The Red Cross Secondhand Clothes Racket

The Dirty Business of Old Clothes

Directed by Michael Höft and Christian Jantzch (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about a racket involving the German Red Cross and other charities that sells 700,000 tonnes of donated secondhand clothes to a for-profit company called Soex. Soex, in turn, sells the clothes to Eastern Europe, Middle East, and sub-Saharan markets.

This particular scheme is similar to those operating in other European countries and the US. The Red Cross receives five cents per kilo for donated clothing that is resold for €1.20 per kilo.

Filmmakers follow one shipment of secondhand clothing to Tanzania, where most people live on less than one euro a day. The flood of cheap second hand clothing into the port of Dar es Salaam has shut down a local clothing factory that formerly employed 9,000 workers. No textile manufacturer in the world could compete with an industry selling clothes they source for free.

The film features heartbreaking interviews with unemployed workers who often go days at a time without eating.

The filmmakers attempt to interview the chairman of the German Red Cross about the program, but he declines to speak to them.

 

 

The Deceptive Promise of Free Trade

A Game of No Rules: The Deceptive Promise of Free Trade

DW (2018)

Film Review

Produced in response to the protective tariffs Trump has enacted, this documentary shows the negative side of globalization and free trade. It maintains that most free trade treaties are one sided and significantly increase inequality. According to the filmmakers, the primary purpose of free trade is to give wealthy countries cheap access to the resources of developing countries.

Most of the film focuses on the  protective (aka “punitive”) tariffs Europe has been using for years to protect their domestic industries from cheap imports. In contrast, most US politicians have rejected protective tariffs in favor of free trade. The result has been the failure of many domestic American industries unable to compete with cheap Asian imports.

The film starts with the example of Germany, which charges punitive tariffs (50%) on imported Chinese bicycle frames. In all, the EU imposes punitive tariffs on 53 Chinese products, including steel, porcelain and ironing boards.

At the same time the EU imposes tough “free trade” treaties on African countries, prohibiting them from enacting protective tariffs to protect their farmers. This allows European countries to dump cheap agricultural surpluses on their economies, putting local farmers out of business when they can’t produce food cheaply enough to compete.

A Game of No Rules argues that local food production should be sheltered (by protective tariffs) in both developing and developed countries and that Third World countries should be allowed to enact protective tariffs while they establish local industries. Prohibiting Third World countries from enacting protective tariffs ultimately creates mass unemployment and a flood of economic refugees to the industrial North.

 

 

How Offshore Tax Havens Enslave the World

The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire

Directed by Michael Oswald (2017)

Film Review

The Spider’s Web is about the network of secret offshore tax havens that has allowed Britain to financially enslave much of the Third World. The film begins by describing the special status of the City of London corporation, a special enclave within greater London that services as Britain’s financial district.

The City of London has a private police force and private courts, Unable to conquer this area of London during the 1066 invasion, William the Conqueror negotiated a treaty making it virtually self-governing.

After an attack on the British pound during and after the 1956 Suez Crisis (see Suez: Britain’s Illegal War Against Egypt), the British government implemented two important measures to stem the hemorrhage of pounds overseas: 1) it temporarily restricted foreign investment and 2) it created a City of London eurodollar market to accept foreign investments in US dollars.

Keen to escape US regulation, US banks flocked to set up international operations in London. At the same time, City of London bankers augmented their eurodollar market by drafting secret and illegal regulations to make the Cayman Islands (still a British colony) a secret haven for tax evasion and money launderers.

Eagerly creating similar offshore havens in Bermuda, Virgin Islands, Jersey and other colonies, by 1997 City of London banks controlled 90% of all international loans via their eurodollar market. The filmmakers blame the creation of this vast offshore banking network for the “financialization” of both the US and UK economies (ie the decision by US/UK banks in the mid-seventies by major US/UK banks  to invest in financial instruments rather than manufacturing).

Africa is the region most heavily exploited by this illegal financial network. Between 1970 and 2008, African elites in cahoots with multinational corporations moved $944 billion in oil, gold, diamond and rare earth revenues into offshore tax havens. This was five times the amount of global debt ($177 billion) Africa owed in 2008.

The most interesting part of the film is an interview with former Chase Manhattan economist Michael Hudson about the State Department approaching him in 1967 for his help setting up a US offshore tax haven to stem the flow of US dollars overseas for Vietnam-related military expenditures.

Hidden History: The Abolitionists who Led the European Colonization of Africa

Slavery Trade Routes – Part 3 Slavery’s New Frontiers

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

The final episode in the series begins with the revolution in Saint-Domingue (modern day Haiti) that would signal the beginning of the end for the slave trade. Led by Tousaint L’Ouverture, in 1791 the entire slave population of Saint Domingue (90% of residents) revolted again their plantation owners. It would be Napoleon’s first military defeat.

