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The Tricontinental Institute’s view of today’s world

The Tricontinental Institite for Social Research, guided by popular movements and organizations, tries to build knowledge from the experience of social and cultural transformations wrought by popular struggles. Check out its website at www.thetricontinental.org. The articles below, edited by me for clarity and brevity, came out today.

Now Is the Time for Nonalignment and Peace by Roger McKenzie and Vijay Prashad

World War II demonstrated the effect of modern war on civilians in the Holocaust and in the bombings of cities, most notably the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Two mighty movements arose post-war: one for peace and against the perils of further nuclear attacks, and the other for an end to the divisions of humanity and for a nonalignment from these divisions. The Stockholm Appeal of 1950, signed by nearly 300 million people, called for an absolute ban on nuclear weapons. Five years later, 29 countries from Africa and Asia, representing 54% of the world’s population, gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, to sign a 10-point pledge against war and for the “promotion of mutual interests and cooperation.” Bandung aimed at allowing the peoples of the world to put their efforts into eradicating illiteracy, ill health, and hunger rather than spending money on weapons, especially nuclear weapons. 

The overwhelming force of the older colonial powers prevented the Bandung spirit from defining human history, and the civilization of war prevailed, allowing a massive waste and destruction of human life and wealth. Since the 1950s, the battlefields have been in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – areas of the world where the former colonial powers believe human life to be less important. This international division of humanity which says that a war in Yemen is normal, whereas a war in Ukraine is horrific defines our time. There are 40 wars taking place across the globe, and there needs to be political will to fight to end each of these, not just those that are taking place within Europe. The Ukrainian flag is ubiquitous in the West; what are the colors of the Yemeni flag, of the Sahrawi flag, and of the Somali flag?

In the case of Ukraine, the view that negotiations are futile circulates even though reasonable people agree that all wars must end in negotiations. If that’s the case, why not call for an immediate ceasefire and build the trust necessary for negotiations? Negotiations are only feasible if there’s respect on all sides and an attempt to understand that all sides have reasonable demands. Painting this war as the whim of Russian president Vladimir Putin is part of the exercise of permanent war. Security guarantees for Ukraine are necessary; but so are security guarantees for Russia, which would include a return to a serious international arms control regime.

Peace doesn’t come merely because we wish for it. It requires a fight in the trenches of ideas and institutions. The political forces in power profit from war, and these blue suits of bureaucracy aren’t to be trusted with the world’s future. They fail us when it comes to the climate catastrophe; they fail us when it comes to the pandemic; and they fail us when it comes to peacemaking. We need to summon up the old spirits of peace and nonalignment and bring these to life inside mass movements that are the only hope of the planet.

Most of the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America voted against the condemnation of Russia not because they support its war in Ukraine, but because they recognize that polarization (a return to the Cold War) is a fatal error. What’s needed is an alternative to the two-camp world of the Cold War. The leaders of these countries – from China’s Xi Jinping to India’s Narendra Modi to South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, despite their very different political orientations, are urging the US and Europe to return to the concepts of nonalignment and peace.

Nobody wants to imagine the full implications of the encirclement of China and Russia by the United States and its allies. Even countries closely allied with the United States like Germany and Japan recognize that this would be fatal for them. Already, the war and sanctions have created serious political crises in Honduras, Pakistan, Peru, and Sri Lanka, with others to follow as food and fuel prices rise astronomically. War is too expensive for the poorer nations. Spending for war eats into the human spirit, and warfare itself increases fear and despair. Wars don’t settle the major dilemmas of humanity. Nonalignment and peace, on the other hand, answers the needs of children who want to eat, learn, play, and dream.

Roger McKenzie is is the general secretary of Liberation, one of the oldest UK human rights organizations. Vijay Prashad, an Indian historian, editor, and journalist, is the director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research and the author more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

Why Nonalignment Is an Urgent Imperative for the Global South by Nontobeko Hlela

The global South houses more than 80% of the world’s people, yet its countries are systematically excluded from any decision-making in international organizations that determine how the “international community” operates. For decades, countries in the global South have been advocating for the United Nations to be reformed so that it moves away from the zero-sum game of the cold war mentality that continues to drive it. 

