GBC - Gibraltar News - GBC TV and Radio Gibraltar
Gibraltar Port and Law Enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachmentof Royal Marines, boarded and detained a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria in the early hours of Thursday morning.
This followed information giving the Gibraltar Government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, the Grace 1, was acting in breach of European Union sanctions against Syria.
The operation took place overnight as the giant vessel sailed into Gibraltar waters.
The Government says it has reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria.The refinery is the property of an entity subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.
en arabe : ▻https://www.raialyoum.com/index.php/%d8%b3%d9%84%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%ac%d8%a8%d9%84-%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%b1%d9%8
où il est précisé que le navire est sous pavillon de Panama et que le pétrole serait iranien.
MarineTraffic le fait provenir de Khor Fakkan aux ÉAU (le 2/03/2019…) à destination du mouillage à Gibraltar (le 4/07/2019)
Dans un communiqué, le gouvernement de Gibraltar, territoire britannique situé à la pointe sud de l’Espagne, dit avoir de bonnes raisons de croire que les cuves du Grace 1 contiennent du pétrole destiné à la raffinerie syrienne de Banyas. Le gouvernement syrien est la cible de sanctions de l’Union européenne depuis mai 2011, date du début de la répression sanglante des manifestations pour la démocratie par le régime de Bachar el-Assad.
D’après l’outil de données cartographiques Refinitiv Eikon mapping, le Grace 1 a chargé du brut iranien le 17 avril dernier, ce qui constituerait une violation des sanctions américaines sur les exportations de pétrole iranien rétablies l’an dernier après la décision de Donald Trump de retirer les Etats-Unis de l’accord de 2015 sur le nucléaire iranien.
The incident triggered debate over the lawfulness of the tanker seizure and detention which will be tested in Gibraltar’s Supreme Court in coming days.
Local maritime and admiralty lawyers have been instructed for the Captain of the Port, financial secretary and the attorney general, Lloyd’s List understands, ahead of what is expected to be protracted legal debate.
The acting foreign minister of Spain — which claims the waters as its own and does not recognise British sovereignty — said Britain acted at the behest of the US and the country was assessing the detention’s legal implications.
The US has not shown the same vigilance for Iran-China crude flows, which have been taking place without action. Iranian- and Chinese-owned or controlled ships have been loading cargoes since the May 1 ending of waivers allowing some countries limited imports. About five cargoes have been discharged in Syria.
Lloyd’s List understands that the owner of the very large crude carrier is Russian Titan Shipping, a subsidiary of Dubai-based oil and energy shipping company TNC Gulf, which has clear Iranian links.
While Grace 1 has a complex ownership chain that is not unusual for many internationally trading vessels, its executives listed on LinkedIn have Iranian university and technical qualifications, or list their names in Farsi, the Iranian language.
The ship’s current class and insurance is unknown according to databases. Lloyd’s Register withdrew class in January, 2019, as did former P&I insurers Swedish Club, at the same time as the vessel arrived to spend a month at the Bandar-e Taheri single buoy mooring area in Iranian waters, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.
The ship’s opaque ownership and operating chain is complicated further by company websites linked to the tanker not operating. The European Commission-operated Equasis website lists the shipmanager as Singapore-based Iships Management. However, the website is under construction and its telephone number is not in service. Websites for Russian Titan Shipping and TNC Gulf are also not working. LinkedIn lists Captain Asadpour as the executive managing director, saying he has also been president of the Georgia-based Russian Shipping Lines for 11 years.
View from Nowhere. Is it the press’s job to create a community that transcends borders?
A few years ago, on a plane somewhere between Singapore and Dubai, I read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983). I was traveling to report on the global market for passports—how the ultrawealthy can legally buy citizenship or residence virtually anywhere they like, even as 10 million stateless people languish, unrecognized by any country. In the process, I was trying to wrap my head around why national identity meant so much to so many, yet so little to my passport-peddling sources. Their world was the very image of Steve Bannon’s globalist nightmare: where you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports.
Anderson didn’t address the sale of citizenship, which only took off in earnest in the past decade; he did argue that nations, nationalism, and nationality are about as organic as Cheez Whiz. The idea of a nation, he writes, is a capitalist chimera. It is a collective sense of identity processed, shelf-stabilized, and packaged before being disseminated, for a considerable profit, to a mass audience in the form of printed books, news, and stories. He calls this “print-capitalism.”
Per Anderson, after the printing press was invented, nearly 600 years ago, enterprising booksellers began publishing the Bible in local vernacular languages (as opposed to the elitist Latin), “set[ting] the stage for the modern nation” by allowing ordinary citizens to participate in the same conversations as the upper classes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the proliferation (and popularity) of daily newspapers further collapsed time and space, creating an “extraordinary mass ceremony” of reading the same things at the same moment.
“An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000–odd fellow Americans,” Anderson wrote. “He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time.” But with the knowledge that others are reading the same news, “he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”
Should the press be playing a role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together?
Of course, national presses enabled more explicit efforts by the state itself to shape identity. After the US entered World War I, for instance, President Woodrow Wilson set out to make Americans more patriotic through his US Committee on Public Information. Its efforts included roping influential mainstream journalists into advocating American-style democracy by presenting US involvement in the war in a positive light, or simply by referring to Germans as “Huns.” The committee also monitored papers produced by minorities to make sure they supported the war effort not as Indians, Italians, or Greeks, but as Americans. Five Irish-American papers were banned, and the German-American press, reacting to negative stereotypes, encouraged readers to buy US bonds to support the war effort.
The US media played an analogous role in selling the public on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But ever since then, in the digital economy, its influence on the national consciousness has waned. Imagined Communities was published seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty-two years before Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and a couple of decades before the internet upended print-capitalism as the world knew it (one of Anderson’s footnotes is telling, if quaint: “We still have no giant multinationals in the world of publishing”).
Since Trump—a self-described nationalist—became a real contender for the US presidency, many news organizations have taken to looking inward: consider the running obsession with the president’s tweets, for instance, or the nonstop White House palace intrigue (which the president invites readily).
Meanwhile, the unprofitability of local and regional papers has contributed to the erosion of civics, which, down the line, makes it easier for billionaires to opt out of old “imagined communities” and join new ones based on class and wealth, not citizenship. And given the challenges humanity faces—climate change, mass migration, corporate hegemony, and our relationships to new technologies—even if national papers did make everyone feel like they shared the same narrative, a renewed sense of national pride would prove impotent in fighting world-historic threats that know no borders.
Should the press, then, be playing an analogous role in shaping not national identities, but transnational ones—a sense that we’re all in it together? If it was so important in shaping national identity, can it do so on a global scale?
Like my passport-buying subjects, I am what Theresa May, the former British prime minister, might call a “citizen of nowhere.” I was born in one place to parents from another, grew up in a third, and have lived and traveled all over. That informs my perspective: I want deeply for there to be a truly cosmopolitan press corps, untethered from national allegiances, regional biases, class divisions, and the remnants of colonial exploitation. I know that’s utopian; the international working class is hardly a lucrative demographic against which publishers can sell ads. But we seem to be living in a time of considerable upheaval and opportunity. Just as the decline of religiously and imperially organized societies paved the way for national alternatives, then perhaps today there is a chance to transcend countries’ boundaries, too.
Does the US media help create a sense of national identity? If nationalism means putting the interests of one nation—and what its citizens are interested in—before more universal concerns, then yes. Most journalists working for American papers, websites, and TV write in English with a national audience (or regional time zone) in mind, which affects how we pitch, source, frame, and illustrate a story—which, in turn, influences our readers, their country’s politics, and, down the line, the world. But a news peg isn’t an ideological form of nationalism so much as a practical or methodological one. The US press feeds off of more pernicious nationalisms, too: Donald Trump’s false theory about Barack Obama being “secretly” Kenyan, disseminated by the likes of Fox and The Daily Caller, comes to mind.
That isn’t to say that global news outlets don’t exist in the US. When coaxing subscribers, the Financial Times, whose front page often includes references to a dozen different countries, openly appeals to their cosmopolitanism. “Be a global citizen. Become an FT Subscriber,” read a recent banner ad, alongside a collage featuring the American, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, and European Union flags (though stories like the recent “beginner’s guide to buying a private island” might tell us something about what kind of global citizen they’re appealing to).
“I don’t think we try to shape anyone’s identity at all,” Gillian Tett, the paper’s managing editor for the US, says. “We recognize two things: that the world is more interconnected today than it’s ever been, and that these connections are complex and quite opaque. We think it’s critical to try to illuminate them.”
For Tett, who has a PhD in social anthropology, money serves as a “neutral, technocratic” starting point through which to understand—and tie together—the world. “Most newspapers today tend to start with an interest in politics or events, and that inevitably leads you to succumb to tribalism, however hard you try [not to],” Tett explains. “If you look at the world through money—how is money going around the world, who’s making and losing it and why?—out of that you lead to political, cultural, foreign-policy stories.”
Tett’s comments again brought to mind Imagined Communities: Anderson notes that, in 18th-century Caracas, newspapers “began essentially as appendages of the market,” providing commercial news about ships coming in, commodity prices, and colonial appointments, as well as a proto–Vows section for the upper crust to hate-read in their carriages. “The newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific assemblage of fellow-readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices belonged,” he wrote. “In time, of course, it was only to be expected that political elements would enter in.”
Yesterday’s aristocracy is today’s passport-buying, globe-trotting one percent. The passport brokers I got to know also pitched clients with the very same promise of “global citizenship” (it sounds less louche than “buy a new passport”)—by taking out ads in the Financial Times. Theirs is exactly the kind of neoliberal “globalism” that nationalist politicians like Trump have won elections denouncing (often hypocritically) as wanting “the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much.” Isn’t upper-crust glibness about borders, boundaries, and the value of national citizenship part of what helped give us this reactionary nativism in the first place?
“I suspect what’s been going on with Brexit and maybe Trump and other populist movements [is that] people. . . see ‘global’ as a threat to local communities and businesses rather than something to be welcomed,” Tett says. “But if you’re an FT reader, you see it as benign or descriptive.”
Among the largest news organizations in the world is Reuters, with more than 3,000 journalists and photographers in 120 countries. It is part of Thomson Reuters, a truly global firm. Reuters does not take its mandate lightly: a friend who works there recently sent me a job posting for an editor in Gdynia, which, Google clarified for me, is a city in the Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland.
Reuters journalists cover everything from club sports to international tax evasion. They’re outsourcing quick hits about corporate earnings to Bangalore, assembling teams on multiple continents to tackle a big investigation, shedding or shuffling staff under corporate reorganizations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “more than half our business is serving financial customers,” Stephen Adler, the editor in chief, tells me. “That has little to do with what country you’re from. It’s about information: a central-bank action in Europe or Japan may be just as important as everything else.”
Institutionally, “it’s really important and useful that we don’t have one national HQ,” Adler adds. “That’s the difference between a global news organization and one with a foreign desk. For us, nothing is foreign.” That approach won Reuters this year’s international Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the mass murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar (two of the reporters were imprisoned as a result, and since freed); it also comes through especially sharply in daily financial stories: comprehensive, if dry, compendiums of who-what-where-when-why that recognize the global impact of national stories, and vice versa. A recent roundup of stock movements included references to the US Fed, China trade talks, Brexit, monetary policy around the world, and the price of gold.
Adler has led the newsroom since 2011, and a lot has changed in the world. (I worked at Reuters between 2011 and 2013, first as Adler’s researcher and later as a reporter; Adler is the chair of CJR’s board.) Shortly after Trump’s election, Adler wrote a memo affirming the organization’s commitment to being fair, honest, and resourceful. He now feels more strongly than ever about judiciously avoiding biases—including national ones. “Our ideology and discipline around putting personal feelings and nationality aside has been really helpful, because when you think about how powerful local feelings are—revolutions, the Arab Spring—we want you writing objectively and dispassionately.”
The delivery of stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter.
Whether global stories can push communities to develop transnationally in a meaningful way is a harder question to answer; it seems to impugn our collective aptitude for reacting to problems of a global nature in a rational way. Reuters’s decision not to fetishize Trump hasn’t led to a drop-off in US coverage—its reporters have been especially strong on immigration and trade policy, not to mention the effects of the new administration on the global economy—but its stories aren’t exactly clickbait, which means ordinary Americans might not encounter them at the top of their feed. In other words, having a global perspective doesn’t necessarily translate to more eyeballs.
What’s more, Reuters doesn’t solve the audience-class problem: whether readers are getting dispatches in partner newspapers like The New York Times or through the organization’s Eikon terminal, they tend to be the sort of person “who does transnational business, travels a good deal, is connected through work and media, has friends in different places, cares about what’s going on in different places,” Adler says. “That’s a pretty large cohort of people who have reason to care what’s going on in other places.”
There are ways to unite readers without centering coverage on money or the markets. For a generation of readers around the world, the common ground is technology: the internet. “We didn’t pick our audience,” Ben Smith, the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, tells me over the phone. “Our audience picked us.” He defines his readers as a cohort aged 18–35 “who are on the internet and who broadly care about human rights, global politics, and feminism and gay rights in particular.”
To serve them, BuzzFeed recently published a damning investigative report into the World Wildlife Fund’s arming of militias in natural reserves; a (not uncontroversial) series on Trump’s business dealings abroad; early exposés of China’s detention of Uighur citizens; and reports on child abuse in Australia. Climate—“the central challenge for every newsroom in the world”—has been harder to pin down. “We don’t feel anyone has cracked it. But the shift from abstract scientific [stories] to coverage of fires in California, it’s a huge change—it makes it more concrete,” Smith says. (My husband is a reporter for BuzzFeed.)
The delivery of these stories in a casual, illustrated, highly readable form is in some ways more crucial to developing an audience than subject matter. “The global political financial elites have had a common language ever since it was French,” Smith says. “There is now a universal language of internet culture, [and] that. . . is how our stuff translates so well between cultures and audiences.” This isn’t a form of digital Esperanto, Smith insists; the point isn’t to flatten the differences between countries or regions so much as to serve as a “container” in which people from different regions, interest groups, and cultures can consume media through references they all understand.
BuzzFeed might not be setting out to shape its readers’ identities (I certainly can’t claim to feel a special bond with other people who found out they were Phoebes from the quiz “Your Sushi Order Will Reveal Which ‘Friends’ Character You’re Most Like”). An audience defined by its youth and its media consumption habits can be difficult to keep up with: platforms come and go, and young people don’t stay young forever. But if Anderson’s thesis still carries water, there must be something to speaking this language across cultures, space, and time. Call it “Web vernacular.”
In 2013, during one of the many recent and lengthy US government shutdowns, Joshua Keating, a journalist at Slate, began a series, “If It Happened There,” that imagined how the American media would view the shutdown if it were occurring in another country. “The typical signs of state failure aren’t evident on the streets of this sleepy capital city,” Keating opens. “Beret-wearing colonels have not yet taken to the airwaves to declare martial law. . . .But the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink.”
It goes on; you get the idea. Keating’s series, which was inspired by his having to read “many, many headlines from around the world” while working at Foreign Policy, is a clever journalistic illustration of what sociologists call “methodological nationalism”: the bias that gets inadvertently baked into work and words. In the Middle East, it’s sectarian or ethnic strife; in the Midwest, it’s a trigger-happy cop and a kid in a hoodie.
His send-ups hit a nerve. “It was huge—it was by far the most popular thing I’ve done at Slate,” Keating says. “I don’t think that it was a shocking realization to anyone that this kind of language can be a problem, but sometimes pointing it out can be helpful. If the series did anything, it made people stop and be conscious of how. . . our inherent biases and perspectives will inform how we cover the world.”
Curiously, living under an openly nationalist administration has changed the way America—or at the very least, a significant part of the American press corps—sees itself. The press is a de facto opposition party, not because it tries to be, but because the administration paints it that way. And that gives reporters the experience of working in a place much more hostile than the US without setting foot outside the country.
Keating has “semi-retired” the series as a result of the broad awareness among American reporters that it is, in fact, happening here. “It didn’t feel too novel to say [Trump was] acting like a foreign dictator,” he says. “That was what the real news coverage was doing.”
Keating, who traveled to Somaliland, Kurdistan, and Abkhazia to report his book Invisible Countries (2018), still thinks the fastest and most effective way to form an international perspective is to live abroad. At the same time, not being bound to a strong national identity “can make it hard to understand particular concerns of the people you’re writing about,” he says. It might be obvious, but there is no one perfect way to be internationally minded.
Alan Rusbridger—the former editor of The Guardian who oversaw the paper’s Edward Snowden coverage and is now the principal at Lady Margaret Hall, a college at Oxford University—recognizes the journalistic and even moral merits of approaching news in a non-national way: “I think of journalism as a public service, and I do think there’s a link between journalism at its best and the betterment of individual lives and societies,” he says. But he doesn’t have an easy formula for how to do that, because truly cosmopolitan journalism requires both top-down editorial philosophies—not using certain phrasings or framings that position foreigners as “others”—and bottom-up efforts by individual writers to read widely and be continuously aware of how their work might be read by people thousands of miles away.
Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network, but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases.
Rusbridger sees potential in collaborations across newsrooms, countries, and continents. Yes, the starting point is a nationally defined press, not a decentralized network; but working jointly helps pool scarce resources and challenge national or local biases. It also wields power. “One of the reasons we reported Snowden with the Times in New York was to use global protections of human rights and free speech and be able to appeal to a global audience of readers and lawyers,” Rusbridger recalls. “We thought, ‘We’re pretty sure nation-states will come at us over this, and the only way to do it is harness ourselves to the US First Amendment not available to us anywhere else.’”
In employing these tactics, the press positions itself in opposition to the nation-state. The same strategy could be seen behind the rollout of the Panama and Paradise Papers (not to mention the aggressive tax dodging detailed therein). “I think journalists and activists and citizens on the progressive wing of politics are thinking creatively about how global forces can work to their advantage,” Rusbridger says.
But he thinks it all starts locally, with correspondents who have fluency in the language, culture, and politics of the places they cover, people who are members of the communities they write about. That isn’t a traditional foreign-correspondent experience (nor indeed that of UN employees, NGO workers, or other expats). The silver lining of publishing companies’ shrinking budgets might be that cost cutting pushes newsrooms to draw from local talent, rather than send established writers around. What you gain—a cosmopolitanism that works from the bottom up—can help dispel accusations of media elitism. That’s the first step to creating new imagined communities.
Anderson’s work has inspired many an academic, but media executives? Not so much. Rob Wijnberg is an exception: he founded the (now beleaguered) Correspondent in the Netherlands in 2013 with Anderson’s ideas in mind. In fact, when we speak, he brings the name up unprompted.
“You have to transcend this notion that you can understand the world through the national point of view,” he says. “The question is, What replacement do we have for it? Simply saying we have to transcend borders or have an international view isn’t enough, because you have to replace the imagined community you’re leaving behind with another one.”
For Wijnberg, who was a philosophy student before he became a journalist, this meant radically reinventing the very structures of the news business: avoiding covering “current events” just because they happened, and thinking instead of what we might call eventful currents—the political, social, and economic developments that affect us all. It meant decoupling reporting from national news cycles, and getting readers to become paying “members” instead of relying on advertisements.
This, he hoped, would help create a readership not based on wealth, class, nationality, or location, but on borderless, universal concerns. “We try to see our members. . . as part of a group or knowledge community, where the thing they share is the knowledge they have about a specific structural subject matter,” be it climate, inequality, or migration, Wijnberg says. “I think democracy and politics answers more to media than the other way around, so if you change the way media covers the world you change a lot.”
That approach worked well in the Netherlands: his team raised 1.7 million euros in 2013, and grew to include 60,000 members. A few years later, Wijnberg and his colleagues decided to expand into the US, and with the help of NYU’s Jay Rosen, an early supporter, they made it onto Trevor Noah’s Daily Show to pitch their idea.
The Correspondent raised more than $2.5 million from nearly 50,000 members—a great success, by any measure. But in March, things started to get hairy, with the publication abruptly pulling the plug on opening a US newsroom and announcing that staff would edit stories reported from the US from the original Amsterdam office instead. Many of the reasons behind this are mundane: visas, high rent, relocation costs. And reporters would still be reporting from, and on, the States. But supporters felt blindsided, calling the operation a scam.
Today, Wijnberg reflects that he should have controlled the messaging better, and not promised to hire and operate from New York until he was certain that he could. He also wonders why it matters.
“It’s not saying people who think it matters are wrong,” he explains. “But if the whole idea of this kind of geography and why it’s there is a construct, and you’re trying to think about transcending it, the very notion of Where are you based? is secondary. The whole point is not to be based anywhere.”
Still: “The view from everywhere—the natural opposite—is just as real,” Wijnberg concedes. “You can’t be everywhere. You have to be somewhere.”
And that’s the rub: for all of nationalism’s ills, it does instill in its subjects what Anderson calls a “deep, horizontal comradeship” that, while imagined, blossoms thanks to a confluence of forces. It can’t be replicated supranationally overnight. The challenge for a cosmopolitan journalism, then, is to dream up new forms of belonging that look forward, not backward—without discarding the imagined communities we have.
That’s hard; so hard that it more frequently provokes a retrenchment, not an expansion, of solidarity. But it’s not impossible. And our collective futures almost certainly depend on it.
Will California’s New Bot Law Strengthen Democracy ? | The New Yorker
Une loi très intéressante en Californie qui va entrer en vigueur aujourd’hui. On va voir comment cela se passe pour la déclaration du caractère robotique d’un compte Twitter ou Facebook...
California is the first state to try to reduce the power of bots by requiring that they reveal their “artificial identity” when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter.Photograph by Emma Innocenti / Getty
When you ask experts how bots influence politics—that is, what specifically these bits of computer code that purport to be human can accomplish during an election—they will give you a list: bots can smear the opposition through personal attacks; they can exaggerate voters’ fears and anger by repeating short simple slogans; they can overstate popularity; they can derail conversations and draw attention to symbolic and ultimately meaningless ideas; they can spread false narratives. In other words, they are an especially useful tool, considering how politics is played today.
On July 1st, California became the first state in the nation to try to reduce the power of bots by requiring that they reveal their “artificial identity” when they are used to sell a product or influence a voter. Violators could face fines under state statutes related to unfair competition. Just as pharmaceutical companies must disclose that the happy people who say a new drug has miraculously improved their lives are paid actors, bots in California—or rather, the people who deploy them—will have to level with their audience.
We are in new terrain, where the microtargeting of audiences on social networks, the perception of false news stories as genuine, and the bot-led amplification of some voices and drowning-out of others have combined to create angry, ill-informed online communities that are suspicious of one another and of the government.
Regulating bots should be low-hanging fruit when it comes to improving the Internet. The California law doesn’t even ban them outright but, rather, insists that they identify themselves in a manner that is “clear, conspicuous, and reasonably designed.”
The point where economic self-interest stops and libertarian ideology begins can be hard to identify. Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, appealed to personal freedom to defend his platform’s decision to allow the microtargeting of false, incendiary information. “I do not think we want to go so far towards saying that a private company prevents you from saying something that it thinks is factually incorrect,” he said. “That to me just feels like it’s too far and goes away from the tradition of free expression.”
In the 2016 Presidential campaign, bots were created to support both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but pro-Trump bots outnumbered pro-Clinton ones five to one, by one estimate, and many were dispatched by Russian intermediaries. Twitter told a Senate committee that, in the run-up to the 2016 election, fifty thousand bots that it concluded had Russian ties retweeted Trump’s tweets nearly half a million times, which represented 4.25 per cent of all his retweets, roughly ten times the level of Russian bot retweets supporting Clinton.
Bots also gave Trump victories in quick online polls asking who had won a Presidential debate; they disrupted discussions of Trump’s misdeeds or crude statements; and they relentlessly pushed dubious policy proposals through hashtags like #draintheswamp.
They have also aided Trump during his Presidency. Suspected bots created by unidentified users drove an estimated forty to sixty per cent of the Twitter discussion of a “caravan” of Central American migrants headed to the U.S., which was pushed by the President and his supporters prior to the 2018 midterm elections. Trump himself has retweeted accounts that praise him and his Presidency, and which appear to be bots. And last week a suspected bot network was discovered to be smearing Senator Kamala Harris, of California, with a form of “birtherism” after her strong showing in the first round of Democratic-primary debates.
Hertzberg, the state senator who authored the legislation, told me that he was glad that the changes to the bill before passage were related to the implementation of the law, rather than to its central purpose of requiring that bots reveal themselves to the public when used politically or commercially. A lawyer by training, Hertzberg said that he resented the accusation that he didn’t care about First Amendment concerns. “There is no effort in this bill to have a chilling effect on speech—zero,” he said. “The argument you go back to is, Do bots have free speech? People have free speech. Bots are not people.”
Amnesty International Condemns U.S. Attacks on Border Journalists and Human Rights Defenders
The shape of the Trump administration’s approach to policing immigration is at this point familiar. Since January 2017, federal agents and officers have been under orders to enforce a harsh interpretation of immigration laws without restraint. The result has most infamously manifested in the forced separation of immigrant parents from their children and, more recently, a series of horrific reports detailing conditions in border-area detention centers. Though undocumented people have always (...)
Iran Isn’t Trying to Build a Bomb Tomorrow. It Wants Sanctions Relief. – Foreign Policy
Iran’s decision to surpass uranium enrichment limits isn’t a dangerous provocation. It’s a calculated effort to get European leaders to reinforce the nuclear deal and halt the drift toward war.
By Gérard Araud, Ali Vaez | July 2, 2019,
On Monday, for the first time since the nuclear deal with Iran went into effect on Jan. 16, 2016, Iran has deliberately violated its terms by producing more low-enriched uranium than the agreement permits. The threshold of 300 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride—corresponding to 202.8 kilograms of enriched uranium—was designed to keep Iran at a comfortable distance from nearly 1,500 kilograms of 3.67 percent enriched uranium that would be needed for a single nuclear weapon if the uranium were to be further enriched to 90 percent.
Trump claimed that withdrawal would lead to a better deal—it has not, and chances of that are diminishing if they ever were realistic.It has been a long time coming. A little over a year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear agreement that bound Iran to carefully crafted restrictions on its nuclear program and intrusive inspections of its nuclear sites. He claimed that the Iranians were cheating—they were not, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has consistently reported. He claimed that this action would lead to a better deal—it has not, and chances of that are diminishing if they ever were realistic.
Must we decolonise #Open_Access? Perspectives from Francophone Africa
A long read featuring the recent work of Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou and Florence Piron, on how a truly open and inclusive ‘Open Access’ movement must include those at the periphery
I recently watched the recording of the fantastic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion session at OpenCon, and I was struck by the general theme of how ‘openness’ isn’t necessarily the force for equality that we perhaps think it is, and how issues of power, exploitation, and hierarchy means that it should be understood differently according to the context in which it is applied. In the session, Denisse Albornoz used the expression of ‘situated openness’ to describe how our Northern conception of openness should not be forced on anyone or any group – it needs to be understood first in individual contexts of historical injustices and post-colonial power structures.
What stood out for me most in this session, however, (because it related most to my work) was Cameroonian Thomas Mboa’s presentation, which talked about the ‘neo-colonial face of open access’. The presentation employed some very striking critical terms such as ‘cognitive injustice’ and ‘epistemic alienation’ to Open Access.
I’ve always known that the Open Access movement was far from perfect, but at least it’s moving global science publishing in the right direction, right? Can working towards free access and sharing of research really be ‘neo-colonial’ and lead to ‘alienation’ for users of research in the Global South? And if this really is the case, how can we ‘decolonise’ open access?
Thomas didn’t get much time to expand on some of the themes he presented, so I got in contact to see if he had covered these ideas elsewhere, and fortunately he has, through his participation in ‘Projet SOHA’ . This is a research-action project that’s been working on open science, empowerment and cognitive justice in French-speaking Africa and Haiti from 2015-17. He provided me with links to four publications written in French by himself and his colleagues from the project – Florence Piron (Université Laval, Quebec, Canada), Antonin Benoît Diouf (Senegal), and Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba (Cameroon), and many others.
These articles are a goldmine of provocative ideas and perspectives on Open Access from the Global South, which should challenge all of us in the English-speaking academic publishing community. Therefore, I decided to share some excerpts and extended quotes from these articles below, in amongst some general comments from my (admittedly limited) experience of working with researchers in the Global South.
The quotes are taken from the following book and articles, which I recommend reading in full (these are easily translatable using the free tool Google Translate Web, which correctly translated around 95% of the text).
Chapter 2 – ‘Les injustices cognitives en Afrique subsaharienne : réflexions sur les causes et les moyens de lutte’ – Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou (2016), in Piron, Dibounje Madiba et Regulus 2016 (below)
Justice cognitive, libre accès et savoirs locaux – Collective book edited by Florence Piron, Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba and Samuel Regulus (2016) (CC-BY) ▻https://scienceetbiencommun.pressbooks.pub/justicecognitive1
Qui sait ? Le libre accès en Afrique et en Haïti – Florence Piron (2017) (CC-BY) (Soon to be published in English in Forthcoming Open Divide. Critical Studies of Open Access (Herb & Schöpfel ed), Litwinbooks
Le libre accès vu d’Afrique francophone subsaharienne – Florence Piron, Antonin Benoît Diouf, Marie Sophie Dibounje Madiba, Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou, Zoé Aubierge Ouangré, Djossè Roméo Tessy, Hamissou Rhissa Achaffert, Anderson Pierre and Zakari Lire (2017) (CC-BY-NC-SA)
Une autre science est possible. Récit d’une utopie concrète dans la Francophonie (le projet SOHA) – Revue Possibles, 2016 (CC-BY)
Piron et al’s (2017) article starts with a stinging critique of those of us in our Northern scholarly publishing community cliques, and our never-ending open access debates over technicalities:
“… there are many debates in this community, including on the place of open licenses in open access (is an article really in open access if it is not freely reusable in addition to being freely accessible?), on the legitimacy of the fees charged to authors by certain journals choosing open access, on the quality and evaluation of open access journals, on the very format of the journal as the main vehicle for the dissemination of scientific articles or on the type of documents to be included in institutional or thematic open archives (only peer-reviewed articles or any document related to scientific work?).
Viewed from Sub-Saharan Francophone Africa, these debates may seem very strange, if not incomprehensible. Above all, they appear very localized: they are debates of rich countries, of countries of the North, where basic questions such as the regular payment of a reasonable salary to academics, the existence of public funding for research, access to the web, electricity, well-stocked libraries and comfortable and safe workplaces have long been settled.” Piron et al. (2017)
… and their critique gets more and more scathing from here for the Open Access movement. OA advocates – tighten your seatbelts – you are not going to find this a comfortable ride.
“… a conception of open access that is limited to the legal and technical questions of the accessibility of science without thinking about the relationship between center and periphery can become a source of epistemic alienation and neocolonialism in the South”. Piron et al. (2017)
“Is open access the solution to the documented shortcomings of these African universities and, in doing so, a crucial means of getting scientific research off the ground? I would like to show that this is not the case, and to suggest that open access can instead become a neo-colonial tool by reinforcing the cognitive injustices that prevent African researchers from fully deploying their research capacities in the service of the community and sustainable local development of their country.” Piron (2017)
Ouch. To understand these concepts of ‘cognitive injustice’ and ‘epistemic alienation’, it helps to understand this ‘world system’ and the power relationship between the centre and the periphery. This is based on Wallerstein’s (1996) model, which Thomas featured in his OpenCon slides:
“… a world-system whose market unit is the scientific publication circulating between many instances of high economic value, including universities, research centers, science policies, journals and an oligopoly of for-profit scientific publishers (Larivière, Haustein, and Mongeon, 2015).” Piron et al. (2017)
“… we believe that science, far from being universal, has been historically globalized. Inspiring us, like Keim (2010) and a few others (Polanco, 1990), from Wallerstein’s (1996) theory, we consider that it constitutes a world-system whose market unit is the scientific publication. Produced mainly in the North, this merchandise obeys standards and practices that are defined by the ‘center’ of the system, namely the main commercial scientific publishers (Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon, 2015), and their university partners are the US and British universities dominating the so-called world rankings. The semi-periphery is constituted by all the other countries of the North or emerging from the South which revolve around this center, adopting the English language in science and conforming to the model LMD (license, master, doctorate) imposed since the Bologna process to all the universities of the world with the aim of “normalizing” and standardizing the functioning of this world-system. The periphery then refers to all the countries that are excluded from this system, which produce no or very few scientific publications or whose research work is invisible, but to whom the LMD model has also been imposed (Charlier, Croché, & Ndoye 2009, Hountondji 2001)”. Piron et al. (2017)
So, the continuing bias and global focus towards the powerful ‘center’ of the world-system leads to the epistemic alienation of those on the periphery, manifesting in a ‘spiritual colonisation’:
“… this attitude that drives us to want to think about local problems with Western perspective is a colonial legacy to which many African citizens hang like a ball.” Mboa (2016).
So where does Open Access fit in with this world-system?