Although the British Navy succeeded in shutting down much of the slave trade in 1815, they couldn’t stem the flow of slaves to feed the prison-style industrial coffee plantations in Brazil. An additional 2 million Africans were deported to Brazil between 1815 and 1850. At present, Brazil has the second largest population of Africans in the world (with Nigeria at number one).

Although the trafficking of slaves to the US stopped in 1815, the American slave population continued to grow – in part due to the routine rape of female slaves by their white masters.

US Last Country to Abolish Slavery

In 1825, after achieving independence, all former Spanish colonies abolished slavery. French, English and Dutch colonies would gradually follow suit. The US formally abolished slavery in 1865 during the Civil War. In reality slavery continued in southern states with Jim Crow laws that denied Blacks the right to vote, freedom of movement and the right to self-defense. In addition, laws providing for the arrest of unemployed blacks for vagrancy resulted in a de facto involuntary servitude.

European Colonization of Africa

For me, the most interesting part of the film concerns the direct link between the abolition of slavery and the intensive European colonization of Africa. The military adventurers who conquered Africa were all “abolitionists.” Officially the purpose of their missions to Africa were to end the slave trade. In reality, they were deeply committed white supremacists who cut deals with Arab slave traders and local chieftains to put poor African peasants to work (involuntarily) on their African coffee, palm oil, rubber and cotton plantations.

The video can’t be embedded but can be seen free at the following link:

Slavery’s New Frontiers

Colonizing the Third World via Appearance Marketing

The Illusionists

Directed by Elena Rossini

Film Review

The Illusionists is about cultural globalization and the colonization of the third world via appearance marketing. The westernized image of whiteness and thinness is aggressively marketing through out the world as synonymous with power.

The effect of this marketing is to continuously bombard women with messages that their appearance is unsatisfactory – to convince them the way they look is all that matters, that no one will love them if they aren’t sexy and that anyone can be beautiful and sexy if they work at it and purchase enough beauty and weight loss products.

I was amazed to learn of all the skin whitening products being sold in Japan, India and Africa. To my immense astonishment Lebanon, where 1/3 of all women undergo it, is the plastic surgery capital of the world.

The most concerning segment concerns the deliberate sexualization of preschool children in marketing campaigns that, in my view, amount to soft porn. In addition to marketing make-up and lingerie to preschoolers, the ultimate goal of such campaigns is to “eroticize” shopping for young girls.

Brave Girls Alliance is a grassroots group started by teenagers campaigning to end the role of Wall Street corporations in defining beauty standards. See Brave Girls Take Back the Media

This film can’t be embedded but can be viewed for free at Films for Action

Bill Clinton’s War Against Yugoslavia

The US War on Yugoslavia

Michael Parenti (1999)

This talk, one of my favorites, is 1999 talk about about US empire. It offers quite a stark depiction of a US foreign policy consisting primarily of continual wars of aggression against democratic governments that thwart Wall Street Interests in exploiting their natural resources and labor force.

Parenti begins with a brief overview of colonization, starting with Western Europe’s colonization of the Slavic peoples and England’s colonization of Ireland. He goes on to to describe how India and Africa both enjoyed advanced and wealthy (far more wealthy than Europe) civilizations until they were invaded by European armies and their economies destroyed.

He proceeds with a detailed inventory of America’s continual invasions, bombing campaigns and covert wars around the world. The last half of the presentation focuses on the deliberate break-up of Yugoslavia by the US security state, demolishing the myth perpetuated by the Clinton administration and the US media that ethnic conflict was the cause of the Balkan wars.

Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Wall Street elites tolerated a socialist state in Yugoslavia (with free health care, education and public transport and housing) because they viewed Yugoslavian president Josip Tito’s independent socialism as a buffer against the Soviet Union.

The initial US attack against Yugoslavia was economic, when Bush senior, in 1990, persuaded Congress to end lending credits to the Yugoslav government. The legislation they passed stipulated that US banks could only loan money to autonomous Yugoslav regions (Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, etc) provided they declared independence and formed autonomous republics.

Parenti notes the new law was implemented somewhat unevenly, so that only right wing fascist governments qualified for loans. By 1992, internal sanctions against Serbia had resulted in 70% unemployment, widespread malnutrition and collapse of the health care system.