It’s time for a revitalized Nonaligned Movement. This NAM will only succeed if the leaders of the countries in the global South put their egos aside, think strategically on a global scale, and put their considerable human capital, natural resources, and technological ingenuity to better use. This includes an ascendant China, the second-biggest economy in the world; India, one of the leading countries in medical care and technological innovation; and Africa, rich with a growing population and the natural resources needed for AI [artificial intelligence] and cleaner energy industries. However, these resources are still extracted for profit to be accumulated in far-off capitals while Africa and much of the global South remain underdeveloped, with millions still stuck in the desperation of impoverishment.

A renewed NAM has real potential if time is taken to build new institutions and to build buffers against the economic warfare that the United States has been waging against countries like Cuba and Venezuela and is now unleashing on Russia. Financial autonomy is critical. The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) established the New Development  Bank for its members. For the 16 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), there is the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Yet the reserves of the countries joined to these projects are still kept in the United States or European capitals. The leaders of the global South need to wake up and realize that given the type of economic warfare currently being let loose on a country like Russia, weaker countries across the Global South have no meaningful autonomy. This is the time – when it’s clear that the West can decimate entire countries – to rethink how we conduct politics, economics, and foreign policy. The economic weapons being built against Russia will be available to be used against other countries that have the temerity not to toe Washington’s line.

There’s an urgent imperative to reject the United States’ rapid escalation of a new cold war against Russia and China and its expectation that other countries fall in line. When human rights and international law are only evoked when countries the West dislikes or disagrees with depart from them, it makes a mockery of these concepts. Only by standing together and speaking with one voice can the countries of the global South hope to have any influence in international affairs and not continue to be just rubber-stampers of the positions of the West.

NAM leaders need to understand that unless they truly take their destiny into their hands, they will forever be at the foot of the table, with their people eating only the scraps from the wealth accumulated by the global economy, much of it from the exploitation of the South.

Nontobeko Hlela works as a researcher for the South African office of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research.

Why Latin America Needs a New World Order by Marco Fernandes

By March 3, 2022, the United States had allocated $13.6 billion to arm Ukraine; by April 28th, Biden had requested an additional $33 billion. By comparison, it would require $45 billion per year to end world hunger by 2030. Even if negotiations take place and the war ends, nothing leads us to believe that geopolitical tensions will decrease, since behind the Ukraine conflict is an attempt by the West to halt the development of China, to break its links with Russia, and to end China’s partnerships with the global South.

Latin America doesn’t want a new cold war. The region has already suffered from decades of military rule and austerity politics justified by the so-called “communist threat.” Tens of thousands of people lost their lives and tens of thousands more were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled because they wanted to create sovereign countries and decent societies. This violence was a product of the U.S.-imposed cold war on Latin America.

Latin America wants peace, which can only be built through regional unity, a process that began over 20 years ago after a cycle of popular uprisings, driven by the tsunami of neoliberal austerity, led to the election of progressive governments in Venezuela (1999), Brazil (2002), Argentina (2003), Uruguay (2004), Bolivia (2005), Ecuador (2007), and Paraguay (2008). These countries, joined by Cuba and Nicaragua, created a set of regional organizations: the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America–Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) in 2004, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011 – all platforms intended to increase regional trade and political integration. Washington sought to undermine this process by attempting to overthrow the governments in many of the member countries and by  trying to dividing the regional blocs. 

Because of its size and political relevance, Brazil was a key player in these early organizations. In 2009 it joined with Russia, India, China, and South Africa to form BRICS, an alliance with the goal of rearranging the power relations of global trade and politics. Brazil’s role didn’t please the White House, which, while avoiding the crudeness of a military coup, staged a successful operation in alliance with sectors of the Brazilian elite that used the Brazilian legislature, judiciary system, and media to overthrow the government of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and cause the arrest of former president Lula, then leading the polls in a presidential election, in 2018. Both were accused of a corruption scheme involving the Brazilian state oil company, and an investigation by Brazil’s judiciary known as Operation Car Wash ensued. The participation of both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI in that investigation was revealed following a massive leak of the Telegram chats of Operation Car Wash’s lead prosecutor. However, before the U.S. interference was uncovered, the removal of Lula and Dilma from politics brought the right wing back to power, Brazil no longer plays a leading role in either the regional or global projects that could weaken U.S. power. 

