Bernie Sanders Raises $15 Million In Just 2 Months
| July 3, 2015 | 3:17 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Posted: Updated:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whose bid for the Democratic nomination for president has drawn the largest crowds on the campaign trail, is raking in major money as well.

His campaign reported on Thursday that it had raised $15 million over the last two months.

It is an impressive haul for a candidate few thought would be more than a socialist-minded megaphone. But Sanders has taken off, becoming the closest thing to a challenger to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

Clinton continues to be a juggernaut, reportedly raising $45 million in the last three months and enjoying wide leads in public opinion polls.

But Sanders likely has a larger base of donors. His campaign reported receiving 400,000 contributions during the past two months from 250,000 total contributors. Nearly 87 percent of the total amount raised during the quarter came from the donors who contributed $250 or less.

According to the Clinton campaign, 91 percent of its donations were $100 or less in value. But they declined to say how many individual people contributed to Clinton’s campaign.

Cuba first to ​end mother-to-child transmission of HIV, an important victory in fight against AIDS
| July 3, 2015 | 3:08 pm | Cuba, Health Care | No comments
JULY 1, 2015
Cuba on Tuesday earned the distinction of becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus, an achievement that global public health officials said they hoped would inspire others to invest in campaigns and policies to try to do the same.
The milestone is a key step toward eradicating the virus even without a cure, an idea that was once considered a pipe dream but that in recent years has been considered a realistic goal by world leaders.
“This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation” Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said in announcing the accomplishment.
Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement that experience in Cuba “shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible.”
In the early years of the epidemic, the birth of so many HIV-positive babies to women who were HIV-positive was one of the most heartbreaking problems facing health officials. Today doctors can cut the risk of transmission to just over 1 percent if antiretrovirals are given to both the mother and the child. In recent years, the number of children born each year with HIV has dropped by almost half — from 400,000 in 2009 to 240,000 in 2013. Unfortunately pregnant mothers in less wealthy countries often don’t have access to such treatments.
 Cuba benefited from a project run by the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization started in 2010 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis.
As part of that initiative, each country expanded early access to prenatal care, testing for the diseases and treatment for both the mothers and babies. In Cuba these services were provided as part of a universal health system.
As a result of the country’s efforts, the WHO said, only two babies were born with HIV in Cuba in 2013.
South Africa: Marikana Perspectives, 1
| July 2, 2015 | 8:55 pm | Africa, Labor, political struggle | No comments

AfricaFocus Bulletin
June 30, 2015 (150630)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Almost three years after the killings by police of 44 striking
miners at Marikana platinum mine, the official Commission of Inquiry
last week released a bland 646-page report, faulting primarily
police commanders and apportioning some blame as well among the
striking miners themselves, the mining company Lonmin, and two rival
unions. However, the Commission said there was not adequate evidence
for the responsibility of higher officials. And its recommendations
for action on the police responsible were for further

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printing, go to, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”

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Although the report met with widespread criticism inside the country
from the families of victims and their supporters, as well as other
commentators, it gained little attention outside South Africa. For
many, the police violence in August 2012, and the close
collaboration between the mining company and state officials in
repressing a strike by the lowest-paid workers, has made Marikana an
emblematic symbol for an era of post-apartheid plutocracy, as did
Sharpeville for the apartheid era in the decades following 1960. But
neither the South African political and economic establishment nor
world public opinion seems to regard accountability or reform in
policing or in the mining industry as calling for more than pro-
forma banalities.

For those who want to dig deeper, the 2014 documentary film “Miners
Shot Down” ( by far the best and
most powerful introduction. Fortunately, it is now available on
YouTube, including interviews, police footage, and evidence made
available to the Commission. See (note, there are other
versions available on-line, but this one has captions and the best
technical quality).

This AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out by email, and another released
today and available on the web but not sent out by email, contain
selected excerpts and summaries of related commentaries and reports.

Below are text excerpts from a Mail & Guardian report featuring
photos and narrative on two key points: the killings at “scene 2,”
where miners were hunted down and shot by police away from the media
cameras which recorded “scene 1,” and on the housing promised by
Lonmin to workers as part of a social responsibility plan that was
never implemented.

The additional AfricaFocus released today, available at, includes a
“takeaways” summary by AfricaFocus of a report by Dick Forslund of
the Alternative Information and Development Centre in Cape Town, documenting how profit shifting within the
British company Lonmin and subsidiaries in South Africa and Bermuda
hid the fact that the company could have easily paid the demands of
the strikers for a living wage, and that neither the South African
tax authorities nor the South African Department of Labour carried
out their duties to monitor and regulate company actions.

