Overcoming right wing populism in an agrarian context.



Check out this insightful article relevant to the current political and socio-cultural context in rural and small town USA.


Crystal Bay Resolves to Respond to Climate Emergency

(Prepared and introduced to Crystal Bay Township Council by my brother David Abazs and his wife Lise Abazs in April, 2019)


WHEREAS, the United States of America has disproportionately contributed to the climate and ecological crises and has repeatedly obstructed global efforts to transition toward a sustainable economy, and thus bears an extraordinary responsibility to rapidly solve these crises;

WHEREAS, the national government has neglected the seriousness of climate change, the need to address the seriousness of the climate change is immediate and needs swift action and  community’s like ours around the country to take a stand and take action;

WHEREAS, restoring a safe and stable climate requires an emergency mobilization on a rapid scale to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of our world, to rapidly and safely drawdown or remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere, and to implement measures to protect all people and species from the consequences of abrupt climate change;

WHEREAS, ecological justice requires that frontline communities, which have historically borne the brunt of the extractive fossil-fuel economy, participate actively in the planning and implementation of this mobilization effort at all levels of government and that we transition to a renewable energy economy;

WHEREAS, Crystal Bay Township can act as a global leader by both converting to an ecologically, socially and economically regenerative economy at emergency speed, and by catalyzing a unified regional just transition and climate emergency mobilization effort;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, the Crystal Bay Township declares that a climate emergency threatens our community, our region and the world;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Crystal Bay Township commits to a climate emergency mobilization effort to reverse global warming, and end greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, immediately initiating efforts to safely draw down carbon from the atmosphere, and accelerates adaptation and resilience strategies in preparation for intensifying climate impacts to the best of our ability;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Crystal Bay Township commits to educating ourselves and others about the climate emergency and working to catalyze a just transition and climate emergency mobilization effort to provide maximum protection for our residents as well as all the people and species of the world; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the Crystal Bay Township joins a nation-wide call for a regional just transition and climate emergency mobilization collaborative effort focused on transforming our region and rapidly catalyzing a mobilization at all levels of government to restore a safe and lasting safe climate and environment.

Dan Kovalik on Venezuela and International Law, Presented at University of Louisville, Law School April 8, 2019


My take away: The emergence of ´humanitarian interventionism´ based on a lense of the privileged and powerful nations looking down upon the less powerful has led to violations of international law, from Libya to Venezuela. State sponsored genocides such as that taking place in Yemen, or extreme humanitarian violations like that taking place in Gaza, for example, are largely ignored. 40,000 US people living in poverty are never viewed through this lense. Particularly when there is a desire to overthrow a regime, does this pretext come into use. The case of this pretext being used in favor of regime change in Venezuela is a flagrant on-going example.

Green New Deal for Agriculture

“The food system is breaking the planet.”  This is the opening line from an article entitled a Green New Deal for Agriculture just out by authors Raj Patel and Jim Goodman.  Jim Goodman is president of the National Family Farm Coalition and a dairy farmer who together with his wife Rebecca finally succumbed to reality and sold off their dairy herd in great sadness and closed shop after decades producing organic milk in Wisconsin.  Please read the whole article at the following link below.  The article goes on: “Nearly a quarter of human made greenhouse gases are driven by how we eat, and it’s impossible to tackle climate change without transforming agriculture. So the Green New Deal is wise to call for “a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.” Better yet, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey’s proposal includes a call to work “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector.”

This has the makings of a bonanza for rural America. Healthy food costs more and is harder to access than processed food. Under a Green New Deal that helped Americans eat better, more cash might flow back to the land.”

If the federal government would truly represent the interests of the farm economy and rural communities, and recognize that well-managed soil would both sequester carbon and create living wage farm and agricultural jobs across the heartland, sustainable farming might become a way to end America’s rural poverty.

