Blows Against the Empire—2022 In Memoriam
Steve Lalla, Orninoco Tribune, January 8, 2023 —
Throughout 2022, monopoly capitalism, with the US at its core, continued to erode from within and buckle under pressure exerted by sovereign states and peoples’ movements alike. Relentless blows reigned down on the empire. These were some of the most memorable:
January 30: Prior to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the leaders of China and Russia meet, the first visit between Xi Jinping and any world leader in over two years. A Russia–China joint statement heralded the dawning of a “new era,” warned against “the negative impact of the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in the region,” and confirmed support for each others’ security policies. In comparison with the previous year, trade between the two countries increased by 32% in 2022. The February 7 report of the meeting by conservative rag The New Yorker had a nice ring to it: Putin and Jinping “unveiled a sweeping long-term agreement that also challenges the United States as a global power, NATO as a cornerstone of international security, and liberal democracy as a model for the world.”
February 19: Two Benin bronze sculptures are returned to a traditional palace in the former Kingdom of Benin, now Edo State, Nigeria. Several thousand bronze, brass, wood and ivory sculptures, cultural patrimony of the Benin dating back to the 13th century, were looted by the British and scattered across the imperial core in the colonial era. An estimated 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage is currently housed in Europe. Other artifacts are kept in Europe, Japan, Canada, or New Zealand. Throughout the year, a trickle of Benin bronzes returned to Nigeria. In addition to enslaving about three million Africans, the British extracted untold billions from today’s Nigeria through the Royal Nigeria Company (RNC), a corporation with an army that was granted a monopoly to exploit the area. In 1900, the RNC sold Nigeria to the British for £865,000, or about $37 million today.
February 21, 2022: Russia declares its recognition of the sovereignty of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR, respectively). In his address, President Putin recognizes the US role in overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government in 2014: “Radical nationalists took advantage of the justified public discontent and saddled the Maidan protest, escalating it to a coup d’état in 2014. They also had direct assistance from foreign states. According to reports, the US Embassy provided $1 million a day to support the so-called protest camp on Independence Square in Kiev. In addition, large amounts were impudently transferred directly to the opposition leaders’ bank accounts, tens of millions of dollars. But the people who actually suffered, the families of those who died in the clashes provoked in the streets and squares of Kiev and other cities, how much did they get in the end? Better not ask.”
February 24: Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine begins. On the left, a rift opens between those who view Russia as a semi-peripheral country bravely standing up to US imperialist hegemony and those who insist that Russia is a non-socialist aggressor state and must, therefore, be condemned. Whether you agree with it or not, the Russian incursion constituted an affront to US global supremacy.
The bottomless pools of sympathy and generosity, military and humanitarian, offered to the people and leaders of Ukraine by mainstream media across the imperial core made it very clear that the country was, in fact, a US puppet state. The outpouring of charity starkly contrasted with the indifference expressed towards the murder of millions of Iraqis, Afghanis, Libyans, Yugoslavians, Syrians, or Palestinians by US and NATO troops and their allies. The now ubiquitous Ukrainian flag began showing up on social media profiles, in dollar stores, and in promotional campaigns by banks, fast food restaurants, and gas stations across the West.
February 27: The UN Resolution “calling on Russia to halt its invasion and withdraw its forces from Ukraine” receives a tepid international response, particularly from African leaders. In total, 24 out of Africa’s 54 countries refused to condemn Russia’s military operation.
“The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region,” said South Africa’s President Ramaphosa.
“While Western powers impose sanctions on Russia, many countries in the Global South blame the US and NATO for the Ukraine war,” wrote Ben Norton for Multipolarista. “China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Vietnam, and more remain neutral. These represent the majority of the world’s population.”
March 5: Mixed reactions follow the announcement that a delegation of high-ranking US officials visited Venezuela to meet with President Nicolás Maduro. The US, of course, does not formally recognize Maduro’s presidency but instead backs a little-known former parliamentary deputy, Juan Guaidó, who declared himself leader of the oil-rich country one day in a Caracas plaza, having never received so much as one vote for the position. While many leftists would like to see the US starved of valuable oil by Venezuela’s socialist government, reality dictates otherwise: Venezuelans will greatly benefit from increased revenue from the oil industry, which saw its sales drop by 99% following its targeting by US economic warfare.
