IC Quarterly Analysis – 2020 Q4

Period: 10/20–12/20
Volume 1, Issue 2

At its 2019 convention, Democratic Socialists of America voted that its International Committee (IC) should produce for members a quarterly newsletter of news and analysis about international events. In this edition, the International Committee presents to the DSA membership news about France’s new national security law, the legalization of abortion in Argentina, elections in Venezuela, escalating tensions with Iran, and other stories. It also includes information for how members can get involved in the DSA IC endorsed Yemen Day of Action and an in-depth exploration of the major strike underway in India and what socialists around the world can learn from it. 

War Hawks Ratchet Up Tensions with Iran in Waning Days of Trump Administration

As the incoming Joseph Biden Administration has promised to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal, those who desire regime change in Iran are using the lame duck period of Donald Trump’s presidency to ratchet up tensions with Iran. These provocations against Iran are clearly designed to limit the ability of a new administration to pursue diplomacy with Iran. The latest maneuver came on December 30, 2020, when the U.S. flew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East. This aggressive move was timed in advance of the one-year anniversary of Trump’s illegal assassination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani, which brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war.

They also come just a little over a month after Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated. While it is unknown who was responsible, Iran has blamed Israel. Many observers have similarly asserted that Israel is the likely culprit, given their past history of assassinating Iranian scientists. Assassinating a civilian scientist is illegal under international law. Trump previously reportedly considered a military strike against Iran during the lame duck period, but was talked out of it.

Contrary to some assertions, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. U.S. intelligence assessments in both 2007 and 2012 concluded that Iran ceased pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On the other hand, Israel and the U.S. both have nuclear weapons. 

Iran does have a civilian nuclear energy program. As part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal), the U.S. agreed to lift some sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran agreeing to limits on its uranium enrichment and mandating international inspections. While Iran complied fully with the agreement, the Trump Administration unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of international agreement. The Trump administration ratcheted up sanctions against Iran. While such sanctions have always had a devastating impact on Iranian civilians, who are in no way responsible for the actions of their government, the murderous impact of the sanctions has been made all the worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. went so far as to block the International Monetary Fund from providing emergency COVID-19 aid to Iran. 

Trump brought the U.S. to the brink of war with Iran earlier in 2020, when he assassinated Iranian General Qassim Suleiman on Iraqi soil and in violation of international law. Democratic Socialists of America have repeatedly opposed a war with Iran, called for all sanctions to be lifted, and for the U.S. to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Deal. 

Historic Victory for Reproductive Rights in Argentina 

After a long struggle between the powerful Catholic Church against a cross-class coalition of secular and feminist groups, abortion has been legalized in Argentina. The road to this landmark legislation has been long and arduous—and marked by tens of thousands of injured and thousands of dead women. Abortion has long been an underground practice in Argentina, with high estimates claiming up to 500,000 illegal abortions performed each year. 

Very few Latin American countries allow abortion—some of them ban it outright, even in cases of rape or threat to the mother. Though some countries—including Cuba, Uruguay and Paraguay do allow abortion—Argentina is by far the largest country in the region to do so. Argentina has traditionally been known as a Catholic country (though many fewer citizens identify as Catholic now than in the past) and Pope Francis himself hails from the country. The Catholic Church still has a huge influence in the country, especially in the rural areas. 

The past several years has seen the rise of a broad front of feminist groups. Since 2005, feminists in Argentina have been organizing for abortion through the Campaña Nacional por el Derecho al Aborto Legal, Seguro y Gratuito (“La Campaña”). The 2015 “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Less)” movement against gendered violence was followed by the 2018 wave of mass mobilizations dubbed “Marea Verde” (Green Wave).  For perspectives from the frontline, consider this interview with feminists activists of the leading coalitions. 

