On the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the neoliberal capitalist politician


The impeachment of Dilma Rousseff is outrageously undemocratic & certainly a rightwing thrust by the Brazilian oligarchy to move the neoliberal transformation of Brazil much faster & more aggressively. The massive protests of millions against Rousseff’s neoliberal policies alarmed them. And for good reason.

Since becoming president in 2011, Rousseff presided over several neoliberal projects including massive land grabs from indigenous tribes for multinational agribusiness which involved violent military action against them; major infrastructure projects like the Belo Monte Dam involving land grabs & environmental destruction; millions spent on building stadia & infrastructure for the World Cup & Olympic games while millions of homeless children (estimated between 7 & 30 million) are subject to vigilante violence, drug addiction, & sexual exploitation; military occupation of the urban slums; protests by millions against the neoliberal austerity measures imposed by her regime.

What is important is not her removal but the very real threat to democracy in Brazil that it represents. Whatever her youthful politics, she was fully incorporated into capitalist politics as president & is no martyr nor hero. Brazilians protesting today in her defense previously protested her policies.

The liberal regimes that replaced military juntas throughout Latin America without challenging oligarchic rule may be exhausting their political usefulness. That is the danger her impeachment represents.

(Photo of Rousseff from Reuters)

The scourge of child labor

Child worker

This is an article I wrote on child labor published in Wisdom Blow, January 8th, 2012, where I address the argument that child labor is necessary for economic survival rather than a scourge & abomination.


Few issues are as layered with obscurantism and deceit as child labor, beginning with the estimated number of child workers worldwide. The most commonly cited estimate from the International Labor Organization (ILO) is 215 million while UNICEF estimates there are 250 million. Others estimate as high as 500 million. Both UN agencies agree that millions of children between 5 and 11 years old work full or part time, with nearly half working full-time, every day, all year round; 70 per cent work in agriculture; 70 per cent work in a dangerous environment, with many sustaining extreme violence and coercion; child labor is common in most countries, including Europe and the US, especially in agriculture and sweatshops.

It’s not clear how these agencies determine their estimates since the figures have remained relatively stable for many years when every economic indicator suggests significant increases. In December 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor added a dozen new countries to the list of those that use child labor, including forced labor.  Governments are unlikely to accurately report child labor because they use it themselves or turn a blind eye to companies that do; they are unable to accurately report because there are no functioning monitoring agencies or inspectors established in any countries. IMF structural adjustment programs imposed on countries since the 1980s mandate destruction of labor laws and worker protections so it is highly unlikely money is expended to monitor child welfare and child labor.

The UN agencies also acknowledge that millions of child workers are not included in their estimates, particularly domestic workers and those in the informal economy (i.e., under the table, off the books, and not regulated by government). What is known is that the problem is rampant in almost every country in some form or another, including children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, military conscription, bonded labor, sweatshop labor, mining, manufacturing, farm work. There is no monitoring or reporting of accidents, health problems, and deaths as a result of children doing dangerous work.

While countries claim to have laws against child labor no survey of these laws is publicly available. Do they outlaw child labor or merely place restrictions on it? Moreover, as important as prohibition and protection laws are, compliance is by no means guaranteed when there are no monitoring or enforcement agencies. Some countries which have signed the UN international agreements against child labor are among the most notorious offenders. Governments do not prosecute violations of their laws but they do supply the riot police and security to protect companies employing children and suppress strikes by child workers.

In the US, child labor is illegal except in agriculture where it is used extensively with no protective laws covering children. An estimated 500,000 children work in US fields for 10 to 12 hour days, 7 days a week, without weight restrictions, subject to abuse, heat exposure, endangered by pesticides and toxic fertilizers, and paid below minimum wage. In 2009, a bill called Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act) was introduced into Congress modifying conditions of labor, not prohibiting child farm workers. Without substantial public pressure it is unlikely to be acted on soon. Even if the bill is passed, there would be no monitoring inspections since OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the office responsible for monitoring workplace safety conditions, has been effectively gutted for decades.

The widespread and growing use of child labor can only be understood within the framework of neoliberal economic policies and the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank, starting in the 1980s. These managers of international capital have mandated extreme cuts in social services and directed governments to slash funding to health, education, water, sanitation, and food subsidies. They have entailed a wholesale assault on labor laws and any restrictions on their ability to plunder for private profit. As adult men became marginalized in the labor force, women and children were forced to enter in unprecedented numbers to compensate the family income. In many cities, from New York City to New Delhi, everyone in the working family is required to work to support the family at minimal standards. This is not just a problem in countries mortgaged to the IMF although it is more acute in them.

