A Writer’s Call to Action on the Syrian Civil War

“Someday I will adopt refugee kids. Why should I have my own kids when there are millions of children out there who don’t have parents?”

That was a promise I made nine months ago as I saw the video of a bloodied kid being rescued after their home was bombed. Omran Daqneesh, 5, sat inside an ambulance with his face covered in blood and his hair covered in ashes. He did not cry in pain nor did he scream in fear. His was a stare of innocence. It was a symbol for millions of children caught in the middle of war.

It was turning point for me—a very powerful moment that has shaped my views since. I realized that we as human beings have an obligation to speak out against this war, to give voice to those who are not heard, and to call for justice for those who are oppressed.

We have failed the Syrians, the South Sudanese, the Rohingyas, the Yemenis, and the Iraqis. How do we sleep at night while there are millions of children out there who are bombed as they sleep? How can we let our government officials fly to the United Nations and not say a word about the children who are killed by chemical weapons? How can people simply scroll down and not read a news article about civilian deaths?

Have we grown numb to war? Have daily news of violence desensitized us to heinous crimes against humanity?

Writers have an important role to play in an age of apathy. No longer do we see the global anti-war fervor during the Vietnam War. We must rethink the way we communicate and understand that every word we build is not just a string of letters, but lives of children who are in most need of our help. One article could spell the difference between global apathy or a global movement to oppose all wars.

 

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Against the Neocolonial Order: The Revolutionary Legacy of Thomas Sankara

 

As globalization becomes more entrenched, we see the massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the top 1%. The resurgence of nationalist sentiment becomes inevitable as governments abandon the people in favor of corporations. We’ve already witnessed the rise of far-right leaders and we’re yet to see the consequences of their extreme policies. The Left, then, cannot sit idly by and let the center or the Right take the global economy back to business as usual. On top of expropriating the wealth from the top 1% and stifling the advance of the far right, the Left must dismantle the foundations of the neocolonial and neoliberal global order that produced many of the problems we see today. As the Left strives to reclaim its political clout, it must learn from the revolution of Thomas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, who died today in 1987.

Thomas Sankara was one of the fiercest opponents of the Western-dominated global order. He represented the aspirations of a once prosperous continent torn apart by the white man. He was an incorruptible revolutionary, enemy of imperialist France and a friend of the poor and the working classes, whose radicalism changed the course of Burkinabe history. Today, he remains an icon of anti-imperialism in the Global South.

Sankara presided over one of the poorest regions in the world, then Upper Volta: a country with no access to the sea and bordered on the north by the Sahel desert. He rose to power in a popular coup as a staunch anti-imperialist, feminist, and environmentalist, whose major commitment was to overthrow the corrupt neo-colonial regime, run by the French-backed Burkinabe ruling class who have enriched themselves at the expense of the peasantry.

“The primary goal of this revolution is to transfer power from the hands of the Voltaic bourgeoisie allied with imperialism to the hands of the alliance of popular classes that constitute the people.”

In his short tenure as president of revolutionary Burkina Faso, he started major reforms and made great strides in healthcare, education, women’s rights, environmental protection, and economic self-sufficiency, liberating his country from foreign domination. Sankara’s revolution was a powerful rebuke of Thatcher’s “there is no alternative.” He gave hope to the Burkinabe and the peoples of the Global South who were enslaved in their own countries and robbed of their own resources to feed the white population.

Leading the Global Struggle against Western Domination

His role in the global struggle against neocolonialism has been overshadowed since his death by more popular names like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Yet at a time when the Left was facing a crisis overseas and full-blown neoliberalism became the economic orthodoxy, Sankara’s radicalism was as significant as leading a peasant revolution 780 kilometers south of capitalist United States. He dared to challenge Western imperialism in all its forms.

“When the people stand up, imperialism trembles. Homeland or death, we will win!”

He railed against the veto powers of the most powerful countries in the United Nations when no one else did.

“We also propose that the structures of the UN be changed to put an end to the scandal surrounding the right to veto. It is true that the most diabolical effects of its abuse have been offset by the vigilance of certain of those who hold this right.

Nothing, however, can justify such a right – neither the size of the country that has it nor the wealth that country might possess.

Let there be an end to the arrogance of the big powers who miss no opportunity to put the rights of the people in question. Africa’s absence from the club of those who have the right to veto is unjust and should be ended.”

Sankara was also the first African president to call for the cancellation of external debt by Western-controlled lenders like the IMF and the World Bank. He appealed to the leaders of the African nations to resist economic exploitation, and save their economies from an endless cycle of debt.

“…debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aimed at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus each one of us becomes the financial slaves, which is to say a true slave, of those who had been treacherous enough to put money in our countries with obligations for us to repay.”

