Monthly Archives: March 2017

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Universal Health Care is the best!! Some Reflections

 

Universal health care?

Why can’t Americans insist that the United States should finally and profoundly have a national single payer health care program that would be for everyone? We have it with Medicare for the elders, we have a similar health care program for the veterans, so why not have a similar program for everyone in America regardless of income? If Trump wants to make America great, I find it hard to think of a better way to do this than through the implementation of a single payer universal health care system for all Americans.

In the 1970s I lived in Singapore and can certainly attest to its excellent healthcare system.  I also lived in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s and was also impressed with its national healthcare program. My Canadian relatives will not stay long out of Canada because of Canada’s universal healthcare system.

My son was born in Australia and there were automatic/established programs available after his birth to make sure he stayed healthy. “Good health” was a priority for the Australians under its national health care program so that, as much as possible, there would be no or fewer problems in the future. I admit I was surprised at this. You felt “cared” for and were “cared” for. All this is yet another way to prevent health problems in the future. It is yet another savings in terms of national health because fewer people become sick if, on a consistent basis, there is the infrastructure in place to both serve people and educate them about life saving health care strategies and healthy diets. You immediately know that you are not alone but part of a collective that cares for you and everyone else as well.

While organized differently, Singapore, Australia and Canada all have national health care programs. Friends of mine who were formerly American citizens, and who had moved to Australia in the 1960s, visited the United States in the 1990s.  While in the states one of them got sick and was in the hospital briefly, and then was handed a bill for $50,000. They immediately high-tailed it back to Australia and it’s universal health care system where you don’t go bankrupt if you get sick.

In a National Single Payer Health Care Program you save money because it is in the interest of the government to have “healthy” citizens so that the government can, in fact, save money. The government is not a private “capitalist” entity so its interest is not profit driven as is true in a privatized/capitalist driven programs. In the publicly funded health care system, programs are generally established to help people and their families stay healthy throughout their lives through diet, appropriate inoculations, periodic visits with health professionals etc. As mentioned, this saves the government money in the long run. Everybody wins under the circumstances and that’s a good thing.
According to the World Health Organization out of all the countries mentioned above (U.S., Australia, Singapore, Canada) and including the United Kingdom as well, that I refer to below, the United States has the lowest life expectancy and the highest health expenditures per GDP. I need to say also that the U.S. has the largest population. Below are some statistics:
 
The best of them was Singapore with a population of 5,604,000; m/f life expectancy 80/86 (2015); with total expenditure on health as % of GDP being 4.9 (2014).
 
Australia comes in a close second with a population of 23,969,000 (2015); male/female (m/f) life expectancy 81/85 (2015); with total expenditure on health as % of GDP being 9.4 (2014).
 
Canada comes in third with a population of 35,940,000 (2015); m/f life expectancy 80/84 (2015); with total expenditure on health as % of GDP being 10.4 (2014).
 
The United Kingdom comes in fourth with a population of 64,716,000 (2015); m/f life expectancy 79/83 (2015); with total expenditure on health as % of GDP being 9.1 (2014).
 
The U.S. had the worst statistics, yet it also has the largest population of them all – 321,774,000 (2015 ) – but the U.S. life expectancy for males and females (m/f) was 77/82 (2015); with total expenditure on health as % of GDP being 17% (2014).

Privatized Health Care? It is comparable to the “Military Industrial Complex” and the “Prison Industrial Complex” and is called the “Health Care Corporatized Complex”

It is thought that the reason American health care has exceptionally low ratings overall is because it is privatized. Human beings become commodified in a privatized health system, which is comparable to prisoners who become commodified in a privatized prison system. The more patients or prisoners you have the more money you make.  In a privatized system human beings, as patients, are essentially a “product” for someone else’s gain. This is a qualitative difference. Rather than human beings simply and profoundly seeking health care and having those who treat us as caring individuals or caring for the other, we as patients are more often used instead as part of a vicious cycle to enhance the income of, for example, a CEO of an insurance company or pharmaceutical company.

I frankly think this privatized concept and practice is decadent and should be rejected by Americans.

It was Eisenhower who warned us of the “military industrial complex”. A privatized military system is supported by the government subsidies, which is what we have in America. Whenever there is a conflict anywhere in the world, I am convinced the American military contractor CEOs, or let’s say those at Boeing, for example, open a bottle of champagne in their board rooms because they know they can get more money from the U.S. government and develop and sell more weapons. They are a capitalist company. They exist to make profits and they these profits it through war and conflicts rather than through peace. A peaceful world is not their priority.

So too with the Prison Industrial Complex. The more crime in America the more inmates they imprison and the more subsidies they receive. Is a crime-infested America their desire? Probably so, as it’s how they make their money.

So, too, with a privatized health care system. As Eisenhower warned us about the “Military Industrial Complex”, we should also be warned about the “Health Care Corporatized Complex,” which is also subsidized by the U.S. government at our expense. Is an unhealthy America in their interest? I am not sure, but an unhealthy America is how they make their money. We should all be circumspect!

Researching Medical Students, Physician Income, and Ted Kennedy’s “Medicare for All”

In the 1970s, I was engaged in research for Emory University in Atlanta and interviewed all the freshman medical students at Emory as well as a sampling of the freshman medical students at the University of Georgia.

At the time I did this research there were significant debates in Congress and around the country about possibly implementing a “Universal Health Care System” in the United States. Senator Ted Kennedy was a huge supporter of the program. Kennedy wanted “Medicare” for all. Unfortunately, this did not become a reality. Nevertheless, virtually all the students I talked with thought that by the time they finished medical school they would be working under a universal health care system. Here is some compelling information about Kennedy’s Bill – the official summary:

Medicare for All Act – Amends the Social Security Act to add a new title XXII (Medicare for All) under which: (1) each eligible individual is entitled to benefits which include the full range and scope of benefits available under the original fee-for-service program under parts A (Hospital Insurance) and B (Supplementary Medical Insurance) of title XVIII (Medicare), with parity in coverage of mental health benefits, subject to appropriate cost sharing; (2) each enrollee is free to choose his or her own doctor and private health plan; and (3) benefits are not less than the benefits offered to Members of Congress and Federal employees under FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program).

Establishes the Medicare for All Trust Fund.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to impose: (1) on the income of every individual a tax equal to 1.7% of wages received; (2) on every employer an excise tax equal to 7% of the wages paid to each employee; and (3) on the self-employment income of every individual, a tax equal to the applicable percentage of the self-employment income for such taxable year. (Daily Kos)

I also found, when studying the subject of universal health care, that in Britain, for example, under its universal health care system, the British physicians were largely considered superior to those we have in the United States. The reason, I was told, is because British physicians go into medicine not for financial gain but because they are interested in assisting and caring for people. Their motivations were, then, significantly and qualitatively different.

I know there are many compassionate and/or caring physicians in America as well because I’ve talked with them and have been treated by them, but what I found when doing my research of medical students in the 1970s was not encouraging. I assumed my findings had to do with young students living in a “market driven” economy rather than one that is primarily concerned about the humanity and the well being of the other.

I found in my research that many of the young medical students I interviewed seemed more interested in the money they could make from medicine than in a sentiment of concern for the other. I naively thought, when starting this research, that their sentiments would not be so crass. In fact, many of them had parents who were in medicine, who made a lot of money in their medical practice, and these students obviously wanted the same.

All that being said, physicians virtually anywhere in the world make a significant amount of money whether in the market driven or national health care system. So it is generally other entities within the market driven privatized health care system that jack up the costs, like insurance and big pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, below is a chart about the world’s physician incomes from 2008, with US physicians making the most compared to all other countries, and with American orthopedic surgeons making the most altogether. In a privatized system, the physicians have other financial concerns as well – such as insurance, infrastructure costs etc. – that would not be as predominant a need in a publicly run and controlled health care system.

Corporations Raking in the Money in a Privatized Health Care System

Further, as mentioned, in a privatized health care system, in addition to physicians, American corporations and their CEO’s are making huge profits. As Consumer Affairs notes: “Health insurance industry rakes in billions while blaming Obamacare for losses: Major insurance companies are enjoying record profits but claim they are losing money under the Affordable Care Act.”

UnitedHealth is but one example:

Consider UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer that is leaving the marketplace next year. UnitedHealth claims that Obamacare has reduced its 2016 earnings by $850 million. While they might have $850 million less than they wanted, UntedHealth’s profits are still soaring.

