Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Paris Terror Attacks: Further Proof That We Need to Overthrow Imperialism
Jihadi terrorism is the bastard child of the union between blind religious fanaticism and imperialist market fundamentalism.

25 November 2015

On the evening of Friday 13 November, a group of terrorists armed with kalashnikovs and wearing suicide belts launched coordinated assaults on six targets in Paris, killing 129 innocent people and injuring 350 others, 100 of them critically. According to eye-witness accounts, these attacks were professionally coordinated, meticulously planned and executed with cold-blooded disregard for human life. Eight of the terrorists were also killed.

The targets included the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 young people attending a performance by an American metal band were cut down in the prime of their lives; Stade de France, where a friendly football match between Germany and France was underway; Le Comptoir Voltaire restaurant and other bars and cafés.

The Islamic State (IS), also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh, has taken responsibility for the carnage in Paris, claiming: “This is only the start of the storm.” (IS claims responsibility, calling Paris attacks ‘start of the storm’ by Frank Camp, Independent Journal, 14 November 2015)

Progressive people will resolutely condemn the Paris tragedy. It is clear that there is no reason for anyone, except the crazed jihadis, to gloat over such a senseless massacre, for the action of its perpetrators, far from being an expression of anti-imperialist defiance, merely serves to strengthen the imperialist agenda of repression at home and war abroad.

Our own government, for example, having failed to win approval for all-out war against Syria in 2013, is bent upon using the attacks in Paris as a justification for resuscitating the debate and trying once more to gain parliamentary approval for the full-scale bombing of Syria.

Meanwhile, preparations for the repression of all dissent and opposition to government policies are well advanced, and the latest bombings will certainly be used to further justify this assault on what remain of our civil liberties. The Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the Snoopers’ Charter) is currently being piloted through parliament by the home secretary, Theresa May, under which even more powers will be bestowed on the police and on the intelligence and border agencies. (See Guardian, 4 November 2015)

There will doubtless be further demonisation of minorities and asylum seekers and yet more stoking of islamophobia by bourgeois politicians and media in the wake of the Paris attacks, with the inevitable increase in discord between muslim and non-muslim, foreign-born and local workers – all in an attempt to weaken the working-class movement by diverting our attention away from our real enemy (the imperialist ruling class) to imaginary enemies (workers from ethnic minorities and refugees).

Selective empathy

The bourgeois media have expressed their outrage at the Paris bombings in hysterically hyperbolic terms. The Financial Times of 16 November described the attacks as “civilisation’s worst nightmare”, while another paper characterised Islamic State as “the most ruthless death cult”. The masses of workers across the imperialist world have been encouraged, to put it mildly, to wave the French flag in a show of sympathy – both with the victims as individuals and with France as the victim nation.

But this sympathy and fellow feeling are by no means applied consistently to the victims of terror attacks around the world. Recent events bring into stark relief just how our collective emotions are manipulated by media and politicians, who have become expert at either drawing out or suppressing the ‘human angle’ of an event to suit the British ruling class’s political agenda.

Just two weeks before the Paris attacks, on 31 October, a Russian holiday flight crashed 23 minutes after take-off from the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. At the time of the crash, it was not known what had brought the plane down, but, far from expressing their deep sympathies and fellow-feeling with the 224 innocent victims of that disaster, 25 of whom were children, the commentators of the bourgeois presstitute fraternity were practically rubbing their hands with glee – hoping against hope that the crash would turn out to have been caused by a terrorist bomb, and that such an attack would turn public opinion in Russia against the country’s continued involvement in the war in Syria.

The media’s only other concern was for the effects of disruption on the British tourist industry and the inconvenience to British holidaymakers stranded at the resort as routine flights were cancelled. (See live updates on Telegraph website, 7 November 2015)

When it did, indeed, turn out that the plane had been brought down in a brutal terrorist attack by IS (an attack that claimed nearly a hundred more victims than the events in Paris), the bourgeois media did not feel the need to describe the tragedy as “civilisation’s worst nightmare”. Nobody condemned IS as “the most ruthless death cult” or rushed to tell the stories of the victims and describe the trauma of their families. There was no mass waving of the Russian flag, no chants of “We are all Russians” on the football terraces, no mass circulation of sympathy posts on Facebook or Twitter.

Instead, political analysts gave the impression that the tragedy was no more than what Russia deserved, and speculated enthusiastically about whether the Russian masses would blame their own government for the terrorist attack as blowback for the country’s air operations in Syria – clearly implying that they should and hoping that they would. (See Vladimir Putin’s showmanship has left him without a strategy by Edward Lucas, Telegraph, 7 November 2015)

Amidst this barely-suppressed frenzy of excitement that Russia’s ability to maintain its devastatingly effective role in Syria’s anti-terrorist struggle may have been seriously undermined, the fates of the crash victims were entirely sidelined. (See Putin’s crash test: Downed Russian jetliner could signal the president's next big strike by Owen Matthews, Newsweek, 10 November 2015)

This selective application of the concepts of shared humanity and fellow feeling are further highlighted by the reporting of another brutal IS bombing, this time in Lebanon. On 12 November, IS bombed a district in Beirut, killing 43 innocent people who were out shopping at the local marketplace and going about the business of their daily lives.

The imperialist media, instead of galvanising us to feel sympathy with the victims of yet another senseless and brutal massacre, gave no names of victims and no details of their deaths, merely stating the number of dead and describing the ordinary neighbourhood that had been targeted as a “Hizbollah stronghold”.

The clear implication in the reporting (what there was of it) was that by fighting side by side with the Syrian Arab Army in its struggle against imperialism’s jihadis, the Lebanese people had somehow asked for (and deserved) this savage assault. Needless to say, no waving of the Lebanese flag was in evidence on Britain’s streets, football terraces or social media pages. (See Just as innocent – comparing Beirut and Paris by Habib Battah, Al Jazeera, 15 November 2015)

In his message of condolence to the French, David Cameron said: “Your pain is our pain, your fight is our fight.” No such words were uttered and no such sentiments expressed in the aftermath of the Russian air crash tragedy or the Beirut bombing – as if the massacre of 224 innocent Russian holidaymakers and 43 innocent Lebanese civilians meant nothing at all.

But, as the saying goes: be careful what you wish for. The very organisation created by imperialism to terrorise the peoples of the Middle East and to serve as an instrument for regime change across the region went on from these atrocities to strike back and bite the hand that feeds it. It did so just one day after the Beirut massacre that had drawn so little outrage from corporate media hacks and career politicians.

But how could this happen? What accounts for such a turn of events?

Russian intervention: a game changer

The answer must be found in the Russian intervention in the war to save Syria – at the Syrian government’s invitation. The aerial support given by Russia to the Syrian ground forces has proved to be a game changer, and has levelled the playing field for the first time in more than four years of an imperialist-inspired war that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million Syrians, including close to 100,000 Syrian army personnel.

Closely coordinated Russian aerial bombardments of terrorist headquarters, hideouts, ammunition depots, infrastructure and strongholds, and the Syrian Arab Army’s advance into areas held by IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terror gangs, has inflicted more damage on the jihadis in six weeks than has been managed by the imperialist coalition’s phony ‘war on IS’ in more than a year.

The reason for the imperialists’ lack of success is becoming all-too embarrassingly obvious: while claiming to be waging war against terrorism, imperialism has in reality been pursuing its old policy of regime change, waging a vicious and destructive war against the Syrian people. Although they talk about ‘stopping IS’, the imperialist invaders of Syria have in fact continued to facilitate their terrorist proxies in Syria and beyond and have targeted their destructive power not at terrorist bases and supply lines but at Syria’s oil industry and civilian infrastructure. (See US airstrikes on Syria are not about IS – Syrians reject violation of sovereignty, Syriangirlpartisan on YouTube, 24 September 2014)

It is clear that the fight against terrorism and the fight for regime change cannot but be mutually exclusive objectives, for the only groups that are potentially capable of bringing down the popular government of Syria (and then only with the full backing of imperialism and its puppet Gulf medieval autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, not to speak of Turkey) are all terrorist outfits – whether they be IS, al-Nusra or the mythical ‘moderate’ opposition.

On the other hand, the only forces on the ground really capable of defeating terrorism are those of the Syrian people – the regular army and the national defence forces under the command of the legitimate government of Syria, headed by President Bashar al-Assad.

Recently, British foreign secretary Philip Hammond admitted as much, saying: “We all agree we want to target terrorists, but we do not agree what a terrorist is.” He added: “The Russians, in particular, have a rather broad-based definition of a terrorist as anyone who is fighting the [Syrian] regime.” (Friend or foe: Syria summit faces tough choices by Geoff Dyer and Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 12 November 2015)

Mr Hammond ‘forgot’ to add that, in the eyes of the imperialist powers, no one is a terrorist who is fighting to destroy Syria’s progressive government, however terroristic their methods and however anti-popular they may be.

Be that as it may, the successes of the Russian air force and the Syrian army have exposed imperialism’s alleged fight against terrorism for the sham it is, forcing the imperialist countries most reluctantly to attack a few IS targets themselves – if only to gain some credibility in the eyes of the world’s people and to secure a few bargaining chips in advance of the next round of negotiations.

