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Book review: Border politics serve up racism, human exploitation – Vancouver Sun

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B.C. activist/scholar Harsha Walia makes a convincing case in her bracing new book on our global, man-made crises

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Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

Harsha Walia | Fernwood Publishing (Halifax and Winnipeg, 2021)

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$27 | 320pp


Borders are far more than lines on paper.

As local organizer, activist and scholar, Harsh Walia demonstrates in her passionately felt, deeply researched and closely reasoned new book, Border and Rule, that borders can serve as lethally intricate mechanisms of imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism and class exploitation.

They work to divide workers and undermine international solidarity, while inscribing cartographies of privilege and oppression on the long-suffering face of the Earth.

And yet in mainstream discussions, borders are only questioned when heart-rending images of migrant children huddling miserably in U.S. border holding pens or drowned on the shores of the Mediterranean inspire brief and self-congratulatory spasms of outrage and pity among comfortable observers on the “right” side of the borders.

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Walia, who has spent much of her adult life doing the hard work of organizing solidarity activity and saving lives of those threatened with deportation back to the dangers they are fleeing, is understandably dismissive of such liberal responses. She points out that centuries of imperial conquest, colonial occupation and gendered, racist segmentation of the workforce have set the stage for the current global crisis, which saw over 80 millions of our sisters and brothers driven forcibly from their homes last year, according to the United Nations, while hundreds of millions more have been forced to migrate by climate disasters, poverty and famine. Such disasters are, Walia persuasively argues, not so much “natural” as created by economic and social relations (aka predatory and racialized capitalism and a world order designed to serve the needs of the rich over the needs of the rest of us).

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Walia’s analysis is dense and complex, and her language occasionally overburdened with abstraction. But even where her thought is difficult, it is always worth the time it takes to grasp.

This is a remarkable book that reflects a lifetime of activism and reflection on the author’s part — Walia has been in the news lately, resigning as executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association after a controversial social media post on arson committed at several Catholic churches. Still, this book is rich with learnings for us all.

Her core argument, that “a political and economic system that treats land as a commodity, Indigenous people as overburden, race as a principle of social organization, women’s caretaking as worthless, workers as exploitable, climate refugees as expendable and the entire planet as a sacrifice zone must be dismantled,” will challenge and inspire readers.

Highly recommended.

Tom Sandborn crossed a border to live in Vancouver in 1967. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net


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Canada's elections: How the climate crisis is reshaping politics – Open Democracy

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Singh’s NDP has one of the boldest climate policies of the major parties. The party platform includes reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stresses that it “will put workers front and centre of their climate action plan”, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Avi Lewis, the longtime documentary filmmaker and climate activist running as the NDP candidate for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country district, told openDemocracy that “there is no party on Earth that is currently addressing the climate movement in the way it needs to be”. For Lewis, the climate emergency isn’t just a climate emergency, “it’s also a housing emergency, transit emergency, inequality emergency”.

However, Lewis decided to run as an NDP nominee because he “sees a sense of urgency in the platform”. “All these emergencies are linked,” he says, “but so are the solutions.”

According to Maggie Chao, campaign director at Leadnow, an independent progressive campaigning organisation, the parties are “moving in the right direction” and recognise that “climate change is a pressing issue”. However, Chao insisted that “we’re nowhere on the scale and pace we need to be”.

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Obama endorsement of his 'friend' Trudeau might not prove helpful, politics professor say – National Post

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The endorsement from the past president might help with ‘buzz’ but it’s hard to say how many votes it will deliver: expert

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Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”

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Obama said in a Twitter post Thursday that he wishes his friend Trudeau “the best in Canada’s upcoming election,” and that he is “proud of the work we did together.”

The high-profile tweet comes as the Liberals remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Conservatives in the polls, just days away from the vote, on Monday.

The former Democratic president’s endorsement could help sway some progressive voters to cast their ballots for the Liberals instead of the NDP, given that Obama is a “progressive icon” who remains popular across Canada, said Daniel Béland, a professor of political science at McGill University.

“The NDP is a threat to the Liberals and the Liberals want the NDP to stay where it is or even decline in the polls, so they will want to frame this as a major endorsement that could sway progressives,” Béland said.

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But it’s unclear whether it will actually make a difference.

“Will this actually generate any significant shifts in the polls? You know, I’m a bit skeptical. I will have to look over the next few days,” he said, adding it “can’t hurt” the Liberal chances.

“I think it favours the Liberals, probably to the annoyance of the NDP,” said University of Ottawa professor Errol Mendes. To what extent depends on the amount of attention the endorsement gets in the news media, he said, adding “it will have an impact if it’s played up a lot.”

Obama, for many Canadians, is still a major world figure, Mendes noted.

Obama voiced his support for Trudeau in the 2019 election. The endorsement from the first Black president of the U.S. came at a critical time for Trudeau, who was facing a scandal after old photos of him in blackface and brownface emerged during the campaign. A campaign staffer told the National Post at the time that Obama’s tweet “recharged the base” after the embarrassment of the blackface photos, providing reassurance that Trudeau was “not a racist.”

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Because the context isn’t the same in 2021, and because we’re now further away from Obama’s presidency, the endorsement this time around may have less impact, said Béland.

It could also have a negative effect, according to Mendes. “On one level, it could backfire where people would say, we should not have a foreign person intervening in our election,” he said.

It could also have the side effect of boosting the People’s Party of Canada, the conservative party started by former MP Maxime Bernier. Obama is the “antithesis of what they believe in. They seem to be very much following the Trump type of politics,” Mendes said.

Melissa Haussman, a professor of political science at Carleton University, pointed out the endorsement can only reach individuals who haven’t yet voted. Elections Canada said Wednesday an estimated 5.8 million Canadians have already cast their ballot in advanced polling. That’s nearly a third of the total number of Canadians who voted in 2019.

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She said that Obama’s support is the “next best thing” to getting an endorsement from current U.S. president Joe Biden. “It’s sort of Biden by proxy,” given that Biden served as Obama’s vice-president, Haussman noted.

While she agreed the endorsement “absolutely” helps the Liberals with buzz and momentum, Haussman said it’s hard to say how many votes it will actually deliver.

Mendes pointed out the Obama tweet is part of a pattern for the former president, who has publicly mused about other countries where the progressive vote was divided, allowing right-wing parties to gain a footing.

“Because he has this global perspective, I think he’s probably seeing that is happening here in Canada, where if the progressive vote between the Liberals and the NDP is divided it will allow not only the Conservatives to come through, but potentially even increase the voting for Maxime Bernier’s party. So I think that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s intervened.”

The Obama endorsement comes the same week Trudeau held an event with former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole received an endorsement from former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

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China and France denounce U.S. nuclear sub pact with Britain and Australia.

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China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.

“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.

Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.

“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told parliament.

The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.

France accused Biden of stabbing them in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Le Drian told France-info radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

The three leaders stressed Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion systems for the vessels to guard against threats.

“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said.

Morrison said Australia would meet all its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

‘STRONG ROLE’

One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.

Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.

Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.

A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”.

U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.

“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”

Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from the workforce to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.

Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.

General Dynamics Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc

U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built.

A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.

“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects… We view this as a one-off.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Colin Packham in Canberra; Additional reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris and Gabriel Crossley and Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by Alistair Bell, Richard Pullin, Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)

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