“Further into the Afghanistan mission, after multiple deployments, soldiers began to refer to members going ‘up the Congo’.”
Chris Masters, The Sydney Morning Herald, Jun 9, 2018

They operate with impunity in areas already deemed lawless by their civilising superiors. Afghanistan, derided as a country of anarchic sensibilities, was never going to be a place for those abiding by armchair rules. Whether it was the Soviet army engaged in strafing operations indifferent to combatant and civilian, or those subsequent intruders of the Global War on Terror – the forces of the US-led International Security Assistance Force and associated allies – the complement of atrocities was only set to grow.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Curt, Fatou Bensouda, has had an eye on Afghanistan for some time for that very reason. In 2016, she claimed in a report that,

“Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014.”

The Central Intelligence Agency was not to be left out sulking on the side, with Bensouda suggesting that 27 detainees in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania had been subjected to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape” between December 2002 and March 2008. A true smorgasbord of violence.

In November 2017, Bensouda concluded, after a seemingly interminable preliminary process,

“that all legal criteria required under the Rome statute [of the ICC] to commence an investigation have been met”.

The investigation specifically into the conduct of forces in Afghanistan, she suggested, would cover the alleged perpetration of crimes against humanity including murder, targeting humanitarian workers, and summary executions.

Afghanistan has again become the site of interest for the maligned side of human nature, this time from the Australian angle. The weekend began with Canberra in a tizz over allegations that Australia’s special forces have committed war crimes since commencing operations in 2001.

On Friday, Fairfax Media revealed certain contents of a report written by Defence Department consultant Dr Samantha Crompvoets in 2016 alleging the commission of such crimes suggesting a “complete lack of accountability”. It had been instigated at the behest of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) examining “rumours… [of] possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict by members of the ADF in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016”.

Various “unsanctioned and illegal” applications of “violence in operations” entailing a “disregard for human life and dignity” had purportedly taken place. There were “allusions to behaviour and practices involving abuse of drugs and alcohol” peppered with instances of “domestic violence”.

The report by Crompvoets points to “problems deeply embedded in the culture” of the Special Operations Command. The account of one interviewee is studded with suggestion though little detail.

“I know there were over the last 15 years some horrendous things. Some just disgraceful things happened in Kabul… very bad news, or just inappropriate behaviour, but it was pretty much kept under wraps.”

A central theme emerges here: ignorance in central command and amongst the civilians at the helm. Unvarnished, necessary, practised, Australia’s national security remains detached from an understanding of its elite, anointed arm which does its best to keep bloody in conditions of utmost secrecy. Such ignorance extends to matters of “mentality” and the logistical makeup of the Special Air Service Regiment itself and the Commandos.

Chris Masters has tailed the culture of the SASR for some time, being himself “embedded” within the organisation in Afghanistan that yielded No Front Line – Australia’s Special Forces at war in Afghanistan.

“The long deployment to Afghanistan had worn at the character of some members, who were beginning to act as a law unto themselves.”

Such are the ugly disfigurements produced by small, endless wars.

Evidence would be planted on the dead to throw off beady-eyed investigators; detainees would be slaughtered in acts of “competitive killing” to prevent the endless questioning that awaited them back at base. By 2010, the butcher’s bill for Oruzgan province, euphemised by the term EKIA (enemies killed in action) had become so lengthy as to raise eyebrows back amongst the paper shufflers in Kabul.

The report has produced its own precipitate in the form of another inquiry, this time fronted by Australia’s judicial arm. A dozen or so men of the Special Air Service Regiment have been subject to lengthy periods of questioning by New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton.

Concern of this ugliness is tempered with well-seeded praise.

“The SAS is in my electorate,” Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop took care to point out, “they are regarded as some of the finest men prepared to put their life on the line in conflict situations to defend us and our freedoms, they are one of the finest fighting forces in the world.”

The opposition minister for defence, Richard Marles, was similarly tiptoeing with a pseudo-psychologist’s hat, wanting a killing force that was doing its bit in accordance with decency.

“Our soldiers, particularly our special forces, work in difficult and complex environments. It’s important that we know, as a country, that they’re doing it in a professional and legal way.”

Elite forces trained to liquidate their opponents with ruthlessness do not suggest law book observers and the scrupulous reading of statutes. Their very existence is owed to being unorthodox, to operate outside convention in contempt of local rules and the encumbrances of red tape.

The issue, as ever, is not their operational doctrine so much as the political masters who put them there, inspired by fatuous assessments of what the defence of freedom might look like. The crimes will happen, but the mandate to do so will always come from high and farther afield, those tut tutting types back in the bureaucracy who insist that small wars in vaguely defined theatres are necessary for the national interest.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

By 2050, if current policies continue, India could have numerous mega-cities with up to 30-40 million inhabitants and just two to three hundred million people (perhaps 15-20% of the population) left in an emptied-out countryside. Given current trends in the job market, it could mean tens of millions of city-based rural migrants without much work: victims of the ill thought out policies we currently see being pushed through.

In the book ‘The Invention of Capitalism’, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. English peasants didn’t want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous factories being set up by a new class of industrial capitalists. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means.

In India, what we are currently witnessing is a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and the running down of the existing system of agriculture. While India’s farmers suffer as the sector is deliberately being made financially non-viable for them, we see state-of-the-art airports, IT parks and highways being built to allow the corporate world to spread its tentacles everywhere to the point that every aspect of culture, infrastructure and economic activity is commodified for corporate profit.

GDP growth – the holy grail of ‘development’ which stems from an outmoded thinking and has done so much damage to the environment – has been fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories than it did 40 years ago. Meanwhile, corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans but have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Let them eat dirt

Although farmers continue to produce bumper harvests, they are being put out of business by underinvestment, the lack of a secure income and support prices, exposure to artificially cheap imports, neoliberal reforms, profiteering companies which supply seeds and proprietary inputs and the overall impacts of the corporate-backed Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture.

For all the talk of ‘helping’ farmers, the plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer five-year farm bill subsidy of around $500 billion.

This clearly a con-trick and not the way forward:

“If government can be convinced or forced by the power of the global grassroots to reduce and eventually cut off these $500 billion in annual subsidies to industrial agriculture and Big Food, and instead encourage and reward family farmers and ranchers who improve soil health, biodiversity, animal health and food quality, we can simultaneously reduce global poverty, improve public health, and restore climate stability.” Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association

Well over 300,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and millions more are experiencing economic distress. Over 6,000 are leaving the sector each day. And yet the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed and/or envisaged only leads to degraded soil, less diverse and nutrient-deficient diets, polluted water, water shortages and poor health.

Although various high-level reports (as I outlined previously) have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

The plan is to shift hundreds of millions from the countryside and into the cities to serve as a cheap army of labour for offshored foreign companies, mirroring what China has become: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, rural migrants are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as jobless ‘growth’ seems to be on the horizon and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.

And all for a future of what – vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly turning into a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides, dirt and dust?

Thanks to the model of agriculture being supported and advocated, India will edge nearer to having more drought vulnerable regions, even more degraded soils (which a is already a major problem) as well as spiralling rates of illness throughout the population due to bad diets, denutrified food, agrochemical poisoning and processed food laced with toxic ingredients.

Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations will decide on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

“The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.” – Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could accelerate this process. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights an lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

The dairy trade could be opened up to unfair competition from subsidised imports under RCEP. According to RS Sodhi, managing director of the country’s largest milk cooperative, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, the type of deals being pushed under the banner of ‘free trade’ will rob the vibrant domestic dairy industry and the millions of farmers that are connected to it from access to a growing market in India.

India’s dairy sector is mostly self-sufficient and employs about 100 million people, the majority of whom are women. The sector is a lifeline for small and marginal farmers, landless poor and a significant source of income for millions of families. Up until now they have been the backbone of India’s dairy sector. New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra (the world’s biggest dairy exporter) is looking to RCEP as a way in to India’s massive dairy market. RCEP would give the company important leverage to open up India’s protected market. Many fear that Indian dairy farmers will either have to work for Fonterra or go out of business.

In effect, RCEP would dovetail with existing trends that are facilitating the growth of chemical-intensive farming and corporate-controlled supply chains, whereby farmers can easily become enslaved or small farmers simply get by-passed by powerful corporations demanding industrial-scale production.

RCEP also demands the liberalisation of the retail sector and is attempting to facilitate the entry of foreign agroprocessing and retail giants, which could threaten the livelihoods of small retailers and street vendors. The entry of retail giants would be bad for farmers because they may eventually monopolise the whole food chain from procurement to distribution. In effect, farmers will be at the mercy of such large companies as they will have the power to set prices and will not be interested in buying small quantities from small producers.

Corporate concentration will deprive hundreds of millions of their livelihoods. RCEP is a recipe for undermining biodiverse food production, food sovereignty and food security for the mass of the population. It will also massive job losses in a country like India, which has no capacity for absorbing such losses into its workforce.

Current policies seek to tie agriculture to an environmentally destructive, moribund system of capitalism. RCEP would represent a further shift away from real, practical solutions to India’s agrarian crisis based on sustainable agriculture and which place the small farmer at the centre of the development paradigm. Once you begin to consolidate land, displace the small-scale farm and amalgamate land into larger parcels for industrial-scale agriculture, you implement a more inefficient model of agriculture and undermine food security.

In a future India, people might eventually ask, why did India let this happen when far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives based on self-sufficiency, food sovereignty, smallholder-based regenerative agriculture and agroecology could have been implemented?

They might also ask why was the countryside emptied out and more effort not put into developing rural infrastructure and investing in village-based industries and smallholder farmers?

And not least of all, they might ask why did policy makers buy into neoliberal dogma, the only role of which is to seek to justify a corporate takeover?

Ultimately, it is a case of asking does India want – does any country want – industrial-scale agriculture and all it entails: denutrified food, increasingly monolithic diets, the massive use of agrochemicals, food contaminated by hormones, steroids, antibiotics and a range of chemical additives, spiralling rates of ill health, degraded soil, contaminated and depleted water supplies and a cartel of seed, chemical and food processing companies that seek to secure control over the global food production and supply chain to provide people with low-grade but highly profitable food products.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the worlds) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which would be a lynchpin of rural development. However, in India (as elsewhere) successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated an unflinching allegiance to corporate power. It is unlikely that either the Congress or BJP, wedded as they are to neoliberalism, will ever undertake initiatives for seriously developing agroecological alternatives:

“But even if for argument’s sake… the present governance structure were to embrace agroecological alternatives, the problem of extreme inequality that results from the structural logic of capitalism… would require mitigation. Without tempering the ravages of the market, hunger will continue, as will the disempowerment of small producers. Indeed, an agroecological alternative would simply be co-opted by capitalist relations of production and distribution, with community-based initiatives becoming mere decentralised production points within a supply-chain logic that centralises power and profits in the hands of seed corporations.” – Milind Wani.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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In those seemingly interminable refugee debates being held in various countries, cruelty is pure theatre. It is directed, stage managed, the victims treated as mere marionettes in a play of putrid public policy and indifferent public officials.  Barriers have been set; barbed wire has been put in place. Open zones such as the European Union are being internally bordered up, the principle of mobility derided and assaulted.   

In all of this, Australia has remained a paragon to be emulated. It first began with tentative steps: the establishment of onshore detention facilities at Villawood, Sydney and Port Headland, Western Australia, in 1991.  Then came that vile concept of mandatory detention, introduced in 1992.  The hobgoblin of offshore detention, financed afar by the Australian tax payer, would come with the Howard government.

The worded rationale since the Hawke years has tended to follow variants of the same, only differing in terms of shrillness and savagery.

“Australia,” came the grave words of the Hawke government, “could be on the threshold of a major wave of unauthorised boat arrivals from south-east Asia, which will severely test both our resolve and our capacity to ensure that immigration in this country is conducted within a planned and controlled framework”. 

The list of obituaries arising from such a policy is growing and should be chiselled into a wall of remembrance.  There is the Kurdish-Iranian refugee Fazel Chegeni, who perished on Christmas Island in November 2015 after escaping the North West Point detention centre.  His state of mental deterioration had been documented, along with three reported attempts at suicide. 

There is the youthful Hamid Kehazaei, who succumbed to sepsis after his request for a medical transfer was sternly refused, only to then flounder before the overgrown resistance of Canberra’s bureaucracy. The details of his maltreatment laid before the Queensland coroner Terry Ryan have proven to be kaleidoscopically torturous: the refusal to supply intravenous paracetamol for two nights in a row; suffering hypoxia; being left unsheltered at the airfield un-sedated.

Screenshot from ABC News

The case of Manus is particularly grotesque, given the decision made by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court in 2016 that detaining people indefinitely was decidedly illegal, a constitutional violation of personal liberty. Those facilities replacing the camp have done little to arrest the decline of health of the remaining population.

Earlier this week, a Rohingya refugee by the name of Salim was found dead in an apparent suicide, taking to seven the number of asylum seekers and refugees who have met gruesome ends on Manus since July 2013.  He had jumped from a moving bus near the refugee transition centre, and duly struck by its wheels.  The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul was adamant:

“He should not have been taken there in 2013, and he should not have been returned there after he was brought to Australia for medical treatment in 2014.”

Farce became tragedy when a call by a staff member of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to Salim’s spouse revealed, prior to any notification from Australian officials, that her husband had committed suicide.  The worker in question, a certain Kon Karapanagiotidis, was, by his own admission “lost for words”. 

During Question Time, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (image on the right) exercised his long held approach of rebuking the heart sleeve wearers.

“I’m not going to take a morals lecture from the Greens when it comes to border protection policy.” 

His own department, also adopting another standard line to questions on Salim’s death, deemed it “a matter for the PNG government.” 

What is in place in Australia’s singularly styled gulag is a measure of calculated degradation, a brutal hierarchy of violence manufactured to defeat the spirit and aspiration of the UN Refugee Convention.  Few countries of the nominal democratic world have been so avidly dedicated to this cause, citing counterfeit humanitarian considerations even as the noose – quite literally – is being tightened. 

Adding to the heavy handed attempts by those in Canberra to deter refugees and asylum seekers from contemplating a journey to Australia, resources and services are being trimmed back.  Nait Jit Lam, the UNHCR’s Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra, offered the following observation on May 22:

“With the passage of too many years and the withdrawal or reduction of essential services, the already critical situation for refugees most in need continues to deteriorate.”

Medical care in acute situations is being refused, notably when it requires treatment that would only be possible on the Australian mainland.  The oldest Afghan Hazara held on Nauru, one Ali, is said to have advanced lung cancer.  He is being housed at the Australian-built RPC1 camp, a woefully inadequate, threadbare facility which is bearing witness to his last days.  Doctors have had the ear of the Australian Border Force, but the establishment remains stony towards calls for help.  The Department of Home Affairs has preferred to remind Ali that he best shove off his mortal coil back in Afghanistan.

The growing list of deaths, the burgeoning number of psychological wrecks, the casualty list in what can only be deemed a planned campaign against refugees and asylum seekers, is such that even the extreme centre, the Australian consensus approving such treatment, might be changing.

The Victorian State Labor conference, by way of example, will consider an urgency motion calling on the party, on winning federal office, “to close offshore detention centres, transit centres and other camps on Manus and Nauru within the first 90 days, and to bring all the children, women and men who are refugees or seeking asylum remaining there to Australia.”

As ever, such moves stem from the left wing of the party, those condemned as bleeding hearts or soggily wet with teary sentiment.  But in federal parliament, refugee advocates could get some hope at the remarks made by Labor MP Ged Kearney, fresh from her by-election victory in the Melbourne seat of Batman. 

Still untainted by the wearing grime of the Labor Party apparatus, she could still state in her first speech to the federal parliament that Australia’s refugee policy was not only vicious but corrosive.

“We are a rich country. We can afford to take more refugees. I doubt, however, we can afford the ongoing cost to our national psyche of subjecting men, women, children to years of indefinite detention in camps.”   

Psyches captive to the police mentality that afflicts Dutton and government front benchers happily tolerate such ongoing costs. As would many of those on the opposite of the aisle.  For such political creatures, deterring refugees who arrive outside that planned controlled framework stated by the Labor government of the early 1990s is not merely a job but a duty.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image is from Radio NZ.

Did the movements of “1968” change societies fundamentally worldwide? This article examines “1968” from the perspective of Japanese history. Japan’s “1968” shared such common elements with “1968” in other countries, as the social background, development of visual media, and progress of modernization. This article investigates Japan’s “1968” in light of the common background and characteristics of the movements in Japan and globally. I conclude that “1968” was a product of the resonance of unrelated phenomena throughout the world, and many evaluations of “1968” confuse the general trend of modernization with the specific influences of the movements.


“1968” is said to be the heart of an era in which new social movements rose up “globally”. A book titled 1968 in Europe published in 2008 claimed that “Nobody today seriously doubts that European societies were fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘1968’.”1 In the United States, there seems less of a tendency to emphasize the year 1968 exclusively, noting the rise of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the women’s movement and others that transformed society in the course of the decade.

I would like to contribute to the discussion of “1968” from the perspective of Japan, drawing on research on the Japanese student and citizen movements in the 1960s. This work was published in a two volume work of 2000 pages 1968 in Japan.2 My previous English language article, “Japan’s 1968”, investigated the characteristics of Japan’s “1968” and the social background specific to Japan.3

In this article, I would like to reflect on the common features of “1968” throughout the world in light of Japan’s “1968”.

1. The Setting

How can we discuss “1968” in the world through the lens of “1968” in Japan? To do so, it is necessary both to identify common elements and show how the global situation affected Japan’s “1968” and vice versa. To do that, it is necessary to recognize the diversity of world phenomena at that time, collectively referred to as “1968”. Not only were the phenomena diverse, but many were also unrelated.

For example, did the people who rose in the “Prague Spring”, the students in Paris, and the Red Guards in China’s Cultural Revolution have direct relationships with one another? Certainly, images of both were broadcast throughout the world, and many Western students were stimulated by the events in Paris and Beijing, and to a lesser extent in Prague. While most participants throughout the world were only dimly aware of the issues that drove the movements elsewhere, the sense that movements were taking place throughout the world, and the spirit of rebellion that animated them, magnified by the visual images of TV, film and mass media, inspired movements elsewhere and conveyed the sense that they were somehow linked. This article considers the processes in which diverse local movements with little knowledge of the causes and character of movements elsewhere came to be viewed as constituent parts of a “global 1968”.

Prague 1968

Indeed, it was often the case that even movements within a single country had little understanding much less direct relationship to other movements unfolding simultaneously. This was certainly true of the diverse groups that would come to be recognized as part of “Japan’s 1968”. Two movements that were widely cited as emblematic of the events of 1968 in Japan are the student movement and anti-pollution movement. It is interesting to note that the National Diet Library in Tokyo holds some 5,000 flyers and pamphlets issued in the course of the student revolt at the University of Tokyo from 1968 to 1969. Most of these artifacts center on issues of student action including seized buildings and criticism of university administrations. Seldom was there mention of the pollution issue.4 Indeed, Ui Jun, the pioneering environmentalist who was then a Tokyo University lecturer, wrote a memoir criticizing the indifference of new left groups to issue of pollution.5 On the other hand, it is striking that the writer Ishimure Michiko, who played an important role in making Minamata disease (mercury poisoning resulting from pollution caused by the discharge of factory wastewater) a cause célèbre throughout Japan and spearheading the movement for redress of Minamata victims, made no mention of the Japanese student movement or the anti-Vietnam War movement in her influential 1969 book.6 These movements would become related to one another in the 1970s, but in 1968 they were no such links.

I have no intention of denigrating these movements by pointing out that they were unrelated to one another at that time. We should not be surprised even to learn that Malcolm X and Rachel Carson personally had no strong interest in each other’s activity at that time. I do not think that such recognition would hurt the evaluation of their contributions. Rather, we should reflect on our framework of thinking if we unconsciously assume that they were linked simply because they were prominent activists in the 1960s. The same is true of various European and Asian movements within and among countries.

In other words, many events that were largely unrelated, and whose participant were even unaware of their mutual existence at that time, subsequently came to be collectively referred to as “1968”. Many books and films are titled “1968” in various countries, but most are just collections of events that happened in that era.

Then what was “1968”? Is it an “invented memory” compiled of simultaneous but largely unrelated events from the perspective of posterity? There were such aspects. However, here I discuss three important structural factors central to grasping the wider context of “1968” in the world including Japan.

  • Media Development
  • Modernization
  • Dislocation of the Cold War order

I will discuss how these three developments affected Japan’s “1968”. The first is widely recognized as important background to the movements in the 1960s. The third refer to the impact of the declining ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to shape the global agenda, and the disruption in the Cold War order.

Let me explain more about the second, modernization. Although the 1960s was a time of economic growth and industrialization, modernization is not limited to these phenomena. According to the sociologist Anthony Giddens, the driving force of modernization is “reflexive monitoring of actions”.7 When humans start to reflect on their actions, they will change their ways of action that were limited by tradition, authority, and community boundaries. In other words, modernization is a process of increasing choices and possibilities. In the early stage of this process, it may lead to liberation from authority, expansion of space for activities, and economic development. However, as this process proceeds, the existence of numerous choices and possibilities may give rise to individualism, instability, and demand for authorities who seem to provide stability. Giddens, Ulrich Beck, and Scott Lash called the latter stage “late modernity” and discussed issues of neoliberalism and globalization such as destabilization of employment and family conflict.8 In this article, I use the term “modernization” drawing on this theory and its representation of Japan’s “1968.”

2. Media Development

Despite the great variety of events that were eventually encompassed in popular understanding of the symbolic events of “1968” underlying all of them were the powerful visual images disseminated through new media, above all TV, that spread rapidly throughout society in Japan and many other countries in the 1960s.

Yasuda Hall, the University of Tokyo, under siege in 1969.

For example, consider the following memorable images: people surrounding a tank during the “Prague Spring”. The battle between the police and helmeted Japanese students at the University of Tokyo under siege. The US Embassy in Saigon occupied by National Liberation Front forces during the Tet Offensive. The photograph of the Earth taken by an Apollo 8 astronaut. Hippies dancing during an American rock festival. These phenomena were quite unrelated. Nevertheless, as people absorbed and shared these images through television, movies or photographs, they became emblematic of “1968”.

In the 1960s, TV rapidly spread throughout the world. The diffusion of TV sets per household reached 80% in 1958 in the United States and in 1963 in Japan. TV spread more slowly in Europe but it reached 200 sets per thousand people in 1965 in West Germany and in 1970 in France.9 On June 25 1967, a special program “Our World” was broadcast simultaneously in 24 countries using communication satellites, and people watched the Beatles in performance. In 1968, color television began to connect the whole world.

People saw images that they had never seen before. Of course many knew little about the situation and background of events occurring in distant areas. Nonetheless, these startling images conveyed the impression that the world was changing. Indeed, as the media environment changed dramatically, it was reasonable that the idea that “the world is changing” spread among people everywhere. The simultaneous broadcast by satellite communication and the photograph of the earth made the idea of ​​”one world” compelling.

Under these circumstances, students and youth in France, Japan and the US among many others watched TV news and photographs of Chinese Red Guards in the years 1966-1969. Of course, many of the students understood little of Chinese politics and society. However, the images of the Little Red Book and Mao Zedong reviewing millions of Red Guards in Beijing excited and inspired many beyond China’s borders.

In Japan in January 1969, a new left group inscribed the Chinese Cultural Revolution slogan “in resistance the truth is born (造反有理)” and raised a photograph of Mao Zedong at the gate of the University of Tokyo. The personal memoir of a student activist from this group reveals that she actually knew nothing about Chinese society and politics but sensed that something “revolutionary” was happening at that time.10 Nevertheless, images of the Red Guards inspired many and conveyed the appearance of an international relationship. In this way, while the media reported on individual movements, participants sensed that they were part of something larger. Perhaps this was also true of various movements throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.

“1968” was not the first time that a change in the media environment created a resonance of various movements. For example, “1848” in Europe was a time when print media were spreading. However, in contrast to print, visual images broadcast in TV or color photo printing could transcend language divisions. It made possible wide geographical influence and had the capacity to stimulate the imagination, while being less demanding in terms of understanding. This resulted in a qualitative change in the mutual resonance of the movements.

Furthermore, new techniques of simultaneous live reporting affected global understanding of contemporary events. On June 15, 1960, a radio reporter broadcast live the anti US-Japan security treaty demonstration. The sounds of explosions of tear gas and firing in the police assault were heard, as were the words of the reporter saying ” I am now broadcasting, but a policeman just beat me over the head” vividly conveying the atmosphere of the moment and the intensity of the clash.11 This was the first episode in Japan of live broadcasting of a social movement. By “1968”, simultaneous live TV broadcasting of social movements would become routine.

Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators in Chicago 1968

Activists were quick to grasp the possibilities of television coverage. Todd Gitlin titled his book on mass media and the new left in the United States “The whole world is watching,” referencing a comment by demonstrators in Chicago in 1968 and picked up and chanted by activists everywhere.12 Japanese activists were also conscious of the media. For example, Japan’s new left groups wore colorfully painted helmets. According to the recollection of a veteran activist, when he asked young activists in his group why they painted their helmets red during 1967 demonstrations, their reply was “red is a good color for television.”13

The movement presence multiplied through the work of the media. One example is the protest of new left groups in January 1968 when the US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise called for the first time at Sasebo Bay in the south of Japan. The 50,000 demonstrators organized by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party far exceeded the protests by 1,000 or so new left student demonstrators. But television coverage focused on students wearing helmets clashing with the police. The rough handling of demonstrators by the police was televised, and audience sympathy went to the students. One police officer regretted that “we could have done well if TV had not be there.”14

Small groups could gain wide influence if they received TV coverage. This encouraged the movements to focus on visual images. In January 1969, when police and students fought at the University of Tokyo, new left groups raised their flags above Yasuda Hall inviting TV coverage.15 In November 1970, when Minamata disease victims marched in protest at abuse by the Chisso Corporation, they raised black flags with the Chinese character “anger (怨,“On”)” in both an expression of fury at their treatment and a powerful bid to be televised and photographed.

Minamata victims and supporters demonstrate demanding compensation

Changes in movement style also sometimes took the form of ‘extreme’ actions by small groups. Joachim Scharloth points out that terrorism became a “media event” in “1968”.16 Terrorism was previously carried out covertly, but from this time on, some radical groups turned to terrorism with the expectation of media reportage. A Japanese journalist got a phone call from a new left group which threw a Molotov cocktail into the Self Defense Force grounds asking his newspaper to cover of the story.17 TV broadcast the terrorist event simultaneously with live reporting. The March 1970 airplane hijacking by the Japanese Red Army, and the harakiri suicide of right-wing novelist Mishima Yukio at the Tokyo headquarters of the Self Defense Force in November 1970, highlighted this transition.

The fact that the movements were visually appealing, often provocative or exciting, made it possible to capture the attention of a wide range of people, and in some cases to extend the reach of protest nationally and even internationally. The Japanese movements had an impact not only on one another but also on Western movements through international dissemination of visual images such as zigzag demonstrations and helmeted youth clashing with police. If there was little international understanding of the issues that drove the situation in Japan, the vivid sense of protest and the call to action could be conveyed—and shared—across nations and languages. In this way, participants of “1968” and observers throughout the world identified with one another on the basis of a shared desire for liberation from authority.

There were cases in which visual effects had political consequences. The march of Minamata disease victims attracted sympathy of many people throughout Japan and abroad, and Chisso, the company that discharged mercury waste into the water was eventually forced to compensate the people recognized as victims. Students in the Beheiren, anti-Vietnam war civic movement in Japan, who handed out flowers to policemen to display their non-violent civil disobedience had an impact on public opinion with visual images quite different from those of helmeted students clashing with police in their own way spoke more powerfully than words. Elsewhere, the occupation of the American embassy in Saigon by the South Vietnam Liberation Front, while short lived, changed public opinion throughout the world including the United States and Japan with TV images conveying the sense that the powerful US military had been defeated.

However, media events when staged by isolated individuals or small groups did not necessarily lead to systemic social or political change. For example, the LDP, the ruling conservative party in Japan, again won in the general election in December 1969 following the 1968 struggles. Following movements of “1968” in Western developed countries, subsequent elections also often produced results at odds with movement goals, even in cases in which the movement received extensive media coverage.

3. Modernization

The broadcast media was one element of the new market consumption culture indicative of the progress of modernization. Forces of modernization led to myriad changes that impinged powerfully on youth in general, university students in particular. The rapid economic growth and modernization of this period generated intense conflicts that were most evident in the conflict between young and old generations.

The prelude to the student revolt in Japan included rapid changes in the college environment. The rise in college enrollments, coinciding with rapid economic growth, from 8% of high school graduates in 1960 to 20% in 1968, created intense entrance examination competition and tensions over rising tuition. The increase in the number of students was one factor in the decline in the quality of university education which came to be criticized as “Mass Production Education”.

A survey of the Japan teachers’ union in 1964 reported the case of a junior high school which was conducting 320 tests a year to prepare for entrance examination competition. In 1966, the student newspaper of Keio university reported that many courses enrolled over 1000 students in a huge auditorium with a microphone, and the student newspaper of Chūō university estimated that campus space per student was only 0.5 square meters.18 The Keio report was titled “The real situation of Mass Production Education at Keio.” This was the background of the student movement which protested tuition increases and various university administrative policies. Many student activists at the time wrote that intense entrance examination competition and poor quality education first led them to become aware of social issues.19

Class in Auditorium in the 1960s

As Universities expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, university administrations remained unchanged. A small number of administrators made decisions to raise tuition, and closed faculty meetings routinely rejected student demands for educational reform out of hand. Exploitation by professors of graduate students as cheap labor was a big factor behind the student revolt at the University of Tokyo.20 These situations show that the consciousness of older generations had not kept pace with rapid modernization, resulting in intense conflict. These circumstances added to these movements the characteristics of rebellion against the authority of elders and professors.

Japanese students in “1968” criticized professors who preached free thinking from the constraints of authority but imposed their own authority. Giddens and Beck note that one of the features of late modernity is that the spread of modern thinking and science reflexively returns as criticism of the authority that preached the new thinking.

Students also chafed at the declining job opportunities for graduates. In 1953 43% of Japanese college graduates obtained white-collar jobs or positions in big firms (salary men) while only 3.5% worked in lowly sales jobs. But by 1967, the composition had changed to 31% and 19%. A professor estimated that in 1968, of 164,000 Japanese college graduates, only 20,000 obtained jobs in big companies and government. The professor pointed to this situation as background to the student revolt at that time.21

A Japanese newspaper in 1968 reported that similar issues surfaced in the French student movement. It noted that while the number of French university students rose from 170,000 in 1958 to 600,000 in 1968, there were only 23 universities. Some 160,000 were enrolled in Université de Paris and 30,000 in Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. The report noted that the quality of education in France had declined and described the administration of French universities as “very old fashioned as it was in the Napoleonic era.” Along with the increase of university graduates, the quality of job after graduation declined compared with the era when graduates were limited to a small elite. The report described this as the background to the French student revolt of 1968.22

Students of Japan University protesting administrative corruption in 1968.

The progress of modernization increases choices and possibilities but the growing numbers of college graduates resulted in narrowing opportunities and failed expectations for many. This is the reflexive process of late modernity noted by Ulrich Beck.23 The fact that this contradictory situation led students to revolt against authorities was widely shared in the developed countries, contributing to the sense that they were participating in something “large” and important. We might say that “1968” was a critical moment in the appearance of late modernity with its opportunities and contradictions.24

Another aspect of modernization appeared in the organizational structure of the movement. Groups that voluntarily formed networking relationships, rather than traditional hierarchical organizational structures, emerged in Japan as in many countries. This was a period when “network society” or “late modernity” began to appear, in contrast to “Fordist” modernity symbolized by the huge organization of the mid-20th century factory in the United States.

Whereas the older Zengakuren (The national federation of student associations) was a pyramidal organization that maintained the hierarchical leadership of its central committee, the 1968 student movement spearheaded by Zenkyōtō (The collaborative conference of students) was characterized by voluntary networking. The Beheiren (The Citizens League for Peace in Vietnam) movement which attracted many students as well as citizens was also based on voluntary networking.25 These movements claimed direct democracy without formal leadership, fixed organizational structure, or fixed membership.

New media technology at that time facilitated these new forms of networking in Japan. The introduction of simple printing machines and the spread of family telephones made it possible for small groups to utilize communication power that had previously been monopolized by political parties and labor unions. At the universities occupied by students, information about breaking incidents was distributed by flyers printed by simple printing machines, a new technology that became available to activists.26 Urgent actions were organized by communication networks of home telephones that activists called the “telephone web”. The philosopher and activist, Tsurumi Shunsuke, wrote in June 1960, “I never imagined how useful the telephone could be” for organizing the protest campaign against the US-Japan security treaty.27 Oda Makoto, the Beheiren spokesperson, organized a simultaneous anti-Vietnam War demonstration in the United States, Japan, the UK and Ghana in 1965, and wrote “With one phone, we can carry out a unified action in various parts of the world.” “Many activists and intellectuals do not yet realize this new situation.”28

That said, movement activists at that time had complex reactions to these new technologies, products of the market economy and mass production. On the one hand, the development of the media expanded the movement, and jeans and guitars became symbols of the youth culture and the student movement. On the other hand, however, there was a backlash against consumer culture and mass production. In Japan as elsewhere, the “natural” and “organic” became popular, folklore was rediscovered, and books on anthropology attracted many readers. These were also representations of the gap between rapid modernization and people’s consciousness which often had not kept up with the rapid change.

Detlif Siegfried saw anti-consumerism and interest in non-Western culture in “1968” in Europe as “a critique that emerged from modern society itself,” referencing Ulrich Beck.29 I agree with this evaluation, but the elements of late modernity that appeared in “1968” were not limited to such a tendency.

The progress of modernization in this era is seen in three ways. First, new technology and culture enabled more flexible movements. Second, modernization, which brought an increase in college admissions and criticism of authority, and a decline in the quality of education gave rise to the student movement. Third, the gap between modernization and popular consciousness caused conflict between new and old generations, new movements and old hierarchical organizations, modernization and reactions to it. Although activists at that time thought that they were a new generation and thought their activity constituted a new movement, their movement was also a reaction to modernization. All of these showed that features of late modernity were significant in the movement, suggesting that it was the spearhead of social change.

4. Dislocation of the Cold War order

Political directions of the 1968 movements were diverse and often unrelated. Who can say that the participants in the “Prague Spring”, student activists in Tokyo, anti-Vietnam War activists in the United States, and Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in China shared the same goals?

Nevertheless, they did share a common milieu of media development and rapid modernization. And politically, they shared criticism of the Cold War order.

“Prague Spring”, the May Revolution in Paris, US anti-Vietnam War activists, and the Japanese movement against the US-Japan Security Treaty (Ampo) did not have common political goals and there was little coordination among them. However, in diverse ways, all were critical of the Cold War Order dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States. China’s Cultural Revolution also leveled criticisms of the world order dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union. The Vietnam War became the most compelling international symbol of the Cold War Order with the Vietnamese people viewed as the victims of an East-West struggle. The anti-Vietnam War movement galvanized social movements in the US, Japan, France, Britain and many other countries, notably, but not exclusively, those whose governments supported the US war in Vietnam.

That was another reason why many participants in “1968” shared the sense that their movements were taking part in something “large” occurring throughout the world. The movement in each country rebelled against the “existing order”. The common background was the progress of modernization throughout the world. Even if many activists were only dimly aware of the issues that drove the movements elsewhere, rebellion against the “existing order” in each country inevitably led to resistance against the Cold War Order because each regime was part of the Cold War Order. At the same time, the movements of Western developed countries generated “new left” criticisms of the ruling Communist Party in each country that was part of the Cold War Order. This was patently the case throughout Eastern Europe. Participants in the movement in each country resonated with the movement in other countries. All were rebellions against the existing world order. “Prague Spring” would not be understood simply as a movement to resist authority in the Soviet bloc, but could be viewed sympathetically by Western and Japanese students who simultaneously rebelled against their own governments.

New left groups and Beheiren in Japan were not only critical of their own government’s support for the US war in Vietnam, they were also critical of the Soviet Union and the Japan Communist Party. In Japan, the major postwar social movements had been organized under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. However, partly due to progress of modernization resulting in liberation from authority, and the development of new media technology enabling independent actions, and partly due to the decline in popularity of the Japan Communist Party which had strong connections with the USSR in the 1950s, movements that were independent of the Communist Party flourished.

This situation also led to the emergence of women and minority movements. By the mid-1960s, although women and the Korean ethnic minority were involved in political activities in Japan, many were under the leadership of the Communist Party or the Socialist Party. Women activists found that criticism of gender discrimination was unwelcome in movements that accepted their subordination. Although in the fifties and sixties many women activists worked in the consumer and anti-nuclear movements, their work was often presented as the work of “housewives” or mothers to protect their families, thus reifying the traditional roles of women.30 However, in October 1970, women activists began distributing flyers criticizing gender discrimination inside new left groups. One woman activist wore a white mini skirt emblematic of consumption culture at the time, when distributing flyers which were printed on a simple printing machine.31 The development of new media enabled her activity, and her self-presentation was influenced by the progress of modernization in consumer society. At the same time, her challenge reflected the fact that “new issues” rooted neither in capitalism nor Marxism, had started to gain momentum. The political parties that prioritized the Cold War order had not addressed these issues including the power structures in the movement.

In these contexts, Japanese student activists evaluated positively those movements that seemed independent of the United States and the Soviet Union. Those included the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution, the people in Prague, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

In short, Japanese student activists evaluated positively the range of challenges to the existing world order, anything that seemed independent of American and Soviet power, or that challenged or was excluded from existing capitalism and existing socialism. Multiple, and in some cases mutually contradictory, things such as ecology, anthropology, Trotsky, Marcuse, flower and peace, and the armed Che Guevara and Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton, were among myriad global symbols of the movements of “1968 worldwide.

Image on the right: Che Guevara in occupied Kyoto University, 1969.

The late 1960s was a time when the US and the Soviet Union, which had maintained the Cold War order, declined and the order was weakening. The fact that the US, whose economic power was undermined in part as a result of the financial burden of the Vietnam War forcing suspension of the dollar’s conversion into gold, was emblematic of the weakened US position. At the same time, Washington achieved an entente with China that opened the way for US-China mutual recognition, rapidly expanding trade and investment agreements, and China’s resumption of its UN Security Council seat. The results included strengthening both the US and China while weakening the Soviet Union.

The bipolar Cold War Order emerged following the Second World War. Led by the United States and the Soviet Union, each with its own alliance structure, it provided a framework for global geopolitics. The domestic order of many countries also originated from the Second World War. In defeated countries such as Japan and Germany, in countries that were established after World War II such as China and many former colonies, and countries that had experienced occupation and regime change such as France, war memory was the foundation of legitimacy of the domestic order. The clashing memories of the history of World War II was the source of legitimacy both of conservative parties and the communist party in each country, including Japan, Germany and France. The late 1960s was a time when a new generation who did not share the memory of World War II became students and protested against the existing order. In Japan and West Germany, debates over the history of World War II became an important element of “1968”.32

“1968” was the prelude to the collapse of the Cold War order and a milestone in the process leading up to “1989” and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Immanuel Wallerstein and Sharon Zukin have argued that “1968” brought worldwide resistance to the World System which was dominated by the US and the USSR.33 I accept this view, but here I describe how such macroscopic trends shaped the character of the movement in Japan.


So what was “1968”? And what is it to us today?

The process of modernization always transforms the existing order in successive waves. Sometimes, the transformations resonate, like the movement of the mantle in an earthquake. The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time when the international order and domestic orders, which were created after WW II, were changing profoundly in numerous realms. The transformations included the 1971 end of the dollar’s convertibility to gold, the US-China entente, political changes in the Middle East precipitating the 1973 Oil Shock, worldwide protests against the US-led war in Vietnam, and protests targeting the Cold War Order and the “existing order” in each country. It can be said that “1968” was a part of the “earthquake” which resonated in many places throughout the world. It also could be called the tip of the iceberg, the visible portion of “something large” and less visible.

Several factors gave rise to “1968”. Most important were the progress of modernization and new media, particularly the global expansion of TV Also significant was the emergence of a new generation that did not share the memory of World War II, which had legitimated the existing Cold War Order.

After 1968, the development of satellite communications and the penetration of consumption culture were among the factors that would lead to the next “earthquake” in 1989. This was not a story that was limited to Eastern Europe. Actually “1989” in Asia may be said to have begun with the democratization of the Philippines in 1986 and its international TV coverage, followed by the democratization of Korea and Taiwan in 1987. It was not that the domino effect that American leaders had warned of since the 1950s would result in a wave of new Asian Communist regimes. Rather, the dominos marked the collapse of many military dictatorships, which were relics of the Cold War order, with mutual influences provided through CNN television, and information diffusion by facsimile and copy machines in many countries. The wave of democratization in Asia ended in Myanmar in 1988 and Beijing in 1989. However, this wave would be followed by the democratization of Eastern Europe in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the elimination of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa in 1994. This could be considered a series of democratization processes spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa. We might call it a “long 1989”.

And after 2011, numerous movements throughout the world, including the Occupy movement centered in New York and Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, also adopted networking organization without fixed leadership, and effectively utilized new media technology. Movements since 2011 in Tokyo that I have researched also shared these characteristics.34 Although these characteristics were shared with the movements of “1968”, we cannot say that the movements of the 2010s were the direct effect of “1968”. Contemporary Japanese activists knew little about the networking organization mode that spread widely in “1968” in Japan and elsewhere. They conceived of such a non-hierarchical approach as their own invention under new conditions such as the development of Social Networking Services (SNS). This shows the progress of modernization, not the impact of the movement of “1968” in shaping recent activity. Today, flexible organizations and activities without fixed leaders are increasing in many areas other than social movements. These changes have spread due to the collapse of structures of authority, the breakdown of boundaries on activities, and rethinking of traditional behavior. We should not confuse phenomena due to the progress of modernization with influence from the events of “1968.”

Anti-nuclear energy rally in front of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, June 2012.

If the methods and influences of 1968 did not directly shape contemporary social movements, what was the meaning of “1968”? How should 1968 be evaluated now?

First of all, the movement collectively called “1968” has been overestimated. The largest rally of new left student groups in Japan at that time took place in November 1968. It involved approximately 20,000 participants. Beheiren’s biggest protest action was a demonstration of 70,000 people in June 1969. These are small compared to the anti-nuclear rally in June 2012 (200,000 participants) and the rally protesting the Abe administration’s expansive new security legislation in August 2015 (100,000 participants). The Japanese Red Army, the subject of much media coverage, involved only a few dozen members, though it was capable of violent struggle and a plane hijacking. From the perspective of numbers of participants, some rallies organized by labor unions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party in Japan involved millions of people in the late1960s. But in the TV era, they presented far less spectacle and therefore attracted less attention.

Japan’s new left movement may be compared with that in West Germany, where the biggest march was 60,000 in Bonn in May 1968.35 Although the best and only measure to evaluate the impact of the movements may not be the number of participants in large actions, my point is that the movements of “1968” in general, not only Japan’s “1968”, have often been overestimated.

There are several factors that resulted in the overestimation. One factor was the impact of TV coverage. The movement of “1968” included many small activities which were widely reported. Also, as there were many appealing visual images, the media often reused footage, and it continues to do so.

Another factor in the overestimation is that the movement mainly involved students, especially in the developed countries. In particular movements centered on elite university students readily attracted attention, even if their numbers were small. One reason is that among the graduates of leading universities were many people who later became influential in politics, economics, culture and academics. Some of them talked and wrote about the movement then and later. Many of the writers were not leading activists, but their writings tended to exaggerate the impact of the movement. This pattern would be found in Europe and North America as well.

Other factors contributed to the high evaluation of “1968”. These evaluations tend to privilege international collaboration of movements at that time, including the emergence of global feminism, activism among minority groups in the civil rights movement, and ecological activism. 1968 had multiple impacts, some far from the goals of activists. David Harvey has observed that “the movement of 1968 whose goal was greater individual liberty and freedom from state power” paved the way for the subsequent emergence of neo-liberalism.36 Indeed, economic factors including an affinity with neo-liberalism and the emergence of media technology, the Internet, flexible networking organization, and freelance work style may be seen in retrospect as factors whose origins can be traced to “1968”. However, I have some criticisms of these evaluations.

First of all, these evaluations tend to overestimate small or unrelated phenomena at that time. For example, in Japan, Beheiren’s organization of simultaneous demonstrations in four countries mentioned above is often cited as a compelling example of international solidarity activism. This was certainly a pioneering activity, but it was also an exceptional episode. And not only for Japan. The movement did establish international links, especially with the United States and Europe. But most of its activity involved Japanese, and much of it centered on local issues. The evaluation that the movement at the time was international tends to overestimate the role of a limited number of students or intellectuals, and “influence” from televised images abroad.

Second, these evaluations conflate the general trend of modernization with the influence of the movement. Certainly since 1968, gender equality and minority’s rights have advanced while networking type organizations expanded, individualism spread, neo-liberalism emerged, and the Cold War order collapsed. However, it would be an overestimation to regard these outcomes as the impact of the movements of “1968.” These phenomena were products of the progress of modernization, in which “1968” was a part of the process. People may know that morning has come by hearing the rooster’s crow. However, the crow is not the cause of the morning, but a part of the morning, which is caused by the passage of time.

Third, and most important, these are evaluations of historical facts from a contemporary perspective.

For example, as noted at the beginning of this article, the introduction to the book 1968 in Europe states that “Nobody today seriously doubts that European societies were fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘1968’.” However, in Japan, many people regard “1968” as a fad, a moment in the past. This is not due to the fact that the scale of Japanese movements at that time was insignificant. The Japanese new left movement at that time was by no means small in terms of the number of participants compared with the movement in Germany and a number of other countries.

The difference between the evaluations in Japan and Europe is due to the difference of historical trajectory after 1968. In Western European countries and the United States, with the worsening economic situation in the 1970s, there was an expansion of the role of women in the workforce, flexibility of employment, and network organization. By contrast, Japan continued economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, and politics and society remained stable. For that reason, although “1968” involved comparable scale social movements in Japan, the conservative order did not change significantly. Many Europeans regard the causes of contemporary social change, such as increasing gender equality, flexibility of work culture, and the rise of the new right, as the aftermath of “1968”. By contrast, many Japanese believe that the causes of the same contemporary social changes are the result of the stagnation of the Japanese economy since the burst of the economic bubble in the 1990s and the spread of information technology. However, all of these could be explained by the progress of modernization. From this perspective, which derives from investigation of Japan’s “1968”, it could be said that the evaluation of “1968” in European countries confused subsequent social change with the impact of the events of “1968.”

History is a mirror of the present, and how we understand history depends on our understanding of the present. I am not in a position to comment on the historical dynamics of other countries. My intention is to offer a view from Japanese history to contribute to further discussions and research on global 1968.

I have to add one thing as a Japanese intellectual. The preservation of the Japanese old order in the 1970s and 1980s is the cause of many contemporary problems, notable among them being gender inequality. In Japan, as a result of the strong economy and stable employment in the 1970s and 1980s, social movements in the wake of 1968 were sluggish. It was only after 2011 that social movements gained momentum in Japan in response to the 3.11 nuclear disaster and protracted economic stagnation. In the future, Japanese may say “Nobody today seriously doubts that Japanese society was fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘2011’.” This would not necessarily mean that the movement spurred by the 3.11 Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown itself transformed Japanese society. We are still experiencing modernization, which proceeds differently in each society.

At the same time, how we promote the “positive” elements and mitigate the “negative” elements of modernization is the responsibility of people who are living today, not those who acted in “1968”. It is our responsibility to understand the relationship between “1968” and the present society.

Let me conclude. What was “1968”? My answer is that “1968” was an “earthquake” that was touched off by the modernization of the existing order at that time. And what is “1968” depends on the kind of society that we are making today.


This article is substantially revised from Oguma Eiji, “’1968’ towa Nande Attaka, Nan de Arunoka (What was “1968”, and What is now?),” Shiso, No.1129, May 2018, pp. 6-19.

Oguma Eiji is a professor in the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. His research focuses on national identity and nationalism, colonial policy, and democratic thought and social movements in modern Japan.


Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth, “1968 in Europe An Introduction”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp. 1-9, p7.

Oguma Eiji, 1968, Tokyo, Shinyōsha, 2009

Oguma Eiji, “Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 13, Issue 11, No 1; April 1, 2015.

Oguma, 1968, vol.1, p. 229. I examined 23 volumes of about 5000 flyers and pamphlets. However, I could not find any mentions of pollution or Korean minorities except some information of student workshop groups referring to these issues as among the topics they studied.

According to Ui, when he discussed pollution with one of the leaders of the new left group Kaku-Maru, the leader viewed pollution as trivial compared to questions of capitalism. He said, “such a trivial issue will be easily solved if we seize power”. See Ui Jun, “Uragaeshi no Tennō Sei no Replica”, in Watanabe Ichie, Shiokawa Yoshinobu, Oōyabu Ryusuke ed., Shinsayoku 40 Nen no Hikari to Kage, Tokyo, Shinsensha, 1999, pp.297-302.

The term “New Left” in Japan at that time was problematic. Radical groups that committed violent actions and upheld their own understanding of Marxism such as Kaku-Maru and ML were called “Sects” in Japan. “New left” was a general and vague term for the new movements which emerged in the 1960s and were not associated with the communist party. Sects, non-communist civic movements such as Beheiren, and student activists who were not members of sects, were generally called “new left” in the mass media. However, some intellectuals called sects “new left”, while others did not. In addition, student activists at that time often moved from one group to another, such as from Beheiren to a Sect. I use the term “new left” in the meaning of non-communist leftists in general including Beheiren and “new left groups” to include sects in this article.

6 Ishimure Michiko, Kugai Jōdo, Tokyo, Kōdansha, 1969.

7 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge, Polity Press, 1990.

8 Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994.

9 Göran Therborn , European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945-2000, London, Sage Publications, 1995, p.142.

10 See Kashiwazaki Chieko, Taiyō to Arashi to Jiyu wo, Tokyo, Nobel Syobō, 1969. The new left group known as the Shagaku Dō ML faction (known as ML), claimed that it was employing Maoism.

11 This is recorded in Tsuji Kiyoaki ed. Shiryo Sengo 20 Nen Shi : Seiji, Tokyo, Nihon Hyoronsha, 1966, p. 164. On the media environment and its impact on the anti US-Japan security treaty movement of 1960, see Chapter 12 of Oguma Eiji, Minshu to Aikoku, Tokyo, Shinyōsha, 2002.

12 Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980.

13 Mikami Osamu, 1960 Nendai Ron 2, Tokyo, Hihyōsha, 2000, p.81.

14 Oguma, 1968, vol.1, p.530.

15 An activist at Tokyo University criticized the new left groups, recalling that “It was highly regrettable that our activity provided publicity for new left groups.” NHK ed. Chisso Minamata, Todai Zenkyoto, Vol.3 of Series Sengo 50 Nen Sono Toki Nihon ha, Tokyo, NHK Publications, 1995, p.339.

16 See Joachim Scharloth, “’1968’ and Mass Media”, in Shisō, No.1129, May 2018, Tokyo, Iwanami Syoten, pp.13-145, p.139.

17 Miyamoto Mitsugu, “Keishichō Kisha Club Monogatari,” in Mainichi Shimbun ed. Rengō Sekigun, Òkami Tachi no Jidai, Tokyo, Mainichi Shimubunsha, 1999, pp. 290-291, p290.

18 On these reports, see Oguma “Japan’s 1968” and Chapter 1 of Oguma Eiji, 1968, vol.1.

19 On these memoire of activists, see Chapter 2 of Oguma Eiji, 1968, vol.1.

20 See Chapter 10 of Oguma, 1968, vol.1.

21 On these statistics, see Chapter 2 of Oguma, 1968, vol.1. The estimation of the professor is Miura Shimon, “Nihon Daigaku yo Amaeru Nakare”, Chūōkōron, vol. 83, issue 8, August 1968, pp. 287-294. Miura was a professor of Japan University where student revolt was strong.

22 Mainichi Shimbun, Student Power, Tokyo, Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1968, p130, 131. This book was a compilation of Mainichi Newspaper’s articles on student movements in Japan and the world.

23 See Chapter 6 of Ulrich Beck, Risko Gesellschaft, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1986. English translation is Ulrich Beck, Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage Publications, 1992.

24 As I mention in the later, Detlef Siegfried mentioned Ulrich Beck when he evaluates anti-consumerism and interest on non-Western culture in “1968” as “a critique that emerged from modern society itself”. I agree this evaluation but the features of late modern are not limited within these kind of “positive” elements. This article is also discussing “negative” elements of late modern, such as neoliberalism, which has been argued that its origin was “1968”. 

25 On Beheiren, see Chapter 15 of Oguma, 1968 , vol.2 and Thomas R. H. Havens, Fire Across the Sea: The Vietnam War and Japan 1965–1975. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1987.

26 The simple printing machine was called “Gari Ban Insatsu Ki” in Japanese, and the technique (Gari-Kiri) of using this machine was critical to activists at that time.

27 Oguma Eiji, Minshu to Aikoku, op. cit., p. 522.

28 Oda Makoto, “Sekai he Hiraku Undō wo”, in Beheiren ed. Shiryō Beheiren Undō, vol.1, Tokyo, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 1974 (the original text was written in 1965), pp. 12-14, p.14.

29 See p.68 of Detlef Siegfried, “Music and Protest in 1960s Europe”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan op cit., pp. 57-70.

30 For example, Shufu Rengo Kai (Housewives association) which was established in 1948 as a consumer movement, and Nihon Haha Oya Taikai (Japan Mother ‘s Association) which was established in 1955 as an anti-nuclear weapon movement, claimed that they were only aiming to protect their family without any political ideology. That was a strategy to compromise with anti-communism conservative local leaders and attract conservative women.

31 See Chapter 17 of Oguma, 1968, vol. 2.

32 The attitude of the new left toward article 9 in the Japanese Constitution was complex. Article 9 was enacted by the United States to prevent Japanese rearmament and militarization, and the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has long sought to amend it, while the Communist Party and Socialist Party supported it. The new left after 1970 criticized Japan’s war actions, but said little about Article 9. For them, both the Constitution, including Article 9 and the Communist Party that supported it, were part of the “existing order.” New left students preferred to proclaim their movement as “anti-war” and privileged regime change rather than a “peace” movement that sought to maintain the existing order. Some sympathized with the right wing novelist Mishima Yukio because he declared his opposition to the existing order including the Constitution, which was something they could not say openly. The intellectuals who experienced World War II and became leaders of Beheiren were critical of this trend among young. See Chapter 14 and 15 of Oguma, 1968, vol. 2.

33 Immanuel Wallerstein and Sharon Zukin, “1968, Revolution in the World-System: Theses and Queries”, Theory and Society, Vol. 18, No. 4 (July, 1989), pp. 431-449.

34 Oguma Eiji,  “A New Wave Against the Rock: New social movements in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 14, Issue 13, No 2; July 1, 2016.

35 Martin Klimke, “West Germany”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan op cit., pp. 97-110.

36 David Harvey,“Neo-Liberalism as Creative Destruction,”Geografiska Annaler, vol. 88, Issue 2, June 2006, pp145-158, p.151.

All images in this article are from the author unless otherwise stated.

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Featured image: Apo Island seen from Negros

When Europeans first visited the east Atlantic seaboard, the hyperabundance of cod would not go unnoticed. In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the peninsula, where the Nauset and Wampanoag people lived, Cape Cod after its fish stocks.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank of Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were immensely rich fishing grounds that were plundered by the early 1990s. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on the fisheries in hopes of recovery. [1]

In the case of the Grand Banks, one analysis laid the blame squarely on technology, draggers, factory trawlers and “the expansionary dynamics of capitalism [that] caused Canadian vessels to scour the seas for ever increasing profit…” [2] “[O]verfishing, primarily driven by the capitalist ethic, was one of the major causes of the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishery.” [3], [4]

In his book, The Plundered Seas, Michael Berrill called the Grand Banks and Georges Bank maybe the saddest story of overfishing. [5] Berrill recognized the problem of protecting straddling stocks, as projections of the Grand Banks were outside Canada’s EEZ; moreover, Spain and the EU ignored the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization quotas. [6]

Worldwide, Berrill pointed to a peak in captured fish stocks in 1989, that signaled a maximum sustainable global catch having been approached. [7] The FAO concurred, finding that “unregulated fisheries were often leading to resource depletion.” [8] Given that the global fisheries are considered important for the food security and nutritional needs of the world’s population [9] this should be a cause for concern.

Berrill’s solution was the management of Large Marine Ecosystems. [10]

There is much evidence for the efficacy of marine reserves and site management. For example, crab fishery data from 1996 to 2013 indicated that the decrease in catches after closure to trawling and gillnetting was significantly greater outside than inside closure zones. [11]

In the face of uncertainty, adherence to the precautionary principle seems prudent. [12] Prudent and logical, but not easy.

“Fishers, like most other people, don’t like to be managed at all,” Berrill noted. [13]

Consequently, rules to protect the environment and its ecosystems are faced with difficulties posed by cheating, lack of enforcement, and insufficient funding. [14]

To overcome this these challenges, Berrill advocated that the marine reserves for protecting fish stocks should be managed by local communities. [15]

Apo Island: Community management of a marine sanctuary

Among the over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lies Apo Island, a diminutive tropical island, nestled at the bottom of Cebu and southeast from nearby Negros. A sign on Apo Island’s main beach informs that the island is 72 hectares of protected landscape and 619 hectares of protected seascape.

The seascape includes 106 hectares of coral reef. The reserve lies on the south-eastern side of Apo Island and was established in 1982 as a no-take area. It consists of 22.5 hectares along a 0.45 km stretch of the island that represents about 10% of the coral reef. Fishing is the major income-generating activity in the area.

The island is distinctive. There are no roads or motorized vehicles. You get around by walking. Electricity is available only from 6 PM to 10 PM each day. All the lodgings are simple backpacker style. To some this island is paradise.

Main thoroughfare on Apo Island

But people in paradise must not be complacent as a sign affixed to the side of a thatched bamboo hut warns. Titled “Threats to Philippine Biodiversity,” those listed were deforestation, mining, hunting and wildlife trade, pollution, population growth, lack of education, and illegal fishing.

Apo Island is very dependent on fishing for sustenance. But over the years, a decline in catch was noticed and fishers were having to venture farther offshore to catch fish.

Apo Island found a solution: the establishment of a marine sanctuary. This venture was led by Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine scientist from Silliman University. Apo Islander Mario Pascobello, owner of a family-operated diving and homestay business, told of the sensitive negotiations to persuade fisherfolk to accede to a sanctuary and halt deleterious fishing practices among them dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, muro-ami, and using nets with overly small mesh.

Pascobello related that initially the islanders agreed to 10 percent of the waters being designated a marine sanctuary. When they results turned out favorably, with an increase in near-shore catch, the Apo Islanders agreed to expand the sanctuary.

Pascobello noted that the Apo Island success has led to the establishment of over one thousand marine sanctuaries throughout the Philippines. Pascobello even was invited to Bunaken Island in Indonesia to share the Apo Island experience that helped to set up a marine reserve there.

Image on the right: Blue sea star on Apo Reef

Apo Island is indeed a picturesque underwater realm. This I experienced on several dives, from finning over a sandy plain speckled with gently bubbling vents that belied the volcanic origin of the island to admiring the kaleidoscopic color provided by nature’s marine garden of hard and soft corals — all this backdropped by a clear blue seascape. There are a multitude of sea creatures to be encountered. Anemonefishes danced in their namesake homes, sea snakes poked their heads under coral ledges in search of a meal, sea turtles glided by in ungainly fashion, while schools of big-eye trevallies and barracuda rode the currents of the outer reef. Apo Island is a testament to restoring a vibrant fishing ground, preserving the environment for future generations, and creating economic opportunities through tourism.

Turtles abound in the waters surrounding Apo island

Pascobello averred that community leadership, community monitoring, and education are the keys to the success of the marine reserve.

A 2018 UBC study suggests caution, finding that destructive illegal fishing practices still persist in the Philippines. It seems increased vigilance along with continuing education are ever more needed.

Nonetheless, Apo Island is a testament to land and marine sanctuaries as a winning proposition for the entire community.


Kim Petersen is an avid scuba diver and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


  1. It may well be that a recovery is underway, as there are signs that the the cod stocks are bouncing back. See Aaron Beswick, “The cod are coming back to Newfoundland — and they’re eating the shrimp that had taken over,” National Post, 23 March 2017.
  2. Fred Mason, “The Newfoundland Cod Stock Collapse: A Review and Analysis of Social Factors,” Electronic Green Journal, 1(17): 4-5.
  3. Fred Mason, 7.
  4. In his book 2030: Confronting Thermogeddon in our Lifetime (Arcade Publishing, 2003), Robert Hunter told of an Atlantic fishboat captain who admitted that every country’s fishers had knowingly pillaged the east coast cod for the sake of immediate personal gain.
  5. Michael Berrill, The Plundered Seas: Can the World’s Fish Be Saved? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997): 124.
  6. Michael Berrill, 125-129.
  7. Michael Berrill, 2.
  8. FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016, 83.
  9. FAO, 200.
  10. Michael Berrill, 40-56.
  11. Kate Kincaid, George Rose, “Effects of closing bottom trawling on fisheries, biodiversity, and fishing communities in a boreal marine ecosystem: the Hawke Box off Labrador, Canada,” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2017, 74(9): 1490-1502.
  12. Michael Berrill, 55-56.
  13. Michael Berrill, 57.
  14. Michael Berrill, 38-59.
  15. Michael Berrill, 83-84.

All images in this article are from the author.

Malaysia: Debts and the Push for Reforms

May 28th, 2018 by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

On 21 May 2018, Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that Malaysia’s debt has reached more than 1 trillion ringgit. The next day, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng  elaborated that the debt to GDP ratio stood at 80%.  However, he also emphasised that “in the financial sector capitalisation is high, non-performing loans are low, liquidity in the capital market is high. The fundamentals are there but we need to improve the fiscal situation.”  One should add that Malaysia has also accumulated foreign reserves to the tune of 110 billion US dollars which can finance 7.7 months of retained imports.

If the Pakatan Harapan government has been candid about the debt situation, it is because it is sincere about transparency and accountability. These are important traits of good governance. Its predecessor through partial revelation of statistics gave the impression that the debt to GDP ratio was only 50.8% 

There is an earnest attempt on the part of the present national leadership to overcome the debt problem. Its determination to get to the root of the 1MDB scandal is a manifestation of that commitment. If it can recover some of the loot, it would alleviate the financial situation to an extent. 

Dr. Mahathir and his team are also trying very hard to reduce public expenditure.  Entities and departments such as SPAD,JASA and the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation are being abolished. The contracts of some 17,000 political appointees have been terminated. A leaner Cabinet has agreed to a 10% salary cut.

In this connection, the abolition of the tax-payer supported National Professors Council (MPN) has elicited criticism from some academics. Their criticism has little merit. Research that the State deems necessary can always be undertaken by universities and research institutes through academic clusters and the like. What the State should do is to increase funding for solid research activities. The MPN from a research perspective is superfluous. 

While a handful of academic elites may not be able to appreciate the larger challenge facing the nation, it is significant that ordinary citizens have chosen to step forward to help the government tackle the debt problem. A couple of them have launched initiatives of their own to mobilise funds from the general public.  Private endeavours of this sort may not yield very much but one hopes that they will inspire well-heeled individuals and rich corporations to voluntarily contribute to a national fund that will boost public coffers. 

Government leaders and planners should also seize the opportunity provided by the debt problem to affect some fundamental changes to the economy. Since domestic debt is one of the contributory factors to our national debt, a serious attempt should be made to increase the wages of the B40 and M40 categories substantially. This should be accompanied by more systematic endeavours to elevate the skill level of our workers and enhance their productivity. Identifying new sources of wealth through innovation would be priority as we seek to liberate ourselves from the debt burden. All this would be part of a larger mission to create a just society through the redistribution of wealth as envisaged by the Rukunegara. 

Beyond debt and the economy, Pakatan Harapan leaders are also talking about rescinding laws such as the Sedition Act, the Prevention of Crime Act ( Poca) and the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), apart from abolishing the mandatory death sentence. The Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has also promised to look at provisions in the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 ( Pota). Changes in these laws would help to create a new atmosphere that is more conducive to the flourishing of human rights and human dignity.   

Based upon intentions and actions so far, the Pakatan government is undoubtedly reform oriented. This is why civil society groups that have always advocated reform should lend their support to those aspects of government policy that have the potential of affecting change that will benefit the people. At the same time however they should not hesitate to admonish moves which are obviously detrimental to the values and principles of governance that the Pakatan itself claims to espouse.  What this means in concrete terms is that while a pardon for a political leader may be defensible from a humanitarian perspective interpreting it as a repudiation of  earlier judicial verdicts may have far-reaching implications for the system of governance itself. Likewise, one wonders why a senior Minister had to be sworn in when he is facing a trial related to issues of integrity?

There are other concerns. Why have Ministers from Sabah and Sarawak not been incorporated into the Cabinet almost 20 days after the May 9th General Election? What sort of impact does it have upon people in the two states? Certain crucial portfolios such as Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Sports and Youth have yet to be filled. Equally important, vague niceties in its manifesto aside, what is the Pakatan’s thinking on national integration or on the role of Islam and other religions in the public sphere?   

It is incumbent upon civil society groups to raise these questions. To play this role effectively, they have to remain independent of the State even if they are on the same page with the State on various issues. The powers-that-be should understand and empathise with their independence. They should view it as a vital dimension of a thriving democracy and of their own quest for justice and reform.       


Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

Australia’s China Syndrome

May 23rd, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Syndromes can make for cringe worthy, nervous laughter.  To see the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, struggle with reconciling China the bully of influence with China the resource hungry friend supplied the press with one such spectacle on Tuesday morning.  Larded with suffocating clichés, Turnbull could speak of the greatest multicultural society on earth (forget the United States or any other comparisons) and those million or so members of the Australian-Chinese family who had made Australia what it is.  Lurking, as ever, is the next diplomatic storm, and the next allegation, of Chinese influence in Australia. 

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been doing his own bit to ruffle Australian policy.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang quoted Wang’s remark that

Australia “take off tinted glasses [and] see China’s development from a positive perspective”. 

He also spoke of the “difficulties” that had beset relations between the countries “which even inflicted impacts on bilateral cooperation in some respects.”

Australia’s own Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has been very busy keeping her own tinted glasses on. 

“I get on very well with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, we’ve known each other for a very long time.” 

Recent discussions with Wang were “very warm and constructive”.  Pure deceptive theatre indeed. 

Within Australia’s own parliament, members are itching to lob grenades at China’s channels of influence, a tendency that is now producing a form of avid competition.  Andrew Hastie, chair of the intelligence and security committee, availed himself of parliamentary privilege to out a certain “Co-conspirator 3 or CC-3” from the shadows, a person familiar to both the Liberal and Labor parties. 

Businessman Chau Chak Wing, it seems, had not only busied himself lining the pockets of both sides of the parliamentary aisle to the tune of some $200,000 (donations are not bribes, it seems); he had also been attempting to woo the former president of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, with a tidy sum.  He had, in Hastie’s words of forced concern, “close contact with the United Front, the influence arm of the Chinese Communist Party in 2007”.

“I share it with the house because I believe it to be in the national interest.  My duty, first and foremost, is to the Australian people and the preservation of the ideals and democratic traditions of our Commonwealth.” 

The Chinese Communist Party, Hastie claimed, was “working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities and also influence our political processes and public debates”.

While such revelations are delivered with a sense of heavy moral responsibility, much of it is stretched.  Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was almost dismissive in claiming that the content was hardly novel.  Turnbull dumped some cold water on Hastie’s fire by claiming that “the specific allegations that were made… were not new.” But getting on the China bandwagon of condemnation is all the rage.  Parliament has already sought to curb that vague and immeasurable term “influence” with legislation that muddies rather than clears the water.  When the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 was introduced, it signalled a new front in an inchoate war that, on closer inspection, merely looks like a good stab at civil liberties and an attempt to harness paranoia.  

A “new and balanced secrecy regime” criminalising the disclosure of “inherently harmful information” was introduced alongside “offences that criminalise covert and deceptive activities of foreign actors that fall short of espionage but are still intended to interfere with our democratic systems and processes or support the intelligence activities of a foreign government.”

Such words are hard going in the wake of one overwhelming reality: Australia’s satellite status and broader importance in the US imperium.  Should Australia ever wish to bend over for Beijing – and here, Hastie and company should take comfort – a few Pentagon goons are bound to be dispatched Down Under to right matters.  Washington’s indifference to sending an ambassador of clout, or any ambassador at all for some eighteen months is simply an acceptance that the good politicians of Canberra will behave.  Head boys and girls are simply not required. 

Acknowledgment of Australia’s efforts has also been forthcoming.  One senior official in the Pentagon with a brief covering US defence policy in Asia, Randy Schriver, was rather pleased by the spurt of legislative activity seeking to rein in those nasty foreign influences. 

“I think [Australia’s] woken up people in a lot of countries to take a look at Chinese activity within their own borders.” 

The country had “done us a great service by publicising much of this activity and then taking action.”  With such rounded approval from empire, what could go wrong?

The field of political influence will always be a hostage to trends.  As things stand, Australian citizens are being treated to daily doses of anti-Chinese hysteria.  It is hardly surprising that such distractions are necessary consumption for a government desperate to keep its oar in regarding the electorate.  Villains are always necessary in political bouts, even if they pay your bills, buy your products, and fill the coffers.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Former long-time Prime Minister and nonagenarian Mahathir bin Mohamad returned to office after incumbent Najib Razak suffered a humiliating loss that many analysts attribute to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal that he’s implicated in. A whistleblower leaked incriminating documents about this scam a couple of years ago that have since been used as the basis for the US Department of Justice to launch a multicontinental criminal investigation into what really happened. Suffice to say, the ordinary problems of most Malaysians took on a qualitatively new character after they began to believe that their situations wouldn’t be as bad had the government reinvested the billions of dollars that it’s accused of stealing into the economy like it originally promised it would do through that fund. Naturally, the civil society anti-corruption campaign that emerged in the wake of this ended up unseating Najib and could even lead to formal charges against him now that he’s no longer in power.

Prime Minister Mahathir campaigned on a platform of investigating every deal that his predecessor signed, including Silk Road ones with China such as the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), and this has led to concern that Kuala Lumpur might renege on some of these contracts on the pretext that they were agreed to on corrupt pretenses that don’t serve Malaysia’s true national interests. Some of the projects have indeed proven to be controversial, such as the ECRL that Prime Minister Mahathir railed against on the campaign trail, but irrespective of this particular project’s ultimate fate, it’s highly unlikely that Malaysia will become “anti-Chinese” because its latest and previously longest-serving leader has a proud multipolar track record. What the new government wants to do is restore a sense of balance to Malaysia’s international economic relations that avoids any perceived (key word) overreliance on China, especially after Trump pulled out of the US-led TPP that the country was signatory to during his first day in office.

These steps to strike a multipolar middle ground that’s neither anti-Chinese nor pro-American is an emerging trend among some countries that altogether points in the direction of creating a new Non-Aligned Movement (or Neo-NAM) in the New Cold War to replace the presently existing but practically defunct one that was inherited from the Old Cold War. This time around, however, instead of balancing between capitalism and communism, this “third force” would walk the line between the American-led and Chinese-led globalization models, picking and choosing the best projects offered from each of them in order to acquire the most advantageous development portfolio for their specific national interests. For example, while the ECRL veritably fulfills a long-term strategic significance in the grand sense of multipolarity by helping Chinese traders avoid a potentially US-blockaded Strait of Malacca, the medium-term costs imposed on the Malaysian economy through loans and other means have understandably become a lightning rod of controversy in the country.

It’s for these reasons why Malaysia under the returned leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir is expected to remain multipolar, even if it changes the manner in which it has hitherto expressed this geostrategic vision by rebalancing its relations with China and the US.


Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Bt cotton. (Sources: Abhishek Srivastava / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India’s Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court’s ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robert Fraley, who just announced that he and other top executives are stepping down from the company after Bayer AG‘s multi-billion dollar takeover closes, lamented the news.

Fraley tweeted,

“Having personally helped to launch Bollgard cotton in India & knowing how it has benefited farmers … it’s sad to see the country go down an anti-science/anti-IP/anti-innovation path…”

Monsanto first introduced its GM-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country’s cotton crop is genetically modified. These crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Citing India’s Patents Act of 1970, the Delhi High Court ruled last month that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby rejecting Monsanto’s attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., from selling the seeds.

Because of the ruling, Monsanto’s claims against Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties have been waived, as its patents are now invalid under Indian law. Royalties will now be decided by the government.

Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, who is known for her fierce activism against corporate patents on seeds, called the top court’s move a “major victory” that opens the door “to make Monsanto pay for trapping farmers in debt by extracting illegal royalties on BT cotton.”

She also said in a video Monday in front of the Supreme Court,

“Our sovereignty is protected, our laws are protected. Our ability to write laws in the public interest [and] for the rights of farmers through the constitution are protected.”

“The Earth will win. Seed will win. Monsanto will lose,” Shiva added.

A Monsanto India spokesman told Reuters the case will be submitted for an expedited preliminary hearing on July 18.

“We remain confident on the merits of the case. India has been issuing patents on man-made biotech products for more than 15 years, as is done widely across the globe,” the spokesman said.


Featured image: Old growth forest in the vicinity of Kingvale Station, near rivers that flow into the Great Barrier Reef. (Source: Australian Conservation Foundation)

Federal officials plan to back the destruction of almost 2000 hectares of pristine Queensland forest in a move that threatens the Great Barrier Reef and undermines a $500 million Turnbull government rescue package for the natural wonder.

A draft report by the Department of the Environment and Energy recommends that the government allow the mass vegetation clearing at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula. The area to be bulldozed is almost three times the size of the combined central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne.

The draft recommendation comes despite the department conceding the native forest is likely to contain endangered species, and despite expert warnings that runoff caused by the clearing may damage the reef.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will make a final ruling on the proposal. It will test his long-stated willingness to protect the reef from poor water quality, which is triggered by land clearing.

Last month the government announced it would spend more than $500 million to protect the reef, including $201 million to improve water quality through better farming practices.

Read complete article here.


Nicole Hasham is environment and immigration correspondent for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.

The Commercial Heavens: The New Australian Space Agency

May 18th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Politicians have been clambering to the top extolling something that has yet to exist.  Scientists are claiming a job boom that has yet to transpire.  Much fantasy and speculation dominate the creation of Australia’s Space Agency, an organisation that remains inchoate despite being launched on Monday by the appropriately named Michaelia Cash.

Former CSIRO boss Megan Clark has found herself heading the zygotic agency.

“You ask yourself – why are we doing that?  And it’s really to improve the lives of all Australians and I think to inspire Australians about what Australia really can do in the space industry.”

Space has been turned into patriotism, cash and incentives; and there is a sense that Australia has been lagging.  No matter, suggests Andrew Dempster of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research – the time is ripe for celestial exploitation.  “

It seems clear there is a real appetite on both sides of politics for an agency for our times, that embraces the excitement being generated by ‘Space 2.0’ – that is, commercial entities, low-cost access to space and avoiding some of the baggage of the older legacy agencies.”

This point was more, rather than less iterated by Innovation Minister Cash, who launched the ASA in Perth on Monday with a disconcerting, grating enthusiasm that should have terrified scientists.

“Space technologies are not just about taking people to the moon, they open up opportunities for many industries, including communications, agriculture, mining, oil and gas.”

The report from the Expert Reference Group behind Australia’s Space Industry capability is every bit as enthusiastic as Cash, seeing space as having very terrestrial effects (“a key contributor to the growth and diversification of the Australian economy”).

“No longer restricted to government agencies and budgets, space has become a fast-growing and fiercely competitive commercial sector”.

This is a field of estimates and projections, of wistful glances at budgets, investments and outlays.  Clark provides an elastic forecast: “We think we can add another 10 to 20 thousand jobs to 2030.”  The Australian federal government put the value of the Australian space sector in 2015-2016 at $3.94 billion. Of that, a dominant 80 percent of contributions came from the private sector.

Australia remains a curiosity in one fundamental respect: a country continent so ideally placed for observation yet indifferent historically to having its own agency, ever in the bosom of NASA and an annex of broader power goals. Subordination to other space programs has tended to be normal, most notably the role played during the Apollo 11 moon walk by such radio telescopes as “The Dish” at Parkes.

Now, money-greased collaboration is the watchword.  Other agencies and entities are being sought.  The market of competitors has swollen the field: the China National Space Administration, the Indian Space Research Organisation, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, have made Australian entrepreneurs and officials envious and eager.

The head-over-heels delight that Australia is getting its own space agency has not masked that old problem with organisations of national prestige.  Nothing is ever too big to be diminished by the pettiness of political dispute. Disputes and disagreements have arisen.  Parochialism tails the scientist’s endeavour, and bureaucracy risks insinuating itself into the experiment and initiative.

Some cities and states feel more suited to host the bulk of the ASA’s incipient activities; sites are being fought over with playground brutishness. The premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklianhas dreams of ASA being placed in precinct known as “the Aerotopolis”, which will feed both her narrow understanding of science and tailored electoral ambitions.

“NSW has the dish (at Parkes) and we should be the home of space innovation.”

Clark has pitched for the national capital, Canberra, a point that has been seen as eminently sensible.

“We need to engage internationally and also to co-ordinate nationally and part of that activity (is) best to be centred on Canberra.”

Well noted, though the Australian capital has shown a certain tendency to outsource its public service jobs to other regions, a point that might risk a resource deficiency.

The last time a local Australian effort was made to supply administrative form to the exploitation of space came in the 1980s.  The Australian Space Board remained a project in miniature, an office hiding within the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce.  After ten years, it vanished with little trace, killed off by bureaucratic stasis and boredom.

Other centres – NASA, which runs 11 research centres, and the European Research Agency, which has nine, have eye-popping resources that the ASA can only dream of.

“This is not a model,” claims Alice Gorman, Director on the board of the Space Industry Association of Australia, “that is sustainable.”

Despite the question of sustenance and sustainability, the picture now may well be different, though hardly in the broader name of science per se.  The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has defence on its mind in Australia establishing “a sovereign space industry” to make the country “an active space power”.  The ASA also promises to be a mercantilist organisation for the skies more than the radical, insatiable discoverer of the galactic frontier.  This is no time for scientific curiosity for its sake.  Pocket books and bank balances rather than petri dishes are the order of the day.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image is from The Conversation.

Revisiting “Love Serenade” in Australia

May 8th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Australian life can seem defiantly absorbed, the defiance induced by insularity and isolation.  The characters that inhabit the continent are mere specks of life before the enormity that is its nature, one bound, at any point in time, to swallow them up.

Those in the city are thereby invested with a certain transcendental life, the big smoke adventure energetic and lusty. In a place like Sunray on the Murray River, the town of Shirley Barrett’s 1996 Love Serenade, a person from a larger city famed in radio descends from Olympus, which is, in truth, merely the Queensland town of Brisbane.  Two sisters, Dimity (Miranda Otto) and older sibling Vicky-Ann (Rebecca Frith) perform roles of catching the subject in question.

Is thrice divorced disc jockey Ken Sherry (George Shetsov) an exemplar of the other world?  Hardly; there is not much to recommend him, a fairly nonplussed, passive character who plays the Barry White set (Love SerenadeNever Never Gonna Give You Up) and Van McCoy’s The Hustle in a hut that counts as a radio station.

The sisters think otherwise.  His visitation might well be extra-terrestrial, or one induced by hallucinogenic import. Brisbane hardly counts as plumed exotic, but being “odd” or “strange” is entirely relative.  The fantastic realisations, notably by the young Dimity, are striking. Gills appear on the lover she craves; a huge Marlin on Sherry’s wall starts moving, and in her preoccupied mind, she knows that he does not like fish. But to the few characters who matter in this production, all outside Sunray is peculiar.

The film projects two aspects of the same problem.  There is the instinct to be predictable, dull, safe.  Then there is the instinct to grow, to find things anew, to taste fruit newly available.  To do so has its inherent dangers, the Promethean fire that may singe you, if not kill you altogether.  Indeed, innocence, on being ruined, demands vengeance and its share of shallow retribution, something Sherry duly discovers.

The sisters plot, conspire and engage to be rid of the music aquatic hybrid who has bedded both of them. But the he cannot, and will not be silent.  The exemplar, dead or alive, lives in water, in a fashion.  He might just as well have lived in space.

The film uses space to convey the lonely idyll of heat and dusty isolation, the routine that is interrupted by a person of flesh and blood needs.  The wide street and faded Chinese restaurant, itself an isolated relic of discontent, conveys the solitary mightiness of the environment.  There is total engulfing emptiness, with the exception of a few shots where people seem to have suddenly appeared, hidden hands otherwise lost in wilderness. All are inconsequential to the roles played by Sherry, Vicky-Ann, Dimity and the fabulously sinister proprietor of the Chinese restaurant.

The oppressiveness of friendliness is also clear: the need to incessantly feed the radio personality to win favour; the simpleton compassion, the base need, the elemental desire.  This is the primary approach of Vicki-Ann, though it is something that her younger sister also partakes in.

Finding himself between the sisters, Sherry plays to a traditional role of bonking with arid detachment, enjoying flesh without possession or commitment.  Eerily, Sherry’s character has a connection through Perspex – or at least some medium that disassociates his emotion.  He pursues his catch, if only because the catch is so willing to be caught. Dry and impassive, his calm remarks are almost hypnotic: “Take off your dress.”  His encounters are devoid of the erotic spell.

There are delightful observations of resentment.  The suspicion eventually comes in.  Sherry the outsider keeps insisting on black bean sauce.  He refuses to partake in the seafood, and certainly not the prawns.  This tendency sparks suspicion, and it hardly matters that Sherry emulates aquatic tendencies.  (Barrett claimed to have had “no respectable answer for that” other than to be inspired by a streak of magical realism, much of it with the cement and mortar of Cortázar.)

There are certain scenes shot as if in tribute.  Even more striking than Hispanic magical realism in Love Serenade is the allusion to the flying fantasy of Emir Kusturica, whose films such as Podzemlje (Underground) are filled with rich distortions and plays of historical record and fantastic scenery.  Vicky-Ann, dolled up in wedding dress under some mistaken impression Sherry wishes to wed, floats like a Kusturica dream figure through the town on being rejected.  Such themes of float and flight can also be found at points in Arizona Dream.  Given that Underground won the Palme d’Or in Cannes the year before Barrett won the Caméra d’Or at the same festival, the question of influence might well be asked.

Such a film would never be made today, when social media outrage counts for formed, if not uninformed activism, and where the threshold of offense is so low it has founded catacombs and build graveyards to expression.  But Barrett’s work is delightfully estranging, glassily so, a true minor classic worthy of its experiment.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image: Prof. Sharma

The evidence is all there. With soil fertility declining; excessive mining of groundwater sucking aquifers dry; and chemical inputs, including pesticides, becoming extremely pervasive in environment, the entire food chain has been contaminated.

As soils become sick, and erosion takes a heavy toll leading to more desertification, crop productivity is stagnating thereby resulting in more chemicals being pumped to produce the same harvest. A former Director General of Indian Council for Agricultural Research had rightly said:

“In 1980s, farmers used to produce 50Kg of wheat by using 1 kg of fertilisers. Now farmers are producing only 8 Kg by using 1 kg of fertiliser”.

The warning of an ‘Ecological Armageddon’

As farmlands become more toxic, and with modern agriculture becoming a major contributor to Greenhouse Gas Emissions leading to climate aberrations, a startling study has gone unnoticed. A study by the University of Sussex finds that three quarters of flying insects in a nature reserve in Germany have vanished in past 25 years. While the alarming decline in population of honeybees had raised international concerns, that 75% of the insect population has disappeared -even inside a nature reserve – raises the warning of an ‘ecological Armageddon’.

This is happening at a time when not only in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh in India, the dreaded bollworm pests on cotton have become resistant to genetically modified cotton in America too. From Carolina to Texas, bollworm insects have renewed their attack on cotton.

The Green Revolution has already run out of steam, leaving behind a trail of misery, the catastrophic consequences manifest in the form of farm suicides. With input costs growing, and farmgate prices remaining almost stagnant, if not declining, farmer’s income is swiftly on the downward slide.

ds green rev

In America, hundreds of dairy farms have closed down in the past 4 years. In Europe, many farms would be unprofitable if European subsidies were to be removed. In France, farmers’ mutual insurance association (MSA) believes that in 2016 “a majority of farmers earned less than Euro 350 a month”.

In India, the government’s own Economic Survey 2016 records that the average income of a farming family in 17 states, which means nearly half the country, has been computed at a paltry Rs 20,000 a year. Another study by Niti Aayog tells that real farm incomes have remained virtually stagnated in the five year period, 2011 to 2016.

And yet more of the same is being pushed as the solution

Despite all the laudable objectives, the world is almost at a tripping point as the International Panel on Climate Change had warned us a few years ago.  ‘Business as usual’ is not the right way forward, we are repeatedly told. But despite warning, there is no policy change that actually keeps environment protection as a non-negotiable.

Even the report of the International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which was ratified during an intergovernmental plenary in Johannesburg, April 7-12, 2008, and had called for a shift towards sustainable agriculture has been lying in limbo ever since.

The more the world tries to change, the more things remain the same. Every disaster is an opportunity. But it invariably ends up as an opportunity for business.

Business leaders from 17 private companies had announced at the 2009 World Economic Forum the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade.

The 17 agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International.

The rhetoric has been the same and the solutions have remained the same too: more aggressive push for industrial agriculture. Just to illustrate, to ensure that the world does not witness a repeat of the 2008 food crisis — when 37 countries faced food riots — the international community has been swift in proposing a roadmap (not one, but a plethora of similar privates-sector driven blueprints).

In these difficult times, it is heartening to see the Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledging the ecological crisis the world faces.

Addressing the National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing last October, he acknowledged that

“Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us… this is a reality we have to face,”

and then went to specify in more detail his plans to

“step up efforts to establish a legal and policy framework … that facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development,” to “promote afforestation,” “strengthen wetland conservation and restoration” and “take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment.”

He has called for 21st century to be the beginning of an ‘ecological civilisation’.

Back home, as we get half way through 2018, the script for an ecologically sustainable agriculture, which brings back the smile on the face of farmers, without leaving any scar on the environment, is being rewritten.

Andhra Pradesh has launched a massive programme to promote natural farming.

This programme, Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, aims to bring 5 lakh farmers in all the 13 districts during the period 2017-2022 to adopt natural farming practices (read more here and on their Facebook page). I recently visited a number of villages in Kurnool district to meet some farmers who have moved away from chemical agriculture to natural farming practices.

I was amazed to learn that yields are increasing across all crops

In groundnut, yields have gone up by 35 per cent; Cotton productivity has increased by 11 per cent; Chilli by 34 per cent; brinjal by 69 per cent; and paddy by 10 to 12 per cent. So far, 1.63 lakh farmers have switched to natural farming. If crop productivity can increase without using chemical fertiliser and pesticides; if the net income in the hands of farmers goes up considerably; and if natural farming ushers in a climate resilient agriculture,

I see no reason why other states cannot emulate the pioneering efforts being made by Andhra Pradesh.


Devinder Sharma

All images in this article are from the author.

John Mathews with Xin Huang

China’s green energy shift is now attracting increasing attention, as its strategic implications become clearer. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Amy Myers Jaffe has argued that China is effecting a “pivot” to green and clean energy that puts the country on a superior footing in international competition – particularly competition with the United States, that remains committed to its fossil fuel industries.1 

Jaffe cites a number of statistics and trends, such as the shift to green power generation and the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) – but she does not offer any definitive demonstration of China’s greening. We tackle this central issue in this article, and offer fresh evidence that in a fundamental sense, China is indeed greening its total energy system. What we do is construct a picture of China’s total fossil fuel consumption over the past decade where coal, oil and gas consumption are aggregated not just in terms of coal-equivalent or oil-equivalent but in electric power-equivalent (in TWh) – so that a direct comparison can be made between burning of fossil fuels in aggregate and generation of electric power from renewable sources (i.e. from water, wind and sun). What we show is that in each of the past six years, from 2012 to 2017, China’s increase in fossil fuel burning in aggregate has been exceeded by the generation of green electric power. In this precise sense, where “blackening” is defined as the increase in fossil fuel consumption in aggregate (across the entire economy), and “greening” is defined as green electric power generation, we can demonstrate that in each of the past six years, China’s greening has outpaced its blackening – as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 China’s increase in fossil fuel consumption each year vs WWS electricity generation in the same year 

We provide the details of this demonstration below, in Table 5. What it demonstrates is that China’s green power generation is relentlessly rising, doubling every six years, and increasing at an average rate of 20% per year. Up until 2011 the yearly increase in fossil fuel burning exceeded the green power generation each year (fluctuating according to global economic conditions, with a steep dip in 2009 following the global financial crisis). But green power generation after 2012 has consistently exceeded the yearly increase in fossil fuel consumption. The point to make here is that this is a definitive demonstration that encompasses the entire Chinese energy system which has until recently been totally dominated by the burning of fossil fuels. Indeed, on its way to becoming the world’s largest manufacturing system and largest trading system, powered by the world’s largest energy system, China followed the pathway blazed by all previous industrial powers (from Britain and Germany et al through the US and then Japan, Korea and Taiwan) in building an energy system based on burning fossil fuels. In China’s case this meant building domestic systems for production and distribution of coal, then oil and gas – and then expanding these systems to encompass imports. China has now become the world’s largest importer of oil and gas, and a growing importer of coal – all increasing its vulnerability or diminishing its energy security. And China is by far the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, reaching a total of 4 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent in 2017. Most observers see this and the associated carbon dioxide emissions, which overtook those of the US in 2006 to make China the world’s largest emitter of carbon, and conclude that China is doomed to decades of fossil fuel dependence, threatening the future of our civilization (even if China did not invent and propagate the fossil-fuel model of industrialization). We seek to demonstrate that this gross picture of an enormous ‘black’ fossil-fuelled economy conceals the real trends towards greening that are sprouting within it.

Our project of keeping a close eye on China’s green shift now has greater relevance than ever. Our practice has been to focus on the electric power system in China as proxy for the economy as a whole. We have been demonstrating for many years now that the green power generation each year exceeds the increase in coal fired power generation. Data has now been released from China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) that enable the changes recorded in the year 2017 to be integrated into previous analyses. The headline result is that China’s steps in decarbonizing its electric power system have continued into 2017. When these steps are linked to the decommissioning of portions of its carbon-intensive heavy industry and promotion of an electric vehicle industry, continue to deepen. China maintains its role as driver of the global green shift.

How real is the “green pivot” referred to by Amy Myers Jaffe, or what we have been calling China’s “green shift”? It is indeed very real, reflecting the fact that China’s leadership recognizes that its continued reliance on fossil fuels would lead to intolerable levels of urban pollution as well as geopolitical pressures that would undermine energy security. So China has been greening its energy system as fast as it is able to do so – across all sectors but in particular in power generation through greater reliance on renewables, in transport through greater reliance on EVs, and in industry through greater reliance on electrification (with rising levels of renewable power) rather than fossil fuel burning.

So there is a green shift operating at the level of the entire economy. The green shift is more sharply evident when we narrow the focus to the electric power generating system. In this article we present detailed data on China’s green shift in electric power, taking the story up to the year 2017 and updating previous work.2 We offer new analyses that take the story up to targets for 2020, by which time China is likely to have achieved clean energy targets (utilizing water, wind and sun) with capacity of more than 800 GW – meaning that China would be the world’s dominant clean energy power with more than 1 trillion watts (1 terawatt TW) capacity of clean power by the early 2020s. At the same time, however, China, the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases, maintains a continuing dependence on coal for electric power, albeit with declining dependence. The Chinese government seems to be maintaining a cap on coal utilization for electric power generation of 1,100 GW (1.1 TW). This is consistent with the apparent attempt to maintain a cap on total fossil fuel consumption of 4 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent.

The scale of China’s continued reliance on fossil fuels, and in particular on coal, remains staggering. In 2017 China remains a black economy, with severe dependence on coal-fired power. China’s coal consumption in 2017 appears to have risen slightly – according to still-provisional data. While coal-fired power stations continue to be closed, those remaining appear to have burnt more coal in 2017 than in 2016, making China still the world’s largest coal-burning country. The slight increase in 2017 is nevertheless still well below China’s peak coal consumption and production reached in 2013; it does not reverse the downward trend in China’s coal dependence. If we translate China’s total fossil fuel burning system of 4 billion tonnes per year into equivalent electrical units, namely around 32,000 TWh (or 32k billion kWh), and compare that with the scale of generation of green electric power (derived from water, wind and sun) at 1.6k TWh, we see that China’s green power production is still only equivalent to 1/20 (5%) of the country’s total fossil fuel burning system. Another perspective on China’s fossil fuel burning is to examine the whole-of-economy data on fossil fuel consumption, which has risen from 1.36 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent in the year 2000 to 3.78 billion tonnes coal-equivalent in 2015. So in 15 years China added nearly 2.5 billion tonnes coal-equivalent to its annual burning of fossil fuels. (For details see Table 3B below.) It is greening at the margins – but there is still a long way to go to green this enormous black system.

In this article we also update the trend which shows that China’s growing utilization of green energy outweighs its small and barely increasing reliance on nuclear power. To the extent that China continues to build nuclear reactors, this appears to be largely for business reasons and overseas consumption. It seems to be a case that “If you want nuclear power, China will build it for you.” That is, China’s continuing development of nuclear power appears to be more for overseas sales than for domestic production – as we discuss below.

China’s electric power trends

As in previous articles we focus on China’s green power shift in electricity generation, as proxy for the country’s wider energy trends. Of course China consumes a lot more energy than it generates in terms of electric power (such as the burning of coal in heavy industries like steel and cement) and the burning of oil in transport) – but the shift in electric power from “black” (largely coal fired) to “green” (largely based on renewables) is striking.

China’s energy story can be told through two principal charts, one showing annual electricity generated from various sources up to and including 2017, and a second chart showing China’s domestic capacity additions and the rising proportion attributable to water, wind and sun – again including data for the year 2017.

Fig. 2A. Annual electricity generated in China, 2000-2017 (TWh)

Fig. 2B. Proportional electricity generation 2000-2017, sourced from WWS vs thermal

Fig. 2A reveals that total power generation in China has risen from around 1400 TWh in the late 1990s to 6,400 TWh (or billion kWh) in 2017 – by far the largest of any country in the world. By contrast, the US power generation in 2017 was 4,015 TWh. (At the same time it needs to be noted that China’s per capita power generation remains far behind that of other industrialized countries like the US – with China’s per capita power generation in 2016 reaching 3,776 kWh compared with the US at 11,957 kWh.) It is this electric energy system that powers China’s vast manufacturing system – with a clear inflection point in 2001 when China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and effectively declared itself ‘open for business’. The annual rate of growth of the power generation system in the period from the year 2000 to 2017 has been 20.9% — an astonishing rate of growth for a system as large as this. The orange stippled line shows the overall system’s expansion (reaching 6,400 TWh in 2017) while the red interrupted line shows electricity generated from thermal sources – essentially, burning coal. This source reached 4,551 TWh in 2017 – or 71% of the total, and can be seen to be flattening in the last two to three years. Meanwhile renewable sources (which we define as electricity generated from water, wind or sun) have been rising even faster than the total system, at 30.2% per annum (shown as triangles on the chart), reaching 1,618 TWh in 2017, or 25% of the total.

It is the trends that are important and which bring out the greening tendencies of this system. Fig. 2B shows the rising proportion of power generated from WWS sources as a bold green line, reaching 25% in 2017, while the black line shows the falling proportion from thermal sources, dipping to 71% by 2017. The bold green line shows that WWS sources increased proportionally from 15% in 2007 to 25% in 2017, or a 10% increase in the proportion of WWS sources in a decade, with major gains in the years 2012 to 2017. This is a clear measure of China’s greening of its electric power system; no other country comes even close to this pace of green change. Meanwhile the black proportion of power has fallen from 81% in 2010 to 71% in 2017 – or a 10% change downwards in less than a decade. This is another indication of the pace of change, namely China’s falling dependence on fossil fuels for power generation.

When we turn to capacity additions made in 2017, the picture is even more striking. Fig. 2 shows that the proportion of electric generating capacity sourced from water, wind and sun exceeded 35% by 2017 – up from 20% in 2006 when China’s green shift started in earnest. This is a 15% shift towards green power capacity in just over the past decade – an even more striking rate of change of the green shift. If carried through at the same pace over the next decade, China’s power capacity would be more green than black– by 2028. This is why China’s leadership can confidently make assertions that the country’s carbon emissions will peak before 2030.

Fig. 3. China: Proportion of electric capacity and power generated from WWS, 2000-2017

A comparison with the situation in Germany is instructive – as shown in Fig. 4. Here we see the country’s dependence on coal-fired power reduced, and its dependence on nuclear drastically reduced, while reliance on renewables steadily grows. Germany’s two major parties – which have just renewed their coalition agreement – are committed to phasing out dependence on coal altogether.

Fig. 4. Annual electricity generation in Germany, 2000-2016

Germany’s total power generation reached 520 TWh in 2016 (around one twelfth of China’s) while under the influence of German federal government policy (Energiewende, or “Energy transformation”) the proportion attributable to WWS sources approached 35%.

China however is still a largely black energy power, with dependence on coal for power generation marginally increasing in 2017 over the level in 2016 – after successive falls each year since both coal consumption and production peaked in 2013. We discuss these trends in detail below.

China’s electric power statistics 2017

Detailed data for China’s energy revolution, couched in terms of (1) capacity additions; (2) electricity generation; and (3) investment in new capacity, are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. China’s electric power generation, 2010-2017: Capacity, Electricity generated, Investment

By 2017 China’s electric power capacity reached 1,777 GW, or 1.8 TW – by far the largest of any country in the world (compared with around 1 TW for the US). Capacity from renewable sources (water, wind and sun – WWS) reached 635.1 GW – making China a world leader in green energy with 25% of renewable energy in 2017 even as its fossil fuel consumption continues to rise. Capacity added in 2017 reached 131.2 GW, with 52.1 GW coming from thermal sources (coal, gas) and 77.0 GW from WWS sources. So new capacity from thermal sources accounted for just 40% of new capacity, while WWS sources accounted for 59% of new capacity. This is powerful evidence for the greening trend of China’s power system. But it is still a black system. By 2017 the system had thermal capacity of 1,106 GW compared with 635 GW for WWS sources; this means in terms of the total system that 35% capacity is reached by WWS sources. In terms of growth, thermal sources increased in 2017 only by 5% compared with 14% for WWS sources. Thus the green growth exceeds black growth. As for nuclear, just 2.2 GW new capacity was added in 2017, accounting for just 2% of new capacity added. What is striking is that solar capacity additions in 2017 exceeded those from thermal sources – with 52.9 GW being added from solar, compared with 52.1 GW from thermal sources. That’s a new solar power station at 1 GW being added each week, as well as a new coal-burning power plant being added each week. These trends are captured in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5. China, new electric capacity added in 2017

Table 1 (2) confirms that China’s electric power generation totalled 6,418 TWh in 2017, up 7.1% from the level in 2016. Power generated from WWS sources increased to 1,618 TWh, an increase of 9% on the level in 2016, and accounting for 25% of the total power generated.

When we look at investment (Table 1 (3)) we see that investment in the power system totalled RMB 801 billion in 2017 – marginally down on the level reached in 2016. The level of investment in WWS sources was down 10% on 2016 levels, which is concerning – but the level of investment in thermal sources declined even more, being down 37% on 2016 levels.

Trends over the past three years, spanning 2015 to 2017, offer striking confirmation of these greening trends in capacity, power generation and investment, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. China’s electric power system trends, 2015-2017

The data in Table 2 reveal that in terms of capacity added in 2015-17, WWS sources outranked thermal sources by 34%; power generated over the three years saw WWS accounting for 34% of the total; and investment in WWS power sources outranked investment in thermal sources by more than threefold. Investment in WWS sources in 2017 totalled RMB 156.5 billion (or US$ 24.8 billion at an exchange rate of 6.3). Note that these estimates are markedly different from those provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in London. BNEF have issued their estimates for 2017, where they state: “Overall, Chinese investment in all the clean energy technologies was $132.6 billion, up 24% setting a new record. The next biggest investing country was the U.S., at $56.9 billion, up 1% on 2016 despite the less friendly tone towards renewables adopted by the Trump administration.”3 In April, the BNEF together with the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management issued their widely read report on ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018’, in which it is stated that China invested $126.6 billion in renewable energy in 2017. Clearly China’s NEA is using very different definitions of clean energy investment from those utilized by BNEF. This remains an anomaly that we put to the parties involved and seek clarification.

Let us now look at the three WWS sources – solar, wind and hydro – and the targets for 2020.

Solar PV emerged as a major player in 2017, with 53 GW new solar PV capacity added (at a rate of more than 1 GW per week) exceeding new capacity from thermal sources (52 GW). This is the first time that China has added more solar PV capacity than coal or gas capacity in a single year – providing yet another indicator of the pace of the green shift. The solar PV capacity added in China in 2017 represented a 68% jump on the level recorded in 2016, and accounted for around half of global solar PV capacity additions. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) team in London calls this China’s 53 GW solar boom.4

China’s cumulative solar PV capacity has now reached around 130 GW, with an official target set for 2020 at 165 GW – a target very likely to be exceeded. Some observers are predicting that China will reach a solar PV capacity of 250 GW by 2020.5 China’s record rate of solar PV capacity additions is clearly driving the accelerated rate of installation globally.

In 2017 China added 15.1 GW of new wind capacity, bringing the cumulative total of wind capacity to 163 GW. The target is to reach 260 GW installed wind capacity by 2020 – a target that appears to be eminently achievable.

In terms of hydropower, China added just 9.1 GW capacity in 2017 (upgrading existing dams) bringing the cumulative capacity to 341.2 GW – making China again the largest deployer of hydropower in the world. However, hydropower has reached close to its maximum practicable capacity in China, and the target for 2020 is set at just 380 GW – which on present trends seems unlikely to be exceeded.

China’s 2020 targets

According to China’s 13th Five Year Plan for Energy, issued by the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country’s targets for green power generation continue to emphasize a green shift. The official targets for WWS green power capacity by 2020 (as updated by the 13th FYP for Energy) are:

Hydro 380 GW
Wind 260 GW
Solar PV 165 GW
Total WWS 805 GW

The combined WWS target for 2020 is thus 805 GW. Indeed if the 2020 target for solar PV is raised in line with observer expectations, to 250 GW, then China’s green power capacity would be expected to reach 890 GW by 2020. China could then be expected to pass the 1000 GW (1 TW) milestone for green WWS power by 2021 or 2022 at the latest – the first country to do so. These targets, and cumulative capacities reached for hydro, wind and solar PV by 2017, with official targets for 2020, are displayed in Fig 5A.

Fig. 5A. Water, wind and solar capacity in China, with 2020 targets under 13thFive Year Energy Plan

In terms of annual generation targets, NEA’s plan in 2016 set a 2020 hydroelectric generation target of 1250 TWh, with wind power reaching 429 TWh and solar PV power 150 TWh (based on capacity of 110 GW as in the original plan). In July 2017 the NEA adjusted these targets upward by 50 GW for each of wind and solar PV, and inserting these new capacities the generation targets become: hydro 1250 TWh; wind 520 TWh; and solar 225 TWh – making 1995 TWh in total as target for generation in 2020 (as displayed in Fig. 5B.)

Fig.5B. Water, wind and solar power generation in the 13th FYP

Levels of curtailment in 2017

A striking feature of the 2017 results is that the levels of curtailment of renewable power consumption have markedly declined. It has been a source of great concern in China (and a source of foreign criticism) that much of the power generated by renewable systems (mainly wind and solar PV) is not actually supplied to the grid, because of grid integration issues. The news conference of National Energy Administration (NEA) (see here) of Jan. 24, 2018 confirmed that in 2017, 12% of wind power production was curtailed versus 17.2 % in 2016. Thus curtailment of wind energy production dropped 5.2 percentage points compared to 2016 even as the system absorbed much more of the wind power generated. For the case of solar PV, 6% of wind power production was curtailed in 2017 versus 10.3% in 2016; thus curtailment dropped 4.3 percentage points compared to 2016.These are becoming close to “normal” levels of curtailment.

China as an international renewables power

When the build-up in renewables capacity in China is compared with that found in other countries, China emerges as a global leader. The chart below (Fig.6) shows the situation utilizing data up to 2015; as data for other countries is made available for 2016 and 2017 the trends will likely be strengthened. Note that China’s WWS capacity has increased from 493 GW in 2015 to 558 GW in 2016 and reached 635 GW in 2017. At this rate, China will be a ‘terawatt renewables power’ by the early 2020s.

Fig.6. Renewables capacity (WWS) in China compared with USA, India, Germany

China’s black, coal-fired energy system

Alongside the greening of China’s electric power system there is the continuing issue of its black, coal-fired system, which also continues to expand (after a couple of years of contraction). China’s continuing reliance on coal for its electric power system is vividly captured in Fig.7. This chart reveals the reliance of China’s electric power system on coal; after contracting in the years 2015-2016 it expanded again in 2017. That is clearly a trend that is of great concern in China.

Statistics for total Chinese coal consumption in 2017 are not yet available. However, we can gain a feel for the likely level of consumption by examining the amount of total coal production in 2017 (3.45 billion tonnes) and total coal imports (0.27 billion tonnes). By adding these two totals, we see that the (apparent) total domestic consumption should exceed 3.72 billion tonnes, which is close to Brookings’ forecast of 3.82 billion tonnes.6 We use this figure of 3.82 billion tonnes in our charts below.

Firstly, we indicate the extent to which China remains a ‘black’ economy, in Fig.7, which indicates rising levels of coal-fired power generation and corresponding rising levels of coal consumption (largely in power generation), which peaked in the year 2013. The slight (apparent) rise in 2017 does not reverse the overall downward trend in coal dependence.

Fig. 7 China’s black electric power

Source: Based on CEC data

This black face of China may be compared with the green face, captured by the increases in wind power in China, shown in Fig.8.

Fig. 8 China’s green face: rising dependence on wind power

The significance of this rapid build-up in wind power becomes clear when it is contrasted with the case of nuclear power.

China: wind power vs. nuclear power

Since so many prominent international scientists (like James Hansen) continue to promote nuclear as a “clean” energy source for China, it is important to monitor the choices that China is making in its domestic energy investments. The chart (Fig.9) reveals that in terms of capacity additions, wind power outranked nuclear as early as 2008, while in terms of electricity generated, wind outranked nuclear by the year 2012 The gap between wind power and nuclear has only widened since then, as revealed clearly by Fig.9.

Fig. 9. Wind power vs nuclear power, China

We interpret these data as revealed in Fig. 9 to mean that China has little intention of promoting nuclear power for its domestic consumption. But there is still a strong market for nuclear power in other countries (such as in Britain), and China is doubtless calculating that it can sell its advanced nuclear technology to countries that are prepared to pay for it.

China’s continuing enormous fossil fuelled energy appetite

To put China’s green shift into perspective, we take this opportunity to report on the latest data revealing the scale of China’s burning of fossil fuels, across the entire economy. Table 3A looks at the scale of coal consumption, as well as oil consumption and gas consumption, and aggregates these fuels consumed in terms of million tonnes of oil equivalent. In Table 3B we reproduce the same data in terms of million tonnes of coal equivalent. It is in Table 3B that we can see that there is an apparent cap on fossil fuels consumption of 4 billion tonnes coal-equivalent. In both Tables we also provide the energy-equivalent in terms of electric power generation, denominated in TWh. (It is technically possible to do this because it is all energy that is being measured, albeit with different units.) This will enable us to make direct comparisons between fossil fuel burning and green electric power generation.

Then to give a sense of the comparative scale of fossil fuel burning as between China and the US, and carbon dioxide emissions, we reproduce the latest data (up to the year 2016) in Table 4.

Table 3A: China’s fossil fuel consumption 2000 – 2017 in million tonnes oil equivalent (toe) and TWh

Table 3B: China’s fossil fuel consumption 2000 – 2017 in million tonnes coal equivalent (mtce) and TWh

Table 4: U.S. vs China: CO2 emissions, Renewables and Nuclear Energy Consumption (2000 – 2016)

We display the most significant features from Table 4 in Figure 10, which includes data for carbon dioxide emissions.

Figure 10: U.S. vs China: CO2 emissions, Renewables and Nuclear Energy Consumption (2000 – 2016)

Figure 10 shows that China’s CO2 emissions level surpassed those of the U.S. in 2006 and kept increasing before flattening out in 2013-2014. In this sense, one may say that China’s carbon dioxide emissions have already peaked. From 2007 to 2016, the rate of increase of the emissions level was 2.6% per annum {calculated as [(9123-7224)/7224/10]}, which is lower than the growth of China’s total fossil fuel consumption by 0.6%.

In terms of per capita level, China’s CO2 emissions are less than 40% (6.6 vs 16.6 tonnes) of those of the U.S. in 2016.

Figure 10 clearly depicts the different choices of U.S and China between renewables and nuclear energy consumption. By 2017 China was generating 1,618 TWh of renewable power from water, wind and sun (up from 1,543 TWh in 2016). This was more than seven times what China generated from nuclear power stations, which in 2016 came to 213 TWh. In the 10 years from 2007 to 2016, the U.S. consumed 8,386 TWh nuclear energy and 4,887 TWh renewables energy whereas China consumed 1,086 TWh nuclear energy and 9,708 TWh renewables energy – with renewables energy consumption more than nine times its nuclear energy consumption. The average annual growth rate of the renewables energy consumption was 20.8% [(1543-501)/501/10] for China and 7.9% [(632-353)/353/10] for the U.S.

The efficiency of China’s renewables generation

China had to start its renewables trajectory by using technology leveraged from the West, and its early efforts at generating green power were at a low efficiency level. While its efficiency has improved over time, through technology leapfrogging, China still lags the US in terms of the capacity factors involved in wind power and solar power generation. China’s capacity factor for solar PV generation is, for example, around 12% (meaning that China generates solar power at 12% of the theoretical maximum), while according to the US Energy Information Administration, the US capacity factor for solar PV and CSP is 27%.7 If this is indeed the case, then it represents a great opportunity for the US to offer its solar PV technology to China to improve China’s solar power efficiency, and thereby its contribution to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

Is China greening its energy system faster than it is expanding its black system?

By putting all energy consumption data into common units, namely TWh of electricity consumption, we gain a feel for the relative growth of the ‘black’ fossil fuel energy system and the green power system. From Tables 3A and 3B, we see that the black, fossil fuel (FF) system expanded each year and reached a kind of plateau in the years 2013 – 2017.

Here we come to our crucial demonstration. In Table 5 we construct a picture of China’s total fossil fuel consumption each year since the year 2000, and then the increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption each year (noting how it plateaued and actually reached below zero – or contracting — in the year 2015) – all shown in electric power generation equivalent units, or TWh. We then compare China’s green power generation (from water, wind and sun) each year with this increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption. The yearly increases accelerated after China’s accession to the WTO in 2001, and suffered a major reversal in 2008 after the global financial crisis. But it is the recent trends that are of interest. What is striking is that the green power generation in each of the past six years – from 2012 to 2017 — exceeds the increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption for the corresponding year. In a precise sense, and in aggregate across the entire economy, China’s greening exceeds its ‘blackening’ in terms of yearly increases in fossil fuel consumption, for each of the past six years. This is a greening trend across the entire economy that can only be interpreted as continuing – and leading within very few years to an energy economy that would be greener than blacker. The results are tabulated in Table 5 and illustrated in Fig. 1 above.

Table 5. China’s total energy system: Fossil fuel consumption vs green electric power generation

Table 5 reveals that over the years until 2011 the increases in FF consumption exceeded green power generation – so that the rate of blackening outpaced the rate of greening. But from 2012 on, the green power generation in each year exceeds that of the increase in FF consumption, so that the greening trend has been outpacing the blackening. China’s green power generation has been doubling every six years, and increasing at an average annual rate of 20%. This is a trend that is very likely to be continued, because it is based on the fact that renewables devices are all products of manufacturing, not of digging or drilling stuff out of the ground. This is the key difference between the energy strategy pursued by China and that pursued by the US. China pursues a strategy that is linked to manufacturing and electrification, driven by rapidly dropping costs (due to the experience curve) – while the US has been pursuing a strategy based on non-conventional oil and gas, where there are no links to manufacturing and the cost future is highly uncertain. So what is driving China’s green shift?

What is driving China’s green shift?

There is a dominating factor driving China’s energy choices. While much of the commentary on China’s green shift assumes that it is motivated by climate change concerns, it seems to us that the factors driving China’s green shift are more prosaic and pragmatic. There are immediate pollution issues which are coming to be viewed with growing seriousness in China, and there is the issue of energy security. – growing dependence on fossil fuel imports, particularly oil imports for transport and coal imports for power generation. The growing gap between domestic production and consumption is worthy of close analysis, a topic that we propose to tackle in a subsequent article. As the gap between production and consumption expands, and dependence on imports grows, so the geopolitical limits to China’s energy expansion become more pressing. Without China’s shift to renewables, all of which are products of manufacturing, China would be facing extreme energy insecurity – with all the implications this would carry for dependence on fossil fuel geopolitical hotspots.

While many point to the enormity of China’s fossil fuel consumption, we seek to identify the process that has the potential to reduce and eventually bring China’s enormous levels of fossil fuel burning to an effective end. We see only one factor that offers any chance of this happening within the next two decades, and that is the shift to green power production, which is steadily accounting for more and more of China’s energy production, as well as the shift to electrification in industry and transport, with the opportunities so created to shift to green power. And we see the drivers of this green shift as being China’s concern to clean its filthy pollution problems, and relieve itself of the environmental consequences of an energy policy associated with continued reliance on fossil fuels.

China’s greenhouse gas emissions

Finally, it is important to note that China’s green power shift is already having an impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are now the largest in the world. We depict China’s CO2 emissions in Table 4, and Fig. 10, as contrasted with those of the US. We note the recent comments from the China Climate Action Tracker:

China’s CO2 emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitment to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030. The latest analysis from the Climate Action Tracker, indicates that COemissions may, in fact, already have stopped increasing and reached peak levels.8

We concur with this expectation based on our 2017 analysis of China’s green power shift.

Xin Huang is a research assistant and financial analyst. She has worked in the financial sector in Australia and China


The Environmental Consequences of Chinese Development: A Comment

Mark Selden

In a book and a series of articles, many published at The Asia-Pacific Journal, John Mathews and collaborators have made a case for Chinese global leadership in renewable energy. That case centers on documenting the initial stages of a relative shift from fossil fuel-driven electric power toward renewable energy.

In the most recent article, Mathews and Xin Huang offer a detailed assessment of China’s fossil fuel consumption and its ambitious program highlighting conversion to renewable sources of energy within a framework of rapid expansion of energy use through 2017 and looking ahead. They observe that

“in each of the past six years, from 2012 to 2017, China’s increase in fossil fuel burning in aggregate has been exceeded by the generation of green electric power. In this precise sense, where “blackening” is defined as the increase in fossil fuel consumption in aggregate (across the entire economy), and “greening” is defined as green electric power generation, we can demonstrate that in each of the past six years, China’s greening has outpaced its blackening . . .9

This is an important finding. Yet China’s green energy program, widely touted as national policy by the Xi Jinping government, has stirred controversy.

China’s prioritization of renewable energy is an important phenomenon. Some have seen it as laying the foundation for global leadership, particularly at a time when the United States has effectively rejected the dominant conclusions of climate science and has effectively withdrawn from the Paris Agreement.

The question I wish to pose is how to assess the significance of these new green programs in the context of a comprehensive energy and development program in which China’s total power generation increased from 1400 TWh (billion kWh) in the late 1990s to 6400 TWh in 2017. China is presently the world leader in power generation, in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels, and in the production of greenhouse gases, even as it lags far behind the US and a number of other rich countries in per capita production of greenhouse gases. To achieve the world’s highest economic growth rates in recent decades, China not only became the world leader in overall production and consumption of fossil fuels, it also became “the world’s largest importer of oil and gas, and a growing importer of coal.”

Mathews and Huang emphasize that even as China continued to expand its consumption of fossil fuels (at a rate of 20.9% per year over the last two decades), its renewables grew at a significantly faster pace (30.2% annually) with renewables increasing at their fastest pace in the years 2012-2017. A US comparison is fruitful. Between 2007 and 2016, “[t]he average annual growth rate of renewables energy consumption was 20.8% for China and 7.9% for the U.S.” Nevertheless, despite the steady growth of renewables, by 2017 China’s green power electricity generation was just 5% of that of its total consumption of fossil fuels. These figures are inclusive of fossil fuel consumption for automobile use at a time when China is the world’s largest builder and buyer of automobiles. By the early 2020s, according to government growth projections, China would not only be the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, it would also possess the world’s largest capacity for green energy production with one trillion watts (1 TW) of electric power.

Mathews and Huang recognize that China’s fossil fuel consumption is projected to continue at least well into the 2020s as a foundation for China’s high-speed growth. Their positive assessment of Chinese development strategy is premised on a projected transition based on continued expansion of renewables together with a steady reduction in fossil fuel consumption overall that is not slated to begin for some years. 10

For the present, China continues to expand black energy consumption while renewables occupy a steadily growing but small share of the nation’s rapidly rising total energy consumption. This outcome is a product not only of China’s high growth rates but also of expanded coal, oil and natural gas consumption and the low efficiency of Chinese renewables—less than half that of the US and other technologically advanced countries. In 2016 fossil fuels accounted for 87% of China’s primary energy consumption compared with 85% in the US. The result is that China continues to drive global warming on a scale beyond that of any other nation.

An environmental perspective, one that recognizes the necessity to question the God of Growth measured by GDP, requires assessing the consequences of China’s massive production of steel, coal, aluminum, cement, plastics, and other energy-intensive and polluting products. By 2015, China produced half or more of the world’s steel, aluminum, and cement, and 48% of its coal.11 As energy specialist Vaclav Smil observed, China consumed more cement in the years 2011-13 than the US did in the entire twentieth century.12 The pace of Chinese construction, moreover, continues to accelerate both domestically and internationally.

For example, Chinese officials have announced plans to complete 165,000 miles of roads by 2030, nearly 3.5 times as long as the US interstate system. In addition, China has launched a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with the participation of 42 countries (as of April 2017) pledging to provide major financial support for developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific and beyond.13 All of these initiatives mean expanded demand for fossil fuels. Without addressing the developmental consequences of these programs, it is certain that in each of these realms China will increase the already extreme burden on the environment, initially in China and eventually regionally and globally.

In short, it is essential to look beyond the accelerated production of renewable energy to assess the overall impact of Chinese development policies at home and abroad on climate crisis and the human prospect. Indeed, this is perhaps the central challenge to global development theory: China’s high speed growth of recent decades has achieved important goals including substantial increases in per capita incomes, extensive urbanization, and rising consumption associated with its advance to middle income status. In the process, it has shared with many other countries sharply rising income inequality, precarity of employment with the dismantling of substantial parts of state sector enterprise and the rise of temporary and contract work. It is time to place environmental degradation at the center of the discussion in assessing human development in the Anthropocene age.


John A. Mathews is Professor of Management, MGSM,Macquarie University, Australia, and formerly Eni Chair of Competitive Dynamics and Global Strategy at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. His research focuses on the competitive dynamics of international business, the evolution of technologies and their strategic management, and the rise of new high technology industries.

Xin Huang is a research assistant and financial analyst. She has worked in the financial sector in Australia and China

Mark Selden is the editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal. His home page is markselden.info/


See Amy Myers Jaffe 2018. Green Giant: Renewable energy and Chinese powerForeign Affairs (March-April 2018).

See J. Mathews, ‘China’s electric power: Results for First Half 2017 demonstrate continuing green shift’, Sep 15 2017, Asia-Pacific Journal, or JM, ‘The green growth economy as an engine of development: The case of China’.

See ‘Runaway 53 GW solar boom in China pushed global clean energy investment ahead in 2017’.

See BNEF, ibid

See Frank Haugewitz at Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory.

See the estimate published by Brookings.

See the EIA report here.

See China: Climate Action Tracker.

“China’s greening of its energy system outpaces its further blackening: A 2017 update.” The Asia-Pacific Journal. 

10 A recent article by Dan Murtagh, drawing on data provide by the International Energy Association, “China Is Over Coal, Bored With Oil as it Charts Green Future,” provides an extreme version of the view that China has essentially solved its black energy problem Nov 14, 2017.

11 Hao Tan, “A Global Industry Rebalance: China and Energy Intensive Manufacturing,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 1, 2018. 

12 Ana Swanson, “How China Used more cement in 3 years than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century,” Washington Post, March 24, 2015see also David Owen, “The End of Sand,” New Yorker, May 29, 2017, 28-33.

13 See for example Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Latest News. China with $29.8 billion provided 31% of the investment capital. The Belt and Road Initiative, while focusing on the countries of the silk road, like the AIIB, is also global in scope with 72 nation participants in April 2017. . . including many US allies but not the US. See HKTDC Research for participating countries; Alexandra Ma, “Inside ‘Belt and Road’, China’s Mega-project that is linking 70 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa,” Business Insider, Jan. 31, 2018.

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Election politics have taken an unusual turn in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, now heads an opposition alliance against the corrupt government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, which has done its utmost to destabilize his candidacy.

Mahathir is now accused by Najib of spreading “fake news” following a press conference in which he accused the government of “dirty tricks”. 

Kuala Lumpur police have said they are investigating Mahathir under a new law banning fake news after complaints over Mahathir’s claim that his chartered plane was sabotaged last week to prevent him from filing his candidacy in the northern resort island of Langkawi. (AssociatedPress)

In Malaysia, if you criticize PM Najib, you can be arrested and indicted under a new law which bans fake news.

The fake news law was hastily adopted by parliament with a view to curbing dissent against the corrupt Najib government prior to the May 9 elections.

Mahathir, 92, has said he believed there was a “deliberate attempt” to stop him from going to Langkawi last Friday after the pilot found some damage to the jet just before departure. He said he tried to source for other planes but was rejected by three people, including one who claimed he was under pressure. Mahathir eventually found a plane and made it to the island to register Saturday for the polls.

“We are dealing with a government party which is known to use all kinds of tricks in order to win the election. And one of the tricks, of course, is to stop me from being nominated, and especially me, because I happen to be the leader of the opposition,” (Associated Press, op cit)

The outgoing Prime minister Najib is involved in financial fraud.”Hundreds of millions of dollars were paid into the account of Mr. X [PM Najib] “by a Saudi prince described as “mysterious”, and two British Virgin Island companies characterized as “shadowy”:

The revelations about the prime minister’s account are connected to the so-called 1MBD scandal involving Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. The fund has been an utter disaster, “mislaying” some $4 billion in total – and its advisory board is chaired by none other than Najib Razak. (See Mr X, Mondialisation.ca, 2016)

Needless to say, reference to corruption and embezzlement at the highest levels of government is categorized as “fake news” for which you can be arrested.

Mr. X – the codename that has actually been assigned to him at AmBank – has evidently been spared such indignities. The reason is that he is otherwise known as Najib Razak and has been Malaysia’s prime minister since 2009. (Ibid)

Tun Mahathir is leading the opposition in our general elections this coming Wed 9th May. At 92 years old accompanied by Tun Siti, Mahathir is leading a “punishing” campaign trail throughout the country.

Tun M has only one goal – to rid the country of Najib and his cronies, all guilty of unbelievable corruption.

Tun has offered himself as the fall guy but he has succeeded in garnering overwhelming support for his mission despite the blatant cases of payouts by the ruling authorities. He is out everyday- day & night; speaks to crowds till past midnight. And of course his health is being challenged.

By looking at the mammoth support at rallies for him & Pakatan Harapan, we could assume that the opposition will win; but will all this overt support translate into votes on Wed? That is the question!

Please say a prayer for Tun Mahathir and for a better Malaysia.



new report on the economy of Papua New Guinea will reopen the case for the Australian government to be held accountable for the negligent decision to lend AU$500 million taxpayer money to the PNG-LNG project.

Jubilee Australia’s new report, Double or Nothing: The Broken Economic Promises of PNG LNG’, is co-authored by Paul Flanagan and Dr Luke Fletcher. Paul has worked for the Australian government in senior executive positions and with the PNG Treasury where he was Team Leader and Senior Advisor to the SGP Program from February 2011 to August 2013. Luke is the Executive Director of Jubilee Australia.

Summary of findings:

  • Despite predictions of a doubling in the size of the economy, the outcome was a gain of only 10% and all of this focused on the largely foreign-owned resource sector itself;
  • Despite predictions of an 84% increase in household incomes, the outcome was a fall of 6%;
  • Despite predictions of a 42% increase in employment, the outcome was a fall of 27%;
  • Despite predictions of an 85% increase in government expenditure to support better education, health, law and order, and infrastructure, the outcome was a fall of 32%; and
  • Despite predictions of a 58% increase in imports, the outcome was a fall of 73%.

PNG LNG is an Exxon-led project which supplies about 8 million tonnes of LNG a year to Japan, South Korea and China. It is projected to run for 30 years. In 2009, Australia’s Export Credit Agency, Efic lent AU$500 million to Exxon, OilSearch, Santos and the Government of PNG. Efic’s decision was based on advice from DFAT provided to the then-Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, on advice from DFAT. This is the largest loan ever made by Efic.

“In 2008 Australian economics consultants, ACIL-Tasman provided inflated projections of growth in employment, essential services, household income and the broader economyif the PNG LNG project went ahead. This new analysis proves just how misleading these promises were and how PNG has slipped back into the poor policies associated with the resource curse. Currently, on almost all economic indicators, the people of PNG would have been better off had the project not happened at all,’ said Paul Flanagan.

“Australia’s Export Credit Agency, Efic is an agency that is out of control. It has deplorable due diligence and accountability; as a result, it makes decisions like this that not only undermines the livelihood and prosperity of our neighbours in PNG, but also our own nation’s security,” said Dr Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia.

“The Australian government continues to withhold the secret advice that was used by Efic to loan AU$500 million of taxpayers money to Exxon and its project partners.

“In light of this damning new evidence of economic regression, the advice provided to Trade Minister Crean in 2009 which recommended Efic support the PNG LNG project should be released alongside all related risk analysis.

‘‘Exxon and Oil Search should be paying half a billion dollars (AUD) to the PNG government every year, since the gas started to flow in 2014. Instead, they are paying a fraction of this amount, partly because of their use of tax havens in the Netherlands and the Bahamas.

“Unless there is greater accountability on the use of foreign loans and a crack down on the use of tax havens by companies like ExxonMobil and OilSearch, the pattern of Australian governments and corporations causing harm to our region simply to create profits for big business will continue,” concluded Dr Fletcher.

‘Double or Nothing: The Broken Economic Promises of PNG LNG’ is the first of two papers on the PNG-LNG pipeline that has been commissioned by Jubilee Australia. The second paper will discuss the unpaid royalties and development benefits and the escalating violence as a result of the PNG LNG project.

Download the report here.

It has all the elements of a crudely crafted if effective tale: banks and other financial services, founded, proud of their standing in society; financial service providers, with such pride, effectively charging the earth for providing elementary services; then, such entities, with self-assumed omnipotence, cheating, extorting and plundering their clients.

This is the scene in Australia, a country where the bankster and financial con artist have been enthroned for some time, worshipped as fictional job creators and wealth managers for the economy.  Impunity was more or less guaranteed.  All that might be expected would be the odd sacking here and there, the odd removal, the odd fine and limp slap of the wrist. But then came along something the Australian government never wanted: a Royal Commission.

While Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services industry initially promised to be a fizzer, one that risked being stage managed into oblivion by a conservative former High Court justice, the contrary has transpired.  Even in its infancy, it has produced a string of revelations that have sent the financial establishment, and those supporting them, into apoplectic worry.

The Turnbull government, long steadfast in treating Australia’s banking and financial sector like a golden calf, has found itself encircled by misjudgment and error.  Former front bencher Barnaby Joyce had to concede error in arguing against a Royal Commission into the sector.

“I was wrong.  What I have heard is [sic] so far is beyond disturbing.”

Ministers have been more mealy-mouthed, in particular Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer who has given a string of performances featuring stellar denial and evasion.

“Initially,” she told the ABC last Thursday, “the Government said that it didn’t feel that there was enough need for a royal commission.  And we re-evaluated our position and we introduced one.”

Such a view ignores a strain of deep anti-banking suspicion within some conservative circles – notably of the agrarian populist persuasion.  The National rebels George Christensen, Llew O’Brien and Barry O’Sullivan were repeatedly noisy on the subject.  (The unregulated free market sits uneasily with them.)

The undergrowth of abuse has proven extensive and thorny.  Clients, for instance, have been charged services they were never supplied; monitoring systems to ensure that such services were, in fact, being provided, have been absent.  Not even the dead have been spared, with the Commonwealth Bank’s financial business wing knowingly charging fees of the departed.

One revelatory report stretching back to 2012 from Deloitte found the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) particularly egregious on this score.  According to the authors, 1,050 clients were overcharged to the hefty tune of $700,000 for advice never received, as their financial planners had left the business prior to 2012.

At times, the hearings have made for riveting viewing.  Commissioner Hayne found himself in the position of reproaching Marianne Perkovic, head of the CBA’s private bank some three times for hedging responses to Michael Hodge, QC, senior counsel assisting the commission.

“You will get on better if you listen to counsel’s question – if you have to stop and think about the question do it – but listen to counsel’s question and answer what you’re asked.”

Perkovic had remained oblique on the issue of the CBA’s foot dragging – some two years of it, in fact – regarding a failure to inform the Australian Services & Investment Commission (ASIC) on why it did not supply an annual review to financial advice clients of Commonwealth Financial Planning.

Scalps are being gathered; possible jail terms are being suggested; promises of share holder revolts are being made. The most notable of late has been AMP, whose board, after the resignation of chief executive Craig Meller risk a revolt from shareholders at a meeting on May 10.

“At this stage,” announced Australian Council of Superannuation Investors CEO Louise Davidson, “we are thinking of voting against the re-election of the directors.”

This is not the view of Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy firm that maintains the front that caution should be exercised in favour of the three directors in question. Stick by Holly Kramer, Vanessa Wallace and Andrew Harmos – for the moment.

“Given that the Royal Commission is in its early stages,” go the dousing words of the ISS report, “and although information presented thus far would be of concern, it is considered that shareholders may in due course review the findings of the Royal Commission, once presented, and any implications for their votes on directors at the appropriate time.”

It is precisely such attitudes of disbelief, caution and faith that have governed Australia’s financial sector during the course of a religiously praised period of uninterrupted growth.  AMP’s value has been dramatically diminished, losing $4 billion from its market capitalisation.  In naked terms, this constitutes a loss of 24 percent of shareholder value over the course of six weeks. But that is merely one component of this financial nightmare, which has stimulated a certain vengeful nature on the part of shareholders.

What, then, with solutions?  The regulator suggests greater oversight; the legislator suggests more rigid laws of vigilance.  The penologist wishes to see the prisons filled with more white collar criminals.  Yet all in all, Australia’s financial service culture has been characterised by shyness and reluctance on the part of ASIC to force the issue and hold rapacity to account.  Central to such a world is a remorseless drive for profit, one that resists government prying and notions of the public good.

One suggestion with merit has been floated.  It lies deep within structural considerations that will require a return to more traditional operations, ones untainted by the advisory arm of the financial industry.

“Financial institutions,” suggests Allan Fels, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, “must be forced to sell their advisory businesses.  This will remove the unmanageable conflict of interest inherent in banks creating investment products while employing advisers to give purportedly independent recommendations to consumers about their investments.”

Now that would be radical.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

What limits opinions?  Especially by sportspeople, who are often confused for geniuses of the mind and ambassadors of tact outside their very limited field of endeavour.  (Yes, he can dribble a ball with sigh-inducing majesty, so he must know a thing or so about social and intellectual problems.)

The obverse tends to be true.  The sporting personality, presuming it exists, is often incapable of adjusting once off the field. Social media becomes tempting; ranting can become irresistible.  Having viewpoints, certainly shoddy ones, can be a dangerous thing, and the atmosphere for policing such remarks as those made by Australian rugby union player Israel Folau, is very much heated. 

While Gore Vidal never thought there was such a thing as the homosexual per se – there are only instances of behaviour across the spectrum, with preferences coming and going – the stage hands and even players have not always thought so. Locker room homo erotica is not to be described as it is, nor are all the ancillary pointers: the heaving, the sweat, the groping, the engagement, the shower encounter.

The list of controversial statements on homosexuality in sport – as a pejorative, that is – is extensive.  Much of this seems rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding similar to that found in successful armies.  Some of the best fighting forces of history fought and thrived on the issue of man love rather than starved heterosexuality, the Spartans being most famous for it.  Which brings us to certain collective sports which might be seen to be extensions of the same.

From management to player, the homophobe remains keen and prevalent.  Marcello Lippi, for a good stretch coach of the Italian football team, openly admitted in 2009 that openly gay players would never play for the Azzurri. Scandal and distraction would follow. 

The response from the Arcigay association asked of Lippi a fairly sensible question:

“Why, dear Lippi, couldn’t footballers openly experience gay love when they show their flirts with every type of showgirl in front of every TV camera?” 

Players have also been rather happy to shoot from the hip (and mouth) on that score.  The former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway was particularly full on the subject.  

“You know,” he exclaimed on Miami radio in February 2007, “I hate gay people, so I let it be known.  I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people.” 

School book definitions had been mastered:

“I am homophobic.  I don’t like it.  It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”

Israel Folau is but another sprinkling in the annals of dogma.  His response to a question submitted by an Instagram user about what that not-so-good deity had in mind for gay people was tart.  “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”  Pressure followed; the squalls gathered, and still, after some days, Folau held firm.  As has Rugby Australia.

The Australian context was given further spice on the subject of religious freedom, a term often as incoherent as the religious advocates themselves.  But this did not involve cake and gay couples; this was a matter of fiery hell and imminent doom predicted by a self-confessed zealot, albeit it on social media. 

It’s hardly the god bothering that matters so much as the people bothering in the name of god, or some other conjured up fantasy that lodges itself in prejudice.  But was this sports figure, hardly nimble in mind, allowed to express it?

Folau made an attempt to supply context in PlayersVoice, flaunting his sense of erring by claiming he was “a sinner too”.  It would hardly have mattered to his detractors, but here was a man confessing to the literal and the fundamental, a foot soldier who, given a chance, might well slay for the unelected Sky God.

“My response to the question is that to believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10.”

The passage itself oozes the contentment held by the righteous, the idea of who will inherit the Kingdom of God like some over prized bit of real estate. 

“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherent the kingdom of God.”

As with all followers of celestial tyrannies, Folau felt he was doing good, providing appropriate counsel to a misguided wanderer.

“I do not know the person who asked the question, but that did not matter.  I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart.”  

The Bible was the “truth”.  And so, the coda for perfect, corpse sowing extremism is laid bare.

There were some who thought that the rugby figure had simply ballsed up the whole issue of god and the good word, though it came from those churchmen uncomfortable with the evangelised knock-off version of the Bible.  Folau’s critics resorted to visions of catastrophe – for the living.  Albury-based Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller was not one who felt a religious dispensation applied.  

“It becomes an engine for refugees within our own community… to allow this sort of thing to happen is grossly irresponsible and so corrupt.”

The issue with Folau is even less the issue of the literalists and the agnostic symbolists as to whether his Bible-based homophobia impairs his performance.  Focusing on the task at hand, the sport can be played as long as the collective spirit remains.  But then comes the issue of business, something Folau was attuned to. 

In meeting with Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and Waratahs general manager Andrew Horehe acknowledged that both “have to run things in a way that appeals broadly to their executive, fans and sponsors, as well as its players and staff.  It is a business.”  That said, his beliefs would not be tradeable. He would only play as a dogmatic spear carrier of faith.

Fellow players not willing to take to the field with him, be they opponents or from the same team, might suggest possible impediments. But as homosexuality remains the boxed and the unspoken in a range of homoerotic sporting activities (done and not described), Folau might well struggle to find a safe shower.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image: M-69 incendiary tests on Japanese style structures at Dugway Proving Ground. (Source: Standard Oil,Design and Construction of Typical German and Japanese Test Structures at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, 1943. Via JapanAirRaids.org)

This paper explores a previously unexamined context to the firebombing of Japan. Analysis of the decisions leading up to construction and military testing conducted in 1943 at the Japanese Village at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah allows important insights into the evolution of US bombing strategy. The shift in US strategy from precision to carpet bombing, the testing and development of incendiary weaponry, and the institutionalization and rationalization of pursuing civilian targets throughout Japan are considered alongside this untold history. Additionally, a broader appreciation of World War II timelines is suggested.

“The M69/M69X bomb was designed to lodge in the most flammable part of the buildingthe ceiling beams.” – S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Historical Fact Sheet, p. 1

“Initially, it often seemed a home was unaffected, until the windows began to shine from within and then glowed like a paper lantern from a ball of fire that sprouted tentacles that danced out from beneath the eaves to envelope the house until it crumbled inward upon itself.” – Richard B. Frank, describing an M-69 in the Tokyo air raid of March 9-10, 1945, Downfall pp. 7-9

“And, when I saw Japanese Village [at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah], it was burning. It went. It was gone. [It] was built in such a, you know, material, nothing like German Village, it was burnt. It burnt to the ground. All you find out there was a few pieces of wire, or something like that. Maybe some nails. Thats all thats left of Japanese Village.”  – Ethnographic Interviewee [name withheld], employee at Dugway Proving Ground, Interview #4 Transcript, p. 5


Dugway Proving Ground is a U.S. Army post roughly 90 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is located between the Salt Lake Desert and Dugway Valley in Tooele County. The gas station-less road from Salt Lake City to the army post (a site larger than the state of Rhode Island) is unfenced open range filled with wildlife, cattle, blind curves, and vision-impeding hillsides. Isolated more than twenty miles beyond the gate of Dugway Proving Ground lies the remains of German-Japanese Village, where replicas of German and Japanese buildings were constructed, bombed at least 27 times (see Table 1), and rebuilt in order to test incendiaries for use in World War II. Even today special clearance is required to get to what remains of the testing site, and locating it amid the interconnecting labyrinth of seemingly nameless and featureless roadways is difficult even with online maps.2

Geographic isolation aside, the German-Japanese Village project, started in 1943, was the result of a multifaceted effort, the origin, development, operation, implication, and overall significance of which is anything but trivial or simple. Surprisingly, very little, if any, research has been conducted directly about it.3

German-Japanese Village was born of two interwoven developments before and during World War II. The two developments that this paper explores are 1) the doctrinal switch by the Army Air Force from precision to carpet bombing, and 2) the development of incendiary weaponry. This paper will use Japanese Village at Dugway as a lens through which to understand these developments, as well as their historical contexts and implications. Dugway is an understudied and symbolic turning point in this international history. It is neither the first nor the last representative case studying the effects of civilian bombing, nor of incendiary weaponry development, but it is a unique, concrete example of official government endorsement at a critical moment in the evolution of US bombing strategy.4

Japanese Village is rarely referenced directly, and when it is referenced, it is usually as a footnote in a history of some other facet of the American war effort. It is rare to find a book or article that devotes more than a paragraph or two at most to the project (John Dower’s Cultures of War, E. Bartlett Kerr’s Flames Over Tokyo, and Tom Vanderbilt’s Survival City are some notable exceptions). This paper, with its emphasis on international and U.S.-Japanese history, will attempt to consolidate some of those perspectives and historical footnotes.

Aerial view shows the isolated German-Japanese Village site.

A closer aerial photo of German-Japanese Village where the viewing bunker can be seen.

Where (and from whom) did the idea of incendiary carpet-bombing come from? This decision is a good example of rapid change as a result of the U.S. entry in World War II. In fairly short order, US military planners went from little to no knowledge of “the physical processes by which bombs, whether high-explosive or incendiary, caused damage” to strategic incendiary bombing. Upon American entry into the war, the means of testing and measuring the efficacy of what explosives they had was surprisingly crude.5

Dugway Proving Ground’s Japanese Village illustrates the convergence of several interrelated histories. Its context reveals much about the origins and development of U.S. approaches to civilian bombing and total war as linked to weapon development and international historical timelines of the end of World War II.

Laying the Foundation for the German-Japanese Village

Firebombing Japan was not a new concept before Dugway Proving Ground. As Patrick Coffey writes in American Arsenal,

Gen. Billy Mitchell had suggested the possibility of burning Japan’s ‘paper and wood’ cities as early as 1924. In 1939 the Air Corps Tactical School already emphasized, in their instructional courses, Japanese urban vulnerability to incendiaries.By November 1941, George Marshall had threatened to ‘set the paper cities of Japan on fire’ if war came.”7

Such ideas, too, had grown stronger leading up to the war, so much so that the destruction of “industry” had become a kind of institutionalized shorthand for indiscriminate bombing.Near the end of the war American understanding doubled-down on this line of reasoning:

“Noting the Japanese government’s announcement that all men from fifteen to sixty and all women seventeen to forty would be called up for defense…the Fifth Air Force’s intelligence officer declared on July 21 [1945] that … ‘There are no civilians in Japan.”9

Although he didn’t originate the idea, General Curtis LeMay, the commander of Army Air Force operations against Japan, summed up American rationalization of carpet-bombing in his succinctly blunt manner in his memoirs:

No matter how you slice it, you’re going to kill an awful lot of civilians. Thousands and thousands. But if you don’t destroy the Japanese industry, we’re going to have to invade Japan. … Do you want to kill Japanese or would you rather have Americans killed?10

The striking imbalance of technological power between the U.S. and Japan is exemplified in the work undergone at Dugway. Compared to the “thousands and thousands” LeMay references as being killed in the American air raids on Japan (a low estimate), the incendiaries developed simultaneously with a crude Japanese aerial campaign that quite literally involved firebombs attached to balloons and set off haphazardly across the Pacific Ocean. In May 1945, these firebombs killed six people in south-central Oregon—“the only mainland civilian American casualties of World War II.”11 The effect of the U.S. employing such dramatic power was as much militaristic and economic as it was psychological, as David M. Kennedy writes in The Origins and Uses of American Hyperpower.12 Japanese sources, too, it seems, had “anticipat[ed] the events to follow.” As Mark Selden observes in A Forgotten Holocaust:

The most important way in which World War II shaped the moral and technological tenor of mass destruction was the erosion in the course of war of the stigma associated with the systematic targeting of civilian populations from the air, and elimination of the constraints, which for some years had restrained certain air powers from area bombing.13

Nonetheless, it is wrong to think that the US military was committed to carpet-bombing as a tactic or as a policy at the outset of the war. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Roosevelt, in a 1939 appeal, called civilian bombing “inhuman barbarism.”14 By 1943 however, Roosevelt’s opinion had abruptly changed, commending rather than condemning the firebombing of Hamburg as an “‘impressive demonstration’ of what America might achieve against Japan.”15 By that time German-Japanese Village experimentation was already underway in Utah. Furthermore, in a grimly ironic way, the machines most responsible for the implementation of civilian air bombing (the B-29s) were initially “designed with precision bombing in mind.”16

Why the shift in bombing approaches? Partially, the answer lies in the rigidity of Army Air Force policy and mindsets inherited from World War I. “Throughout the interwar years American airmen had no incentive to develop an incendiary weapon” due to their already established emphasis on precision bombing.17 Between 1939 and 1941 the British Air Force, as a result of consistently ineffective daylight precision bombing attempts, as well as the newly introduced goal of “breaking down of German morale,” shifted their tactics to area-bombing.18 Despite pressure from Britain, early on the U.S. Army Air Force clung to the “precision doctrine.” According to Lynn Eden in Whole World on Fire, they did this for a multitude of reasons, among them: 1) the (overly) ambitious and visionary nature of the concept; 2) fear of domestic and political backlash as a result of mass civilian bombing; 3) early legislation theoretically restricting the Army Air Force to a defensive role in war; and, perhaps most importantly 4) existing planning, training, and equipment were already oriented for precision—not area—bombing.19

Air Force notions about the accuracy of aerial bombardment turned out to be appreciably overestimated. By at least one account of World War II, of the bombs dropped using technology intended for precision raids, only 5% fell within even one mile of their targets.20 Other early reports state that only one bomb in five landed within a five-mile radius of its target.21

“The main difficulties arose,” as John Kreis writes in Piercing the Fog, “from a combination of crew inexperience, operating the aircraft at extreme range limits, and, worst of all, atmospheric conditions over the targets.”22

US attempts to respond to these complications, as we will see, can be traced to Dugway and German-Japanese Village. By the end of World War II, it seems fair to say that Japan, more than most (perhaps any) country suffered the consequences of total war (warfare that considers civilian targets legitimate), and in the history of total war with Japan, Dugway is an undeniable, understudied stepping stone. Although precision bombing continued in the ensuing years, the testing done at Dugway made a substantial impact on modifying prewar bombing doctrines.

We can better understand the context leading to German-Japanese Village by looking at the history of U.S. incendiary development. E. Bartlett Kerr organizes these developments succinctly in Flames Over Tokyo. It wasn’t until 1940 that the Air Corps acquired its first incendiary bomb, the M-47. In 1941 the U.S. got its second incendiary bomb, a British innovation referred to as the M-50. In 1942 the U.S. developed the M-69 incendiary bomb that would be most utilized in the firebombing of Japan near the end of the war.23

Material limitations played a key role in defining incendiary development. For example, rubber was an essential part of the first US incendiary bomb, the M-47. This incendiary device relied on predominantly rubber and gasoline, but shortly after the onset of the war, in 1940, the U.S. was cut off from international rubber supplies. Sensing an opportunity, the Standard Oil Development Company of New Jersey (the same company that would have a large part in making Japanese Village at Dugway a reality), headed by chemist Robert Russell, “observed this expanding market [for development] with great interest.”24 The second incendiary available to the U.S., the M-50, was adopted from Britain’s Air Force in 1941. This weapon, which had also been used by the Germans, relied on magnesium. Henry Arnold, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces spurred on by similar shortages in magnesium, pushed for “development of incendiary munitions which were to be at least as effective as the German Kilo magnesium bomb and readily capable of mass production…”25

By late 1941, The National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), an organization that focused on scientific development for national security purposes, and the Chemical Warfare Service, a branch of the U.S. Army charged with development and testing o f chemical weaponry, as well as the Army Air Force, had seen the writing on the wall: rubber and magnesium sources in the Pacific, threatened by the Japanese, might soon come to an end as well.26 Before that, though, scientists and engineers had organized under the guidance of the newly created NDRC: by October, 1940, in light of incendiary developments in Europe and an increasing threat from Japan, a meeting was held at Harvard University. In attendance were the president of MIT, the president of Harvard, as well as an MIT chemical engineer Hoyt C. Hottel and Harvard organic chemist Louis Fieser (both of whom were to become important to the developments at Dugway Proving Ground), and Robert Russell, the president of Standard Oil Development Company.27

The program to develop a reasonable incendiary alternative was formalized by the Chemical Warfare Service in late 1941. Louis Fieser headed the Harvard group in an attempt to solve this problem, and the NDRC paired with Standard Oil to facilitate development.28

Hoyt C. Hottel, an MIT graduate in chemical engineering, during the war became Section Chief on Fire Warfare for the NDRC. Hottel, a very important figure in the field of fire research during and after World War II, was associated with Standard Oil even before the October 1940 meeting. Prior to Pearl Harbor, he was already engaged in developing flamethrower technology that would also be tested at Dugway for use against Japanese cave fortifications. In an interview with the Chemical Heritage Foundation some years later, Hottel provided a clear explanation about the timeframe leading up to war:

“Come 1939, a lot of people thought that the war was something we’d be in sooner or later and our state of preparedness was poor.”29

Similarly, Louis Fieser, an organic chemist and professor emeritus at Harvard, soon to be known as the inventor of napalm, was also drawn to the field of incendiary development. By summer 1941, he had been drafted by the NDRC (much to his chagrin) and ordered to “terminate work on explosives and to work instead on poison gases, vesicants.”30 Fieser considered this shift to toxic gas inhumane.31 The toxic gas program was eventually delayed, and Fieser, in the interim, started thinking about a gelled-fuel incendiary in earnest. This was the genesis of napalm.32 Subsequently, he headed the Harvard group of scientists charged with developing an alternative incendiary thickener.

The means of testing incendiary efficiency were in their infancy. Standard Oil initially tested their prototype incendiary bombs “against specially designed targets simulating attics.” These A-frame attics were essentially, as Hottel put it, “two-by-fours forming the frame and a few boards laid over them and on the floor.” Even before Standard Oil had begun their testing, however, Fieser had been “building small wood structures and putting thickened fuels under them.”

By 1942 the incendiary bombs were available “in sufficient quantities for airborne testing.”33 The question remaining was: what was the best formula for the M-69? Among the groups involved, three formulas for incendiary munitions became dominant: Standard Oil’s Formula 122—nicknamed “applesauce” for its appearance; Fieser’s jellied gasoline called napalm (a word originating from its chemical components: naphthenate and palmitate); and an alternative developed by the Du Pont incendiary program called the IM-gel (short for isobutyl methacrylate).34

It was decided that airborne tests were necessary by Standard Oil and the NDRC operating under the Chemical Warfare Service, and so large-scale tests were set up at Jefferson Proving Ground in Indiana from July 11th to the 21st, 1942.35 For the scientists, this test was also to determine which of the three formulas to use for filling the new bombs. This was the first airborne test on appropriately sized targets and it entailed the bombing of condemned buildings such as “a deconsecrated Catholic church, some stores, a banker’s home, some chicken coops, pig pens, rail fences” among other structures.36 In these tests, B-25s and dive-bombers dropped the bombs and a group representing NDRC (including Hottel) judged the results.37

Firsthand accounts of both Fieser and Hottel reveal the development of a bitter rivalry among the groups of scientists. In the end, Du Pont’s IM-gel incendiary received the highest ranking, with Fieser’s napalm a close second. The IM-gel, however, was subsequently judged inferior due to problems with transport.38 Standard Oil’s “applesauce” was also soon forgotten, and Fieser’s napalm became the weapon of choice.39

In September, 1942, Standard Oil’s Robert Russell responded to concurrent German and English incendiary raids as well as results at the Jefferson Proving Ground tests by saying “the possibilities inherent in incendiary bombing have greatly brightened in recent months. The mass raid has made its first appearance; its practicality as a destructive offense is now clear. Better and better incendiaries are becoming available—though not yet in full production…”40 The results of the tests were still, however, considered preliminary, according to the Office of Scientific Research and Development’s book Chemistry: A History of the Chemistry Components of the National Defense Research Committee 1940-1946: “Although the Jefferson [Indiana] tests added to the knowledge of functioning of the bombs in an airborne attack, the nonrepresentative character of the target led to some question as to the significance of the results.”41

Therefore, in the overall historical trajectory leading to civilian fire-bombing in Japan, there were three important developments: 1) weaponry development testing had indicated the beginning of a shift away from reliance on precision bombing; 2) substantial progress had been made towards selecting and testing new incendiary devices; and 3) representative testing that would come to define Army Air Force policy and tactics was deemed necessary.

Dugway Proving Ground’s German-Japanese Village

Things began to happen very quickly in the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Dugway Proving Ground was no exception. On December 8th, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. On the 3rd of January 1942, Major General William N. Porter, the chief of the Army Chemical Warfare Service, sent Major John R. Burns to Salt Lake City to “investigate the possibilities of a testing ground in Utah.”42 Once there, Major Burns met with the Army’s district engineer and Chief Quartermaster Elmer Gwyn Thomas and began making plans for a site “anywhere on the desert.”43

When the survey was completed, Major Burns submitted his report to General Porter and by no later than January 14th, 1942, the Chemical Warfare Service requested the President to secure the 126,720 acres of land Thomas and Major Burns had selected.44 On February 6th, 1942, a mere two months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt withdrew the initial acres in Tooele County, Utah from the public domain for use by the War Department (Executive Order 9053). By April the President added an additional 138,180 acres; completing the site the government also purchased land from private owners and the State of Utah in early 1942.45 Dugway Proving Ground, commanded by Major Burns, was officially established on March 1, 1942.46

The initial construction of Dugway Proving Ground was disrupted by the logistics of putting together such a large operation in such an unforgiving topography. Nonetheless, by April 1, roads were paved and general construction of the army depot had started.47 Dugway Proving Ground had been chosen as the site for building representative German and Japanese structures because of frequent days of clear visibility.48 An even more immediate reason for choosing Utah was that Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, the other potential site for the village, “offered little room for further development or field testing.”49

Planning for the structures began in February, 1943.50 Between March 12th and 18th, 1943, the Chemical Warfare Service Technical Division contracted Standard Oil to create full-scale representative test structures at Dugway Proving Ground.51 Under the auspices of Fieser’s Harvard group, Hottel and the NDRC, the Chemical Warfare Service, and Standard Oil, a meeting was set in March 1943 in Elizabeth, New Jersey to consult leading architects. Among the architects were Eric Mendelsohn (who would design German Village) and Antonin Raymond (who would design Japanese Village).

Mendelsohn’s correspondence and archives have left no first-hand accounts of his involvement with German-Japanese Village, but more studies have been done of German Village.52 Several biographies of Mendelsohn make no mention of his wartime involvement. The reverse seems to be true of Antonin Raymond. Although he spoke about his work at Dugway in his autobiography, “official” records provide little detail about the Japanese Village.

In the interwar years, Raymond had designed the Standard Oil Company of New York’s headquarters and staff housing in Yokohama, Japan. This connection, his availability, and his lengthy history in Japan made him the logical choice as architect for the Japanese Village at Dugway.53

Only 10 days after being contracted to create the German-Japanese Villages, on March 28th, 1943, Standard Oil broke ground on the construction project.54 Over $530,000 was allotted for the German-Japanese Village, but actual costs ran over one million dollars. Furthermore, “due to the urgency of the project, the contractor was able to recruit prisoners from Utah jails to work with the craftsmen.” By May 11th, 1943, just 44 days after construction began, both German Village and Japanese Village were completed.55

Blueprint of German-Japanese Village compiled by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record.

Workers utilize traditional Japanese architectural styles in the Utah Desert, 1943.

All in all, 12 Japanese double-dwellings consisting of 24 tenement-style residences and 6 German apartments were constructed. These structures were designed, according to Standard Oil, to represent living quarters in Japanese industrial districts. No structure meant to represent industrial facilities was built. Emphasis was exclusively on civilian populations.

An array of different roofing styles was utilized for comprehensive penetration testing. Additionally, authentic design, construction methods, materials, and furnishings were also considered. Forty-foot wide firebreaks and firewalls were constructed to protect the structures.56

Significant care went into construction and development. Narrow roads were built between the Japanese structures to represent the congestion in urban centers of Japan. The percentage of roof-area coverage was modeled after the “large industrial centers” listed as: Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, and Osaka. The resulting fire-bombings, however, would extend far beyond this initial list. More impressively, the “usual American stud-frame type” construction was done away with in favor of the traditional and “complicated keyed or mortised joints” of typical Japanese structures. It is a testament to the surreal underpinnings of this project to imagine prisoners from Utah carefully reconstructing unfamiliar and complicated Japanese architectural styles. Authentic shoji and fusuma screens and panels were also produced. Appropriately comparable wood was carefully selected and even dried to represent typical moisture content in Japan.

The cultural “sensitivity” of this project did not end there.57 According to the official Standard Oil report, for the purpose of accurately measuring flammability, furnishings provided included: tansu (storage chests), futon (bedding), zabuton (sitting cushions), hibachi (stoves/braziers), low tables, and radios. The report further reflects such cultural nuances as the placement of shoe storage in the hallways since shoes are not worn in the house in Japan, and recognition that futon are stored in the closets during the daytime. Additionally, tests were conducted with the amado shutters open (in daytime) and closed (at night) to measure the different effects. As a testament to the quality of the furnishings, one of the soldiers who was stationed at Dugway later stated that he and his friends stole the futon sleeping mats from the Japanese Village for furnishing their own apartments. The most notable inclusion on the list, however, is tatami(straw floor mats).

Interior furnishings of Japanese Village structures.

Tatami mats were considered vital, because tatami, more than any other element of furnishings, affected the way bombs penetrated the floors. 58 At Standard Oil’s insistence a factory was set up to produce facsimile mats; further, “without military orders and without any evidence,” a tremendous surplus of tatami were “acquired” from Japanese-American homes, temples, stores, and clubs in Hawaii.59 (The “typical” furnishing of the German structures, in comparison, is somewhat more disturbing in its blunt acceptance of the civilian nature of the project: reports not only included beds, closets, sofas, and dining sets, but also cribs.)60

With the villages constructed and furnished, initial testing of the incendiary weaponry began on May 17th, and ended on July 16th, 1943, but additional tests were conducted into 1944 to refine the M-69 into cluster bombs.61 In total, the structures were destroyed and completely rebuilt at least three or four times.62 Parts, when applicable, were cannibalized and reused.63

Planes dropped a variety of bombs on the structures, including the M-50 and M-52 thermite-based bomb, as well as the M-69 napalm-based bombs. Although attempts were made for high altitude bombing, according to Hottel’s firsthand accounts, these approaches proved fruitless and were abandoned in favor of low-altitude testing at approximately 5,000 feet.64 Additionally, some tests were not conducted by plane but utilized tall scaffolding and utility poles, as one employee recalled.65 Compared to other sites running tests on simulated structures, Dugway had a slightly different approach that skewed the results compared with those of other groups.

According to one British Intelligence report, at Dugway, the emphasis was on the speed with which fires could be extinguished; at the other sites emphasis was placed on how well fires could be started. In other words, at Dugway, “hits” were almost guaranteed, but elsewhere the landing of the incendiary was not definite.66 Reviews of Dugway Proving Ground’s efforts by the Military Intelligence Division of Great Britain in late 1943 showed great reservation about adopting the M-69 against Germany and that more tests would have to be done to prove their worth in the European theater. Regarding using M-69’s in Japan, however, the Military Intelligence Division had this to say about the Dugway results:

There is no doubt that for attack in Japanese and other Far Eastern targets the M.69 bomb in a satisfactory projectile cluster would be more suitable than the 4-lb. incendiary bomb, and that if attacks on forests or crops from medium or high altitude were again to become requirement this bomb should be at least as effective as anything used hereto.67

Results were categorized in three ways:

“any fire beyond control of the well-trained and properly equipped fire guards in 6 minutes was classified an A fire; a fire which was ultimately destructive if unattended was a B fire; and a fire judged nondestructive was a C fire.”

The M-69 produced 37% A fires in German structures and 68% in the Japanese structures, and was judged overall to be the best. (In both cases, the other bombs produced no A fires.) As a result, plans for using the bomb on Japan were drawn up by the Army Air Force as early as the fall of 1943.68 Tables 1, 2, and 3 summarize comparative data from the UK and US testing, and show how Dugway’s testing could have been readily interpreted as the most effective.

The completed German-Japanese Village.

Incendiary testing on Japanese Village.

Spectators view the incendiary testing on Japanese Village.

Ultimately the testing erased most of the German-Japanese village. As described by Hottel at a Fire Research Conference in 1983, a large portion of Japanese village met its demise at the hand of a surveyor who waited too long to give the signal for extinguishment. Sometime thereafter, a large portion of German-Japanese Village burned down, consuming the Japanese Village in its entirety. The only remnants of Japanese Village are a few charred but repurposed rafter beams in the two German Village structures left standing today.69 Workers at the time said now there’s “nothing there other than some…scraps.” Judging by several interviews with Dugway employees, it seems clear that Japanese Village existed until at least 1950, but was gone by 1952, and that when it did burn down “it burned down so fast and so hot that…they couldn’t contain it.”70

The Ramifications of German-Japanese Village

The tests at Dugway Proving Ground’s German-Japanese Village directly impacted the war. Before the testing had even finished in late 1943, the NDRC is quoted as writing

“it might be worthwhile getting some thought started along these lines in General Staff circles in advance of the tests [at Dugway], so that quicker action can be taken if the tests give confirmation to the fire-raising possibilities.”71

By November 1943 requirements had been “revised sharply upward” for incendiary production.72 And “by the end of the war” as James Baxter writes in Scientists Against Time,

“approximately 30,000,000 M-69 bombs had been produced.”

In March, 1944, 20 tons of M-69 bombs were dropped on Japanese-occupied Ponape (Pohnpei) Island, but it wasn’t until December 13th or 22nd, 1944 that the first M-69 was dropped on Japan in Nagoya. On December 18th, 1944, however, 511 tons of M-69 bombs were used in China at Hankow (modern Wuhan) under the explicit directions of General LeMay (who at the time was in charge of air operations in China and India). LeMay, as quoted in Robert Neer’s excellent work Napalm, An American Biography, said

“everything which was hit burned like crazy. And I think there was a vast similarity to the type of construction in Japan.”73 

After taking over air operations for Japan, but before the Great Tokyo Air Raid on March 9-10, 1945, LeMay had already dropped over 600 tons of incendiary devices on Japan.74

While LeMay definitively put the firebombing concepts to use, Dugway Proving Ground’s tests at German and Japanese Village impacted his decisions. The M-47 incendiaries were also included in the March 9-10th Tokyo firebombing, but these were meant to be the initial bombs that marked targets for the B-29s hauling their immense loads of M-69s. As demonstrated definitively at Dugway, planes flying at night at altitudes between five and ten thousand feet, and dropping M-69 incendiary bombs for maximum impact, were highly effective.75

Two thousand tons of predominantly M-69 bombs were dropped in the March 9-10 Tokyo air raid. The flames were said to be visible over 150 miles away, almost 16 square miles (or 267,000 buildings) were razed, and even the most conservative estimates put deaths at over 83,000.

“The violence of the firestorm…on Japan,” as John Dower writes in Cultures of War, “was not replicated until Hiroshima five months later.”76

In addition to raids on major cities, between the 17th of June and the 14th of August, 1945 as many as 60 incendiary missions were launched against major cities in Japan.77

Patrick Eckman, a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City, was the first allowed in to see and report on the German-Japanese Village project. Coincidentally, his article was published on the same day as the Tokyo firebombing: March 10th, 1945. In his article, titled Dugway Mystery Depot to Continue Test Work, he refers to the German housing, not as German but as Nazi Villages, and he details the supreme secrecy of the project: those stationed at Dugway were not allowed to write home, he says, and even the highest ranking officers needed special clearance to visit the construction site.

Instead of architects, Eckman refers to “private construction engineers” who spent years “in the enemy territories” but “managed to return to the United States before the outbreak of war,” and instead of Japanese apartments, he refers to “pagoda-type” structures. Compared to the M-69, which Eckman acknowledges as the most effective incendiary weaponry developed at Dugway, other weapons “provoked a cry of ‘inhumanity’ from the Japanese.” The test site, unlike its enemy counterpoint, is, here, painted as something glorious, which “rise[s] invincibly from its own ashes like the famous fabulous phoenix—a feat which its prototypes could not duplicate.”78

How are we to assess these comments. Are we to understand that, to Eckman, the M-69 is somehow more merciful than other incendiaries, which prompted such cries of inhumanity? And are we then, also, to understand Dugway’s German-Japanese Village as something “invincible,” “famous,” “glorious,” and “fabulous,” unlike the houses bombed in Japan? These incongruous conclusions are a testament to a common paradoxical logic of the time. Such reasoning was utilized to both glorify American technological advancements and to justify civilian bombing in Japan.

In spite of the dispassionate tone of the testing, the human implications of the German-Japanese Village project was not lost on everyone involved with the project. Raymond, the architect of Japanese Village, said of the construction:

“It certainly was not an easy task for me and my wife to be instrumental in devising means of defeating Japan. In spite of my love for Japan, I came to the conclusion that the quickest way to terminate this war was to defeat Germany and Japan as quickly and as effectively as possible.”

Yet Raymond admits in his autobiography to looking down his nose at the lack of cultural understanding in the contemporaneous British designs meant also to simulate Japanese dwellings, saying

“I immediately saw that the designer had never been to Japan.”79

Professor Ken Oshima of the University of Washington writes about Raymond in his dissertation Constructed Natures of Modern Architecture in Japan, portraying the architect as a tragic and conflicted figure who could not escape the gravitational pull of the war.80 Aome biographical texts about Raymond go so far as to see the experience at Dugway as somehow artistically transformative.81

Encountering difficulty in getting to Japan immediately after the war, Raymond contacted General MacArthur directly “telling him I would like to return to Japan and help in my capacity as an architect-engineer.” Raymond received a direct reply from MacArthur urging him to come posthaste to help with civil engineering projects. In an ironic twist, Raymond noted that “there was nothing left but twisted steel and broken concrete” of the centers he had helped to create for Standard Oil in Yokohama. Soon after he personally received approval from MacArthur for rapid development of industrial projects in order to rebuild Japan.82

Workers who encountered Japanese Village, when asked to describe any unique experiences at the site, said “well, I guess being an American, the whole thing was strange.”83 Employees called it “a rather unique place” and “spooky,” and described the various ways, after the war, that the structures had been reused: as an artillery range, machinery storage, a pigeon roost (for testing nerve gas), mannequin storage, and even as a small-scale laboratory. Some of the only tangible history remaining of those people involved are in the form of graffiti in the observation bunker outside of the testing site and carved into the concrete where the water tower used to be. Some who had been there, less impressed, described Japanese Village as “some wooden structure, is all it was.”84 None acknowledged or seemed aware of Dugway’s place in establishing American bombing policies or the resulting firebombing of Japan.

Undoubtedly the most colorful (and perhaps slightly exaggerated) account of the events at Dugway Proving Ground come in the form of Jack Couffer’s (autobiographical) book Bat Bomb: World War IIs Other Secret Weapon. Couffer, who served in the army in 1943, recounts the strange story of the development of a bat-based incendiary device (also tested at Dugway), but, most importantly for the purpose of this research, he describes German and Japanese Village, as well as its emotional impact on him, in detail. As one of the most vivid accounts, I reproduced some of Couffer’s observations on German and Japanese village here:

Far out in a remote area of the Proving Ground two remarkable installations had been constructed, simulated Japanese and German villages. . . .The sterile towns stood several miles apart on the otherwise empty Utah plain, like abandoned movie sets picturing the aftermath of a devastating plague. Dust-devils swirled through the powdery lanes, curling high into the blue sky, and tumbleweeds rolled past the empty doors—as if the art director had made a mistake and built an old western ghost town with the wrong kind of houses…

Casting aside that mental picture it was easy to imagine without emotional involvement the torching of this sterile village, which resembled nothing so much as a museum model in full scale. But when again I saw in my mind’s eye the town as it really would be, my flesh crawled. I was very glad I was seeing it in this way, without people. I could watch our little incendiaries do their dirty work without hearing the screams, the cries of pain, the yells of hysteria, the clanging of the fire carts, the roar of burning paper and wood, the sobs of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters.85

Nonetheless, such emotional recounting points to Dugway and German-Japanese Village’s place in memory and culture. Couffer’s somewhat theatrical metaphor is not misplaced here, because Hollywood prop developers were contracted for the furnishings of the projects.86 It is impossible to say with any certainty, of course, but perhaps this extended notion of theatricality helped workers and scientists to rationalize their actions.

The secrecy and surreal nature of the German and Japanese Village projects have doubtless contributed to Dugway’s strange place within a limited cultural consciousness. As evidenced by a 2013 work of fiction called The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, which tells the story of Anton Reynolds [sic] and his conflicted architectural work on Japanese Village, the dramatic nature of this history seems to point to Dugway as occupying some unique space in understanding between fact and fiction. For example, searches for Dugway Proving Ground on the internet yield numerous videos and reports riddled with theories that treat Dugway as a conspiratorial equivalent to Area 51, the highly classified remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base within the Nevada Test and Training Range.

In modern times, anthrax scares, failed crashing space satellites, mass, unexplained livestock death, and some of the world’s largest non-nuclear explosion testing have exacerbated and compounded this popular (mis)understanding.87 Nonetheless, little association is commonly made between Dugway and the tremendous impact it had on Japan or on the Army Air Force policies America would continue to utilize well beyond World War II.


In terms of popular understanding of war in the Pacific and the end of World War II, Dugway demands a place in history. The many factors, organizations, people, agendas, and developments contributing to the efforts make Japanese Village an important nexus point in international history. As Marine Guillaume makes clear in Napalm in US Bombing Doctrine and Practice, 1942-1975, tracing the “historiography of bombing can be enriched by the historiography of the weapons deployed.”88

In many timelines of U.S.-Japan history, it seems that an imaginary clock starts ticking on March 9th, 1945 with LeMay’s firebombing of Tokyo and then abruptly and forever stops five months later with the bombing of Hiroshima.89 However, the Dugway Proving Ground history more accurately sets that clock’s starting point back several years, at least to early 1943 when testing at Japanese Village began. Similarly, the commonly held notion of LeMay’s great “innovations” in low altitude use of napalm in the Tokyo firebombing and subsequent raids throughout Japan should likely be recast and shown to have originated at Dugway years before the general took command of the Army Air Force operations against Japan.

It is true that Dugway has a relatively small place within World War II timelines. It is also true that the minimal awareness of Dugway’s Japanese Village, its history and implications, seems to have faded further over time. Moreover, any history involving air raids in Japan will necessarily have to share its attention with predominant memories and understandings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and their horrors. Yet that shouldn’t mean the importance of events like those at Dugway Proving Ground deserve any less attention. This is a point Mark Selden articulates in his work, Forgotten Holocaust:

“the US destruction of more than sixty Japanese cities prior to Hiroshima has been slighted both in the scholarly literatures in English and Japanese and in popular consciousness in both Japan and the US.”90

Based on this preliminary understanding of Japanese Village at Dugway Proving Ground, it is clear that a recasting of popular consciousness of the history of American bombing is warranted. As my research to date makes evident, there are further avenues of this subject yet unexplored, but its inclusion in various histories would better contextualize understanding both of the firebombing of Japan and the US military approach to civilian bombing as inextricably linked to weaponry development.

The paradoxical nature of a situation notable both for impressive cultural sensitivities as in the architecture of Japanese village, juxtaposed with an unwavering commitment to civilian bombing—warrants further research. Today, Japanese Village is gone, and in spite of several attempts to add German Village to the National Register of Historic Places, the applications have been rejected and, consequent to a lack of funds, have allowed the site and the few remaining artifacts to deteriorate and to remain inaccessible.91

With the limited available documentation and the physical record of the Japanese Village gone forever, the curtain seems to have fallen, as it were, in the remote recesses of the Utah Desert. Perhaps it is appropriate that the project’s history and far-reaching implications are now left to the researchers who, working in the shadows of the extensive histories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, strive to document the complete story of this significant but little studied moment in international history.


Dylan J. Plung graduated from Whitman College with a degree in Asian Studies, and is currently a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies with a focus on Japan Studies. He can be contacted at [email protected].


Arrington, Leonard J, and Thomas G Alexander. “Utah Historical Quarterly.” Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 32, no. 1, 1964, pp. 32–43. Winter.

Baxter, James P. Scientists against Time. Little, Brown, 1950.

Blanthorn, Ouida. A History of Tooele County. 1998.

Bohning, James J, and Hoyt C. Hottel. “Transcript of Interviews: 18 November and 2 December 1985.” Chemical Heritage Foundation.

Brophy, Leo P, and George J. B. Fisher. The Chemical Warfare Service: Organizing for War (United States Army in World War II. Center for Military History, 1989.

Brophy, Leo P., et al. The Chemical Warfare Service: from Laboratory to Field. Center of Military History. U.S. Army, 1959.

Brown, Matthew. “Dugway Takes Steps to Improve Its Image.” Deseret News, 7 Apr. 2006.

Cochrane, Rexmond C. The First Hundred Years 1863-1963: the National Academy of Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, 1978.

Coffey, Patrick. American Arsenal: a Century of Waging War. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Cohen, Jean-Louis. Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War. Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2011.

Couffer, Jack. Bat Bomb: World War II’s Other Secret Weapon. Univ. of Texas Press, 1992.

Crane, Conrad C. American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, and Civilians. University Press of Kansas, 1993.

Craven, Wesley Frank, and James Lea Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II – Volume V: Matterhorn to Nagasaki: June 1944 to August 1945. University of Chicago Press. 1953.

Davidson, Lee. “’German Village’ May Soon Crumble.” Deseret News, 7 Apr. 2006.

Davidson, Lee. “What Inspired Dugway N-Test Stories?” Deseret News, 9 Apr. 1995.

Davis, Mike. Dead Cities and Other Tales. The New Press, 2002.

Dower, John W. Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq. W.W. Norton, 2010.

Eckman, Patrick R. “Dugway Mystery Depot to Continue Test Work.” The Telegram, 10 Mar. 1945. Reproduced in U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground “The Dispatch” Newsletter (April 2017, Volume 3, Number 4A). Page 3.

Eden, Lynn. Whole World on Fire: Organizations, Knowledge, and Nuclear Weapons Devastation. Cornell University Press, 2006.

EM-Assist. “Ethnographic Interview Transcription.” German Village Interactive Experience, Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Interview #1-#8

Fieser, Louis F. The Scientific Method: A Personal Account of Unusual Projects in War and in Peace. Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1964.

Frank, Richard B. Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. Penguin Books, 2001.

Guillaume, Marine. “Napalm in US Bombing Doctrine and Practice, 1942-1975.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, vol. 14, no. 23, 1 Dec. 2016.

Helfrich, Kurt Gerard Frederick., and William Whitaker. Crafting a Modern World: the Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond. University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, 2007.

Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service. “HAER No. UT-35: Written Historical and Descriptive Data: Dugway Proving Ground.”

Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service. “HAER No. UT-92-A: Written Historical and Descriptive Data: Dugway Proving Ground.”

“History.” Dugway Proving Ground.

Hottel, Hoyt C. “Stimulation of Fire Research in the United States After 1940 (A Historical Account).” Fire Research Conference. 1983, Washington D.C., Washington D.C.

Kennedy, David M. “The Origins and Uses of American Hyperpower.” The Short American Century, edited by Andrew J. Bacevich, Harvard University Press, 2012.

Kerr, E. B. Flames over Tokyo: the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Incendiary Campaign against Japan. Fine, 1991.

Kreis, John F. Piercing the Fog: Intelligence and Army Air Forces Operations in World War II. University Press of the Pacific, 2004.

Llewellyn, H. M., and Military Intelligence Division, Great Britain. “Comparison of the Japanese Targets and Test Results at the Building Research Station, Edgewood Arsenal, and Dugway Proving Ground.” 29 June 1945. ETF 550 E-4953

MacFarland, Stephen L. America’s Pursuit of Precision Bombing: 1910-1945. Smithsonian Inst. Press, 1995.

Military Intelligence Division, Great Britain. “Dropping Trials of Incendiary Bombs Against Representative Structures at Dugway, U.S.A.” ETF 550 E-2844

MSNBC Staff. “Genesis Space Capsule Crashes.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 9 Sept. 2004.

Neer, Robert M. “Napalm, An American Biography.” Columbia University, 2011.

Noyes, W. A. Chemistry: a History of the Chemistry Components of the National Defense Research Committee 1940-1946. Little, Brown and Company, 1948.

Oshima, Ken Tadashi. “Constructed Natures of Modern Architecture in Japan 1920-1940: Yamada Mamoru, Horiguchi Sutemi, and Antonin Raymond.” Columbia University, 2003.

Popple, Charles S. Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in World War II. 1952.

Preusz, Jared. “Mislabeled Vial of Nerve Agent Responsible for Dugway Lockdown.” FOX13 News.

Raymond, Antonin. An Autobiography. Tuttle, 1973.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. “An Appeal to Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland to Refrain from Air Bombing of Civilians.” 1 Sept. 1939.

Ross, Stewart Halsey. Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II: the Myths and the Facts. McFarland & Co, 2003.

Schaffer, Ronald. Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in WWII. Oxford Univ. Press, 1985.

Selden, Mark. “A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities & the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, vol. 5, no. 5, 2 May 2007

Sherry, Michael S. The Rise of American Air Power: the Creation of Armageddon. University of Pennsylvania Pr., 2006.

Standard Oil Development Company. “Design and Construction of Typical German and Japanese Structures at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.” 1943.

Stevenson, E. P. “Incendiary Bombs.” Chemistry: a History of the Chemistry Components of the National Defense Research Committee 1940-1946, edited by Noyes.

Thomas, Elmer Gwyn. “Memoirs of Elmer Gwyn Thomas.”

U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah. Dugway Proving Ground Newcomer and Visitor GuideDugway Proving Ground Newcomer and Visitor Guide.

U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah. Historical Testing: German & Japanese Villages Fact SheetHistorical Testing: German & Japanese Villages Fact Sheet, Dugway Public Affairs Office.

Werrell, Kenneth P. Blankets of Fire: U.S. Bombers over Japan during World War II. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996.


Special thanks must be given to Professor Kenneth B. Pyle for sparking my interest in this topic and in helping me to initially pursue it. Additional major thanks to Professor Mark Metzler for his invaluable guidance in turning this paper into what it is now. Credit is also due to Professor Ken Tadashi Oshima for helping me track down more information about the architect of Japanese Village, and to Cary Karacas for his editorial feedback. Lastly, sincere thanks are due to my father for his encouragement and detailed guidance, as well as to the rest of my family and friends for their support.

Alexander Arrington. Sentinels on the Desert. Utah Historical Quarterly: Winter 1964, Vol. 32, No. 1. 34. Dugway Proving Ground, U.S. Army. Newcomer and Visitor Guide. 3-11. Similar simulations on Japanese-type structures were also constructed slightly later at Eglin Field in Florida.

This is also true of Japanese Village

The official German-Japanese Villages Fact Sheet, as well as Blanthorn

Lynn Eden. Whole World on Fire. 63. Lynn describes early testing methods as strangely primitive, consisting quite literally of paper and plywood with holes drilled into it. The military had

Conrad C. Crane. American Airpower Strategy in World War II. 168-169.

Patrick Coffey. American Arsenal: A Century of Waging War. 117-118.

Crane, Ibid.

Michael S. Sherry. The Rise of American Air Power. 311.

10 Curtis LeMay, quoted in McFarland, Stephen L. America

11 David M. Kennedy. The Origins and Uses of American Hyperpower. 22-29.

12 Kennedy, Ibid.

13 Mark Selden. A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities & the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq. 8, 15.

14 Franklin D. Roosevelt. September 1, 1939. An Appeal to Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland to Refrain from Air Bombing of Civilians

15 Sherry. Ibid. 156.

16 Coffey. Ibid. 117-118, 108.

17 Werrell, Kenneth. Blankets of Fire. 41, 47.

18 Kerr, E. Bartlett. Flames Over Tokyo. 9-10.

19 Eden. Ibid. 70-72.

20 Eden, Ibid.

21 Richard B. Frank. Downfall. 41-42.

22 John F. Kreis. Piercing the Fog. 338.

23 Kerr. Ibid. 11-16.

24 Charles S. Popple. Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) in World War II. 52-53. The

25 E. P. Stevenson. Incendiary Bombs. In Chemistry: A History of the Chemistry Components of the National Defense Research Committee 1940-1946. Ed. Noyes, W. A. 388.

26 Rexmond C. Cochrane. The National Academy of Sciences: The First Hundred Years, 1863-1963. 404-405.

27 Louis F. Fieser. The Scientific Method. 9; Hoyt C. Hottel. Chemical Heritage Foundation. Transcript of Interviews. 17-19.

28 James Phinney Baxter, III. Scientists Against Time. 290.

29 Hottel. Transcript of Interviews. 18. Hottel was a giant in the field of fire research during and after WWII.

30 Fieser, like Hottel, went on to be (and was) famous in his own right: he later received the Nobel Prize for medicinal advancements.

31 It’s interesting to note that Fieser, in spite of this, refused to accept any moral responsibility for napalm. He is quoted in a January 5th 1968 issue of Time Magazine as saying “I have no right to judge the morality of napalm just because I invented it.” See here.

32 Louis F. Fieser. The Scientific Method. 14.

33 Hottel. Transcript of Interviews. 22-23; Baxter. Ibid. 291-292.

34 Fieser. Ibid. 45-49. The Du Pont program is one that I have seen no other references to other than in Fieser and Hottel

35 Leo P. Brophy. The Chemical Warfare Service: From Laboratory to Field. 184.

36 Hottel. Transcript of Interviews. 23-24.

37 Fieser. Ibid. 45-52.

38 Hottel, Ibid. Fieser, Ibid.

39 Though counterfactual by nature, it is interesting (especially in retrospective light of Vietnam) to note how close the U.S. Army Air Force came to not having napalm.

40 Ronald Schaffer. Wings of Judgment. 108.

41 Stevenson. Ibid. 392.

42 Fisher Brophy. The Chemical Warfare Service: Organizing for War. 135.

43 Thomas. Memoirs. 50.

44 Arrington. Ibid.

45 Ouida Blanthorn. A History of Tooele County. 263; Dugway Proving Ground, U.S. Army. History. Arrington. Ibid. It should be noted that several sources claim Dugway Proving Ground to be over 800,000 acres at this point, but it

46 Brophy. Ibid; Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service. Written Historical and Descriptive Data: Dugway Proving Ground. HAER No. UT-35. 15. Some sources claim, contrary to this, that the site was actually established as early as February 12th, 1942.

47 Arrington. 34-36; Thomas. Ibid.

48 Stevenson. Ibid. 393.

49 Historic American Engineering Record. Written Historical and Descriptive Data. HAER No. UT-35. 18.

50 Kerr. Ibid. 29. This initial planning stage is also cited in Noyes History of Chemistry, p. 392.

51 Standard Oil Development Company. Design and Construction of Typical German and Japanese Structures at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. 1-2. In 1943, Standard Oil wrote the cited article for the Technical Division of the Chemical Warfare Service. In 1945, Standard Oil drafted a detailed analysis of German Village called Penetration and Performance Tests of Small Incendiary Bombs in a Typical Central German Structure, not for the Chemical Warfare Service, but for the Office of Scientific Research and Development, noting that similarly detailed documentation had been uncovered based on Japanese Village.

52 Jean-Louis Cohen. Architecture in Uniform. 232, 239.

53 Kurt G. F. Helfrich and William Whitaker, ed. Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin Raymond and Noemi Raymond. 47, 53.

54 Standard Oil Development Company. Ibid.

55 Dugway Proving Ground. Historical Testing: German & Japanese Villages. 1. The cost is also corroborated by Elmer Gwyn Thomas

56 Standard Oil Development Company. Ibid; Historic American Engineering Record. Written Historical and Descriptive Data. HAER No. UT-92-A. 10.

57 I use the word “sensitivity” deliberately. By using it I do not mean to imply that the work undergone at Dugway was somehow a culturally positive thing, but that it was predicated on cultural awareness and in-depth knowledge of Japan.

58 Kerr. Ibid. 31.

59 Hottel. Transcript of Interviews. 25; Kerr. Ibid. 30.

60 Standard Oil Development Company. 1-2, 10-14. Figure 12. EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #8. 14.

61 Popple. Ibid. 129; Dower, John. Cultures of War. 176.

62 Mike Davis. Dead Cities and Other Tales. 67; Patrick R. Eckman. Dugway Mystery Depot to Continue Test Work.

63 EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #6. 4.

64 Hottel. Transcript of Interviews. 27.

65 EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #4. 5, 7.

66 H. M. Llewellyn. Military Intelligence Division, Great Britain. Comparison of the Japanese Targets and Test Results at the Building Research Station, Edgewood Arsenal and Dugway Proving Ground. 2.

67 Military Intelligence Division, Great Britain. Dropping Trials of Incendiary Bombs Against Representative Structures at Dugway, U.S.A. 2.

68 Stevenson. Ibid. 393-394.

69 Hoyt C. Hottel. Stimulation of Fire Research in the United States After 1940 (A Historical Account). 4; Dugway Proving Ground. Ibid. 2.

70 EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #2. 4; Interview Transcript: Interviewee #6. 3. Interview Transcript: Interviewee #4. 7.

71 Kerr. Ibid. 25.

72 Sherry. Ibid. 228.

73 LeMay, quoted in Robert Neer. Napalm. 165-166. Baxter. Ibid. 293. Kerr. Ibid. Appendix B and D.

74 Schaffer. Ibid. 124-125.

75 Kerr. Ibid. 157-158.

76 Dower. Ibid. 179-182.

77 Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate. The Army Air Forces In World War II Volume 5: The Pacific – Matterhorn To Nagasaki June 1944 To August 1945. 674-675.

78 Eckman. Ibid.

79 Antonin Raymond. An Autobiography. 188-189.

80 Ken Oshima. Constructed Natures of Modern Architecture in Japan. 401.

81 Helfrich. Ibid. 55.

82 Raymond. Ibid. 198, 206-207.

83 EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #3. 5.

84 EM-Assist. Ethnographic Interview Transcript: Interviewee #6. 6-8; Transcript: Interviewee #4. 6, 13; Transcript: Interviewee #3. 2-3. Transcript: Interviewee #2. 6.

85 Jack Couffer. Bat Bomb. 208-209.

86 Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service. Written Historical and Descriptive Data: Dugway Proving Ground. HAER No. UT-92-A. 9.

87 Jared Preusz. FOX13 News. Mislabeled Vial of Nerve Agent Responsible for Dugway Lockdown, 0,4633684.story; Brown, Matthew. Deseret News: April 7, 2006. Dugway Takes Steps to Improve its Image; MSNBC Staff. Genesis Space Capsule Crashes; Davidson, Lee. Deseret News: April 9. 1995. What Inspired Dugway N-Test Stories?

88 Marine Guillaume. Napalm in US Bombing Doctrine and Practice, 1942-1945. 12.

89 Stewart Halsey Ross. Strategic Bombing by the United States in World War II. 6.

90 Selden, Mark. Forgotten Holocaust. 3.

91 Lee Davidson. Deseret News: April 7, 2006 

All images in this article are from Standard Oil,Design and Construction of Typical German and Japanese Test Structures at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, 1943. Via JapanAirRaids.org.

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Sugar Demons, Sweet Lobbies and Taxes in Australia

May 3rd, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Featured image: George Christensen

It came across on the ABC’s Four Corners as something of a junkie’s confession: I am an addict, and I know.  The conservative MP for the Australian federal seat of Dawson, George Christensen, was not mincing words so much as spouting them in crude confessional form.  Regulating the sugar industry by means of a levy or tax ignored personal responsibility.

“I think that a lot of the issue with obesity has got to come back to telling people that they are personally responsible for the choices they make.”  He was a “fat bloke” who had made regrettable health decisions. He had to accept the consequences of those food choices that found their way down his “gob”.

Christensen is not merely a representative of a federal seat, but representative of a country that has found its way to physical hugeness.  Australia has become one of the fattest nations on the planet, rippling with health worries.  Sixty percent of its populace is overweight or obese. By 2025, the figure will be 80 percent.  It is such figures that have officials and those preoccupied with health policy irate and alarmed.

Christensen’s individualist acceptance is standard form for industries that have found certain costs and regulations unnecessary and damaging to the purse strings.  No changes of behaviour, goes the argument, will be induced by such a sugar levy.  But the sweet lobby in Canberra has moneyed depth and financial dogmatism to pursue this variation of free will gone wrong.

“Big industry knows,” observes former ACT health minister Michael Moore, “that if you’re going to have influence then you’re going to have to talk to members [of parliament].”

Australia’s representatives, notably those in designated “sugar seats”, have been taking note of the food and beverages lobby for some time.  Where there is a sugar industry, there are votes to be had, beasts to be propitiated. The Beverages Council’s Annual Report in 2016 strikes a certain note of pride in spending a “vast amount of resources” in fighting proponents of a sugar tax, notably those in the major political parties.

What matters here is the global profile of the sugar industry, one sustained by the same tactical profile as the tobacco lobby.  Tactics of minimisation and distortion, packaged by a covering of legitimacy regarding research and health effects, dominate the sugar lobbyist’s agenda.

Such research has a long and compromised history in the annals of nutrition.  Along with various co-authors, Christin Kearns published in JAMA Internal Medicine a jaw dropping 2016 study using documents of the Sugar Research Foundation.  The investigation showed how some five decades of research on nutrition and heart disease was aggressively cooked by the sugar industry.

“Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings,” concluded the authors, “suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD (coronary heart disease).”

That’s what you get when dolling out some $50,000 in modern money terms to scientists, even in the academically rigorous environs of Harvard University.  With appropriate findings cobbled, the result was a skewed and influential publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (Aug 1967). No conflict of interest with the sugar industry was published, but the brief exonerating sugar as a major risk factor in CHD was advanced.

Marion Nestle of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies in NYU did go softly on the scientists who had conducted the research in the 1960s.

“Whether they did this deliberately, unconsciously, or because they genuinely believed saturated fat to be the great threat is unknown.” That said, “science is not supposed to work this way.  The documents make this review seem more about public relations than science.”

Prior to that, sugar barons were already keen to exploit a deceptive nutritional claim by a simple strategy of avoidance.  The link between sugar-rich diets and heart disease would be overlooked in favour of the chosen enemies of dietary fat and cholesterol.  Americans keen on reducing fat in their diets, and consequential cholesterol formation, could still be encouraged to consume sugar.

As the SRF president in 1954 claimed in a speech to the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists,

“If the carbohydrate industries were to capture this 20 percent of the calories in the US diet (the difference between the 40 percent which fat has and the 20 percent which it ought to have) and if sugar maintained its present share of the carbohydrate market, this change would  mean an increase in the per capita consumption of sugar more than a third with a tremendous improvement in general health.”

Specific companies in the sugar business remain the big boys and girls of obfuscation in the world of nutrition science.  In league with them are members of the nutrition fraternity such as exercise scientist Steven N. Blair, who find it reluctant on the padding of appropriate industry sponsorship to libel sugar and its role in causing obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Strong patrons, in short, make for poor, or at the very least questionable research.  In 2015, The New York Times found that Coca-Cola, the single dominant producer of sugary beverages, supplied millions in terms of funding to researchers to identify (or not, as the case was) links between sugar consumption and obesity.  The focus there was to get more exercise and get over a near clinical obsession on the part of Americans to be weight-conscious.

Coca-Cola, ever mindful of sustaining its appeal, has adopted the similar health and exercise offensive in other markets.  In 2016, it was revealed that $1.7 million was expended by the company on fitness groups and academics in Australia alone.  Professor Tim Olds of the University of South Australia saw no problems in pocketing $400,000 from the company for an international study on obesity.

 “I think, frankly,” he sneered, “this is old-style superannuated chardonnay socialism.”

Those from the food industry continue to draw miffed distinctions between the effects of sugar, and the impacts of other behaviours.

“There’s no safe level of smoking,” claimed Geoff Parker, CEO of the Australian Beverages Council, “and so we refute any sort of comparison between what’s happening with reducing the prevalence of smoking with reducing the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

No nanny-state will do for Parker – not even a health conscious one.  The sugar demons still have the upper hand.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

In the wake of the recognition of the lack of relief measures and medical support for atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha) residing in South Korea, some Japanese dedicated themselves to assuring that Korean victims received subsidized medical treatment. This study assesses the significance of Japanese civil society-based medical support implemented by an anti-nuclear and relief organization, Kakkin Kaigi, and a Hiroshima-based doctor, Dr. Kawamura Toratarō. It also analyzes Japanese – South Korean citizen cooperation and the Japanese governmental relief program for hibakusha. In particular, it explains how Japanese grassroots movements succeeded in providing long-term medical support and eventually assuring that the Japanese government extend relief to long-neglected Korean victims.1


This article considers the plight of Korean nationals who were victims of the atomic bomb, particularly the thousands who left Japan for South Korea. In 1957, twelve years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan’s subsequent surrender, victims of the atomic bomb, but not the hundreds of thousands of firebombing victims in 64 cities across Japan, became eligible for medical benefits provided by the Japanese government. (The American government acknowledged no responsibility and provided no direct financial or other support for atomic victims.)

When the atomic bombs destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, many Korean nationals residing in the two Japanese cities were among the atomic bomb victims. According to the estimates of the Korea Atomic Bomb Victims Association (hereafter Korea Association), there were 50,000 Koreans in Hiroshima and 20,000 in Nagasaki at the time of the bombings, among whom approximately 23,000 survivors returned to the Korean peninsula following the end of the Pacific War.2 Most had migrated to Japan in large numbers following Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, either for work or due to forced conscription that intensified during World War II. Korean A-bomb victims developed various radiation-induced diseases in the postwar period leaving many unable to work. Consequently, they found themselves in a vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty, and diseases.3 Apart from Hiraoka Takashi’s first-hand reports about the plight of Korean hibakusha beginning in 1965, a smaller survey carried out by the Japanese Association of Citizens for the Support of Korean Atomic Bomb Victims (hereafter Association of Citizens) in 1978, which reported on 113 South Korean A-bomb survivors, also highlighted the fact that the unemployment rate among hibakusha was particularly high, since injuries from the blast as well as radiation-induced diseases prevented them from working.4 Most could not afford medical expenses in Korea and had no access to medical services. There were no support laws for the atomic bomb victims in South Korea, and awareness of the situation of the hibakusha was very low for a long time.

Meanwhile, in 1957, the Japanese government enacted the Atomic Bomb Survivors Medical Care Law, the first official measure to assist A-bomb survivors in Japan. The law guaranteed two annual health check-ups for hibakusha and the government covered medical expenses for radiation-induced diseases. The authorities issued A-bomb Certificates to those who were recognized as A-bomb survivors. At the time of its implementation, many Japanese hibakusha in the two A-bombed cities had no access to medical aid due to the initial limitation of the law, and the 1957 relief law began to be revised in 1960.5 In 1968, the Japanese government passed the Special Measures Law “to stabilize survivors’ lives and improve their welfare.”With these two measures, the Japanese government officially acknowledged its responsibility toward the atomic bomb victims and began to provide them with medical and financial assistance. However, these relief measures excluded Korean hibakusha then living outside Japan, specifically those in South Korea, who constituted an estimated 10% of all A-bomb sufferers. Zainichi Korean7 and other non-Japanese hibakusha residing in Japan could officially apply for A-bomb certificates. They nevertheless faced discrimination given that at least one of the two witnesses necessary for the application process had to be Japanese. Many non-Japanese hibakusha were unable to find Japanese witnesses and were therefore long unable to apply for certificates.

In the 1970s, Son Jin-doo, a South Korean hibakusha, filed a suit against the Japanese government to claim rights as an A-bomb survivor, with the support of Japanese grassroots associations. Son was the first person to take the issue of Korean (and overseas) hibakusha to court in Japan. He petitioned to have his rights as a survivor recognized by the Japanese government. His legal battle dragged on for seven years until 1978, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. According to the decision,

“both A-bomb laws apply even to foreign [non-Japanese] citizens, provided they are hibakusha, and they are entitled to state compensation indicated by both laws.” The court held that “by ignoring these points in the case of someone who is an illegal immigrant, it means that we disregard the humanitarian nature of the laws.”8

Son’s case and the growing awareness of the existence of A-bomb victims residing outside Japan served as a sobering experience for some Japanese. In the postwar era, the prevailing view in Japan has been that the Japanese were victims of the World War II bombings, which destroyed more than sixty Japanese cities. As James J. Orr put it,

“The mythicizing of war victimhood within the peace movement manifested a tendency to privilege the facts of Japanese victimhood over considerations of what occasioned that victimhood.”9

As we know, “that victimhood” was preceded by Japan’s imperial expansion in Asia. Son’s court appearance in 1970 served as an impetus for generating citizen-based movements to support the rights of Korean A-bomb survivors.

Image on the right: Dr. Kawamura Toratarō in 1984. (Source: Chūgoku Shimbun, “12 Nen Sude ni 50 Nin Chiryō,” [Providing Medical Treatment to Already 50 People in 12 Years] January 10, 1984, Box 5, HT0500600, HUA.)

While most studies of South Korean hibakusha focus on legal cases and colonial history, there has been little discussion of the question of medical support. Medical treatment of these atomic bomb survivors was established in Japan in the early 1970s thanks to citizen-based initiatives and the formation of grassroots organizations.10 The most prominent figure providing medical support was Dr. Kawamura Toratarō, a Hiroshima doctor renowned for treating A-bomb patients. He recognized the urgency of medical assistance for hibakusha living in South Korea and called on Japanese citizens to take immediate action rather than wait for the Japanese or South Korean governments to implement relief measures. He began inviting hibakusha from the Republic of Korea to his own hospital and providing them with medical treatment at his own expense in 1973.11 Additionally, a Japanese anti-nuclear group, Kakkin Kaigi (Council for Peace and against Nuclear Weapons), played an important role in providing medical assistance for Korean victims by dispatching Japanese doctors to South Korea annually beginning in the early 1970s and setting up a medical clinic for survivors in Hapcheon in 1973.12

This article explores the medical assistance for Korean hibakusha who returned to South Korea, as carried out by Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s, with a particular focus on Kakkin Kaigi and Kawamura’s support activities, but also touching upon the Japanese – South Korean intergovernmental relief program. The medical committee Kawamura set up in 1984 was more effective in providing support for hibakusha in South Korea than the medical support program introduced by the Japanese and South Korean governments in the 1980s.13 The grassroots medical assistance for Korean hibakusha launched in the 1970s also contributed to the Japanese Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark ruling that guaranteed reimbursement of the medical expenses of overseas hibakusha.

The case of the Japanese who provided medical assistance for A-bomb survivors living in South Korea is an example of efforts from a small number of citizens, who support the rights of colonial victims and ensure that their government, a former colonial power, faces its colonial past, and eventually acknowledges the rights of former victims.14 Instead of seeing themselves as victims of the war and the atomic bombs, as many Japanese did in the postwar era, some Japanese advocates of responsibility for Korean hibakusha emphasized Japan’s role as perpetrator, and the need to atone for its past atrocities. In the 1960s and 1970s, these advocates argued for the necessity of supporting atomic bomb victims living in South Korea.15 This article focuses on the emergence of medical support in Japan, the proponents’ views, and Japanese grassroots assistance at a time when no governmental support was available either in South Korea or in Japan for hibakusha returning to the Korean Peninsula after World War II.16

Dr. Kawamura Toratarō’s involvement in medical assistance for Korean hibakusha

Dr. Kawamura Toratarō was born on February 2, 1914 in the North Gyeongsang Province of Korea, which was then Japanese territory. His time in Korea was a key factor in his sympathy for the plight of Korean A-bomb survivors. Kawamura studied medicine at Keijō Imperial University in today’s Seoul and graduated in 1942. He lived in Korea until the end of World War II, after which he returned to Hiroshima Prefecture with his family. In July 1947, he opened an internal medicine hospital in Otemachi, very close to the hypocenter, and focused his practice on treating hibakusha (most of them Japanese).17 Reverend Kim Sin-hwan, a Christian priest working in Hiroshima, reported in his memoirs that among his zainichi Korean parishioners were many A-bomb victims. Being generally impoverished, many in the Korean community could not cover the high medical costs of treatment. However, Reverend Kim learned from his parishioners of the work of doctor Kawamura.18 In short, Kawamura had been treating some zainichi Korean hibakusha in Hiroshima before his involvement with the medical support of hibakusha residing in South Korea. Through such work, he established a reputation among the Korean community in Hiroshima.

Kawamura was unaware of the existence of A-bomb survivors in South Korea until the late 1960s. On August 1, 1968, Kakkin Kaigi organized a national assembly in Hiroshima, where Kan Moon-hee, a member of Mindan who had already been involved in Korean hibakusha support, talked about the plight of A-bomb survivors living in South Korea.19 Mindan had dispatched its first group to South Korea in May 1965 to investigate the lives of the atomic bomb survivors there, and they conducted the first survey on their health conditions and living circumstances.20 This survey raised awareness of the presence of hibakusha in South Korea, who had by then, been abandoned for two decades. It convinced both the South Korean government and later, many Japanese citizens of the need to help these former colonial victims. At the 1968 assembly, Kan Moon-hee revealed that out of the 1,700 registered members of the Korea Association in Hiroshima, 300 were in urgent need of medical treatment.21 This news shocked Kawamura. According to his son, Dr. Kawamura Yuzuru, his father had always cherished his memories of Korea. For him, South Korea was not just some foreign country; rather, it was the land where he had been born and spent his formative years. His attachments to Korea were one reason why the revelation of hibakusha living there in poverty and without treatment struck him so deeply.22

In 1971, Kawamura visited South Korea as part of the first Japanese medical delegation to examine A-bomb survivors on the peninsula. He realized that Korean victims had been excluded from the hibakusha support laws, had been unable to go to hospitals and receive treatment because of the high cost, and as a result, their situation was considerably worse than that of Japanese hibakusha. In the 1970s, the absence of an extended health insurance system in South Korea kept hibakusha from access to universal health care, which was not introduced until 1989.23 As a result, Kawamura dedicated himself to the medical support of Korean victims, inviting many patients to his hospital in the 1970s, and establishing a permanent medical committee in 1984 that brought hundreds of Korean hibakusha to Japan for medical treatment.

In the postwar period, Kawamura lamented Japan’s colonization of Korea. He concluded that the existence of Korean hibakusha was Japan’s wartime responsibility. He once told Kawamura Sumiko, his daughter-in-law, that,

“I am doing this [treating Korean hibakusha] to atone for the fact that I did not understand the suffering that Koreans were enduring.”24

By providing medical support to Korean A-bomb survivors, he hoped to make amends for the crimes Japan had committed.

His medical support was widely reported not only in the local Chūgoku Shimbun, but also in national papers such as the Mainichi Shimbun and the Asahi Shimbun. In Hiroshima, Kawamura was at the forefront of drawing awareness to the Korean hibakusha’s plight, and his work helped to facilitate their inclusion in the narrative of the city’s atomic bombing – a critical first step toward their formal recognition as hibakusha. His work embodied the values of peace, aspirations for a nuclear-free world, and a lifetime devotion to providing medical treatment to atomic bomb victims. Although he was aware of Japan’s responsibility for the Korean hibakusha’s suffering, he did not explicitly criticize the Japanese government, but instead focused on their medical treatment. By inviting Korean A-bomb patients to his hospital at his own expense (beginning in the 1970s), Kawamura aimed to inspire other doctors in Japan and South Korea to follow suit, and dedicate themselves to providing medical support for hibakusha. Following his death in 1987, Dr. Kawamura Yuzuru carried on his legacy and treated Korean A-bomb patients until May 2016 in the family hospital.

Dr. Kawamura Toratarō received the presidential award from Chun Doo-hwan for his long-term support of Korean hibakusha in 1984. (Source: Kawamura Toratarō Ikōshū, Iryō to Shinkō, 93.)

The beginnings of Kakkin Kaigi’s support for Korean hibakusha

Since 1968, Kakkin Kaigi has sought to generate support for South Korean hibakusha in Hiroshima. Kakkin Kaigi was established in 1961 as an anti-nuclear organization working to support both Japanese and Korean A-bomb victims.

The first major anti-nuclear movement, Gensuikyō, was formed in 1955. Most members were affiliated with the Japanese left, and their primary goal was the abolition of nuclear weapons. Due to ideological tensions within Gensuikyō and conflicting stances over the 1960 U.S. – Japan Security Treaty, members of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Socialist Party withdrew and in 1961, formed a new anti-nuclear movement, Kakkin Kaigi.25 Whereas Gensuikyo criticized U.S. possession of nuclear weapons, Kakkin Kaigi opposed possession and use of nuclear weapons by all countries. It is a nationwide organization, with its headquarters in Tokyo, and 22 branches in 38 prefectures. Through fundraising programs and membership fees, members finance activities that further their goal of completely abolishing nuclear weapons. They have appealed to governments throughout the world with the slogan: “A loving hand to hibakusha!”26

As mentioned earlier, on August 1, 1968, Kakkin Kaigi organized a national assembly in Hiroshima, where Kan Moon-hee discussed A-bomb survivors living in South Korea. This paved the way for the emergence of support movements and inspired others to aid Korean hibakusha. After learning about the existence of Korean A-bomb victims at their 1968 assembly, Kakkin Kaigi, together with Mindan, formed the Japanese – Korean Council for the Relief of Korean A-bomb Survivors in October 1968, with Murakami Tadataka as the chairperson. This was the beginning of Japanese organized support for Korean hibakusha. Their policies included advancing the issue of A-bomb Certificates for zainichi hibakusha, assisting those who had difficulties making ends meet, providing medical treatment for Korean hibakusha in Japan, issuing the medical certificate to Korean hibakusha who needed medical treatment in Japan, authorizing the entry of South Korean hibakusha into Japan for medical purposes, and establishing scientific exchange programs between Japanese and South Korean doctors to better understand the effects of radiation and its treatment.27 The council not only sought to aid Korean hibakusha residing in Japan, but also took steps to support hibakusha in South Korea.

Medical visits to South Korea

In 1968, Kakkin Kaigi, in collaboration with Mindan, emerged as the leading support movements for Korean hibakusha. Between 1968 and 1972 they sent an annual donation of one-million yen to the Korea Association. In 1971, Kakkin Kaigi dispatched a team of four doctors, who specialized in treating A-bomb related diseases, to examine the hibakusha in South Korea. One member of the team was Kawamura. Before his departure, Kawamura met Sin Yeong-soo, chairperson of the Korea Association, who came to Japan to talk about the plight of Korean hibakusha and request help and cooperation from the Japanese. Sin, like thousands of other hibakusha in South Korea, had not possessed an A-bomb Certificate and had never received medical treatment for radiation sickness. He had lost his left ear in the bombing of Hiroshima, and had visible keloid scars, the sight of which shocked Kawamura.28

Kawamura and Ishida Sada (director of the Hiroshima A-bomb Hospital Internal Medicine Department) were in South Korea from September 23 to 24, 1971, examining 60 hibakusha in Seoul.29 They then examined 65 people at Busan Evangelical Hospital.30

Image below: Baek Du-yi, 86, a Korean hibakusha in Hapcheon South Korea.