Let’s be clear, the family farmers still “outstanding in their fields” in the US are suffering impoverishment and bankruptcy.  The latest statistics paint a dire situation:  82% of farm income will come from off-farm jobs in 2019, median income from farms is now a negative number and farmer suicides are on a dramatic rise in recent years!  Due to decades of low prices and high costs for farmers, 75% of America’s farmed cropland is now controlled by 12% of farms.  These are cold statistics that harbor an immense hot bitter loss for millions of people and thousands of rural communities since the 80s, and arguably contributed to a situation that was leveraged in a deceptive way to elect Donald Trump.   Why has this happened?

The answer is quite simple:  Corporations that buy, process, distribute and sell agricultural products , whether it is tobacco, meat or vegetables, and those that sell seeds, fertilizers and chemicals to farmers, and those who sell insurance to farmers,  have become way too few, too powerful and too profitable.  They have through their cash and lobbying apparatus over decades stripped away the legislative advances made by the original New Deal and, as is a chronic problem for corporate led capitalism, turned the farm economy into monopoly capitalism, wiping out any semblance of free markets and rigging the system, rules and laws around trade, farm and economic policy through their campaign contributions.  Family farmers have been the victims of this system, not to mention the family members and farm workers those farmers need to hire for the labor intensive work of crops like tobacco or fruit or vegetable production.  Not to mention the Mom and Pop businesses that farm income supports in rural communities and towns.   The Green New Deal, if it is to succeed in both providing a Just Transition to Living Wage Jobs for Millions of Marginalized workers, and effectively slow and eventually reverse climate change and climate catastrophe, must break up Big Ag Corporate control, strip away their Virtual Monopoly powers, provide support for prices above the cost of production for essential commodities, and empower government agencies to respond to the needs of the many current and potential producers, over the needs of corporate merchants and their lobbyists such as the Farm Bureau and Chamber of Commerce and the Financial Wall Street Crowd who have systematically captured and destroyed family farmers as a viable sector of the US economy.    Family farmers need to organize themselves in cooperatives, advocacy organizations and coalitions;  farm workers need to organize themselves into unions and coalitions, and people who need healthy food, into consumer associations in solidarity with the people who work the land.  Income should not be an obstacle to eating healthy food for the most impoverished and sickened communities in our country.  A GreenNew Deal could be a golden opportunity to both save humanity from climate catastrophe and from economic death through a thousands cuts of corporate economic predation and inequality by the 1% .  In short that death is very real, from eating in a fast food culture that makes you sick, because there is not enough $$ or time or community health and well being  to eat well.  Viable farm economy where agroecology can flourish is a keg solution to climate change.  On my 10 acre tropical farm in the Dominican Republic we sequestered the equivalent of 1,500 tons of carbon in 20 years.  That doesn’t even count the smaller carbon footprints of self-reliant people who live and work in rural communities overall.  Imagine if that can be multiplied a million times!   Please push to get the farmers and the farmworkers and their organizations to the table to help hammer out the policies the Green New Deal will need to implement in order to succeed in this urgent transformation to save humanity.    I believe in my heart that a powerful new rural, urban alliance in support of a Green New Deal is about to be born!   Carpei Diem! To quote a prophetic Filipino Climate negotiator:  If not now, then when!  If not us, then who?


Notes on Current Venezuela situation

by Joao Pedro Stedile[1]
São Paulo, February 18, 2019/latest update, March 18, 2019.

  1. Since 2008 there has been an international crisis of the capitalist mode of production that has only deepened. In light of this, the hegemony of finance capital means that only large corporations and banks can accumulate in contrast to the economies of countries and people specially the working class who pay with more unemployment, an increase in inequalities, migration, social conflicts and the loss of rights. We also see cuts to basic public services such as education, health and housing, etc.


  1. With the emergence of the economic crisis, governments that are based on agreements of class reconciliation for political stability are no longer able to sustain themselves because the State and its finances transform in the terrain of class struggle.


  1. There is also a crisis of the so-called formal bourgeois democracy. Governments and elections are no longer able to represent the real interests of the majority of society and its electoral triumphs are the result of manipulation, fraud and paid for with millions. An effect of this crisis is people’s disbelief in politicians and the regime of formal representation.


  1. In this context, ruling capital, through large corporations and banks, prioritizes the private appropriation of natural resources: oil, minerals, water, trees, biodiversity and energy as a way of obtaining high rates of profit and thanks to the extraordinary revenues continue to accumulate and grow. In this sense, only the capitalists that appropriate these natural resources that were once common, weren’t produced by labor and are transformed into commodities are able to achieve great profit.


  1. In this international dispute over these markets for natural resources, a new correlation of forces is unfolding between the United States, Western Europe and Eurasia (Russia, Iran and China). These economies wrestle among themselves for the appropriation of natural resources and markets. This leads American capitalists to increase their pressure over Latin America in order to maintain it as a territory controlled by their interests. Their “backyard” as they call it and therefore guarantee their resources, markets and be in better conditions to confront their international competitors.


  1. In the fields of politics and ideology, the crisis allowed for the emergence of a world of new bourgeois forces of the extreme right. These reactionary forces promoted the construction of new enemies: immigrants, worker’s rights, customs and culture, etc.


  1. Sadly, these forces of the extreme right have conquered several governments through elections. Such was the case of Donald Trump in the United States. We saw this in Europe with Italy, Hungary and Andalucía, in Asia with India and the Philippines. In Latin America, these forces have conquered the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Perú and El Salvador.


  1. In order to win these elections, the forces of the extreme right don’t clearly expose their true projects and ideological conceptions because they know they wouldn’t get support from the majority of the population. Therefore, they dedicate themselves to manipulate public opinion for example with the massive use of the internet and the production of systematic lies against the left and progressive sectors. They have also used Pentecostal churches to influence the poor who depend on them.


  1. All of this also occurred in the crisis of the 1930s when the capitalists used a nationalist discourse and fascist ideas to conquer governments and get out of the crisis. They also used world wars to dispute markets and eliminate means of production at the cost of millions of human lives.


  1. It’s in this context that we can understand the defeats of progressive governments in Latin America that governed on the basis of class reconciliation. Even though these were not revolutionary governments they were taken out of power by the bourgeois forces they were allied with.


  1. In this framework we seek to analyze the political, ideological and now military offensive of U.S. capital against Venezuela which is focused towards controlling its oil reserves through private and international means. Venezuela has one of the largest reserves of oil in the world and one of the closest ones to the United States market. No other country or territory in the world could guarantee and expand the oil supply of the United States.


  1. In addition to this, let’s consider that analysts foresee that oil prices will continue to reach higher prices above $100 per barrel in the next two years. By the end of 2019, it’s expected to reach $70. This would provide who ever controls the Venezuelan reserves of hydrocarbons with incredibly high oil revenues.


  1. The people of Venezuela have been confronting this war during the last 20 years and now comes the time in which it can become a military conflict.


  1. Throughout this period, since Hugo Chavez won the first election in 1999, there has been a permanent scenario of attack by the Venezuelan and international capitalists against the process of economic and social change in Venezuela. They could always allow for a military official to govern Venezuela as so many had already done in Latin America but they could never allow for oil to be used as a fundamental resource to restructure the Venezuelan economy, finance the distribution of wealth and solve the needs of the people such as housing, health, education, public transportation and social infrastructure.


  1. During these years, capitalists and the government of the United States have applied their historic experience as they’ve done in other countries to try to overthrow the Bolivarian government and process.


  1. First, they try to build a government of class reconciliation with Chavez, proposing neoliberal policies, suggesting ministers and even a president of the Central Bank. But that didn’t work and Chavez responded by calling for a constitutional assembly that redacted a new constitution that returned sovereignty of political power and the future of the nation to the people and not the conservative parties.


  1. Afterwards in 2002, they appealed to the classic coup d’état as they’ve done in many countries. They kidnapped President Hugo Chavez from the Presidential Palace of Miraflores and put a businessman in his place. The people responded, besieging the palace and in 48 hours the coup was defeated by the people and an important group of cadets and new military. These had entered the military service with a Bolivarian formation even while the high command supported the coup due to their historic relations with the local oligarchy. This important moment marked a significant step in the civilian-military unity that would play a significant role in the development of the Bolivarian revolution moving forward.


