Tuesday, April 20, 2021

World Socialist 3rd Issue


The third issue of the World Socialist is out now!

It feature’s an article on COVID-19’s lab-leak hypothesis, an elaboration on Clause One of our Declaration of Principles, an article on how politicians are bourgeois puppets, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Kronstadt Rebellion, an explanation of the power crisis that hit Texas in February, an article on the rank class inequality of our legal system, an examination of the immigration myth, another contribution to our ‘How I Became a Socialist’ series, as well as review and funnies!

The PDF version is free here:

World Socialist No. 3 (Spring 2021)

and hardcopies can be bought for $9 from Lulu.com here:

World Socialist No. 3 (Spring 2021)

Feedback’s always appreciated 

The Neglected Refugee Crisis

 In the three years since large-scale protests in their country triggered a complex social and political crisis, 108,000 Nicaraguans have been forced to flee their country since 2018, with 85,000 of them seeking refuge in Costa Rica. 

“While the needs of the Nicaraguans continue to grow, the world’s attention span seems to shorten,” said Milton Moreno, UNHCR Representative in Costa Rica. ”Without a prompt and adequate response, we risk yet another situation of completely preventable and unnecessary suffering.”

Assessments in the country showed that pandemic-related restrictions have forced many Nicaraguan refugees and asylum-seekers to go hungry, eating only once a day or sometimes not at all. Unemployment has soared, leading many to borrow money or work informally in exchange for food.

However, funding for the response is falling short. UNHCR’s operation in Costa Rica has received only 11 per cent of the US$32 million needed to help refugees meet their most basic needs and support the authorities to expedite processing of asylum claims.

“Costa Rica and UNHCR cannot address these challenges alone. We call on the international community to help us help the refugees,” added Moreno.

UNHCR calls for more support for Nicaraguans forced to flee - Nicaragua | ReliefWeb

The border-industrial complex.

 


In 1994 under the Bill Clinton administration, the annual border and immigration budget was $1.5bn, through the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 2020, the combined budget of its superseding agencies, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), exceeded $25bn. That is a 16-fold increase.

Another way to look at the scope of this money juggernaut are the 105,000 contracts, totaling $55bn, that CBP and Ice have given private industry – including Northrop Grumman, General Atomics, G4S, Deloitte and CoreCivic, among others – to develop the border and immigration enforcement apparatus. That is worth more than the total cumulative number of border and immigration budgets from 1975 to 2003. That’s 28 years combined amounting to $52bn

The companies can also give campaign contributions to key politicians and lobby during budget debates. And so we have the formula of a perpetual “border crisis”: the bigger the crisis, the more need for border infrastructure, generating more revenue.

Since the 1990s, nearly 8,000 human remains have been found in the US borderlands. The number of actual deaths is almost certainly much higher. 

The “dry corridor” describes a huge swath of territory running from Guatemala to Nicaragua that is getting dryer and dryer as a direct result of global warming. According to an estimate from the World Food Programme, this has left 1.4 million farmers in severe crisis. The back-to-back hurricanes in late 2020, in particular, displaced countless people. 

The United States has produced nearly 700 times more carbon emissions than El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras combined since 1900. You might think the USA would be ethically obligated to help undo the damage. Instead, as with other large historic greenhouse gas emitters, it is at the global forefront of militarizing its borders.

Instead of truly confronting the problems that we face as a planet – such as climate change, wealth inequalities in which 2,000 billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people, and runaway pandemics where the health of people and peoples across borders become intimately interconnected – the solution somehow always becomes more border walls, more surveillance technologies and more suffering. 

In 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, there were 15 border walls worldwide. Now there are 70, two-thirds created since 9/11.

Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign received three times more campaign contributions from the border industry than did Donald Trump’s. While the president has called for a reversal of Trumpian policies, he is far from challenging a border-industrial complex.

A lucrative border-industrial complex keeps the US border in constant ‘crisis’ | US immigration | The Guardian

Monday, April 19, 2021

Grenfell concerns ignored

 Grenfell Tower residents told the council landlord three months before the disaster they were “seriously concerned” that people might die in a fire, but their fears were not properly addressed and they were treated as “sub-citizens”.

