Category Archives: Environment
Conflict Heats Up in Oil-Rich Niger Delta
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has recently released statements refusing offers of amnesty by the Nigerian state and, as of June 6th, given local and foreign oil workers 72 hours notice of an “imminent attack.” “The warning also applies to greedy individuals from oil communities tempted to carry out repair contracts on pipelines already destroyed,” MEND added.
These statements follow a major military campaign aimed at crushing MEND. As part of the campaign, which displaced thousands of indigenous civilians, the Nigerian military has been accused of indiscriminate aerial bombings and shelling villages. A spokesman from the Nigerian military called MEND’s warning an “empty boast by a toothless gang” and urged oil workers to disregard the threat.
In 2006, MEND began attacking oil installations, sabotaging infrastructure and kidnapping oil-industry workers for ransom. Since then, analysts have noted that the rebel group has grown more sophisticated. In June of 2008, MEND attacked Shell’s main oil platform, which, at 75 miles from shore, was thought to be safe from militant assaults. As a result, the platform, which normally produces 200,000 barrels per day, was temporarily closed, reducing Nigeria’s total oil production by 10% overnight. Since January of 2006, unrest in the Niger Delta has reduced Nigeria’s daily output from 2.6 million barrels to 1.76 million. Niger is the fifth largest importer of crude oil into the U.S.; oil accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s export income.
In January of 2009, MEND called off a four month ceasefire and resumed attacks against imperialist operations and infrastructure. MEND says that oil operations have caused massive pollution, killed local wildlife and left indigenous communities without a means of subsistence. Niger Delta communities use very little oil themselves. Almost no oil revenue makes it to the communities most affected by oil production. Instead it is exported as profits by companies such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, transferred to the First World via price fixing and unequal exchange or consumed by local puppet-elites. Speaking of their own movement, MEND says, “The very reason for militancy is because of injustice. Fiscal federalism is among the things that will silence our guns.”
Under the current schema, imperialism dominates the Nigeria economy. This has predictably led to a social and environmental catastrophe. Traditional modes of existence have been destroyed through activities inherent in the maintenance of the modern global economy. In this case, foreign companies get the oil at the lowest cost possible and with no regard for existing communities or the environment and export it to consumption-based economies of the West. The people of the Niger Delta, instead of finding any benefit from this process, have lost their previous ability to feed themselves from their natural surroundings and have little opportunities to find subsistence level wages on their own land or in their own country. Regardless of natural wealth, imperialism is a death warrant for indigenous Third World peoples.
MEND’s struggle is a just one. Faced with displacement, oppression and exploitation by imperialism, Third World peoples have little alternative but fighting back at those who direct and facilitate such oppression. For groups like MEND, this means a struggle not only against the imperialist oil-industry but also against the Nigerian state. As witnessed by the military’s most recent offensive against MEND, the Nigerian state is itself an agent of imperialism whose main role is protecting, militarily if need be, the interests of multi-national oil companies.
The struggle of the Niger Delta masses against imperialism and its local puppets is one that must be supported by all revolutionary peoples. This is because the struggle in the Niger Delta is part of a larger struggle shared by the vast majority of humanity. A serious blow to imperialism in Nigeria weakens imperialism as a whole, allowing for revolutionary advances on the part of oppressed peoples elsewhere. Conversely, while MEND might be able to land some blows against Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and the Nigerian state, the struggle against imperialism can only come to a victorious resolution through a unified effort on the part of oppressed peoples from countries around the world. Only by way of a global anti-imperialist struggle can imperialist exploitation, and the devastating social and environmental impacts that accompany it, no longer remain a threat to oppressed peoples. Only through the unified struggle of oppressed peoples against capitalist-imperialism and its various local lackeys can a new world, one based on the needs of people, be built.