It also includes a detailed commentary by Greg Marinovich, the
photographer and writer who covered in depth the strike and the
killings at the time.

Other recent commentaries include:

“Commission Makes ‘Devastating’ Findings Against Police”, June 26, 2015

“Marikana Report: The continuing injustice for the people of a
lesser God”, Ranjeni Munusamy, Daily Maverick, 26 Jun 2015

The full Commission of Inquiry report is available at:

A concise summary is available at:

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Marikana, including links to
multiple other sources, see,, and

For additional news reports, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Marikana: The blame game

Mail & Guardian, June 25, 2015

A special report by Niren Tolsi and Paul Botes

[Excerpts only: full text and photographs at]


On August 16 2012 the South African police shot and killed 34
striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana. Nearly
three years later, on the afternoon of June 25 2015, with no warning
to the families of those killed, President Jacob Zuma announced that
he would be releasing the report by retired judge Ian Farlam’s
commission of inquiry into the deaths during the strike — 44 people
in total were killed: 10 people before August 16 — on national
television at 7pm.

At Marikana, the surprise announcement caught the families of the
deceased miners and those shot by police on August 16 unawares —
returning home to the news they scurried around to find television
sets and radios to hear the president’s reading of the report.

Farlam’s report absolved the executive, in particular then police
minister Nathi Mthetwa and Susan Shabangu, the mineral resources
minister at the time, of any responsibility for the deaths.

The Commission did find that Lonmin’s failure to fulfil its social
and labour plans — legally binding obligations on which its new
order mining rights are dependent — should be investigated. It also
found that police should have stopped their tactical operation after
the killing of 17 miners at “scene one”. Instead, police continued
to another koppie, “scene two”, where a further 17 miners were

Mail & Guardian chief photographer Paul Botes and freelance
journalist Niren Tolsi have been investigating Marikana’s aftermath
since 2012. In this special report, they explore evidence before the
commission that strongly suggests 17 miners, who posed no threat to
the police, were executed by police away from television cameras at
“scene two” on August 16 2012.

They also explore housing shortages in Marikana, which was one of
the motivating factors behind the 2012 strike and test the current
temperature in the North West town which both government and Lonmin
appear to have failed.

Marikana Scene 2: No refuge

On August 16, and in the weeks that followed, the world reacted with
horror to televised images of South African police firing an eight-
second fusillade at striking miners at Marikana, in the North West
province, killing 17 of them.

Away from media cameras, at a koppie about 500 metres away from the
large rock where miners had gathered daily during their wage strike,
the police then appear to have gone on a “free for-all” killing

About 15 minutes after the shooting at the cattle kraal, described
as “scene one” at the subsequent commission of inquiry, police
members fired 295 rounds of live ammunition at hundreds of miners
hiding on the koppie, where they had run for refuge after witnessing
the earlier slaughter.

Evidence before the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, which investigated
the 44 deaths during the week-long strike, suggested police had
fired with intent and purpose at the koppie. Much of the killing was
carried out with execution-style precision: of the 17 miners shot
dead at what became known as “scene two”, four had bullet wounds in
the head or neck; 11 had been shot in the back.

Police evidence presented to the Farlam Commission shows the scene
of the killings at Marikana. The Big Koppie is where the miners met
daily during the strike; Marikana Scene 1 is the cattle kraal where
the first 17 miners were killed by police; and Marikana Scene 2 is
the koppie where miners ran to for refuge, but were also shot at by

Most were shot dead while hiding in the undergrowth, forensic
investigations confirmed. The lifeless body of Nkosiyabo Xalabile,
for example, lay wedged behind a boulder, his arms behind him, still
crossed – as if they had been restrained in some way. His eyes were
still open, suggesting the death had been a painful one.

Xalabile had been shot from above, an R5 bullet tearing through the
bottom of the left side of his neck and exiting through his ribs.
The shells of the bullets that killed him were found 2.8 metres
away, above his body on some rocks. He was huddled at the foot of a
tree, among bushes near the rock when he was killed.

He had not, as police later alleged, been attacking them. Nor did he
appear to be armed: in early police pictures, there was no evidence
of weapons associated with Xalabile. Those taken later showed two
metal rods nearby.

