Monday, August 31, 2009

Qaddafi Hosts African Union Summit on Eve of Libyan Revolution Anniversary

Qaddafi hosts African summit on eve of coup anniversary

By Imed Lamloum / Agence France-Presse
First Published 8/31/2009

TRIPOLI--African leaders gathered in Libya on Monday for a special summit to discuss the continent's trouble spots, on the eve of celebrations to mark 40 years of Moammar Qaddafi's rule.

The conflicts in Somalia and Sudan are expected to top the agenda at the meeting, the third African Union summit so far this year.

"We'll try to focus on all conflict situations... We believe that we can move forward in terms of peace and discussions," the AU's Peace and Security Council chief Ramtane Lamamra said, singling out Somalia.

Hardline Islamist rebels launched a sweeping onslaught in Mogadishu in May against the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, reducing his reach to just a handful of areas with the backing of AU peacekeepers.

The summit will examine ways to "further support the Somali transitional government, in particular by reinforcing its institutions and by improving security in the country," a summit document said.

The head of the African Union, Jean Ping, told reporters ahead of the summit that three African countries — Sierre Leone, Malawi and Nigeria — had agreed to reinforce the AU peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM), but gave no further details.

AMISOM has a current strength of 5,000 men, against a desired force of 8,000, who are securing the presidency, the port and the airport in Mogadishu.

Focus will also fall on Sudan's war-ravaged Darfur region and the AU's joint peacekeeping force with the United Nations, which has been plagued by funding and equipment shortfalls.

"The need to reinforce security (in Darfur) is paramount," the document said.

Some 300,000 people have died in the six-year conflict with 2.7 million displaced, according to the United Nations, but Sudan's government puts the death toll at 10,000.

According to Libya's state-run Jana news agency, Sudan's President Omar Al-Beshir was attending the summit, on his second visit to Libya since the International Criminal Court in March issued an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The summit, which had by mid-afternoon not yet started despite a scheduled 0900 GMT opening, is also expected to review the political deadlocks in Guinea and Madagascar, where governments were toppled despite strong opposition from the AU.

African leaders are also expected to endorse a common stance on climate change, seeking billions of dollars in compensation from industrialized nations.

Monday's summit is being held in a festive atmosphere as Libya marks the 40th anniversary of the coup against the monarchy on September 1, 1969 that brought Qaddafi to power.

The self-proclaimed "king of the kings" of Africa, Qaddafi called the extraordinary meeting just two months after having hosted the 13th ordinary summit of the AU at the end of June in his birthplace Sirte.

"We are at about the same point where we were at the last summit in Sirte. There have been no major advances," an African minister told AFP on the sidelines of the gathering.

By calling the summit, "the Libyans want to guarantee a high level of representation at the festivities," the minister said on condition of anonymity.

After years as a pariah state, Libya and its maverick leader have since 2003 been enjoying improved ties with the West and growing influence in Africa.

A gala anniversary celebration on Tuesday will be attended by heads of state including outspoken Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but a string of European leaders are staying away.

The festivities come as Libya fends off angry reactions for giving a hero's welcome to convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi after his release on compassionate grounds from a Scottish prison on August 20.

Libya ignored US warnings that any public celebration would damage relations that have been improving since Tripoli renounced terrorism and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Legendary General Giap Celebrates 99th Birthday

Havana, Wednesday August 26, 2009. Year 13 / Number 239

Legendary General Giap celebrates 99th birthday

Susana Ugarte Soler

Hanoi, August 25 (PL) .- The Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap, hero of the Indochina campaign against French colonialism and war strategist with the United States, today celebrates its 99th birthday with deserved recognition.

Leaders of the Communist Party (PCV), the government, the State and the Vietnam People's Army visited the heroic fighter for national liberation from the decade of the 20s of last century.

CPV General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, Giap wished long life and always lucid, while highlighting their continued contribution with valuable opinions on the building and national renewal.

Born in the central province of Quang Binh, and inseparable companion of President Ho Chi Minh, Giap from adolescence joined the student protests in 1929 and founded the Indochina Communist Federation, suffered imprisonment and loss of his close to hand of the French colonialists.

In the early '40s of his encounter with the historic leader of Vietnam, Uncle Ho, marked the long road that continued until the final release in 1975 and the year after the reunification of this Asian nation.

Just to mention two notorious moments of national history tied to General Giap: Diem Bien Phu 1954, defeat of colonial France in the region, and the 1968 Tet offensive, which triggered the setback of the powerful U.S. military soon after.

Ethiopian Troops Enter Somalia Town

Saturday, August 29, 2009
14:18 Mecca time, 11:18 GMT

Ethiopian troops enter Somali town

Ethiopian troops left Somalia in January under the terms of a peace agreement

Ethiopian troops have crossed into neighbouring Somalia and seized control of a town from Islamist fighters, witnesses say.

Hundreds of troops reportedly entered the strategically important town of Beledweyne on Saturday.

Abdinur Ahmed Maow, a local resident, told The Associated Press news agency that the armed opposition fighters had left "without a single shot".

Abdulahi Faramiliq, another resident of Beledweyne, said that the troops were cordoning off residential areas and going from house to house searching for weapons.

However, General Muqtar Hassan Afrah, the Somali military commander in the region, denied that any Ethiopian troops were in the region.

Unpopular presence

Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia in January as part of a peace deal, more than two years after moving in to help the UN-backed interim government battle the Islamic Courts' Union, which had seized control of much of the south and centre of the country.

Their presence was unpopular with the majority of Somalis and was used by local Islamist groups as a recruiting tool.

Rashid Abdi, a Kenya-based Somalia analyst with the International Crisis Group, said that it is unlikely that Ethiopia is planning to send a larger force across the border.

"It's a strategic town for them," he said, referring to the Beledweyne's location near the border.

"They want a buffer zone and they won't allow it to be in hostile hands."

There have been several reports of Ethiopian troops crossing the border in recent months, but the Somali government has not confirmed their presence.

Somalia's government is struggling to control the country, despite including several factions of the Islamic Courts' Union.

Fighters from al-Shabaab and Hizb ul-Islam groups have seized control of large areas of the country and have vowed to topple the administration of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the current president and former Islamic Courts leader.

Source: Agencies

No 'Hero's Welcome' in Libya

August 30, 2009

Op-Ed Contributor

No ‘Hero’s Welcome’ in Libya

Tripoli, Libya

CONTRARY to reports in the Western press, there was no “hero’s welcome” for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi when he returned to Libya earlier this month.

There was not in fact any official reception for the return of Mr. Megrahi, who had been convicted and imprisoned in Scotland for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The strong reactions to these misperceptions must not be allowed to impair the improvements in a mutually beneficial relationship between Libya and the West.

When I arrived at the airport with Mr. Megrahi, there was not a single government official present. State and foreign news media were also barred from the event. If you were watching Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, at the time the plane landed, you would have heard its correspondent complain that he was not allowed by Libyan authorities to go to the airport to cover Mr. Megrahi’s arrival.

It is true that there were a few hundred people present. But most of them were members of Mr. Megrahi’s large tribe, extended families being an important element in Libyan society. They had no official invitation, but it was hardly possible to prevent them from coming.

Coincidentally, the day Mr. Megrahi landed was also the very day of the annual Libyan Youth Day, and many participants came to the airport after seeing coverage of Mr. Megrahi’s release on British television. But this was not planned. Indeed, we sat in the plane on the tarmac until the police brought the crowd to order.

So, from the Libyan point of view, the reception given to Mr. Megrahi was low-key. Had it been an official welcome, there would have been tens if not hundreds of thousands of people at the airport. And the event would have been carried live on state television.

At the same time, I was extremely happy for Mr. Megrahi’s return. Convinced of his innocence, I have worked for years on his behalf, raising the issue at every meeting with British officials.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently confirmed my statement that Libya put Mr. Megrahi’s release on the table at every meeting. He also made it clear that there was never any agreement by the British government to release Mr. Megrahi as part of some quid pro quo on trade — a statement I can confirm.

Mr. Megrahi was released for the right reasons. The Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, freed Mr. Megrahi, who is dying of cancer, on compassionate grounds. Mr. MacAskill’s courageous decision demonstrates to the world that both justice and compassion can be achieved by people of good will. Despite the uproar over the release, others agree. A recent survey of Scottish lawyers showed that a majority of those surveyed agreed with the secretary’s decision.

It’s worth pointing out that we Libyans are far from the only ones who believe that Mr. Megrahi is innocent of this terrible crime. In June 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission determined that a “miscarriage of justice” may have occurred and referred the case to the High Court. A retired Scottish police officer who worked on the case has signed a statement saying that evidence was fabricated. The credibility of a key witness, a shopkeeper in Malta, has subsequently been disputed by the Scottish judge who presided in the review. Even the spokesman of a family group of Lockerbie victims has said that the group was not satisfied that the verdict in the Megrahi case was correct.

