IC Quarterly Analysis – Q3 2020

Period: 07/20–09/20
Volume 1, Issue 1

At its 2019 convention, Democratic Socialists of America voted that its International Committee should produce for members a quarterly newsletter of news and analysis about international events. In this inaugural issue, the International Committee presents news and analysis about a number of international issues we believe to be of importance to the DSA membership, including the restoration of democracy in Bolivia, the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left, Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests, and how a socialist government in Kerala, India, is tackling the coronavirus. We have a world to win. 

Democracy Restored in Bolivia as People Return the MAS to Power

Less than one year after a military coup removed Bolivia’s democratically elected socialist president Evo Morales, democracy has been restored in Bolivia. On October 18, 2020, voters went to the polls in the first election since the coup. Luis Arce, the candidate of Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) and Morales’s Minister of Economy, was decisively elected with over 50% of the vote.

Morales of the MAS was first elected president in 2006. He was the nation’s first indigenous president. Under his governance, Bolivia enacted a new constitution, recognizing the country as a plurinational nation. Poverty was reduced by 40% and extreme poverty by 62%. Morales was re-elected in 2009, 2014, and 2019. However, following the 2019 election the Organization of American States promulgated false claims of fraud, paving the way for a military coup. Even though his term was not up, Morales was forced to flee the country. He has since returned to his home country after having sought asylum in Argentina. 

After the coup, Bolivia was governed by unelected “interim president” Jeanine Áñez. A right-wing politician, Áñez after taking power appeared with a large Bible announcing, “The Bible has returned to the palace.” As she had previously referred to indigenous religious practices as “satanic,” these comments were viewed as an attack on the indigenious population of Bolivia. During this period, Bolivia saw severe repression, with the military massacring anti-coup protesters. 

Democratic Socialists of America condemned the military coup in Bolivia and the anti-democratic tactics of the Áñez government in the run up to the election, and the International Committee congratulates Luis Arce and the Bolivian people on the democratic restoration of their “Movement Toward Socialism.” 

Jeremy Corbyn Suspended from Labour Party, DSA Expresses Solidarity with Him

On October 29, the Labour Party announced that it had suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s suspension was a clear attempt at silencing the left-wing of the Labour Party. Following his suspension, Democratic Socialists of America expressed its solidarity with Corbyn and thanked him for “always being a champion for the international working class.”

Corbyn ran for leadership in 2015 as an unabashed democratic socialist. He won a contested leadership contest with 59.5% of the vote. In spite of his broad support from party membership, Corbyn engendered hostility from the more centrist wing of the Labour Party, especially among the Parliamentary Labour Party. In 2016, members of the Parliamentary Labour Party moved for a new leadership election by voting they had no-confidence in Corbyn as leader. Following this vote, they tried to block Corbyn from appearing as a leadership candidate. In spite of this, Corbyn was reelected leader with 61.8% of the vote. After the 2017 United Kingdom general election, in which Democratic Socialists of America endorsed Corbyn and the Labour Party, Corbyn resigned as a leader.

Throughout Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party was dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a deplorable form of bigotry, which unfortunately exists across the political spectrum. However, opponents of Corbyn and the left-wing of the Labour Party, weaponized allegations of anti-Semitism to undermine Corbyn. As an anti-racist and internationalist, Corbyn has a lengthy history of outspoken solidarity with the Palestinian people, which made him a particular target for those who seek to conflate criticism of Israeli human rights abuses with anti-Semitism. 

On October 29, the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In response, Corbyn on his Facebook stated that “anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong” and that “Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should.” However, he also stated, “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media. That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.” Supposedly because of this part of his statement, Corbyn was suspended from the Labour Party. 

The International Committee decries this cynical decision and demands full reinstatement and an apology for our comrade Jeremy.

#EndSARS Protests in Nigeria

The Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Nigeria has been the focal point of deadly protests throughout the country. This unit of the country’s police was formed in the early ’80s, amid a huge upswell in crime—everything from carjackings to kidnappings to robbery sprees. Oftentimes they themselves took the loot from the bandits they fought. They were allowed to operate undercover, in unmarked cars and in civilian garb. But, like the regular police in Nigeria, they were just as likely to rob you as any given criminal—or the regular police. 