In fact, UnitedHealth announced record-breaking profits in 2015, followed by an even better year this year. In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totalling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year.  And company filings show that UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year, in 2014, Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation. (Consumer Affairs)

Summary

The “sweaty little hand of corporate greed?” It should have no role in controlling our health care. Privatized? To me, there are a few areas in our life that are far too important to be controlled by corporate America and they are, for example, health care, education, prisons, military and agriculture. I am sure there are more!

Regardless of what Trump and his buddies come up with, which will likely be an on-going privatized system, it appears that we should all go back to the drawing board and develop a health care plan that would be good for all of us.

Let’s have, as Ted Kennedy and others recommended, a Medicare System for us all!

____

Regarding a “National Health Care” system I want to also share below the March 9, 2017 open letter to Donald Trump from the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).

PNHP’s open letter to President Trump

An Open Letter To Trump:
The GOP Health Plan Won’t Work,
Replace ACA With Single Payer

 

KEVIN LAMARQUE _ REUTERS

The Huffington Post, March 9, 2017
(PNHP

Dear Mr. President,

You vowed to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with something great that would provide Americans with universal coverage and lower deductibles and copayments. As leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonpartisan organization of 20,000 physicians and medical students, and as a business leader who desires fundamental health reform, we request an opportunity to meet with you to explain why single-payer, Medicare for all, is a great solution that will meet your stated goals.

Health care reform is urgently needed. Seven years after the passage of the ACA, 26 million Americans remain uninsured, tens of millions more are underinsured, and health care costs – already twice as high as the average of other wealthy nations – continue to rise. In a recent survey, Americans were more likely to report financial barriers to health care than citizens of any of the 11 other nations surveyed. One-third of Americans, including 43 percent of low-income persons, went without health care due to cost last year.

Unfortunately, “The American Health Care Act” (AHCA) would be a big step in the wrong direction. The bill would shrink Medicaid benefits for millions of poor and low-income families. It would sharply reduce the value of government subsidies, leaving millions of near poor and middle income Americans unable to afford coverage, and shifting millions of others to the kind of bare bones plans that you have decried. Meanwhile, it would give hundreds of billions of dollars of tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, and reward insurance firms that pay outrageously high executive salaries.

In sum, this legislation will degrade already inadequate coverage, increasing financial barriers to care and endangering tens of thousands of lives, merely to reduce taxes on rich individuals and corporations.

The working people of America are looking to you for something better.

In contrast, a single-payer system, essentially an expanded and upgraded version of traditional Medicare, could meet your stated goals of more coverage, better benefits and lower costs. Such reform would drastically cut insurance overhead and the paperwork insurers inflict on doctors and hospitals, saving more than $500 billion annually. Those savings would cover the cost of universal, first-dollar coverage – including dental services and long-term care – upgrading coverage for the vast majority of Americans.

And a single-payer reform would allow the U.S. to use proven-effective tools to control costs. Instead of disrupting the delivery of care by shoehorning every doctor and hospital into a gigantic corporation, it would support practices and hospitals of all sizes with negotiated fees and global budgets. Negotiating prices with drug firms as other countries do would save another $150 billion annually. Controlling costs is the only way to make our health care system sustainable for future generations.

Single payer would lift the burden of health benefit costs from employers, making U.S. business more competitive. Richard Master, a business owner in Pennsylvania, produced the film “Fix It” to explain the benefits of single payer to business. Adopting a single-payer system would help keep jobs in the U.S.

Legislation for “improved Medicare for all,” H.R. 676, was introduced in the Congress last month by Rep. John Conyers. Polls have shown that 58 percent of Americans favor replacing the ACA with a single-payer system, as do 59 percent of physicians, 81 percent of Democrats, and a rapidly growing share of Republicans.

Single payer has proven effective in countries around the world, as evidenced by experience in Canada and Scotland, which spend far less than we do, cover everyone, and provide care free at the point of delivery. Tommy Douglas, the founder of Canada’s system, is ranked the most popular figure in that nation’s history, and Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted a huge following with his support for single payer, Medicare for all in his run for the Democratic primary.

PNHP has, from the outset, been strongly critical of the ACA’s failure to solve our nation’s health care crisis. The AHCA would divert us even further from the goal of solving that crisis and tarnish your legacy. Single-payer reform is the only solution.

Sincerely,

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., Co-founder PNHP

David Himmelstein, M.D., Co-founder, PNHP
Carol Paris, M.D., President, PNHP
Don McCanne, M.D., Senior Health Policy Fellow, PNHP
Adam Gaffney, M.D., Board member, PNHP
Janine Petito, Medical student board member, PNHP
Richard Master, Chairman & CEO, MCS Industries, Inc.

Universal Health Care is the best!! Some reflections

 

March 13, 2017

Justice Initiative International

Universal health care? In the 1970s I lived in Singapore and can certainly attest to its excellent healthcare system.  I also lived in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s and was so impressed with its national healthcare program as well. My Canadian relatives will not stay long out of Canada because of Canada’s universal healthcare system. While organized differently, Singapore, Australia and Canada all have national health care programs. Friends of mine who were former American citizens and who had moved to Australia in the 1960s visited the United States in the 1990s. While in the states one of them got sick, was in the hospital briefly and was handed a bill for $50,000. They immediately high-tailed it hack to Australia and it’s universal health care system where you don’t go bankrupt if you get sick.

It is thought that the reason American health care has exceptionally low ratings overall is because it is privatized. Human beings become commodified in a privatized health system like prisoners become commodified in a privatized prison system. This, rather than human beings simply and profoundly seeking medical care. In a privatized system human beings are essentially a “product” for someone else’s gain. This is a qualitative difference.

In the 1970s, I was engaged in research for Emory University in Atlanta and interviewed all the freshman medical students at Emory as well as a sampling of the freshman medical students at the University of Georgia.

At the time I did this research there were significant debates in Congress and around the country about possibly implementing a “Universal Health Care System” in the United States. Senator Ted Kennedy was a huge supporter of the program. Kennedy wanted “Medicare” for all. Unfortunately, this did not become a reality. Nevertheless, virtually all the students I talked with thought that by the time they finished medical school they would be working under a universal health care system. Here is some compelling information about Kennedy’s Bill – the official summary:

Medicare for All Act – Amends the Social Security Act to add a new title XXII (Medicare for All) under which: (1) each eligible individual is entitled to benefits which include the full range and scope of benefits available under the original fee-for-service program under parts A (Hospital Insurance) and B (Supplementary Medical Insurance) of title XVIII (Medicare), with parity in coverage of mental health benefits, subject to appropriate cost sharing; (2) each enrollee is free to choose his or her own doctor and private health plan; and (3) benefits are not less than the benefits offered to Members of Congress and Federal employees under FEHBP (Federal Employees Health Benefits Program).  

Establishes the Medicare for All Trust Fund.

Amends the Internal Revenue Code to impose: (1) on the income of every individual a tax equal to 1.7% of wages received; (2) on every employer an excise tax equal to 7% of the wages paid to each employee; and (3) on the self-employment income of every individual, a tax equal to the applicable percentage of the self-employment income for such taxable year. (Daily Kos)

I also found, when studying the subject of universal health care, that in Britain, for example, under its universal health care system, the British physicians were largely considered superior to those we have in the United States. The reason, I was told, is because British physicians go into medicine not for financial gain but because they are interested in assisting and caring for people. Their motivations were, then, significantly different.

I did find in my own research that many of the young medical students I interviewed seemed more interested in the money they could make from medicine than in a sentiment of compassion or concern for the other. I naively thought when starting this research that their sentiments would not be so crass. In fact, many of them had parents who were in medicine, who made a lot of money in medical practice, and these students obviously wanted the same.

All that being said, physicians virtually anywhere in the world make, compared to others, a significant amount of money. Below is a chart about incomes from 2008, with US physicians making the most compared to all other countries and with American orthopedic surgeons making the most. In a privatized system, the physicians have others financial concerns (insurance, etc.) as well that would not be as predominant in a publicly run and controlled health care system.

Further, in a privatized health care system, American corporations and their CEO’s are making huge profits. As Consumer Affairs notes: “Health insurance industry rakes in billions while blaming Obamacare for losses: Major insurance companies are enjoying record profits but claim they are losing money under the Affordable Care Act.”

UnitedHealth is but one example:

Consider UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer that is leaving the marketplace next year. UnitedHealth claims that Obamacare has reduced its 2016 earnings by $850 million. While they might have $850 million less than they wanted, UntedHealth’s profits are still soaring.

In fact, UnitedHealth announced record-breaking profits in 2015, followed by an even better year this year. In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totalling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year.  And company filings show that UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year, in 2014, Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation. (Consumer Affairs)

The “sweaty little hand of corporate greed?” It should have no role in controlling our health care.

