Imperial machinations, Mnangagwa, and gleeful capitalists

This is a graphic I created on 12/13/2017, and revised on 12/14/2017, to represent the continuing counter-revolution in Zimbabwe since Mugabe’s resignation on Nov 21 and Mnangagwa’s ascendancy the next day thanks to the ZDF’s coup d’etat.

The counter-revolution of President Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe continues afoot. The Zimbabwean Communist Party, as I noted previously, is no help, so the Zimbabwean proletariat are on their own as the socially democratic gains of the Black nationalist ruling party, the Zanu-PF, albeit limited by the fact that they originally accepted neocolonialism before the late 1990s as noted before, are being chipped away.

Recent Developments

Recently, on the same day that the Politburo of the Zanu-PF met, the royalty for platinum mining was slashed so that “all platinum group companies to reserve significant amounts of capital for reinvestment,” to help the bourgeoisie in that business, along with likely attracting other mining companies not native to the country, including those from the West. Again, this helps the capitalist class much more than the proletariat in Zimbabwe. If that isn’t enough, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) agreed to provide $1.5 billion for Zimbabwe’s economy in order to “meet the forex requirement for productive foreign payments” and support the “productive sector through banks and the mining sector, especially the gold sector, as well as the retooling of the manufacturing sector, among other industries.” This leaves the country, I would argue, further open to exploitation by other forces.

The ZDF (Zimbabwe Defense Force) again re-iterated the need for “calm,” basically saying that they will not be used to settle personal scores between Zanu-PF members. They also seem to want to tamp down any opposition to their moves going forward, which will come and is likely there.

The MDC was criticized by The Herald for its foray to the murderous empire. The latter publication, which has widely taken the side of the coup plotters and the imperialist sect of the Zanu-PF, declared that the MDC alliance, part of the Western puppet “opposition” is basically “campaigning for Zimbabwe’s continued isolation, despite recent developments and popular change of Government witnessed recently.” They added by saying that the MDC “has always been associated with the West” and sponsored by them in “fruitless bid to unseat former President Mugabe for the “crime” of undertaking the land reform programme.” However, they claim that Mugabe’s removal “set Zimbabwe on a historic transition process” while noting that the MDC wants to convince “the Western community to maintain frosty relations with Zimbabwe” and saying that they “expected better in a new post-Mugabe as era; there is more than enough room to talk among Zimbabweans.” This may indicate that this “counter-revolution” will involve the Zanu-PF staying in power while the Western puppet opposition is rightfully marginalized as they should have no real importance in Zimbabwe’s politics. However, the government could easily turn and work with the Western puppet opposition, however.

In terms of the land program, there seemed to be a recent development. The government ordered “illegally resettled farmers to vacate the land immediately or face the wrath of the law,” saying that the “Zimbabwe Land Commission shall be seized with the responsibility of settling land disputes emanating from resettled farmers and shall report to the Minister from time to time.” This seems to limit the land redistribution program to an extent while it tries to imply that there was corruption when the government, with Mugabe as the President, was involved in the land redistribution program. This development follows the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) saying they will “now accept 99-year leases that were given to resettled farmers by Government as collateral for bank loan,” while the new government has “stressed that it will not be fickle and will stick to its policies to maintain certainty and predictability to attract investment in the economy.” It seems that the government is willing to intervene in the economy but is hard to say this is benefiting the proletariat, as its efforts to boost maize yields was done in part because of an assessment based on “the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) indicators.” Likely such efforts will help the bourgeoisie instead since the World Bank is one of the institutions which maintains the international capitalist economy.

Additionally, as Mnangagwa appoints a new head of Zimbabwe’s intelligence service, a new VP shortly (as some reports seem to indicate) reassigns permanent secretaries, there are considerations to raise the retirement age by five years (from 60 to 65) among civil service in Zimbabwe, if I understand that correctly. Additionally, the 2018 Budget does much more: a higher rate on spot betting, an “export tax of 5% on the gross value of exported lithium” imposed, a “zero tolerance on land barons,” amending the  Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, implemented by April 2018, that “diamonds and platinum are the only sub-sectors designated as ‘extractive’” with the “51/49 Indigenisation threshold [confined] to only the two minerals” and not to the “rest of the extractive sector, nor…the other sectors of the economy, which will be open to any investor regardless of nationality.” Furthermore, this law would allow entrance into the “reserved sector,” which is “only for Zimbabwean citizens” if a the business “creates employment…seek[s] to attract both local and foreign investments,” among other aspects. The budget also declares that “State Enterprises that exhibit potential will be reformed, while those which cannot be rehabilitated will be privatised or face outright closure,” abolishing “the Youth Officer posts under the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation & Empowerment,” transferring it to another role, and limiting the civil service.If that isn’t enough, the government, as of January 2018, will “retire staff above the age of 65” and convince them to be petty bourgeoisie. It also includes adopting “fiscal anchors” which cap “budget deficits below 3%,” limit public debt, reduce spending on Infrastructure “by re-directing substantial resources towards capital development priorities,” and sticking to “…agreed Cabinet policy positions that entail pain and sacrifice.” If that isn’t enough, the budget says that “money creation, through domestic money market instruments which do not match with available foreign currency, only serves to weaken the value of the same instruments” and adding that the “new economic order” includes restored discipline “supported by political will in dealing with the following…Re-engagement with the International Community; Stimulating Production, and Exporting; Creation of Jobs, as well as a  credible 2018 election.”

The 256-page 2018 Budget Statement, which includes financial audits of all civil servants, is basically another step in the counter-revolution, a declaration of war on the Zimbabwean proletariat as the policies have a neoliberal capitalist ring to them. It is, as The Herald put it (in a supportive way, but can also be seen negatively), the beginning of an “economic cleansing” rather than just a “revival.” Clearly Mnangagwa is agreeing with commentators like Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo who serve the bourgeoisie with their words which are like a knife stabbed into the heart of the Zimbabwean proletariat.

As the Extraordinary Congress of the Zanu-PF is set to meet, with the goal “unity in the party,” it is expected to “endorse the recalling of former President Robert Mugabe and the installation of President Mnangagwa as the First Secretary and President by the Central Committee on November 19” while also expected to “uphold the decision by the Central Committee to expel G40 cabal members,” including Grace Mugabe who was attacked in an undoubtedly misogynist way, and also possibly bring back “all Central Committee members elected at the 2014 Congress but suspended or expelled from the party subsequent to the Congress on the basis of fictitious or fabricated allegations by the G40 cabal be reinstated.” The coup will then be fully legitimized and the counter-revolution affirmed by the Zanu-PF itself!

Machinations by the imperialists

Apart from a brief interruption in internet service in Zimbabwe, possibly caused by imperial machinations (or possibly not), imperialists are salivating without end. As I noted in a recent post on a radical subreddit, Zimbabwe is undoubtedly in a “bad situation.” A law recently signed by the orange menace (Trump) declares that the US will stand against “any extension by the respective institution of any loan or grant to the Government of Zimbabwe, except to meet basic human needs or to promote democracy,” unless the rule of law has returned, including “respect for ownership and title to property, and freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.” The law adds that funds may be available for “health and education,” and possibly even for “macroeconomic growth assistance” if the US thinks the government “is implementing transparent fiscal policies, including public disclosure of revenues from the extraction of natural resources.” This basically means that the imperial machinations in Zimbabwe will continue, that the US still wants land redistribution removed (as in the part about “property”), wants a place for the MDC hucksters, and wants an in within the market of Zimbabwe.

In the post cited in the previous paragraph I also noted a Senate hearing for a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee to unilaterally determine Zimbabwe’s “future.” The participants had varied views.Stephanie Sullivan, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, declared that the coup offers an  “opportunity for reform that could allow the United States to re-engage in ways we have not recently been able to do,” said that they want the Western puppet’s opposition to have a voice “in charting a path forward” and saying that tbe U.S. capitalist class is “eager for improvements in the [Zimbabwean] business climate that will encourage them to invest and trade” and sees “promise in agriculture, tourism, energy, and mining.” Then the MDC Alliance representative, Tendai Biti, declared that Zimbabwe’s future was uncertain but has an opportunity for “reconstructing, rebuilding and re- fabricating a new Zimbabwean story, and a new Zimbabwean society,” declaring that the country needs “a genuine break from its tortured past…[creating] a just and prosperous society” where citizens can “pursue life, liberty, and happiness,” the Western bourgeois values in politics. He also said that there should be “political and institutional reforms” along with “major economic reforms that focus on restoring livelihoods, growing a shared economy” which includes “a commitment to real transformation other than cosmetic statements on the economy.” He feared that Zimbabwe would “pursue a Beijing model, in the respect of which there are nominal improvements on the economy while political space is closed and democracy is muzzled” while adding that Zimbabwe should not be “forgotten in our battle against tyranny and poverty and for democracy and human rights” and that once Zimbabwe shows “signs of an irrevocable and irreversible trajectory towards legitimacy, democracy, and the rule of law, we [Zimbabwe] shall require your full support as we re-engage key international institutions.”

There were two other guests. One of them was Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW). He did accurately describe the ZDF’s role in the coup, but he obviously cited with the imperialists by saying that ” re-engagement with the Zimbabwean government should be based on a firm commitment” of measures that “ensure tangible and long overdue democratic and electoral reforms…a clear roadmap for democratic elections.” In the meantime what does HRW want? Continuation of “existing US policy toward Zimbabwe until the military removes itself from politics and the 2018 elections are legitimately assessed to be peaceful, transparent, free and fair,” basically meaning that the murderous sanctions will continue. Finally there was the view of a a Mugabe-hating “journalist” named Peter Godwin, who was more skeptical of all. He claimed that Mnangagwa will “entice his own people and the world with a ‘reformist stance’,” working to re-brand the Zanu-PF but in actuality all of his “promises don’t stand up to scrutiny.” He also added that “opposition fragmentation is enormously beneficial to Zanu-PF, allowing them a real possibility of winning at the polls,” arguing that the Western puppet opposition needs “to unify or at least broker alliances or electoral pacts.” Again, the same strategy is trotted out by the imperialists.

Looking forward

Zimbabwe seems on the road to ruin. It will intensify the “exploitive relation between the owners of the means of production…and the producers of value” with “production of knowledge…directed towards profit” even more than in the past, with “tension between the underlying forces of competition and monopoly” as Michael Roberts put it recently. As Roberts further added that “rise of intangibles means the increased concentration and centralisation of capital” and ended by saying that “capital without capitalism becomes a socialist imperative. Furthermore, let us recognize that there are no “progressive radicals” in Zimbabwe anymore. Michael Parenti, the radical scholar everyone should listen to rather than establishment “radical” Noam Chomsky, defined this term in an interview back in 2015

A progressive radical is someone who supports democratic political procedures rather than moneyed-driven ones, much needed human services, public ownership of education, utilities, industrial production, and most financing, while opposing big corporate power and global imperialism.

There is no one like that in Zimbabwean politics. In fact Mnangagwa and his cronies want to privatize government entities, reducing public ownership, and seem willing to work with the imperial West to “improve” their country. That will undoubtedly lead to further exploitation! There is no doubt of that.

Those in the murderous empire seem to be playing a “wait and see” game, with many citing the event “committed by the North-Korean trained fifth brigade in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980’s, also referred to as Gukurahundi,” saying that Mnangagwa was involved, with Chris Coons declaring that its “critical that the people of Zimbabwe not see one dictator replaced by another and so for one I am reluctant to see us take any steps to lighten or relieve sanctions or other international restrictions on loans or partnerships until we see … concrete steps.”  Other reports say that the empire is “cautiously considering re-engaging Zimbabwe, following the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe,” seeing a possibly window of opportunity. A “peace campaign” won’t stop the empire from coming in and bringing in all the corporate brands that those living inside the beast have grown to hate. At this point, let us not forget the contributions of comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe who originally embraced neo-colonialism but ultimately led the country to one that allied with China and was strongly anti-imperialism, supporting independence for Western Sahara and Palestine for example. No one should forget him and his contributions, which the current government seems intent on erasing without a doubt.

Then there is the role of China. One commentary recently asserted that “Zimbabwe’s economic and political ties to China could prove decisive for Africa’s perpetual underdog” and added that “more Chinese money is flowing to Zimbabwe as well” with it also noted that “China has been a partner to Africa when many Western investors preferred to stay away.” What will China’s role be? Well, they seem to be willing to keep their investments in the country and would be glad to have more “business-friendly” conditions to benefit Chinese companies. Again, this would not make Zimbabwe a Chinese colony, as those deluded commentators in the West assert, but it would show that both countries have embraced capitalism without a doubt.

In other news, the relations with Botswana seem to be on upswing. This is disturbing because, as I noted on Reddit, Botswana hated Mugabe, supporting the Western puppet opposition, with suggestions they are imperial puppets of the murderous empire. A new memorandum of understanding is coming soon with Botswana, which hailed the new government. This seems to indicate that Zimbabwe could be further corrupted by imperial machinations without a doubt.

The future forward for Zimbabwe is unclear. Frantz Fanon wrote back in 1961, in the Wretched of the Earth, about how the “national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is not engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type” saying that their “psychology…is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry” while adding that “from now on it will insist that all the big foreign companies should pass through its hands, whether these companies wish to keep on their connexions with the country, or to open it up” and that the “national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner.” He added that when the national bourgeoisie within an “under-developed” country is strong, it can “arrange everything and everybody to serve its power” and said that there must be “very exceptional circumstances if such a bourgeoisie…is forced into denying its own humanist ideology” while the Western bourgeoisie is racist but works to mask such racism. He also wrote that

…The national bourgeoisie turns its back more and more on the interior and on the real facts of its undeveloped country, and tends to look towards the former mother country and the foreign capitalists who count on its obliging compliance…The bourgeois dictatorship of under-developed countries draws its strength from the existence of a leader…in spite of his frequently honest conduct and his sincere declarations, the leader as seen objectively is the fierce defender of these interests, today combined, of the national bourgeoisie and the ex-colonial companies…the national bourgeoisie of under-developed countries is incapable of carrying out any mission whatever…The party, a true instrument of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, reinforces the machine, and ensures that the people are hemmed in and immobilized…In under-developed countries, the bourgeoisie should not be allowed to find the conditions necessary for its existence and its growth. In other words, the combined effort of the masses led by a party and of intellectuals who are highly conscious and armed with revolutionary principles ought to bar the way to this useless and harmful middle class…In the colonized territories, the bourgeois caste draws its strength after independence chiefly from agreements reached with the former colonial power

While Fanon was talking about the development of independent nations in Africa, after their liberation wars against “colonial domination,” what he writes about the national bourgeoisie can easily apply to the Black bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe which seems to be happy and gleeful to work with the West while still wanting to defend their own interests.

With this counter-revolution, the Europeans who “robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people” will be back to do what did they in Zimbabwe for over 70 years, mainly by the British imperialists like Cecil Rhodes. The European imperialists will exploit the proletariat and peasantry with a “modern flair,” followed by the gung-ho imperialists from the murderous empire. Neo-colonialism, the most dangerous form of imperialism as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana called it, will be back “in style” as Zimbabweans continue to toil.

As Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau put it in 1964, “whether we wish it or not, we are fighting against imperialism, which is the basis of colonialism, in every form.” Apart from following this advice, we should be worried about Zimbabwe’s future trajectory as it seems to invalidate  liberation of Africa from world imperialism, which was fought for so many years ago with vigor, determination, and good cause for a better world free of capitalism, but seems to be slipping away with counter-revolutions like this one in Zimbabwe. To end this post, Fanon’s words on the future path for liberation and independence are an instructive reminder of where our thoughts should go in the days forward:

We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind…We today can do everything, so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe…European achievements, European techniques and the European style ought no longer to tempt us and to throw us off our balance…Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction…a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe…[this was the] United States of America [which] became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions…Comrades, let us flee from this motionless movement where gradually dialectic is changing into the logic of equilibrium. Let us reconsider the question of mankind…The Third World today faces Europe like a colossal mass whose aim should be to try to resolve the problems to which Europe has not been able to find the answers…So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her…If we wish to live up to our peoples’ expectations, we must seek the response elsewhere than in Europe…For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts, and try to set afoot a new man.

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The orange menace, bigotry, and the murderous empire

Quotes from Trump’s recent speeches spewing racism and/or jingoism time and time again.

While much of Texas (and now Louisiana) reels from a “capitalist crime scene” which was made clear nationwide across the US with the “unprecedented” flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, another storm is brewing: racism in the White House, the “President’s House” was built on the backs of enslaved and wage laborers.

Trump is undoubtedly a racist and bigot as proven during his campaign. Most recently this was manifested in his pardon of Sheriff Joseph Michael Arpaio or “Sheriff Joe” of Maricopa County, Arizona. Defending the action, he claimed that Arpaio did “great” for the Arizonan people and was “loved” there. He further spewed out that his pardon was justified by previous pardons of Marc Rich, Susan Rosenberg, and Carlos Vignali by Bill Clinton, and famed whistleblower Chelsea Manning and noble Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera. He hates them all. Manning, who sadly fell in line with supporting Apple’s fake “privacy” battle with the US government, played a major part in interrupting “imperial scheming,” often called diplomacy, of the murderous empire, revealed, for example, that there were “the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] proposed energy ties with China if Beijing backed sanctions against Iran, and [showed] that the country is a major source of financing of Islamic reactionary groups.” The same is the case for Rivera, who is also a brave, and arguably heroic figure. As I wrote back in January, which I still stand by

In the days before Trump’s inauguration…Obama made some “last minute” actions, some of which were symbolic. Due to public pressure and likely to give himself a “good” legacy…he pardoned transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning  and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera, along with a number of nonviolent drug offenders…many political prisoners are still locked behind bars and his action was symbolic…It worth saying however that if Manning’s sentence had not been reduced, Trump likely would have extended the sentence and left her in prison for life

Yet, he thinks that Arpaio “is a patriot [who]…loves our country…protected our borders” and the Obama administration “unfairly” treated him. Lest us forget that Arpaio is well-established believer in the theory that Obama’s birth certificate was faked (which Trump ran on in an unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Presidential election) and Maricopa County had to pay millions for his racial profiling to Chican@ people who were profiled as he continued his illegal immigration patrols. Only more recently he was cited as “guilty of criminal contempt of court” since he did not follow a “federal judge’s order that halted his signature immigration round-ups,” which Trump could not stand, so he pardoned the bigot. To summarize what Arpaio did, he enforced hardline racist anti-immigration policies which were dictated on the federal level, with sweeps that zeroed in on immigrant neighborhoods, with many of “those taken into custody were not accused of violating a state crime but only of living in the country illegally.” [1]

Trump brought his racism to another level, beyond the pardon. He threatened to shut down the federal government over border wall funding (which he did not pull back even he had the opportunity to do so). In his jingoism, he declared that “Mexico is going to pay for the wall….one way or the other,” slammed NAFTA as “one of the worst trade deals ever signed at any time, anywhere in the world” (which isn’t wrong, but what he would replace it with is a bunch of bilateral-NAFTA-like agreements), and said that the US needs “the wall very badly” since it will “stop a lot of things” including “drugs” which he bellows is “pouring in at levels like nobody has ever seen,” which sounds like clear and simple fearmongering. There is no doubt about this since he wants to be “very, very tough on the southern border,” in his own words, to protect the supposed “prosperity” he will bring White people in the US, which isn’t going to materialize. Recently, he praised the mobilization of the Homeland Security Search Capacity Force, in response to Hurricane Harvey, declaring that with law enforcement we have to “make sure that we’re overcoming and anticipating any security needs that we have.” This is consistent with his moves to give the police even more weaponry, which was partially limited by the Obama administration because of public pressure, so they can further terrorize communities of color.

Before putting the orange menace in his appropriate context, it is worth discussing his comments on the anti-racist protests in Charlottesville. On August 12 he declared that “we” (by which he meant the US government) condemn “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” and said that “it’s been going on for a long time in our country,” nothing new. In his mind, what was needed was “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” and coming together as a nation to “heal the wounds of our country.” While this may seem more measured than chasing people down who are of a certain color of the skin, it still has a white supremacist tone to it, especially when he talks about the “healing procedure” which, when coming from him, sounds like David Duke. Considering that the police and capitalist state in the US are of a white supremacist character, calling for “restoration” of “order” means that his “moderation” is nothing of the sort, when he does not categorically condemn bigotry, saying that it happened on “many sides” but not the side of the white supremacists. As Sam Marcy of the Workers World Party wrote in 1982, which is still relevant today,

“…in the eyes of the liberal bourgeoisie a militant struggle against the Klan…violates the sacred norms of imperialist democracy…Unless one sees the Klan and other fascist organizations in the general context of the developing struggle of the workers and oppressed, one runs the danger of completely abdicating…using the free speech amendment as a cover for…the use of violence and mass repression is a congenital tendency of the capitalist state. Even in the so-called best of times the capitalist government not only tolerates terrorist organizations like the Klan…It is the ever-expanding growth of the police and military forces at home which makes repression and violent outbursts an inevitable outgrowth of the deepening class antagonisms…This is how consistent liberalism can be in a crisis – they go over to the other side…it is most important to discard the liberal straitjacket that only leads to defeat and frustration and arm the mass movement of the working class and oppressed with a revolutionary perspective.”

Two days later, on August 14, after controversy and anger over his “many sides” comment, he read from a teleprompter, declaring that the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence” in Charlottesville has “no place in America,” going onto say that “racism is evil…those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.” He went onto say that their beliefs are “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and adding that “those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” His solution was the idea of “bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans” which has echoes of the bygone era when the murderous empire was “fighting” those it called “subversives” and “communists,” a fight against those who stand for justice and a better world which continues to this day. While he condemned hatred, he did not condemn those who engage in bigotry in ways that are not outwardly violent like police killing Black men (and women) on the streets of the US, the symbols of the Confederacy that still stand in thousands of locations across the country, mostly in the US South but some in the North as well. This was to be expected. After all, from his definition, HE should be “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” and his words of hate strike at “the very core of America.”

Trump’s definitions are contorted, since bigots of any type manifest basic US values of White America from redlining, de facto re-segregation in urban areas, and dirty environmental projects placed in poor Black and Brown communities (called environmental racism for short) that cannot readily fight off the challenge as much as affluent White communities. These values, the conception of a safe White neighborhood with white picket fences, barking dogs, and areas removed from the perceived (and sometimes real) “problems” of the city, which does not, in general, include people of color. There are some exceptions, but there areas are broadly created for White people. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968, there is “no more dangerous development in our nation than the constant building up of predominantly negro central cities ringed by white suburbs” saying this will “invite social disaster.” Yet, nothing was done.

To give more historical context, the US Constitution, which is still used as a “blueprint” by the Supreme Court and is a “highly regarded” document, was formed by 55 men who were well-off white property owners, slaveowners, speculators, and other elements of the “new” capitalist class of the burgeoning nation. Anti-Black provisions were written into state laws, proven by the Supreme Court in decision after decision (i.e. Dred Scott v. Sandford, Civil Rights Cases, and Plessy v. Ferguson), and became part of the legal code of the United States at large. Racism is NOT “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans” because it is part of the DNA of the murderous empire itself from transatlantic slavery to indigenous genocide and immigrant expulsion. Sure, it should have “no place in America,” but Trump himself stoked the flames of the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence,” in places such as Charlottesville, Boston, and San Francisco, to name a few, which was becoming “re-energized” by the united hatred of the US’s first “Black president” (he was actually mixed race, half White, half Black) Barack Obama, who, as noted before, put a happy face on the murderous empire. If racism” is “evil” as he says, and those who cause “violence in its name are criminals and thugs,” which strikes “the very core of America” (either indicating his dwindling core of supporters or the Midwest of the US), then Trump himself is “evil” and so is the murderous empire, since HE and the empire cause violence in the name of racism,  in terms of inherently racist imperialism.

One day after he, in scripted remarks, condemned in a PR statement, the hatred spewed in Charlottesville, he doubled back on his August 12th comments. This showed that inherently he still believed that both the anti-racists and bigots committed acts of violence. Apart from defending a racist, hate-filled man named Steve Bannon who was, not many days later, fired as his chief strategist (after which he returned as editor of the conspiratorial bigoted site called Breitbart) as a “friend of mine…he’s a good man…not a racist…a good person” who gets “very unfair press in that regard,” he charged that the “alt-left” (which doesn’t exist) was guilty of violence, “charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs” at the bigots. Basically he defended the bigots as those with a protest permit and the anti-racists as those without a permit (whether that is true or not), declaring that not all of the people protesting “the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee” (which he claimed was “very, very important”) were white supremacists. Furthermore he portrayed the bigots (“bad people”) as “violently” attacked by anti-racists, claiming that there were “very fine people, on both sides.” In his shouting match with reporters of the bourgeois press he said, in his white supremacist language, that those who want Confederate monuments to come down, since they honor a failed nation which explicitly defended and promoted Black slavery, are “changing history…[and] culture” (why is this bad?). [2] He further said that those who are neo-confederate were “treated them absolutely unfairly” by the same press and saying that there were “troublemakers…with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats.” Those people are what is commonly called the Black Bloc. While further comment on the would require more analysis of their tactics and history over time, there should be no debate that those who are facing bigots should be able to use any tools at their disposal to defend themselves.

It was then that Trump said that the taking down of the Confederate monuments was only the beginning, like a first domino of a series of dominos falling:

…this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down…is it George Washington next week?…Thomas Jefferson the week after?…you…have to ask yourself, where does it stop?…George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his statues?….are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?…Are we going to take down the statue? Because he [Thomas Jefferson] was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

When Trump feels under attack he predictably spews garbage like this. This just gives pure ammunition to the forces of bigotry within the United States, at least, giving them an easy counter-argument. The fact is that such forces are, as it stands now, on the losing side, on the defensive. The fact that governments (and universities) across the country are taking down Confederate statues shows the power of the anti-racist forces, forces for justice, forces for a better world. To think that people would support taking down the statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson within the murderous empire is a joke. Founding myths, as progressive historian Ray Raphael calls them, about such Founding Patriarchs are inherent to the national consciousness. They are drilled in inhabitants of the United States from an early age, through schooling, and used by politicians, whether Democratic or Republican to make “patriotic” arguments. Reading the writings of progressive historians like Howard Zinn, Ray Raphael, William Hogeland, and Christina Synder, who are not always radical in their writing, can help to counter this worship of the Founding Patriarchs.

In the same press conference, Trump boasted that he owned “a house in Charlottesville…one of the largest wineries in the United States,” flaunting his capitalistic wealth once again. On the ground, people are resisting at the Charlottesville City Council against the pathetic white moderates who let the calamity unfold, even as it is a “watershed” in the anti-fascist struggle, and people worked together to topple a Confederate statue in Durham, North Carolina, an effort rightly applauded by the local chapter of the socialist (and Marxist) Workers World Party.

MLK, mentioned earlier, a self-defined democratic socialist who seemed to incorporate Black nationalism more into his beliefs between 1965 and his death in 1968, once said that “the bombs in Vietnam explode at home. They destroy the hopes and possibilities for a decent America.” [3] The same is the case today, with the violence in the streets of Charlottesville, on the streets of decaying urban metropolis after metropolis by the hands of cops, connecting to the imperial war in Afghanistan. Trump already thinks that everyone who puts on a uniform “makes our nation proud” with a shared purpose, wanting the US to be like the military with “love and loyalty to one another – and to our nation – as we seek to heal divisions from within,” speaking out against “the voices that try to sow hatred and division” (which includes Trump himself), treating fellow citizens “with love and affection” while honoring “our heroes” with supposed “sacred bonds of loyalty that unite us together as one.” This talk of loyalty not only harkens back to Cold War era loyalty oaths but it inherently fascist as he doesn’t want any sort of dissent, a nation of “yes men” and “yes women.” Furthermore, he doesn’t like transgender people in the US military, allowing those who currently are within the ranks to stay, but not allowing others to join, an uneasy compromise for the bigot-in-chief. This could provide an opportunity to organize against military recruitment in the transgender community instead of joining the jingoistic forces that want a bigger recruiting pool for imperialist footsoldiers. That topic is for another article, but should be written about and discussed.

In short, Trump wants to escalate the war in Afghanistan which was begun by George W. Bush, continued by Obama (who had a “withdrawal” plan that wasn’t about withdrawing) and revved up by the Trumpster. The latter likely believes it is part of some Christian crusade as he is almost evangelical in his religious beliefs, asking “God for his wisdom and strength,” declaring that “we will be bigger, better, stronger than ever before.” In his much hyped speech, by the bourgeois media in the US, he declared that there is a “special class of heroes” in the US, of “American patriots from every generation” (undoubtedly including, in his mind, the Confederate States of America), saying that the county is at “war with itself at home” and falsely claiming that the US is a “force for peace in the world,” with imperialism only possible in his conception if everyone falls in line and doesn’t question him. His “policy” is not really a declarations that there must be “an honorable and enduring outcome” in Afghanistan (reminiscent of Nixon’s idea of an “honorable end to the war in Vietnam” or “Peace with Honor” which was actually ramped up imperialism), no “rapid exit…[or] hasty withdrawal” from Afghanistan, “immense” threats to US security apparently from the region, and facing the “reality of the world as it exists right now.” In his simplistic conception, terrorists who “slaughter innocent people” (like him with his drone killings or the US military killing innocent civilians) are “losers” while those in the US are apparently “winners.” He further showed that the military really controls the policy on Afghanistan by firstly saying that “conditions on the ground…will guide our strategy from now on” with secret plans to attack without public notice, ” integration of all instruments of American power…toward a successful outcome,” not engaging in nation-building or constructing “democracies in faraway lands,” but allowing the military to do what they please without restrictions with expansion of authority “for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.” He basically wants to give more power to the military that lied about its number of troops in the country (admitting that 2,600 more troops were there than they said publicly), killed 15 Afghanis in an airstrike, “accidentally” killed Yemeni families, killing 10 Somalis (with the help of the US-backed Somali army)

He seemed to eerily echo Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Speech:

Again, toward the end of the speech, he called for those in the US to “unite” to defend the country “from its enemies abroad” by restoring “the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home” and achieving an “honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.” The latter is not possible at this point and the former just reflects his obsession with loyalty and no dissent, his inherent mindset. Anyone who challenges him, even liberals and progressives of a bourgeois character are disloyal, especially those who point out the contours of his brand, working to poke holes in this super-brand as Naomi Klein, a progressive of the bourgeois variety who is part of what some call the “Celebrity Left,” writes who is clearly a brand herself, just like many other “exalted” figures on the “Left” like Noam Chomsky.