He was a powerful voice for the common folk, for the nations of the Global South, and he wanted Burkina Faso to inspire a wave of movements that would liberate the oppressed proletariat from the yoke of the elite ruling class. Speaking forcefully at the UN General Assembly, his internationalism showed: “Our revolution in Burkina Faso is open to the suffering of all peoples. It also draws its inspiration from the experiences of peoples since the dawn of humanity. We wish to be the heirs of all of the revolutions of the world, of all of the liberation struggles of the peoples of the Third World.”

Towards Self-Sufficiency and a Democratic Workers’ State

But revolution, to Thomas Sankara, was not simply about deposing a French puppet government. It was about building a new identity, restoring a great culture, and redefining the socio-economic relations among the Burkinabe. He wanted to purge the countryside of all the social, economic, and cultural obstacles that kept them backwards.

The new Voltaic man, he says, has “exemplary morality and social consciousness” who sets a good example for the masses. The architects of the revolution must forge a new consciousness and abandon the influence of neo-colonial thought.

Above all, he wanted a country of, by, and for the working class. He believed that the task of rebuilding his country must be left not to the “technocrats, financial wizards, or politicians,” the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, but to those who have truly built the foundations of the predominantly agricultural Burkinabe economy.

He saw imperialism as a constant threat to workers’ liberation, condemning it every chance he had in mass rallies. It was an all-encompassing system, he said, present in all aspects of the African life. Thus, the working class had to actively resist all manifestations of reactionary thought–cultural, economic, and political.

In his fight for self-sufficiency, he initiated major reforms on the country’s foreign aid policy. He revealed it for what it truly was–a clever re-branding of colonialism which ‘produced nothing more than disorganization and enslavement.’ He saw early on that it was designed to control the economies of developing countries by trapping them in billions of dollars of external debt and making them dependent on external assistance in the long-run.

He wanted a country that was self-sufficient, that didn’t have to beg its former colonizers for food aid. He recognized that Burkina Faso produced enough food to survive on its own, thus he mobilized the masses to protect the local tomato industry and produce food locally.

“Our country produces enough to feed us all. We can even produce more than we need. Unfortunately, for lack of organization, we still beg for food aid. This type of assistance is counterproductive and has kept us thinking that we can only be beggars who need aid.”

In an unprecedented move, he crushed the power of the local elite, distributed land to the peasantry, and nationalized the country’s mineral wealth, ending the feudal economy that persisted in pre-revolutionary Burkina Faso. In a few years, the country came close to achieving food self-sufficiency. Major reforms in the agrarian sector ensured that the country’s produce were used to feed the local population.

A Champion of Women’s Rights

“The weight of the centuries-old traditions of our society has relegated women to the status of beasts of burden. By changing the social order that oppresses women, the revolution creates the conditions for their genuine emancipation.The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up the other half of the sky.”

Thomas Sankara was a champion of women’s rights, treating them as equals and as important allies in the fight against imperialism. “The revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women,” he often said.

“Forging a new mentality among Voltaic women that allows them to take responsibility for the country’s destiny alongside men is one of the essential tasks of the revolution.”

At the time, to call for equality for women was revolutionary. In every other African country, women were treated as second-class citizens, commodities traded by their families in exchange for dowry. But under the presidency of Sankara, he recognized the role of women in the economic and social spheres.

He appointed them to government positions and the military. Forced marriages and genital mutilation were outlawed and girls were encouraged to stay in school despite being pregnant. Stressing the importance of women’s rights in a speech, he said: “we cannot transform society while maintaining domination and discrimination against women who constitute over half of the population.”

He decried bourgeois forms of emancipation such as acquiring the habits recognized as male. To him genuine emancipation was about entrusting them with the shared responsibility of building the nation, and placing them on the front line in the people’s fight against imperialism.

A Champion of the Environment

To be in a country bounded by an expanding desert on the North was a major challenge to the people of Burkina Faso. Water was scarce and famine afflicted the country. He launched the masses to dig new wells and taught them water conservation techniques. Close to 10 million trees were planted to prevent the southward expansion of the Sahel desert using a systematic village tree nursery program. Each village was designed to have one forest and the culture of tree-planting became widespread.

Additionally, a campaign on environmental awareness was launched to educate the people about the evils of illicit logging and the ways to avoid forest fires. Innovations in cooking stove technology meant lesser pollution and it improved the health of women.

With these programs, combined with a radical land distribution drive, the working class of Burkina Faso started to see change. They could now produce food in their communities without travelling for kilometers every day.

Thomas Sankara was one of the few leaders in the world who cared about environmental preservation. His ideas were beyond his contemporaries, including those in the West, and he saw climate change as a threat even before the science was fully understood. He rightfully believed that the environment cannot be saved by dole-outs from the rich, but through the collective efforts of the working class. Today, his “Struggle for a Green Burkina” has become the basis for the African Green Wall and various green projects around the world.

