News of struggles and conflicts from Africa, Asia and Latin America is not always easy to find. A general strike in India is not reported in the corporate press, neither is the murder of a human rights activist in Central America nor indeed is news of great humanitarian interest from the multilateral organisations (such as the agencies of the United Nations). As the world’s media gets more and more homogenised by the interests of corporate ideology, more and more news about the world’s peoples vanish. There is so little basic information, for instance, about world hunger and about the fights to feed the hungry. We are not interested merely in the conflicts and the suffering. We are equally interested in the struggles of people to address these broad challenges.

We, at the Tricontinental, will send out a weekly newsletter, a curated note with information from one part of the world, that will offer a window into some of the struggles and conflicts of our time. The newsletter will be available by subscription – and it is free.

To find out more about the newsletter, or to send us stories that you believe we should cover in it, please write to [email protected]. We do not promise to use each and every one of your suggestions, but we do welcome them. If you have objections to anything we run, please let us know. There might be times when we might publish your criticism as part of our mandate to stimulate debate.

 


Tensions between Washington, DC, and Tehran seem to have gone from a boil to a simmer, but they nonetheless remain. There is reason to believe that US President Donald Trump – reckless by nature – will launch an attack on Iran in the next few months. He might do so to distract from the impeachment trial he faces in the US Senate or to hasten his chances of re-election in November 2020. The objective of the US has been to subordinate Iran, to defang it, and to make it irrelevant in West Asia. That has not happened, and it is what continues to provoke tension in the region. After the assassination of Soleimani, the Iranians said that if they were attacked further, they would destroy Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Haifa (Israel). Iranian short-range missiles can hit Dubai; but it is Hezbollah that will strike Haifa. That means that the United States and its allies will face a full-scale regional guerrilla war if there is any bombing run on Iran. These militias are the deterrent for Iran. That is why Trump hesitated; but he might not hesitate for long.


A decade ago, when China and Russia joined Brazil, India, and South Africa to form the BRICS, it appeared as if the global architecture was shifting from US unipolarity (with its allies as the spokes around the US hub) to multipolarity; but, with the deepening crisis in countries like Brazil and China, the new global architecture will be one of bipolarity, with the US and China as the two poles of the global order. The United States – which has the habit of dominance – has tried its best to both manage and to prevent the growing global role of China. To manage China meant to intimidate it to remain subordinate to US economic interests. From February 2018, various dispute settlement mechanisms – including the Strategic Economic Dialogue – set up by the US and China failed to operate. The most recent ‘phase one’ deal creates new platforms for discussion and debate and provides a roadmap to settle the chaos unleashed by this trade war. But this agreement is a ceasefire – not a peace treaty.


Anti-austerity protests intersect with protests against social toxicity – From India to Latin America. The general attitude in these protests is that what passes for reality is not worth respecting; the establishment leaders and their callousness is to be disregarded. US President Donald Trump threatens to destroy Iran’s cultural sites, a threat that is in the nature of a war crime; Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison watches his country burn and reacts with muffled unscientific and crude noises; Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says nothing when the police and hooligans of his political orientation enter its universities and beat and arrest students. Young faces have their chins up, their fists in the air; they are not afraid. It is true that these are protests of the youth, but it would be inaccurate to believe that youth can be reduced to age. There are many young people who have surrendered to reality, who cannot see beyond the horizon of the present; there are many older people who are youthful in their desire for full-scale transformation. The point is not age but attitude, the sensibility that the world we have need not be the world for eternity.


As we enter the new year, protests across the planet continue unabated; rising levels of discontent are manifest in both progressive and reactionary directions. Some of that anger is directed towards hope for a world without inequality and without catastrophe; some of that anger deepens into a toxic hatred of other people. The former – the rational kernel of genuine hope – points its fingers at obscene social inequality. While the rich get richer, the poor struggle to stay alive. In Bangladesh, workers protest to increase their wages to a decent standard – part of a global wave of anti-austerity protests. These struggles that have inflamed Chile and Ecuador, Iran and India, Haiti and Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Malawi, are not just against bribery or against fuel price rises; they are against the entire framework of austerity and the harsh rate of exploitation that immiserates a greater share of humankind. These struggles fight to imagine and build a new world. But what would that world be like? Simply being against exploitation and against oppression is not sufficient. A project of vitality for a socialist future is necessary.


Max Beckmann, Hölle der Vögel, 1937-38

Millions of people are on the streets, from India to Chile. Democracy is both their promise and it is what has betrayed them.  Democracy promises that people would be able to control their destiny. Capitalism, on the other hand, is structured to allow the capitalists – the property owners – to have power over the economy and society. From the standpoint of capitalism, democracy’s full implications cannot be allowed. If democracy gets its way, then the means of producing wealth would be democratised; this would be an outrage against property, which is why democracy is narrowed. Through the financing of private media and other institutions, the bourgeoisie is able to convincingly show that it is the defender of democracy; and therefore, it comes to define democracy as merely elections and the free press – which can both be purchased as just another commodity – and not the democratisation of society and economy. Both social and economic relations are left outside the dynamic of democracy.