Trump racism and outright bigotry is only one manifestation of the foulness of the murderous empire. He has embodied the empire as its head, so to speak, with a changing strategy in Syria, threats against the DPRK (and more recently Venezuela), along with horrendous sanctions, reinforcing the imperial interrelationship with Saudi Arabia, bombing Syria in what seems to be a one-time event to send a message to Moscow and Damascus to name a few aspects. While Bannon is gone, the bigotry continues. He will remain, an informal adviser to Trump, in his position at the head of a hateful propaganda network. After all, the Muslim ban was greenlighted by the Supreme Court as only a partial ban, showing their role in reinforcing racist legalism once again. Trump’s advisers, like H.R. McMaster, have more pull with Bannon gone, but perhaps that was part of the plan. It is hard to discern. To put it simply, in the grand scheme of things, Trump is only one cog of the machine. Bigotry of all types, runs rampant in the murderous empire from gentrification in the “fixed up” urban areas to more dirty energy pipelines forced through the land of indigenous nations. The capitalist monster can only be stopped in its tracks with determination, solidarity, knowledge of past history, and a well-developed analysis, to name a few elements.

 

Notes

[1] He also boasted that “Nobody is higher than me. I am the elected sheriff by the people. I don’t serve any governor or the president.”

[2] Bringing down Confederate monuments should be applauded but it only the start and should not be done to replace necessary racial justice not of the kind proposed by Ta-Nehisi Coates but that which is written about by Cornel West or those over at the always well-spoken Black Agenda Report.

[3] While his belief in non-violence and “loving your enemy” doesn’t really have a place in today’s society, he did truly care about the Black people of America, and the disenfranchised of all races.

“Massive, dangerous and wasteful”: US imperialism repositions itself in Syria

Comes from the official mouth of the national military establishment.

This post was posted on anti-imperialism.org two days before but somehow I didn’t catch that until yesterday, so it was posted here.

You’ve probably heard the recent news that the Trump Administration is ending the CIA program to fund “anti-Assad” “moderate rebels,” who are actually terrorists. [1] The bourgeois media and run-of-the-mill imperialists cried bloody murder. Some say it was a “victory” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, although it was seen, even by crusty analysts, as a failed program. Removing CIA support is a victory for the Syrian people, not for the Russians or Trump and his advisers. In defending this action on Twitter, Donald Trump, in his typical bullish style, attacked the “Amazon Washington Post” and CNN, saying they are pumping out “fake news” about his policy and questioned if the Post is being used to keep “politicians from looking into Amazon’s no-tax monopoly.” He, of course, framed the program as his accomplishment, as the end of “massive, dangerous and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad,” although these “rebels” are, again, terroristic elements. Even with US imperialism ending CIA support for such elements, the murderous empire has not given up the goal of toppling the Syrian government. Rather, it has “repositioned” itself.

In the article announcing the end of the CIA program, the CIA mouthpiece, the Washington Post bellowed that there was a “potential risk” of ending the program. They claimed that ending the program would mean that the US may be unable to stop other countries from “funneling more sophisticated weapons” to “anti-Assad” terrorists. [2] This implies a “loss of control” over world events by the murderous empire, and it is part of the anxiety that comes with US imperialism loosing its footing. Still, the murderous empire is not bumbling like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as “acclaimed” journalist Jeremy Scahill (a brand) noted in one tweet some time ago, but it just facing more challenges. The removal of this support, which was reportedly a foreign policy move to improve ties with Russia, ended a program which had begun in 2013 under the supposedly “smart” imperialism of the Obama presidency. [3] The program itself, in the minds of anonymous “US officials” quoted, and perhaps within upper echelons of the empire itself, “produced little success.” Reuters denoted that US support will not end. Quoting the magical (and often deceptive) anonymous “US officials,” it was noted that the US military will train, arm, and support certain Syrian terrorists with airstrikes and other actions. [4] It would not be surprising if this is the case. The Syrians recognize that the ending of the CIA program is a start to to “solving the Syrian crisis” but not a “genuine policy shift.” Rather it was an admission by the murderous empire that they have failed as Syrian government minister Ali Haidar pointed out. [5]

As it seems evident, US imperialism has “repositioned” itself in Syria by allying with the “good” Kurds, by Western standards, the ones clustered around the illegitimate regional government in northern Iraq and those related to Rojava. Stephen Gowans points out that not only is the YPG, one of the groups which is associated with Rojava, basically the PKK, but that they would control regions currently occupied by Arabs, a move supported by Israel and the US. However, Turkey does not support it as they detest the Kurds, but also the Syrian government, with their own designs for “regime change” in the country, and the current Syrian government opposes it as a clear violation of their sovereignty and independence. Such a takeover of Arab areas, which could be a prelude to ethnic cleansing, is supported by illegal no-fly-zones by the US over parts of Syria, and the partition of Syria along “ethno-sectarian lines,” favored by Washington and Tel Aviv. Some will say that the YPG, SDF, and other forces associated with Rojava, are somehow revolutionary. For one, if this was the case, why would they have allowed the US to build two military bases within “their territory” by March 2016? [6]

When Black nationalist Robert Mugabe led the liberation struggle of the then-Maoist Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, alongside the more moderate Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu-PF, he did not go the US asking for help to fight the white colonists. When Hugo Chavez and his newfangled movement were gaining traction in Venezuela, they didn’t turn to the European imperialists. There are many other examples that could be given. Allowing an imperialist power to create bases within one’s territory means that one’s anti-imperialism is partially, if not completely, non-existent.

Around the same time that it was revealed that the US had two military bases in Syria, the special presidential envoy to the coalition against Daesh, Brett McGurk, visited Rojava, showing the US-“good” Kurd alliance was in the making. Since then, the murderous empire has increased their support for these Kurds. The same Kurds who tortured two Arab prisoners to demand they tell them

“where are the Daesh fighters,” threatening their life and limb when they didn’t answer “correctly.” Recently, the murderous empire armed these Kurds directly to mount an assault on Daesh’s de facto capital, Raqqa. More than that, over 1,000 US special forces are within Syria, with the US helping Rojava-associated forces, since 2014, take control of territory with their “overwhelming” air power. Furthermore, not only are these Kurds wedded to their alliance with the Western imperialists, who also back, with arms, those in Northern Iraq, but they are liked by Western European, Japanese, and Scandinavian governments, along with some in Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. This is indicated by their diplomatic outposts all across Europe to spread the “reality” of their supposed “struggle,” with the impression that they are a “real” country. Even the Russian Federation seems to favor them to an extent. Such favoritism, mainly by those in the West, is related to the fact that Rojava is opposed to the Syrian government is a “resources-rich” mine for imperialism even though it is basically an illegal entity. Its existence violates the UN charter, especially article 2, and the Syrian Constitution (at least 5 articles). Some may cry that Rojava and the Kurds need “self-determination” but the entity itself violates Syrian sovereignty and such a claim to self-governance by the “good” Kurds is utterly (and completely) illegitimate.

If arming and providing direct military support to these Kurds is not enough, the US had reportedly provided advice on branding, a feature of modern capitalism in the Western world. Raymond Thomas, General and commander of US Special Operations, said at the Aspen Forum recently that the US told the YPG that they needed to re-brand because of their ties to the PKK, and called the name of SDF a “stroke of brilliance” since “democratic” was within the name. This account was also posted on SoL international, a site run by the Turkish Communist Party. In their summation, it was noted that Thomas said that the YPG and PKK have to “work on their own branding,” acting like they are separate. In response, Erdogan, a murderous leader of Turkey who represents that country’s bourgeoisie, said that “friends” should not deceive each other, implying that the US and Turkey are still “friends.” This is true to an extent, but the US and Turkey are pursuing different methods to overthrow the Syrian government. This is indicated by stories in the Turkish state media, which has an anti-Kurdish flair to it, such as one claiming that a US Army Magazine showed a PYD individual, associated with Rojava, with a patch displaying the face of the PKK’s jailed leader, Ocolan. To put it simply, relations between the murderous empire and ethno-nationalist Turkey are fraught. This is proven not only by Erdogan’s remarks noted above but declarations by the Turkish government that it will not allow a “terrorist state” of Rojava on their borders and claims that hundreds of trucks from the US are aiding the Kurds with a large amount of weapons. The latter article, which lists the exact location of 10 US outposts/bases in Rojava, was also written up by The Daily Beast. [7] This article notes that there is US presence from “one end to the other end” of Rojava, with two bases in northern Syrian and eight outposts, one of which is the communications center for the US-led coalition “fighting” Daesh.

With ten bases, effectively, in northern Syria, US imperialism has easily positioned itself to assist covertly and overtly in the overthrow of the Syrian government. Add to this the illegal US presence in Syria coupled with the bombing of Syria and Iraq which has killed a minimum of 600 people with the actual total likely topping over 7,000 civilians. Take for example a raid in Syria on July 4, by US bombers, which killed nine civilians and damaged civilian housing. Assisting the murderous empire in its “regime change” operation are the Israeli Zionists who frequently bomb inside Syria, directly helping the “anti-Assad” terrorists, accompanied by propaganda from outlets, such as National Geographic, to smear the Syrian government, as represented in their upcoming documentary which is totally fraudulent. If that isn’t enough, there have been direct provocations in Syria by the murderous empire. In June, the US shot down a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet which was carrying out attacks on Daesh, a “blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law.” This was only part of such provocations stemming from the dropping of thousands upon thousands of bombs on Syria, since 2014, thousands of US troops being sent into the region, false stories of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, and other provocations, sometimes with the help of British special forces. Additionally, the UAE, the Turks, Qatar, the Saudis, and numerous others, want a piece of the action, sending “tens of thousands of mercenary and reactionary forces to bring down the Syrian government.

While US imperialism under Trump is “re-positioning” itself by seeking new alliances and harsher policies toward alleged US enemies, the goal in Syria has not changed. As noted earlier, the US wants to overthrow Syria’s duly-elected government, the government a secular, socially democratic state. Gowans explains this simply. He notes that the murderous empire is angry that Bashar Al-Assad hasn’t integrated the Syrian economy into the “US-superintended economy,” while possessing principles of “Arab socialism,” anti-imperialism, and anti-Zionism. Such ideas also come with Syria’s support of the Palestinian liberation movement and Hezbollah. Hence, since the 1960s the US had tried to undermine Syria, with the idea since 2003 that the US would eliminate Arab nationalists in the region by invading their countries.

Iran puts a damper on such regime change plans, as does Russia. Already Iran and Russia have developed close relations, like Syria and Russia, with the idea that Iran-Russia contact can prevent Washington’s further intervention in Syria. As Raymond Thomas, quoted earlier, admitted, since Russia has established a “more credible foothold” in Syria, it could, in his summation, use this influence to expel US forces from the country. Whether this would actually happen is not known. As the murderous empire sees it, Iran, Syrian, and Russia are part of an “evil axis” to them. That is why the CIA’s mouthpiece, the Washington Post, declared that the US is threatening Iranian naval vessels in the Persian Gulf whether a “shot across the bow” actually happened or not. [8]

The same goes for the 98-2 vote in the US Senate in favor of increased sanctions on Iran and Russia in mid-June. Only two Senators, with enough political capital, voted against it: “socially democratic” imperialist Bernie Sanders and libertarian-Republican Rand Paul. The sanctions themselves, introduced by Bob Corker, did not pass the House. The legislation not only claims that Iran threatens the US (and allies) in the Mideast, North Africa, and beyond, but it shows US apprehension about Iran’s influence.

In the past month, a new round of sanctions passed both legislative houses, incorporating some of Corker’s legislation on Russia and Iran, but also adding harsh sanctions against the DPRK. On July 25, the House passed the legislation 419-3, with only Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Jimmy Duncan voting no, all of whom were Republicans. The vote in the Senate two days similar was similar to the one the month before: Sanders and Paul voted against it.

Specifically, the new sanctions are slapped on Iran for its missile program and “human rights abuses” while squeezing the Russian economy and removing authority from the presidency to ease Russian sanctions. The latter is due to the unsubstantiated and feverous phobia over Russia, propagated by the US intelligence establishment, desperate Democrats and complaint Republicans, and much of the bourgeois media. The fact that Trump approves of the sanctions legislation flushes away all possibility he is “pro-Russia” in any way, shape, or form. Furthermore, the fact that Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership declared that the US’s diplomatic mission in Russia has to “reduce its staff by 755 employees” was a justified “aggressive response” that the New York Times, in typical fashion, called something which was seemingly “ripped right from the Cold War playbook.” Russia cannot respond by military force to these sanctions, so this reduction is a way of firing back, sending a message to Washington that the sanctions are not OK. [9]

As it seems evident, the murderous empire wants to weaken Iran (and Russia to an extent) to cause the dominoes (Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas) to fall so that imperial hegemony can reign across the region. [10] The Russians, Syrians, and Iranians aren’t standing for it. With Iran having “Washington’s moves under close surveillance,” they have worked to build military cooperation with Iraq, a major step forward in regional security to counter destabilization by the US and its affiliates.

Such an agreement, which disappoints the US, involves both countries working together to improve border security while providing the military forces of each country with “training, logistical…and military support.” Furthermore, the Iranian Parliament recently allocated $600 million to strengthen the country’s defensive missile program and the IRGC’s Quads force. Even with such measures, the moderate Iranian leadership is trying to create linkages with European capitalists created by the nuclear deal they negotiated with the West. The idea is that Iran should be “self-reliant and self-sufficient” since it has strong bilateral relationships with Russia, China, and a “remarkable number of European countries.” As Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, recently put it, there is an opportunity of strong relations between Iran and Europe, with creation of “indigenous technology using international advanced technology.” The Iranians also likely see such linkages as a way to partially deter some of the effects of sanctions imposed on them. Some capitalists, like the French, have jumped at the bit. Just recently, Total S.A., a French oil giant, signed a 20 year contract with Iran, with an “estimated cost of 2 billion US dollars.” This would result in 30 wells, 2 offshore platforms, and two pipelines as part of the Iranian Petroleum Contract (IPC) they signed with the Iranian government.

