1965-75: The Decade that Nearly Dismantled Capitalism?

Global Revolt – Part 1 The Wave

DW (2018)

Film Review

This is a four-part documentary series, based on archival video footage, of a global uprising that took place between 1965-75. Although the uprising began with student protests opposing the Vietnam war, disgruntled workers and farmers joined in with students in France, Italy, Chile and Brazil and Japan. The main weakness of this series is the absence of a unifying thread. Although the historical film footage is superb, the scattershot approach and the misidentification of various Operation Gladio programs (as genuine leftist movements) makes it impossible for the viewer to draw any real conclusions.

Part 1 mainly focuses on the US anti-Vietnam War movement. However it also briefly examines the youth uprisings that occurred in the UK, Italy, Germany and Japan, as well as the first international conference of the Non-Aligned Movement* in Havana in 1963.

For me, the most interesting part of the film was the International War Crimes Tribunal Jean Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell organized in 1967 to investigate US war crimes in Vietnam.


*Operation Gladio is the code name for a CIA/NATO backed paramilitary network that carried out thousands of false flag terrorist operations in Cold War Europe. The goal of these operations was to justify repressive government legislation against grassroots anti-capitalist organizers. It was exposed in a 1992 BBC documentary:

**The Non-Aligned Movement is an organization of sovereign countries that refuse to ally themselves with or against any of the major power blocs (US, Russia, China).

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

Biological Warfare: The US Germ Warfare Attack on North Korea in 1952

Dirty Little Secrets

Al Jazeera (2010)

Film Review

Dirty Little Secrets is about an apparent biological warfare attack against North Korea in January 1952. The attack involved US bombardment of North Korean villages with canisters containing insects infected with typhoid, anthrax, plague and cholera. At least 30 witnesses report seeing insects crawling in the snow next to hollow bomb canisters. Following the attack, many North Koreans died of infectious illnesses that resembled plague and typhoid fever.

The US categorically denies the attack ever happened. North Korea, in turn, insists the US must acknowledge and apologize for this war crime before it agrees to nuclear disarmament.

The evidence compiled by an independent Japanese investigator is pretty damning:

  • Thirty-six US airmen who were shot down and captured, wrote detailed confessions admitting to their participation in the attacks. On their return to the US, they retracted the confessions after being threatened with court martial.
  • Declassified documents from the National Archives reveal the US shielded Shiro Ishii, the Japanese scientist who perfected this method of germ warfare, from war crimes charges after he agreed to sell his secrets to the US.
  • Other declassified documents reveal that in 1947 Fort Dietrick scientists expanded on Ishii’s work using flees and mosquitoes.
  • In 1951 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an order calling for testing germ war fare under “operational warfare.”
  • An independent international commission (including scientists from France, Italy, Brazil, Sweden, Russia and the UK) investigated after the Korean War ended and produced a 600 page report confirming the attack occurred.

The Telegraph also features an excellent article on the same topic from 2010: Did the US Wage Germ Warfare in Korea

 

Banned in Brazil

send-a-bullet

Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)

Directed by Jason Kohn (2007)

Film Review

Maori TV showed this 2007 documentary two nights ago – a timely choice in view of Brazilian legislative corruption that culminated in the illegal impeachment of democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff two months ago.

Send a Bullet is a horrifying account of class warfare, extreme wealth disparity and extreme violence in Sao Palo Brazil. The film has been banned in Brazil.

According to the filmmakers Sao Paulo, with a population of 20 million, experiences one kidnapping every single day. Ruthless outlaws routinely cut off ears and fingers to send with their ransom demands. The documentary profiles a Brazilian plastic surgeon who makes his living reattaching the severed ears of kidnap victims.

Because the government offers virtually no protection against kidnapping, wealthy Sao Paulo residents hire bodyguards, drive bullet proof cars and take special classes to protect themselves from kidnapping. Many rely on helicopters as the only safe method of transport.

The film also explores how organized crime has deeply infiltrated the Brazilian government, in large part because serving officials are exempt from prosecution in civilian courts.

Although the documentary is nine years old, a quick search of the Internet suggests that Brazil’s kidnapping epidemic persists unabated. In June gunmen kidnapped a New Zealand Jiu-Jitsu champion in the lead-up to the Olympics and in August the mother-in-law of the head of Formula One auto racing. Visitors to Brazil should consult the Globe Media website on the best way to protect themselves against kidnapping: Safety in Brazil

The only complete subtitled version of Send a Bullet I could find is at the Maori TV website: Send a Bullet

 

How 20th Century Missionaries Opened Up Latin America for Wall Street

the-missionaries

The Missionaries: God Against the Indians

By Norman Lewis

Penguin (1988)

Book Review

The Missionaries is a travelogue by British journalist Norman Lewis recounting his visits in the fifties, sixties and seventies to remote regions of Vietnam and Latin America. His purpose is highlighting the systematic genocide of indigenous tribes during this period and the role played by evangelical missionaries (with close CIA collaboration) in evicting native peoples from land US corporations sought to exploit it.