Healthcare and Education for the Masses

Sankara started a literacy campaign in a country with over 90% illiteracy rate. He conducted it in nine indigenous languages and taught reading and writing to 35,000 people. He built hundreds of new schools and educated children below 12 with the ideals of the revolution.

At the same time, 3 million children were vaccinated against yellow fever, measles and meningitis in only 15 days at a time when people resisted vaccination because of religious beliefs. River blindness was controlled and other health care services were made available to millions for the first time because new health clinics across the country were being built and one doctor for every 50,000 people was hired by the government. From one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world at 280 deaths per 1000 live births, it fell to 145 deaths per 1000 live births in less than 2 years.

Sankara’s Anti-Elitism

Sankara shunned the bourgeois lifestyle that many in the government enjoyed. He cut the salaries of government employees, including his own, and mandated that they use public transport. He sold all expensive Mercedes-Benz cars and replaced them with the Renault 5 and he also refused to use the air conditioning in his office because he thought it was a luxury not enjoyed by majority of Burkinabes .

Unlike many other socialist leaders, Sankara was a humble man who did not want a cult of personality around him. He had faith in the ability of the working class to discern the truth.

“One does not make a revolution simply to take the place of the despots who have been deposed. The image of the revolutionary…is that of an activist who is one with the masses, who has faith in them and who respects them. A revolutionary is someone who knows how to be modest. He fulfills [tasks] without boasting and expects no reward. ”

He despised the African intelligentsia and saw them as complicit in the suffering of the entire continent.

“My fear is justified even more by the fact that the educated petty bourgeoisie of Africa – if not the entire world — is not prepared to give up its privileges, either because of intellectual laziness or simply because it has tasted the Western way of life.

Because of these, the petty bourgeois forget that all genuine political struggle requires rigorous, theoretical debate, and they refuse to rise to the intellectual effort of conceiving new concepts equal to the murderous struggle that lies ahead of us.

Passive and pathetic consumers, they wallow in terminology fetishized by the West, just as they wallow in Western whiskey and champagne in shady-looking lounges.

Assassination

But like many others who have fought for their country’s independence, Sankara was assassinated by the West to reclaim its colony. Blaise Compaoré, a soldier he once called “best friend”, with the support of the CIA and the French government, killed Sankara and 12 other allies. His body was dismembered and buried in an unmarked grave. Immediately, his programs were overturned and the World Bank and IMF rushed in to take advantage of the economic shock that transpired. Burkina Faso was once again ruled by a Western puppet government.

Thomas Sankara’s Legacy Lives On

As we examine the history of the countries in the Global South, we start to see a pattern–that the West is no friend of the working class and the fight of Thomas Sankara continues to this day.

We have been conditioned to think that the West is a bastion of freedom and democracy, whose people have invented an economic system capable of lifting millions out of poverty. They taught us that those in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South Asia belong to indolent cultures in dire need of a “civilizing” intervention from the West and that the situation in the Middle East is simply a result of a violent religion that wants to kill all Christians.

What we are not told is that the freedom and democracy enjoyed by the West is built on slave labor and massive human rights abuses in the developing world. We are not told that many of the problems we face today are a result of Western greed and opportunism. Terrorism, modern warfare, nuclear proliferation, and climate change are not events that came out of nowhere. They are products of the policies of a region that continues to control the global economy.

We often hope that the developing world could soon enjoy wages as high as those in the West and houses as big as theirs. But this can never happen in the current system, and the CIA and their European allies understood this. They knew that left-wing thinkers and politicians who tried to build a welfare state similar to the West would cut their countries of important resources necessary to sustain their life, so they saw it critical to intervene, launch a coup, and install a puppet government. Sometimes, they do it more covertly, asserting their influence through military aid, foreign aid, and infrastructure loan programs. Thomas Sankara was one of many Leftists who saw through all the lies of the West. He dared to go against a global system dominated by Western greed knowing full well that his life was in danger.

Thirty years since his tragic death, his political thought remains true. Only when the people are mobilized can we radically transform our societies and break the chains of colonialism. For the new generation of activists, those who are fighting against the Western elite and their lackeys who belittle the strength of the working class, Thomas Sankara’s words should serve as an inspiration:

“It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.”

The Pan-African Renaissance gives a heartfelt tribute to a great man, a visionary, and a friend of the oppressed working class who dared to challenge the West.

“For the 4 short years he ruled over his people, he defied imperialism and showed Africa what could be accomplished by effectively allocating the nation’s mineral wealth and resources to benefits its people, shattering the imperialist lie that Africa could not survive without foreign aid.

Thomas Sankara exemplified what it meant to be a selfless leader with no interest in material gain. He lived a simple and humble life even as he commanded an entire army and ruled over a nation.

In a world in which its ruling elite are worth millions (if not billions) of dollars whilst their people starve and struggle just to make a living, Sankara, when he was assassinated by the CIA and French Secret Service, only had a few hundred dollars, a guitar, a bicycle, and a broken down freezer to his name. Though he is no longer with us, his ideas live on in the hearts and minds of the African people!”