I-70 Expansion Plans Indicative of Wider Imperialist Parasitism
Discussions about expanding Interstate 70 in Colorado have been happening for nearly a decade now. Proponents have cited everything from the living standards of Coloradans, quantified by their ability to quickly traverse the state’s main East-West highway, to the economic incentive of drawing into the state more tourist and commercial transport dollars. Proponents also say the state’s growing population will hasten the need for highway expansion projects.
More recently, plans to expand I-70 east of I-25 in Denver have moved forward with the publishing of a draft study on the environmental and social impacts of various options. Amongst other things, the study considered not expanding anything, expanding other main East-West Denver thoroughfares, building a multi-level highway, building an underground highway, expanding I-70 at the sides and rerouting the part of the highway. The later two options are most favored by the study. The portion of I-70 proposed for expansion is elevated over neighborhoods heavily populated by nationally oppressed peoples. The portion of the highway is also filled with potholes and bad patch-up jobs and predicted to be a point of major traffic congestion over the next ten years.
Thus far, the most vocal critics of the highway expansion plans has been the local environmental group, High Country Earth First! (HCEF!). HCEF! cites ecological concerns and a general critique of Amerika’s consumer economy, as well as advocacy for the neighborhoods which would be affected most, amongst its primary criticisms of the highway expansion plan. According to HCEF!, any proposed highway expansion would contribute to problems such as urban sprawl, global warming, endangerment to local wildlife habitats and would negatively affect the surrounding nationally oppressed communities. According to HCEF!, the planned I-70 expansion “is part of the greater picture, one where poor people and communities of color are systemically oppressed by the state for the continued privilege of white people and the wealthy. Infrastructure expansion doesn’t meet the needs of underserved communities and only furthers their destruction. The I-70 expansion is no different; a low income community of color would be disrupted and displaced to serve the needs of a capitalist white supremacy.”
The Real Bigger Picture
While the proposed I-70 expansion occurs within the often obscured context of capitalist-imperialism, the cognitive reasons for the project, as noted by proponents and critics, are pretty clear cut: to bring more money into the state. Underlying these seemingly disconnected notions is the interconnected economics of it all.
Building a highway does not itself create value: portions of it will not be sold as a commodity in the form of a toll or user-fee. Rather, a highway expansion has one clear purpose, to better facilitate commerce, trade and private spending in the state. Whereas this added economic activity may inject billions of additional dollars into the state, this does not necessarily mean that such value was itself created within the state.
Under capitalism, value is created by labor engaged in the creation and distribution of commodities. Under capitalism, workers are only paid a portion of the value that was created and the capitalist keeps the rest. The situation today however is vastly more complicated.
Production and distribution is organized on a global scale and vast disparities exist between workers themselves. Nevertheless, value is still created by labor. The difference today is that whereas most of the world’s value is created in the Third World, it becomes realized and concentrated within the First. Thus, from the perspective of a single locality within the exploiter First World, anything that increases local commerce and economic activity in the area increases the realization of surplus value and the accumulation of capital.
Simply put, expanding I-70 will mean that more value created elsewhere will be channeled into the Colorado economy. The exploitative global relationship that is capitalist-imperialism makes the question of redundant and ecologically unsound infrastructure such as ever-increasing urban highways systems a realistic, even necessary one. Even truck drivers and highway construction workers, whose compensation places them in the richest 10% of the world, find themselves in positions of intersecting interest with the expansive system of imperialist parasitism.
Summing It Up
HCEF! gets it partially right when they say, “Infrastructure expansion doesn’t meet the needs of underserved communities and only furthers their destruction. The I-70 expansion is no different; a low income community of color would be disrupted and displaced to serve the needs of a capitalist white supremacy.”
HCEF! is right to frame the issue more as one of relative privilege than direct exploitation. Indeed, infrastructure expansion is meant to serve the general exploiter economy: one in which nationally oppressed peoples receive less opportunities and encounter more obstacles. For the most exploitative and oppressive sectors of Coloradan society, the damage done to the relatively least empowered, nationally oppressed communities is seen as a necessary consequence of increasing economic activity and thus the realization of value via this highway expansion project. Nevertheless, projects such as the proposed expansion of I-70, despite the damage it may cause to specific communities, should be seen for what it is: the expansion of imperialist parasitism within the Denver/Colorado area.