Independent pathologists found Xalabile’s posture “with hands and
wrists crossed at his lower back … (which was) exceedingly strange
for a live person with these injuries to adopt”. They concluded that
the nature of his wounds and his body positioning “opens the
possibility that the deceased was handcuffed shortly after the
injuries. It suggests that the handcuffs were removed prior to the
[police] photography.”

Immediate or early medical attention could perhaps have saved
Xalabile’s life, the pathologists concluded. This may have allowed
him to recover and return to his wife of 19 days, Lilitha. “Some
mineworkers put their hands [in the] air to show they weren’t
fighting/attacking the police officers but they were shot.”

In their closing arguments, the commission’s evidence leaders
described the actions of the police as a “free for all”. This
appeared to have been perpetrated with impunity, and with scant
regard for standing orders that require warnings before the use of
live ammunition and for the lower body to be targeted. Miners were
shot at while hiding and even attempting to surrender. They appear
to have been fired on while presenting no immediate threat to the
police officers.

In a statement to the commission, miner Nkosikhona Mjuba, who
survived scene two, said: “The police officers started shooting the
mineworkers with long and short firearms. Some mineworkers put their
hands [in the] air to show they weren’t fighting/attacking the
police officers but they were shot.”

Three survivors: Siphete Phatsha cut off his own injured toe trying
to escape from the police’s bullets. Mzoxolo Mgidiwana was shot down
by police, then interrogated and then shot again, this time in the
groin. Bathini Nova was shot eight times while trying to surrender.

Recalling how he hid on the koppie almost three years ago, Siphete
Phatsha (51) said police seemed to be hunting them down: “I could
see police coming into the bushes and shooting at people hiding
there. Where I was hiding, they couldn’t shoot at me, but I was
waiting to die. I thought about my children and I thought about only
one thing: that I am leaving my children, and that I am going to
die,” he said. The father of five from Nqeleni in the Eastern Cape
had been at scene one when the Tactical Response Team line opened
fire on the miners. He had walked off the koppie alongside strike
leader Mgcineni Noki, whose face was then half blown away by high-
velocity bullets, and Mzoxolo Magidiwana, who said that police had
shot him down, and interrogated him before pumping further shots
into his body, including two to the groin that mutilated his penis
and scrotum.

Phatsha was shot in the foot but managed to clamber into the cattle
kraal at “scene one” to seek refuge with several other miners.
There, he lay prostrate, pretending to be dead.

Shadrack Mtshamba, a rock-drill operator at Marikana’s Four Belt
Shaft, huddled between two rocks quite close to Nova. He also
witnessed another miner being mown down while surrendering: “One
protester suggested that we should come out of the hiding place with
our hands up,” Mtshamba said in a statement to the commission.

“[The miner] said ‘Guys, let’s surrender’,” Mashamba stated. “He
then went out of the group with his hands raised. He was shot on his
hands or arms. He kneeled down and as he tried to stand up, still
with his hands up, he was shot in the stomach and he fell down. He
then tried to stand up but he was shot at again and he fell down. He
tried to crawl but could not do so.”

None of the police leaders on the ground provided justifiable
reasons for not halting the tactical operation after SAPS shot dead
17 people at “Scene 1″.

The police killings at “scene two” also extended to the planting of
weapons on at least six dead miners, the Farlam Commission heard.

“This was a totally unacceptable process,” the evidence leaders
argued. They noted that in the case of one dead miner, Makosandile
Mkhonjwa, this “involved adorning his body with four different
weapons, none of which were anywhere in the vicinity of his body in
the many earlier photographs that we have of his body.”

Fifty-six-year-old Thabiso Thelejane was shot twice in the back of
the head, leaving a gaping wound 2cm behind his right ear. A second
high-velocity bullet struck him on the left side of the head, about
10cm above and 3cm behind his left ear. A third bullet entered his
right buttock and lodged in the left side of his pelvis. There were
also several abrasions on his knees and forehead.

Thelejane’s body was found about 20 metres to the east of Mdizeni,
also face down on the ground. There were no weapons around him. The
independent pathologists found that he was facing a north-westerly
direction and running away from the NIU/K9 line when he was shot in
the back of the head. Policing experts at the commission testified
that after the killings at scene one, the police operation on August
16 should have been stopped immediately, or at least during the 15
minutes between the two sets of killings.