 

Photo credit:

http://www.monitor.co.ug

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/burkina-faso-subsaharan-africas-version-arab-spring/

 

 

The Brown Man’s Burden

By Henry Labouchère

Pile on the brown man’s burden
To gratify your greed;
Go, clear away the “niggers”
Who progress would impede;
Be very stern, for truly
‘Tis useless to be mild
With new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Pile on the brown man’s burden;
And, if ye rouse his hate,
Meet his old-fashioned reasons
With Maxims up to date.
With shells and dumdum bullets
A hundred times made plain
The brown man’s loss must ever
Imply the white man’s gain.

Pile on the brown man’s burden,
compel him to be free;
Let all your manifestoes
Reek with philanthropy.
And if with heathen folly
He dares your will dispute,
Then, in the name of freedom,
Don’t hesitate to shoot.

Pile on the brown man’s burden,
And if his cry be sore,
That surely need not irk you–
Ye’ve driven slaves before.
Seize on his ports and pastures,
The fields his people tread;
Go make from them your living,
And mark them with his dead.

Pile on the brown man’s burden,
And through the world proclaim
That ye are Freedom’s agent–
There’s no more paying game!
And, should your own past history
Straight in your teeth be thrown,
Retort that independence
Is good for whites alone.

When Girls Rise, We All Rise

In 2013, Sweetie, a 10-year old Filipina girl found herself in an online chat room, receiving messages from 20,000 men around the world. But they weren’t interested in her favorite toys or the colors she liked. They wanted what no adult should ever ask of a child.

Although it was revealed that Sweetie was a computer-generated child by a Dutch children’s charity to track sexual predators online, this awareness campaign revealed a disturbing reality—that child prostitution remains a rampant problem in the Philippines. In fact, ECPAT, an NGO that fights child trafficking, describes the Philippines as a “traditional child sex tourism destination.”

One can only wonder how many real-life Sweeties are out there who experience this kind of abuse on a daily basis. Of the 13.4 million children who are suffering from poverty how many girls are coerced into prostitution and marriage? There are 1.8 million abandoned children, or about 1% of the population that are roaming the streets and begging for food and money. How can we ensure that they are protected from criminal groups?

Sadly, the problem remains unaddressed to this day. But there are glimpses of hope in the grassroots sector—organizations that are offering a platform for the unheard, sharing their experiences, and offering a support system. This small-scale approach has long been the advocacy of Tahanan Sta. Luisa ever since its foundation.

History

Back in 1997, the Sisters of the Religious of the Good Shepherd founded a drop-in shelter for street children who were neglected, abandoned, and exploited. But they saw that despite the presence of many crisis centers for abused children, there weren’t any crisis centers dedicated specifically for abused street girls. The girls had specific needs which weren’t met in traditional crisis centers. So they focused their efforts on abused street girls until the organization was renamed Tahanan Sta. Luisa under the leadership of Ms. Teresita de Silva. Over the years, Tahanan Sta. Luisa has been home not only to stories of grief, but also stories of hope. By 2013, 560 street girls have called Tahanan Sta. Luisa their home, or “tahanan,” and each one has a unique story to tell.

What Tahanan Sta Luisa does

Tahanan Sta. Luisa is located in Antipolo City, Rizal, providing a comprehensive approach to rehabilitating street girls with a history of abuse. Girls aged 11-15 upon admission are surrounded by 12 dedicated staff who can guide them in their journey to recovery. Each step of the way, from making new friends to doing household chores, and eventually reintegrating themselves back into society, the social workers at Tahanan Sta. Luisa are there to help. Seeing the girls enjoy normal lives and become productive members of the community after their stay has been the main inspiration for the center’s employees.

Ms. Anna S. Aban, center director of Tahanan Sta. Luisa, explains that beyond their main goal of helping girls rehabilitate, they also want to break the stigma towards girls with a turbulent childhood. She believes that with the proper care, love, and opportunity, these girls labelled “hopeless” by many can still grow to lead normal lives. Most importantly Tahanan Sta. Luisa wants to tell survivors of abuse that they still have a chance.

But given the limited space, the center can only accept 23 girls at a time. They come from different backgrounds. Some have been prostituted and are victims of sexual abuse, some were neglected by their parents, and others are victims of drug abuse. The girls are referred by street educators from ChildHope Asia (Philippines) Foundation, and Families and Children for Empowerment and Development (FCED) and based on criteria set by the center, including the girls’ willingness to come, they are welcomed to the Tahanan Sta. Luisa family.

Upon admission, they are assessed by the center to determine their needs. This includes a look into their school records and their medical history. A case manager will work with the child to implement a case management plan where the child is actively involved in gauging her progress. Together with the house parent on duty and the social workers, areas for improvement are identified and properly addressed. They are provided with initial services such as food, clothing, a hygiene kit, and their own beds.

