Category: Fascist terrorism
Global Capitalist Crisis and Trump’s War Drive

Global Capitalist Crisis and Trump’s War Drive

By: William I. Robinson

Unprecedented global inequalities can only be sustained by ever more repressive and ubiquitous systems of social control and repression.

The recent U.S. attack on Syria and mega-bombing of Afghanistan come at a time when the Trump regime is facing a mounting scandal over alleged Russian involvement in its 2016 electoral campaign, historically low approval ratings for an incoming presidency, and a growing mass grassroots resistance movement. U.S. rulers have often launched military adventures abroad to deflect attention from political crises and problems of legitimacy at home.

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Beyond Syria and Afghanistan, the Trump regime has quietly escalated military intervention throughout the Middle East and has proposed an increase of US$55 billion in the Pentagon budget. It has threatened military force in a number of hotspots around the world, including Syria, Iran, Southeast Asia, along NATO’s eastern flank and in the Korean Peninsula. As rival centers of power emerge in the international system any such military adventure could snowball into a global conflagration with devastating consequences for humanity.

Journalists and political observers have focused on geopolitical analysis in attempting to explain rising international tensions. While such analysis is important, there are deep structural dynamics in the global capitalist system that are pushing ruling groups towards war. The crisis of global capitalism is intensifying despite what we have heard from mainstream economists and elites giddy with recent growth spurts and the inflation of stock prices. In particular, the system is facing what appears to be an intractable structural crisis of overaccumulation and of legitimacy.

Cyclical crises, or recessions, occur about every 10 years in the capitalist system and typically last some 18 months. There were recessions in the early 1980s, the early 1990s, and the early 2000s. Structural crisis, so called because the only way out of crisis is to restructure the system, occur approximately every 40-50 years. A new wave of colonialism and imperialism resolved the first recorded structural crisis of the 1870s and 1880s. The next structural, the Great Depression of the 1930s, was resolved through a new type of redistributive capitalism, referred to as the “class compromise” of Fordism-Keynesianism, social democracy, New Deal capitalism, and so on.

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Capital responded to the structural crisis of the 1970s by going global. The emerging transnational capitalist class, or TCC, promoted vast neoliberal restructuring, trade liberalization, and integration of the world economy. The global economy experienced a boom in the late 20th century as the former socialist countries entered the global market and as capital, liberated from nation-state constraints, unleashed a vast new round of accumulation worldwide. The TCC unloaded surpluses and resumed profit-making in the emerging globally integrated production and financial system through the acquisition of privatized assets, the extension of mining and agro-industrial investment on the heels of the displacement of hundreds of millions from the countryside, a new wave of industrial expansion assisted by the revolution in Computer and Information Technology (CIT).

Yet capitalist globalization has also resulted in unprecedented social polarization worldwide. According to the development agency Oxfam, just 1 percent of humanity owns over half of the world’s wealth and the top 20 percent own 94.5 of that wealth, while the remaining 80 percent must make due with just 4.5 percent.

Given such extreme polarization of income and wealth, the global market cannot absorb the output of the global economy. The global financial collapse of 2008 marked the onset of a new structural crisis of overaccumulation, which refers to accumulated capital that cannot find outlets for profitable reinvestment. Data from 2010 showed, for instance, that companies from the United States were sitting on $1.8 trillion in uninvested cash that year. Corporate profits have been at near record highs at the same time that corporate investment has declined.

As this uninvested capital accumulates, enormous pressures build up to find outlets for unloading the surplus. Capitalist groups, especially transnational finance capital, push states to create new opportunities for profit-making. Neoliberal states have turned to four mechanisms in recent years to help the TCC unload surplus and sustain accumulation in the face of stagnation.

One is the raiding and sacking of public budgets. Public finance has been reconfigured through austerity, bailouts, corporate subsidies, government debt and the global bond market as governments transfer wealth directly and indirectly from working people to the TCC.

A second is the expansion of credit to consumers and to governments, especially in the Global North, to sustain spending and consumption. In the United States, for instance, which has long been the “market of last resort” for the global economy, household debt is higher than it has been for almost all of postwar history. U.S. households owed in 2016 nearly US$13 trillion in student loans, credit card debt, auto loans and mortgages. Meanwhile, the global bond market – an indicator of total government debt worldwide – had already reached US$100 trillion by 2011.

A third is frenzied financial speculation. The global economy has been one big casino for transnational finance capital, as the gap between the productive economy and “fictitious capital” grows ever wider. Gross world product, or the total value of goods and services produced worldwide, stood at some US$75 trillion in 2015, whereas currency speculation alone amounted to US$5.3 trillion a day that year and the global derivatives market was estimated at a mind-boggling US$1.2 quadrillion.

All three of these financial mechanisms may resolve the problem momentarily but in the long run they end up aggravating the crisis of overaccumulation. The transfer of wealth from workers to capital further constricts the market, while debt-financed consumption and speculation increase the gap between the productive economy and “fictitious capital.” The result is ever-greater underlying instability in the global economy. Many now see a new crash as inevitable.

There is another mechanism that has sustained the global economy: militarized accumulation. Here there is a convergence around the system’s political need for social control and its economic need to perpetuate accumulation. Unprecedented global inequalities can only be sustained by ever more repressive and ubiquitous systems of social control and repression. Yet quite apart from political considerations, the TCC has acquired a vested interest in war, conflict, and repression as a means of accumulation. CIT has revolutionized warfare and the modalities of state-organized militarized accumulation, including the military application of vast new technologies and the further fusion of private accumulation with state militarization.

As war and state-sponsored repression become increasingly privatized, the interests of a broad array of capitalist groups shift the political, social, and ideological climate toward generating and sustaining social conflict – such as in the Middle East – and in expanding systems of warfare, repression, surveillance and social control. The so-called wars on drugs, terrorism, and immigrants; the construction of border walls, immigrant detention centers, and ever-growing prisons; the installation of mass surveillance systems, and the spread of private security guard and mercenary companies, have all become major sources of profit-making.