Even with Iran’s moves to court Western European capitalists, there are evident challenges. For one, Trump is continuing to push for “regime change” in Iran, dismantle the “Obama-era balance of power” and return to anti-Iran policies of Bush II. This isn’t much of a surprise since his foreign policy team is filled with Iran hawks, those who want to be more aggressive toward the country. Additionally, there are individuals like the chain-smoking, brutish, covert to Islam, whose name is “Mike Roger” when undercover and nicknamed “Ayatollah Mike.” [11] His full name is Michael D’Andrea. He is leading the anti-Iran campaign but previously ran the drone program, is brash, and was involved in the illegal torture program. [12] As one person quoted, in the CIA propaganda-filled New York Times, says, this is a sign of an “aggressive line toward Iran.”

For having a man who is a Muslim (converted because his wife was Muslim) leading a covert effort to undermine (and ultimately topple) a government rooted, bourgeois liberals and progressives will likely scream “intersectionality!” In reality, it is just imperialism with a nice bow on it, but the same tactics as before. Nothing has changed in that way at all.

In a recent article in the Monthly Review, Fred Magdoff noted that when corporations of “leading capitalist states have problems abroad,” they use the international structure they helped shape, also working to create “more favorable conditions at home and abroad to increase their flexibility and ability to make profits with the fewest restraints” evidenced by thirty CEOs of major US corporations visiting “Saudi Arabia with Trump.” He adds that economic elites and corporations use the power “of their home nation to secure advantages globally” with the nation state’s power of a “significant use to capital” with corporations, no matter the historical era, using “whatever leverage is at their disposal…to get their way,” to gain access to “foreign markets and investment opportunities.”

What Magdoff writes has relevance for the geopolitical position and relation of Iran, Syria, Russia, and the United States, to name a few international “actors” at the current time. Each of these countries has their respective bourgeoisie. For Iran and Syria, their national bourgeoisie is revolutionary in character. Specifically for Iran, this bourgeoisie, especially the reformist faction, is trying to entice European capitalists to invest in their country in order to become “self-sufficient” and create their own products. The principalist or “hardline” faction seems to not be fundamentally opposed to the prospect of self-development, as they support investment, but they are wary of Western influence from capitalists of Europe (mostly) since the involvement of Western international capitalist combines had a role in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossedegh in 1953 and were part of the pillaging of their country up until the victory of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The reformist faction, which was reinforced by the recent election in Iran’s populace, seems to be in a current truce with the “hardline” faction, the latter of which wants a “revolutionary economy” as Ayatollah Khomeini puts it, but does not oppose privatization, for example. The Western capitalists are salivating at the opportunity for a new market with US companies likely furious about the new sanctions since this closes markets for them, inadvertently giving the Europeans a head start in this new market, benefiting them and isolating the United States. Iran needs capital for its self-development, but accepting this capital means that Western capitalists will be able to use the “universal whore, the universal pimp of peoples,” money, as Karl Marx once described it, to try and corrupt Iranian society to make it more consumerist, accepting more and more Western values. [13] If that ultimately happens, then the Iranian Revolution will have failed and capitalism will be triumphant in Iran.

Like Iran, Syria has a national bourgeoisie. Stephen Gowans can say that Syria is a socialist state, saying that they follow the confines of “Arab socialism.” While you could argue, like Gowans that that this is correct, more realistically, the state is socially democratic and secular. Hence, they have a national bourgeoisie. But, they are dedicated to progressive principles (anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist for example) and independence from Western influence. As a result, the Syrian leadership courts the Russian capitalists, along with those of other friendly countries like socialist Cuba, so that they can build their economy since they are under attack from reactionary religious terrorists backed by Gulf and Western states. As Karl Marx wrote in 1844,

“…it is precisely the ability of the capitalist to direct his capital elsewhere which either drives the worker into starvation or forces him to submit to the capitalist’s demands” [14]

In the case of Syria, unlike Iran, they do not desire normalization with the West at this time but rather seek to build alliances, to be part of what Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), once called the “international left alliance.” Still, they are affected by competition among capitalists, as this influenced policies of those countries which are attacking them.

As for Russia, it is an interesting case. It is clearly capitalist, but it also has a progressive foreign policy. Partially this policy was forced on it by “isolation” pushed upon it by the US, but also due to its effort of building alliances with those countries under harsh attack by the murderous empire. Still, we cannot forget the Russian oligarchs, who are the Russian bourgeoisie. Even so, they are not like the US in interfering in the affairs of other countries, seeming to follow the principle that sovereignty is the “essence of the state” and that the sovereignty of the leader is based on the people since the “political state is…only a self-determination of the people.” [15] They are, as was noted by the Workers World Party at discussion at the Left Forum earlier this year, wanna be imperialists. Rome, and now the murderous empire, along with competing neo-colonial Western capitalistic states, treats “conquered countries….as private property.” [16] Russia, even if you said that it “conquered” Crimea, which it didn’t since there was a referendum where the people of the peninsula voted to be part of the Russian Federation, is not treating this area or any other area under their influence as their “private property.” Due to US restrictions and that of Russophobic European capitalist states, their markets are limited, so their imperialistic tendencies have not been developed as of yet. If these restrictions were lifted they would become a semi-imperialist state.

The murderous empire has “re-positioned” itself when it comes to Syria, and states associated with it, but as noted in this article, the goals remain the same. This was indicated in a recent speech by Vice President Mike Pence who bemoaned the “grave and growing threat posed by the missile capabilities of dangerous regimes in North Korea and Iran” and noted that Trump called on Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and to cease its support for hostile regimes like North Korea and Iran.” If this sentiment is held by numerous other policymakers in the echelons of the intelligence and military establishments, which it likely is, it means they see Russia as the “puppetmaster,” directing other countries like Iran and Syria. This could not be farther from the truth. Both Iran and Syria have self-interested and justified reasons for their amiable relations with Russia” to counter the aggression of the murderous empire.

As those who care about the world around us, whether we are communists, socialists, or radicals of any flavor, we should recognize what Marx said in September 1843: “nothing prevents us from…taking sides in politics…we simple show the world the way it is struggling and…[push for] the reform of consciousness.” [17] If we can take that to heart, standing in international solidarity with Iran, Syria, and Russia, even though each of these countries has a national bourgeoisie, against the murderous empire, that is a step in the right direction. We should take heed from Marx when he says that revolutions are “not made by shame” and arguing that

“A Ship of Fools can perhaps be allowed to drift before the wind for a good while; but it will drift to its doom precisely because the fools refuse to believe it possible. This doom is the approaching revolution.” [18]

While Marx was talking about Germany in March 1843, this sentiment applies to the present. The capitalists and their lackeys, imperialists of any character, of the murderous empire are the “fools” and they can be usurped by a revolution. In closing, we should believe it possible to engage in such actions to undermine (and ultimately overthrow) the capitalist class wherever, whether in the core, the periphery, and semi-periphery, standing in solidarity, in whatever way we can, with those fighting against the beast of capitalism.

Notes

[1] Anti-Assad is in quotation marks because that is how they are framed, although the Syrian government is much more than just Bashar Al-Assad, who was duly re-elected, like the rest of the government last year.

[2] Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow,” Washington Post, July 19, 2017.

[3] BBC News, “Syria war: Trump ‘ends CIA arms programme for rebels’,” July 20, 2017.

[4] John Wolcott, “Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels – US officials,” Reuters, July 19, 2017.

[5] Dahila Nehme, “Syria says US halting aid to rebels is step toward ending war,” Reuters, July 25, 2017.

[6] Reuters, “US builds two air bases in Kurdish-controlled north Syria: Kurdish report,” Mar. 6, 2016.

[7] Roy Gutman, “Turkey Leaks Secret Locations of U.S. Troops in Syria,” The Daily Beast, July 19, 2017.

[8] Andrew deGrandpre, “An Iranian ship refused to heed the Navy’s warning. Then shots were fired,” Washington Post, July 25, 2017.

[9] Neil MacFarquhar, “Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders US to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755,” New York Times, July 30, 2017.

[10] It is clearly not a big “conspiracy” as they might think it is.

[11] Greg Miller, “CIA official who directed hunt for bin Laden is being removed from post,” Washington Post, Mar. 25, 2015.

[12] Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, “Deep Support in Washington for C.I.A.’s Drone Missions,” New York Times, Apr. 25, 2015; Matthew Rosenburg and Adam Goldman, “C.I.A. Names the ‘Dark Prince’ to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a Tougher Stance,” New York Times, June 2, 2017.

[13] Karl Marx, “Money” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 377. On page 295, also within the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,” Marx describes capital as the power to command labor and products, and stored up labor.

[14] Karl Marx, “Wages of Labor” within 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which is part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 283.

[15] Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State” in 1843 within Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 82, 85, 89.

[16] Ibid, 179.

[17] Marx’s letter to Ruge in September 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 208-209.
[18] Marx’s letter to Ruge in March 1843 within the Franco-German Yearbooks and part of Early Writings (ed. Quintin Hoare, New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 200.

Naomi Klein “resists” Trump by embracing bourgeois progressive politics

Sampled from her Twitter on August 4, 2017.

Recently, I read Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. It is a relatively quick read, only 273 pages long, much shorter than her This Changes Everything book a few years back. Even so, it has thirteen chapters, a conclusion, a postscript, and an introduction.

In the introduction to the book sets the theme: that Trump is applying “shock politics” to the US, trying to pull off a “domestic shock doctrine” against public institutions and “public interest.” She goes on to describe Trump’s reactionary advisers like Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner while claiming there is a “corporate takeover” in DC (there is actually a long trend of corporate control in America, so it’s not something new), with Trump forming a brand in and of himself. She, of course, stops short of calling Trump fascist, only describing him as anti-“democratic” (relying on the idea of bourgeois democracy) and drawing parallels to policies in Greece, after Hurricane Katrina, in Baghdad after 2003, and in Britain, which resemble “Trumpism.” As she states clearly, her book’s argument is that Trump is a culmination of the “worst trends” of the 20th century that have “used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies,” pioneered by Milton Friedman, and other “market fundamentalists.” She also seems optimistic, calling for “change so fundamental that today’s corporate takeover will be relegated to a historical footnote,” although the “change” she later explicates is not even close to being “fundamental,” challenging the Trump superbrand, as she puts it.

After a lackluster introduction with broad vagueness, Klein has a chapter that focuses on Trump the brand, noting that Trump won because of the electoral college, not the popular vote, with his victory as a “shock.” She adds that there is a “surge of authoritarian, xenophobic, far-right politics” in France, India, the Philippines, UK, and Turkey, implying that the morally corrupt socially democratic politics in the West is a “solution.” Also her usage of useless words like “authoritarian” which is often used to shame countries deemed as “communist” or “socialist,” regardless of whether they are or not, means that she is legitimizing this word as speech that’s fine, showing her lack of comprehension in this realm, to say the least. She goes on to talk about Trump’s “cabinet of billionaires and multibillionaires” like it something new (it’s not), and acts like Bernie Sanders was a savior who made Wall Street shake, celebrates “concessions” to Black Lives Matter and the “climate movement” by political elites. She further adds that Trump’s election is part of a backlash against social movements, with a supposed “takeover” benefiting capitalists and removing environmental protections, for example. Apart from this claptrap which shows that she does not have understanding for how the capitalist state functions, and had changed over time, is a part about branding. She writes that starting in the 1980s companies like Nike and Apple, among many others, believes their fortunes were in branding with the concept that an idea or brand surrounding a company can connect with consumers, tying to a “profound human desire to be part of…a circle of belonging.” As a result, the product became (and was part of) the brand, meaning that this brand could be projected into “seemingly unconnected physical commodities.” Hence, products were produced at low price by subcontractors and contractors, with horrid work conditions in sweatshops. As a result, capitalist combines everywhere engaged in a brutal “race to the bottom” with complex supply chains involving contractors. As for Trump, after he had been a real estate developer for years he branded “high-end real estate” which could be a “single global luxury brand,” which was boosted by his show, The Apprentice, gaining revenue from “Trump-branded properties” with leasing his name, pulling in the dollars. When anyone noted horrible conditions his products were created in, the Trump Organization shrugged them off, defending a brand that “stands for wealth” itself, making this part of the reason scandals don’t stick to him: he plays by the “rules of branding” as Klein writes.

Based off a Mr. Robot quote by Angela Moss, but also applying to horrid Trump of course.

The second chapter promises to find ways to pierce “Trump’s brand bubble.” After noting how Trump’s presidency made the Trump “family of brands more valuable,” including those of Ivanka and Melania, she notes that cities and companies pay millions to “lease the Trump brand.” It is at this point she says that Bill and Killary spent decades blurring ethical lines” at the Clinton Foundation even as she basically says that Trump is worse. It is not beyond belief to think this about Bill & Killary Clinton, and Trump have destructive and exploitative brands. But Klein will not consider this possibility, shrugging it off by omission. The chapter is ended by her saying that Trump embodies Reagan (a former actor), briefly says that “the system is corrupt,” noting the rules of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Obama, and then moving onto Trump’s “personal brand,” claiming that making Trump look “like a puppet” “jams” “The Trump Show.” So using the fake, deceptive, and worthless “Russia connection,” first concocted during the campaign by Killary Clinton’s camp, to call Trump “Putin’s Puppet” weakens his brand? This doesn’t even make sense in the slightest. Additionally, she is sidelining the reality: that Obama set the foundation for Trump. With over 2 million deported, continuing mass incarceration, and drone strikes, among other horrid elements of his “legacy,” the fascism of Trump had a comfortable breeding ground when he was inaugurated on January 21, 2017.

The following chapter is similarly about Trump’s branding. It talks about the structure of a show like The Apprentice, how it applies to “income inequality,” connects to his books, and notes that he brought “reality TV expertise to electoral politics,” which means that the “Trump show is now broadcasting live from the Oval Office.” With that, Trump made promises on the campaign trail (like every politician these days) which he won’t fulfill and edits “reality to fit his narrative.” Klein briefly talks about “progressive messaging” by Justin Trudeau in Canada which dazzled people, and “carefully crafted symbols” by the Obama administration to move the conversation away from discussion about the destruction he caused. Once again, she engages in another oversight. As the Wrong Kind of Green folks have notes, Obama is/was a brand, and so is Trudeau. She seems to forget what she wrote in 2009: that a “superfan culture…brought Obama to power” saying that we are “all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.” Add to this that as even Noam Chomsky pointed out, Obama is a brand, who won the “highest advertising campaign accolade and attracted unprecedented sums of money” as also noted by John Pilger.

“Barack Obama is a brand. And the Obama brand is designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East. Brand Obama is about being happy consumers. We are entertained. We feel hopeful. We like our president. We believe he is like us. But like all branded products…we are being duped”- Chris Hedges in a May 2009 article

To close out the chapter, she notes that Trump is pushing for more war (which is continuing the warmongering that Obama engages in, expanding upon the foundation left by Bush, Clinton, and predecessors going back years), making it a “spectacle,” just like the Gulf War in 1990 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Deirdre Griswold remarked recently in Worker’s World, “imperialist diplomacy has the same objective as imperialist war. If negotiations are to take place, either openly or secretly, the DPRK will have to weigh every word very carefully before agreeing to anything with the treacherous and arrogant bunch of marauders who run the U.S. government.”  She ends by saying that Trump’s rise to victory in the election last year was fueled by a “decline of communal institutions and the expansion of corporate brands” in US culture as a whole.