In recent years, Latin America has experienced a new wave of progressive governments, with the idea of regional integration returning to the table. After four years without a summit meeting, CELAC reconvened in September 2021 under the leadership of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Argentine President Alberto Fernández. For the first time in decades, given Gustavo Petro’s victory in the Colombian presidential election in June 2022, and a possible victory for Lula in his campaign for reelection to Brazil’s presidency in October 2022, the four largest economies in Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia) would be governed by center-left supporters of Latin American and Caribbean integration. Lula has said that if he wins the presidency, Brazil will return to CELAC and resume an active stance in BRICS.

The global South might be prepared to reemerge by the end of 2022 and create space for itself within the world order. Evidence for this is found in the lack of unanimity that greeted NATO’s attempt to create a large coalition to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. This NATO project has aroused a backlash around the global South. Even governments that condemn the war (such as Argentina, Brazil, India, and South Africa) don’t agree with NATO’s unilateral sanction policy, and support negotiations for a peaceful solution. The idea of resuming a movement of the nonaligned has found resonance in numerous circles.

The Nonaligned Movement emerged as a refusal by Third World countries to choose a side in the Cold War. They were fighting for their sovereignty and the right to have relations with the countries of both systems, without their foreign policy being decided in Washington or Moscow. Now only the Washington-Brussels axis and its allies are currently demanding alignment with their so-called “rules-based international order.” Those who don’t align suffer from economic sanctions that have devastated entire economies, such as those of Venezuela and Cuba; the illegal confiscation of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets (as in the cases of Venezuela, Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia); invasions and interference resulting in genocidal wars (as in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan); and outside support for “color revolutions” (from Ukraine in 2014 to Brazil in 2016). The demand for alignment comes only from the West, not from China or Russia.

Humanity faces urgent challenges, such as inequality, hunger, the climate crisis, and the threat of new pandemics. To overcome them, regional alliances in the Global South must institute a new multipolarity in global politics. 

Marco Fernandes is a researcher at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, and a co-founder and co-editor of News on China (Dongsheng). He lives in Shanghai.

Europe Is at a Crossroads between Neoliberalism and What People Actually Want by Nora Garcia Nieves

“Neither war that destroys us, nor peace that oppresses us”: this historic anti-war slogan of the Spanish feminist movement holds one of the fundamental keys to building a horizon of peace. It claims that peace isn’t just a ceasefire, or silence in the face of those who impose wars on others. Rather, peace is the building of a foundation to foster relations based on mutual respect and cooperation. Such an idea is neither naive nor impossible. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Building a new path based on a lasting peace is the only possible alternative for the sustainability of all people and the planet. 

Those who claim to defend freedom don’t want those who aren’t like them to enjoy it. What we’re facing is a “you’re either with me or against me” mentality. Freedom isn’t just a choice between two options, but the possibility of creating our own option. That’s why it’s essential that, in the face of the mainstream perception of the world that tries to rob us of the ability to envision a new alternative, we must articulate one where everyone can fit in. 

In the current context, with Russia having invaded Ukraine, we’re surrounded by the feeling of having returned to the 20th century. Once again, there’s war, hatred, and the familiar rhetoric of “us” against the “others.” It’s shocking that in the face of the war in Ukraine, Fortress Europe now finds it is so easy to make changes in policies – opening its immigration doors to white people with blue eyes. In contrast, Europe’s response to the refugees and migrants of war-torn and poor countries in the global South has turned the Mediterranean into a mass grave. It illegally carries out pushbacks against migrants; and that locks asylum-seekers in detention centers, without access to lawyers. All people have the right to flee war and rebuild their lives, but the attitude from colonial Europe’s history has endured, reiterating that there are lives that matter and lives that don’t. The level of hypocrisy is astounding, and yet we continue down this path where we talk about peace while we send weapons to the warring nations, we talk about democracy while we support censorship, we talk about human rights while we hamper the United Nations, and we talk about freedom while we ignore the creep of fascism. At the center of all this is NATO. As if it were not enough to surrender our sovereignty to the capitalist market, we must also surrender it to wars waged by the United States.

The EU’s decisions in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine couldn’t be any further from the real daily security needs of its people. We don’t need military alliances, because war is a terrible symptom, not the disease plaguing the world. To cure it, Europe needs a heart transplant: an anti-fascist and anti-colonial heart, responsible for the world it builds and the people who live in and come to it. How can we make Europe the opposite of what it is now? First, by seeing it for what it is and by tackling the most difficult task: building a path of our own. With memory, we’ll be able to undertake that path, one that has been attempted before. Let’s listen to the past, and make the present better. The path goes from the anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg to the Nonaligned Movement, BRICS, Pan-Africanism, and the struggle of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. All of this history reminds us that the struggle to build an alternative path to peace is full of courage and that those who fought for peace learned on their way that their will counts. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. More weapons won’t save us – we will.

