Brazil shows how capitalism stamps out democracy

Brazil is going through a profound political crisis, probably more serious than the military coup in 1964 that ushered in 25 years of authoritarian rule, writes Sue Bradford.

After his election as president in October, the neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro began selecting his ministers. His most important decision — and one that will probably change the destiny of Brazil for many decades — was to choose Paulo Guedes, an advocate of extreme free-market economics, as a super-minister, responsible for a hugely-expanded finance ministry.

As Bryan Pitts, from Indiana University, has pointed out, Guedes is perhaps “the most grotesque proponent of neoliberal, market-friendly policies the US has ever had in Latin America”.

Zimbabwe: Fuel hike sparks protests

Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, on January 14 after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a huge fuel price hike in a bid to stem a deepening economic crisis.

Cash shortages have plunged Zimbabwe’s economy into disarray, threatening widespread social unrest and undermining Mnangagwa’s efforts to win back foreign investors sidelined under his predecessor Robert Mugabe.

Police fired tear gas to disperse youths protesting outside the high court in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo, according to video footage from the Centre for Innovation and Technology, a local news service. Riot police in trucks patrolled downtown Harare while some shops remained closed.

Mnangagwa’s announcement of a 150% rise in fuel prices was greeted with shock in Zimbabwe, where unemployment is more than 80%.

Samir Amin on value in a divided world

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital and Marx’s Law of Value
By Samir Amin
Monthly Review Press, 2018

One of the most obvious and abhorrent features of the global economy is the stark division of the world into a wealthy “North” and a poor “South”. Egyptian-born economist Samir Amin, who passed away in August, often referred to this divide as one of “centre” and “periphery”.

Amin, former director of the Third World Forum in Senegal, was renowned as one of the most significant theorists in the field of global economics, uneven development and imperialism. His work is a major reference point in explaining the origin and nature of the North/South divide.

Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital and Marx’s Law of Value was published shortly before his death. It comprises his 2010 work The Law of Value Worldwide and several essays explaining and expanding upon the themes of that work.

India: Huge general strike takes on anti-worker attacks

India was brought to a standstill for two days on January 8 and 9 as an estimated 200 million people nationwide took strike action against the right-wing government, Morning Star Online said.

Ten unions affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) called the action after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government rejected their 12-point charter of demands, which included a rise in the minimum wage and measures to boost the economy.

They are angry at “irrational” proposed amendments to the country’s employment laws, warning that they threaten independent trade unions’ ability to operate.

CITU said the government has continued its “aggressive attack with arrogance on the lives and livelihood of working people”.

Bangladesh: Protesting garment workers win wage rise, but demand more

Garment manufacturers in Bangladesh agreed to raise workers’ pay, commerce minister Tipu Munshi said on January 13, urging people to return to work after a week of violent demonstrations, TeleSUR English said

The workers’ protests led to clashes between police and protesters that killed one worker and wounded dozens more. The protest wave pushed the Bangladesh government to consider the demand for higher pay in the world’s second-biggest garment exporter behind China.

Turkey threatens northeast Syria

US president Donald Trump announced by tweet on December 19 his intention to withdraw US troops from Syria. This followed a phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had often stated his intention to invade north-eastern Syria. 

Trump’s announcement was widely seen as giving a green light for the planned Turkish invasion. Trump’s decision caused dissension within the US government. Defence secretary James Mattis resigned, as did some other prominent officials.

Later Trump backtracked. There have been contradictory statements by Trump and his advisors. It is now unclear if, and when, the withdrawal will occur.

US troops were sent to Syria to help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

#SaveHakeem: Stop the deportation of a Bahraini refugee

Bahraini refugee Hakeem Al-Araibi has been held in detention in Thailand since last November 27. He faces the terrifying prospect of being deported to the country where he was tortured.

Al-Araibi, a semi-professional footballer and former member of the Bahraini national football team, was on his honeymoon and had just landed in Thailand. Australian authorities alerted Thai authorities, whereupon he was arrested. Bahrain is demanding his extradition.

Yahya Alhadid, a spokesperson for the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, said if Al-Araibi is extradited back to Bahrain he will face “continuous electric shocks, because he dared to criticise a member of the Royal family”.

Alhadid said that another detainee, athlete Hamad Al-Fahed, had his sentence changed from 15 years’ jail to life after he spoke out about the torture he was subjected to, which included electric shocks.

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