In spring 2017 leaseholders escalated worries that gas main installation in the evacuation staircase posed a serious fire risk and warned the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC): “If we cannot get out people will die or at best suffer serious injury.”

Lee Chapman, the secretary of the Grenfell leaseholders’ association, told the inquiry it was “a life and death issue” that “just wasn’t being dealt with” by RBKC and its tenant management organisation (TMO). He said their responses were “totally uninformative and generic” and there was “an us and them” relationship between the landlord and residents.

David Collins, a resident who became chairman of a residents’ group set up in response to “extreme dissatisfaction” with how people in the tower were being treated, told the inquiry the TMO viewed residents as “a distraction to be minimised, sidelined or ignored”.

“Residents were experiencing threats, lies, bullying and harassment from TMO and Rydon [the main contractor],” Collins said.

Grenfell residents were treated as ‘sub-citizens’, inquiry told | Grenfell Tower inquiry | The Guardian


Profit and Immigration

  Fox News host Tucker Carlson seemingly endorsed the “great replacement” conspiracy theory – the false claim, which has motivated fascist mass murderers from El Paso, Texas, to Christchurch, New Zealand, that governing elites have conspired to undermine majority-white populations by encouraging immigration. 

The idea of a “border crisis” with Mexico remains central to the populist right. Something similar is true in Europe, where governments nominally of the centre still allow their policies to be shaped by the populist backlash to the refugee crisis of 2015, even though the number of refugees entering Europe today is far lower

Authorities in Italy, Malta and Greece continue to obstruct rescues at sea, while Denmark, whose centre-left government was elected in 2019 after stealing its rightwing populist rivals’ platform on refugee policy, has revoked the residence permits of some 189 Syrian refugees, on the spurious grounds that it is now “safe” to return to some parts of Syria, such as Damascus. 

The UK government, meanwhile, has unveiled a draconian new plan to restrict the rights of asylum seekers who enter the country without permission, in response to last year’s moral panic over small boats crossing the Channel.

The right defend such positions on the grounds of security, but it is based upon xenophobia and racism. 

The economist Branko Milanović has argued for the importance of seeing citizenship – not just for who it excludes, but for the benefits it confers on the holders – as a crucial factor in shaping the way that the rich world relates to the rest of the globe.  According to Milanović, your place of birth has become an increasingly important predictor of your income.

Since 2008, as the top 1% have hoovered up increasing amounts of wealth while the living standards of most people in the west have stagnated, defending the relative privileges conferred by citizenship has become an increasingly attractive proposition to many voters. For the top 1%, citizenship is literally a commodity to be bought and sold: the global trade in passports is now worth an estimated £20bn a year.

The current UK government is a case in point: its attack on the human right to asylum has unfolded at the same time as it makes a show of offering a safe haven to Hong Kong residents with overseas UK citizenship who want to flee China’s dismantling of liberal democracy within the former British colony. As many as 300,000 people from Hong Kong are expected to be resettled in the UK in the next few years under a special visa scheme that launched in January.

Emigrants from Hong Kong have a genuine need for protection – only recently the former politician Nathan Law was rightly granted asylum in the UK – but so do people from other countries with what are euphemistically described as “historical ties” to Britain, such as Iraq. One reason the government has been so open in the case of Hong Kong may be because of the wealth and skills that people are expected to bring with them: one survey found that a typical emigrant has a university degree and an average salary of £33,270 a year. Home Office guidance for the visa scheme states that an emigrant from Hong Kong must be able to support themselves in the UK for six months without access to public funds: wealth barriers are a typical condition of UK visas.

The reason this apparent openness coexists with the authoritarian posturing on boats in the Channel is because the government is treating citizenship as an asset whose value on the global market needs to be maintained. 

Why is the right obsessed with ‘defending’ borders? Because it sees citizenship as a commodity | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report

 


report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, published at the end of March, concluded that while racism and racial injustice still existed, geography, family influence, socioeconomic background, culture and religion all had a greater impact on life chances. The report said it did not find evidence of institutional racism in the areas it examined, such as policing and health.

