Letter from the US: Midterms offer distorted picture of political state of play

Looking at elections in the United States, deeper trends in the population can be difficult to discern as the choices are between two capitalist parties that are both staunch defenders of capitalist rule and US imperialism.

There are no mass workers’ parties of any stripe. If there were, we may be in a better position to understand the relation of class forces.

This is not to say there are no differences between the two parties. There clearly are. At present, President Donald Trump has the backing of Republican politicians, with a few exceptions. Democratic politicians are generally opposed to Trump’s authoritarian drive, however ineffectually.

The picture is further complicated by the fact that there are competing factions in both parties, more in the open among the Democrats. For the Republicans, they are muffled by the need to go along with Trump’s significant base or face the crumbling of their party.

Is Latin America still the US's 'backyard'?

In 2008, the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations published a report titled US-Latin America Relations: A New Direction for a New Reality. Timed to influence the foreign policy agenda of the next US administration, the report asserted: “the era of the US as the dominant influence in Latin America is over.”

Then, at the Summit of the Americas the next year, then-president Barack Obama promised Latin American leaders a “new era” of “equal partnership” and “mutual respect”.

Goodbye Monroe Doctrine?

Four years later, Obama’s second secretary of state, John Kerry, went a step further. He declared before his regional counterparts at the Organization of American States (OAS) that the “era of the Monroe Doctrine is over”.

Chile: New state terror as police kill Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca

The recent death of 24-year-old Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca, who was gunned down in a police raid, has sparked wide condemnation and protests throughout Chile, writes Rodrigo Acuña.

On November 14, a newly created special “anti-terrorist” unit of the Chilean police known as Comando Jungla entered the Mapuche traditional community of Temukuikui near the town of Ercilla in the Araucanía region, about 370 miles south of Santiago. Claiming to be in pursuit of local car thieves, the operation involved hundreds of police officers with two helicopters.     

Chile hit by protests against police killing of Mapuche activist

Much of central Santiago de Chile has been brought to a standstill by protests against the police killing of 24-year-old indigenous Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca on November 14. Catrillanca joins Matiás Catrileo, Jaime Mendoza Collio, Alex Lemún, José Huenante and Rodrigo Melinaeo, all young Mapuche men who have been killed by Chilean police or disappeared while in police custody in recent years.

Protesters in Santiago trashed police vehicles and set fire to barricades constructed out of O-bikes, forcing the closure of main streets and three of the city’s underground Metro stations. In Araucanía, where the killing occurred, a church and a school have been burnt down in protest.

In France, police launch attack on 'cost of living' protesters

French police attacked demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons on November 24 as hundreds of thousands demanded President Emmanuel Macron resign over the rising cost of living.

The “yellow jacket” protests, named for the yellow high-vis jackets French motorists are obliged to have in their cars in case of breakdown, were sparked by rises in fuel duty that the government says is aimed at encouraging people to switch to electric cars.

Demonstrators built barricades in the streets and some ripped up paving stones and starting fires.

The government said the protests were a vehicle for the far right. But while fascist leader Marine Le Pen has expressed support, so have most of the country’s left including France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon. They point to cuts to public services, below-inflation pay rises and planned attacks on pensions next year are forcing people into poverty.

France shaken by ambiguous 'yellow jackets'

In recent weeks, a new protest movement called the “yellow jackets” took to the streets of France. They are protesting the rise of petrol prices, issued by President Emmanuel Macron in order to cut CO2 emissions.

The yellow jackets movement, seemingly spontaneously born on the internet, immediately spread on a national scale. It brought hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Paris on November 24. The protesters are worried because rising petrol prices will directly affect their everyday life.

However, in stating their apolitical stance, the yellow jackets are quite ambiguous. Firstly, they have refused any affiliation to political parties and unions, despite the claim to be fighting for the rights of workers and everyday people. It seems that the initiators of the movement are middle-class people without political experience.


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