Sun Jul 26, 2015 at 08:52 AM PDT
Chuck Todd did what Chuck Todd does on today’s Meet The Press. He attempted to drive a false narrative favorable to the one the plutocracy wants served. Bernie Sanders did what Bernie Sanders does. He bombastically prevented his words from being twisted. He refused to play nice by deferring to a false narrative or even letting it get into the ethos unchallenged.Chuck Todd first used the tragic killing in Lafayette, Louisiana to try to sandbag Bernie Sanders. “You’ve continue to walk, straddle a line here,” Chuck Todd said. “You talk about, you are sort of pro NRA votes in Vermont having to do with being about Vermont, not about the nation as a whole.”
Bernie Sanders did not allow Chuck Todd to finish the setup of the false narrative. “Chuck, that’s not what I said,” Bernie Sanders interjected. “I come from a state that has virtually no gun control. And I voted to ban certain types of assault weapons. And I voted to close the gun show loophole. And I voted for instant background checks. And what I said is that as a nation we can’t continue screaming at each other or else we have to find common ground.” Sanders then went on to describe what finding common ground looks like. It is similar to the explanation he gave when confronted in an orchestrated fashion at a recent event.
Chuck Todd then attempted to play a clip from Netroots Nation where the Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted both Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. Chuck Todd was trying to spin it as a confrontation. Sanders did not allow that clip to be misrepresented. He responded factually. “I didn’t have a confrontation,” Bernie Sanders said. “I was there to speak about immigration reform. And some people started disrupting the meeting. And the issue that they raised was in fact a very important issue — about black lives matter, about Sandra Bland, about black people getting yanked out of, in this case of Sandra Bland, getting yanked out of an automobile, thrown to the ground and ending up dead three days later because of a minor traffic violation. .. This is an issue that is a very important issue, an issue of concern that I strongly share.”Chuck Todd then attempted to create a chasm. “Some people think you were too dismissive,” Todd said. Bernie Sanders again interrupted and did not let a false narrative fester. He pointed out that he was a part of the civil rights movement for decades. Likewise when Todd tried to reinforce the message that Sanders is only about the economic message, Sanders used Martin Luther King’s parallel actions on poverty to make his case. He said they were parallel issues.
To be frank, Bernie Sanders has been a constant on economic issues for decades. Likewise he has always supported civil rights. In fact he was an active participant. What Black Lives Matter did at Netroots Nation was important. It put an existential problem endemic in the black community that has been unresolved for decades into the platform. The good thing is that Bernie Sanders heard the message. Chuck Todd was trying to create a wedge where there isn’t one.
July 29, 2015 (150729)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
In analyzing high-profile presidential visits, it is difficult to
sort out symbolism from substance in the sheer volume of news
coverage and commentary. And despite the flurry of announcement of
“deals” at each stop, the main lines of policy are rarely altered
and often reflect continuity not only within one presidential
administration but also from one administration to another. The
content of private conversations of lower-level officials as well as
others involved in the visits may be just as significant as the
formal meetings of presidents. Even more significant may be the
issues not discussed because common assumptions go unquestioned on
For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
printing, go to http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/usaf1507.php, and
click on “format for print or mobile.”
To share this on Facebook, click on
As regular readers know, AfricaFocus seeks to select and repost
particularly insightful news and commentary that readers might not
have seen elsewhere. With such a visible event, that is difficult.
The “news” is available to anyone who has internet access and is
paying attention. And almost all the commentary is predictable and
So this issue of AfricaFocus is different, and consists primarily of
links for readers to explore as they wish, to supplement what they
have already seen or read.
I have included (1) links to the speeches that seemed to me most
significant, (2) suggestions for custom google searches that might
turn up a wide variety of other sources, (3) links to a few
commentaries, including audio from radio programs in which your
editor was included, and (4) links to previous AfricaFocus Bulletins
covering questions that were “off the radar screen” in the visit as
well as in media commentary.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++
President Obama’s Speeches
Among the speeches and other events made available by the White
House in video form or transcripts, these stand out, particularly
the first. Unfortunately neither the introduction by his sister in
Kenya nor the remarks by African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini
Zuma were kept on-line by the White House, although they were
available in the live webcast.