These are part of a growing movement of feminist groups throughout Latin America

A previous abortion bill passed the lower house in 2018, but was shot down in the Senate. However, the 2018 elections saw the return of a progressive brand of Peronism to the presidency with the election of Alberto Fernandez, flanked by his vice president (and former president), the popular Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Alberto Fernandez ran on legalizing abortion, but it was the sustained street movements that kept legislators accountable and made it happen. 

France’s Neoliberal Government Pushes Draconian National Security Bill

The neoliberal government of Emmanuel Macron has been pushing a “Loi Sécurité Globale” or “Global Security Law.” The bill is designed to strengthen the power of the police. It increases the surveillance powers of the police, including by authorizing the use of surveillance drones. The most controversial provision of the bill is one that would criminalize the dissemination of images of police officers where the officer can be identified and the intent is to physically or mentally harm the office. This provision has been assailed by journalists, press freedom advocates, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (and other UN experts), and even France’s own human rights ombudsman. 

It is widely seen as an attack on press freedom and an attempt to stop people from recording and sharing images of police violence. Following shocking images of police violence against the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protesters and France’s renewed anti-racist movement, there is heightened concern about police brutality. This bill, backed by police unions, is clearly in response to this. 

In response to the bill, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country to protest the bill. More demonstrations are expected on January 16 and January 30, 2021. Additionally, opponents of the law will be taking part in a January 3 “white march” marking the one-year anniversary of the muder of Cédric Chouviat by police. 

The future of the bill is not clear. The National Assembly passed the Loi Sécurité Globale on November 24, 2020. The French Senate is scheduled to take up the bill in January. Yet, due to the widespread criticism, the French government has announced an intent to rewrite the bill’s most controversial provision. Opponents of the bill both inside and outside the French legislature have stated that rewriting the bill is not enough and it must be withdrawn completely. 

While France’s left is deeply fractured at the moment, parties of the French left have all opposed the bill. The French Communist Party and France Insoumise, who both have representatives in the National Assembly, have vehemently opposed the bill (. So too has New Anticapitalist Party, a smaller party without representation in the National Assembly that plays a role in organizing street protests. The Communists also have representatives in the French Senate, and have pledged to oppose the bill when it comes to the Senate. France Insoumise declines to participate in Senate elections as they view the Senate as being undemocratic.

The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee salutes our comrades in France who are fighting this draconian bill that expands surveillance, shreds press freedom, and stifles the public’s right to know about police violence. 

International Day of Action Seeks to Pressure Biden Administration to End U.S. Participation in Yemen War

On January 25, 2021, there will be an International Day of Action to end the War in Yemen. The DSA International Committee has endorsed the day of action, and chapters across the country will be taking part. 

For nearly six years, a Saudi-led coalition has led a brutal war in Yemen that has included attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and a cruel blockade that has produced a famine in the nation. As a result of the conflict, 230,000 people have died. Two-thirds of the population of Yemen, 20 million people, are in need of humanitarian food assistance. It has also led to the largest cholera outbreak in history. Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The ultra-reactionary Saudi monarchy has long been a key U.S. ally in the region. The U.S. under both the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations provided support to the Saudi-led coalition in the form of weapons and intelligence sharing. Previously, the U.S. was refueling Saudi war planes, but this was discontinued in 2018. In 2016, State Department lawyers warned U.S. officials could be charged with war crimes for their role in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia to be used in the Yemen war. 

High-profile war crimes, such as the killing of 40 children on a school bus, have outraged the world. As a result, anti-war activists and others have pushed to end U.S. involvement in the war. This resulted in members of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna bringing resolutions to the floor of Congress to invoke the War Powers Act and end U.S. participation in the war. While the early attempts failed, in April 2019 Congress for the first time in history invoked the War Powers Act to end U.S. participation in the Yemen War. Trump vetoed the resolution.

Although the Obama Administration initiated U.S. participation in the Yemen War, and Joseph Biden’s transition team had included some of the worst national security officials of the Obama era, there is some hope Biden may change course. On the campaign trail, Biden promised to end U.S. participation in the war. 