This visit made a powerful impression on both doctors. Ishida said, “Poverty and the high medical expenses make hibakusha even more miserable. Discrimination against them is strong, and they hold a grudge for having been abandoned for 26 years.” Kawamura found that “the first thing we have to do is to eliminate their financial burden, and it is necessary to support them from Japan so that they can have access to free medical treatment. During this visit, public opinion inside South Korea to support hibakusha started to build up, and I would like to advance such a movement in Japan, too.”31 Ishida noticed the Korean hibakusha’s dire situation, and drew attention to the discrimination they faced in their own societies upon returning to Korea. In his medical report, Kawamura stressed the need for free medical treatment, and to achieve this, he proposed the establishment of a support network in Japan and South Korea. This mission influenced his later commitment to inviting hibakusha from South Korea to Japan for medical treatment. Returning to his birthplace after 26 years, the experience of witnessing hundreds of hibakusha who had never received any medical assistance left him devastated. The Japanese medical team took important steps towards raising social awareness of the Korean hibakusha problem in both countries, laying the groundwork for a support network.

In December 1973, Kakkin Kaigi, with the cooperation of Kawamura, established the Atomic Bomb Victims Medical Center in Hapcheon, specializing in treating A-bomb patients. The medical center was later sponsored by both the council and the South Korean government. Following its establishment, Japanese and Korean doctors began to examine hibakusha.32 It was the only facility for A-bomb survivors in South Korea until 1996. Kakkin Kaigi continued to send Japanese doctors to examine and treat hibakusha until 1995, totaling 22 visits in 25 years, and treating nearly 5,600 Korean A-bomb survivors. According to Kakkin Kaigi’s report, although this was usually a one-time medical treatment, the medical care reduced contagious diseases, internal secretions, and blood diseases among the Korean hibakusha treated by the Japanese doctors.33 Kawamura was the most active member of the medical team, participating in the first twelve visits until October 1984.34

The support provided by Kakkin Kaigi was a civil society-based assistance program, in which Japanese citizens, doctors, and hospitals cooperated to improve health conditions among Korean hibakusha. Whereas Gensuikin, Hidankyō, and other major Japanese hibakusha support groups turned a blind eye to the Korean hibakusha problem, Kakkin Kaigi was among the first peace associations to engage in supporting and bringing Korean A-bomb victims to Japanese public consciousness.

Japanese doctors invite hibakusha from South Korea to Japan for medical treatment

The visits to South Korea were a life-changing experience for Kawamura. After seeing the plight of Korean hibakusha, he gradually put his own work aside to provide medical assistance to this community.35 During his visit in 1972, Sin asked him to invite hibakusha to Japan.36 Beginning in 1972, he invited hibakusha from South Korea to his own hospital, providing for their travel and medical costs. Dr. Kawamura continued to play a significant role in Kakkin Kaigi’s annual visits to examine hibakusha in South Korea, but he invited atomic bomb victim patients to his clinic independently (he later received assistance from Christian organizations such as the Kuwana church, which helped him collect funds for bringing and treating Korean hibakusha in Hiroshima).

There was another impetus behind Kawamura’s decision to commit to the medical assistance of Korean A-bomb victims. In the 1960s, Dr. Iwamura Noboru went to Nepal to treat tuberculosis. At that time, many people from India migrated to Nepal, and the spread of various diseases, including tuberculosis, was on the rise.37 Nepal needed help to tackle this problem. The Japan Overseas Christian Medical Cooperative Service (JOCS) dispatched Iwamura who continued to work in Nepal until the early 1980s. In 1963, the Iwamura’s Supporter Association formed, a civil movement through which citizens of Hiroshima aided the Nepalese. With this, Iwamura set up a grassroots movement that connected Japan and Nepal, and channeled funds towards the Nepalese through their medical services. Kawamura was touched by Iwamura’s philanthropy and his initiatives to help the underprivileged. This, too, inspired him to provide medical support for Korean hibakusha, and to establish a similar network between Japan and South Korea.38

Kawamura was not the first or only Japanese doctor who invited South Korean hibakusha to his own hospital at his own expense. A few months before his first patient arrived in Japan, Ezaki Tetsuo, a plastic surgeon living in Tokyo, brought a hibakusha to his hospital and performed surgery to remove her keloid scars.39 In Hiroshima, too, another doctor sponsored a South Korean hibakusha’s visit to Japan to receive treatment in his hospital. This doctor was Harada Tōmin, the director of a surgical clinic in Hiroshima. In 1972, Sin told him about the dire circumstances of Korean hibakusha, and asked for Harada’s help. Then, Harada heard the first-hand experiences of the Hiroshima Paper Crane Group (Hiroshima Oriduru no Kai) members, who had been to South Korea and encountered hibakusha. Following these events, he decided to personally cover the medical treatment of Korean hibakusha, and brought the first patient to his hospital on November 13, 1973.40

As these examples illustrate, other Japanese doctors also provided Korean A-bomb survivors with medical assistance, but no one sustained such assistance for as long a period as Kawamura did. These doctors received no support from Hiroshima City or the Japanese government; they acted voluntarily. When Kawamura began providing medical support in 1973, no South Korean hibakusha – even those who had legally entered Japan and could find the necessary two Japanese witnesses – possessed the A-bomb Certificate, meaning that none were entitled to free medical treatment in Japan.41

A South Korean woman, Kim Yeong-ja was the first hibakusha invited by Kawamura to his hospital. He took this first step hoping to create a precedent, which could then encourage similar movements among Japanese doctors nationwide.42 Kim arrived in Hiroshima on March 27, 1973, and was hospitalized in the Kawamura Hospital.43 She was 31 years old, married, and had three children. However, she frequently got sick and spent eight months a year in bed.44 From that point on, he brought hibakusha from South Korea to Hiroshima regularly until 1980, when the Japanese – South Korean governmental exchange program was formally launched. Over eight years, he examined and treated 50 people.45

The Japanese – South Korean intergovernmental medical relief program and its pitfalls46

On October 8, 1980, the Japanese and South Korean governments signed an agreement to provide Korean hibakusha with medical treatment in Japan. This was the first support measure taken by the Japanese government to help its colonial victims. It was influenced by Kawamura’s individual assistance program in the 1970s, as well as by the outcome of the Son Jin-doo lawsuit.

Son Jin-doo’s legal victory at the Japanese Supreme Court in 1978, together with the expanding Japanese grassroots support network in the 1970s, marked a watershed in the Japanese government’s attitude toward Korean hibakusha. Preceding the Supreme Court ruling, whenever the Korea Association or the Association of Citizens demanded formal compensation, the Japanese government claimed that the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea settled all legal obligations resulting from Japan’s occupation of Korea, and insisted that South Korea had relinquished its right to demand reparation from the Japanese government.47 Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Son Jin-doo brought the normalization treaty’s inadequacies to the surface, and the Japanese government took action to avoid other wartime victims filing suit and demanding reparation. The result was the medical relief program implemented with the South Korean government.

The intergovernmental medical program was scheduled to expire in 1986, and for six years, South Korea sent a limited number of hibakusha to Japan for medical examinations and hospitalization. According to the agreement, one person could stay in Japan for two months, but Japan agreed to extend the period to six months when necessary. The Japanese government covered the costs of hospitalization and health care, while the South Korean government provided travel expenses for Korean hibakusha. By dividing the expenses between the two governments, the Japanese government unambiguously indicated that this program could not be considered wartime compensation, and held onto its previous position of evading responsibility. Rather, Japan positioned itself as a benevolent nation that offered free medical treatment for Korean victims of the atomic bomb.48 The first ten Korean A-bomb survivors entered Japan to receive medical treatment on November 17, 1980.49 Japan and South Korea established this exchange program 35 years after the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and 23 years after the enactment of the Atomic Bomb Survivors Medical Care Law. After 35 years, during which many Korean hibakusha had died, there was a ray of hope that the situation of the survivors might change.

Yet the medical exchange program with its many restrictions was far from a full-scale relief program for Korean hibakusha. At that time, the Korea Association estimated that there were nearly 15,000 hibakusha in South Korea, and the association had, nearly 9,000 registered members.50 However, only 60 hibakusha were permitted to enter Japan for medical treatment annually through this program, and their two week stay in Japan was far short of providing for full recuperation. Additionally, many elderly and seriously ill hibakusha in Korea were excluded, although they were the ones most in need of medical treatment. When the Korea Association called on Japan to increase the number of patients, Japan temporarily raised the annual number from 60 to 100, which still barely addressed the overall problem of Korean hibakusha. Moreover, once the two-month treatment period ended, some patients suffered relapses of their diseases, and needed further medical care. However, once they were back in Korea, Japan did not support their reentry or follow-up care.51

Japan and South Korea terminated the program on November 20, 1986. The South Korean government objected to its extension claiming that its national hospitals were well-equipped to treat atomic bomb sufferers, and that there were no more seriously sick patients who required treatment in Japan.52 As Michael Weiner has pointed out,

“for some Korean officials, there was an element of humiliation inherent in accepting aid of this type from a former colonial power, particularly when it also highlighted the inadequacy of health provision in Korea.”53

By September 1986, 349 Korean hibakusha had received medical treatment in the A-bomb hospitals in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As there were more than 9,000 registered members of the Korea Association, it can be concluded that the medical exchange program was ineffective in providing relief to Korean hibakusha in general.54 As Ichiba Junko put it, this was “a mere drop in the bucket.”55

Although the Japanese involved in the movements seeking recognition of Korean hibakusha have constantly demanded reparations from the Japanese government, they have never made claims on the U.S. government, which dropped the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One might wonder why these Japanese activists insisted that their government provide compensation for the Korean victims of the bomb, instead of filing a suit against the country that carried out the atomic bombing and was responsible for the hibakusha’s suffering. First, some Japanese were convinced that it was their duty to advocate for the rights of the people previously victimized by their own country. Second, when signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan waived its right to demand reparations from the U.S. government in Article 14.56 Therefore, there were legal obstacles to Japan suing the U.S. government. With regard to the South Korean victims and their descendants, Takazane Yasunori confirmed that the Association of the Second Generation (nisei) Korean A-bomb Victims wished to jointly file a suit, together with members of the Japanese second generation hibakusha, against the U.S. government. However, the Japanese nisei never supported this initiative, given the legal obstacles to Japan demanding reparations.57 In August 2017, four Koreans (including first, second and third generation hibakusha) petitioned the Daegu District Court requesting mediation with the U.S. and South Korean governments, and with three U.S. companies involved in the production and dropping of the bombs (Du Pont, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin). The case was forwarded to the Seoul Central District Court, which ruled that negotiating with the United States would be difficult, and urged them to focus on the South Korean government. Eventually, the victims filed suit against the South Korean government. The outcome is yet to be announced, but if they succeed, they will move on to file against the U.S. government and companies.58 The reality is that there is little chance that the plaintiffs will win a lawsuit against the United States.

Establishing the Hiroshima Committee to Invite Korean A-bomb Survivors to Japan for Medical Treatment

Owing to the limits imposed on each patient during the intergovernmental program, there were few opportunities to return to Japan for a second treatment if their conditions worsened. For this reason, many of these patients asked Sin Yeong-soo if they could receive additional medical treatment. Sin visited Hiroshima in June 1984, and informed Kawamura about those who wished to return to Japan for a second treatment. He asked Kawamura if it was feasible to invite them once more, independent of the government program. This prompted Kawamura to set up the Committee to Invite Korean A-bomb Survivors to Japan for Medical Treatment (hereafter Hiroshima Committee) on August 2, 1984. This association provided medical treatment for hibakusha who had been in Japan for treatment, but whose disease had recurred.59

The Committee sustained itself through fundraising programs and membership fees to provide for Korean hibakusha’s medical treatment in Japan. The hospitalization of the first two hibakusha was in December 1984, and two more patients followed in March 1985.60 Kawamura had always regarded the committee as a participant in the peace and anti-war/anti-nuclear movement. It focused on medical assistance as a means to spread the message “No More Hiroshima” and “No More Hibakusha.”61

In the initial years, because of the Hiroshima Committee’s shoestring budget, only a small number of Korean hibakusha were treated in Japan, but the patients received good care, and there was no limit on their hospitalization period. The applicants could request a visa for medical treatment that lasted for 30 days, but those who wished to stay in Japan for a longer medical treatment had the opportunity to do so by having their visa renewed (the Committee assisted them in the visa renewal process, too).62 Additionally, hibakusha could apply to return for a second or third treatment to Hiroshima three years after their first treatment. The Kawamura Hospital bore the greatest burden and received 75% of the patients, but other hospitals, such as the Hiroshima Kyōritsu Hospital, the Mitajiri Hospital in Hōfu, the Nagasaki Yūai Hospital, and the Hannan Chūō Hospital, also cooperated.63

Although the Committee made great efforts to bring many Korean hibakusha to Japan to counter the limits of the intergovernmental medical program, it faced many challenges. It could only ensure medical treatment for those who possessed an A-bomb Certificate.64 Thus, Committee members faced a serious problem in finding witnesses, and applying for the certificate many years after the bombing. Furthermore, in the initial years, program participants were primarily older hibakusha who could speak Japanese, but later, A-bomb patients consisted increasingly of younger people who spoke Korean only. Interpreters thus had to be employed in the Kawamura and Kyōritsu Hospitals. Moreover, the seriously sick, those who had been most in need of medical assistance, could not make the journey to Japan, and so, could not enjoy the benefits of the program.65

The Committee continued to bring South Korean hibakusha to Japan from 1984 to 2016. Kawamura Toratarō passed away in 1987, having provided both Japanese and Korean hibakusha with medical treatment until the end of his life. Following his father’s death, Kawamura Yuzuru became the chair of the Committee. He has said that Korean hibakusha are “historical living proof” of “what the Japanese had committed in Korea in the past and the fact that Japan had shown a cold attitude [abandoned them and denied financial and medical assistance] afterwards.”66 By 2016, with the help of nearly 1,000 Committee members, 572 South Korean hibakusha had received medical treatment.67 Meanwhile, both Japan and South Korea acknowledged the Hiroshima Committee’s achievements. Reverend Kim Sin-hwan received the Kiyoshi Tanimoto Peace Prize in 1996, and eleven years later, the Committee itself received the same award.68 Additionally, as proof of their appreciation, the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Award was presented to the Committee in March 2015. “With this award, the Korean government recognizes the group’s efforts to bring A-bomb survivors from Korea to Hiroshima to provide medical care to them at no cost.”69

The work of the Committee over 32 years demonstrates that bi-national grassroots cooperation brought more Korean hibakusha to Japan for medical treatment than the two governments did in the 1980s. While the governmental program from 1980 to 1986 invited 349 hibakusha to Japan, the Hiroshima Committee provided medical treatment for 572 A-bomb survivors, maintaining the association for more than three decades, and using membership fees and fundraising events to cover patients’ medical fees and travel expenses. When the Japanese and South Korean governments discontinued the Korean hibakusha medical relief program in 1986, these Japanese citizens operated the only organization providing medical assistance to Korean hibakusha free of charge.70 From the 1990s, the Hiroshima Kyōritsu Hospital received many of these patients, with Dr. Maruya Hiroshi as one of the main advocates of the program.

Lawyers and supporters for South Koreans exposed to the atomic bombs of World War II enter the Osaka District Court on Oct. 24, 2011. The court ruled that the Osaka Prefectural Government should cover the medical costs of victims who now live outside the country just as it does for hibakusha who live in Japan.

The Committee’s activities came to a close in May 2016. Following the landmark decision of the Supreme Court “in favor of full reimbursement of medical expenses to survivors living overseas” in September 2015, the Committee believed that it had accomplished its mission. At a press conference held in Hiroshima City on May 12, 2016, Kawamura Yuzuru said, “My father always told me that he would not be able to retire until the day the government started covering the survivors’ medical expenses. That day has finally come, and we’d like to express our gratitude to the many people who have offered their support.”71 Had it not been for Kawamura Toratarō’s determination to treat Korean hibakusha in Japan, coupled with Mindan and Kakkin Kaigi’s initiatives, hundreds of these victims might have passed away without ever receiving proper medical treatment, and likely no awareness of their difficulties would have emerged in Japan or South Korea.


Beginning with Son Jin-doo’s lawsuit in the early 1970s and Hiraoka Takashi’s early reports n Korean hibakusha, grassroots movements began to form around the call for atomic bomb survivors in South Korea to receive the same amount of aid from the Japanese government as their Japanese counterparts. Support within Japanese society was multilayered. New organizations were formed across Japan with the aim of providing medical, legal, emotional, and financial assistance. This article delineates the emergence of medical relief activities, and highlights the importance of activism in Japanese civil society.

Japanese supporters of the rights of hibakusha living in South Korea have also worked with zainichi Koreans. For instance, Kan Moon-hee in Mindan was a central figure in their activities. Mindan supported the first survey in South Korea in 1965, and they held a symposium in 1968, raising awareness of the Korean hibakusha’s plight. Mindan inspired Dr. Kawamura and Kakkin Kaigi to become involved in providing medical support for Korean A-bomb victims. In 1971, Kakkin Kaigi, together with Mindan, launched annual medical visits of Japanese medical experts to South Korea, where they would treat hibakusha. Additionally, Reverend Kim Sin-hwan was Kawamura’s most important aide in the 1980s, and since 1984, he has contributed significantly to the long-term operation of the Hiroshima Committee.

Medical assistance for Korean hibakusha began with Kakkin Kaigi’s dispatch of a Japanese medical team to South Korea in 1971, and this anti-nuclear organization continued sending Japanese doctors annually to examine and treat South Korean hibakusha until 1995. Kawamura Toratarō was a member of the first team of medical specialists, and later became a major advocate for providing medical assistance in Japan, specifically by inviting Korean hibakusha to his hospital at his own expense. Kawamura’s most important legacy is the citizen-based Hiroshima Committee established in 1984, which continued inviting South Korean A-bomb survivors to Japan for medical treatment until 2016. Although a small organization with a limited budget, the Committee embodied the drive among some Japanese to help Korean hibakusha. After the Japanese – South Korean intergovernmental medical relief program was terminated in 1986, the Hiroshima Committee remained the only organization still providing medical treatment for Korean hibakusha in Japanese hospitals, while receiving no funds from the national government or city authorities.72 With their continued medical support activities, they paved the way for the landmark Supreme Court decision in September 2015, which approved full reimbursement of medical expenses to overseas A-bomb survivors. Both Japan and South Korea have recognized the Committee’s effort to voluntarily treat South Korean A-bomb patients in Japan, and the fact that its long-term assistance helped to build mutual transnational support among citizens.

The Japanese government made changes in the status of Korean victims in response to the activities initiated and supported for decades by a small number of Japanese citizens. This study demonstrates that some Japanese citizens, by providing medical assistance, helped South Korean hibakusha obtain treatment for physical injuries they suffered from the atomic bombing. Additionally, it reveals how some citizens of the two countries established amicable relations at the grassroots level, which eventually influenced official policy, and resulted in a belated measure of justice for a long-neglected group of Korean hibakusha.


Ágota Duró received her Ph.D. from Hiroshima City University. She is a visiting scholar at the Hiroshima Peace Institute.


The article focuses on atomic bomb survivors living in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and does not examine hibakusha of Korean descent residing in Japan or in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Ichiba Junko, Hiroshima o Mochikaetta Hitobito: “Kankoku no Hiroshima” wa Naze Umareta no ka[Those Who Brought Hiroshima Back Home: Why Did Hiroshima in Korea Come into Existence?] (Tokyo: Gaifūsha, 2000), 27. All translations have been made by the author.The Korea Atomic Bomb Victims Association formed in 1967 after Japan claimed to have settled its wartime obligations with South Korea in the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea signed in 1965. The treaty failed to address the Korean hibakusha problem. The Korea Association has hibakusha members and has supported the A-bomb victims with the help of Japanese grassroots organizations since its establishment.

Hiraoka Takashi, Muen no Kaikyō: Hiroshima no Koe, Hibaku Chōsenjin no Koe [Neglected Strait: Hiroshima’s Voice, Korean Hibakusha’s Voice] (Tokyo: Kage Shobō, 1983), 26-27.Hiraoka Takashi was a journalist at Chugoku Shimbun who delved into the history and actual conditions of South Korean hibakusha in the 1960s. He was a pioneer in reporting on Korean hibakusha-related issues from 1965 and later published books about their plight. In the 1970s, he was a key figure in Son Jin-doo’s support movement and succeeded in convincing many Japanese to assist Son’s lawsuit and advocate for the rights of Korean hibakusha. He served as the mayor of Hiroshima from 1991 to 1999.

Zaikan Hibakusha Jittai Hojū Chōsa [Supplementary Survey on the Actual Condition of Korean A-bomb Victims] (Kankoku no Hibakusha o Kyūensuru Shimin no Kai: December 10, 1978), 11. Box 1, HT0101400, Hiroshima University Archives (hereafter HUA).

For the A-bomb relief measures and their revision, see Nihon Hidankyō, “Hibakusha Taisaku no Rekishi to Genkōhō,” [History of the Hibakusha Measures and Current Laws] November 30, 2008. (accessed: November 20, 2017).According to the first law implemented in 1957, only those victims (regardless of nationality) being in the vicinity of the hypocenter at the time of the bombing were eligible to apply for hibakusha status. This meant that Korean victims living in Japan – if they had sufficient evidence – could apply in the same way as Japanese. In 1960, hibakusha staying within two km of the hypocenter could apply for special hibakusha status and receive benefits. In 1965, people exposed to residual radiation who had entered the two cities within three days of the bombing became entitled to submit their application for A-bomb Certification. Additionally, the same revision extended the territories from the proximity of the hypocenter to some more distant areas such as Shinjo-cho, Koi, and Mitaki-machi in Hiroshima, and Narutaki-cho and Nakagawa-cho in Nagasaki. Likewise, as more areas were added, more victims exposed to the atomic bomb were recognized by the Japanese government.

Shigematsu Itsuzo, “Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law,” in Effects of Ionizing Radiation: Atomic Bomb Survivors and Their Children (1945-1995) Leif E. Peterson, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 1998), 295.

Zainichi means residing in Japan, and zainichi Koreans stand for the ethnic Korean residents living in Japan. Under colonial rule, they had Japanese citizenship. During the U.S. occupation, the Japanese government deprived them of citizenship rights.

Hiraoka, Muen no Kaikyō, 149-150. Although the Supreme Court highlighted the case of illegal immigrants, not even those South Korean hibakusha who entered Japan with a legal visa were issued A-bomb certificates by the Japanese authorities between 1965 (signing of the Japan-Korea Normalization Treaty) and 1974 (Son Jin-doo’s first legal victory at the Fukuoka District Court). Sin Yeong-soo was the first who was given the certificate in July 1974. Before the District Court recognized the rights of overseas hibakusha in 1974, the Japanese authorities had rejected Lim Bok-sun’s and Uhm Bun-yeon’s application for A-bomb Certificates in December 1968, despite their possessing a valid visa upon entering Japan.

James J. Orr, The Victim as HeroIdeologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001), 3.

10 There are several reasons why Japanese grassroots movements to support Korean hibakusha occurred more than a decade after the implementation of the A-bomb Survivors Medical Care Law. First, it was extremely difficult for Korean hibakusha to come to Japan legally with a valid visa due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea before 1965 to demand recognition from the Japanese government. Second, there was little awareness of their difficult situation for decades both in Japan and South Korea. Third, even in the postwar era few Japanese thought that Korean hibakusha should be aided in the same way as Japanese hibakusha. The major Japanese hibakusha support associations, Hidankyō and Gensuikyō, were engaged in assisting Japanese hibakusha, and their failure to put the issue of overseas hibakusha on their agenda from the beginning delayed awareness of the abandonment of hibakusha living in South Korea. Fourth, there was no official association for A-bomb survivors in South Korea until 1967, and consequently, few of them were aware of the A-bomb relief measures in Japan. Nevertheless, the New Leftist student movement and anti-Vietnam War movement in Japan reached their peak in the late 1960s, and many of these protesters moved progressively through other issues, such as the rights and status of minority populations, with human rights issues at the forefront. In this changing social environment some Japanese became more conscious of the ongoing discrimination against zainichi Koreans by the early 1970s. They took note of other Korean-related issues such as the abandonment of A-bomb survivors in South Korea following Hiraoka Takashi’s reports and the news of Son Jin-doo’s illegal landing and consequent arrest. (Some of this information comes from Toyonaga Keisaburō, following a personal interview with the author in Hiroshima on June 28, 2015.)

11 Kawamura had already been treating zainichi Korean hibakusha, thousands of whom resided in Hiroshima. Those zainichi Korean A-bomb victims who succeeded in finding Japanese witnesses and had their A-bomb Certificates issued received free medical treatment, but Kawamura also treated zainichi A-bomb patients free of charge who were unable to cover the medical expenses despite their not possessing A-bomb Certificates (see Kim Sin-hwan’s memoir later in the text).

12 Seventy percent of the Korean A-bomb victims from Hiroshima came from Hapcheon County, and after World War II, many of the survivors returned there. Consequently, thousands of hibakusha lived in Hapcheon. Due to its relative distance from major cities, there were few doctors in the mountainous villages. Therefore, Kakkin Kaigi chose this region as the location for an A-bomb clinic.

13 The medical support programs implemented by the Japanese and South Korean governments between 1980 and 1986, and later, by Kawamura’s citizen-based committee were limited to hibakusha who resided in South Korea, and did not encompass A-bomb victims living in North Korea or zainichi Korean hibakusha in Japan who did not possess A-bomb Certificates.

14 Another important redress movement in Japan that emerged later has sought proper apology and compensation from the government for “the comfort women,” who were sexually abused by the Japanese Army before and during World War II.

15 In particular, Japanese Christians supporters – such as Kawamura or Reverend Oka Masaharu – viewed their nation as victimizers, and as penance for the atrocities that Japan inflicted on many Asian countries, they dedicated their lives to obtaining recognition of Korean hibakusha. Reverend Oka, who was a Protestant minister in Nagasaki, was also fighting against the violation of zainichi Koreans’ human rights in Japan, and was bent on unveiling the atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Asia before and during the Pacific War. Following his death, the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, which documented both the ravages of the atomic bomb and Japanese atrocities in the war, was established.

16 As mentioned earlier, this article discusses Japanese medical assistance to atomic bomb victims, who, after Japan’s defeat in World War II, had returned and settled in South Korea, following the peninsula’s division in 1948. Korean hibakusha continuing to reside in Japan as zainichi Koreans, or those select few who managed to acquire Japanese citizenship, were eligible to apply for hibakusha status. However, in practice, it remained very difficult, given that until the early 1980s, one of the two witnesses for the application had to be Japanese. Although deprived of Japanese citizenship under the U.S. occupation at Japanese insistence, some zainichi Koreans later obtained citizenship through naturalization.

17 Kawamura Toratarō Ikōshū, Iryō to Shinkō [Medical Treatment and Faith] (Hiroshima: Kawamura Chiwa, Kawamura Junichi, Kawamura Yuzuru, and Matsuoka Kazue, 1992), 237. Hereafter cited as Kawamura, Iryō to Shinkō.

18 Kim Sin-hwan, “Kankokujin Hibakusha to no Kakawari,” [Connection with the South Korean Atomic Bomb Survivors] in Hiroshima Iinkai Nyūsu [Hiroshima Committee News] No. 51, November 25, 2010: 2 in Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai [Hiroshima Committee to Invite South Korean A-bomb Survivors to Japan for Medical Treatment], Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō no Michi. [The Road to Bring South Korean Hibakusha to Japan for Medical Treatment] (Hiroshima: Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, 2016), 542.

19 Mindan was the organization of Koreans in Japan (zainichi Koreans) who were ideologically connected to South Korea. Zainippon Daikanminkoku Mindan Hiroshima Chihō Honbu Kankoku Genbaku Higaisha Taisaku Tokubetsu Iinkai, [Korean Residents Union in Japan, Main Main Office of Hiroshima District, Special Committee to Take Measures for Korean Atomic Bomb Victims] Kankokujin Genbaku Higaisha 70 Nenshi Shiryōshū [Source Book of the 70-year History of Korean Atomic Bomb Victims] (Hiroshima, Zainippon Daikanminkoku Mindan Hiroshima Chihō Honbu Kankoku Genbaku Higaisha Taisaku Tokubetsu Iinkai: 2016), 20. Hereafter cited as Mindan, Kankokujin Genbaku Higaisha 70 Nenshi Shiryōshū.

20 Ibid., 19.

21 Itō Sonomi, “Kenri o Kachitoru made: Nihon de Zaikan Hibakusha o Sasaeta Hitobito,” [Until We Obtain Our Rights: People Who Supported Korean Hibakusha in Japan] Buraku Kaihō Kenkyū 23 (January 2017), 109. Hereafter cited as Itō, “Kenri o Kachitoru made.”

22 Kawamura Yuzuru. Interview with the author. Personal interview. Hiroshima, July 10, 2016. Hereafter cited as Kawamura. Interview with the author.

23 For more on the South Korean health care system, see: Shin Dong-won, “Public Health and People’s Health: Contrasting the Paths of Healthcare Systems in South and North Korea, 1945-60,” in Public Health and National Reconstruction in Post-War Asia: International Influences, Local Transformations eds. Liping Bu and Ka-che Yip (London; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015), 108.

24 ‘Wish to Atone’: Hiroshima Doctor Carries on Father’s Legacy of Treating Korean Hibakusha,” June 29, 2015. (accessed: November 15, 2017).

25 Anthony DiFilippo, Japan’s Nuclear Disarmament Policy and the U.S. Security Umbrella (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), 71. Ideological tensions within Gensuikyō did not end with the formation of Kakkin Kaigi. With the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, “socialists opposed nuclear testing by any country, while the communists were willing to accept Soviet testing.” This further ruptured Gensuikyō, resulting in the Socialist Party leaving the group and establishing Gensuikin in 1965.

26 Itō, “Kenri o Kachitoru made,” 108-109.

27 Kankokujin Genbaku Higaisha 70 Nenshi Shiryōshū, 20.

28 Kawamura Toratarō, “Tonichi Chiryō no Torikumi no Hajimari,” [Beginning of the Program to Treat South Korean Hibakusha in Japan] in Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō no Michi (Hiroshima: Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, 2016), 5. Hereafter cited as Kawamura, “Tonichi Chiryō no Torikumi no Hajimari.”

29 Chūgoku Shimbun, “Hibakugo Hatsu no Jushinsha mo Sōru de no Chiryō Oeru,” [Patients Undergoing the First Medical Examination and Treatment since the A-bomb Attack Finish in Seoul] September 27, 1971, Box 4, HT0400600, Hiroshima University Archives (hereafter HUA).

30 Chūgoku Shimbun, “Hibakusha 117 Nin o Shinryō: Hōkan Ishidan Dai 2 Jin Kaeru,” [Treating 117 Hibakusha: The Second Group of Doctors Visiting South Korea Returns Home] October 11, 1971, Box 4, HT0400700, HUA.

31 Chūgoku Shinbun, “Hinkon ni Kurushimu Hibakusha: Muryō Shinryō ni Enjo Hitsuyō,” [Hibakusha Struggling with Poverty: It Is Necessary to Help Them Receive Free Medical Treatment] October 2, 1971, Box 4, HT0400700, HUA.

32 Ishida Sada, “Zaikan Hibakusha no Kenkōshindan no Hōkoku,” [Report on the Medical Examinations of Korean Hibakusha] in Hiroshima Iinkai Nyūsu [Hiroshima Committee News] No. 47, November 28, 2008: 4 in Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō no Michi(Hiroshima: Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, 2016), 505. Hereafter cited as Ishida, “Zaikan Hibakusha no Kenkōshindan no Hōkoku.”Chūgoku Shimbun, “Kankoku Hibakusha ni Sukui no Te: Hiroshima no Ishidan ga Shuppatsu,” [A Helping Hand to Korean Hibakusha: The Medical Team from Hiroshima Departs] December 13, 1973, Box 4, HT0400900, HUA.

33 Kankokujin Genbaku Higaisha 70 Nenshi Shiryōshū, 21.

34 Ishida, “Zaikan Hibakusha no Kenkōshindan no Hōkoku,” 506.

35 Kawamura. Interview with the author.

36 Kawamura, Iryō to Shinkō, 73.

37 Kawamura. Interview with the author.For more information on Indo-Nepali relations including migration, see: Kishore C. Dash, Regionalism in South Asia: Negotiating Cooperation, Institutional Structures (London and New York: Routledge, 2008), 69-73.

38 Kawamura, Iryō to Shinkō, 51-52.

39 Asahi Shimbun, “Hibaku Kankoku Josei o Chiryō ni Maneku. Okizari Okashii: Nagasaki de Sobo Ushinatta Ishi,” [Inviting a South Korean A-bomb Survivor Woman for Medical Treatment. Abandonment is Weird: A Doctor Who Lost His Grandmother in Nagasaki] July 21, 1972, Box 4, HT0400800, HUA.

40 Asahi Shimbun, “Kankoku kara Chiryō ni Raihiro: Hibaku Fujin, Harada Ishi ga Shōtai,” [Coming to Hiroshima from South Korea for Medical Treatment: Harada Invites a Hibakusha Woman] November 14, 1973, Box 4, HT0400900, HUA.

41 No South Korean hibakusha were issued A-bomb Certificates by the Japanese authorities between 1965 and 1974. There were a few cases where they were given the certificate in the early 1960s, before the signing of the South Korea-Japan Normalization Treaty, yet their number is very small. None of the hibakusha coming to Japan on Kawamura’s invitation from 1973 possessed or could be issued A-bomb Certificates, at least until Son Jin-doo’s first legal victory in 1974. Sin Yeong-soo was the first to be given the certificate in July 1974.

42 Chūgoku Shimbun, “Jihi de Maneki Chiryō e,” [Inviting Patients for Medical Treatment via Self-expense] January 21, 1973, Box 4, HT0400900, HUA.

43 Chūgoku Shimbun, “I wa Jinjutsu ni Kokkyō Nashi: Kankoku Hibakusha, 27 Nichi ni Hiroshima e,” [There Is No Border to Humanistic Medicine: A Korean Hibakusha Arrives in Hiroshima on 27th] March 24, 1973, Box 4, HT0400900, HUA.

44 Chūgoku Shimbun, “Hibaku Techō o Shinsei: Rainichi, Chiryōchū no Kankoku Fujin,” [Applying for the A-bomb Certificate: A Korean Woman Coming to Japan Being Under Medical Treatment] April 12, 1973, Box 4, HT0400900, HUA.

45 Kawamura, Iryō to Shinkō, 74.

46 For further information on the Japanese – South Korean intergovernmental medical relief program see Ágota Duró, “A Pioneer among the South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims: Significance of the Son Jin-doo Trial,” Asian Journal of Peacebuilding 4.2 (2016): 271-292.

47 Nagasaki Zainichi Chōsenjin no Jinken o Mamoru Kai, [Nagasaki Association to Protect the Human Rights of Koreans in Japan] Chōsenjin Hibakusha: Nagasaki kara no Shōgen [Korean Hibakusha: Testimnies from Nagasaki] (Tokyo: Shakai Hyōronsha, 1989), 253. Hereafter cited as Jinken o Mamoru Kai, Chōsenjin Hibakusha.

48 Ibid., 254.

49 Ichiba, Hiroshima o Mochikaetta Hitobito, 68-69.

50 If the Korea Association is correct in estimating that 23,000 hibakusha returned to the Korean Peninsula, and 2,000 settled in North Korea, that means that about 6,000 hibakusha living in South Korea had passed away by the 1980s. Nevertheless, given the lack of official surveys conducted by the Japanese and South Korean governments – namely, on the number of A-bomb victims returning to South Korea in the postwar period – it is important to note that these numbers are estimates, and the exact numbers are unknown.

51 Ibid., 74-75.

52 Jinken o Mamoru Kai, Chōsenjin Hibakusha, 254.

53 Michael Weiner, “The Representation of Absence and the Absence of Representation: Korean Victims of the Atomic Bomb,” Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity ed. Michael Weiner (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 99.

54 Hirano Nobuto, Umi no Mukō no Hibakushatachi: Zaigai Hibakusha Mondai no Rikai no Tame ni[Hibakusha Living on the Other Side of the Sea: For the Comprehension of the Problem of the Hibakusha Residing Outside Japan] (Tokyo: Hachigatsu Shokan, 2009)19.

55 Ichiba, Hiroshima o Mochikaetta Hitobito, 75.

56 Full text of the San Francisco Peace Treaty is available here.

57 Takazane Yasunori. Interview with the author. Nagasaki, February 5, 2016.Takazane was the former chairperson of the Nagasaki Association to Protect the Human Rights of Koreans in Japan and the former director of the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum. According to the 151th issue of the Kankoku no Genbaku Hibakusha o Kyūensuru Shimin no Kai Kikanshi: Hayaku Engo o! (hereafter Hayaku Engo o!) [Bulletin of the Association of Citizens for the Support of South Korean Atomic Bomb Victims: Quick Support!] (page 15), he passed away on April 7, 2017.

58 Ichiba Junko, “8/3 Zaikan Hibakusha ga ‘Beiseifu ha Genbaku Tōka Sekinin o Mitomete Shazai Seyo’ to Chōtei Shinsei” [August 3rd: Hibakusha in South Korea Submit a Request of Mediation with the U.S. Government about Acknowledging its Complicity in the Dropping of the Atomic Bombs and Apologizing] in Hayaku Engo o! 151 (December 2017): 4.

59 Kawamura Toratarō, “Nyūsu Hakkan ni Yosete,” [Contributing to the News Publication] in Hiroshima Iinkai Nyūsu [Hiroshima Committee News] No. 1, May 1985: 1 in Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō no Michi (Hiroshima: Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, 2016), 1. Hereafter cited as Kawamura, “Nyūsu Hakkan ni Yosete.”

60 Ibid., 1-2.

61 Kim Sin-hwan, “‘Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai’ no Kessei to ‘Tonichi Chiryō’,” [Formation of the ‘Hiroshima Committee to Invite Korean A-bomb Survivors to Japan for Medical Treatment’ and ‘Coming to Japan for Medical Treatment’] in Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō no Michi (Hiroshima: Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai, 2016), 18. Hereafter cited as Kim, “‘Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai’ no Kessei to ‘Tonichi Chiryō.’”

62 However, beginning in 1999, owing to the large number of applicants, the treatment of one person was limited to two months so that more hibakusha could receive treatment.

63 Kim, “‘Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai’ no Kessei to ‘Tonichi Chiryō,’” 19-20.

64 Besides submitting a detailed A-bomb testimony, applicants needed to have two witnesses to apply for an A-bomb Certificate.

65 Kim, “‘Zaikan Hibakusha Tonichi Chiryō Hiroshima Iinkai’ no Kessei to ‘Tonichi Chiryō,’” 20-22.

66 Quoted in the documents shown at Dr. Kawamura Yuzuru’s residence on July 10, 2016.

67 Mainichi Shimbun, “Shimin Dantai ‘Yakume Oeta:’ Iryōhi Shikyū Jitsugen de, Hiroshima de Kaiken,” [Citizens’ Group Finished Its Duty: The Supply of Medical Expenses Is Realized; Press Conference in Hiroshima] May 13, 2016. (accessed: July 15, 2016).

68 Concerning the list of the Kiyoshi Tanimoto Peace Prize winners, see (in Japanese): Kōeki Zaidan Hōjin Hiroshima Pisu Senta, [Hiroshima Peace Center Public Interest Incorporated Association] “Tanimoto Kiyoshi Heiwashō Jushōsha: Dantaimei Ichiran,” [Kiyoshi Tanimoto Peace Prize Winners: List of the Group Names] (accessed: January 12, 2017).Tanimoto Kiyoshi was an atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima and a key hibakusha activist who helped raise awareness of the atomic bombing both in Japan and in the United States. After his death, the Kiyoshi Tanimoto Peace Prize was established (in 1987) to honor those who excelled in peace-related activities. See Caroline Chung Simpson, An Absent PresenceJapanese Americans in Postwar American Culture1945 –1960 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 119.

69 Michiko Tanaka, “Korean Government Gives Award to Hiroshima Group Which Supports Korean A-bomb Survivors,” April 3, 2015. (accessed: July 15, 2016).

70 Ishida, “Zaikan Hibakusha no Kenkōshindan no Hōkoku,” 508.

71 Mizukawa Kyosuke, “Hiroshima Group Supporting Korean A-bomb Survivors to End Its Activities,” May 13, 2016. (accessed: July 15, 2016).

72 Expenses for medical treatment, however, were covered by the Japanese government, since the patients participating in the program possessed A-bomb Certificates.

All images in this article are from the author unless otherwise stated.

The head of the commission on missing persons, Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, significantly downplayed the role of the country’s military and intelligence agencies in “enforced disappearances” of Pashtun and Baloch people while briefing the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights on Monday. Iqbal’s attempt to absolve Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus of its responsibility for missing persons was made against the backdrop of a growing anti-war movement in the country led by Pashtun youth.  

During the briefing, Iqbal also accused foreign intelligence agencies of kidnapping people to defame Pakistan’s armed forces, but no evidence was provided to back up his assertion. In addition, he claimed that most of the cases of missing persons received by the commission have been resolved and that the majority of the people recovered or accounted for were found to be “pro-military.” Again, no evidence was given in defense of these claims.  Iqbal also failed to acknowledge the security apparatus’ role in the kidnapping and detaining of journalists, activists and political dissidents.

Since Justice Iqbal took over as President in 2011, the Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances has failed to publish a single report.  The commission received 868 new cases last year, more than either of the previous 2 years. According to Amina Masood Janjua, an artist and human rights activist whose husband was disappeared in 2005, Iqbal has consistently discouraged the families of missing persons from seeking justice and has even implied that enforced disappearances are an effective means to deal with terrorism.

Justice Iqbal’s mendacious defense of the army and intelligence agencies should come as no surprise in a country where the judiciary has a long history of supporting the military establishment and its anti-democratic maneuvers.  In contrast, Pakistan’s judges tend to be much more confrontational when it comes to elected officials. True to form, in his comments on Monday, Iqbal blasted parliamentarians for failing to adequately address the missing persons issue while completely denying the role of the military-intelligence apparatus in human rights violations against oppressed ethnic groups.

The unresolved issue of missing persons has been the main catalyst for an anti-war movement that has been gathering steam in the country since January.  The movement began after the kidnapping and extrajudicial murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a Pashtun shopkeeper and aspiring model in Karachi who was not in any way associated with militant groups.  Naqeebullah was murdered by the Sindh Police in an operation led by Rao Anwar, who was the Senior Superintendent of the Police at the time. After the authorities failed to apprehend Anwar, members of the Mehsud tribe began a long march from Dera Ismail Khan in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the capital city of Islamabad.  Recognizing that they share the same grievances, other tribes soon joined the march. The protesters were enthusiastically received upon their arrival in Islamabad, where a sit-in commenced which lasted for 10 days and was attended by thousands of supporters.

Rao Anwar has since been apprehended, but young Pashtuns across the country are continuing their struggle. Their movement, which eventually adopted the name Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement (PTM), is led by Manzoor Pashteen, a 26-year-old member of the Mehsud tribe.  The demands of the PTM are entirely legitimate. These include the recovery of 32,000 missing persons believed to have been kidnapped by the army; an end to state repression of Pashtuns, particularly in the tribal areas; the removal of army checkpoints where ordinary people are routinely humiliated; an end to discriminatory identification cards; and the clearing of landmines in tribal areas that have killed and injured scores of innocent people, including children.

These demands have struck a chord with Pashtuns throughout Pakistan. Massive rallies have been held all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including a public meeting in Peshawar on April 8 that drew tens of thousands of supporters.  A public meeting in Quetta, located in the restive province of Balochistan, drew a crowd of 50,000, including many Baloch and Hazara supporters. Large numbers of women have also participated in PTM rallies.

In his speeches, Manzoor Pashteen describes the misery unleashed on working class and poor Pashtuns ever since, in the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan assumed the role of junior partner in US imperialism’s subjugation of Afghanistan.  At the behest of Washington, Pakistan has conducted numerous counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas. The army has committed atrocities during these operations, including kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings.

Over the years, many Pashtuns have charged the military with conducting its operations indiscriminately, resulting in civilian casualties. In one of his speeches, Manzoor Pashteen recalled witnessing Pakistani fighter jets kill women and children in a bombing raid.  He described how newspapers later reported that the attack killed terrorists, with no mention of civilian casualties. The military rarely identifies the people it kills in its operations, nor is there any independent verification regarding the identities of those killed. Millions of people have also been displaced at various points over the past 15 years.  A Pakistani left-wing magazine, Tanqeed, used to publish interviews with Pashtun civilians in which they would discuss how the army operations were wreaking havoc on their lives. However, the magazine stopped publishing in January 2017 after one of its editors was kidnapped and held for 20 days by intelligence agents.

The PTM has also charged the military with selectively targeting militant groups in the tribal areas, sparing those militants it considers “strategic assets.” Thus, ordinary people in these areas are left vulnerable to attack by certain militant groups, which in addition to state repression, have made their lives increasingly unbearable.

The PTM leadership has repeatedly stated that the movement is loyal to the Pakistani state and committed to non-violent activism.  Nevertheless, the movement’s rapid growth has terrified the country’s ruling elite. On April 12, Pakistan’s army chief ominously warned that “engineered protests” would not be tolerated.

The major political parties and the media first ignored the movement.  When this proved unsuccessful, they began smearing the movement as controlled by foreign elements, denying its organic character. The Awami National Party, which decades ago served as a pole of attraction for Pashtun nationalists and leftists, has prohibited its members from participating in the PTM.  Journalists attempting to cover the movement objectively are being undermined. Online articles sympathetic to the PTM have mysteriously disappeared, including 3 recent articles from The News on Sunday (TNS) website.

With the movement gaining momentum, some politicians have feigned support for the movement, including Bilawal Bhutto, Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). However, the PPP, which controlled the central government from 2008 to 2013 and studiously followed Washington’s dictates in conducting the “war on terror,” is entirely complicit in the suffering of Pashtuns.

Throughout Pakistan’s history, the ruling elite has displayed a tendency to overreact to movements of oppressed ethnic groups, favoring repression over accommodation.  This tendency has become more pronounced since Bengalis achieved independence from Pakistan, with assistance from New Delhi, following a months-long war in 1971. The state of Bangladesh was established after Bengalis endured decades of oppression and exploitation. The Pakistani military, in alliance with Islamic extremists, massacred hundreds of thousands of Bengali civilians before it was forced to surrender.

As was the case with Bengalis, Pakistan’s military and civilian elites are attempting to portray the nascent movement of Pashtuns as a foreign plot.  Under these circumstances, the recent support for the PTM expressed by Afghanistan’s puppet government could lend credence to this dubious narrative. The movement has also received enthusiastic coverage in the western media, much to the chagrin of Pakistan’s ruling establishment. The PTM would do well to distance itself from forces seeking to influence the movement in order to serve their own geo-political agendas.  The PTM would also benefit from highlighting Washington’s role in destabilizing the region, to the detriment of Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Such an approach would dispel any notion that this powerful grassroots movement is “engineered.”


Ali Mohsin is an independent writer.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Featured image is from Countercurrents.

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Irresistible Urges: Surveilling Australia’s Citizens

May 3rd, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The authoritarian misfits in the Turnbull government have again rumbled and uttered suspicions long held: Australian residents and citizens are not to be trusted, and the intelligence services should start getting busy in expanding their operations against the next Doomsday threat.

This became clear from leaked material on discussions that illustrate in no subtle way the security paranoia afflicting officials in the nation’s various capitals.  A merry bunch they are too, featuring the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his advisor and department secretary, Mike Pezzullo.  These latest discussions disclose not so much a change of approach as a continuation of a theme the Australian national security has taken since 2001: we are menaced constantly, and need the peering folk and peeping toms to pre-empt the next attack, fraud or swindle.

Central to the latest security round robin is a familiar, authoritarian theme: the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) should be given access to emails, bank records and text messages without the knowledge of citizens, tantamount to a data home invasion. A mutual role would thereby be cemented between defence and home affairs. 

Minister Dutton has found it hard to contain his delight at the prospect of further influence, despite rejecting the notion that his moves would lead to carte blanche espionage on home soil. According to the ABC, which has attempted to make sense of the latest chatter, the ASD would be given a larger role on three levels.

The first would involve deploying shutting down or “cyber effects” powers against the usual gifts that keep giving alibis: organised criminals, child pornographers and terrorists.  “Penetration tests” on Australian companies to test the value of their cyber security against hacking would also be conducted.  The third arm of enlarged power would entail giving the ASD powers to coerce government agencies and companies to improve cyber security.

Over the weekend, the secretaries of Defence, Home Affairs and the ASD issued a joint statement claiming that the latter’s “cyber security function entails protecting Australians from cyber-enabled crime and cyber attacks, and not collecting intelligence on Australians.” 

The secretaries insist on a scrupulousness that barely computes:

“We would never provide advice to Government suggesting that ASD be allowed to have unchecked data collection on Australians – this can only ever occur within the law, and under very limited and controlled circumstances.”

The state of protections citizens have is hardly rosy as it is: ASIO is tasked with the issue of conducting espionage on Australian territory though it needs warrants signatured by the Attorney General.  The Australian Federal Police also require warrants.  The ASD, to date, been a helper rather than a controller, a two-bit player and data cruncher.

Not all ministers are on board with the plan, notably the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (image on the right).  A palpable shift of power is taking place in the bureaucratic machinations of Canberra, and the suggestions that the ASD be given enhanced powers to produce intelligence on Australians suggests a further circumvention if not outright evisceration of the Attorney-General’s department.

Dutton and his cadres are also mounting an offensive on other surveillance fronts, something typified by the weasel language of the “central interoperability hub”. The Home Affairs department already shows sign of bloating self-importance, floating more ideas about how best to keep the large eye of the state attentive to security threats.  A facial recognition system, for instance, is on the table, and is likely to be given the blessing of parliament.

The Law Council of Australia has reason to worry as, for that matter, does everybody else. Giving government agencies the means to identify a face in a crowd can only have a broadening effect, resulting in prosecutions for minor misdemeanours.

On this score, the governments of the states and territories are with the Home Affairs department, having agreed in October last year to the sharing of identity and facial recognition data between all levels of government to target the usual bogeys that threaten Australia’s cobbled civilisation: organised crime, terrorism and identity fraud.

The surveillance sorcerers, it would seem, are rampant, a point made clear in the Identity-matching Services Bill 2018.  This potentially insidious bit of drafting “provides for the exchange of identity information between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments by enabling the Department of Home Affairs to collect, use and disclose identification information in order to operate the technical systems that will facilitate the identity-matching services envisaged by the IGA.” (Crypto-authoritarians tend to be rather verbose.)

The Bill’s wording also abhors the state of current image-based methods of identification, these being “slow, difficult to audit, and often involve manual tasking between requesting agencies and data holding agencies, sometimes taking several days or longer to process”. The travails of a liberal democracy, ever a nuisance to those protectors citing omnipresent threats.

The Council’s president, Morry Bailes, has already hammered out the words he intends to tell the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security:

“Clearly, provision of such capability has been desirable to facilitate detection of would-be terrorists scoping a site for a potential terrorist attack.  But that very same identity-matching capability might also be used for a range of activities that Australian citizens regard as unacceptable.”

Even Bailes effuses pieties, thinking that clearly drawn lines on the use of such data will somehow save the sacred cow of civil liberties.  (That cow, it must be said, is in a poor state of health as it is.)  He insists on such canons as legitimate use and proportionality, two features managers of the national security state are inherently incapable of. 

“That line should also be assured by law to be fully transparent, understood and consistently applied by all relevant governments and their agencies.”  

But such a line might creep, advancing “towards broad social surveillance” finding its way “to a full social-credit style system of government surveillance of Australian citizens.”

The issue common to the latest pro-surveillance bingers is an innate desire to remove the judicial arm from the equation.  Having a warrant takes time and resources; leaving surveillance to the discretion of state officials is far more expedient and tidy.

As the Australian Human Rights Commission notes, the “very broad powers” granted to Dutton as Home Affairs minister “could lead to further very significant intrusions on privacy.”  There are no discernible “limits on what may be done with information shared through the services the bill would create”.

The latest ASD affair, with other surveillance agendas in the wing, suggests that a very unfitting eulogy for Australian civil liberties is being written.  Authoritarianism is being kept in check by ever weakening forces and fetters.  The insecurity of citizens is deemed a suitable price for the security of the state – just the way Dutton likes it.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

When nuclear disaster struck at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi power plant, it was clear that the environmental impact of such extreme amounts of radiation would be immeasurable. Reports on just how bad the situation at the plant is have continued to reveal a devastating truth: Even in 2017, the amount of radiation being produced by the damaged reactors was lethal. In spite of the obvious risk, Japanese government officials are now looking to make use of the radioactive Fukushima — by using dirt from the site to build new roads.

Roughly six years after the meltdown began, the radiation in and around the nuclear reactors was still being described as a “nuclear explosion that doesn’t end.” Experts have reportedly said that the amount of radiation produced at Fukushima was “unimaginable.” And now the government wants to use materials from the area to build roads?

Virtually everything in and around the Fukushima disaster site could probably pose a threat to human health. Reports from 2017 showed that radiation levels at the site could reach as high as 530 sieverts per hour. A level of five sieverts per hour is enough to prove deadly for some in a matter of months; at 10 sieverts, you might survive for a few weeks.

When the inherent toxicity of all things Fukushima is taken into account, it comes as no surprise that a growing number of people are concerned with the Japanese government’s scheme to simply re-purpose soil dug up from the disaster site to build new roads in the region.

Residents of the area are understandably concerned that they might be poisoned by the tainted dirt. While it is true that the radiation from the Fukushima meltdown has spread for miles in seemingly every direction, for the government to go out of its way to spread irradiated soil just seems a touch irresponsible. How many government officials do you think would be living near the proposed radiation-laden roads?

The U.K.’s Daily Star reports that during a briefing on the project, locals erupted and “angry scenes” ensued; who could blame them? Despite the government’s attempts at ensuring people that the radiation-tainted roads will be safe, it seems that the people of the area were not buying it.

Japan’s Environment Ministry announced plans to begin trials of the radiated roads in the city of Nihonmatsu — but citizens are just not having it. As Japan Times explains:

Under the plan, tainted soil will be buried under a 200-meter stretch of road in the city. The soil, packed in black plastic bags, has been sitting in temporary storage.

The plan is to take about 500 cu. meters of the soil, bury it under the road at a depth of 50 cm or more, cover it with clean soil to block radiation, and pave over it with asphalt.

Japanese authorities say that burying the irradiated soil under “clean” earth will “block” any harmful radiation emitted from Fukushima soil. But, there are many concerns about how safe and effective this “clean” soil curtain will be — and many feel that this risk simply is not worth whatever “reward” the government is looking to get.

According to Modern Survival Blog, you need a clean soil depth of 36 inches to block radiation — equivalent to 91.5 centimeters, and nearly double what the Japanese government has proposed. Concrete needs to be 24 inches thick to block radiation, so exactly how thick are they planning  on making this road?

Ultimately, this seems to be an unsavory way for the government to “dispose” of the irradiated soil.

Given that the Japanese government has been strongly encouraging citizens of the disaster area to return to their homes in spite of the record-high levels of radiation still being recorded, it’s sadly not that surprising that they are looking to build roads out of the radioactive soil. What will they think of next?






Featured image is from NaturalNews.com.

The Western media continues to saturate headlines with stories of “Russian meddling,” meanwhile Western governments led by Washington openly celebrate their own meddling in foreign political affairs.

One such example unfolded during the US State Department’s annual “Women of Courage Awards” with Thailand-based Sirikan “June” Charoensiri among the recipients.

Upon the US State Department’s website under a post titled, “Biographies of the Finalists for the 2018 International Women of Courage Awards,” Charoensiri’s alleged work is described:

In the immediate aftermath of Thailand’s May 2014 coup d’etat, lawyer Sirikan Charoensiri (known as June) co-founded Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a lawyers’ collective set up to provide pro bono legal services in human rights cases and to document human rights issues under the military government. TLHR has represented hundreds of clients since the military coup, often as the only alternative for those facing politically-motivated charges. Because of the political sensitivity of the organization’s work, TLHR lawyers and staffers, and June in particular, have been subjected regularly to harassment, intimidation, and criminal charges. As a consequence of her advocacy, June is currently facing three sets of criminal charges for her work as a lawyer, including a charge of sedition – the first for a lawyer under the military government. Nevertheless, June continues undeterred in her work.

However, completely omitted from Charoensiri’s “biography” is the fact that her organization – Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) – was organized out of the US Embassy in Bangkok following the 2014 coup and has since been funded by the US State Department via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since – aimed at US-backed regime change.

NED’s website included TLHR under its 2014 recipients but has since erased this page. Its 2017 listings for Thailand omit TLHR’s funding despite its continued sponsorship. Local English newspapers like The Nation have covered TLHR admitting they are funded by “foreign organizations” but failed to list them or press TLHR members regarding their dependence on foreign government funding and potential conflicts of interest.The Nation’s article, “Legal eagles fight for human rights,” would admit (emphasis added):

Established on May 24, 2014 and funded by foreign organisations, the centre has risen to prominence fast.

Its rise to “prominence” is owed to the almost constant promotion afforded to it by the Western media – particularly representatives of Western media corporations like Reuters, AFP, the BBC, and others based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Defending Human Rights? Or US-Funded Regime Change?

The US State Department’s aggrandizement of Charoensiri is aimed at lending what is essentially US political meddling in Thailand’s internal affairs a sense of badly needed legitimacy.

Despite the implications inferred by the award ceremony and a constant barrage of stories claiming TLHR is fighting for “human rights” in Thailand, the clients these “lawyers” represent are exclusively agitators attempting to oppose and overthrow not only the current Thai government, but Thailand’s military and constitutional monarchy.

These goals directly serve those of US-backed political proxy, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra. A former Carlyle Group adviser, personal friend of the Bush family, and since the 2006 coup that ousted him from power – recipient of lobbying efforts from the largest PR firms in Washington – Shinawatra represents US ambitions towards establishing Thailand as a client state aimed at opposing China’s regional and global rise.

Many of those being represented by TLHR are literally members of Thaksin Shinawatra’s street front, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) also known as “red shirts.” Protesters taking to the streets in recent weeks even literally wear their signature red shirts to demonstrations. The Western media has intentionally omitted mention of who the protesters are, what they represent, and who is funding them – just as they have attempted to conceal the source of TLHR’s funding.

The protests themselves are also in fact co-led by another TLHR lawyer, Anon Nampa. George Soros’ Open Society-funded Frontline Defenders in a post regarding Nampa would establish him as a lawyer for TLHR:

Anon Nampa is a human rights lawyer who works with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Nampa’s leadership role amid recent protests has been established by local media. Bangkok Post in its article, “Nine protest leaders face indictment,” would report:

The leaders are Rangsiman Rome, Sirawith Seritiwat, Nattha Mahatthana, Anon Nampa, Sukrit Piansuwan, Chonticha Jaengrew, Karn Phongpraphan, Netiwit Chotipatpaisal and Ekachai Hongkangwan. 

Nampa can also be clearly seen on stage during protests alongside protest co-leaders. In essence, a US government-funded organization is not only defending members of an anti-government protest in a foreign nation, it is also providing leadership and resources to the protest itself.

Other “leaders” of the protest, including Chonticha Jaengrew are in regular contact with US Embassy staff, have visited the embassy and embassy-organized events but have so far attempted to deny any ties to US government funding or directives. Nampa’s US-funding and his role in leading protests – however – implicates fellow protest leaders in aiding and abetting foreign-funded subversion.

US Regime Change in Thailand

Since 2006, US political proxy Thaksin Shinawatra – a convicted criminal and fugitive hiding abroad – has attempted to hold power through a series of nepotist-appointed proxies including his brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra. Shinawatra’s sister was ousted from power in the above-mentioned 2014 coup.

More recently, he has also invested in multiple alternative opposition fronts and parties in an attempt to re-brand his increasingly embattled political machine.

Opposition to the 2014 coup has since been depicted by the Western media as a “pro-democracy” movement rather than pro-Shinawatra despite protests being led by overt lobbyists and political organizers working for Shinawatra and his US sponsors. The protests themselves are openly attended by Shinawatra’s street front, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) also known as “red shirts” who can be clearly seen wearing their signature red color during recent events.

Shinawatra’s UDD has taken to the streets before. In 2009 during riots, UDD red shirts murdered two shopkeepers while attempting to loot their property. In 2010, Shinawatra would augment his red shirt mobs with heavily armed militants triggering weeks of gun battles with government troops in the streets of the capital, resulting in nearly 100 deaths.

In 2014 amid growing protesters against Shinawatra’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, her corruption, and her overt attempts to amend Thai law to return her brother to power – these same militants using assault rifles and grenades attacked protesters in a bid to push them off the streets. The escalating violence was in fact what finally precipitated the 2014 coup.

Threats by Shinawatra, his political party and his UDD “red shirt” street front of eventual “civil war” if his return to power remains obstructed have triggered fears of US-backed Syrian-style violence. While it is unlikely Shinawatra and his US sponsors can replicate the scale of violence unfolding in Syria, they could easily sponsor a campaign of terrorism the Western media would eagerly depict as “civil war.”

The US State Department’s funding and aggrandizement of agitators like Charoensiri and her “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights” illustrates how US “soft power” is used to set the stage for protests and eventually violence aimed at “hard” regime change.

Becoming familiar with the names, financial, political, and logistical ties of supposed “opposition” working on behalf of Washington today helps genuine journalists and analysts get ahead of the curve and impeding tomorrow’s attempts by Washington to stampede a targeted government out of power and replace it with a client regime of its own choosing – and all the violence, instability, death, and misery that will surely accompany it.


Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

Featured image is from the author.

Vietnam Locks Up US-funded Agitators

April 16th, 2018 by Joseph Thomas

Featured image: Nguyen Van Dai, recently sentenced to 15 years in prison, is pictured with US Senator and chairman of the International Republican Institute (IRI) John McCain in the US Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam. The IRI provides money to foreign agents of US influence and is a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) (Source: NEO).  

Vietnam has tried and imprisoned several members of a US-funded network engaged in sedition across the country. The move follows  trials and prison terms handed out earlier this year for other US-funded operatives meddling in Vietnam’s internal political affairs.

The prison terms for agents of US-funded political meddling in Vietnam come as the US and its European allies continue pushing accusations of Russian meddling. However, unlike the US and Europe’s accusations against Russia, agents of US-funded sedition in Vietnam are exposed by extensive evidence, much of which comes from the US government itself.

The BBC in its April 6, 2018 article, “Nguyen Van Dai: Vietnam jails activist lawyer and five others,” would claim:

Six prominent Vietnamese activists have received heavy prison sentences on charges of “attempting to overthrow” the country’s communist government. 

Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years, while the other defendants were jailed for between seven and 12 years, relatives said on Thursday.

The article mentions Nguyen Van Dai and his fellow defendants’ role in founding the so-called “Brotherhood for Democracy.”

Deutsche Welle in its article, “Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai among six given jail terms,” adds that:

Dai founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam in 2006 and was sentenced to five years in jail in 2007 for spreading propaganda against the government. While his term was reduced to four years on appeal, his lawyer’s license was revoked. 

After his release in 2011, Dai co-founded the Brotherhood for Democracy network in 2013. It included other, formerly jailed dissidents advocating via social media for human rights throughout Vietnam.

DW would also report (our emphasis):

They were all accused of “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s government,” according to the indictment issued by the Supreme People’s Procuracy in Hanoi last December. The charges included carrying out human rights training, calling for multi-party democracy and receiving funding from foreign groups.

The BBC, DW and other US and European media organisations went through extensive efforts to avoid mentioning US training, funding and other forms of support provided to Nguyen Van Dai and other recently arrested and jailed “activists.” The defendants’ various website also fail to directly and openly disclose their funding.

However, admissions have been inadvertently made.

Covering Up US-Funding of Sedition in Vietnam  

While the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website lists 11 programmes being funded in Vietnam as of 2017, descriptions are left intentionally ambiguous, failing to disclose any organisation or individual actually receiving the funds. Disclosures for previous years have since been deleted from the NED website.

Opposition website “The 88 Project” in a post titled, “Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 5/2018 – Week of January 29-February 4” would report on the imprisonment of Tran Hoang Phuc, Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan earlier in 2018.

Phuc is admitted to have been a participant in the US State Department’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). YSEALI indoctrinates young people across Southeast Asia, often helping them organise and fund subversive operations posing as “nongovernmental organisations” (NGOs).

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US State Department-funded media front producing propaganda aimed at the Asia-Pacific region, would describe the Brotherhood for Democracy as a successor to another prominent opposition group in Vietnam, Bloc 8406.

In a 2013 article titled, “Vietnamese Activists Form ‘Brotherhood for Democracy’,” Radio Free Asia would claim:

A group of mostly former jailed dissidents in Vietnam have set up a new online group to coordinate efforts to bring democracy to the country, now under one party communist rule. 

The movement, known as the “Brotherhood for Democracy,” was established about 10 days ago and the membership has grown to 70 so far.

The article would also claim:

The biggest online Vietnamese group pushing for democratic reforms is Bloc 8406. It was organized across the country in 2006, but many of its leaders, including co-founder Roman Catholic priest and dissident Nguyen Van Ly are languishing in prison.

However, Radio Free Asia, like other US and European media organisations, failed to disclose the group’s funding.

US diplomatic cables disclosed by Wikileaks would reveal that many involved in Bloc 8406 were recipients of US government training and funding.

A cable titled, “Blogging and Political Dissent in Vietnam,” would claim (our emphasis):

Dissident attorney Le Quoc Quan, who was detained for 3 months in 2007 after completing a fellowship with the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC, has his own blog (www.lequocquan.blogspot.com). Over the past year, Lawyer Quan has posted many articles critical of the government’s handling of last year’s Catholic protests at the Thai Ha parish and the September-October arrests of at least 13 activists associated with the dissident political movement Bloc 8406 (reftel). 

And while NED had deleted past financial disclosures regarding Vietnam, NED’s e-bulletin, “Democracy Digest,” has several archived articles that offer clues.

In one 2016 article titled, “Obama must raise Vietnam’s rights abuses, civil society crackdown,” an interview with the aforementioned Nguyen Van Dai’s wife conducted in the US was published. The interview includes a question regarding Dai’s involvement with the National Endowment for Democracy. When asked if he attended a “workshop on Democracy in the US,” Dai’s wife replied:

Oh yes, that was back in 2006. Dai got invited by the NED (National Endowment for Democracy).

“Democracy Digest” would also admit in a 2009 post entitled, “Vietnam stifles dissent in advance of party congress,” that the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights or “Que Me” is a grantee of the US National Endowment for Democracy. Despite the similar names, this latter organisation does not appear to be the same one founded by Dai in 2006. It does, however, directly support and defend the activities of Dai and his organisation, including a recent article decrying his lengthy prison sentence.

A 2015 Radio Free Asia article published in Vietnamese titled, “Nguyen Van Dai was arrested before the meeting with the EU representative” (when translated), features an image of Dai with US Senator John McCain in the US Embassy in Hanoi. The article also admits (translated):

It is also recalled that Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai is a human rights lawyer who regularly defends the victims and those who are oppressed in Vietnam. He is also a blogger of the RFA Asia Free Press.

Thus, while the US and European press reported Vietnam’s accusations that Dai and his collaborators were recipients of foreign funding and served as agents of foreign interests, they failed to include known information of Dai’s role working on behalf of the US government.

However, as mentioned before, Radio Free Asia is funded and directed by the US State Department with the US Secretary of State serving as a board member. RFA’s own article admits that Dai is a “blogger” working for RFA, and thus serving under the direction RFA’s board of directors, including the US Secretary of State.

It should also be noted that McCain sits on the board of directors of the International Republican Institute, a subsidiary of the National Endowment for Democracy. It is unlikely McCain would have met with Dai in the US Embassy in Hanoi if Dai was not a recipient of US funding and an agent for US interests.

Vietnam Spends Political Capital US Granted Versus Beijing to Jail US Agitators 

The irony is that the lengthy prison terms come at a time when the US needs Vietnam the most. The US has faced growing indifference across Southeast Asia regarding its attempts to recruit the region into encircling and containing China. Vietnam has emerged as one of the few nations willing to engage with Washington in an overt gesture to check Beijing’s growing influence.

However, Vietnam has done so cynically. The political capital granted to Vietnam by the US in its efforts to court Hanoi appears to have been spent to eliminate highly symbolic figures among US-funded networks aimed at compromising Vietnamese sovereignty and pressure Vietnamese policy making.

