Tag Archives: colonialism

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Critical analysis on the “Fight For $15” minimum wage campaign and the absence of political organization, from Orchestrated Pulse
  • Argument for “selfish solidarity” over “allyship”
  • Article about recent scholarship on the politics of land reform in Afghanistan

Sunday Interesting Links

  • Essay on the intersection of Black liberation and labor organizing, from The New Inquiry
  • Report on the escalating power struggles and factionalism in the Republican Party between Trump and party elites
  • Essay mulling what policy obsession with “entrepreneurship” means for the climate crisis and the economy
  • Lengthy article on the story of an Oath Keeper who tried to arm Black Lives Matter

Anti-imperialist eco-militants are back in the Niger Delta

New waves of sabotage and insurrection have been rocking the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.  A new group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), has been carrying out sophisticated guerrilla attacks on oil infrastructure, and demanding a variety of political and economic reforms.

The Avengers demand greater ownership of oil resources for the people who live in crude-producing areas. They want environmental repair and compensation for damages inflicted by oil producers. And they want continued government funding for an amnesty program that is largely credited with halting the last round of Delta violence, which mostly ended in 2009.

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria has a long and brutal history of environmental degradation and fossil fuel extraction, intimately linked with the dynamics of global capitalism.  The situation got particularly nasty in the 1990s, when the military dictatorship responded to mass protests with indiscriminate killings and forced displacement; and Ken Saro-Wiwa, a key local protest leader and popular political figure, was executed by the military dictatorship on trumped-up charges.  This lead to even more unrest and dissent that took an increasingly violent approach, and in 2006 a coalition of armed militant groups, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), launched a protracted insurgent movement aimed at shutting down oil production and winning the region political and economic rights.

This new wave of insurgency seems even more effective at shutting down oil production; recent attacks have reduced Nigeria’s oil production by 40%, the lowest in some two decades, and exceeding the impacts during the worst periods of MEND’s insurgency, which tapered off around 2009 after peace talks lead to an amnesty program.

Its not clear what direction the NDA will take.  MEND rapidly deteriorated from whatever claim to political and popular legitimacy it had as it became subsumed into the corrupt networks of Nigeria’s political and economic elites, and slowly became just another criminal/warlord organization (that is, a capitalist enterprise) with ties to various politicians.  The NDA appears to be currently more embedded in local social and political networks: local community leaders are openly voicing their support for the NDA, and newly forming militant political groups, like the Ultorogu Liberation Movement, are also voicing their support.

Its unclear what direction this new anti-imperialist environmental insurgent network will take, and whether it will maintain its apparent political and social orientations; but its certainly worth watching and studying, especially in the context of US special forces in the country, and the massive and growing US military footprint in Africa in general.  It might not be long before the institutions and rhetoric of the War on Terror is used to protect the assets of the Nigerian oligarchy and multinational oil companies–not unlike what happened in Colombia around a decade ago.

Chevron site, after an NDA sabotage operation

Saturday Interesting Links

  • Lengthy reportage on the Ambedkar Student Association in Hyderabad, in the context of Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the subsequent political drama
  • Transcript of a lecture by Naomi Klein on Edward Said, imperialism, environmentalism, and climate change
  • Lengthy reportage on the ongoing war in south-east Turkey/north Kurdistan between the Turkish state and the PKK, from New York Times
  • Analysis of the role that organized crime plays in the selection process for Supreme Court judges in Guatemala

Saturday Interesting Links

  • Transcript of a lecture at the International Institute for Social Studies on current dynamics in global agrarian movements and scholar-activism
  • NPR interview with Viet Thanh Nguyen on a variety of topics related to Vietnamese-America and its history, politics, and culture
  • Article on the expanding use of private contractors at the frontlines of America’s ongoing military operations
  • Essay by a former “Design Ethicist” at Google on the ways that tech companies (typically, social media sites) exploit psychological weaknesses to encourage addiction

Enron and Facebook in India

The Guardian has an excellent, lengthy report on Facebook’s disastrous attempt to plant itself at the center of India’s Internet sectors by offering to the poor rural areas, initially,

…a threadbare platform that only allowed access to 36 bookmarked sites and Facebook, which was naturally the only social network available. There was one weather app, three sites for women’s issues, and the search engine Bing. Facebook’s stripped-down internet was reminiscent of old search engines that listed the early web on one page, when it was small enough to be categorised, like books in a library.

Crucially, Facebook itself would decide which sites were included on the platform. The company had positioned Internet.org as a philanthropic endeavour – backed by Zuckerberg’s lofty pronouncements that “connectivity is a human right” – but retained total control of the platform.

Opposition to the plans grew louder and louder, particularly in the tech communities who were strongly in favor of existing net-neutrality standards, prompting Facebook to ramp up a poorly planned propaganda campaign, which sparked more opposition, until eventually the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) declared that net neutrality would be upheld–which made Facebook’s segregated Internet network effectively illegal.

Overall, its a fascinating case of the intersection of cyberspace and imperialism; the Internet has been at the leading edge of new forms of capital accumulation for nearly two decades now, and so predictably this is now impacting the Third World–which has been since the 18th century or so the leading edge of new geographic areas for capital accumulation.