Nora Garcia Nieves, a member of the No Cold War campaign, lives in Madrid, where she’s an activist working in the feminist, internationalist, and cultural struggle.

Cuba’s Nonalignment: A Foreign Policy of Peace and Socialism by Manolo De Los Santos

Though Bandung in Indonesia and Havana in Cuba couldn’t be farther apart geographically, they’re ideologically close in the imaginations of many people across the global South. The Third World Project, born out of the continuous collaboration between newly independent states and their struggles for national liberation, has defined and continues to define the history of the movements for peace and nonalignment even today.

When the Bandung Conference began on April 18, 1955, Fidel Castro was a political prisoner on what was then called the Isle of Pines, south of Havana, serving a 15-year sentence for having organized a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks two years before. During those years in prison, Fidel read voraciously and began to solidify his ideas on the concepts of sovereignty and independence and how they’d come to be redefined during the Cold War, when imperialism was developing new approaches about how to continue with the subjugation of whole continents. As Fidel and his comrades in prison charted a new path for Cuba, it was clear that their cause for national liberation had to be closely connected to a broader project of ensuring development and work toward active nonalignment for the people of the Third World.

From the round table in Bandung, the leaders of the Third World unleashed a global struggle to restructure the prevailing world system. The independent governments of Asia and Africa raised the urgency of reviving the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggle and the need to increasingly unite and solidify the interests and aspirations of their people. The vast majority of the governments of Latin America, meanwhile, went against the common interests and aspirations of their people and further submitted to U.S. imperialism under the guise of the Organization of American States (OAS). 

In 1959 the Cuban Revolution triumphed, marking a transformative point of no return for Latin America and its relations with the United States. By 1961 Cuba had became the focal point of U.S. aggression in the region, leading to a blockade now six decades old. Soon after, it became the only country in Latin America to join the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) created in Yugoslavia in 1961. Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution began to play a strategic role in internationalist solidarity with the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial liberation struggles of the people of the Third World. As Fidel said in 1962, “What is the history of Cuba if not the history of Latin America? And what is the history of Latin America if not the history of Asia, Africa, and Oceania? And what is the history of all these people if not the history of the most ruthless and cruel exploitation of imperialism in the entire world?” Cuba’s commitment to the Third World became a pillar of its internationalist strategy.

Starting in 1973, the Nonaligned Movement expanded its activities to international economic relations, seeking a new international economic order. The importance of nonalignment and the NAM are now being considered again. People around the world are resistant to the coercion tactics adopted by the United States, which has been trying to isolate countries that don’t submit to its will. This became especially clear with the June 2022 Organization of American States’ Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, which countries such as Bolivia, Mexico, and Honduras boycotted in protest of the ban that prevented Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from attending. As an alternative, the People’s Summit for Democracy carried forth the legacy of Bandung and Havana, bringing together the voices of the excluded.

Manolo De Los Santos is the co-executive director of the People’s Forum and a researcher at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research. Most recently, he co-edited Viviremos: Venezuela vs. Hybrid War(LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2020) and Comrade of the Revolution: Selected Speeches of Fidel Castro(LeftWord Books/1804 Books, 2021). He is a co-coordinator of the People’s Summit for Democracy.

Rejecting War Is Not Enough – Racism Curdles Peace by Claudia Webbe

War and racism have always been inseparable. For centuries, the most devastating and brutal conflicts in the world have been driven by destructive notions of racial superiority and murderous assertions of ethnic differences.

The ubiquity of support for Ukraine, especially by Western states, holds up a mirror to show how, through the prism of racism, some conflicts, wars, and incidences of mass suffering are seen as more important and deserving of sympathy than others. There have been numerous instances of journalists expressing shock that the appalling images of suffering from Ukraine are taking place in a European country with a majority white population. This was expressed by NBC News London correspondent Kelly Cobiella, who said: “To put it bluntly, these are not refugees from Syria; these are Christians; they’re white. They’re very similar [to us].” If we add to this the dehumanizing language used to describe nonwhite refugees, asylum-seekers, and victims of war – such as former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s description of refugees as a “swarm” – a worrying picture emerges about the racism inherent in how crises are reported, discussed, and responded to by the media, leaders, and the public across the world. Othering of nonwhite, non-European people serves to diminish their suffering. We should oppose the unjustifiable trauma of people in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries suffering from the evils of war as vehemently as we do that of the people of Ukraine. As an example of this, the UK government should provide safe passage and refuge for displaced people, refugees, and asylum-seekers arriving from theaters of conflict across the globe. 