It remains to be seen how far Washington will push Hanoi regarding the jailing of US-funded agitators. Other members of US NED-funded fronts across Southeast Asia, including YSEALI alumni will likely suffer a crisis of confidence over US indifference to their jailed counterparts in Vietnam if the US fails to act. However, if the US does act, it will lose one of the last nations in the region willing to work with Washington regarding Beijing.

Perhaps then a pan-Asian effort to finally uproot and expel permanently aspects of US and European “soft power” can begin.


Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Student-driven protests erupted in Bangladesh on Sunday after thousands of young people staged sit-ins and other demonstrations in protest of the government’s “affirmative action” policy to allocate 56% of civil service positions to the children of veterans from the 1971 war and what have been described as disadvantaged minority groups. The latter category is usually afforded certain privileges in many societies across the world, but the first-mentioned one isn’t, thus making it appear to some that the ruling Awami League is trying to create a privileged class of state beneficiaries as a vote bank for dividing and ruling the majority impoverished population.

The students are concerned that they’ll have difficulty finding respectable employment in the remaining 44% of the civil society positions available if the majority are already taken by potentially unqualified individuals who simply satisfy one politically defined criterion.

The authorities’ violent reaction to the students runs the risk of energizing the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) that’s been the Awami League’s chief rival since independence and whose leader was recently found guilty of corruption charges in what she claims was a politically motivated show trial designed to prevent her from running in this December’s elections. BNP leader Khaleda Zia and Awami League head Shiekh Hasina have been competing with one another for decades already and both have ruled the country at different times, but their personal feud has far-reaching international dimensions because of the differences in their foreign policies. The BNP is closer to Saudi Arabia and China, while the Awami League is known for its friendship with India that some critics allege has become too close for comfort lately in threatening to turn the country into New Delhi’s client state.

Supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League

Supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League

In addition, the Awami League has been accused of creeping authoritarianism that some observers fear is radicalizing members of the opposition and making them susceptible to the type of extremist recruitment that could dangerously turn Bangladesh into “Bangla-Daesh”. Khaleda Zia’s imprisonment has prompted calls for the BNP to boycott the upcoming elections just like they did last time around and therefore deprive Sheika Hasina’s resultantly expected victory of any real legitimacy, though before that happens, the state’s violent response to the student unrest and the BNP’s lack of participation in the polls will probably draw extra attention to the country’s domestic situation. Any condemnation from leading international players might lead to the relative “diplomatic isolation” of the country and its further dependence on India, potentially turning fears about its junior status vis-à-vis this Great Power into a fait accompli.


Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Fascistic Politics in India and the Left

April 16th, 2018 by Raju Das

India is experiencing something like a national emergency. This is in the form of persistent, nation-wide attacks on the basic democratic rights of ordinary citizens, by hyper-nationalist and communal forces which are supporting, and which are supported by, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They are especially targeting religious minorities, secularists, Leftists, as well as dalits.

No political project hangs in the air. It must be rooted in material conditions and class relations. Indeed, fundamental to the worldview of the forces playing the politics of religion, is the idolization of free-market economics, and of authoritarian politics supported by a mass movement. Authoritarian politics is necessary to implement free-market economics in the interest of property-owning classes. This is especially so in an unequal, poverty-stricken, relatively backward society like India where millions of people are not only suffering but are also fighting against their conditions, and who therefore have to be suppressed/managed through authoritarian means, if the businesses have to be kept happy.

The ideology and practices of free-market economics and authoritarian politics are dressed up by Right-wing demagogic political leaders, as development (vikas) and as good governance, respectively, and sold to voters in the election market. ‘Development’ and ‘Governance’ are also used, along with hyper-nationalism based in the idea of the supremacy of Hindu religion over other religions, to help produce a mass movement. So, free-market economic ideas/policies, rabid religious nationalist ideology rousing a mass movement, and authoritarian intolerance toward dissent: all these come together and support each other. One term to describe it all is: growing fascistic tendency.

Safron Crush

In India, to win support for their cause, the fascistic forces have been making good use of electoral methods to mobilize the masses. The saffron party (BJP) is now in power in as many as 13 States on its own and another 9 States with an alliance partner, out of 29 States. It is now the dominant party of the ruling class, including financial capital, and it supports, and is supported by, imperialist capital and its states.

The increasing political significance of the fascistic movement under BJP’s political leadership is indicated by the fact that when for the first time in Indian electoral history, there was a direct electoral face-off between the Left and the BJP in March 2018, BJP won. Even though the Left garnered 45% of the votes (down from 48.11% in 2013), the BJP, with its alliance partner won the majority of seats with a vote-share of 50.5%. BJP did so by using money and muscle power, by swallowing up Congress politicians, and by selling the dream of what it calls ‘development’. Shortly after the declaration of the Tripura election results, violent attacks on the communist movement in Tripura by the fascistic movement began. In fact, soon after the results were declared, two statues of Vladimir Lenin were taken down by the saffron mob.1

All these and similar actions demonstrate the Right-wing’s deep disrespect for democratic values. The dominance of Right-wing forces represents a most extreme form of the latent tendency toward an attack on democracy, the tendency that exists in capitalist societies when there is massive inequality and where the most basic needs of the masses remain unmet. For the BJP and indeed for the Sangh Parivar under RSS’s mentorship, one of the main means of acquiring political power is violence against religious minorities, against communists, and against all those who defend democracy and secularism. The question is: what is to be done now?

The remainder of this essay is divided into five sections. The next section deals with the fascistic tendencies as they are manifested in India. The following section talks about Marxist theory of Left politics, and the actually-existing Left politics in India, in terms of its relative strength and weakness, in relation to the fascistic threat. It is followed by a section addressing the question of what is to be done to undermine the fascistic threat? It proposes that Left forces must independently mobilize their basic classes against the fascistic brigade in the extra-electoral sphere, but in the electoral arena, in some cases, they may have to enter into some understanding with bourgeois forces in order to maximize the unity against the BJP. A further section discusses what I call Lenin’s theory of political compromise. Finally, the essay concludes by considering the proposal for the fight against fascistic tendencies outlined in light of Lenin’s theory.

Congress and BJP as two faces of Indian Bourgeois politics, with a difference

Coming out of the anti-colonial movement which it led, Congress has been the traditional party of the post-colonial bourgeoisie, but since the 1990s at least, its influence has been in decline.2 It has failed to significantly raise people’s living standards and to ensure that benefits of capitalist economic growth, to which its neoliberal policies contributed, are distributed in a fair way. BJP has now displaced Congress as the dominant party of the capitalist class, a process that has happened over time. How different and similar are these two political arms of the ruling class?

While Congress plays the religion card (‘soft hindutva’) to win elections and while it has failed to protect the rights of minorities (note that the 1992 mosque demolition happened under a Congress government at the Center), it will generally not go against the principle of secularism to the extent that the BJP does. Its politics is not dominantly based on the politics of sectarian hatred. The politics of hatred is the trademark of BJP.

As far as economic policies, the policies concerning capitalist development, are concerned, there is very little difference between BJP and Congress. Both are enthusiastic supporters of bourgeois class relations, and both support neoliberal forms of capitalism. And capitalists would like to use these parties as their political arms. If anything, BJP is ‘the Right-wing of Congress’. In part because BJP as a capitalist party has to pursue capitalist development like Congress does, it makes use of politics of religious identity and hyper-nationalism to distinguish itself from Congress in order to sell itself in the voter market as a different and unique commodity.

BJP stands for, and is a part of, a fascistic movement with Indian characteristics. BJP is the vanguard of militant political Hinduism. It is the political front of the fascistic movement that is recruiting its cadres from middle class and un- and semi-employed people, by making use of the discourse of the Hindu religion and the Hindutva-based notion of the nation. As a vanguard, it makes use of a variety of resources: the babas (spiritual masters) selling/offering tips, based in religious texts, for mental and spiritual peace; the so-called intellectuals with dubious academic credentials who have suddenly come out of nowhere; RSS cadres who know well how to make ad hominem and physical attacks on those who challenge them.3

There are also a few party spokes-persons who regularly show up on TV channels and who seem to know everything about everything and who forcefully champion the views of the Right-wing forces. Then there are fascistic vigilante groups, which force conformity on people to fascistic practices and ideas. BJP uses all these resources to change people’s way of thinking/practice from one that is based on reason and empirical-historical evidence and that is critical of economic and political power relations, to a way of thinking/practice that does not care (much) about reason or argument and that seeks to assert, at all cost, the supremacy of Hinduism.

That is not all. The fascistic forces are also blatantly pro-business (and pro-market). In India’s contemporary conservative climate, that has been in the making since the late 1980s, what is good for the business class is seen as being good for the nation, where the nation is seen, ultimately, as the territory of the majority-religion (Hinduism). If one says anything against the business class or against the pro-business policies of the government, or against the majority religion, one is considered anti-national. The ideology of the homogenous nation is used to support pro-business policies.

When the Right-wing government gives away to big private business-owners, nation’s land, or state-owned companies that have been built on the contributions of the people of the nation, or when it gives away money from nationalized banks to rich investors who do not return it, and who indeed flee the country, and to whom the government does nothing, or when the government prostrates before American imperialist military strategy making Indian soil available for refuelling U.S. war planes, all this is not anti-national for the Right-wing because all this is done to serve the interests of the nation as the Right-wing sees it. In concrete terms, the notion of the nation deployed by fascistic people, the storm troopers of the capitalists, means this: ‘for your nation, do not ask for higher wages or better working conditions, and give your hand and land for industrialization’.

That BJP is already seen as a political party like any other is indicative of the weakness of Left-democratic culture and the power of communal-political thinking. The corporate-controlled media acting as the propaganda channel of the ruling class has also helped to popularize the saffron agenda. The fact that leaders and spokespersons of BJP and RSS and other elements of the Sangh Parivar in general, have gained a place on TV and academic discussions demonstrates how normalized the fascistic tendencies have been – especially, in the minds of urban middle class people and other strata. Indeed, it is conveniently forgotten now by many that RSS, which is BJP’s spiritual guru and whose foot-army garners votes for BJP, much like the colonialists following the Christian missionaries, has been banned several times in India.

BJP fights elections on the basis of the on-the-ground-work done by the Sangh Parivar ‘missionaries’. Such groundwork includes brutal attacks on communists and on secularists and democrats, as well as charity work (think about RSS-funded network of schools in rural areas, that takes advantage of complete collapse of state-funded education), ideological brain-washing, and false promises creating illusion about its pro-people character. BJP takes advantage of people’s need for religious consciousness in a society where there is massive suffering caused by class relations which BJP itself is an enthusiastic Right-wing supporter of. BJP takes advantage, as well, of people’s economic insecurity which is alleviated by a sense of agency and empowerment when what one does and think has some palpable effect: killing fellow-citizens, destroying a monument, etc.

Prior to major elections, BJP typically resorts to sectarian violence and communal polarization as it is doing in Bihar, Rajasthan, etc. The aim is to cultivate its Hindu vote bank and garner Hindu votes. And when the BJP comes to power, the Sangh Parivar gets support to expand its tentacles inside the state, including educational and coercive institutions. When in power, it also pursues communal politics to satisfy the divisive cultural-political agenda of RSS, and to divert attention from its own failure to improve people’s conditions, a failure that is a given because of its utterly pro-business character.

Underlying all these factors behind BJP’s popularity is the fact that sections of the ruling class itself (the bourgeois and big-landlords), have shifted their loyalty to the BJP from Congress, even if not always willingly. If the ruling class can benefit from BJP’s authoritarianism that helps it implement neoliberal-capitalist policies, why not support it?4 The business class is very happy with the BJP, even if its saffron-fascistic hands are colored red by the murders of minorities, democrats, secularists and communists.

BJP is the political head of an ideologically driven mass movement that is rooted in small-scale producers and un- and under employed people, a movement that attacks democratic and social rights of workers and peasants. It is a movement by common people against common people. The rise of BJP is a part of world-wide Rightwing political trend moving on a fascistic path (Anievas, et al, 2014; Panitch and Albo, 2016).

BJP is a communal and authoritarian force, and represents an attack on democracy and secularism as well as on the living conditions of people and on nation’s sovereignty. True to its Right-wing bourgeois nature, it pursues neoliberal policies to create opportunities for national and imperialist capital. It subordinates India to U.S. or any other form of imperialism, in spite of its demagogic, hypocritical discourse about nationalism. Its notion of nationalism is more a religion-driven mental state rather than a material reality, which can be mobilized against imperialism. Of all bourgeois political movements/ tendencies/parties, the saffron movement, with the BJP at its political core and as its political vanguard, is the most dangerous threat to the communist Left, given that their ideologies are diametrically opposite. It is a threat to everyone who is committed to the culture of decency in public discourse, to democracy, secularism and rational dissent. In so far as BJP is all this, it must be the target of an all-out fight, a fight on economic, political and ideological fronts.

What is the Left to do to fight fascistic tendencies?

The main method of the fight against communal-fascistic politics must be class-based. Such a class politics requires a much stronger Left than exists now, and that presupposes principled Left unity. Such unity must produce a gradually expanding united front of Left forces as representatives of workers and semi-proletarians, the forces which exist separately and strike together, and which deploy the full spectrum of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary methods, with the primacy given to the latter. The Left must mobilize workers and small-scale producers affiliated to it and must attract workers and small-scale producers who may not be and who may be with non-communist secular parties, to fight fascistic forces in every possible way, and wherever these forces operate, including on the street. What should be targeted are not only the political and cultural views of these forces (their attack on democratic rights and secularism, their hyper-nationalism, etc.) but also their pro-business economic and pro-imperialist, policies.

The electoral sphere is indeed one of the spheres in which class struggle happens. With respect to the fight against fascistic tendencies, a small aspect of the fight of the Left – and indeed fight for economic concessions and fight for socialism – must be the fight in the electoral sphere. The word ‘small’ is used to refer to the fact that the Left’s electoral activity must be subordinated to its overall political-ideological struggle, and to its extra-electoral struggle. The struggle within the electoral sphere, which is important given that liberal democracy is a shell of Indian capitalism, has many dimensions. Winning a few seats in the parliaments/assemblies, etc. gives the Left a chance to make its voice of reason heard.

An important part of the protracted process of class struggle is an attempt to stop a fascistic party from coming to power and from making use of state’s resources to attack social and democratic rights of ordinary people and to destroy – or at least severely weaken – the communist movement. Between various forms of bourgeois government, some forms are more conducive to class-mobilizational work by the Left than other forms, so the Left cannot be neutral to which forms of bourgeois government exist, just as it cannot be neutral toward whether capitalism is peasant capitalism or landlord capitalism. A government that is run by fascistic, communal and hyper-nationalistic elements, a government that attacks democratic rights as well asliving standards of people, is the least conducive to class-based movements. One can see this when communists are hurt, statues of communist icons are demolished, communist offices are ransacked, and so on.

The process of fighting for a new society must include the fight for the very conditions for that fight. The Left must fight for these conditions. It must make sure that the Right-wing government – a major source of, and a major expression of, the power of the fascistic movement – must go, and that a secular government is in place, which has a reasonable amount of respect for democratic rights of people.

The Left must mobilize its basic classes (workers and small-scale producers) in extra-electoral activities, to fight for democratic rights and secularism and to fight for economic concessions, as a part of, and as steps toward, the fight for socialism; and electoral activities must be seen as only a small part of the Left’s political work, a prime aim of which must be the development of democratic-secular consciousness, and of trade union consciousness, and then the transformation of these forms of consciousness into communist consciousness or class consciousness proper.

It is this Marxist/socialist perspective that must shape Left’s approach to the electoral fight against fascism. In fact, the arrival of fascistic tendency as a part of, and as a response to, capitalist crisis and reaction, is a great opportunity for the Left to say this to people (at least, to relatively politically advanced workers and peasants, in the first instance): the ruling class and its political parties are failing not only to meet economic needs but also they are failing to support basic democratic values, and therefore must be overthrown. The aim of communist parties is to launch class struggle, which is the struggle that is shaped by the consciousness that interests of capitalists (capitalists and landowners) cannot be fundamentally reconciled with the interests of workers and small-scale producers.

As mentioned earlier: unity of Left forces is fundamental to the task of fighting the fascistic forces. Then, in as many constituencies as possible, secular-minded parties/movements/ individuals must be united against BJP and its allies, before, during, and after the elections, and inside the parliaments/assemblies and outside. There should be as wide a secular front against communalism as possible, a front that is at the same time, to the left of BJP (and Congress-as-it-exists-now) in terms of economic policies. How this can be done is a different matter.

What is to be done to undermine the fascistic threat?

One way to think about this is as follows. There are at least a dozen regional parties in India that are ‘secular’ (or relatively secular) in that they do not employ the communal card as consistently and as forcefully as the way BJP does and they are not fascistic as BJP and the saffron family: BJD, RJD, BSP, SP, JMM, DMK, AAP, TMC, People’s Justice Centre, etc. Regional parties are basically parties that represent interests of large land-owners, regional petty-bourgeoisie, including better-paid sections of the salaried stratum or the ‘professional class’ living/working in a province; and, importantly, the regional bourgeoisie – the fraction of the bourgeoisie whose scale of operation is more or less sub-national/regional and which faces competition from big bourgeoisie.5 In many ways, the secular regional parties are regional counter-parts of Congress. Some of them are actually regional offshoots of Congress.

The Left is the most principled fighter against the curtailment of democratic rights and against the attack on secularism. In that capacity, and in so far as it is the greatest reservoir of democratic-secular consciousness, the Left must help establish a national-level coordination committee for the fight against communalism and fascistic tendencies. A part of this process, from an electoral angle, should be an attempt to establish a federation of regional parties, to which the Left should provide any theoretical and other forms of help as required. The unity among regional parties must be based on at least three commitments.

One is the commitment to secular politics: they must be opposed to conducting politics in the name of religion, and they must be opposed to discrimination against any group based on religion, whether it is majority or minority religion.6 Where these parties (e.g. BJP, BJD, BSP, TMC) were in an alliance with BJP in the past and have opposed BJP since, they must critically review their past practice, draw the lessons, and publicly reforge their commitment to secularism. Secondly, given that millions of people are attracted to the right-wing BJP because of the failure of economic policies of Congress, the regional parties, if they wish to be not eaten up by BJP (and BJP does, and can, eat into regional parties’ support base), must be committed to people’s welfare and some restriction on the power of capitalists and landowners to amass limitless wealth.

Sustainable opposition to secularism cannot be possible unless it is based on the opposition to Right-wing economic policies hurting the masses, i.e. unless such opposition is based on progressive economic policies: once again, free-market economics and authoritarian communalism rooted in a mass movement, are two sides of the same coin, whether or not some free marketers oppose communalism and whether not some communalists support some amount of state control and state support for the poor.

Thirdly, regional parties cannot operate at the centre (federal level) merely as a motely of regional parties: the collectivity of regional parties must have a national-scale vision of how to make sure that: a) India remains a secular-democratic nation with a reasonably independent foreign policy and a policy of good relations with neighbours, and b) it remains a country where federalism – equitable, democratic, relations between the Center and the States – matters. If voted to power, they must act as if they are parts of a national party – i.e. as a federation of regional parties, which, collectively, will seek to improve conditions of people of India as a whole (its workers and peasants, and various oppressed groups such as tribal communities, women, dalits, religious minorities, etc.) and not just in their particular States where these parties rule or have an influence, although they will maintain their own regional identities.

In fact, such a regio-national approach of regional parties is increasingly necessary given that development of one State is linked to, and dependent on, development in another State, because of the inter-State flow of people, capital, water, polluted air, etc. Once again, the national federation of regional parties must be based on their common commitments to the people of India, the commitments which have only regionalmanifestations. The three commitments of regional parties that are just mentioned overlap with Left’s values: secularism; pro-poor policies, and a multi-scalar approach, which includes going beyond the narrow confines of a region.

In those States where a major regional party is not contending for power, and where the Left is also weak, Congress will be the main anti-BJP force and which must receive support from all secular forces, both from the Left and outside. For this to happen, for Congress to avoid competition from non-BJP parties, it must change its hyper-neoliberal approach to development (which it shares with BJP more or less) to one that gives much more emphasis to the bottom 70% of the population than it normally has, especially to address the agrarian crisis, ensure employment security and a decent standard of living in cities and villages and promote ecological sustainability.

This means that if Congress wishes not to be eaten up and/or dominated by the Right-wing BJP, it must be less subservient the business class (and just to crony-capitalists) and must give up its obsession with trickle-down economics, the idea that when the business class increases its income, when the national growth rises, poverty will be eliminated. To get support from other parties, including Left parties, Congress cannot do the following: share with BJP its Right-wing economic policy, and fight against BJP on the ground that BJP is communalist. To adequately fight the BJP, Congress cannot be merely a secular BJP.

Whether it is Congress or the federation of regional parties, all parties must be willing to have a vision of development that counters BJP’s ‘Modani’, or Gujarat, model of free-market-based development. This is true even these parties will not go beyond a limit in pursuing a non-neoliberal, pro-people developmental path. It is not enough for people to be protected against attacks on their political freedom, including religious freedom. They need to experience freedom from hunger, from debt, from job-insecurity, etc. The tiny and super-affluent business class must be politically forced by all secular forces to grant some economic concessions to the majority.

The Left must not be a part of a governmental front, which is inevitably a bourgeois-democratic front, no matter how secular it may become. It must be outside of the front and support it in its fight for secularism. The Left must demand pro-poor policies from the secular-democratic front. And it must carry on its class-based anti-capitalist mobilization, and that means that beyond a point, the secular bourgeois parties are not the friends of the Left. They are only temporary allies.

India is a large and geographically diverse country, where social and political conditions vary enormously. The fight, within the electoral sphere, against fascistic forces will have to be somewhat different in different States. What was said above can be summarized in the form of five scenarios (it is needless to say that this is provisional, given the complexity of the situation).

1. BJP — Regional ‘secular’ party1 — Regional ‘secular’ party 2 — weak Congress — weak Left (e.g. Uttar Pradesh)

(All non-BJP parties, including Left, against BJP, on the basis of tactical seat sharing – or tactical electoral unity — among secular parties.)

2. BJP — Regional ‘secular’ party1 — weak Congress — weak Left (e.g. Odisha)

(All non-BJP parties, including Left, against BJP, on the basis of tactical support for the Regional party from all secular parties.)

3. BJP — ‘strong’ Congress base — Regional ‘secular’ party1 — Regional ‘secular’ party 2 — weak Left (e.g. Gujarat, Rajasthan)

(All non-BJP parties against BJP; non-BJP secular parties, including Left, to give tactical support to Congress.)

4. BJP — Strong Left base — Regional ‘secular’ party1 (e.g. West Bengal)

(Publicly acknowledging its past mistakes, Left to vigorously campaign against neoliberalism and communalism, against all contending parties, on the basis of its mass and class movements.)

5. BJP — Strong Left base — Congress (e.g. Kerala)

(Maximum unity against BJP to be sought among Left and democratic forces; Left to campaign against neoliberalism and communalism on the basis of its mass and class movements; Congress should consider tactically supporting Left.)

The political strength of the Left varies not only across States but also across regions/ constituencies inside a State. While the above ‘model’ is pitched at the level of States, Left should stand its candidates where its class and mass organizations are strong and where it has a chance of winning a seat, partly on the basis of its negotiation for tactical support from non-BJP secular parties. Where it has very limited chance of winning a seat, it must provide tactical support to secular parties in return for these parties reducing their pro-business character.

Such a big compromise?: Return to Vladimir Lenin

The idea that the Left should help establish an economically progressive front of secular bourgeois parties to fight fascistic tendencies, and that this might require Left’s tactical electoral understanding with bourgeois parties, is potentially a very problematic idea. First, this idea is not in line with the principle that the Left should mobilize its own forces, independent of bourgeois forces. Besides, various regional parties have been with BJP from time to time and have not been consistently secular; non-BJP, non-Left, regional parties have had no problem accepting into their arms, the leaders from the BJP camp. The regional parties are also bourgeois parties.

So, to have some relation with these regional parties would be a compromise not only on Left’s secularism but also on the principle of class politics. In fact, regional-bourgeois parties have converging interests with national and global bourgeoisie (which opens regional branches, to which regionally-based small-scale capitalists are linked through the supply chain) and with therefore with BJP; after all, the regional bourgeoisie wishes to benefit from neoliberalization that BJP promotes, including by directly entering into deals with national and global capital. Also how can the Left have any relation with Congress, which is such a neoliberal-capitalist party?7

If the Left is in an electoral understanding with bourgeois parties, whether these are national or regional parties, to fight communalism, and when these parties pursue policies that attack people’s living standards, how and to what extent can the Left counter these policies/parties? In the name of protecting secularism, if the Left fails to defend economic rights of the masses, what would be left of the Left? There is indeed a real danger that workers and peasants affiliated to the Left parties will be politically subordinated to the bourgeois parties who will hold power and with whom the Left will be cooperating.

These and similar questions have great merits. But here the argument is that on a long journey toward socialism and in actual practice, in the short and medium term, and keeping in view the current political conjuncture, one has to make temporary compromises and engage in temporary retreats. But what does compromise really mean? We need to read about it from someone who is, arguably, the Marxist theoretician and Marxist politician par excellence of the 20th century. This is Vladimir Lenin whose statues were recently brought down by thoroughly anti-democratic people with an extremely low level of political consciousness. Let’s briefly consider what I will call Lenin’s theory of temporary compromise, which is present mainly in two of his texts.

“The term compromise in politics implies the surrender of certain demands, the renunciation of part of one’s demands, by agreement with another party” (Lenin, 1917). It is important to bear in mind that: “The task of a truly revolutionary party is not to declare that it is impossible to renounce all compromises.” As Engels said against the Blanquist communards, it is mistaken to believe that “we want to attain our goal without stopping at intermediate stations, without any compromises, which only postpone the day of victory and prolong the period of slavery” (quoted in Lenin, 1920).

Lenin was scathing in his criticisms of those German communists who thought that “All compromise with other parties . . . any policy of manoeuvring and compromise must be emphatically rejected.” In launching class struggle, “to renounce in advance any change of tack, or any utilisation of a conflict of interests (even if temporary) among one’s enemies, or any conciliation or compromise with possible allies (even if they are temporary, unstable, vacillating or conditional allies) – is that not ridiculous in the extreme?”

One might then ask: why is compromise necessary and possible? Let us consider the matter of temporary compromise from the vantage point of: nature of the class enemy and nature of the working class. Let’s begin with the class enemy of the working class. It is, like any class, both unitary and fragmented. The fact that the ruling class fractions have different interests and therefore there will be different kinds of bourgeois parties to represent the different ruling class interests explains why Left’s compromise is possible:

“The more powerful enemy can be vanquished only by exerting the utmost effort, and by the most thorough, careful, attentive, skilful and obligatory use of any, even the smallest, rift between the enemies…, any conflict of interests among … the various groups or types of bourgeoisie …, and also by taking advantage of any, even the smallest, opportunity of winning a mass ally, even though this ally is temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional” (ibid.; italics added).

Lenin (1920) adds: “Those who do not understand this reveal a failure to understand even the smallest grain of Marxism, of modern scientific socialism in general” (italics added).8

Let’s turn to the nature of the working class in relation to the need for compromise, in Lenin’s theory. The working class is potentially the most revolutionary agent. No anti-capitalist revolution is possible without this class, apart from this class, over the head of this class or with a substitute for this class and its organization. Yet, the working class, although it is an objective reality, falls short, ideologically and politically. It is deeply divided. It is shaped by ideas and interests of non-proletarian classes. Its level of class consciousness and political preparedness is relatively low to fight for deep democratic transformation and to conduct a socialist struggle. And these facts together constitute an objective reason why Left’s temporary compromise is necessary. Here is Lenin:

“Capitalism would not be capitalism if the proletariat pur sang were not surrounded by a large number of exceedingly motley types… [of non-proletarian people, including small masters]. … if the proletariat itself were not divided into more developed and less developed strata, if it were not divided according to territorial origin, trade, sometimes according to religion, and so on” (Lenin, 1920).

Lenin continues:

“From all this follows the necessity, the absolute necessity, for the Communist Party, the vanguard of the proletariat, its class-conscious section, to resort to changes of tack, to conciliation and compromises with the various groups of proletarians, with the various parties of the workers and small masters” (ibid.; italics added).

So, temporary compromises in the electoral sphere are objectively necessary when/where the working masses are divided and not class conscious (enough) and thus, concomitantly, the Left is weak, at this juncture. Compromises are possible because there are conflicts of interests among the economic and political elite (i.e. various parties).

In line with Lenin’s theory, it is possible to argue that temporary compromises in the electoral sphere, which can pose ideological and political risks (of subordinating workers and peasants to bourgeois forces), are justified only when the following criteria are met. First, compromises are unavoidable – they are forced by conditions (e.g. Left is weak relative to, say, fascistic forces). Second: compromises, ultimately, contribute to the political project of raising the level of consciousness of the masses and advancing the goal of the communist struggle against a) capitalism’s adverse consequences for the masses, and against b) capitalism as such.

As Lenin says, tactics of compromises are applied only “to raise – not lower – the general level of proletarian class-consciousness, revolutionary spirit, and ability to fight and win” (Lenin, 1920). Third, Left forces maintain their organizational and ideological independence vs non-left parties and movements. Fourth, the Left will always have the right criticize, and to politically go against (mobilize its classes against) its temporary allies when their policies attack living conditions of ordinary people. Fifth, Left’s dominant focus is on extra-parliamentary mobilization, including for economic struggle, of workers and peasants, and not electoral battles which involve tactical understanding with non-Left forces.

Once again, “The task of a truly revolutionary party is not to declare that it is impossible to renounce all compromises, but to be able, through all compromises, when they are unavoidable, to remain true to its principles, to its class, to its revolutionary purpose, to its task of paving the way for revolution and educating the mass of the people for victory in the revolution” (Lenin, 1917).9 The point of political compromise is not to merely arrive at a capitalist society that is slightly tolerable and that just needs to be managed by Left forces for ever.

The compromise in question here is revolutionary compromise (like Luxemburg’s ‘revolutionary reforms’), the compromise that is temporarily necessitated by the force of circumstances relative to the strength of the Left forces, in order to advance the long-term revolutionary goal, the goal of transcending capitalism and not to help sustain capitalism sans fascistic tendencies. Therefore: “Naïve and quite inexperienced people imagine that the permissibility of compromise in general is sufficient to obliterate any distinction between opportunism…and revolutionary Marxism, or communism.” In fact, “the entire history of Bolshevism, both before and after the October Revolution, is full of instances of changes of tack, conciliatory tactics and compromises with other parties, including bourgeois parties!” (Lenin, 1920).


By way of concluding, I will consider what relevance might Lenin’s theory have for the conjuncture in India (and indeed similar other countries)? It is that: that certain bourgeois (regional) parties are less consistently secular than Left parties and that they are vacillating, is no ground for non-compromise if a temporary compromise can remove the currently existing important obstacle to the communist movement and advance the objective of class struggle in the medium and long-term.

As mentioned, every class, and the class enemy of the working class, are both unitary and fragmented. In so far as all bourgeois parties support capitalists and landlords, they are the same, unitary, class enemy: Congress and BJP constitute a unitary enemy. But these parties support the ruling classes in different ways. Some parties – like some sections of ruling class – may be more secular-minded than others. Some may be slightly more pro-poor or pro-worker, pro-peasant, than others. In terms of the political representation of ruling class interests, there are two facts. Firstly, different interests of the ruling class (with its different fractions) are represented by different parties.

Secondly, these parties, to remain in electoral competition, if not for any other basic principle, will represent the given interests of the ruling class differently, and in ways that are conflictual within limits (a non-BJP party has to be different from BJP to be in electoral competition and will therefore serve the ruling class in different ways than the BJP does).10 These two facts concerning the political representation of the ruling class constitute an objective reason why temporary compromise by Left is possible.

Accredited social health activists (ASHAs) striking for their rights.

In fact, small-scale parties (regional parties) which are parties of ‘small masters’ (small-scale capitalists), potential electoral allies of Left parties are : “vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional,” especially, when it comes to the fight for secularism (and indeed, for progressive economic policies). Yet conflicts between them and bigger (e.g. pan-Indian) parties can produce a possibility for what Lenin calls “conciliation and compromises … with the various parties of the workers and small masters.” Similarly, when Congress as a pan-Indian bourgeois party is in danger of being eaten up by BJP which is another pan-Indian bourgeois party, it may need Left’s support for its own existence, producing a possibility for compromise, enabling the Left to fight fascistic forces with support from Congress.

If the Left was strong, it could mobilize its classes independently of bourgeois forces, both outside and inside the electoral field of struggle, and especially including the BJP, a party which is not a communal party that happens to support the business class but a bourgeois party that makes use of communal hatred to attain political influence. But if the Left is relatively weak as it is at this conjuncture, then it needs to temporarily compromise, within limits, on the principle of independent electoral politics (i.e. it may have to enter into some – tactical – electoral understanding with bourgeois forces).

There are at least elements here: a) the temporary compromise in the electoral arena with vacillating secular bourgeois parties that may be objectively necessary, and b) the project of advancing class struggle. These two elements constitute a dialectical whole, within which the first element must be subordinated to the second. This means that the communist parties cannot just show their face to the masses during elections, and then disappear for 5 years.

This also means that while organizing the masses for concessions from the system, they must be as un-compromising as the subjective and the objective situations allow, and that they must educate the masses about the fact that their fundamental class interests are not compatible with those of the bourgeoisie and large landowners, which is why the question of not only democracy (whatever it is called by various electoral and non-electoral Left parties), but also of socialism must gradually come to the front. Otherwise, the temporary compromise becomes permanent, and the project of advancing class struggle gets transformed into a means of reproducing a more tolerable capitalism for an indefinite future.

If Lenin is right that “the greatest efforts are necessary for a proper assessment of the actual character of this or that ‘compromise’” (Lenin, 1917), this means that what needs to be questioned is not the idea of a temporary compromise itself but its goal. What is problematic is not compromise but ‘compromise-ism’: seeking a compromise to permanently reproduce a bourgeois order in slightly democratic and egalitarian forms, without any vision and action aimed at the long-term transformation of society.

And such a vision – i.e. goal of fighting for socialism – must be taken out of communist party documents and be given a material expression. It must be actually talked about in the everyday life of the masses and of communist leaders, i.e. in their daily struggles, at the picket lines, during protests against militarism and against cuts in funding for welfare, in party meetings, on the street, in the eating places, in the corridors of university departments where communists work, in theatres, in the editorial board meetings of Marxist online and offline journals, and indeed every place, big and small. Any temporary compromise on the socialist principle is not worth it if it is not seen as ultimately advancing the communist cause.

It should be stressed that the aim of secular-democratic bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces, partly because of the danger that fascistic tendencies pose to them, may just want to confine their political work to the creation of a polity that weakens such tendencies. And that political aim overlaps with the socialists’ aim to undermine – to revolt against – fascistic tendencies, and such a revolt has to be also a revolt against fascists’ pro-business policies and attack on workers and small-scale producers living standards. But that revolt is limited, because as socialists:

“it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one” (Marx and Engels, 1850).


Raju J Das teaches radical political economy, international development, state-society relations, and social struggles at York University, Toronto. Das is on the editorial board of Science & Society and the editorial advisory board of Dialectical Anthropology. His most recent book, published in 2017, is Marxist Class Theory for a skeptical world (Brill, Leiden).


Ahmad, A. 2013. “Communalisms: Changing forms and fortunes,” The Marxist XXIX, no. 2.

Anievas, A., Saull,R., Davidson, N., and Fabry, A. 2014. The longue durée of the far right: An international historical sociology, London: Routledge.

Karat, P. 2014. “The rise of Narendra Modi: A joint enterprise of Hindutva and big business,” The Marxist XXX, no. 1.

Lenin, V. I. 1917. “On Compromises.”

———. 1920. “‘Left-Wing’ Communism: An infantile disorder: No Compromises.”

Marx, K. 1977. Capital vol. 1, New York: Vintage.

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1850. “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist league.”

Panitch, L., and Albo, G, eds. 2016. Socialist Register 2016: The politics of the right, London: Merlin Press.

Renton, D. 2007. Fascism: Theory and practice, Delhi: Aakar.

Yechuri, S. 1993. “Communalism, religion and Marxism,” The Marxist 10, No. 4; 11, no. 1.


1. Interestingly, one of the most prominent statues of Lenin in India, at Esplanade in the center of Kolkata, remains in place even though the Left is no longer in power.

2. This is the case even if in February 2018, it won by-elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

3. A student activist from JNU said to me: “RSS people will give us blankets in the night and beat us up in the day,” meaning they can be very nice but when you argue with them, they will beat you up. A major human rights activist and former professor in a major Central University said this to me: “RSS people when they join a public debate always make personal attacks on people who challenge them, because that is their overall strategy but in private they might apologize.”

4. In 2009, Anil Ambani said: “Narendrabhai has done good for Gujarat …A person like him should be the next leader of the country” (quoted in Karat, 2014: 7).

5. Note that the distinction between the two is not necessarily clear-cut, as regionally operating firms are connected to nationally-operating larger firms, as suppliers and in other ways.

6. As UP’s by-election results show, when reasonably secular-minded regional parties are united against communal forces, they can electorally beat the BJP.

7. One can also rightly complain that the Left itself has acted like neoliberal Congress in the provinces where it has been in power. Luckily, the Left is rethinking its own land acquisition policy. Geographical scale cannot be an excuse for inconsistency: one cannot advocate for more progressive policies at national scale and less progressive policies at the provincial scale.

8. Lenin (1920) notes: “Those who have not proved in practice, over a fairly considerable period of time and in fairly varied political situations, their ability to apply this truth in practice have not yet learned to help the revolutionary class in its struggle to emancipate all toiling humanity from the exploiters. And this applies equally to the period before and after the proletariat has won political power.”

9. “To agree, for instance, to participate in the Third and Fourth Dumas was a compromise, a temporary renunciation of revolutionary demands. But this was a compromise absolutely forced upon us, for the balance of forces made it impossible for us for the time being to conduct a mass revolutionary struggle, and in order to prepare this struggle over a long period we had to be able to work even from inside such a ‘pigsty’.” (Lenin, 1917).

10. These limits refer to the fact that all parties must fundamentally support capitalism and private property, and within these limits, specific political parties can pursue their interests that may be relatively autonomous of ruling class interests, and sometimes may even deviate from ruling class interests (in profit-making, etc.).

Pacific Moves: China, Vanuatu and Australia

April 11th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Washington’s vigilant deputy, doing rounds on the beat in the Pacific, has been irate of late. The central issue here is the continuing poking around of China in an area that would have been colloquially termed in the past “Australia’s neighbourhood”.

There have been no formal proposals, but the Australian press is agog with reports that the Chinese are instigating the first steps into what might be a military-build up on the island nation of Vanuatu.

“A base less than 2,000 kilometres from the Australian coast,” goes an alarmed entry in the Sydney Morning Herald, “would allow China to project military power into the Pacific Ocean and upend the long-standing strategic balance in the region, potentially increasing the risk of confrontation between China and the United States.”

The wily inscrutability of oriental thinking as both motif and fear makes its customary appearance.  As the paper continues,

“Multiple sources said Beijing’s military ambition in Vanuatu would likely be realised incrementally, possibly beginning with an access agreement that would allow Chinese naval ships to dock routinely and be serviced, refuelled and restocked.”

Such cheek; such audacity.

As these developments gather pace, few doubts could be had about Australia’s diminishing credentials in the region. A part-time bully and part-time moralist is getting its comeuppance with a rival capitalising on the ledger of history. Either the states in the region are deemed insuperable problems, or they are regarded as repositories of rubbish.

One trend is clear: the Pacific states seen as miniature pockets of darkness and squalor, objects of humanitarian rhapsody and moral uplift for Australian policy makers.  The Pacific region, towards that end, is the largest recipient of Canberra’s development assistance.

Take the evocations of Shadow Minister for Defence, Richard Marles, delivered at the Lowy Institute in November last year.

“I’ve seen refugee camps in Africa, slums in Bangladesh.  But the worst human circumstances I’ve ever witnessed are here on the islet of Betio [in Kiribati].”

Marles would prefer moving beyond what he regards as Australia’s “holding pattern policy in the Pacific.”

Relations between Vanuatu and Australia have had their share of squabbles.  Recipients of aid and those ennobled by their vulnerabilities are bound to take issue with the calculating donor.  In April 2012, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman travelled with his entourage from Port Vila to Sydney en route to Israel.  In transit, they were told to complete immigration procedures.

On passing through customs, Kilman found himself without his private secretary, Clarence Marae.  Marae had caught the eye of the authorities, who had her arrested and charged for conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth.  In Kilman’s furious words on returning to Vanuatu, such an action was “kidnap and a breach of diplomatic protocol”.

The response from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was one of “regret that it was necessary to make the arrest during Prime Minister Kilman’s transit.  All possible measures were taken to ensure it was carried out in such a way that it was respectful of (Mr. Kilman’s) position and the need to protect his dignity.”

Retaliation was not slow in coming.  The Australian Federal Police operating in Vanuatu were given the heave-ho. They had been there ostensibly to conduct training for their Vanuatu counterparts (imperial missions are taxing) pursuant to an aid program worth a touch under $10 million.  In May, all 12 officers based in Port Vila flew home.

History hangs heavily, and uncomfortably, over Australia’s regional role towards the smaller states, despite the confident assertion by foreign minister Julie Bishop that “Australia is Vanuatu’s strategic partner of choice.”  The Australian state, even in proto form, was already busy capturing, luring and terrifying inhabitants of the Pacific region into an indentured labour system.  From the 1860s till 1903, some 60,000 indentured labourers found their way to Australia from Vanuatu (then the New Hebrides), Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Their destination would become the stuff of painful legend: the cane farms of north Queensland.

China now finds itself in an enviable situation – and it doesn’t even need to pursue such invidious practices as “blackbirding” to convince those it woos. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, on the other hand, sees tying military build-up to that of development as disruptively concerning.

“We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours.”

Australia would duly fail in its remit to protect US interests.

Colonial projects do, to that end, breed suspicion, concern and angst.  Rival contenders cannot be tolerated. Australia’s historical mission in the Pacific remains tangled with the briefs and missionary ethos of the Unite States. But Canberra has its own specific concerns on how best to counter the infrastructure magic and lure of Beijing’s promises.  In the final analysis, it may be incapable of so much competing as accommodating.  The sun on Australia’s imperial mission is setting.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

China’s Prototype Space Station Tiangong-1

April 5th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Featured image: Model of the Tiangong Space Lab and Shenzhou manned spacecraft. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The precipitous demise of China’s prototype space station, Tiangong-1, was the sort of event that took earthbound discussions to more heavenly matters.  Human beings, as is their wont, tend to follow the rules of colonisation with a certain automatism.  In doing so, they have a distinct habit of leaving debris, a junking phenomenon that has seen space become a celestial dump.  In the earthly heavens lie a plenitude of detritus and artefacts that, should they continue to multiply, will result in regular crashes and mayhem.  But beyond the debris lie new worlds upon which to plant flags and forge troubled civilisations. 

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has been keeping watch of the increasing number of objects that have found their way into space.  Just under 5,000 orbit the earth, while the number that have been launched into space stands at 8050.  That number, at least, has fallen by one.

Tiangong-1 was meant to be a signal that, what other states can do, China can do just as well.

“To use a Chinese phrase,” suggested space boffin Brian Harvey in 2016, “I think they are wanting to bring their own mat to the table.”

The initial effort was experimentally modest relative to the International Space Station, but that hardly mattered. When it launched on September 29, 2011, the very statement of that fact was enough to pique broader space interest. In time, China’s astronauts, or taikonauts, would visit, but prior to that were successful orbital dockings and a visit from the Shenzhou-9 vehicle by three space flyers.

Where space stations are discussed, politics is bound to be an additive.  In March 2016, data transmission between the Tiangong-1 and its communicators ceased.  A fiery fate awaited the vehicle, though disputes invariably arose as to whether control was still maintained over the craft.  Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, asserted that this loss of control, as with much else, is more than an irritant.

“The Chinese insist that it is controlled.  They’re very, very unhappy when you this term ‘uncontrolled’.”

Cheng, presumably showing his standing at a conservative US think-tank, pressed the view that control here was everything.  Terms needed to be clarified; positions sorted with definitive purpose.

“We should be diplomatically, and in the space-policy world, pushing China to accept a definition of ‘control’ that is comparable to the rest of the rules-based world. You don’t get your own definition”.

The issue about China’s handlers failing to assert sovereignty over Tiangong-1 in what would have otherwise been a controlled re-entry induced a good deal of speculative panic.  The Aerospace Corporation made a lukewarm effort to defuse fears.

“In the case of most re-entering objects, the uncertainty associated with predicting re-entry location is extremely large and precludes an accurate location prediction until shortly before the re-entry has occurred.”

The Aerospace Corporation added a tantalising touch.

“In general, it is much easier to predict an accurate re-entry time rather than an accurate re-entry location.”

Cue the suspense, though the analysts did note that the only known instance of a person being struck by space debris remains the unfortunate Ms. Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma “who was struck by a small piece of space debris in 1996 but was not harmed in any significant way.” The odds then?  Less than 1-in-1 trillion.

Other concerns were also added to what had become something of an ensemble of worry.

“By the way,” sparkled Mike Wall of Space.com, “if you do manage to find a chunk of Tiangong-1, don’t pick it up or breathe in any fumes emanating from it.  The space junk may be contaminated with hydrazine, a toxic rocket fuel”.

The notification that hydrazine was present on the craft sent certain members of the press into a flutter.  Sebastian Kettley of The Express called the claim shocking, with the suitably hyperbolic statement that the “rogue Chinese space station” had a “toxic hazard aboard”.

Kettley placed reliance upon the announcement from the Aerospace Corporation, claiming that “there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive re-entry.”  The consequences of short-term exposure could be dire: “seizures, coma, pulmonary edema as well as itchy airways, eyes and nose.  Long-term exposures have been linked to the development of cancer in humans.”

The disintegration of Tiangong-1 proved suitably anti-climactic, burning up in the atmosphere over the southern Pacific Ocean.  There were no casualties for the bloodthirsty, nor poisonings for the morbid.  But the incident had brought the Chinese space program a certain prominence.  Despite a space budget dwarfing that of China (coming in at $6 billion) and Russia (even less than China) the United States, with its $40 billion, managed a mere 19 successful space launches in 2013 compared with Russia’s 31 and China’s 14.

The deceptive impression left by the words of Maj. General Stephen Whiting, commander of the 14th US Air Force and deputy commander of the Joint Force Space Component Command, is of a space environment of convivial efforts and undertakings.

“One of our missions, which we remain focused on, is to monitor space and the tens of thousands of pieces of debris that congest it, while at the same time working with allies and partners to enhance spaceflight safely and increase transparency in the space domain.”

Transparency, however, remains elusive in a celestial sense, as it always has in any colonial enterprise, however incipient.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge and lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Dr. Kampmark is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Sri Lanka, Independent Republic to Vassal State

April 5th, 2018 by Tamara Kunanayakam

The question repeatedly asked of me, a major preoccupation of all patriotic Sri Lankans, is how implementation of the Human Rights Council (HRC) Resolution 30/1 will affect Sri Lanka’s future and whether it will affect the country’s sovereignty.

Let’s be clear, its implementation is not for tomorrow, it is already happening and the consequences are there for all to see, and experience.

The demands articulated in the US-led resolution are being fast incorporated into the law of the land through a series of radical reforms and the drafting of a new Constitution. Ever since Yahapalana was installed in power in January 2015, we have seen a flurry of activity in making, breaking, reforming and amending institutions of State and laws of the land.

Some reforms are known, others are being drafted and negotiated behind closed doors. Many are being hurriedly rushed through without consultation with the people or debate in Parliament, particularly when these violate the country’s Republican Constitution. The recent anti-Muslim riots provided an ideal opportunity for Yahapalana to rush through the controversial Enforced Disappearances Bill, which obliges Sri Lanka to extradite its own citizens to be tried in foreign courts.

Image result for anti muslim riot sri lanka

It is a fact that external actors, including Washington, the United Nations, and the Washington-based financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF, are not only better informed, but are active partners in the process, including through funding and drafting.

US interference in reform process is both direct and indirect:

(a) the resolution itself was drafted in and by Washington;

(b) the enforcer is Jeffrey Feltman, formerly with the US State Department, now masquerading as UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, who is an arch neoconservative notorious for engineering regime change in countries of strategic interest to Washington, destabilization, the break-up of sovereign States into ethnic enclaves, and fomenting violence; and,

(c) the role of monitor and prosecutor is that of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, once a multilateral institution, now hi-jacked by Washington.

Once the hidden agenda behind HRC resolution 30/1 is understood, how it impacts on our sovereignty will be clear. We must remember that it was not formulated by the Sri Lankan people, but by a foreign power, the USA, whose sole interest is to turn our country into an aircraft carrier to contain and roll back China as part of its imperial ambition of maintaining global hegemony.

Responsibility to Protect or R to P, the right to intervene

Underlying the resolution is the controversial norm Responsibility to Protect or R to P, advanced by Washington. Its objective is to condition State sovereignty and legitimise unilateral US intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign States if and when necessary to achieve its goals. Accountability is the pillar on which R to P stands. Washington and its Western allies claim that an amorphous “international community,” by which they mean themselves, has the right and responsibility to intervene unilaterally, preemptively and preventively, including militarily, in countries where they believe Governments are unwilling or unable to protect their citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The unequal power relationship between States ensures that, in practical terms, R to P is a weapon in the hands of the powerful to be utilised against weaker States that opt for an independent path. R to P is the modern version of the “White Man’s Burden” of the late 19th century used by the US and Great Britain as justification for their savage colonial wars. It is a project of re-colonisation, associated with bringing countries under their tutelage.

“Transitional justice,” from free people to tutelage

Resolution 30/1 does just that. It seeks to bring Sri Lanka, a country of strategic importance to Washington, under its control. The term “transitional justice” in the resolution refers to the range of measures to transform Sri Lanka from independent Republic to a people under tutelage, consolidating at the same time the regime change engineered by Washington on 8 January 2015.

Good Governance, or Yahapalana in the Sinhala, is the means whereby that consolidation takes place, the term coined by the US Treasury, IMF and the World Bank for political conditionality imposed on indebted Third World countries such as ours to make us permanently indebted and dependent, facilitating external interference and domination. Invented in the late 1980s with a collapsing Soviet bloc and the emergence of a unipolar world, ‘Good Governance’ became part of Washington’s arsenal of soft-power weapons to consolidate its global hegemony.

Similarly, the term ‘transitional justice’ was broadened in the late 80s and early 1990s from measures relating only to jurisprudence to cover institutional reform, reform of the political system and devolution of political authority; reform of the judiciary and law enforcement; security sector reform, including military; vetting of public officials as was done in NATO-occupied Afghanistan, where election candidates were vetted in the 2009 and 2010 elections; fiscal reform; the liberalization of finance and trade; privatization and sale of public assets to foreigners, including the country’s natural wealth and resources, etc., etc.

The resolution ensures external control over State institutions and domestic mechanisms through the direct involvement of foreign actors in these entities. As elsewhere, domestic opposition is temporarily overcome by the establishment of parallel institutions and through “privatisation” or “outsourcing” of important State functions. In a revealing report (Rule of law tools for post-conflict States, 2006), OHCHR considers that such reforms are for the good of the people and must, therefore, be imposed even against their will. To overcome domestic opposition, an international mandate will be obtained “to provide international actors with the authority and means to intervene directly in domestic affairs and overrule domestic procedures if necessary.”

Universal jurisdiction, extradition as a permanent threat

“Universal jurisdiction” is another highly controversial concept accepted by Sri Lanka, but formally rejected by the African region as a Western tool for recolonialisation. It can be found in HRC resolution 30/1, in the reports and statements on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and in the interventions of Washington and its Western allies. At the recent Human Rights Council sessions, the High Commissioner threatened those opposed to international intervention inside Sri Lanka by calling on States to explore application of universal jurisdiction against Sri Lanka.

Worse than any external imposition of tutelage, is its acceptance by the Yahapalana regime and its ratification by forcing through the Enforced Disappearances Bill in Parliament while public attention was diverted to the recent anti-Muslim violence.

Image result for International Commission of Jurists

Universal jurisdiction is based on the Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction, developed at the initiative of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an organization initially partially funded by the CIA through a front organization, the American Fund for Free Jurists. Today, the US State Department, the European Commission, and several European Governments, among others, fund the ICJ.

Universal jurisdiction allows a State to try a person for alleged mass atrocities even if it did not happen within its own territory and the perpetrator or victim are not citizens of that State. The justification is they have become international crimes, beyond nationality, through the adoption of international conventions on torture, enforced disappearances, genocide, among others, and that individual States can act on behalf of the international community to bring perpetrators to justice.

Universal jurisdiction goes even beyond the International Criminal Court (ICC). Whereas the ICC jurisdiction is limited unless expanded by the Security Council, universal jurisdiction can be applicable to crimes committed anywhere, and tried anywhere, at any time. Moreover, extradition requests can remain valid for decades, and the person cannot ever be certain of being free of prosecution even if he or she has been granted safe haven in another country.

The Yahapalana betrayal

By co-sponsoring the resolution and deviously implementing the demands therein, the Yahapalana regime has not only committed the country to wide-ranging reforms, many of them unconstitutional, without a mandate from the people or Parliament, but opened wide the door to its recolonisation.

By permitting external intervention in the internal affairs of the country, it has given credence to Washington’s claim that our institutions are incapable and incompetent, and that we are incapable of governing; it has permitted the usurpation by foreign powers of the sovereign right of our peoples to determine the type of society they choose to live in; and, it has undermined our economic sovereignty, depriving the people of the autonomy necessary to exercise their political sovereignty, and the means necessary for a life with dignity for the majority of Sri Lanka’s population who depend on the real economy for their livelihood.

The accountability referred to in the resolution is not about accountability toward the citizens of the country, but accountability toward the self-appointed global policeman, the US. That is why, the installation of Yahapalana has brought with it the new habit of the political leadership, whether President, Prime Minister or Cabinet, reporting not to people or Parliament, but to Washington, direct or indirectly through the United Nations.

The leadership has not only abdicated its responsibility once by signing resolution 30/1 in September 2015; it persisted and signed again in March 2017 (resolution 34/1), and, then, only 4 months ago, in November 2017, reiterated a “very firm” commitment to fully implement the resolution. The commitment was made by the Head of Delegation to the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Harsha de Silva, Deputy Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs. And, as though the nail needed further hammering into the coffin, the Foreign Secretary Prasad Karyawasam felt it incumbent upon him to play back the commitment at the same meeting.

Without the second resolution 34/1, there would have been no report on Sri Lanka by the High Commissioner at the recent session of the Human Rights Council, and no threat of ‘universal jurisdiction’ against Sri Lanka.

Can Sri Lankan sovereignty be restored?

Many wander how the process taking Sri Lanka down the path to Puppetdom can be reversed in Geneva.

Under the UN Charter, resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, including subsidiary bodies such as the Human Rights Council, are recommendations only and not legally binding on Member States. Numerous resolutions are never ever implemented. The US, for instance, has never implemented the annual resolutions calling for lifting of its criminal blockade against Cuba, nor has Israel the hundreds of resolutions on Occupied Palestine. The simple solution, therefore, is a technical one: ignore the resolution and mobilise the support of Sri Lanka’s natural allies to take Sri Lanka off the Council’s agenda. Concretely, this would mean ensuring there is no resolution against Sri Lanka or one that does not have an operative paragraph requiring the Council to consider the matter at a future session.

Our problem is not, however, a technical problem; it is a political one and will require a political solution.

It is not Washington, but our own Yahapalana Government that brought this disaster upon the Sri Lankan people. The resolution is binding only because Yahapalana wants it to be binding. Two resolutions abdicating sovereignty, eternal pledges to our detractors to implement, and a plethora of reforms over a three year period would not have been possible without a minimum of complicity between the coalition partners.

It is here then, on our own territory, that the problem lies; it is here, on our own territory, that implementation takes place; and, it is here, on our own territory, that we can and must resist!


Tamara Kunanayakam is a former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Mass killings, massacres and general culling; butchering made normal, sanctified by State practice, and the scientific establishment.  This is the killing of Australia’s national symbol, reviled and idealised in various measures, but generally considered, from those away from urban centres, a remote if attractive oddity.  Barry Humphries, arguably Australia’s greatest comedic export, did not see his first kangaroo till he went to London Zoo.  Such is the way of symbolic fauna and the divorce in Australia between humankind and animal.

With the release of Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story, the marsupial has reached an international and indignant stage.  A good deal of violence is portrayed of what the makers Michael McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere call a “disappearing resource”.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, and NSW Animal Justice Party state MP Mark Pearson, went along with the documentary’s premise, and linked it to a promotions tour in visiting Brussels.  They hardly needed to, given the rumblings the film has produced.  Audiences have found the stress in the film appealing.  The US market has been particularly enthusiastic, being the second largest consumer of the animal’s various parts.

Varying degrees of enthusiasm and revulsion have been expressed to the use of the kangaroo, from meat to merchandise.  In 1971, the Californian penal code was amended to criminalise the importation, possession or sale of any part of the animal.  The lifting of the ban in 1981 did not spell the end to debates on the consumption of the marsupial, or its use in products.

In 2007, Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals targeted Adidas with a lawsuit claiming that the company was using some kangaroo in its leather products.  Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler then claimed that the company’s “use of kangaroo skin is inexcusably cruel.”  California again took the lead, banning the sale of kangaroo products.

The response from Australia’s kangaroo management industry has been one of marketing and regulations.  Many meat processors, for instance, refuse to buy female carcasses, seeing that image as unsavoury.  The mode of killing kangaroos is also specified by regulation: a shot through the brain inflicting instant death.

Animal activists, however, have not been convinced by such tinkering measures or the issue of principled gore.  In McIntyre’s words, kangaroo culling was Australia’s hidden nightmare of maniacal blood lust,

a “story about one of the world’s great icons and the deep dark secret the kangaroo is getting slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands in the middle of the night, and no-one is talking about it.”

Not so, claimed Fiona Simson of the National Farmers Federation, who considered the film as nothing less than slanderous.

“There is a lot of misinformation around kangaroos and how we treat kangaroos in Australia.”

Kangaroos were “dear” to Australians, and for that reason, certain “facts” had to be placed on the table.

Such facts focus on numbers, though the statisticians are not at one on this.  Leaving aside the sanguinary spectre, kangaroo numbers were thriving – a near 50 million.  For Simson, the film had employed “the shock tactics of extinction of our national emblem”.  Distortions had entered the account.

Dr. George Wilson of the Australian University School of Environment was similarly dismissive of the film.  Most of the kangaroo population of Australia tended to be found on private land rather than “some big national park”.  The implicit assumption of such language is clear: such animals may well be permitted on such land, with the proviso that they might be culled accordingly.

The quirkily lovable symbol has, at stages, been deemed one of doom and depredation.  One example is cited in The Australian, the case of Michael Hetherington who planted 240 hectares of chickpeas in outback Thallon, Queensland.  By late July, a promising crop had been devastated by “hordes of kangaroos, stretching as far as the eye could see.”  There was little sympathy, and certainly no poesy for the beasts.  Hetherington merely wondered “what proportion of the Greens’ income is also donated to keeping these native animals alive.”

The film does not portend to be anything other than polemical, though it does gather a host of views from such individuals as ecologist Ray Mjadwesch.  Numbers, argues Mjadwesch, are simply not as large as is stated.  Killing methods are also dangerously close to being mismanaged.

All in all the target of the film is clear: the $200 million kangaroo industry.  But what it does demonstrate is the troubled relationship the inhabitants of Terra Australis have with an animal species that is worshipped in the abstract.

In practice, the perception is harder and less sentimental.  Brutal, dry environments; farming communities at war against anthropomorphised nature; the introduction of various techniques of ecological warfare against various animal species – all have produced a mentality of disposition and destruction – and not just for the kangaroo.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge and lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Dr. Kampmark is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured imag: Woody with guitar labeled “this machine kills fascists”, 1943.

Woody Guthrie is an American icon best known for his 1940 song “This Land is Your Land” which has been sung in countless classrooms, political conventions, demonstrations, and even at the Obama presidential inaugural. Sometimes forgotten is the fact that the song, written in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” has a subversive message in paying tribute to public rather than private ownership of land and property and in its striving for social equality. Woody was a radical whose worldview was forged by the poverty he witnessed growing up in rural Oklahoma during the 1910s and by the Sooner Socialist Party, the second largest in the country outside of New York City. His music celebrated working class struggles and condemned oppressive institutions and authority. Drawing on the legacy of Joe Hill, whose music inspired the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), he was active in the popular front of the 1930s, a radical social democratic movement promoted by the Communist Party and forged around anti-fascism, anti-lynching, and the industrial unionism of the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO).1

World War II and the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

Throughout the 1930s, Woody opposed American involvement in World War II, writing and performing numerous antiwar songs that excoriated Franklin Roosevelt as a duplicitous warmonger. His view shifted after 1941 when Hitler broke the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact and replicated Napoleon’s folly by attacking Russia which then joined forces with the Western allies to fight fascism.2 With the U.S. in the war after Pearl Harbor, Woody began penning songs like “Lindbergh,” which excoriated the isolationists and America First, though another of his songs expressed a secret desire for all the soldiers “on every single side” to “take off [their] helmet, unbuckle [their] kit, lay down [their] rifle …and say, nope, I ain’t gonna kill nobody.”3

Subsequently stationed at an army base in Illinois, Woody voiced misgivings about the dropping of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima.4 On September 7th, 1945, Private Guthrie wrote a song based on information he had gleaned from The Yank, the Army Weekly, entitled “What Kind of Bomb?” It read:

“There was Tibbets, Caron Nelson and Ferebee, flew that B-29 Named the Enola Gay,

They took off from Guam, on a clear summer day, to hang out a bomb over Hiroshima Bay….

Bob Shumard grab your glasses! Watch that one go! Looks like some mean volcano bubbling up down below.

We stuck our heads out our windows to see the big show, Hiroshima! You’re a good town! I hate to see you go.”

Guthrie continued:

“The Jolt was so bad that it shook all the sky, a cloud sprouted up forty thousand feet high.

The heat flash so bright that it outshined the sun, we asked one another ‘oh what kind of bomb.’”5

A follow-up song called “Talkin’ Atom Bomb” warned:

“when the flash an’drash and the big fire comes, If your fone don’t work and your train track’s broke,

if your highway’s gone and your tunnels all stuck and with you and your whole family get knocked up about nine miles, Be a little bit complicated findin’ a hospital….

Only way to save yer skin from this big bomb blast, Is ta outlaw th’ big bomb and I mean fast….

I don’t care if th’delivery boy talks to me about private enterprizes or public ownerships ner what;

Just shows me you’ve gone plumb crazey thinkin’ you can duck these new bomb blazes.”6

The latter words provide a powerful colloquial critique of the nuclear arms race in terms that foreshadowed Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr. Strangelove. Woody’s songs were among the first to protest the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, anticipating movements against the bomb by atomic scientists and pacifist critics.7 A follow-up song, “World’s on Fire,” proclaimed

“My angel, my darling, When that atom bomb does come; Let me be your pillow; While this world’s on fire. When the flames go creeping; When the smoke plume is leaping; We’ll play like we’re sleeping, While the world’s on fire.”8

In July 1946, Woody wrote a song protesting U.S. backing of Chiang Kai-shek in China’s civil war. Woody asked Mr. Chiang if he remembered

“the exact number of common workers that you murdered, is there a record, is there a paper, is there a number of dead and wounded…. Each drop of blood spilt, shines in my memory, with borrowed firearms, with borrowed money [reference to U.S. aid] … Count all the peasants, count all the unionists, count all the students, count all the radicals…. Shyang Shgagy Shye, Runnerdog Chyange Kai Shek, ya kild too many millions, cowerd dog Shiang Kaie Shek, Shyag ol killerdog Shek.”9

Woody on the Korean War

Folk singer Woody Guthrie

One aspect of Woody’s social justice activism which has been ignored by historians is his passionate opposition to the U.S. War in Korea. The three major biographies of Guthrie, including Kaufman’s, which centers on his radical politics, do not mention it at all.10 Over a dozen songs found at the Woody Guthrie archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma show Woody criticizing the Korean War in terms that anticipate the New Left critique of the Vietnam War. Woody lambasted the corruption of U.S. government allies, the deceit of the top military and Pentagon brass, and the toll that U.S. weapons inflicted on the Korean people. In “Bye Bye Big Brass” (1952), he dreamt up a scenario in which he is shipped off to Korea and rather than kill a Chinese soldier he encounters, he sits and talks with him by a campfire. After getting to know one another, the two hide out together and fight back against the U.S. Army when it tries to capture them.11 In this and many of his other songs he anticipated the roles of Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger during the War in Vietnam.

Together with a small number of artists affiliated with the Communist Party like Paul Robeson, Woody spoke out against the war at a time when many of his contemporaries remained silent. The Weavers, for example, whose songs “Goodnight Irene” and “Tzena, Tzena” stood near the top of the Billboard charts when the Korean War broke out, were among those who were silent about the war, though the group was nevertheless listed as communists in Counterattack and Red Channels, resulting in the loss of bookings, disappearance of a television show and cancellation of a record deal.12

Hit songs of the era such as Jimmie Osborne’s “God Please Protect Americans,” which rose to number nine on the billboard charts, and Gene Autry’s tribute to Douglas MacArthur “Old Soldiers Never Die,” promoted pro-war and patriotic themes mixed with religious sentiments. Wilf Carter’s hit, “Goodbye Maria, I’m Off to Korea,” noted that it was “the same old story as it [was] up to Old Glory to win another fight for liberty.” Earl Nunn’s tribute to MacArthur ended with the line: “though he did the best he could, there were some who thought he should, let the communists take over all creation.”13 This was a barb directed at President Harry Truman who had fired MacArthur for insubordination.

Woody was an anomaly amidst the conservative culture of the Cold War.14 The rusty-voiced Homer, as composer Elie Siegmeister called him, was part of an undercurrent of dissent who kept aflame the radicalism of the 1930s.15 Woody’s critique of the Korean War was framed in the language of the Wobblies (“IWW”) and depression era radicals like Smedley Butler, the four-star General who later produced the anti-war pamphlet, War is a Racket.16 His views on the Korean War also echoed those of his idol Joe Hill, the IWW songwriter who considered war a destructive manifestation of the capitalist system, though he would condone wars fought under the red flag against the capitalist bosses (as in Hill’s song “Should I Ever be a Soldier”).17

In “Korea Bye Bye” in November 1952, he wrote that he was sorry as he “did not want for [the U.S.] to bomb, fire bombs ain’t my matter, and peace is my cry. Bye, Bye, Bye.”18 Similarly in “I Don’t Want Korea” he proclaimed that he did not want Korea or to have her “as a present from the sky, I’ll not have Korea to be no slave of mine.”19

Woody’s biographer Ed Cray considers his writing in this period to have been polemical and not up to its earlier quality.20 However, Woody was among the few at the time to recognize and respect the humanity of the Korean people. He was also among the few to speak out against a war that resulted in the death of one tenth of the North Korean population, and left Korea, according to UN reconstruction agency, among the most devastated lands in all of history.21

In “Korea Quicksands” (April 1951), Woody lamented the

“floods of blood of these millions that died! Korean quicksands of blood. Korean rice-lands, knee deep in blood, hip deep in blood, neck deep in blood, throw down my guns; lay down alla my bombs; and there’ll be no more quick-sands of blood.”22

Several songs referenced the destruction of the Han River bridge by South Korean and U.S.-UN forces, resulting in the drowning of refugees.23 In “Han River Too Long,” Woody wrote “Han River too long, Han river too long, Bern down along down, Bern down along down, Han river too long.” This was followed up by “Han River Mud” in which Woody wrote “It’s a bloody, bloody flood, of Sweet Han River mud. Mud to me looks bloody.”24

In Thirty Eighth Parallel” Woody proclaimed that he would never “march across the thirty eighth parallel, except to shake his enemies’ hand” and would beforehand drop his gun.25 In “Korea Ain’t My Home,” in December 1952, Woody wrote:

“Korea ain’t my home, since we’ve got germ warfare, this whole world’s not my home, Nobody is living here.”26

This was followed up by “Korea Blues:”

“I said my bad Korean blues, radio-active got my stockings, germ warfare took lotta my shoes, Oh whom will I love, my bad Korean blues. Korea send me home, send me home; I don’t belong in Korea in the first place.”27

Robert A. Lovett cph.3a47036.jpg

Defense Secretary Robert Lovett

In “Mr. Sickyman Ree” Woody criticized South Korea’s leader in similar terms to Chiang Kai-Shek, writing that “Mister Sickiman Ree, Dizzy Old Sigman Ree, you can’t fool pore me!” Elsewhere, Woody sang of “Wall Street GI Joes” who had “become “all stuck down in the mud with your Wall Street jeep.” Defense Secretary Robert Lovett—an important architect of the war—had indeed worked for Wall Street investment firms that had defense contractors as clients and others in Truman’s Cabinet served on their corporate boards. The Korean War led to quadrupling of defense budgets, from $13 billion in 1949 to $54 billion (more than $500 billion in 2016 dollars) in 1953 while McDonnell, Douglas, General Electric, Boeing, Chrysler, and United Aircraft Corporations earned record profits as a result of the war and Lockheed-Georgia became the largest employer in the Southeast United States. During the Korean War, Woody sang of “Wall Street GI Joes” who had “become “all stuck down in the mud with your Wall Street jeep.”28 Defense Secretary Robert Lovett—an important architect of the war—had indeed worked for Wall Street investment firms that had defense contractors as clients and others in Truman’s Cabinet served on their corporate boards.29 The Korean War led to quadrupling of defense budgets, from $13 billion in 1949 to $54 billion (more than $500 billion in 2016 dollars) in 1953 while McDonnell, Douglas, General Electric, Boeing, Chrysler, and United Aircraft Corporations earned record profits as a result of the war and Lockheed-Georgia became the largest employer in the Southeast United States.30

Woody’s song, “Korean War Tank,” written in November 1952, ridiculed the primeval resort to violence: “Korean War tank, blang, Korean War tank, boom. I got my sights on you.”31 In “Han River Woman” (November 1952) he crooned: “I didn’t aim to, I didn’t intend to, I didn’t come to drop that damn jelly bomb! [napalm]. Han River woman, I tell you, it wasn’t me dropping it, I tell you never was me that done it, wasn’t dropped by people like me, just a handful of goddam bastards, bloody hyenas. Back yonder.”32

Woody’s indignation was born of the fact that napalm could incinerate anything in its path and burn people’s skin to a crisp like “fried potato chips,” as one Marine described it.33 Corporal Richard Peet said that the day members of his unit were struck in a friendly fire incident never went out of his mind.

“It was terrible, to see, Argylls [British soldiers] running around on fire covered in petroleum jelly, terrible, there were lads, lying everywhere burnt. ‘One officer, skinned alive, took twenty minutes to die.’ Those men who had napalm sticking to them, burning into them, screamed terribly.”34

Han River Woman foreshadowed the large popular outcry against napalm during the Vietnam War, powerfully expressed in Malvina Reynolds’ 1965 song “Napalm.” It asked “Lucy Baines [Johnson – LBJ’s daughter], did you ever see that napalm? Did you ever see a baby hit with napalm? When they try to pull it loose why the flesh comes too…They have lots of fancy names for that napalm…. And they drop it from the sky, And the people burn and die.”35

In perhaps his most eloquent anti-war ballad, “Talking Korean Blues,” Woody said the “whole war looks to me like a game, just like a funny little game that the kids all play. If we don’t send a soldier, nor a ship, nor a plane, the reds’ll win the goods and the people just the same.”

Guthrie asked:

“why does Mack wanta see several thousand mowed down?

Don’t he know the Reds will win out in the next round. We send our stuff to the South, they dish it over to them northerners.

Where was his brain during the last Chinese delivery? Several thousand men and planes it just ain’t worth to try to keep the South from giving it to the North;

It’s just not worth a single human life, to try to keep a bee off his flower and his hive….

The Korean Reds get the Christmas package either way, every little bitty baby Korean already knows that.

You are either in the Korean Red Army or else you’re a messenger girl, a delivery boy for them.”

Guthrie understood the war as a national liberation struggle involving near total societal mobilization against which American efforts were futile. Guthrie continues in the song:

“you see, I sometimes wonder what in the name of high heaven General MacArthur is doing so far away from home in the first place.

He don’t like it over there, I don’t think, why don’t he fold up his puppy tent and come back on home, and haul all of his psychoneurotic GIs back with him.

I know good and well them GI boys don’t like it over there because, well, home ain’t nowhere close to there!”36

Though the FBI had a surveillance file on him, Woody was never hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) like Pete Seeger, or deprived of his passport like Paul Robeson. He continued to mock the inhumanity of the men making the big decisions. In “Hey General Mackymacker” (1952) Woody wrote:

“Ho, ho Mister Lovvitt [reference to Defense Secretary Robert Lovett], that blizzard sure did bite [reference to cold winter];

I don’t see you packin’ a pack, where you marched us here to die? Man are you walking or are you running?

Hey Mister Syngman Ree boy, what went wrong friend when they kicked you out of Pujon, back down south Pyongyang, was you still strolling? Or was you running?

Hey Diggedy Mackymacker, sez Christmas I’ll walk home, but you did not say which Christmas. Boy I’d just like to know will I be walking or will I be running?

Hee, Hee bigshot Monkey Machrel, if we atom bomb these communists [as MacArthur had advocated], and then they atom bomb us, nobody will be running.”37

Woody’s Legacy in the Vietnam War

This song conveyed Woody’s anxiety about the prospects of nuclear annihilation and his concern for U.S. soldiers who had been sent on suicide missions by leaders who assumed few risks themselves and misled the public in proclaiming imminent victory. “Hey General Mackeymacker” paved the way for many Vietnam anti-war songs which conveyed similar themes. Country Joe and the Fish’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” (1965), for example, referenced Wall Street profiteering (“Come on Wall Street, don’t be slow, why man, this is war au-go-go; There’s plenty good money to be made; By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade”) and mocked the army brass and their bloody-thirsty anticommunism. One stanza read: “Well, come on generals, let’s move fast; Your big chance has come at last; Now you can go out and get those reds; ‘Cause the only good commie is the one that’s dead; And you know that peace can only be won; When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.” The chorus of the song (“and its’ one two three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam; and it’s five, six seven open up the pearly gates, Well there ain’t no time to wonder why, whoopee we’re all gonna die.”) pointed to the absurdity, purposelessness and squandering of human life in Vietnam, which Woody had earlier sung about in Korea.38

Phil Ochs’ in “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” (1965) echoed Woody in proclaiming that it was “always the old to lead us to the war, and always the young to die.” The song went on like “Talkin’ Atom Bomb:” “For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky, Set off the mighty mushroom roar, When I saw the cities burning, I knew that I was learning, That I ain’t marching anymore.”39 Pete Seeger’s famous 1967 song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” centered on a platoon of U.S. soldiers ordered by their Captain to ford the Mississippi River in 1942 despite the warnings of the Sergeant and the men that the river was too deep. The Captain refuses to listen and pushes ahead, in a clear allusion to Vietnam, and the men drift deeper and deeper into the water. Seeger wrote: “All we need is a little determination; Men follow me, I’ll lead on. We were – neck deep in the Big Muddy, And the big fool said to push on.” The outcome was in turn outlined in the final verse: “All at once, the moon clouded over, we heard a gurgling cry. A few seconds later, the Captain’s helmet was all that floated by. The Sergeant said, ‘Turn around men!’ I’m in charge from now on. And we just made it out of the Big Muddy with the Captain dead and gone.”40 Here, Seeger was providing a variation on Woody’s anti-authoritarian fantasy in which the soldiers take over from their commanders and engineer an honorable exit from the massive destruction of an unjust war.

The Korean War displayed many features of the Vietnam War, though a large-scale antiwar movement never developed in the repressive climate of McCarthyism and in the aftermath of the Second World War, which fostered American confidence in U.S. military leaders. The fact that the American left was ridden by sectarianism and factionalism at this time and severely weakened by revelations about the abuses of Stalinism also contributed to the weakness of anti-war sentiment.41 Guthrie’s ruminations against the Korean War consequently never became the battle-cry of a generation or a movement with effects like Seeger, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs’ and Country Joe’s songs against the Vietnam War, indeed, there is little indication of the extent to which he sang them publicly.42

Woody was nevertheless among activists who opposed the war and may have sowed the seeds of the 1960s anti-war protests. Sociologist C. Wright Mills was a contemporary who expressed disgust with the mechanized-depersonalized slaughter perpetrated by U.S. fighter-pilots [in Korea] with their “petroleum-jelly broiling of children and women and men.”43 The Communist writer Howard Fast wrote the antiwar poem “Korean War Lullaby,” which called on Korean children to close their eyes and forget the “burning gasoline, the gentle, jellied gasoline that burns with a flame so pure and serene,” to “hear no sound of bursting bombs that fall around, and tear the flesh and rend the ground, and hear no sound of screaming pain, from the guts of a man gone half insane.” Korea, Fast went on acerbically, had been “rescued from oppression, and the ‘free world’ from depression, and all the bits of brain and bone, the wail of pain, the anguished moan, the stink of burning human flesh, lacerations bleeding fresh, are nothing, you see, since they make you free.”44

Paul Robeson 1942 crop.jpg

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson, the singer and civil rights leader who was part of the People’s Songs collective with Woody, called the Korean War “the most shameful war” in U.S. history and proclaimed at a rally at Madison Square Garden, that “America’s place was on the side of the Lafayettes, the heroes of the French Revolution, Toussaints, the Kosciuskos, the Bolivars–not the Quislings of Europe and the Chiangs, the Bao Dais and the Syngman Rhees of Asia.” In the January 1952 issue of his Freedom newspaper, Robeson wrote:

“A hundred thousand American dead, wounded and missing have been listed in this war…and more than that we have killed, maimed and rendered homeless a million Koreans, all in the name of preserving Western civilization. U.S. troops have acted like beasts, as do all aggressive, invading, imperialist armies. North and South of the 38th parallel, they have looked upon the Korean people with contempt, calling them filthy names, raped their women, lorded it over old women and children, and shot prisoners in the back.”45

Woody had also considered the war barbaric. In “Bye Bye Big Brass” written in November 1952, Woody envisioned himself re-enlisting in the army and being “snuck off to old Korea” by “the warlords” after undergoing boot camp training even though “nobody asked me about taking this trip.” The big brass “yell’d an’ cuss’d like thunder, hands me a halmet and a gun, clips my belt, full of grenades, boys; gives me orders; Go hava little fun.” Woody went on: “They’d ask me back home; son if a war comes, will you bear arms? And I told them okay, I’ll bear these arms jst fast’s you c’n loan me, But I can’t guarantee which away.”

Here Woody the rebel betrays his sympathy for the North Korean and Chinese side, and a perception of the righteousness of their cause.

“So here in Korea, I walk patrol guards, I patrolled them jungles and mountains down;

I stumbled head on to a Red Star Commynist; We dropped our weapons to the ground, we built a fire and stood here talkin;

Bill Smith’s my name; his name’s Ho Tung; we showed one another our girlfriends pictures; we don’t wanta die; we’re both too young.“

Woody goes on to recount:

“I handed my weapons to Red Star Ho Tung, We carried them down to a grasstop shack.

Then a whole UN artillery division, they shell’d that shack ‘till daylight crack’d.

My big brass watched me thru a field glass. Lobbed a million rounds at our Nine Dollar Shack.

Ho Tung and me just laid there laffin’ when the Red Star Army got me on their tracks.

Wasn’t a UN soldier stayed for that picnic. Notta man, notta cannon, notta rifle, not a tank sev’ral thousand Red Star folks danced ‘round laffin.

When I showed ‘em how I s’rendered my one packs. I took that uniform with my red star; they said: y’ll be a hero alla your life;

We raised the rockhouse back that same day, And I live here now with my kids and wife. Hello to bloomtime all around me;

Hello to seeds, I plant for peace. Good Bye! Gbye! You Big Brass bastard! I’m gone where y’ll never find pore me!”46

This is Woody at his most defiant. He provided a singing counterpart to Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, the first international correspondent to report the effects of the atomic bomb, and who later humanized the North Koreans and Chinese while exposing U.S.-UN atrocities in the Korean War and the U.S. and its allies in the Indochina Wars.47 Above all, Woody was aggrieved by the terrible human consequences of the Korean War, but he was also sympathetic to the drive for national independence.

Woody’s ballads lambasting the American war in Korea anticipated the 1960s counter-cultural movement whose pacifist, anti-authoritarian and anti-materialistic ethos shaped American society. During the 1930s, Woody had often lived the life of a hobo performing on picket lines and at bars and saloons from Oklahoma to California, and he identified with the dispossessed. Harking back to communalist and back to nature movements, the hippies in the 1960s adopted communal living arrangements often in rural settings, and developed a culture in which possessions were shared, organic food was grown and people lived simply and peacefully, freed from any sexual constraints.48

Woody’s youngest son Arlo wrote the hippie anthem “Alice’s Restaurant,” a deadpan protest against the Vietnam War draft based on his own experience evading the draft because of an arrest for littering, after he had accidentally dumped trash from the church where the titular Alice lived, rather than for telling an army psychologist that he had a lust to kill. This exemplified the government’s skewed priorities. Arlo first strung a guitar at age three in Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s apartment, performed at a benefit for his father in high school and attended many anti-nuclear, pro-civil rights and antiwar protests as a child. In “Alice’s Restaurant,” he sang: “They wanted to know if I’m moral enough to join the Army—burn women, kids, houses and villages—after bein’ a litterbug.”49 The irony here is striking as is Arlo’s strong distaste for the violence and killing in Vietnam, which echoed his father’s view on Korea. After Arlo was rejected for military service, the Sergeant in charge of the induction process stated, “Kid, we don’t like your kind, and we’re gonna send your fingerprints off to Washington.”50 Here we see Arlo’s disdain for military authority and police abuse.

On November 15, 1969, Arlo sang Woody’s song, “I’ve Got to Know” at the Moratorium Against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. before a crowd of 250,000. The song was first published two months into the Korean War. It asked: “Why do your war boats ride on my waters? Why do your death bombs fall from my skies? Why don’t your ships bring food and some clothing? I’ve got to know, I’ve got to know.” Pete Seeger told writers Studs Terkel and Calvin Trillin that “I’ve Got to Know” was Woody’s response to the well-known gospel song “Farther Along” which comforts listeners that the promise of heaven is reward enough for all the unfairness and deprivation experienced on earth. That was the kind of sentiment that stuck in the craw of Woody and Arlo who told the Moratorium crowd that his “old man would really dig to be here. Not only would he dig it, but I’m sure his spirit is in one of you little kids out there.”51

Woody’s assessments of the Cold War and Korean War set the stage for a grounded critique of the Vietnam War when the times favored massive anti-war protest.52 Woody and his protégés viewed America’s role in the world as serving the interests of a violent power bent on keeping Third World nations in its thrall.53 They expressed solidarity with the political struggles of the oppressed in America and throughout the world. In the age of Trump, Woody’s message and that of the counter-culture remains resonant.54 A new rendition of “Bye Bye Big Brass,” “Talkin’ Atom Bomb” or “Hey General Mackeymacker” by a prominent artist who ranged across U.S. wars from Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria, Libya, Yemen and Northern Africa would be welcome alongside new renditions of the Vietnam classics, with calls to bring the boys home from all 170 nations where they are currently stationed.55


Jeremy Kuzmarov is author with John Marciano of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018), and an essay on the history of the Korean War “Barbarism Unleashed” (available at http://peacehistory-usfp.org/korean-war/) among other works.


Will Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011); Ronald D. Cohen, “Woody the Red?” In Hard Travelin’: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie, ed. Robert Santelli and Emily Davidson (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1999), 140.

Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, 55, 56.

Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, 92, 96. During his time in the Merchant Marines, Woody wrote an ode to the National Maritime Union (NMU), the country’s most radical union.

Figures in Lawrence S. Wittner, One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Through 1953 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993); Bruce Stokes, “70 Years After Hiroshima, Opinions Have Shifted on Use of Atomic Bomb,” Pew Research Center, August 4, 2015. 56 percent of Americans in 2015 said the dropping of the atomic bomb was justified, compared to only 14 percent of Japanese.

Pvt. W.W. Woody Guthrie, 3505th AAFBU, Squadron L, “What Kind of Bomb?” September 8, 1945, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

Woody Guthrie, “Talkin’ Atom Bomb,” date unknown but thought to be 1947, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

On the antinuclear movement, see Wittner, One World or None.

World’s On Fire,” Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Jay Farrar.

Woody Guthrie, “Chiang Kai Chek,” July 3, 1946; and “Shy Yang Kye Check,” Undated, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma. © Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

10 Kaufman, Woody Guthrie, American Radical; Ed Cray, Ramblin’ Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004); and Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie: A Life (New York: Delta, 1980). Mark Allan Jackson provides an analysis of many of Woody’s songs in Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007) but neglects discussion of his anti-Korean War songs.

11 Woody Guthrie, “Bye, Bye Big Brass,” 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

12 See Dick Wiessman, Talkin’ `Bout a Revolution: Music and Social Change in America (New York: Backbeat Books, 2010); Ronald D. Lankford, Jr. Folk Music USA: The Changing Voice of Protest (New York: Schirmer Books, 2005), 18, 19, 20.

13 Ivan M. Tribe, “Purple Hearts, Heartbreak Ridge, and Korean Mud: Pain, Patriotism and Faith in the 1950-1953 ‘Police Action’” in Country Music Goes to War, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005), 128, 130.

14 In Woody’s home state, in the month after the Korean War broke out, Senator Robert S. Kerr was inundated with letters demanding that he “get rid of all the communists before it was too late” and “get rid of [Secretary of State Dean] Acheson and every other red in the employment in our great country.” Another letter specified that “no person who was a communist had any rights the country should respect,” and another that Kerr should cooperate with the FBI in “plac[ing] all the communists in concentration camps like the Japs [sic] in World War II.” Letter from an ordinary housewife, July 31, 1950; letter to Robert S. Kerr; Anthony C. Johnson, letter to Robert S. Kerr in Robert S. Kerr Collection, Box 5; Robert S. Kerr Papers, Carl Albert Center, Oklahoma University.

15 See Marty Jezer, The Dark Ages: Life in the United States, 1945-1960 (Boston: South End Press, 1999); Daniel Horowitz, Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of Consumer Culture, 1939-1979 (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004); John Greenway, American Folksongs of Protest (New York: Octagon Books, 1971), 275.

16 See Melvyn Dubofsky, We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (University of Illinois press, 2013, reissued); Smedley Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier (Los Angeles: Feral House, 2003).

17 Gibbs M. Smith, Joe Hill (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Books, 1984), 36, 37. The last song Hill wrote, a day before his execution, “Don’t Take Papa Away From Me” sentimentally depicts the orphaning of a little girl as her father goes off to war and is killed – mid the cannons roar.”

18 Woody Guthrie, “Korea Bye Bye,” November 1952, Topanga Canyon, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

19 Woody Guthrie, “I Don’t Want Korea,” 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

20 Cray, Ramblin’ Man, 306. Cray writes that “the longer the Cold War wore on, the more his lyrics hardened into polemic. Only rarely did he equal his earlier poetry.”

21 Marilyn B. Young, “Bombing Civilians: From the 20th to the 21st Centuries,” in Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth Century History, ed. Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn B. Young (New York: The New Press, 2010)160.

22 Woody Guthrie, “Korea Quicksands,” April 1951, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

23 Robert Neff, “Destruction of Han River Bridge,” Korea Times

24 Woody Guthrie, “Han River Woman,” “Han River Blues,” “Han River Blood;” “Han River Mud,” December 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

25 Woody Guthrie, “Thirty Eighth Parallel,” March 19, 1951, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

26 “Korea Ain’t My Home,” December 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

27 Woody Guthrie, “Korean Blues,” December 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

28 Woody Guthrie, “Jeep in the Mud,” November 1952. Also Woody Guthrie, “Han River Woman,” Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

29 See Frank Kofsky, The War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to Deceive the Nation (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996); Jeremy Kuzmarov and John Marciano, The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018). Lovett had been an executive with Brown, Brothers, Harriman, a company founded by Averill Harriman, the director of the Marshall Plan which had taken on one of Hitler’s top financiers as a client.

30 Bruce Cumings, Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 340-41; A.H. Raskin, “U.S. Arms Being Produced at 7 Times Pre-Korean Rate,” New York Times, June 25, 1952; “McDonnell Backlog Climbs Steeply,” Aviation Week, October 16, 1950; “Industry Poised for All-Out Mobilization,” Aviation Week, December 11, 1950, 13-14; William D. Hartung, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (New York: The Nation Books, 2011); Kai Frederickson, Cold War Dixie: Militarization and Modernization in the American South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013).

31 Woody Guthrie, “Korean War Tank,” November 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

32 Woody Guthrie, “Han River Woman,” November 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

33 E.F. Bullene, “Wonder Weapon: Napalm,” U.S. Army Combat Forces Journal, November 1952; Earle J. Townsend, “They Don’t Like ‘Hell Bombs’” Washington Armed Forces Chemical Association, January 1951; Robert M. Neer, Napalm: An American Biography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). Napalm was developed by Harvard scientists encompassing napthenate and coconut palm added to gasoline at the end of World War II.

34 Andrew Salmon, Scorched Earth, Black SnowBritain and Australia in the Korean War (London: Aurum, 2011), 223-225.

35 Malvina Reynolds, “Napalm.” The song was set to the tune of another Woody Guthrie song, “Slipknot.”

36 Woody Guthrie, “Talking Korea Blues,” 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma. © Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

37 Woody Guthrie, “Hey General Mackymacker,” New York City, 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma. © Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

38 For background on Joe McDonald and the song, see Doug Bradley and Craig Warner, We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015).

39 Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” Elektra Records, 1965. On Och’s career, see Michael Schumacher, There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs (New York: Hyperion, 1996).

40 Allen Winkler, “To Everything There is a Season,:” Pete Seeger and the Power of Song (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 125-126.

41 See Mary Sperling McAuliffe, Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978).

42 Ronald D. Cohen and Will Kaufman skip over the Korean War in Singing for Peace: Antiwar Songs in American History (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2015). The archival documents at the Woody Guthrie museum do not indicate when and where Woody might have sung these songs.

43 C. Wright Mills, The Causes of World War III (New York: Ballantine Books, 1960), 89. On Mills’ career and influence on the New Left, see Stanley Aronowitz, Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).

44 Korean War Lullaby”. For a profile of Fast, see Gerald Sorin, Howard Fast: Life and Literature in the Left Lane (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).

 45Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire, ed. John Nichols (New York: Nation Books, 2004), 231; Paul Robeson, “Denounce the Korean Intervention,” June 28, 1950 in If We Must Die: African American Voices on War and Peace, ed. Kristen L. Stanford (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), 191-192; Paul Robeson Speaks, ed. Philip S. Foner (New York: Citadel Press, 1987), 297. Robeson paid a great price for his outspokenness as recording companies began refusing to issue his records or record new ones and concert halls and theatres became closed to him. His income dropped from a high of over $100,000 (equal to around $1.1 million in 2016 U.S. dollars) in 1941 to about $6,000 (equal to around $54,000 in 2016 U.S. dollars) in 1952.

46 Woody Guthrie, “Bye Bye Big Brass,” November 1952, Woody Guthrie Archive, Tulsa, Oklahoma @ Woody Guthrie Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.

47 See Burchett: Reporting the Other Side of the World, 1939-1983, ed. Ben Kiernan (London: Quartet Books, 1986); Tom Heenan, From Traveler to Traitor: The Life of Wilfred Burchett (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2006); Wilfred Burchett, This Monstrous War (Melbourne: J. Waters, 1953).

48 Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counterculture: Reflections on the Technocratic Society and its Youthful Opposition (New York: Anchor Books, 1969); Charles Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Random House, 1970); Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s & 70s, ed. Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle (New York: Routeledge, 2002).

49 Hank Reineke, Arlo Guthrie: The Warner Reprise Years (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2012), 6, 12; Braudy, “As Arlo Guthrie Sees It;” Spencer Kornhaber, “’Alice’s Restaurant’ an Undying Thanksgiving Protest Song,” The Atlantic, November 23, 2016.

50 See here.

51 Reineke, Arlo Guthrie, 108, 109.

52 See Kuzmarov and Marciano, The Russians are Coming, Again for a thorough rebuttal of John L. Gaddis, the conservative historian who draws the opposite and wrong conclusion in his Council on Foreign Relations (Wall Street’s think tank) sponsored book We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History(New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

53 For further corroboration, see The Chomsky Reader, ed. James Peck (New York: Pantheon, 1987); Gabriel Kolko, Confronting the Third World (New York: Pantheon, 1990); Alfred W. McCoy, In the Shadows of the American Century (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

54 See Rennie Davis, The New Humanity: A Movement to Change the World (Las Vegas: Bliss Life Press, 2017).

55 The 170 figure comes from K.K. Rebecca Lai, Troy Griggs, Max Fisher and Audrey Carlsen, “Is America’s Military Big Enough?” The New York Times, March 22, 2017.

“It’s really quite incredible how, at nearly every turn the New Zealand government has managed to mess up the legal case against Kim Dotcom.” – Mike Masnick, Techdirt, Mar 26, 2018

Put it down to his tigerish perseverance, or sheer faith in those powers of endurance, but Kim Dotcom’s victory before New Zealand’s Human Rights Tribunal had a stirring ring to it. The Tribunal found for Dotcom, awarding him NZ$30,000 for “loss of a benefit” and NZ$60,000 for “loss of dignity and injury to feelings” incurred by breaches of the Privacy Act by the previous NZ Attorney-General.

In July 2015, Dotcom made various information privacy requests on his case made notorious by the FBI’s pursuit of him as a notable founder of Megaupload, a data sharing and storage enterprise that rankled with the copyright fanatics on the other side of the pond.  The information requests were directed at what specific material various officials in the New Zealand government held on him.  These requests, instead of being dealt with in immediate fashion, were conveyed to a less than sympathetic Attorney-General, Chris Finlaysen.

The position of the authorities proved bleak, unsympathetic and dismissive to Dotcom.  In the words of the Solicitor-General to the Privacy Commissioner,

these “were not genuine Privacy Act requests but rather a litigation tactic and a fishing expedition” with “an ulterior motive”.

That motive was to frustrate his ongoing extradition hearing which is being cheered on by US law enforcement authorities.

What unfolded was a procedural bungle of momentous proportion.  All in all, the recipients of Dotcom’s requests were not meant to convey this to the Attorney-General.  Like the Solicitor General, each should have considered the issue instead of claiming that “the information sought, to the extent it is held by other agencies, is more closely connected with [the] functions as Attorney-General.”  The Solicitor General further compounded the issue by deeming Dotcom’s grounds “vexatious” and “trivial” in the nature of information being sought.  Woe to privacy, indeed.

One line from the Tribunal is needlessly torturous but bears reiterating:

“In these circumstances it was artificial for the Crown to argue that simply because the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General and Crown Law were the Crown’s legal advisers and conducting litigation against Mr. Dotcom the transferring agencies would properly believe the information to which the requests related were more closely connected to the functions or activities of the Attorney-General, Solicitor-General or Crown Law as the providers of legal advice and representation to the Crown.”

No transfer, given the circumstances, was permitted.

In rather damnable fashion, then, the Attorney-General “had no authority, as transferee, to refuse to disclose the requested information.” Dotcom had effectively shown that “there was no proper basis for the refusal” under the Privacy Act.

The Tribunal was similarly unimpressed by the arguments advanced by the Attorney-General that an “ulterior motive” clouded Dotcom’s requests, marring them as vexatious for having an improper purpose. They duly found “that Mr Dotcom has amply satisfied us, to the civil standard, that contrary to the assertion by the Crown, he had no ulterior motive in making the information privacy requests.”  These were genuine, having revealed no intention “to disrupt the extradition hearing.”

For those willing to read the judgment in full, a pile of mockery is heaped upon New Zealand’s error prone agencies. How, for instance, could a claim of irrelevance be made without Dotcom knowing what information on him was relevant to begin with?

A series of other failed efforts on the part of the government are also documented, including a good degree of errand boy behaviour before US masters.  The failure to register, and to authorise a US forfeiture order that would have rendered Dotcom impecunious and incapable of mounting a defence against extradition, is highlighted with some disdain.

These chronicles on fumbling and bumbling have become thick folios of malice and incompetence.  The spectacular dawn raid on Dotcom’s house in January 2012 was initially declared invalid by High Court justice Helen Winkelmann, having failed to specify what offence justified the raid and under what terms the warrant was being executed over.

Justice Winkelmann also ruled that the all-committed FBI had broken the law in removing digital material from Dotcom’s computers and taking it out of New Zealand.

“They could not authorise the shipping offshore of those hard drives with no check to see if they contained relevant material.”

Rather oddly, the New Zealand appeals court overruled Justice Winkelmann’s findings despite admitting to defections in the warrants.

“This really was a case of error of expression. The defects were defects in form not in substance.”

Even a casual reading of the case would suggest their Honours to have gone into hibernation on this one.

Dotcom has also been the subject of keen interest from New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), the miniature, though not negligible counterpart of the US National Security Agency.  When found that he had been the subject of illegal surveillance (NZ residents are supposedly exempt), police claimed that such breaches on the part of GCSB showed no “criminal intent” and declined to mount prosecutions.

For its non-criminal part, the GCSB proceeded to behave with suitably guilty minds in attempting to cover up evidence of such surveillance, only to then claim that an automatic “delete” function had removed aged material. Prime Minister John Key would claim with Alice in Wonderland absurdity that there were no missing files.

“This is a spy agency,” he told Parliament. “We don’t delete things. We archive them.”

Except, he conceded, when “raw material… ages off the system”.  With delicious perversion, such data would have to be deleted by law as it was “no longer relevant”.

Little wonder, then, that Dotcom is overjoyed.  Another legal canard biting the dust; another triumph to add to a bulging file.

 “After years of perseverance the time is here, we won, we’re getting to the truth,” he chortled in a joyful tweet.  “I’m no longer the defendant.”

Not quite – but on this occasion, his victory refocused attention on the subject of Dotcom as a person of legal worth, one singled out by the absurdist, malevolent tendencies of arbitrary state power.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Dr. Kampmark is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Email: [email protected]

There was an audacity about it, carried out with amateurish callowness.  As it turned out Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft, besieged and vulnerable, had been egged on by Australian cricket captain Steve Smith and the Australian leadership to do the insufferable: tamper with the ball.  

Before the remorseless eagle eyes of modern cameras, Bancroft, in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, was detected possessing yellow adhesive tape intended to pick up dirt and particles that would, in turn, be used on the ball’s surface.  This, it was assumed, was intended to give Smith’s team an advantage over an increasingly dominantSouth Africa.

The reaction from the head of Cricket Australia, John Sutherland, was one of distress.

“It’s a sad day for Australian cricket.”  Australian veteran cricketers effused horror and disbelief.  Former captain Michael Clarke wished this was “a bad dream”.

One of the greatest purveyors of slow bowling in the game’s history, Shane Warne, expressed extreme disappointment “with the pictures I saw on our coverage here in Cape Town. If proven the alleged ball tampering is what we all think it is – then I hope Steve Smith (Captain) [and] Darren Lehmann (Coach) do the press conference to clean this mess up!”

Indignation, not to mention moral and ethical shock, should be more qualified.  This, after all, is a murky area of cricket.  An injunction against ball tampering may well be enforced but players have been engaged in affecting the shape and constitution of that red cherry since the game took hold on the English greens.

Festooned with regulations, norms and customs, the battle between bat and ball has often featured attempts to alter, adjust and manipulate the latter.  Foreign substances have been added to one side of the ball; conventional additions of saliva and sweat are also used to give a magical sense of movement on its delivery to the batsman.  Cricket, as ever, is a game of aerodynamic and environmental challenges, conditioned by human agency.

The line between tampering and permissible manipulation is, to that end, squidgy, even vague.  Article 42.3 of the ICC Standard Test Match Playing Conditions covers the sins associated with ball tampering.  “If the umpires together agree that the deterioration of the ball is inconsistent with the use it has received, they shall consider that there has been a contravention of this Law.”

The deterioration of the ball, to that end, is salient.  Bowling innovations, for one, have triggered accusations and warnings from authorities bound by conservative instincts.  The emergence of reverse swing, pioneered by Safraz Nawaz and reaching peak perfection with Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, caused endless grief to practitioners and commentators.

Accepted now as a product of skill, even genius, it was a perceived illegality of tampering made good.  As Simon Rae would note ruefully in his excellent It’s Not Cricket on describing another exponent of reverse swing – the majestic Imran Khan – the former Pakistan captain had a certain “dedication to bringing the ball’s condition into harmony with his own ambitions for its movement in the air”.

Such tussles have taken place alongside the confected illusion that cricket is the Olympian summit of gentlemanly interaction and fair competition.  The Preamble to the Laws – Spirit of Cricket reads like a sacred document chiselled on pristine marble. “Cricket owes much of its appeal and enjoyment to the fact that it should be played not only according to the Laws, but also within the Spirit of Cricket.”  Heed, it would seem, that incorporeal creature, the hovering spirit.

Stress is also placed on the captain, who assumes “major responsibility for ensuring fair play”, though it “extends to all players, umpires and especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents.”

The field of battle has however, yielded its fair share of contraventions suggesting that cricket’s spirit was already well and truly disappointed before the antics of Smith’s men.  To tamper, in short has proven an irresistible temptation, whether biting the seam (Pakistan’s theatrically foolish Shahid Afridi in 2010) or energetic zip rubbing (South Africa’s conscience clear Faf du Plessis in 2013).

Even demigods have been accused.  India’s sanctified Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, received an initial one match suspension from match referee Mike Denness after alleged ball tampering in the second test match of India’s 2001 tour of South Africa.  (He was subsequently cleared of the charge.)

A supposedly squeaky clean Michael Atherton was less fortunate, receiving a £2,000 fine for rubbing dirt from his pocket onto the ball in the 1994 Lord’s test against South Africa.  The dirt itself had been extracted from the pitch.

In 2006, a Test match between Pakistan and England was forfeited after claims by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove that ball tampering had taken place.  Bitterly protracted, Hair’s judgment and the international governance of cricket, was brought into furious question by the Pakistani team.

Nor can all this be said to be a particularly modern phenomenon.  The difference has been catching the sly culprit. Australia’s elusive and daring Keith Miller admitted to lifting the seam on occasion. “If you can do this without being spotted by the umpire and if you can get the ball to pitch on the seam,” he confessed in Cricket Crossfire, “it will fairly fizz through.”  That, in an age of less televisual scrutiny.

Talk about equity and fair play rapidly becomes comic, especially when it stems from former players, such as Warne, who gave pitch reports to an Indian bookmaker and took diuretics at the height of his career.  The noble game has always boasted its ignoble rogues and its heavy disgraces.

The response to the incident has also been viewed with some dismay, not least of all regarding the insistence from the Australian captain to stay put.  Smith may well feel that a call to the principal’s office is in order, but he still holds the view that he is the best man for the captaincy.  This view may well be challenged given his decision to saddle the young, potentially doomed Bancroft with the onerous task of executing the deed.

Australian cricket’s self-advertised purity, however misplaced, has been overtly corrupted. It’s “claim to playing hard but fair,” wrote a resigned Geoff Lemon, “has evaporated for years to come.”  Even John Cleese, with acid accuracy, felt some remark on the affair was in order.  Smith “in admitting ‘ball-tampering’, explained that the team leaders thought it was a way of ‘gaining an advantage’.  Another way of ‘gaining an advantage’ is to cheat.”


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Dr. Kampmark is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Email: [email protected]

The world’s most important economic relationship is in serious trouble. Long drawn together by the mutual benefits of codependency—an export-led China relying on U.S. demand and a saving-short United States in need of low-cost Chinese imports and surplus foreign capital—the air is now thick with tension.

The United States’ shifting stance on trade policy is hardly surprising. In his inaugural address as the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump was crystal clear in stressing that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” The Trump administration has now moved from rhetoric to action in its avowed campaign to defend U.S. workers from what the president calls the “carnage of terrible trade deals.” China is clearly in the cross-hairs as the main target.

Tensions are coming to a boil. The January 22 imposition of so-called safeguard tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines were aimed largely at China and South Korea. While the early March announcement of steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will have only limited direct impacts on China—especially for steel, with China accounting for just 3 percent of total foreign shipments into the United States—there can be little question of collateral impacts on China’s position as the world’s largest producer of both metals.

Significantly, more dramatic follow-up actions are likely. Last August, under instructions from President Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer commenced investigations against China in accordance with Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 in three areas of alleged harm to U.S. interests: intellectual property rights, innovation, and technology development. These probes, which are focused on whether China’s laws, policies, practices, or actions are “unreasonable or discriminatory,” are widely expected to lead to sanctions on a broad array of America’s imports from China, which exceeded $500 billion in 2017.

Flawed analysis

Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s anti-China trade stance rests on a serious flaw in macroeconomic analysis that has long been endemic in Washington—a nationalistic bias that has led to an ill-conceived fixation on scapegoats. Blaming China and its outsize bilateral trade deficit for the squeeze on middle-class U.S. workers misses the important point that the U.S. had a multilateral trade deficit with 102 countries in 2017.

Multilateral trade imbalances do not arise in a vacuum. They are an outgrowth of a shortfall in domestic saving. America’s net national saving rate—the combined depreciation-adjusted saving of businesses, households, and the government sector—averaged just 1.9 percent of national income in the first three quarter of 2017; at less than one third the 6.3 percent average that prevailed in the final three decades of the 20th century, the U.S. has the weakest saving position of any leading nation in modern times. Lacking in domestic saving and wanting to consume and grow, the United States must import surplus saving from abroad and run massive current-account and multilateral trade deficits to attract foreign capital.

Consequently, going after China, or any other country, without addressing the root cause of low saving is like squeezing one end of a water balloon—the water simply sloshes to the other end. In other words, without addressing the saving problem, any U.S. trade diverted from China by tariffs or other sanctions will simply go to higher-cost producers elsewhere in the world, and that would be the functional equivalent of a tax hike on U.S. consumers.

Unfortunately, this problem is going from bad to worse. With President Trump having just signed a tax cut estimated at $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, and with the U.S. Congress adding another $300 billion to the federal deficit in its latest effort to prevent a government shutdown, pressures on domestic saving will only intensify. This underscores the increasingly problematic disconnect between fiscal policy and trade policy for a saving-deficient U.S. economy: trade deficits are likely to widen just as the U.S. turns protectionist.

A business executive displays U.S. beef products to be exported to China in Omaha, Nebraska, on November 1, 2017(XINHUA)

Frictions mount

All this points to mounting frictions in the China-U.S. economic relationship. As the United States’ third largest and rapidly growing export market, Chinese reaction would hardly be inconsequential. And, of course, if things get really bad, China could reduce its purchases, or even ownership, of U.S. treasuries at precisely the time when deficit-prone America will need more foreign capital.

The challenge is to avoid such a dire outcome—to convert distrust back into trust. This will require collective buy-in to policies with overlapping benefits for both the United States and China. Three possibilities should be stressed.

First, there is a clear need for a more robust framework of bilateral engagement between the two largest economies in the world. Bi-annual or annual summits such as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, or its recent incarnation as the Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, have achieved very little over the years. A permanent secretariat for ongoing consultation stands a much greater chance of success and dispute resolution.

Second, both the United States and China should put a much higher priority on the enhanced market access provided by a bilateral investment treaty (BIT). China’s nascent and rapidly growing consumer markets offer enormous growth potential for U.S. multinational corporations; similarly, as the world’s richest and deepest market, the United States is a magnet of opportunity and return for outbound Chinese capital—with the added advantage of providing inflows that are sorely needed by saving-short America. Both nations need to commit to breaking the nine-year logjam on BIT negotiations.

Third, there are some important soft power options that could go a long way in tempering U.S.-China tensions. For the United States, it would help to take politics out of analytics—specifically, recognizing that there can be no bilateral fix for a multilateral problem, no China solution for America’s saving problem. The blame game is a foil for ducking the responsibility of rebuilding strength at home. For China, it is important to appreciate the upside that would come from addressing the issues that have had a negative impact on its image in the West—not just with respect to trade but also on the cyber-security and geo-strategic fronts.

History is littered with examples of wars that have started by accident. The same is true of trade wars. With tensions mounting between two increasingly nationalistic nations, this is not a time to neglect the destructive tendencies of China-U.S. codependency.


Copyedited by Laurence Coulton

Translated and introduced by Sachie Mizohata

Japan was known as the home of a strong middle-class in the affluent 1980s, the fruits of its prosperous economy distributed more equitably than in many comparable high-income countries. Yet strictly speaking, contrary to popular perception, Japan was not that “egalitarian.” However, public credence was set and the Wall Street Journal (1989) to tellingly (if hyperbolically) characterize this secure society with impressive equality and principled values as “the only communist nation that works.”1 Then, sea changes followed.

This once “egalitarian” society is now widely (not least in Japan) recognized as a kakusa shakai(unequal society) in which income and wealth have become more unequally distributed than in many advanced economies.2 While widening wealth gap between rich and poor is a global trend as shown in the graph by Thomas Piketty and his co-researchers (Figure 1.1), in the case of Japan, in recent decades this has been accompanied by economic stagnation, rising levels of poverty, precarity, and public debt grafted on top of population aging.3 Against these backdrops, the second Abe Shinzō government started its economic policies, proclaimed as Abenomics, in an effort “to sustainably revive the Japanese economy” that was promised to trickle-down to all.4 Five years on, evaluations have taken place on the Abe program centered on hyper monetary easing, fiscal stimuli, and structural reform.

Fig. 1.1 – The elephant curve of global inequality and growth, 1980-2016

Source: World Inequality Lab, 2017 – creative commons licence 4.0 – cc by-nc-sa 4.0

This article introduces data and assessment by Inoue Shin of the Japan Federation of National Service Employees who “visually” presents some of the key facts and figures of Abenomics with regard to the working poor, real wages, labor share, and more, drawing primarily on government documents. In January 2018, the Cabinet Office updated a report that claims exceptional progress in light of nominal GDP, corporate profits, number of employed persons, and tax revenue.5 If, however, evaluation is based on targets determined by policy makers and experts in the international community (particularly the United Nations), Abenomics falls rather short of progress towards shared prosperity. As Joseph E. Stiglitz and others warn in the Stockholm Statement6: “GDP growth is not an end in itself,” “but a means to creating the resources needed to achieve a range of societal objectives, which include improved health, education, employment, security, as well as consumption.”7

Some critical points are worth elaborating.

First, the Cabinet Office claims that the Japanese economy is presently experiencing the country’s second-longest postwar boom8 with a record-high of ¥56 trillion rise in nominal GDP (i.e. not per capita GDP). Although the report specifies no time period in the text, the rise has occurred as displayed in the graph presumably from ¥493 trillion in 2012 to ¥549 trillion in 2017.9 To achieve these results, the Cabinet Office adopted a new method of how to measure GDP data in December 2016, thereby making upward revision and entailing retroactive revisions in official documents.10 What is clear, however, is that whatever the expansion in GDP, this has not translated into better lives for most Japanese. In recent opinion polls, a large majority of respondents (82%) report that they have experienced no benefit from Abenomics or economic recovery.11 A Ministry survey of Japanese households (2014) indicates that 62.4% of people perceived their living conditions as “difficult,” whereas over half of respondents twenty years ago reported it to be “normal.”12

As for the latest data on an important GDP component, “personal consumption, which accounts for 60 percent of GDP, declined by 0.5 percent.”13 At the household level, consumption expenditure continues to decline and, in 2016, fell to the lowest level in 35 years, marking the sharpest drop, despite long-running growth (Figure 2.6). Most striking is the fact that the so-called poverty line14(half the median income of the total population) has steadily declined, this at a time when it has risen for Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK, and USA.15 Japan’s poverty line was ¥1.49 million in 1997, ¥1.30 million in 2003, ¥1.25 million in 2009, and ¥1.22 million in 2015.16

Stated differently, the Japanese as a whole are becoming poorer, and the real standard of living has declined in recent years. To make a bad situation worse, spending cuts in social welfare, especially livelihood assistance for the poor since 2013 (slashed by up to 13.7%), amplifies unequal distribution of welfare.17 In short, it is evident that Abenomics has not improved the livelihood of the people.

Second, according to the Cabinet report, corporate profits reached a record-high increase of ¥26.5 trillion from ¥48.5 trillion in 2012 to ¥75.0 trillion in 2016.18 In sharp contrast to soaring retained earnings and corporate profits rewarding those at the top (Figure 2.4), Japanese workers’ earnings, in nominal terms, declined by ¥160,000 from ¥4.08 million in 2012 to ¥3.92 million in 2016 (Figure 2.2). Simultaneously, with the upward trend in corporate profits since 2001, there has been a continuous downward trend in the real salaries/wages index since 1997 when it reached its peak. This reveals the increase in returns to capital and the declining share of national income allocated to labor (Figure 2.4). In fact, a decline in the labor share has occurred in the vast majority of Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries. “The OECD (2012) has observed, for example, that over the period from 1990 to 2009 the share of labour compensation in national income declined in 26 out of 30 advanced countries for which data were available, and calculated that the median (adjusted) labour share of national income across these countries fell from 66.1 per cent to 61.7 per cent.”19 As for Japan, economist Mizuno Kazuo points out that labor’s share of Gross National Income (GNI) declined from 46.5% GNI in Fiscal Year (FY) 1980 to 40.5% GNI in FY 2015.20

This indicates a shift in the share of national income from labor to capital. The estimated “lost wages” of workers, according to Mizuno, amounts to as much as ¥200 trillion over the same period.21 This is among the largest declines in real wages in the OECD countries. As reported, “Japan is one of only two OECD countries, along with Israel, where the lowest income decile has suffered an absolute decline in their real income since the mid-1980s.”22 The country’s share of labor costs in total labor and capital costs remains the lowest among OECD countries (2016).23

In addition, the number of wealthy households (with financial assets of ¥100 million or more) has increased by about 21% from 2013 to 2015. In 2015, 1.22 million households had total net financial assets of ¥271 trillion.24 The gap between small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and large businesses also widened rapidly since 2013, despite the widely touted trickle-down effect. The difference in the total amount of ordinary income between SMBs and large businesses increased to a record-high of ¥19 trillion in 2015.25 In sum, these outcomes reveal distributional consequences of Abenomics, simultaneously producing economic disparity and precarity (as seen below).26

Third, the Cabinet Office estimates that the number of employed persons has increased by 1.9 million (including 1.5 million women workers), thanks to Abe’s pro-growth policies.27 However, a Health Ministry survey shows that the main increase lies in irregular workers (2.07 million) from 2012 to 2016, compared to regular workers (220,000).28 The increased numbers of employees has not coincided with better-paying positions or greater security. To the contrary, low-paid irregular workers account for nearly 40% of the entire labor force in 2017 (compared with 15.3% in 1984 before deregulation),29 while Japan’s minimum wage is the lowest among 19 advanced economies: ¥798 per hour (on average for FY 2016).30 (Note that irregular workers, like those defined by British economist Guy Standing, can be classified as the precariat, workers in precarious employment: low-end incomes without job security and benefits.31)

In 2016, on average irregular workers earned ¥315 million (35.3%) less than regular workers: ¥172 million compared to ¥487 million. At the same time, the wage gap between irregular workers and regular workers increased, on average, by ¥15,000 from 2012 to 2016. Moreover, the number of the working poor (those who earn less than ¥2 million a year) increased from 10.9 million in 2012 to 11.32 million in 2016 (Figure 2.3).32The majority of irregular workers are women (379,000 women out of 423,000) who earned ¥241 million less than men on average in 2016: ¥280 million compared to ¥521 million. Six out of ten women workers are irregular workers. In terms of a gendered wage disparity, Japan ranks second among OECD members, behind South Korea.33

This directly contradicts the signature Abe slogan of Womenomics, giving the lie to Abenomics’ claim to foster gender equality. Note that the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Japan 114th in 2017, the worst ever, having fallen from 111th in 2016 and 80th in 2006.34Incidentally, Japan’s karoshi (death from overwork)-prone culture has become far more pronounced under Abenomics labor reform. Karoshi, which is directly attributable to long working hours and work pressure, applies to both women and men and imposes additional precarity risks (Figure 2.7).

Fourth, the Cabinet report documents that Abenomics increased tax revenue by ¥15.4 trillion from ¥42.3 trillion in 2012 to ¥57.7 trillion in 2017 despite corporate tax rate reduction (see Figure 2.5).35 “Since [PM Abe] came to power, the overall effective corporate tax rate in Japan has fallen from 37% to 29.97%. In fiscal 2018, which begins [this] April, the rate is slated to decline to 29.74%.”36 Tomioka Yukio, emeritus professor of Chuo University, points out that Japan’s effective corporate tax rate (taken as the average rate at which a business is taxed on earned income) appears to be above the averages (as of 2014) 17% in Singapore, 23% in the UK, and 24.2% in the special district of Seoul, South Korea. This does not, however, mean that corporations actually pay at these levels.

Tomioka discusses large corporate tax avoidance, in which many corporations pay typically around 20%, and some even as low as 1%. For example, the effective corporate tax rate (as of 2014) was 0.001% for Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, 0.003% for SoftBank, and 6.91% for Fast Retailing, otherwise known for Uniqlo.37 Osawa Mari of the University of Tokyo notes that Japan’s distributions of tax burdens and tax benefits are the least progressive among the OECD. In other words, government transfers, which are normally redistributed to low-income groups through social security benefits, work in reverse.38 By contrast, at least until the late 80s, Japan, like OECD peers, had a progressive income tax system (high tax on high income earners), which made it possible to expand its welfare state.39

While powerful corporations have benefited from tax cuts, the consumption tax, which most heavily affects poor and working-class families, was raised from 5% to 8% in 2014 and PM Abe is currently calling for an increase to 10%. Between FY 1989 and FY 2016, total tax revenues remained quite steady: ¥54.9 trillion in FY 1989 and ¥55.5 trillion of FY 2016. However, in those years there was a ¥4 trillion decline in income taxes, a ¥9 trillion decline in corporate tax, and a ¥14 trillion increase in consumption tax payments.40 The rise of consumption tax revenue, falling above all on poor and working class citizens, makes up for the lost corporate tax revenues serving the interests of the richest companies and individuals). Although it was claimed that the total amount raised in the consumption tax hike would be expressly allocated for social protection (see Figure 1.2), of ¥8.2 trillion raised, only ¥1.35 trillion (16.5%) was directed towards social security in the national budget for FY 2016. A large part went to reduce the public debt.41 Worse, Japan has cut back social services including healthcare and pensions.42 The result has been a shift in tax burdens from the very wealthy to everyone else, contributing to distributional effects favoring capital accumulation and concentrated wealth.

Fig 1.2

Government promotion: The hike in the consumption tax is fully used for the enhancement and stabilization of social security

Fifth, the Cabinet Office takes credit for the lowest unemployment rate (2.8%) in the past 23 years.43 But low unemployment is above all a product of the fact that Japan faces a growing labor shortfall as “the youngest members of the nation’s postwar baby boomers [turned] 70”44 in 2017, which pushes up employment levels. To be clear, this is in line with earlier trends driven by an aging and shrinking population (particularly the domestic young workforce) as well as increased demand for health and medical care. Employment opportunities had grown in response to an increased demand of more than one million in the medical and welfare fields from 2013 to 2016, owing to the demographic shift.45

Lastly, high stock prices have been regarded as indicative of the success of Abenomics. However, it is clear that domestic stocks have been bought up by the Bank of Japan (¥23 trillion invested) as well as through the public pension funds (public wealth) by the Government Pension Investment Fund. Their investments account for nearly 10% of the domestic stock market, thereby thriving on unsustainable growth.46 The booming stock market does not illustrate economic betterment of the entire country, but rather reflects disproportionately enlarged profits for 0.1% of corporate giants (about 4000 out of 4 million companies whose stock prices are listed on a stock exchange).47 This has tripled in size the assets owned by the 300 richest (high net worth) individuals to ¥25 trillion.48 This “achievement” has bypassed the vast majority of the population without improving public services. According to a Bank of Japan survey, the proportion of households that do not have financial assets such as savings and stocks became 31.2% in 2017, the highest ever, compared to 30.9% in 2016 and 3.3% in 1987, that is, less than one third the total.49

Fig 1.3 – The rise of private capital and the fall of public capital in rich countries, 1970-2016

Source: World Inequality Lab, 2017 – creative commons licence 4.0 – cc by-nc-sa 4.0

Fig. 1.4 – The decline of public capital as a percent of national wealth, 1970-2016

Source: World Inequality Lab, 2017 – creative commons licence 4.0 – cc by-nc-sa 4.0

To summarize, five years have passed since the start of Abenomics with the proclaimed trickle-down concept. In fact, primary effect of Abenomics has been to increase economic growth and corporate profits while the income of poor and working-class people has fallen. In this respect, it extended and exacerbated patterns from at least the late 1990s favoring corporate interests while increasing inequality and precarity as shown by Inoue (Figure 2.1). This pattern has not been unique to Japan. As summarized by Thomas Piketty and his co-researchers in 2018:

“There has been a general rise in net private wealth in recent decades, from 200–350% of national income in most rich countries in 1970 to 400–700% today. … Conversely, net public wealth (that is, public assets minus public debts) has declined in nearly all countries since the 1980s. … Net public wealth has even become negative in recent years in the United States and the UK, and is only slightly positive in Japan. … This arguably limits government ability to regulate the economy, redistribute income, and mitigate rising inequality”50 (see Figures 1.3. and 1.4).

In Japan, Abenomics has sacrificed human development (measured by the ability to live to old age; to be free from karoshi; and have a healthy work-life balance).


The Sorry Achievements of Abenomics


Nearly five years on, the three things that have increased most in the Abe administration are: the assets of the wealthy, compensation for executives of large corporations, and donations to the Liberal Democratic Party.

According to the home page of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in announcing the House of Representatives election on October 10, 2017, on launching his election campaign, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo first “underlined how the economy is steadily picking up, by showing objective figures” on the achievements during the last five years of the Abe administration.

Further, the “LDP House of Representatives election pledge 2017” states that “during the quinquennium, we have devoted all our energies to Abenomics. As many indicators demonstrate, Japan’s economy has definitely been recovering.” Therefore “by accelerating Abenomics, we will achieve economic recovery and deflation.”

Let us then review the achievements of Abenomics during the five-year period (2013-2017) using figures in a graph.

Fig. 2.1

As shown in the graph, the top three achievements of Abenomics during the quinquennium, measuring change over five years, are: a doubling of financial assets for the 40 most affluent people; a 1.8 times rise in compensation for executives of large corporations; and a 1.7 times growth of political donations to the LDP.Let us then review the achievements of Abenomics during the five-year period (2013-2017) using figures in a graph.

In short, Abenomics’ signature achievements consist of the success of an income-doubling plan for the wealthiest individuals, executives of large corporations, and the LDP. It is easy to understand how LDP favors to the wealthy makes it possible for those who are well-off and executives to double their payoffs to the LDP.

In contrast, there has been a significant increase in the number of low-end households without savings, experiencing death from overwork (karoshi), mental health problems and injuries in the workplace, non-regular employment, and entering the ranks of the working poor. Concurrently, the education budget, real wages, household consumption, and wages have all decreased.

If, as promised by the LDP, Abenomics is “accelerated”, each graph bar will grow further, pushing more wealth into the hands of the richest individuals, executives, and the LDP, whereas ordinary people will face problems of falling wage, impoverishment, and increased karoshi. The wealthy alone, executives, and the LDP will benefit from Abenomics.

The index 100 indicates the start (on December 26, 2012) of the current Abe administration; the index number compares this to 2016). Please refer to the table below for further references.

Fig. 2.2 – Changes in real wages from 1990 to 2016

Changes in real wages can be found in The Monthly Labour Statistics Survey on the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. The graph shows real wage growth to 2016.

Source: The Monthly Labour Statistics Survey of the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.

As shown in the graph, real wages fell to their lowest levels from 2013 to 2016 during the Abe years. In short, while real wages were declining from 1996, Abenomics extended that decline in wages.

In addition, based on the Statistical Survey of Actual Status of Salary in the Private Sector of the National Tax Agency, when computing the actual wage for 2012, just before the advent of the Abe administration, we obtain an average salary of ¥4.08 million (mn). The resulting graph depicts the decline in the average salary thereafter: ¥4.04 mn in 2013, ¥3.93 mn in 2014, ¥3.89 mn in 2015, and ¥3.92 mn in 2016.

Compared with 2012, real annual wages fell by ¥40,000 in 2013, by ¥150,000 in 2014, by ¥190,000 in 2015, and by ¥160,000 in 2016. This shows accumulated loss of ¥540,000 in wages during the past four years of the Abe administration.

Meanwhile, according to the Financial Statements of Corporations by Industry 2016 provided by the Ministry of Finance, retained earnings of corporations increased by nearly ¥28 trillion (tn), which reached a record high of ¥406,235 billion, and similarly, their current profits have increased by 9.9% to ¥74,987 billion, another record high.

Put simply, in 2016 workers’ wages reached the lowest point since the launch of Abenomics, while retained earnings of large firms and recurrent profits rocketed to their highest levels.

Nonetheless, PM Abe attempts to enact laws aiming at the expansion of a labor system that promotes “zero overtime pay, fixed-wage unlimited work” and “karoshi-prone work”, a consumption tax increase, and more.

Fig. 2.3 – The number of working poor reached an all-time high under Abenomics

Even some of those who work throughout the year earn wages of ¥2 million or less. The number of working poor has risen steadily since 1999 and for the fourth consecutive year in 2016 their number exceeded 11 million.

Source: Statistical Survey of Salaries in the Private Sector by the National Tax Agency.

Fig. 2.4 – Retained earnings of large corporations and real wages, 1997-2016


  1. The data for retained earnings is from Financial Statements Statistics of Corporations by Industry by the Ministry of Finance on large enterprises with capital of 100 billion yen and more, excluding insurance and financial enterprises.
  2. The data on real wages is from The Monthly Labour Survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, which is converted from the average annual income of 2012 from The Statistical Survey of Actual Status of Salaries in the Private Sector by the National Tax Agency.
  3. The beige line shows average real wages.

Fig. 2.5 – Corporate tax rate

Source: The state of corporate enterprises seen from taxation statistics by the National Tax Agency.

Fig 2.6 – Household consumption expenditure

Source: The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Fig. 2.7 – Claims for compensation for occupational diseases

Source: Report on Labour Accident Compensation such as karoshi and others by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.


Translator’s note: As of July, 2017, over half of 225 top-rated Japanese companies listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange had signed a labor-management agreement that permits overtime work of up to 80 hours or longer a month. The figure is considered a benchmark for karoshi. Three types of karoshi are currently subject to worker compensation laws: karoshi (death from overwork), karo jishi (suicide from overwork), and karo jikoshi (death from traffic accidents due to overwork). The graph shows that the number of employees with mental disorders caused by work nearly doubled between 2006 and 2016. For more details, see relevant articles herehere, and here.

Inoue Shin is a central executive committee member of The Japan Federation of National Service Employees. He is an editor of the monthly magazine Kokko, a blog administrator of Editor, an associate of Japan Research Institute of Labour Movement and the Welfare State Planning Studies Association.

Sachie Mizohata is a Luxembourg-based researcher and translator. Her recent article is “Nippon Kaigi: Empire, Contradiction, and Japan’s Future.” 


The Wall Street Journal, January 30, 1989, p. 1.

The Gini coefficient is the most widely used measure of a nation’s rich-poor gap, measured from 0 to 1, with a higher number implying greater inequality. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare updates once every three years the Gini coefficient before and after income redistribution (e.g. tax). As of most recent reporting date, the level of inequality was 0.570 in 2014 before income redistribution, compared to 0.554 in 2011 and 0.349 in 1981. Meanwhile, the post-redistribution level of inequality was 0.376 in 2014, compared to 0.379 in 2011. See here. According to the OECD report, Japan’s Gini was 0.33 in 2015, more unequal than the OECD average 0.318 in 2014 and 0.315 in 2010. See here.

See here (p. 6); Schoppa, Leonard J. 2006. Race for the Exits. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.; Standing, Guy. 2011. The Precariat. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama.; Osawa, Mari. 2011. Social Security in Contemporary Japan. London: Routledge/University of Tokyo Series.; Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham: Duke University Press.; Baldwin, Frank, and Anne Allison, eds. 2015. Japan: The Precarious Future. New York.: NYU Press; and Tachibanaki, Toshiaki. 2015. Hinkon taikoku Nippon no kadai. Kyoto: Jimbun Shoin.

The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, p.1.


See here.

See here.

See here.

In the Cabinet Report, there is some discrepancy between the documented numbers in the text and the ones in the graphs, and the years are not specified. The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, p. 1-2.

10 In December 2016, the Cabinet Office adopted a new method to measure GDP in line with the international calculation standard called 2008 SNA, thereby incorporating the components such as research and development (R&D) in capital expenditure. The data were then revised, with the benchmark year changed from 2005 to 2011, and the revisions were made dating back to 1994. Employment and labor attorney Akashi Junpei has raised concerns about data accuracy (i.e. the fabrications and falsifications of official figures), since the new method, including unspecified components such as “etc.,” has greatly pushed up the value of nominal GDP during the Abenomics years. For more details, see Akashi, Junpei. 2017. Abenomics ni yoroshiku. Tokyo: Shūeisha.

11 For example, see here.

12 See here.

13 See here.

14 There is no official poverty line, but the government uses its own appraisal method to report relative poverty.

15 When the data are presented as an index using the reference year 2000 = 100, the figures in 2015 are as follows: 165 in Canada, 151 in the UK, 137 in France, 134 in the USA, 128 in Italy, 125 in Germany, and 84 in Japan. See here.

16 See here.

17 See here.

18 The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, pp. 1-2.

19 See here, p. 2.

20 See Mizuno, Kazuo here.

21 Ibid.

22 See here, p. 45.

23 See here.

24 The 2016 report by Nomura Research Institute

25 See here.

26 Note PM Abe’s remarks in December 2013: I believe Abenomics is a failure if the fruits of economic recovery led by large corporations do not reach small and medium-sized enterprises and their employees.

27 The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, p.1.

28 Note that there is no official definition of “regular”/“irregular” workers. It can be said that the “irregular” workers are those who are not “regular” workers. In general, the “irregular” workers are referred to as those workers such as part-timers, temporary (dispatched) workers, on fixed-term contracts with little financial security. See GendaYūji.

29 See here.

30 Osawa, Mari.

31 Standing, Guy.

32 Yamamoto, Taro, member of the House of Councilors, at the Cabinet Committee on December 7, 2017. (See here.)

33 See here. See Ueno, Chizuko.

34 See here and here.

35 The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, p.1.

 36 See here.

37 See here and here. Also, there are kanpukin (refunds/rebates) as well as tax havens. Kanpukin is the system in which the rebate (refund) of the consumption tax is transferred from the tax office to large export corporations. As the tax rate rises, the refund amount increases accordingly. A retired professor at Shizuoka University estimates that the refund to the top 10 large export companies amounted to ¥783.7 billion in 2015. Since the consumption tax rate increased to 8%, the refund dramatically increased by 1.8 times. The largest refunds went to Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. For details, see here. For tax havens, see here.

38 The OECD analysis for 2009 shows that each country reduced the poverty rate by 20 to 80% after redistribution, with the exception of Japan. The country’s poverty rate increased by 8% in dual-income households and single-parent households in post-distribution. See Osawa, Mari, Taro Miyamoto, and Shogo Takegawa. 2018. “Honraino zensedaigata shakaihoshou toha nanika.” Sekai 2:68-81.; Osawa, Mari.

39 See here.

40 Uekusa, Kazuhide.

41 Osawa, Mari, Taro Miyamoto, and Shogo Takegawa. 2018. “Honraino zensedaigata shakaihoshou toha nanika.” Sekai 2:68-69.

42 See here.

43 Note the figures do not factor in the population excluded from the statistics, e.g. homeless, victims of karoshi.

44 See here.

45 See here.

46 See, for example, Akashi, Junpei. 2017.

47 Uekusa, Kazuhide.

48 Kasai Akira’s assessment from Nichiyō tōron (NHK) on February 25, 2018.

49 See here.

50 Note that their report is open source and reproducible: See here.

It has been the great misfit Australian policy since the 1990s: a refugee and immigration policy that shows itself to be scrupulously fair, calculable and clean.  Nothing shall be permitted to sully this presumption. Even as refugees and asylum seekers gather dampness, decay and depression in Pacific camps, the Australian immigration policy shall remain, like Caesar’s wife, above reproach.

The comments of Australia’s Peter Dutton who resembles, with each passing day, a plumed and emboldened commissar, have given political figures pause for thought.  Openly, and without reservation, the Home Affairs Minister decided to bank for a particular racial group in the immigration stakes, namely those poor oppressed white farmers of South Africa.

This goes against the policy of ethnic caution and racial neutrality, albeit ensconced behind the customary prejudices typical of all stances on immigration.  Here was the most direct expression of race and culture as twin categories.

Dutton preferred the language of “special attention” for specifically white South African farmers suffering what he deemed to be “horrific circumstances”.  He spoke of damning footage and lurid stories.  They, he explained, needed protection from a “civilised country”.  South African farmers would be a good fit in Australia, integrating (note the stab against certain refugees) and avoiding the welfare rolls.  Perversely enough, the mantle of guardianship – that of Afrikaners overseeing the civilising mission in South Africa – seemed to have moved to the confused Dutton.

As a key proponent of apartheid, the South African prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd, would enunciate in February 1960, it was the white men who were “the people… who brought civilisation here, who made possible the present development of black nationalisation by bringing the natives education, by showing them the Western way of life, by bringing Africa industry and development, by inspiring them with the ideals which Western civilisation has developed for itself.”

Dutton’s remarks fell on the ears of the furious.  Ian Rijsdijk of the University of Cape Town’s Media Studies Centre found the remarks “incredibly retrograde.”  “The majority African population regard a reference to civilisation,” piped South African advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, “as an insult.”

Spokesman for South Africa’s Foreign Ministry, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, claimed in a statement that,

“There was no reason for any Government anywhere in the world to suspect that any South African is in danger from their own democratically elected Government.  That threat simply does not exist.”

In fairness, the minister’s intervention had already been forecast by party machinations at the state level some months prior.  The West Australian Liberal Party had chewed over the issue of those colonial hangovers in South Africa and Zimbabwe in discussions in 2017.  A resolution at the party’s state council meeting last year called upon the federal government to “resettle persecuted European minorities” from those benighted states.

Not far from such considerations was the influence of South African expatriates in various seats, making their defenders sound much like advertisers pushing a flawed product.  Ian Goodenough, a WA Liberal representing the federal seat of Moore, opined to the ABC that,

“Violence and suffering affects all people universally.” (This affected nonsense only extends to particular communities in such racial politics – violence is universal, but politics is particular.)  “Given our close connections to the South African community, consideration should be given to providing a quota of places.”

On March 15, the MP tweeted that “favourable consideration” be granted to “South Africans fleeing persecution who share our values and will integrate into Australian society.”  This was humanitarianism, washed marble and cultural white, with a handy number of additions to Australia’s conservative voting bloc.

Other conservatives decided to vent their fury at reports about violence against white farmers, sometimes careful to avoid racial tags and labels.  The sense behind such anger was undeniably strategic: the Coalition government is stuttering in the polls, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for easy fodder.  To that end, Andrew Hastie expressed “outrage” and pressed Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, to visit his own seat of Canning.

The reasoning there, like that of a calculating Goodenough, was placating, keeping and even gathering more conservative South African votes, a hoovering exercise of a local member thinking of the next election and whether he will survive the voter’s chop.  Dutton, claimed Hastie, was “going to hear from concerned citizens and expats about what is happening in South Africa.”

Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming has also gotten on the electoral stage to claim that he “called out South African politicians for their do-nothing approach to vicious attacks on farmers”. He suggested that Dutton was merely asking his department “to monitor and consider our offshore humanitarian program”.

This is not to suggest that the world of South Africa, in its post-apartheid torment, is not afflicted.  Crime and land redistribution remain enduring social headaches, though the new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has told Parliament that “land grabs” would be intolerable, instancing moments of “anarchy”. That said, the ownership of agricultural land in South Africa – with white South Africans having 72 percent of the portion despite making up some 8 percent of the country’s population, is an invidious formula.

The country’s politics is troubled, best exemplified by the presidential strife of the now departed Jacob Zuma.  But the hot-and-bothered gamesmanship of Dutton also ignores the role played by invigorated democratic health in South Africa itself – the movement against Zuma being evidence of it.  A civil society collective of investigative journalists, judicial officers, even police, were vital in showing that the Republicof South Africa, far being sworn enemies of civilisation, are its vigilant defenders.