What’s more, although we Libyans believe that Mr. Megrahi is innocent, we agreed in a civil action to pay the families of the victims, and we have done so. In fact, we could have withheld the final tranche of payments last year, because the United States had not kept its part of the deal, to fully normalize relations within the formally agreed-upon time frame. Still, we made the final payment as an act of good will.

The truth about Lockerbie will come out one day. Had Mr. Megrahi been able to appeal his case through the court, we believe that his conviction would have been overturned. Mr. Megrahi made the difficult decision to give up his promising appeal in order to spend his last days with his family.

Libya has worked with Britain, the United States and other Western countries for more than five years now to defuse the tensions of earlier times, and to promote trade, security and improved relations. I believe that clarifying the facts in the Lockerbie case can only further assist this process.

I once again offer my deepest sympathy to the families and loved ones of those lost in the Lockerbie tragedy. They deserve justice. The best way to get it is through a public inquiry. We need to know the truth.

Saif Al-Islam El-Qaddafi is the chairman of the Qaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

China and the Struggle of Oppressed Nations for Self-Determination, National Liberation and Socialism

China and the Struggle of Oppressed Nations for Self-Determination, National Liberation and Socialism

60th anniversary of the 1949 revolution and its lessons for today

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Note: The following article was delivered in part at the Workers World conference on the Chinese Revolution held on August 29, 2009 in Detroit. The keynote speaker was Deirdre Griswold, editor of Workers World newspaper in New York city. David Sole, a member of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, delivered a presentation as well on the history of China.
Since the Chinese Revolution and the ascendancy of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October of 1949, the role of this nation in the struggle of colonized, semi-colonized and neo-colonized countries has been tremendous. One of the significant contributions of the revolution of 1949 is that it took place in a nation that had been subjected to the domination of both British and Japanese imperialism during the 19th and 20th centuries.

China under the British was reduced to near-slave status with the vast wealth of tea and other agricultural products along with the control of its waterways falling for many decades under the control of these foreign powers. A decades-long political, military and ideological struggle provides tremendous lessons as well as inspiration to other historically colonized territories throughout the world. Colonialism and imperialism rendered China to an underdeveloped country despite its vast achievements dating back at least two thousand years in history.

With specific reference to the African continent, there had been contact with China dating at least to the first century B.C. Although opinions differ, Chinese historical accounts written by Si Machien indicate that the Emperor Wuti of the Han Dynasty dispatched envoys westward in an effort to form alliances with friendly peoples in order to develop resources in their struggles against the Huns in the north.

A number of envoys landed in countries formerly known in China as Pathia, Babylonia, Seleuid Media and Likan. It is the contention of some historian that Likan was the name given to the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which became a trading center under Greek rule and was later annexed by the Roman Empire. Later a French sinologist named Pelliot also believed that Likan was actually Alexandria. Another Chinese historian Feng Chenjun agreed with Pelliot's conclusions regarding ancient contact with Egypt. Later Joseph Needham in his book entitled Science and Civilization in China claims that Likan was ancient Egypt.

Former President of the West African nation of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in a speech before the First Conference of Africanist held in Accra beginning on December 12, 1962, discussed the role of Arab and Chinese explorers and scholars in chronicling African history prior to the advent of the atlantic slave trade and colonialism. He states in this address that: "The Arabs and the Chinese discovered and chronicled a succession of powerful African kingdoms. One of these kingdoms was that of Ghana, the pomp of whose court was the admiration of that age--and also of ours." (Speech at the Congress of Africanists, published in Revolutionary Path, 1973, p. 207)

Nkrumah continues by pointing out also that "The Chinese, too, during the T'ang dynasty (AD. 618-907), published their earliest major records of Africa. In the 18th century, scholarship connected Egypt with China; but Chinese acquaintance with Africa was not confined to knowledge of Egypt only. They had detailed knowledge of Somaliland, Madagascar and Zanzibar and made extensive visits to other parts of Africa." (Revolutionary Path, p. 208)

In recent times during 2003, a Chinese map of Africa dating back to 1389 was uncovered in the South African Parliament. The Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, an amalgamated map of the Great Ming Empire, illustrates the shape of the African continent, including the Nile River in north and east Africa as well as the Drankensberg Mountains located in South Africa. This artifact proves that long before the western Europeans entered this far south on the continent, the Chinese had made contact and conducted geographic surveys of the territories.

Historian Fred Burke writing in 1970 pointed out that the Chinese scholar Tuan Ch'eng-shih noted during the nineth century that a region in Africa known as Po Pa Li had not been dominated by any foreign power. For whatever reason Burke doubted direct contact between Chinese explorers and the African continent prior to the early 1400s. He believed that Chinese knowledge of Africa was gathered through intermediaries from the Arab, Indian, Malay and Indonesian peoples.

Nonetheless Burke does state that "Mogadishu, the capital of modern-day Somalia, became a major port of call for early Chinese merchants. A number of references are made to this African port in the histories of the Ming dynasty. In 1427 Mogadishu sent an ambassador to China, and three years later it is reported that a large fleet of Chinese junks dropped anchor in the harbor. Early Chinese coins and crockery have been found along the East Africa coast." (Africa, Fred Burke, 1970)

Leading into the period of slavery and colonialism, China had limited contact with western states. However, between 1839 and 1860 the British imperial forces attacked Chinese ports and massacred untold numbers of people. This was designed to guarantee the proliferation of the opium trade which was a major source of profits for the British colonial occupation.

Within this process the British imperialists stole millions of pounds from the Chinese while taking control of Hong Kong and other territories on the mainland. They eventually took control of Chinese ports by force and made them major centers of British trade.

The Treaty of Nanking was imposed in 1842 which tied the development of China to the colonial interests of Britain. In 1857 the British through force of arms installed an Inspector General of Customs. These developments lead to the massive theft of Chinese wealth utilized for the purchase of opium. As a result the internal industries within China such as handicraft production were ruined. This created the conditions for the collapse of the Manchu government that was under bombardment from the British navy. The Chinese officials who did survive were corrupted through the opium trade that eventually eroded the civilization that had been in existence for centuries. The British ruled the region by force for almost eight decades when in 1925 the Chinese nationalists won some concessions related to the collection of tariffs.

In Africa, the colonialists had penetrated the continent beginning in the early 15th century seeking trade routes and slave labor. The establishment of colonies in the western hemisphere by Portugal, Spain, France, Holland and Britain necessitated the importation of millions of Africans as chattel labor. In 1884-85 the imperialist states met in Berlin to carve up the continent based upon their own economic and political interests. Even though slavery had been outlawed by the conclusion of the 19th century, the specter of colonialism and imperialism continued, creating the conditions for the Spanish-American war during the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the Russian-Japanese war of the same period and moreover, the World War of 1914-1918.

All during this period, anti-colonial struggles would erupt throughout imperialist-dominated territories. Greater industrialization in Russia and China would lead to upheavals. In Russia the first socialist revolution would occur in 1917. In China, the rise of the nationalist movement, trade unions and the communist party would provide opportunities for struggles against both the British imperialists and the Chinese bourgeoisie.

Unfortunately, the failure of the communist party to seize power in 1927 lead to the massacres of revolutionaries. It would take an invasion of China by Japan and the displacement of British imperialism during the 1930s as well as another world war between 1939-1945 to further weaken European and Japanese imperialism creating the conditions for the eventual triumph of the Chinese revolution in 1949.

The Cold War and the Invasion of Korea

In the aftermath of World War II the struggle of colonized peoples for self-determination and independence accelerated. In Asia and Africa the war was viewed by many people as having weakened imperial centers of power in Italy, France, Britain, Japan and Germany. During the period leading up to the war in the 1930s there was an upsurge in political consciousness and activities among labor and within the African-American communities across the country.

The formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) that grew out of the major strikes in San Francisco, Minneapolis and throughout the south in 1934, began to challenge the ruling class approach to the problems of mass unemployment and displacement during the Great Depression. The Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the seizure of Spain by the fascist ignited internationalism among the African-American people.

During World War II there were challenges to the racism in the labor market through the March on Washington Movement of 1941 as well as the race riots that erupted in Detroit, Los Angeles and other cities during 1942-43. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans were drafted into the United States military and served in Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. This was true as well of peoples throughout Africa and Asia who were colonized by the French and the British but were required to serve within their militaries during an international war.

It was this process of serving within the imperialist armies in racially segregated units during the war that contributed to the radicalization that swept the colonial territories and the oppressed communities within the United States. During 1946 there was increased militancy among the African American people and other sections of the working class. The same process was taking place in Asia and Africa with the independence struggles in India that became formally free of British imperialism in 1947 and the year before with the Rand Miner's strike in South Africa that won massive solidarity within the African American community in the United States.

