World Beat

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MIDDLE EAST
U.S. supports and benefits from ongoing Israeli atrocities

U.S. defense contractors may turn out to be the prime beneficiaries of the merciless 16-day pounding that Israeli bombs rained on Lebanon in April, killing scores of people, including 105 refugees in a UN camp near the village of Qana.

The Clinton administration refused to join in the international outrage expressed after the cruel attacks, part of the “collective punishment” that Israel routinely employs against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians to suppress opposition to its regional domination.

Instead, the administration volunteered to spend at least $50 million to revive development of Nautilus laser weaponry, a rocket-repulsion system, for use against Islamic guerrillas fighting back against Israel’s 15-year occupation of southern Lebanon.

The U.S. establishment will spend whatever it takes to prop up its client state. Israel is supportedas a bulwark against revolution not only in the oil-rich Middle East, but also in turbulent Eastern Europe, where disappointment and anger over the comeback of capitalism is rising dangerously.

CHINA/TAIWAN
Island “independence” an illusion

As both mainland China and Taiwan undergo profound changes, the delicate equilibrium between these two separated parts of one nation cannot last.

China’s growing openness to foreign exploitation threatens Taiwan’s special relationship with imperialist sponsors like the U.S. The substantial profits that Taiwan now produces would be dwarfed by opportunities in China, population 1.3 billion, if capitalism were re-imposed there. But this development is far from certain, and so the U.S. has adopted an attitude of “strategic ambiguity” toward China.

Taiwan, a former Japanese colony and the refuge for the U.S.-backed rulers of China defeated in the revolution, is home to just 21 million people. For it, “independence” is impossible, despite newly elected President Lee Teng-hui’s apparent flirtation with this course. Taiwan must either reunite with the Chinese workers state, or remain a pawn for the largest capitalist nations – at a time when sharpening economic competition makes that role increasingly uncomfortable.

SOUTH AFRICA
Protests strengthen new constitution

On May 8, South Africa’s parliament voted for a new constitution shaped by dramatic last-minute mobilizations against anti-labor and pro-apartheid provisions present in drafts.

A sweeping bill of rights enshrines the right to housing, food, water, education, and healthcare. It forbids discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, or marital status. Workers’ right to strike is guaranteed.

Not included was a clause giving bosses the right to lock workers out. A week before the vote, millions went on strike demand its exclusion. Also left out was a hotly protested guarantee of state support for single-language education, sought to preserve white-only schools.

In the still-unfolding battle over South Africa’s future, its historically most downtrodden citizens have made themselves heard once more.

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