“… if open access is to facilitate and accelerate the access of scientists from the South to Northern science without looking into the visibility of knowledge of the South, it helps to redouble their alienation epistemic without contributing to their emancipation. Indeed, by making the work of the center of the world-system of science even more accessible, open access maximizes their impact on the periphery and reinforces their use as a theoretical reference or as a normative model, to the detriment of local epistemologies.” Piron et al. (2017)
Rethinking Northern perspectives
This should be an eye-opening analysis for those of us who assumed that access to research knowledge in the North could only be a good thing for the South. Perhaps we need to examine the arrogance behind our narrow worldview, and consider more deeply the power at the heart of such a one-way knowledge exchange. Many of us might find this difficult, as:
“The idea that open access may have the effects of neocolonialism is incomprehensible to people blind to epistemological diversity, who reduce the proclaimed universalism of Western science to the impoverished model of the standards imposed by the Web of Science model. For these people, the invisibility of a publication in their numerical reference space (located in the center of the world-system) is equivalent to its non-existence. The idea that valid and relevant knowledge can exist in another form and independently of the world-system that fascinates them is unthinkable.” Piron et al. (2017)
Having spent a little time at scholarly publishing events in the Global North, I can attest that the mindset described above is common. There are kind thoughts (and a few breadcrumbs thrown in the form of grants and fellowships) towards those on the periphery, but it is very much in the mindset of helping those from the Global South ‘catch up’. Our mindset is very much as Piron describes here:
“If one sticks to the positivist view that “science” is universal – even if its “essence” is symbolized by the American magazine Science – then indeed African science, that is to say in Africa, is late, and we need to help it develop so that it looks more and more like the North”. Piron (2017)
And whilst in the North we may have a lot of respect for different cultural perspectives, genuine reciprocal exchanges of research knowledge are rare. We are supremely confident that our highly-developed scientific publishing model deserves to be at the centre of our system. This can lead to selective blindness about the rigorousness of our science and our indexed journals, in spite of the steady drip drip drip of reports of biased peer review, data fraud and other ethical violations in ‘high-impact’ Northern journals, exposed in places like retraction watch.
North/South research collaborations are rarely equitable – southern partners often complain of being used as data-gatherers rather than intellectual equals and partners in research projects, even when the research is being carried out in their own country.
“These [Northern] partners inevitably guide the problems and the methodological and epistemological choices of African researchers towards the only model they know and value, the one born at the center of the world-system of science – without questioning whether this model is relevant to Africa and its challenges”. Piron et al (2017).
These issues of inequity in collaborative relationships and publication practices seem inextricably linked, which is not surprising when the ultimate end goal of research is publishing papers in Northern journals, rather than actually solving Southern development challenges.
“In this context, open access may appear as a neocolonial tool, as it facilitates access by Southern researchers to Northern science without ensuring reciprocity. In doing so, it redoubles the epistemic alienation of these researchers instead of contributing to the emancipation of the knowledge created in the universities of the South by releasing them from their extraversion. Indeed, by making the work produced in the center of the world-system even more accessible, free access maximizes their impact on the periphery and reinforces their use as a theoretical reference or as a normative model, to the detriment of local epistemologies, which generates situations absurd as, for example, the use of a theoretical framework related to wage labor in the Paris region to analyze the work of women in northern Mali” Piron (2017)
“The resulting consequences are, in particular, the teachers of the Southern countries who quote and read only writers from the North and impose them on their students and the libraries of our universities who do everything to subscribe to Western scholarly journals while they do not deal with our problems. (Mboa Nkoudou, 2016 )”
This is also a striking example:
“It is very sad to note that geographers in Ouagadougou are more familiar with European work on the Sahel than those at the Higher Institute of Sahel in Maroua, Cameroon.” Piron (2017)
The lack of equity in research knowledge exchange and collaboration is also caused by another one-way North to South flow: funding. Research in the South is often dependent on foreign funding. Big Northern donors and funders therefore set the standards and agendas in research, and in how the entire research funding system works. Southern partners rarely get to set the agenda, and researchers rarely get to develop the research questions that guide the research. They have to learn to jump through administrative hoops to become credible in the eyes of the Northern donor (for more information see ‘Who drives research in developing countries?‘).
Southern institutions are also compelled, via league tables such as the World Unviersity Rankings, to play the same game as institutions in the North. Institutions are ranked against each other according to criteria set in the North, one of which is citations (of course, only citations between journals in the Web of Science or Scopus, which is overwhelmingly Northern). And so to stay ‘competitive’, Southern institutions need their researchers to publish in Northern journals with Northern language and agendas.
Northern agendas and local innovation
Whilst it is tempting to think that the issues and criticism described above is mostly a problem for the social sciences and humanities, there are also real issues in the ‘hard’ sciences – perhaps not so much in their epistemological foundations – but in very practical issues of Northern research agendas. For example, Northern research, being based in Europe and the US, is overwhelmingly biased towards white people, in diversity of leadership, diversity of researchers, and most importantly in the whiteness of clinical trial subjects. This is problematic because different ethnic populations have different genetic makeups and differences due to geography, that mean they respond differently to treatments (see here, here and here). Are African and Asian researchers informed of this when they read research from so-called ‘international’ journals?
Furthermore, these Northern agendas can also mean that research focuses on drugs, equipment and treatments that are simply not suitable for developing country contexts. I was reminded of a discussion comment recently made by a Pakistani surgeon on the Northern bias of systematic reviews:
“There is a definite bias in this approach as almost all of the guidelines and systematic reviews are based on the research carried out in high income countries and the findings and the recommendations have little relevance to the patients, health care system and many a time serve no purpose to the millions of patients based in low resourced countries. e.g. I routinely used Phenol blocks for spasticity management for my patients which were abandoned two decades ago in the West. Results are great, and the patients can afford this Rs 200 phenol instead of Rs 15,000 Botox vial. But, unfortunately, I am unable to locate a single systematic review on the efficacy of phenol as all published research in the last decade was only on the use of Botox in the management of spasticity.” Farooq Rathore (HIFA mailing list, 2016).
Similarly, I’ve read research papers from the South that report on innovative approaches to medical treatments and other problems that utilise lower-cost equipment and methodologies (in fact, as is argued here, research in low-resource environments can often be more efficient and innovative, containing many lessons we, in the North, could learn from). This point is also made by Piron et al:
“… the production of technical and social innovations is rich in Sub-Saharan French-speaking Africa, as evidenced by the high number of articles on this subject in the Sci-Dev magazine, specializing in science for development, or in the ecofin site, an economic information agency turned towards Africa. But these are mostly local innovations that mobilize local resources and often recycled materials to, for example, introduce electricity into a village, better irrigate fields or offer lighting after sunset. The aim of these innovations is to contribute to local development and not to the development of international markets, unlike innovations designed in the North which, while targeting the countries of the South, remain highly marketable – just think of milk powder or GMO seeds. The issue of open access to scientific publications is a very secondary issue for local innovators in such a context”. (Piron et al. 2016)
These examples of innovation aside, there are many cases where the ‘epistemic alienation’ described above leads to ‘the exclusion or contempt of local knowledge’ (Mboa, 2016), even amongst researchers in the global South.
“In fact, Western culture abundantly relayed in the media and textbooks is shown to be superior to other cultures. This situation is pushing Africans to multiply their efforts to reach the ideal of life of the “white”. This situation seems to block their ability to think locally, or even to be reactive. Thus, faced with a given situation specific to the African context, many are those who first draw on the resources of Western thinking to propose elements of answers.” Mboa (2016)
Free and open access as ‘showcasing products’
The Research4Life (R4L) programme also comes in for criticism from Piron et al. which will come as a shock to Northern publishing people who often use the ‘… but they’ve got Research4Life’ line when faced with evidence of global research inequalities.
“… while pretending to charitably provide university libraries in the Global South with free access to pre-defined packages of paid journals from the North, this program, set up by for-profit scientific publishers, maintains the dependence of these libraries, limits their understanding of the true network of open access publications and, above all, improves the market for the products sold by these publishers.” Piron et al (2017)
“… this program encourages the continued reliance of these libraries on an external program, designed in the North and showcasing Northern products, while it may disappear as soon as this philanthropic desire is exhausted or as soon as trading partners will not find any more benefits.”
Whilst I still think R4L is a great initiative (I know many researchers in the Global South who are very appreciative of the programme), it’s difficult to disagree with the conclusion that:
‘… this program mainly improves the opportunities of Northern publishers without contributing to the sustainable empowerment of university libraries in the South … this charity seems very hypocritical, let alone arbitrary, since it can stop at any time.” Piron (2017)
Of course, the same could be said of Article Processing Charge (APC) waivers for developing country authors. Waivers are currently offered by the majority of journals from the big publishers (provided according to the same HINARI list of countries provided by Research4Life), although sometimes you have to dig deep into the terms and conditions pages to find them. Waivers are good for publishers to showcase their corporate social responsibility and provide diversity of authorship. However, they are unsustainable – this charity is unlikely to last forever, especially as they rely on the pool of Southern authors being relatively limited. It should also be noted that developing countries with the most active, growing researcher communities such as Nigeria, South Africa and India do not qualify for either R4L access or APC waivers.
Speaking of APCs, something I observe regularly amongst Southern researchers is a confusion over the ‘Gold’ OA author-pays model, and this too is noted:
“In northern countries, many researchers, especially in STEM (Björk and Solomon, 2012) [ 7 ], believe (wrongly) that open access now means “publication fees charged to authors” … this commercial innovation appears to be paying off, as these costs appear to be natural to researchers.” Piron (2017)
This also appears to be paying off in the Global South – authors seem resigned to pay some kind of charge to publish, and it is common to have to point out to authors that over two-thirds of OA journals and 99% of subscription journals do not charge to publish (although, the rise of ‘predatory’ journals may have magnified this misunderstanding that pay-to-publish is the norm).
It may be tempting to think of these inequalities as an unfortunate historical accident, and that our attempts to help the Global South ‘catch up’ are just a little clumsy and patronising. However, Piron argues that this is no mere accident, but the result of colonial exploitation that still resonates in existing power structures today:
“Open access is then easily seen as a means of catching up, at least filling gaps in libraries and often outdated teaching […] Africa is considered as lagging behind the modern world, which would explain its underdevelopment, to summarize this sadly hegemonic conception of north-south relations. By charity, Northern countries then feel obliged to help, which feeds the entire industry surrounding development aid [….] this model of delay, violently imposed by the West on the rest of the world through colonization, has been used to justify the economic and cognitive exploitation (Connell, 2014) of colonized continents without which modernity could not have prospered.” Piron (2017)
To build the path or take the path?
Of course, the authors do admit that access to Northern research has a role to play in the Global South, provided the access is situated in local contexts:
“… African science should be an African knowledge, rooted in African contexts, that uses African epistemologies to answer African questions, while also using other knowledge from all over the world, including Western ones, if they are relevant locally.” Piron (2017)
However, the practical reality of Open Access for Southern researchers is often overstated. There is a crucial distinction between making content ‘open’ and providing the means to access that content. As Piron et al. 2017 say:
“To put a publication in open access: is it, to build the path (technical or legal) that leads to it, or is it to make it possible for people to take this path? This distinction is crucial to understand the difference in meaning of open access between the center and the periphery of the world-system of science, although only an awareness of the conditions of scientific research in the Southern countries makes it possible to visualize it, to perceive it.”
This crucial difference between availability and accessibility has also been explained by Anne Powell on Scholarly Kitchen. There are many complex barriers to ‘free’ and ‘open’ content actually being accessed and used. The most obvious of these barriers is internet connectivity, but librarian training, language and digital literacy also feature significantly:
“Finding relevant open access articles on the web requires digital skills that, as we have seen, are rare among Haitian and African students for whom the web sometimes comes via Facebook … Remember that it is almost always when they arrive at university that these students first touch a computer. The catching up is fast, but many reflexes acquired since the primary school in the countries of the North must be developed before even being able to imagine that there are open access scientific texts on the web to make up for the lack of documents in the libraries. In the words of the Haitian student Anderson Pierre, “a large part of the students do not know the existence of these resources or do not have the digital skills to access and exploit them in order to advance their research project”. Piron (2017)
Barriers to local knowledge exchange
Unfortunately, this is made even more difficult by resistance and misunderstanding of the internet and digital tools from senior leadership in Africa:
“Social representations of the web, science and copyright also come into play, especially among older academics, a phenomenon that undermines the appropriation of digital technologies at the basis of open access in universities.” Piron et al. (2017)
“To this idea that knowledge resides only in printed books is added a representation of the web which also has an impact on the local resistance to open access: our fieldwork has allowed us to understand that, for many African senior academics, the web is incompatible with science because it contains only documents or sites that are of low quality, frivolous or entertaining. These people infer that science in open access on the web is of lower quality than printed science and are very surprised when they learn that most of the journals of the world-system of science exist only in dematerialized format. … Unfortunately, these resistances slow down the digitization and the web dissemination of African scientific works, perpetuating these absurd situations where the researchers of the same field in neighboring universities do not know what each other is doing”. Piron et al. (2017)
This complaint about in-country communication from researchers in the South can be common, but there are signs that open access can make a difference – as an example, in Sri Lanka, I’ve spoken to researchers who say that communicating research findings within the country has always been a problem, but the online portal Sri Lanka Journals Online (currently 77 open access Sri Lankan journals) has started to improve this situation. This project was many years in the making, and has involved training journal editors and librarians in loading online content and improving editorial practices for open access. The same, of course, could be said for African Journals Online, which has potential to facilitate sharing on a larger scale.
Arguably, some forms of institutional resistance to openness in the Global South have a neocolonial influence – universities have largely borrowed and even intensified the Northern ‘publish or perish’ mantra which focuses the academic rewards system almost entirely on journal publications, often in northern-indexed journals, rather than on impact on real world development.
“The system of higher education and research in force in many African countries remains a remnant of colonization, perpetuated by the reproduction, year after year, of the same ideals and principles. This reproduction is assured not by the old colonizers but by our own political leaders who are perpetuating a system structured according to a classical partitioning that slows down any possible communication between researchers within the country or with the outside world, even worse between the university and the immediate environment. For the ruling class, the changes taking place in the world and the society’s needs seem to have no direct link to the university.” Mboa (2016)
Mboa calls this partitioning between researchers and outsiders as “a tight border between society and science”:
“African researchers are so attached to the ideal of neutrality of science and concern of its ‘purity’ that they consider contacts with ordinary citizens as ‘risks’ or threats and that they prefer to evolve in their ‘ivory tower’. On the other hand, ordinary citizens feel so diminished compared to researchers that to talk to them about their eventual involvement in research is a taboo subject …” Mboa (2016)
So what is the answer to all these problems? Is it in building the skills of researchers and institutions or a complete change of philosophy?
“The colonial origin of African science (Mvé-Ondo, 2005) is certainly no stranger to this present subjugation of African science to northern research projects, nor to its tendency to imitate Western science without effort. Contextualization, particularly in the quasi-colonial structuring of sub-Saharan African universities (Fredua-Kwarteng, 2015) and in maintaining the use of a colonial language in university education. Considering this institutionalized epistemic alienation as yet another cognitive injustice, Mvé-Ondo wonders “how to move from a westernization of science to a truly shared science” (p.49) and calls for “epistemological mutation”, “rebirth”, modernizing “African science at the crossroads of local knowledge and northern science – perhaps echoing the call of Fanon (1962/2002) for a “new thinking” in the Third World countries, detached from European model, decolonized.” Piron et al. (2017)
For this to happen, open access must be about more than just access – but something much more holistic and equitable:
“Can decentralized, decolonised open access then contribute to creating more cognitive justice in global scientific production? Our answer is clear: yes, provided that it is not limited to the question of access for scientific and non-scientific readers to scientific publications. It must include the concern for origin, creation, local publishing and the desire to ensure equity between the accessibility of the publications of the center of the world system and that of knowledge from the periphery. It thus proposes to replace the normative universalism of globalized science with an inclusive universalism, open to the ecology of knowledges and capable of building an authentic knowledge commons (Gruson-Daniel, 2015; Le Crosnier, 2015), hospitable for the knowledge of the North and the South”. Piron et al. (2017)
Mboa sees the solution to this multifaceted problem in ‘open science’:
“[Cognitive injustice comes via] … endogenous causes (citizens and African leaders) and by exogenous causes (capitalism, colonization, the West). The knowledge of these causes allowed me to propose ways to prevent our downfall. Among these means, I convened open science as a tool available to our leaders and citizens for advancing cognitive justice. For although the causes are endogenous and exogenous, I believe that a wound heals from the inside outwards.” Mboa (2016).
Mboa explains how open science approaches can overcome some of these problems in this book chapter, but here he provides a short summary of the advantages of open science for African research:
“It’s a science that rejects the ivory tower and the separation between scientists and the rest of the population of the country. In short, it’s a science released from control by a universal capitalist standard, by hierarchical authority and by pre-established scientific classes. From this perspective, open science offers the following advantages:
it brings science closer to society;
it promotes fair and sustainable development;
it allows the expression of minority and / or marginalized groups, as well as their knowledge;
it promotes original, local and useful research in the country;
it facilitates access to a variety of scientific and technical information;
it is abundant, recent and up to date;
it develops digital skills;
it facilitates collaborative work;
it gives a better visibility to research work.
By aiming to benefit from these advantages, researchers and African students fight cognitive injustice. For this, open access science relies on open access, free licenses, free computing, and citizen science.” Mboa (2016).