The most rapacious factor in the child labor economy are the hundreds of US and European multinational corporations that prowl the globe hunting for the cheapest and most exploitable labor. There is scarcely an industry, a corporation or a consumer product sold that does not depend on child labor. Millions of children in manufactories and sweat shops make garments, electronics, rugs, bricks, toys, sports equipment, decorations. Multinational mining operations producing coal, diamonds, sapphires, gold, tin, extensively use child labor. Tobacco, and food items like vegetables, chocolate, nuts, sugar, coffee, and poultry depend on child laborers. Child labor is essential for the neoliberal strategy to destroy adult labor power and maximize exploitation for profit.

While the IMF and World Bank and the largest corporations on the planet are directly involved in promoting and utilizing child labor, none of this is addressed by UN proclamations or by most anti-child labor NGOs.  Of course, many of these NGOs have direct links through their funding sources and boards of directors to the very corporations they should be monitoring. The approach of the UN agencies and most anti-child labor NGOS to child labor is legalistic and moralistic, as if yet another UN proclamation or resolution or day dedicated to the issue will cease the practice. Reality and evidence mock this approach. Laws and educational campaigns are of course necessary but more importantly, the laws need to be enforced. Those responsible need to be exposed, prosecuted, and mightily fined. And therein lies the rub–especially when the enforcer is the accused.

Anti-child labor groups often echo the mythification peddled by the World Bank & IMF in their reports on child labor arguing that it is a necessity born of poverty and cannot be eliminated without first ending poverty. The World Bank attributes child labor to family patterns and cultures and promotes education as a solution. They attempt to dump the onus on alleged cultural backwardness rather than their own predatory political and economic policies. Child labor is not just the unfortunate consequence of poverty; and it certainly isn’t the result of cultural backwardness. It is the intended result of neoliberal anti-social and anti-labor policies which undercut adult labor, destroy union organizations and worker protections, force millions off rural lands and into cities, and mortgage entire countries to IMF structural adjustment programs.

Many NGOs, again following the lead of the World Bank, uphold the idea that compulsory education is the answer to the problem of child labor but they do not then address the destruction of public education by the IMF structural adjustment programs. These policy makers equivocate between total eradication of child labor and trying to regulate and ameliorate the conditions of child labor with many now peddling a scheme to organize unions for child workers. Equivocation here serves a political agenda since such exploitation cannot be mitigated; it can only be opposed and ended. It should go without saying that the developmental needs of children cannot be met by hard labor.

Beside excessive legalism, they approach child labor as a moral campaign and primarily a human rights issue. This has in some ways obstructed and not advanced the struggle against it. Child labor is a human rights issue and should be promoted as such but it is also a child welfare and a labor issue and addressing it with any hope of eradicating it requires a broad perspective, placing it within the framework of the neoliberal assault on adult labor and on social welfare. When anti-child labor advocacy groups limit the scope of their campaigns to human rights and ignore the political and economic compulsions of child labor, they essentially become fund-raising apparatuses with no discernible affect on the problem.

The fight against child labor is not an easy one and it is certain to be a protracted one but it begins with education and clarity on the problem. Much can be done to educate and expose corporate responsibility for child labor, to picket, protest, and boycott to bring attention to their crimes. Activists need to be familiar with the state of affairs in their own country, i.e., to know the laws, how many children work, and in what industries. In most countries, child labor has a distinct ethnic character, with racism a key factor. All of this information needs to be gathered and shared with international solidarity networks.

Ending this scourge requires organizing and defending unions for men and women, making them independent of governments, and eliminating their collusion with the political & economic agencies of neoliberalism. It means organizing women workers, outlawing child labor, funding education, food subsidies and social welfare programs that support family well-being. The lives and welfare of millions of children depend on our commitment. They have struggled alone long enough.

Who was behind legalizing child labor in Bolivia?

Bolivian child miners

This is a post I wrote in November 2013 about who was behind the legalization of child labor in Bolivia. Chief among the NGOs advocating for it was Save The Children for reasons I explain here:

Some times your blood boils more at the idiocies of progressives than the treacheries of the right-wing. These two young boys (both under the age of 14) work illegally in a tin, zinc, & silver mine named Cerro Rico near Potosí, Bolivia. It is estimated there are over 3,000 child miners working in Cerro Rico; in just one year cited (2008), 60 children died from cave-ins & other accidents. Most of the miners are Quechua Indians. After nearly 500 years of non-stop extraction, the mine is almost exhausted & subject to frequent collapses because dynamite is still used to open new veins. In those 500 years, it is estimated at least 4 million miners have died from cave-ins, starvation, or black lung.

Bolivia has fewer than 11 million people; it is estimated that nearly one million of them are children who work full-time, with nearly half of those under the age of 14. Bolivian labor law prohibits children under 14-years from working though the laws are not enforced. Now Bolivia’s congress is slated to vote on modifying labor law to allow children as young as six to work. According to media reports, the proposal is being promoted by the Union of Child & Adolescent Workers (UNATSBO).

