Tag Archives: History

Africa, Part II: Imperialists’ Profits Behind 5.4 Million Congo Deaths

“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.” (Karl Marx: “Capital,” Volume One, Chapter 31; Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist)

For over a century and a half the Congo has been ravaged by this bloody accumulation of capital. Belgium’s King Leopold became one of the world’s richest men by turning the Congo into his private fiefdom, murdering 10-15 million. The imperialists and local capitalists who took over after Congo’s independence from Belgium in 1960 have continued this genocide. Now a “peace deal” was signed to settle the fighting in the eastern Congo which has created 400,000 new refugees. (See CHALLENGE, 1/30) But since the causes of the conflict have not really changed, little can be expected from this latest truce.

According to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) latest report, (Reuters, 1/22), 5.4 millions people have been killed in the Congo since the war began in the region in 1998, causing more deaths than any other conflict since World War II. “Congo’s loss is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark or the state of Colorado perishing within a decade,” stated IRC president George Rupp.

The shootings between the warring factions have not been the main cause of these deaths. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by the war, were the Congo’s top killers, said the survey. “Most of the deaths are due to easily treatable and preventable diseases through the collapse of health systems and the disruption of livelihoods,” said IRC director of global health programs Richard Brennan, one of the survey’s authors. Congo has the lowest spending on health care of any country in the world, averaging just $15 per person annually.

The latest fighting before the January 22 truce came after Congo President Kabila met Condoleezza Rice in Ethiopia in September 2007. Rice also secured the support of the rulers of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. In November, Kabila was flown to Washington in the private plane of an Israeli mining magnate with interests in the Congo, to meet Bush. Then, with U.N. support, Kabila sent a large military force to fight rebel general Nkunda. But it was a disaster. The Congolese army was routed, forcing the government and its militia allies to reach a truce with the rebel forces.

The current fighting is labeled a “tribal conflict” between Tutsis and Hutus (continuing the one that led to the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi in the 1990s), but capitalist and imperialist thirst for profits are the real causes. General Nkunda is backed by Tutsi bosses and the Rwandan government who seek to control the mineral wealth of the Eastern Congo.

U.S., Canadian and European companies have monopolized the exploitation of diamonds, cobalt, gold, coltan and other mineral wealth in the region. They use local militias and bosses as subcontractors who impose slave-like conditions on those working in the mines. But now, China, India, Spain and even Russia are entering the operation, which is why the U.S. and European bosses want to ensure their lackeys are in control.

Huge oil deposits have been discovered in Lake Alberta, on the border between the Congo and Uganda. British Heritage Oil is now involved (its CEO has links to British military companies like Executive Outcomes and Sandline). Chinese and Spanish oil companies are now interested in exploring for oil there.

Besides Washington and Europe, Kabila is also being courted by China, which is giving his government $8 billion for infrastructure projects and mining operations. This will lead to Chinese companies’ control of several important copper and cobalt mines.
(Future articles: how imperialist and local bosses reap huge profits from gold and other resources while African workers starve and die.)

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PL History: Anti-Racists’ Multi-Racial Unity Defies Rulers’ Attacks

(Last issue’s article about the 1975 summer of struggle against racism in Boston recounted the rulers’ unsuccessful red-baiting campaign against the Committee Against Racism and the PLP, and the cops’ attempt to ban CAR — later known as INCAR, the International Committee Against Racism — from marching on City Hall with an anti-racist petition containing 35,000 signatures.)

Early in the morning of August 18 — the planned march date — INCAR members and their lawyers went to court to enjoin the ban. The judge bent over backwards to help the cops’ lawyers present their own case. But they had no case, even by the lopsided standards of capitalist “justice.”

The cops’ attorney was reduced to arguing that since the commissioner had already canceled the march, it was too late to assign enough police to manage it. This he argued despite the hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes cops stationed along the march’s route at that very moment, waiting to prevent it.

In a public courtroom, the judge faced the alternative between flagrantly denying the right to free speech and assembly, supposedly “guaranteed” by the U.S. Constitution, and restoring the permit for the sake of protecting the system’s democratic façade. This time, the mayor and cops had gone too far, even by their own standards. The judge regretfully revoked the ban, and 300 people marched. It was one of the summer’s highlights. Thousands of workers watched from the street and shouted friendly encouragement to the demonstrators.

One speaker, INCAR’s chairperson at the time, aroused a collective shout of militant anti-racist anger when he said: “We will turn ROAR into a mee-ow!” and then, pointing to Hicks, O’Neill, & Co., who were watching from their City Hall offices, led the demonstrators in collectively giving these fascists the finger.

After that march, most of the volunteers returned home to prepare for school openings. Some decided to remain in Boston to consolidate the gains made over the summer and to build both PLP and the anti-racist movement there. The project’s final action came on September 8, the opening day of the 1975-76 school year. A year earlier, at the start of the busing program, ROAR thugs had thrown rocks at busses carrying young black schoolchildren into South Boston, Charlestown, East Boston, etc., and had otherwise conducted a racist rampage throughout the city, under the benevolent gaze of Boston’s police. Having proven that the ROAR goons didn’t reflect the views of most Bostonian workers, INCAR and PLP were now intent on organizing a demonstration for multi-racial unity outside South Boston High School on opening day.