President Obama’s Speech to Kenyan People, July 26, 2015
President Obama’s Speech to African Union, July 28, 2015
Custom Google Searches
Note: With the “site:” operator, one can limit a google search to a
single website or to all websites with the same country code, to get
a better idea of how an event or a topic is covered. Some examples
for President Obama’s trip include these, including the two
principal international organizations focusing on human rights
* Obama visit to Africa 2015
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:nytimes.com
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:amnesty.org
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:hrw.org
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:allafrica.com (includes many
articles from African press)
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:saharareporters.com
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:.ke (from websites in Kenya)
* Obama visit to Africa 2015 site:.et (from websites in Ethiopia)
search web not news since .et not well-represented in news)
Additional country codes can be found at
Several short articles I found worth noting:
Simon Allison, “Barack Obama’s convenient truths,” Daily Maverick,
July 27, 2015
Simon Allison, “Obama at the African Union,” Daily Maverick, July
Hassen Hussein, “What exactly is Obama’s Africa legacy?,” Al
July 28, 2015
Paul Korin, “A visit of firsts, but Obama’s Africa policy mostly
symbolic,” Globe and Mail, July 28, 2015
Audio of radio interviews in which I participated:
KPFA Sunday Show, July 26, 2015, 1st hour, interview with William
Minter, Editor, AfricaFocus Bulletin
KPFA Upfront, July 27, 2015
Horace Campbell, Syracuse University and William Minter, Editor,
Audio: https://kpfa.org/player/?audio=211164 (start at 34 minutes)
WPFW, July 29, 2015 1pm-2pm Eastern US time – Mwiza Munthali with
Nii Akuetteh and William Minter – will be live at
and later archived at
Aspects of Topics Avoided, with some links to previous AfricaFocus
* On Counter-Terrorism
With the exception of President Obama’s diplomatic critique of
Kenyan and Ethiopian use of the threat of terrorism as an excuse
human rights violations, there was little reference to other
critiques of the policies of USA, Kenya and Ethiopia. For
alternative views, see in particular the background history and
commentary on the USA, Kenya, and Ethiopian involvement in Somalia
at http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php, particularly
* On Corruption & “Illicit Financial Flows”
While President Obama spoke eloquently about corruption in Africa,
and briefly mentioned “illicit financial flows” in response to a
remark by African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, there
was clearly no recognition of the critical role played by
multilateral institutions in the United States and the international
financial system more generally in extracting capital from Africa.
For coverage of this, see, in particular, the recent
AfricaFocus Bulletin on “Stop the Bleeding”
(http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/iff1507.php) as well as previous
AfricaFocus Bulletins on related issues
See also the July 27 article by Soren Ambrose of ActionAid
International, “Opinion: Developing Nations Set to Challenge Rich
Ahead of SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Summit,”
* On Economic Policy
Despite brief mentions of the need to address inequality and jobs,
the dominant assumption in President Obama’s speeches was the
“trickle-down” theory that all “trade and investment” will
eventually pay off for all, and that the primary engine of growth is
the private sector. And while there was much mention in the press of
the competition between China and the United States, there was scant
mention, if any, of alternate African and global perspectives on
sustainable development strategies deviating from the dominant U.S.
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins including material on economic
growth and strategies, visit http://www.africafocus.org/econexp.php
* On Climate Change
Although there was much talk of “Power Africa,” the approach
paralleled the Obama administration’s domestic policy in its stance
toward fossil fuels and renewable energy, namely “all of the above.”
Despite brief references to off-the-grid and renewable energy, much
of the private investment to come under the “Power Africa” label is
likely to support traditional fossil fuels, particularly natural gas
power generation. And there were no new commitments to major
increases in global funding to support climate change mitigation.
For a wider discussion of these issues in previous AfricaFocus
Bulletins, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php
* On Health
In spite of token references to AIDS and Ebola, the visit did not
focus major attention on health challenges, including the need for
adequate financing for major investments in public health
See http://www.africafocus.org/intro-health.php for AfricaFocus
talking points and previous Bulletins.
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
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see
The 3rd Memorandum debt refinancing pact signed between the Troika (European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank) and the Syriza-led government in Greece will have disastrous effects on the Greek working class and working people. It constitutes a monumental betrayal by the Syriza (social democratic) party of its previous promises to stand up to the European bankers and to end and reverse austerity imposed by previous bourgeois governments. The various attempts by Syriza (or its supporters abroad) to justify or excuse this sell-out agreement – or to deflect responsibility away from the Tsipras government in Athens – fail to alter that basic reality.
As the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) correctly noted in its recent statement, the government is essence is burdening the people with a new loan worth 86 billion € and savage measures that accompany it, such as the further reduction of the people’s income, the new heavy taxes, the maintenance of the new property tax, the significant increase of VAT on items of mass popular consumption, the reduction of pensions, the implementation of a new and worse social-security regime, the gradual abolition of supplementary assistance for poor pensioners, and the wholesale privatization of public assets.