The U.S. state took advantage of the 9/11 attacks to militarize the global economy. U.S. military spending skyrocketed into the trillions of dollars through the “war on terrorism” and the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “creative destruction” of war acted to throw fresh firewood on the smoldering embers of a stagnant global economy. The Pentagon budget increased 91 percent in real terms between 1998 and 2011, and even apart from special war appropriations, it increased by nearly 50 percent in real terms during this period. In the decade from 2001 to 2011 defense industry profits nearly quadrupled. Worldwide, total defense outlays (military, intelligence agencies, Homeland Security/Defense) grew by 50 percent from 2006 to 2015, from $1.4 trillion to $2.03 trillion.

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The cutting edge of accumulation in the “real economy” worldwide shifted from CIT before the dot-com bust of 1999-2001 to a military-security-industrial-financial complex – itself integrated into the high-tech conglomerate – that has accrued enormous influence in the halls of power in Washington and other political centers around the world. An emergent power bloc bringing together the global financial complex with the military-security-industrial complex appeared to crystallize in the wake of the 2008 collapse. The class interests of the TCC, geo-politics, and economics come together around militarized accumulation. The more the global economy comes to depend on militarization and conflict the greater the drive to war and the higher the stakes for humanity.

The day after Donald Trump’s electoral victory, the stock price of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit immigrant detention and prison company in the United States, soared 40 percent, given Trump’s promise to deport millions of immigrants. Military contractors such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin report spikes each time there is a new flare-up in the Middle East conflict. Within hours of the April 6 tomahawk missile bombardment of Syria Raytheon stock increased by $1 billion. Hundreds of private firms from around the world have put in bids to construct Trump’s infamous U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Populist rhetoric aside, the Trump regime’s economic program constitutes neo-liberalism on steroids. Corporate tax cuts and deregulation will exacerbate overaccumulation and heighten the power bloc’s proclivity for military conflict. Politicized and increasingly autonomous generals and retired military officials that occupy numerous posts in the regime control the U.S. war machine. The generals may play a key role in geopolitical conjunctures and in the timing and circumstances around which U.S. intervention and war escalate. Yet behind the Trump regime and the Pentagon, the TCC seeks to sustain global accumulation through expanding militarization, conflict, and repression. This gives a built-in war drive to the current course of capitalist globalization. Only a worldwide push back from below, and ultimately a program to redistribute wealth and power downward, can counter the upward spiral of international conflagration.

William I. Robinson is a professor of Sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

US Has Given Green Light for Coup in Venezuela: Maduro

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 April 2017

According to the Bolivarian leader, the U.S. government wrote up a coup scenario for opposition leader Julio Borges.

A day before opposition leaders convened more protests in Caracas calling for the ouster of Venezuela’s government, the country’s leader has accused the United States of working with right-wing leaders towards a coup.

Venezuela: Maduro Accuses Right-Wing of Buying Protest Violence

“The U.S. government, the State Department has given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela,” President Nicolas Maduro said, speaking from the Miraflores Palace.

Maduro said that security forces had arrested an “armed commando group sent by the opposition in order to attack the mobilization called by the right-wing for Wednesday to generate violence and deaths in the country.” An investigation has been opened to determine who is behind the plan.

According to the Venezuelan leader, who also pointed to a U.S. State Department statement issued Tuesday evening warning of an “international response” should “peaceful protests” face repression, the U.S. government wrote up a coup scenario for opposition leader Julio Borges.

The “scenario” Maduro referred to consists in generating violence and deaths before blaming the Venezuelan government for allegedly violently attacking political opponents. Then the plot leaders would demand immediate elections, ahead of Maduro’s official end of term in 2019.

“No more coups in Venezuela, no more plots,” said Maduro, adding that he activated a public security plan to maintain order.

What Everybody Needs to Know About Venezuela Protest Deaths

The Venezuelan leader also called on government supporters to take the streets in the defense of the 18-year Bolivarian Revolution, which has seen an unprecedented internal and external attack in recent months.

The demonstrations come after weeks of opposition-led anti-government demonstrations calling for the ouster of the country’s Supreme Court judges as well as President Nicolas Maduro. According to reports, among those killed in the ensuing violence include a 13-year-old boy who was shot Wednesday when opposition protesters entered a social housing complex and an 83-year-old woman who was not able to receive medical attention due to opposition roadblocks.

Opposition protesters have vandalized various areas in Caracas in recent days causing economic damage estimated at around 50 billion bolivars, President Maduro announced Sunday. A high school, a community health center, various subsidized food markets and several government ministries have also reportedly been severely affected.

The opposition MUD alliance has called for a “Mega March” protest in Caracas on Wednesday and estimate a large turnout with promotions flooding social media.

Officials fear that there could be violence should they attempt to redirect marches to areas where pro-government demonstrators will be gathered.

Wag The Dog — How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump And The American Media

Once upon a time, Donald J. Trump, the New York City businessman-turned-president, berated then-President Barack Obama back in September 2013 about the fallacy of an American military strike against Syria.  At that time, the United States was considering the use of force against Syria in response to allegations (since largely disproven) that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. Trump, via tweet, declared “to our very foolish leader, do not attack Syria – if you do many very bad things will happen & from that fight the U.S. gets nothing!”

President Obama, despite having publicly declaring the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime a “red line” which, if crossed, would demand American military action, ultimately declined to order an attack, largely on the basis of warnings by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, that the intelligence linking the chemical attack on Ghouta was less than definitive.

President Barack Obama, in a 2016 interview with The Atlantic, observed, “there’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow. It’s a playbook that comes out of the foreign-policy establishment. And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses.” While the “Washington playbook,” Obama noted, could be useful during times of crisis, it could “also be a trap that can lead to bad decisions.”

His “red line” on chemical weapons usage, combined with heated rhetoric coming from his closest advisors, including Secretary of State John Kerry, hinting at a military response, was such a trap. Ultimately, President Obama opted to back off, observing that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.” The media, Republicans and even members of his own party excoriated Obama for this decision.

