In Episode 108 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the frightening East-West escalation over Ukraine. Beyond the front-line on that country's eastern borders, the forces of Russia and its allies and those of NATO are preparing for war from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. The "anti-war" (sic) left in the US is, with perfect predictability, lining up with Russia. Contrary to pseudo-left misconceptions, the post-Cold War promises made to Russia that NATO would not expand east were never formalized. However, the promises to Ukraine that its sovereignty and territory would be protected were formalized. The prevailing double standard on the Western "left" sensationalizes a "Nazi" threat in Ukraine while ignoring the actual consolidation of fascistic dictatorships in Russia and Belarus. Putin's propaganda, spread by the Kremlin media machine, is an exercise in fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Meanwhile, Ukrainian socialists and democratic-left forces advance a "Neither East Nor West" position that demands solidarity against Russian aggression from the world anti-war forces. Ironically, Lenin himself declared unequivocally for Ukrainian self-determination—here and here and here and here. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a new report, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, revealing the extent of the regime's campaign of repression against the right to information. The report especially examines the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a world model but has now seen an increasing number of journalists arrested in the name of "national security."
Tensions on the European Union's eastern border escalated sharply this week as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation.
Two international human rights organizations accused six high-ranking members of the Belarusian security authorities of committing crimes against humanity in a criminal complaint filed in Germany Nov. 1. The complaint was filed with the German Public Prosecutor General by the Geneva-based World Organization against Torture (OMCT) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). The complaint was filed in Germany because of its universal jurisdiction doctrine, which allows its courts to prosecute crimes against humanity that are committed anywhere in the world. As ECCHR program director for international crimes Andreas Schüller, stated: "We expect the initiation of preliminary proceedings by the Federal Prosecutor General against those responsible, as there is no foreseeable investigation into these violations of international law in Belarus itself."
Let's start by stating the obvious. Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Since 1994, Lukashenko has maintained power through the usual admixture of electoral fraud, party patronage and state terror. When the fraud became a bit too blatant in last August's presidential race, the country exploded into protest. Lukashenko unleashed riot squads and army troops on the protesters, but the movement stayed strong—for months holding weekly demonstrations demanding the fall of the regime. This movement was finally beaten back in a wave of harsh repression earlier this year; tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anti-fascists and anarchists have been particularly singled out for persecution under Lukashenko, and the current wave of terror has been no exception. Regime propaganda has been periodically punctuated by paranoid anti-Semitism. And this machinery of repression has, of course, been amply lubricated by foreign capital, which has invested heavily in the regime.
Long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko has cut off internet across most of Belarus as the country explodes into angry protests in the wake of contested presidential elections. Riot police are unleashing harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water hoses against demonstrators in Minsk. One person has been reported killed and many more wounded, including several police officers. According to preliminary results, Lukashenko won an unlikely 80% of the vote in the Aug. 9 election, with the main opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya taking only 10%. Tikhanovskaya was a surprise replacement for her husband Sergei, a popular blogger who was arrested after he attempted to launch a presidential campaign. She held large rallies in Minsk and other cities, riding a groundswell of popular discontent with Lukashenko. (Politico, The Guardian, Meduza)
With whole nations under lockdown, sweeping powers are being assumed by governments across the world in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hungary's parliament on March 30 voted to allow Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree, without a set time limit. While the emergency legislation remains in place, all elections are suspended, as are several government regulations including (ironically) some concerned with protecting public health. Individuals who spread what is deemed false or distorted information may face up to five years in prison. Other measures include up to three years in prison for anyone who disregards quarantine orders. (Jurist, Politico)
Last week we were treated to the perverse spectacle of the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China's "re-education camps." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (whose hypocrisy on this matter we have noted before) on July 18 called China's treatment of the Uighurs the "stain of the century," and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. (Reuters) At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. (SCMP)