Up until the start of the Russian intervention, imperialist forces routinely turned a blind eye to long convoys of trucks and tankers carrying huge shipments of oil to be sold illegally in Turkey and elsewhere. These sales were well known to be providing IS and their fellow jihadis with hundreds of millions of dollars with which to buy weapons and pay mercenaries. (See Russian bomb – video shows IS oil sector undamaged by Obama’s ‘air war’ by Neil Munro, Breitbart, 19 November 2015)

Somehow, the US air force, which boasts an ability to see any and every movement on the ground, failed in broad daylight to detect or hamper these convoys. Moreover, the jihadis must have had help in laundering the money from the sale of such large quantities of oil, for it is nigh-on impossible to sell oil and keep the resulting funds secret. (See UK, US turn blind eye to Islamic State oil sales by Nafeez Ahmed, Middle East Eye, 31 July 2015)

In recent weeks, however, belated actions against IS by the imperialists have put some pressure on Raqqa, the terrorists’ headquarters in northeast Syria. On 12 November, a US drone strike claimed to have killed a British jihadi, Mohammed Emwazi (‘Jihadi John’), above the city.

The increasing attacks on IS infrastructure have caused rage in the jihadi camp and driven them to launching the deadly attack on Paris – the capital of one of their imperialist masters. It could have been any other member of the imperialist coalition, but it turned out to be France – presumably for logistical reasons.

One purpose of this sudden burst of activity on the part of the imperialist powers after a year of their fake ‘battle against terrorism’ has been to boost their position in the high-profile diplomatic tussle over Syria, with the resumption of foreign ministers’ talks in Vienna and the convening of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey – both of which took place on the weekend of 14-15 November.

In his speech on 12 November, US secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged as much: “The chance for successful diplomacy depends, in part, on the ability to exert leverage, on control of territory, on perceptions about who is gaining or has the upper hand,” he said, adding: “That is why it matters that there is increasing evidence that Daesh can be defeated – even routed – when faced by the combination of coalition [he had in mind the imperialist coalition] air strikes and effective partners on the ground.” (US builds momentum in IS campaign by Geoff Dyer and Jane Arraf, Financial Times, 13 November 2015)

By ‘effective partners on the ground’, Mr Kerry could only have been referring to other sections of imperialism’s anti-Assad jihadis or to the various Kurdish forces. On the same day as the Paris events (13 November), a combination of US war planes and Kurdish fighters recaptured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar from IS. In the same week, Kurdish forces captured territory from IS around the town of al-Hawl in eastern Syria – as part of a plan to cut off supply routes between Raqqa and Mosul in Iraq.

Dramatic change in fortunes

The Russian intervention in Syria, and the successes that have accompanied it, have brought a dramatic change in the situation of the main players in the Middle East. While the star of the imperialist powers is waning, that of Mr Putin’s Russia is on the rise.

At the last year’s G20 summit in Brisbane, imperialist leaders attempted to isolate Mr Putin and their media portrayed him as an outcast for Russia’s alleged intervention in Ukraine. “Twelve months on, an audience with the Russian president was one of the hottest tickets in the town [of Antalya], as western leaders were forced to recognise the road to peace in Syria inevitably runs through Moscow.

“Few at annual summits of world leaders have seen such transformation in their fortunes, nor appeared to enjoy it as much, as Mr Putin moved from a scolded outcast to a … problem solver the West cannot ignore ...

“Mr Putin felt he held all the cards as the West came to him for answers.”

At his closing press conference, President Putin observed stoically: “There were no problems at all, not then and not now,” adding: “Of course, though, relations were more tense than today. But life goes on, everything changes: there are new problems, new challenges, which would be difficult to solve for anyone alone. It is necessary to join forces.”

He went on to capture the distrust in the fight against terrorism thus: “It is difficult to criticise us when they [ie, the US and its allies] tell us: ‘You are not hitting [IS],’ and we say: ‘Tell us where, name the targets,’ but they don’t!” (Putin transformed from outcast to problem solver at G20 by Alex Barker, George Barker and Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, 16 November 2015)

Split in the imperialist camp

The results of Russia’s successful intervention in Syria, compounded by the terrorist attacks in Paris, have brought about a deep split in the imperialist camp between those who still give primacy to regime change in Syria, and those who now regard IS as the greater danger.

Even after all that has happened, the incurably reactionary dimwit who wrote the Times editorial of 16 November asserted: “Assad is the author [not even merely the approximate cause] of the mayhem and destruction [in Syria] that threatens to spread still further across the region.” (Nous sommes tous Français)

As opposed to such demented ramblings, John R Bradley, writing in the Daily Mail of the same day, brought to bear a decidedly sane observation, castigating “our leaders”, who “continue to insist, against all reason and logic, on the removal of … Bashar al-Assad, despite the fact that he is the last secular Arab leader left, who, whether we like it or not, enjoys huge popularity in the … country.”

Continued Mr Bradley: “And then consider the breath-taking hypocrisy of our continued support for that atrocious human rights abuser Saudi Arabia, which continues to funnel money and arms to preposterously called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria in the name of bringing about democracy.”

He ended his article with the following warning: “In the meantime, we should form an international coalition to fight Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria – a suggestion proposed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin. A refusal to do this would suggest a belief among western governments that Putin poses a greater threat to Europe’s stability than Islamic State.

“That would be an utterly irresponsible and wrong-headed assessment that could risk countless more innocent people’s lives.” (The most ruthless death cult in history)

On the same day, an editorial in the Telegraph called for a political settlement in Syria, observing that such a settlement “is impossible to achieve while the West insists that it cannot involve Bashar al-Assad. Yet his enemy and that of his principal ally, Russia (another recent victim of terror), is the same as ours, namely IS.” (Europe must have stronger borders, 15 November 2015)

Likewise, the Daily Mail of 16 November called upon “Nato allies” to involve themselves in negotiations, no matter how unpalatable they may regard them, “with Iran, Russia and even the Assad regime in Damascus – which until recently Mr Cameron intended to bomb”, adding that in the interests of eliminating the deadly threat of IS, “old enmities must be set aside”. (A fight the civilised world must not lose)

This turn of circumstances forced both US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron to hold meetings with the Russian president. An unscheduled meeting between Obama and President Putin at the G20 summit produced a noticeable change in tone on the part of the US. Previously, Washington had poured scorn and derision on the Russian bombing campaign in Syria. After meeting the Russian president, however, Obama “welcomed efforts by all nations to confront the terrorist group IS and noted the importance of Russia’s military efforts in Syria focusing on the group”. (Who’s in control: Obama or the generals?, Russia Today, 16 November 2015)

Following Obama’s climb-down, David Cameron, the would-be destroyer of the Syrian regime, was compelled to likewise recognise reality and wimpishly state: “We have our differences with the Russians ... The conversation I want to have with Vladimir Putin is to say: ‘Look, there is one thing we agree about, which is we’d be safer in Russia, we’d be safer in Britain, if we destroy Isil. That’s what we should be focusing on.’” (UK’s Cameron to urge Putin to focus fight in Syria on Islamic State by Kylie Maclellan, Reuters, 15 November 2015)

In France, senior politicians from the main opposition party have broken ranks with Hollande and called for a new approach to the Syrian conflict. Former French prime minister Alain Juppé has advocated the abandonment of the policy of removing Bashar al-Assad from power, even if such an abandonment were to be considered humiliating.

Nicolas Sarkozy, M Hollande’s predecessor, called for a “new policy” on Syria that put aside differences, saying: “There cannot be two coalitions [against IS] in Syria.” He went on: “The risk of such events [of the type that took place in Paris] happening is real. We need changes in our foreign policy. We must draw conclusions from the situation in Syria. We need everyone to help fight Islamic State, notably the Russians.” (Hollande pressed to amend foreign policy after Paris attacks, Channel News Asia, 16 November 2015)

In adopting their present stance, prominent leaders from the leading imperialist countries are doing no more than expressing agreement, however painful they may find having to do so, with the observation of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the Vienna talks: “It doesn’t matter if you are for Assad or against him ... IS is your enemy, so it is not about Assad.” (Who benefits most from Paris attacks? Assad, Bloomberg, 15 November 2015)

Seeing the way the wind was blowing, even M Hollande was forced to change his tune and say: “There must be a union of all those who truly want to fight against this terrorist army as part of one big coalition. It is with this goal in mind that I will meet in the coming days President Obama and President Putin to join forces and achieve a result that has been postponed [by whom?] for too long.”

This is precisely what Mr Putin has been calling for since September. He has now ordered Russia’s armed forces to coordinate with the French military as allies on a joint action plan in Syria. (Putin orders Russian forces to work with French ‘allies’ in Syria, Financial Times, 17 November 2015)

IS can be beaten, and beaten decisively. However, it can only be fully beaten on the ground, not from the air alone – as the Russian intervention’s careful coordination with Syrian ground forces has clearly demonstrated. Even Murdoch’s odious Sun has been obliged to admit this truth in its own loathsome manner.

In what passes for an editorial, the Sun wrote: “we believe noses must be held [yes, but whose noses?] and a deal struck with Russia for a multinational force of ground troops and aircraft to eradicate IS in Syria and Iraq. It is in all our countries’ interests and bombing alone won’t work.” (It is time for Britain to take the fight to IS, 16 November 2015)

No nation can be free if it oppresses others

Two more facts must be highlighted. First, we should understand that the tragedy suffered by the citizens of Paris is no different to the many massacres that have been visited by imperialism for years on the citizens of Baghdad, Basra, Ramadi, Fallujah, Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Raqqa, Kabul, Tripoli, Benghazi and many other places. Indeed, Paris has experienced for just one day what the people of Syria have been enduring daily for nearly five years.