Demands for People Centered Infrastructure
Obviously not all infrastructure is bad. RAIM-Denver is hardly opposed to highways and roads on their own merits. In fact, a better regular distribution of food and medical supplies, which requires better road systems, and basic infrastructure such as water sanitation facilities and simply utilities are some of the basic demands of the world’s impoverished majority. While it is true that the natural capacity of the Earth could not allow the current mode and standard of living of Amerikans to be replicated the world over, this is more than anything else a reflection as to the depth of imperialist parasitism and the necessity of developing different productive and distributive arrangements in a new world.
As with imperialist parasitism itself, RAIM-Denver opposes any expansion of the I-70 highway system. Rather than continually expanding the material base for the realization of stolen wealth at this or that locality within the First World, RAIM-Denver demands that all resources for such projects instead be directed toward building life-saving and basic infrastructure, such that is centered around the creation of a more socially egalitarian and eco-centric organization of economic activity.
The proposed expansion of I-70 is merely symptomatic of a wider phenomenon of global exploitation and parasitism. In the end, only through destruction of this global imperialist paradigm will the idea of ever-expanding and destructive infrastructure projects, such as the proposed I-70 expansion, forever become of a remnant of a more primitive past. Only through the destruction of the modern capitalist-imperialist system can a fundamentally new world emerge.
Imperialists are the real pirates
The Amerikan media is buzzing about pirates. In a recent incident, so-called “pirates” attempted to capture the cargo ship Maersk Alabama. According to mainstream reports, when the Somalis failed to take the ship, they fled the scene, taking the ship’s captain with them as a hostage to ransom later. Later, captain Phillips, an Amerikan, was freed by U$ Navy snipers who killed three of the Somalis and injured one other. The Somali version of events is much different than the one reported in the Amerikan media. According to Somali leader Abdi Garad, the Amerikans broke a truce agreement: “The American liars have killed our friends after they agreed to free the hostage without ransom.” (1)
The supposed “pirate menace” has provided Obama with a perfect, win-win situation. Obama was able to bloody his presidency in a low-risk engagement against a very weak enemy. Thus, Obama answered critics who claim that he is too soft. Even Obama’s usual critics are praising his action against the so-called pirate menace. Not surprisingly, the events of the past few days reveal that Obama is a run-of-the-mill imperialist. It is likely that the imperialists will use the excuse of “pirates” to increase their activity in Africa over the next decade.
Imperialists are the real pirates.
Firstly, the cargo ships that traverse the waters of the Somali coast are part of the imperialist system. They transport millions of dollars of stolen loot between the First and Third Worlds. The people of the Third World are completely justified in retrieving the wealth stolen from them.
Secondly, imperialist corporations have been destroying the Somali coastline with impunity since the early 1990s. According to Januna Ali Jama, a Somali spokesman, the actions of the Somali “pirates” are in response to “the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years.”
“The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas.”
These charges have been confirmed by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia. He stated that dumping and illegal fishing allegations have been made since the early 1990s.
Again dramatically confirming the imperialist crimes, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) reported that rusted containers of toxic waste were found washed up on the Somali coastline after the 2004 tsunami. A UNEP spokesperson said that the containers were smashed open by the waves of the tsunami. The UNEP spokesperson said that the “frightening activity” of dumping had been going on for a decade. He stated that hundreds of Somali residents had become ill, suffering mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments due to the dumping.
“Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there,” he said.
“European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.”
“And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it.”
UN envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah confirmed the claims, “What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean.”