Major General William Mpembe, the overall commander on the day, told
the commission that he was travelling to board a Lonmin helicopter
to fly over the area when the shooting happened and had been unaware
of it. North West police commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa
Mbombo testified that she was in the toilet at the time and was,
likewise, unaware of the “scene one” killings. Despite being in the
Joint Operations Centre when Botes heard the fusillade over the
radio, Major General Charl Annandale, the Joint Operations Centre
chairperson, testified that he only knew about the killings about 45
minutes after the incident because of radio problems. Yet, less than
eight minutes after the fusillade, Brigadier Suzette Pretorius, who
was sitting with Ananndale in the Joint Operations Centre, sent a
text message to an Independent Police Investigations Directorate
official. It read: “Having operation at Wonderkop. Bad. Bodies.
Please prepare your members as going to be bad.”

The commission’s evidence leaders argued that Mbombo, Mpembe,
Annandale and Calitz should all be held responsible for the 17
deaths at scene two.

Showhouses and shacks: Life in a ‘living hell’

The lack of proper housing for workers who, in the main, lived in
shack settlements surrounding its mining operation — and still do
— was one of the driving factors behind the August 2012 strike at
Lonmin that left 44 people dead.

The squalor and deprivation of informal settlements like Nkaneng and
Big House is highlighted by the imaginary games children play using
heaps of plastic rubbish piled up along informal roads.

Homes are rudimentary shacks made from corrugated scrap metal, wood
and cardboard.

Despite a massive power station near Nkaneng, which serves Lonmin’s
operation, there is no electricity in this settlement where
thousands live. Wires for guerrilla electricity connections criss-
cross underfoot.

Water is sourced from one of the public taps placed sporadically
around the community. Many of the standpipes have been dry since
2013 and locals murmur that a R900 payment to the right person will
ensure a reconnection.

“This is a living hell,” says miner Siphete Phatsha, standing
outside the rusted one-room shack he shares with his adult son and
nephew, both unemployed job-seekers from the Eastern Cape. Phatsha
walks “a long way” with his wheelbarrow to a communal tank to fill
25-litre drums with water for their daily use, and to quench the
thirst of his tenderly cared for spinach garden. The garden helps
supplement their Spartan meals that centre on stomach-filling pap.

Employed by Lonmin since 2007, Patsha hankers after the dignity that
a flush toilet and an electricity switch affords. A formal home with
walls to discourage the winter cold would ease his joints and
injuries sustained after police shot him during the 2012 strike.


At the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, Lonmin maintained that it had
failed to build the 5 500 units because of the 2008 platinum price
drop. Any plans to finally add to the three show-houses at Marikana
Extension Two have been abandoned, however.

In 2013, the company announced that it had donated the land, about
50 hectares with some serviced stands, to the government.

Lonmin’s 2010 annual report estimated that 50% of the population
living within a 15km radius of its Marikana operation lived in
informal housing and lacked access to basic services such as running
water and electricity.

The company provided formal housing, including hostels, for less
than 10% of its directly employed staff, which numbered about 24 000
in 2012.

At the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, former Lonmin chief operating
officer Mohamed Seedat conceded under cross-examination that housing
conditions at Marikana were “truly appalling”. He also conceded that
the Lonmin’s board and executive had, post facto, recognised the
link between the critical shortage of affordable housing and the
2012 strike.

Seedat maintained, however, that Lonmin’s social and labour plan
(SLP) promises did not require the building of houses but were,
rather, an obligation to broker an interaction between the company’s
workers and private financial institutions so that the former could
access mortgage bonds.

The evidence leaders at the commission argued that Lonmin’s
interpretation of their SLP obligations was “not credible” and
inconsistent with the terms of the SLPs; the annual SLP reports
Lonmin furnished to the department of mineral resources; the
company’s sustainable development reports and its close-out report
to the ministry after five years.

“This attempt by Lonmin to wash its hands of [a legally-binding]
obligation that it repudiated must be rejected,” the evidence
leaders stated in their closing heads of argument.

Even on Lonmin’s “implausible” reading of their SLP obligations, the
company appears to have failed. In October 2006 it announced to much
fanfare and in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that it had
struck a R318-million housing deal with Rand Merchant Bank.

The bank would put up the financing for housing for 3 000 workers,
with Lonmin providing surety in the form of shares if workers were
retrenched. The deal was never followed through.