Yet, in November 2016, as president-elect, Donald Trump doubled down on Obama’s eschewing of the “Washington playbook.” The situation on the ground in Syria had fundamentally changed since 2013; the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had taken over large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, establishing a “capital” in the Syrian city of Raqqa and declaring the creation of an Islamic “Caliphate.”  American efforts to remove Syrian President Assad from power had begun to bar fruit, forcing Russia to intervene in September 2015 in order to prop up the beleaguered Syrian president.

Trump, breaking from the mainstream positions held by most American policy makers, Republican and Democrat alike, declared that the United States should focus on fighting and defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) and not pursuing regime change in Syria. “My attitude,” Trump noted, “was you’re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting ISIS, and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.” Moreover, Trump observed, given the robust Russian presence inside Syria, if the United States attacked Assad, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”

For more than two months, the new Trump administration seemed to breathe life into the notion that Donald Trump had, like his predecessor before him, thrown the “Washington playbook” out the window when it came to Syrian policy.  After ordering a series of new military deployments into Syria and Iraq specifically designed to confront ISIS, the Trump administration began to give public voice to a major shift in policy vis-à-vis the Syrian President.

For the first time since President Obama, in August 2011, articulated regime change in Damascus as a precondition for the cessation of the civil conflict that had been raging since April 2011, American government officials articulated that this was no longer the case.  “You pick and choose your battles,” the American Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told reporters on March 30, 2017.  “And when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.”  Haley’s words were echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who observed that same day, while on an official visit to Turkey, “I think the… longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

This new policy direction lasted barely five days. Sometime in the early afternoon of April 4, 2017, troubling images and video clips began to be transmitted out of the Syrian province of Idlib by anti-government activists, including members of the so-called “White Helmets,” a volunteer rescue team whose work was captured in an eponymously-named Academy Award-winning documentary film. These images showed victims in various stages of symptomatic distress, including death, from what the activists said was exposure to chemical weapons dropped by the Syrian air force on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that very morning.

Images of these tragic deaths were immediately broadcast on American media outlets, with pundits decrying the horrific and heinous nature of the chemical attack, which was nearly unanimously attributed to the Syrian government, even though the only evidence provided was the imagery and testimony of the anti-Assad activists who, just days before, were decrying the shift in American policy regarding regime change in Syria. President Trump viewed these images, and was deeply troubled by what he saw, especially the depictions of dead and suffering children.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

The images were used as exhibits in a passionate speech by Haley during a speech at the Security Council on April 5, 2017, where she confronted Russia and threatened unilateral American military action if the Council failed to respond to the alleged Syrian chemical attack. “Yesterday morning, we awoke to pictures, to children foaming at the mouth, suffering convulsions, being carried in the arms of desperate parents,” Haley said, holding up two examples of the images provided by the anti-Assad activists. “We saw rows of lifeless bodies, some still in diapers…we cannot close our eyes to those pictures.  We cannot close our minds of the responsibility to act.”  If the Security Council refused to take action against the Syrian government, Haley said, then “there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

In 2013, President Barack Obama was confronted with images of dead and injured civilians, including numerous small children, from Syria that were every bit as heartbreaking as the ones displayed by Ambassador Haley. His Secretary of State, John Kerry, had made an impassioned speech that all but called for military force against Syria.  President Obama asked for, and received, a wide-range of military options from his national security team targeting the regime of President Assad; only the intervention of James Clapper, and the doubts that existed about the veracity of the intelligence linking the Ghouta chemical attack to the Syrian government, held Obama back from giving the green light for the bombing to begin. 

Like President Obama before him, President Trump asked for his national security team to prepare options for military action.  Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump did not seek a pause in his decision making process to let his intelligence services investigate what had actually occurred in Khan Sheikhoun.  Like Nikki Haley, Donald Trump was driven by his visceral reaction to the imagery being disseminated by anti-Assad activists. In the afternoon of April 6, as he prepared to depart the White House for a summit meeting with a delegation led by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump’s own cryptic words in response to a reporter’s question about any American response seem to hint that his mind was already made up. “You’ll see,” he said, before walking away.

Within hours, a pair of U.S. Navy destroyers launched 59 advanced Block IV Tomahawk cruise missiles (at a cost of some $1.41 million each), targeting aircraft, hardened shelters, fuel storage, munitions supply, air defense and communications facilities at the Al Shayrat air base, located in central Syria.  Al Shayrat was home to two squadrons of Russian-made SU-22 fighter-bombers operated by the Syrian air force, one of which was tracked by American radar as taking off from Al Sharyat on the morning of April 4, 2017, and was overhead Khan Sheikhoun around the time the alleged chemical attack occurred.

The purpose of the American strike was two-fold; first, to send a message to the Syrian government and its allies that, according to Secretary of State Tillerson, “the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” and in particular when confronted with evidence of a chemical attack from which the United States could not “turn away, turn a blind eye.”  The other purpose, according to a U.S. military spokesperson, to “reduce the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” 

Moreover, the policy honeymoon the Trump administration had only recently announced about regime change in Syria was over. “It’s very, very possible, and, I will tell you, it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” President Trump told reporters before the missile strikes had commenced.  Secretary Tillerson went further: “It would seem there would be no role for him [Assad] to govern the Syrian people.”

Such a reversal in policy fundamentals and direction in such a short period of time is stunning; Donald Trump didn’t simply deviate slightly off course, but rather did a complete 180-degree turn. The previous policy of avoiding entanglement in the internal affairs of Syria in favor of defeating ISIS and improving relations with Russia had been replaced by a fervent embrace of regime change, direct military engagement with the Syrian armed forces, and a confrontational stance vis-à-vis the Russian military presence in Syria.