According to Mohammed Gure, chairman of the Somalia Concern Group, “The Somali coastline used to sustain hundreds of thousands of people, as a source of food and livelihoods. Now much of it is almost destroyed..” (2)
All this goes to show that the real pirate menace is imperialism. The imperialists have stolen an entire coastline from the Somali people. They have stolen their health and way of life. We wish the Somali people luck in redistributing wealth from the First to the Third World. We wish them luck in taxing the real pirates, the imperialists, who have stolen so much from them.
In Danger of Being Snuffed Out by Imperialism, Sumatran Tigers, Lacking Class Consciousness, Strike Out Against Super-Exploited Neighbors
In Danger of Being Snuffed Out by Imperialism, Sumatran Tigers, Lacking Class Consciousness, Strike Out Against Super-Exploited Neighbors
Like many of the world’s animals, the Sumatran tiger is facing extinction due to imperialism’s ravenous exploitation of the vast Third World. With less than four hundred remaining in the wild, the Sumatran tiger, like uncountable other species and sub-species, is recognized as being “critically endangered” while simultaneously being wiped through activities inherent to the current system. Unlike other animals however, the Sumatran tiger is not dying-off gracefully.
Like many other rainforest animals, a dwindling habitat and food supply caused by deforestation has the Sumatran tiger facing its end. Hungry, some of the tigers have begun attacking people, many of them employed by what have been called illegal logging operations. Attacks against humans first occurred in 1997. Between January 24th and March 3rd of this year, nine people have been killed by the rare tigers. Since the 1985, fifty percent of the islands remaining forests have been destroyed.
The primary culprits are Asian Pulp and Paper (APP) and other companies under the Indonesian holding company Sinar Mas Group (SMG). As recently as 2008 the companies were investigated for illegal practices. According to local NGOs, the companies’ operations are “legally questionable and environmentally unsound.” Since the 80’s APP alone has cleared an estimated 2.5 million acres of virgin forest on the island. Despite the clear habitat and environmental destruction their practices cause, APP plans on expanding its operation on both Sumatra and to the neighboring island of Papua New Guinea.
Asian Pulp and Paper has also been accused of various human rights abuses. Indigenous peoples’ claim that the logging companies have seized their land, intimidated them and denied them access to traditionally public areas. According to Amnesty International, in December of 2008 APP destroyed a village, leaving four hundred people without homes. Greenpeace claims security guards working for another SMG company assaulted peaceful protestors. Neither for human rights abuses nor environment destruction has APP or its partner companies faced legal action.
This unfortunate situation occurs within the context of imperialism: whereby the lives, labor and natural resources of the Third World are exploited for the benefit of the First World. The pattern in Sumatra is all to familiar: the land is sold off to investors and the newly uprooted indigenous populations employed at massively exploitative wages in occupations geared towards the exportation of their natural wealth. The stories change only in the details. Here, Sinar Mas Group does the exploiting and passes on the discount to First World consumer outlets such as Target and ultimately First World consumers themselves. It is as unfortunate as predictable that the Sumatran Tiger, and countless other unreported species, are caught in the middle of this vicious system.
It is in the interest of the Sumatran Tiger and bio-diversity as a whole that the capitalist imperialist system be overthrown. A system that seeks ever expanded markets, transactions and profits is simply not compatible with the natural world. Justifying its increasing ecological destruction, a representative for a SMG company recently said, “We are still a growing company. We (Indonesia) are still competing with Malaysia to become the world’s top producer of palm oil.”
Unfortunately, Sumatran tigers, as evidenced by this string of attacks on their Sumatran neighbors, are incapable of forming class consciousness against a common oppressor. Unlike an amorphized ‘Animal Kingdom’ or metaphysical concepts of a ‘Gaia,’ the only force capable of freeing the island of Sumatra from the exploitation of First World imperialism is the exploited Sumatran masses and their allies in the Third World. Only by uniting the masses against imperialist exploitation and building a new order based on rationally meeting basic needs can the people of the Third World, the Sumatran tiger and species like it live in a world, not of increasing exploitation and endangerment, but social and ecological harmony.