  1. The businessmen who were still in PDVSA, the state oil company led a general oil strike that paralyzed all activities and provoked chaos in the country, promoting a climate of social destabilization. The government along with the workers were able to revert this process and promote a profound renovation of the company’s structure, reorganizing its command in between the government and the working class.


  1. They then tried the Chilean tactic promoting the speculation over prices of certain goods in order to generate panic in the people and create shortages. These included shortages of flour, medicine and other highly used goods such as toilet paper, sugar, milk, coffee and tooth paste. The government then used the income from the oil reserves for the state purchase and distribution of these basic goods for the population.


  1. They then went on to use the tactics used in the Ukraine with public terrorism in the streets and the use of guarimbas (street riots) in which middle class and lumpen youth were paid in US dollars to block streets, burn local symbols, throw incendiary bombs at childcare centers, hospitals and even military bases. But once again, this didn’t work and the people confronted this terrorism and defeated the guarimbas.


  1. They also tried to subvert and win over military officers to their project. They were able to buy some off but were never able to achieve an uprising or a division within the military. Among other reasons, the majority of the officials they were able to buy off were abroad, which means they lacked direct influence inside Venezuela.


  1. On the other hand, they consistently accused the Venezuelan government of being a dictatorship, equally against Chavez as they do now against Maduro. In the meantime, the opposition parties participated in 25 elections during 20 years, in which they elected different governors, mayors and members of congress. They organized multiple activities in the public arena and continue to control the majority of the of mass media outlets. With all of this, how can they justify calling it a dictatorship? In no western country are there similar conditions. At the same time, the Venezuelan electoral process, with its electronic voting machines and printed receipts became one of the most transparent processes, verified by diverse foundations in the United States that have observed recent elections there.


  1. In the last few months, an economic blockade was intensified to prevent foreign consumer goods from arriving. Due to its oil-based economy, Venezuela is very dependent on imported goods. On top of this, they began to openly manipulate the currency exchange rates of the Bolivar from a website located without any reason in Miami. In a symptomatic manner, the local bourgeoise began to refer to this website without any real economic base in order to speculate with the US dollar which became more of a commodity than a currency, a commodity of reference for all others.


  1. They promoted an intense campaign stimulating and motivating thousands of people to leave the country with the promise of jobs and dreamy futures. More than 30% of those who left have already returned disillusioned, receiving support from the Venezuelan government for their return. On the other hand, migration is not unknown or a problem to the Venezuelan people, since in the country there are more than 5 million Colombians, thousands of Haitians as well as thousands of Europeans who arrived with the oil boom of 1970s such as Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese and also Lebanese.


  1. The thesis of demanding new elections has no parallel in the history of modern bourgeois democracies. New elections must be called simply because the rightwing lost the elections against Maduro despite these being observed and verified by hundreds of authorities around the world. Why if there is legal or moral basis to remove a legitimate government. This same thesis could also be applied to other governments then such as Bolsonaro and Macri. The same members of the National Assembly that want to remove Maduro were elected under the same system.


  1. We now enter a final stage. Time is running short. The Trump administration only has two years left and could lose the next elections. At the same time, the price of oil is rising. In the end, the ideological definition of removing progressive and left governments is expressed in the necessity to end Maduro’s government. Trump has said, “first we are going to get rid of Maduro, then come Cuba and Nicaragua, etc.”


  1. Before beginning this phase of major foreign offensive, the Trump administration has tried to create the internal conditions for economic and political destabilization, naming Guaido as the new legitimate government, unrecognizing the political forces inside the country including those of the bourgeois opposition. Essentially, they have tried a constitutional coup which of course is illegal. This repeats the formula already used against President Lugo in Paraguay, President Zelaya in Honduras and President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
  2. In this new period, the possibility of a military invasion is put on the table. A phantom government that no one in the country knows is created completely at the margins of any elections and legality. Now they focus on strengthening the siege, international pressure and who knows even a surgical military intervention.