Just as we react with anger to the outrage in Paris, workers in the centres of imperialism have an equal duty to express our outrage at the barbarous cruelties perpetrated by our rulers on the peoples of the oppressed countries that have become targets for regime change.

More than that: we have a duty to use our power to disrupt and sabotage the waging of these unjust wars for domination by refusing to cooperate in any way. We must organise ourselves en masse to refuse to fight, refuse to provide or transport supplies, and refuse to create or broadcast war propaganda – and we must actively obstruct those who do. (See Act together to stop war, CPGB-ML, 16 February 2013)

As long as we fail in this duty, what happened in Paris is sure to occur again in London or New York or in some other imperialist city, for no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.

Imperialist wars make imperialist cities unsafe

Second, the ruling classes in the imperialist countries, in an effort to deceive and hoodwink the masses at home, are forever asserting that their wars abroad – from Afghanistan, through Iraq to Libya and Syria – are necessary to make the streets of Washington, New York, London and Paris safe. The experience of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington, Madrid in 2004, London in 2005, and Paris in January and November 2015 proves quite the opposite.

The sooner imperialism is stopped from waging wars against other peoples, the sooner will the streets of the cities in imperialist countries be safe.

Further, as is shown by the latest attacks in Paris, the terrorists are not ‘foreign’. They are home-grown, and many of them have been nurtured and trained by imperialist agencies, which have facilitated their passage to countries like Syria to wage jihad against governments that imperialism wishes to overthrow.

From time to time, contradictions arise between imperialism and its mercenary stooges; the stooges go off message and commit the kind of heinous acts as have taken place in Paris. That being the case, it is hypocritical in the extreme for the imperialist ruling classes to put on such a show of outrage over the activities of the very terrorists that they themselves have conjured into being.

Fight to overthrow imperialism

Jihadi terrorism is the bastard child of the union between blind religious fanaticism and imperialist market fundamentalism.

In its quest for domination and maximisation of profit; in its drive for grabbing raw materials, markets and avenues for investment, imperialism brooks no obstacles, and there is no crime it will not commit in pursuit of these aims; no mean method it will not stoop to.

Present-day jihadi fundamentalism was spirited into existence by imperialism during the proxy war it waged to overthrow the progressive government of Afghanistan and to force that government’s Soviet allies out of the country. Since then, imperialism has used jihadi nutcases for the overthrow of the anti-imperialist Libyan government and as its proxies elsewhere in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

These same forces are today being used in Syria, with nearly 100,000 foreign jihadis unleashed on the country to perpetrate the most dreadful atrocities on the civilian population. It is a credit to the Syrian people and their government that they have successfully resisted this assault – with a heroism and self-sacrifice that are entirely undocumented by western corporate media.

Now, with the Russian intervention and the events in Paris, this barbarous assault on the Syrian people has run aground and is on the verge of sinking altogether.

In the final analysis, all war, including that waged through fundamentalist proxies, will only be completely put an end to through the successful overthrow of imperialism – this bloody system that has tormented humankind for too long.

The fight against war and for peace is inextricably linked with the struggle to overthrow imperialism: there is no other way forward for humanity.
Russia-China Relations and the Downing of Russia’s Jet Fighter by Turkey
US-China Conducted A "Friendly" Military Exercise Less than A Week Before the Downing of Russia's Jet Fighter by Turkey

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, November 25, 2015

The downing of a Russian jet fighter over Syria’s airspace was undertaken  by Turkey in consultation with Washington and Brussels. Turkey did not take this decision without getting the greenlight from the Pentagon.

Is this an act of  revenge against Russia for bombing the US-sponsored Islamic State in Syria?

The unspoken truth is that Russia is undermining US-NATO’s ground operations inside Syria. The latter are made up of  various Al Qaeda affiliated  formations which de facto constitute the foot-soldiers of the Western alliance. These ISIS and Al Nusrah rebel forces are in turn led by intelligence operatives and Western special forces, many of whom are deployed by private mercenary companies on contract to US-NATO.

The downing of Russia’s plane by Turkey is a clear act of provocation. What is its broader intent?

How will backlash at the diplomatic level? Is military escalation contemplated by Washington?

A covert war of stealth is currently unfolding which could evolve towards direct military confrontation between US-NATO and Russia.

The Role of China

From a strategic and military standpoint of view, Russia’s main ally is China, which until recently has been the object of military threats in the South China sea under Obama’s pivot to Asia.

What has been Beijing’s response to the downing of Russia’s aircraft by Turkey? What future role would China play in a scenario of military confrontation and escalation directed against the Russian Federation?

US-China Military Relations

In the course of the last few months, both the US and Britain have been playing a game of friendly diplomacy and economic cooperation with China’s president Xi Jinping.

Is the West attempting to Co-opt China? What bearing do these developments have on China and its strategic alliance with Russia?

According to US analysts, relations between the U.S. military and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are said to have “improved” in recent years “amid growing tensions between the United States and China” in the South China Sea.

The two countries have held frequent joint military exercises (theoretically limited to humanitarian assistance/disaster relief). In June 2015, a China-US army dialogue mechanism was signed with a view to “boosting army cooperation”

Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman Fan Changlong, who has just completed a visit to the US, urged Washington to reduce its military activities both in the air and in the waters of the South China Sea when meeting US government and military leaders.

Fan and US army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno witnessed the signing of the dialogue mechanism at the National Defense University in Washington on June 15 2015.

This is the first cooperation document to be signed by the two armies in recent years.

Guan Youfei, director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense, said afterward that the two armies could hold joint exercises on land next year.

Guan said the two sides discussed mutual trust mechanisms for reporting major military operations and the code of conduct on military encounters in the air and at sea, both signed last year. (China Daily, June 15, 2015, emphasis added)

In August 2015, China and Russia launched major war games entitled ‘Joint Sea 2015 II,’ described it as an “unprecedented show of military cooperation,” (See RT, August 30, 2015). The drills involved the deployment of “a total of 22 ships, 20 aircraft, 40 armored vehicles, and 500 marines from the two countries, including the Varyag missile cruiser, flagship of the Russian Pacific fleet; and the Shenyang destroyer, the Chinese flagship, participated in the active phase of the exercises”(RT, August 30, 2015)

US-China Joint Navy Exercise

The conduct of major China-Russia war games in late August did not foreclose China’s decision to the holding of military drills some three months later (November 16-21) with the United States. This time the US Navy Pacific Fleet and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) conducted a “friendly” joint US-China military exercise off the coast of Shanghai in the East China Sea.

According to the U.S. Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) arrived in Shanghai on the 16th of November with  a mission to promote “maritime cooperation and reinforce a positive naval relationship with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) East Sea Fleet.” (The Diplomat, November 18, 2015)

While U.S. sailors stood at attention when entering the port, around 70 Chinese sailors held up a bilingual sign that said “Welcome US Navy Destroyer USS Stethem to Shanghai.”

This was a friendly military exercise coupled with social events. The scale was by no means comparable to that of the August Sino-Russian Joint Sea 2015 II held off the coast of Vladivostok in August. Nonetheless, in the course of this 5 days mission, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift held consultations with his Chinese counterpart  commander of the China’s East Sea Fleet, Admiral Su Zhiqian:

After the port visit, the USS Stethem will hold naval drills with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, including a joint rescue operation with Chinese warships near the estuary of the Yangtze River, as well as communications exercises involving the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

In a bitter irony, these joint exercises took place following the dispatch of “the USS Lassen, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, within 12 nautical miles of China’s man-made islands”. These US maneuvers in the South China Sea were considered by Beijing as an act of provocation instigated by the US Navy.

In turn, the US has mobilized a military alliance of  several Southeast Asian countries against the People’s Republic of China (PRC), not to mention the establishment of the US sponsored Republic of Korea Naval base on Jeju Island, which lies within proximity of China’s coastline. The naval base constitutes a threat to China (rather than to North Korea).

The November Sino-US military exercise in the East China Sea are part of a propaganda campaign which consists in tacitly instilling a pro-US perspective within the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA):

“This is our second visit to China in three months,” said Lt. Erika Betancourt, Stethem’s operations officer. “The strides we have made in our partnership and operational cooperation improve both our ability to conduct exercises and our interactions at sea.” US Navy News Service, November 23, 2015)

While the November joint military exercises were largely symbolic, the important question is:

Are they indicative of an “About Turn” in Sino-US military relations– i.e. a shift from overt threats under Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” towards “military cooperation” and “dialogue”.

Defense News (November 16, 2015) intimates that a redirection of US military strategy in relation to China is unfolding: “US, Chinese Navies Train Together Despite Tensions”.

The ship’s commanding officer, Harry Marsh, told reporters the visit was intended to “build mutual trust” between the two navies.

US sailors, he said, would learn about their counterparts’ “maritime experiences, so that when we operate at sea we can do it safely, and we understand what they are doing and what we do”.

The stopover comes shortly after the US sailed a warship near artificial islands being built by Beijing in the South China Sea.