On March 2, 2022, the United Nations held a vote on a motion condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was supported by 141 of 193 member states, with just five states – Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria – voting against it. Acting in a long tradition of nonalignment, 35 states, overwhelmingly former colonies from the global South, abstained from voting on the motion. 

Nonalignment points us toward a safer, more peaceful future. Today, the 69-year-old Nonaligned Movement includes 120 countries, representing nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’ members, which are home to 55% of the world’s population. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana and a leader of the Nonaligned Movement, famously said, “We face neither East nor West; we face forward.” While the Nonaligned Movement developed during the geopolitics of the Cold War, it was founded and has endured on the recognition that no good can ever come from war, and that violent conflicts, colonialism, and racism have always been closely intertwined. For instance, of the 35 countries that abstained from voting on March 2nd, 17 were African nations that for centuries suffered the violent extraction of colonialism. The abstention was far from a reflection of support for Russia’s invasion. It was an assertion of pacifism made by countries that for centuries have lived under the abominable racist outcomes of colonial warfare.

Instances of appalling murder and violence across the world at the hands of the British state have been erased from our present-day memory of empire. The time has come for former colonial states to apologize for and take seriously the historical debt they owe to the countries, communities, and individuals who endured their cruelty. A revitalized Nonaligned Movement, guided by the principles of pacifism, justice, and international cooperation, could help rebalance the scales of global politics away from racist wars and toward a future of peace.

Claudia Webbe is a member of the UK Parliament representing Leicester East. 

Why Peace and Disarmament Are at the Heart of Nonalignment by Kate Hudson

As our world spirals toward the catastrophe of nuclear war, there has never been a greater need for a new global balancing, a rejection of great power, war, exploitation, and aggression. Now more than ever, we need to reject the brutal unipolar agenda of the United States, the dividing up of the world between hostile powers, and the suppression of the rights of the many in the interests of the few. Nowhere is this clearer than the possession of nuclear weapons: only nine states possess these ultimate weapons of mass destruction, yet they can hold the rest of the world to ransom with their nuclear terror.

The struggle for a genuinely multipolar world, aligned only with the world’s people, not military blocs, has peace and disarmament at its heart: this is as true now as it was 60 years ago when the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) was founded. As well as opposition to colonization and economic subjection, those founding the movement championed self-determination and equality in states’ relations, and agreed on their opposition to military blocs, their commitment to world peace, and the strongest possible advocacy of global nuclear disarmament. That thread has remained a constant ever since, and today we continue to see the countries of the Global South leading global disarmament initiatives.

Virtually the entire Global South is self-organized into internationally recognized nuclear-weapons-free zones originating in the 1960s. In 1967, a nuclear-weapons-free zone was established by 21 countries in Latin America renouncing the acquisition and siting of nuclear weapons on their territories. Signatories to this treaty, the Treaty of Tlatelolco, also agreed to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) jurisdiction over their nuclear power facilities. In return, nuclear weapons states agreed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any of the signatory states. The Treaty of Rarotonga, signed in 1985, prohibited nuclear explosive devices in the South Pacific and banned the testing and use of nuclear explosive technologies. The African nuclear-weapons-free zone was formalized in 1996 with the signing of the Treaty of Pelindaba following South Africa’s disarmament of its apartheid-era nuclear weapons.

There has been strong regional development in disarmament led by the global South, but there have also been – and continue to be – global attempts. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), negotiated during the 1960s, which came into force in 1970, was in large part initiated by India to bring proliferation and spiraling arsenals under control. India and Pakistan both declined to join the NPT, asserting that it enshrined nuclear haves and have-nots in law: a two-tier, double standards system. Regrettably, they both went on to test and develop their own arsenals. But the point was correct: nuclear weapons states did not comply with their NPT obligations to disarm. Indeed, they have subsequently attempted to reinterpret the NPT as allowing them to retain nuclear weapons.