In both Vietnam and Korea, the territories had won their independence from Japanese, and in the case of Vietnam, French colonialism as well, still had to face the-then dominant role of U.S. imperialism at the conclusion of the war. The French, backed by Washington, did not want to relinquish control of Vietnam and the United States sought to totally dominate the Korean peninsula. In 1949, the Chinese revolution took power under the leadership of the Communist Party. Despite the independent character of the Chinese revolution, there were two major states committed to socialism and the support of other struggles, movements and parties around the world that aspire to the ideals shared by proletarian internationalists globally.

The Chinese Communist Party through Mao Tse-tung had articluated its view of the character of the struggles of colonized and oppressed peoples as far back as 1940. Under the title of "There is no third way", a document taken from a larger worked called "On new democracy', states that "A change occured in the Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution after the outbreak of the first imperialist world war in 1914, and after the founding of a socialist state on one sixth of the globe through the Russian October Revolution in 1917.

"Before these events," the document continues, "the Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution belonged to the category of the old bourgeois-democratic world revolution and was part of that revolution. After these events, the Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution changed its character and now belongs to the category of the new bourgeois-democratic revolution, and, so far as the revolutionary front is concerned, forms part of the proletarian-socialist world revolution...." (Published in Chieh-fang, 98-9, February 20, 1940)

In 1939 Mao stated in a speech that the war would inevitably weaken the imperialist states and in the long run strengthen the struggles of peoples for independence. According to this lecture "Wars between imperialism and mutual weakening of imperialisms...constitute a favourable condition for movements of popular liberation in all countries, for movements of national liberation in all countries, for China's war of resistance, for the building of communism in the Soviet Union. From this standpoint, the darkness that reigns in the world is only provisional and the future of the world is bright. Imperialism will surely perish, and the liberation of the oppressed people and of the oppressed nations will surely be achieved...." (Lecture delivered to cadres at Yenan, September 1939)

In 1948 with the installment of a puppet pro-U.S. government in south Korea, the struggle escalated to unite the peninsula. Kim Il-Sung led the fight against Japanese occupation through the Korean Worker's Party that was alllied with the Soviet Union. The talks between the U.S., Britain and the USSR at the conclusion of the war did not resolve the question of Korean independence and unity. When Koreans staged uprisings against the U.S.-backed regime in Seoul, their efforts were supported by the Korean People's Army under the direction of the Worker's Party led by Kim Il-Sung.

The United States declared these developments an invasion and dispatched additional warships to the region. The KPA in the beginning months of the war which started in June 1950, overran the puppet forces and their U.S. sponsors. After a United Nations declaration authorizing force against the DPRK, the United States led the intervention into the Korean peninsula. A counter-offensive by the UN forces threatened the existence of the DPRK as well as the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China.

The PRC decided to directly intervene in the struggle to repel the imperialist invasion of Korea. Mao was reported to have written to Stalin saying that "If we allow the United States to occupy all of Korea, Korean revolutionary power will suffer a fundamental defeat, and the American invaders will run more rampant, and have negative effects for the entire Far East.”

As a result the People's Volunteer Army (PVA) was formed and deployed in Korea. The subsequent events over the next two years resulted in an armistice agreement that ended the fighting but did not bring about peace. The armistice collapsed during 2008 as a result of continuing U.S. imperialist provocation and aggression against the DPRK.

The failure of U.S. imperialism to realize its goal of destroying the socialist state in the DPRK had a profound impact on the way in which the world peoples viewed the dominant power to emerge after the second world war. In 1954, at the battle of Dien Bein Phu in Vietnam, the French colonial forces were defeated and forced to negotiate a withdrawal from this country. The U.S. under Eisenhower would continue to prop-up the reactionary forces in the south that eventually lead to what is known as the "Vietnam War" after 1961.

China and the Bandung Conference (1955)

The Afro-Asian conference in Bandung, Indonesia illustrated China's enhanced role within the emerging forces of both continents. Chou En-lai attended the conference and diplomatically sought to counter the propaganda against communism that was being fostered by the United States and other imperialist countries in the West. Some of the leading figures in the independent movement of the governments of Africa and Asia were Nehru of India, Sukharno of Indonesia, Gamel Abdel Nassar of Egypt and the still colonized, but soon to be independent, Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah.

China endorsed the resolution passed by the Bandung Conference and pledged its support to the anti-colonial struggles still being waged throughout both continents. A follow-up conference in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1961, resulted in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). The Non-Aligned Movement still exist today and was recently chaired by revolutionary Cuba.

African-Americans, the Cold War and McCarthyism

Inside the United States, the fight against the right-wing and racist onslaughts after World War II was challenged by the left and the African-American progressive forces. The independence of the former colonial and semi-colonial territories in Asia and Africa was welcomed by anti-imperialist activists within the African-American community in the United States.

The Council on African Affairs, founded during the Great Depression to oppose colonialism and to provide political and material support to the national liberation movements in Africa, escalated its activities towards the conclusion of World War II and in its aftermath. The Council, which was led by people such as William Alphaeus Hunton, Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, saw the national liberation movements as part and parcel of the world's effort to end racism and economic exploitation.

Other groups such as the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) sought to highlight the fight to end institutional racism and national discrimination in the postwar period. The CRC submitted a document to the United Nations in 1951 entitled "We Charge Genocide" which chronicled the ongoing violence and repression against the African-American people.

In 1948-1949, attacks were made against leftists, many whom were members of the Communist Party and other organizations that they supported. Paul Robeson was targeted when he spoke out before Congress opposing a bill that would require Communists to register as foreign agents. Later in 1949, Robeson's participation in the Paris Peace Conference resulted in greater repression against this accomplished artists, writer and activists. The repressive actions against Robeson coincided with the indictments of other African-American leftists in the United States during 1949-50.

W.E.B. DuBois, who through his then companion and colleague, Shirley Graham, became more involved in the anti-imperialist and international peace movements. Graham, who was a renown playwright, biographer and activists who worked with both the NAACP and the Communist Party, was the daughter of a Methodist minister who had known DuBois from the time she was a child. DuBois was indicted in 1950 for advocating a foreign ideology and failing to register as an agent of another state. His defense campaign was led by Shirley Graham who later became his wife.

Although DuBois was not convicted of these charges, he and Shirley Graham DuBois' passports were seized and they came under intense scrutiny by the federal government. Both the Council on African Affairs and the Civil Rights Congress were declared subversive and forced out of existence. Leading activists within the Left and the anti-imperialist movements were forced out of their professions, sent to prison or driven into exile. It would be eight years before the DuBois' and others like Paul Robeson would be allowed to travel outside the United States.

When the DuBois' passports were restored, they traveled to both the Soviet Union and China. The DuBois' were greeted by Mao Tse-tung in early 1959 during their visit to the People's Republic of China. At a 91st birthday commemoration in China DuBois made a speech at a state-sponsored banquet which was broadcast through the national media.

On March 5, 1959, DuBois was quoted as saying that "Come to China, Africa, and look around. You know America and France and Britain to your sorrow. Now know the Soviet Union and its allied nations, but particularly know China. China is flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood. China is colored, and knows to what the colored skin in this modern world subjects its owner. In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger." ("DubBois, 91, Lauds China," New York Times, March 5, 1959)

The Chinese Revolution and the African-American National Question, 1959-1976

After the visit of W.E.B. DuBois and Shirley Graham DuBois in 1959, other indications of the significance attributed by the Chinese revolution to the struggles waged among African-Americans, Africans and the peoples of the developing world remained evident. Inside the United States, despite the suppression of the CRC and the CAA and other groups, the civil rights movement gained greater momentum after 1955.

In 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott would last for a year where African-Americans led a movement of thousands that would gain national and international recognition. In 1957 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues. This same year the first civil rights bill was passed since Reconstruction during the late 1860s and 1870s.

The state-sanctioned terror of the immediate postwar period was being broken through the civil rights movement that was led by the African-American people. Yet the U.S. government still refused to take measures that would guarantee the civil and human rights of the African-American people.

In 1960, the students took the lead in the civil rights movement with the emergence of the sit-ins that involved thousands of college and high school students largely in the segregated South. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed in April 1960 and continued to work in the South over the next seven years to win concessions related to access to public accommodations, jobs and voter registration.

This intensification of the civil rights struggles in the South were paralleled on the African continent and in other geo-political regions of the world. In Cuba, the July 26th Movement would seize power in early 1959 and claim the genuine political and economic independence of Cuba leading to the development of a socialist state in the Caribbean just 90 miles off the coast of the United States.

In a document entitled "The peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America should unite and drive American imperialism back to where it came from" states that on May 7 (1960), in Chengchow, Comrade Mao Tse-tung received public personages, workers for peace, trade union, youth and student delegations, and delegates from twelve African countries and regions who were then visiting China...."

The document continues by saying that "Comrade Mao Tse-tung, on behalf of the 650 million Chinese people, expressed full sympathy and support for the heroic struggle of the African people against imperialism and colonialism. He also expressed sympathy and support for the patriotic and just struggles of the South Korean people and the Turkish people against U.S. imperialism and its running dogs."

