Bitter 2021

‘Floating City XVIII’, 2020, by Addis Gezehagn from Ethiopia. – Consortium news

BITTERSWEET is the passing of this year. There have been immense victories and catastrophic defeats, the most terrible being the failure of countries in the north of the world to adopt a democratic stance in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and to create equitable access to key resources, medical equipment vital to vaccines. . Tragically, by the end of this pandemic, we will have learned the Greek alphabet from the variants named after its letters (delta, omicron), which continue to emerge.

Cuba leads the world with the highest vaccination rates, using its indigenous vaccines to protect its population as well as those of countries from Venezuela to Vietnam, following a long history of medical solidarity. The countries with the lowest vaccination rates – currently led by Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, South Sudan, Chad and Yemen – are among the poorest in the world, dependent on foreign aid for their resources are essentially stolen, as if acquired at shockingly low prices by multinational corporations. With 0.04% of Burundi’s 12 million inhabitants vaccinated on December 15, 2021, at its current vaccination rate, the country would only achieve 70% coverage by January 2111.

In May 2021, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said that “the world is in vaccine apartheid”. Not much has changed since. At the end of November, the African Union co-chair for vaccine delivery, Dr Ayoade Alakija, said of the emergence of Omicron in southern Africa: “What is happening right now is inevitable. It is the result of the world’s failure to immunize in a fair, urgent and timely manner. This is as a result of hoarding [vaccines] by the high income countries of the world, and frankly, this is unacceptable ”. In mid-December, Ghebreyesus appointed Alakija WHO Special Envoy for the Covid-19 Tool Access Accelerator. Her task is not easy and her goal will only be achieved if, as she says, “a life in Mumbai counts as much as in Brussels, if a life in São Paulo counts as much as a life in Geneva, and if a life in Harare matters as much as in Washington DC ‘.

Vaccine apartheid is part of a larger medical apartheid problem, one of the four apartheids of our time, the others being food apartheid, financial apartheid and educational apartheid. A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the population of undernourished people in Africa has increased by 89.1 million since 2014, reaching 281.6 million in 2020. It is worth the It is worth considering Dr Alakija’s question on humanity, on the value attributed to different human beings: can a life in Harare be valued as much as a life in Washington DC? Can we as a people overcome these apartheids and solve the basic problems facing the peoples of our planet and end the barbaric ways in which the current economic and political system tortures mankind and nature?

Such a question seems naive to those who have forgotten what it means to believe in something – if not in the very idea of ​​humanity, at least in the binding United Nations Charter (1945) and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations partly binding (1948). The Declaration calls on us as a people to commit to respecting the “inherent dignity” of each person, a standard that has collapsed in the years since heads of government signed the final text.

Despite these apartheids, several advances for humanity deserve to be highlighted:

The Chinese people have eradicated extreme poverty, and nearly 100 million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty in the past eight years. Our first study in the “Studies in Socialist Construction” series, titled Serve the People: The Eradication of Extreme Poverty in China, details how this remarkable feat was achieved.

Indian farmers fought courageously for the repeal of three laws that threatened to uberize their working conditions and, after a year of struggle, they prevailed. It is the most important union victory for many years. Our June feature, The Farmer Revolt in India, documented India’s struggle for land and farmer activism over the past decade.

Leftist governments came to power in Bolivia, Chile and Honduras, reversing a history of coups and regime change in those countries that spanned from 1973 (Chile) to 2009 (Honduras) to 2019 ( Bolivia). A year ago, our January dossier, Twilight, dealt with the erosion of American control over world affairs and the emergence of a multipolar world. The failure of the United States to achieve its objectives in these countries and to overthrow the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan revolutionary process through hybrid wars is a sign of great possibility for the peoples of the American hemisphere. Trends show that in 2022, Lula da Silva will defeat the right-wing candidate in Brazil, ending the atrocity of Jair Bolsonaro’s governance. Our May feature, The Challenges of the Brazilian Left, is a good place to read about the political dilemmas in Latin America’s largest country.

A rising wave of anger on the African continent over the growing military presence of the United States and France has been expressed in the town of Kaya, in western Burkina Faso. When a French military convoy rolled near the city in November, a crowd of protesters stopped it. At that time, the French launched a surveillance drone to monitor the crowd. Aliou Sawadogo (13 years old) shot down the drone with his slingshot, “a Burkinabé David against the French Goliath”, writes Jeune Afrique. Our July brief, Defending Our Sovereignty: US Military Bases in Africa and the Future of African Unity, was co-published with the Socialist Movement of Ghana’s Research Group and tracks the growth of the Western military presence on the continent.

We have seen strikes by social workers of all kinds across the world, from healthcare workers to domestic workers. These workers have been hit hard by the cruelty of neoliberalism and what we have called CoronaShock. But these workers refused to curl up, refused to give up their dignity. Our March brief, Uncovering the Crisis: Care Work in the Time of Coronavirus, maps the pressures on these workers and opens a window into their struggles.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive. These are just a few of the benchmarks for progress. Not all advances are clear. After twenty years, the United States was finally forced to withdraw from Afghanistan because it lost the war against the Taliban. None of America’s war goals appear to have been met, yet they continue to threaten the nation of nearly 39 million people with famine. The United States has blocked Afghanistan from accessing its $ 9.5 billion in foreign reserves that are in American banks, and it has blocked the Afghan government from taking its place in the United Nations system. Following the collapse of foreign aid, which accounted for 43% of Afghanistan’s GDP last year, the United Nations Development Program calculates that the country’s GDP will fall by 20% this year, then by 30% in subsequent years. Meanwhile, the UN report estimates that by 2022, the country’s per capita income could drop to almost half of 2012 levels. It is estimated that 97% of the Afghan population will fall below the threshold. poverty, with mass starvation a real possibility this winter. A life in the Wakhan Corridor is not as valuable as a life in London. The “inherent dignity” of the human being – as the United Nations Declaration says – is not respected.

It is not just an Afghan issue. The recently released World Inequality Report 2022 shows that the poorest half of the world’s population owned only 2% of total private property (business and financial assets, net of debt, real estate), while the richest 10% owned 76%. of total private property. Gender inequality shapes these numbers, as women received barely 35 percent of labor income compared to men who received 65 percent (a slight improvement over the 1990 figures, when the share of women was 31 percent). This inequality is another way of measuring the differential dignity accorded to people according to class and according to hierarchies of gender and nationality.

In 1959, the Iranian communist poet Siavash Kasra’i wrote one of his elegies, Arash-e Kamangir (“Arash the Archer”). Using the popular mythology of the ancient battle fought by the heroic archer Arash to liberate his country, Kasra’i portrays the anti-imperialist struggles of his time. But the poem does not only speak of struggles, because we also wonder about the possible:

I told you life is good.

Said and unspeakable, there is a lot here.

The clear sky;

The golden sun;

The flower gardens;

The plains without limits;

The flowers peeping through the snow;

The tender swing of fish dancing in a crystal of water;

The smell of dust swept by the rain on the mountainside;

The sleep of the wheat fields in the moonlight spring;

Come, go, run;

To like;

Lament over humanity;

And to revel arm in arm in the joys of the crowd., December 31. Vijay Prashad, Indian historian, journalist and commentator, is Executive Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and Editor-in-Chief of Left Word Books.

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