THE CHT FRAMEWORK

To help girls overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives, the center saw the need for an integrated approach that took into account their social, emotional, and spiritual growth. All of their projects and activities follow the Caring, Healing, and Teaching framework to make sure that girls have a holistic development during their stay.

Caring 

The house parents provide the girls with their daily needs and teach them basic life skills. From monitoring the girls’ hygiene to giving them daily chores, they are training the girls to become responsible adults. It is their hope that once they reintegrate themselves in the outside world, the girls can learn to become independent. As acting parents, the social workers become role models and they make up for the parental care that the girls were deprived of. Thus, it is not only the provision of material needs that is important to their task, but also the guidance, the laughter, and care that biological parents would give.

Healing

Healing is a priority for the social workers at Tahanan Sta. Luisa. Because of the complex background of the girls, they understand that this step must involve professionals from different fields. An initial assessment is conducted on girls who step into the center to determine any infections they may have acquired while scouring the streets.

During their stay, psychiatric and psychological services are provided, especially for girls who have gone through drug abuse. Art therapy sessions, individual and group, done every month can have a huge impact on the way these girls perceive the people around them. Through it, they can determine their own personality and understand how best to adapt to different people they meet. They will know how to resolve personal problems which they previously found overwhelming. Most importantly, they will learn how to trust again.

Other aspects are also carefully monitored such as their sexual, dental, emotional, and spiritual health. Volunteer doctors offer their services for free along with partner institutions.

Of course, healing is not only about visiting doctors, it is also about rebuilding one’s self-worth. Through various cultural and recreational activities such as music and sports, they develop skills such as perseverance and teamwork. They start to feel that they are not so different from those who have gone through formal education. Sports and recreation are important in building the girls’ character, thus it is considered an integral part of the healing process at Tahanan Sta. Luisa.

Teaching

The center enrolls the children in an alternative learning system where they learn about reading, basic math, values clarification, gender sensitivity, and sexuality. For girls who missed out on primary education, this is an important step. It builds the foundation for adulthood later in life. A full-time teaching staff supervises the girls’ educational activities.

They also learn skills that can help them earn money once they leave the center. Short-term courses are offered by volunteers and partner organizations. These can include voice lessons, arts and crafts, dancing, t-shirt painting, soap-making, and teambuilding exercises. For those who are having difficulty with the alternative learning system, Tahanan Sta. Luisa arranges tutorial sessions.

It is a policy of the center to use praise and positive reinforcement to manage their behavior. Nonviolent methods of reprimanding ensure that the girls are not reminded of their abusive past. This has worked effectively for the social workers at Tahanan Sta. Luisa over the years, noticing improved self-esteem and a cooperative behavior among the girls.

Discharge

Once a child has been determined to be ready for formal school or reintegrate with her relatives, a pre-discharge conference is arranged where they discuss the girl’s progress and the terms of her release. Aftercare monthly follow-up or home visits are conducted for 6 months and another quarterly visit for the remaining 6 months by Tahanan Sta. Luisa social workers to ensure that the girl is in good company. A closing summary report is made once the girl has showed positive signs.

One of the problems the center faces is the case of girls who leave without permission. Often, they are found returning to their old ways because they are not cope psychologically with change. Houseparents and other children discuss why the incident happened and try to think of ways to prevent it from happening in the future.

Sustainability

Tahanan Sta Luisa Inc. operates using the donations from kind individuals, organizations, and corporations. Donations can come either in monetary form or in terms of clothes, foods, and toiletries. They rely on of volunteers from other organizations to provide extracurricular training to the girls. By widening their network, the Center hopes to sustain its program and services.

Moving Forward

Tahanan Sta. Luisa is optimistic about the many opportunities ahead. They are trying to adapt to changing times by revisiting their manual for operations. They are also studying the feasibility of a homeschool system and a small business that can make them independent from donations.

For Ms. Anna Aban, there are many challenges to face, from funding and community acceptance to adapting to the girls’ behavior as teens, as abused children, and as street dwellers. But it is her hope that their noble efforts at Tahanan Sta. Luisa will one day bear fruit despite the hardships.

Because girls and children are treated as the weakest members of society, she realizes that her work requires dedication and sincere love. With the support of a diverse group of board members and guided by a noble mission, she wants to see the girls live happy lives and contented with what they have. By giving them a chance, seeing them as equals, and trusting them, she believes that we can break the cycle of abuse and poverty that continues to affect many young girls.