He goes on to provide fresh insight into the background of Slobodan Milosovic – who Clinton described as the “new Hitler” – an anti-communist banker who was the CIA’s first choice to run Serbia. When Milosovic refused to fully embrace US colonization, he was systematically demonized by the Clinton administration and corporate media. In 2006, he would die in prison in the Hague.* The war crimes he was accused of were never substantiated.

Parenti also details the NATO carpet bombing of Serbia (designed to maximize civilian casualty by targeting life support infrastructure, such as power and water filtration plants), the CIA penetration of the Kosova Liberation Army (enabling them to corner the European heroin market), Noam Chomsky’s support for Clinton’s war against Serbia, and the notorious Sarajevo false flag operation (actually carried out by Muslim extremists) used to justify the NATO war against Serbia.


*There is strong evidence he was covertly assassinated: Did NATO’s Kangaroo Court Poison Milosevic?

The US Military Occupation of Africa

The Shadow War in the Sahara

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

The Shadow War in the Sahara is a thumbnail history of the US military occupation of Africa. The documentary begins with the 1885 Berlin Conference, at which the major European powers divided up all of Saharan Africa to better exploit its rich resources of gas, oil, copper, uranium, coltan and other rare earth minerals.

France initially came out the winner, controlling three-fourths of Saharan Africa until World War II. Even after all their Saharan colonies won independence (1945-62), France continued to maintain a military presence, as well economic dominance over most of its former colonies.

With the discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea in the sixties, this began to change – with the covert US support of armed rebellions in Ethiopia and Angola and its failed invasion of Somalia. Over time, most French troops have been replaced by US troops. While this was done in the name of “fighting terrorism,” the real US agenda has always been to secure oil and mineral resources in the face of Chinese domination over African oil.

Instead of employing military force and direct political intervention via the International Monetary Fund and their “structural adjustment”* policies, China has gained a major foothold in Africa in offering debt-free development loans and a policy of non-interference in domestic policy.

The US is the only major power to divide up the entire world into military command and control regions: USNorthcom (North America), USSouthcom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentcom (Middle East and Central Asia), USPACom (Pacific region and Australia) and USAfricom.

Former Libyan ruler Omar Gaddafi successfully blocked the US from locating the USAfricom headquarters in Africa – so the US built it in Germany instead.

Prior to his assassination by US-backed rebels, Gadaffi was a powerful advocate for African unity. His primary goal in founding and bankrolling (from his massive oil revenues) the African Development Bank and an African Monetary Fund was to assist other African countries to resist western colonialism.

In 2009, he was elected chairman of the African Union, and in 2011 he cancelled major contracts with the powerful (US) Bechtel corporation and with France (for millions of dollars of military hardware). The punishment inflicted by the US and France was swift – a NATO bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed rebels charged with overthrowing his government.


*Structural adjustment describes a process by which the US-controlled IMF forces countries to privatize public utilities, cut public services and open third world economies to western investment as a condition of debt refinancing.

 

 

 

How to Have a Revolution

Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon (1961)

Free PDF:Wretched of the Earth

Book Review

Wretched of the Earth is a sociopolitical analysis of how revolution happens, based on the author’s personal experience in Algeria and his study of nationalist revolutions in sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, Latin America and Cuba.

Many Marxist scholars consider Fanon’s work to be the first major expansion of Marxist theory after Lenin. His primary contribution is to delineate the potential revolutionary forces of third world countries. His chief disagreement with Marx concerns the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat, the urban beggars, petty criminals, prostitutes and gang members who lack access to formal work. According to Fanon, the lumpenproletariat make up the majority of the population in third world countries (and increasingly, in 2017, the industrialized world)  thanks to first world colonizers who have driven them off their land.

Marx believed the lumpenproletariat were incapable of achieving class consciousness and thus of no use in the revolutionary struggle. In contrast, Fanon feels they help to instigate revolution owing to their high proportion of young people and their belief they had nothing to lose.

Unlike Marx, Fanon believes third world revolutionary struggles must originate with rural peasants (like the Chiapas uprising in Mexico), that city dwellers are too “colonized,” ie too invested in existing political and economic structures to want to dismantle them.

Wretched of the Earth also describes the phenomenon of economic colonialism, as manifested in Latin America (and later South Africa). In these cases, a country achieves political independence but continues to be economically (and militarily) oppressed by first world multinational corporations.

Fanon makes a number of recommendations for preventing this, including

  1. immediate nationalization and decentralization (via the creation of wholesale and retail cooperatives) of the economy
  2. mass political education aimed at enabling the masses to govern themselves,
  3. rapid economic restructuring aimed at developing soil and other natural resources for national use (as opposed to first world benefit),
  4. land reform to stem the migration of peasants to the city,
  5. guarding against feudal traditions that view men as superior to women, and
  6. avoiding the trap of political parties.