Lonmin ignored its SLP obligations, which were meant to compel
mining companies to address structural problems within the mining
sector, including the dehumanising migrant labour system, which
breaks up nuclear families and contributes to social divisions.

Its transformation committee chairperson, then Lonmin non-executive
director and current deputy president of the country, Cyril
Ramaphosa, exercised oversight of Lonmin’s SLP obligations.
Ramaphosa professed to not reading the SLP reports and being unaware
of its failures at the commission.

The department of mineral resources, meanwhile, appears incapable of
exercising oversight to ensure that Lonmin, alongside many other
mining companies, take a more human rights-based approach to
transforming their workers’ lives.

The Human Rights Commission proposed that Judge Farlam recommend
President Jacob Zuma “convene a task team/working group to undertake
a full investigation of the underlying causes of the dire living
conditions evident in mine-affected communities”

The South African Human Rights Commission, in its closing heads of
argument submitted to the Farlam Commission, noted the “failure of
the state, the department of mineral resources primarily, to monitor
and enforce compliance with SLP obligations, as well as ensuring the
necessary government co-operation and co-ordination required to
successfully implement projects identified as part of an SLP”.

Noting the “frequent failure by mining companies to comply with
their SLP obligations” the Human Rights Commission bemoaned an
amendment to Farlam’s terms of reference which divided its work into
“phase one” (an investigation of the events of August 2012) and
“phase two” (a broader investigation into the socio-economic context
of the mining sector as a whole).

The division, coupled with Lonmin’s refusal to hand over crucial
company documents until very late in the Farlam hearings, or not at
all, hamstrung the commission’s ability to make wide-ranging,
transformative and human rights-based recommendations, the Human
Rights Commission argued.

Lonmin was listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s 2012 socially
responsible index, gaining “best performer” status for its social
and environmental work.

The Benchmarks Foundation’s Police Gap Seven report released in 2013
noted that between 2003-2007 most of the company’s “social capital”
went into the Lonmin Community Trust Fund, “which was then rapidly
closed down”.

While crying post-2008 poverty, the mining house also appeared to be
involved in some solipsistic bookkeeping. A report titled “The
Bermuda Connection: Profit Shifting and Unaffordability at Lonmin
1999-2012″, compiled for the commission by the Alternative
Information Centre’s Dirk Forslund, alleged large-scale tax
avoidance through the movement of profits to a subsidiary in an off-
shore tax haven, Western Metal Sales.

Despite having two major buyers for its platinum, the company’s
South African subsidiary, Western Platinum Limited, which produces
the majority of the company’s platinum group metals was, until 2007,
paying 2% of its turnover to Western Metal Sales, registered in
Bermuda, as sales commission for marketing services. From 2008 to
2012 this commission totalled R1.2-billion.

The evidence leaders calculated that in 2006-2011, when Lonmin could
have built the 5 500 houses for its employees at a cost of R665-
million, it had spent R1.3-billion on “marketing” commissions to a

The Human Rights Commission proposed that retired judge Ian Farlam
recommend a full investigation into Lonmin’s SLP compliance.

It further proposed that Farlam recommend President Jacob Zuma
“convene a task team/ working group to undertake a full
investigation of the underlying causes of the dire living conditions
evident in mine-affected communities” and the department of mineral
resources “undertake a strategic and detailed review of the
deficiencies and failures of the SLP system identified in the
commission’s work, and to propose amendments, revisions or new
initiatives to improve compliance with the legal and regulatory
framework that establishes the SLP system.”

Lonmin were unable to respond to questions about their housing and
hostel conversion projects initiated after being granted their new
order mining rights in time for publication. Nor did the company
respond to questions relating to their transfer pricing activity
during the period 2006-2012.

In October 2014, in response to questions from amaBhungane — the
M&G’s investigative unit — pertaining to the 2% of annual turnover
payments to the Bermuda-based subsidiary Western Metal Sales, Lonmin
spokesperson Sue Vey said: “This company [Western Metal Sales] has
long been dormant and is no longer in use.”

A time of retrenchments: Marikana in 2015

[For this section see full report at]


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
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Bernie Sanders draws nearly 10,000 supporters in Wisconsin
| July 2, 2015 | 8:51 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Bernie Sanders Draws His Biggest Crowd Yet In Progressive Stronghold
| July 2, 2015 | 8:49 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

Posted: Updated:
When it comes to filling a venue, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is not exactly 2016’s underdog.