Dutton’s ploy is preferential, cultural and obvious, an embrace of colonial, property owning elites who have fallen on hard times.  His idea of civilisation, quite literally coloured, is inimical to democracy.  His adoration for the South African farmer has also had a confessional effect: behind the veneer of decent immigration policies will always be indecent preferences.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

Sri Lanka’s Religious Violence and the US Pivot to Asia

March 23rd, 2018 by Gearóid Ó Colmáin

Recent inter-communal riots in Sri Lanka have highlighted the problem of religious extremism, particularly among Asia’s Buddhist population. But the Buddhist nationalist point of view has been largely ignored in favour of a discourse which demonises Buddhists as aggressors and  portrays Muslims as innocent victims. The reality is far more complex.

Part I

A state of emergency has been introduced in Sri Lanka after an outbreak of violence between Buddhists and Muslims. According to reports, the violence erupted after a Buddhist truck driver was killed on the 4th of March by three inebriated Muslims, which was followed by attacks from “Buddhist mobs” on the Muslim community of Kandy city.

The Sri Lankan government, which was due to face a vote of no confidence among growing discontent with President Maithripala Sirisena’s leadership, has shut down social media. The Western media have laid most of the blame for the violence on “Buddhist mobs” and “Buddhist extremists”.

What is clear, however, is that over 200 Muslim homes and businesses have been burned down. There is video evidence of the local police being blamed by Muslim proprietors for inaction. But what media reports ignore is the video evidence of Muslim rioters with long sticks attacking the police. Instead, all reports refer to violent Buddhist mobs without showing any evidence of who is responsible for the violence. Why?

US Pivot to Asia

Recovering from a long civil war against the Western-backed Tamil Tigers which ended in 2009, Sri Lanka’s reconstruction has been largely due to Chinese investment. In 2017, China became the country’s biggest foreign investor when the Hambantota port on the country’s southern coast was leased to it for 99 years.

Sri Lanka is a key strategic maritime outpost in Beijing’s One-Belt One-Road initiative, which aims to substantially develop China’s maritime trade routes and port facilities. China’s strategic reach into the Indian Ocean poses a threat to Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’ and the attempt to encircle and contain China with US military bases. This is the context within which ‘inter-ethnic’ violence in Sri Lanka must be understood.

New York Times article published on the 9th of March entitled ‘ How China is challenging American dominance in Asia’, shows the importance of Sri Lanka in US imperial strategy:

“Sri Lanka might not seem like a geopolitical bellwether. But Asia-watchers have been glued to developments here since 2014, when a Chinese submarine sailed into a port built with Chinese investment. It marked a new era, in which China is converting its economic power into military power — and, in poorer democracies, into political influence.”

India has also expressed concern about growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka. Relations between Colombo and New Dehli are often tense due to the latter’s support for the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war.

Sri Lanka, like Myanmar, is a predominantly Buddhist country with a rich religious tradition of Theravada Buddhism. But the country’s Muslim minority is rapidly increasing with higher birth rates and high rates of Muslim immigration. As the Muslim community gets generous support from wealthy Arab nations of the Organisation of Islamic States (OIC) such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists claim that political Islam is attempting to take over the country.

They have opposed measures by the government to impose a Halal tax on the grounds that the majority should not have to change its laws for a minority. The Western media and international human rights NGOs have accused the Buddhists of being “racists” who are spreading hate speech. The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist nationalist association formed in 2012, have been described as the country’s “fascists” and have been accused of committing pogroms against the Muslim minority. But the BBS has always denied advocating violence against Muslims.

In spite of repeatedly condemning violence against Muslims and having the support of the former Muslim mayor of Colombo, BBS has been subject to a vicious media disinformation campaign.

But the group is also critical of other minorities who have substantial international backing such as the Christians. BBS claims that the United States is using evangelical Christianity to gain influence in the country. The United States has used evangelical churches for political subversion of other countries in the past, a fact well-documented in Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett’s book ‘ Thy will be done – The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil’.

The BBS also claims the English language media in the country is working for foreign interests. In most developing countries, English language media is often a vehicle for US propaganda.

The BBS has accused government minister Milinda Moragoda of waging a war on the nation’s Buddhists. A 2011 wikileaks cable revealed Morgoda was a US asset.

Part II

US funded ‘alternative media’

The Sri Lankan government shut down social media immediately after the riots spread. A key organisation operating with elements in the Sri Lankan government is the Centre for Policy Alternatives, (CPA) a think-tank financed by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to the tune of $ 80,000.

The CPA promotes “alternative media” in Sri Lanka and set up the website Groundviews in 2017. According to NED,

Groundviews serves as an outlet for activists, bloggers, and journalists to disseminate and discuss issues of democracy and human rights.”

National Endowment for Democracy - Wikipedia

The National Endowment for Democracy was established in 1983 to be used as a softpower tool to further the interests of US foreign policy. Allen Weinstein, who helped found NED, said in 1991 that “ a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”.

Many of the stories about “Buddhist mobs” have come from Groundviews reporting.

There is certainly evidence of extensive destruction of hundreds of Muslim businesses and homes but there is as yet no evidence of who exactly committed the crimes. Many sources in Sri Lanka suspect government agents provocateurs to be behind the riots due to the inaction of the police. They claim that the government is using the clampdown on social media and the state of emergency to distract from its dismal political record, rampant corruption and growing unpopularity. Evidence may emerge to corroborate those claims.

Although the country is moving closer to China, prime minister Sirisena is generally considered to be closer to the US than his predecessor Rajapaksa. The US Peace Corps, a front organisation for the CIA, is due to return to Sri Lanka this year. Instability as a pretext for increasing US military presence on the island to counter Chinese expansion cannot be ruled out.

But given the fact that the US-funded ‘alternative media’ are responsible for so many of the anti-Buddhist tweeting in the country and many of their tweets accuse the government of being anti-Muslim, it is possible that agents working on behalf of the US embassy may be stoking the violence, while also attempting to replace nationalist elements in the government with pro-US proxies.

US interference in Sri Lanka is extensive.

Information about which posts should be banned was provided to Facebook by the US-funded CPA. Some of the banned pages accused the government of orchestrating the violence and showed police beating peaceful civilians. Many Sri Lankan Facebook groups compared the anti-Muslim violence to the 1983 anti-Tamil violence in which the government is believed to have been complicit.

Buddhist monk Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thero told Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror:

‘I went to Kandy. I think such violence was manipulated to destabilize the country. This is part of a conspiracy to infiltrate into this country through a different access. Regardless of addressing the needs of our people, those concerned live to satisfy the Western world. Amidst chaos, the government fulfils the whims of the West.

Des vidéos de Daech... Made in USA ! Un exemple de la ...

As we have shown in previous articles, US support for takfiri terrorists in Asia is a key element of the US’ long-standing proxy war against China. From Myanmar to Thailand; the Philippines; Indonesia; Malaysia and Western China, the United States and many countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are using takfiri terrorists as shock troops in the US ‘Pivot to Asia’- a policy announced by former US president Barack Obama in 2011.

The Groundviews website criticises the Sri Lankan government for the ban on social media and boasts of having made thousands of tweets during the riots. But an analysis of some of the google drive documents uploaded to the site allegedly proving the implication of radical Buddhist monks in stoking the violence fail to to provide evidence to back up their accusations. There are pictures of monks speaking to crowds. One monk has his hands raised up toward the sky in a pose which could just as easily be interpreted as an attempt to calm his audience. In fact, that is what controversial monk Gnanasaro Thero claimed when he was accused of provoking the riots. Thero claims he traveled to Kandy in order to assist in calming down the violence.

Although Gnansaro’s credibility as a bona fides nationalist has been called into question by revelations of funding from the Norwegian government, the BBS does not have a particularly well-organised PR service. Their statements are rarely translated or accurately diffused by the mainstream media and their policies are rarely discussed with any attempt at objectivity and contexualisation: Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka do have legitimate grievances.

Some analysts claim that the BBS is funded by the CIA. But BBS’ Chief Executive Officer Dilanthe Withanage says members of the current organisation went on a trip to Norway before the organisation was formed in order to meet with members of the Tamil diaspora abroad. He also claims that they were visited by a political officer of the US embassy in Colombo and criticised the hostile attitude of the US government to their nationalist ideology.

Infiltration of the organisation by the CIA is, of course, always possible and even likely but it is hard to see how such an organisation could serve US interests given their objection to multiculturalism, pluralism and bourgeois, liberal “democratic” values.  Former US General Thomas P.M Barnett advocates the assassination of nationalists in his book ‘Blue Print for Action’.

One of the rumours spread before the anti-Muslim pogroms was that Muslim shops were putting “sterility pills” into food destined for Buddhists. Spreading false rumours for the purposes of social destabilisation is textbook CIA strategy.

A Sri Lankan activist sympathetic to the plight of Buddhists told this author that many Buddhist activists may be manipulated by outside forces, including Gnanasara Thero. Gnanasara has links to controversial far-right politician Champika Ranawaka with whom he was allegedly involved in violent activities in the past – most notably breaking up anti-war meetings.

When a  Buddhist monk self-immolated in protest against halal legislation in 2013, Champika hailed the act as a great sacrifice. Similar acts in Tibet have been praised by fanatical Buddhists supported by the CIA and have been described as ‘martyrs’ in the Western press. However, it must also be borne in mind that Sinhalese Buddhists, like their Burmese counterparts, have not received favourable coverage in the Western corporate press.

In a press conference after the riots, BBS leader Gnanasara Thero said his organisation was fond of moderate Muslims but had a problem with the spread of Saudi-funded Wahhabism in the country. He accused Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe of this “orchestrated racist event”.

He said “the West wants brainless puppets in Sri Lanka; these  are the people in government now.”

Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the United Nationalist Party, (UNP), is the most pro-US politician in the current coalition government. Over-hyped allegations of corruption and US soft-power pressure helped oust the country’s former pro-Chinese leader Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015.

A former communist Sri Lanka’s current president Maithripala Sirisena was educated in Russia and is said to have a particularly warm relationship with president Putin.

Sirisena congratulated President Putin on his recent election victory stating that Russia will make further progress under Putin’s leadership.

After the riots Gnanasara Thero attended a conference in Japan with president Sirisena. President Sirisena needs more Buddhist nationalist support if he is to  be reelected.

Although Sri Lanka’s Buddhists are a majority in the country, the BBS claim that they are a minority internationally and that the Muslim population is supported by the wealthy Wahhabi states of the Gulf. They have also complained about by the activities of evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church.  The leader of the Global Tamil Forum is Fr. Emmanuel S.J, a Catholic priest.

Gnanasara Thero encouraged Sri Lankans to unite in order so that the country does not become another Libya or Syria. He also accuses Muslim politicians of fanning the flames of sectarianism by refusing to admit that the Muslim communities are at least partly responsible for violence.

In a press release Tamara Kunanayakam, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said that the riots were planned to coincide with the arrival of the UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs:

“ It gave the High Commissioner the opportunity to threaten Sri Lanka with universal jurisdiction if it fails to make progress in accountability and transitional justice.His choice of language is to target the previous Government under Mahinda Rajapaksa, to strengthen Washington’s allies within the present regime, and to advance Washington’s project to gain International legitimacy for its unilateral interventions in the internal affairs of other states.

Part III

Human Rights Terrorism

From 1983 to 2009 the Sri Lankan military fought a long battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elaam (LTTE), a terrorist organisation which attempted to carve out a separate Tamil homeland in the north of the country. The LTTE was supported by India, Britain and the United States. The Sri Lankan victory over LTTE was achieved through military aid from Russia, China and Iran.

The Tamil Forum is based in Britain and maintains close ties to the British government. The British Government has been at the forefront of attempts to blame most of the violence of the country’s civil war on the Sri Lankan military. They have brought extreme pressure through NGO activism and the United Nations to tarnish the image of the country.

In 2011, Channel 4 produced a report which they claimed “proved” war crimes by the Sri Lankan military.

The report was cogently refuted by the Sri Lankan government in their documentary ‘ Lies Agreed Upon.’ Channel 4’s lies were conclusively refused in a booklet written by a Sri Lankan think tank entitled ‘Corrupted Journalism’.

In 2015, Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the country’s president. Although he is is said to be more pro-Western that his predecessor, his government is accused of not having implemented the kind of reforms demanded by the West. His criticism of pro-Western NGOS and media outlets suggest he may not be the push-over the United States and Britain hoped for.

Nationalists in Sri Lanka have accused the United Nations, international NGOS and the United States of promoting Muslim immigration into Sri Lanka in an attempt to balkanise the country. They have wondered why, for example, the country is forced to take in so-called ‘rohingya’ refugees while the Gulf monarchies refuse to do so.

The 2014 Aluthgama Riots started by Muslims, not Buddhists

It is important to place the recent riots in the context of the country’s recent history. Muslim attacks on Buddhists go unreported or are generally played down by the media. On June 12, 2014, Buddhists in the town of Darga were preparing to celebrate Poson Poya, one of the most important Buddhist festivals of the year.

On his way to the event, Buddhist monk, the Venerable Ayagama Samitha Thero’s three-wheeler vehicle was blocked by three inebriated Muslim youths (alcohol abuse is a growing problem in Sri Lanka).

He was physically assaulted. Agama Samithea Thero was not a member of the Bodu Bala Sena group. In fact, he had been known for his charity towards poor Muslims and was subsequently visited by a Muslim in hospital.

Ayagama Samitha Thero was taken to hospital and a group of Buddhist monks pleaded with the local police to take action against the perpetrators. Buddhists in Sri Lanka have repeatedly complained about the inaction of the police in prosecuting attacks on monks.

In response to the attack and the inaction of the police, the Bodu Bala Sena organisation convened a meeting in Aluthgama on June 14 to discuss what they perceive is an increasing and internationally-backed islamisation of their country.

Witnesses told the BBC Sinhala how Muslim youths had started the violence.

Footage of the parade clearly shows what is alleged to have been the first stone thrown at the event. The stone is thrown by one of the Muslim protesters. The video also shows Muslims throwing stones from the roof of a building under construction.

In the ensuing violence, the properties of Muslims and Buddhists were destroyed but the media blamed ‘Buddhist nationalists’ for the violence.

Sri Lankan writer Shenali D. Waduge believes the Empire is attempting to divide the island:

There is a pattern to the denigration. All this shows that there has been a very unfair and unjust coverage of the incident and a totally unfair denigration of Buddhists. But, we understand the reasons for this too. It is well within a larger game plan and one tied to decades of efforts to denationalize and divide the Buddhists and systematically remove the power they have that holds the country together. Sadly, ignorant Sinhala politicians for power and money have become pawns without realizing that they can and will only lead in a nation that is held together by Buddhists. 

As in many developing countries, the ignorance and stupidity of elected officials and media outlets plays into the hands of Machiavellian imperial agencies but some politicians have spoken out. Speaking of the Aluthgama riots, Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka of Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) said:

“The US is repeating the mistakes it made in Afghanistan by distorting the Aluthgama incidents and very soon will suffer dire consequences. By nurturing and fostering militant Muslim groups against a democratically elected government instead of helping to hunt down the militant elements within the Muslim community, the US has only strengthened the global Taliban movement,”


Having defeated the Western-backed Tamil tigers, the Sri Lankan government now faces a new form of war: coercive engineered migration backed by UN agencies and a panoply of NGOS in the service of Western imperialism. The purpose? Render an insubordinate post-colonial country more submissive to ‘global governance’ and US strategic interests in South Asia by using the Wahhabised Muslim minority as a tool to fracture national unity.

A notable exception to the pro-Western liberal piety typical of Sri Lanka’s English language press is to be found in the Colombo Telegraph piece by Sanja De Silva Jayatilleka, which denounces the lies and hypocrisy of the West in their war on Syria and compares them to Western lies about Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE.

It compares the situation of the two countries. When Bashar al-Assad was elected leader of the Syrian Arab Republic he was cautiously courted by the West. Assad had neo-liberal economic advisers and favoured reforms involving privatising parts of the economy. He was even invited to Paris by French President Nicola Sarkozy in 2008 for the 14th of July military parade. But when Assad failed to deliver, he quickly became a ‘brutal dictator’ and when the Empire sent an army of head-choppers and psychopaths to slaughter Syria’s people, he was accused of ‘killing his own people’.

It was hoped Sirisena would bow to pressure from UN agencies and human rights groups by revising the official Sri Lankan narrative of the war thereby weakening national unity and opening the door ever wider to Western-style globalisation. As Jean-Pierre Page has pointed out, President Sirisena has significantly compromised the country’s independence to please Washington and the self-proclaimed “international community”; yet a recent Al Jazeera interview would suggest that more is required of him.

In her above quoted press release, Tamara Kunanayakam states:

“Muslim attacks serve only Washington’s agenda, propping up its allies in a tottering Yahapalana Government, silencing the opposition within and outside Government, dividing the people, shifting their attention away from the real issues, and, advancing Washington’s objective of turning Sri Lanka into a vassal state that can be utilised in its strategy of containing and rolling back China.”

Sri Lanka has a poverty rate of 41%. Slavishly following the “Washington Consensus” of neoliberalism and phony human rights discourse will not pull millions of people out of poverty; Colombo will have to look east  if it is to become a successful nation. Playing minorities against majorities or vice verse is a standard technique of imperial destabilisation. In the case of Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the overwhelming bias of the media is in favour of Muslims and against Buddhists. Buddhists are to become the new scapegoats of US imperialism’s ‘pivot to Asia’.


This article was originally published on Gearóid Ó Colmáins’s blog.

Gearóid Ó Colmáin is an Irish journalist and political analyst based in Paris. His work focuses on globalisation, geopolitics and class struggle.

All images, except the featured, in this article are from the author.

Today people from 14 states testified about their situation of hunger and unemployment in a national public hearing at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, organised by the Right to Food Campaign. These testimonies were heard by a panel comprising of activists, journalists, lawyers, legislators, scholars and trade union leaders.

Denial of ration to eligible households

The hearing began with testimonies from families that are denied a ration card, even though they meet their state’s criteria for inclusion in the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act. Balakram (an Adivasi from Chhattisgarh), Sharda Ben (a Dalit from Gujarat) and Pratap Singh (from Madhya Pradesh) testified about the denial of a ration card. Vishwanath from Jharkhand shared about Budhni Soren’s – a tribal woman from Giridih – death due to hunger in January 2018. Dipa Sinha who participated in the fact finding team to inquire about the starvation death of Amir Jahan in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) said that her family did not know how to apply for a ration card. Her husband, had to leave the work of rickshaw pulling due to tuberculosis and migrate to Pune in search of work. Debashish, a sarpanch from Koraput (Odisha) share about the situation of food security in his area. He said that of the 1393 households in his Gram Panchayat, 175 households do not have a ration card, even though they applied over a year ago. Some homeless persons from Delhi testified that they are unable to get an Aadhaar card and are denied several entitlements in the absence of identification documents.

D Raja, a member of the Rajya Sabha said that the Parliament should be discussing these important issues, but the legislative body does not function the way it should. Shelha Rashid said that government is squeezing funding on public services but is also not providing details of its expenditure on areas such as defence deals.

After listening to these cases, Reetika Khera commented that although many poor households are excluded from the ambit of food security, the Campaign should draw strengths from its victories. She added that the National Food Security Act is one such success – limited as it might be – as it has significantly expanded the coverage of the Public Distribution System. In the same vein, Niyaj from Karnataka shared that because of the struggle of people, children of his state are now entitled to milk and eggs in the school midday meals. Rajiv Gowda, a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka admitted that his party had brought Aadhaar, but its intention was not to use the Unique Identification system as a tool for exclusion.

No pension for many vulnerable persons

This was followed by testimonies of vulnerable persons denied social security pension. Gulshan Khatoun of NOIDA has three sons with disability, but neither of them receives pension. Maida Khatoon, also from NOIDA, is a widow who does not get pension. Ranjeet Kaur, a woman with disability in her leg, has been many empty promises of a pension from the Amritsar (Punjab) District Collector.

Aadhaar-enabled hunger

Activists of the Campaign shared about starvation deaths caused due to the denial of services due to the mandatory integration of welfare with Aadhaar. Taramani Sahu from Simdega (Jharkhand) talked about Santoshi’s hunger death due to the cancellation of her family’s ration card in the absence of Aadhaar seeding. Details of hunger deaths of three brothers of Gokarna (Karnataka) to discontinuation of ration for want of Aadhaar were presented by Narsimha.

As per official data, there are 19.5 lakh ration cards in Delhi, but in January 2018 almost a quarter of them were unable to access ration due to Aadhaar-based biometric authentication failure.

Other members of the panel included Annie Raja, Bhasha Singh, Harsh Mander, Kavita Srivastava, Mira Shiva, Neha Dixit, Prashant Bhushan, Saksham Khosla, Vandana Prasad and Usha Ramanathan.

For a presentation of summaries of close to a 100 case studies, see this.

For further information about these case studies and a compilation of starvation deaths over the past two years, see this.


Featured image is from Countercurrents.

Last year we at GreatGameIndia had exposed how spies of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America had access to the Aadhaar database through a CIA front company Crossmatch contracted by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for enrollment and capturing of biometrics of Indian citizens. The issue was raised in the Rajya Sabha by Sukhendu Sekhar Roy.



Today, this critical issue of threat to our National Security posed by the Aadhaar project was raised in the Supreme Court by senior counsel Anand Grover on behalf of the petitioner Colonel (retd.) Mathew Thomas. Below are the relevant excerpts from writ petition in possession of GreatGameIndia that exposes the role of foreign intelligence agencies in Aadhaar project.

Contracts with Foreign Agencies render the Aadhaar ‘insecure ab initio’

It is submitted that of the identity information collected under the Aadhaar Project was compromised at the inception. In that sense, the Aadhaar system is a prime example of a technological system being “Insecure Ab Initio”. It is submitted that Aadhaar system is insecure ab initio for the following reasons:

  • That foreign corporations were engaged to build the Aadhaar system, giving them complete access to all Aadhaar-information and continuing control over the Aadhaar technology; and
  • That the Aadhaar-data was diverted into non-secure destinations before even it entered the CIDR.

The Government of India engaged foreign corporations to act as ‘Biometric Service Providers’ (hereinafter “BSPs”), who built the underlying technology on which the Aadhaar system now runs. In 2010, at the inception of the Aadhaar project, contracts were awarded to different foreign based BSPs for the ‘design, supply and implementation of the biometric solutions to be used by the UIDAI to set up the Aadhaar infrastructure’, which included L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company Private Limited (hereinafter “L-1 India”).

L-1 is the Indian subsidiary of L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company (hereinafter “L-1, US”), a company incorporated in Delaware, USA. A copy of the contract between L-1 India and the President of India acting through the UIDAI, dated August 24, 2010, sets out the commercial and technical understanding between the UIDAI and L-1 for the development of the Aadhaar system.

As per the Contract, L-1 Company was to operate in its capacity of a “Biometric Solution Provider”, i.e. it would provide for design, supply and implementation of biometric matching services. Particularly the scope of work under the contract included providing design, supply, install, configure, commission, maintain and support multi-modal Automatic Biometric Identification Subsystem (ABIS), multi-modal software development kit for client enrolment station, verification server, manual adjudication and monitoring function of the UID application. The Contract was initially valid for a period of two years or till the completion of 20 crore enrollments, whichever was earlier.

Hence, L-1 Company was licensed to provide technological solutions not just at the stage of enrolment, i.e. collection of core biometrics information (fingerprint and Iris scan), along with demographic details, but also in the process of de-duplication and also 1:1 authentication.

  • L-1 Company had access to sensitive personal information of Indian residents

The said contract further discloses that L-1 had access to identity information and related information, of Aadhaar enrollees, and had continuing control over the Aadhaar technology. Further, at the time of signing the contract and during the term of subsistence of the contract there was no applicable law governing the Aadhaar project or data protection. In this context, reference to relevant portions of the contract are made below.

Clause 15.1 of Annexure A of the Agreement between the UIDAI and L-1 India (hereinafter “BSP Agreement”) states: “By virtue of this Contract, M/s L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company may have access to personal information of the Purchaser and/or a third party or any resident of India, any other person covered within the ambit of any legislation as may be applicable. The Purchaser shall have sole ownership of and the right to use, all such data in perpetuity including any data or other information pertaining to the residents of India that may be in the possession of M/s L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company or the Team of M/s L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company in the course of performing the Services under this Contract.”

From the abovementioned Clause 15.1, it is evident that the L-1 (the US parent company) had access to the personal information of UIDAI, including the Aadhaar data submitted by Indian residents wishing to enroll for Aadhaar. The personal information as mentioned above would include the fingerprint, iris, face photograph and demographic information, or any data such as verifying documents of the nature of passport copy, PAN card copy etc. This represents an unacceptable breach of confidentiality and privacy with regard to the intimate data of Indian residents, including biometric data.

Further Clause 4.1.1 (1) of Annexure E of the BSP Agreement confirms that L-1 had access to the biometric and demographic data of Aadhaar enrollees. The said provision reads as follows:

“4.1.1 Multi-modal Biometric de-duplication in the Enrolment Server

Considering the expected size of the de-duplication task, the UID enrolment server will utilize:

  • Multi-modal de-duplication. Multiple modalities – fingerprint and iris will be used for de-duplication. Face photograph is provided if the vendor desires to use it for deduplication. While certain demographical information is also provided, UIDAI provides no assurance of its accuracy. Demographic information shall not be used for filtering during the de-duplication process, but this capability shall be preserved for potential implementation in later phases of the UID program. Each multi-model de-duplication request will contain an indexing number (Reference ID) in addition to the multi-modal biometric and demographic data. In the event one or more duplicate enrolments is found, the ABIS will pass back the Reference ID of the duplicates and the scaled comparison scores upon which the duplicate finding was based. The scaled fusion score returned with each duplicate found will have a range of [0, 100] with 0 indicating the least level of similarity and 100 as the highest level of similarity.”

Clause 4.1.1 of Annexure E of the BSP Agreement indicates that each de-duplication request contains all of the relevant Aadhaar data, including demographics and biometrics, and therefore the BSP has access to this data to complete the de-duplication task. Such data is not encrypted, but provided in raw form, as the de-duplication process requires unencrypted data in order to facilitate the comparative check as encrypted data cannot be used for de-duplication.

This is reinforced by Clause 9.8.2 of Annexure E of the BSP Agreement, which deals with the ‘Data Quality Monitoring and Reporting’ obligations of the BSPs. Per this provision, the BSP is required to continuously monitor the quality of the data, which entails directly analyzing the Aadhaar data in raw form. Reference is made to the second paragraph of the aforementioned clause on page 53 of Annexure E, which states that: “Data quality of capture would be received with the image. Image would be received in raw form.” Here, the term image refers to the scanned captured of the biometrics of Aadhaar holders, i.e. fingerprint, iris and facial photograph.

This proves beyond doubt that the BSPs had access to the biometric data of the Aadhaar holders in raw form, and the demographic information of all Aadhaar holders.

The provision of access to Aadhaar data, to BSPs is further confirmed in Clause 3 of Annexure B of the BSP Agreement, which states that: “In the course of the Agreement, the Biometric Solution Provider may collect, use, transfer, store or otherwise process (collectively, “process”) information that pertains to specific individuals and can be linked to them (“personal data”). Biometric Solution Provider warrants that it shall process all personal data in accordance with applicable law and regulation.”

This clause confirms that the foreign BSPs had access to personal information gathered from Indian residents under the Aadhaar project. Pertinently, at the time of execution of the BSP Agreement, there was no Aadhaar legislation or data protection legislation in India.

(ii) That the BSP Agreement allowed the BSPs to retain data for unreasonably long period of time

Clause 15.3 of Annexure A of the BSP Agreement states that:

“The Data shall be retained by M/s L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company for not more than a period of 7 years, as per the Retention Policy of the Government of India or any other policy that the UIDAI may adopt in the future.”

Similarly, Clause 14.2 of Annexure A of the BSP Agreement allows retention of any documents arising out of the agreement for a long period of time. The Clause states that:

“The Documents shall be retained by L-1 Identity Solutions Operating Company not more than a period of 7 years as per Retention Policy of Government of India or any other policy that UIDAI may adopt in future”

Clearly, the BSP Agreement allowed the foreign BSP to retain identification information and documents collected during the process of enrolment for 7 long years. This is an unreasonable time period for the retention of such data, given that the BSP Agreement was valid initially only for a period of 2 years or completion of 20 crore enrollment transactions, whichever would have been earlier.

(iii) The BSP Agreement facilitated access to personal information by allowing local storage of data

It is submitted that the Contract provided for localized storing of the information collected from residents coming for enrolment. That is, the information collected by L-1 Company in its capacity as the Biometric Service provider was not shared with the Central Information Data Repository in real-time. Instead, the enrolling software was to enroll the “residents in the field and upload the data onto the server in batch mode”. This implies that the enrolling agencies had to store the biometric and demographic data locally before it was uploaded on the server.

Such storage of biometric information of enrollees was facilitated by a reference database. The BSP Agreement provided that each enrolling system- Automated Biometric Authentication System (ABIS), “shall maintain its own database of indexed biometric references (called reference database) as well as synchronized disaster recovery database at a separate physical location. This reference database is separate from UID database that is outside of ABIS and not accessible to ABIS. All information necessary for ABIS to perform its functions is maintained by ABIS in the reference database”.

It is further submitted that the Contract required L-1 Company to maintain a copy of the reference database at a separate location. This clearly indicates that multiple copies of the sensitive private information of Indian residents were available at separate locations. Hence, even if it is argued that the enrolling agencies/systems did not have direct access to the data stored in the central UID database, now known as the CIDR, the BSP Agreement enabled third parties to have access to personal data of enrollees by very provision for a localized reference database.

Further, there is nothing in the contract relating to the destruction of the data retained in this manner, and certification of such deletion. It is submitted that even the present Aadhaar Act contains no provision that relates to the data in these databases.

(iv) Members of the Board of Directors of the BSP were related to Foreign Intelligence Services

It is submitted that some former members of the Board of Directors were a part of the US intelligence agency. For instance, Louis J. Freeh served as a Director of L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. from July 24, 2006 to August 30, 2007. He had previously served as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1993 to 2001. Further, from July 10, 2006 to 2011, Mr. James M. Loy served as a Director of MorphoTrust USA, Inc. He was also served as Deputy Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security from December 4, 2003 to March 2005. Another former director of L-1 Company, George Tenet (who served at L-1 Company from December 2005 to June 29, 2008) was also a former Chief of the Central Intelligence Agency.

It is clear that the BSP Agreement indicates that L-1 had access to confidential Aadhaar data. Under the provisions of the USA Patriot Act, 2001 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 1978, the US Government and Intelligence Agencies can legally require a US based corporation to handover information that it either owns or has access to, and this would extend to the Aadhaar data covered in the scope of the BSP Agreement.

Further, in 2009, Safran, a French defence conglomerate in which the French Government had a stake, acquired Morpho, a US company that provided biometric service solutions. The UIDAI signed contracts with both L-1 and Morpho in 2010. A few weeks after the execution of the BSP Agreement, L-1 was acquired by Safran and merged with its subsidiary Morpho. Currently, L-1 is owned by an assortment of private equity investors, and operates under the name IDEMIA Identity and Security.

Moreover, personnel of the foreign BSPs continue to be employed by the UIDAI as of January 2018, as indicated by the data that is available on the ‘attendance.gov.in’ portal – which discloses this.

The Aadhaar technology, and particularly the algorithms used in ABIS and the Aadhaar de-duplication continue to remain an absolute black-box in that neither the UIDAI nor the Government has control over the technology or understands exactly how it works; this is proprietary technology that is merely under a perpetual license to the UIDAI.

Hence, given that any data collected during the process of enrolment and/or use of

Aadhaar number was:

  1. Accessible to foreign BSPs through the whole Aadhaar pipeline;
  2. Diverted to various State Resident Data Hubs, and Registrar Local Databases, and Enrolling Agency local devices;

the identity information and related data of Aadhaar enrolled Indian residents is “insecure ab initio”.


This article was originally published on GGI News.

Shelley Kasli is the Co-founder and Editor at GreatGameIndia, a quarterly journal on geopolitics and international affairs. He can be reached at [email protected].

Featured image is from the author.

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Featured image: Italian engineers plan an offshore facility to take cargo from large ships from China for relay to an onshore facility and transported to destinations around Europe. Photo: Venice Offshore Port website

The Chinese economy is bound to surpass the 19-nation eurozone before the end of the year. You don’t need to be an analyst in China to know that. Common knowledge from Guangdong to Gansu is that China’s economy was bigger than Europe’s up to the mid-19th century. Then came a bad spell – unleashed by Brit gunboat diplomacy – for a short 150 years.

Now things are back to a historical normal.

Europe accounts for roughly 60% of Chinese foreign investment – including mergers and acquisitions – compared to 25% in the US and 15% in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The EU as a whole is desperate for any measure of GDP increase. Almost three decades on from the Cold War, the new normal is Eurasia being configured as an increasingly integrated trade and investment space.

The past three years have seen a flurry of deals – from the $44-billion Chinese buyout of Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta to ChemChina acquiring Pirelli for 7.1 billion euros and Chinese participation in France’s PSA. In 2015, Italy, in fact, was at the top of the Chinese drive, with $10 billion invested in over 300 companies in the five years to 2015, followed by France.

In 2016 Cosco bought 51% of the port of Piraeus – the privileged entry point of Chinese products in Europe. Chinese companies scour for made-in-Europe top-end technologies able to be transposed to an integrated China boasting the largest high-speed rail network in the world; over 20,000 km built in only a few years.

Battle of the Super-Ports

The beauty of the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is that each player is free to choose how it will position itself along and across myriad connectivity belts, roads, nodes and arcs.

Chinese and European companies interface on all these connectivity nodes. For instance, City Railway Platform and China Railway Container Transport work with Swiss Hupac on the Yiwu-Madrid link. Wuhan Asia Europe (WAE) is involved in the Wuhan-Lyon link while French Geodis is active on the Chengdu-Rotterdam link.

All these links feature on the nine-corridor Trans-European Network – Transport (Ten-T), which is due to be finished by 2030. One of Ten-T’s key corridors constitutes an absolute Chinese strategic priority; the high-speed rail line tying Budapest-Belgrade-Skopje-Piraeus, which benefited from a special $3-billion Beijing-facilitated line of credit.

Meanwhile, the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the European Investment Bank are also partners funding other infrastructure. After all, BRI’s final destination is the European Union (EU).

In parallel with the crucial interface between BRI and Ten-T, the fact is 85% of trade between Europe and Asia is maritime trade. And as far as Beijing is concerned, the Maritime Silk Road, via the Suez Canal, keeps a special focus on the ports of Piraeus and Venice.

No wonder the smart money on the peninsula has already mapped how BRI offers Italy a unique position in the complex web of Chinese global supply routes.

Profiting from the largely Chinese-financed set-up of the Piraeus-Budapest Balkan corridor, the ambitious aim is to configure Italy as continental Europe’s entry door for connectivity routes from east and south while also serving, in a cost-effective manner, scores of destinations west and north. Italy ranks as the third European nation in terms of naval trade.

Thus, the importance of a revamped Venice port channeling supply lines from the Mediterranean towards Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary. Or Venice configured as an alternative super-port to Rotterdam and Hamburg. Call it the Battle of the Super-Ports.

Chinese involvement in Italian ports is on the rise. Cosco is about to buy 40% of the Vado Ligure container terminal – amplifying the appeal of the port of Genoa in its “competitive integration” with further terminals such as Marseilles and Barcelona.

And Venice has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tianjin and Ningbo.

Still, the most ambitious plan in the Ten-T galaxy is the effort to configure Venice, integrated with Ravenna, plus Capodistria-Trieste, as the privileged link to southeastern Europe. Call it the North Adriatic BRI gambit.

The reasoning, on the Italian side, is that a mega-container arriving from Shanghai landing in Venice, Ravenna, Trieste and Capodistria will be able to deliver the goods to all sorts of markets; from northern Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany to Austria, Hungary and the Balkans.


Enter the Venice Offshore-Onshore Port System (Voops), which also happens to be a top priority for the European Commission (EC). That’s the overall framework for a modernized port of Venice – arguably accumulating extra merit by not polluting the artistic marvels of La Serenissima.

Venice is picturesque at sunset during the Doge's Ball. Photo: Blueflower Inspired Travels

The offshore port is planned to save Venice’s famous canals from pollution and other woes. Photo: Blueflower Inspired Travels

Paolo Costa, president of the Venice Port Authority, lays it all down with the requisite Marco Polo touch:

“The added value, the ‘Columbus egg’ of the Venice Offshore-Onshore Port system relies on the fact that a single offshore platform is capable of sorting mega-cargoes of mega-ships on several existing seaports (as Marghera, Chioggia, Porto Levante, but also Ravenna) and inland ports (as Mantua and Padua).” Costa sees it as the way Venice “can help ensure that Italy will not be cut off from the mega-ships’ routes (over 18,000 TEU), destined to dominate the trade relationship between Europe and Asia.”

And it does help that supplying EU markets from Venice saves up to five sailing days compared to Northern European ports.

Voops, as currently projected, is a collaborative effort involving Italian engineers and Chinese operators. When online, Voops will be configured as true Marco Polo in reverse, profiting from free-trade deals between the EU and the Balkans to allow China to reach a mega-market of 800 million people.

As much as the EU may appear extremely fragile politically, it remains a very strong single market and a fully mature economy crammed with capital and knowledge. It’s no wonder the Chinese leadership has committed itself to historically revamp the Ancient Silk Road as a formidable political-economic framework spanning the whole of Eurasia. And it’s no wonder the new Marco Polos all bet on Eurasian infrastructure integration.

The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China

March 16th, 2018 by Pepe Escobar

The geopolitical focus of the still young 21st century spans the Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf all the way to the South China Sea alongside the spectrum from Southwest Asia to Central Asia and China.

That happens to configure the prime playing ground, overland and maritime, of the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The epicenter of global power shifting East is ruffling feathers in some US political circles – with a proliferation of parochial analyses ranging from Chinese “imperial overstretch” to Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream provoking “nightmares.”

The basic argument is that Emperor Xi is aiming for a global power grab by mythologizing the New Silk Roads.

The BRI is certainly about China’s massive foreign exchange reserves; the building know-how; the excess capacity in steel, aluminum and concrete production; public and private financing partnerships; the internationalization of the yuan; and full connectivity of infrastructure and information flows.

Yet the BRI is not a matter of geopolitical control supported by military might; it’s about added geopolitical projection based on trade-and-investment connectivity.

The BRI is such a game-changer that Japan, India and the “Quad” (US, Japan, India, Australia) felt forced to come up with their own “alternative”, much-reduced mini-BRIs – whose collective rationale essentially lies in accusing the BRI of “revisionism” while emphasizing the need to fight against Chinese global domination.

The basis of the Trump administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, introduced in October 2017, was to define China as a hostile existential threat. The National Security Strategy (NSS) and the National Defense Strategy (NDS) amplified the threat to the level of a new doctrine.

The NSS states that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” The NSS accuses China and Russia of wanting “to shape a world antithetical to US values and interests.” It also accuses Beijing of “seek[ing] to displace the United States in the Indo-Pacific region” and of “expand[ing] its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.”

The NDS states that Beijing “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.”

That’s the new normal as far as multiple layers of the US industrial-military-surveillance-media complex are concerned. Dissent is simply not permitted.

Time to talk to Kublai Khan

“Revisionist” powers China and Russia are regarded as major double trouble when one delves into the direct link between the BRI and the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU). The EAEU is itself one step ahead of the Russia-China strategic partnership announced in 2012, crucially a year before Xi announced the BRI in Astana and then Jakarta.

At the BRI forum in Beijing in May 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin solidified the notion of a “greater Eurasian partnership”.

The Russian “pivot to Asia” started even before Maidan in Kiev, the referendum in Crimea and subsequent Western sanctions. This was a work in progress along multiple sessions inside the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS and the G-20.

Kazakhstan is the key link uniting BRI, EAEU and the SCO. Russia and Kazakhstan are part of one of the top overland connectivity corridors between East Asia and Europe – the other going through Iran and Turkey.

Xinjiang to Eastern Europe by rail, via Kazakhstan and Russia, now takes 14 days and soon will drop to 10. That’s a major boost to trade in high value-added merchandise – paving the way for future BRI high-speed rail able to compete head-on with low-cost maritime transport.

As for Moscow’s drive to be part of the BRI/EAEU economic connectivity, that’s only one vector of Russian foreign policy. Another one, as important, is enhanced German-Russian trade/investment relations, a priority also for German industrialists.

China for its part is now the top foreign investor in all five Central Asian “stans.” And it’s crucial to remember that Central Asia is configured not only by the five “stans” but also by Mongolia, Xinjiang and Afghanistan. Thus the SCO drive to solve the Afghan tragedy, with direct participation of major players China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran.

The BRI strategy of forging a pan-Eurasian connectivity/logistical grid naturally poses the question of how Beijing will manage such an open-ended project. The BRI is not even in its implementation phase, which officially starts next year.

It’s useful to compare the accusations of “revisionism” with Chinese history. When Marco Polo reached the Yuan court in the late 13thcentury he saw a multicultural empire thriving on trade.

It was the Silk Road trade routes and not the projection of military power that epitomized Pax Mongolica. The 21st century Pax Sinica is its digital version. Is Xi a new emperor or a post-modern version of Kublai Khan?

The Yuan dynasty did not “control” Persia, Russia or India. Persia, a superpower then, linked the Nile, Mesopotamia and the Indus with trade with China. During the Tang Dynasty in the 8th and 9thcenturies China also had projected influence across Central Asia all the way to northeastern Iran.

And that explains why Iran, now, is such a key node of the BRI and why the leadership in Tehran wants the New Silk Roads solidified. A China-Russia-Iran alliance of – Eurasia integration – interests cannot but rattle Washington; after all, the Pentagon defines all those geopolitical actors as “threats.”

Historically, China and Persia were, for centuries, wealthy, settled agricultural civilizations having to deal with occasional swarms of desert warriors – yet most of the time in touch with each other because of the Silk Road. The Sino-Persian entente cordiale is embedded in solid history.

And that brings us to what lies at the heart of non-stop BRI dismissal/demonization.

It’s all about preventing the emergence not only of a “peer competitor,” but worse: a New Silk Road-enabled trade/connectivity condominium – featuring China, Russia, Iran and Turkey – as powerful across the East as the US still remains across the much-troubled “Western Hemisphere.”

That has nothing to do with Chinese neo-imperialism. When in doubt, invoke Kublai Khan.

Seven years after a 9.1-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami triggered the catastrophic disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the people, towns and villages in the surrounding area are still being exposed to excessive levels of radiation, according to a Greenpeace report.

In its report, published today, Greenpeace warns that all areas surveyed, including those where people have been allowed to return, had levels of radiation similar to an active nuclear facility “requiring strict controls”, despite years of decontamination efforts.

“This is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights,” said Jan Vande Putte, leader of the survey, from Greenpeace Belgium.

The survey states that in the towns of Namie and Iitate, approximately 10km and 40km respectively from the Fukushima plant, radiation levels continue to be “up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure”.

Greenpeace also noted the “ineffectiveness of decontamination work” in these areas, saying there remained a “significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee”, adding that Tokyo’s policy of “effectively forcing people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working”.

The Japanese government claims that radiation levels in the reopened zones pose no risk to human health and that its own data has been corroborated by the country’s medical experts as well as the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Greenpeace’s announcement coincides with a new ground-level study conducted by an international research team – including scientists from the University of Manchester – which found that uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, were present in tiny particles released from the damaged nuclear reactors.

This could mean that the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected. The team said that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by its study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The scientists looked at extremely small pieces of debris, known as micro-particles, released into the environment during the initial disaster in 2011. The researchers discovered uranium from nuclear fuel embedded in or associated with caesium-rich micro particles that were emitted from the plant’s reactors during the meltdowns. The particles measure just five micrometres or less (approximately 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair) and are easily inhaled by humans.

It had been thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides, such as caesium and iodine, were released from the damaged reactors. It is now becoming clear that small, solid particles were also emitted and that some of these particles contain very long-lived radionuclides. Uranium, for example, has a half-life of billions of years.

Dr Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and one of the authors on the paper, said:

“Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside, the nuclear exclusion zone. While it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding of the long-term behaviour of the fuel debris nano-particles and their impact.”

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is currently responsible for the clean-up and decommissioning process at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in the surrounding exclusion zone.

Getting chemical data on the melted nuclear fuel debris within the damaged nuclear reactors is practically impossible due to the high levels of radiation. The microparticles found by the international team of researchers should provide vital clues on the decommissioning challenges that still lie ahead.

Featured image: Iitate, Fukushima prefecture. Greenpeace radiation specialist Jan Vande Putte from Belgium doing road scanning in Iitate region, Fukushima prefecture. (Source: Christian Åslund / Greenpeace)

The area, northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was heavily exposed to radioactive fallout in March 2011. The Government lifted evacuation orders for a part of Iitate in March 2017 despite radiation readings that mean it is not safe for people to return to Iitate. As of December 2017, the population of Iitate was 505, 7.7% of the population in March 2011. Greenpeace has been conducting radiation surveys in Iitate since March 2011, when it was the first to warn of the high levels of radiation and the urgent need to evacuate.

A comprehensive survey by Greenpeace Japan in the towns of Iitate and Namie in Fukushima prefecture, including the exclusion zone, revealed radiation levels up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure.[1][2] The high radiation levels in these areas pose a significant risk to returning evacuees until at least the 2050’s and well into next century.

The findings come just two weeks ahead of a critical decision at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review on Japan’s human rights record and commitments to evacuees from the nuclear disaster.

“In all of the areas we surveyed, including where people are permitted to live, the radiation levels are such that if it was in a nuclear facility it would require strict controls. Yet this is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights, ” said Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium and leader of the survey project.

Greenpeace Japan conducted the investigations in September and October last year, measuring tens of thousands of data points around homes, forests, roads and farmland in the open areas of Namie and Iitate, as well as inside the closed Namie exclusion zone. The government plans to open up small areas of the exclusion zone, including Obori and Tsushima, for human habitation in 2023. The survey shows the decontamination program to be ineffective, combined with a region that is 70-80% mountainous forest which cannot be decontaminated.

Key finding from the Greenpeace Japan survey:

  • Even after decontamination, in four of six houses in Iitate, the average radiation levels were three times higher than the government long term target. Some areas showed an increase from the previous year, which could have come from recontamination.
  • At a house in Tsushima in the Namie exclusion zone, despite it being used as a test bed for decontamination in 2011-12, a dose of 7 mSv per year is estimated, while the international limit for public exposure in a non-accidental situation is 1 mSv/y. This reveals the ineffectiveness of decontamination work.
  • At a school in Namie town, where the evacuation order was lifted, decontamination had failed to significantly reduce radiation risks, with levels in a nearby forest with an average dose rate of more than 10 mSv per year. Children are particularly at risk from radiation exposure.
  • In one zone in Obori, the maximum radiation measured at 1m would give the equivalent of 101 mSv per year or one hundred times the recommended maximum annual limit, assuming a person would stay there for a full year These high levels are a clear threat, in the first instance, to thousands of decontamination workers who will spend many hours in that area.

This contamination presents a long term risk, and means that the government’s long-term radiation target (1mSv/year which is equivalent to 0.23μSv/hour) are unlikely to be reached before at least the middle of the century in many areas that are currently open and into next century for the exclusion zone of Namie. In an admission of failure, the government has recently initiated a review of its radiation target levels with the aim of raising it even higher.

The Government’s policy to effectively force people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working, with population return rates of 2.5% and 7% in Namie and Iitate respectively as of December 2017.

In November last year, the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Japan issued four recommendations on Fukushima issues. Member governments (Austria, Portugal, Mexico and Germany) called for Japan to respect the human rights of Fukushima evacuees and adopt strong measures to reduce the radiation risks to citizens, in particular women and children and to fully support self evacuees. Germany called on Japan to return to maximum permissible radiation of 1 mSv per year, while the current government policy in Japan is to permit up to 20 mSv per year. If this recommendation was applied, the Japanese government’s lifting of evacuation orders would have be halted.

“Our radiation survey results provides evidence that there is a significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee. The Japanese government must stop forcing people to go back home and protect their rights,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “It is essential that the government fully accept and immediately apply the recommendations at the United Nations.”



[1] Reflections in Fukushima: The Fukushima Daiichi Accident Seven Years On

[2] The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) sets a maximum dose of 1 mSv/ year in normal situations for the public, and in the range of 1-20 mSv/y under post-nuclear accident situations, such as that resulting from Fukushima Daiichi. The ICRP recommends that governments select the lower part of the 1–20 mSv/year range for protection of people living in contaminated areas, and “to reduce all individual exposures associated with the event to as low as reasonably achievable.”

China’s “Xi Silk Road” Is Here to Stay

March 13th, 2018 by Pepe Escobar

It took only two sentences for Xinhua to make the historical announcement; the Central Committee of the CCCP “proposed to remove the expression that ‘the president and vice-president of the People’s Republic of China shall serve no more than two consecutive terms’ from the country’s constitution.”

That will be all but confirmed at the end of the annual National People’s Congress session starting next week in Beijing.

A Made in the West geopolitical storm duly ensued; forceful condemnations of the “regime” and its “authoritarian revival,” across-the-spectrum demonization of the “dictator for life” and “the new Mao.” It’s as if the New Emperor was about to concoct the imminent launch of a Great Famine, Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen combo.

Now compare the hysteria with renowned Renmin University professor of International Relations Shi Yinhong, who attempted to introduce a measure of realpolitik:

“For a long time into the future, China will continue to move forward according to Xi’s thoughts, his route, his guiding principles and his absolute leadership.”

The global economy’s captains of industry, old and new, have better shark fin to consume than to be constrained by the lowly Western Politician game of demonizing China. Turbo-capitalism – with or without “Chinese characteristics” – has absolutely nothing to do with Western liberal democracy. The Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping introduced a real “third way”: economic proficiency coupled with political control. Deng, by the way, learned the ropes from Singapore strongman Lee Kuan Yew – a darling of the West.

Xi may embody the guarantee China needs to carry out, as smoothly as possible, a much-needed anti-corruption purge sidelining the many rotten branches of the CCP while steering a much needed economic reorientation that should benefit, most of all, the rural proletariat.

Besides, Xi is already leading internationally in climate change, nuclear proliferation, not to mention realigning global trade as globalization 2.0.

And that brings us to childish Western attempts to deride the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as “overblown,” coupled with claims that BRI is facing a “global backlash.” That barely qualifies as wishful thinking.

What’s happening in the real world is that the Trump administration is trying to engineer an anti-BRI via the Quad (US, Japan, India, Australia) – but without BRI’s transnational and transcontinental appeal, not to mention funding.

Japan is making noises about a $200 billion Afro-Asian counterpunch. India centers its offensive on a deal with Iran to have Chabahar port compete with Gwadar. The Turnbull administration in Australia, in its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, bets on engaging the US against China. And Admiral Kurt Titt, the head of Southcom, carps, among other military officers, that BRI is a threat to US influence.

Xi, as well as Russian leader Vladimir Putin, has identified very clearly which way the wind is blowing, with Washington treating both China and Russia as “revisionist powers” and a certified strategic threat.

The Tang dynasty meets Plato

Xi may now turn into a post-modern version of an enlightened Tang emperor. But he also performs as the embodiment of Plato – a philosopher-king ruling with help of the best and the brightest (think Liu He, director of the Office of the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs and Xi’s top man on economic policy).

The CCP as Plato’s Republic has concluded that yes, it’s all about management. China’s titanic tweaking of its economic model simply cannot be accomplished at least before 2030. Challenges include managing the transition of state-owned enterprises (SOEs); the move towards added value GDP growth; how to organize China as a major consumer society; and how to contain the spread of financial risks.

For all these, consistency and continuity is key.

Xi has all but announced his major moves. The Chinese Dream – or China as a stable, middle-income nation. BRI as a connectivity vector integrating not only Eurasia but also Africa and Latin America. The increasing influence of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Securing the South China Sea as well as increasing a presence not only across the Indian Ocean but all the way to the Third Island – a matter of protecting China’s connectivity/supply lines.

And last but not least, China configured as the top power in either Asia-Pacific or “Indo-Pacific.”

History will judge Xi by his deeds. The rest is mere Sinophobia.

India: Historic Victory for Farmers of Maharashtra

March 13th, 2018 by Countercurrents.org

The farmers in Maharashtra won a historic victory after 50,000 farmers threatened to siege the state assembly. The Devendra Fadnavis government of Maharashtra has agreed to the demands of protesting farmers.

A committee has been set up, which will consider all aspects of their demands, which includes loan waiver, free electricity and a higher price for their produce.The government has given its acceptance in writing, said state minister Chandrakant Patil, after a delegation of farmers met government representatives this afternoon. Mr Fadnavis said the Chief Secretary will do the follow up.

The Fadnavis Government has decided to table a bill in the Monsoon session of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, which will assure minimum price for agricultural products. If traders offer lower price below minimum price then it will be considered as a criminal act.

The Maharashtra Government is also planning to revise milk prices and appoint an independent observer for dairy business to help farmers. The decision on hiking milk prices would be taken by June 20.

The Government has also agreed to waive off penalty and interest on pending power bills and also look to set up more cold storages and agro-processing units in the state.

Nearly 50,000 farmers assembled in Mumbai after a grueling 180-km, six-day march from Nashik, with plans to gherao the assembly. The protest was called off after the government’s acceptance.

The Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha or AIKS, which spearheaded the march, wants the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission that mandates farmers be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price be fixed for their produce.

The adivasis or tribal cultivators, who joined the march in huge numbers, want the land they have been tilling for years to be transferred to their names and implementation of the Forest Rights Act, which they say will benefit them.

The farmers want the state government to stop forceful acquisition of farm lands for projects such as super highways and bullet trains. Inter-linking of rivers and to discontinue sharing of waters with Gujarat was another concern that they wanted to discuss.

They also want a compensation of Rs. 40,000 per acre for farmers whose crops were hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm.

Source: Countercurrents

Even though the farmers planned to begin their march towards the Vidhan Sabha after 11 am, they chose to walk at night so that the students appearing for their Board exams weren’t affected and the traffic ran smoothly.

Banks are using a fast-track procedure to repossess and sell houses of poorer Malaysians who fall behind with mortgage repayments. The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) demands an investigation. Many of the victims are former urban poor, rehoused 10 years ago in slum clearance programmes. Because their new houses have increased rapidly in value, banks and speculators are keen to get their hands on this real estate, without regard to the human cost.

The Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) has urged the National Bank (Bank Negara) to investigate whether there is a secret partnership between banks and property agents for the forced sale of low cost housing when working class Malaysians’ fall behind with their mortgage payments.

Malaysian banks have begun requiring apartment buyers to sign agreements giving the banks the right to auction the apartment without prior notice at the bank’s discretion.[1]

PSM secretary-general A Sivarajan said his party has come across cases where apartments have been quickly auctioned off to property agents..

“The original buyer had failed to pay the loan for a couple of months and as has happened numerous times, the apartment was auctioned off without the original buyer’s prior knowledge,” he said.

According to Sivarajan, PSM investigations suggest that most of the apartment houses which have been auctioned off in this manner are those that belong to the poorest 40% of society. Richer Malaysians get several opportunities to reschedule their payments or, in the worst case, to organise the sale of their apartment to pay their debts. in contrast, it seems that banks move quickly to sell the apartments of poorer Malaysians to property developers, with callous indifference to the misery this causes.

According to Sivarajan, most of the cases the PSM has identified relate to people, especially those living in the country’s biggest cities, who had been forced out of their squatter houses during state-wide operations between 2004 and 2005.

“They were asked to move to low cost houses, and they bought these apartments for around RM42,000. Now, more than 10 years later, these houses have gone up in value with some costing as much as RM150,000.”

By forcing a non-transparent sale of these apartments, the banks and their connected property dealers benefit from the rise in property prices, while the owners of the apartments find themselves expelled from their homes a second time. They are unlikely to get the best possible price for their homes, and will probably be unable to find affordable alternative housing in urban areas.



1. A Deed of Assignment and a Power of Attorney.

Fake News Storm Clouds Gather Over Southeast Asia

March 10th, 2018 by Joseph Thomas

From Cambodia to Thailand American and European media companies have launched a campaign of disinformation aimed at reversing Washington’s waning influence in the region vis-à-vis not only Beijing, but the growing strength of nations the US and Europe once saw as mere geopolitical pawns.

Cambodia Expels US-Run Opposition Party and Media

In Cambodia, articles depicting the government as having trampled free speech and democracy are in direct response to Phnom Penh’s decision to disband the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) headed by Kem Sokha who now resides in jail. The media storm also follows the Cambodian government’s decision to shut down US government funded propaganda networks posing as local, independent news organisations.

This includes Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, both funded and directed out of Washington D.C., not anything resembling independent, local political interests in Cambodia itself.

A good example of this disinformation campaign comes from Voice of America Khmer itself in an article titled, “U.S. Cutting Aid to Cambodia for Recent Democratic Setbacks.” The article claims:

In its annual World Report, the rights group said the government, controlled by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party for more than three decades, disbanded the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and arrested its leader on questionable treason charges. The dissolution came after a ruling the CNRP was involved in an attempt to overthrow Hun Sen’s regime. 

However, what VOA calls “questionable treason charges” are never explored further in the article. The charges stem from CNRP leader Kem Sokha himself being caught on video openly admitting to conspiring with the US government to seize power in Cambodia.

ABC Australia in its article, “Australian speech the key ‘treason’ evidence against Cambodian opposition leader,” would quote Kem Sokha during a speech he gave while in Australia, as saying:

The USA, which has assisted me, has asked me to take the model from Yugoslavia, Serbia, where they were able to change the dictator Milosevic. 

I don’t just do what I feel, I have experts, university professors in Washington DC, Montreal, Canada hired by the Americans in order to advise me on the strategy to change the leaders.

While Kem Sokha’s defenders have claimed his remarks merely meant changing the government through “democratic means” it should be noted that by virtue of admitting one has foreign assistance negates anything democratic about one’s means. Democracy is built upon self-determination while Kem Sokha’s agenda was clearly being devised and determined in Washington D.C.

It should also be noted that the US intervention Kem Sokha referred to in Serbia was admittedly undemocratic in means as well.

The New York Times in its article, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?,” would admit:

American assistance to Otpor and the 18 parties that ultimately ousted Milosevic is still a highly sensitive subject. But Paul B. McCarthy, an official with the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, is ready to divulge some details.

The article continues, stating:

”…from August 1999 the dollars started to flow to Otpor pretty significantly.” Of the almost $3 million spent by his group in Serbia since September 1998, he says, ”Otpor was certainly the largest recipient.” The money went into Otpor accounts outside Serbia. At the same time, McCarthy held a series of meetings with the movement’s leaders in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and in Szeged and Budapest in Hungary. Homen, at 28 one of Otpor’s senior members, was one of McCarthy’s interlocutors. ”We had a lot of financial help from Western nongovernmental organizations,” Homen says. ”And also some Western governmental organizations.”

In today’s current climate of “Russian meddling” hysteria, should similar evidence surface that an entire opposition party was funded, organised and meeting with Russian government representatives in the manner Serbia’s or indeed, Cambodia’s opposition did with Americans, we can only imagine the repercussions.

Yet in the world of US and European “fake news,” the public is led to believe Cambodia’s government is being unreasonable in disbanding a political party openly admitting to treason and dismantling a foreign propaganda network funded directly by the US government.

“Fake News” Rewrites Thai History

Reading a recent Agence France-Presse (AFP) article regarding Cambodia’s neighbour to the west, Thailand, the public would be led to believe despotism is spreading fast across the region.

Titled, “Dozens of new political parties register in run-up to Thai poll,” it claims:

Thailand has been under army rule since a 2014 putsch toppled an elected government and installed the country’s most autocratic regime in a generation. The generals have banned all political activity and repeatedly postponed a promised return to democracy.

Just like in US and  European disinformation regarding Cambodia, what is omitted is just as important as what the article attempts to claim. The current military-led government in Thailand ousted Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of convicted criminal and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra.

Her brother was ousted in a military coup in 2006 after a raft of corruption scandals, abuse of power and a mounting record of human rights abuses. In 2003 alone and over just 90 days, Thaksin Shinawatra would launch a “war on drugs” that would leave some 2,800 dead gunned down in extrajudicial street executions. This alone would make Thaksin Shinawatra the worst human rights abuser in contemporary Thai history.

Human Rights Watch (now also fully engaged in propaganda against the current Thai government) would report in its 2008 statement, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” that:

In February 2003, the Thai government, under then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, launched a ‘war on drugs’, purportedly aimed at the suppression of drug trafficking and the prevention of drug use. In fact, a major outcome of this policy was arbitrary killings. In the first three months of the campaign there were some 2800 extrajudicial killings. In 2007, an official investigation found that more than half of those killed had no connection whatsoever to drugs. Apart from the thousands who lost their lives, thousands more were forced into coercive “treatment” for drug addiction.

Other US and European media organisations would report on his many other abuses, including his muzzling of Thai critics and even the assassination and disappearance of his critics.

The New York Times, for example, in its 2005 article, “Thaksin accused of ‘dirty war’ on media,” would admit:

Prime Minister Thaksin has an agenda all his own. Although he is the founder of a telecommunications empire and keen to project Thailand as a fast-modernizing part of the global economy, Thaksin has little tolerance of the criticism aired in a free press. His concentrated political power and the considerable resources of his family’s commercial empire have been combined to muzzle critics in both the broadcast and print media. 

At one point, the New York Times quotes a British writer who compared Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thailand to Moscow before the Berlin Wall fell.

AFP, if honest, would at best be able to compare the current government to Shinawatra’s previoulsy admitted autocratic streak. Yet AFP in its recent article never mentions Shinawatra’s abuses at all.

AFP’s supposed “most autocratic regime in a generation” in stark contrast to Shinawatra’s regime, has killed no one. Its political bans are aimed solely at Thaksin Shinawatra’s supporters, who with significant US funding as in Cambodia, are attempting to once again take to the streets and lobby for Shinawatra’s illegal return to power.

Those arrested by Thailand’s current government are solely associated with Thaksin Shinawatra and his still potent political machinery. These facts too are never mentioned by AFP and other US and European media organisations in their portrayal of Thailand as “autocratic.”

Western Media’s Biggest Opponent is Itself 

What’s most appalling in regards to AFP’s recent dishonesty is that those contradicting its propaganda are not representatives of the current Thai government nor “Russian trolls,” but headlines and information published in past years by AFP’s own peers across the Western media, with many of these peers now also engaged in disinformation aimed against Thailand side-by-side AFP.

For AFP and other US and European media organisations, their continued perception by the public as reputable news organisations stems solely from the public’s ignorance regarding current events and their collective short memory regarding past events. When editors at AFP can publish entire articles their own reports from years ago contradict completely, they illustrate not journalistic integrity, but contempt for the intelligence of their readership and contempt for journalism itself.

How effective the lies regarding Cambodia and Thailand spread by US and European media organisations is debatable. While the US government in particular has invested heavily in indoctrinating local youth, propping up political parties and opposition groups and assailing Southeast Asian leadership who defy US special interests, a look at Southeast Asia’s declining economic relationships with the US versus growing ties with the rest of Asia and Eurasia seem to indicate the growing din of propaganda is at least partially related to America’s loss of actual influence in the region.

Even local business leaders taking over family fortunes and deeply indoctrinated by Western “values” face a reality in which doing business with the US and Europe will put them at a disadvantage among those who have recognised and adapted to the West’s continued decline. Propaganda alone can be a useful tool to augment the designs of powerful special interests, but propaganda cannot fulfil those designs alone.

It can even be argued that Kem Sokha wouldn’t be in jail right now and the Shinawatra siblings wouldn’t be hiding abroad were Western propaganda sufficiently backed by actual power, or possessed significant power in its own right. The storm clouds of Western “fake news” are gathering over Southeast Asia, but it is a storm of sound and fury signifying nothing?


Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Featured image is from the author.

The regulatory system for GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in India is in tatters. So said the Coalition for a GMFree India (CGMFI) in 2017 after media reports about the illegal cultivation of GM soybean in the country.

In India, five high-level reports have already advised against the adoption of GM crops:

1. The ‘Jairam Ramesh Report’, imposing an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal [Feb 2010];

2. The ‘Sopory Committee Report’ [August 2012];

3. The ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee’ [PSC] Report on GM crops [August 2012];

4. The ‘Technical Expert Committee [TEC] Final Report’ [June-July 2013]; and

5. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests [August 2017].

Given the issues surrounding GM crops (including the now well-documented failure of Bt cotton in the country), little wonder these reports advise against their adoption. Little wonder too given that the story of GM ‘regulation’ in India has been a case of blatant violations of biosafety norms, hasty approvals, a lack of monitoring abilities, general apathy towards the hazards of contamination and a lack of institutional oversight.

Despite these reports, the drive to get GM mustard commercialised (which would be India’s first officially-approved GM food crop) has been relentless. The push for approval is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court, even though, despite serious concerns, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) deemed it necessary to give it the nod.

GM mustard is being undemocratically forced through with flawed tests (or no testing) and a lack of public scrutiny: in other words, unremitting scientific fraud and outright regulatory delinquency.

This crop is also herbicide-tolerant (HT), which is wholly inappropriate for a country like India with its small biodiverse farms that could be affected by its application.

GM crops illegally growing

Despite the ban on GM cops, in 2005, biologist Pushpa Bhargava noted that unapproved varieties of several GM crops were being sold to farmers. In 2008, Arun Shrivasatava wrote that illegal GM okra had been planted in India and poor farmers had been offered lucrative deals to plant ‘special seed’ of all sorts of vegetables.

In 2013, a group of scientists and NGOs protested in Kolkata and elsewhere against the introduction of transgenic brinjal in Bangladesh – a centre for origin and diversity of the vegetable – as it would give rise to contamination of the crop in India. As predicted, in 2014, the West Bengal government said it had received information regarding “infiltration” of commercial seeds of GM Bt brinjal from Bangladesh.

In 2017, the illegal cultivation of a GM HT soybean was reported in Gujarat. Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a national farmers organisation, claimed that Gujarat farmers had been cultivating HT crop illegally – there is no clearance from the government for any GM food crop.

There are also reports of HT cotton illegally growing in India.

All of this is prompting calls for probes into the workings of the GEAC and other official bodies.

CGMFI spokesperson Kavitha Kuruganti says that the regulators have been caught sleeping. It wouldn’t be the first time: India’s first GM crop cultivation – Bt cotton – was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat, spread surreptitiously and illegally by the biotech industry. Kuruganti said the GEAC was caught off-guard when news about large scale illegal cultivation of Bt cotton emerged, even as field trials that were to decide whether India would opt for this GM crops were still underway.

In March 2002, the GEAC ended up approving Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in India. To this day, no liability was fixed for the illegal spread.

The tactic of contaminate first then legalise has benefited industry players before. In 2006, for instance, the US Department of Agriculture granted marketing approval of GM Liberty Link 601 (Bayer CropScience) rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports. The USDA effectively sanctioned an ‘approval-by-contamination’ policy.

Illegal GM imports

Now, in 2018, Kuruganti says that a complaint lodged with the GEAC and a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking information regarding the illegal GM soybean cultivation in the country has stirred the apex regulatory body to bring the issue to the notice of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), months after the issue became public.

In reply to the RTI application, the GEAC responded by saying it had received no complaint about such illegal cultivation. Kurauganti says this is a blatant lie: the BKS had collected illegally cultivated soybean samples for lab testing and the report was sent to the GEAC along with a letter of complaint. GM HT soybean has not been granted permission for field trials, let alone large-scale cultivation.

It is also understood that apart from the BKS, the Government of Gujarat also alerted the GEAC to the illegal cultivation.

Kuruganti says:

“The fact that the GEAC is writing now to the DGFT to take action (on preventing the illegal GM imports), makes it clear that it lacks any real intent to take serious action about the violations of its own regulations. It also indicates that it is putting up a show of having “done” something, before an upcoming Supreme Court hearing on PILs related to GMOs.”

Her assertion is supported by Rohit Parakh of India for Safe Food:

“Commerce Ministry’s own data on imports of live seeds clearly indicates that India continues to import genetically modified seeds including GM canola, GM sugar beet, GM papaya, GM squash and GM corn seeds (apart from soybean) from countries such as the USA… with no approval from the GEAC as is the requirement.”

Kuruganti concludes that the regulatory system is a shambles and is not preventing GMOs from being illegally imported into the country or planted. Moreover, the ruling BJP has reneged on its election promise not to allow GM without proper protocols.

Offshoring Indian agriculture

It is not a good situation. We have bogus arguments about GM mustard being forwarded by developers at Delhi University and the government. We also have USAID pushing for GM in Punjab and twisting a problematic situation to further Monsanto’s interests by trying to get GM soybean planted in the state. And we have regulators (deliberately) asleep at the wheel.

