Statement by Anis Chowdhury (Sydney)Monday 02 January 2023Inter Press Service
SYDNEY, Jan. 02 (IPS) — 2022 was a year of great uncertainty as it seemed the world had come perilously to the brink of self-destruction — whether from human-caused climate change or military conflict. As we welcomed 2022, we had enough reasons to be optimistic; but it was another “year of dangerous living” – tahun vivere pericoloso in the words of Soekarno, or an annus horribilis in the words of the late Queen Elizabeth.
No end to Covid-19
The joy of discovering the COVID vaccine quickly faded as “vaccine apartheid” patently placed life in rich nations, particularly the rich, above the “impoverished of the earth” and corporate profit triumphed over human life. In the meantime, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s sober warning of a more dangerous COVID variant emerging this winter has come true as China, the country of 1.4 billion, struggles to cope with the surge in cases as it announces its unpopular “zero COVID” policy has largely abandoned .
The new Cold War becomes a proxy war
Unfortunately, while the global pandemic called for extraordinary global unity, a “new cold war” was quickly morphing into a “hot war” that brought the world to the brink of a devastating nuclear war for the first time since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Russia, cornered by an expanding NATO, foolishly decided to invade Ukraine, believing it could overrun the country unopposed. While heroic Ukrainians continue to defend their fatherland, Russia seems locked in a proxy war with NATO.
As if the proxy war with Russia wasn’t enough, the US is ruthlessly provoking China into another “hot war” in the wake of Trump’s trade war. US monopoly capital and its military-industrial complex are clearly driving the US into a “Thucydides trap”. More than 60 years ago, in his farewell address to the nation, President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, a formidable amalgamation of defense contractors and the armed forces. Eisenhower, a retired five-star Army general who led the Allies on D-Day, saw the military-industrial complex as a threat to democratic government and world peace. Unfortunately, his dire warning fell on deaf ears.
Western hypocrisy exposed
The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposed the Western pretense. The Western mainstream media brazenly declared the resettlement of Ukrainians intolerable because the victims were blue-eyed, blond-haired Europeans, not “uncivilized” Third World residents or “barbaric” Arabs. Nowhere is Western duplicity more evident than in the case of the Palestinian plight. For them, Russia’s occupation and annexation of parts of Ukraine is illegal; but Israel’s occupation and annexation of Palestinian lands, as well as gross human rights abuses, are justified on various stated grounds, such as the right to protection from “acts of terrorism”.
The world now needs Eisenhower to resist the military-industrial complex; it takes Teddy Roosevelt to break the stranglehold of monopoly capital and protect consumers, workers and the environment; it needs Franklin Roosevelt to promote multilateralism and social justice; it takes Kennedy to defuse crises. At the height of the “old Cold War,” Kennedy ate humble pie by quietly eliminating the security threat to the USSR posed by Turkey-based offensive weapons (Jupiter MRBMs) and publicly pledging that the U.S. would never invade Cuba or a would try further bay of pig operation. Eisenhower was magnanimous enough to provide the lion’s share of funding for the USSR’s proposal for a worldwide effort to eradicate smallpox – the leading cause of death and blindness at the time.
Unfortunately, in a world of Trump, Biden, Johnson, Marcon and Scholz, we see no such signs. Even ‘out of touch’ billionaire Sunak offers no hope despite being the first black man of colonial descent to occupy 10 Downing Street. Sunak will likely seek to prove himself holier than the Pope, rather than furthering the interests of former colonies or descendants of colonial subjects or the oppressed.
No better leadership in the south
The south is also free of visionaries like Nkrumah or Nehru, who promoted nonalignment and unity in the south. Nehru’s land is now being taken over by Modi’s Hindutva movement, which openly encourages violence against minorities. Unsurprisingly, Modi was in sync with Trump; but he equally snuggles with Biden, who professes to promote democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, Mandela’s South Africa is mired in scandal after scandal.
Although many, including myself, eagerly awaited Lula’s victory in Brazil, neither his return to power nor the so-called “second pink tide” in Latin America should bring too much joy. The left has shown its propensity to break or implode easily, for example by contributing to Correa’s defeat in Ecuador or helping the right to retaliate in Peru. In Colombia, finance capital, mining giants and the elite have already joined Petro’s pledge to fight inequality with tax and land reforms and his proposed ban on new oil and gas exploration. Chile’s Boric suffered setbacks, including the rejection of a new constitution, forcing his concessions to the centre-right party. The constitutional coup is a common strategy used by mainstream interest groups.
A few inspirations from Down Under
Down under, Australians defeated an increasingly autocratic and irresponsible Conservative government in May. It was the government that built inhumane offshore prisons for people escaping persecution and starvation in their own countries (briefly emulated by the British Tory government). It was also cruel enough to pursue vulnerable people with Social Security contributions with a robotic program while lowering taxes on the wealthy and letting them evade taxes. It was the government that created plumbing jobs for the boys. It was the government that continued to deny climate science and refused to act.
Eventually the Australians got rid of it. Labor showed exceptional discipline in opposition and in government it opposed big business and interest groups. It quickly moved on to implementing the processes to:
set up an independent anti-corruption board with real teeth; recognize the voice of First Nations; respect the human rights of asylum seekers languishing in detention centers; address environmental degradation and achieve the 43% emissions reduction target by 2030; restore labor rights, fair and decent wages; reviewing the RBA’s performance to ensure monetary policy serves broader national interests, not finances; and balance geopolitical alliances.
Its progressive agenda is quite long. Let me close here and wish the Australian Labor Government success in inspiring other nations – big and small, developed and developing; and with best wishes to you for staying safe and healthy, even if you’re not quite light-eyed and bushy.
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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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