Sanders, who is running as a progressive alternative to presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, spoke Wednesday at Madison’s Alliant Energy Center, which seats 10,231 people. The campaign had expected a massive turnout in the left-leaning city, which has deep roots in progressive politics and activism. Their prediction was correct: Arena staff said 9,600 people were in attendance.

“Tonight, we have more people at any meeting for a candidate of president of the United States than any other candidate,” Sanders said, according to the Associated Press, who put the turnout at 10,000.

Reporters at the event tweeted photos of the enormous crowd:

Wednesday’s rally was Sanders’ largest yet, and may be the biggest of the 2016 cycle overall. Clinton’s campaign launch drew approximately 5,500 people to New York City’s Roosevelt Island, while about 3,000 supporters attended Jeb Bush’s kickoff in Miami.

Sanders’ progressive messages resonated strongly in Wisconsin’s liberal, capital city. “The big money interests — Wall Street, corporate America, all of these guys — have so much power that no president can defeat them unless there is an organized grassroots movement making them an offer they can’t refuse,” he said as the crowd erupted in cheers, the AP reported.

“When you deny the right of workers to come together in collective bargaining, that’s extremism,” Sanders said, going after Wisconsin Gov. and White House hopeful Scott Walker. “When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that’s extremism.”

Sanders has said he’s been surprised by the large turnout at his campaign events since launching his campaign in May.

“I think our name recognition is growing,” he said last month. “We have momentum. Our numbers are growing.”

HuffPost Pollster, which tracks all publicly available opinion polls, shows Sanders trailing Clinton, but cutting down on the former secretary of state’s lead in recent weeks:

Bernie Sanders Blasts Greece’s Creditors Sanders

Posted: Updated:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked the International Monetary Fund and European authorities on Wednesday for imposing what he called excessive austerity measures on Greece in negotiations over the country’s debt payments.

“It is unacceptable that the International Monetary Fund and European policymakers have refused to work with the Greek government on a sensible plan to improve its economy and pay back its debt,” Sanders said in an exclusive statement to The Huffington Post. “At a time of grotesque wealth inequality, the pensions of the people in Greece should not be cut even further to pay back some of the largest banks and wealthiest financiers in the world.”

Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and veteran progressive lawmaker, called the loans-for-austerity policies that the IMF and eurozone nations have imposed on Greece an “abysmal failure,” and demanded that the United States and other world powers grant Greece new debt-repayment terms that would allow its economy to recover from the damage it has sustained since 2008.

“Instead of trying to force the Greek government and its people into even more economic pain and suffering, international leaders throughout the world, including the United States, should enable Greece to enact pro-growth policies that improve the lives of all of its people, not just the wealthy few,” Sanders said.

Sanders appeared to single out the IMF, the creditor over which the United States has the most direct influence. The U.S. controls more votes in IMF decisions than any other nation.

“If Greece’s economy is going to succeed, these austerity policies must end,” Sanders said. “The IMF must give the Greek government the flexibility and time that it needs to grow its economy in a fair way.”

Sanders has for months been urging the United States to use its influence to secure better terms for Greece. In February, when negotiations between Greece and its so-called troika of creditors — the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, representing the eurozone nations — had reached a standstill, Sanders asked the Federal Reserve to leverage its financial support for the ECB during the 2008 crisis to get the central bank to ease up on Greece. At the time, Sanders accused Greece’s creditors of stiffing Greece’s Syriza-led government in an attempt to bring a friendlier government to power. Syriza, a left-populist party, won national elections in January on the promise that it would secure relief from austerity in negotiations with Greece’s creditors.

Sanders’ latest appeal comes at an even more urgent time for Greece, with the country’s membership in the eurozone in greater danger than ever before. On Tuesday, Greece missed a deadline to repay 1.6 billion euros’ worth of debt to the IMF. The IMF has said it now considers Greece in arrears, though it will consider the country’s request for an extension. Also on Tuesday, the bailout package from Greece’s creditors expired. At the last minute, the Greek government had asked for a new two-year loan from eurozone nations to make the IMF payment, but the other nations refused the request.