By Nick Brown
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement- Denver is a movement for global equality. We stand for the end of the imperialist system: the system whereby a handful of powerful nations exploit the peoples of the world. We see the termination of imperialism as a necessary first step to a world of lasting peace and real equality.
Anti-imperialism is foremost a fight for national liberation. Most broadly construed, national liberation is the struggle to not be exploited by outside oppressors, but to exist as a self-determining, free nation.
National liberation struggles happen throughout the world on a variety of levels. Venezuela is an example where a progressive section of the ruling class is now leading a campaign for national salvation; providing much needed reforms for the masses while challenging U.S. supremacy on a regional level. There are the numerous armed groups in Mexico, numbering in the mid-teens (not just the Zapatistas), who are fighting a comprador government. Hezbollah, the patriotic Islamic party in Lebanon, has challenged Western influence in the country, provided social welfare for the people and aligned with various Lebanese parties [including Christian ones] in their struggle against Amerikan/Zionist aggression. And we cannot forget the heroic Iraqi resistance.
These forces, taken together, form a worldwide movement against Western imperialism. These diverse individual movements, insofar as they are challenging imperialism, should be supported by freedom and peace loving peoples everywhere.
If Third World anti-imperialist struggles are capable of cutting vital lifelines [of wealth and resources] to imperialism, national liberation struggles internal to the U.S. are capable of delivering blows from within. In the grand scheme of things, within the worldwide movement towards anti-imperialism, these national liberation movements represent a mighty ally, behind enemy lines, within what is geographically called the United States. Because of this, and because these struggles are so close to home, national liberation for internally oppressed nations hold a special significance for us.
While national liberation is not currently the dominant trend amongst oppressed nations within Amerika, national struggles themselves are part of the dialect of everyday life. These struggles manifest in a variety of ways but carry common themes.
For Mexicanos, Indigenous Peoples and Blacks, theirs is the struggle not to be criminalized and disproportionately held captive in White-Amerika’s prison system. It is the struggle to not have their cultures mocked, repressed, co-opted and whitewashed. It is the struggle to not have the lowest life expectancies within the United States. It is a struggle to practice one’s national culture with pride; to be treated as equal members of society; to exist free from the oppression leveled on them by Amerika.
Typically, national struggles take one of two routes: one, the route of liberation as a nation, and the other, integration into the imperialistic, Amerikan oppressor society.
The latter, integration into the Amerikan oppressor society, is the main trend today. This is the path favored by poverty pimps, white chauvinists and the state. The integration route was made widely available through the widening and deepening of exploitation abroad while given impetus by the explosive successes of national liberation struggles during the 1960s and 70s. The reformist integrationist route, while also a national struggle, is antithetical to revolutionary national liberation. Ending oppression through integration means being absorbed into Amerika’s “multi-cultural” oppressor society. It is the democratization of imperialist privilege and the diversification of the labor aristocracy. Integrationism is not revolutionary and is not in the least bit anti-imperialist.
For oppressed nations inside Amerika, the struggle for national liberation is mainly tied to the struggle for a territory on which a free nation can exist. Without such a land, oppressed nations are doomed to live within White-Amerika–forced to suffer oppression while at the same time being lured by trickle-down imperialist privilege. While the goal of national liberation struggles is the creation of sovereign national territories, the planting of seeds for such political power is a necessary first step.
While full-blown national power will not develop quickly or easily, national liberation movements themselves are of utmost importance today. The strengthening of national liberation movements, the expansion of networks and the creation of independent spaces from which these networks and broader movements can operate is a task for which the outcome will weigh heavily on the future.
As success for peoples of the Third World build up, national liberation struggles inside the U.S. can become a destabilizing force within the heart of imperialism. This will make the prospects of revolution greater. At the same time, national liberation struggles will be a focal point of revolutionary gravity within the First World. In the long term, successes made today in creating the basis for independent national power [for oppressed nations within the U.S.] will translate into much wider successes for all people oppressed by U.S. imperialism further down the road.