“From its origins in the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, fossil capital has developed into a monstrous complex generating multiple biospheric crises, including climate change. To head off a catastrophic warming of the atmosphere, it will be necessary to de-fossilize the global economy over the next several decades. The growth of fossil fuel use must stop now, followed by absolute reductions of carbon emissions to near zero levels by sometime later in the twenty-first century. Nothing less is acceptable if we want a livable planet for the majority of humanity and other species. Such a transition has been shown to be, physically speaking, quite feasible…Unfortunately, under mature capitalism things are not done according to human needs, environmental sustainability, or common sense. Both economically and politically, this system is dominated by monopoly-finance capital (MFC) and its state functionaries. Two basic facts must be noted here. First, MFC’s ideology and policy program are both constituted by neoliberalism (deregulation, privatization, and anti-union policies—in short, market fundamentalism—combined with militarism and imperialism). Second, MFC is inextricably tied to the fossil-capital complex. It follows from these two facts that at this point in history, de-fossilizing the economy means overthrowing MFC power and moving toward a worker-community controlled economy, socialism.”- Paul Burkett

The fourth chapter changes focus to the climate. After giving a personal story about her child and the Great Barrier Reef, along with her work for The Guardian, she notes how Rex Tillerson led ExxonMobil through increased drilling as CEO. She, however, also notes that one crisis is not more important than the other but that climate change is a current emergency, with Killary having a “web of corporate entanglements” that needs to be questioned while Trump seems to deny climate change as he supports more fossil fuel extraction. In framing Trump, she makes Trump out as the destructor rather than recognizing he is not doing this from scratch but on a basis formed by Obama’s faux environmentalism with a “Clean Power Plan” and supposedly “stopping” Keystone XL and a pipeline going through Standing Rock, when he was actually just appeasing social movements, engaging in “good-natured” deception. This was able have so much influence that if Obama approved the Keystone XL pipeline, the “letdown from the high expectation levels built on the many protests would be devastating to the morale and energy of the movement.” Additionally, he was able to strongarm Gang Green to be silent on climate change, the same groups that framed his issuing of “production permits were issued to oil and gas corporations for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, both onshore and offshore” as responsible, especially the Sierra Club, and NRDC, meaning that they were cheering “Obama…eagerly bringing the total destruction of our planet’s climate and ecosystems.” Avoiding this discussion, Klein notes that many across the world are demanding “real action on climate change” (whatever that means), that Trump is pushing through varied cuts to the EPA which she says serves people of color (she seems to forget the arguments by Robert Ballard and others that the EPA has engaged in environmental racism), that prices determine which areas are drilled for fossil fuels, and that people don’t understand what neoliberalism [1] is. She then gives a tepid endorsement of “socialism” (which doesn’t mean anything radical to her), and calls for public sector investments on a large scale, which she says is more than just “tweak[ing] the existing system.” She says this despite the fact that her approaches are clearly just another “tweak” of the capitalist system.

Her next chapter notes how she is a “Berniecrat,” saying that Bernie was “the only candidate…serious about battling income inequality and taking on the banks.” [2] She also says that many establishment Democrats haven’t learned their lesson (only worried about Russian hacking now), that Trump spoke to the “economic panic” some whites faced with the idea that the election was a backlash pushed by some sexism toward Killary, with sexual abuse by “the men who surround Trump.” She says that the many voted for Trump were not among the Black and Latino populations most effected by “neoliberal policies” but were white men are losing their economic security and privilege. This doesn’t explain, however, why white women voted more for Trump than Clinton, but it cold be explains due to male dominated households, and/or that they also felt their privilege as white people was slipping. Klein continues her chapter by purposely framing social services as “entitlements” (why concede this to the right-wing?) in order to argue in favor of them, saying that “the stupid economics of neoliberalism” lost Clinton the election, again ignoring Clinton’s brand by only pointing out “Clinton’s brand of identity politics,” and talking about the “tweak[ing of] the system” to lead people of color, other genders, and sexual orientations to “the top,” with justice “to trickle down to everyone else,” which doesn’t work. G. William Domhoff noted this some time ago, but she seems to not even note his work, yet another oversight on her part. Even so, she remarks that it was “important that a generation of kids grew up seeing Obama in the most powerful office of the world.” I do not understand why, realistically this is important, with Black entertainers and politicians already, as his Black face seems just be an invitation to internalize neoliberal values with a happy face. [3] She also adds that we have to recognize how “forms of oppression intersect” (the idea of intersectionality that no progressives actually follow) as manifested in “racial capitalism” as noted by Cedric Robinson, citing another bourgeois progressive scholar named Michelle Alexander, a prison reformer, and talking about Reagan’s role in stirring up White resentment against people of color, with Trump having a role of this by calling for the return of the death penalty to execute the Central Park Five. The chapter ends by saying that white supremacy and fascism has a good breeding ground because of economic stresses, that Trump’s election should not be watered down to one or two causes since Trump (and associated forces) attack on many fronts.

The chapter after that focuses on varying topics. The first aspect is union leaders who embraced Trump who planned for more energy extraction and his bluff he will negotiate “better” deals, which will actually be “better” for him and “his corporate empire,” the capitalist class, with a “race to the bottom” for such trade deals. Even, reportedly, in a renegotiation of NAFTA will be the incorporation of horrible elements of the TPP. She did note that some union members stood up to Trump in an area he spoke, and that much of the “political battleground has been ceded by liberals to the Right.” After giving her personal experience as involved in social movements, she noted that while the movement was standing to win, the September 2001 attacks led to “shock” with the movement’s participants under attack, with those who remained active engaging in “thin and tactical” demands rather than more expansive ones. Adding to this are the facts that these demands may remove the necessary focus on the right-wing, fueling the “growth of far-right parties around the world,” with a supposed “progressive anti-free trade coalition” which is, as she won’t admit, bourgeois in character and “populist,” including those like socially democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders. In the last part of the chapter, she notes how the “super rich” like Oprah, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, can’t save us (despite what Ralph Nader argued), with “elite liberals” looking to a sector of the capitalist class, which she calls the “billionaire class” or the “Davos class.” It is this class which is “horrified by the Trump presidency” even though those in this group share many ideas with Trump as she places hope in “progressives” to speak about the “grotesque levels of inequality,” and that we have to “save ourselves.”

In a recent statement against torture, Sanders accepted imperial precepts, basically saying that the US is “great” and worrying about helping our “enemies.” Hence, his argument against torture is not progressive but is actually an imperialist one.

In the next chapter she again professes her support (or “love”?) of Bernie Sanders. While she says she doesn’t like candidate endorsements, she thought that Bernie “had a shot at beating Hillary Clinton” (no he didn’t), calling him a person with “genuine warmth and without personal malice,” what she claims is a “transformative option on the ballot,” although Bernie is farm from it. To be frank, she is being a cheerleader of Bernie, supporting HIS brand, now channeled through “Our Revolution” groups and his persona as inflated in bourgeois progressive media. Of course she doesn’t say she is supporting the brand, only praising him by saying that he showed that “populist” leftist positions were popular, “understanding” why people of color, women, and other marginalized people didn’t support him, citing Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander as “evidence.” She ends the chapter by saying that Trump won because of the “absence of a progressive alternative” (was Bernie this at all?) and that there needs to be a “radical political and economic change” whatever she means by that. It is interesting that Klein keeps changing the stated reasons why Trump won, as noted in previous paragraphs, making one wonder if she believes all of them are causes or only some of them.

Chapter 8 returns the focus to Trump. After talking about Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the Iraq invasion (Paul Bremmer, Dick Cheney, the Green Zone, and all), she notes that “shock tactics” follow a pattern in which a crisis is fomented (or waited or) with a moment when “extraordinary measures” are declared, some “democratic norms” are suspended, and a “corporate wishlist” is rammed through very quickly. She notes that this happened in Chile, Russia, Detroit, Flint, and many other places since the early 1970s. She notes that most neoliberal policies are unpopular apart from cutting “red tape” in theory and tax cuts (for the “middle class” or lower), which is done fast, with cover for “neoliberal political transformations” because of “radical political transitions” (which really aren’t radical), with crises exploited. Trump, as Klein puts it, embraces “shock doctrine logic” (referring to her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine), with his philosophy of being a winner, extracting from those who suffer like a vampire. The idea of what she calls “disaster capitalism” is embodied in his cabinet in every possibly way, with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a blueprint, the idea of what “we” can expect from Trump apparently. It is in this context she calls Muammar Gaddafi a “despised dictator,” without elaborating. While criticism of Gaddafi is warranted, especially when it comes to his relations with the West, calling him a dictator shows she doesn’t understand international solidarity and has internalized imperialistic logic. As Commie Dad writes,

“Qaddafi was ousted after a set of imperialist-backed rebels launched a racist campaign to topple a revolutionary government in North Africa, which succeeded precisely because of NATO’s assistance. He died beaten, broken, sodomized, tortured, and executed in a muddy sewage pipe without trial…The DPRK did not suffer the same fate as Libya precisely because it did not disarm [which some say opened up to invasion]”

Her next chapter follows a similar format. It starts by focusing on those who profited off Hurricane Katrina, cites Omidyar’s plaything, The Intercept, uncritically, says that having a “state of emergency” after a disaster, like Trump would want, is not unprecedented: the Conservative government of the UK did this after attacks in March 2017 and the French government of social democratic Francois Hollande did this in 2015. She goes on to note Trump’s closeness to Eric Prince of Blackwater and its mercenaries, how Trump’s policies help ISIS (is that purposeful?), and that countries like Syria and the DPRK are targets. Again she doesn’t even try to reject imperialistic propaganda about the two countries, implying that Syria committed chemical attacks (inadvertently playing into propaganda of the White Helmets) and that the DPRK, which she calls “North Korea,” is somehow menacing. She shows this in the rest of the chapter, talking about Exxon, citing a person she even defines as a “right-wing, Ukrainian-born British [oil] businessman,” Alexander Temerko uncritically, calling Vladimir Putin a “strongman” and basically an imperialist. She also doesn’t even try to defend Venezuela, which she only briefly describes as an oil-dependent country. It is much more than that, it is a place that exercises popular democracy, a beacon for those who want a better world as Commie Dad argued, just like Cuban socialism. Even so, Klein does not that antiwar action should be paired with “averting climate chaos,” notes how removing Obama’s tepid economic reforms, specifically Dodd-Frank, will lead to disaster, with varied descriptions of “shocks” and Trump’s reactions, with people in luxury building shelters to protect themselves or “Green Zones” while the rest of the world are unprotected and vulnerable or “Red Zones.” In the last part of the chapter she treats the “Syrian uprising” in 2011 as legitimate (although it wasn’t), talks about where drone strikes have occurred, along with a “dramatic rise in right-wing nationalism anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and straight-up white supremacy,” adding that we have it “in our power to change ourselves,” engage in “shock resistance.”

Her next chapter focuses on the failure of the “shock doctrine” as she calls it. She talks about the Trump administration strategy to “overwhelm their adversaries” with a multipronged attack, how Argentina said no to neoliberalism even though political changes were “far from utopian,” how Spain did the same during the Iraq war, and the fact that “past traumatic events” in US history were broadly misunderstood. From here, she focuses on resistance to Trump from groups across various movements and lauds the Women’s March not critiquing its neoliberal elements as Feminist Current did at the time, especially its pro-prostitution position, with a lot of hype. She further says there is a “spirit of unity” among anti-Trump forces, specifically against his Muslim ban (and in favor of “sanctuary cities” which are not all they claim to be), supporting science (and new activists among students of all types), donors to Planned Parenthood, and other protests across the world against neoliberalism. She floats the thought that many activist relationships made now will be strong enough during a state of emergency (we’ll see about that). It is clear that she seems to laud the “Indivisible Guide” despite the fact it is defensive in nature and basically copies Tea Party tactics, and praises the March for Science despite the fact it was mostly dominated by bourgeois science. Again, her argument clearly lacking in Marxist theory and analysis, showing she is not thinking critically in a holistic manner and is totally embracing bourgeois progressivism.

The chapter following this focuses on resistance to “shock” tactics and how Obama supposedly did good (really?) but abandoned many opportunities as a time for change. She admits that in 2009, “too many of us were waiting for change to be delivered on high” with the “us” undoubtedly including herself. In 2008 she called for Obama to denounce Islamophobia, but also took Obama at his word that he would “purge Washington of the scourge of Friedmanism,” although she said he had “ideological housecleaning of his own to do,” and seemed to support Obama’s idea of a “promise of change” warily. She quickly summarizes US history of destruction, exploitation, and genocide, lauding progressive “public policy,” not remembering that Social Security was crafted by corporate moderates. She seems to recognize that radicals and social movements in the past and that the New Deal was used by Roosevelt to “save capitalism” in order to “prevent full-scale revolution,” with the saving of capitalism almost seeming as a necessity to her. Revolution of the type they had in mind seems foreign to her, even as she recognizes that many programs were used to blunt popular movements. The chapter is ended by talking about the struggle against neoliberalism and how social movements should be about “yes” instead of just “no” (why so reductionist?).

Another screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf.”

Her next to last chapter focuses on Standing Rock. While she completely describes the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline, a perspective that fully understands indigenous history, connecting with genocidal policies against them is lacking, only briefly mentioned. The chapter is instead just a recounting of the resistance at Standing Rock, relating it to other struggles as she uses racist words like “tribe” instead of group or nation. She ends the chapter by almost casting Obama’s administration as heroes for rejecting the pipeline through Standing Rock, although his administration just declared that “things are on hold at Lake Oahe until the powers that be think it through some more” giving people the “illusion of victory” as Kelly Hayes argued. In contrast she casts Trump as a villain for allowing the pipeline to go through Standing Rock. This is inaccurate as the reality is that Trump AND Obama were villains, each in their own way.

Her last chapter declares that a major “transformative change” needs to happen (which is just empty rhetoric). She cites a story of political discussions in Canada, how Black and Brown people being killed is connected to climate change, how those who “use and abuse” women’s bodies” is connected with the notion that humans can “do the same thing to the earth,” what she calls a “dominance-based logic.” She could have taken this to the next step, calling for an end to speciesism, endorsement of some level of animal rights or such, but she didn’t do so, of course. Klein adds that there needs to be more than modesty, a “people’s shock,” with a “grand economic and political transition” with the description of what went into creating their magical Leap Manifesto. This is the same document that is part of the “marketed and branded opposition to capitalism” with opposition limited to certain forms of capitalism like “Crony capitalism” , “corporate capitalism” and “the excesses of capitalism” which were used by “Avi Lewis for Klein’s NGO campaign, “The Leap Manifesto”” with anti-capitalist expression become “hallowed” out, to say the least. She also says that an “economy built on destruction” should be replaced “with an economy built on love.” So, we should have “loving” capitalism then? How will that be any better? After going on about how the manifesto was made, specifics not worth noting here, she says that people can “save themselves” and remains optimistic about social movements, mainly to county Trump and his policies. She even notes that the “center-left” New Democratic Party in Canada passed a resolution to “endorse the spirit of the Leap Manifesto,” making it clear it is bourgeois and milquetoast, regardless of what Klein says about it.