The findings were also widely condemned by MPs, unions and equality campaigners as “divisive” and a missed opportunity for systemic change. Since its publication, at least 20 organisations and individuals who were listed as stakeholders in the report have distanced themselves from its findings.

 A UN working group of experts on people of African descent said: “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent.”

The experts criticised the report’s focus on family structure to explain racial disparities, describing it as “a tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities in the UK”. It said the report failed to provide any persuasive evidence for claims there was no institutional racism in the UK and instead cited dubious evidence.

“This attempt to normalise white supremacy despite considerable research and evidence of institutional racism is an unfortunate sidestepping of the opportunity to acknowledge the atrocities of the past and the contributions of all in order to move forward,” the statement added.

The experts alleged the report omitted analysis of institutional racism by international human rights experts, including the UN working group of experts on people of African descent’s 2012 review after its country visit to the UK, the 2016 concluding observations of the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, and the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism’s report following her 2018 visit to the UK.

The UN body called on the government to reject the report and urged it to ensure the “accurate reflection of historical facts”, adding: “The distortion and falsification of [these] historic facts may license further racism, the promotion of negative racial stereotypes, and racial discrimination.” The UN experts behind the statement are the chair, Dominique Day, Ahmed Reid, Michal Balcerzak, Sabelo Gumedze and Ricardo Sunga III. The statement was endorsed by E Tendayi Achiume, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. The experts also criticised the report’s “mythical representation of enslavement” as an attempt to sanitise the history of the slave trade.

No 10 race report tries to normalise white supremacy, say UN experts | Race | The Guardian

"The year for action,”

 


There was a “relentless” intensification of the climate crisis in 2020, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Last year was ranked as the hottest on record, in a tie with 2016 and 2019, despite the cooling effect of the cyclical natural climate phenomenon, La Niña. Without this, 2020 would most likely have been the hottest year yet. The decade 2011-20 was the hottest on record.

The coronavirus pandemic made the accelerating impacts of global heating even worse for millions of people. But the temporary dip in carbon emissions due to lockdowns had no discernible impact on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the WMO report said.

Extreme weather events broke records across the world, from hurricanes and cyclones in the US and India, heatwaves in Australia and the Arctic, floods in large parts of Africa and Asia, and wildfires in the US.

“All the key climate and impacts information in this report highlight relentless, continuing climate change, an increasing occurrence and intensification of extreme events, and severe losses and damage, affecting people, societies and economies,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary general.

“This is the year for action,” said the UN head, António Guterres. “The climate is changing, and the impacts are already too costly for people and the planet. Countries need to submit, well ahead of Cop26, ambitious plans to cut global emissions by 45% by 2030.”

The report also found that in 2020:

  • 1.

    80% of the oceans experienced at least one marine heatwave, while record heat accumulated in the seas, which absorb 90% of heat resulting from human activities.

  • 2.

    Sea ice in the Arctic reached its second lowest minimum on record, while hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice were lost in Greenland and Antarctica, helping to push up sea level.

  • 3.

    Severe flooding hit large parts of Africa and Asia, helping trigger a locust plague in the Horn of Africa.

  • 4.

    Extreme drought affected many parts of South America in 2020, with the estimated farming losses near $3bn in Brazil alone, with further losses in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

  • 5.

    The largest wildfires ever recorded burned in the US, while Australia broke heat records, including a temperature of 48.9°C in western Sydney.

  • 6.

    The north Atlantic hurricane season had its largest number of named storms on record with 30, and a record 12 made landfall in the US.

  • 7.

    Cyclone Amphan hit India and Bangladesh and was the costliest tropical cyclone on record for the north Indian Ocean, while Typhoon Goni which crossed the Philippines was one of the most intense cyclones ever to hit land.

Richard Allan, a professor of climate science at the University of Reading in the UK, said: “What is notable is an emerging picture that climate change is gathering pace: [ice is] melting more quickly and heat is accumulating more rapidly in the ocean, while CO2 increases, which are driving these changes, are becoming progressively larger over time.”

Prof Chris Rapley, at University College London, UK, said: “The 1.5C Paris guard-rail is close to being breached. The way we are running human affairs is destabilising the climate system, with predictable and increasingly dire consequences. It’s time for an uprising of concerted action to fix politics – managing the climate crisis will follow.”