This is where the idiocy comes in. According to media reports, UNATSBO is being legally & politically advised & financially bankrolled by several NGOs. Any reporter or activist with the investigative skills of an honest 7th-grader would check out those NGOs to see if they might have ulterior motives. One of the NGOs is Save the Children whose corporate sponsors (including IKEA, Bulgari, & Unilever) should certainly give cause for suspicion. They boast that their chair is a former CEO of two Fortune 500 companies & their board members former government ministers, a previous UN leader, experts in children’s rights, healthcare, strategy, law, business, banking.

You don’t have to be a cynic to smell a big stinky rat. You just have to be able to put two & two together. Unfortunately many progressives laud UNATSBO as a step forward for child labor. Bolivia is a test case to legitimize child labor & most importantly to undermine adult labor & labor unions. They bring out the violins screeching tunes about UNATSBO ending exploitation of child workers–as if child labor could ever be anything but exploitation.

Children belong in school & on playgrounds–not crawling through dangerous mine shafts looking for metals to lard the coffers of mining corporations. It’s one thing for neoliberal predators to peddle rubbish about unionizing children; it’s a whole other thing for progressives to fall for it like Waldo the Dunce.

(Photo by Jackson Fager)

TeleSur’s baloney about elimination of poverty in Bolivia

Child worker in Alpacoma, Bolivia Sept 2 2016

The report in TeleSur that “Bolivia Has Cut Extreme Poverty in Half Since 2006” must be read with extreme skepticism. Not least of the reasons is that TeleSUR is state-funded by several Latin American countries, including Bolivia.

It’s shabby journalism to claim that more than 2 million Bolivians “have left extreme poverty” & that the rate of extreme poverty was reduced from 38-percent in 2006 when Evo Morales took office to 17-percent in 2016. It’s even shabbier to cite the World Bank as an authority on the Bolivian economy when it holds Bolivia in a vise of debt bondage. Bolivia took out a $200 million loan from the World Bank in February whilst it is still repaying old debts.

It should be remembered that the World Bank, using deranged mathematics, has determined the poverty level at $1.90 a day. That’s $59 a month when a cheap one-bedroom city apartment plus utilities in Bolivia is about $190 a month.

Can the TeleSur reporter explain why disabled Bolivians have been marching 234km/145 mi on a highway to La Paz in wheelchairs & on crutches for a few years now demanding the Morales government increase social security benefits from a paltry 1,000 boliviano (£102, $144) a year to 500 boliviano a month (£50, $72)? Actually, can the reporter explain why Morales repeatedly turns riot police on the protesters?

One Morales economic measure to make the economy look better is the 2014 legalization of child labor from the age of ten. Child labor is ubiquitous in Bolivia from street peddling to brick factories to mining. Whatever its legal status in Bolivia, there is no enforcement of age limits or safety requirements for children. More importantly, whatever its legal status in Bolivia, child labor is an abomination & not one whit more progressive under a guy who calls himself a socialist.

A 2013 US Department of Labor report estimated 20-percent or 389,000 children between the ages of 7 & 14 are working full-time in Bolivia. But the estimates are as high as one million children, half of them under the age of 14. That is one in four Bolivian children working full-time to make Morales’ statistical charts look good & convince people he is a socialist.

Left analysts have been crowing for a while about the dramatic reductions in poverty all over Latin America by regimes they consider left-wing & who they claim have rejected neoliberal economic policies. One research institute claims over 60 million people in Latin American have been lifted out of poverty by these beneficent regimes & have cut poverty almost in half in Latin America. Any closer look at economic realities shows that to be completely fraudulent hogwash since one of the key features of neoliberal capitalism in Latin America is the massive expropriation of Indigenous tribal lands, the political resistance by them, & state military violence against them–including under Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.

The photo is a child worker in Alpacoma, Bolivia. Don’t try to tell us that little guy is over five-years-old, let alone ten-years-old.

So many who oppose Israeli bombing in Gaza or US bombing in Afghanistan & elsewhere support Russian & Syrian bombing in Syria to support Assad & others support US bombing in Syria to oppose Assad. Many also support ground troops for the side they support.

What don’t they understand about militarism? What makes bombing humanitarian for the side you support & barbaric for the side you oppose? What have they not understood in the history of war, of high-tech scorched earth militarism? Why are bombs deemed necessary for ending dictatorship? What don’t they get about Armageddon?

Satire alert: “India to hold ‘referendum’ for weapons of choice in Kashmir”

Indian soldiers in Kashmir Sept 2 2016


Surely someone at some time has elaborated the politics of satire since ridiculing repressive power is as old as class society & one of the richest parts of literature.

Many don’t take to it & think it trivializes oppression. You can’t fault people for lacking a sense of humor or disliking sarcasm. It’s so universal a genre that sarcasm & irony must play a psychological role in our ability to manage overwhelming grief & terror. It’s a way of bringing power down to size. But it’s also more than that. It’s a weapon to expose the cruelties & idiocies of power.

This article is from the website & FB page called “Dapaan: Incredible News from Kashmir” which says it is strictly spoof & satire: “There are no facts here, only fiction. If something here resembles any facts or reality, it is only because fiction tends to do so often. And if something makes sense over here, that is because news no longer makes sense. Maybe that is why we are here.”

After the Modi government announced a panel to discuss non-lethal weapons to replace non-lethal pellet munitions, Dapaan published a brilliant takedown titled “India to hold ‘referendum’ for weapons of choice in Kashmir.” According to the article, India will “empower Kashmiris to choose the weapons the state can use on them.”

“We will ask them what they prefer, death by bullets, blinding by pellets or burning by chilli grenades, & many other options like stink bombs, stun grenade, tasers, microwave. It is for them to choose, we have no dearth of choices to offer.”

That doesn’t trivialize barbarism so much as express contempt & defiance which is the very heart of freedom struggles.

Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS): Reports on human rights in Kashmir



Many may want to deepen their understanding of the Indian military occupation as documented by Kashmiri human rights activists from the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). The JKCCS website is an invaluable source for reading their several reports by pulling down the menu titled “Reports.”

You can follow JKCCS on FB: https://www.facebook.com/ccskashmir/

Pellet injuries to eyes in Kashmir

Pellet injuries to eyes (Greater Kashmir)

According to doctors at two hospitals in Kashmir, 664 people have suffered pellet injuries in one or both eyes during the past 54 days of the military siege in Kashmir. That is 12 eye injuries per day.

The injuries range from facial disfigurement to ruptured retinae, severed optic nerves, hemorrhages, & partial or complete blindness. According to the doctors treating them, most of the injured are teenagers & many are also small children.

The NY Times reported on this monstrous crime not because they give a rat’s ass about human rights in Kashmir–anymore than they do about human rights crimes against Palestinian youth–but because they need to counter the exposure of the Indian occupation of Kashmir. It may be a signal to India to temper its violence in order not to jeopardize the US military alliance with India brokered by Obama.

End the occupation. Self-determination for Kashmir.

(Photo montage of injured from Greater Kashmir)

Obama on Kashmir


Many may wonder what US policy is toward India’s occupation of Kashmir—not because the US has the right to police the world or because of Hillary Clinton’s nationalist & racist insistence that because of “American exceptionalism” the US has a right to intervene–but because of the US military relationships with Pakistan & India, both the recipients of billions in US military aid. Pakistan is a key US ally not just in Afghanistan but the entire region; India is central to the US military buildup in the South Asia region as a buffer against China.

Comments by the US State Department when asked about Kashmir are carefully scripted gibberish. This is a recent statement: “As we have said many times, our policy on Kashmir is this: The pace, scope, & character of any discussions on Kashmir is for the two sides to determine, but we support any & all positive steps India & Pakistan can take to forge closer relations.” Not even no mention of the brutal Indian occupation, but no mention of Kashmiris. According to the US, it’s a dispute between Indian & Pakistan which Kashmiris are not party to.

Obama has met with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi seven times in the two years since Modi’s election & has commented about Kashmir on more than one occasion. For some unknown reason probably related to currying votes, in October 2008, two weeks before his election as president, Obama told Time magazine that “working with Pakistan & India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” would be among the critical tasks of his administration. “It won’t be easy,” he said, “but it’s important.”

But by the time of his November 2010 news conference in New Delhi with then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, Obama had been chastened not just by India’s uproar about his campaign statement but by those who actually determine US foreign policy. He spouted the official line that “With respect to Kashmir, obviously this is a long-standing dispute between India & Pakistan” & the US would play no active role. Again at a November 2015 meeting in NYC between Obama & current prime minister Modi, Obama said ‘Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be resolved between India & Pakistan.’

There is no report that Kashmir was raised as an issue during Obama’s January 2015 state visit to India & Modi never mentioned Kashmir in his June 2016 address to the US Congress. For the US, Kashmir is of no consequence when Pakistan & India play such central roles in its military strategy. It’s the price Kashmiris, Palestinians, Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, & for that matter Pakistanis & Indians play in the designs of US neoliberal capitalism.

The US has no right to intervene but in fact by militarily bankrolling India it is not neutral at all but supporting the occupation & arming India against Kashmiri self-determination. Human rights & antiwar activists around the world have a duty to protest the occupation & expose all the regimes who feign neutrality to Kashmiri justice.

In this photo from a state dinner in New Delhi, Obama toasts Modi, January 2015.

End the occupation. Self-determination for Kashmir.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)