REFERENCES

  1. Jonathan Kaiman and Sunshine de Leon. (2016, May 28). The Philippines has 1.8 million abandoned children. Here’s what keeps many from adoption. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-philippines-orphans-adv-snap-story.html
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Child Poverty in the Philippines[E-reader Version]. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/philippines/ChildPovertyinthePhilippines_web.pdf
  3. Withnall, A. (2013, November 05). Activists use CGI 10-year-old Filipino girl ‘Sweetie’ to snare thousands of paedophiles. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/activists-use-cgi-10-year-old-filipino-girl-sweetie-to-snare-thousands-of-paedophiles-8921964.html

An Ecosocialist Manifesto

This is the original Ecosocialist Manifesto written by Joel Kovel and Michael Lowy.

The twenty-first century opens on a catastrophic note, with an unprecedented degree of ecological breakdown and a chaotic world order beset with terror and clusters of low-grade, disintegrative warfare that spread like gangrene across great swathes of the planet–viz., central Africa, the Middle East, Northwestern South America–and reverberate throughout the nations.

In our view, the crises of ecology and those of societal breakdown are profoundly interrelated and should be seen as different manifestations of the same structural forces. The former broadly stems from rampant industrialization that overwhelms the earth’s capacity to buffer and contain ecological destabilization. The latter stems from the form of imperialism known as globalization, with its disintegrative effects on societies that stand in its path. Moreover, these underlying forces are essentially different aspects of the same drive, which must be identified as the central dynamic that moves the whole: the expansion of the world capitalist system.

We reject all euphemisms or propagandistic softening of the brutality of this regime: all greenwashing of its ecological costs, all mystification of the human costs under the names of democracy and human rights. We insist instead upon looking at capital from the standpoint of what it has really done.

Acting on nature and its ecological balance, the regime, with its imperative to constantly expand profitability, exposes ecosystems to destabilizing pollutants, fragments habitats that have evolved over aeons to allow the flourishing of organisms, squanders resources, and reduces the sensuous vitality of nature to the cold exchangeability required for the accumulation of capital.

From the side of humanity, with its requirements for self-determination, community, and a meaningful existence, capital reduces the majority of the world’s people to a mere reservoir of labor power while discarding much of the remainder as useless nuisances. It has invaded and undermined the integrity of communities through its global mass culture of consumerism and depoliticization. It has expanded disparities in wealth and power to levels unprecedented in human history. It has worked hand in glove with a network of corrupt and subservient client states whose local elites carry out the work of repression while sparing the center of its opprobrium. And it has set going a network of transtatal organizations under the overall supervision of the Western powers and the superpower United States, to undermine the autonomy of the periphery and bind it into indebtedness while maintaining a huge military apparatus to enforce compliance to the capitalist center.

We believe that the present capitalist system cannot regulate, much less overcome, the crises it has set going. It cannot solve the ecological crisis because to do so requires setting limits upon accumulation—an unacceptable option for a system predicated upon the rule: Grow or Die! And it cannot solve the crisis posed by terror and other forms of violent rebellion because to do so would mean abandoning the logic of empire, which would impose unacceptable limits on growth and the whole “way of life” sustained by empire. Its only remaining option is to resort to brutal force, thereby increasing alienation and sowing the seed of further terrorism . . . and further counter-terrorism, evolving into a new and malignant variation of fascism.

In sum, the capitalist world system is historically bankrupt. It has become an empire unable to adapt, whose very gigantism exposes its underlying weakness. It is, in the language of ecology, profoundly unsustainable, and must be changed fundamentally, nay, replaced, if there is to be a future worth living.

Thus the stark choice once posed by Rosa Luxemburg returns: Socialism or Barbarism!, where the face of the latter now reflects the imprint of the intervening century and assumes the countenance of ecocatastrophe, terror counterterror, and their fascist degeneration.

But why socialism, why revive this word seemingly consigned to the rubbish-heap of history by the failings of its twentieth century interpretations? For this reason only: that however beaten down and unrealized, the notion of socialism still stands for the supersession of capital. If capital is to be overcome, a task now given the urgency of the survival of civilization itself, the outcome will perforce be “socialist,” for that is the term which signifies the breakthrough into a post-capitalist society. If we say that capital is radically unsustainable and breaks down into the barbarism outlined above, then we are also saying that we need to build a “socialism” capable of overcoming the crises capital has set going. And if “socialisms” past have failed to do so, then it is our obligation, if we choose against submitting to a barbarous end, to struggle for one that succeeds. And just as barbarism has changed in a manner reflective of the century since Luxemburg enunciated her fateful alternative, so too, must the name, and the reality, of a “socialism” become adequate for this time.

It is for these reasons that we choose to name our interpretation of “socialism” as an ecosocialism, and dedicate ourselves to its realization.

Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam

A speech delivered by Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945

All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.

They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.

To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade.

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.

Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation. On March 9, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

On several occasions before March 9, the Vietminh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Vietminh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Caobang.

Notwithstanding all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese putsch of March 1945, the Vietminh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.

The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Vietnam and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.

The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.

We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.

A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eight years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.