But in order for open science to succeed, digital literacy must be rapidly improved to empower students and researchers in the South:
“Promoting inclusive access therefore requires engaging at the same time in a decolonial critique of the relationship between the center and the periphery and urging universities in the South to develop the digital literacy of their student or teacher members.” Piron et al. (2017)
It also requires improving production of scientific works (‘grey’ literature, as well as peer-reviewed papers) in the South for a two-way North/South conversation:
“Then, we propose to rethink the usual definition of open access to add the mandate to enhance the visibility of scientific work produced in universities in the South and thus contribute to greater cognitive justice in global scientific production.” Piron (2017)
And providing open access needs to be understood in context:
“… if we integrate the concern for the enhancement of the knowledge produced in the periphery and the awareness of all that hinders the creation of this knowledge, then open access can become a tool of cognitive justice at the service of the construction of an inclusive universalism peculiar to a just open science.” Piron, Diouf, Madiba (2017)
In summary then, we need to rethink the way that the global North seeks to support the South – a realignment of this relationship from mere access to empowerment through sustainable capacity building:
“Africa’s scientific development aid, if it is needed, should therefore be oriented much less towards immediate access to Northern publications and more to local development of tools and the strengthening of the digital skills of academics and librarians. These tools and skills would enable them not only to take advantage of open access databases, but also to digitize and put open access local scientific works in open archives, journals or research centers.” Piron (2017)
So what next?
Even if you disagree with many the above ideas, I hope that this has provided many of you with some food for thought. Open Access must surely be about more than just knowledge flow from North to South (or, for that matter the academy to the public, or well-funded researchers to poorly funded researchers). Those on the periphery must also be given a significant voice and a place at the table. For this to happen, many researchers (and their equivalents outside academia) need training and support in digital skills; some institutional barriers also need to be removed or overcome; and of course a few cherished, long-held ideas must be seriously challenged.
“These injustices denote anything that diminishes the capacity of academics in these countries to deploy the full potential of their intellectual talents, their knowledge and their capacity for scientific research to serve their country’s sustainable local development”. Piron et al., (2016).
What do you think…?
Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers - Bloomberg
In offices across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, recent college graduates employed by the Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. occupied several rows of desks, said Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer who worked in a flight-test group that supported the Max.
The coders from HCL were typically designing to specifications set by Boeing. Still, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code,” Rabin said. Frequently, he recalled, “it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.”
Boeing’s cultivation of Indian companies appeared to pay other dividends. In recent years, it has won several orders for Indian military and commercial aircraft, such as a $22 billion one in January 2017 to supply SpiceJet Ltd. That order included 100 737-Max 8 jets and represented Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline, a coup in a country dominated by Airbus.
Based on resumes posted on social media, HCL engineers helped develop and test the Max’s flight-display software, while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd., handled software for flight-test equipment.
C’est beau comme tout la langue de bois des public relations :
Boeing said the company did not rely on engineers from HCL and Cyient for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which has been linked to the Lion Air crash last October and the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March. The Chicago-based planemaker also said it didn’t rely on either firm for another software issue disclosed after the crashes: a cockpit warning light that wasn’t working for most buyers.
“Boeing has many decades of experience working with supplier/partners around the world,” a company spokesman said. “Our primary focus is on always ensuring that our products and services are safe, of the highest quality and comply with all applicable regulations.”
In a statement, HCL said it “has a strong and long-standing business relationship with The Boeing Company, and we take pride in the work we do for all our customers. However, HCL does not comment on specific work we do for our customers. HCL is not associated with any ongoing issues with 737 Max.”
Starting with the 787 Dreamliner, launched in 2004, it sought to increase profits by instead providing high-level specifications and then asking suppliers to design more parts themselves. The thinking was “they’re the experts, you see, and they will take care of all of this stuff for us,” said Frank McCormick, a former Boeing flight-controls software engineer who later worked as a consultant to regulators and manufacturers. “This was just nonsense.”
Sales are another reason to send the work overseas. In exchange for an $11 billion order in 2005 from Air India, Boeing promised to invest $1.7 billion in Indian companies. That was a boon for HCL and other software developers from India, such as Cyient, whose engineers were widely used in computer-services industries but not yet prominent in aerospace.
La sous-traitance logicielle peut-elle suivre les modèles de la sous-traitance de l’industrie ?
HCL, once known as Hindustan Computers, was founded in 1976 by billionaire Shiv Nadar and now has more than $8.6 billion in annual sales. With 18,000 employees in the U.S. and 15,000 in Europe, HCL is a global company and has deep expertise in computing, said Sukamal Banerjee, a vice president. It has won business from Boeing on that basis, not on price, he said: “We came from a strong R&D background.”
Still, for the 787, HCL gave Boeing a remarkable price – free, according to Sam Swaro, an associate vice president who pitched HCL’s services at a San Diego conference sponsored by Avionics International magazine in June. He said the company took no up-front payments on the 787 and only started collecting payments based on sales years later, an “innovative business model” he offered to extend to others in the industry.
The 787 entered service three years late and billions of dollars over budget in 2011, in part because of confusion introduced by the outsourcing strategy. Under Dennis Muilenburg, a longtime Boeing engineer who became chief executive in 2015, the company has said that it planned to bring more work back in-house for its newest planes.
Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers - Bloomberg
• Planemaker and suppliers used lower-paid temporary workers
• Engineers feared the practice meant code wasn’t done right
It remains the mystery at the heart of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max crisis: how a company renowned for meticulous design made seemingly basic software mistakes leading to a pair of deadly crashes. Longtime Boeing engineers say the effort was complicated by a push to outsource work to lower-paid contractors.
The Max software — plagued by issues that could keep the planes grounded months longer after U.S. regulators this week revealed a new flaw — was developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs.
Increasingly, the iconic American planemaker and its subcontractors have relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace — notably India.
In offices across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, recent college graduates employed by the Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. occupied several rows of desks, said Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer who worked in a flight-test group that supported the Max.
In one post, an HCL employee summarized his duties with a reference to the now-infamous model, which started flight tests in January 2016: “Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing).”
Il aura fallu que Yossi Bartal, guide au musée juif de Berlin, démissionne pour qu’apparaissent toutes les manœuvres de l’État d’Israël, toutes ses compromissions aussi.
La démission de Yossi Bartal(1) se produit huit jours après celle du Directeur du musée, Peter Schäfer (2).
Peter Schäfer avait protesté avec 240 intellectuels juifs (dont Avraham Burg et Eva Illouz) pour s’opposer à une motion du Parlement allemand qui considérait le mouvement BDS comme antisémite. Il a été directement attaqué par l’ambassadeur d’Israël, Jeremy Issacharoff et Josef Schuster, directeur de l’équivalent du Crif allemand qui n’ont pas hésité à utiliser des « fake news » pour le salir.
L’année dernière déjà le budget d’une exposition consacrée à Jérusalem, montrant aussi son versant palestinien a été divisé par 2 à la suite d’une intervention de Benjamin Netanyahou (qui réclamait l’annulation totale du budget). De son côté, Josef Schuster avait critiqué le fait que la majorité des employés du musée n’étaient pas juifs. Et les détracteurs de la liberté d’esprit du musée sont soutenus par l’ALD, le parti d’extrême droite…
Un panier de crabe insoupçonné que nous révèle son (ex) guide. (...)
(1) Opinion Why I Resigned From Berlin’s Jewish Museum
Yossi Bartal - Jun 22, 2019 9:39 AM
Last Monday, after guiding hundreds of different tour groups from Germany and around the world to various exhibitions, I submitted my resignation as a guide at the Jewish Museum of Berlin in protest against the crass political intervention by the German government and the State of Israel in the work of the museum.
The shameful firing of Peter Schäfer, among the most important scholars of Judaism in the world, in the wake of an aggressive campaign of “fake news” conducted by the Israeli Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, and Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, made it clear that the German government is not interested any more in guarding the artistic and academic autonomy of the museum. And I am not interested in working for an institution that relinquishes its independence to serve the political interests of this or that state.
From the beginning, working as a Jewish guide at a Jewish museum where most of the staff and visitors are not Jews presented personal, political and pedagogical challenges. Thus questions of representation of the other and of speaking in their name have accompanied the work of the museum since its opening in 2003.
Is it appropriate for a German state museum to be called a Jewish museum at all, or must it be under the complete control of the official Jewish community (that itself only represents part of German Jewry)? Is a Jewish museum, in the absence of a similar institution addressing the Muslim community or other minority groups, responsible for providing space for the perspectives of children of migrants in Germany, many of whom live in neighborhoods nearby, and for conducting Jewish-Muslim dialogue?
Should the museum function as a forum in which various opinions in the Jewish world can be heard, those touching on Israel as well? The answer of the head of the Jewish community, the Israeli ambassador and right-wing journalists, who for years have been running a toxic and untruthful campaign against museum staff, is an absolute no.
Thus a significant portion of the criticism of the museum suggests, or even declares openly, that the very fact that many of the staff members of the museum are not Jews negates their right to social activism that is not in keeping with the political preferences of the Jewish community’s representatives. This discourse reached the point of absurdity when Schuster, the leader of a community in which many members are not considered Jewish according to halakha, negated the museum’s right to call itself Jewish.
But we should not be confused by the legitimate criticism over the lack of Jewish representation in leading positions in Germany, because this criticism is raised only when non-Jews dare, even in the most sensitive way, to criticize policies of the Israeli government, or to come out against anti-Muslim racism. Proof of this may be seen in the Jewish community’s support for the 10 officials who have been nominated to fight anti-Semitism in the country: All 10 are non-Jews, and all 10 support the position that strong criticism of the occupation and of Israel’s religiously discriminatory character should be seen as an expression of anti-Semitism.
Not surprisingly, the extreme right-wing “Alternative for Germany” is the party that, by way of parliamentary questions, has been leading the campaign against the museum for the last year, as reported sympathetically by the house newspaper of Benjamin Netanyahu. Despite the Israeli Embassy’s contention that it is not in contact with members of the party, its opposition to museum activities is based on a fervent rejection of democratic discourse, and its absolute conflation of the interests of the Israeli government with those of world Jewry. Already in the past year, as part of an exhibition on Jerusalem and its significance to three religions, the museum was forced to cancel a lecture on the status of LGBTQ Palestinians in East Jerusalem because the Israeli ambassador suspected that the speaker, God help us, supports BDS.
Accusations of anti-Semitism, which carry enormous weight in Germany, lead more and more to censorship and self-censorship. Cultural institutions in Germany, which are supposed to provide a stage for critical positions, are threatened financially and politically if they even dare to host artists and musicians who at any time expressed support for non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation. This policy of fear-mongering that Miri Regev leads in Israel is imported by supporters of Israel to Germany. Only in Germany, because of its great sensitivity to anti-Semitism and deep identification with Israel in the wake of the Shoah, are there politicians not only on the right but on the left as well who vehemently endorse the silencing of criticism of Israel.
The extreme right’s ascendance to power in places across the globe is based in great part on the constriction of democratic space and the intimidation and sanctioning of anyone who dares to oppose suppressive nationalist policies. The efforts of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the Foreign Ministry, in cooperation with Jewish and right-wing organizations around the world, to defame and slander anyone who refuses to join their campaign of incitement against human rights activists, has now led to the firing of an esteemed scholar, strictly because he chose to defend the rights of Israeli academics to oppose the designation of the BDS movement as an anti-Semitic movement.
Against this paranoid impulse toward purges, which to a great extent recalls the years of McCarthyism in the United States, one must take a clear public stance. If the firing of Peter Schäfer has a moral, it is that no matter how much approbation a person has received for his opposition to anti-Semitism and support for Israel, opposition to Netanyahu’s anti-democratic policies is enough to turn him into an enemy of the people and the nation.
If the German and Israeli governments are interested in the Jewish Museum representing only their narrow political interests and denying its staff members freedom of expression, I am not interested in having a part in it. So despite my deep respect for the museum’s staff, I proffered my resignation. I and many other Jews of my generation do not want or need a kashrut certificate from the State of Israel or the heads of the institutional Jewish community, nor, certainly, from the German government. Judaism, as a pluralistic and democratic world culture, will continue to exist after the racist, ultra-nationalist politics that has taken over many communal institutions passes from the world.
The writer has lived in Berlin for 13 years and works as a tour guide.
Power Versus the Press: The #Extradition Cases of #Pinochet & #Assange – Consortiumnews
Eight months from now one of the most consequential extradition hearings in recent history will take place in Great Britain when a British court and the home secretary will determine whether #WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges for the crime of journalism.
Twenty-one years ago, in another historic extradition case, Britain had to decide whether to send former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to Spain for the crime of mass murder.
America’s Economic Blockades and International Law by Jeffrey D. Sachs - Project Syndicate
Despite the intense economic pain – indeed calamity – inflicted on North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, none of them has succumbed to US demands. In this sense, sanctions have proved to be no more successful than military intervention. North Korea has maintained, and most likely is expanding, its nuclear arsenal. The Iranian regime rejects US demands concerning its missile program and foreign policies. And Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro remains in power.
Military blockades are acts of war, and therefore subject to international law, including UN Security Council oversight. America’s economic blockades are similar in function and outcome to military blockades, with devastating consequences for civilian populations, and risk provoking war. It is time for the Security Council to take up the US sanctions regimes and weigh them against the requirements of international law and peacekeeping.1
American Exceptionalism, American Innocence, and What Comes Next: An Interview With Danny Haiphong
The following is an email interview with author and activist, Danny Haiphong, regarding the current state of capitalism, US politics, and his new book, American Exceptionalism and American...
Barak Ravid sur Twitter : “WATCH: U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman takes a 10 pounds hammer and breaks open a tunnel which runs under the Palestinian village of #Silwan to the old city of #Jerusalem. This happens at a settlers organisation event with Sara Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson at his side” / Twitter
Des officiels américains à un évènement lié aux colons israéliens à Jérusalem-Est - L’Orient-Le Jour
Deux responsables américains ont assisté dimanche à l’inauguration à Jérusalem-Est d’un site archéologique organisée par une association ultranationaliste israélienne, une présence qui rompt une nouvelle fois avec la pratique diplomatique s’agissant de la colonisation et du secteur palestinien de la ville occupé par Israël.
Jason Greenblatt, conseiller du président américain Donald Trump, et David Friedman, ambassadeur en Israël, ont assisté en compagnie de responsables israéliens à une cérémonie dévoilant le résultat de travaux archéologiques à Silwan, quartier palestinien de Jérusalem-Est. Silwan, situé en contrebas des murailles de la Vieille ville, est le théâtre de tensions permanentes entre les résidents palestiniens et des colons juifs de plus en plus nombreux.
Les travaux archéologiques, portant sur une route souterraine utilisée il y a environ 2.000 ans pour le pèlerinage vers le Second Temple juif, ont été entrepris par l’association Elad, dont le but avoué est de renforcer la présence juive à Jérusalem-Est.
Les Palestiniens accusent Israël et la fondation Elad de chercher à les chasser de Jérusalem.
L’ONG israélienne Emek Shaveh, qui lutte contre l’usage de l’archéologie au service de la colonisation, a également critiqué la présence d’officiels américains à la cérémonie. Elle dénonce un « acte politique qui se rapproche le plus d’une reconnaissance américaine de la souveraineté israélienne » sur toute la Vieille ville de Jérusalem.
Israël considère Jérusalem comme sa capitale « unifiée et indivisible ». Mais la communauté internationale ne reconnaît pas l’annexion en 1967 de la partie orientale occupée de la ville, dont les Palestiniens veulent faire la capitale de l’Etat auquel ils aspirent.
Le président Donald Trump a rompu en décembre 2017 avec des décennies de consensus diplomatique en reconnaissant Jérusalem comme la capitale d’Israël, poussant les Palestiniens à couper tout contact formel avec Washington.
L’ambassadeur américain en Israël David Friedman est un fervent soutien des colonies israéliennes dans les Territoires palestiniens, considérées comme illégales par la communauté internationale.
Editorial Settlers From the White House
Jun 30, 2019 11:20 PM
The event held Sunday in a tunnel under the main street of the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem, just outside the Old City walls, would have been impossible only a few years ago. Two of the U.S. administration’s most senior diplomats, Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, were there alongside Israeli ministers at the inauguration of the Path of the Pilgrims – a tunnel excavated by the right-wing Elad organization with generous help from the state.
The tunnel, which according to Elad exposed a street from the Second Temple period that brought pilgrims from the Shiloah pool to the Temple Mount, is a central project in the organization’s efforts to Judaize Silwan and its environs by way of archaeology and tourism. When the tunnel opens to the public, presumably in a few months, it will become a major tourist attraction.
The participation of American diplomats at an event sponsored by a right-wing group in East Jerusalem constitutes de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem’s historic basin. If anyone had any doubts about that, Friedman made clear in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that, “The City of David is an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel.” Giving it up, even in the context of a peace agreement, he said, “would be akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty.”
This recognition doesn’t just put the American administration on the extreme right of the Israeli political map – thus undercutting the claim that American can be an unbiased broker between Israel and the Palestinians – but it also ignores the complicated reality in Silwan, East Jerusalem and the entire region. The tunnel, which was excavated using controversial methods from a scientific standpoint, harnesses archaeology to politics while ignoring the nuances of Jerusalem’s ancient past.