Meanwhile:

Peaceful environmental protesters are being threatened, silenced and criminalised in countries around the world including the UK and the US, according to 429 leading experts  from 32 countries, more than 70 other professors and including 14 authors from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The letter states: “It has become abundantly clear that governments don’t act on climate without pressure from civil society: threatening and silencing activists thus seems to be a new form of anti-democratic refusal to act on climate … [we] therefore urge all governments, courts and legislative bodies around the world to halt and reverse attempts to criminalise nonviolent climate protest...We know that our research alone was not enough for this recent awakening to climate breakdown as an existential crisis for humanity, and recognise that protest movements around the world have raised the alarm,” the letter states, adding: “Those who put their voices and bodies on the line to raise the alarm are being threatened and silenced by the very countries they seek to protect..”

Dr Oscar Berglund, from the Cabot Institute for the Environment at the University of Bristol, explained, the attempt to “criminalise climate protest” was central to the fossil fuel industry’s new strategy of delaying action on climate change.

“Now that climate change denialism is in steep decline, they have put their money behind efforts to stifle dissent. Climate scientists, who have been subject to the slander of the fossil fuel lobby for so long, recognise this change in strategy.”

‘Relentless’ climate crisis intensified in 2020, says UN report | Climate change | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/19/environment-protest-being-criminalised-around-world-say-experts



The "Great Deception"

 Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies have used advertising to “greenwash” their ongoing contribution to the climate crisis, according to files published by the environmental lawyers ClientEarth

They describe the practice as “a great deception”.

 “We’re currently witnessing a great deception, where the companies most responsible for catastrophically heating the planet are spending millions on advertising campaigns about how their business plans are focused on sustainability,” said Johnny White, one of ClientEarth’s lawyers. "...instead of leading a low-carbon transition these companies are putting out advertising which distracts the public and launders their image. Our research shows these adverts are misrepresenting the true nature of companies’ businesses, of their contribution to climate change, and of their transition plans.”

ClientEarth’s analysis includes claims that:

1. ExxonMobil advertising suggested its experimental algae biofuels could one day reduce transport emissions, while it has no company-wide net zero target and its 2025 emission reduction targets do not include the vast majority of emissions resulting from its products.

2. Saudi Arabia’s Aramco said it conducted business “in a way that addresses the climate challenge” yet it is the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitter and plans to continue exploring for more oil and gas, despite having reserves greater than those of Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP and Total combined.

3. Chevron said it was “part of the solution” to climate change but does not have a net zero commitment or a strategy aligned with the Paris climate agreement. Its plans for carbon capture and storage cover less than 1% of its 2019 carbon emissions.

4. Shell said it was investing in “lower-carbon biofuels and hydrogen, electric vehicle charging, solar and wind power”, but in 2020 it earmarked between $2bn and $3bn a year for low-carbon businesses, compared to $17bn on fossil fuels operations.

5. Norway’s Equinor has talked of growing renewable capacity tenfold by 2026, but renewables are only planned to be 4% of its energy by that date.

‘A great deception’: oil giants taken to task over ‘greenwash’ ads | Oil and gas companies | The Guardian



The UK Housing Shortage

 Shelter estimates that the average first-time buyer in England, with a 5% deposit, needs an income of £59,300. The majority of renters – making up about a third of the population – earn nowhere near that amount.

According to the National Housing Federation, over 8 million people in England live in unsuitable, unaffordable or unsafe homes, and the waiting list for people in need of an affordable place to live has reached 1.1 million.

The Chartered Institute of Housing found that 280,000 social-rent homes were sold, converted to higher rents or demolished between 2012 and 2020. Only 70,000 were built over the same period.

Those unable to exit the rented sector are seeing their economic circumstances deteriorate; average monthly rents rose by 10% over the past year, making renting a significantly more expensive option than repaying a mortgage.

In a report published last year, MPs on the housing and communities committee called for 90,000 more homes to be built annually for social rent over the next five years. Just 7,000 were built in 2019

Brasil's Nightmare

Brazil is in the grip of a health and social emergency. It has the world's second-highest death toll from the pandemic at over 370,000, and hospitals are near collapse. A study last week found that 60% of Brazilian households have food insecurity, lacking sufficient access to enough to eat.