I can’t help but be reminded of the mess Enron made in the 1990s through a similarly opportunistic attempt at profiteering in India via a massive and nonsensical  multi-billion dollar power plant project in Maharashtra.  Of course, this was a much worse project, considering that Enron actually sunk money into the project and eventually collapsed as a corporation.

When imperialist planners explicitly plan imperialism

I often forget how transparent and honest certain US foreign policy analysts and officials can be when they discuss US imperialism; this is probably because even as they have frank, open discussions about the fact that the US is an imperial state, mainstream discourse constantly denies this characteristic.  So I was caught off-guard when reading Zbigniew Brzezinski’s recent essay on the changing nature of global geopolitics and how the US should strategize to maintain its power.

…the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power.

I was especially thrown for a loop when he identified the looming threat of postcolonial anti-imperialist movements to Western power:

…special attention should be focused on the non-Western world’s newly politically aroused masses. Long-repressed political memories are fueling in large part the sudden and very explosive awakening energized by Islamic extremists in the Middle East, but what is happening in the Middle East today may be just the beginning of a wider phenomenon to come out of Africa, Asia, and even among the pre-colonial peoples of the Western Hemisphere in the years ahead.

Don’t underestimate imperialist planners!  Some of them, at least, are self-aware enough to be effective.

Thursday Interesting Links

  • Essay on the anarchist-inspired Mexican insurrection against Texas Anglos in the 1910s, and the brutal counter-insurgency, from The New Inquiry
  • Review/commentary on an upcoming documentary on the Drone Wars, that draws on interviews with drone operatives-turned-whistleblowers
  • Editorial in Nature on preparing for the socio-economic and political consequences of artificial intelligence (pointer from Robotenomics)

Post-confederate elites, labor struggles, colonialism

I’ve been looking at stuff regarding the Civil War, the Confederacy, and Reconstruction the last couple of days.  It’s striking to realize just how much the Confederate elites–the White, landed slavers who controlled political and economic life across the South–managed to preserve their power even after they lost a disastrous, bloody war.

Gary Brecher the War Nerd talks about this in a quite amusing and provocative manner; check out this half-hour podcast where he talks about the collapse of the Confederacy, and the insurgency that rolled back Reconstruction efforts.  He has two great articles on the matter, as well: “Why Sherman was right to burn Atlanta“, and “The Confederates who should’ve been hanged.”  The first article talks about the insanity of the Confederate elites in their pursuit of war, and the second article talks about what it would have taken to prevent post-Civil War insurgent groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Red Shirts (who Brecher argues were probably the first fascist group to form in the United States) from violently rolling back the rights and freedoms that Black people had won.

It’s really quite sad to reflect on the fact that ultimately, the Confederates won, and maintained systems of slavery via the sharecropping system and Jim Crow.  Federal/Union elites were simply too weak and too entrenched in White supremacist ideology themselves to want to really dismantle racial hierarchies, and expropriate the Confederate elite and redistribute their property to former slaves.  There were some vibrant movements on the ground that fought for these ends, however; Jacobin has a great article on the Knights of Labor and their socialist, anti-racist organizing efforts that peaked in the 1870s, written by the author of From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century (2014).  I imagine this book would be well-suited to be read side-by-side with Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (2015), considering that these two books cover two adjacent eras of intersecting movements of class struggle and Black liberation.

While reading some of these articles on the continuation of Confederate rule, another thought struck me: was there a relationship between the expansion of US imperialism (both into the western regions, as well as into Latin America and the Spanish colonies) and the class interests of the Confederate/Southern agrarian-based elites?  This seems quite likely, especially considering the fact that the corporate expansions that underpinned imperial expansion were constructed to uphold segregation and racial hierarchies.  And while the era of imperialism started in the late 1800s, even companies and expansions that came later–like the creation of the Arab-American Oil Company (ARAMCO)–were precisely and consciously constructed to echo the hierarchies and power dynamics of the old South.  Indeed, the book America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (2006) does a marvelous job of tying the nature of oil companies in the Third World with to the nature of frontier mines in the West, in terms of both racial hierarchies and the ties between foreign investment capital and domestic class elites.

And with resurgent labor struggles in the mainland US around that time, there is little doubt that planter elites were looking for investments that could be easier defended from militant workers.

Communist propaganda flier in Saudi Arabia, circa 1954

From page 156-7 from America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (2006): 

In August [1954], the U.S. embassy reported that copies of a one-page leaflet printed in Arabic and headed with a hammer and sickle were found in al-Khobar, scattered on the streets.  It was not clear who was producing or distributing them.  It contained the harshest criticism of the royal family ever seen, the embassy said.

The reproduced contents of the translated flier:

Certainly the King and the royal family have died after the people killed them because of their joint actions with the foreign imperialists.  Certainly the people killed them because they were reactionaries and corrupt and exploited the workers terribly.  The days of the Cadillac and the palaces are finished to give way to popular democracy for the workers.

O workers!

Get rid of the American pigs and seize the profitable oil company.

O people

You have nothing to do but follow your sincere leaders who seek your welfare and who will reveal their faces to the public.

O Arabs

Unite because the Arab Peninsula is for the Arabs.

Pretty hardcore to call for the people to kill off the House of Saud.  Although I’m not sure how to square that with the line about doing nothing except “follow your sincere leaders”.  Maybe something was lost in translation…