“Undoubtedly, Washington’s move represents a tacit recognition of the Nicolás Maduro administration,” wrote Caracas-based Orinoco Tribune, “a clear step towards the White House’s final admission of the failure of its Guaidó strategy, and a recognition of the geopolitical position of strength that Venezuela currently holds.”
March 23: Mainstream news outlets report that Russia will now insist that unfriendly countries pay for its oil and gas exports in Russian rubles. These sales are normally processed using US dollars, also known as petro dollars, which props up the value of the US dollar. A month later, these same hegemonic media outlets were reporting that “the Russian ruble keeps rising, hitting a seven-year high” (New York Times, June 21), and that “Russian ruble is the best-performing currency of 2022 despite sanctions” (The New Yorker, June 23).
May 10: During the press conference that he holds each morning, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) declares that he will not attend the so-called Summit of the Americas, hosted in Los Angeles, California, in June, following indications that the US would not invite representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela. “If there is exclusion, if everyone is not invited… I will not go,” AMLO said, one of numerous inspiring comments that he made throughout the year.
Following AMLO’s statement, other countries, including Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, either did not attend or refused to send high-level delegates. In one of his rare moments of bravery, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández, who did attend the summit, spoke out on behalf of the uprising: “the fact of being the host country of the Summit does not grant the capacity to impose a ‘right of admission’ on the member countries of the continent.”
May 31: The United Nations accepts a new member country, in a sense, as “Türkiye” becomes the official name for the nation formerly known as Turkey. Western media continue to defy the wishes of Türkiye’s government and still refer to the country as “Turkey”—as they do for “Burma,” which changed its name to Myanmar over 30 years ago.
June 19: Former Marxist guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins the presidential election in Colombia. Petro is widely described as Colombia’s first left-wing president while his running mate, Francia Márquez, is the country’s first Afro-Colombian vice president. Among his first orders of business were reversing Colombia’s policy towards Venezuela and reopening the 2,200-kilometer border between the countries. Under the previous president, US pawn Iván Duque, Colombia began recognizing Juan Guaidó as leader of Venezuela. Venezuela’s President Maduro and Petro met in person on November 1, consolidating a new era of friendly relations between the two countries, formerly joined in Gran Colombia, under the presidency of Simón Bolívar, in the early 19th century.
June 20, 2022: The last remaining tooth of Patrice Lumumba, independence leader and first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is returned to his daughters in Kinshasa. In 1961, Belgian special forces, the CIA, and the secret services of the UK and Canada conspired to abduct Lumumba and murder him. Then, they dissolved his remains in battery acid—a futile attempt to diminish the impact of his heroic legacy in the afterlife. A Belgian police officer later bragged about stealing a single tooth of Lumumba’s from the grisly scene.
“For my part, I would like to apologize here, in the presence of his family, for the way in which the Belgian government influenced the decision to end the life of the country’s first prime minister,” said Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “A man was murdered for his political convictions, his words, his ideals.”
June 23: General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, chairs the 14th BRICS Summit. The BRICS countries, which comprise about 40% of the world’s population, announce they will focus on the creation of a new reserve currency backed by natural resources, particularly gold. It is widely reported that at least a dozen countries, including oil-producing giants such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria, and very populous nations such as Egypt or NATO member Türkiye, wish to join the international economic partnership.
June 27: In 1904, German General Lothar von Trotha issued an order to shoot all Herero people on sight. The Herero and the Nama were the two most populous cultures in Namibia when it fell under German rule in the early 20th century. Over 80% of Herero and 50% of Nama were murdered in the ensuing holocaust. On June 27, Berlin promised to return at least 24 artifacts stolen from Namibia. Empty apologies and the repatriation of a tiny fraction of the wealth stolen from former colonial possessions does not suddenly constitute the just distribution of wealth on a global scale, but it opens the door to a larger discussion about reparations for the vast labor and natural resources plundered from oppressed nations over the last few centuries.
July 7: The buffoon serving as UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, resigns to a chorus of laughter. Whether we consider its definite end as 1956 or 1997, the decisive collapse of the British Empire—which once controlled at least a quarter of the world’s total land area—constitutes a tangible demonstration of imperial collapse that provides hope to us all.