Then in the same publication, it notes that on the following day, May 8, Mao Tse-tung "received friends from eight Latin American countries then visiting China.... Comrade Mao Tse-tung thanked them for their friendship for the Chinese people. The Chinese people, he said, just like the Latin American people, had long suffered from imperialist oppression and exploitation. Relying on their own unity and support from the peoples of various countries, the Chinese people had carried on hard and prolonged struggles and ultimately had overthrown the rule of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism in China. The Cuban people, the people of Latin America, and the people of the whole world, he said, are all friends of the Chinese people; and imperialism and its running dogs are our common enemy, but they are a tiny minority." (Mao Tse-tung, 1960)

Between 1960 and 1963, the African-American struggle for civil rights and self-determination gained momentum and strength. In 1963, thousands of African-Americans engaged in mass actions throughout the north and southern regions of the United States. During the spring and summer of that year, the violent repression of the local and state governments against these demonstrations were not effectively opposed by the federal government. In Detroit in June 1963 and later in August in Washington, hundreds of thousands would march in support of the passage of a comprehensive civil rights bill and the destruction of all vestiges of racial discrimination.

Other forces within the African-American nation would emerge alongside the SCLC and SNCC. The Nation of Islam, and its militant spokesperson Malcolm X would call for a greater emphasis on self-defense and self-determination of the African people in the U.S. Robert F. Williams of the NAACP in Monroe, North Carolina emphasized the formation of rifle clubs to defend the African-American people from racist terror. Williams was driven into exile in 1961 by the racists in North Carolina and the FBI. He would first land in Cuba and later visit and eventually take up residence in the People's Republic of China along with his wife Mabel and their children.

At a gathering of visitors from Africa on August 8, 1963, Chairman Mao Tse-tung stated that "An American Negro leader now taking refuge in Cuba, Mr. Robert Williams, the former President of the Monroe, North Carolina Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, has twice asked me for a statement in support of the American Negroes' struggle against racial discrimination. On behalf of the Chinese people, I wish to take this opportunity to express our resolute support for the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination and for freedom and equal rights." (Statement Calling on The People of the World to Unite to Oppose Racial Discrimination by U.S. Imperialism and Support for American Negroes in Their Struggle Against Racial Discrimination)

On the character of the burgeoning civil righs struggle in the U.S. during 1963, this same statement continues by pointing out that "The speedy development of the struggle of the American Negroes is a manifestation of the sharpening class struggle and national struggle within the United States; it has been causing increasing anxiety to U.S. ruling circles." (Mao's statement, August 8, 1963, p.4)

In an appeal to the international community, the statement goes on to stress that "I call on the workers, peasants, revolutionary intellectuals, enlightened elements of the bourgeoisie and other enlightened persons of all colours in the world, whether white, black, yellow or brown, to unite to oppose the racial discrimination practised by U.S. imperialism and support the American Negroes in their struggle against racial discrimination. (Mao Statment, p.5)

According to Mao, "In the final analysis, a national struggle is a question of class struggle. In the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles among the whites who oppress the Negro people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. At present, it is the handful of imperialists headed by the United States, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are inflicting oppression, aggression and intimidation on the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world."

This statment goes on to say that "We are in the majority and they are in the minority. At most, they make up less than 10 percent of the 3,000 million population of the world. I am firmly convinced that, with the support of more than 90 percent of the people of the world, the American Negroes will be victorious in their just struggle. The evil system of colonialism and imperialism and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the thorough emancipation of the black people."

In an address delivered Liu Ning-I, Representative of the People's Organization of China and President of All-China Federation of Trade Union said that "The struggle of the American Negroes against racial oppression and for freedom and equal rights is a component part of the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed peoples and nations the world over. This revolutionary struggle springing up in the heartland of U.S. imperialism is of very great significance to the common struggle of the people of the world against imperialism headed by U.S. imperialism, and gives a powerful support to the fighting peoples of different countries." ( Liu Ning-I statement, 1963)

Robert F. Williams, the former NAACP leader in Monroe, North Carolina and editor of the Crusader newsletter, stated in a speech on October 10, 1963, that "The same savages who rain death and destruction on the innocent women and children of Cuba, the same savages who rain death and destruction on the helpless women and children of south Viet Nam, the same savages who supply the implements of death and destruction to South Africa and Portugal, are the same who blow off the heads of little black girls in the homes and churches of Birmingham, Free World U.S.A. U.S. racism is a cancerous sore that threatens the well-being of humanity. It can only be removed and a cure effected by a surgical operation performed by the great masses of world."

In a statement from John D. Marks, who in 1963 was a national executive committee member of the African National Congress, stated at a rally in China on August 12, 1963 that 'The struggle of the American Negroes is directly linked up with the general struggle against imperialism headed by the United States of America and therefore the realization of their victory is only possible with the final defeat of American imperialism. Because the struggle of the Negro peoples for political, economic and social equality is a just struggle, and has the support of all the peoples of the socialist camp, the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and those progressive forces inside the capitalist countries including the United States, their victory is inevitable."

In another statement delivered at the same August 12, 1963 rally, a delegation from the Basutoland Congress Party stressed that "The position of the people of African origin in the United States deserves the attention of all democratic freedom-and peace-loving people all over the world. The discrimination practised against the people of African origin in America is an instrument of oppression and exploitation such as is practised by the imperialists in Africa, Asia and Latin America against the indigenous people."

The statement continues by saying that "The people of Basutoland support whole-heartedly the rightful struggle of the Negroes in America. We could list a thousand actions of barbarism which have been conducted against the people of African origin in America, which actions are cursed by all the peace-loving peoples of the world."

In 1963, the U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by forces to the right of him within the government, military and the ruling class. The continuing escalation of the U.S. imperialist war against the people of Vietnam took a decisive leap during 1964-65.

Democratic successor to JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson, could not reconcile the escalation of the war against the Vietnamese people with the stated aims of alleviating poverty and racial discrimination in the United States. After 1963, the African-American struggle began to place more emphasis on self-defense, urban rebellion and the armed actions of the masses. Between 1963 and 1967, hundreds of rebellions would erupt throughout the country.

In 1965, the militant African-American leader Malcolm X was assassinated in New York city. Malcolm had broken with the Nation of Islam over his desire to become more directly involved in the national liberation struggles of the African-American people. Malcolm X made numerous statements during 1964 in support of the Chinese revolution and its support of the various efforts to win independence and justice throughout the world. When China launched its first atomic weapons test, Malcolm X hailed this achievement and said the strengthening of China would assist the liberation of oppressed peoples internationally.

During 1966 and 1967, the Black Power movement would make significant gains among the African-American people, especially the workers and youth. In 1967, over 160 rebellions swept the United States prompting the state and federal government to dispatch thousands of National Guard and Army units in urban settings like Detroit and Newark, New Jersey.

In 1966-67, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed in the Bay Area of California. The founders of the party, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale would sell the famous Red Book quotations from Chairman Mao as a fundraiser for the organization where they purchased their first guns utilized to patrol the streets of Oakland. The Black Panther Party would adopt the Chinese emphasis on armed struggle as the most secure method of guaranteeing liberation and socialism.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennesse while assisting a sanitation workers strike in that city. King was framing a new conception for the African-American struggle by linking the movement against racism and poverty with the anti-war efforts that were gaining momentum throughout the U.S.

In the aftermath of the assassination of King and subsequent rebellions in over 100 cities througout the U.S., Chairman Mao Tse-tung issued a message on April 16, 1968 entitled "Statement by Comrade Mao Tse-tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the The Communist Party of China, in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression. The statement read in part that "The storm of Afro-American struggle taking place within the United States is a striking manifestation of the comrehensive political and economic crisis now gripping U.S. imperialism. It is dealing a tellling blow to U.S. imperialism, which is beset with difficulties at home and abroad." (Chairman Mao, 1968)

In 1971, leaders of the Black Panther Party would be invited to China for high-levels meetings with the Communist Party and government officials. This took place during the same period that representatives of the U.S. government made arrangements to visit the PRC. Between 1972 and the death of Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese foreign policy continued to strengthen its contact with the leadership of U.S. imperialism. After the death of Mao in 1976, the shift in Chinese foreign policy became evident. By early 1979, the PRC and the U.S. established diplomatic relations.

Over the last three decades China underwent major changes in its economic and foreign policy imperatives. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square incidents of 1989, the Chinese leadership under Deng Tsao-ping, revealed its strategy of large scale infusion of western capital for several decades aimed at achieving substantial economic growth.

Although it has appeared from time to time over the last thirty years that relations between U.S. imperialism and the PRC have undergone substantial changes, the American ruling class still harbors no love for China. During the Tiananmen Square incidents of 1989, the U.S. sought to support the opposition forces that threatened destabilization and civil war. China as a result of the economic changes that have taken place since the 1980s, has outstripped growth rates within the United States and other imperialist states.