The Democratic Socialists of America International Committee reiterates its call to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. We have endorsed the International Day of Action. DSA members looking to participate can sign up at dsaic.org/Yemen.

Venezuela Elections: A Blow to U.S. Imperialism 

On December 6, 2020, Venezuelans took part in national legislative elections. While the U.S. State Department is naturally quick to call any election in the Global South not happening under the auspices of Washington, DC, a sham, elements of the right not led by CIA-backed operative and useful idiot Juan Guaidó did not contest the legitimacy of the voting system. Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) confirmed the results where the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party of democratically elected Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, won with 69% of the vote and picked up 91% of the deputies in what the party hailed as a massive victory. This time around Venezuelans had the choice of voting for the Popular Revolutionary Alternative (APR), an alliance comprised of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and the Homeland for All (PPT) Party, among others and alongside a range of grassroots movements and trade unions.While smaller left groupings, such as Marea Socialista, have existed outside Chavismo, this is the first time that a socialist alliance claiming the mantle of Chavismo has run nationally challenging the PSUV. The PCV and PPT had traditionally backed the ruling PSUV, but recently broke with Maduro over his domestic economic policies. In the international sphere, the APR stands firmly with the current government against imperialism and foreign intervention. The APR received 2.7% of the vote and won less than half of 1% of deputy seats. While the APR considered the election legitimate, they have alleged attacks on their candidates and activists, as well as censorship by state media.

Under what is considered low turnout, 30.5% of Venezuelans participated in the process, putting the country on par with others in the region. 

Some Venezuelans have criticized the turnout rate while others have argued low turnout does not mean Venezuelans are depoliticized. In a nuanced interview with English language outlet Venezuela Analysis, Pagina 12 journalist Marco Teruggi contends the global campaign against Venezuelan sovereignty by the use of crippling sanctions led by Washington, DC, has seen some success in its desired effect, but that this must be understood along with the “deterioration of the political sphere” by both sides. Readers may read the interview in its entirety here

Far-right opposition leader Juan Guaidó, referred to last month by the new Venezuelan ambassador to China as the president of Narnia, was relatively absent from the national conversation and is trying to perpetuate a parallel National Assembly to the elected one. Even President Trump does not believe Guaidó has what it takes to carry the visage of a U.S.-backed coup reportedly calling him the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela.” U.S.-armed military attempts to destabilize Venezuela have thus far been resounding failures, best illustrated in the spring of 2020 when two U.S. American and a handful of Venezuelan mercenaries backed by a Florida security company were arrested outside of Caracas in an effort now referred to as “the stupid Bay of Pigs.” Nevertheless, DSA proclaims our unwavering support for Venezuelan democracy free from interference by the United States and the Western world. 

The U.S.’s Shameful Israel-Morocco Deal 

In another step toward creating a reactionary bloc of anti-Iran nations in the region, the United States has purchased the open support of Morocco for the apartheid state of Israel. This is yet another addition to the pathetic Abraham Accords, the name given by the anti-worker U.S. State Department for the deals brokered between Israel and four states in the region—the UAE (whom it bribed with advanced weapons to use on farmers in Yemen), Sudan (who the U.S. disciplined with heavy sanctions ostensibly for links to terror groups; Sudan was removed from the terror list following the deal), and Bahrain. 

The move has been described as part of a regional realignment in the bourgeois press, but the truth is that the reactionary monarchies in the Gulf and North Africa have long been aligned with Israel against Iran, Pan-Arabists, Communists and anti-colonial forces. Israel was crucial in the assasination of Mehdi-Ben Barka alongside the Moroccan monarchy and the French secret services. 