Normally, such major policy change could only be explained by a new reality driven by verifiable facts. The alleged chemical weapons attack against Khan Sheikhoun was not a new reality; chemical attacks had been occurring inside Syria on a regular basis, despite the international effort to disarm Syria’s chemical weapons capability undertaken in 2013 that played a central role in forestalling American military action at that time. International investigations of these attacks produced mixed results, with some being attributed to the Syrian government (something the Syrian government vehemently denies), and the majority being attributed to anti-regime fighters, in particular those affiliated with Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate.

Moreover, there exists a mixed provenance when it comes to chemical weapons usage inside Syria that would seem to foreclose any knee-jerk reaction that placed the blame for what happened at Khan Sheikhoun solely on the Syrian government void of any official investigation. Yet this is precisely what occurred.  Some sort of chemical event took place in Khan Sheikhoun; what is very much in question is who is responsible for the release of the chemicals that caused the deaths of so many civilians.

No one disputes the fact that a Syrian air force SU-22 fighter-bomber conducted a bombing mission against a target in Khan Sheikhoun on the morning of April 4, 2017. The anti-regime activists in Khan Sheikhoun, however, have painted a narrative that has the Syrian air force dropping chemical bombs on a sleeping civilian population.

A critical piece of information that has largely escaped the reporting in the mainstream media is that Khan Sheikhoun is ground zero for the Islamic jihadists who have been at the center of the anti-Assad movement in Syria since 2011. Up until February 2017, Khan Sheikhoun was occupied by a pro-ISIS group known as Liwa al-Aqsa that was engaged in an oftentimes-violent struggle with its competitor organization, Al Nusra Front (which later morphed into Tahrir al-Sham, but under any name functioning as Al Qaeda’s arm in Syria) for resources and political influence among the local population.

Ammar Abdullah / Reuters
A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another one receives treatments, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that Liwa al-Aqsa was using facilities in and around Khan Sheikhoun to manufacture crude chemical shells and landmines intended for ISIS forces fighting in Iraq. According to the Russians the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons facility was mirrored on similar sites uncovered by Russian and Syrian forces following the reoccupation of rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo. 

In Aleppo, the Russians discovered crude weapons production laboratories that filled mortar shells and landmines with a mix of chlorine gas and white phosphorus; after a thorough forensic investigation was conducted by military specialists, the Russians turned over samples of these weapons, together with soil samples from areas struck by weapons produced in these laboratories, to investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for further evaluation.

Al Nusra has a long history of manufacturing and employing crude chemical weapons; the 2013 chemical attack on Ghouta made use of low-grade Sarin nerve agent locally synthesized, while attacks in and around Aleppo in 2016 made use of a chlorine/white phosphorous blend.  If the Russians are correct, and the building bombed in Khan Sheikhoun on the morning of April 4, 2017 was producing and/or storing chemical weapons, the probability that viable agent and other toxic contaminants were dispersed into the surrounding neighborhood, and further disseminated by the prevailing wind, is high.

The counter-narrative offered by the Russians and Syrians, however, has been minimized, mocked and ignored by both the American media and the Trump administration. So, too, has the very illogic of the premise being put forward to answer the question of why President Assad would risk everything by using chemical weapons against a target of zero military value, at a time when the strategic balance of power had shifted strongly in his favor. Likewise, why would Russia, which had invested considerable political capital in the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons capability after 2013, stand by idly while the Syrian air force carried out such an attack, especially when their was such a heavy Russian military presence at the base in question at the time of the attack?

Such analysis seems beyond the scope and comprehension of the American fourth estate.  Instead, media outlets like CNN embrace at face value anything they are told by official American sources, including a particularly preposterous insinuation that Russia actually colluded in the chemical weapons attack; the aforementioned presence of Russian officers at Al Shayrat air base has been cited as evidence that Russia had to have known about Syria’s chemical warfare capability, and yet did nothing to prevent the attack.

To sustain this illogic, the American public and decision-makers make use of a sophisticated propaganda campaign involving video images and narratives provided by forces opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, including organizations like the “White Helmets,” the Syrian-American Medical Society, the Aleppo Media Center, which have a history of providing slanted information designed to promote an anti-Assad message (Donald Trump has all but acknowledged that these images played a major role in his decision to reevaluate his opinion of Bashar al-Assad and order the cruise missile attack on Al Shayrat airbase.)

Many of the fighters affiliated with Tahrir al-Sham are veterans of the battle for Aleppo, and as such are intimately familiar with the tools and trade of the extensive propaganda battle that was waged simultaneously with the actual fighting in an effort to sway western public opinion toward adopting a more aggressive stance in opposition to the Syrian government of Assad. These tools were brought to bear in promoting a counter-narrative about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical incident (ironically, many of the activists in question, including the “White Helmets,” were trained and equipped in social media manipulation tactics using money provided by the United States; that these techniques would end up being used to manipulate an American President into carrying out an act of war most likely never factored into the thinking of the State Department personnel who conceived and implemented the program).

Even slick media training, however, cannot gloss over basic factual inconsistencies. Early on, the anti-Assad opposition media outlets were labeling the Khan Sheikhoun incident as a “Sarin nerve agent” attack; one doctor affiliated with Al Qaeda sent out images and commentary via social media that documented symptoms, such as dilated pupils, that he diagnosed as stemming from exposure to Sarin nerve agent. Sarin, however, is an odorless, colorless material, dispersed as either a liquid or vapor; eyewitnesses speak of a “pungent odor” and “blue-yellow” clouds, more indicative of chlorine gas.

And while American media outlets, such as CNN, have spoken of munitions “filled to the brim” with Sarin nerve agent being used at Khan Sheikhoun, there is simply no evidence cited by any source that can sustain such an account.  Heartbreaking images of victims being treated by “White Helmet” rescuers have been cited as proof of Sarin-like symptoms, the medical viability of these images is in question; there are no images taken of victims at the scene of the attack. Instead, the video provided by the “White Helmets” is of decontamination and treatment carried out at a “White Helmet” base after the victims, either dead or injured, were transported there. 

