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.

 


Over the past several weeks, groups of angry people in some of South Africa’s poorest townships have been attacking the small convenience stores in their own neighbourhoods — which are mostly owned by and employ immigrants. A longer trend of xenophobia reaches back to the 2008 crisis. In other words, the costs of economic hardship are shouldered by one part of the vulnerable who get poorer and poorer, and then angrily turn on another part of the vulnerable, namely the shop workers. It is these shops that are burnt down, while the quiet theft of capitalism proceeds unchallenged. In this context, it is important to remember organizations such as the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union that built solidarity throughout Southern Africa and that produced a historical dynamic and traditions of dignity that last till this day. It such organisations that fought hard to create a socialist consciousness against the cheap trap of ethnic nationalism. There would be no victory for the South African people against apartheid if not for their hard struggle.


Last week, Agence France-Presse got its hands on a draft UN report called Special Report on the Ocean and Cyrosphere in a Changing Climate. This 900-page document is study of the oceans for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body which won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007. What extracts have become available make for chilling reading. ‘The same oceans that nourished human evolution’, the draft says, ‘are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilising Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel’.

Unless there are deep cuts to the carbon emissions created by humans, at least 30% of the northern hemisphere’s surface permafrost could melt within the next eight decades. This would mean that by 2050 the oceans will rise, and the ‘extreme sea level events’ will wipe out islands and low-lying megacities. Few scientists are convinced that warming can be controlled at the threshold of 1.5˚C; they hope for 2˚C. At this increase of temperature, the oceans will rise sufficiently to displace more than a quarter of a billion people; these displaced people – at 250 million – would collectively form the fifth largest country in the world after China, India, the United States of America, and Indonesia.

The final Special Report on the Ocean is to be released on 25 September, two days after a special Climate Action Summit hosted by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York. In late August, Guterres spoke at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, where he noted, ‘Little undermines development like disaster’. He had in mind the terrible cyclone Idai that struck Mozambique, destroying 90% of the area around the city of Beira.


Dark skies persist over coastal Brazil, where the country’s major population centres are to be found. This year, there have been 40,341 fires in the Amazon, the highest since 2010. The country’s president – Jair Bolsonaro – refused to admit the gravity of the situation, blaming the fires on NGOs. The language from Bolsonaro, as well as the miners and the ranchers is genocidal, and their behaviour towards the planet is annihilationist. These are dangerous people, with motives of Money overwhelming humanity. Meanwhile, the Marielle Vive Camp — a settlement of the Movement of Landless Workers (MST) — is facing eviction. Their problem is landlessness and indignity, for which there seems to be no solution. So, they have become their own solution. This is the world we live in, a world where ordinary people settle on land owned by a real estate speculator, they build a community on that land, they plan to do agro-ecological farming, and yet it is this community that must be torn apart. Their dignity is not relevant. In their bones, they know what it must be like to be Palestinian or Kashmiri, or to be any one of those people who are thrown from their land so that speculators can build a parking lot or a mall. They can hear in their ears the language that has tasted insurgency. They hear the language of the class war as spoken by the elite: the hushed tones of the judge’s verdict, the roar of the bulldozer, the harrowing sound of the laser-guided bomb. What will their language of the class war sound like?


In a recent interview with Brasil de Fato, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research Director Vijay Prashad discussed the current political reality both in Brazil and around the world. This is a reality plagued by hybrid wars and by a rise of fascistic governments. As Prashad points out, ‘The issue is not to have the right analysis by yourself. The issue is to have a debate to clarify how we understand the current situation.’ Unlike the fascism of the 1920s and 1930s, today’s strongmen do not need a dictatorship because they have hollowed out the concept of democracy. Based on such an understanding – both of the past and of the present— today’s social and political movements can strategize and seek opportunities to build the power of workers and peasants.


The undemocratic attack on the people of Kashmir comes at the same time as the people of Argentina voted in their primary to overwhelmingly say that they are fed up with the politics of austerity. To imagine history as a linear line that moves in a progressive direction is bewilderingly incorrect. It is romantic to believe either that history is conservatively circular – so that change is fundamentally impossible – or that history is progressively linear – so that everything improves in a scientific manner. Neither are plausible. Human history is a struggle between the imagination for a better life and the constraints of the present. History might move in zig-zags, but in temporal terms it is bewildering. Large numbers of significant events seem to strike us at faster and faster rates. It is hard to keep up with the news, let alone follow what is going on in each country. To provide a modest map to navigate some of these events, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will produce a regular Red Alert – a brief two-page assessment of key crises that can be easily printed out and distributed.  The first – featured in this week’s newsletter – is on Kashmir.