But the main problem is that excavating under the street blatantly ignores what’s happening at street level. In Silwan alone there are 20,000 Palestinians without citizenship or civil rights, who justifiably feel that this archaeological project is aimed at forcing them out of their neighborhood. Surrounding Silwan are another 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, also without rights.
Anyone having even a passing familiarity with the Palestinian people knows that there’s no chance of arriving at any kind of agreement that will end the occupation so long as Israel continues to control East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Thus, by mere words and an event dripping with sweetness and smiles, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has sentenced Israelis to a life of constant conflict, or to an apartheid state in which there are two types of residents, those with rights and those without them.
The steal of the century: stolen land, stolen water, stolen images – Middle East Monitor
Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu must have considered it the longest of long shots but what if the Palestinians by some wild stretch of the imagination had called their bluff on the “deal of the century”; what if they had suddenly decided to turn up in Bahrain for the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop this week?
To guard against any such thing happening, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, wrote a deliberately offensive and insulting opinion piece on 24 June that the #New_York_Times was happy to publish. “What’s wrong with Palestinian surrender?” mused Ambassador Danon. “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.” Having backed the Palestinians into a corner from which they could only say no, Kushner then had Danon stick the knife in.
The message, in all its arrogance, was clear: if you don’t take what is on offer, it is going to get a hell of a lot worse. However, we know we have made it impossible for you to take what is on offer, so guess what? The two state solution is well and truly dead; the path to a greater Israel is secured; welcome to the new reality of Palestinian Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza. And, oh yes, we promise to throw cash at you, $50 billion; that’s a lot of dosh, if you do what is commanded of you. If you don’t, well that money is off the table.
While many commentators have rightly attacked the New York Times for publishing an openly racist and hate-mongering piece, they may have missed the larger significance of what is happening at speed in the killing of the two-state solution. The day before the Danon article, US National Security Advisor John Bolton accompanied the Israeli Prime Minister to land overlooking the Jordan Valley, the most fertile region of the West Bank. Nearly 90 per cent of the valley has been allocated to Israeli settlements and agriculture, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and international law.
U.S. will sanction any countries that import Iranian oil: special envoy - Reuters
“This is a clerical regime that wants to remake the Middle East in its image - and that would deeply destabilise the Middle East to have regimes following the same Marxist theocratic regime,” he added.
The Capitalist Coup Called Neoliberalism: How and Why It Went Down
Rich people have always had class consciousness because... they want to stay rich. This collective consciousness led the “founding fathers” of the United States to set up systems of governance...
The Tiananmen Square massacre, 30 years on - World Socialist Web Site
By Peter Symonds, 8 June 2019 - Thirty years have passed since heavily-armed Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved through the suburbs of Beijing on the night of June 3–4, 1989, killing hundreds, probably thousands, of unarmed civilians. The military forces overwhelmed makeshift barricades with brute force as they made their way to Tiananmen Square—the site of weeks of mass protests by students and workers.
Those barbaric events, which demonstrated the willingness of the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to do anything to stay in power, have gone down in history as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet most of deaths during that murderous assault were of workers who courageously tried to halt the progress of troops to central Beijing. Estimates vary, but up to 7,000 were killed and 20,000 wounded.
Moreover, in the reign of terror that followed throughout China it was the workers who received the harshest penalties, including lengthy jail terms and death sentences. Around 40,000 people were arrested just in June and July, mostly members of Workers Autonomous Federations that had sprung up in the course of the protests.
Protesters in Tiananmen Square
What is commonly depicted as the crushing of student protesters was in fact a wave of repression directed overwhelmingly against a mass movement of the working class. What had begun in April as student protests calling for democratic reforms had swelled into the millions as workers joined the demonstrations by mid-May, making their own class demands.
The Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation was established on April 20 with a handful of workers and rapidly expanded to become a major organising centre by mid-May. On May 17, up to two million people marched through the centre of Beijing, the majority being workers and their families under the banners of their work units or enterprises. Reflecting the impact of events in Beijing, Workers Autonomous Federations were established in a host of major cities, including Changsha, Shaoyang, Xiangtan, Hengyang and Yueyang.
While moderate student leaders were intent on pressing the CCP bureaucracy for concessions on democratic rights, workers were animated by concerns over deteriorating living standards, soaring inflation and a wave of sackings and closures. The regime’s embrace of the capitalist market since the 1970s had led to widening social inequality and rampant bureaucratic corruption and profiteering. Workers were bitterly hostile to the accumulation of privileges and wealth by the top CCP leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin, Chen Yun and their family members, and were contemptuous of their claims to be communist and socialist.
A statement by workers issued on May 25 expressed the rebellious currents in the working class. “Our nation was created by the struggle and labour of we workers and all other mental and manual labourers. We are the rightful masters of this nation. We must be heard in national affairs. We must not allow this small band of degenerate scum of the nation and the working class to usurp our name and suppress the students, murder democracy and trample human rights.” 
Premier Zhao Ziyang had been sympathetic to the demands of student leaders and had counselled making small concessions to calls for basic democratic rights. However, no compromise was possible with the working class, whose unrest threatened the very existence of the regime. As the protest movement rapidly grew in size and confidence, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping removed his ally Zhao as premier, installed hardline Li Peng in his place and ordered the military to violently suppress the protests in Beijing and nationally.
The crisis of Stalinism
The resort to such extreme measures was bound up with the profound crisis of Stalinism, not only in China but internationally. In response to deepening economic and social crises, a turn was underway in China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union toward the dismantling of centralised bureaucratic planning mechanisms, encouragement of private enterprise and establishment of market mechanisms.
After assuming the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his keynote policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness and transparency) that laid the framework for greater autonomy for enterprises outside the central planning mechanisms and, under the guise of democratic reform, sought to establish a base of social support for the regime among the petty bourgeoisie.
Gorbachev’s pro-market restructuring also encouraged the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe in their plans for capitalist restoration, making desperate bids to resolve their mounting economic and political crises. These processes dramatically accelerated as Gorbachev signaled that the Soviet Union would not intervene militarily to prop up its Soviet bloc allies, as it had done in Hungary in 1956 to crush the workers’ uprising and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to end liberal reforms. In December 1987, he announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.
In a very short period of time, during 1989–90, the Stalinist bureaucracies in one Eastern European country after another moved to restore capitalism, dismantling what remained of nationalised property relations and centralised planning.
In Poland, talks between the government and opposition Solidarity leaders resulted in a deal in April 1989 to hold limited elections. This paved the way for the installation in August of Solidarity leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister. He unleashed sweeping pro-market restructuring.
Similar negotiations in Hungary, where the processes of pro-market restructuring were already advanced, led to a new constitution in August 1989. Multi-party elections in May 1990 resulted in a government that junked what remained of centralised planning and carried out wholesale privatisation.
Amid a mounting economic and political crisis, Gorbachev visited Berlin in October 1989 to urge the East German government to accelerate pro-market reforms. Erich Honecker resigned as leader two weeks later. On November 9, the government announced the end of all border restrictions and Berlin citizens tore down the hated Berlin Wall. Before the end of the month, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl unveiled a plan to integrate East Germany with capitalist West Germany—a process that was completed by October 1990.
The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria quickly followed. By the end of 1990, governments throughout Eastern Europe were giving full rein to the plunder of state-owned property, an influx of foreign capital and the dismantling of social services, leading to a precipitous deterioration in living standards.
Gorbachev’s policies in the Soviet Union gave rise to intense pressures within the Stalinist bureaucracy and the emerging layer of entrepreneurs for a far speedier dismantling of all fetters on private ownership and market relations. This found expression in the installation of Boris Yeltsin in July 1991 and the implementation of pro-market “shock therapy.” In December 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved.
The break-up of the Soviet Union and collapse of the Stalinist states in Eastern Europe led to an orgy of triumphalism in the capitalist media proclaiming the end of socialism. Pundits, politicians and academics, who had foreseen nothing and could explain nothing, exulted over the triumph of the market, even going so far as to pronounce the end of history. In other words, capitalism supposedly represented the highest and final stage of human development. A new period of peace, prosperity and democracy would dawn, they all declared.
The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), based on the analysis made by Leon Trotsky of Stalinism, had rejected the universal adulation of Gorbachev and warned that his policies were rapidly leading to the dismantling of the gains of the first workers’ state. Its perspectives resolution entitled “The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” published in August 1988, made clear that the breakdown of the Soviet Union was not a product of socialism, but rather of Stalinism and its reactionary autarchic conception of “socialism in one country”:
The very real crisis of the Soviet economy is rooted in its enforced isolation from the resources of the world market and the international division of labour. There are only two ways this crisis can be tackled. The way proposed by Gorbachev involves the dismantling of state industry, the renunciation of the planning principle, and the abandonment of the state monopoly on foreign trade, i.e., the reintegration of the Soviet Union into the structure of world capitalism. The alternative to this reactionary solution requires the smashing of imperialism’s domination over the world economy by linking up the Soviet and international working class in a revolutionary offensive aimed at extending the planned economy into the European, North American and Asian citadels of capitalism. 
In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the ICFI identified the root cause of the crisis of Stalinism in the processes of the globalisation of production that had been underway since the late 1970s, which had undermined all programs based on national economic regulation. While the crisis of Stalinism was the most immediate and acute expression, these same processes lay behind the international embrace of pro-market restructuring by Social Democratic and Labour parties, and trade unions, and their abandonment of any defence of the social rights of the working class.
Capitalist restoration in China
The events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had a profound impact in China, where processes of capitalist restoration had been underway since the 1970s. The CCP’s decision in June 1989 to use the military to brutally suppress the working class was in no small measure conditioned by its longstanding fear of a repetition in China of the mass strike movement in Poland in 1980–81 that led to the formation of the Solidarity trade union.
China specialist Maurice Meisner explained that the involvement of masses of workers in the protests in Tiananmen Square on May 17 “did much to rekindle the ‘Polish fear’ among Party leaders, their decade-old obsession about the rise of a Solidarity-type alliance between workers and intellectuals in opposition to the Communist state. And that fear, in turn, contributed to their fateful decision to impose martial law.” 
While Deng Xiaoping recognised the affinity of Gorbachev’s perestroika with the policies that he had already enacted, he did not embrace the political liberalisation of glasnost, fearing it would undermine the foundations of the CCP regime. When Gorbachev visited Beijing in mid-May 1989 to cement closer Sino-Soviet ties, the Chinese leadership kept him closeted from public view, anxious that his presence would give further impetus to the protests in Tiananmen Square. The rapid collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe only heightened the determination of the CCP bureaucracy to suppress any opposition.
The roots of the crisis in China lay in the outcome of the 1949 Chinese revolution. The monumental events that brought the Chinese Communist Party to power ended more than a century of imperialist oppression that had mired the country of more than 500 million in squalor and backwardness. It expressed the aspirations of the vast majority of the population for economic security, basic democratic and social rights, and a decent standard of living. Decades of political upheaval and a war against Japanese imperialism from 1937 to 1945 had ravaged the country and left an estimated 14 million Chinese soldiers and civilians dead.
Like the Soviet bureaucracy, however, the new CCP apparatus was based on the reactionary nationalist program of “socialism in one country,” which was a repudiation of socialist internationalism and Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution which underpinned the October Revolution in Russia in 1917.
As a result, the course of the revolution and the subsequent evolution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) proclaimed by Mao Zedong in 1949 was distorted and deformed by Stalinism, which dominated the CCP in the wake of Stalin’s betrayal of the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925–27. Stalin subordinated the very young CCP to the bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang, resulting in crushing blows to the Chinese Communists and working class in April 1927, and again in May 1927. CCP leaders and members who supported Trotsky’s analysis of the tragedy were expelled.
In the wake of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the pragmatic, nationalist ideology of Maoism led China rapidly into a blind alley. Mao’s perspective of a “New Democracy” sought to maintain a bloc with the national bourgeoisie, but the CCP government was driven, under conditions of the Korean War and the internal sabotage by bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, to go further than intended. By 1956, virtually every aspect of the economy was nationalised and subject to bureaucratic planning along the lines of the Soviet Union, but the working class had no say through its own democratic organs.
The organic hostility of the Maoist regime to the working class was expressed in its repression of Chinese Trotskyists, all of whom were jailed in 1952 amid the rising resistance by workers. As with the Eastern European states, the Fourth International characterised China as a deformed workers’ state, a highly conditional formula that placed the emphasis on the deformed, bureaucratic character of the regime.
The national autarky of “socialism in one country” generated worsening economic and social turmoil, and crises for which the CCP bureaucracy had no solution, leading to bitter internal factional warfare. Mao’s fanciful scheme for a peasant socialist society, which underpinned his “Great Leap Forward,” ended in economic catastrophe and mass starvation. His factional opponents, led by Liu Shaoqi, followed the Soviet model of bureaucratic planning with its emphasis on heavy industry, but this provided no alternative.
The economic crisis was greatly worsened by the 1961–63 split with the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Soviet aid and advisers, as the two Stalinist regimes advanced their conflicting national interests. In a last desperate bid to oust his rivals, Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution in 1966, which rapidly span out of his control, leading to confused and convulsive social struggles that threatened the very existence of the regime. Mao turned to the military to suppress workers who had taken literally his edict to “Bombard the Headquarters,” resulting in mass strikes in Shanghai and the formation of an independent Shanghai People’s Commune in 1967.
Incapable of resolving the immense economic and social problems wracking the country, and facing a military confrontation with the Soviet Union, the CCP bureaucracy forged an anti-Soviet alliance with US imperialism that laid the basis for China’s integration into global capitalism. While Deng Xiaoping is generally credited with initiating market reforms, Mao’s rapprochement with US President Richard Nixon in 1972 was the essential political and diplomatic pre-condition for foreign investment and increased trade with the West.
The process of “opening and reform” went hand-in-hand with the imposition of strict discipline and emphasis on boosting production in workplaces. Maurice Meissner noted: “Factory managers dismissed during the Cultural Revolution were restored to their former posts, accompanied by calls to strengthen managerial authority, labour discipline, and factory rules and regulations—and to struggle against ‘anarchism’ and ‘ultra-leftism.’ There were dramatic increases in foreign trade and in imports of foreign technology. Veteran party leaders attacked during the Cultural Revolution were ‘rehabilitated’ at an increasingly rapid pace; by 1973, it has been noted, ‘the pre-Cultural Revolution cadres were running the government ministries.” 
From 1969 to 1975, the value of foreign trade increased from $US4 billion to $14 billion per annum. From the end of 1972 until mid-1975, China imported whole industrial plants, valued at $2.8 billion, mainly from Japan and western Europe.
Deng Xiaoping who had been ostracised during the Cultural Revolution as the “No 2 capitalist roader,” was rehabilitated, appointed a vice premier of the state council under Zhou Enlai. Deng led the Chinese delegation to a special session of the UN in 1974 where he declared that the “socialist bloc” no longer existed and China was part of the Third World. In the factional power struggle that followed Mao’s death in 1976, Deng emerged as the dominant figure in the Stalinist bureaucracy. He embraced US imperialism ever more closely, formalising diplomatic relations in 1979, launching a border war against neighbouring Vietnam, and defending US allies such as the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
From 1978, Deng greatly accelerated the “reform and opening” pro-market reforms. Four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were established in 1979 in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen, where foreign entrepreneurs and joint ventures produced goods for export and enjoyed tax breaks and other concessions. A similar system was later implemented in key port cities such as Shanghai. In the countryside, the collectivised communes were dismantled and restrictions removed on the operation of private enterprises. Prices for agricultural produce were lifted. In the cities, moves were made to transform thousands of state-owned enterprises into profit-making corporations. Private enterprises were permitted, the market was increasingly allowed to determine prices for consumer goods, and a “labour market” was initiated, allowing the hiring and firing of workers.
The pro-market reforms led to the rapid rise of social inequality. Millions of former peasants were left landless and forced to seek employment in the cities. In the SEZs, where the capitalist market was given free rein, corruption and criminal activity was rampant, including smuggling, bribery and the theft of state-owned property. The sons and daughters of the top party leaders took full advantage of their political connections to establish their own business empires. With the lifting of price restrictions, inflation rocketed to 18.5 percent in 1988, to which the regime responded by drastically reducing credit and re-imposing import restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, as private enterprises reduced their workforces or closed down altogether. Unemployment, the loss of job security, as well as skyrocketing prices, combined with disgust at the corruption and enrichment of CCP bureaucrats, fueled the social unrest that erupted in the mass protests by workers the following year.
Capitalist restoration following Tiananmen Square
In the aftermath of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the police dragnet throughout the country, the factional battle inside the CCP leadership sharpened in the next three years over Deng’s program of capitalist restoration. In ordering the troops against workers and students, Deng had removed his chief ally in pro-market restructuring, Zhao Ziyang, as premier. Former Shanghai party leader Jiang Zemin was installed as a compromise choice to the top post of CCP secretary general. The initiative shifted to the so-called hardliners—Li Peng and Chen Yun, who, in criticising Zhao, were also criticising Deng’s policies.
However, in advocating restrictions on market relations, Li and Chen based their policies on the status quo ante and the nationalist perspective of “socialism in country,” which had already proven to be a dead-end. They were looking toward the Soviet Union, even as the deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe were collapsing and Gorbachev’s policies were undermining centralised planning and nationalised property relations. Their so-called “Soviet faction” represented sections of the Chinese bureaucracy whose power and privileges resided in their control of key sections of state-owned industry and the central apparatus in Beijing.
At the Fifth Plenum in November 1989, Li delivered the main report, based on the recommendations of a revived State Planning Commission. The adopted plan called for cutting inflation to 10 percent in 1990 and economic growth to 5 percent by maintaining tight controls on credit and balancing the national budget. Rural industries would not be allowed to compete with state-owned enterprises. While keeping the SEZs and “open door” policy in place, the new restrictions hit rural and provincial industries, particularly in the south of the country.
While Deng no longer held any official party or state position, he still retained considerable political clout, especially in the southern provinces where the new profit-making industries were concentrated. Deng had sided with the hardliners in opposing any political liberalisation and, above all, supported the 1989 military crackdown, but he was adamant that the restrictions on private enterprises and foreign investment had to be completely dismantled.
The snowballing crisis in the Soviet Union brought matters to a head. An attempted Stalinist putsch in August 1991 to oust Gorbachev and Yeltsin and wind back their program of pro-market restructuring ended in dismal failure. China scholar Michael Marti explained: “This one event changed the thinking about the political equation within the Chinese leadership, including that of Deng Xiaoping. The failure of the Soviet Red Army to support the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in its bid to regain control threw the CCP into a panic. The Chinese leadership feared that a precedent had been established.” 
The factional battle lines were drawn. While the “Soviet faction” began to call into question the entire agenda of pro-market reforms, including the establishment of the SEZs, Deng insisted that the levels of economic growth were too low to maintain employment and social stability. “If the economy cannot be boosted over a long time,” he told a meeting of party elders as far back as late 1989, “it [the government] will lose people’s support at home and will be oppressed and bullied by other nations. The continuation of this situation will lead to the collapse of the Communist Party.” 
Deng was also concerned that the crisis in the Soviet Union, following the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, would greatly change geo-political relations. Not only had Deng’s strategy sought to balance between the US and the Soviet Union, but his economic policies depended on a large influx of foreign investment, which could potentially shift to exploiting new opportunities opening up in the former Soviet republics.
Along with provincial leaders in the southern provinces, Deng counted on the support of People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The generals had been shocked by the way in which US imperialism and its allies had deployed hi-tech weaponry in the 1990–91 Gulf War to rapidly destroy the Iraqi military. Their conclusion was that China had to invest heavily in modernising the PLA and only Deng’s policies could transform the economy and produce the growth needed to supply that investment.
Deng set out on his “Southern tour” in January–February 1992, just 20 days after the formal liquidation of the Soviet Union in December 1991, accompanied by top generals, the state security chief Qiao Shi and party elder Bo Yibo. As he visited the SEZs and southern cities, he declared that there would be no reversal of economic policies in the face of the Soviet collapse. Dismissing concerns about growing social inequality, he is said to have declared: “Let some people get rich first.”
In a showdown with Chen Yun in Shanghai, Deng reportedly shouted: “Any leader who cannot boost the economy should leave office.” Openly backing capitalist restoration, he declared: “We should absorb more foreign capital and more foreign-advanced experiences and technologies, and set up more foreign-invested enterprises. Do not fear when others say we are practicing capitalism. Capitalism in nothing fearsome.” 
Deng prevailed, opening the door for wholesale capitalist restoration that transformed the whole country into a giant free trade zone for the exploitation of cheap Chinese labour. The crocodile tears shed by Western politicians over the Tiananmen Square massacre were rapidly cast aside as foreign investors recognised that the police-state regime in Beijing was willing to use any method, no matter how brutal, to discipline the working class. In 1993, the CCP proclaimed that its objective was a “socialist market economy,” giving a threadbare “socialist” disguise to its embrace of capitalism.
In 1994, the CCP formally established a “labour market,” by legitimising the sale and purchase of labour power. State-owned enterprises were corporatised into companies run for profit. The unprofitable ones were restructured or shut down. The better equipped, in sectors not designated as strategic, were sold off or converted into subsidiaries of foreign transnationals. A small number were preserved as state-owned “national flagships.”
Between 1996 and 2005, the number of employees in state- and collective-owned enterprises halved, from 144 million to 73 million workers. Along with guaranteed life-time employment, the “iron rice bowl” of cradle-to-grave services was also dismantled. Essential services that had previously been provided by state-owned enterprises—childcare, education, health care and pensions—were now left to individual workers.
Chinese capitalism today
The restoration of capitalism in China over the past 30 years has only exacerbated the underlying social tensions within Chinese society and compounded the political and geo-political dilemmas confronting the CCP apparatus.
The extraordinary economic expansion of China to become the world’s second largest economy has rested, in the first place, on the immense gains of the 1949 Revolution that unified China for the first time in decades, created an educated and skilled workforce, and developed basic industries and essential infrastructure. The flood of foreign investment into the country transformed China into the sweatshop of the world and produced a massive 11-fold increase in the economy between 1992 and 2010. This rapid growth, however, did not reflect an inherent strength of the Chinese economy, but rather its role in the world economy, dependent on foreign investment and technology.
The imperialist powers, above all the United States, were more than willing to exploit cheap Chinese labour as long as China’s economic expansion did not challenge their own established geo-political interests. However, the vast quantity of raw materials and energy that Chinese industries require from around the world have increasingly brought it into conflict with the US and other major powers, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and internationally. Moreover, as China has sought to create its own hi-tech “national champions” such as Huawei and ZTE, the US, under the Trump administration, has declared economic war on Beijing, not just in matters of trade. It has openly opposed Chinese plans to develop and expand hi-tech industries and to more closely link Eurasia to China through massive infrastructure projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The delusion promoted by CCP leaders that China could, through a “peaceful rise,” become a world power on a parity with the US has been shattered. China’s expansion has brought it into conflict with the global imperialist order dominated by the United States. Under Obama and now Trump, the US has begun using all means at its disposal to ensure its continued global hegemony. Trump’s economic war goes hand-in-hand with a military build-up in the Indo-Pacific, escalating naval provocations in the South China Sea, under the guise of “freedom of navigation operations, and more open preparations for a war between the two nuclear-armed powers.
The CCP leadership has no answer to the mounting danger of war, other than desperately seeking an accommodation with imperialism, while engaging in a frenetic arms race that can only end in catastrophe for the working class in China and internationally. Capitalist restoration, far from strengthening China’s capacity to counter the US, has greatly weakened it. The regime is organically incapable of making any appeal to the international working class, as that would inevitably lead to social struggles by the working class at home.
Having abandoned even its previous nominal commitment to socialism and internationalism, the CCP has increasing relied on whipping up Chinese nationalism to try to create a social base in layers of the middle class. There is nothing progressive about Chinese chauvinism and patriotism, which divides Chinese workers from their class brothers and sisters internationally, and within China from non-Han Chinese minorities. Its repressive measures against Uighurs, Tibetans and other ethnic groups have provided an opening that the US is seeking to exploit. Under the bogus banner of “human rights,” Washington is promoting separatist groups as part of its ambition to fracture and subordinate China to its interests.
Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the CCP leadership is terrified of a renewal of working-class opposition, the first stirrings of which have been seen in the more numerous reports of workers’ strikes and protests, and, significantly over the past year, in a turn by a layer of university students to assist workers in their struggles. Since 1989, the working class in China has vastly expanded to an estimated 400 million and as a proportion of the population. One indicator is the growth of the country’s urban population from just 26.4 percent of the total in 1990, to 58.5 percent in 2017.
The CCP leadership boasts of having lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, using the UN’s very austere measures of poverty. Such benchmarks ignore the many factors that are fueling discontent among workers, including the common practice of late or unpaid wages, unhealthy and dangerous factory conditions, harsh corporate disciplinary practices, and the lack of basic social rights for tens of millions of internal migrants in the cities. All of these oppressive conditions are monitored and policed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which functions as an arm of the CCP bureaucracy in workplaces.
Capitalist restoration has produced a dramatic rise in social inequality: from one of the most equal societies in the world, China has become one of the most unequal countries. It is home to more dollar billionaires than any other country except the United States. While Chinese workers struggle to survive on the minimum wage of $370 a month, the wealthiest individual, Tencent chairman Pony Ma, has a personal fortune of almost $40 billion. These super-rich oligarchs, who in many cases have built their fortunes through naked corruption and the looting of state-owned property, are represented in the Chinese Communist Party and sit on powerful advisory bodies.
The gulf between the super-rich and the vast majority of the workers and the poor is generating huge social tensions that, sooner rather than later, will explode on a scale that will eclipse the rebellion by workers and students 30 years ago. The lesson drawn by the Stalinist leadership from the 1989 events was that it had to suppress, through all available means, any expression of opposition that could become the focus of a broader movement against the regime. Incapable of meeting the pressing social needs of the majority of the population, the CCP has vastly expanded its police-state apparatus, now spending more each year on its internal security forces than it does on external defence.
The working class must also draw the necessary political lessons from the defeat of that movement in 1989, which was rapidly assuming revolutionary dimensions. What was lacking was not determination, audacity and courage, nor numbers, which were rapidly swelling across China, but the essential problem facing the international working class in the 20th century—the absence of revolutionary leadership.
James Cogan summed up the issue in his analysis “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” stating:
Inexperienced politically and lacking a political perspective outside of opposition to the existing regime, the workers’ leaders advanced no alternative to, and deferred to, the student bodies. The workers of China knew in their life experience what they were against—Stalinism and capitalism—but they were not able to articulate any perspective for an alternative social order.
Decades of domination by Stalinism and the active suppression of genuine Marxism in China meant there was no revolutionary socialist, that is, Trotskyist, tendency in the working class. No organisation within the country could spontaneously advance the program that was implicit in the actions and sentiments of the Chinese working class—a political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist regime and introduce major reforms into the economy for the benefit of the working class. 
The essential political task of building a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International remains. None of the oppositional tendencies that emerged out of the 1989 protests offer a viable political perspective for the working class. Advocates of independent trade unions such as Han Dongfang, who was prominent in the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation in 1989, have underscored the political bankruptcy of syndicalism by lurching to the right and into the arms of US trade union apparatus, in other words of US imperialism.
A layer of youth, intellectuals and workers have turned to Maoism, and its banal “revolutionary” slogans, for answers. Capitalist restoration in China, however, was not a break from Maoism. It flowed organically out of the dead-end of “socialism in one country.” Maoism could aptly be termed Stalinism with Chinese characteristics, with its hostility to the working class, its emphasis on subjective will, and above all its putrid nationalism. It is diametrically opposed to genuine Marxism, that is the perspective of socialist internationalism, which alone was upheld by the Trotskyist movement, including the Chinese Trotskyists.
The establishment of a genuinely revolutionary party in China, as part of the ICFI, requires the assimilation of the essential strategic experiences of the international working class, of which the Chinese revolutions of the 20th century are a critical component. The CCP leaders are petrified that workers and youth will begin to work over the lessons of history. They attempt to censor and black out any knowledge and discussion of the events of 1989, and continue to perpetrate the lies of Stalinism about the course of the 20th century.
The crucial political lessons of the protracted struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism are embedded in the program, perspective and documents of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Workers and youth should make a serious study of the political issues involved, beginning with the documents of the ICFI on the Tiananmen Square massacre, republished this week on the World Socialist Web Site. We urge you to contact the International Committee of the Fourth International, which is the first step toward forging a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class.
 Cited in “Workers in the Tiananmen protests: The politics of the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation,” by Andrew G. Walder and Gong Xiaoxia, first published in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No 29, January 1993.
 The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International: Perspectives Resolution of the International Committee of the Fourth International, August 1988, Labor Publications, pp.30–31.
 Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, The Free Press, Third edition, 1999, p.508.
 ibid, p.389.
 Michael Marti, China and the Legacy of Deng Xiaoping: From Communist Revolution to Capitalist Evolution, Brassey’s Inc, 2002, pp.47–48.
 Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 1”, 26 November 2012.
 Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 2”, 27 November 2012.
 James Cogan, “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre: Political lessons for the working class,” 4 June 1999.
The Quiet Death of the Gig Economy – FutureSin – Medium
Michael K. SpencerFollow Jan 7
Disruption, blissfully happy digital nomads, the sharing economy and oh yes — the “Gig Economy” sounded good on paper, but it seems to not be all it was thought it might become.
As the U.S. economy finally and painfully slowly recovered from the great recession of 2008, the supposed unemployment rate fell to record low levels in 2018.
Alan Krueger (Princeton University) and Larry Katz (Harvard University) have dialed down their estimates of the gig economy’s growth by 60%-80%.
According to Guy Berger on LinkedIn, Krueger and Katz published the (at the time) most rigorous analysis of alternative work arrangements. Their conclusion was that such arrangements (of which a minority are online platform gig work) had grown significantly between 2005 and 2015. Their estimate was its share of the US workforce had grown by a whopping 5 percentage points. (7–8 million workers.). Well guess what, that trend now seems to have reversed as the economy recovered.
With Lyft and Uber set to go public with IPOs this year, that to be part-time drivers with them is somehow desirable or helpful to “make ends meet” has all but dried up, right before supposed autonomous vehicles and self-driving cars start to hit the streets in various ways.
Indeed there does not seem to be much sharing and caring in the ruthless world of Uber, amid legal battles and drivers who make less than minimum wage and are like grunt contract workers of the worst kind, totally unprotected.
In a world where Amazon is miserably harsh to its bottom feeder workers, why the heck did we once think the ‘gig economy’ was some glorious alternative workforce? Why the ‘gig’ economy may not be the workforce of the future after all, with rising minimum wages and a small bump in wage growth in 2019. I personally think the American labor force is screwed with a skill-shortage coming the likes of which we’ve rarely seen, but that’s another story for another day.
From Uber to TaskRabbit to YourMechanic, so-called gig work — task-oriented work offered by online apps — has been promoted as providing the flexibility and independence that traditional jobs don’t offer. But in 2019, if anything they seem like scams for the destitute, desperate and debt-ridden. I feel a bit nervous about how manipulative an Uber driver can be just to earn an extra buck. Maybe it’s not a Gig economy but kind of like another form of slavery given a pretty name.
Horror stories of what it’s really like to do delivery work also give you a second guess that this Gig Economy isn’t just disruptive to make these companies rich, it’s a sham and harmful to these workers. I feel as if Silicon Valley has duped us, yet again.
Nobody could have thought or imagined that doing a small gig in exchange for an hourly payment could become someone’s full-time job. It’s a bit like career-death, you get used to the work-lifestyle perks of the so called flexibility until you realize just how little you made the year you side-hustled in the Gig Economy, or became a freelancer or attempted to be self-employed. It’s risky folks, and I don’t recommend it for a minute.
When you need to bring food to the table you are on the fringe of the labor force, the painful predicament of being a Gig Economy minion is your everyday, until it becomes your new normal. Until you lose hope to up-skill or change your career path. Labor is tiresome, but when the fat cats get rich on the backs of people who need the money, you know American capitalism has invented another scam to profit. That’s precisely why the Gig Economy has to die.
Crypto and the Gig Economy seem hot in a recession, but the reality is that lovely expansion of alternative work seems a nice response to the weak US labor market, when job seekers didn’t have many options. But now with the labor market in a much healthier state for a few more months, more conventional jobs have rebounded. The implication may be that we’ll see these kinds of jobs proliferate again during the next downturn. Bitcoin and side-hustles, it doesn’t feel very sustainable.
The “gig” economy was supposed to be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to be their own boss. But if you have to deal with companies like Uber, you might end up getting screwed royally. For the hundreds of people who use services like Uber, TaskRabbit or Turo to earn their livelihood, there’s no thing as benefits, paid leave or basic worker rights. That’s not an ethical solution for people living on the edge.
Companies like TaskRabbit make a fortune by extracting commission in exchange for connecting consumers across the country with reliable people in their neighborhood who will happily take care of their burdensome chores. But is it even ethical? The app-economy is a feudal use of technology and downright as evil as any capitalistic scheme you might want to devise to imprison people in impossible situations.
The Gig Economy was a myth and a scam, and Silicon Valley needs to be held more accountable with regulation. Alan Krueger of Princeton University and Larry Katz of Harvard should actually be apologizing, not revising their estimates. As of 2020, universal basic income sounds more reliable than an exploitative Gig Economy.
The gig economy was supposed to be the future of work, but it ended up hurting more than it helped, and we left it. Just as we should kill Uber.
Revolt of the gig workers: How delivery rage reached a tipping point - SFChronicle.com
Gig workers are fighting back.
By their name, you might think independent contractors are a motley crew — geographically scattered, with erratic paychecks and tattered safety nets. They report to faceless software subroutines rather than human bosses. Most gig workers toil alone as they ferry passengers, deliver food and perform errands.
But in recent weeks, some of these app-wielding workers have joined forces to effect changes by the multibillion-dollar companies and powerful algorithms that control their working conditions.
Last week, Instacart shoppers wrung payment concessions from the grocery delivery company, which had been using customer tips to subsidize what it paid them. After outcries by workers on social media, in news reports and through online petitions, San Francisco’s Instacart said it had been “misguided.” It now adds tips on top of its base pay — as most customers and shoppers thought they should be — and will retroactively compensate workers who were stiffed on tips.
New York this year became the first U.S. city to implement a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft, which now must pay drivers at least $17.22 an hour after expenses ($26.51 before expenses). Lyft, which sued over the requirement, last week gave in to driver pressure to implement it.
For two years, drivers held rallies, released research, sent thousands of letters and calls to city officials, and gathered 16,000 petition signature among themselves. The Independent Drivers Guild, a union-affiliated group that represents New York ride-hail drivers and spearheaded the campaign, predicted per-driver pay boosts of up to $9,600 a year.
That follows some other hard-fought worker crusades, such as when they persuaded Uber to finally add tipping to its app in 2017, a move triggered by several phenomena: a string of corporate scandals, the fact that rival Lyft had offered tipping from the get-go, and a class-action lawsuit seeking employment status for workers.
“We’ll probably start to see more gig workers organizing as they realize that enough negative publicity for the companies can make something change,” said Alexandrea Ravenelle, an assistant sociology professor at New York’s Mercy College and author of “Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy.” “But companies will keep trying to push the envelope to pay workers as little as possible.”
The current political climate, with tech giants such as Facebook and Google on hot seats over privacy, abuse of customer data and other issues, has helped the workers’ quests.
“We’re at a moment of reckoning for tech companies,” said Alex Rosenblat, a technology ethnographer at New York’s Data & Society Research Institute and author of “Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work.” “There’s a techlash, a broader understanding that tech companies have to be held accountable as political institutions rather than neutral forces for good.”
The climate also includes more consumer awareness of labor issues in the on-demand economy. “People are realizing that you don’t just jump in an Uber and don’t have to think about who’s driving you and what they make,” Ravenelle said. “There’s a lot more attention to gig workers’ plight.”
Instacart customers were dismayed to discover that their tips were not going to workers on top of their pay as a reward for good service.
Sage Wilson, a spokesman for Working Washington, a labor-backed group that helped with the Instacart shoppers’ campaign, said many more gig workers have emerged with stories of similar experiences on other apps.
“Pay transparency really seems to be an issue across many of these platforms,” he said. “I almost wonder if it’s part of the reason why these companies are building black box algorithmic pay models in the first place (so) you might not even know right away if you got a pay cut until you start seeing the weekly totals trending down.”
Cases in point: DoorDash and Amazon also rifle the tip jar to subsidize contractors’ base pay, as Instacart did. DoorDash defended this, saying its pay model “provides transparency, consistency, and predictability” and has increased both satisfaction and retention of its “Dashers.”
But Kristen Anderson of Concord, a social worker who works part-time for DoorDash to help with student loans, said that was not her experience. Her pay dropped dramatically after DoorDash started appropriating tips in 2017, she said. “Originally it was worth my time and now it’s not,” she said. “It’s frustrating.”
Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job, has organized with others online over the tips issue.
“This has been a maddening, frustrating and, at times, incredibly disheartening experience,” said Debi LaBell of San Carlos, who does weekend work for Instacart on top of a full-time job. “When I first started doing Instacart, I loved getting in my car to head to my first shop. These past few months, it has taken everything that I have to get motivated enough to do my shift.”
Before each shopping trip, she hand-wrote notes to all her customers explaining the tips issue. She and other shoppers congregated online both to vent and to organize.
Her hope now is that Instacart will invite shoppers like her to hear their experiences and ideas.
There’s poetic justice in the fact that the same internet that allows gig companies to create widely dispersed marketplaces provided gig workers space to find solidarity with one another.
“It’s like the internet taketh and giveth,” said Eric Lloyd, an attorney at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, which represents management, including some gig companies he wouldn’t name, in labor cases. “The internet gave rise to this whole new economy, giving businesses a way to build really innovative models, and it’s given workers new ways to advance their rights.”
For California gig workers, even more changes are on the horizon in the wake of a ground-breaking California Supreme Court decision last April that redefined when to classify workers as employees versus independent contractors.
Gig companies, labor leaders and lawmakers are holding meetings in Sacramento to thrash out legislative responses to the Dynamex decision. Options could range from more workers getting employment status to gig companies offering flexible benefits. Whatever happens, it’s sure to upend the status quo.
Rather than piecemeal enforcement through litigation, arbitration and various government agencies such as unemployment agencies, it makes sense to come up with overall standards, Rosenblat said.
“There’s a big need for comprehensive standards with an understanding of all the trade-offs,” she said. “We’re at a tipping point for change.”
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @csaid
I Rode All the E-Scooters. Most of Them Are Awful Except Two
So sieht es im paradiesischen Wunderland des Transport-Sharing aus : #ASAB Alle Roller sind Mist, außer einem, und der ist genau genommen kein Roller. Und in Berlin? Sind das bessere E-Roller Made in Germany ? Wohl kaum. Tragt bloß einen Helm!
Matt Farah, 6/10/19 3:45pm - One weekend morning toward the end of 2017, I woke up at home in Venice, CA and took a walk, only to see something entirely new: people on electric scooters. And I mean lots of people on electric scooters. Literally overnight, a new company called Bird, founded just two miles away in Santa Monica, had launched an app and dumped thousands of dockless scooters all over the place. A few things happened very quickly after that:
Bird Scooters became litter. Freelance chargers, or “Juicers” as Lime would later call their not-employees, would do their best to place the scooters in an orderly fashion, out of the way in common areas. But since people only have respect for a.) things they, themselves personally own or b.) are locked down or are being watched, kicking, destroying, throwing them in the ocean, and more turned into Venice’s favorite new sport. The other morning, I watched someone line up a dozen or more scooters neatly, get into their van, and drive off. Not 10 seconds later, someone used a shopping cart as a bowling ball, turning the whole thing into some kind of bramble.
Everyone wanted to compete with Bird. Lime was next, with its fun, fruit-themed livery. Bird and Lime were the new disruptors, and the OG disruptors, Uber and Lyft, wanted in on that sweet, sweet last-mile dollar. So those two started dropping their own scooters all over.
E-Mobility Scooters have absolutely decimated the bike rental industry in Venice. Enterprising bike rental shop owners began to moonlight as scooter chargers or repair facilities. Some bike rental shop owners began buying and renting out their own scooters. Now, just 18 months later, on any given weekend, well over 50 percent of the wheeled traffic on the Venice bike path is battery powered.
There were injuries. Lots of injuries. Anecdotally, I regularly see people wiping out and getting hurt on mobility scooters. It happens enough that I have made something of a pastime watching a specific corner on the bike path near my house. Business Insider reports over 1,500 injuries serious enough to record in the U.S., in 2018 alone, plus four fatalities.
For the record, I sympathize with local residents who resent them taking up sidewalk space in front of their home, hate them for becoming litter in a neighborhood that often has too much of that already, and who have to deal with yet another way for dumb, lost tourists to be dumb and lost.
I’ve found scooters blocking my own front door or garage on several occasions. And folks tend to want the best of all worlds while riding one: they want the rights of a pedestrian, the rights of a bicycle, and the rights of a car, all at the same time, which is an incredibly dangerous mindset.
Also, for the record, I have found some extremely convenient uses for the scooters when I need to get somewhere that is just out of walking range, or to “run to the store to pick up some forgotten ingredient” while a recipe is in the oven. I have used every brand of scooter at one point or another, with extremely mixed results. I will factor in previous experience into my rankings.
The Test: My goal was to find out which mobility company provides the best motoring experience for the rider, for their money. A showdown, for which scooter is best.
For purposes of this piece, we will not be discussing company policy, only the scooter itself, and whether or not you should get down with it when you come hang out with me on Venice Beach.
Allow me to introduce you to The Mobiliring: a 3.4-mile handling circuit featuring a variety of surface changes, corners, crags, obstacles, sand, and people.
You begin at the Venice Beach Parking lot at 2100 Ocean Front Walk, with the densest population of scooters around. Proceeding straight across the parking lot to the bike path, you go north on the bike path over a winding way made of slatted, rough, sandy concrete, all the way to the Santa Monica border, where you turn back south because mobility scooters can’t be ridden on the bike path at all in the city of Santa Monica.
You ride south on Speedway, basically a decaying alley full of potholes, but appropriately named, as it was LA’s first paved road. Take Speedway south to Windward Avenue, the heart of Venice, and turn right, weaving across the freestyle dance skating grounds, through the throngs of tourists, and back to the bike path where it meets the legal graffiti area. Continue south on the bike path until you get to the Venice pier, then turn left on Washington Blvd and an immediate left to go north on Speedway, taking you right back to Start/Finish.
This course is approximately 60 percent unlimited-speed bike path and 40 percent public roads, and in order to successfully complete a lap, you must pay attention and obey all posted road signs and laws.
(Before you ask, Yes, I bought the Mobiliring domain name. Yes, I will be inviting you to post your own lap times.)
The Contenders: We’ve restricted our entrants to scooter-type vehicles (as opposed to e-assist bicycles) available on the street for rent in Venice, CA as of May 13, 2019. For this test, that means Bird, Lime, Lyft, Jump (Uber), and Wheels are in the game. Now let’s see how they did on our handling course.
5th Place – Jump – DNF
Jump, along with Lyft, uses the Segway / Ninebot ES2 scooter with 19 miles of range and a claimed top speed of 15 mph. This scooter also uses two independent braking methods: regenerative via a toggle on the handlebar, and direct friction via a pressure plate on the rear tire. But, as with shared platforms in cars, the difference is often in the fine tuning, and here, the tuning mattered a lot.
Our test started well. I picked up a fully charged and seemingly brand-new Jump scooter a few road blocks from the Mobiliring’s Start/Finish line. On the road, it seemed reasonably well made and stable, and reached the claimed top speed of 15 mph relatively drama-free. Then, just after starting off my official lap time, I hit the bike path, and it told me “no.”
This is important. You see, the Venice bike path is exactly what it sounds like: a dedicated path for bikes, separate from cars and pedestrians. How each of these scooters deals with the bike path, as we will learn, is a defining factor in their Mobiliring time. The bike path and some of the surrounding pedestrian areas, a few of which are on-course, are “restricted” for some scooters, but not for others.
While each scooter company deals with the bike path its own way, Jump has elected not to deal with it at all. The scooter refused to move, the app told me to take it back off the path, and into a “parking zone,” to lock it up and end my ride.
I pushed it back where I found it, and even though my phone knew where I was, the scooter disagreed, and I was penalized for $5 for, ultimately, parking it legally.
4th Place – Lime S – 44 minutes - $7.60
Lime, the second scooter brand on the scene after Bird, has just released a heavier-duty version of their scooter, called the “Gen 3.” It features an underfloor battery for better stability, improved front suspension, bigger wheels, and a 30-mile range with all-weather capability.
Unfortunately, since California doesn’t need that as badly as, say, Boston, we don’t get those. Here in Venice, we get the original Lime S scooter, also by Ninebot, but with a 18 mile range and a top speed of 14 mph. The Lime S has the tallest handlebars of all scooters and a single, rear-wheel bike-style cable and disc brake.
In my previous experience, I’ve found the Lime S to be the fastest of the stand-up scooters, regularly exceeding the claimed 14 mph number, but also with the twitchiest handling in part because those handlebars are so high up and with a column full of heavy batteries in the front. Allegedly the handling issues are solved in the new scooter, but I will have to wait to see on that.
Lime has decided that an appropriate speed for the Venice bike path should be 3 mph. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to operate a two-wheeled vehicle at 3 mph, but it’s actually quite a lot of work. Three is just barely enough speed to keep a two-wheeled vehicle standing up. It’s slow enough that I was passed by old people walking.
It’s so slow, that you really can’t keep it in a straight line, which means the ride takes that much longer because you have to cover more zig-zaggy distance, and have I mentioned you’re going three?
I was openly mocked, to my face. I realize how mean-spirited you need to be to mock someone to their face for doing nothing besides silently riding a scooter very slowly on the bike path, but honestly, no one has just randomly mocked me on the street really ever in my lifetime. That’s how embarrassingly slow Lime wants you to go on the bike path.
To make matters worse, Lime’s GPS calibration is so bad that, not 20 feet away from me on the pedestrian foot path I was passed by a dozen Limes going full-tilt, weaving between pedestrians, while I was a rolling chicane on the bike path, being passed by folks going slower than my own top speed.
3rd Place – Lyft – 31 minutes, 47 Seconds - $7.01
As I noted earlier, both Lyft and Jump use essentially the same Ninebot ES2scooter, painted different colors. But the difference between Jump’s DNF and Lyft’s podium finish? The software.
Jump uses a basic LED display with a speedometer, whereas Lyft just has five little lights to indicate battery status. You could say that makes Jump better, but in fact it makes Jump worse, because there is nothing worse than looking at a powered vehicle’s speedometer and seeing a number lower than where you’d set the treadmill during cool down.
Lyft’s “Prince Purple” and black livery also features a metal cage surrounding the column-mounted auxiliary battery pack, Mad Max style. I guess they follow @BirdGraveyard.
I actually tested the Lyft before Lime and Jump, so when I hit the bike path and got stuck with a 5 mph limiter for the first mile and a half, it was bad. I thought that was, at the time, as embarrassed as I could be on a motorized vehicle, traveling barely faster than a walk. The thumb throttle, remained fully depressed for a solid 20 minutes, and my right hand began to cramp. I suddenly realized that, if the other scooters were this bad (they were worse) the test was actually going to take all day (it did).
In unrestricted zones, the electrons flowed like a burst dam; the combination of power delivery and incredibly cheap, low-grip tires mean that you can actually get wheelspin on the sandy stuff – man this thing is fast. Maybe Lyft doesn’t put a speedometer on the handlebars because they are hiding the fact that their scooters are massively juiced up? Maybe it’s like Japan in the 1990s where everyone says their car makes 276 horsepower, and this is the R34 Skyline actually pushing 450?
Southbound on Speedway, there were sections where I couldn’t use full throttle because it was just way, way too fast. With these tiny wheels, and this amount of power, when you hit the pavement head first (your only option when the front wheel “pivot point” of a crash is 4” in front of your toes), your head will explode like a Gallagher watermelon.
The regenerative braking system on these Ninebot scooters is really cool, except, like most cheap regen systems, it stops working at low speed. So you really do have to use the friction brake on the rear wheel to come to a full stop.
Considering the speed, you do not want to be standing on your toes on your back foot, which means you have to do a mid-brake foot shuffle to get that back foot planted on the brake to stop it. It seems like a good idea, and probably adds to the range to use regen as much as possible, but in a panic, complex braking systems are not good.
Nevertheless, the bike path clearly took a lot away from Lyft’s time here, and so if you live in a city without restricted zones, commuting on one of these could be faster than you think. Wear a helmet.
2nd Place – Bird Zero – 20 minutes - $6.20
Bird is the Kleenex of mobility, the Google of mobility, the iPod of mobility. They were the first on the scene and made everyone else play catch-up. The original Bird scooter was a modified Xiaomi unit (sidebar: the guy who modified it is super interesting on his own and races a very fast and aero-fied Nissan GT-R in the Global Time Attack series), which proved not to be durable enough to stand up to the abuse put forth by Americans handling items they don’t own. So they first did a stint with Ninebot before developing their own in-house scooter, the Bird Zero, which is what I rode.
The Zero has the widest deck of any standup scooter available, making it the most comfortable and stable to ride. (EDIT: New “Bolt” Scooters in LA have wider decks, but were not online at the time of my test). The handlebars fall between Jump and Lime height, so right in the middle, and between your hands is a speedometer and battery indicator.
Though Bird says the Zero will go 25 km/hr (15 mph), the onboard speedometer would stop at 11.5 mph, and if you actually hit 12 mph (like on a small downhill), it would kill power until you dropped down to 9 mph, an incredibly annoying bug.
It has larger wheels than the Ninebots used by Lyft, Jump and Lime, and what appear to be grippier tires. At 11 mph and change, you feel like you’re moving along pretty good, but it’s not sketchy fast, and the combination of (slightly) larger wheels and a basic front suspension mean the cracks in the sidewalk aren’t so jarring. The only brake is a bicycle-style cable disc brake on the rear wheel. The cable is exposed, so it’s vulnerable to tampering, but it’s intuitive and effective.
(Side note: Yes, people are constantly messing with the brakes of these scooters. I regularly find cut cables, and on a few occasions, have started riding only to find out while in motion that the cables have been cut or removed entirely. Check any scooter before riding for functional brakes.)
I took my first lap ever around the Mobiliring on a Bird, figuring they would be the one to beat, and frankly, Bird is the gold standard for a reason. The Zero is unrestricted on the bike path, and maintained its top speed for the entire first twisty section. The handling is predictable, and there is more grip than other scooters, right up until it gets sandy. Turning southward on Speedway at the north end of the course, the Zero absorbed many of the bumps and ruts in the road better than other scooters. Because I didn’t bump up on any stupid limiters, the entire lap was quite pleasant and relaxing.
Having tried all three generations of Bird scooter, the Zero is a vast improvement from the first two, and if you’re going to scoot on your feet, not on a seat, Bird is probably the one to ride.
1st Place – Wheels – 15 Minutes, 16 seconds - $5.60
“Wheels” is the newest mobility company on the scene; their miniature bicycles only appeared in Venice a few months ago. These bikes are, frankly, genius. In theory, they go up to 35 km/hr, (21.7 mph), though I never saw more than 33.5 on the display.
Because they are the first mobility option with hot-swappable batteries, the bikes themselves never go out of service during daytime hours. Wheels “Transporters” pick random bikes from where they are left, swap the batteries, and return the bikes to “hubs,” where, in my experience, you can pretty much always find at least one.
The fact that they are more like bicycles than Razor scooters is, itself, a major advantage. Sitting, rather than standing, means stability. It means your knees and ankles aren’t a suspension component. It has 14-inch wheels with pneumatic tires. It uses dual disc brakes from a high-end bicycle. It has a twist-grip throttle, like a motorcycle. And it has Bluetooth speakers, so you can play your music from the bike itself, freeing you from having to dangerously (and in Santa Monica, illegally) ride on the street wearing headphones.
A Wheels has enough power that you don’t have to push-start it, real tires so you can ride confidently on sandy tarmac, and the kind of brakes you’d want on a vehicle capable of keeping up with, and passing, folks on geared bicycles, or even cars in urban traffic. The kind of bumps that would sail you headfirst into a parked car on a traditional scooter are mere inconveniences on a Wheels.
I knew it would be faster than the scooters on specs alone, but honestly, it was also so much more fun. Every single scooter is kinda terrifying, because a crack or a bump can come up so quickly, with really bad consequences. Even while having fun, it’s virtually impossible to escape this train of thought. Especially since right when you do, that’s when you crash.
A Wheels is like riding an electric Honda Grom. The bike path, unrestricted on a Wheels, might as well be Angeles Crest Highway. I was taking apexes, leaning it down, balancing the brakes, and leaning into the throttle on exits. You can actually look up and around, rather than four feet in front of you, because you aren’t terrified of uneven pavement anymore.
Best of all, because it looks more like a bike than a Razor scooter, many folks are riding them in more appropriate places than sidewalks, because they no longer see themselves as pedestrians.
And the speed, Lord, the speed. It completed the Mobiliring a full five minutes faster than Bird, in half the time of Lyft, 1/3 the time of Lime, and for less money than all of them—after all, you’re literally renting these things by the minute, not the mile. Time is money.
Downsides? Admittedly, there are two: First are the exposed brake cables for the dual disc brakes. During the single day of this test, I found three Wheels with intentionally cut brake lines. Someone not as vigilant as myself might not notice, which, considering where they were cut, I believe was the sadistic intent.
Secondly, 20 mph is fast enough to have a crash where you can get hurt pretty badly, and Wheels is getting awfully close to moped territory; those do require helmets. While you’re no longer worried about pavement quality, you are going fast enough to misjudge things and just, crash. I hate to say it, but helmets should probably be mandated. And if I’m nit-picking, a height-adjustable seat would be nice, although not having to pedal negates most of the negative effects of a fixed seat.
When scooters first arrived in Venice, I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “Great, at last a substitute for walking.” And in some ways, I was right. These scooters do expose us at our most slovenly, both in how we treat them when no one is looking, and in how tourists do actually use them, right in front of me, every day: as a walk you don’t have to walk; as a bike you don’t have to pedal.
But they also do give mobility to people who don’t otherwise have it. 30 miles in LA is a pretty long way; you could ride a Wheels from Venice to Beverly Hills and back, for less than an Uber or Lyft, and without having to be a sweaty mess when you got there. Bird scooters and their ilk are good for short trips that are just out of walking distance, as long as you don’t have to deal with restricted zones and the surface is good.
A Wheels is good for that too, but it can also be a bicycle. And frankly, it’s safer. Wheels wins this one by a mile.
But as I write this, some three more e-scooters are coming to Venice in the next month. I guess the Mobiliring’s work isn’t done yet.❞
Hundreds of Uber Drivers in Toronto Are Joining a Union
In a growing number of cities where rideshare platforms operate, drivers are fed up with the low pay, long hours, and lack of basic worker protections that shlepping strangers around entails. In the U.S., this has led to large, coordinated protests and attempts to game the system to achieve a living wage. Canadian drivers, however, took a more traditional route: signing union cards.
First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.
As with grassroots groups like Rideshare Drivers United, the hope is to bring Uber’s work standards into closer parity with that of traditional cabs by upholding the regional minimum wage, sick day, vacation, and break standards, as well as an overhaul of the deactivation system that effectively allows Uber to fire drivers without recourse. “These are human rights, and all drivers deserve this basic level of respect,” Ejaz Butt, a local driver, said today.
What makes Ontario an interesting test bed is that by signing with UFCW, drivers are effectively shooting first and asking questions later—which may end up being the wiser tactic. “Today is the beginning of a process that we’re embarking on. The first step of that process is to call Uber come to the table,” Godoy said, though he readily admits Uber has yet to offer a response. (For whatever it’s worth, Gizmodo also reached out to Uber for comment on Monday and has also not received a reply.) The same business model that allows Uber to consider its drivers independent contractors rather than employees exists in Canada just as it does in the U.S., and Uber is certain to defend its claim vociferously if it’s forced to acknowledge a threat to said claim at all.
At the moment, the UFCW-signed drivers in Canada’s largest city are not certified as a union, and matters may be further complicated by the fact that most rideshare drivers operate on multiple platforms concurrently. “Having multiple employers does not mean that you’re not an employee of the company that you drive or work for,” Godoy stated, but it may still pose representation issues down the line.
Currently, Toronto’s city government is weighing how to balance the interests of rideshare and cab companies—something New York already had a protracted fight over, eventually ruling in favor of drivers. Ultimately, Godoy told the press that “we believe Uber will listen to the concerns.”
Toronto Uber drivers join the union - UFCW Canada – MEDIA CONFERENCE ALERT
TORONTO, June 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Hundreds of Uber drivers in Toronto have joined UFCW Canada (United Food and Commercial Workers union), the country’s leading private-sector union. On Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 11 a.m., Uber drivers and their union will hold a media conference at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel to discuss the challenges Uber drivers face, and the redress they and their union are seeking from Uber.
Uber drivers don’t get paid sick days, vacation days or extended health coverage, and must cover their own fuel and repair costs. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute calculated that after costs, most Uber drivers earned less than $10 an hour. “Uber calls us partners, but we have absolutely no say about our working conditions, or even being able to take a bathroom break,” says Ejaz Butt, who works for Uber and helped start the union drive. “We know we make a lot of money for Uber but in return we get treated like we don’t matter.” Butt and other Uber drivers will be at the June 26th Toronto media conference.
“Companies like UBER, who can hire and fire drivers and fully dictate the terms of employment should be held accountable for the well-being of their employees,” says Paul Meinema, the National President of UFCW Canada. “Uber is the employer. The drivers are employees. The technology is just a management tool and the company should adhere to the labour laws,” says the UFCW Canada leader, who will also be participating in the June 26th media conference in Toronto.
About UFCW Canada: UFCW Canada represents more than 250,000 union members across the country working in food retail and processing, transportation, health, logistics, warehousing, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, security and professional sectors. UFCW Canada is the country’s most innovative organization dedicated to building fairness in workplaces and communities. UFCW Canada members are your neighbours who work at your local grocery stores, hotels, airport food courts, taxi firms, car rental agencies, nursing homes, restaurants, food processing plants and thousands of other locations across the country. To find out more about UFCW and its ground-breaking work, visit www.ufcw.ca.
National Coordinator, Gig and Platform-Employer Initiatives
416-675-1104, extension 2236
MoA - Tian An Men Square - What Really Happened (Updated)
June 04, 2019
Tian An Men Square - What Really Happened (Updated)
Since 1989 the western media write anniversary pieces on the June 4 removal of protesters from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The view seems always quite one sided and stereotyped with a brutal military that suppresses peaceful protests.
That is not the full picture. Thanks to Wikileaks we have a few situation reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at that time. They describe a different scene than the one western media paint to this day.
Ten thousands of people, mostly students, occupied the square for six weeks. They protested over the political and personal consequences of Mao’s chaotic Cultural Revolution which had upset the whole country. The liberalization and changeover to a more capitalist model under Deng Xiopings had yet to show its success and was fought by the hardliners in the Communist Party.
The more liberal side of the government negotiated with the protesters but no agreement was found. The hardliners in the party pressed for the protest removal. When the government finally tried to move the protesters out of the very prominent square they resisted.
On June 3 the government moved troops towards the city center of Beijing. But the military convoys were held up. Some came under attack. The U.S. embassy reported that soldiers were taken as hostages:
TENSION MOUNTED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AS BEIJING RESIDENTS VENTED THEIR ANGER BY HARASSING MILITARY AND POLICE PERSONNEL AND ATTACKING THEIR VEHICLES. STUDENTS DISPLAYED CAPTURED WEAPONS, MILITARY EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES, INCLUDING IN FRONT OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND. AN EFFORT TO FREE STILL CAPTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL OR TO CLEAR THE SOUTHERN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI MAY HAVE BEEN THE CAUSE OF A LIMITED TEAR GAS ATTACK IN THAT AREA AROUND 1500 HOURS LOCAL.
There are some gruesome pictures of the government side casualties of these events.
Another cable from June 3 notes:
THE TROOPS HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT YET BEEN GIVEN ORDERS PERMITTING THEM TO USE FORCE. THEIR LARGE NUMBERS, THE FACT THAT THEY ARE HELMETED, AND THE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS THEY ARE CARRYING SUGGEST THAT THE FORCE OPTION IS REAL.
In the early morning of June 4 the military finally reached the city center and tried to push the crowd out of Tiananmen Square:
STUDENTS SET DEBRIS THROWN ATOP AT LEAST ONE ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER AND LIT THE DEBRIS, ACCORDING TO EMBOFF NEAR THE SCENE. ABC REPORTED THAT ONE OTHER ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER IS AFLAME. AT LEAST ONE BUS WAS ALSO BURNING, ACCORDING TO ABC NEWS REPORTERS ON THE SQUARE AT 0120. THE EYEWITNESSES REPORTED THAT TROOPS AND RIOT POLICE WERE ON THE SOUTHERN END OF THE SQUARE AND TROOPS WERE MOVING TO THE SQUARE FROM THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CITY.
The soldiers responded as all soldiers do when they see that their comrades get barbecued:
THERE HAS REPORTEDLY BEEN INDISCRIMINATE GUNFIRE BY THE TROOPS ON THE SQUARE. WE CAN HEAR GUNFIRE FROM THE EMBASSY AND JIANGUOMENWAI DIPLOMATIC COMPOUND. EYEWITNESSES REPORT TEAR GAS ON THE SQUARE, FLARES BEING FIRED ABOVE IT, AND TRACERS BEING FIRED OVER IT.
Most of the violence was not in the square, which was already quite empty at that time, but in the streets around it. The soldiers tried to push the crowd away without using their weapons:
THE SITUATION IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY IS VERY CONFUSED. POLOFFS AT THE BEIJING HOTEL REPORTED THAT TROOPS ARE PUSHING A LARGE CROWD OF DEMONSTRATORS EAST ON CHANGANJIE. ALTHOUGH THESE TROOPS APPEAR NOT TO BE FIRING ON THE CROWD, POLOFFS REPORT FIRING BEHIND THE TROOPS COMING FROM THE SQUARE.
With the Square finally cleared the student protest movement ebbed away.
Update (June 5)
Peter Lee, aka Chinahand, was there on the ground. He just published his eyewitness account written down at that time.
Western secret services smuggled some 800 of the leaders of their failed ’color revolution’ out of the country, reported the Financial Times:
Many went first to France, but most travelled on to the US for scholarships at Ivy League universities.
The extraction missions, aided by MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA, according to many accounts, had scrambler devices, infrared signallers, night-vision goggles and weapons.
/End of Update
It is unclear how many people died during the incident. The numbers vary between dozens to several hundred. There is no evidence that the higher numbers are correct. It also not known how many of the casualties were soldiers, or how many were violent protesters or innocent bystanders.
The New York Times uses the 30th anniversary of the June 4 incidents to again promote a scene that is interpreted as successful civil resistance.
He has become a global symbol of freedom and defiance, immortalized in photos, television shows, posters and T-shirts.
But three decades after the Chinese Army crushed demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, “Tank Man” — the person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks barreling down a Beijing avenue — is as much a mystery as ever.
But was the man really some hero? It is not known what the the man really wanted or if he was even part of the protests:
According to the man who took the photo, AP photographer Jeff Widener, the photo dates from June 5 the day after the Tiananmen Square incident. The tanks were headed away from, and not towards, the Square. They were blocked not by a student but by a man with a shopping bag crossing the street who had chosen to play chicken with the departing tanks. The lead tank had gone out its way to avoid causing him injury.
The longer video of the tank hold up (turn off the ghastly music) shows that the man talked with the tank commander who makes no attempt to force him away. The scene ends after two minutes when some civilian passersby finally tell the man to move along. The NYT also writes:
But more recently, the government has worked to eliminate the memory of Tank Man, censoring images of him online and punishing those who have evoked him.
As a result of the government’s campaign, many people in China, especially younger Chinese, do not recognize his image.
To which Carl Zha, who currently travels in China and speaks the language, responds:
Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:23 utc - 4 Jun 2019
For the record, Everyone in China know about what happened on June 4th, 1989. Chinese gov remind them every year by cranking up censorship to 11 around anniversary. Idk Western reporters who claim people in China don’t know are just esp stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading
In fact that applies to China reporting in general. I just don’t know whether Western China reporters are that stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading. I used to think people can’t be that stupid but I am constantly surprised...
Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:42 utc - 4 Jun 2019
This Image was shared in one of the Wechat group I was in today. Yes, everyone understood the reference
Carl recommends the two part movie The Gate To Heavenly Peace (vid) as the best documentary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It explores the political and social background of the incident and includes many original voices and scenes.
Posted by b on June 4, 2019 at 03:00 PM
June 4 immunized China against turmoil - Global Times
Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/3 13:09:54
June 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident. The Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have determined the nature of the incident. Chinese society has also made a comprehensive summary of it. Dropping the incident thereafter has been aimed at helping the country leave the shadow behind, avoid disputes, and help all Chinese people face the future.
We consider such practice a political success, although some people have criticized it from the perspective of news governance. Merely afflicting China once, the incident has not become a long-term nightmare for the country. Neither has the incident’s anniversary ever been placed in the teeth of the storm. It has become a faded historical event, rather than an actual entanglement.
The Chinese government’s control of the incident in 1989 has been a watershed marking the differences between China and former Eastern European socialist countries, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Since the incident, China has successfully become the world’s second largest economy, with rapid improvement of people’s living standards. The policy of avoiding arguing has served as a contributor to the country’s economic take-off.
Today’s China obviously has no political conditions to suddenly reproduce the riot of 30 years ago. Chinese society, including its intellectual elite, is now far more mature than it was in 1989. In those years, China’s reform was carried out prior to those of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. China was completely inexperienced, with an intellectual circle filled with idealism. Chinese society today has seen enough of the political tragedies that occurred in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and some Arab countries.
Having become politically mature, we now understand the significance of the country’s continuous development through evolutions instead of revolutions. We are also aware of the difficulties and complexity at the practical level.
As a vaccination for the Chinese society, the Tiananmen incident will greatly increase China’s immunity against any major political turmoil in the future.
We have noticed that every year around June 4, certain forces outside the Chinese mainland stir up public opinion and attack China. Such forces consist of two groups of people: student leaders and dissidents who fled abroad after 1989, and Western politicians and media outlets.
The first group’s understanding of the incident remains fixed in 1989. They refuse to correct their understanding of China’s development and the changes that the world has been through. Their interests have been decoupled from the Chinese people and have merged with anti-China forces outside China. Their attitude toward the incident cannot represent those of today’s Chinese public.
Western politicians’ discussions of the incident are mainly influenced by their countries’ relations with China. Due to the deterioration of China-US ties, US officials have launched fierce attacks against China that have focused on the incident since last year. But Chinese people are clear that those officials are not genuinely concerned about Chinese human rights, but are making use of the incident as a diplomatic tool to challenge China.
However, all these noises will have no real impact on Chinese society. The actions of the external forces are completely in vain.
Speech at the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue by Gen. Wei Fenghe, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense, PRC