The lack of viable protective clothing worn by the “White Helmet” personnel while handling victims is another indication that the chemical in question was not military grade Sarin; if it were, the rescuers would themselves have become victims (some accounts speak of just this phenomena, but this occurred at the site of the attack, where the rescuers were overcome by a “pungent smelling” chemical – again, Sarin is odorless.)

More than 20 victims of the Khan Sheikhoun incident were transported to Turkish hospitals for care; three subsequently died. According to the Turkish Justice Minister, autopsies conducted on the bodies confirm that the cause of death was exposure to chemical agents. The World Health Organization has indicated that the symptoms of the Khan Sheikhoun victims are consistent with both Sarin and Chlorine exposure. American media outlets have latched onto the Turkish and WHO statements as “proof” of Syrian government involvement; however, any exposure to the chlorine/white phosphorous blend associated with Al Nusra chemical weapons would produce similar symptoms.

Moreover, if Al Nusra was replicating the type of low-grade Sarin it employed at Ghouta in 2013 at Khan Sheikhoun, it is highly likely that some of the victims in question would exhibit Sarin-like symptoms. Blood samples taken from the victims could provide a more precise readout of the specific chemical exposure involved; such samples have allegedly been collected by Al Nusra-affiliated personnel, and turned over to international investigators (the notion that any serious investigatory body would allow Al Nusra to provide forensic evidence in support of an investigation where it is one of only two potential culprits is mindboggling, but that is precisely what has happened). But the Trump administration chose to act before these samples could be processed, perhaps afraid that their results would not sustain the underlying allegation of the employment of Sarin by the Syrian air force.

Mainstream American media outlets have willingly and openly embraced a narrative provided by Al Qaeda affiliates whose record of using chemical weapons in Syria and distorting and manufacturing “evidence” to promote anti-Assad policies in the west, including regime change, is well documented.  These outlets have made a deliberate decision to endorse the view of Al Qaeda over a narrative provided by Russian and Syrian government authorities without any effort to fact check either position. These actions, however, do not seem to shock the conscience of the American public; when it comes to Syria, the mainstream American media and its audience has long ago ceded the narrative to Al Qaeda and other Islamist anti-regime elements.

The real culprits here are the Trump administration, and President Trump himself. The president’s record of placing more weight on what he sees on television than the intelligence briefings he may or may not be getting, and his lack of intellectual curiosity and unfamiliarity with the nuances and complexities of both foreign and national security policy, created the conditions where the imagery of the Khan Sheikhoun victims that had been disseminated by pro-Al Nusra (i.e., Al Qaeda) outlets could influence critical life-or-death decisions.

That President Trump could be susceptible to such obvious manipulation is not surprising, given his predilection for counter-punching on Twitter for any perceived slight; that his national security team allowed him to be manipulated thus, and did nothing to sway Trump’s opinion or forestall action pending a thorough review of the facts, is scandalous. History will show that Donald Trump, his advisors and the American media were little more than willing dupes for Al Qaeda and its affiliates, whose manipulation of the Syrian narrative resulted in a major policy shift that furthers their objectives. 

The other winner in this sorry story is ISIS, which took advantage of the American strike against Al Shayrat to launch a major offensive against Syrian government forces around the city of Palmyra (Al Shayrat had served as the principal air base for operations in the Palmyra region). The breakdown in relations between Russia and the United States means that, for the foreseeable future at least, the kind of coordination that had been taking place in the fight against ISIS is a thing of the past, a fact that can only bode well for the fighters of ISIS. For a man who placed so much emphasis on defeating ISIS, President Trump’s actions can only be viewed as a self-inflicted wound, a kind of circular firing squad that marks the actions of a Keystone Cop, and not the Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation in the world. 

But the person who might get the last laugh is President Assad himself. While the Pentagon has claimed that it significantly degraded the Al Shayrat air base, with 58 of 59 cruise missile hitting their targets, Russia has stated that only 23 cruise missiles impacted the facility, and these did only limited damage.  The runway was undamaged; indeed, in the afternoon of April 7, 2017, a Syrian air force fighter-bomber took off from Al Shayrat, flew to Idlib Province, where it attacked Al Nusra positions near Khan Sheikhoun.

NIKOS BELOYANNIS: Always alive in the people’s hearts and consciousness

Thursday, March 30, 2017

NIKOS BELOYANNIS: Always alive in the people’s hearts and consciousness

It was in the dawn of Sunday 30th March 1952 when his heart stopped beating. The bullets of the firing squad gave an end to the lifes of the KKE Central Committee member Nikos Beloyannis and three of his comrades- Dimitris Batsis, Elias Argyriadis and Nikos Kaloumenos. The execution- murder- of Beloyannis was a crime of the then bourgeois Greek government of Nikolaos Plastiras and the U.S. imperialists.

Beloyannis, who is known as “the man with the carnation”, was a cadre of the – then illegal- Communist Party of Greece (KKE). He and his comrades had waged an unwavering struggle against foreign imperialism and its local allies. For his political activity and ideological beliefs he was arrested, tried and executed.

“We believe in the most correct theory which has been conceived by the most progressive minds of humanity. And our effort, our struggle, is that this theory becomes a reality in Greece and the entire world (…) We love Greece and its people more than our accusers (…) Precisely because we struggle so that our country will see better days, without hunger and war (…) and when it is necessary, we sacrifice our lives.” (Nikos Belogiannis, abstract of his defense speech at the military tribunal).

In his highly publicized and controversial trials, Beloyannis fought with unparalleled courage against his prosecutors. The first trial began in Athens on October 19th, 1951, with a lawsuit against Beloyannis and 92 more members of the Communist Party (KKE). The accusation was that they had violated the law 509 of 1947 about “communist propaganda”, taking into account that KKE had been declared as “illegal” by the state. The verdict of the first trial sentenced Beloyannis and 11 comrades to death. Nonetheless, after an international outcry – and as it was clear that the trial process was nothing but a political conspiracy- the sentence was not executed.