In 1999, the U.S. military bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia during the onslaught against the Molosevic government and the attempts to break-up the last remaining European socialist state. In China, youth trashed the American embassy and relations were strained for months to come. Eventually a U.S. spy plane was forced down over China, where the aircraft was dismantled and returned to the Pentagon.

With the U.S. imperialists facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the role of China is still very significant. The PRC controls over a trillion dollars in U.S. debt through ownership of treasury bonds. China relations with various African states targeted for regime-change by U.S. imperialism has drawn the displeasure of both the Bush and Obama administrations.

China and the African Revolution

After the conclusion of World War II, the national liberation struggles in Africa gained tremendous momentum. The seizure of power by progressive forces within the military in Egypt lead to the ascendancy of Gamel Abdel Nassar as the leader of government. In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal leading to war with Britain and Israel. The independent path pursued by Egypt during this period provided great inspiration to both the peoples of the Middle-East and the African continent.

In Sudan and later Ghana in 1956-57, the yoke of British colonialism was broken. In Ghana, the people under the leadership of the Convention People's Party sought to place pan-africanism and socialism as the cornerstones of both domestic and foreign policy. Other states would gain independence during this period including the former French colony of Guinea which sought a path similar to the one laid down by the PRC.

In 1960, 18 African states gained national independence from France, Britain and Belgium. Between 1954-1961, the Algerian National Liberation Front waged a protracted armed and political struggle against French imperialism. Algeria gained its independence in 1962. Franz Fanon, an African born in Martinique played a significant role in the course of the revolution in Algeria. In 1963, the Organization of African Unity was established with 33 member-states.

In late 1963 and early 1964, Chou En-lai visited several African countries in an effort to enhance China-African relations. On December 14, 1963, Chou En-lai stated in Cairo that "This is my first visit to the African continent and I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to pay my tribute to all the new emerging independent African states and their peoples, and to all the struggling peoples in Africa. The Asian and African peoples have always supported each other in their struggles, and I am convinced that the Asian and African peoples united together will certainly continue to win new victories in their common cause of striving for and safeguarding national independence and defending world peace." (Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism, 1964, pp. 3-4)

In Algeria on December 25, 1963, Chou En-lai paid tribute to the heroic armed struggle of the Algerian people that won the national liberaion of this North African state that fought French imperialism for over 130 years. Chou En-lai said that "The great victory of the revolutionary struggle of the Algerian people shows that the new-born revolutionary forces, though seemingly weak at first, can ultimately defeat the outwardly strong but decadent counter-revolutionary forces. The Algerian revolutionaries have been able to overcome obstacle after obstacle and carry the national liberation struggle from victory to victory because they have correct leadership, have confidence in the strength of the people while scorning the strength of the enemy, and uphold the anti-imperialist revolutionary line while combating the capitulationist line which does not oppose imperialism but is opposed to revolution." (Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism, pp. 66-67)

During a visit to Ghana on this same tour, Chou En-lai stated that "The national liberation movement in Africa has become an important force in the contemporary struggle of the people of the world against imperialism, and has made outstanding contributions to the cause of safguarding world peace."

Chou En-lai then links the struggles of the African people taken away from the continent during slavery and those that were currently fighting for national liberation in their homeland. The Chinese leader said that "The castle where we are now joyously assembled was a centre where a few centuries ago, the Western colonialists plundered and traded in Negroes. Chairman Mao Tse-tung says, 'The evil system of colonialism and imperialism grew up with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, it will surely come to its end with the thorough emancipation of the black people.'" (Afro-Asian Solidarity, p. 137)

Later during Chou En-lai's visit to the West African state of Guinea, he stressed the need for self-reliance in the independence movement. The Chinese leader stated during a speech in Guinea that "The people of the Asian and African countries deeply realize that in order to achieve independence, the people should mainly rely on their own struggle and that in order to develop the national economy and build up their own countries after independence, the people should also primarily rely on their own efforts. Self-reliance and energetic endeavours to bring about prosperity this is a line which consists in placing confidence in and depending on the masses of the people to develop the national economy and realize complete independence." (Afro-Asian Solidarity, p. 196)

The East African state of Tanzania was heavily influenced by the People's Republic of China. Under the leadership of the African National Union and President Julius Nyerere, the country issued the Arusha Declaration, a socialist document, in 1967. The theme of the Arusha Declaration was to place emphasis on national self-reliance, the uplifting and empowerment of the peasantry as well as the realization of socialism based on the concrete conditions existing in Tanzania.

During the mid-1970s, the Chinese built the TanZam railway lines that assisted the developments within the trade and transport industries in thee two east and central African states of Tanzania and Zambia. Later the Chinese assisted the people of Mozambique in their struggle aimed at winning national independence through armed struggle.

As a result of the ideological and political struggle between the USSR and the PRC after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956 and the intensification of this struggle between 1956-1963, greater competition developed in regard to overtures and relations sought within the African continent by the two socialist states.

This ideological struggle worked against the people of Angola during the 1970s, when initially the PRC supported the reactionary forces that were opposed politically by the MPLA, the legitimate liberation movement in that southern African country that broke free of Portuguese colonialism in 1975. After recognizing this error, the PRC suspended all aid to the UNITA organization at the conclusion of 1975.

By 1983, the PRC was once again playing a significant role in assisting the national liberation struggle in South Africa, still under settler-colonialism and apartheid. In an interview with the-then African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo in regard to China's support for the armed struggle to end apartheid in the sub-continent, Tambo spoke on a recent visit to the PRC saying that "It was the third time that the ANC has sent a delegation to the People's Republic of China. The first time was in 1963. I was leading both. (Journal of African Marxists, No. 5, March 1984)

Tambo continued in the interview by stating that "Between 1975 and 1983 is quite a bit of time, and over that time relations have not grown. So part of the purpose of this invitation was simply to strengthen relations between the ANC and the People's Republic of China. That's how we saw our visit.

"We think we emerged from our discussions feeling that our relations had been deepened and we got assurances of China's all-round support: political and material. In fact, as I have said elsewhere, we asked for support related to our armed struggle and got a promise of weaponry and generally a willingness to assist and support."

In regard to how the Sino-Soviet dispute effected relations between the PRC and the ANC, Tambo said in the interview that "I think that in the sixties this was a factor, but in 1975 we resolved that question. The Chinese accepted the fact that we have nothing against the Soviet Union, that the Soviets were close friends of ours, and that friendship with anyone else was not conditional upon our weakening relations with the Soviet Union. They accepted that in 1975."

China, Africa and the World Today

There has been considerable comment and reaction to the role of Chinese foreign policy in the current period. With rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the last two decades, the socialist state has become a rival of the United States, Britain, Japan and other imperialist countries. The opening of Chinese markets to western products and the mass production of consumer goods for export to the industrialized countries, has created substantial growth within their national economy.

As the economic growth rates of the United States have shrunk over the last decade and the increasing problems of structural unemployment and poverty along with the widening gap between rich and poor has become more evident, there has been increasing tensions betweeen Beijing and Washington. The U.S. industries have downsized and outsourced tens of millions of manufacturing and service industry jobs to production facilities off shore.

Workers and the oppressed in the U.S. have seen their real wages decline over the last several decades while the military-industrial complex has grown since the beginning of the 21st century carrying out wars of occupation and aggression against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Haiti and Somalia. Surrogate wars are also being carried out against the people of Palestine, Colombia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Since the beginning of the Bush administration the purported threat of "international terrorism" has been utilized to justify large-scale military and security expenditures. The Pentagon budget is in excess of $700 billion annually. Current debates within the U.S. ruling circles never question the cost, size and social impact of these ever-growing military expenditures. The wars that are being waged in the current period are all directed against the former colonial, semi-colonial and modern-day neo-colonial states. All of these states are viewed as strategic to the aims and objectives of U.S. imperialism.

Iraq, which contains one of the largest known oil reserves in the world, has been the focus of attention for the U.S. ruling class for many years. Afghanistan, where the resistance to imperialism is growing every week, more and more lives and resources are being lost through the war of occupation. Both the Iraq and Afghan occupation are economic in nature although the corporate media attempts to frame the public discussions surrounding these wars as matters of national security for the people of the United States.

In Africa, China has increased its economic and political relations with numerous states. With specific reference to Sudan and Zimbabwe, two states that have been targeted by the U.S. for destabilization and regime-change, China has developed close bonds of friendship and mutual cooperation.

In Sudan, where the civil conflict in the Darfur region has been utilized as a mechanism for the interference in the internal affairs of Africa's largest geographic nation-state, the United States and Israel has sought to utilize the fighting there to justify aggressive policies. Sudan is one of the emerging oil-producing states that has maintained for the last two decades policies both domestic and foreign that are independent of the U.S. Although the Obama administration has appointed a special envoy to Sudan, they are still working through the State Department, the Pentagon and the State of Israel to undermine the national sovereignty of this central African country.