As a prologue, Lewis describes the English invasion and occupation of Tahiti in 1767. English missionaries spent seven fruitless years trying to voluntarily convert native Tahitians to Christianity. They eventually resorted to force, collaborating with colonial police to execute natives who refused to convert and outlaw cultural practices such as dancing, tattooing, surfing and wearing flowers. The usual sentence for engaging in such practices was hard labor on the roads.

Over the next 25 years, the British and French governments successfully colonized all the South Pacific islands and virtually extinguished all native culture.

The book fast forwards to World War II, when the invention of the caterpillar tractor allowed Europeans and Americans to finally penetrate inaccessible jungles in South East Asian and Latin America – enabling them to kill and displace even more indigenous populations.

Lewis focuses mainly on the two most powerful missionary organizations: the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the New Tribes Missions (NTM). Both assisted the CIA and their puppet dictators in displacing thousands of indigenous groups from the jungles of Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay. The evidence he lays out directly implicates these missionary groups in the slaughter (in some cases by aerial bombardment), enslavement and forced prostitution. In most cases, individual  missionaries had their own commercial stake in colonizing these regions (eg selling food to native populations following the destruction of their jungle habitat and hiring out their female children as domestic servants and prostitutes).

The callous attitude (towards the enslavement and extermination of their converts) of these so-called men of God is quite astonishing. They rationalize their actions based on the “inevitability” of native assimilation. If the transition to civilization kills most of them, so much the better. By baptizing them, the missionaries can ensure they go straight to Heaven.

Once Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama and Columbia ousted their US-sponsored military dictators, all five countries banned both the SIL and the NTM, which were ultimately denounced by both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) for violating the UN Genocide Convention.

People can read a more detailed account of the CIA/SIL collaboration to open up Latin America to US corporate interests in Thy Will Be Done the Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil

Untold History of the US – Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam

Part 7 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States concerns the Johnson and Nixon presidencies.

The Johnson Presidency

Johnson continued Kennedy’s glorious tradition of overthrowing foreign democratic governments. He openly admitted the military aggression he authorized wasn’t about fighting communism – but about fighting third world peoples for their resources. He saw no other way 6% of the world’s population could control 50% of its wealth.

  • In 1963 Johnson reversed Kennedy’s order to draw down US “military advisors” and introduced ground troops to Vietnam.
  • In 1964 he ordered US troops to overthrow the democratically elected government of Brazil.
  • In 1965 he invaded the Dominican Republic to crush a popular insurrection against a CIA-inspired right wing coup.
  • In 1966-67 he authorized a bloody CIA coup to oust President Sukarno in Indonesia and replace him with the right wing dictator Suharto.
  • In 1967, he ordered the CIA to (illegally) spy on anti-Vietnam War protestors through Operation Chaos.
  • In 1967, he fired Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara when he opposed escalating the bombing in Vietnam.

When a bipartisan group of elder statesman called for US troop withdrawal from Vietnam, Johnson decided to focus on Vietnam peace negotiations instead of running for a second term in 1968.

The Nixon Presidency

Robert Kennedy was the clear front runner in the 1968 election prior to his assassination in July 1968.

Despite basing his campaign on a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger (who secretly undermined the Paris peace negotiations to help Nixon win the elections) vastly expanded the war, which would last seven more years. More than half the GI deaths in Vietnam occurred under Nixon.

As president, Nixon made 13 separate threats to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Stone believes it was only the massive anti-war protests (which deeply unnerved Nixon) that prevented their use.

Nixon and Kissinger were also responsible for secretly and illegally bombing Cambodia and Laos, the 1973 coup that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected government, and Operation Condor, a secret dirty war against pro-democracy movements in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Part 7:  Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune – Cataclysm in Vietnam

The Psychological Trauma Inflicted by Predatory Capitalism

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Directed by Michael Winterbottom (2009)

Film Review

Based on Naomi Klein’s best-selling book by the same name, this documentary explores predatory capitalism’s use of psychological trauma to crush human rights and forcibly transfer vast sums of money  from the poor to the rich.

Like the book, the documentary begins with Dr Ewan Cameron’s CIA-funded research at McGill University into the long term  effects of shock therapy, sleep deprivation and other deliberately inflicted trauma. The Agency would incorporate Cameron’s findings in their Kubark counterintelligence interrogation (ie torture) manual. They went on to use Kubark to train fascist South American military officers at the School of the Americas and to interrogate random prisoners (the vast majority were never charged) at Guantanamo and Iraqi prisons.