Harris downplayed the friction [between the US and China]: “Countries may have some disagreements, yet our navies are able to operate safely at sea.“(Defense News)

The Role of Military Alliances

Alliances are fundamental in the history of war. The First World war was in part the result of a destabilization and shift in military alliances.

Strategic alliances are often characterized by “cross-cutting coalitions” between opposing sides which in some cases lead to destabilizing the broader structure of military alliances.

Unquestionably, Washington’s intent is to establish a “cross-cutting” relationship with the People’s Republic of China with a view to eventually undermining and destabilizing China’s alliance with Russia.

US foreign policy in relation to China could be described as  a “threaten-cooperate” strategy. It’s an ambivalent relationship which involves a quid pro quo. “Pivot to Asia” versus “military cooperation”. It consists in “threatening” China with a view to forcing China to “cooperate” with the US.

Will China succumb to this diabolical agenda?

Is Washington attempting to rebuild its strategic relations with China with a view to eventually weakening and isolating Russia?

While the Chinese political leadership is divided, there is nonetheless a strong pro-American lobby in China both within the Shanghai business community, the media as well as among intellectuals in elite universities and the Beijing-based think tanks such as the  Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Sino-US cooperation in the military sphere inevitably has a bearing on Moscow’s strategic relationship with Beijing.

The US Navy held friendly military exercises with China’s PLA Navy  less than a week prior to a blatant act of military aggression against the Russian Federation, which is China’s closest ally.

In recent developments, Turkey has acknowledged in a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 15 members of the UNSC that “it had shot down on an unidentified plane that violated Turkish airspace and defended its right to do so”.

While China and Russia are the core members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), they have also developed important bilateral relations in military affairs.  For Moscow, the Sino-Russian military alliance is central to its ability to play a key “stabilizing role” in global politics.

“The consolidated position of our countries is having a stabilizing effect on the international situation,”  according to Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shogu on an  official visit to Beijing in September.

“The Russian defense chief added that military cooperation remained the main basis of Russia and China’s strategic partnership” (emphasis added), following the conduct of  the biggest ever joint Sino-Russian naval drill in Russia’s Far East.  “By broadening their military cooperation, Russia and China will protect the security of their sovereign territories, the Russian defense chief said.” (RT,  September 2, 2015)

The question is how will China respond to an act of military aggression by a NATO member State directed against the Russian Federation?

We are at a dangerous crossroads: With regard to Turkey, any act of military reprisal by Russia (which at this stage seems unlikely) could potentially lead to military action by NATO against the Russian Federation, invoking the clause of “collective security” (article 5 of the Washington Treaty). Moreover, the aggressive action by Turkey could be followed by subsequent acts of aggression and/or provocation against Russia with a view to triggering (i.e. justifying) a process of military escalation.

What position will China take when the issue of Turkey’s downing of Russia’s war plane over Syria is brought to the UN Security Council?

The position taken by China could be decisive in preventing a process of military escalation.

Escalation would consist in an enlarged US-NATO-Israel led war against the broader Middle East-Central Asian region, extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to China’s Xinjiang-Uighur Western frontier with Afghanistan and Pakistan. (see map below).

At the time of writing, no significant statement has as yet emanated from the Chinese government.
Cynthia Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone Co-founder, Dies at 69

Posted November 24 2015 — 7:43 PM EST

Cynthia Robinson, the trumpeter and co-founder of seminal funk group Sly and the Family Stone, died Monday of cancer, according to her Facebook page. She was 69 years old.

Robinson became acquainted with Sly Stone and the rest of the band members by joining The Stoners, a predecessor to the Family Stone. She was a foundational piece to the resulting group, becoming one of the first prominent black women trumpeters in popular music. In addition to her harmonious trumpet riffs, Robinson added vocal ad libs over tracks, such as in “Dance to the Music” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” She played with the band until it broke up in 1975, then periodically played on Sly Stone’s solo records.

Robinson was born in Sacramento on Jan. 12, 1946. Growing up, Robinson imagined playing with the era’s preeminent R&B and blues stars. “I used to daydream that I was onstage playing the solos; I’m playing with B.B. King and I’m playing with Lowell Fulsom, Jimmy McCracklin,” she told Family Stone biographer Joel Selvin, via Billboard. “And I literally ended up being in a band that backed them up at different clubs. It was like a dream come true, but that was as big as I could dream.”

Upon hearing about her death, The Roots drummer Questlove penned a tribute on Instagram. “Goodbye to Cynthia Robinson. Music’s original ‘hypeman’ 20 years before Public Enemy pioneered the ‘Vice President’ position,” he writes. “But she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals. She was a KICK ASS trumpet player.”

All The Squares Go Home. Goodbye to Cynthia Robinson. Music’s original “hypeman” 20 years before Public Enemy pioneered the “Vice President” position. But she wasn’t just a screaming cheerleading foil to Sly & Freddie’s gospel vocals.

She was a KICK ASS trumpet player. A crucial intricate part of Sly Stone’s utopian vision of MLK’s America: Sly & The Family Stone were brothers & cousins. friends & enemies. black & white. male & female. saint & sinner. common man & superheroes. guarded & vulnerable. poets & punks. hip & square.

She was so cool to us the day we opened up for #SlyAndTheFamilyStone she never ever lost a step or a beat. Even when we weren’t so sure if Sly was coming or going during that “comeback” tour (he’d play 20 mins, come onstage and cameo w em for 2 songs, leave, watch them then come back 30 mins later) Cynthia Robinson held that band down.

Until her passing The Family Stone was one of the last few #RRHOF groups from the 60s in which ALL original members were still present & accounted for. part of me held hope that #LarryGraham would bury the hatchet & return to the fold just one more time (could you imagine HOW powerful a Sly #GCS combo coulda been?

Even if Sly pulled that 6 song ish you know and I know #Prince would be in the wings as pinch hitter and we’d all be the more wiser for it. Cynthia’s role in music history isn’t celebrated enough. Her & sister Rose weren’t just pretty accessories there to “coo” & “shoo wop shoo bob” while the boys got the glory. Naw.

They took names and kicked ass while you were dancing in the aisle. Much respect to amazing #CynthiaRobinson
Sly and the Family Stone’s Cynthia Robinson Has Died
By Sean Fitz-Gerald

Cynthia Robinson, Sly and the Family Stone's co-founder and trumpeter, has succumbed to an ongoing battle with cancer. The news was posted on the musician's Facebook page Tuesday. She was 69. "She covered a lot of ground," Stone saxophonist Jerry Martini told Billboard, of his longtime bandmate. "She was the first female trumpet player and the first African-American trumpet player in [the] Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She wasn't in the back. She was out front telling you to get up and dance to the music."

Martini's quote refers to the Stone song "Dance to the Music," in which Robinson tells the listener to do exactly that:

"I know the songs that Sly wrote still have meaning for those that are living today that weren't even around when we started playing before, in the beginning," Robinson told Huffington Post in 2013, referencing the music she performed and continued to popularize until her death. "His lyrics, to me, if you listen to them, they can form a lifestyle that will leave you a happier person, a better person on this planet. It's just lyrics to live by."

The trumpeter first teamed up with Sly Stone in 1966, staying with him as they forged music's first inter-gender, interracial group through the ’70s and ’80s. The Sacramento-born Robinson also performed and collaborated with such artists as Larry Graham, George Clinton, Prince, and her and Sly's daughter, Phunne, among others — most recently in a group simply called Family Stone (sans Sly) — in a career that spanned roughly five decades.

Upon hearing the news of her death, the Roots's Questlove uploaded a thoughtful, illuminating tribute to his Instagram, calling Robinson music's original "hypeman" and lauding her for her contributions:

Robinson is survived by her two daughters, her grandchildren, and the remaining members of her musical family. Those behind her Facebook have asked fans to continue contributing to the Cynthia Robinson Cancer Care Fund, here.
Opening Address by COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the 12th National Congress, Held From the 23rd - 26th November 2015
23 November, Ghallager Estate, Midrand, Gauteng

Members of the Central Executive Committee,
The delegation of the ANC led by President Jacob Zuma
The delegation of the SACP led by the General Secretary comrade Blade Nzimande,
The delegation of SANCO led by its President comrade Richard Mdakane
The delegation of the ANC Women`s League led by its President Bathabile Dlamini
The delegation of the ANCYL led by its President comrade Collen Maine
The National Secretary of the Young Communist League, comrade Mluleki Dlelanga and your delegation
The President of SASCO comrade Ntuthuko Makhombothi and your delegation;
The General Secretary of COSAS comrade Mondli Skosana and your delegation;
The President of FEDUSA Koos Bezuidenhout and your delegation;
The President of NACTU Joseph Maqhekeni and your delegation;
The General Secretary of ITUC comrade Sharon Burrow and your delegation
The General Secretary of the WFTU comrade George Mavrikos and your delegation;
Our distinguished International guests;

Please accept revolutionary greetings on behalf of the millions of COSATU members

We give special greetings to the delegates drawn from all COSATU unions coming from all the economic sites of our country where they are organised and waging relentless struggles against employers and our class enemies. You come here representing the common aspirations of millions of workers organised within and outside of COSATU.

We want to thank all our members all over the country for remaining firm and for keeping the flag of COSATU flying high. Even during the most difficult times in our organisation you were never shaken, you stood firm occupying the front ranks in defence of your federation.