Zimbabwe's history over the last 120 years is one of European settler-colonialism and the struggle for national liberation. The liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which grew in strength during the 1970s and realized independence for this southern African state in 1980, were never supported by the U.S. and the former colonial power of Britain. Efforts by the ZANU-PF government under President Robert Mugabe to reclaim the historical land base of the people has been met with extreme hostility by imperialism which has imposed sanctions on this emerging nation.

The role of Chinese foreign policy has been crucial in the defense of both Sudan and Zimbabwe. Economic relations between Sudan and China have been essential in creating growth inside the country. In Zimbabwe, the economic and political assistance from China has helped to stave off a total collapse that has been engineered by British and U.S. imperialism operating in concert with domestic enemies of genuine national independence.

China has also increased its level of cooperation with the Latin American states of Venezuela and Cuba, both of which are maintaining and anti-imperialist and socialist domestic and foreign policy. Recent economic agreements between Venezuela and China in areas of oil and technology are key to the development aims of both states. At the same time economic and political relations between Cuba and China have improved since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eastern European socialist countries two decades earlier.

The world today is facing the worst economic crisis in decades. The U.S. capitalists have over the last year attempted to prevent a total financial meltdown. The Bush and Obama administrations instituted so-called economic stimulus programs that have had virtually no impact on the economic well-being of workking people and the oppressed inside the U.S. Yet, according to recent reports, the stimulus program initiated by China, which reinvested approximately 13% of its gross domestic product back into its economy has had noticeable impact.

As the economic crisis worsens in the United States and throughout the world, there will be greater tensions in both the international arena and within the capitalist states as well. There is no future for workers and the oppressed under capitalism and imperialism. Only socialism and socialist economic planning can provide a way out of the economic crisis for the majority of people throughout the world. Consequently, the struggle for socialism is the only viable solution to the world economic crisis in the modern period.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is Unemployment the Worst Since the Great Depression?

Is Unemployment the Worst Since the Great Depression?

By Matthew Bandyk
Thu Aug 27, 4:27 pm ET

The "Great Recession" is the name that has stuck for the economic decline that began in late 2007. But there's some reason to think that using the word recession is being kind.

The U.S. gross domestic product has shrunk 3.9 percent in the past year, the worst drop since the Great Depression. Plenty of observers are willing to say that this recession is much deeper than anything we've seen since the 1930s--including the big dip in the early 1980s, generally accepted as the other candidate for the worst recession since the Great Depression. "I think it's way worse today," says Ridgely Evers of Tapit Partners, a longtime entrepreneur and venture capitalist who founded the software company Netbooks (now known as WorkingPoint). In the recession of 1981 and 1982, "people recognized it as a dip. [Today,] nobody thinks we are going to come back out in relatively short order." This recession seems to have dragged on longer. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the U.S. economy was in recession from July 1981 to November 1982--16 months. But the current recession started in December 2007, says the NBER, so it's already longer than the last big one.

The NBER defines a "recession" based on the all-encompassing gross domestic product figure. That economy-wide statistic may not mean much to the average American. In other words, the question "What is the economy's output?" usually doesn't matter as much as "How hard is it to find a job?" When we look at that question, how does the "Great Recession" compare?

The unemployment rate is a murky number. It seems simple enough to look at the
national unemployment figures released every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, that number was 9.4 percent. At the peak of the early '80s recession--December 1982--unemployment hit 10.8 percent.

So where's the murkiness? The problem is that many of the people one would think of as "unemployed" are not included in this unemployment rate. For one, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not count unemployed people who have been discouraged by the labor market and have given up looking for work. You are counted as a "discouraged worker" if you are available to work, want to work, and tried to look for work in the past year but gave up within four weeks for reasons including the belief that no work is available. The fact that the national unemployment rate excludes these discouraged workers has led many observers to believe it does not reflect the "real" level of unemployment. "Ask the average person if he or she is unemployed, and there is little hesitation in giving you an answer, but that may not agree with government definitions," says John Williams, an economist who examines government statistics at

Other people who aren't counted in the official number are those who have been forced by the economy to work part time. The number of workers who wanted full-time jobs but could find only part-time work was 1.8 million last month, which amounts to 1.3 percent of the labor force. Still, that's not as bad as December 1982, when forced part-time workers accounted for 3 percent of the labor force.

What happens when you start counting all these people who have been heavily battered by the labor market? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has another rate that includes "marginally affected workers" and part-time workers. That number, referred to as U-6 because of its identification in bureaureports, was 16.3 percent last month--nearly 7 percentage points higher than the official unemployment rate. What's more, the number of people who have given up on finding work has been steadily rising over the past few months, from 685,000 in May to 796,000 in July. "If you have that number of people leaving the workforce, that seems to me a serious problem," says economist John Lott.

Many people are giving up because the labor market is so bad--but how bad historically? A U-6 rate of more than 16 percent certainly does not compare to the Great Depression, when a quarter of the workforce was unemployed. And Williams points out that a much larger number of workers were agricultural workers in the 1930s. These farm workers are not included in today's statistics. So, by his estimates, nonfarm unemployment was at 35 percent in 1933). Trying to compare that U-6 number with the early '80s recession gets a bit tricky. The U-6 measurement did not come into use until 1994.

Before that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics used a broader measurement, referred to as U-7, to figure out the number of unemployed plus workers dropping out of the labor force. In 1982, U-7 hit a peak of 15.3 percent, below the current U-6 of 16.3 percent. But 1982 should probably look even better compared with the labor market of today. U-7 overestimates the number of discouraged workers compared with how we measure them today. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics started asking people in surveys if they were actually available to work. These and other changes reduced the measurement of discouraged workers by 50 percent, according to some estimates.

So if you care not just about people who meet the official definition of "unemployed" but also about people who are dropping out of the labor force, 2009 seems to be trailing 1982 in terms of the health of the labor market. Williams says that when he takes into consideration people who haven't looked for work in more than a year because they can't find jobs, the real unemployment rate today goes all the way up to 20.6 percent by his calculations. "It won't take much to get it to the worst since the Great Depression," he says.

South African Police Quell Troop Rally

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
21:49 Mecca time, 18:49 GMT

S African police quell troop rally

South African police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and used water cannons against soldiers protesting in Pretoria, the capital.

The unrest - in which a policeman and several soldiers were injured - on Wednesday involved about 1,200 troops waging an illegal march on government offices, the defence ministry said.

One police vehicle and several other cars were set on fire during the day-long protest.

The rally was called a "serious and immediate threat to national security" by Lindiwe Sisulu, the defence minister.

The soldiers gathered on the lawns of the Union Buildings, where central government is based, with some people attempting to climb the buildings' surrounding fence.

This followed a court refusal of the troops' application to march to demand improved pay.

Arrests made

"The military police and other police informed them they have to leave, they refused and then they tried to climb the fence," Ndhivuwo Mabhaya, a ministry spokesman, said.

"Our position is that the march was illegal. The union needs to take responsibility for the actions of their members. We are now consulting with our lawyers whether the union can be held liable for damage to property."

However, local television footage showed police firing into the crowd, forcing protesters against a fence, over which many had retreated. Police were seen to continue firing in the area, which contains embassies and hotels.

The protest ended when police warned of further force.

Sisulu added that any troops joining the protest would be put on unpaid leave, and that those immediately involved had been suspended.

She said that two soldiers had been arrested and handed to military police.

The South African National Defence Union was demanding a 30 per cent increase in pay. The union is not officially recongnised by the government and Sisulu called the demand "deliberatively provocative".

She added that there was now the potential that military bases were unprotected and that there was a lack of troops to support police if necessary.

Source: Agencies

Huey P. Newton (1942-1989): The Canadian Connection

Huey P. Newton: The Canadian Connection

By Norman (Otis) Richmond

Huey P. Newton was murdered 20 years ago in Oakland, California during the month of August. Because Black freedom fighters like George and Jonathan Jackson, Khatari Gaulden and others lost their lives during this month, revolutionaries inside the California prison system have deemed it Black August.

It is August 22, 1989 at about 8:30 a.m. Gwen Johnston, the co-owner of Third World Books and Crafts (Toronto’s first African Canadian owned bookstore) phones me. The news is shocking, dreadful even. Mrs. Johnston is in tears stating, “Otis they have killed Huey”.

Mrs. Johnston and her husband Lennie were huge supporters of Newton, the Black Panther Party and the struggle for African and human liberation.

When Newton returned to the United States after his exile in
revolutionary Cuba in 1977 he first landed in Toronto. He was detained in Brampton, Ontario and was represented by the progressive Euro-Canadian lawyer, Paul Copeland. Toronto’s African community supported Newton and the Panthers had several chapters in this county.