Source: Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works Vol. 3, (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960–62), 17–21.

Malaysia Irredenta

A  case for Pan-Malayan unity by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons

The cyclic rise and fall of people in Providence’s immutable nomination. The crumbling ruins of castle walls and the struggling remnants of once powerful empires bear witness to this divine law. In a vain attempt to attain immortality, man has transmitted through the memory the storied splendors of by-gone civilizations. He clutches with the instinct of life at the barest threads linking his inglorious present with his glorious past. He lives over the conquests and wars of his ancestors, and in the tremulous fancy of his imaginings invests himself with the pretensions of greatness. He reconstructs in his mind the wisdom of his sires. He sets himself to the task of recreating the civilization that was prompted by this inexhaustible source of inspiration effects the redemption of his race.

In our struggle for emancipation from foreign control, during the centuries that our nationality has been repressed, our political outlook was circumscribed by narrow national boundaries. Towards the waning years of the regime of Spain, our enlightened patriots reconstructed our history and envisioned for us a future. We broke ourselves as a nation united by the bond of common traditions. Thirty years we have devoted for the strengthening of that bond. For thirty years, by the development of means of communication, the establishment of schools, the growth of commerce and trade, and exploitation of natural resources, we have nurtured our national consciousness until we have forged ourselves into a people that would rise and fall together through all the ages to come. But in the thirty years that we have grappled with internal problems, events have transpired in international relations which we, ignorant of their significance, have failed to notice. We do not comprehend the recurring changes in the evolution of nations which have transformed the Pacific Ocean into a vast stage of the world’s unfolding drama. The destiny of the nation and of the allied races in the oceanic islands is inextricably linked with these world affairs, in this stupendous political readjustment now beginning in the Far East. At this stage of our national history, let us, by expanded ambitions, prepare for ourselves a place of eminence and leadership in the world’s great hereafter.

Picture in your minds, ladies and gentlemen, an immense body of water extending mile after mile between four continents and connected with the rest of the globe by the eddying currents to waters equally vast. Place on this limitless expanse tiny points hardly perceptible to the eye, and surround it with great land masses and high mountains which stupefy even you, their own creator. Put on each diminutive isle small brown peoples hardly aware of the magnitude of creation about them, ignorant of when and whence they come, laboring like beasts for alien masters, without ambitions–therefore without a future. Then conceive for the surrounding masses countless millions of hardy, ambitious men, proud of a glorious history, scheming for world conquests, and looking with the hungry eyes of the panther at the helpless humanity in the ocean midst. And you, ladies and gentlemen, have the Pacific Ocean of the twentieth century, the center of activity, commercial and political, the crossroads where the conflict of nations rages in all its fury.

We are in a situation where we cannot disentangle ourselves from Asiatic complications. With the benign protection of the United States, we have been kept away from the conflict. But we indulge in self-deception when we ignore our inability to resist aggression; we jeopardize the interests of posterity when we fail to prepare for their defense; we invoke eternal curse on our heads when we continue in a policy of isolation contrary to the normal course of events. For the same power which has kept away from Oriental entanglements may, by its growing interest in the Sino-Japanese imbroglio, precipitate us into the conflict. We hear the din of revolution. The teeming masses, from the Himalayas to the China Coast, are shaking the foundation of the old order of things forging ahead in humanity’s march toward the millenium. Three hundred million Indians have hoisted the standard of revolt to wrest their government from foreign control. They have cast aside all differences, and identified themselves in a common cause. China, with her colossal proportions, with her four hundred million inhabitants, and her vast welath in natural resources is redeeming herself from the chaos of civil war. Imperialistic Japan is making her last bid for Asiatic leadership. If she succeeds in her Manchurian venture, she will have the Orient at her feet and the ocean for her dominion. Failing in this, she will cast her eyes to the south and mark for her only possible preys the weak and disunited oceanic islanders, the small brown peoples living in a hundred thousand islands from the rugged shores of Madagascar to the beetling crags of Easter Island.

I have portrayed for you, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, our national dilemma. We cannot ignore the magnitude of this problem. We are situated where shot and hell will rain the hardest in a Pacific war. We are impotent by reason of our number and our lack of means of protection and defense. With the instinct of the man in the last death throes with the waves, we look in the waters around us. We recall stray hits of historical knowledge which have trickled down through the years. Was there not in some distant past a race of Malayan Vikings? Were they not rulers of the seas and of the emerald isles, renowned for political genius? Did they not distinguish themselves by their dauntlessness in war and their achievements in peace? These recollections remind us of the possibility of the establishment of a nation that would consolidate a hundred million peoples into a Republic of Malaysia.

