the degeneration of militant trade union leaders into bureaucrats far distanced from their constituencies they are supposed to serve. Ideally rank and file worker organizations should not be formed by disgruntled members but rather are a necessity even under normal circumstances.
They are groups of conscious independent union members to provide guidance or be a watchdog to the union, providing a link between leadership and ordinary workers in factories. They should not in any way serve as a substitute for the union. As socialists we support such groups of workers in as much as they are not forming splinter unions or causing disunity in the ZCTU as the labour mother body as we believe in workers unity.
At the same time we strongly oppose those groups masquerading as genuine rank and file groups representing the interests of workers whilst in reality they are being used by ZANU PF to weaken workers unity realized in ZCTU



Archbishop Pius Ncube has said that the term dictatorship is too good to apply to the ZANU-PF regime. He is absolutely right.
Days after several ZCTU protesters were viciously and savagely attacked by the thugs in grey and blue, another 27 NCA protesters suffered the same fate on the last Monday of September.
As this was happening, Mugabe urged the police to dish out more whilst bakery bosses created a “shortage” of bread demanding prices rises of 75%. Even when wheat was available, the bosses were waiting for their money from government before they started milling flour.
Anti-Retriviral (ARV) drug prices rose from $ 10,000 for a month’s course in June to $ 20,000 for a months course in September – a rise of 100%. On top of this the government has catered for 42,000 people to receive ARVs – yet 600,000 people need it. Despite the governments claims, only 1 in 7 people living with HIV are catered for.
Cities and towns across the country have seen water cuts. People in Mabvuku and Tafara have now gone for 2 straight weeks without water. Yet the regime continues to employ mbavhas like Makwvarara.
But the masses of Zimbabwe are not taking this lying down.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) successfully staged a protest over sky-rocketing water charges and rates charges. Hundreds went into Town House to protest. They were backed by the UHURU students freedom movement.
A day after hundreds more led by the militant Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) staged a second protest at Town House over the failure of Harare Council to deliver services. They also demanded an elected council and the re-stocking of medical drugs at Council clinics. Currently only pain-killers are available
Over 60 women – some with babies on their backs – were arrested and thrown into police stations. In Harare Central and Braeside, they were made to stand in an exposed fenced area for 48 hours. In the crowd were 13 to 17 year olds as well.
CHRA has organised for garbage to be thrown into council offices in Budiriro, Glen View and Dzivaresekwa. The Council has responded by falsely claiming that 2 CHRA officials “abducted” council employees – when in fact all they did was to stop an illegal water disconnection at a residents home.
No Apologies!
The masses of this country have no apologies to make either!
As the bosses, along with their puppets in government and councils, continue with their neo-liberal onslaught against us we will respond.
Our ZCTU’s, WOZA’s, UHURU’s, ISO’s and CHRA’s have opened with warning salvos. We will not end there. This is just the beginning of OUR battle! It is OUR turn now. We are starting to fight!
Workers in Britain have gotten Tony Blair to hand in a year’s resignation notice. Now it is our turn to give notice that in the next year the class temperature in this country will rise! Either you are with us or against us in the streets! Qina Msebenzi Qina! Shinga Mushandi Shinga!