Toronto’s African community was represented by Owen Sankara Leach, Lennox Farrell, the late Sharona Hall, Mitch Holder, Bryan Hyman, Cikiah Thomas and others at the Brampton courthouse. It was covered by the Toronto dailies and even was discussed by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.

Spider Jones discusses his brief tenure with the Black Panther Party
in his autobiography “Out of the Darkness: The Spider Jones Story”.

Another Jones, Rocky created a Black Panther Party chapter in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Whatever his shortcomings and there were many, Newton led many of us ideologically. For a brief moment in the history of Africans in
America Newton was” the tallest tree in the forest”.

Malcolm X was the first national leader in the African community in
the United States to oppose the war in Vietnam. Dr. Martin Luther King later followed Malcolm’s lead on this issue; Newton took it to the
next limit. He offered troops to fight on the side of the North
Vietnamese. In 1970, when was released from prison in California, his first act was to offer troops to fight in Vietnam on the side of the
Vietnamese people.

On August 29, 1970 Newton wrote "In the spirit of international
revolutionary solidarity the Black Panther Party hereby offers to the
National Liberation Front and Provisional revolutionary Government of South Vietnam an undetermined number of troops to assist you in your fight against American imperialism. It is appropriate for the Black Panther Party to take this action at this time in recognition of the
fact that your struggle is also our struggle, for we recognize that
our common enemy is the American imperialist who is the leader of
international bourgeois domination."

Newton also raised the questions of the liberation of women and even gays. At that time in our history this was not fashionable.

Nationalists, Pan-Africanist and even some socialist formations did
not wish to touch the hot potato of gay rights. Newton did. He was the
bold one. His speech given on August 15, 1970 created a firestorm in
the African liberation movement. At that time I did not support
Newton's thoughts on the issue of gays and lesbians.

Newton said: "We should be careful about using those terms that might turn our friends off. The terms 'faggot' and 'punk' should be deleted from our vocabulary and, especially, we should not attach names normally designed for homosexuals to men who are enemies of the people. Homosexuals are not enemies of the people. We should try to form a working coalition with the gay liberation and women's liberation groups. We must always handle social forces in the most appropriate manner."

Newton was born in Oak Grove, Louisiana on February 17, 1942.

Louisiana has always been a problem for the ruling circle in the
United States. Queen Mother Moore, Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) and Newton all hail from Louisiana.

Queen Mother Moore from New Iberia, Carter from Shreveport, Geronimo from Morgan City, Imam Al-Amin from Baton Rouge and Newton from Oak Grove.

There were 74 chapters of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) in Louisiana alone.

In the 1950s and 1960s the militant Deacons for Defense sprang up in the pecan state. Jesse Jackson won the primaries for the Democratic Party in 1984 and 1988. Barack Hussein Obama, a true African American rode a wave of black support to victory in Louisiana.

The state has also produced its share of sell-outs, buffoons and idiots.

As we commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Black August and the 20th anniversary of Newton joining the ancestors we should remember the words of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Says Mumia: "Huey was, it must be said, no godling, no saint. He was, however, intensely human, curious, acutely brilliant, a lover of the world's children, an implacable foe of all the world's oppressors."

Norman Richmond can be contacted

U.S. Renews Attacks on Libya in the Aftermath of the Release of Political Prisoner From Scotland

U.S. Renews Attacks on Libya in the Aftermath of the Release of Political Prisoner From Scotland

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi has always maintained his innocence in the Lockerbie bombing case

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A Libyan man, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, 57, returned home on August 21 to a hero's welcome after being held in a Scottish prison for eight years in connection with the bombing of the Pan Am 103 flight over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988. All 259 passengers on board the aircraft were killed including 11 others on the ground.

Al-Megrahi, who has always maintained his innocence, was released on humanitarian grounds by the Scottish authorities after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.

The release of this political prisoner has created the conditions for a renewal of attacks on the North African state of Libya, which since 1969 has been headed by Muammar Gaddafi, an anti-imperialist leader who currently serves as Chairman of the African Union. Libya under Gadaffi had been designated as a "terrorist state" dating back to the Reagan administration in the early 1980s.

Libya, which has been a strong advocate of African unity and socialism, was bombed by the United States Airforce on April 14, 1986. The bombings sparked outrage throughout the continent of Africa and the world.

Relations With Libya Imperiled

Since the events of September 11, 2001 and the escalation of the U.S. so-called "war on terrorism", efforts were made to normalize relations with Libya in an effort to further isolate Iraq, Syria, the DPRK, Sudan and Iran. During the period after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration claimed that Libya had agreed to dismantle and eliminate its purported "weapons of mass destruction" in exchange for greater diplomatic recognition from Washington and London.

In August 2003 the Libyan government agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing. In September of the same year, the United Nations Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Libya.

In 2006, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Libya and therefore opening the door for further economic cooperation. The country was removed from the state department list of governments that "support terrorism." During the final days of the Bush administration, former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice visited the country.

Libya has also been involved in peace negotiations surrounding the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Yet this apparent thawing in relations between the U.S. and Libya has been jeopardized by the virulent statements emanating from the Obama administration in response to the release of al-Megrahi and his welcoming by the Libyan government and people. During the course of the normalization process, U.S. and British oil firms were allowed to resume economic relations with Libya which is said to hold the largest oil reserves on the African continent.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill took responsibility for making the decision to release al-Megrahi from prison. "It is my decision that Mr. released on compassionate grounds and be returned to Libya to die," MacAskill said. (Al Jazeera, August 21)

MacAskill told journalists that "He [al-Megrahi] is a dying man; he is terminally ill. My decision is that he returns home to die."
Nonetheless, U.S. President Barack Obama, under pressure from the FBI and right-wing political elements inside the country, said that the release of Megrahi was a "mistake" and that the former political prisoner should be held under house arrest in Libya.

In a statement issued by al-Megrahi on the eve of his release he states that "As a result of my surrender, and that judgement of the court, I had to spend over 10 years in prison. I cannot find words in my language or yours that give proper expression to the desolation I have felt. This horrible ordeal is not ended by my return to Libya.

"The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction. I have been faced with an appalling choice: to risk dying in prison in the hope that my name is cleared posthumously or to return home still carrying the weight of the guilty verdict, which will never now be lifted." (Statement from al-Megrahi published in Al Jazeera, August 20)

Although the United States and prosecutors have claimed that al-Megrahi was a Libyan intelligence officer, he has been consistent in stating that he was an airline executive at the time of the Lockerbie bombing. Evidence of guilt was highly circumstantial and questionable. Another Libyan was also turned over during the late 1990s for trial at a special court in the Netherlands, but he was acquitted of the charges.

An appeal by al-Megrahi was rejected by a Scottish court in 2002. However, a judicial review of his conviction in 2007 raised a number of questions in regard to the veracity of the evidence used against him during the trial. Particular doubt was cast on the testimony of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed that clothing purchased in his store by al-Megrahi was found in the wreckage of the Pan Am 103.

According to Al Jazeera, "It was suggested that Gauci may have seen a photo of al-Megrahi in a magazine days before picking him out of line-up." Al-Megrahi made a decision to drop his appeal when Libya, which has negotiated for his release over many years, reached a deal with the British government to have him released on compassionate grounds.

Behind the Agreement to Release al-Megrahi

With Libya serving as chair of the continental organization the African Union as well as the desire on the part of the imperialist countries to access the nation's vast oil and natural gas reserves, there has been an increased willingness of both the United States and Britain to further normalize relations and enhance existing economic agreements.

These factors were raised in an interview with Seif al-Islam, the son of Muammar Gadaffi, that was broadcast over Libyan Television on August 22. Al-Islam said that the release of al-Megrahi was raised during talks over possible oil and natural gas contracts between the British government and Libya.

Al-Islam described the release of al-Megrahi as a "victory" for the people of Libya. He went on further to state that "In all commercial contracts, for oil and gas with Britain, (Megrahi) was always on the negotiating table", the Libyan told the Al Mutawasit television channel.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Libya in May 2007 amid the signing of an exploration contract with the United Kingdom oil firm BP for $900 million. Despite these statements by al-Islam and the signing of the 2007 contract, the British Foreign Office has insisted that the release of al-Megrahi was the sole decision of the Scottish government.

A British Foreign Office spokesperson said that "No deal has been made between the UK government and the Libyan government in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interest in the country." (BBC, August 22)

Later Foreign Secretary David Miliband disputed any suggestion that the release of the Libyan political prisoner was designed to improve relations with the Gadaffi government. He stated that any claim of this was merely "a slur on both myself and the government." (BBC, August 22)

Al-Megrahi met with Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi upon his return. Gadaffi issued a statement in response to the return of al-Megrahi which stated in part that "At this moment I would like to send a message to our friends in Scotland, the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Scottish prime minister... and I congratulate them on their courage and for having proved their independence despite the unacceptable and unreasonable pressures they faced." (Jana, August 22)
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire.