When they were recruiting you to form new unions outside of COSATU, you said no we know our home!

When they called for the formation of a new federation you told them that we currently have 180 registered trade unions in South Africa, and that there are currently 23 registered trade union federations in the country. This means enough divisions which weakens workers unity. Forming yet another federation when we are supposed to unite the existing federations is absurd

Those who are forming a new federation are nothing else but power mongers who want to remain leaders perpetually. They think that trade unions are milk cows which must be used to advance personal business interests.

Just yesterday, these divisive characters stood in platforms presenting themselves as being principled super revolutionaries and talked about unity of workers condemning those who were forming new unions and new federations.

We are refusing to believe that FEDUSA and NACTU are part of the nefarious plans to form a new federation aimed at destroying COSATU.

If this is true, we want to communicate a single and simple message to all of you, you will fail as those who came before you also failed spectacularly. Don`t stand on our way we will crush you!

Comrades, COSATU is emerging from a dark period of manufactured organisational challenges into a period of bright sunshine characterised by robustness, organisational unity and cohesion.

We come from a period where we had to choose between a union with big numbers but which had taken a decision to undermine and destroy COSATU. We were patient, we tried to reason, we sent comrades to talk sense to the leadership of this union, we had alliance partners talking to them and it was all in vein. Finally we chose COSATU!

We come from a period where we had to choose between the cult of personality which has been allowed to grow over many years and the organisation which had been built trough the sweat of workers over many years. Again we were patient and tolerated open defiance and ill discipline over a long time. We spent monies of the organisation, which could have been used for other programmes and paid facilitators and it was all in vein. Finally we chose COSATU!

We had to use worker`s money to defend the federation in the courts of law because people wanted to impose their minority views over the majority using the courts. As if this was not enough, the organisation had to live with the burden of servicing costly contracts, which had nothing to do with the core business of COSATU.

Those who signed these contracts are going around shouting that COSATU is in a crisis and are not explaining how it got there, because they were leading it at the time.

We said that one day the real truth about the essence of the challenges we have been going through will come out. They called us conspiracy theorists, when we said they were sponsored from outside to steal COSATU and use it for their narrow political projects. Today the country knows the real truth; the real plan which we refused to have executed in the name of our federation is out in the open.

We now know that USA was approached to provide VIP security to this very same former leader. We now know that a trip was taken to the USA to raise funds of forming a new federation against COSATU and a new political organisation to challenge the liberation movement.

We now know that many of our union leaders have been taken to the USA to undertake various trainings. We have raised these concerns directly in our meeting with the USA embassy.

We now know that books have been funded and various articles written to deliberately spread misinformation against COSATU and paint a picture of an ongoing crisis in COSATU .

This is done by people who during the day stand in various platforms and proclaim to be revolutionaries that are anti-USA when in reality during the night away from the TV cameras and away from addressing rented mass meetings they are the agents of the Americans.

If we were to answer as to what the real crisis in COSATU has been, we will answer without any ambiguity that the real crisis in COSATU has been the existence of an illegitimate political agenda which was planned and driven from outside but was being imposed to coexist with the legitimate COSATU policies planned and driven from inside COSATU`s constitutional structures.

The two could not co-exit, the other one had to give way for the other and in this struggle COSATU won!

The glaring evidence of COSATU`s victory was seen in the Special National Congress, it was seen in the protests actions organised by the federation post the Special National Congress as it will be seen in this 12th National Congress.

This is a sign showing that even though we may not have reached our peak but we are definitely not weak!

No single individual must ever claim victory which has led us to the relative stability we see in COSATU today but the members of COSATU!

I still have vivid images of the historic Special National Congress held from the 13th-14th July this year, where workers stood up and said "we want to unequivocally declare that we want unity of COSATU.

They said, this federation remains a home of all workers and workers will be better organised under the leadership of COSATU.

They demanded discipline within the federation and in affiliates. They said, they want a COSATU that is based on its constitution and founding principles of one Country - One Federation, One Union - One Industry, Paid Up Membership, Worker Control, worker Solidarity, non-racialism and Unity.

Comrades we can report that all the unions who had decided to boycott the CEC have come back full force and were participating actively in preparations towards this 12th National Congress.

The two unions who have not yet attended the CEC tendered their apologies. We are still waiting for them to come to a meeting to deal with whatever concerns they have including the challenges in their structures.

Comrades we come to this 12th National Congress having travelled an odious path of our struggle. We carry scars, we had to endure insults, and we had to take political punches for deciding to stand in defence of COSATU. We had to accept new enemies in our lives rather than to make false friends whose hidden mission was to destroy COSATU.

This National Congress must continue on the directives of the Special National Congress to re-affirm the character of COSATU as a militant and radical federation of trade unions, which is class oriented and that COSATU is not a political party.

We have come here to continue with the work of building a federation that must remain occupied with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members. A federation which continuously strive to remain a social force for transformation.

We have to continue on the tasks given by the Special National Congress to continue building a COSATU whose influence on society remains based on its organised power, its capacity to mobilise, its socio-economic programme and policies and its participation in political and social alliances.

This Congress must take forward the instructions given by the Special National Congress to build a COSATU that remain committed to worker control and democracy, and to maintaining its independence being conscious of the dangers of being co-opted by employers and politicians.

This Congress must take forward the instructions of the Special National Congress to build a COSATU that must remain conscious about striking a balance between the immediate concerns of its members to the need for `stability` and `national development` without subordinating each to the other.

The Special National Congress said in keeping with the true traditions of our federation, we will now initiate a process of introspection; we will study how affiliates and COSATU structures operate in practice. This must be with the view to subsequently elaborating and enriching the content of our Back to Basics perspective, as discussed by the 11th Congress and the 2013 Organising and Bargaining conference.

We can say without fear of contradiction that we come here today to mark the 30th anniversary of COSATU with our heads up. Despite all the challenges we were going through but our unions remain having a deadly fighting capacity. Many of our unions could still rely on strikes as a weapon against employers.

The Department of Labour`s Report on Industrial Action in 2014 shows that over the period 2009 to 2014 there has been a constant increase in the number of reported strikes. In 2012 alone, there were 99 strikes; in 2013 there were 114 strikes. In 2013 alone, almost two thirds of all working days lost to industrial action were due to action taken by COSATU affiliates.

This year we saw public sector unions mounting one of the biggest march, which was followed by a resounding national day of action on the 7th October 2015 this year which left our enemies wondering if indeed it was true that COSATU is weak!

Comrades we must give a standing ovation to ourselves for the fact that we stood firm with COSATU members and defended this federation of Vuyisile Mini, of ;Lesley Masina, of Elijah Barayi, of Violet Seboni, of Allinah Rantsolase, Pretty Shuping ; of Ray Alexander, of Elizabeth Nanna Abrahams, of Elizabeth Mafikeng, of Ruth first and many others to whom we owe the very existence of this federation!

We stand here today on the 30th Anniversary Congress of our giant federation proud to tell you the members and owners of COSATU, that here is your organisation, here is your COSATU, we hand it over back to you still intact . We must continue to build it into strong organisation that is ready to mount a deadly offensive against our class enemies.

For us as workers, organisation is everything, without organisation we are dead. It is the only weapon we have at our disposal to confront our class enemies. We therefore need to always proceed from an understanding that building COSATU remains our first priority before everything else. There is no battle we can win without a strong organisation whose presence is visible and felt on the ground.

Comrades since 1994 our country has made enormous strides. We have a legislative framework which has allowed for more protection of workers` rights. In the recent past there had been the strengthening of the legislation to protect the rights of workers in the vulnerable sectors such as Domestic Workers; Hospitality sector; Contract cleaning ; Civil engineering sector ; Private security sector ;Taxi sector ; Wholesale and retail sector Farm Workers

Since 1994, access to health care has been improved with more than 1500 health facility infrastructure completed and thus making it possible for communities to access health care within a 5km radius of where they lived.

Government continues to support the automotive sector and the clothing and textile sector.

The number of social assistance beneficiaries has increased from 2.7 million people in 1994 to 16 million people in 2013.

Between 134 and 106 buses for Johannesburg and Cape Town Metros to be manufactured locally (minimum local content is 80%); Clothing, leather and footwear have been designated for 100% local procurement by government; 70% of capsules and tablets tender sourced locally;

But despite this progress our country continues to be engulfed by a variety of challenges. One of the greatest challenges that we are facing include violence against women and children. The year 2015 marks the 24th years of the Global campaign on the 16th days of activism against gender based violence. Whilst violence against women and children goes across racial and class divide but it is clear that it is rifer against women and children from the working class background.Poverty, inequality and unemployment are conditions under which violence thrives.

We have recently received painful reports that in Cape Town a young African lady was subjected to abhorrent dehumanisation, indecent assault and rape by two South African white men when she responded to the advert for employment. This is a province where the DA once referred to our people as refugees and given such racial statements, incidences like these were bound to happen.

We must eradicate conditions which give rise to these inhuman acts against our women and children. People who do this must not be allowed to live in our communities. They must face the might of the law.

We are also disturbed and angry at the growing rate regarding the killing of our law enforcement officers. This also includes the killing and attacks directed against health practioners including educators. This congress must commit to a relentless struggle against Gender based violence and the killing of the law enforcement officers, the health practioners and educators.