The United States bought off Morocco’s open cooperation by becoming the first country to recognize Western Sahara as a part of the country. The Moroccan central government has long been at war, often with the backing of major powers, against the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara and their fight for self-determination. The Sahrawi, led by the Polisario Front, secured an internationally backed ceasefire and referendum on independence in 1991. That referendum has been delayed year after year; by recognizing the Western Sahara as part of Morocco, Trump may reignite a conflict that the Polisario Front is ill-equipped to win. 

The General Strike and Farmer Protests In India: Lessons For the Global Left?

During the U.S. Civil War hundreds of thousands of black slaves withheld their labor and abandoned plantations across the South. Throughout 1905, over 800,000 workers throughout the Russian Empire participated in strikes paving the path toward the 1917 October Revolution and the creation of the USSR. In 1946, 60,000 South Africans engaged in a general strike largely credited in setting the stage for the anti-apartheid movement.

And just over a month ago we saw the biggest strike in global history, when 250 million Indian farmers and workers went on strike in response to attacks from the far-right government of Narendra Modi and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) seeking to deregulate the agricultural sector and challenge the livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers. This was preceded and followed by massive protests led by farmers and agricultural workers who have now converged on New Delhi, the national capital. Readers may learn more detail about the three bills and the Modi government’s vicious crackdown against protestors in DSA IC’s statement linked here TK. But it is worth exploring what we in the U.S. can learn from workers in India and similarities between the U.S. and Indian far-right. 

First, U.S. Americans should understand that Indians are no stranger to the general strike. There have been at least 16 general strikes in India since 1991, according to journalist Shashank Bengali, meaning the coordination of the largest strike in world history was the product of an escalation of intense labor actions. There is also no indication worker unrest will stop, as General Secretary for the Center for Indian Trade Unions [CITU] Tapan Seng wrote in a statement: “The strike today is only a beginning.

Brutal “labor reforms” are part of the Modi government’s attempt to cozy up to Western financial interests. States the Economic Times [of India] back in December of 2019:

Rigid land and labor laws and protectionist trade policies are hindering investment in India even though the government has made strides in improving the ease of doing business, according to the World Bank…

Companies operating in India have little flexibility in hiring and firing workers, while acquiring land is not easy. The labor laws are something Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to address in new legislation as he ramps up reforms to bolster a slowing economy.”

This narrative of framing basic workers rights and protectionist measures as inconvenient impediments to corporate prosperity should come as no surprise to U.S. workers. The right has neither the desire nor creativity to deviate much from the PR handbook when it comes to justifying neoliberal policies. Yet the Indian working class has grown wise to this rhetoric because for years they have been presented with an alternative vision by militant labor leaders and left political parties.

In particular the role of the socialist stronghold state of Kerala and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is worth highlighting. Jacobin reports members of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ wing of CPI(M) led the farmers march of 2018 as a precursor to the 2020 strike. As a result of the most recent strike, the Left Democratic Front [LDF], of which CPI(M) is a member, swept elections last month. But what was talked about most was the election of CPI(M) activist since secondary school, the new 21-year-old mayor of Thiruvananthapuram Arya Rajendran. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala and the southern state’s most populated city. Following her win, Rajendran stated:

I am the proud daughter of a proud worker. That is why I became part of this movement of the workers, peasants and other common people. The party firmly believes I can work to help those who face even more difficulty than me.

The question has been raised by historians and activists alike as to whether revolution can happen in a single city or a single state. While we as socialists hope the 2020 strike of India is a step in the path toward a fundamental reimagination of Indian society (i.e., revolution), we are also aware this may take several more strikes and a much greater wave of popular support for Indian socialism. What CPI(M) and CITU in particular have been successful in is presenting an alternative message to the Indian working class about what is possible.  

Another takeaway is to understand the importance of the Center for Indian Trade Unions publishing a clear platform titled The 12 Point Charter of Demands, orders not confined to the one particular sector or union contract as we are used to in this country but expanding broadly across the working class. Contained are demands about social security, minimum wage, support for the nationalized enterprises, and the swift enforcement of all basic labor laws.