In the past 10 years, the SARS units have maintained the practice of setting up roadblocks and extorting at will from anyone unfortunate enough to pass through them. Often they’ll engage in kidnapping, taking victims to their special black site prisons that dot the country. Nigeria has, in the last decade, developed a middle class, often connected to technological sectors; the SARS in turn targets those they see with smartphones, laptops, or nice cars, accusing them of being hackers and extorting them at will.

On October 3, SARS officers were caught on camera beating a man to death. This set off a wave of violent demonstrations; the state had previously declared they would shut down the SARS units but never followed through, and Nigerian workers took to the streets to force the government’s hand. Although Nigeria does have a larger middle class than many of the surrounding countries, there are still a huge amount of unemployed workers, upset and angry with a prosperous state that refuses to share the wealth among its citizens. Dozens have died in skirmishes with police, and while the government claims it’s shutting down the SARS, its refusal to fire or discipline the officers has done nothing to mollify the protestors. 

DSA condemns SARS and all state violence in Nigeria, and stands in solidarity with youth and other social movements demanding the dissolution of this notorious police unit. 

Venezuelan Gold Given Back to the Venezuelans

Up until October 5, 2020, 31 metric tons of gold belonging to Venezuela and sitting in the Bank of London were flatly denied to the Venezuelan government. This was a direct result of unilateral sanctions meant to punish socialist states and other countries in opposition to U.S. global hegemony (Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Iran, among others). Yet success—though limited—was won for the democratically elected Maduro government in the form of an appeal through the England and Wales Court of Appeal overturning a lower court decision. In an astonishing commitment to U.S. imperialism, the UK Foreign Office, lower courts, and bank all claimed access was denied to President Maduro because Juan Guaidó was the current president of Venezuela. Yet the appeals court recognized if basic diplomatic relations were still occuring between the two countries—the British ambassador to Venezuela Andrew Soper continues to reside in Caracas—then Maduro “does in fact exercise some or all of the powers of the President of Venezuela.”  

While the decision will get kicked back to the high court to be investigated further, make no mistake, the attempted looting of Venezuelan gold is an excellent though tragic reminder of the Global North’s long history of resource extraction in the Global South and uneven accumulation a la capital flowing and draining from South to North. That this act of extortion occurred in a British court instead of through the barrel of a gun aids in the veneer of painting unilateral sanctions as a gentler alternative to outright military aggression. But prior to the global pandemic, the effects of sanctions against Venezuela had caused an estimated 40,000 needless deaths.

If given jurisdiction over its own reserves, the Venezuelan government plans to cash out and hand over the almost $2 billion dollars to the UN Development Fund to purchase needed medicines and medical supplies. A combination of primary and secondary (prevents third-party actors from engaging in commerce with targeted countries) unilateral sanctions has affected Venezuela’s ability to properly address the Coronavirus outbreak, and most of the funds will be used for pharmaceuticals, obstetric medicines and PPE for medical staff. 

The DSA International Committee salutes this decision of the Venezuelan government and demands that the gold be returned to the Venezuelan people in order to save lives in the midst of this global pandemic.

UK Mulls Extraditing WikiLeaks Founder to Face Trial in U.S. for Exposing War Crimes

The United Kingdom is considering an extradition request from the U.S. for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The United States has charged Assange under the Espionage Act for publishing U.S. government cables about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay prison, and the State Department. If convicted, the Australian national and publisher faces 170 years in prison. A decision on whether to grant extradition is expected on January 4, 2021. Key evidence heard by the judge included testimony from human rights advocates about the role of the material published by WikiLeaks in seeking justice for victims of U.S. drone strikes and those held at Guantánamo Bay.

The Espionage Act was historically used to prosecute members of the Socialist Party, such as Eugene Debs and Victor Berger, for their opposition to World War I. More recently, it has been used to prosecute whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the source of the WikiLeaks revelations Chelsea Manning. While journalists’ sources have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, this is the first time the law has been used against a publisher of truthful information.

Assange’s extradition is widely opposed on the international left. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, former Brazillian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former Ecuadorian President Raffel Correa, former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, and former Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varofaukis have all opposed Assange’s extradition. Conversely, right-wing and authoritarian governments, such as those of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, have used the U.S.’s use of the Espionage Act against journalists or whistleblowers to justify their own repressive actions.  