Frantz Fanon was born in 1925 of mixed heritage in Martinique. He fought with the French resistance during World War II and received a scholarship to study medicine and psychiatry in France. In 1953, he was offered a hospital position in Algeria, where he joined the Algerian National Liberation Front. He died of leukemia in 1961, shortly after the publication of Wretched of the Earth.

 

The Economic Recolonization of Africa

Land Rush – Why Poverty?

Directed by Hugo Berkeley and Osvalde Lewat (2012)

Film Review

Land Rush is the story of the recolonization of Africa by foreign interests (US, Britain, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia) and their collaboration with corrupt governments and tribal authorities to drive subsistence farmers and their families off their land. Their goal: to create massive for-profit industrial farms based on monoculture export crops.

Nearly 60% of remaining arable land is in Africa – the industrialized world has either paved theirs over or decimated their soils through factory farming.

The reason Africa is such an easy target is that only 10% of rural Africans own private title to the land they farm. The rest is traditionally viewed as a communally owned commons.

Lifting Africans Out of Poverty By Seizing Their Land

Land Rush specifically focuses on a US sugar baron seeking to create a giant sugar plantation and processing plant in rural Mali. His goal is to kick start industrialization in Mali and help “lift their people out of poverty.”

Prior to the 2008 economic downturn, the Mali government supported the food sovereignty movement and the right of rural farmers to access land to support their families. This has all changed now, with the government (illegally) selling off more than 30 million hectares of farmland to foreign investors in the last five years.

Farmers are told they must give up their land and either go to work for Sosumar (as sugar farmers) and accept a new plot of land elsewhere. The government’s violent mistreatment of farmers who refuse to leave their land makes them highly skeptical of these promises.

The Food Sovereignty Movement

The documentary also profiles a local organizer linked with the global food sovereignty movement. Informed by disastrous experiences elsewhere (Latin America, India and other parts of Asia) with the wholesale expulsion of subsistence farmers for corporate interests, Africa’s food sovereignty movement is growing by leaps and bounds.

The organizer explains that the constitution and laws of Mali recognize the basic right of food sovereignty, ie that countries have the right to produce their own food rather than depending on an unpredictable global market for their food needs. He maintains that Mali has strict guidelines about involuntary displacement – that the government’s contract with Sosumar is illegal, as was the prior handover of 30 million hectares to foreign corporations.

The film ends on a positive note, thanks to a March 2012 military coup that caused Sosumar to withdraw all their workers  from Mali and their CEO Mima Nedelcovych to target Nigeria as the new site for his sugar plantation.

Currency Wars: Zimbabwe Adopts the Chinese Yuan

Zim_map

According to the Guardian (and Al Jazeera, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Globe and Mail, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the New Zealand Herald), the US dollar took another major hit this week after Zimbabwe has made the Chinese yuan legal tender. According to minister of finance Patrick Chinamasa, the move comes after President Xi Jinping cancelled $40 million of Zimbabwean debt that comes due in 2015.

Zimbabwe abandoned its own dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation, which peaked at around 500 billion percent, made it unusable.

Following the demise of the Zimbabwean dollar, the country did business in various foreign currencies, including the US dollar, the South African rand and eventually the yuan. However up until now, most business was conducted in US dollars, and the yuan wasn’t approved for public transactions.

China is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner following Zimbabwe’s isolation by its former western trading partners over the country’s poor human rights record.

Deliberate Censorship

This story has been widely reported outside the US, but seems to have been blacked out in the US media. Reporting bad news at this time of year is too likely to disrupt the mindless consumption and debt accumulation expected of Americans over the holiday season.

In the corridors of power, there are deep concerns about the continued stability of the US dollar in the face of America’s decrepit manufacturing base and soaring deficits. Over the past decade, the Obama administration has been particularly concerned about growing Chinese investment in Africa. According to the Financial Times, China is the largest investor in African infrastructure, representing an estimated $13.4 billion in 2013.

Analysts across the political spectrum increasingly view Obama’s misguided foreign policy (his threats against Russian and China, his deranged Middle East military policy and his desperate attempt to ram the Transpacific Partnership* through Congress) as a desperate attempt to shore up the dollar against massive Chinese economic gains.

True to form, the Obama administration has addressed these concerns with military force, involving US troops in a series of African wars that they’re trying to conceal from the American public. See The War in Africa the US Military Won’t Admit It’s Fighting

 


*The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) is a so-called “trade agreement” seeking to isolate China from its Asian-Pacific trading partners – by deliberately excluding China from the treaty.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons