Déjà vu - return to Libya and Puerto Rico

Submitted by Vijay Prashad on Thu, 11/23/2017 - 02:59
Lampedusa, Italy


Dear Friends,

There was a time when you could not look at a newspaper or watch television news without mention of the refugee crisis - the lines of desperate people coming across into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan from Syria or the legions of people going across the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. War and poverty were the drivers of these people, whether they fled Afghanistan across Iran through Turkey towards Europe or they left Cameroon through Nigeria into Niger and then upwards to Libya. Each individual, each family carried with them a tragedy, a million tragedies on the road towards some kind of salvation. Against the tide of xenophobia and hatred, their steps seemed to keep time with Sahir Ludhianvi's poem,

Khoon apna ho ya paraaya ho,
Nasl-e-Adam ka khoon hai aakhir.

It may be ours or other's blood,
But it is yet the blood of the human race.

But the refugees have been largely forgotten. Their desperation set aside.

Syria, hard enough to fully fathom the destruction of that country, now appears to be entering a kind of stasis - the government in Damascus taking control of more territory, ISIS dispersed and only pockets of insurgents huddled into indefensible quarters. Syria is no longer the focus of attention. Saudi Arabia's tantrum is at the centre, with the crisis in Lebanon as a focal point and with the deep crisis of humanity around Yemen at the margin. How to make sense of these events? (for a brief primer, I went on The Real News to talk about some of these issues - but caveat, in the heat of the moment I called Saad Hariri the President of Lebanon, when he is - of course - the Prime Minister, and is now back in Beirut).

Forgotten entirely is the destruction of Libya and what this has opened up in the Sahel. The Europeans, as I have reported these past two months, have moved their southern border from the Mediterranean Sea to the southern edge of the Sahara. What this has done is to draw in people into Libya, trap them there in concentration camps and set up the conditions for the brutality against these migrants and refugees. It is an ugly story. At Alternet today, this is the story that I tell. You can read it here.

CNN reports of a slave market in Tripoli. Reports of such brutality had reached the International Criminal Court by May of this year. But the ICC has not been able to expand its investigation beyond the Qaddafi regime. It is being prevented from opening up a much wider sore, a much more dangerous story - the post-Qaddafi violence that has hit not only people in Libya, but downwards into Niger and Chad. The West has not been keen to allow the ICC to turn its gaze to its capitals.

The story ends with some graffiti on the Italian island of Lampedusa - Proteggere le Persone, Non i Confini (Protect People, Not Borders). The picture above is also from the island, from near the Favarolo pier. It is a mural for migrants. They smile in this drawing. As they should in a world that might protect people and not borders.


Plight of Puerto Rico


If matters are ugly in northern Africa, they are as bad in Puerto Rico.

This is my third report from Puerto Rico after the hurricane. All three have been in Frontline, which has stayed with this story thanks to my editor Vijayshankar. This report is about the collapsed infrastructure and the flight of the population to the mainland of the United States. There is simply insufficient resolve in the US government to settle the matter of the island's debt, its destroyed infrastructure and the serious problem of population flight from the island. When I asked - once more - for a death count, I was told - once more - that the funeral homes are often without power and that there has been an urgency to bury the dead without a proper account of who is dead and by what cause. There is callousness here, but also pure futility. Without power, nothing works. That the island was down to less than fifty percent with power weeks after the storm, shows the lack of concern from the federal government to get the island back on its feet. In any other system, there would be a massive mobilization of resources to settle the problems in the island. Not in this system.

You can read my report here.

My earlier stories are from November 10 (here) and October 27 (here).


The Parliament protest in India


Last week, I had mentioned that thousands of Indian workers came to the Indian Parliament to lay a twenty-point charter before the legislature. Now, this past week, thousands of Indian farmers came to the Parliament with their own demands. They wanted an increase to the procurement prices for their crops and they wanted their debts to be shelved.

In the shadow of the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik slogan for the unity of the workers and the peasants was alive and well under Indian skies.

At the end of the protest, the president of the All-India Kisan Sabha, Ashok Dhawale, spoke to Newsclick, where he talked about the unity of the farmers' groups to make this demonstration a success. You can watch his interview here. Over a decade ago, the journalist P. Sainath broke the story of the farmers' suicides in India - now over 300,000 dead in this manner. On the second day of the protest, widows of male farmers spoke to Newsclick about their frustration with the government. You can watch that here. For more on the protest and on other matters related to the farmers' struggle, go to the websiteof the Kisan Sabha.

Meanwhile, our friends at Caravan magazine have broken a very important story about the dangerousness of the no. 2 man to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi - Amit Shah. This is the story of the murder of a judge - Brijgopal Harkishan Loya - in 2014. Judge Loya was hearing a case about the alleged staged encounter death of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in 2005. At that time, Amit Shah was the Home Minister in Gujarat and the prime accused in the case before Judge Loya. His family says he was offered Rs. 100 crore to drop the case. He would not do this. He was killed.  A month later, the new judge discharged Amit Shah. The story by Niranjan Takle is very sharp. You can read it here. This is the kind of thuggishness that passes for normality, while the farmers and the workers struggle to make ends meet. This is the compass of our ethics.




Finally, I'm happy to announce that at LeftWord Books our 1917 series continues with two more offerings - both classics, both with terrific introductions.

(1) Alexandra Kollontai's The Soviet Woman, introduced by Parvathi Menon. An extract from Parvathi's introduction is at the Indian Cultural Forum, which you can find here. This volume collects the best writings and speeches of Kollontai - including her autobiography (but no fiction). Available here.
(2) Lenin's 1917 writings, introduced by Prakash Karat. The volume has all the main writings from 1917, including the April These and State and Revolution. More than anything else, it has Prakash Karat's stimulatingly brilliant introduction. Available here.

Coming soon, John Reed's Ten Days that Shook the World, introduced by P. Sainath and my new book - Red Star Over the Third World. Out soon.

Warmly, Vijay.