In Brasil, hungry residents of Heliopolis, São Paulo's largest favela, require a daily handout of food that will keep them going until the next morning. They are given a bowl of pasta with meat and a portion of rice, two packets of biscuits and a carton of milk, shared between a whole household and usually their only meal of the day. The charity has 650  other food banks across São Paulo.

"The vast majority of people who live in the favelas work in the informal economy, as cleaners in homes or helping to bake cakes, so when businesses close or houses stop using them, they feel the impact," says Marcivan Barreto, the local co-ordinator. "You see people queuing up at 03:00 for food. I'm very worried that as the pandemic continues, a hungry father will start looting supermarkets. When you're starving, despair hits."

During the first wave of the pandemic, Brazil's government introduced emergency relief, known as "coronavouchers". More than 67 million people received a monthly sum of 600 reais (£83; $107, at the time). It was the biggest single injection of financial aid in Brazil's history. But the relief was temporary. With ballooning public debt, the government first suspended the programme and then reintroduced it but at a far lower level of 250 reais and for fewer people.


 Hospitals fill up, the food queues grow longer, and this shattered country watches helplessly as fresh graves are dug.


Covid in Brazil: Hunger worsens in city slums - BBC News

Saturday, April 17, 2021

British Justice?

 


People who could be key witnesses to deaths in detention have been “deliberately” deported before they could give evidence.

Irene Nembhard of the London law firm Birnberg Peirce, who was involved in a case where the Home Office attempted to deport key witnesses, said: “These are black detainees and they are not being seen as valuable witnesses. This failure indicates institutional racism but also a failure to see people as people.”

 A court ruling held Patel accountable for failures in ensuring that deaths in immigration detention centres were properly investigated. The ruling concerns two friends from Nigeria – Ahmed Lawal and Oscar Lucky Okwurime – who were in Harmondsworth detention centre when Okwurime was found dead in his cell in September 2019.

Although Lawal was a key witness, the Home Office attempted to deport him five days after his friend’s death – before he could provide any evidence for the inquest, which subsequently concluded Okwurime had died because of poor medical care.

Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis solicitors, representing Lawal, told the Observer they were in contact with “multiple” witnesses who had expressed interest in providing evidence but who abruptly disappeared.

“We just don’t know what happened to them, but the Home Office did not identify any potential witnesses after the death,” he said. Bell was aware of around 20 people in the corridor of the centre where Okwurime died, but who went missing. He added that many witnesses may have been deported before they could share testimony with the authorities, but it was impossible to quantify because individuals were not identified to a coroner in the first place.

Deborah Coles, director of the charity Inquest, said: “This was a damning judgment on deliberate attempts to frustrate and undermine effective investigations and proper scrutiny.”

Coroner, Timothy Brennand, also questioned why “no formal, declared statements were obtained timeously from these witnesses” before attempts were made to deport them. He added: “Two detainees were on the point of being physically deported in circumstances where the Home Office either was not aware, or chose to ignore the fact that these detainees were important witnesses required to give evidence at a forthcoming inquest hearing.”

The charity Medical Justice wrote to the Home Office requesting details of any witnesses who had been recorded to assist in any investigation, along with details of the actual deceased. According to the charity, the Home Office “fobbed them off” and told them not to expect any information before the end of this month.

Last month, Patel pledged to remove people who enter the UK illegally having travelled through a “safe country” – plans condemned by many as unworkable and incoherent. Patel’s recent proposals to reform the asylum system, warning it will “deepen hostility to refugees” and could “formalise and embed a culture of disbelief” against them.

A report by Catholic organisation the Jesuit Refugee Service UKstates the system is “more concerned with refusing asylum claims and removing claimants than with ensuring that people in need of sanctuary are offered protection and a chance to rebuild their lives”.

Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK, said, “We need an asylum system rooted in a sense of shared humanity, not a barbaric rehash of the old culture of hostility. Reform of the asylum system is badly needed. This is not it."

Witnesses to deaths in detention ‘deliberately’ deported from the UK | Immigration and asylum | The Guardian