Regardless of what Trump and his buddies come up with, which will essentially be an on-going privatized system, it appears that we should all go back to the drawing board and develop a health care plan that would be good for all of us regardless of income.

Let’s have, as Ted Kennedy and others recommended, a Medicare System for all of us.

Regarding a “National Health Care” system I want to also share below the March 9, 2017 open letter to Donald Trump from the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP).

PNHP’s open letter to President Trump

An Open Letter To Trump:
The GOP Health Plan Won’t Work,
Replace ACA With Single Payer

 

KEVIN LAMARQUE _ REUTERS

The Huffington Post, March 9, 2017
(PNHP

Dear Mr. President,

You vowed to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with something great that would provide Americans with universal coverage and lower deductibles and copayments. As leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a nonpartisan organization of 20,000 physicians and medical students, and as a business leader who desires fundamental health reform, we request an opportunity to meet with you to explain why single-payer, Medicare for all, is a great solution that will meet your stated goals.

Health care reform is urgently needed. Seven years after the passage of the ACA, 26 million Americans remain uninsured, tens of millions more are underinsured, and health care costs – already twice as high as the average of other wealthy nations – continue to rise. In a recent survey, Americans were more likely to report financial barriers to health care than citizens of any of the 11 other nations surveyed. One-third of Americans, including 43 percent of low-income persons, went without health care due to cost last year.

Unfortunately, “The American Health Care Act” (AHCA) would be a big step in the wrong direction. The bill would shrink Medicaid benefits for millions of poor and low-income families. It would sharply reduce the value of government subsidies, leaving millions of near poor and middle income Americans unable to afford coverage, and shifting millions of others to the kind of bare bones plans that you have decried.

Meanwhile, it would give hundreds of billions of dollars of tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, and reward insurance firms that pay outrageously high executive salaries.

In sum, this legislation will degrade already inadequate coverage, increasing financial barriers to care and endangering tens of thousands of lives, merely to reduce taxes on rich individuals and corporations.

The working people of America are looking to you for something better.

In contrast, a single-payer system, essentially an expanded and upgraded version of traditional Medicare, could meet your stated goals of more coverage, better benefits and lower costs. Such reform would drastically cut insurance overhead and the paperwork insurers inflict on doctors and hospitals, saving more than $500 billion annually. Those savings would cover the cost of universal, first-dollar coverage – including dental services and long-term care – upgrading coverage for the vast majority of Americans.

And a single-payer reform would allow the U.S. to use proven-effective tools to control costs. Instead of disrupting the delivery of care by shoehorning every doctor and hospital into a gigantic corporation, it would support practices and hospitals of all sizes with negotiated fees and global budgets. Negotiating prices with drug firms as other countries do would save another $150 billion annually. Controlling costs is the only way to make our health care system sustainable for future generations.

Single payer would lift the burden of health benefit costs from employers, making U.S. business more competitive. Richard Master, a business owner in Pennsylvania, produced the film “Fix It” to explain the benefits of single payer to business. Adopting a single-payer system would help keep jobs in the U.S.

Legislation for “improved Medicare for all,” H.R. 676, was introduced in the Congress last month by Rep. John Conyers. Polls have shown that 58 percent of Americans favor replacing the ACA with a single-payer system, as do 59 percent of physicians, 81 percent of Democrats, and a rapidly growing share of Republicans.

Single payer has proven effective in countries around the world, as evidenced by experience in Canada and Scotland, which spend far less than we do, cover everyone, and provide care free at the point of delivery. Tommy Douglas, the founder of Canada’s system, is ranked the most popular figure in that nation’s history, and Sen. Bernie Sanders attracted a huge following with his support for single payer, Medicare for all in his run for the Democratic primary.PNHP has, from the outset, been strongly critical of the ACA’s failure to solve our nation’s health care crisis. The AHCA would divert us even further from the goal of solving that crisis and tarnish your legacy. Single-payer reform is the only solution. Sincerely,

Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., Co-founder PNH
David Himmelstein, M.D., Co-founder, PNHP
Carol Paris, M.D., President, PNHP
Don McCanne, M.D., Senior Health Policy Fellow, PNHP
Adam Gaffney, M.D., Board member, PNHP
Janine Petito, Medical student board member, PNHP
Richard Master, Chairman & CEO, MCS Industries, Inc.

Trump Wants to Rid the World of White Folks?

By Heather Gray
March 15, 2017
Justice Initiative International

So Trump wants to rid the world of white folks? That appears to be the case. I am sure that seems a nonsensical statement to many of you given Trump’s politics and sentiments. And yes, this has to do with Trump and his alienation toward “climate change” and the impact this will likely have on whites folks throughout the world now and in the future.Think for a moment of “white” history, and maybe Trump has done this as well, although I doubt it. Could it be that he wants to get rid of whites because of our sad and tragic behavior throughout history?

In fact, more than any other group in the world, it is those of us who are of white European descent that have been responsible for massive genocide throughout the world; slavery and the arrogance of colonialism coupled with huge exploitation of resources; of the Christian/Catholic devastation through the likes of 1493 “Doctrine of Discovery” that justified genocide and expropriation of land and continues to resonate; the use of nuclear weapons, unnecessary and tragic wars; etc., etc.

And now Trump is continuing this “white” disrespectful and dangerous legacy by attempting to trash all countless regulations and protections of the environment that we in America have tried for years to implement.

I am also of white European descent and admit forthrightly that there is no other group in the world that has been as violent and destructive as us! Thankfully, historically there have always been those “whites” who have been appalled at our behavior but today there are considerably more whites who recognize this fact and openly acknowledge it. That’s a good thing.In fact, there are many who say that the organizing against Trump in America is largely a “white against white” struggle and they are probably right.

To add to this, given changing demographics, birth rates and the like, it is also estimated that by 2050, whites in America will be in the minority (Bloomberg). I am prematurely speculating that it is possible that climate change could very well accelerate this trend.What Trump espouses in his policies will, in fact, ultimately and dramatically impact whites, in particular, throughout the entire world. This includes as well the harm of everyone regardless of color who will also suffer due to the likely impact of his misguided and ill-informed climate and other policies.

Why is this the case?

Trump and his cabinet along with many of his buddies in Congress state, for one, that they don’t believe scientists who report consistently that climate change is largely caused by human activity. As a result, we are hearing that Trump wants to rid the government of regulations against pollution and protection of our Mother Earth. This would include loss of protection of waterways, the air we breathe, the loss and exploitation of what are already limited resources, etc.

Plus, Trump prefers to NOT participate in international climate protection initiatives.

Yet, we are also learning that the world’s climate is interconnected. So that what happens in the United States, in terms of air pollution, will spread eastward toward Europe. What happens in China will spread eastward toward the U.S. that blends with an already excessively polluted United States.

The international initiatives on climate change and earth protection are incredibly important and necessary.

As “Living on Earth” reports in the interview with Oregon State Chemistry Professor Staci Simonich, we are now seeing the impact of Chinese air pollution in California. Simonich states further that, “But I always like to say, ‘What goes around comes around,’ so it drives home that idea that we’re a connected atmosphere, right? And that what happens in one part of the world impacts other parts of the world. We’re all united in one atmosphere.”

And because the United States is considered, as noted by the Washington Post, the world’s worst polluter, this is disastrous, not only for Americans, but for the world overall, if we don’t take action to prevent more pollution.

Understanding white skin and why are there “white” people in the world

Why we humans are of different colors throughout the entire world? You would be right to think that the actual color of our human skin has to do with climate.

There is also nothing in the contemporary debate about climate issues regarding the history of our skin color. Most probably think these two issues – climate and skin color – are not connected and they are wrong.

Our so-called “whiteness” evolved as an adaptation to the climate and, in particular, the “cold” climate of Europe, which is why our skin changed from black/brown to variations of whiteness. We human beings evolved in Africa and when some of us left Africa for Europe and Asia about 60 to 50,000 years ago, our skin color changed because of the climate and this was related to the sun’s rays, pure and simple. So all of us are African in origin and all of us, originally, had dark skin.

The Smithsonian article below explains about the origins of the variations in skin color:

Why do people from different parts of the world have different colored skin? Why do people from the tropics generally have darker skin color that those who live in colder climates? Variations in human skin color are adaptive traits that correlate closely with geography and the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

As early humans moved into hot, open environments in search of food and water, one big challenge was keeping cool. The adaptation that was favored involved an increase in the number of sweat glands on the skin while at the same time reducing the amount of body hair. With less hair, perspiration could evaporate more easily and cool the body more efficiently. But this less-hairy skin was a problem because it was exposed to a very strong sun, especially in lands near the equator. Since strong sun exposure damages the body, the solution was to evolve skin that was permanently dark so as to protect against the sun’s more damaging rays.