The fact that India is importing so many agricultural commodities in the first place doesn’t help. Relying on imports and transnational agribusiness with its proprietary (GM) seeds and inputs is not a recipe for food security. In the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter. Today, courtesy of World Bank, IMF and WTO interventions, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer.

Is this want India wants? Based on its rising import bill, self-reliance and food security seems to be an anathema to policy makers. In response to the government’s decision to abolish import duty on wheat in 2017, Ajmer Singh Lakhowala, head of the Punjab unit of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said sarcastically:

“The import of cheap wheat will bring the prices down. It appears the government wants the farmers to quit farming.”

As I have previously outlined, at the behest of the World Bank and courtesy of compliant politicians in India, it certainly seems to be the case.

Self-sufficiency is not to the liking of the US and the World Bank. Washington has for many decades regarded its leverage over global agriculture as a tool to secure its geostrategic goals.

Whether it involves the import of subsidised edible oils, wheat, pulses or soybean – alongside the ongoing neglect of indigenous agriculture and farmers by successive administrations – livelihoods are being destroyed, food quality is being undermined and Indian agriculture is slowly being offshored.

“The Commission instead opted for the easiest way out, which is a shame as in my perception it reveals a lack of impartiality on your behalf!”- Chief East Timorese negotiator, Xanana Gusmão, Feb 28, 2018

In the scheme of things, Australia has deputised as regional bully for imperial powers since it became an outpost of the British empire.  Neighbouring states have been ridiculed, mocked and derided as sub-human and incapable.  The term “failed state” is still used in Canberra’s circles of presupposing power over desperate basket cases.  Little wonder that China smells a wounded reputation.

It is in that spirit that signing of an agreement between Australia and East Timor to demarcate maritime borders took place.  Officially, there were smiles, even a sense of back slapping.  The March 7 press release from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop conveys the moment of false elevation:

“The treaty is a historic agreement that opens a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.  It establishes permanent maritime boundaries between our countries and provides for the joint development and management of the Great Sunrise gas fields.” 

The story behind the rubbing and flesh pressing was more questioning.  The countries had, after all, reached this point after allegations of espionage threatened to scupper talks.  Those allegations pertained to efforts on the part of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to spy on East Timorese delegates during negotiations of the 2006 CMATS (Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea). Where the division of revenue is concerned – in that case, the Greater Sunrise gas field in the Timor Sea – the spooks will follow.

The central points of historic contention between the states remain traditional: natural resources and how best to harness them.  Neither could quite agree on who should have access to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.  The political imbroglio had its genesis in the 1989 Timor Gap Treaty signed between Australia and Indonesia when President Suharto’s kleptocracy, not to mention brutal suppression of East Timor, were deemed acceptable matters of realpolitik.

The subsequent liberation of East Timor left the fledgling state in a parlous, near-death state.  Indonesia and Australia continued to share the resources of the Timor Gap in gluttonous merriment till the signing of the Timor Sea Treaty.  The document had one glaring flow: the lack of a determined permanent maritime border.  CMATS, which East Timor duly tore up, permitted an equal division of revenue, but similarly postponed the discussion of a maritime border.

Central to the Timor-Leste strategy was a determination to do it by the international law book.  East Timor argued for a maritime border lying half way between it and Australia; Australia, that it follow its continental shelf.  The Permanent Court of Arbitration, and Conciliation Commissioners, were duly engaged in applying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Australia subsequently celebrated the outcome as “the first ever conciliation under [UNCLOS].” 

While students of international law cheered the result, the political dimension proved uglier.  East Timor’s chief negotiator and all-round resistance figure Xanana Gusmão lashed Australia and the Commissioners in a letter to the Conciliation Commission.

The Commission, he argued, were ignorant on East Timorese matters.  The “chosen technical expert does not have appropriate experience or understanding from working in Timor-Leste or similar developing country contexts.”  Their assessments on “potential benefits to the Timor-Leste population” were “shockingly superficial”, a point that only advantaged Australia.

Gusmão also had another gripe: Australian negotiators had seemingly been gotten to by the extractive industry heavies, Woodside Petroleum and Conoco Philips.

“Civil society could potentially perceive this as a ‘form’ of collusion between the Government of Australia and Darwin LNG Partners and/or the Sunrise J.”

That the officials of Timor-Leste should harbour obstinate suspicions is not only understandable but sagacious.  To deal with a repressive, sanguinary Indonesian military was painful enough.  But then came international knowledge about the brutal regime operating in East Timor, knowledge that came precariously close to active complicity.  Fraternal talk tends to be counterfeit in the market of geopolitics. 

The 2,500 page Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, transmitted by Gusmão, then East Timorese president, to the national parliament in November 2005 referenced hundreds of illuminating formerly classified US and British documents.  These showed tacit approval by both the US and UK for the invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the status quo till 1999, during which some 100,000 Timorese died. 

There were even open instances of Indonesian officials showing interest, as a National Security Council memorandum to US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger states, “in knowing the American attitude regarding Portuguese Timor (and, by implication, our reaction to a possible Indonesian takeover).”  They were not disappointed.

As late as 2014, the Australian government would go to considerable lengths to prevent the release of files pertaining to Canberra’s knowledge of Indonesian troop deployments during the occupation.  Of particular sensitivity were operations conducted in late 1981 and early 1982 which ended in predictable massacre.  In a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal agreeing with the government, President Justice Duncan Kerr claimed with Kafkaesque absurdity that he had to “express conclusions which I am unable to explain”. 

What the justice did reveal was a tantalising titbit on the regional bullying East Timor has been subjected to at the hands of murderous and occasionally complicit powers.  Evidence submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade revealed a certain insistence on the part of US authorities in 2013 wanting “the Australian government to continue to restrict access to… four documents” with “ongoing sensitivities”.

East Timor remains a state on a drip. It is impoverished.  Despite all this, the Australian preference remains determined and exploitative.  The issue on where the oil and gas will be processed continues as a niggling sore point.  Canberra prefers that piping take place through Darwin, with an 80 percent revenue sweetener to East Timor. 

That will hardy pass muster for Dili, which sees value in having the processing facility in East Timor, where a “petroleum hub” is being developed. To that end, it is even willing to surrender a revenue cut to Australia.  Power machinations, and Australia’s petroleum lobby, may well yet undo these arrangements. The regional bully remains renascent.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

Art and Politics in Australia

March 8th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Art and politics mix, often poorly.  Artists are sometimes the hoodwinked emissaries of the latter, sponsored, enlisted and marshalled by the state and corporate entities.  Self-proclaimed radical artists can become compliant, or at the very least mute cogs, aware of their patronage and finite sources of funding.  To question is to impoverish.

In Australia, the links between security companies and the art world have come in for a recent sniping.  Such episodes should be more regular, but artists in Australia have woken up from a prolonged slumber of selfish apathy to push back against companies who provide the gruesome bill for Australia’s offshore detention centres. 

The issue drew some attention in 2014, when the Biennale of Sydney chairman Luca Belgiorno-Nettis resigned in response to an artist boycott regarding Transfield’s security role in offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru.  Transfield’s other hat was that of committed art patron, an association begun by Belgiorno-Nettis’ father, Franco, in 1961. The irritating bee in the bonnet was less Transfield than its subsidiary company. 

At the time, the then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned what he thought was “sheer vicious ingratitude” on the part of artists.  The now retired Senator George Brandis found the gesture of protest “irrational” while chiding the Biennale board for capitulating “to the blackmail effectively of a small number of artists”.  Belgiorno-Nettis was unrepentant, claiming that there was “little room for sensible dialogue, let alone deliberation.”

The National Gallery of Victoria should have been cognisant of that episode when it sought the services of another security company linked to Australia’s offshore detention complex.  Hectored by disgruntled artists, the NGV announced at the end of last month that it would be ending its fraught association with Wilson Security. 

During its tenure, the company presided over a lengthy log of abuses, physical, sexual and psychological, a point noted by the Australian Senate in 2015.   Last year, the company announced that it would cease providing security services at Manus Island and Nauru from October, an effort to rescue a tarnished brand rather than a wounded conscience.

The decision by the NGV has been put down to the Artists’ Committee, which made much noise last year against the gallery’s new contract with Wilson Security.  In August, a petition heavy with over 1,500 signatures, including various heavies of the Australian art world, was submitted to the NGV director, Tony Ellwood. In conducting business with Wilson Security, the gallery was effectively supporting “systematic abuse”. 

Gabrielle de Vietri, speaking on behalf of the committee, put the position to Art Guide Australia.  

“We’re talking about a company whose numerous and well-publicised ethical breaches while managing security at Australia’s reprehensible offshore detention centres amount to nothing less than human rights abuse.”

The attempt to ruffle feathers began in earnest in October, which featured the dyeing of water features outside the gallery a jarring red.  The participating artists courteously explained that the red dye was non-toxic and caused no damage.  On October 6, Picasso’s Weeping Woman was covered in black cloth sporting Wilson Security’s logo.  Twenty signatories stood in front of the painting, stymieing efforts of security staff from removing it for up to an hour.

The scene was set for the NGV Triennial in December, when international artists joined the scrap.  One salvo of protest involved South African installation artist Candice Breitz, who targeted the security outfit in Wilson Must Go, 2016, a seven-channel video installation spiked with reflections on the global refugee crisis.  It should, however, be noted that Breitz sensed an opportunity, less to create a work in direct protest against Wilson Security as renaming it for the occasion in an act of “self-sabotaging”.  (It had the previously bland title of Love Story.)

In Breitz’s words penned with political, albeit opportunistic purpose,

“The new title will remain in effect for as long as the work is on the view at the National Gallery of Victoria, or when the work is exhibited in any other exhibition context on Australian soil, until the NGV severs its relationship with Wilson Security.”  

Wilson Security, she noted, had “violently enforced the imprisonment of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres.”

The position on sponsorship, supply and largesse between soiled companies and the art industry remain slippery.  The bar is subterranean for such figures as Brandis, who claim that art institutions should not “reject bona fide sponsorship from commercially sound, prospective partners on political grounds”.  This neat nonsense provides a long iteration about the artist prostrate before the state, rather than one in resistance to it. 

If detaining refugees and asylum indefinitely in indigent tropical states is deemed a sound policy to begin with, it only follows that security companies will be given a clean bill of health.  Fortunately for those in the art establishment congregated around the NGV, the bar has been raised.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

India is swiftly changing its policy of self-reliance in food production. Despite claiming a bumper production in recent years, the government has encouraged import of agricultural produces. More importantly, it has allowed import of cereals like wheat, maize and non-basmati rice. The volume of import of these grains increased by 110 times between 2014 and 2017. Farmers who produce them are at the centre of the current crisis because they are the worst hit by the fall in the prices caused by the import.

The unprecedented situation is result of numerous policy decisions that have made the domestic market less remunerative for farmers. Traders now find it cheaper to import from Australia than to procure local produces. The change in policies has caused a huge spike in India’s agro food import bill. The spending on the import of cereals, which include wheat, maize and non-basmati rice, increased from Rs 134 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 9,009 crore in 2016-17 – a rise of 6,623%. India also imported Rs 5,897 crore worth of fruit and vegetables in 2016-17 while the figure in 2014-15 was Rs 5,414 crore. On one hand, the government is spending on imports while on the other hand, it has put restrictions on exports. In 2014-15, India’s agrarian exports were to the tune of Rs 1.31 lakh crore but fell to Rs 1.08 lakh crore in 2015-16.

What’s worse is that the government is trying to hide this shift in policy. In May 2016, the Union Ministry of Agriculture issued the advance estimates for grain production for 2015-16, forecasting a wheat production of 94 million tonnes. The prediction was surprising because it was up 8.6% from the previous year’s despite deficit monsoon and drought-like conditions in large parts of the country in 2014-15. The hollowness of the government’s prediction became clear when, suspecting a fall in production, it procured only 23 million tonnes of wheat for the public distribution system (PDS) in 2016-17 (against 28 million tonnes procured for 2015-16) and encouraged import of wheat. It first reduced the import duty on wheat from 25% to 10% in September 2016 and then completely removed it in December. If there was a bumper crop, what was the need to import? Moreover, the government had also said that there was a rise of about 8% in cultivation of wheat in the 2016-17 rabi season. So there should not have been any need to remove the import duty.

The truth is that despite the government’s claim of a bumper crop in 2015-16, the market had got wind of the impending wheat shortage. This was the reason behind the 25% rise in prices of wheat flour in the market between April and December 2016. This prompted the government to encourage the import of wheat. According to the Food Corporation of India, the volume of wheat in government storage facilities reached its lowest in the last decade in 2016-17. On January 1, the figure stood at 1.38 million tonnes against 2.4 million tonnes in 2015-16. This was alarming, because 1.38 million tonnes is the minimum buffer stock limit set by the government. This also means that India’s wheat import this year could likely be the highest in the past decade. In the current season (2016-17), more than 5.75 million tonnes of wheat has been imported from Australia, Ukraine and France (see ‘No more self-reliant’).

Source: Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare; Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics

Import and food inflation

It is ironical that all this is happening while India celebrates 50 years of Green Revolution. The Green Revolution helped India transform from a “ship to mouth” economy to one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat and rice. Consider this: in 1964, the annual production of wheat in India was just 10 million tonnes. By 1970, it had doubled. In 2012-13, India exported 6.5 million tonnes of wheat. In 2013-14, wheat production was a record 95.8 million tonnes.

Though India today is much better placed in terms of food security than it was before the Green Revolution, the import-promoting policies will have a huge impact on the food price. The government uses import as a mechanism to check food inflation. But this hurts farmers, particularly at a time when domestic production is very high.

Ajmer Singh Lakhowala, head of the Punjab unit of Bharatiya Kisan Union, says that the decision to abolish import duty on wheat was taken when the farmers were struggling due to the effects of demonetisation in November last year and hoping for some relief measures.

“The import of cheap wheat will bring the prices down. It appears the government wants the farmers to quit farming,” he says sarcastically.

Several agricultural bodies have demanded that the government impose a 40% duty on wheat import. R.S. Rana, a farm sector expert based in Sonepat, Haryana, says that the import of wheat would demotivate farmers and cause a fall in production in the next season. “Wheat mills in south India are finding the cost of imported wheat 10-15% cheaper than the wheat they get from north India,” he adds.

If the duty-free import continues, the price of wheat in the market could go even lower than the minimum support price (MSP). Though the government increased the MSP of wheat from Rs 1,525 a tonne to Rs 1,625 in October 2016 and of pulses from Rs 50,500 per tonne to Rs 54,500 on June 20, 2017, the gains for the farmer were minuscule because the duty-free import was allowed till March 2017. On December 20, 2016, farm scientist and architect of India’s Green Revolution M.S. Swaminathan, tweeted, “Our progress in wheat production in the past was hampered by cheap wheat imported through the PL480 programme of the USA.”

The point is that India was able to witness the Green Revolution because the government made sure the farmers felt secure pursuing there livelihood. Apart from providing them with better seeds, fertilisers and techniques, the government also assured them of sale at a reasonable price. Decisions, such as the removal of the import duty erode that trust. It is notable that soon after it came to power, the National Democratic Alliance government, started putting pressure on state governments to avoid buying wheat at above MSP. This reduced the procurement and thus the wheat shortage in government godowns.

In a way, importing wheat is like outsourcing agriculture. Swaminathan has already termed import of grains as import of unemployment. But apart from being linked to the livelihood of farmers, the issue is also linked to India’s food security and sovereignty. In 2008-09, agrarian imports were just 2.09 per cent (Rs 29,000 crore) of India’s total imports. They rose to 4.43% (Rs 1.21 lakh crore) by 2014-15 and 5.63% (Rs 1.4 lakh crore) by 2015-16. This money should have ideally gone to the farmers, who are struggling with poverty.

What unregulated import can do to agriculture can be better understood with the example of sugar. Abinash Verma, Director General, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), says that the sugar produced in India in the past six years exceeded the sugar consumed in India. Still in 2012-14, India imported 0.77 million tonnes of sugar. As a result, in 2015-16, sugar prices reached their lowest in the past six years. Sugar mills ran out of money and started defaulting on payments they had to make to sugarcane farmers. Their debt to farmers ran to the tune of Rs 22,000 crore. In January, the government even discussed removing the import duty on sugar.

Losing gains of the Yellow Revolution

India’s import-promoting policies have had another side-effect. They have made the country a major importer of food oil and pulses. In 1993-94, only 3% of oil consumed in India was imported. The figure today is nearly 70% and India spends around Rs 70,000 crore annually on its import. The domestic market is flooded with cheap imported palm oil and soybean oil.

In 2015-16, India had a bumper crop of oilseeds. But right before the harvest the government reduced the import duty on crude and refined palm oil by 5%. As a result, peanuts and soybean in the country started being sold below MSP. With such policies, how can the farmer be expected to increase production? While the import of edible oil has seen a threefold rise in the past decade, oilseed production has gone down by 10%.

As far as pulses are concerned, the government has gone a step further and started outsourcing their production. When the price of pulses was sky-high last year, India signed MoUs with Mozambique to get pulses cultivated in that country. In the next five years, India will import about 0.3 million tonnes of pulses from Mozambique. The government is also trying to find ways to import pulses from countries like Brazil and Myanmar.

Just like edible oil, the government encouraged import of pulses to check food inflation. India today imports 25% of its pulses, spending around Rs 20,000 crore annually. The import of pulses has also risen threefold in the last decade. Despite having a bumper yield in the last kharif season, the government imported 5.9 million tones of pulses worth over Rs 25,600 crore in 2016-17. As a result, when pulses reached the markets, the prices had fallen and they were sold below MSP.

T. Haque, former head of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, says that India’s agrarian policies over the years have lacked coherence. Despite domestic production, we inexplicably keep promoting import. To get our agriculture out of this vicious cycle, first we need to set our foreign trade policies in order, he says.


The article was originally published in July 1-15, 2017 edition of Down to Earth under the headline “Rs 1,402,680,000,000”.

Is China Neoliberal?

March 6th, 2018 by Kim Petersen

On 2 March, the Real News interviewed Steve Cohn, author of Competing Economic Paradigms in China (Routledge, 2017). Host Sharmini Peries began by asking:

Professor Cohn, in your book you analyze the transition of the Chinese economy from Maoist to ‘iron rice bowl’ policy to a neoliberal policy. What kind of domestic factors contributed to this transition?

Part of Cohn’s response was:

… I think the Chinese government, starting with Deng Xiaoping but has continued since then, came to the conclusion that certain capitalist-oriented policies were necessary to increase the social surplus under the state’s control and also to prevent China from falling behind technologically. These leaders, I think, felt that neoclassical economics was a reliable theory that would facilitate this project of adopting some capitalist techniques, and they supported it very aggressively in many ways… [emphasis added]

China neoliberal?

The present writer has been living off-and-on in various parts of China since 2003. At first I was skeptical to Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, but I have observed the development in China first-hand along with the decline of poverty (as evidenced by the relative scarcity of mendicancy and homelessness).


What is neoliberalism? To start, it is not new, and it is not liberal. It is predicated on prioritizing the private sphere over the public sphere; i.e., allowing the so-called free-market to decide. Hence, the role of the government is to be minimized, with privatization, cutting social programs, deregulating finance, and imposing austerity prescribed.

Yet, can one seriously ascribe neoliberalism to China with its state-owned enterprises, state-owned banks, and expanding social programs?

In his book Profit over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (Seven Stories Press, 1999), distinguished professor Noam Chomsky referred to a World Bank report that China was not following neoliberal dictates; instead China was described as “the most interventionist and price-distorting government of all.”

Chomsky quoted the eminent economic historian Paul Bairoch who stated that

“there is no doubt that the third world’s compulsory economic liberalism in the nineteenth century is a major element in explaining the delay in its industrialization.”

Given the enviable economic development of China, the Communist Party was evidently correct to eschew neoliberalism and chart its own course.


Host Peries presented another surprising nugget that the US was directing the Chinese economy:

… You write about international or US-based organizations such as the American Economic Association, the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, and other such institutions that the Chinese sort out to influence their economic policy and drive the direction of a capitalist economy that they adopted. The interesting point you make about this is that this influence was invited. Why did the Chinese government officials accept this or want this kind of influence?

Cohn replied,

 I don’t think the Chinese even to this day fully realize the extent to which there’s a socialization, as well as an intellectual kind of understanding involved with graduate school.

So I think they underestimated it, that impact on the students and the difficulty of unpacking these ideological and political factors… [emphasis added]

Cohn uses terms such as thinks and feels throughout the interview. This conveys an appearance of uncertainty as to what he discusses.

Later Cohn said,

You can see what they’ve [Chinese Communist Party officials] done; you’re not quite sure what they’re thinking. There certainly have been a lot of social problems, environmental problems, inequality in particular, financial fragility, the problem of various debt crises in China. But my suspicion is that the Chinese leaders feel that their strategy has in some important ways to them empowered China. And I think that they probably feel they can deal with problems of environmental and other side effects of this. [emphasis added]

What’s interesting in terms of paradigm competition is trajectories…

One Chinese Trajectory: Poverty Elimination

What are the Chinese trajectories? One example should suffice to refute the notion of China as a neoliberal state: China is on target to eliminate poverty. What capitalist country prioritizes such a goal?

Global Times op-ed argued,

As a socialist country, it would be an agony — if not a disgrace — for the country’s elites to sit idle and not extend a helping hand to the needy. [1]

Xinhua reported,

“China lifted 12.89 million rural people out of poverty in 2017 as it progresses towards its target of eradicating poverty…” [2]

This poverty elimination is verified by the World Bank which cites 753 million people lifted out of poverty between 1978 and 2010. China is presented as an example for the rest of the world in how to eliminate the scourge of poverty:

The country’s poverty reduction offers lessons for other countries…. Its approach combines combines government leadership and support from all social sectors with farmers playing a major role, and integrates general and special favorable policies, poverty alleviation programs and social safety nets. [3] [Italics added]

Tiananmen Square

Particularly noteworthy in the Real News interview were the references to “Tiananmen Square protests” and “the repression following Tiananmen Square.” No mention was made of a Tiananmen Square massacre, as has been a repetitive staple in corporate media reporting.

Wei Ling Chua wrote a compelling exposé on this disinformation, Tiananmen Square “Massacre”? The Power of Words vs. Silent Evidence, which noted the many retractions of what many western journalists had initially reported. [4]

Missing Background to the Real News Interview

I asked Wei, who also wrote Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China, for his take on the Real News interview. Wei wrote back:

There are too many issues in the video, I would like to have a quick comment on the following:

1. People tend to overlook the fact that it was Mao who lay the foundation for Chinese access to the world that allowed Deng economic integration with the world economy in 1978:

  • in 1949, China was broken and bankrupt at the time Mao took over;
  • Due to the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war, China was under western economic, financial, technological and banking sanctions; as well as USSR technological sanctions;
  • despite these adversaries, Mao managed to defeat the US led military coalition in the Korea War; helped the Vietnamese defend itself from US invasion. That made China a world force that the US could not ignore;
  • Mao managed to make use of the complex relationship between the USSR and US, and woo the US via ping-pong diplomacy, and eventually resulted in Nixon’s visit to China, laying the foundation for China to access the world;
  • Mao’s vision of classifying the world into First World (Western nation), 2nd world (USSR), and the Chinese alliance with the 3rd world (Africa, Latin America, Asia etc) eventually paid off after making use of the new relationship with Nixon, and  winning the majority vote in the UN to get the PRC onto the UN security council.
  • Without all these foundations for China to access the world, there would have been no reforms under Deng.
  • At the time Deng took over the leadership in China, Mao had already eliminated illiteracy, doubled the life expectancy of the population, armed China with nuclear, rocket and satellite technology, and a lot of basic industries for consumer products. Without all these, there would be no foundation for any further progress to access the world.
  • So to credit China prosperity solely on Western capitalism is not objective.

2. The author [Cohn] also failed to mention the fact of the Chinese modelling more towards the Singaporean economic model than the west. Despite Singapore being recognised as one of the freest economies in the world, 60% of Singapore’s GDP is generated by the Singaporean government investments; so in China, despite being opened up to international and private funds and investment, the state still controls much of the economy;

3. 30 years after Deng’s reforms, China encountered problems like any western society: income gaps, housing affordability and the growth in GDP v social stress; but it is China who acts on to ratify the issues;

4. [Current Chinese chairman] Xi Jinping only wants the part of market logic to award and motivate people who work hard and be innovative, but dislikes an uncontrolled market economy that allows the wealthy to eventually dictate supply and prices of everything;

5. Unlike the west that privatised everything, Xi not only wants SOEs to become bigger and stronger, he also introduced a policy for the government to pay for and own a 1% share of every registered business in China; the law states that with the 1%, government officials will attend all executive meetings and have the power to stop any decision that is harmful to the country.


For those who aspire to a world not driven by extreme wealth and income inequality, China is a potential antipode to unfettered capitalism. China pursues socialism. The Chinese Communist Party also rejects hegemony and war. Thus China stands forth as an alternative model to aggressive capitalist imperialism. However, it is important that China be considered as to which point it is in its political-economic trajectory. At present, Chinese leaders state that China is in the earliest stages of socialism. Nevertheless, along its trajectory China ought to be fairly scrutinized for adherence to it announced political and social goals.


Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen


1. Li Hong, “Shaking off poverty is an obligation for China,” Global Times, 14 January 2018. 

2. Xinhua, “China brings nearly 13 mln people out of poverty in 2017,” Global Times, 1 February 2018. 

3. Chengwei Huang, “Ending poverty in China: Lessons for other countries and the challenges still ahead,” World Bank, 14 October 2016. 

4. See review.

Weaponising Rumour: Australia’s New Political Sensitivity

March 4th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

The hide of Australia’s political classes has been worn.  Some members, admittedly, never had one. With tiptoeing around language ravaging, and in some cases savaging discussion, pondering policy has become nigh impossible.  What matters after the Barnaby Joyce affair is rumour and private speculation.

First came the threatening malice associated with Jobs and Innovations minister Michaelia Cash. Having been pressed by Labor Senator Doug Cameron in a Senate Estimates hearing about her newly hired chief of staff, including relevant employment record, Cash went volcanic.  The minister, wrote Jenna Price with tart disgruntlement, “is what you get when you hire on merit.  Or at least the Liberal Party’s version of merit.”

Having touched upon “staff matters” – a self-designated sacred zone – Cash warned Cameron to be “very, very careful” as she was “happy to sit here and name every young woman in Mr Shorten’s office over which rumours in this place abound.”

This gave an odd twist to proceedings: the former minister for women had effectively made women potential dynamite in an unsubstantiated claim of impropriety, sexual or otherwise.  It would be for “Mr Shorten to come out and deny any of the rumours that have been circulating in this building now for many, many years.”

After the hearing, Labor Senator Penny Wong weighed in, demanding Cash withdraw the “outrageous slurs… impugning the staff working for the Leader of the Opposition”. This Cash did, “if anyone had been offended by them” and duly lodged a complaint about media filming her whiteboard shelter as she entered another estimates committee hearing.

Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek suggested that Cash had undermined “the professionalism of the many competent, intelligent, hardworking young women who work on all sides of politics.”

The stir duly became a whirlpool, sucking in all its adherents.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explained to members in the House of Representatives how Senator Cash had been “bullied and provoked by [Labor] senator [Doug] Cameron… who was making insinuations about staff.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, never considered a merry friend of women, cared to angle it differently from his successor, telling Sydney radio 2GB that the minister had suffered a “brain snap”. “There’s been far too much cheap smear and it’s time it ends… it must end.”

In this age of hashtag outrage and social media clicktivism, a paradox has emerged.  Never have people been more engaged in snark and venality online while upholding a fictional standard of purity in political debate.

A blurring has now taken place, to the point where suspicions abound, and everything is fair game

. “Tabloid culture, emboldened by the looseness of social media,” claims Jacqueline Maley of the Sydney Morning Herald, “has merged with the openness encouraged by the #metoo movements to create a new atmosphere where previously unsayable things are being said.”

As if to prove the point, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton told his customary reactionary refuge, 2GB radio, that “we’ve sat here taking a morals lecture from Bill Shorten in relation to Barnaby Joyce over the last few weeks and people know that there’s a history of problems in Bill Shorten’s personal life, Tony Burke’s personal life.”  A view charmingly free of any policy critique.

Soon afterwards, a similar incident unfolded in another estimates hearing.  Veteran Labor Senator Kim Carr, whose length of time in the chamber has essentially imprinted him into Canberra’s furniture, felt so comfortable as to call his opposite number, a young Senator James Paterson, a “member of the Hitler Youth”.  Paterson expressed outrage; Carr claimed he was being facetious.  Withdrawals duly followed.

“Jeez,” went Jane Norman, “Senate Estimates is getting Feral.  Wednesday: Michaelia Cash threatens to reveal unverified rumours about female staff in Bill Shorten’s office.  Thursday: Kim Carr suggests James Paterson would’ve been part of the Hitler Youth.  This is #auspol.”

Norman, in turn, received a social media rebuke tantamount to a cold shower. The journalist had missed the beat, ignored the register.

“Do you understand the word ‘Satire’?” shot Socialist Sarah. “Do you as a Journalist have skills in English, Research, History, Politics, or Agribusiness?  Do you know how to investigate anything outside your echo chamber?”

The political zone that is Canberra finds any concept of satire these days highly repellent.

The threshold of debate in Australian politics has been sewer-low for decades, but the latest turn has added another disfiguring side.  The moment Turnbull decided that ministerial sexual conduct would become a matter of regulation in Parliament, the private became political.  This public outing has destroyed perspective and proportion on what is relevant in Canberra’s political discourse.  Innuendo can be used as weapon and shield; allegation can be implied and imputations delivered.

Instead of returning to the drawing board of measured discussion and the jousting associated with interaction in Canberra – policy and legislation needs to be made – political figures such as Cathy McGowan, MP, see the prospect of more regulation and codification.

“The community does have expectations of how politicians behave… that you be honest, that you be trustworthy, that you don’t tell lies, but they’re not encoded.”

In doing so, all presumption to propriety, precisely because it requires encoding, goes out the window. The moral and ethical police will be emboldened, and they shall come from all sides of politics.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

Recent moves by the Abe administration to change the Japanese constitution may result in the most fundamental change to Japanese political life since the 1940s. Although there has been widespread debate on the possible revision of Article 9 – the constitution’s Peace Clause – other profound implications of the push for constitutional change have received scant attention. This special issue aims to take a broad view of constitutional debates in Japan today by posing two key questions: “What is the purpose of the constitution?” and “What does the constitution mean for a culturally plural and diverse society?”

A New Constitution for Japan?

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized (Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, 1947)

In May 2017, as Japan commemorated the 70th anniversary of the enactment of its postwar constitution, Prime Minister Abe announced a proposal to alter the constitution’s most famous and controversial section, Article 9, which renounces the nation’s right to wage war and to maintain armed forces. Abe suggested a revision that would not remove any of the wording of the article’s existing two paragraphs (quoted above) but would add a third paragraph formally legitimizing the existence of Japan’s existing military force, which today boasts the world’s eighth largest military budget.1 More surprisingly, perhaps, while directly mentioning only this modest change to the wording of the document, Abe simultaneously proclaimed his intention to give Japan a “new constitution” (not just a modified version of the old one) by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.2 At the start of 2018, he returned to the theme, urging government and opposition politicians to reach a “broad based consensus” on constitutional change to be put to a national referendum.3 If Prime Minister Abe’s proposal is put into effect, this will mark the first revision of a constitution which has remained unchanged for longer than any other in the contemporary world.

The debate about constitutional change in Japan has been a long one. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on the postwar constitution before various political figures, mostly on the right of the spectrum, were debating reinterpretations of Article 9 and planning for its revision. During the Korean War, the US pressed Japan to rearm by creating the National Police Reserve, which soon evolved into the Self-Defence Force [Jietai], and by the late 1950s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) figures including Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke had defined constitutional revision as a top priority for their party.4

In practice, though, strong popular support for the postwar constitution ensured that the 1947 constitution survived unchanged into the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Asia Pacific War evoked a renewed upsurge of constitutional debate in the mid-1990s, with several media organizations and other groups putting forward proposals either to change the constitution or to protect the existing document and implement it more effectively.5 In January 2000, both houses of the Japanese parliament established constitutional review committees, and by 2005 both the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the major opposition party – the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) had published proposals for constitutional change.6 By 2012, though, the political climate was changing rapidly, and in April of that year (some nine months before the party returned to power) the LDP published a new proposal for constitutional reform which was much more far reaching than its 2005 draft. Some sense of the difference in tone between the 2005 and 2012 LDP drafts can be seen by comparing their preambles (Appendix 1 of this article). The 2012 draft (discussed in further detail in the essays by Lummis, Okano, and Uemura and Gayman in this special issue) also includes many more revisions to the body of the constitution than the 2005 draft had done.

Prime Minister Abe (like his grandfather Kishi) has been a particularly vocal proponent of constitutional revision, but after coming to power for the second time in 2012, and even after securing the parliamentary majority needed to win Diet approval for revision in July 2016, he remained relatively cautious on the subject, preferring to place emphasis on “re-interpretation” of Article 9. This changed, though, with his statement in May 2017. An LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution (Jiyū Minshutō Kenpō Kaisei Suishin Honbu) was promptly created to draft a new constitution, although the task (as we shall see) seems to be proving a challenging one.

In October 2017, against the background of intense security anxieties about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Prime Minister Abe called a snap election, with constitutional revision listed as one of the items on his party’s manifesto, though the party’s campaign rhetoric focused more on economic policy and the North Korean missile issue. The ruling LDP and its ally Kōmeitō predictably won a very large majority (313 of the 465 contested seats), but in other respects the election failed to follow the expected course. Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko’s Hope Party (Kibō no Tō), which also favours constitutional revision, was expected to emerge as a leading opposition force. Its chances seemed to have been boosted when – in the midst of the campaign – the existing main opposition group, the Democratic Party, dissolved its lower house caucus, and the party leader urged party members to join forces with Koike’s grouping. But in fact, the Hope Party failed to make the expected impact. Instead, another newly-formed force, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP – Rikken Minshutō), consisting largely of former DPJ members who disagreed with Koike’s hawkish policies, put in a better performance, winning 55 seats in the new parliament compared with the Hope Party’s 50. A key feature of the CDPs policies, as the party’s name suggests, is respect for the existing constitution, and particularly for its emphasis on democracy, human rights and peace.7

The political mood surrounding the election has left Abe’s government in a rather curious position. It has the two-thirds supermajority in both houses of parliament needed for constitutional change, but all the signs suggest that most of the Japanese public – who would have the final say on the matter through a referendum – are unenthusiastic about Abe’s constitutional ambitions. A Kyodo opinion poll conducted soon after the 2017 election showed that, although the Abe cabinet enjoyed a healthy approval rating, just over 50% of people opposed Abe’s plans for constitutional reform, while just under 40% supported them.Even within the government itself, opinions on the subject are divided. The constitutional review committee created in May 2017 intended to produce a full draft of its proposed revisions by the end of the year, but was in fact only able to come up with a summary of four key points, and even on two of these (the content of the revision to Article 9 and proposed state of emergency provisions) the committee had failed to reach a consensus.9


Protesters opposing constitutional revision gather outside the National Diet Building.

The committee’s four-point summary echoes the brief statement on constitutional change made in the LDPs election manifesto, and gives some sense of the direction in which the government plans to take the debate from here. The four points are: that Article 9 should be revised in some way (either by leaving the existing wording as it is and adding an extra paragraph, or by deleting and replacing part of its second paragraph); that new emergency powers of should be given to the government (though there are divided views on what those powers should be); that the constitution should be revised to prohibit the creation of electoral districts larger than a single prefecture, and to “clarify” the status of local government; and that Article 89 of the constitution should be revised as part of a policy of “enriching education” for all Japanese citizens.10

The last two points need some explanation. The proposal on electoral districts aims to reverse recent revisions of electoral boundaries, which were undertaken to prevent a rural gerrymander from which the Liberal Democratic Party has traditionally benefitted. These revisions have created some Upper House electorates which combine two prefectures (e.g. an electorate of “Tottori and Shimane”), a situation which is fiercely opposed by a number of regional-based LDP politicians. The meaning of “clarifying the status of local government” remains obscure, but it is worth noting that the 2012 LDP draft constitution includes a proposal to explicitly ensure that residents who are not Japanese citizens would be constitutionally prohibited from voting in local elections.11 The proposed revision of Article 89 also has potentially far-reaching implications. It is presented by its proponents as being a move to improve the quality of Japanese education by removing restrictions on the funding of private schools. But Article 89 not only prohibits state funding to any educational enterprise “not under the control of public authority” but also, more importantly, prohibits payments from the state to religious organizations. Revision of this article could therefore become a major step away from the separation of state and religion enshrined in Japan’s postwar constitution.

What is a Constitution?

Proposals for constitutional revision have for decades generated intense debate in Japan and beyond. Most of the debate, though, has focused on specific clauses – most notably on Article 9, and recently also on Article 96, which sets out the processes for constitutional revision. These are important matters, and they are addressed in essays in this special issue: Douglas Lummis’ essay presents a fresh perspective on Article 9, while Okano Yayo highlights the significance of Article 96. But here we also aim to take a broader view of constitutional debates by posing two key questions: “What is the purpose of the constitution?” and “What does the constitution mean for a culturally plural and diverse society?”

Protesters rally to save Article 9.

Debates about constitutional change tend to be based on an assumption that participants have a shared understanding of what the constitution is and why it exists. The discussion then generally focuses on the content and wording of the constitutional document, rather than its essential nature. But as Judith Pryor and others have pointed out, the meaning of the word “constitution” is not as simple as it may appear.12 In the broadest sense, the term “national constitution” refers to the way in which a nation is made up or operates: how the nation is constituted. More often, we understand the word as referring to a set of foundational rules or principles on which subsequent law-making or policy-making must rest: even though (as in the case of Britain’s famously “unwritten constitution”) these principles may not necessarily be set out in a single written text. More commonly still, though, when we speak of a nation’s constitution, we are referring to a single written document which is understood as containing those fundamental principles of national political life.

Constitutions which emerge from revolutions or independence struggles, or which (like Japan’s) are products of a radical political transformation following military defeat, are often ringing statements about the values and vision of the nation. The opening words of Japan’s postwar constitution (see Appendix 1) are a resonant example. But many constitutions are much longer, more arcane and more unreadable documents, because they have been created over centuries of accretion, or have emerged through compromise and negotiation out of older political arrangements whose residues still cling like moss to the surface of the political edifice.

A key issue is the relationship between the constitution as a foundational written document and the way that a nation is actually constituted and operates in practice. If there is virtually no correspondence between the two, then a written constitutional document clearly does not mean very much at all. The Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), for example, states: “Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association” (Article 67); “Citizens have freedom of religious beliefs” (Article 68); and “The citizens shall have freedom to reside in and travel to any place” (Article 75); none of which has any real bearing on the realities of life in North Korea.13

At the same time, though, the relationship between written text and lived practice is fluid and dynamic. Written constitutions are constantly reinterpreted, and parts of the constitutional text that are not perfectly reflected in the everyday life of the nation may still be important as statements of aspiration or future goals. In the Japanese context, it is sometimes argued that Article 9 serves to limit pressures for Japan to become engaged in military action, even though everyone knows that the promise that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” has in practice been violated for decades. A recent book by Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah argues that “Article 9 has helped to shape a post-war Japanese mind-set and character – passed on from one generation to the next – in a population that is constantly reminded, through formal and informal education, of the dangers of war. As such, there is a consciousness in Japan about peace as a national value that should be protected”.14 This is an appealing argument, but there is a counter-argument: that it may be dangerous to maintain a significant constitutional clause which is persistently violated in practice. For, if it comes to be taken for granted that the second paragraph of the peace clause can be reinterpreted to mean the opposite of what it says, what is to stop politicians from deciding (for example) to reinterpret the constitution’s guarantees of free speech to mean the opposite of what they say?

The Constitution in a Diverse Japan

There are no simple answers to this dilemma, and the essays in this special issue neither present simple answers nor speak with one voice. But they do suggest a range of ways of reconsidering the meaning of the constitution, and of re-examining the relationship between (on the one hand) the Japanese constitution as embodied in the 1947 constitutional document, and (on the other) the way in which the Japanese state is constituted in practice. Douglas Lummis’ essay highlights the role of constitutions as “seizures of power”. If we see constitutions in this way – as radical moments in which power is transferred from one set of hands to another – the central question becomes “just who is wresting what power from whom?” In this light, the grammar of the constitution becomes particularly important: who is the subject and who is the object of the constitution’s clauses? Lummis shows how current government proposals for constitutional change radically alter that grammar, with far reaching implications. But his examination of Article 9 also reminds us that postwar Japan has been shaped, not simply by its formal constitution, but also by the interaction between the constitution and other documents, most notably the security treaty with the United States. The refractory relationship between Article 9 and the security treaty may be relatively easy to ignore from the perspective of Tokyo, but becomes glaringly obvious from the perspective of Okinawa, from where Lummis writes.

Okano Yayo also focuses attention on the meaning of constitutions. The key danger in current schemes for constitutional change, she argues, is that they obscure and undermine the core function of a democratic constitution, which is to place limits on the power of the state. The Abe government’s approach treats the constitution as though it were any normal law which the state has the power to change at will. Okano’s analysis also highlights the cultural underpinnings of the Abe government’s vision of a new constitution. A crucial element, she suggests, is a denial of the individuality of citizens. Rather than emphasising individual rights, the LDP’s version of a new constitution treats nationals – kokumin – as possessing citizenship only by virtue of being embedded in the communal ties of family and nation. In this sense, current proposals for constitutional revision are inextricably connected to historical revisionism, and to efforts to entrench that revisionism in the school curriculum. This approach is particularly alarming for Japanese citizens or residents whose ancestral background lies outside the historical bounds of the Japanese state (for example, descendants of twentieth century Korean or Chinese immigrants).

Noah McCormack’s essay “Affirmative Action Policies Under the Postwar Japanese Constitution” focuses on an instance where the visions of equality in the postwar Japanese constitution empowered a movement that has transformed sections of Japanese society. Although the constitution makes no specific mention of so-called Dōwa or Buraku15 areas, the clauses enshrining the right to equal treatment under the law, free choice of marriage partner and the right to a reasonable standard of “wholesome and culture living” gave new impetus to the long struggle for Buraku rights. This was reflected in a series of affirmative action measures which aimed to overcome the discrimination and disadvantage faced by residents of Buraku/Dōwa areas. McCormack’s study highlights the magnitude of the changes that resulted. But at the same time, important problems remain. The reduced gap in living standards and life styles between Dōwa and non-Dōwa areas has not meant an end to cultural discrimination and stereotyping, and has in some ways intensified controversy around notions of Dōwa identity. As declining relative deprivation weakens the sense of distinct Dōwa identity, the people of Dōwa areas are increasingly confronted by a dilemma: whether (in McCormack’s words) “to achieve liberation in Japanese society from Buraku discrimination while remaining Burakumin, or to seek the erasure of the categories of Buraku and Burakumin from Japanese society in the process of achieving liberation and becoming ‘regular Japanese’”. As the debate continues, the Japanese Diet in 2016 passed a new law for the “Promotion of the Elimination of Buraku Discrimination”. Whether this should be seen as a welcome step to protect human rights or as an assimilationist measure which re-inscribes the borders of “Japaneseness” remains debatable. But the relatively neglected history of postwar Dōwa policy and its consequences forms a crucial part of the constitution of Japan in its broad sense, and offers an important example of the implications which constitutional principles can have for the shaping of social diversity.

Uemura Hideaki and Jeff Gayman, focusing on the question of indigenous rights, present a starker picture of repeated constitutional refusals to recognise Japan’s diversity. Uemura and Gayman take the story of constitutionalism and pluralism back to the Meiji Constitution of 1889, observing that, throughout Japan’s modern history, the nation has been constituted in a way that failed to address the distinctive rights and histories of Japan’s indigenous people. Critical debates on the constitution, they argue, have not yet adequately addressed this crucial lacuna. Uemura and Gayman’s careful analysis shows how the interaction between the constitution and other decrees and laws has negated the rights of Ainu and Okinawans. In the prewar era, this denial of rights was reinforced by imperial decrees imposed on the colonies as well as on “Japan proper” (naichi). But even the democratic constitution of the postwar era contained no recognition of the distinctive history and status of Ainu and Okinawans, while the constitutional interpretations of liberal scholars often dismissed the problems of these groups as a mere matter of “small numbers”.

Despite this, Uemura and Gayman show how Ainu and Okinawan activists have used the fundamental notions of human rights and equality enshrined in the 1947 constitution as a basis for asserting their claims to recognition and justice. These efforts have achieved some important results, including (in the Ainu case) the 1997 Nibutani Dam judgement, which recognised Ainu as an indigenous people, and a 2008 resolution of both houses of the Diet reaffirming that recognition. But the current LDP proposals for constitutional change, rather than accepting and embodying this development, fly in the face of recent achievements by re-asserting the myths of emperor-centred cultural homogeneity. The response from critics, Uemura and Gayman suggest, should be, not simply to defend the existing constitution, but to aim for a more far reaching and imaginative rethinking of the constitution of a multicultural Japan.

The need for such radical rethinking seems particularly important in the twenty-first century context, when a growing share of Japan’s population are long term foreign residents who do not possess formal Japanese nationality. It is often pointed out that the democratic reforms of the occupation period, which extended the franchise to women, simultaneously excluded Korean and Taiwanese former colonial subjects living in Japan from voting rights. Okinawan citizens – as residents of a region now occupied by the United States – were also excluded from voting rights at this time, though these were restored with the reversion of Okinawa to Japan. In the Japanese version of the 1947 constitution, the words which are rendered in English as “the Japanese people” become “Nihon kokumin” (literally “Japanese nationals”), excluding those without formal Japanese citizenship from the scope of constitutional protections. The LDPs 2012 constitutional draft hardens that exclusion by explicitly denying local government voting rights to foreigners.16 In this context, Uemura’s and Gayman’s proposal to “involve citizens in wide-reaching discussions” to challenge the government on questions of constitutional pluralism has particular importance for the intensifying debate on the constitution.

Constituting the Constitution

The essays in this special issue remind us of the central role of ordinary citizens in shaping and reinterpreting constitutional debates. Okano Yayo’s article, for example, explores the rise of new forms of activism to resist the Abe government’s plans for constitutional change, while McCormack, Uemura and Gayman remind us how minority rights activists have mobilised constitutional principles to advance their cause. Ever since the 1880s, when Ueki Emori, Nishi Amane and others put forward their own personal proposals for a Japanese constitution, Japan has had a history of imaginative engagement with the constitution.

In the current debate, what matters is not only the proposed changes to the wording of the constitutional document, but also the way in which the debate itself is conducted. The structure of the constitutional debate taking place in Japan today speaks volumes about the way in which contemporary Japanese democracy is constituted. On the one hand, there is lively and generally unfettered grassroots debate about the constitution. But on the other, this debate seems almost entirely disconnected to the deliberations of government, and channels to link the two are signally lacking.

In addition to the “Civil Alliance for Peace and Constitutionalism” discussed by Okano, one of the most interesting current examples of grassroots constitutional debate has been the emergence of the phenomenon of “constitution cafés” [kenpō café] which have popped up all over the country over the past decade. The first of these appeared in the town of Hakodate in Hokkaido in July 2005, when local teachers, lawyers and others gathered to talk about constitutional issues in a relaxed and informal setting over cups of coffee.17 During and after the first Abe prime ministership from 2006-2007, as debate on constitutional change intensified, the concept spread to other places, drawing in members of the public who would be unlikely to attend more formal lectures or classes on constitutional issues. As the organizer of one group in Kyoto put it, the idea was “to lower the hurdle [to participation] by meeting in a different sort of space for relaxed conversation, and first of all to spread a move to get to know the constitution”.18 According to one recent estimate, there have been over one thousand “constitution café” meetings in various parts of Japan since the idea was initiated.19

The phenomenon is an intriguing one, not least because it replicates the process through which the modern notion of democracy itself grew out of debates in the coffee houses of Europe in the eighteenth century. But what is also striking is how completely the constitution café movement is divorced from the formal process of constitutional change currently being pursued at the national government level. Indeed, in the whole recent discussion of the issue there has been remarkably little official interest in public consultation or listening to the voices of the public (other than in the most restrictive sense of conducting occasional opinion polls to gauge responses to proposals handed down from on high). The current formal debate about constitutional change is taking shape within the relatively narrow spheres of the parliamentary constitutional review committees and in closed negotiations between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its political partner Kōmeitō. Rather than constitutional change being seen as a process which must be driven by citizens themselves, as the possessors of sovereign power, it almost seems as though the proposed new constitution is a gift to be bestowed upon the people by the Prime Minister, in much the same way as the Meiji Constitution was presented to the Japanese people as a gift bestowed by the Emperor.

Japan’s constitutional debates are taking place at a moment of pivotal change in the East Asian political order. The rise of China, heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and uncertainties surrounding the US role in the region reflect a shifting of the region’s political tectonic plates. The decisions taken about Japan’s constitution over the coming year or two could either heighten regional tensions and mark a radical weakening of the democratic underpinnings of the Japanese system, or provide an opportunity to put forward new visions of a diverse, dynamic and democratic Japan. The crucial test will be whether the debate can be broadened and deepened to engage all sections of Japanese society, and whether the voices of society can reach the ears of those in power, and not merely the other way around. The essays in this special issue seek to make a small contribution to that process of broadening and deepening.

Appendix I

Three Preambles

1. Preamble to the existing (1947) Constitution of Japan

Official Translation

We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.

We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.

We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations.

We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.

2. Preamble to the 2005 Liberal Democratic Draft for a Proposed Revised Constitution –

(author’s translation)

We, the Japanese people, on the basis of our own will and decision and as sovereign subjects, establish this new constitution.

The symbolic emperor system will sustain this. Moreover, the sovereignty of the people, democracy, respect for freedom and fundamental human rights, as well as the fundamental principles of pacifism and international cooperation, will be maintained as unchanging principles.

The Japanese people share a duty to support and protect the country and society to which they belong with love, responsibility and strong spirit, and to work towards the development of a free, just and dynamic society and towards the enhancement of the welfare of the nation’s people, while also placing emphasis on the advancement of education, the generation of culture and the development of local government.

The Japanese people, truly desiring international peace based on justice and order, will work together with other countries to realise these aims, and while recognising diversity of values, will constantly strive to eradicate oppression and violations of human rights.

The Japanese people, believing in symbiosis with nature, will make every effort to protect the environment, not only of our own country but also of the globe.

3. Preamble to the 2012 Liberal Democratic Draft for a Proposed Revised Constitution

The version given below is the author’s translation, which references the translation made by the NGO “Voyce

Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture, having the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the people and governed, under the sovereign power of the people, on the basis the separation of legislative, administrative and judicial powers.

Our nation has overcome and developed from the ruins of the last war and of many great disasters, and now occupies an important position in the international society, promotes amicable relations with foreign countries and contributes to the peace and prosperity of the world under a doctrine of peace.

The Japanese people will defend the nation and homeland with pride and strong spirit, and respecting fundamental human rightsvalue harmony and form a nation state where families and the whole society assist one another.

We esteem freedom and discipline, and while defending our beautiful territory and natural environment, promote the development of education, science and technology and the growth of the country through vigorous economic activity.

The Japanese people, in order to pass on our good traditions and our nation state to our descendants in perpetuity, hereby establish this Constitution.


Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor of Japanese History at the Australian National University. She is currently engaged in an Australian Research Council project entitled “Informal Life Politics in East Asia: From Cold War to post Cold War”. 


Nan Tian, Aude Fleurant, Peter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Wezeman, Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2016, SIPRI Fact Sheet, April 2017, p. 2., accessed 10 October 2017.

See, for example, “Kurōzappu 2017 – Abe Shūshō, Kaiken Hatsugen: Aete 9-jō, Yotō mo Konwaku”, Mainichi Shinbun, 4 May 2017, p. 3; Kimura Kyōko, “2020-nen Kaiken: Shiji to Fushiji no Kikkō”, Nihon Keizai Shinbun, online edition, 18 May 2017.

Sithanka Siripala, “Japan’s Prime Minister Seeks ‘Broad-Based Agreement’ on Constitutional Revision”, The Diplomat, January 31, 2018, (accessed February 5, 2018).

Axel Berkofsky, A Pacific Constitution for an Armed Empire: Past and Present of Japan’s Security and Defence Policies, Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2012, p. 331.

See Glenn D. Hook and Gavan McCormack eds., Japan’s Contested Constitution: Documents and Analysis, London and New York, Routledge, 2001.

Michael T. Segal, “Questioning the Rationale for Changing Japan’s Peace Constitution”, in Joseph A, Camilleri et al. eds., Asia-Pacific Geopolitics: Hegemony vs. Human Security, London, Edward Elgar, 2007, pp. 75-92.

See the Party’s platform, published on 26 December 2017 (accessed 28 December 2017)

Kyodo, “Abe’s Cabinet Approval Rating Improves, but Constitutional Reform still Unpopular, Survey Says”, Japan Times, 3 November 2017, (accessed 28 December 2017).

“Consensus Needed on Revising the Constitution”, Japan Times, 27 December 2017.

10 Jiyū Minshutō Kenpō Kaiei Suishin Iinkai, “Kenpō Kaisei ni kansuru Ronten Torimatome”, 20 December 2017, (accessed 28 December 2017).

11 See the Japanese and English versions of the LDP 2012 “Draft for the Amendment of the Constitution of Japan” on the website of the NGO “Voice” (accessed 29 December 2017).

Some 40 countries around the world (including Japan’s neighbour South Korea) allow permanent residents who are not citizens to vote in local elections, and New Zealand also allows permanent resident non-citizens to vote in national elections. In Japan, Korean and Taiwanese male colonial subjects who lived in Japan had voting rights until Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War. These rights were then rescinded, and any the descendants of these colonial subjects who have not acquired Japanese citizenship are still unable to vote, even though they may be 3rd or 4th generation residents in Japan. For this reason in particular, civil society groups have campaigned for local voting rights for permanent resident non-citizens, but this is vehemently opposed by many LDP politicians.

12 Judith Pryor, Constitutions: Writing Nations, Reading Difference, London: Birkbeck Law Press, 2008.

13 See “Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Constitution of 1972 with Amendments through 1998”.

14 Arthur Stockwin and Kweku Ampiah, Rethinking Japan: The Politics of Contested Nationalism, Lanham NJ: Lexington Books, 2017, p. 196.

15 This refers to areas inhabited by groups identified as descendants of so-called “outcaste” groups as defined by the social status systems of Japan before the Meiji Era.

16 A small number of Japanese municipalities have allowed non-citizen residents to vote in local referendums, and over 1,400 have passed resolutions urging that foreign permanent residents should have the right to vote in regular local elections. However, controversy surrounds the question of whether or not the postwar constitution allows non-Japanese nationals to vote in elections for local officials, and so far the normal local franchise remains restricted to people with Japanese nationality.

17 “Hakodate ni ‘Kenpō Kafe’, Raigetsu Kaikan – Kyōkai Isshitsu Riyō: Shimin Dantai ga Kikaku”, Asahi Shinbun, 30 July 2005, p. 30.

18 “Marūku Kenpō Shirou: Wakate Bengoshira Kōza – Ocha Tsuide Shitashinde”, Asahi Shinbun, 15 April 2014, p. 39.

19 “Kenpō – Giron no mae ni Shirou: Kafe Tegaru ni 1000-kai – Bengoshi no Kōshiyaku”, Mainichi Shinbun, 4 May 2017, p. 23.

All images in this article are from the author.

Southeast Asia Getting Killed by Logging and Mining

March 3rd, 2018 by Andre Vltchek

When an airplane is approaching Singapore Changi Airport, it makes the final approach either from the direction of Peninsular Malaysia, or from the Indonesian island of Batam.

Either way, the scope for natural disaster under the wings is of monumental proportions.

All the primary forest of the Malaysian state bordering Singapore –Johor – is now gone and the tremendous sprawl of scarred land, mostly covered by palm oil plantations, is expanding far towards the horizon. The predictable plantation grid pattern is only interrupted by motorways, contained human settlements, and by few, mostly palm oil-related industrial structures.

On the Indonesian side, the Island of Batam resembles a horror apocalyptic movie: there is always some thick smoke rising towards the sky, and there are clearly visible, badly planned and terribly constructed towns and villages. Water around the island is of a dubious, frightening color. The environmental destruction is absolute. Batam was supposed to be the Indonesian answer to Singapore. Indonesia was dreaming about a modern mega city with a super airport and port, dotted with factories, research centers and shopping facilities. But the turbo-capitalist country hoped that all this would be created by the private sector. That was of course, unrealistic. What followed was an absolute disaster.

As it is now, Batam is nothing more than a series of ‘Potemkin Villages’, complete with several potholed four-lane roads that lead nowhere. As for the research: there is hardly any science even in Jakarta or Bandung, let alone here. After several attempts to ‘save face’ and to cover up this massive failure, the island has been allowed to ‘sink’ back to where it had already been for several decades:a huge whorehouse for predominantly Singaporean and Malaysian sex tourists;a cheap shopping district selling mainly counterfeit goods, a place notorious for lacking even the most basic public services.

No heads were made to roll for this monumental and thoroughly stupid set of failures. The obedient business-owned media is hardly ever critical of the Indonesian regime and its business ‘elites’. But the impact of the ‘Batam experiment’ is enormous – there is no intact nature left on the entire island.


What goes on in the Southern Part of Southeast Asia?

Is nature of absolutely no concern to the Malaysian and especially Indonesian governments, business conglomerates and society?

The problem here is that everything above and below the ground has been, for years and decades, viewed as a source of potential profit. It is only valued if it can be exploited, if there can be a price tag attached to it. No sentimentality, no thoughts about beauty! Here, greed has already reached insane proportions.

Like in the West, big companies in several Southeast Asian countries are now running and selecting the governments. They are also controlling the mass media, infiltrating social networks. To criticize great logging and palm oil companies in Malaysia is lethal, literally suicidal, and almost no one dares to do it.In the past, some did, and died. The same can be said about ‘illegal’ gold mining, logging and other extraction ventures in Indonesia, where much of the unsavory mining and logging enterprises are in the hands of the police, military or of government officials (the interests of all three branches are also often intertwined).


Places like Borneo and Sumatra are finished; almost all of their legendary wildlife habitats are devastated. Hundreds of species are gone or almost extinct. The once mighty, primary forests are squeezed into a few national parks, and even those are often being used for commercial farming, and also for palm oil plantations.

It is not just an issue of ‘disappearing beauty’ and biodiversity. Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) used to be on par with Amazonia, functioning as the lungs of the Earth. It is the third largest island on our planet (and the largest one in Asia), and it is fully and some would now say irreversibly plundered. In Indonesia, deadly chemicals used on the palm oil plantations are killing tens of thousands of people with cancer, although you’d have to work deep in the villages to figure out the truth, as no reliable statistics exist and the issue is highly ‘sensitive’, as is everything that is horrible and sinister in this part of the world. Many rivers, including Kapuas, contain ridiculously high levels of mercury, the result of illegal but openly practiced gold mining.

To see some parts of Borneo from the air is like observing an enormous, nightmarish and rotting wreck of a ship: black scars, brown scars, and dark zigzagging open veins of what used to be, a long time ago, tremendous and proud, as well as pristine, waterways.

What has been done to Indonesian-controlled Papua by Indonesian companies and by Western multi-national mining conglomerates is indescribable. Apart from committing genocide against the local population, the entire half of this tremendous island, which used to be inhabited by hundreds of local tribes, is now being ‘exposed’, forced open, and literally raped. Of course, as an anti-Communist warrior and obedient pro-business client state, Indonesia is almost never criticized by the West.The genocides it has been committing since 1965 are either sponsored or at least supported from Washington, London and Canberra.

Malaysian and Indonesian logging and mining companies do not stop at committing crimes at home – they go far, to other Asian countries, but also deep into Oceania, places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG), where I witnessed on several occasions the full destruction of both nature and human cultures; a nightmare which I described in detail in my book Oceania.


I am relentlessly documenting what is happening to Southeast Asia in the books that I am writing (alone and with local authors), as well as in my upcoming films. I’m in the middle of producing a film about the fate of Borneo island, a place which is becoming dearer and dearer to me, the more devastated it gets.

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The more I witness and the more I document, the more hopeless I often feel. It is because there seems to be almost no place which is capable of resisting the onslaught.

I am writing this essay on board Malaysian Airlines flights. The first one took me from the city of Miri (a state of Sarawak in Borneo, Malaysia) to Kuala Lumpur, the second from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.

After filming on several occasions in the totally violated Indonesian Kalimantan, I hoped to see something optimistic in Malaysian Sarawak; something that could be used as an inspiration for the future of the incomparably poorer and much more corrupt Indonesian part of the island. This time I drove all around the city of Miri, and then I crossed the border and drove further into Brunei. I flew inside tiny propeller planes over the jungle, or what is still left of it. I took a narrow motorized makeshift canoe.

Yes, I saw few beautiful national parks and traditional longhouses. And I was surprised to find out that the filthy rich but politically and religiously oppressive sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, with its brutal and extreme implementation of Sharia Law, unbridled consumerism and worshipped oil industry, is actually doing incomparably better job than Indonesia and even Malaysia, at least environmentally. It is at least protecting its nature, including the rainforest. Brunei’s untouched, pristine native forest begins just a few miles from the coast,from its oil wells and refineries.

But when I rented a narrow shabby longboat, deep in the interior of Sarawak, I encountered total misery and devastation. The road was great, most likely constructed precisely for moving quickly and efficiently, both timber and palm oil fruit. Several schools and medical facilities looked modern. But most of the locals do not live near the roads – they dwell, traditionally, along the rivers. And there, the situation is totally different: people residing in poor, primitive shacks, children and adults swimming in desperately polluted waterways, while stumps of trees ‘decorating’ stinking, muddy shores.


Some would say that Southeast Asia is not alone. In many ways, the West already ‘rearranged’ its nature decades and centuries ago. In densely populated countries like Italy or Netherlands, very little of the original nature is left today. In the United States, the original meadows and pristine grasslands gave way to commercial fields; to agricultural mass production.

What shocks in Southeast Asia is not the fact that people want to make a living out of their land. It is the brutality of the systematic destruction of majestic mountains and hills, of mighty rivers, lakes, shores as well as the irreversibility of the changes that come with cutting down almost all native rainforest, replacing it with chemically-boosted palm oil and rubber plantations.

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Most of those who would be allowed to see those monstrous coal mines dotting Indonesian Borneo would be terrified. Endless sprawls of palm oil (and literally imprisoned villages, squeezed by it as in a straight jacket) could perhaps outrage even the most hardened pro-market fundamentalists, who would bother to visit from other parts of the world.

Or maybe not… The multi-national ‘mining horrors’ that are being described to me by my friends and colleagues,who are presently working in Peru, are somehow comparable. What I saw in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) shows the same spite that many Western companies and governments have for the local people.

What I find truly ‘unique’ in Southeast Asia, is the totality of destruction. The number of animal and bird species that are already gone, or are disappearing or have been simply hunted down, or the number of hopelessly polluted rivers; the forests and jungles that are stolen from the native inhabitants.

The speed is yet another shocking factor. It is all happening extremely fast. No wonder that Green Peace put Indonesia on the list of the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest destroyer of the tropical forests on Earth.

What is left of the Indonesian forests is being either logged out or is systematically burning. Thick smog travels, periodically, from Sumatra to Singapore and peninsula Malaysia, creating a health hazard, shutting down schools and tormenting people suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems.

But Indonesia is big, the fourth most populous country on Earth. It does what it wants, and it appears that it cannot be stopped. Or more precisely, its rulers and business elites are doing what they want. And, as long as it fits into the agenda of their Western handlers (and it usually does), the country is enjoying almost total impunity.

Of course, those who are suffering the most are the local people themselves, as well as countless defenseless species, be they animals, birds, fish, trees, or plants.

Soon, nothing original will be left here. Billions of dollars will be made by those very few rich, and the poor majority will be stuck with the coolie’s jobs. The plundering of the environment is creating dependency syndrome and very little advancement for the society. The money flows, but not where it is supposed to flow.

Like in the Gulf, almost nothing or very little is being invested into science, technology, the arts and creative sectors.

Ruined islands and peninsulas will keep producing ‘blood fruits’. Land owners, corrupt politicians, middlemen and traders will keep getting outrageously rich. But the great majority of people will have to get used to living with a polluted and totally unnatural environment. They’d be stuck, in fact most of them are already stuck, in some sort of depressing concentration camps surrounded by unnatural, hostile crops, and by the chemically-contaminated land.

All this will continue until who knows what terrifying and bitter end, unless, of course, the people of Southeast Asia will finally wake up, and instead of accepting this present turbo-capitalist model, begin to think and dream about the “Ecological Civilization” and other marvelous cutting-edge philosophies that are flowing out from China and other non-conformist parts of the world.


This article was originally published by New Eastern Outlook.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are his tribute to “The Great October Socialist Revolution” a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

All images in this article are from the author.

It’s all the rage at the moment, stirring the halls of power in certain countries, and satisfying some sense of puritanical virtue.  Bonking is off the cards for politicians – at least in certain contexts, and some states. 

In Australia, the issue of the Deputy Prime Minister’s relationship with an ex-staffer whilst married persists in gripping politics with what is now a deadening hand.  Not, however, for a certain Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

In the United States, political representatives rushed to a vote instituting a new regime that will regulate (read ban) sexual relations between politicians and staffers.  An office providing legal support to staffers claiming sexual harassment is also proposed.  Much of this is an emergency measure to cope with a slew of sexual misconduct claims that have scalped various politicians, including Rep.  John Conyers (D-Mich.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Rep Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) and Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.). 

For all that sermonising, much of it inspired by the legislative working of Rep. Barbara Comstock (R. Va.), that country knows all too well that such restrictions tend to not only fail but spawn something worse.  Human desire is often beyond the chamber vote or parliamentary diktat. 

The situation has become palpably absurd, a moral nonsense that has propelled leaderships into faux outrage.  Prime Minister Turnbull made no secret about who was behind the inspiration of the new ministerial code of conduct regarding sexual relations, a churchly anti-bonking directive. 

“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgment in having an affair with a young woman working in his office.”  He had “set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us.”  

He needed to take gardening leave, time needed to apologise, to seek forgiveness, to build a new home. 

The past, for Turnbull, was a dark country filled with moral error and fall.  In the modern world, it is unacceptable to engage in such conduct.

“Today in 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them.” 

The ministerial code covering such behaviour was “drafted a long time ago, and it gets amended from time to time, but the truth is, that it is deficient.” Nodding towards such social media driven phenomena as #MeToo, Turnbull purported to be a modern leader, claiming that the modern code “does not speak strongly enough to values that we all should live, values of respect, or respectful workplaces.  Of workplaces where women are respected.” 

What Turnbull has effectively done is assume the role of priest and policy maker, the moral guardian who is still worried about the sentiments of the electorate.  Is it for the prime minister to dictate how consenting adults engage in the workplace. Yet only a week ago, the prime minister was claiming the issue to be “a deeply personal matter relating to Barnaby Joyce and his family.” 

Joyce’s life has effectively been held up as a model not to emulate, his personal relations condemned as political poison.  The personal, in other words, had been brought to the fore, the workplace given a private gloss.  For political watchers, the message from the prime minister was clear: his deputy, despite being a member of another political party, had to go. 

Joyce was in no mood to accept Turnbull’s assessment.  The prime minister, Joyce thundered, was “inept”, “damaging” and even “unnecessary”.  Hurt, as a result of such comments, had been “reinvested”.  The “scab” had been pulled off. 

The Turnbull formula here has already drawn quizzical responses.  His decreed, despotic sex ban between ministers and staffers, and his attitude to Joyce, brought in a new “yardstick”, one not previously evident in Australia. According to Katharine Murphy of The Guardian, this was distinctly not Australia’s traditional “live and let live”, “she’ll be right mate” sort of politics. 

For Senator David Leyonhjelm, a self-professed libertarian, such bans ignored Australia’s social realities.  The word getting back to him was that his electors would tolerate some “casual bonking” in the workplace. 

It also drew arbitrary distinctions in workplace relations, effectively condemning other forms of intimate endeavour – the doctor and nurse, the teacher and student.  Even idiosyncratically, it signalled ministers as an exceptional class of celibate being – at least when it came to staff.  Other members of Parliament need not be quite so worried. 

Such codes of conduct are doomed to fail.  Even politically, Turnbull is now coming across as an interventionist, a dictator to his junior coalition partner.  The message from Joyce to Turnbull: stay out of National Party leadership discussions.  Besides, any protocol or body of regulations attempting to control conduct in the bedroom can never stem the call of the flesh.  Passion and desire will out, and in time, such executively driven approaches will be treated with deserved scorn.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

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