*Originally Published June 23, 2020
Over three weeks have passed since the NY Times walked back their support for the pretext that led to the overthrow of Bolivian President, Evo Morales this past November. Accusations of electoral fraud served as the stepping stone to deliver and amplify civil unrest within Bolivia that eventually culminated in Morales fleeing the country.
Conveniently eight months after the election and amidst the George Floyd protests dominating the news cycle in the United States, the NY Times has admitted the previously reported evidence of electoral fraud was flawed. Besides one in-depth article in The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald, this slight admission of complicity has remained overlooked and underreported.
Evo Morales first came to power in 2006 upon a platform of economic nationalism combined with emphasis on social development. Morales’ desire to promote economic sovereignty directly conflicted with the common western world philosophy of development where trade liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and openness to foreign direct investment are the standard policy prescription.
Often these free market neoliberal reforms are packaged together as stipulations that a developing country must adhere to in order to receive financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund or World Bank. Any attempt to pursue development through an alternative path is met with fierce opposition from the western world because it infringes upon the ability of the developed countries to seek cheap labor, new markets, and natural resources from abroad.
Morale’s approach for development in Bolivia is directly rooted in the political philosophy of Third-Worldism. The term “Third World” in society today is commonly associated as an economic stereotype applied to the most impoverished nations around the world. Before attaining this economic definition, “Third World” referred to developing countries committed to pursuing development outside the spheres of influence of both the United States and Soviet Union.
During the Cold War, the United States and its allies were considered the First World and the Soviet Union along with its allies represented the Second World. For the countries subscribing to the Third World movement, a central objective of their philosophy was to emphasize economic and social development while decreasing their dependency on the First and Second World. These nations were seeking an alternative to the colonial system where the developing countries remained subservient within the global economy as they were exploited for cheap labor and plundered for natural resources.
A commonly neglected aspect of Cold War history is the solidarity expressed between the political leaders of Third World nations and the prominent figures of the Civil Rights and New Left movement within the United States. If we look past the whitewashed history of Dr. King, we find he expressed opposition to the Vietnam War and connected U.S. militarism abroad with racial oppression in the United States. Dr. King recognized the driving forces behind the pursuit of the U.S. empire are responsible for subjugating both foreign populations and African Americans in the United States.
Going forward the progressive movement must restore the previous solidarity connection between the oppressed people of the world. Instead of independently treating each act of injustice both domestically and abroad, the progressive movement needs to highlight where these patterns of oppression intersect. Efforts attempting to hack off a few leaves or small branches on the metaphorical tree of oppression will remain futile and misguided. The possibility of fundamental change resides within attacking the root causes of systematic oppression.
Challenging the current power structures propagating systematic oppression begins with identifying the empty words of support and minor symbolic gestures working symbiotically in an attempt to pacify the public. The past couple weeks of protests have been filled with corporations delivering hollow sentiments of solidarity with protestors while simultaneously they continue to profit through their utilization of prison labor.
Within the political sphere, Democratic politicians and pundits are indiscriminately adopting the “Defund The Police” slogan and shamelessly invoking the rhetorical resistance movement as they implore protestors to vote blue. Thus, the inconvenient truth that needs to be expressed is the fact that multiple driving forces of systematic oppression are rooted in bipartisan support. Throughout Democrat and Republican administrations, the “War on Drugs” policing mentality has operated in tandem with the prison-industrial complex fueling mass incarceration, which results in the criminalization, commodification, and disenfranchisement of black bodies.
Democratic political figures may be rhetorically adopting the “Defund The Police” slogan, but the real question is whether they are willing to attempt fundamental change. If we do not remain vigilant, we will become susceptible to allowing a small amount of window dressing by the Democratic establishment to falsely pass as significant reform. For instance without further investigation and deliberation we would be led to believe that Camden presents us with the perfect model of future policing.
A recent CNN article touted Camden as a possible model to follow while conveniently neglecting any mention of how a central component of police reforms in Camden entailed turning the city into a mass surveillance state. In reality the police reforms in Camden were simply a rebranding of the police department that has been falsely advertised as community policing.
Policing in Camden has remained rooted in the “Broken Windows” theory where massive enforcement of minor non-violent crimes is viewed as a necessary strategy to prevent more serious crimes. During the first year following the Camden police reforms there was an increase of 97,000 cases, while excessive force complaints nearly doubled. If Camden is being promoted as a model of future policing in response to demands to “Defund The Police” the public needs to realize the rebranding of police departments will be employed to distract from pursuing fundamental change.
Public discourse will continue to be dominated by the visible forms of racism, while covert forms remain detached from the political discussion. During the last couple weeks has any corporation vowed to no longer utilize prison labor? Have you heard any politician even suggest the idea of removing the stipulation within 13th Amendment where slavery is still allowed within the prison system?
How many political figures over the past few weeks have mentioned that the racial wealth gap has actually widened since the Civil Rights Movement? From 1968 to 2016, the median household wealth for a black family only increased from $6,674 to $13,024. Over the same time period the median household wealth of a white family has increased from $70,786 to $149,703.
Any serious attempt to combat the systematic oppression of African Americans in the United States goes beyond reforming law enforcement. Going forward any successful movement following these protests remains dependent upon connecting police brutality with the entrenched economic and political forces designed to subjugate both foreign populations throughout the developing world and African Americans in the United States. In order to begin pushing back we need to regain the critical feature of solidarity that formerly existed between the Civil Rights Movement, the New Left, and the Third World.