  1. But this final tactic depends on multiple variables. American public opinion wouldn’t accept the loss of its soldiers in an unjustifiable war and therefore they must use multilateral forces such as the Organization of American States (OAS). But in the OAS, they were only able to obtain 16 out of 34 votes and didn’t have a majority to authorize an invasion under the wing of this institution. They then tried in the United Nations Security Council, which also denied them the right to invade Venezuela with the veto of Russia, China and other countries. This effort also required the participation of the armed forces of Colombia and Brazil. Going along with this is not as simple due to the consequences this conflict would have in their internal politics and the little willingness of the military in these countries.


  1. The last tactic could then be a surgical military intervention for example by air as they did in Yugoslavia, the Ukraine, Libya and Syria in order to break the economic sustainability of the government and force its collapse. But before any military intervention they must break the unity between the Bolivarian armed forces and the majority of the people that today exists in Venezuela. This unity is capable of defeating any military intervention, causing high costs in lives and also politically against the Trump Administration.


  1. This military adventure could become an international military conflict with the probable solidarity from Russia, Iran and Turkey, transforming Venezuela into a Latin American Syria with unknown consequences and at a high cost to the United States as in fact happened in Syria.


  1. A military intervention of this type could also create a grave contradiction for the imperialist forces. A probable defeat of the invading forces of the right would mean that the United States would have to receive a new and larger migration of all the Venezuelan bourgeoise which after a military defeat would no longer have the political or social space to remain in the country like what occurred after the military defeat at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.


  1. In this framework, for February 23rd, the United States and their Colombian allies had planned an invasion through the Colombian border with the plan to install the self-proclaimed government of Gauido in one of the border towns. But Guaido lied when he said that he had the support of the Venezuelan people and they fell into their own trap. There were no multitudes supporting him on either side of the border. On the contrary, apart from the armed forces, thousands of Venezuelans came out to defend their country. The humanitarian aid is now a farce that has been denounced even by CNN and they themselves has to burn the two trucks that hid the military supplies that were being transported. This was a victory for the Venezuelan people.


  1. On February 25th, a meeting had been prepared with all the governments of the Lima Group, that in case of an invasion were going to provide their approval of the new government. After the defeat of this initiative, the meeting was more of a wake, made worse by the position taken by the Brazilian military which represented by General Mourao, voted against any form of military aggression.


  1. After that defeat, they thought the Venezuelan government would imprison Guaido on his return, turning him into a victim and hero of the right. But the Venezuelan government was patient, left him alone and nothing significant occurred on his return. On the contrary the constant mass protests by the people gave more legitimacy to Maduro’s government.


  1. They then intensified their sabotage. The CIA’s intelligence forces and who knows from what other agencies, operated on the computers of the Guri Hydroelectric Plant and over the distribution of the electric energy grid, creating a national black-out which caused havoc. The government responded with more mobilizations and denunciations while the international bourgeois press as usual placed the blame on them. It’s really pathetic that the CIA and other intelligence agencies led this cyber-attack and then want to blame the government.


  1. They will certainly continue with their economic and financial blockade and against companies and individuals that act in favor of Venezuela. They have done the same to Cuba for 60 years and against Iran for 30 years. But the will of a united people is hard to defeat.


  1. The next weeks and months will be decisive to understanding which tactic will be adopted by the United States. In Venezuela a global battle of class struggle is being waged that could mark the geopolitics of the rest of the 21st This could be as significant as the Spanish Civil War was a preamble to the Second World War.


  1. In this battle it will be necessary for the Venezuelan government to maintain the unity of the Bolivarian Armed Forces and maintain the majority of the Chavista people mobilized in defense of the nation. In the short-term and long-term, it will also be necessary to create a new economic program that is able to overcome the challenges imposed by the blockade of the West and the dependency on oil in order to propose a program of economic development with social equality.


  1. Today the defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty signifies the defense of self-determination of the people against the empire. We must stay active and well informed of all the actions that take place. The next steps will be decisive and all the forces of the people and the left in the continent and the world must clearly take a stand in defense of the Bolivarian process which without a doubt has its own contradictions and challenges as is the case of any process of structural change in a society.


[1] João Pedro Stedile is a member of the National Coordination of the Movement of Landless Workers of Brazil