The film also explores the “economic shock therapy” developed by the late University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman. Friedman was a master at exploiting natural and contrived disasters to impose the kind of extreme free market reforms that crush unions and wages, shut down or privatize public services and create massive unemployment – while simultaneously transferring obscene amounts of wealth from the working and middle classes to the rich.

Friedman and his cronies seized the opportunity to put their predatory theories into practice when the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected governments in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina; during the neoconservative regimes of Thatcher and Reagan; in Russia after the Berlin Wall collapsed; in New Orleans after Katrina; in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami; and in Iraq after 9/11.

The Global Movement for Participatory Democracy

Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas

Directed by Silvia Leindecker and Michael Fox

Film Review

Beyond Elections is about the global participatory democracy (aka direct or deliberative democracy) movement – the grassroots effort to replace so-called representative democracy (aka polyarchy*) with a process in which citizens participate directly in policy decisions that affect their lives. Historically participatory democracy began in ancient Athens, where people governed directly through large public assemblies (unfortunately assemblies were limited to free born men, who comprised only one-fifth of the population).

According to the filmmakers, participatory democracy died out until 1989, when the Brazilian Workers Party resurrected it in Porto Allegre Brazil by creating participatory budget assemblies. In my view, this isn’t strictly correct, as the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, who the Marxists expelled from the First International** , advocated for a system of participatory democracy called “collective anarchism.” Workers used participatory democracy to run the 1871 Paris Commune, as did numerous Spanish cities during the Spanish Civil War.

The Spread of Participatory Democracy

The documentary explores how this new style of local government spread throughout Brazil and to other Latin American countries, as well as to Europe, Africa and even parts of Canada (Guelph Ontario and parts of Montreal). A few US activists are campaigning for more American communities to adopt participatory democracy (several are described in the 2012 book Slow Democracy), but most Americans have never heard of it. The only aspect of participatory democracy widely adopted in the US are workers cooperatives.

Beyond Elections presents numerous examples of participatory democracies in the various Latin American countries that have implemented it. Under representative democracy, local councils are nearly always controlled by local business interests, and elected officials typically enact budgets that benefit these interests. When ordinary people control the budgeting processes through popular assemblies, they spend the money on programs benefiting the entire community, eg on clean safe housing, health centers and basic sanitation.

The Venezuelan Example

Following Hugo Chavez’s election in 1998, the Venezuelan government called a constitutional assembly to write a new constitution. The latter enabled Venezuelans to directly govern their communities through communal councils, as well as water committees, workers committees (to set up and run workers cooperatives), health committees and land committees (to implement land reform and set up farmers cooperatives).

The projects carried out by the communal councils and various committee were funded by grants from the central government. Despite endemic corruption in the Venezuelan bureaucracy, these new grassroots-run structures succeeded in bringing health care, decent housing and basic sanitation to Venezuelan slums for the very first time.

The film also examines the adoption of participatory democracy in Bolivia, Ecuador and parts of Mexico controlled by the Zapatistas.

The film is in 16 parts of roughly 5 minutes. Each successive segment starts automatically as the preceding segment finishes.


*In a polyarchy, power is closely guarded by a wealthy elite and the population remains passive except for periodic “free elections” in which they vote for the elites of their choice. When a tiny minority controls nearly all the wealth, “free elections” are only possible if the majority is systematically controlled with psychological propaganda. See Emancipate Yourself from Mental Slavery
**The First International Working Man’s Association was an international organization which aimed at uniting a variety of different left-wing socialist, communist[1] and anarchist political groups and trade union organizations that were based on the working class and class struggle.

Latin America: Wall Street’s Worse Nightmare

Eyes Wide Open: A Journey Through Today’s South America

Pascal Dupont (2009)

Spanish with English subtitles

Film Review

Eyes Wide Open was intended as a sequel to the late (deceased April 13, 2015) Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. It was Galeano’s book that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez presented to newly elected president Barack Obama in 2009. According to Galeano, the entire history of Latin American is based on the stripping of the continent’s resources by Europe and the US. It started with gold and silver, followed by tin, copper, rubber, sugar, salt peter, cocoa, coffee, guano and bananas. This grotesque asset stripping was accomplished mainly through the brutal suppression and exploitation of its (majority) indigenous population.

Eyes Wide Open mainly concerns Latin America’s rejection of US neoliberalism and neo-colonialism, with the recent election of “leftist” leaders in eight countries (Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). The filmmakers visit four of them (Brazil, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador), to ascertain whether their new presidents have kept their promise to bring about true economic democracy. Interviews with grassroots leaders are interspersed with with a variety of media footage and commentary by Galeano.

The documentary also discusses the Bolivarian Alliance of the America’s the eight countries formed and its defeat, in 2005, of the Free Trade of the Americas treaty George W Bush tried to foist on them.

