In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009, a white transit cop in Oakland, California, shot and killed Oscar Grant, a young black man. Grant was lying face down on a train platform with his hands handcuffed behind his back at the time of the shooting. The cop claimed he thought Grant was going for a gun. Thus was the New Year ushered in.
This police execution took place while Israel was carrying out a murderous attack on the residents of Gaza. Using white phosphorous (which burns clear through the part of the body it lands on), Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME) weapons that essentially explode inside the body, and other inhuman weapons, the Israeli military killed an estimated 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and destroyed thousands of homes. They have followed this up with a blockade that prevents any rebuilding. The US congress passed a resolution supporting Israel while soon-to-be President Obama remained essentially silent.
Just weeks later, Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States. Millions around the world hoped that this signaled a real change from the aggressive policies of his predecessor. They also hoped that this signaled a real change from the racism so institutionalized in the United States. For Oscar Grant and his family, including his young daughter, however, it was too late for “hope”.
In February, Venezuelans passed a constitutional amendment allowing President Hugo Chavez to run for president yet again. This was part of the process of leftist governments coming to power throughout the region – a process that US capitalism has been powerless to combat. This process has been combined with the rise of Chinese capitalism, as many of these regimes have moved to build closer ties with this rival of US capitalism. Mexico, sitting right on the border with the US, descended deeper into chaos as the drug gangs continued their takeover of several states there.
Meanwhile, the US and world economies threatened to go into a free fall. On Feb. 17, Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus package that basically bailed out the banks and insurance companies. Similar measures were passed in many other capitalist countries. Workers, meanwhile, were allowed to lose their jobs, homes and life savings.
March saw the meeting of the G20, a meeting which again marked an increasingly fractious and divided world, one made all the more so by the mounting economic crisis. Among other things, the future of the role of the dollar was called into question, but the problem is that capitalism has no alternative to it.
At this time the Pakistani regime saw mass protests for a politically independent judiciary. These protests placed Pakistan at the center of world attention.
It was also around this time that the world press started to pay attention to the pirates operating from Somalia. The destruction of their fisheries and their marine environment by toxic dumping and illegal factory-sized fishing boats – pirate capitalism it could be called – have been ignored, however.
On the world arena, US capitalism’s main representative, President Obama, traveled to Cairo to address the Islamic world. He had previously referred to Iran as “The Islamic Republic of Iran”, its formal name. This was the first time a US president so referred to Iran, and it marked an attempt to win over that reactionary regime, or at least elements within it. Equally important, it showed a flexibility on his part that is intended to strengthen the support the US regime receives from its allies.
Shortly after this trip, the Iranian regime was rocked by mass street protests against a fixed election. Lying behind these protests was dissatisfaction at the repressive regime. While Western capitalism decries the Iranian regime, they also rely on it. If the standard bearer for Islamic fundamentalism is overthrown by a popular movement, a more class-based movement in the Islamic world could threaten to arise. This is many times more dangerous to Western capitalism (as well as that in the rest of the world).
In the end of June, the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, an ally of Venezuela’s Chavez, was overthrown by a coup. In a sign of the continuing weakness of US capitalism’s influence in the region, this has not sparked off other similar attempts elsewhere in Latin America, nor has the Obama regime been able to openly support the coup.
Also at this time, the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique – both ruled by France – erupted in mass general strikes that started to take on insurrectionary proportions. Ultimately, the strikers basically won all their demands.
In July, a nationalist crisis hit the bourgeois regime of China as deadly riots broke out in Xingjian province, the homeland of the Uighur people. These tensions continue along with similar ones in Tibet. By the end of the year, dozens of Uighurs were condemned to death by Chinese courts in the aftermath.
In October, the Palestinian Authority voted to delay the UN’s hearing of the Goldstone Report. This report documented the war crimes of the State of Israel (as well as some lesser crimes by Hamas). The outrage was so great amongst the Palestinian masses that the PA was forced to reverse its vote within a few days. The US congress voted to condemn the Goldstone report without its members having even read it.
Within the United States – in California, specifically – in a development that should give the world’s working class some hope, a radicalized student movement started to develop. This is potentially one of the most significant developments in US politics. It comes at a time when the entire US working class is under mounting attack and will tend to spread to a wider movement in the US. Such a movement has been lacking in the US since at least the 1960s if not before.
December was ushered in by Obama’s announcement that he would be sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Shortly after, the world economy was rocked by the threat of default by Dubai. The crisis there appears to be but the tip of an iceberg as other states, including Greece, Spain and Ireland, are in a similarly precarious situation. Even a downgrading of the credit rating of these states will threaten the world banking system, because the banks can keep a lower amount of capital for the higher-rated bonds that governments sell. If the bond ratings decline, then the banks must increase their capital.
In the US, the economy appeared to be slowly recovering, but this recovery has been based on government stimulus spending, such as spending to encourage consumers to buy new cars. As that spending dries up, it is likely that consumer spending will also decline. Businesses have shown little confidence in the economy as their investment of their cash hoards has been very low.
The latest hot spot for world imperialism appeared to be developing in Yemen. In the north of Yemen, a rebel group is fighting both the central Yemen government as well as forces from Saudi Arabia. Both the Yemen and Saudi regimes claim this rebel group is supported by the Iranian regime. In the south, a Shia rebel group is developing that claims it is supported by al Qaeda.
As the year drew to a close, representatives of the different regimes in the world met in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss the looming global warming/climate change crisis. Lacking a mass international workers’ movement to discipline them, they failed to accomplish anything of significance. Instead, they spent their time trying to assure that national cliques of capitalists other than themselves would pay for the crisis. While this was going on, US President Obama accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace… and gave a bellicose speech in which he justified all the wars US capitalism has engaged in. The many, many invasions of Latin American countries, the many plots they engaged in to overthrow democratically-elected governments – this was cleansed from the historical record by Obama. Instead, he drew the picture of the US as the world’s defender of liberty and justice throughout history.
Just a few days after this speech, he went to Copenhagen forced his way into a meeting of the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, gave a speech in which he essentially told the rest of the world that they would have to deal with the global warming issue in the way that US capitalism dictated or not deal with it at all and left after saying “we will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” Meanwhile, the Chinese capitalists continue to build two coal-fired power plants per week.
Outside, however, a new generation of activists is getting a taste of the total reckless fixation on profit that capitalism represents.
2009 also saw the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birthday, as well as the 400th anniversary of the proof presented by Galileo that the universe does not revolve around the Earth. Both these developments were blows to religious mysticism and confusion.
As the year closes, resurgent protests in Iran continue, and Troy Anthony Davis languishes on death row in the US state of Georgia for a murder he almost certainly did not commit.