Screenshot from the Soviet animated film “Mr. Wolf”

Finally there is her conclusion. She says that Trump should be a shock at all, with more horror at Trump than shock, seeing his presidency as a “dystopian fiction come to life,” implying that she still doesn’t fully grasp the reality, and saying that Trump is the “logical culmination of the current neoliberal system.” Her solution? Say no and fiercely protect “some space to dream and plan for a better world.” That sounds pretty worthless to me, especially the dreaming part. She also says we should kill out “inner Trump” with which we see “ourselves as brands in the marketplace…as rival products competing for market share,” joining those who “shame and attack those who disagreement with us. She ends by saying that centrist parties aren’t the solution but apparently bourgeois progressives are (they aren’t), that the “spell of neoliberalism has been broken,” pushing for a “plank in a true people’s platform,” and resisting what she claims is a “corporate coup.”

Ending her book is a postscript titled “The Leap Manifesto.” The document calls for respecting inherent rights of indigenous communities, “fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the idea that there should be “energy democracy,” and that indigenous peoples should receive “public support for clean energy projects” as should communities dealing with health impacts from “polluting industrial activity.” This manifesto also calls for building of energy-efficient homes, retrofitting existing housing (starting with the poor), training for workers in carbon-intensive jobs for a “clean energy economy,” renewable-powered high-speed rail, “affordable public transit,” investing in decaying public infrastructure, and moving to a “more localized and ecologically based agricultural system.” Other demands include ending corporate-friendly trade deals, ensuring immigration status, and protection for workers, expanding low-carbon sectors of the economy, having a national childcare program, and universal basic income. The last parts of the manifesto reject austerity as a concept, push for end to fossil fuel subsidies, vow support for any policy based on the “polluter pays” principle, calling for town hall meetings across the country, and moving to a system where all votes county while “corporate money is removed from political campaigns.” While this may be more than those on Canada’s political scene are offering (I hope there is something more radical), it is very constrained. It could be said to be “bold” but it is definitely NOT revolutionary as it is abstracted from social movements, revolutionary struggle or international solidarity.

There are a few words I have to say before closing out this article, Klein makes a good point about Trump as a brand but misses many other points because of her bourgeois progressivism. The major point she misses is obvious: she IS a brand. She is among the “heat vampire” including celebrated bourgeois progressives, like Rebecca Solnit and Chris Hayes, that Tarzie wrote about. As Luke Orsbourne wrote in December 2015, she had an “enormous following…best selling books, and perhaps most glaringly, the megaphone and media attention the Guardian had just given her to write her own piece of acquiescence,” condemning climate change marchers outside COP 21 that year, just like 350.org and others. Others added that her book slogan, for This Changes Everything, was “used to advance capital” which was pushed by the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and that she is part of a brand called 350.org/1Sky, which used the Obama brand in their anti-KXL campaign logo, allowing there to be a “pro-Obama, pro-Democrat veneer” to their logo, with their campaign reinforcing the illusion that “change” is still in front of us, reinforcing the thirst in society for “lies that enable the populace to continue to ignore reality…[and] disregard our collective role in it.”

The book itself, with the title “No Is Not Enough” on an orange background, with the letters in white except the word Not (in red) with praises from Arundhai Roy, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornel West, Bill McKibben, Yanis Varovfakis, Michael Stripe, Keeanga Yamatitta Taylor, Danny Glover, and Eve Ensler. Could there not be a bigger panoply of (mostly) bourgeois progressives, some of whom have their own brands consisting of themselves? [4] Hence, Klein herself is a brand “in the marketplace” as was alluded to earlier in this article, and is part of a bigger brand: Haymarket Books. Sure, they sell book of “radical” and progressive authors, but they engaging in branding, just like Verso Books. As was noted in a recent article,

“Today, brands, ideologies, and even invasions of sovereign states, achieve authenticity through association. Thus, celebrity has become as vital a tool for empire as the NGO itself. Together they are akin to nuclear fusion…Today’s 21st century powerhouse NGOs have proven successfully that hate can be neutralized, and even be turned into adoration, as demonstrated by Avaaz co-founder, MoveOn.org. In a world of make-believe where lies are preferred over truth, charismatic warmongers of the past (Barack Obama) are embraced while vulgar warmongers in the present (Donald Trump) are crucified among the allegedly “unbiased left”. Branding supersedes reality straight across the board”

Furthermore, the organization she is part of, 350.org, is branding to the max, which is interesting considering it is not mentioned AT ALL in this book, apart from the dust jacket. The book itself is a product, a commodity to put in more evident terms. How can Klein not recognize she is a brand? The same goes for Matt Taibbi, Edward Snowden, Michelle Alexander, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Chris Hedges, to name a few. These members of the “celebrity left,” as some have called it, are not the only brands. Bourgeois progressive media like Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Mother Jones, and the Nation, foundations like the Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and non-profits like Public Citizen are all brands. This lack of understanding shows that while Klein is knowledgeable, she is lacking radicalism, and is, for all her rhetoric, fine with regulated capitalism, while she does not engage in international solidarity. Hence, she falls into the category of those who “brand ourselves as moral citizens standing in unity with Indigenous nations” while maintaining capitalism, the same people who are willfully blind “to the Bakken frack oil,” and are not aware of how “Obama’s move into WWF headquarters…could be an acceleration of the implementation of payments for ecosystems services…by the world’s most powerful institutions and states.” This is a book she in which she only mentions Marx in passing and never uses any of his idea or that of Marxists to form her understanding of ANYTHING. In the end, we can read Klein’s claptrap if we want to (I don’t recommend it) but we should always remember she is a brand, a commodity, and a “heat vampire.”

 

Notes

[1] She defines neoliberalism as an “extreme form of capitalism…shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not…the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers…the primary tools of this project are…privatization…deregulation…cuts to public services…[and] corporate-friendly trade deals.”

[2] She claims that “if the Right specializes in turning backward, the Left specializes in turning inward and firing at each other in a circular hail of blame.” So there aren’t internal conflicts on the Right? This is a very pessimistic view to say the least, even if she is right ultimately.

[3] As Ajamu Baraka wrote in 2015, “…the lack of moral outrage and opposition to the reactionary policies of Barack Obama is changing and will change even more rapidly as the new generation of black activists shift the center of oppositional politics back to the radical black tradition.”

[4] The Michelle Alexander Brand, the Bill McKibben Brand, the Eve Ensler Brand, and the Noam Chomsky Brand for example.

“Something which most other developing countries would envy”: The DPRK’s healthcare system

Medical workers brainstorm at the South Hamgyong Provincial People’s Hospital. Courtesy of The Pyongyang Times.

Since June 19, the bourgeois media has been brimming with reports of the death of 22-year-old White college student from Cincinnati, Ohio, Otto Frederick Warmbier. While the family was happy to hear that their son was released from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), they were the ones that fueled the media firestorm. Warmbier’s father claimed that the DPRK had “murdered” their son, who had died in a coma possibly from an infection or blood clot, leading to anger in subsequent days from unhinged Trump and “reserved” Tillerson, leading to a new “wedge” between the US and the DPRK. [1] As some media reported, the DPRK may have released him in hopes of making a deal with Trump. Of course, the orange menace, the fascist in a suit, didn’t want to make a deal, only knowing his “negotiation” tactics from his days as a ruthless real estate magnate and his overrated “Celebrity Apprentice” show on NBC. As the days went out, the bourgeois media, in another rash of imperial propaganda, cited varied “experts” who said they were “baffled” with the DPRK’s behavior, with John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Mike Turner following suit, and the anti-DPRK columnists coming out of the ground like moles, claiming that the DPRK “murdered” Warmbier, even though he seems to have sought regime change in the country. [2] Even the Republic of Korea (ROK), often called “South Korea” in the West, joined in the criticism. Furthermore, any future tours to the DPRK by Young Pioneer Tours has ended, with a possible ban of US tourism to the country floated. The former should be no big loss because the company seems very Orientalist while the latter is just meant to reinforce the empire’s perceptions on the US populace. [3]

On Otto Warmbier

The murderous empire won’t rest, from its proposed hideous sanctions to condemning the DPRK’s government as brutal and “oppressive.” Tillerson said that much in his remarks on June 19 on Warmbier: “we hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.” Later in this article, I’ll get the subject of whether his imprisonment is “unjust” which I do not think it is. There are three US citizens imprisoned in the DPRK. One of them, a businessperson named Kim Dong Chul admitted to CNN that he spied on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2015, saying that they “asked me to help destroy the (North Korean) system and spread propaganda against the government,” starting his spy work in April 2013, including bribing residents who would gather “important materials,” which he smuggled south or into China. [4] The other two were an academic named Kim Sang-duk or Tony Kim who committed “hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country” which was not related to his teaching, and Kim Hak-song, “a man who was doing business in relation to the operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.” As for Warmbier, a student of Virginia University, he was encouraged to rip down a patriotic banner in a restricted area of the hotel by a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, a secretive university organization, and even the CIA, which some scowled at as only an “accusation.” Truthfully, on January 26, DPRK’s government arrested him for perpetrating a hostile act against the country “after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.” [5] He further admitted this about less than months later. He told, to the Supreme Court of the DPRK, the nature of his crime and asked for forgiveness (across the bourgeois media are video clips of him crying):

On December 29, 2015, I entered the DPRK as a tourist. On January 1, 2016, I committed severe crimes against the DPRK. The task was given to me by the Friendship United Methodist Church. At the encouragement of the Z Society and the connivance of the United States Administration, I came to commit this task. The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people.This was a very foolish aim…Sharon Webb…deaconess in the Friendship United Methodist Church…said that communist nations rally around political slogans. She asked me to take an important political slogan from North Korea to be hung in her church as a “trophy”. She continued to say that by taking this slogan, we would harm the unity and motivation of the North Korean people and show this country an insult from the West…She offered me a used car worth $10,000 if I was successful. And she said if I was detained and not returned, her church would pay $200,000 to my mother in a way of charitable donations. Since my family is suffering from very severe financial difficulties, I started to consider this as my only golden opportunity to earn money…He said my plan of action would certainly help the Z Society’s goal of spreading “freedom” and eliminating “tyranny”. He said if I was successful, he promised me that he would help me become a member in the Z Society. [6]

The same day, the state media of the DPRK reported that those attending the trial were citizens from “different walks of life” and after his “written indictment confirming his crimes was submitted” the “court sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor” for violating article 60 of the DPRK’s criminal code. After looking at varied sources (here, here, and here) one English translation of the criminal code, [7] stated the following about article 60, which concerns terrorism:

A person who kills, abducts or injures cadres or people with anti-state purposes shall be punished by reform through labour for more than five years. In cases where the person commits a grave offence, he or she shall be punished by life-term reform through labour or the death penalty, and confiscation of property.

In this case, it was a “grave offence.”

Fast forward to the aftermath of Warmbier’s death. The US doctors have belayed propaganda claims, saying that Warmbier was NOT tortured or abused (as his family falsely claims), but that “beyond minor skin blemishes consistent with medical care they found no evidence of fractures or trauma to his body” with the DPRK sending medical records back with him! [8] If they really had tortured him, which they didn’t, they wouldn’t even send any records. Another article says that there is no evidence Warmbier was injured with the MRI scan showing brain damage and that “the medical team at Cincinnati got some medical records from the North Koreans and they said the records show Warmbier has been in this condition since April of last year” but that there is no evidence “of broken bones or other physical abuse, and scans of his head and neck looked normal, except for the damage to his brain.” [9]

Of course, the DPRK released him “according to a humanitarian judgment of the DPRK’s Central Court” on June 13, 2017. [10] In days that followed, with the propaganda about his condition, the DPRK showed they were in the right. The Foreign Ministry said that the US administration is engaging in an ” anti-DPRK smear campaign by abusing the humanitarian measure taken by the DPRK” and said that “Warmbier is clearly a criminal sentenced to reform through labor in accordance with the DPRK law” and that he confessed on February 29, 2016 “in tears that he had committed hostile act against the DPRK,” with the US making “every frantic effort to disparage the prestige of the dignified DPRK and stifle it while imposing heinous sanctions.” [11] They also noted that US doctors argued that Warmbier was provided with medical treatment in the DPRK, with his death a mystery, questioning why the Obama administration never “made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis.” This is worth noting since they “had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state” but provided him necessary medical care anyway. [12]

With Warmbier’s family interestingly declining an autopsy of their son, which will allow rumors to continue, those at least partially (or more fully) sympathetic to the DPRK have not been united. One site, called “Young DRPK watchers” has two opinions on this subject. [13] One says that “Otto Warmbier’s situation arose from neglect and medical incompetence, [rather] than abuse” with American prisoners not “physically harmed at all and are also fed well” and that the DPRK’s medical system is divided into levels for the privileged and everyone else (internalizing imperial propaganda by saying this), concluding that Warmbier “may have fell into the coma as a consequence of an unknown medical condition” with neglect by the DPRK. The other, by the same author, admitting that Warmbier is a victim but is also “an inflated symbol of American privilege.” Both of these opinions are better than that in the bourgeois, they fall into the category of concessions which Vngiapaganda warned about in a post almost a year ago. The same is the case in an article on Stop Imperialism on Warmbier’s death. It accepts ths possibility that the DPRK murdered him, which is giving in too much to the bourgeois media narrative. All in all, these opinions are better than the seething Chinese netizens which seem be in up in arms about the DPRK, which is unfortunate to say the least.

DRPK’s healthcare and medical system

Korean doctor in Pyongyang talking about new medical system in 2013.

With the death of Warmbier,the bourgeois media, capitalists, and their lackeys, along with those not adequately informed by the subject (the US public in general) is acting like the DPRK has a medical system that resembles people conducting voodoo (or their perception of people doing this) to “cure people” or wish them “ill.” I’m specifically thinking of those curses conducted by voodoo practitioner, Minerva, in the Hollyweird box office “bomb” titled Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, based on the book of the same name. It seemed to be the best example of this mentality which could come to mind, with people acting like the DPRK are in the “dark ages” of medicine and have some archaic medical system.