Lula Sells Out to Cargill

The filmmakers are highly critical of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) for reneging on his promise to redistribute elite land holdings to landless peasants. Instead he sold out to the giant agrobusiness Cargill, authorizing generous government subsidies to help them establish vast GMO soy plantations in Brazil’s Amazon basin.

Evo Nationalizes Bolivia’s Oil and Gas Industry

Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales, who came to power in 2006 as a direct result of Bolivia’s water wars,* has a far better track record. The documentary details his decision to nationalize Bolivia’s oil and gas industry and use the income to fund government pensions for the elderly, free education and safer working conditions for Bolivian tin miners. Evo also re-nationalized the tin mines, which had been privatized, and rehired all the miners who had been laid off.

Multinational oil companies (mainly Exxon, Shell and Total) owned 60% of Bolivia’s fossil fuel industry, and the US ambassador (ie CIA) colluded with the Bolivian opposition to block Evo’s land reforms in the rich eastern provinces. In 2008, provincial police gunned down a peaceful peasant protest demanding the land they had been promised. Evo responded by expelling the US ambassador.

Bureaucracy and Corruption in Venezuela

The segment on Venezuela begins with the massive popular protest that defeated the attempted US coup against Chavez in 2002. It also includes a lengthy segment on Chavez’s housing reforms, profiling one of the female housing activists he put in charge of overseeing the replacement of a barrio full of tin shacks with a modern apartment complex.

Venezuela’s land reform efforts weren’t nearly as successful as Bolivia’s, which filmmakers blame on bureaucracy and corruption within the Chavez government.

Constituent Assembly Writes New Constitution in Ecuador

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa is presented in a much more favorable light. Eyes Wide Open focuses mainly on his decision to call a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. The latter would recognize, for the first time, the multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural basis of Ecuadorean society. This new constitution would also be the first in the world to recognize the rights of nature.


*Bolivia’s water wars were a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1999-2000, over the privatization (resulting in massive price hikes) of the city’s municipal water supply. In 2003-2005, similar protests broke out over the privatization of Bolivia’s natural gas supply. The protests eventually led President Sánchez de Lozada to step down and flee to Miami.

How Radical Architects are Transforming the Planet

Radical Architecture

Al Jazeera (2014)

Film Review

Rebel Architecture is a six-part Al Jazeera documentary series about architects who are using their skills to serve the public good rather than wealthy corporations.

Part 1 is about a Spanish architects collective that works with activist collectives loosely connected with Spain’s anti-austerity movement. Thanks to the Spanish government’s severe austerity measures and public service cuts, activist collectives have assumed major responsibility for social welfare. Occupation of public and abandoned spaces is a key tactic. The role of the architects collective is to help activists construct safe buildings in these spaces from cheap and recycled materials. In most cases the structures are unpermitted and technically illegal.

Part 2 is about Pakistan’s first woman architect and her role in helping poor Pakistani communities devastated by floods and earthquakes to rebuild flood and earthquake proof homes as cheaply as possible. Unsurprisingly she discovered that traditional building materials, such as mud bricks, lime and bamboo, are a key to the solution.

Part 3 is about an Israeli architect in the West Bank who studies the “intersection” between architecture and violence. He gives a fascinating presentation describing how the Israeli government uses architecture as a weapon against the Palestinians. This includes the deliberate layout of Israeli settlements in such a way that they strangulate Palestinian communities. And the deliberate use of bulldozers in dense urban communities as an instrument of war.

Part 4 is about Nigerian architect and urbanist Kunle Adeyemi, who works with illegal floating communities to design and build (unpermitted) floating schools and community centers.

Part 5 is about the Vietnamese architect Va Tron Nghia, who has dedicated his life to creating more green spaces in Ho Chi Minh city and building cheap durable homes for peasant farmers in the Mekong Delta. Owing to recurrent flooding, typical Delta homes last only three to four years. The film shows Nghia and local residents building a $4,000 bamboo house for a family of four.

Part 6 (my favorite) is about a pedreiro (Portuguese for stone mason) in Rocinha, the largest favella in South America – located in Rio De Janeiro. All the housing in Rocinha, population 180,000, is unpermitted and illegal. The Brazilian government turns a blind eye to all this illegal building because they need the cheap labor and have no resources to build public housing. This last segment shows how Rocinha residents organized to demand a sewage system to replace the open sewer in their streets. Instead the Brazilian government built a cable car for the benefit of tourists attending the 2014 Brazilian World Cup and the 2016 Brazilian Olympics. It was largely angry Rocinha residents who instigated the mass protests before and during the World Cup. Though the protests were widely reported in the corporate media, there was no mention of Rocinha residents’ ongoing struggle to remove the sewer of human excrement from their streets.