“If I had renounced the KKE most likely I would have been declared innocent with great honours… But my life is connected with the history of the KKE and its activity… Dozens of times I faced the following dilemma: “to live and betray my beliefs, my ideology or to die and remain faithful to them. I have always chosen the second and today I am doing this again”. (Nikos Beloyannis, defense speech at the military tribunal).

On March 1, 1952 Nikos Beloyannis and 7 comrades were sentenced to death. Within a week the Greek government received from all over the world hundreds of thousands telegrams against the death sentense, while an international campaign – with the participation of personalities like Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Paul Sartre, Paul Éluard, Nazim Hikmet and others- asked for the cancellation of the military tribune’s verdict. On the contrary, the US demanded that the Plastiras’ government and the King carry out the execution of the sentense. In the late evening of Saturday, March 29, 1952, King Pavlos rejected a request for clemency for Beloyannis and his comrades.

The execution of Beloyannis and his three comrades on the dawn of the 30th of April 1952 took place under the lights of the military trucks and jeeps, as it was still dark and everything had to be carried out quickly, before the news spread to Athens. However, the news of Beloyannis murder were spread across the world and the crime was denounced, not only by the working people in every country, but also by famous personalities: Pablo Picasso, Ilya Erhenburg, Paul Eluard, Nazim Hikmet, Howard Fast and others condemned the execution of Beloyannis and mentioned the heroism of the Greek communist who remained completely loyal to his beliefs until the end.

“Belogiannis lives, because the movement that raised and educated him lives and develops. (…) Belogiannnis did his duty. He honoured the dead of the labour struggles from the interwar period, of EAM-ELAS, DSE, of the struggles for social rights. He was their worthy successor and served social progress and the people as a whole. This is why we do not consider him to be a hero just for the KKE. His heroism, his example, in a period of the labour-people’s movement’s defeat, demonstrates that the path is kept open and the flame alive in even the darkest periods (…)The KKE learns from the history of N.Belogiannis and thousands of other heroes. It understands its own responsibilities in a more demanding way in the conditions today of the retreat of the labour-people’s movement at a global level. As regards the task of politically awakening the working class-popular forces so that they take matters into their own hands.” – Dimitris Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of the KKE, Speech at the opening of “Nikos Beloyannis” Museum in Amaliada, Greece, 27 March 2017).

Part of the exhibition inside the “Nikos Beloyannis” Museum which was inaugurated recently at his hometown in Amaliada, Peloponnese.


Nikos Beloyannis was born in Amaliada, Peloponnese in 1915. He was the son of of a poor craftsman. He was involved in the youth progressive movement from an early age, as a high school student and, later, as a University of Athens’ student. He joined the Organization of the Communist Youth of Greece (OKNE) and in 1934 he became a member of the Communist Party (KKE). For his revolutionary activities, Beloyannis was expelled from the Law School of the University of Athens. In mid-1930s he became an organizer and leader of various party organizations in Peloponnese and in 1936 was arrested for his activities. Later he escaped from prison and re-arrested in 1938 when he was sentenced to five years in prison and two years in exile.

In the first years of 1940s Beloyannis remained in prison as the fascist government of Metaxas handed over thousands of communist prisoners to the italian and german occupation forces. He escaped in 1943 and joined the resistance struggle against the Nazis. In 1943-44 Beloyannis was involved in party and partisan work in the area of ​​Patras being political commissar of the 3rd Division of the People’s Liberation Army of Greece (ELAS). After Greece’s liberation, he became head of the ideological work department of KKE organization in Peloponnese. He edited the magazine “Free Morias” and on the same time wrote two books: “Foreign capital in Greece” and “History of Modern Greek literature”.

Nikos Beloyannis during his service at the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE).

During the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) Beloyannis conducted political work in the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE). In 1947 he became head of the Propaganda Department of the DSE and in 1948-49 he served as political commissar of the 10th Division of the DSE. He was wounded in battle in 1948.

After the defeat of DSE on September 1949, Beloyannis and thousands of armed comrades went to the socialist countries of central and eastern Europe. After the end of the Civil War, an anti-democratic, anti-communist and completely depended on US and Britain regime was installed in Greece.

In 1950, Nikos Beloyannis was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the- then exiled- Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In June 1950, after the decision of the Central Committee of KKE, Beloyannis arrived in Greece secretely, using false documents and passport. His duty was to inform the party forces in Greece about the new party line as well as to reorganize the underground network of party organizations in the country. With the aid of the newly founded US intelligence service (CIA), the Greek authorities arrested Beloyannis on December 1950.

“The execution of Beloyannis”. By Peter Francia.

* * *

I have on my table the photograph of the man with the white carnation– whom they shot in the half darkness before the dawn, beneath the light of the searchlights.  In his right handhe holds a carnation which is like a handful of light from the Greek sea.  His eyes which are brave,childlike, look out, guilelessly, beneath their heavy black eyebrows. Thus guilelessly– like the song which rises when they make their vow the communists.  His teeth are bright white– Beloyiannis laughs. And the carnation in his hand is like the speech he spoke to the people on the day of bravery– the day of shame.


“The Man With The Carnation”.

Poem for Nikos Beloyannis.

(From the magazine “Soviet Woman,” April 1952).

By Nikos Mottas / In Defense of Communism ©.

The Terrible Seeds of the Attack on the British Parliament

Flowers are laid at the scene after an attack on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain, March 22, 2017.

The Terrible Seeds of the Attack on the British Parliament

© REUTERS/ Hannah McKay


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Alexander Mercouris
Westminster Attack (48)

The attack on the British Parliament is a terrible tragedy and a hideous crime.

On March 23, Daesh terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the deadly Westminster attack in the British capital.

This fact should underscore a bitter truth that Western political establishments persist in resisting.  This is that it is impossible to fight terrorism effectively in Europe if it is supported — however discretely — in the Middle East.

The origins of today’s Jihadist movement go back to the 1980s when Western governments, including the British government, actively supported the Jihadist war against the Soviet backed in Afghanistan.  This war radicalised a whole generation of young Muslims in Europe and the Middle East, with the active support of Western governments.  I well remember the articles and documentaries supporting the Jihadist struggle in Afghanistan which proliferated in the Western media at this time, which included turning a blind eye to Jihadi atrocities in Afghanistan and to the role Jihadi groups were playing in heroin trafficking, which caused an explosion in heroin addiction in the West (especially in Britain) at that time.