The current crisis is rooted in Greece’s membership in the EU, and especially its entry into the Eurozone. Governmental debt was high even before its entry, but after 2002 the European and Wall St. bankers flooded Greece with ‘easy money’ and extremely generous debt-refinancing arrangements. That, combined with tax evasion by Greek corporations and the super-wealthy, resulted in a huge and unsustainable ‘debt bubble’ (now estimated at almost $400 Billion US). When the global economic crisis hit in 2008, Greece couldn’t meet interest payments to foreign bankers without massive new ‘bridging’ loans – this time with onerous conditions requiring vicious austerity measures imposed on the people. Wages and pensions were cut, public sector workers laid of, and social services slashed, resulting in mass unemployment, poverty and misery on an unprecedented scale.
Although not quite as acute, a number of other European states face similar fiscal debt crises – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, France, and some of the Eastern European states swept up into the EU vortex. Everywhere, vicious austerity measures – imposed by the Troika and private bankers – have exacted a heavy toll on working people who have been made to pay for the capitalist crisis.
All of this stems from the class nature of the European Union itself, which is dominated by the European Capital – the giant monopolies and banks – and which serves its interests. The illusions of social democrats and other “left-wing” reformists that it was possible to transform this imperialist centre into a progressive, democratic and ‘social’ Europe have been dashed on the rocks of this capitalist reality.
It is appropriate to recall Lenin’s sage observation in his famous article penned one hundred years ago, “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” (1915) that:
“From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism – i.e., the export of capital arid the division of the world by the ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ colonial powers – a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.”
Illusions sometimes die hard, however. After years of suffering through austerity-imposed measures, the Greek people had hoped that with the election of Syriza, austerity would end and the crisis would ease. This was not a naïve, erroneous judgment of the masses – it was what Syriza itself promised if elected. But that early enthusiasm quickly dissipated when immediately following the election, Syriza struck a deal with the Party of Independent Greeks (ANEL), as its junior partner in a ruling coalition. ANEL includes extreme right-wingers, with some members having made explicitly anti-Semitic statements and expressed the wish for immigrants in Greece to “go back to their own countries”. Then the new Syriza government sent its finance minister off to Brussels to renegotiate the terms of Greece’s debt enslavement to the European bankers; then it reneged on its promise to rehire sacked government workers; then it offered NATO a new naval base on its soil; etc.
In mid-June – more than a month before this fateful agreement was approved – our Party predicted that Syriza’s “structural and programmatic limitations, aimed at seeking accommodation and an ‘historic compromise’ with EU Capital will invariably lead to defeat, absorption and betrayal of their radical-sounding promises. In our view, genuine working class advance must be based on a complete ‘rupture’ with the logic of capitalist state rule, and a determined revolutionary struggle to supplant its power with working class power, with socialism.”
When the crunch came, and the Troika refused to moderate its demands for conditionalities on a new set of bail-out loans, Syriza called a referendum to gather mass support behind its bargaining position. The 61% “No” vote was a significant popular rejection of austerity policies and the heavy-handed rule of the Troika. The government however was dishonest about the nature and purpose of the referendum. The “No” was in fact a “Yes” to Syriza’s counter offer, which was essentially the same as the EU offer. Only the KKE exposed this truth during the campaign.
By declaring in advance its fidelity to the EU system and to the Euro – and as well to the aggressive NATO alliance – the Syriza government had no negotiating position or alternative, and was destined to fail and be forced to accept the EU-imposed conditions.
By falsely raising the expectations of the Greek people to end austerity, and then to sign and approve the Memorandum, including further pension and social cuts, higher taxes, and forced privatizations, can only be characterized as an abject surrender to the dictates of EU capital, and as a betrayal of the people’s trust and their class interests. There is no question that Germany and other like-minded ‘hard-liners’ prevailed in imposing this savage agreement, but Syriza must also be held accountable for this monumental debacle. For this reason, reference to a ‘coup’ by the Troika is dead-wrong, and is intended to absolve the treachery of the Syriza government, and to place all of the blame on Brussels.
The new situation is one of crisis – a social-economic crisis as the recession and the people’s hardships will intensify, and a political crisis within Syriza itself is it shed ‘critics’ of the agreement within its own ranks, and prepares to find new, willing ‘partners’ among the bourgeois parties in order to cling to power.
It is clear that this drama has played out exactly as the Greek Communists predicted; that the maturation of the crisis in Greece, while obviously greater and deeper than elsewhere in the EU, is by no means unique, and that a “rupture” with the EU, and a cancellation of the entire debt, along with winning mass working class support for a fundamental, revolutionary alternative, now seems to be the only viable alternative to avoid complete collapse and the further resurgence of fascism.