In the early years of the 21st century, in the context of the so-called “war on terror,” U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to shift the international legal framework governing nuclear weapons. They tried to overturn the disarmament requirement, focusing on preventing more countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. Their goal was to reinterpret the NPT as legitimizing the possession of weapons by existing nuclear states while using it to justify confrontation with states accused of proliferation. They claimed that a new document was needed to reflect the drastic changes in international security conditions, including the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The reality was that the U.S. and UK were researching new weapons and would be prepared to use them even against a non-nuclear-weapons state, and they were also developing weapons for confrontation with more powerful states such as Russia or China. This was the real driver of nuclear proliferation, together with the U.S. determination to make Israel the only nuclear weapons state in the Middle East.

Frustration with the NPT led to the founding of the Humanitarian Initiative on the consequences of nuclear weapons in 2013. This initiative came to fruition in the form of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force in January 2021. The treaty makes nuclear weapons illegal for the first time, outlawing the development, possession, and deployment of nuclear weapons by participating states. The treaty currently has 61 state parties that are legally bound by the treaty and many more that are in the process of coming on board. The countries of the global South are at the forefront of achieving this treaty, understanding that any nuclear weapons use by states in the global North will disastrously affect their own populations. In a remarkable development, the treaty also places obligations on signatories to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, and requires environmental remediation for lands contaminated by nuclear testing. It also explicitly recognizes the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapon activities on Indigenous peoples because of the choices made by colonial nuclear powers for their testing sites. For example, many of the UK tests were conducted on the Australian First People’s territories in Emu Field and Maralinga, contaminating large parts of South Australia. France conducted nuclear tests in its former colonies, including 17 in Algeria and 193 in French Polynesia. These historic wrongs must be righted.

The initiatives of the global majority for peace and disarmament show that another world is possible. War is terrible. In all wars, people suffer, and war’s consequences last for generations. Countless people’s futures are destroyed, as we see in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Palestine, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and the Sahel. The priorities of humanity are to fight against inequality and poverty, tackle the climate crisis, and expand access to health and vaccines. Massive state spending on military production and destruction is a criminal waste of resources. Military alliances don’t solve our problems, but dialogue, demilitarization, and international cooperation do.

Kate Hudson is the general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. She is a leading anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigner in the United Kingdom and internationally.

$2 Trillion for War Versus $100 Billion to Save the Planet by Murad Qureshi

During late April and early May, South Asia was shaken by the terrible impacts of global warming, with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in some cities in the region. These high temperatures came alongside dangerous flooding in northeast India and Bangladesh as the rivers burst their banks. 

In 2009, at COP15, developed countries of the world agreed to a $100 billion annual adaptation assistance fund, which was supposed to be paid by 2020. This fund was intended to assist countries of the Global South to shift their reliance on carbon to renewable sources of energy and to adapt to the realities of the climate catastrophe. At the time of the Glasgow COP26 meeting in November 2021, however, developed countries were unable to meet this commitment. The $100 billion may seem like a modest fund, but it’s far less than the Trillion Dollar Climate Finance Challenge that will be required to ensure comprehensive climate action. The richer states, led by the West, have not only refused to seriously fund this adaptation, but they’ve also reneged on the original agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol (1997), an important step toward mitigating the climate crisis that the U.S. Congress has refused to ratify. Furthermore, the United States has shifted the goalposts for reducing its methane emissions and has refused to account for the massive output of carbon emissions by the U.S. military.

Germany hosts the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In June, as a prelude to COP27, the UN held a conference on climate change in Bonn. The talks ended in acrimony over finance for what’s known as “loss and damage.” The European Union consistently blocked all discussions on compensation. Eddy Pérez of the Climate Action Network, Canada, said, “Consumed by their narrow national interests, rich nations and in particular countries in the European Union came to the Bonn Climate Conference to block, delay, and undermine efforts from people and communities on the frontlines addressing the losses and damage caused by fossil fuels.”

On the table is the hypocrisy of countries such as Germany, which claims to lead on these issues but instead has been sourcing fossil fuels overseas and spending increasing funds on its military. At the same time, these countries have denied support to developing countries facing devastation from climate-induced superstorms and rising seas. Money given to the military doesn’t just lessen climate spending, it also promotes greater climate catastrophe. The U.S. military is the largest institutional polluter on the planet. Money is available for war but not to deal with the climate catastrophe.