But the Malays have slept the sleep of the condemned. Not for one, nor for centuries, but for what seems an eternity. Their origin is shrouded in mystery. They only have a tradition of having come from the sea. A fantastic though not improbable theory would make the Malays the inhabitants of a great continent in the present ocean basin which sunk countless ages ago. They have with them the remnants of a once advanced civilization; they possess a highly developed language more widely-spread than those of the Greeks and the Romans. One would establish an affinity among the American Indians, Polynesians, and Malays, and striking similarities in language, traditions of a home in the sea and general dispersion, physical conformation and general character would seem to support the theory. It is not groundless to conclude that that these races are probably allied and at a period beyond the recollection of man shared a common home. But when the ocean waters submerged their continent, when the dreamy slumber of primeval ages overpowered all signs of activity, they slowly went down in the scale of civilization. More united racially than either the Indians or the Chinese, yet they have not formed a powerful modern state. Originally one in tongue; now they speak a confusion of dialects. Self-centered in their philosophy, repressed by long isolation, unmindful of their brilliant history, they have failed to conceive the dream of a free United State, of a redeemed Malaysia.

Our racial history is marked by the occasional display of the genius of remote ancestors. Under the influence of Hindu culture, the Shri-Visayan empire consolidated a vast territory from Formosa to Ceylon, and embracing to the south Java and the Moluccas. The magnificent edifices in Sumatra and the palaces of Angkor Thom are eternal monuments of its grandeur. In the wake of the Shri-Visayan empire, followed the more extensive conquests of the kingdom of Majapahit. Malayan soldiers fought against the hordes of Kublai Khan and founded a settlement in distant places. The Polynesians, too, have had their day of nation-building, and when the white man came with his Bible and rum bottle, he found in nearly every island an organized government. Hawaii had a constitution ever since Captain Cook abused Hawaiian hospitality. Fiji, Tahiti, and Samoa each had a stable government before the advent of missionaries. The Malays of Madagascar had consolidated themselves into a powerful kingdom and had established more churches than were found in Paris when a French man-of-war annexed the territory in the name of Catholic France. But the white man with his flaunted principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, suppressed native governments and substituted therewith foreign rule. While preaching a religion of peace, he introduced muskets and dynamite; intent upon the promotion of human happiness, he has met native resistance with fire and sword, depopulating villages with warships and canons. He has tried to eradicate all vestiges of the natives’ past and unduly emphasize the grandeur of his own.

By maintaining our individuality against the successive impacts of physical and cultural invasions, we have evolved into a race well-fitted for self-government and state-building. We have a splendid heritage of sufferings and persecutions under alien rulers; a heritage of the best of Western religion and thought superimposed on the best traditions and customs of the East. Add to these advantages our generous endowments from nature; the fertile lands which await the hands of the toiler; our mines of gold, coal, and iron ore which at present are more industrial potentialities rather than concrete wealth. A unified Malaysia extending from the northern extremity of the Malay Peninsula to the shores of New Guinea, from Madagascar to the Philippines and to the remotest islands of Polynesia, will be a powerful factor in the oceanic world. Such an achievement will vindicate us from the contumely of alien peoples. It will belie the charge that we are densely incapable of organization, a race devoid of the genius of government, averse to hard labor and industrious habits, improvident and indolent in disposition, fond of cockfighting and childish sports, inveterately addicted to gambling, and altogether lacking those qualities which are indispensable to a people that would rise to a place of responsibility in the great family of nations.

The plan which I propose to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is not entirely of a novel impression. It was the original state before the home of our civilized ancestors was swallowed by the waves. It was executed in a way when the Shri-Visayan and Madjapahit empires ruled the sea. It was the proposed by the Hawaiian parliament in 1879 and conceived in 1898 by Apolinario Mabini in his idea of a “Federacion Malaya.”

The gods release a challenge to the teeming millions of Malaysia. It finds echoes in the only Malayan state of Siam, is transmitted throughout the Straits Settlements, coursing with greater intensity among Pacific Islands. It found expression when the Javanese resisted Dutch arbitrary rule in the Moluccas; when the Chief Tamasese of Samoa dared an English firing squad; when the Philippines revolted against Spain and resisted American invasion. It will likewise find expression, when we shall extend our vision beyond our territorial boundaries, when every Malay nation will raise itself from its local peculiar interests, when every islet will resound with the hymns of glories of forgotten empires; when we in the vision of United State work in concert to adopt a common language and overcome our frailties, so that by our renewed racial vitality we may give birth to a new nationalism, that of Malaysia redeemed.

As I impart to you tonight, ladies and gentlemen, the burden of my message, I feel that a shadow of doubt has crossed your minds. You must have shaken your heads in unbelief in a dream which because of the immensity of its proportions seem to defy reality; which by reason of its magnitude seems to be preposterous and absurd; which by its strange advocacy of the union of far distant peoples lost in the vastness of the ocean expanse, may for a moment be considered as highly improbable project. But your answer to this challenge will be your verdict on the capacity of your race for civilization, and your vision of a redeemed Malaysia will be the salvation of your posterity.