Detroit Economic Crisis Lays Bare False Claims of a Recovery

Detroit Economic Crisis Lays Bare False Claims of a Recovery

Corporate-backed interim mayor proposes layoffs and service cuts

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT--Hundreds of city employees and community residents gathered on August 19 outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to protest budget cuts being enacted by the newly-elected interim Mayor Dave Bing. Bing, who has already placed over 300 workers on indefinite layoff, is also preparing the public for the idling of another 1,000 employees in an effort to close the $350 million deficit.

In addition to the proposed 1,000 layoffs, the Mayor is set to make major cuts in bus services, the only source of transportation for hundreds of thousands of workers, students, people with disabilities and senior citizens. The Bing cutbacks would suspend bus transportation starting on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. until early Monday mornings. There would be no public bus service at all on Sundays.

Other possible cuts would include the complete elimination of several bus routes all together. These routes would include the Grandbelt, Russell, Oakland and Holbrook.

The mass demonstration on August 19 was largely organized by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 26, the city bus drivers. Leaflets were distributed to bus riders for several days prior to the protest. Other unions involved in the demonstration were the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 207, as well as rank-and-file members of UAW Local 2334, and the Detroit Federation of Teachers, among others.

Participants chanted slogans opposing the layoffs and cuts in the public transportation system. Members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs attended the demonstration carrying two banners which called for Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to declare a state of economic emergency and consequently place a halt on home seizures and energy cuts to individual households.

Public hearings took place during the week of August 24 where city residents were allowed to voice their opinions on the proposed cutbacks and elimination of bus service routes. At each public hearing hosted by the Detroit Department of Transporation, hundreds of bus riders, workers, youth, senior citizens and people with disabilities came out to express their outrage at the proposed cuts in bus service. Altogether during the week, several thousand people attended the public hearings across the city in protest against the proposed cuts in bus service.

By the middle of the week, the administration appeared as if it was willing to make some compromises on bus scheduling. The Amalgamated Transit Union had announced during the hearings that over 100 of its members were going to be laid off by August 28. Bing told the media on August 26 that he had never claimed that bus service was going to be cut on Saturday evenings and Sundays.

With rising unemployment and poverty rates in the city of Detroit, the scaling down and termination of bus routes would be disastrous for the overwhelming majority African-American and working class residents of Detroit.

The Severity of the Crisis Deepens

Despite governmental and corporate claims that the United States economy is beginning to show signs of a recovery, the conditions in the state of Michigan are becoming more desperate for workers, youth as well as small business owners. The official unemployment rate in the city of Detroit stands in excess of 25% and the overall figures for the state is over 15%.

Home foreclosures remain extremely high with each neighborhood in Detroit suffering from a proliferation of vacant homes and businesses. Property values for those who have been able to remain in their homes have continued to plummet.

As a result of the worsening conditions in the neighborhoods, there has been a recent spike in street crimes involving robberies, carjacking and shootings. In response the Bing administration has appointed a new police chief Warren Evans who has stepped-up street sweeps using brutal tactics such as home raids and the deliberate targeting of youthful motorists.

Chief Evans was recently featured on the front page of the August 16 Sunday Free Press holding an automatic weapon while raiding a home along with patrol officers. Yet there has been no discussion on the part of the Bing administration in regard to the root causes of the economic crisis and the consequent budget shortfall.

On August 12, Bing traveled to Chicago to meet with representatives of the bond rating agencies Moody's Investor Services and Standard & Poor. His stated objectives, according to the Detroit Free Press, was to "reassure" these agencies that his administration would take drastic measures to balance the city's budget.

The Free Press in an article on August 12, quoted Bing's press secretary Edward Cardenas as saying that "These meetings are standard practice for a new mayor to meet with the rating agencies to discuss the city's finances and his plans to address Detroit's financial issues. During the campaign, the mayor said he would be working hard to wrap his arms around the budget, and this is yet another example of how he is addressing this issue." (Detroit Free Press, August 12)

In the same article it points out how the bond rating agencies have excercised their power over the fiscal well-being of the city. The writer, Suzette Hackney, states that "In January Moody's, Standard and Poor's and Fitch Ratings downgraded Detroit's bond rating to junk bond status as a result of the city's inability to regain structural balance and ongoing financial deterioration. Approximately $4.7 billion of the city's debt was affected by the downgrades."

Hackney goes on to point out that "Downgrades can carry severe consequences for the city. Besides higher interest rates on the city's debt, depriving the budget of money to fund services to residents, it also could force the city to pay millions of dollars to investors with certain deals with the city."

The August 23 Sunday Free Press noted that city governments throughout the region will face serious problems in financing public projects. "Soon many cash-strapped governments might see higher interest rates that could make it too expensive to finance public improvement projects that some communities need badly."

Another article in the same Free Press issue published on August 23 also notes that "Even Michigan cities that have maintained excellent or above average bond ratings are at risk of seeing them fall and interest rates rise because of concerns about slumping property taxes, auto industry woes and the state's overall poor economy, rating agencies and city officials say."

In response to the pressure being placed on the city to pay the debts at higher interest rates, Bing is demanding that workers and residents accept massive cuts in employment, salaries and services. On August 10 an emergency meeting between the city administration and 50 union locals ended in a shouting match, when labor representatives expressed their opposition to the drastic cuts.

Bing demanded that the workers accept a 10% pay cut by August 28. This wage cut has already been imposed on non-union employees. The Mayor says that the city is running out of cash and could be insolvent in another two months. He has also mentioned that if the workers and city residents do not accept the proposed and imposed cuts that the city could fall into bankruptcy and receivership.

However, even if workers and community residents accept the salary and service cuts, "There are going to be layoffs regardless. At a miniumum of 1,000 layoffs," Bing said. (Detroit Free Press, August 12)

Union leaders at the August 10 meeting refused to agree to the altering of their contracts to accept pay and benefit cuts. Henry Gaffney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, that represents 1,000 bus drivers, stated in the aftermath of the meeting with Bing that the city needs to "Clean up your own house and then come talk to us." (Detroit Free Press, August 12)

Corporate media coverage of the current crisis has attempted to portray city employees as overpaid and inefficient. In a August 24 article in the Detroit News, Bing was featured calling for the slashing of wages and benefits that were won through decades of struggle.

However, the reality is that in comparison to other public entities and private industry, city workers are grossly underpaid and overworked. Thousands of job openings have remained unfilled for years requiring employees to perform multiple tasks while their cost of living is increasing every year.

In an attempt to justify the austerity measures, the Detroit News wrote that "Most workers get 17 sick days a year, a paid lunch hour, can keep children on their health insurance until age 25, draw a Christmas bonus of as much as $750 and have Viagra picked up by the city prescription plan." (Detroit News, August 24)

The same article continues by saying that "The average staffer with 15 years on the job can take up to 42 days off a year for vacations, holidays and a host of other paid absences. City officials say eliminating these and other benefits could save about $19 million annually, in addition to the $11 million they hope to cut through 26 furlough days."

The Need for A Worker-Community Alliance to Fight the Cutbacks

Members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition who were present at the August 19 demonstration outside city hall called for the suspension of the debt service payments to the financial institutions that have demanded the massive cutbacks in municipal services. "Bing must tell the banks to wait, the workers must keep their jobs and benefits," Coalition members shouted.

Coalition members pointed out the injustice of having city workers and residents pay for the failures of the corporate giants and their agents in government. The banking institutions, auto companies and insurance firms have received trillions in bailout money through the government and the federal reserve over the last year while workers have suffered immensely through job losses, foreclosures, evictions, utility shutoffs, the slashing of health care and pension benefits.

The Obama stimulus package has not created any jobs for the unemployed and underemployed in the city of Detroit. In fact it was reported in the Detroit News on August 12 that the state of Michigan is losing approximately $50 million a month due to the drop in income and sales tax revenues.

According to the Detroit News "Governor Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers figured out in May the national recession and the collapsing auto industry would rip a $1.3 billion hole in this year's budget, so they made $304 million in budget cuts and spent $1 billion in federal recovery cash to balance the books."

To address the immediate crisis the Moratorium NOW! Coalition has called for a mass organizing meeting for September 12 in order for the workers and community to declare an economic state of emergency in Detroit and Michigan. The meeting will be held at Central United Methodist Church on Woodward and East Adams beginning at 11:00 a.m.

In a leaflet passed out at the August 19 demonstration the Coalition stated that "It is time for the people to declare a State of Economic Emergency and plan actions to guarantee our fundamental rights to housing, utilities, education, basic services and jobs in accordance with the law. We will develop a strategy to implement a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs; an end to school closings and cuts in public education; guarantee health care and basic social services for poor and working people; defending union contracts and workers' rights to living wages and pensions and ending plant and office closings and lay-offs and guaranteeing the right to a job consistent with the Full Employment Act."
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and a longtime resident of the city of Detroit.