Without new rescue loans, Greece will be unable to make upcoming payments to its creditors or even keep its government running. The country’s creditors have indicated that Greece could still regain access to needed rescue loans. But on Wednesday, eurozone finance ministers made clear that they will only resume negotiations after Greece holds a July 5 referendum vote on the creditors’ latest bailout proposal.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum vote on Saturday after rejecting the creditors’ latest offer. Now he is asking Greek citizens to vote “no” on the referendum, arguing that this will strengthen his hand at the negotiating table. Other European leaders have insisted, however, that a “no” vote will simply amount to a rejection of Greece’s membership in the eurozone, and will close the door on future lending. In the meantime, the ECB has halted its emergency liquidity injections to Greek banks, prompting Greece to institute capital controls that limit bank withdrawals to 60 euros a day.

Sanders is both the first member of Congress and the first presidential candidate to publicly weigh in on the most recent round of negotiations between Greece and its creditors. (The campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Lincoln Chafee and Martin O’Malley, the other three declared Democratic presidential candidates, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) His statement will likely be hailed as a positive step by the progressive U.S. activists who have been calling on members of Congress to pressure the IMF to offer Greece better terms. As of Wednesday evening, a MoveOn petition initiated by Robert Naiman of the group Just Foreign Policy, asking Congress to “oppose [the] IMF assault on Greek democracy,” had more than 8,000 signatures. The Working Families Party has launched a similar petition campaign.

And the substance of Sanders’ criticism is shared by a broad array of economists who argue that the rapid fiscal tightening imposed on Greece has pushed it into an economic depression and trapped it in an endless cycle of debt. As a condition of two bailouts in the past five years totaling 240 billion euros, Greece’s international creditors have demanded massive spending cuts, tax increases and other reforms. (As of January, only 11 percent of those bailout funds has been used to finance government operations, according to an analysis by the news site MacroPolis. The rest of the funds have gone toward paying or servicing Greece’s debts.)

While the austerity regime has allowed Greece to meet short-term obligations to its creditors, it has devastated the country’s economy. Greece’s GDP has shrunk by over 25 percent since 2008. Over a quarter of the population is now unemployed, and one-third of Greek citizens are living in poverty. The country’s public debt stands at 177 percent the size of its economy — a level that is widely believed to be unsustainable.

It’s not clear what impact, if any, Sanders’ statement will have on the Greek crisis, since the United States — notwithstanding its controlling votes at the IMF — has remained largely on the sidelines during the current impasse. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has been in close consultation with his eurozone and Greek counterparts throughout negotiations, but he’s refrained from specific prescriptions, instead making broad appeals for both sides to compromise. Peter Doyle, a former senior manager at the IMF, criticized the approach in an interview with HuffPost on Wednesday, arguing that the Obama administration should have vetoed a redlined document the creditors presented to Greece on June 26 that was viewed as especially humiliating.

As recently as February, President Barack Obama was arguing that excessive austerity policies can prevent struggling countries from recovering economically.

“You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression,” the president said then, a remark that was widely interpreted as an admonishment to Germany. “At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits.”

At a Tuesday press conference, Obama made no such appeals. Instead, he used the occasion to downplay the impact of the Greek crisis on the U.S. economy, calling the threat of a Greek default and eurozone departure an “issue of substantial concern,” but one that is “primarily of concern to Europe.”

Sanders, for his part, argues that the United States has an interest in helping Greece attain economic relief in order to safeguard the country’s democracy. He cites the rise of Nazism in Germany after World War I as an example of how austerity-stricken economies are susceptible to authoritarian takeovers.

“Let us not forget, after World War I, the Allies imposed oppressive austerity on Germany as part of the Versailles Treaty,” Sanders said in the statement to HuffPost. “As a result, unemployment skyrocketed, the people suffered, and the policies of austerity gave rise to the Nazi Party. We cannot let a situation like that ever happen again.”


Bernie Sanders ‘political revolution’
| June 30, 2015 | 7:11 pm | Bernie Sanders, political struggle | No comments

The presentation below was presented to the CPUSA National Board on June 10, 2015.

The context of the amazing outpouring and response to Bernie Sanders campaign is the uprising underway for a more just society. Across the country, pressure is mounting and social movements are building for a livable wage, to end racist attacks and police brutality, to stop fast track for TPP in the interest of jobs, the environment and democratic rights over corporate rule, to expand Scoial Security and end student debt.

Bernie Sanders is attracting thousands at each event because he presents a specific program squarely on the side of the 99%, challenging income inequality and financial domination of the country and of politics.

His campaign is shaking up the political landscape, “a political revolution,”as he says.