Anyone found guilty of these horrendous crimes must be given a mandatory sentence of a life sentence. Our society has to choose. It is either we become a nation which accommodates criminals or a nation which embraces the law. Police cannot and should not die with guns in their hands!

Our country`s development continues to be constrained. For an example in the past three years the South African economy had continued to grow at a slower pace compared to other economies of a similar size. Now the indications are that the economy might be heading for a recession.

These constraints in our economy are amongst others caused by the fact that our country`s economy continues to be based on the exporting of raw materials and importing value added products.

The global economic crisis has impacted negatively on the entire South African economy; this has been vivid on our steel and the mining sector amongst others where we saw thousands of workers loosing their jobs. Worse could have happened, lets commend the NUM for moving swiftly to secure an agreement which saved thousands of jobs. Part of the problem has been that for many years the steel industry has been using Import Parity Pricing (IPP) which raised the price of this critical input. We have long made calls on government to abandon Import Parity Pricing and this fell on deaf ears.

We are still demanding that any support to the industry should be accompanied by a clear commitment from the steel industry that it will abandon import parity pricing and that it will not revert to it when the economic conditions have improved.

The real reason which constitutes the essence of the challenges confronting our economy is that our economic policy trajectory continues to be based on the Neo liberal paradigm. This paradigm is based on a belief that growth must occur first, and then employment will follow.

It argues that once employment increases, the distribution of income will improve. This is reflected in the persistent setting of growth targets as the primary focus, rather than targets for employment and income distribution.

This fails to address the apartheid economic fault-lines that resulted in the white monopoly capital taking charge and ownership of the economic levers of powers while the black majority was labouring for slave wages.

Unfortunately this neoliberal ideology by capital has captured some elements within the state and the democratic movement, who though aware of the harsh but failed medicine of neoliberals went ahead to impose it on society.

Neo-liberalism survives and thrives under conditions of low-intensity democracy and insulates political leaders from popular pressure so that they can drive unpopular economic policies.

It is against this background that the movement has over the years abandoned the people driven and people centred approach to development. This explains why the structures of the movement remains in disarray and only focuses its energy on narrow electoral campaign and gets revived only during general elections.

It is within this context that the concerns raised by COSATU and the SACP including some within the ANC regarding certain sections of the National Development Plan particularly sections dealing with economic policy and labour market could not be addressed .

This neo-liberal policy paradigm continues to thrive in the context where the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed people of the world is currently the dominant contradiction. It festers in a fertile ground created by the deepening capitalist crisis which expresses itself through the centralization and concentration of capital and wealth; the financialisation of the economy; the systematic attack on the social functions of the State achieved through struggle of the workers and peoples; the commercialization of all spheres of social life in a logic of privatizing all that can bring higher returns to capital; the attacks on international law and sovereignty of the States; the centralization of political power and its submission to economic power and to the strategies of militarization of international relations, all these are features of capitalist policies that dominate most countries all over the world today .

This neo-liberal policy paradigm has been legitimised by the institutionalisation of policies by governments all over the world which increases the rate of exploitation of working men and women marked by a denial of rights and the abuse of workforce in return of increasingly lower wages.

The central axis of this offensive includes cuts in real wages; Intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers; overexploitation of migrant workers. Appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; Increase in the retirement age; cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; Increase in unemployment rates; regression of social and labour rights; the denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike.

This open and heightening offensive against the working class also seen in our country is a painful reminder of the words in the Communist Manifesto that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes".

This international offensive which intersect with the neo-liberal, anti-majoritirean offensive in our country is rough comrades. It has set us against each other whilst allowing the right wing offensive to gain confidence. It has made our comrades to stop being guided by the policy of the movement and decisions of our organisations. We cannot predict how this battle will end but one thing is certain and that is, we will not take it lying down.

In our country the offensive has taken the form of the failed DA attempts to take away our right to strike. It expresses itself in the form of the Free Market Foundation`s attempts to take our right to collective bargaining. It comes in the form of Employment Incentive Act which was forced to us even without having gone through NEDLAC processes. When we call for the reviewal of the employment incentive act / the youth wage subsidy no one wants to listen!

When we make a call for a ban on labour brokers, no one listens instead labour brokers are given a life line of three months to exploit workers.

We go to the Alliance Summit and raise a concern about the specific sections of the national Development Plan but no one cares to listen to our concerns instead we get subjected to a process which from the onset is intended to yield no results.

When we ask to be given a Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement reform discussion paper, which government has failed to deliver for more than ten years we get given Taxation Laws Amendment Act. When we take this process to NEDLAC government represented by the National Treasury abandon these engagements to pursue its planned retirement reforms unilaterally.

We want to reiterate that this arrogant act of provocation by the Treasury and the entire government will get an appropriate and equal response from the workers. Workers will fight any attempts to impose compulsory preservation of our hard earned deferred wages.

We want to say here and now that there will be no compulsory preservation or any other imposed reforms for us and about us but without us, on our watch. We will spare no effort to stop this tyranny and ill placed overconfidence by the neo liberal hard liners in government concentrated in the National Treasury.

No government has a right to unilaterally decide for workers, as to how and when they should spend their retirement savings. These savings are part of worker`s hard-earned salaries and should be accessible to the workers, as and when they need them in particular in the absence of Comprehensive Social Security.

We demand that government should postpone the implementation of this law until Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform Discussion Paper is tabled at NEDLAC for discussions and an agreement on it is reached by social partners. We want to remind government and anyone who cares to listen that the 1973 Durban Strikes were on amongst others caused by a threat to workers pension funds.

The neo-liberal policy paradigm has made it difficult for government to address challenges of food security. For example, the Marketing Agricultural Product Act of 1996 diminished the role of the state in setting prices in the sector. It also led to government dismantling the marketing boards, and their assets were privatized . This has resulted in exorbitant food prices charged by the food industry.

The neo liberal policy paradigm has resulted to unjust concentrated patterns of ownership in the entire agricultural value-chain. For an example manufacturing and agro-processing is dominated by few large entities (Tiger Brands, Premier Foods, Foodcorp etc), which were found guilty of price fixing by the Competition Commission in 2010. The retail sector is also controlled by five major retailers; with a joint market share of 90%.

We have recently witnessed student`s struggles throughout the country on a demand for free education in universities. At the centre of the struggle for Free Education in South Africa was not the Minister of Higher Education who is wrongly accused of having failed to implement a resolution on Free Education. As COSATU we have been in every ANC Lekgotla and we know the truth about what caused the non implementation of such resolutions as Free Education.

The fact of the matter is that our country`s policy trajectory is still encored on the neo-liberal policy paradigm which has rendered our democratic government to remain cheer leaders to monopoly capital as it keeps the economic power of the colonial rule intact.

The neo liberal policies had a direct impact on derailing the attainment not only of Free Education in South Africa but also the implementation of many other progressive policies such as the National Health insurance, the comprehensive social security including with regard to addressing food security and hunger etc.

The struggles for Free Education have brought to the fore and exposed the impact of neo liberal policies particularly with regard to the impact of the limited role of the state and Fiscal Austerity measures and this is what is at the centre of the struggles for Free Education.

It is the same thing as the fact that we go to conferences of the movement and decisions gets taken about the implementation of NHI but until today we have not even seen a white paper on the implementation of NHI.

Mangaung agreed on the establishment of a state bank but none of that is happening.

Both the Polokwane Conference and Mangaung agreed on a need for qualitative shift in our macroeconomic policy. Polokwane said "the skewed patterns of ownership and production, the spatial legacies of our apartheid past and the tendencies of the economy towards inequality, dualism and marginalisation will not recede automatically as economic growth accelerates.

Therefore, decisive action is required to thoroughly and urgently transform the economic patterns of the present in order to realise our vision for the future. This includes addressing the monopoly domination".

But our economy remains highly monopolised and foreign owned. The financial sector (banking and insurance) is a monopoly industry: Dominated by 4 large privately owned banks (ABSA, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank), two of which have significant foreign ownership.

The wholesale and retail trade sector is a monopoly industry, dominated by two firms: Shoprite and Pick `n Pay, which constitute 66% of the market share. The state does not play any role in this sector.

Manufacturing sector is dominated by two sectors, within which there are monopolies: petro-chemicals and basic iron and steel, which are dominated by Sasol and Arcelor-Mittal. Sasol is about 30% foreign-owned and Arcelor-Mittal is 65% foreign owned. The cement sector is also dominated by 4 players (PPC, Alpha, Lafarge and Natal Portland), in which each player has significant pricing power. Actually Mangaung said SASOL and Accellor Mittal must be nationalised but no one is even talking about it let alone having it appear in any report.

The construction sector is also monopolised, dominated by four players: Murray & Roberts, WBHO, Aveng and Group 5.

The machinery and equipment sector is dominated by foreign companies primarily through the major import fronting company in South Africa, Barloworld. The major equipment players are Caterpillar, John Deere/Bell, Komatsu, Manitou SA and Thyssen-Krupp. All these are foreign owned companies that play a strategic role in the country`s capital equipment supply.

The pharmaceuticals sector is a jungle that is ruled by foreign companies: Aspen, Adcock-Ingram, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Norvatis, etc.They all have a significant foreign-ownership

Polokwane also said "a South African developmental state, whilst learning from the experiences of others, must be built on the solid foundation of South African realities. Whilst engaging private capital strategically, our government must be rooted amongst the people and buttressed by a mass-based democratic liberation movement.