Melanin, the skin’s brown pigment, is a natural sunscreen that protects tropical peoples from the many harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can, for example, strip away folic acid, a nutrient essential to the development of healthy fetuses. Yet when a certain amount of UV rays penetrates the skin, it helps the human body use vitamin D to absorb the calcium necessary for strong bones. This delicate balancing act explains why the peoples that migrated to colder geographic zones with less sunlight developed lighter skin color. As people moved to areas farther from the equator with lower UV levels, natural selection favored lighter skin which allowed UV rays to penetrate and produce essential vitamin D. The darker skin of peoples who lived closer to the equator was important in preventing folate deficiency. Measures of skin reflectance, a way to quantify skin color by measuring the amount of light it reflects, in people around the world support this idea. While UV rays can cause skin cancer, because skin cancer usually affects people after they have had children, it likely had little effect on the evolution of skin color because evolution favors changes that improve reproductive success.

There is also a third factor which affects skin color: coastal peoples who eat diets rich in seafood enjoy this alternate source of vitamin D. That means that some Arctic peoples, such as native peoples of Alaska and Canada, can afford to remain dark-skinned even in low UV areas. In the summer they get high levels of UV rays reflected from the surface of snow and ice, and their dark skin protects them from this reflected light. (Smithsonian)

Climate change is major and should be addressed in myriad ways

There is agreement among the scientific community that the earth has warmed in the last century…. the world’s most prestigious scientific bodies put it in a joint statement signed by the heads of the national science academies in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the US (Guardian).

Here is an extraction from the 2005 Joint Statement:

“Climate change is real. There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems.

….human activities are now causing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide, methane, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide – to rise well above pre-industrial levels. Carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 ppm in 1750 to over 375 ppm today – higher than any previous levels that can be reliably measured (i.e. in the last 420,000 years). Increasing greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise; the Earth’s surface warmed by approximately 0.6 centigrade degrees over the twentieth century. ” (National Academies) (See the entire statement below.)

The American Association for the Advancement of Science also noted in a February 2017 abstract entitled “What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change” that:

Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement. Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real. Moreover, although the public is becoming aware that climate change increases the likelihood of certain local disasters, many people do not yet understand that there is a small but real chance of abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in the United States and around the world. (AAAS)

To repeat, in 2017 there is therefore “high agreement” by the scientific experts that by ridding ourselves of environmental protection and allowing for the increase of greenhouse gasses, the world will continue to be dramatically and adversely impacted and will become  considerably more hot. And this will be largely thanks to our human behavior.

The other major factor here is that because of the likes of Trump and others, there will be next to no regulations for resource extraction, no significant environmental protection, along with virtually no significant initiatives in the development of sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Summary

With more heat in the world there will be considerable impact on those of us with white skin. This is what Trump wants? I guess so.

Maybe, with all of this history of arrogance and violence, finally it is coming back to haunt white folks. It appears so, with Trump in place.

Plus, the impact his policies will have environmentally on all humans will also be dramatic.

Those of us who are white won’t have the much needed melanin and black skin to survive in the future hotter world. And yes, we will not only be dramatically impacted by the heat, we will be lacking resources to address the heat to then cool us as these resources will have been callously and inappropriately extracted and/or polluted and, as mentioned, the alternatives (such as wind and solar) will not have been explored and developed as they should be.

In the future, the evolutionary process will select children who can withstand the heat and it won’t be “white” children. It will likely be the reverse of what happened when we humans left Africa into cooler climates and, through this evolution, our ancestors who survived in the cooler climates were the ones with white skin. To survive adequately in the hotter future climate, we humans will need darker skin.

If we continue like we have in terms of abuse of the environment, whites will be impacted, as mentioned, but ultimately, in the long term, living on the planet will be difficult for everyone regardless of color because it will be so polluted. As Rashid Nuri of the “Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture” in Atlanta has noted, “The planet will be fine and will survive, but we humans won’t be able to live on it!”

___________
 
 
Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change
Climate change is real

There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring1. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001)2. This warming has already led to changes in the Earth’s climate.

The existence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is vital to life on Earth – in their absence average temperatures would be about 30 centigrade degrees lower than they are today. But human activities are now causing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide, methane, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide – to rise well above pre-industrial levels. Carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 ppm in 1750 to over 375 ppm today – higher than any previous levels that can be reliably measured (i.e. in the last 420,000 years). Increasing greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise; the Earth’s surface warmed by approximately 0.6 centigrade degrees over the twentieth century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected that the average global surface temperatures will continue to increase to between 1.4 centigrade degrees and 5.8 centigrade degrees above 1990 levels, by 2100.

Reduce the causes of climate change

The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions.

Action taken now to reduce significantly the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lessen the magnitude and rate of climate change. As the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises, a lack of full scientific certainty about some aspects of climate change is not a reason for delaying an immediate response that will, at a reasonable cost, prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

As nations and economies develop over the next 25 years, world primary energy demand is estimated to increase by almost 60%. Fossil fuels, which are responsible for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activities, provide valuable resources for many nations and are projected to provide 85% of this demand (IEA 2004)3. Minimising the amount of this carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere presents a huge challenge. There are many potentially cost-effective technological options that could contribute to stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations. These are at various stages of research and development. However barriers to their broad deployment still need to be overcome.

Carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for many decades. Even with possible lowered emission rates we will be experiencing the impacts of climate change throughout the 21st century and beyond. Failure to implement significant reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions now, will make the job much harder in the future.

Prepare for the consequences of climate change

Major parts of the climate system respond slowly to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were stabilised instantly at today’s levels, the climate would still continue to change as it adapts to the increased emission of recent decades. Further changes in climate are therefore unavoidable. Nations must prepare for them.

The projected changes in climate will have both beneficial and adverse effects at the regional level, for example on water resources, agriculture, natural ecosystems and human health. The larger and faster the changes in climate, the more likely it is that adverse effects will dominate. Increasing temperatures are likely to increase the frequency and severity of weather events such as heat waves and heavy rainfall. Increasing temperatures could lead to large-scale effects such as melting of large ice sheets (with major impacts on low-lying regions throughout the world). The IPCC estimates that the combined effects of ice melting and sea water expansion from ocean warming are projected to cause the global mean sea-level to rise by between 0.1 and 0.9 metres between 1990 and 2100. In Bangladesh alone, a 0.5 metre sea-level rise would place about 6 million people at risk from flooding.

Developing nations that lack the infrastructure or resources to respond to the impacts of climate change will be particularly affected. It is clear that many of the world’s poorest people are likely to suffer the most from climate change. Long-term global efforts to create a more healthy, prosperous and sustainable world may be severely hindered by changes in the climate.

The task of devising and implementing strategies to adapt to the consequences of climate change will require worldwide collaborative inputs from a wide range of experts, including physical and natural scientists, engineers, social scientists, medical scientists, those in the humanities, business leaders and economists.

Conclusion

We urge all nations, in the line with the UNFCCC principles4, to take prompt action to reduce the causes of climate change, adapt to its impacts and ensure that the issue is included in all relevant national and international strategies. As national science academies, we commit to working with governments to help develop and implement the national and international response to the challenge of climate change.

G8 nations have been responsible for much of the past greenhouse gas emissions. As parties to the UNFCCC, G8 nations are committed to showing leadership in addressing climate change and assisting developing nations to meet the challenges of adaptation and mitigation.

We call on world leaders, including those meeting at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in July 2005, to:

  • Acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing.
  • Launch an international study5
    to explore scientifically- informed targets for atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and their associated emissions scenarios, that will enable nations to avoid impacts deemed unacceptable.
  • Identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions. Recognise that delayed action will increase the risk of adverse environmental effects and will likely incur a greater cost.
  • Work with developing nations to build a scientific and technological capacity best suited to their circumstances, enabling them to develop innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, while explicitly recognising their legitimate development rights.
  • Show leadership in developing and deploying clean energy technologies and approaches to energy efficiency, and share this knowledge with all other nations.
  • Mobilise the science and technology community to enhance research and development efforts, which can better inform climate change decisions.
Notes and references
1 This statement concentrates on climate change associated with global warming. We use the UNFCCC definition of climate change, which is ‘a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’.
2 IPCC (2001). Third Assessment Report. We recognise the international scientific consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
3 IEA (2004). World Energy Outlook 4. Although long-term projections of future world energy demand and supply are highly uncertain, the World Energy Outlook produced by the International Energy Agency (IEA) is a useful source of information about possible future energy scenarios.
4 With special emphasis on the first principle of the UNFCCC, which states: ‘The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof’.
5 Recognising and building on the IPCC’s ongoing work on emission scenarios.
 