Bernie Sanders is getting a big response from people who are sick and tired of elections being bought by Wall St, people who have become angry and alienated from the political process, people who have been looking for a voice. His appeal is wide. Reports from grassroots house meetings and rallies in the south and mid west reveal that some Democratic leaders are on board, and some independents and Republicans are changing affiliation to support Bernie.

While all the points in his program have long had majority support in the polls, Bernie himself has said that he is stunned by the huge turnouts as he campaigns around the country.  Days after he announced, the Wisconsin Democratic convention held a straw poll. Hillary Clinton was chosen by 49% and Bernie Sanders was chosen by 41% of delegates.

Soon after, the South Carolina AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling upon the national AFL CIO to endorse Bernie Sanders as the “strongest candidate articulating labor’s values.” The resolution says, “Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism; the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy; an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.”

In other early labor support, the UE General Executive Board endorsed Bernie Sanders. The campaign has been well received by steel worker retirees. An open letter of support from union leaders and members is being circulated on-line.

The latest endorsement comes from Neil Young, after Donald Trump had the audacity to play “Rockin in the Free World” at his campaign announcement yesterday. Neil Young’s manager says use of the song was not authorized and that Young is a long-time supporter of Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders has a life-long record and relationship with labor. To create the kind of unity that can move our country forward, such a specific outreach based in his strong record is critical as well with the African American, Latino, Native American, Asian Pacific communities, women and youth.

A national campaign to popularize and build support for the Employ Young Americans Now Act introduced by Bernie Sanders (S 1506) and John Conyers (HR 2714) is a powerful link to both the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter. This legislation would provide $5.5 billion for states and local governments to employ 1 million youth from ages 16 to 24 years old.

“The answer to unemployment and poverty is not and cannot be the mass incarceration of young African Americans,” Sanders said.  “It’s time to bring hope and economic opportunity to communities across the country.”

The Sanders campaign is a wonderful development for 2016 and beyond in many ways.

  • 1) The Sanders campaign can shift the dialog from the right wing and objectively boost the various initiatives underway around the country for a progressive agenda.

  • 2) The campaign has the potential to inspire people to engage in the political process and increase voter turnout. It has the potential to help create progressive structures, campaigns and coalitions at the local level to shift the political climate.

  • 3) It is already changing the political debate within the Democratic primary and the Democratic Party.

  • 4) Sanders identifying as a democratic socialist opens up long-term discussion about what socialism is and could be in our country, and makes socialism respectable. It offers the possibility to deepen the discussion about socialism, third parties and political independence in and outside the Democratic Party.

All of this is a huge contribution toward the strategic electoral goal of defeating the extreme right wing. Sanders himself has been careful to emphasize he is not campaigning against Hillary Clinton (or Lincoln Chaffee or Martin O’Malley), he is campaigning to take on the corporate agenda of the Republicans and offer positive solutions.

In Vermont, where he was first elected Mayor of Burlington, Sanders always ran independent with the broadest kind of approach and coalition building and with an emphasis on issues that improve people’s lives. He is elected to the U.S. Senate as an independent (last election with 72% of the vote) but caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. He made the decision to run in the Democratic primary because he determined that he could never raise enough money to get heard otherwise in a presidential campaign given current electoral structures.

A winning approach for 2016 starts with the issues and by connecting with emerging social movements Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 and local campaigns and coalitions. This is a unifying approach that keeps the focus against the extreme right-wing with a positive agenda.

The Sanders campaign offers a unique opportunity to initiate committees and community conversations on the issues. The doors are wide open to organize as broadly as possible with activists and coalitions.

Campaign house parties and local events can be promoted on-line to spread the word about what Bernie Sanders stands for.

At the grass roots across the country, Bernie Sanders is not necessarily a household name. As well, the corporate media does not want this name and program to be known. Introducing who Bernie Sanders is, what positions he is running on, and the bigger significance of his campaign cam be brought to every community in a way that is inclusive of those in progressive circles who support Hillary Clinton or others.

The South Carolina AFL CIO Resolution is an example of what other organizations could also consider. and share via social media.

Building for the long-term, beyond the election, in local election districts, is an essential ingredient in the strategy to defeat the extreme right wing and go onto the offensive for people’s needs.

As and launch new websites the ability to share these ideas increases. Combining on-line communications with building door to door in key working class communities can be instrumental in getting out the vote and organizing year round.

Writing up local experiences and analysis for the People’s World will attract more new readers and can contribute to bigger coalition building and inspiring the disengaged to get involved.

There are times in history when things move fast. This may be one of those times.