The way weapons have poured into the Ukraine conflict gives many of us pause. The prolongation of that war is intensifying severe food insecurity at a time when 49 million people have in 46 countries have been identified as being at risk of famine as result of conflicts, climate change, and extreme weather conditions. Conflict and organized violence are the main sources of food insecurity in Africa and the Middle East, specifically in northern Nigeria, the central Sahel, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and Syria. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the food crisis by driving up the price of agricultural commodities, as Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30% of the global wheat trade. So, the longer the Ukraine war continues, the more “hunger hotspots” will grow, taking the concentration of severe food insecurity beyond Africa and the Middle East.

While one COP meeting has already taken place on the African continent, another will take place later this year. First, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, hosted the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in May 2022, and then Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November 2022. These are major forums for African states to put on the table the great damage done to parts of the continent due to the climate catastrophe. When the representatives of the countries of the world gather at Sharm el-Sheikh, they’ll hear Western representatives talk about climate change, make pledges, and then do everything possible to continue to exacerbate the catastrophe. What we saw in Bonn is a prelude to what will be a fiasco in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Murad Qureshi is a former member of the London Assembly and a former chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

The Dawn of Everything by Graeber and Wengrow

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow (2021) is a long, complex, amazing, and revelatory book, using the latest archaeological discoveries and a willingness to revisit old historical tropes to give us a completely new, and much more complex view of humanity, its history, and its possible future. I’m only halfway through it, but I think I can already rate it as one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

It occurred to me this morning that modern medicine and alternative health options are similar. Much less is known today about how the human mind, spirit, and body (one entity, in my mind) function, or don’t, and what can be done to promote healing in the latter case, than will probably be known in the future, or perhaps was known in the past by non-Western traditions.

Our beliefs in both areas – history and health – are as incomplete and incorrect as today’s major media news. The truth, both more complex and more potentially liberatory, is definitely worth pursuing, even if any one of us will never comprehend it all… 

I take that back

Not that I think you read my Facebook or blog posts, but if you’re one of the uninformed (in my humble opinion) people I was talking about in my posts on both “channels” earlier this morning…I don’t think I’m better than you. You have your reasons for being who and where you are at this moment in time, just as I have mine. It isn’t you I’m criticizing. It’s your behavior, as I see it. And I don’t hope you die of Covid, as I implied in my earlier blog post. Of course not. I don’t wish ill on anyone, no matter how much I disagree with what they say or do. You just have me feeling scared and threatened, and like any cornered animal in that sort of situation, I lashed out at you. An hour later, my claws are withdrawn. I still fear scared and threatened, but saying nasty things to and about you isn’t going to fix that. The only thing that will is for us to see each other as equally worthy and valuable human beings, who are all feeling threatened and scared, but who can reach out across the gap and start listening to and caring about each other. And trying, together, to come up with ways to move forward. Thanks…

Trapped in a dystopian “reality”

That’s how I felt when Trump was elected president in 2016, even though I knew it wasn’t just him, but the long years before when the Democrats had the chance to do things for ordinary people and didn’t. I wasn’t the only one who felt like her sanity was threatened by anxiety in those days — what would this narcissistic, uninformed, unprincipled nut do to our country and our world? I thought he’d go away when he lost the 2020 election, but, no — the bulk of the Republican party has continued to support his uninformed and undemocratic insanity, blocking the newly elected president, as they blocked Obama, at every possible turn. The Democrats are no angels; as I indicated above, they made all this possible by representing the 1% (which Trump and the Republicans also do in their crazy way) rather than ordinary people. But at least they know what they’re doing, and occasionally do sensible things.

Now the Supreme Court, which the Republicans enabled Trump to “pack” with three unqualified conservative justices, while using our elite “Founders” undemocratic rules to block Obama from filling even one vacancy, has struck down Biden’s effort to protect us from getting Covid at work. The Supreme Court yesterday used a technicality about which branches of government can make these kinds of decisions to say that you have a right to go to work, untested, even if you’ve refused to get the vaccine that significantly limits the virus’s spread. Unless I want to lose my job or can negotiate working at home, impossible with most jobs, I have no protection against you infecting me with the disease. Will you even wear a mask? That protection may very well be the next to go.

