Post 370.

Like bandits in broad daylight, the US has dispatched warships to the Caribbean Sea, en route to Venezuela.

This is a fascinating lesson for a generation that has never witnessed US ‘big stick’ politics, having been born long after the US invasion of Panama in 1989, the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, the US installing of Chilean tyrant Augusto Pinoche in 1973, and the place of Cuba in the Cold War.

Most of my undergraduate students are born after 2000, in an era when focus on the psychological has taken over from analysis of the geopolitical. This generation would have been too young to remember the US ousting (in his words “kidnapping”) democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, but if young people across the Caribbean need a live example of US imperialism to mobilise against, this is it.

Analyses of this war-mongering and its intersection with the current oil and COVID-19 crises highlight how often global political brawls end up in our Caribbean gayelle, and this might momentarily direct our gaze away from our household challenges toward understanding how badman from Russia, the US, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, China and more fight in our contemporary world.

The military deployment of Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft has been justified by laughable reasons that nonetheless provide an excellent example of how imaginary connections are made everyday truths by state propaganda. This generation won’t remember “weapons of mass destruction” as a similar lie, but that’s how invasion and killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, including children, was justified then too.

About 70 000 Americans die annually from a drug overdose, mostly from drugs from Central America and Mexico which breach US borders. Using this data, a White House press conference initiated a good ol’ Republican “war on drugs” arguing that Venezuela is a narco-trafficking state and that the warships are intended to stop shipments of illegal drugs which “penetrate” the United States “to kill Americans”.

Flexing its machoman muscles, the US military announced, “we are at war with terrorists, we are at war with COVID-19 and we are at war with the drug cartels as well…you will not penetrate this country…you are not going to come in here and kill additional Americans”.

The White House released conservative estimates that COVID-19 could kill 240 000 in the US. Guns kill about than 39 000 in the US annually, more than half of drug overdoses, but there’s no state “war on guns” in the US. Indeed, drug overdoses account for less than 3% of US deaths, behind pretty much everything else such as suicide, accidents, medical errors, and especially non-communicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease which 2016 data suggest alone account for about 60% of deaths.

No surprise, no serious news sources are buying this Nancy story. The Department of Defense opposed it, reports Foreign Policy in its newsletter. US officials told Newsweek that it was “a move to deflect criticism about the administration’s mishandling of the outbreak at home”. War is always the best way to rally masses, suppress criticism as unpatriotic, and stimulate some manufacturing sectors, all of which would be convenient responses to the US’ collapsed labour market.

At any rate, though marketing it as a “framework for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela”, the US government long has been trying to install an acceptable puppet who will be their man instead of Russia’s. Caricom has been dancing in this gayelle, refusing to meet with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Jamaica in January, and asserting Venezuela’s sovereignty despite its deep political and economic troubles. For to support invasion of one is to set a precedent for all, and that would be sheer hasikara. Indeed, if electoral corruption is a key criteria, and unmatched oil wealth, Guyana would be next.

By comparison, Russia has both already penetrated the US and has those men in suits on their knees. Its stand-off with OPEC has sent economies crashing and made US shale oil production unprofitable. It is securing its state interest in Venezuelan oil, and protecting it from US sanctions. Last week, Putin himself sent a Russian plane to New York with medical supplies even as the US is shamefully blocking medical supplies to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Barbados.

Though we may be cockroach in fowl party, as they say, this is happening in our seas. Our business is, therefore, that the Caribbean remains “a zone of peace”.


Post 336.

When warriors walk into the pages of history, it is up to those of us left behind to write the words that give life to their memory. So it is with Guyanese activist, Andaiye, who passed away on May 31, 2019, aged 77.

Born Sandra Williams in 1942, she changed her name to a Swahili one, meaning ‘daughter comes home’. I always admired her singular name and have never met another Caribbean woman with one name, so chosen. No patriarchal or colonial lineage to negotiate, just what Dominican revolutionary Cecilia Babb would call her ‘woman name’.

Such boldfacedness seems to have come from a fiercer time than now, when Caribbean women, indeed Caribbean people, imagined ourselves on entirely liberated and self-defined terms.

Andaiye’s story won’t be told by the victors, but by those who stood at her shoulders, her comrades, her feminist sisters, another generation of upcoming social justice foot-soldiers, and others from all walks of life whom she continues to call into battle, her spirit as unrelenting in its call for our commitment as she was in life.

She was a sharp woman, wry and acidic, yet wonderfully encouraging and compassionate. She could bless and warn at the same time, empower and humble, educate and listen. I met her many times and she was always full of quiet and unwavering truth, her gaze looking right through pretensions, power and politicking.

Forty years ago, Andaiye was a founding member of the Working People’s Alliance at a time when revolutionary politics was sweeping the region, from the Workers’ Party of Jamaica to the New Jewel Movement of Grenada to student protests of the 1970s that aimed to topple the ‘flag independence’ and establishment politics of Dr. Eric Williams in Trinidad.

She worked as Coordinator and Editor, International Secretary and Women’s Secretary, until 2000. It’s like she herself was walking in the footsteps of the renowned radical, Trinidadian Claudia Jones, tireless thinker, writer, and fighter for working people, for justice for women, and for an end to the racist legacy of colonialism.

After the assassinations of Walter Rodney, Maurice Bishop, Jacqueline Creft and others in the 1980s, our Caribbean dream of a new world seemed impossible. In this dark time, women around the region began to organize anew. Andaiye co-founded Red Thread, a Guyanese women’s organization committed to women’s economic independence and power, cross-race solidarity, working-class women’s leadership, and development built on care and justice.

Women like her created and held a space bigger than our current aspirations seem. At a moment when everyone, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the big banks, is talking about women’s economic empowerment, Andaiye insists that this demands actually changing power relations in households, the economy and culture, and between our local economies and the global economic order.

She would scoff at the cheapness of a definition that aims to get more women into the waged labour force while ignoring the care labour they still carry, and while failing to support cross-class women’s movements so that the poorest of women are organized to exercise a say over our economy.

When CLR James wrote, Every Cook Can Govern, he wasn’t thinking of mothers, housewives and domestic workers, but Andaiye and the organisations she was a part of, the Women’s International Network for Wages for Caring Work, and the Global Women’s Strike, always did.

In Andaiye’s words, “I believe fundamentally that seeing how women’s unwaged labour underpins everything is the starting point of everything ranging from understanding capital to organizing against it”.

Her passing reminds that we should cherish what a generation of women spent their lives and labour working toward, and steady ourselves for the unfinished business with which we are left.

For her, Venezuela and solidarity with its people are our business. The “whole doctrine of pre-emptive strike – with all the rogue states and failed states being countries with people of colour” is our business. Men and boys murdered by the thousands across the region are our business. “Women at the bottom – working class, of color” are our business. Counting women’s labour is our business. Turning to our common humanity as a basis for political action is our business.

“I always feel good when people are not taking it – are fighting back”, said Andaiye in 2004. When published, her collection of speeches and writings will be titled, “The Point is to Change the World”. When we live by those words, we keep her memory alive. And, perhaps, that is all that needs to be said.