A body lies by the wheel of a truck in Mozambique. Three figures stand with their faces away from the camera, gazing down at the dead man. Such scenes were common in Mozambique when this photograph was taken in 1983. The photographer is unknown: the negative was found in the archives of the Mozambican News Agency. A print is now on show at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, as part of an exhibition of photographs from southern African states during the last years of apartheid, from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s.
The UN’s Paris climate change conference in November doesn’t hold out much promise. Since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, fossil fuel consumption has gone on growing. The Green Climate Fund launched by the UN in 2011 has attracted only €10bn to date. In 2013 subsidies for fuels responsible for greenhouse gases totalled €400bn worldwide — four times the amount allocated to renewable energy sources.
The breakup of the Soviet Union, agreed in 1991 by Boris Yeltsin, then the new Russian president, and his Ukrainian and Belarusian counterparts, happened peacefully because the USSR’s president Mikhail Gorbachev chose not to stand in its way. But it was pregnant with potential future conflicts: in this multinational space, 25 million Russians were left outside the borders of Russia (which had 147 million inhabitants at the last pre-breakup census in 1989; there were 286 million in the USSR), itself very ethnically diverse. The arbitrary drawing of borders exacerbated tensions between successor states and minorities (in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjara). Many of these multi-ethnic states had never existed before. This was true of Ukraine, which had only been independent for three years in its history (1917-20), after the collapse of the tsarist armies.
eligion continues to produce, with undeniable success, combative ideologies that contest social or political conditions. Two of these have had much recent attention — Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism. A clue to their natures is found in the correlation between their rise and the fate of the secular left in their geographic zones. The history of liberation theology roughly parallels that of the secular left in Latin America,where it is seen as a component of the left. Islamic fundamentalism, though, developed in most Muslim-majority countries as the left’s competitor, and has replaced the leftin trying to channel protest against what Karl Marx called “real misery”, and the state and society held responsible for it. These opposite correlations indicate a profound difference between the movements.
a. Satanic Cycle.
Fourteen years ago, the United States and its allies began a major operation against al-Qaeda called the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT). That war, which is ongoing, began in Afghanistan but then expanded to include large swathes of the planet – from the Philippines to Nigeria. States, built after great sacrifice and difficulty, collapsed under the weight of GWOT – Afghanistan and Iraq, both fragile, could not withstand the stress of US full spectrum domination, insurgency and counter-insurgency. Across the Sahara, states fell as a consequence not only of the GWOT but also of the new trade regime set in place by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Libya and Mali had the greatest catastrophes, but not far behind were the victims of Ebola and al-Qaeda, of predatory mining companies and rapacious ruling elites. Syria, once a proud nation, is now prone – a fragile shadow of its own self-esteem. From the West’s point of view, the GWOT has largely prevented any attacks on its own territory. The price for that has been the destruction of the lives of tens of millions of people. There is a Charlie Hebdo attack each day in the land of the GWOT. It goes by without sentiment. It provokes the creation of more distress. It gives permission for the GWOT to continue. It is a Satanic Cycle.
It is a hard-hitting report, harder than the Goldstone Commission’s report on the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2009. UN reports on the 2014 war have already described the extent of the violence used by Israel against civilian targets – which is why the death toll against Palestinian civilians was so dramatic.
The HRC report merely confirms their information. Here there is nothing new.
Far more important is the analysis of the bombings and the implications of the style of Israeli warfare. Palestinians in Gaza, the report notes, “were confronted with intense attacks, with no way of knowing which locations would be hit and which might be considered safe”.
If Greece were in what was known, rightly or wrongly, as “the Third World” during the 1980s, officials from the International Monetary Fund would fly silently into Athens, meet the finance minister and head of government and deliver an ultimatum.
It would be a simple choice. Either the country agreed to cut its budgetary spending for social services and economic subsidies, thereby freeing up money to pay its external creditors, or else it would be shunned by the financial world.
“They have decided to strangle us, whether we say yes or no”, said a Greek woman to me yesterday. “The only choice we have is to make it quick or slow. I will vote “oxi” (no). We are economically dead anyway. I might as well have my conscience clear and my pride intact.”
Her view is not atypical among friends and relations I have canvassed in the last few days. Trust has evaporated. Faith in European Institutions is thin on the ground. Lines have been crossed. At times of financial strain, a country’s currency issuer, its central bank, should act as lender of last resort and prime technocratic negotiator. In Greece’s case, the European Central Bank, sits on the same side as the creditors; acts as their enforcer. This is unprecedented.
Greece debt crisis: ‘The ministers talk to us about miracles’ – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Not a poster. Not a flag. Given its 25 per cent unemployment rate, its ring roads of empty factories – marble steps overgrown with grass, courtyards piled with garbage – this ancient Ottoman city should be more angry than Athens, certainly tinged with a fear of the violence which journalists in the capital talk about. But Thessaloniki is no revolutionary city. Take a walk along the tree-lined avenues and there’s only one sentence that comes to mind: there will be no civil war in Greece.
So the Greeks are going to vote Yes on Sunday. Fear. Humiliation. Patriotism (pro-European or pro-euro, we shall see). Or pragmatism, that great industrial powerhouse of European politics. And so the EU, the IMF, the ECB, the lot – they will have won. Greece – nil. Delete the Second World War.