Walter Rodney: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” (a review)

Note: Walter Rodney’s book  How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was hugely significant in better understanding how western capitalist imperialists underdeveloped not only Africa but other areas of the world as well. By doing so, Rodney also implied ways to push against this arrogance and exploitation.  His book, “was groundbreaking in that it was among the first to bring a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. Rodney’s analysis went far beyond the previously accepted approach in the study of Third World underdevelopment”.  (Wikipedia)

Along with countless others, I am also thankful for the Walter Rodney Foundation and its ongoing education about Rodney’s work, philosophy and advocacy as well as application to contemporary struggles. The next annual Walter Rodney Foundation conference entitled “Justice Denied: People’s Power, The Struggle Continues” will take place in Atlanta on March 24-25, 2017 at the Atlanta University Center’s, Robert W. Woodruff Library.  (See the event flier below.)

Below is a review of Walter Rodney’s book by Sabrina Smiley published  by Howard University.

Heather Gray 

March 11, 2017
Justice Initiative International  
_____________________________________________________________
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Book Review)
Reviewer(s): Sabrina Smiley

Source: Mosaic African Studies E-Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1
(Winter 2010).
Published by: The Howard University Department of African Studies 
 

Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a classic of anti-imperialist literature. At the core is the concept of development and contemporary Marxism as the main theoretical underpinning. Both concept and theory are utilized to explore, evaluate and explain the historical exploitation and the damage done to African development. He denounces the global capitalist system early in the literature by “reinforcing the conclusion that African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system,” (Rodney, 1973: Preface). From a historical materialist perspective, Rodney delivers the argument that both European power politics and European economic exploitation and oppression led to the impoverishment of African societies.

The main subject matter analyzed in the book has a rich sociohistorical context. The book contains six chapters and at least two sections within the following chapters: Some Questions on Development, How Africa Developed Before the Coming of the Europeans up to the 15th Century, Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development-The Pre-Colonial Period, Europe and the Roots of African Underdevelopment-to 1885, Africa’s Contribution to the Capitalist Development of Europe-The Colonial Period and Colonialism as a System for Underdeveloping Africa. Within these chapters, political economy, popular struggles, technology, power, politics and culture are analyzed, in addition to other socio-historical contexts.

The initial chapter introduces and examines the question of development and underdevelopment. Chapter two provides solid examples and an overview of the African state. The third chapter lifts up a myriad of pre-colonial African contributions to the European capitalist system on the underdevelopment of Africa and the development of Europe as imperialististic. Chapter four focuses on how the Europeans started the underdevelopment of Africa at the Berlin conference of 1885. Under the leadership of Chairman Otto Von Bismark of Germany, the partition plans of Africa were developed in Germany.

Following this revelation, Rodney introduces the exploited and oppressed slave trade era and how the slave trade led to the decline of economic and technological development in Africa prior to and during colonization. Chapter five discusses African contribution to the European capitalist system during the colonial period and chapter six summarizes the various strategies utilized for underdevelopment during colonization. Moreover, Rodney provides strategies to combat underdevelopment in Africa at the close of the chapter.


Walter Rodney

The main theory used for analysis is historical materialism from Marxism. Historical materialists believe power and private ownership based in economic and material production must be abandoned because it leads to the concentration of power among the capitalists, or the elites. It also leads to alienation, the creation of ideology, class

structure and social inequality. Karl Marx is the founding father of historical materialism, for his theory would greatly influence Frederick Engels, Antonio Gramsci, V.I. Lenin, W.E.B. Dubois and Walter Rodney. Marx believes man possesses an unlimited capacity to develop and reach his highest potential under social circumstances that are equal (Zeitlin, 2001:140). He believes any social circumstance that represses man’s creative capabilities is virtually harmful and should not exist (Zeitlin, 2001:140).

As a historical materialist, Walter Rodney focuses on colonialism, imperialism and liberation struggles (Katz-Fishman, Gomes and Scott, 2007:2838). With a Marxist perspective, he states that “power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one’s interests and if necessary to impose ones will by any means available. In relations between peoples, the question of power determines maneuverability in bargaining, the extent to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity. When one society finds itself forced to relinquish its power entirely, that is a form of underdevelopment,” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.6:115)

Marx openly expresses his contempt for the industrial capital system. Using the labor theory of value, Marx analyzed the relationship between wage labor and productive capital. He argued that “the profit of the capitalist was based on the exploitation of the laborer” (Ritzer, 2004: 25). Marx views industrial capital and wage labor as interdependent entities. In the industrial capital system, wages (labor power) are essentially treated as a priced commodity dictated by the supply and demand of all commodities. He thus concludes that the more the wage labor produces for the elites, the more the elites capitalize, therefore the greater the social distinction between the two emerges.


Walter Rodney

Rodney utilizes this theory throughout the book. For example, in chapter three: “Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development-the Pre-Colonial Period”, Rodney lifts up Europe’s assumption of power to make decisions within the international trading  system (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3). He illustrates that “international law,” which regulated the conduct of nations on the high seas, was simply European law; that Africans did not participate in its conception; and Africans were exploited, because the law identified them as transportable merchandise (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3). These victims known as transportable merchandise came to be known as slaves.

Rodney notes that Europeans used the superiority of their ships and cannon to gain control of the world’s waterways, commencing in the 15th century. This ownership and power eventually leads to domination of the seas, transforming several parts of Africa and Asia into economic satellites (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:3).

Rodney also utilizes Marx’s labor theory of value throughout the book. For example, in chapter five: “Africa’s Contribution to the Capitalist Development of Europe-the Colonial Period”, Rodney highlights colonialism as not simply a system of exploitation, but a system whose essential purpose was to return the profits to the “mother country” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1). Earlier in the chapter he states that “the exploitation of land and labor is essential for human social advance, but only on the assumption that the product is made available within the area where the exploitation takes place,” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1).

However, in Africa, this did not occur. Yes, there was ongoing expatriation of surplus produced by African labor out of African resources. Yet, “it meant the development of Europe as part of the same dialectical process in which Africa was underdeveloped (Rodney, 1973: Ch.5:1).

In Chapter three, Africa’s Contribution to European Capitalist Development – the Pre-Colonial Period, Rodney discusses Africa’s contribution to the economy and beliefs of early capitalist Europe. He mentions that Karl Marx was “the most bitter critic of capitalism,” and what Europe benefited from was obtained through the relentless exploitation and oppression of Africans and American Indians (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:8).

In addition, Rodney states that Marx noted that “the discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the turning of Africa into a commercial warrant for the hunting of black skins signalized the “rosy” dawn of the era of capitalist production” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.3:8). Now that is deep!

The use of historical materialism brings to the analysis that social change is revolutionary (anti-capitalist) and part of the solution. As noted earlier, Rodney states, “African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system” (Rodney, 1973: Preface). The agents of this change are specifically Africans who are conscious of the international capitalist system that has underdeveloped Africa. Agents of change include other movement builders (receptive to all race/ethnicity, class and gender) who work for the overthrow and transformation of a system that has exploited and oppressed African society.

Through the lens of scholar and academic, what is most useful about this work is its ability to enlighten and transform. Walter Rodney reveals a hidden truth on the underdevelopment of Africa by Europeans. I find useful the method in which Rodney presented historical materialism. My critique is that Rodney could have employed a deeper analysis, connecting the current challenges plaguing Africa (infectious diseases, conflict, education, poverty, etc.) to the underdevelopment by imperialist nations. However, I realize that this literature was written in 1973, prior to the recognition of HIV/AIDS in Africa during the 1980s.

Through the lens of the activist and movement builder, what is most useful about this work is its ability to organize and stand in solidarity with those in the struggle to redevelop Africa. As a movement builder I would use this work to raise consciousness and collaborate with others to expose the inequality, injustice and exploitation of the capitalist system. This work was written during the 20th century; however, utilizing historical materialism, it speaks to the current global economic crisis in the 21st century that is rooted in the capitalist system. This confirms that history is always in motion.

This influential work has dramatically shaped my intellectual and political worldview. My level of consciousness has been raised.