More pertinently, this support for the Jihadi movement in Afghanistan led to the British authorities turning a blind eye to the establishment of a Jihadist network in mosques and community centres across Britain.  There were rumours at the time — never fully confirmed or denied — that an implicit agreement had been reached between the British authorities and Jihadi leaders that the British authorities would tolerate their activities in Britain provided they undertook no violent action on British soil.To add to the toxic brew, it was also roughly at this time that a wave of funding from the Gulf region transformed the teaching of Islam in British mosques and Muslim community centres, changing Wahhabist/Salafi doctrines from a marginal influence within Britain Islam increasingly into its mainstream.

The British authorities have struggled to get on top of these Wahhabist/Salafist Jihadist networks that were established in Britain in the 1980s ever since.

In recent years the British authorities have made their problems worse by embracing the Jihadist struggle against President Assad’s government in Syria.  Instead of recognising President Assad and his government for what they are — a bulwark against the spread of Jihadi terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere — the British authorities have been relentless in demanding President Assad’s overthrow, so that just as in the 1980s they supported the Jihadist struggle against the government of Afghanistan, so today they have been de facto supporting the Jihadist struggle against the Syrian government.

Needless to say this has given fresh life to the Jihadist networks which have become established in Britain, further radicalising a section of British Muslim youth, and legitimising Jihadism amongst them.

The result is that there has been a regular trickle of British Muslim volunteers joining the Jihadi struggle in Syria, where they have learnt to bear arms and become further indoctrinated in Jihadist ways of thinking.  To the British government’s embarrassment some of them have become so radicalised that they have become suicide bombers.

To compound the folly of all this, at the same time that the British government has been de facto supporting the Jihadists’ struggle in Syria, it has also been acting in a way that can be made to fit in with the Jihadists’ narrative of a Western/Christian plot against Islam.

In 2001 and 2003 Britain participated in the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Britain has become an increasingly uncritical supporter of Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories, and more recently Britain has joined the US’s anti-Daesh coalition in Iraq and Syria, even if its actual military contribution to the anti-Daesh struggle has been minimal and ineffective.The result unsurprisingly is that Britain, along with other Western countries, now finds itself home to an indeterminate number of angry, violent and deluded people, who it simultaneously supports and fights against.

That this is a recipe for disaster should hardly require explanation.  Tragically that disaster has now  happened.

If Jihadi terrorism is to be defeated — something by the way which is fully possible — then the point has to be grasped both in Britain and the West in general that terrorism is not terrorism only if it happens in London or Paris or Brussels or Nice.  It is also terrorism if it happens in Aleppo or Mosul or Grozny or Damascus.  Jihadi terrorism has to be fought everywhere it happens, not simultaneously opposed and supported in order to achieve some nebulous geopolitical objectives of no interest to the Western public.

Unfortunately we seem in Britain to be as far away from that realisation as ever, and until it finally comes there can be no confidence that the tragedy in London will be the last one.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

Russian Wheelchairs, the New ‘Invasion Threat’

Singer Yulia Samoilova, Russia's Eurovision 2017 contestant, and her husband, Alexei Taran, at Sheremetyevo Airport

Russian Wheelchairs, the New ‘Invasion Threat’

© Sputnik/ Alexey Filippov


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Finian Cunningham

The banning of Russia’s Eurovision contestant Yulia Samoilova by the Kiev regime is a new low – if that regime could possibly stoop any lower.

As a result of this week’s imposed travel restriction, it means that the artist will not be able to attend the forthcoming annual Eurovision Song Contest which is being held in Kiev on May 13.

28-year-old Yulia, who is bound to a wheelchair due to a childhood muscular condition, was this week banned from entering Ukraine by the Kiev regime. That’s because she earlier “violated” a controversial Ukrainian law that blocks Russian citizens from visiting Crimea, when she performed on the Black Sea peninsula back in 2015.Russia’s foreign ministry responded angrily, saying that the exclusion of the singer was yet another expression of blatant “Russophobia” and “paranoia”.

This follows the banning of Russian athletes at last year’s Olympic Games in Brazil over trumped-up doping charges.

The organizers of the annual song contest, the European Broadcasting Union, were not involved in Kiev’s decision to ban the Russian artist. The EBU said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values”.

So much for “European values”, which the Ukrainian authorities claim to aspire to! Banning a wheelchair-bound artist over some arcane law that the dubious parliament in Kiev has concocted to shore up its equally dubious claim over Crimean territory.But this is kind of abject nonsense that the European Union (as well as Washington and NATO) has embroiled itself in ever since it backed a violent coup to overthrow the Ukrainian government in February 2014.

The regime that seized power in Kiev has turned that country into a lawless fiefdom run by oligarchs and Neo-Nazi paramilitaries. Any “laws” that this regime has enacted since February 2014 could arguably be challenged as illegal, given the unconstitutional nature of the self-declared “authorities” in Kiev.

In any case, the status of Crimea legally shifted to be part of the Russian Federation through a referendum held in March 2014. Like the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region, Crimea refused to recognize the newly installed regime in Kiev as having legitimacy.

Ever since, the Kiev regime has blockaded Crimea and Donbass. Only for Russian military forces legally present in Crimea, the Kiev junta led by its so-called President Petro Poroshenko would have launched aggression on the peninsula as it has done on Donbass.

Caught up in its own complicity and contradictions, the European Union, as with NATO, is obliged to support the Kiev regime with billions of dollars worth of financial loans and turn a blind eye to its bloody campaign of terror on the people of Donbass.

This support is in spite of the fact that the Western-backed Kiev junta has openly glorified Second World War Nazi partisans like Stepan Bandera; and in spite of the fact that modern-day Neo-Nazi paramilitaries have carried out countless crimes against humanity on the ethnic Russian citizens of eastern Ukraine.