Two busloads carrying anti-racist black, white and Latino students and workers set out for “Southie” on the morning of the 8th. As the busses were crossing the bridge leading into South Boston, the cops pulled them over. A lieutenant named Bradley boarded and informed the anti-racists that they were all under arrest. “What for?” asked one of them, a final-year law student. “Well,” answered Bradley, “you’re not exactly creating a disturbance, but your presence could tend to create one.” The law student retorted: “There’s no such thing as ‘tending to create a disturbance.’ Your arrest is completely illegal.” “Don’t worry,” chuckled Bradley, “we’ll think of something.”

Before depositing the demonstrators in a South Boston jail, the cops made a point of handcuffing them so tightly that many lost circulation in their wrists. On the way to the jailhouse, the demonstrators were treated to a volley of racist vulgarities from the cops in the front of the vans transporting them. Once the demonstrators were behind bars, a cop at the jailhouse greeted them by saying, “Comes the revolution, we’ll kill every f—— one of you.” No one was intimidated, and spirits remained high.
After spending the day locked up, the demonstrators were transported in police vans back to the Park Street subway station in downtown Boston. The cops’ original plan had been to release them at dusk onto the South Boston streets, where they might have been easy prey for a cop-ROAR trap. At the request of a PLP member, who had spent a good part of the day befriending a public defender from behind bars, the lawyer agreed to accompany several shifts of demonstrators on the ride to Park Street. The thought was that with a public defender in the van as a witness, the cops wouldn’t dare try their usual brutalities. This estimate proved correct. The demonstrators held a short, defiant rally at Park Street.

The public defender’s courageous action had taught a valuable political lesson: sharp situations provide important opportunities to do the “right thing,” and given the proper encouragement, many people can be won to rise to the occasion.

BOSTON 75 proved that under determined communist leadership, a relatively small number of militant anti-racists can put the rulers, their state apparatus and their gutter racist henchmen on the defensive. This was one of the project’s important lessons. In the final installment, we will discuss others, including the crucial ones to learn from its weaknesses.

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PL History: Red-baiting, ROAR’s Rampage Can’t Stop Boston’s Anti-Racists

(Last issue’s article about the anti-racist struggle in Boston during the summer of 1975 recounted the battle of Carson Beach. PLP and the International Committee Against Racism (INCAR) once again successfully battled the segregationist thugs in ROAR and defeated a trap set by Boston’s cops, liberal politicians, the NAACP and an unholy alliance of nationalists and Trotskyists.)

The day after Carson Beach, rebellions erupted in several sections of Boston. Black workers and working-class youth, who had had their fill of racism and police terror, fought the cops with every weapon at their disposal. The cops responded by running amok in ghetto projects, breaking indiscriminately into homes and unleashing trained killer dogs on elderly people and children.

The rebellions were somewhat tainted with nationalism. A few black youths stoned cars carrying white passengers or otherwise attacked white people. Given the racist atrocities that had occurred every day in Boston for years, the absence until recently of a mass campaign against them and the rulers’ encouragement of nationalism, this mistake was not surprising. The bosses’ media portrayed the rebellion as “black mobs out to kill whitey.”

Meanwhile, ROAR escalated its fascist violence, conducting ferocious gang assaults against black workers several nights in a row. As usual, no ROAR members were arrested.

Some of the most serious physical and political attacks against BOSTON 75 took place during the week after the Carson Beach fight. The day after the beach incident, a small group of INCAR members were leaving a television studio interview, when about 40 ROAR thugs attacked with clubs and other weapons, including a machete. The thugs were led by Warren Zaniboni, a “South Boston Marshal,” whom Ted Kennedy would later dignify with an invitation to discuss busing. The anti-racists fought back valiantly. They made good their escape onto a city bus with the help of the white driver, who slammed the door in the fascists’ face and drove away. The INCAR members went to Boston City Hospital for treatment. While they were in the emergency room, the cops showed up with the ROAR goons and arrested the anti-racists for “assault with a dangerous weapon.”

Seeing that the combination of ROAR’s terror tactics and their own state power had still not succeeded in crushing the anti-racists, Boston’s rulers launched a political red-baiting campaign. Suffolk County District Attorney Byrne claimed that the violence at Carson Beach had been caused by “outside agitators,” who had come to Boston to start “racial disorders.” He named INCAR and PLP and said that 18 “special prosecutors” would work 24 hours a day to produce indictments in the case. Deputy Police Supt. John Doyle told the newspapers that INCAR members had thrown the first rocks at Carson Beach.

The lies went on and on.

However, the red-baiting proved a complete fiasco. The task force of “special prosecutors” vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, without producing a single prosecution. Boston’s workers didn’t fall for the red-baiting. The organized fascist forces failed to grow during the weeks after Carson Beach. Meanwhile, thousands of people throughout greater Boston continued to sign the INCAR petition.

BOSTON 75’s last major action was a demonstration planned for August 18th, when the volunteers intended to present INCAR’s petition, signed by 35,000 people, to a regularly-scheduled City Council meeting. CHALLENGE readers will remember that several Boston City Councilors proudly flaunted their ROAR membership.

Weeks earlier, INCAR had obtained a permit to march to City Hall. However, Mayor White and the cops had one more trick up their sleeves. Late on Friday afternoon, August 15th, three cops came to the INCAR office with a letter from the Traffic Commissioner revoking the permit for the Monday march. He offered no reason. The rulers obviously thought that this timing would prevent INCAR from organizing against the ban. The press announced that the march would not take place.

As usual, the bosses and their media mouthpieces had underestimated the resourcefulness and commitment of INCAR and PLP.

(Next: The August 18 march; INCAR and PLP prepare to demonstrate in South Boston on the first day of school.)

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