It is with these considerations in mind that we champion national liberation struggles within United States. We do so not to advance ourselves or to look edgy. We do so from our general anti-imperialist perspective. For us, any single movement for national liberation here is part of the broader international revolutionary struggle to end oppression once and for all.
In a very special event celebrating the two-faced “humanitarianism” that comes hand in hand with amerikan imperialism, Wayne ‘Dirty’ Murdy was given an “International Bridge Builders” award by the Graduate School of International Studies at the University of Denver. There to present the award was none other than Madeleine ‘Worth It’ Albright. So of course, there was a protest.
Around 100 people showed up to protest the eco-terrorist Wayne Murdy and the crazed old butcher Madeleine Albright. Of course many of the protesters wouldn’t have framed their reasons for being there in quite this manner. Needless to say, RAIM-Denver has its own politics.
RAIM-Denver upholds radicalism not liberalism. We don’t fight “opponents,” we stand against oppressors. So right from the get go we entered the protest not thinking we had to adhere to the status quo of amerikan activism. However, this mindset spilled over and altered the entire tone of the protest when someone early-on gave Nick, a RAIM-Denver member, the biggest megaphone on the block. Oh ya, it was on.
Wasting no time, this opportunity was quickly seized upon to speak some truth. Agitating to the extreme, Nick pulled no verbal punches. Among other truths, these Eichmanns were told straight up that they were Eichmanns. This of course irritated some. But Nick knew this wasn‘t the time to “tone it down.” Instead, to both the ire of Eichmanns and to the liberals, he boomed “I have the megaphone.”
A guest appearance was made by liar extraordinaire Omar Jabara, the head of public relations for Newmont Mining. Omar actually slithered up with his wife to the protesting crowd and shook the hand of this vocal RAIMer. Asked if the crowd could throw Wayne Murdy off a bridge and Madeline Albright off a taller one, a slightly overwhelmed Jabara didn’t really have an answer but instead nervously offered a fake smile. Not real smooth for a public relations department head. Needless to say, Omar didn’t stick around long.
Madeleine Albright, the mad queen of state sanctioned terror, even appeared before the crowd. This came as a shock to RAIM-Denver since we thought she was allergic to sunlight. Nick, by this time really amped up, had already encouraged the valets to slam the car doors on the arriving Eichmanns. The necessity of such an action became apparent as she arrived. Nick later said, “When she looked into my eyes I could feel the souls of half a million dead Iraqi children.” Chilling indeed.
For being such humanitarians, Dirty Murdy and Mad Madeleine sure did need a lot of security. The entire perimeter of the Marriot was guarded. A big deal was made about protestors not being on Marriot property. At one point an Indigenous womyn near the RAIM-Denver agitator was told to go back to the sidewalk by a pig. Nick pointed out that the cop was on her property and told him to get off. He didn’t listen.
It should be mentioned that not everyone was displeased by RAIM-Denver’s amplified presence. Nick drew nods and laughs from many of the protesters. Those who did express contention with Nick were all white liberals. That’s not to say that we didn’t have support from white protesters, just that those whites probably weren’t liberals. On the other hand, not a single Indigenous persyn seemed displeased. In fact, the aforementioned womyn even thanked Nick for his remarks about amerika being built on land stolen from her ancestors.
All and all it was a great event. RAIM-Denver put the spotlight on radical politics and in the process made people on both sides of the sidewalk uncomfortable. Needless to say, we don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing. And, despite Newmont’s PR campaign against RAIM-Denver leading up to the event, we are happy to report that we have not lost a single grant or big donor. Omar, you failed.
[Photo from the kind folks at tryworks.org]
Omar, you can send your resume to RAIM-Denver. We promise to read it. But don’t call us, we’ll call you.