Whilst determining a clear and consistent path forward, it must also seek to build consensus on a democratic basis that builds national unity. Whilst acting effectively to promote growth, efficiency and productivity, it must be equally effective in addressing the social conditions of the masses of our people and realising economic progress for the poor".

Instead of this happening organisational mass power is not used for purposes of asserting a people driven and a people centred development but is used to fight internal factional battles to get people elected to positions of power which allows for access to resources. Organisational mass power is not seen as a strategic element to drive the NDR but it get reduced to be used for patronage.

In this regard, the most immediate task to undertake is to consolidate the Unity of COSATU through a Back to Basics Campaign: There is no short cut to asserting our hegemony. We must build COSATU on the ground based on the Back to Basics articulated in our 11th National Congress, the 2013 Organising and Campaigns Conference and as articulated by the Special National Congress.

We must avoid being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem but cut our cloth according to our size. This means accepting first that we are currently not at our maximum and yet our existence and relevance is based on our numbers. This means that our response should prioritise winning the confidence of workers to join our unions.

This will include ensuring that every union has a clear work place programme which will include getting COSATU at all levels to have workplace visits aimed at listening to workers issues.

We must put our weight in working with the SACP to occupy all centres of power in society and to be found where people are as part of the immediate task to deepen and radicalise the National Democratic Revolution in line with the people`s demands.

We must invest in building the unity of the alliance as a vehicle which drives the revolution.

Our anger and frustrations about the challenges in the Alliance must not blind us to see and understand that the functionality and non functionality of the Alliance is based on the struggle we wage on the ground.

Anger alone without a practical and revolutionary plan is not enough! Anger Alone without preparedness to sweat and work to change the balance of forces on the ground is not enough!

Let us heed comrade Mandela`s call when he said "The struggle that will free us is a long, hard job. Do not be deceived by men who talk big with no thought for tomorrow. Freedom is not just a matter of strong words. Neither is it simply brave men and heroic deeds. Impatience, which makes men lose their heads, will not bring freedom".

We must stop demanding a reconfigured alliance in every meeting but fight for a reconfigured alliance through asserting our mass presence on the ground through driving programmes and campaigns which addresses the needs of our members and our communities. Let us be present where people are found .Let`s continue to be present in the struggles of the working class.

We must reconfigure the alliance through mass activities which must define the balance of power inside the alliance. There is no short cut to this task.

Whilst we must accept that we have an interest on who become leaders of the ANC and in government but we must firstly avoid getting into the 2017 succession debates prematurely. More importantly we must stand by our policy that the ANC must be allowed to independently decide on its leaders without any interference from any of the alliance partners or anyone outside the ANC. But COSATU members who are also members of the ANC have every right to participate in the leadership debates inside the ANC guided by the policy and discipline of the ANC.

We must invest our energies and time more on building and strengthening the SACP to ensure that it has the necessary confidence and capacity to drive the struggle for Socialism.

We must stop asking the ANC about the content of radical economic transformation but we must wage campaigns which should force it to emerge organically from the ground as recently seen in the free education campaign. Whilst it is important that we should derive lessons from international experience but we must be careful of importing these experiences as if they emerged under similar conditions as in our country.

This Congress must agree that the struggle and vision we pursue cannot be likened to Brazilian situation to a point of being referred to as creating our Lula Moment. Our struggle is based on the concrete conditions obtaining in our country and is based on our understanding of the fundamental contradictions which our revolution seeks to resolve in our own country.

We must revive our section 77 notice on our socio-economic demands and mobilise workers and our people around these demands. It is these struggles which will define the content of a second more radical phase of our transition.

We have got to keep pace with the masses and any honest observation will come to a conclusion that the people are increasing the tempo and pace of the struggle for economic transformation. If we are not careful we will continuously react to their struggles and not provide any strategic leadership.

In our deliberations we must be guided by the words of a German Physicist Albert Einstein who once said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

This 12th National Congress in now officially opened!

‘ANC Fails As Strategic Center of Power’
November 25 2015 at 07:30am
By Shanti Aboobaker

Johannesburg - The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, yesterday accused the ANC of betraying workers – going as far as to rubbish parts of President Jacob Zuma’s speech to congress.

Nehawu first deputy president Mike Shingange slammed Zuma’s comments on Monday that the ANC was not a socialist organisation, saying this meant he had divorced the ruling party from the national democratic revolution.

“What we have observed, is in our movement there’s a disjuncture… the movement is being led by the state instead of the movement leading the state,” Shingange said.

“It does look like the ANC alone has failed as a strategic centre of power. Having accepted that… we think it’s time to bring back the debate that the alliance is the strategic centre of political power, so that we can direct what must be implemented by the state.”

On Monday Zuma said the ANC did not fight for socialism but for national democracy.

But Shingange disagreed, saying the ANC spoke “for only one class” – capitalists.

“The contradictions that the NDR seeks to resolve are racial contradictions, gender contradictions and class contradictions,” he added.

Further, Nehawu called on Cosatu to insist that the ANC agree to certain conditions ahead of the local government elections. “When we leave the congress, it must have been clear, having said everything that the ANC must emerge a leader of society at the end of the local government elections.”

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) health and safety chairperson Peter Bailey said the ANC had been captured by a “right-wing clique”.

“Given the fact that the predominant voice of the ANC is right wing, yes we agree that it has abandoned workers. More and more there is an onslaught against workers, including calls for the alliance to be unbundled,” he told Independent Media.

He said the ANC was meant to be a “vehicle towards the objective of socialism”.

Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola agreed that the ANC did not serve working class interests.

“We also don’t agree that the ANC is the strategic political centre. We believe it must be the alliance,” he said.

Another Fawu delegate said:

“The ANC cannot take us where we want to go… it’s a fact. It has fulfilled its mandate. That’s why our own vanguard… the SACP… should take us to a classless society.”

However, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), disagreed.

“The ANC being multi-class is not a problem. We operate in a capitalist society. We don’t agree with Nehawu,” said Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu.
Ramaphosa Favored to Lead ANC After Zuma
November 25 2015 at 07:30am
By Amy Musgrave and ANA

Johannesburg - Cyril Ramaphosa has emerged as a favourite to succeed Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC, during Cosatu’s congress, with some delegates believing Ramaphosa’s election could unify the federation’s affiliates.

On Tuesday the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) urged the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to endorse ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the next president of the ANC.

Sadtu’s deputy general secretary, Nkosana Dolopi, argued that it has been a tradition in the ANC that the deputy president becomes the president of the party.

“The deputy presidents of the ANC are prepared to become the leaders of the ANC,” he said during the debate on the political report, without naming Ramaphosa.

Zingiswa Losi, who chaired the session, told the congress that Sadtu’s view was not a decision of the congress.

However, the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA backed Sadtu’s belief that it was natural for the deputy president to succeed Zuma.

In the report, Cosatu said it was irritated by the continued ill-discipline that manifested in “premature succession” debates for the 2017 ANC national conference, where new party leaders will be elected.

The first deputy president of the Health and Allied Workers Union, Mike Shingange, said supporting the deputy president as the successor would eliminate factionalism in the party.

But the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union cautioned against the congress debating or taking a decision on Ramaphosa. A delegate said: “We believe the matter is very sensitive… it should go back to the CEC (central executive committee)… This platform is too big.”

Although Cosatu’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, cautioned the congress and the media that the submissions on Ramaphosa had not been adopted, most delegates stood up and cheered after Sadtu spoke.

Delegates speaking at the congress were clear that they were fed-up with leaders who did not advance the interests of workers and the slow levels of improvement in their material conditions.

Although Sadtu and the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union has proposed that the SACP should go it alone in the discussion document, the matter was not discussed at congress on Tuesday.
ANC Deputy Must Succeed Zuma, Say Some COSATU Affiliates
2015-11-25 08:56
Hlengiwe Nhlabathi

President Jacob Zuma will be succeeded by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa if some Cosatu affiliates have their way.

A proposal by teachers' union Sadtu, the third-biggest affiliate in Cosatu, that the ANC deputy president was the natural successor was applauded by the majority of the 2500 delegates attending the Cosatu national congress in Midrand yesterday.

Nursing union Denosa endorsed the proposal. So did public sector union Nehawu, transport union Satawu and hospitality union Fawu. Sadtu said the "principle" must be observed for the sake of stability and to eliminate the paralysis within the alliance fuelled by who would succeed President Jacob Zuma.

In moving the motion, Sadtu deputy general secretary Nkosana Dolopi, who did not mention Ramaphosa by name, said the ANC must uphold the principle of its deputy president ascending to the helm of the party and ultimately be president of the country.

This happened as delegates were discussing the federation's political report.

Dolopi said Cosatu should take the position it did in 2005 – when it first came out in support of Zuma who who was then deputy president.

"It cannot be that each time the ANC goes to a national elective conference it suffers from instability, which affects the country alliance and the country as a whole. What we said in 2005 we must say now if we want stability in the ANC," he said.

Dolopi said the need for stability, adding that the “pre-conference fever” must come to an end. He said the principle was always followed in the ANC from the time of former presidents Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo.

A Satawu delegate said it would help the ANC to understand the principle instead of being ignorant about it.