The society was already developed, despite what is taught by the opposition. Music and dance was present at every occasion, be it an initiation, birth, marriage, death, etc. and “African peoples reached the pinnacle of achievement in that sphere” (Rodney, 1973: Ch.2:2). With this knowledge, rooted in Marxism, I can explore the use of issue based (HIV/AIDS), aesthetically provocative theatre.

WORKS CITED
1. Katz-Fishman, Walda, Gomes, Ralph and Scott, Jerome. 2007. Materialism. Volume VI, pp. 2836-2839.
2. Ritzer, George and Goodman, Douglass. 2004. Modern Sociological Theory, Sixth Edition. McGraw-Hill Companies. New York, New York.
3. Rodney, Walter. 1973. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Tanzania Publishing House and Bogle L’Ouverture Publications.

4. Zeitlin, Irving. 2001. Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory, 7th edition. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

(Note: For the original version of the review go to  Howard University book review.)

Review of Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” Part 1/3

Note: Walter Rodney’s book  How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was hugely significant in better understanding how western capitalist imperialists underdeveloped not only Africa but other areas of the world as well. By doing so, Rodney also implied ways to push against this arrogance and exploitation.  His book, “was groundbreaking in that it was among the first to bring a new perspective to the question of underdevelopment in Africa. Rodney’s analysis went far beyond the previously accepted approach in the study of Third World underdevelopment”.  (Wikipedia)

I and others are also thankful for the Walter Rodney Foundation  and its ongoing education about Rodney’s work, philosophy and advocacy as well as the application to contemporary struggles. The next annual Walter Rodney Foundation conference entitled “Justice Denied: People’s Power, The Struggle Continues” will take place in Atlanta, Georgia on March 24-25, 2017 at the Atlanta University Center’s, Robert W. Woodruff Library. 

Below is a review of Walter Rodney’s book which is the first in a series.

Heather Gray

March 11, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Review of Walter Rodney’s “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” Part 1/3

by Prairie Fire

(llco.org) posted July 2016

Walter Rodney was a writer and activist who was influential in the anti-imperialist, the Black Power, and socialist movements across the Black and African worlds. In 1980, Rodney was assassinated in his homeland of Guyana by a car bomb while participating in local politics. Rodney is probably best remembered as the author of the very influential How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Published in 1972, Rodney’s book has become a classic work on the political economy of Africa and underdevelopment generally. Rodney has a place alongside writers like Andre Gunder-Frank, Samir Amin, Malcolm Caldwell, Arghiri Emmanuel and similar theorists who have studied modern imperialism and underdevelopment. This tradition foreshadows the development of Leading Light Communism. Even though almost four decades have passed since its publication, the book is a must-read for those seeking to understand the poverty of Africa and the wealth of Europe and North America. It helps us understand how the wealth of First World countries is a result of poverty in Third World countries. Rodney’s work is an important forerunner of  the political economy of the Leading Light Communist movement.

Africa prior to large-scale European contact

Imperialism is not just about armies, labor and gold. Imperialism has a cultural dimension. When one part of the world systematically oppresses another, it changes not only the material make-up of those societies, it also affects the cultures. It is a kind of master-slave dialectic writ large, on a global scale. Part of this relation is the need by the oppressors to see themselves and their victims as different than they really are. To justify their inhuman acts, imperialists must invent narratives where they are not the villain. As part of this, imperialists often portray Africa prior to large-scale European contact in the fifteenth century as an uncivilized jungle. They portray Africans as barely out of the forest, as akin to wild animals, as apes. The most extreme version of the racist and imperialist narrative not only exonerates European slavers, but turns them into heroes. Slavers tamed apes into men, or at least two-thirds men. Plantations were not akin to concentration camps. Rather, the plantation was one big happy family. The master was kindly and paternal to his  darker “children.” So goes the myth, the lie, of the gentile South. Some have even claimed that not only that Blacks deserve no reparations, but Blacks should be thankful  to the United States that they were saved from eternal African night.

This kind of narrative, and similar and subtler ones, rest on the myth that Africa was hopelessly backward prior to large-scale European contact. Rodney thoroughly refutes the myth. He demonstrates that Africa had a long and rich tradition of civilization prior to widespread contact with Europe. Although Africa’s development was not the same as Europe’s, Africa had long been developing just fine:

“Africa in the fifteenth century was not just a jumble of different ‘tribes.’ There was a pattern and there was historical movement. Societies such as feudal Ethiopia and Egypt were at the furthest point of the process of evolutionary development. Zimbabwe and the Bachwezi states were also clearly on the ascent away from communalism, but at a lower level than the feudal states and a few others that were not yet feudal such as those in Western Sudan.” (68)

Rodney states:

“It can be said that most African societies had not reached a new stage of society markedly different from communalism.” (69)

Early European travelers to Africa were often impressed with what they saw. Rodney quotes an early Dutch traveler who visited Benin:

“The town seems very great. When you enter into it, you go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes street in Amsterdam…

The king’s palace is a collection of buildings which occupy as much space as the town of Harlem, and which is enclosed with walls. There are numerous apartments for the Prince’s ministers and fine galleries, most of which are as big as those on the Exchange in Amsterdam. They are supported by wooden pillars encased with copper, where their victories are depicted, and which are kept carefully clean.

The town is composed of thirty main streets, very straight and 120 feet wide, apart from an infinity of small intersecting streets. The houses are close to one another, arranged in good order. These people are in no ways inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness…” (69)

Obviously, there were great differences between Holland and Africa too. However, it is pure racism to portray Africa as barbaric and uncivilized prior to large-scale European contact. Such racist conceptions are not based in reality. They are part of a complex, evolving, and often contradictory narrative that has been used for hundreds of years to justify the plunder and exploitation of Africa by Europeans and other imperialists.

Similar tales have been used to justify the imperial conquest of the Americas and Asia.

While pointing out early Africa’s accomplishments, Rodney does not understate the differences between Western Europe and Africa. Rodney does not exaggerate the development of Africa prior to the fifteenth century. Rodney could not be further from contemporary Afro-centrists who wildly falsify history in order to claim Africa as the center of virtually all great advances. Rodney is a scientist, not a story teller and myth maker. He is part of the Marxist tradition. He does does not romanticize pre-colonial Africa. Rodney is no utopian longing for a return to a “golden age” that never existed. Rodney points out that African societies had their own contradictions, configurations and distributions of power.

Imperialist and productivist metaphysics

In the Manifesto, Karl Marx describes the development of Western European society, and the world, as a march from primitive communism to slave society to feudalism to capitalism to communism. Although in other writings Marx sometimes postulated other modes of production like the “Asiatic mode,” some have held that this march, this pattern of development, is inevitable and universal. Often such claims are made with little concrete investigation into the particularities of development, especially outside of Europe. Such an outlook is often useful to so-called Marxists who apologize for or even openly align with imperialism. Unfortunately, these pretenders find some support for their reactionary views in certain aspects of Marxist tradition, especially those works that overemphasize the  development of the  productive forces as the driving force of history. Maoists criticized certain aspects of the tradition as the Theory of Productive Forces, a revisionist theory.


Walter Rodney

First Worldists, chauvinists and racists often say that imperialism, despite itself, is good for the backward parts of the world because it brings technology, it modernizes, it sweeps away primitive and feudal fetters on development. Thus they invoke Marx to echo the slaver narrative. This revisionist train of thought is common, in varying degrees, to a number of revisionists from Kautsky, Trotsky, Khrushchev, Liu Shaoqi, and Deng Xiaoping. It is even found, although usually  to a lesser degree, in Marxists who are upheld by the revolutionary tradition. By dogmatically clinging to such a Euro-centric and teleological scheme, one easily becomes an apologist or open advocate for imperialism. This kind Marxoid imperialism is sometimes referred to as social imperialism. Social imperialism is especially common to those claiming to be Trotskyists. It is no secret that today’s Neo-cons have Trotskyist origins. Even First Worldist onetime Maoists have taken this kind of view. Bill Warren of BICO fame and the “Strange Times Maoists” have such a view. Some of those in the long defunct RIM did too. The argument goes or implies something like this: Imperialism is positive because it brings capitalism, thus opening the possibility of socialism. Imperialism is a progressive agent of history according to this teleology. This view says there is only one road to socialism, the European road through European-style capitalism. This kind of First Worldist revisionism is especially unscientific considering that the “advanced” First World countries, in Europe or elsewhere, do not even have a proletariat and have never experienced anything even close to a socialist revolution – unless you count the imposition of people’s democracy on eastern Germany by the Red Army as a revolution. The First World should not be considered developed, but parasitic and maldeveloped in a sense. The reality is that proletarian revolution has only occurred in what Lenin called the “weak links” of the world system. This is what Lenin meant when he said the storm center of world revolution was headed east. In agreement with Lenin, Mao said the East Wind prevails over the West Wind. And it was Lin Biao who said the whole cause of world revolution hinged on the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Rodney is part of this emerging Third Worldist thought, he correctly points out that Africa does not fit neatly into the Euro-centric teleology that underlies much First Worldism and social imperialism:

“Both Marxists and non-Marxists alike (with different motivations) have pointed out the sequence of modes of production noted in Europe were not reproduced in Africa. In Africa, after the communal stage there was no epoch of slavery arising out of internal evolution. Nor was there a mode of production that was a replica of European feudalism…The assumption that will underlie this study is that most African societies before 1,500 were in a transitional stage between the practice of agriculture (plus fishing and herding) in family communities and the practice of the same activities within states and societies comparable to feudalism.”  (38)

This isn’t to say that real trends and patterns are absent from social development. And certain social development presupposes certain conditions exist. One cannot simply jump to communism or even socialism. Rodney’s survey of African development shows that the complexity of the real world often escapes vulgar simplifications. Yet Rodney does not end up in idealism or anarchist utopianism or epistemological skepticism. In this respect, Rodney shares much with Mao at his best moments. Mao too did not embrace the idealist position that rejects the idea that revolution and development happens in stages. However, Mao too understood that development did not always fit into such a linear straight-jacket. Mao recognized that building socialism in the Third World would mean taking a path that did not match up exactly with the scheme Marx originally predicted for Europe. Mao built off Lenin’s understanding that imperialism was a real game changer across the world.


Walter Rodney

Imperialists imposed a socioeconomic configuration on China that Maoists variously call, depending on what aspect they want to emphasize, “colonialism” or “semi-colonialism,” “semi-feudalism,” “comprador capitalism,” and “bureaucrat capitalism.” These are the terms that Maoists have used to describe the underdevelopment that has been imposed across the “global countryside,” the Third World. Mao saw that imperialism altered the mode of production, the political development and cultural life of the exploited countries for the worse. The imperialists often enter into an alliance with the most backward segments of the indigenous populations, the comprador capitalists and feudalists. In some cases, colonialism even imports and imposes feudal institutions alongside capitalism as inparts of Latin America. Thus imperialism does not develop a poor country, it underdevelops. Imperialism is thoroughly reactionary. This is why Lenin identified imperialism as the highest and last stage of capitalism. Capitalism was no longer progressive in the world. This is why Lenin called it moribund and decadent. Mao’s answer to this was to find another road to socialism. Mao united all the popular classes under proletarian, communist leadership in a people’s war against the two mountains of imperialism and feudalism, for New Democracy and national liberation. This laid the groundwork for socialist revolution. Mao’s theory of New Democracy proposes a different sequence of development than the traditional euro-centric one. This was one of Mao’s greatest theoretical accomplishments. It was Chen Boda and Lin Biao who universalized this aspect of Mao’s work. Mao’s road was not simply socialism for China, but rather Mao’s contributions applied far beyond China.

Mao, at times, challenged the metaphysical and teleological model in general. At their best moments, Maoists in China understood that there is nothing inevitable about social evolution or progress toward social revolution. The claim, common within the revolutionary tradition, that the victory of the proletariat is inevitable and an absolute law of history is metaphysical and teleological hyperbole. Stalin once stated that the proletariat will eventually row the boat to the shore of communism even without communist leadership.

This kind of statement is an expression of a very teleological and metaphysical conception of progress and revolution. Mao recognized that all social development is transitional, but in a different way.  Mao did not see socialism as a static affair. Mao said that there is nothing worse than a stagnant pond. Nor did Mao see socialism as calmly marching toward communism. Mao understood that socialism could only be understood as a transitional society in flux,  filled with violent ruptures, life-and-death clashes and antagonistic contradictions. “Never forget class struggle!,” Mao warned during the Cultural Revolution. Because of the transitional nature of socialism, because of remaining inequalities in power and remaining reactionary culture, a new bourgeoisie arises within the Communist Party and state. This new class seeks to restore capitalism. Thus class struggle still exists under socialism. Counter-revolution is always a danger. Socialism does not inevitably transform into communism. Rather socialism can transform back to capitalism. There is nothing inevitable about victory. The proletariat could row Stalin’s boat in circles until the end of time. This is one reason why scientific leadership is key. This is why Maoists emphasized the subjective aspect of struggle. This is why Lin Biao raised the slogan of “Politics in command!” as part of his Four Firsts campaign around 1959. Later the slogan was transformed into “Mao Zedong Thought in command!”

Science learns. Even though socialism has been lost everywhere, the knowledge of that experience survives in the form of the highest stage of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Even though we lost the Soviet Union, China and other other progressive experiments, Leading Light Communism has preserved the lessons of the revolutionary experience of the last century. The next time we take power, the proletariat will be able to march further toward communism. This is one reason it is so important to struggle against revisionism, especially First Worldism. The last two revolutionary waves are defeated. The Bolshevik revolution was defeated after World War 2 and the Maoist revolution in China was defeated in the 1970s. We stand like Lenin before 1917. There are no socialist states. We stand before the next upsurge, the next wave of revolution. We need to continue the breakthrough of the Leading Light. Part of this is educating the people in  real Marxism. Works like Rodney’s are very advanced, even by today’s standards. They need to be popularized again as part of this struggle. This is part of putting “Leading Light Communism in command!”

Sources

Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Washington, D.C.: Harvard University Press, 1981.

Learning from Barbara Jordan – One of America’s Most Profound Leaders

Note: Below is the video (Parts 1-3) of the 1976 Keynote Address given by Barbara Jordan at the Democratic Convention. This is followed by the transcription of the speech. As one of America’s most significant leaders, her speech in 1976 reverberates for what is likely needed for reflection and action in today’s US under the Trump administration. Jordan notes:

We believe that the people are the source of all governmental power; that the authority of the people is to be extended, not restricted.

This can be accomplished only by providing each citizen with every opportunity to participate in the management of the government. They must have that, we believe. We believe that the government which represents the authority of all the people, not just one interest group, but all the people, has an obligation to actively — underscore actively — seek to remove those obstacles which would block individual achievement — obstacles emanating from race, sex, economic condition. The government must remove them, seek to remove them.

Her 1976 Keynote Address is also considered as one of American’s “greatest speeches”.

Heather Gray
March 9, 2017

Justice Initiative International

Barbara Charline Jordan 

(Wikipedia) Barbara Charline Jordan (February 21, 1936 – January 17, 1996) was a lawyer, educator, an American politician, and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. A Democrat, she was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives. She was best-known for her eloquent opening statement at the House Judiciary Committee hearings during the impeachment process against Richard Nixon, and as the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. She was a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1978 to 1980. She was the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

Barbara Charline Jordan 
1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
(video)

delivered 12 July 1976, New York, NY

  

https://youtu.be/2YvxjfoOJLw Part 2
https://youtu.be/f0_L073FMow Part 3

_________
Barbara Charline Jordan
1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
(Transcription)

delivered 12 July 1976, New York, NY

(American Rhetoric)

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for a very warm reception.

It was one hundred and forty-four years ago that members of the Democratic Party first met in convention to select a Presidential candidate. Since that time, Democrats have continued to convene once every four years and draft a party platform and nominate a Presidential candidate. And our meeting this week is a continuation of that tradition. But there is something different about tonight. There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special?

I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.

A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask that a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight here I am. And I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.

Now that I have this grand distinction what in the world am I supposed to say? I could easily spend this time praising the accomplishments of this party and attacking the Republicans — but I don’t choose to do that. I could list the many problems which Americans have. I could list the problems which cause people to feel cynical, angry, frustrated: problems which include lack of integrity in government; the feeling that the individual no longer counts; the reality of material and spiritual poverty; the feeling that the grand American experiment is failing or has failed. I could recite these problems, and then I could sit down and offer no solutions. But I don’t choose to do that either. The citizens of America expect more. They deserve and they want more than a recital of problems.

We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community. We are a people trying not only to solve the problems of the present, unemployment, inflation, but we are attempting on a larger scale to fulfill the promise of America. We are attempting to fulfill our national purpose, to create and sustain a society in which all of us are equal.

Throughout out history, when people have looked for new ways to solve their problems, and to uphold the principles of this nation, many times they have turned to political parties. They have often turned to the Democratic Party. What is it? What is it about the Democratic Party that makes it the instrument the people use when they search for ways to shape their future? Well I believe the answer to that question lies in our concept of governing. Our concept of governing is derived from our view of people. It is a concept deeply rooted in a set of beliefs firmly etched in the national conscience of all of us.