The daily bombardment of towns and villages in Donbass by Kiev regime forces goes hand in hand with an economic blockade which has seen pensions and bank services cut off to civilians.In Kiev, Russian-owned banks have been attacked by pro-regime gangs.

Several journalists critical of the junta have been murdered over the past three years.

The Kiev regime is floundering from its own illegitimacy and corruption. Even in parts of Ukraine where it supposedly claims to have support, such as in the western Lviv region, its credibility among ordinary people there is shot through. Poroshenko and his junta are seen as nothing but hucksters who have ransacked the country for their own self-enrichment.

This week Poroshenko has been waving the begging bowl yet again to his European and American patrons, pleading for more loans from the International Monetary Fund, which shamefully has already doled out billions of dollars to prop up the regime.

Russophobia whipped up endlessly by the usurpers in Kiev has served up to now as a kind of desperate lifeline. Every problem assailing Ukraine has been of the Kiev regime’s own making. But it turns around every time and blames all its woes on “Russian aggression”.

Begging for international finance to cover up for its own spectacular corruption and mismanagement, the Kiev junta plays the Russian card. Over and over again. Ukraine, the regime claims, is a defensive line between Europe and Russia – so give us more money!

For months, the Western media unquestioningly relayed hysterical claims put out by the Kiev junta that Russian tanks were rolling into eastern Ukraine. Notice how that “invasion” has somehow vanished. The only tanks rolling into eastern Ukraine are those belonging to the Kiev regime, aided and abetted by NATO and Western media disinformation.

The “Russian tanks” story has gradually disappeared from Western news media because eventually, without facts, the claim just can’t be sustained.

Desperate to come up with some veneer for its hollow claims of Russian aggression, the hucksters in Kiev have found a new “threat”. Russian wheelchairs rolling into Ukraine.

Wheelchair-bound singer Yulia Samoilova must be banished from Ukrainian territory because she is “obviously” part of a Russian vanguard to destabilize the already-teetering Kiev regime.

With an estimated global TV audience of 200 million tuning into the Eurovision Song Contest, a beautiful performance by Yulia might just destroy the propaganda narrative that the Russians are “evil people”. Such a horrible reality cannot be allowed to shatter the Kiev regime’s broken record of Russophobia.

You could not make this up, but the Kiev regime is even now claiming that their callous ban on the Russian singer is actually a clever plot designed by the Kremlin – to discredit them in the eyes of the world. It is being claimed that the Kremlin “always knew” that the singer would be banned because of her earlier “illegal” performance in Crimea.Sooner or later, the Western public are going to realize that their governments have hooked them up with a deranged bunch of Nazi-loving despots in Kiev. This regime has siphoned off Western taxpayers’ money for the past three years, while carrying out a war of aggression on the people of Ukraine, and at any moment willing to start World War III with its crazed Russophobia.

The heartless banning of a disabled Russian singer from the Eurovision Song Contest for “political points” is a measure of how deranged this Western-backed regime in Kiev is.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

KKE: Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

KKE: Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Press Office of the CC of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued the following statement:
“Fifty-one years after the proclamation by the UN, with the decisive contribution of the Soviet Union, of the 21st of March as the International Day against Racial Discrimination, the capitalist world, in the USA, the EU, in Greece, is showing more and more clearly its inhuman character against refugees and immigrants, to the victims of imperialist wars and capitalist exploitation.
In Greece, one year has been completed since the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement which was emerged from the villainous bazaar of the EU with Turkey’s ruling class. The SYRIZA-ANEL government, which celebrated the agreement, is trying with claws and teeth to implement it, being indifferent to the miserable conditions in the refugee structures of the islands as well as for the consequences for the inhabitants from the double entrapment that has been formed in the Aegean islands. The government, with the support of all bourgeois parties, actively participates in all the imperialist plans and interventions which are responsible for the large refugee and immigration waves. The government brought NATO’s ships in the Aegean, supposedly for the limitation of refugee and immigrants. It has created conditions for long or permanent entrapment in the country, in camps and infrastructures given to various mechanisms and NGOs. It agrees with the reinstatement of the Dublin Regulation which will mean a new wave of “refugees return”, this time from EU countries.
With its policy, but also with the handling of issues such as the integration of refugee children to the education system, it “fed” the Nazi criminals of Golden Dawn and other reactionary forces to organise bully attacks against refugees and economic migrants, to turn against children, to poison the minds and the consciences of people. With the participation of the nazi and racist Golden Dawn’s MPs in the governmental fiestas in Kastelorizo, with the statements of SYRIZA cadres, they actually “launder” the criminal Golden Dawn thus preparing her to play a more “serious” role as the system’s long arm against the labor and popular movement, against local and foreign workers.
The increase in the number of refugees and immigrants is exploited by the racist, nationalist parties which aim to disorient the workers regarding the causes of their lives’ deterioration. At the same time, the increase of these parties’ influence is exploited for the formation of new fraudulent dilemmas, to hide the fact that racism and fascism come out from the same capitalist “womb” like all the other bourgeois parties, the parties of cosmopolitanism. Thus, the Netherlands of the liberal, pro-European bourgeois politician Mr.Rutte, within a year, accepted just 939 refugees- less than the ¼ of the minimum number of refugees it had committed to accept within the EU migration process. The EU switches racism with cosmopolitanism, opens and closes the borders depending on her geopolitical interests and the needs of the capitalists.
The communists, through their action in the trade unions, the bodies of the popular movement, will steadfastly continue to fight, in practice, against racism and xenophobia. For:
The unlocking of the refugees and immigrants from Greece and the islands.
Human living conditions in the refugee camps and infrastructures.
Inclusion of all children of refugees and immigrants in the public structures of education.
Equal labour and social rights for the working refugees and immigrants.
Isolation of fascists and racists.
Organizing of people’s struggle against the imperialist war and capitalist exploitation.”

Source: / Translation: In Defense of Communism.