"It's the ANC ignorance of that principle which causes paralyses in the movement.  That principle will assist resolve the paralysis in the movement because now we  have factions .... If the ANC sticks to the principle there will be no debate".

While Sactwu agreed with the position, it cautioned that a matter was too sensitive and should rather be dealt with behind closed doors at a central executive committee meeting - the highest decision-making body between congress.

The proposal had yet to be “tested in a debate” before it became a congress decision with an announcement expected tomorrow when the congress came to an end.

The ANC women's leagues had earlier this year endorsed the lobby for AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed Zuma. A push for Ramaphosa sets up a contest for the ANC succession race in 2017.

The race to succeed Zuma was at the centre of tension between the ANC and its alliance partners.

Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini told City Press last week that the onslaught against the SACP and Cosatu, and the early contests by those positioning themselves to succeed  Zuma, were shifting the focus from the real issue – which was garnering support for the ANC as it headed into elections.

Dlamini said the tensions "would spell disaster for the ANC and the alliance and will weaken us further".

Although Cosatu was widely expected to declare support for Ramaphosa, Dlamini last week denied this, saying Cosatu would not publicly pronounce on whom it supported for the sake of unity.

Another delegate from Fawu said the issue of the deputy succeeding the president was "not a matter of principle but a matter of tradition".

"There is a difference between principle and tradition," said the delegate.

The National Union of Mineworkers did not come out clear on its position on who should succeed Zuma except to emphasise that "ANC traditions must be respected".

A delegate from Popcru said Cosatu "cannot help the ANC eat itself from inside".

"We are not going to be married on a very narrow tradition that informs succession in the ANC as the only thing to consider," said the delegate.

However, Sadtu insisted that the succession issues was a matter of principle and not tradition. The congress continues today.
Why Black Lives Matter Activists Are Calling for Another Protest on Black Friday
by Ansel Herz

Photo: Last Year’s Black Friday Protests: Seattle police used pepper spray and blast balls that emitted tear gas. ALEX GARLAND
Last year, the day after Thanksgiving in downtown Seattle was either a powerful moment for the Black Lives Matter movement or a disruptive shitshow, depending on your vantage point. Whichever way you saw it, be advised: It's happening again, and demonstrators say their Black Friday protest is going to be even bigger this time around.

What happened last year, in case you've forgotten, was this: In an attempt to turn the annual "Black Friday" shopping stampede into "Black Lives Matter Friday," hundreds of demonstrators converged on downtown Seattle. They wanted the day to be focused on halting police violence rather than on promoting consumerism. To that end, they blocked intersections, tried to enter the downtown transit tunnel (they were turned back by police and a closing metal gate), and marched through downtown malls bearing signs that read "People Over Profit" and "Hands Up, Don't $hop." That last sign—"Hands Up, Don't $hop"—was a variation on the familiar protest chant "Hands up, don't shoot," which traces to the August 2014 killing of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Just days before last year's "Black Lives Matter Friday" protests in Seattle, a grand jury in St. Louis declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Brown's killing.

Emotions among the protesters were raw. Meanwhile, as evening came, shoppers and revelers descended on the area around Westlake Park for the annual tree-lighting ceremony. By then, the protesters had been pushed up toward Capitol Hill, and police tried to stop them from coming back downtown for the tree-lighting ceremony by closing off intersections and using pepper spray and blast balls that emitted tear gas. Neil Fox, an attorney who has represented protesters, said one officer at last year's protest told him shoppers were allowed to cross police lines but protesters were not. But, as Black Lives Matter Seattle's Marissa Johnson—who would go on to gain national notoriety for interrupting presidential candidate Bernie Sanders's speech in Seattle this summer—recounted at a recent forum: "People acted like frickin' ninjas... Hundreds of people figured out how to get past the barricades separately."

As the protesters crowded into Westlake and lined the mall balcony overlooking the holiday revelers, Joyce Taylor, the tree-lighting ceremony MC, yelled at them to get away from a children's choir, which had been scheduled to perform. "We're going to shut this tree lighting down until you give us space," Johnson remembers thinking.

Police formed a ring around the lit Westlake tree, made five arrests, and spent $86,096 that day attempting to corral the demonstrators. The tree-lighting ceremony was cut short, and Westlake Center closed four hours early. "You guys have screwed up the whole Christmas thing," one man told KING 5. "Thanks a lot."

Local Black Lives Matter activists say they expect even greater numbers of people to protest police violence this year. On Facebook, more than 4,000 people say they're attending a November 27 protest scheduled to go from 1 to 10 p.m. at Westlake Park. Across the country, activists from New York, Florida, Wisconsin, and California have put out calls to boycott Black Friday.

In explaining the connection between the busiest shopping day of the year and their cause, the protesters I spoke with drew on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., who in his last 1968 speech before his assassination, called on supporters to both "strengthen black institutions" and "redistribute the pain" by boycotting major companies, including Coca-Cola.

"I think we've seen that historically, the only way to get society as a whole to acknowledge that we need to change something, or change unjust systems, is to disrupt commerce and make economic hardship for those in power," said Nikkita Oliver, an activist and law-school graduate who has been involved in Black Lives Matter protests over the past year. "Money talks... Do I think disruption of Black Friday will get black and brown and poor people everything they need? No. But I do think that nationally it will keep [Black Lives Matter] in the eyes of those in power... It's just one strategy in a huge array of ways that people can be challenging police brutality and the other ways that black lives are devalued in the system."

Oliver said people should think about the "diversity of tactics that propelled the civil rights movement forward." She pointed out that "it was multiple strategies of change that all happened simultaneously," including boycotts of white stores.

"Black lives matter more than Black Friday cheap deals," said Mohawk Kuzma, a 25-year-old organizer who has been relentlessly promoting the Black Friday protest on social media. "Think about the Montgomery bus boycott," he said. "This country is run on monetary gain, and if we affect that, then we can effect real change."

Johnson urged people to "turn up" on Black Friday, because people across the country look to liberal Seattle as a supposed model of the future. Her specific call to action for this year is blunt: "Shut down stores. Ruin a Christmas tree lighting. Because if our kids don't get Christmas, nobody does."

Oliver and Kuzma said they experienced some of the policing of last year's protests as violence, particularly the SPD's liberal use of pepper spray on demonstrators. And they said racial injustice in Seattle runs the gamut, from gentrification displacing black people to suspension rates of black students in schools that far exceed whites, to the building of a new voter-approved juvenile detention center in the Central District to replace a dilapidated detention center where black youth are disproportionately incarcerated over their white counterparts.

I asked Kuzma how he expects the protests to unfold over the evening, but he said he couldn't explain in detail because "Seattle police are going to try to stop us." The Seattle Police Department, for its part, said in a statement that it "supports the rights of demonstrators, the community, and families enjoying holiday events. We will be providing public safety services to ensure that all can exercise their rights to assembly and free speech."

The $86,096 the Seattle Police Department spent responding to Black Friday protests last year was just one part of a larger—and very costly—response to a series of protests that spanned several months. Over just a one-month span from November to December last year, the SPD deployed hundreds of officers and spent more than $1.6 million in its response to the Black Lives Matter protests.

But no one seemed to be satisfied with how the SPD handled the demonstrations—particularly last year's Black Friday disruption. In a letter to city officials, the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) complained that police didn't shut down unpermitted marches, which, they said, had scared shoppers away, forced stores to close early, prevented the children's choir from performing, and resulted in an "unfortunate hit to our reputation."

The Public Defender Association, the group of lawyers representing indigent defendants, shot back with its own statement and accused the DSA of not understanding how free speech in public places works. "Many now feel that that issue [of racially biased police violence] must intrude into 'business as usual,'" the group said, "to ensure that a critical mass of Americans understands that change in policing practices is urgently needed."

Those talking points are being repeated again this year. In an interview, the DSA's James Sido called last year's Black Friday demonstrations "unfortunate," but said police have been planning ahead for this year's protests. An employee at the Pacific Place Michael Kors store told me the mall's private security guards have been preparing a "strategy" for Black Friday, including potentially using "rolling lockouts" to prevent protesters from getting inside.

On November 23, the Seattle King County NAACP joined the Public Defender Association in calling on the SPD to "refrain from violent attacks against Black Lives Matters protesters during the upcoming Black Friday demonstrations." Patricia Sully, a staff attorney with the association, said she hopes to see officers in regular uniform, rather than in riot gear or using pepper spray. "It is important to recognize that this is not a scenario in which there is a weighing of rights: the right to shop uninterrupted and the right to speech. Only one of those is, in fact, a right," she said.

In response to the criticisms of its past tactics, the police department said it has "partnered with a group of independent experts, including the Center for Policing Equity, to review and assist in enhancing our practices in crowd management. We anticipate a report by the end of the year." The city's Community Police Commission requested such a review back in May, citing the need to "diminish tension between the police and demonstrators and their supporters."

On a clear, sunny morning one week ahead of Black Friday, workers were stringing red and white lights around Westlake Park and constructing the scaffolding for the holiday tree in front of the mall. Most of the store managers and employees I spoke to said the protests last year had been "annoying" or "scary."

But Cody Jackson, a salesperson at the makeup store Sephora, who will be working on Black Friday, said if he could, he'd be out protesting too. "As soon as you disrupt that routine [of shopping]," he said, "it forces them to look at what's going on and say, 'Why did that get disrupted?'" recommended.