The propaganda about the DPRK’s health system is nothing new. The Daily NK (an anti-DPRK outlet),  the Los Angeles Times, BBC News, The Week, The Telegraph, NY Daily News have declared that the DPRK doesn’t care about healthcare and has a shotty (or “horrifying”) system, which some even thought was on the “brink of collapse.” [14] Much of this imperial propaganda, only some of the publications named above, with some within medical journals as well, was fed by an Amnesty report in 2010 titled “North Korea: The crumbling state of health care in North Korea.” As the report admitted, they conducted interviews “with North Koreans who have settled abroad” since the DPRK (rightly) has not let these humanitarian imperialists into their country, making the report pure propaganda. [15] Luckily, some on the international level know the report is BS. As the bourgeois media reported, the World Health Organization said that Amnesty’s report was based on a small sample of people of those who left the country, with WHO spokesperson Paul Garwood saying “all the facts are from people who aren’t in the country. There’s no science in the research,” not mentioning recent improvements to healthcare in the country, even as he made the concession that Amnesty’s accounts could be “credible” (they aren’t by definition) while saying that Amnesty is not “taking into account some of the things that are happening today” in terms of healthcare in the DPRK. [16]

Numerous anti-DPRK accounts even admit the advantages of the DPRK’s system. In words criticizing the medical system in the country, one student doctor, had to “grudgingly” admit that the country has well-trained dentists and has a stress on exercise, among other aspects. [17] Even the Library of Congress in their broadly “anti-communist” report on the DPRK, written in 2008, had to admit this. He said that medical care is provided free of charge, that physical exercise is a major focus, and that there are nationwide medical check ups, especially at routine places like schools, factories, offices, and farms. Furthermore, they added that people receive a lifetime health card, the government has been aggressive attacking of diseases that cause epidemics (they say with spraying of DDT and other chemicals), and a high number of physicians and hospitals per capita, one of the highest in the world. [18] They add that more than 75% in the medical profession are women, with most hospitals as general hospitals, many clustered around Pyongyang, and no smoking in hospitals. Even with the supposed drawbacks, like shortages in medicines (because of sanctions), claims of variation in medical care, and economic problems weakened medical system [19], among others, the pages note that there has been a dramatic improvement in life longevity in the country ravaged by famine caused by Western imperial sanctions. Perhaps such “criticisms” shouldn’t be a surprise since most of chapter, which this information is within in, based on declassified CIA report. Even so, it is impressive that the CIA is even admitting the success of socialism in the DPRK and benefiting the Korean people.

Commie Dad’s writing on this topic, within an article about the DPRK’s centrally-planned economy, is worth noting. He notes how UN sanctions prevented a pharmaceutical company “from importing the chemicals it needed for a healthcare project in the DPRK countryside” and that the DPRK “still guarantees universal healthcare to its people,” which the US hasn’t done, a fact even acknowledged by anti-DPRK author Barbara Demick and a CIA report which acknowledges DPRK’s achievements in “free health care, and preventive medicine; and infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine.” [20] He adds that the remarkable public healthcare system of the DPRK, providing ” unconditional universal coverage for citizens”continues to perform well, citing the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO’s Director-General, calling the country’s healthcare system “something which most other developing countries would envy,” pointing out that the “DPRK has no lack of doctors and nurses,” further praising their system for its “very elaborate health infrastructure, starting from the central to the provincial to the district level.” This quote about envy is used in the title of this article, which also notes the country’s comprehensive healthcare, saying that authorities recognize malnutrition is a problem but it is less of an issue than in the past, and the quality of their healthcare system. [21] Of course, the reactionaries are seething at this pronouncement. A Heritage Foundation fellow claimed WHO was “defend[ing] the North Korean government,” citing the horrid Amnesty report and US State Department, along with varied bourgeois media, while American Thinker was shocked at her “praise” of what they called a “totalitarian and rogue nuclear-armed police state.” [22] The only country that falls into that category is the United States (and its client states in the Mideast, along with Western European capitalist states), not the DPRK. These reactionaries would find friends in the US State Department, which warns US citizens to not go into DPRK hospitals…because then they will learn that the system is excellent? [23]

While, in the murderous empire, the GOP fights to pass a healthcare bill that would “increase the number of people who are uninsured by 22 million” by 2026 and the Dems fight to keep their insurance-friendly “Obamacare,” the DPRK already has universal healthcare. As I noted in my previous post about the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) and democracy within the DPRK, this unicameral legislative body has enacted laws putting in place “perfect and universal free medical care.” [24] The DPRK not only provides rights and duties of citizens “based on the collectivist principle,” but they have the right to “right to education and free medical care and freedom of scientific, literary and artistic pursuits” along with equal rights for men and women. Furthermore, in January 1947, the DPRK enforced “free medical care for workers, office workers and their dependents” with universal free medical care enforced since January 1953, and complete  “universal free medical care” since February 1960, meaning that the state totally bears “the expenses of medical checkups and treatment, bed and board in hospitals, medicines, and even travel costs to and from sanatoria.” This commitment is manifested not only by the type of care the citizens receive but through the establishment of Pyongyang Medical University, the top medical school in the country which was founded in 1948 “when the Department of Medical Science at Kim Il Sung University became an independent university.” [26]

The achievements of this Korean healthcare system are widely acknowledged. While one Cornell medical student (who talked with “the chair of Pyongyang Medical College’s Department of Neurosurgery for 90 minutes”) grumbled that the free medical system comes with “many costs of personal freedom” (his Western bourgeois concept of freedom) with government permission required, and physicians not more highly paid than others, if we are to believe him on that aspect, did admit the following:

“[The medical students] smiled and very proudly told me that the government sends students to college for free – and that is consistent with the medical system, that it’s also free. Even intensive surgeries do not cost a penny…Everything I saw was very unique. Exploring the city [Pyongyang] was unreal. All buildings were beautiful and big – often with posters of the two great leaders in front, which gave off a little eerie feeling. American media give the idea that North Korea is constantly brewing with missiles, focusing on the unreasonable rulers…but the everyday life of North Koreans, at least in the capital, nearly mirrors ours. It was an incredible privilege to meet North Koreans and hear their sentiments, to physically see the land – and in that I realized that they were my fellow people, that we speak the same language, love our families and are all humans. Understanding is the first key to any peace and compromise.”

The WHO notes that the country has a life expectancy of 67 years, or over 70 years if you are relying on the CIA World Factbook, which is impressive. Other data shows that while 3.7% of population drinks, mostly among men over 15 and not women, 78.9% abstain from drinking, with recorded alcohol consumption is steady over time, not increasing since the 1960s significantly. [27] Furthermore, while tobacco usage is strong among males, with almost half of males, smoking, smoke-free legislation affecting hospitals, non-university educational facilities, and public transit. There is also strong tobacco cessation support, partial funding of tobacco cessation, warning on tobacco packages, no tobacco vending machines.

An event takes place at the People’s Palace of Culture on World No Tobacco Day. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

This is manifested by the fact that late last month, at the People’s Palace of Culture, the country honored World No Tobacco Day. During that day, as the Pyongyang Times reported, officials of the country’s Public Health Ministry, resident diplomatic missions, and international health organizations, talked about how tobacco is a threat to development.The Vice-Director of the Public Health Ministry, Choe Suk Hyon, was quoted as saying that they made achievements in tobacco control the previous year, saying the following:

“What is important in tobacco control is to conduct large scale educational campaigns to publicize the negative impact of smoking on the health and socio-economic life. And we should strengthen scientific research on smoking cessation products which help quit smoking.”

Others, like the representative of the WHO to the DPRK, praised the Korean females in the country for being at the “vanguard of no-smoking campaign” but still wanted them to help their “fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons to quit smoking if they are smokers” and noted that there is a “newly-revised tobacco control law of the DPRK” with no-smoking “information activities were conducted at the central and provincial hygienic information halls and medical institutions across the country.” While the US has developed strong anti-smoking measures as well, there is still a formidable tobacco industry in the United States, something the DPRK doesn’t have.

Apart from strong tobacco control, low alcohol consumption, and general healthcare in the country, there are a number of other accomplishments. For one, infant mortality declined from 1990s to present (same with people with tuberculosis), there has been a relatively steady amount in people with HIV/ AIDS (the country is likely an “AIDS free zone” by now), and immunization for DTP3 among children under 1 almost 100%. Furthermore, maternal death rate has also dramatically declined, less stunting of children than on the past, strong antenatal care, 100% of births attended by skilled health personnel, and broad measles immunization. If that isn’t enough, there almost complete treatment for tuberculosis, obesity is not a major cause for death (like in the US) but rather it is raised blood pressure among those in their twenties, and much of the population is using improved water and sanitation, to name a few. [28] Other WHO reports show that the population receives Vitamin A supplements to counter some deficiencies, and that the under five mortality rate has been dropping rapidly.

In one medical article apart from the others, there is some praise of the DPRK. In an article that is broadly against the country, the medical researchers must admit that “the burden of mortality due to communicable diseases and malnutrition in North Korea is relatively low in terms of both quantity, expressed in the death rate, and quality,” that tuberculosis’s “mortality rates have declined continuously in the past 15 years.” In one article of a “country study” of the DPRK, it is noted that back in 1938-40 life expectancy was only 38 years old, while it was “70.9 years for males and 77.3 years for females” by 1986, with infant mortality declining, a ” substantial increase in the number of hospitals and clinics, hospital beds, physicians, and other health-care personnel since the 1950s,” growing from 285 in 1955 to 2,401 in 1986, with specialized hospitals, “including those devoted to treating tuberculosis, hepatitis, and mental illness, are generally found in large cities,” and preventive medicine a major focus. Adding to this, a public health law was passed in April 1980 saying that the “State regards it as a main duty in its activity to take measures to prevent the people from being afflicted by disease and directs efforts first and foremost to prophylaxis in public health work” while medical examinations are “required twice a year, and complete records are kept at local hospitals” with a high value afforded on “traditional herbal medicine” and physical education an important part of public health with people “encouraged to take part in recreational sports activities such as running, gymnastics, volleyball, ice skating, and traditional Korean games” along with “group gymnastic exercises.”

There are further aspects worth noting. For one, even with the “development of informal health-care practices” in the country since the 1990s, this sector has actually contributed to the “formal socialist health-care system.” In 2007, the DPRK spent 3.02% of its GDP on health expenditures. In 2013, the DPRK spent 38.8% of their budget that year on “health, education, sport, music, art and culture” with an increase of 2.2% for healthcare spending.It is also worth noting that even the World Food Programme must admit that most households aren’t food insecure (see page 33 of this PDF), belaying claims of “famine” in the country.

Recent developments

Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory. Photograph is courtesy of the Pyongyang Times.

There have been numerous developments of the DPRK’s socialist healthcare system in recent years. In 2010, with the help of WHO, the country launched a “medical video conference network Tuesday aimed at giving smaller, rural hospitals access to specialists in the capital Pyongyang.” [29] Three years later, the DPRK developed a  “clinical medicine information service system” which contained “details on 12,000 pharmaceuticals and 154,000 kinds of medicines from more than 50 countries” as Voice of Korea, a state media outlet, noted.

There are other aspects worth noting. While the DPRK has requested medical aid from the UN (since they are under harsh sanctions), they have still made strides. [30] Last year, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology noted that it was testing a 3D printer for use in medical settings, with likely some progress made. This month The Pyongyang Times reported that a two-storey new people’s hospital opened in Tongsinhung-ri with “over  10 rooms for special treatment and sophisticated homemade medical and experimental apparatuses” and is part of “the telemedicine system whereby it is connected to such central hospitals…[and] linked online to provincial, city and county hospitals.” [31] It was also noted that using this system, the “latest medical science and technology are disseminated and training courses are given by medical workers at central hospitals,” with increased abilities, with telemedicine,”in raising their abilities as well as in treating patients.” Less than a week ago, Kim Jung Un, the chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, inspected the newly built Dental Care Supplies Factory, which has a floor space of 12,720 square metres, with the factory able to “turn out annually tens of millions of tubes of toothpaste, mouthwash and a variety of dental care supplies.” [32] In that visit he noted that “the Party [WPK] and government are taking full responsibility for the people’s lives and health and that such socialist healthcare is one and only in the world,” adding that factories like this are “needed to ensure the people lead a worthwhile life enjoying themselves the benefits of socialist healthcare.”

Like Cuba, which sends doctors abroad, the DPRK also sends doctors abroad for humanitarian reasons. Even those with anti-DPRK beliefs have to admit this. In July of last year, the DPRK’s ambassador, Jang Myong Ho, visited the al-Assad University Hospital in Damascus, affirming the country’s readiness to support and aid Syria’s health sector, hailing the medical services provided by the hospital, saying that Syrian government had a “just health policy and commitment to provide free treatment to all citizens despite the difficult economic conditions under the current crisis.” He also added that this anniversary of 50 years diplomatic and friendly bilateral relations between the DPRK and Syria is “historical and exemplary,” noting that these relations have been “developed and enhanced” over the years.

With all of this, perhaps it is no surprise that the proposed sanctions would have targeted the healthcare system of the DPRK and their socialist economy also, of course. As I noted in my post on these sanctions,

[while] these sanctions show that the imperial monitoring of “the territory, waters, or airspace of North Korea” shall not apply to those vessels or planes which “import food, medicine, or supplies into North Korea,” the fact that there would be monitoring by the US Navy (and Air Force?) is undoubtedly an act of war…Section 104(a), part of an anti-DPRK sanctions law which went into effect last year, mentioned in the above quote as part of the imperial monitoring, shows these efforts are aimed at the DPRK’s socialist, centrally-planned economy

Concluding words

At the Korean Rehabilitation Centre for Children with Disability. Courtesy of Imgur, assembled in an album and posted on /r/communism by yours truly.

The healthcare system of the DPRK should be celebrated as an achievement of socialism, not something to ridicule. While the bourgeois media focus on the country’s “problems” there is no doubt that they don’t want people to know of these successes. With the ROK having one of the “world’s highest suicide rates, having overtaken that of Japan” and the leading “cause of death is cancer, followed by cerebrovascular and heart disease” even with their “universal health insurance system that is compulsory and covers employees and their relatives (National Health Insurance, NHI),” there are high doctor consulting fees, and “long waiting lines for treatment and high costs.” The DPRK doesn’t have those issues and doesn’t work with the US to streamline their system to help the Western capitalist class. There are many other resources I could have consulted to finish up this article. [33] As good comrades, we should stand in solidarity with the DPRK against the clear imperialist aggressors. Anyone who doesn’t do so is not only not a real comrade, but they also are not a communist in name or action.

The life within the DPRK and the country’s policies are not what the West says it is. The country has stood by those fighting for national liberation, has a developed socialistic democracy, and has celebrated the International Day of Persons With Disabilities in 2015, and in years afterward (and before). The country has worked with the UNDP to increase its food security and food production.

Some say that the country became “revisionist” after 1972. Those issues will be addressed in another post when I look at all countries which are called “revisionist.” Here is not the place for that. Rather, it is better to let people make up their own minds about the DPRK. This can come through reading a number of books, or looking at other resources. [34] If a war with the DPRK occurs, started by the unhinged fascist, Trump, who can be easily swayed, we should be prepared to support it even if all many of those in our host country (especially if you live in the West) support the war with a fervor. Not standing by the DPRK and against war would show the weakness of “the Left” and prove the capitalists had “won,” something that none of us want.