This is ridiculous — proof that government, even what may be the last democratically elected one, has little or no power to protect us against lies and irresponsible, harmful people. By continuing to back Trump (because he seems to be popular with some segments of the population?) the Republican party has made this kind of illogic and injustice inevitable. First they allowed Trump to undermine public health by denying scientific research on the disease and politicizing it, then they completely politicized the highest court, which is supposed to be above politics. Where are all these people’s brains? The “leaders” apparently just want to get reelected, by fair means or foul, and they and their followers use the populist tactic of vilifying adults who use their brains for showing, just by being informed and thinking rationally, that we think we’re better than the rest. I give up. This is a recipe for utter disaster.

It’s exactly like the dystopian, satirical movie I just watched: “Don’t Look Up,” available on Netflix, in which a populist president and a media system making profits by only giving people what they want to hear prevent preparation to defend Earth against another danger — a giant comet that, indeed, eliminated all planetary life when it hit. To quote singer-songwriter Lonesome Bob, “It’d be sad if it weren’t so funny; it’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.”

I’m an informed, rational adult, and I do think I’m better than you if you’re over 18, you’re not, and you don’t even want to be. I’m alarmed by your taking over our country, and I resent you and your “leaders,” bent on killing me and many innocent others by sinking to the lowest common denominator. Trump’s life, ironically and unjustly, was saved by extensive measures unavailable to the general population when he got Covid as president. Yours may not be, and, sadly, at this point that’s my only hope. Oh, and by the way, if you believe your own lies, why are you, like Trump, demanding medical treatment for the disease you said wasn’t a problem? You’re filling up our hospitals to the point that there won’t be a bed for me if I have a second heart attack or another serious health emergency.

Oh, well. If that happens, at least I’ll have found the only door I can think of out of this frickin’ dystopia.

P.S. Sorry for sounding so angry and depressed, but I think that’s the only sane reaction to all this.

Climate change will end the age of empires and force us to adopt world government

As envisaged in Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel The Ministry for the Future, and detailed in Alfred McCoy’s article “To Govern the Globe” yesterday on counterpunch.org, the capitalist nation-state system’s failure to address climate change will eventually lead to the adoption of some kind of world government in a last-ditch attempt to save and protect whatever of earthly life is left.

After listing three successive world empires (Spanish/Portuguese, British, and American), McCoy concludes his article by saying, “it seems safe to assume that China will gain enough strength to weaken Washington’s global grip and become the preeminent world power around 2030. Count on one thing, though: the accelerating pace of climate change will almost certainly curtail China’s hegemony within two or three decades…If the ‘Chinese century’ does indeed start around 2030, barring remarkable advances in the reduction of the use of fossil fuels on this planet, it’s likely to end sometime around 2050 when its main financial center [Shanghai] is flooded out and its agricultural heartland [the North China Plain, a prime agricultural region between Beijing and Shanghai currently inhabited by 400 million people] begins to swelter in insufferable heat and humidity.

Given that Washington’s world system and Beijing’s emerging alternative show every sign of failing to limit carbon emissions in significant enough ways, by mid-century the international community will likely need a new form of global governance to contain the damage…As long as nations have the sovereign right to seal their borders, the world will have no way of protecting the human rights of hundreds of millions of climate-change refugees. Facing a spectacle of mass global suffering, the community of nations might well agree on the need for a new form of global governance. Such a supranational body or bodies would need sovereign authority over three critical areas: emissions controls, refugee resettlement, and environmental reconstruction. If the transition to renewable energy sources is still not complete by 2050, then this international body might well compel nations to curb emissions and adopt renewable energy. Whether under the auspices of the UN or a successor organization, a high commissioner for global refugees would need the authority to supersede state sovereignty in order to require nations to help resettle such tidal flows of humanity. The future equivalents of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank could also transfer resources from wealthy temperate countries to feed tropical communities decimated by climate change.

Massive programs like these would change the very idea of what constitutes a world order. At present, no one can predict whether such reforms will come soon enough to slow climate change or arrive too late to do anything but manage the escalating damage of uncontrollable feedback loops. One thing is becoming quite clear, however. The environmental destruction in our future will be so profound that anything less than the emergence of a new form of global governance – one capable of protecting the planet and the human rights of all its inhabitants – will mean that wars over water, land, and people are likely to erupt across the planet amid climate chaos. Absent some truly fundamental change in our global governance and in energy use, by mid-century humanity will begin to face disasters of an almost unimaginable kind that will make imperial orders of any sort something for the history books.”