The Democratic Socialists of America’s International Committee has previously called for charges to be dropped against Assange, and we take this opportunity to reiterate that call.

Modi’s Coronavirus Response and Kerala’s 

“India is on the road to becoming a giant prison,” academic Alpa Shah recently wrote in the updated foreword to her book on the Naxalites and Adavisi. Like Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, the Modi government’s noxious mixture of anti-democratic measures and neoliberal restructuring has been devastating for the working class. 

In the cities of India, the government labels any opponents as “anti-National” or “urban Naxals” (a reference to the Maoist guerilla force with strongholds in the Eastern part of the country), arresting journalists and activists under the guise of counterterrorism. In Kashmir, minorities and their advocates are arrested in similar raids. In the countryside, the brutal lockdown has driven many farmers to suicide, a common and disturbing trend in the country that has risen dramatically over the past five years. India has one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, but Modi has been practically unable to get a handle on the virus. India now jockeys with America for the top leader in new cases of COVID-19. 

In Kerala, the left-wing administration led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), responses at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis were very different from the rest of India. Kerala’s longtime socialist leadership had put it in a better position to handle certain aspects of the crisis. What they had learned from previous crises (including outbreaks of the Nipah virus in 2017) put the government in a much better position. Unfortunately, the outbreak has recently worsened, but the state remains in a better position than many others in terms of combating the virus. Unfortunately, Kerala is just one state, and with rising violence against Kashmiri and other minorities and an increasingly authoritarian government in control, India is still firmly marching alongside the ranks of other dangerously nationalist governments across the world. 

Chinese Response to Coronavirus

While the people of Wuhan celebrate their return to normal life with a massive pool party, in the U.S. people continue to languish under a flux of shifting COVID-19 hotspots with seemingly no end in sight. The scientific community remains unsure about the origins of Coronavirus, yet the Chinese government’s speed to release the genomic sequence to the World Health Organization helped begin the process of further understanding the virus on a global scale. The Trump White House alleged the Chinese government withheld information, provoking the creation of an animated video reiterating a series of clear warnings to the United States using children’s Lego figurines. Why did China handle the outbreak so well? Once the novelty and danger of Coronavirus became apparent, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) developed a containment plan comprised of four points: 

  • locking down not just of the province but also local traffic within the province
  • immediate and extensive deployment of medical resources (people, equipment, and medicines—including Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital, which were rapidly built exclusively to deal with the virus)
  • providing basic necessities such as food to the population, and lastly, 
  • releasing information based on scientific fact and not hearsay. 

The guarantee of food availability and the crackdown on price gouging was executed through a combination of neighborhood mutual aid committees and the coordination of steady food production via state-owned enterprises. The Chinese response to COVID-19 was so impressive that WHO senior adviser and epidemiologist Bruce Aylward praised the government and the Chinese people saying that “it’s never easy to get the kind of passion, commitment, interest, and individual sense of duty.”​​​​​​​ To read more about how China responded to Coronavirus see The Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research report. 

Black Lives Matter Protests Across the Globe

Since the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the United States has seen sustained protests against police violence and racism. The United States is not the only country with renewed anti-racist and anti-police violence protests. Global focus on the police killing of George Floyd has contributed to longstanding anti-racist movements around the world to take the streets in response to their own local conditions. Similarly, many have gathered around the world to express solidarity with U.S. protesters calling for justice for George Floyd. Tens of thousands gathered in London on June 6 in solidarity with the U.S. George Floyd protests. In France, protests occurred calling for justice for both George Floyd and Adama Traoré. Adama Traoré was a Malian-French man who was killed by police in 2016. Since his murder, his sister Assa Traoré has organized for justice for his death and against racism, founding “Comité vérité et justice pour Adama” (Truth and Justice for Adama Committee). Police killings in Brazil of young black men, including 14-year old João Pedro, have sparked mobilizations against police violence. 

Racialized police violence is a global issue that demands global solidarity. The DSA International Committee stands proudly with Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the world, and demands an end to police brutality and racism in all of its forms.