August 15: Following mass protests against colonialism that erupted in January, and after Mali’s government issued an edict that French military occupation of the country must cease, the last French troops depart Mali. France promptly blamed the government’s statements on Russian interference. There may have been a grain of truth to the accusation: demonstrators were frequently filmed waving Russian flags and displaying pro-Russia and pro-China slogans. The landlocked West African country had been more or less occupied by French troops since the late 19th century and shackled into the economic bonds of the Franc Zone since 1984. Doubtlessly, potential alliances with any non-European powers are viewed by the people of Mali as a welcome alternative to decades of looting at the hands of the West. “Mali’s break with France is a symptom of cracks in the Transatlantic Alliance,” Vijay Prashad wrote for MROnline in December.
September 8: Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, social media explodes with virulent attacks on the colonialist, imperialist policies carried out under her 70-year rule. Particularly popular were photos of her wearing the largest cut diamond in the world, valued at about $400 million and stolen from South Africa in 1905. The queen’s funeral was attended by about a million people—a far cry, for example, from the estimated six million who attended the funeral of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who liberated Egypt from British rule and led Egypt for 14 years. An estimated 45 people died during the raucous outpouring of grief following Nasser’s death in 1970.
September 28: Climate chaos impacts the imperial core as Hurricane Ian, Florida’s deadliest storm in over 80 years, strikes the US state, killing 146.
September 30: Following referendums in the DPR and LPR, the two breakaway states join the Russian Federation. President Putin’s address on the occasion was an assault on the imperialist core: “The West is ready to cross every line to preserve the neo-colonial system which allows it to live off the world, to plunder it thanks to the domination of the dollar and technology, to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract its primary source of unearned prosperity: the rent paid to the hegemon. The preservation of this annuity is their main, real, and absolutely self-serving motivation.”
October 5: In defiance of the wishes of the US and its vassal states, the international Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) announces that it will cut oil production by two million barrels a day. As Indian economist Prabhat Patnaik commented, “the fact that they [OPEC] have been able to stand up to the pressure being exerted by the US to keep output unchanged is a sign of the changing times, of the challenge to US hegemony that is emerging even among countries that were its staunchest allies.”
October 22: The so-called klimakleber (climate gluers), who made news all year by defacing priceless works of European art and gluing themselves to roadways and monuments across the continent, smear mashed potatoes all over Claude Monet’s Les Meules, on display at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany.
“We are in a climate catastrophe and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting,” said an activist from Germany’s Leztze Generation (Last Generation). “You know what I am afraid of? I am afraid because science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050… Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen? This painting is not going to be worth anything if we have to fight over food. When will you finally start to listen? When will you finally start to listen and stop business as usual?”
October 30: After spending 580 days in jail on charges that were ultimately thrown out, Brazil’s working-class leader Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva wins the country’s presidential elections, paving the way for his return to the presidency. The left-leaning Lula served as president of Latin America’s most populous country and largest economy from 2003-2011, and was then locked up and prevented from running again by the US-trained judge Sergio Moro and US-backed neo-fascist politician Jair Bolsonaro. In fact, after Bolsonaro’s presidential election victory in 2018, these two made an unprecedented personal visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Lula’s return to power will mean reinvigorated relations with Venezuela and a higher standard of living for the impoverished people of Brazil. Among his campaign proposals was the creation of a common currency for Latin America.
November 3: The annual ritual repudiating the economic warfare waged on the Cuban people by the US takes place at the United Nations. In a vote that functions as a barometer measuring extreme servility to the imperial core, 185 countries voted to condemn the campaign of US economic war—euphemistically referred to as sanctions—waged against Cuba for 60 years. Only the USA and the apartheid state voted against the resolution, while Ukraine and Brazil (a parting gift from departing Bolsonaro) abstained.
December 9: Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping tells Gulf countries that China will begin paying for oil and gas in yuan (or renminbi), a decision that will further weaken the US dollar and US global economic dominance.
December 21: Historic winter storm Elliott, the deadliest winter storm to hit the country in over 100 years, pummels the US east coast, leaving at least 102 dead, including 34 in Buffalo, New York.
December 28: “I’m worried about capitalism,” admits US billionaire Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, in a year-end interview with Financial Times.
December 31: Three of the four opposition parties in Venezuela’s G4 platform vote to remove their erstwhile leader, US puppet Juan Guaidó, from his made-up position as “interim president” of the country. The vote dealt a final blow to the scheme initiated in 2019 by the US and its vassal states. However, assets worth billions continue to be held by the leaderless parallel government, leaving the complete disintegration and defeat of the Guaidó strategy as something we can look forward to in the new year.