Now what are these beliefs? First, we believe in equality for all and privileges for none. This is a belief that each American regardless of background has equal standing in the public forum — all of us. Because we believe this idea so firmly, we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive party. Let everybody come! I think it no accident that most of those emigrating to America in the 19th century identified with the Democratic Party. We are a heterogeneous party made up of Americans of diverse backgrounds.

We believe that the people are the source of all governmental power; that the authority of the people is to be extended, not restricted.

This can be accomplished only by providing each citizen with every opportunity to participate in the management of the government. They must have that, we believe. We believe that the government which represents the authority of all the people, not just one interest group, but all the people, has an obligation to actively — underscore actively — seek to remove those obstacles which would block individual achievement — obstacles emanating from race, sex, economic condition. The government must remove them, seek to remove them.

We are a party of innovation. We do not reject our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances, when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change in order to achieve a better future. We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed.

We believe that.

This, my friends, is the bedrock of our concept of governing. This is a part of the reason why Americans have turned to the Democratic Party. These are the foundations upon which a national community can be built. Let’s all understand that these guiding principles cannot be discarded for short-term political gains. They represent what this country is all about. They are indigenous to the American idea. And these are principles which are not negotiable.

In other times, I could stand here and give this kind of exposition on the beliefs of the Democratic Party and that would be enough. But today that is not enough. People want more. That is not sufficient reason for the majority of the people of this country to vote Democratic. We have made mistakes. We realize that. In our haste to do all things for all people, we did not foresee the full consequences of our actions. And when the people raised their voices, we didn’t hear. But our deafness was only a temporary condition, and not an irreversible condition.

Even as I stand here and admit that we have made mistakes, I still believe that as the people of America sit in judgment on each party, they will recognize that our mistakes were mistakes of the heart. They’ll recognize that.

And now we must look to the future. Let us heed the voice of the people and recognize their common sense. If we do not, we not only blaspheme our political heritage, we ignore the common ties that bind all Americans. Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek only to satisfy their private work wants. To satisfy their private interests. But this is the great danger America faces. That we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual. Each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens, who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common good?

This is the question which must be answered in 1976.

Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation? For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. We must not become the new Puritans and reject our society. We must address and master the future together. It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of national community, that we share a common national endeavor. It can be done.

There is no executive order; there is no law that can require the American people to form a national community. This we must do as individuals, and if we do it as individuals, there is no President of the United States who can veto that decision.

As a first step, we must restore our belief in ourselves. We are a generous people so why can’t we be generous with each other? We need to take to heart the words spoken by Thomas Jefferson:

“Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life are but dreary things.”

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good. A government is invigorated when each of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation. In this election year we must define the common good and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.

And now, what are those of us who are elected public officials supposed to do? We call ourselves public servants but I’ll tell you this: We as public servants must set an example for the rest of the nation. It is hypocritical for the public official to admonish and exhort the people to uphold the common good if we are derelict in upholding the common good. More is required of public officials than slogans and handshakes and press releases. More is required. We must hold ourselves strictly accountable. We must provide the people with a vision of the future.

If we promise as public officials, we must deliver. If we as public officials propose, we must produce. If we say to the American people it is time for you to be sacrificial; sacrifice. If the public official says that, we must be the first to give. We must be. And again, if we make mistakes, we must be willing to admit them. We have to do that. What we have to do is strike a balance between the idea that government should do everything and that idea, the belief, that government ought to do nothing. Strike a balance. Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of forming this kind of a national community. It’s tough, difficult, not easy. But a spirit of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers that we share a common destiny. If each of us remembers when self-interest and bitterness seem to prevail that we share a common destiny.

I have confidence that we can form this kind of national community.

I have confidence that the Democratic Party can lead the way.

I have that confidence.

We cannot improve on the system of government handed down to us by the founders of the Republic. There is no way to improve upon that. But what we can do is to find new ways to implement that system and realize our destiny.

Now, I began this speech by commenting to you on the uniqueness of a Barbara Jordan making a keynote address. Well I am going to close my speech by quoting a Republican President and I ask you that as you listen to these words of Abraham Lincoln, relate them to the concept of a national community in which every last one of us participates:

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of Democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no Democracy.”

Thank you.

Part Three – The Coup: FDR vs Trump

My main interest in all this is to preserve our democratic institutions. I want to retain the right to vote, the right to speak freely, and the right to write. If we maintain these basic principles our democracy is safe. No dictatorship can exist with suffrage, freedom of speech and press.
                       General Smedley Butler
                        Plot To Overthrow FDR Documentary

By Heather Gray
March 6, 2017

Justice Initiative International

Before articulating the present Trump coup and what it means I think there is still more history of this that needs to be shared. This is “Part Three” of this series. The first two, that have been somewhat edited, were:

The role of corporate America in American history and conflicts is simply not something Americans are taught. A prime example of this is the function that corporate American companies played in their alliance with Hitler prior to and during WWII. I am including below 2 videos that are well worth watching to understand corporate America and bankers efforts in the coup against FDR and in supporting the Nazis. Below is also a list of the top 10 major companies and bankers that supported and gained financially from the Nazi’s.

German diplomats award Henry Ford, center, with their nation’s highest decoration for foreigners, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, in July 1938. (AP Photo)

I think most Americans are generally of the opinion that corporate America has American interests at heart whereas, on the whole, nothing seems further from the truth. They are capitalists and their interest is in making profit ‘pure and simple’ regardless of the circumstance – it’s called “greed”.  The US corporations vis-a-vis the German scenario during WWII is a prime example of this. For example:

When American GIs invaded Europe in June 1944, they did so in jeeps, trucks and tanks manufactured by the Big Three motor companies in one of the largest crash militarization programs ever undertaken. It came as an unpleasant surprise to discover that the enemy was also driving trucks manufactured by Ford and Opel — a 100 percent GM-owned subsidiary — and flying Opel-built warplanes. (Chrysler’s role in the German rearmament effort was much less significant.)….

The relationship of Ford and GM to the Nazi regime goes back to the 1920s and 1930s, when the American car companies competed against each other for access to the lucrative German market. Hitler was an admirer of American mass production techniques and an avid reader of the antisemitic tracts penned by Henry Ford. “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” Hitler told a Detroit News reporter two years before becoming the German chancellor in 1933, explaining why he kept a life-size portrait of the American automaker next to his desk. (Washington Post – 1998)

And that, when the Americans bombed and destroyed much of the Ford and General Motors plants in Germany during the war these companies, unbelievably, demanded compensation and received it from American taxpayers, including, as mentioned in the Washington Post segment above,  $32 million for General Motors. As a result, there have been lawsuits against these companies as also noted in this 1998 Washington Post article:


Mel Weiss, an American attorney for Iwanowa, argues that American Ford received “indirect” profits from forced labor at its Cologne plant because of the overall increase in the value of German operations during the war. He notes that Ford was eager to demand compensation from the U.S. government after the war for “losses” due to bomb damage to its German plants and therefore should also be responsible for any benefits derived from forced labor.

Similar arguments apply to General Motors, which was paid $32 million by the U.S. government for damages sustained to its German plants. Washington attorney Michael Hausfeld, who is involved in the Ford lawsuit, confirms GM also is “on our list” as a possible target. (Washington Post – 1998)

Two Videos

(1) Plot To Overthrow FDR Documentary
 

 (2) Hitler’s American Business Partners

Top 10 American Companies that Aided the Nazis

DUSTIN KOSKI – JANUARY 2, 2015

War profiteers are such a loathsome notion. The idea that while people are struggling for causes while others use the confused nature of military logistics to make dishonest money is appalling. The thought that these companies supported the most deadly regime in the world and went on to become fixtures in our daily lives is loathsome, even well over half a century later, yet it remains a bitter reality.

1. International Business Machines (IBM)
2. General Motors
3. Ford Motor Company
4. Alcoa
5. Woolworth
6. Brown Brothers Harriman
7. Dow Chemical
8. Chase Manhattan Bank
9. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

10. Coca-Cola

HEATHER GRAY produces “Just Peace” on WRFG-Atlanta 89.3 FM covering local, regional, national and international news. She is also a writer, researcher and journalist. In 1985-86 she directed the nonviolent program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. She subsequently has also been engaged in support for and helping black farmers in the Southern US hold on to their land and this has included work in cooperative economic development. She has lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, the Philippines and the United States. She now lives in Atlanta, Georgia and can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net