In the meantime, the Greek workers, farmers and ‘middle strata’ (small business, professionals, etc.) – in other words the vast majority of the Greek people who are now burdened with even harsher austerity – have no choice but to unite and fight against the Memorandum and the economic and political forces responsible for thrusting it upon them. In this continuing fight, they deserve our wholehearted solidarity.
Communist Party of Canada
July 21, 2015
Black power belongs at the center of American leftist strategy
There’s a long history of pitting these two “poles” against each other, but it’s based on a few misconceptions. It’s true there’s a conflict; it’s just not between the left and blacks.
In her book “The Other Blacklist” (out in paperback later this year), Mary Helen Washington starts with a hole in American national memory: “Although the Left was by all accounts the most racially integrated movement of [the 1940s and ‘50s],” she writes, “the terms ‘U.S. radicalism,’ ‘left-wing,’ ‘Old Left,’ ‘New Left,’ and ‘communism’ came to signify white history and black absence.” Washington takes the reader back to a time when “the [Communist] Party was such an accepted organization that when a black family feared an eviction, it was not unusual for them to tell their children ‘find the Reds.’”
How did we get from there to “two poles”?
In the wake of the 1917 Russian revolution, the global left did not embrace any sort of “class over race” theory; the party line was much more sophisticated. In 1928, the Communist International, encouraged by black comrades, called not only for full racial equality, but “self-determination in the Black Belt” — freedom from America for a repressed nation of Southern blacks. It was an early endorsement of black power, and the Party backed it up with resources.
“The Left offered black writers the institutional support they could get nowhere else in white America,” Washington writes. “When mainstream literary publications completely ignored black culture and black life, the Marxist, leftist, and communist journals covered, theorized, and critiqued African American cultural production.” It bears constant repeating that Washington is not using “leftist” and “black” as mutually exclusive descriptors.
That doesn’t mean the left didn’t contend with internal racism. In 1931, Communist Party member August Yokinen denied black members entrance to a dance. In what now sounds like a conservative caricature of progressives, the Party convened a trial in Harlem where Yokinen was charged with “white chauvinism.” Convicted and expelled from the Party, Yokinen was readmitted after six months of earnest work with the League for the Struggle for Negro Rights.
There are whispers of this past that haven’t disappeared: Take Fidel Castro celebrated in Harlem in 1960, the songs of Paul Robeson, the writing of W.E.B. DuBois, a Soviet anti-lynching poster, Derek Luke on The Americans. But the “two poles” story is the dominant history. It didn’t happen this way by accident. Mary Helen Washington unearths concerted efforts by the American government to sever the black-red connection by any means necessary.
On the cultural front, the Central Intelligence Agency funded anti-communist black and white organizations through the “Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF).” White publications such as The Partisan Review and The Paris Review accepted money from the CCF and popularized a non-revolutionary moderate-left aesthetic. Meanwhile, law enforcement harassed and harangued Communists, especially black Communists, making it virtually impossible for them to continue any work in peace. As the Party was marginalized, black and white radicals developed new organizations.
Except as outsider bogeymen, American Communists have been more or less deleted from United States history. This redaction has erased a long tradition not just of left-black alliance, but black leftism itself. Today, we have democratic socialists such as Bernie Sanders who aspire to work within the American system, not overthrow it. Needless to say, revolution and black power are not on their agenda.
For its part, the American democratic socialist tradition — distinct from the Comintern line — always had its naive “two pole” elements. In 1903, socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs wrote, “Let [blacks] settle the Negro question in their way, if they can. We have nothing to do with it, for that is their fight. We have simply to open the eyes of as many Negroes as we can and bring them into the Socialist movement.” As for black self-determination: “We have nothing special to offer the Negro, and we cannot make separate appeals to all the races.” This is “all lives matter” logic at its clearest, and it lacks the sophistication of the Black Belt thesis, in which black liberation as such is a vital part of a universal fight for justice.
None of this is to say the Party’s anti-racist functioning was perfect. There’s no doubt that later on, “white chauvinism” trials were used as cover by white Party members to jockey for power. But that doesn’t change the urgent need, as present now as it was in 1928, to put black power at the center of American leftist strategy.
“The Other Blacklist” poses a provocative question: Is America mentally equipped to recognize a black-led left? Is the “two poles” idea so embedded in our political imagination that we can’t recognize the universal call in “black lives matter”? I don’t imagine we’ll see a resurrected American Communist Party, but anyone who would call themselves a leftist is obligated to learn from its buried history.
The conflict between Sanders and Black Lives Matter — and the longer conflict between democratic socialism and black power — is thus not one between the left and black Americans. It’s between one theory of universal liberation and another, between a race-blind reformism and a shard from a shattered revolutionary tradition.
Here’s what I saw happen in the videos from Netroots Nation: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was shouted down by the left.