Notes

[1] Samuel Smith, “22-Y-O American Otto Warmbier Dies After Spending 17 Months in North Korean Prison,” Christian Post, June 19, 2017; Stacey Leasca, “Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the American student’s capture and release in North Korea,” Mic.com, June 19, 2017; Shreesha Gosh, “Donald Trump Says Otto Warmbier Death Caused By North Korea’s ‘Brutal Regime’,” International Business Times, June 20, 2017; Josh Lederman and Matthew Pennington, “Efforts of one U.S. official bring Otto Warmbier home,” AP, June 18, 2017; David Choi, “‘No words were spoken’ — Otto Warmbier’s roommate in North Korea describes the day Warmbier was arrested,” Business Insider, June 19, 2017; Andy Sharp, “Student’s Death Puts Trump Back to Square One on North Korea,” Bloomberg News, June 20, 2017; Maggie Fox, “What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot,” NBC News, June 20, 2017; Patrick Grafton Green, “Who is Otto Warmbier? Why did North Korea imprison him? How did he die? All we know on late American student,” Evening Standard, June 20, 2017; Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detention,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Choe Sang-Hun, “Otto Warmbier’s Death a New Wedge Between U.S. and North Korea,” New York Times, June 20, 2017. Months of diplomacy for this release seemed to fade into the background.

[2] Fuster Kung, “Death of American detained in North Korea baffles experts,” AP, June 20, 2017, reprinted in the Washington Post; CNN Wire, “John McCain: North Korea ‘murdered’ former detainee Otto Warmbier,” NBC 4, June 20, 2017; Fred Haitt, “Remind me again why we ignore the thousands languishing in North Korea’s concentration camps?,” National Post, June 19, 2017, reprinted from the Washington Post; Christian Caryl, “The North Koreans treated Otto Warmbier like one of their own,” Washington Post, June 19, 2017; Gordon D. Chang, “State-Sanctioned Murder: North Korea Killed Otto Warmbier,” The Daily Beast, June 19, 2017; Danika Fears, “North Korea kills American student,” New York Post, June 19, 2017; Cortney O’Brien, “Rubio Minces No Words: Warmbier Was ‘Murdered’,” TownHall, June 19, 2017; Patrick Maguire, “Otto Warmbier’s death reminds us of North Korea’s brutality,” New Statesman,  June 2017; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Claims Otto Warmbier Sought Regime Change,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2017; Jack Torry and Jessica Wehrman, “Otto Warmbier’s death after release from North Korean detention brings sympathy, anger,” Dayton Daily News, June 19, 2017; CBS News, “S. Korean leader says N. Korea bears “heavy responsibility” for Otto Warmbier’s death,” June 23, 2017.

[3] Bill Chappell, “Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea,” NPR News, June 20, 2017; Andreas Litmer, “Warmbier death: Will people still travel to North Korea?,” BBC News, June 20, 2017; Charlie Chappell, “Otto Warmbier’s Death May Spell the End of American Tourism to North Korea. Sadly, That’s About It,” Time.com, June 22, 2017; Neil Connor, “Otto Warmbier’s travel agency stops taking American tourists to North Korea after ‘risk became too high’,” The Telegraph, June 20, 2017; Adly Choi, “Inside the Sketchy Travel Company That Took Otto Warmbier to North Korea,” Nextshark, June 23, 2017. The father of Warmbier did make an honest perception of the horridness of this company even though it has anti-DPRK diatribes within it: “This Chinese company has slick ads on the internet, claiming no American ever gets detained…They lure Americans. And that’s what happened to my son. He was trying to leave the country and he was taken hostage. They advertise it as the safest tour ever. But they provide fodder for the North Koreans. They took him hostage. And the outcome is self-evident.”

[4] Tim Schwarz, Will Ripley, and James Griffiths, “Exclusive: North Korea reveals alleged U.S. prisoner to CNN in Pyongyang,” CNN, Jan. 11, 2016; Taehoon Lee, “North Korea detains fourth US citizen,” CNN, May 8, 2017; BBC News, “North Korean university names detained US citizen,” Apr. 24, 2017; Tom Cleary, “Tony Kim aka Kim Sang-Duk: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy.com, May 1, 2017; Anna Fifield, “North Korea detains American at airport,” Washington Post, Apr. 23, 2017; KCNA, “Relevant Institution of DPRK Detains American Citizen Jin Xue Song,” May 7, 2017; James Pearson, “North Korea detains third U.S. citizen,” Reuters, Apr. 23, 2017. On May 7th, KCNA said “a relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Jin Xue Song [Kim Hak-song] on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspicion of his hostile acts against it. He had worked for operation of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. A relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crime.” Currently there are FOUR detained foreign nationals in DPRK, if Wikipedia is right.

[5] Kathy L. Gilbert, “North Korea releases comatose Otto Warmbier,” United Methodist News Service, June 15, 2017; Pyongyang Times, “American Arrested for His Hostile Act against DPRK,” Jan. 23, 2016.

[6] Pyongyang Times, “American Arrestee Interviewed,” Pyongyang Times, March 1, 2016; Pyongyang Times, “American Student Sentenced to 15 Years of Hard Labor in DPRK,” Pyongyang Times, Mar. 16, 2016.

[7] This English translation is very close to another I found from WIPO records.

[8] Jason Hanna, Joshua Berlinger, and Emanuella Grinberg, “Doctors: Ex-North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier has severe brain injury,” CNN, June 16, 2017.

[9] Maggie Fox, “Otto Warmbier Has Extensive Brain Damage, Doctors Say,” NBC News, June 16, 2017.

[10] “American citizen released,” Pyongyang Times, June 16, 2017.

[11] KCNA, “DPRK FM Spokesman Accuses U.S. of Slandering Humanitarian Measure,” June 23, 2017.

[12] KCNA, “DPRK bashing by the US and s. Korea prompts firestorm of protest,” Pyongyang Times, June 25, 2017.

[13] Jonathan Allen, “Otto Warmbier’s family declines autopsy for US student released by North Korea,” The Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “An objective assessment of Warmbier’s fate: Challenging U.S mythologies,” June 20, 2017; Young DPRK Watchers, “Otto Warmbier as a symbol of American Privilege,” June 18, 2017.

[14] Daily NK, “The dire reality of “universal health care” in North Korea,” June 2, 2015; Barbara Demick, “North Korea’s healthcare is a horror, report says,” Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2010; Caroline Gluck, “N Korea healthcare ‘near collapse’,” BBC News, Nov. 20, 2001; The Week Staff, “North Korea’s ‘horrifying’ health care system,” The Week, July 19, 2010; The Telegraph, “North Korea’s health system ‘on its knees’,” July 15, 2010; Laura Oneale, “North Korea’s Health Dilemma,” June 22, 2013; Freekorea.us, “A guerrilla health care system for North Korea’s poor,” Sept. 28, 2015; Radio Free Asia, “North Korean Health Care ‘Fails’,” July 20, 2010; Sean Alfano, “North Korea’s health care horror, doctors sometimes perform amputations without anesthesia: report,” NY Daily News, July 15, 2010.

[15] I’m not even going to link this horrible report, just the title page if those who are skeptical want to “prove” that I’m right, which would be utterly obnoxious. If you want to read hideous, digusting, orientalist propaganda and fill your mind with lies, go right ahead, but you’ll be no comrade of him.

[16] BBC News, “Aid agencies row over North Korea health care system,” July 16, 2010.

[17] Josiah Cha, “‘Every patient had malnutrition’ – on a medical mission in North Korea,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015. I think this is the same medical mission.

[18] See pages 126, 127, 128, 129, 130.

[19] As CNN (“Red Cross: North Korea medical system near collapse,” Nov. 6, 1997) and hateful “North Korea watchers” (Liberty in North Korea, “SONGBUN | Social Class in a Socialist Paradise,” June 25, 2012) admit, if you read between the lines, capitalism almost caused the DPRK’s healthcare system to collapse in the 1990s.

[20] The report also acknowledges the achievement in “compassionate care for children in general and war orphans in particular; ‘radical change’ in the position of women; [and] genuinely free housing.”

[21] Jonathan Lynn, “North Korea has plenty of doctors: WHO,” Reuters, Apr. 30, 2010.

[22] Brett Schaefer, “United Nations Defends North Korean Health Care System,” The Daily Signal, July 22, 2010; Sierra Rayne, “WHO’s Delusions on North Korea’s Health Care System,” American Thinker, July 24, 2013.

[23] In their travel guidelines for the DPRK, it almost sounds Orientalist, implying that US hospitals are wonderful, shining, and happy compared to those in the DPRK: “Medical facilities in the DPRK lack resources and electricity. Medical personnel have inadequate or outdated skills. Hospitals in Pyongyang can perform basic examinations and lifesaving measures, but functioning x-ray facilities are not generally available. Avoid surgery. If you have an accident outside Pyongyang, transport back to the capital can be lengthy and without medical assistance.”

[25] They have also “adopted the Constitution’s principles by passing Socialist Labour Law, Land Law, Law on Public Health, Law on the Nursing and Upbringing of Children, Law on Environmental Protection, the Criminal Law, the Civil Law, the Family Law, laws for the “total elimination of tax in kind and taxation which is the remnant of the outdated society” with no tax system no longer in the DPRK, and a law enacting “universal free education and the 11-year compulsory education.””

[26] The ROK claims that chemical weapons were developed here, but it undoubtedly a total lie.

[27] 95% of those who drink, drink spirits. There is also strong alcohol consumption by males, more than among females.

[28] This information also says that stroke leading cause of death, with probability of dying highest among men over 70, low in all other categories. It also says that people under age 5 mostly die of prematurity and other causes, that over 60% of population in urban areas, and that life expectancy varies depending on age. It is also worth noting that 16.3% of parliament is composed of women.

[29] Sangwoon Won, “North Korea launches medical videoconference network with help of WHO,” Associated Press, 2010. Reprinted on http://www.wellness.com/.

[30] Elizabeth Shim, “North Korea requests medical aid from U.N. agencies,” UPI, July 6, 2015. There are also claims they were trying to learn from China about AIDs.

[31] Han Ryo Gyong, “Rural hospital benefits from telemedicine,” Pyongyang Times, June 24, 2017.

[32] Pyongyang Times, “Kim Jong Un inspects dental care supplies factory,” June 20, 2017; Rodong Sinmun, “Kim Jong Un Inspects New Dental Sanitary Goods Factory,” June 20, 2017.

[33] See data here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here (likely on archive.org), and this book.

[34] See here for the following books: “Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea: Selected Writings of Kim Il Sung“; “Modern Korea: The Socialist North, Revolutionary Perspectives in the South, and Unification“; “The Historical Experience of the Agrarian Reform in Our Country“; “North Korean Journey: The Revolution Against Colonialism“; “Modern History of Korea.” Bruce Cummings is no help here. Neither is this article. As for “Jaka Parker” I haven’t watched any videos to have a viewpoint one way or the other.

The hideous nature of Matt Taibbi: bourgeois trash of the highest order

A photograph of Matt Taibbi. And yes, he did say that as I note later in this article.

I could have written about many topics today such as US special ops troops in the Philippines, the victory of social democrat Jeremy Corbyn in Britain (which some have discussed at length), or the kerfuffle between Qatar and other Gulf autocracies, among a litany of other topics. Instead, I write here today a criticism of Matthew “Matt” C. Taibbi, a bourgeois writer who claims to care about “income inequality” or the effects of capitalism, while ignoring the system itself.

Tarzie’s criticism

Tarzie has written about Taibbi before, who some call a “fake leftist.” While back in 2011 Taibbi was quoted in a supportive manner, when it came to criticizing neoliberal columnist Thomas Friedman, three years later, in 2014, that had changed. He described Taibbi as a Rolling Stone reporter who was “the latest trophy taken in Pierre Omidyar’s conquest of the fashionably leftish” and admitted that Taibbi’s work on Wall Street teaches him “things I don’t already know, in a style that frequently makes me laugh out loud” while the same is not the case for Glenn Greenwald (of course). He added that Taibbi has “crossed picket lines during a Writer’s Guild strike in 2008” to appear on late night TV, thinks Roe v. Wade should be overturned, feels that there shouldn’t be a  “Federal ban on anti-LGBQT discrimination” and considers himself a libertarian. Furthermore, Tarzie quotes from Walter Glass, and notes that Taibbi glosses over the effect of the corporate sector on places like Camden, New Jersey, and says that Taibbi is a “rich dude telling tales on the worst-behaved members of his class, while pleading the case for their reformability” and is a perfect “fit for an oligarch, just as he is.” Later that year, Tarzie criticized Taibbi again, saying he would hold a “no-holds-barred discussion” for Greenwald’s book tour.

There are only two other articles, to my knowledge, in which Tarzie criticizes Taibbi. One of them says that Taibbi left First Look by writing a piece earlier that year that “looks unmistakably like a warning and a cry for help” and that “we” missed the signs of this. The final one is written the following year, in February 2015, notes how former First Look writer, Ken Silverstein complained about the latter’s handling of “Racket” which was planned to a “satirical newsmagazine” headed by Taibbi which folded shortly after he left, wasting millions of dollars, which he called “the greatest squandering of money and example of criminal ineptitude in the history of modern journalism.” He goes on to quote Silverstein as saying that Taibbi “is definitely more likable than Glenn” who he says has a troubling role in First Look.

It is there that his criticism of Taibbi ends. From this point, this article will expand and augment what Tarzie had to say with principled criticism.

Taibbi shills for empire

Three days ago, Joe Emersberger wrote an article for Telesur English slamming Taibbi for taking the side of U.S. imperialists by calling duly-elected (but embattled due to internal and external pressures caused by the murderous empire) President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, a “dictator.” The article, reprinted on a pro-Chavista and respected news outlet, Venezuela Analysis. Emersberger notes how Taibbi attacked the Venezuelan government as a “dictatorship” by citing US-funded opposition figures like Julio Borges, president of the National Assembly, and Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of the state of Miranda, who had run against Maduro in the election. Clearly, Taibbi forgets that these individuals are working for the empire, even as he alludes that Borges “has been using his position as head to the National Assembly to try to get economic sanctions implemented against Maduro’s government.” That’s not all.

Emersberger goes on to criticize Taibbi even more harshly. He notes how bourgeois media “has almost unanimously reported from the U.S.-backed opposition’s point of view” evidenced when a “prominent U.S. progressive like Taibbi chimes in from that perspective” (I think he is over-inflating Taibbi’s importance here). Then, he goes into an example about what he would think about direct Russian interference in the US political process. He adds that the government of Venezuela “has been very tolerant of U.S.-backed subversion” and that “protests dominated the coverage and that denunciations of the government…were given ample attention.” Hence, he notes that even Reuters admits that private broadcasters give “equal weight to opposition and government leaders and supporters in broadcasts.” He argues that this does “happen in a dictatorship” even though “serious criticisms can be made about Venezuela’s democracy” which I think it too much of a concession to bourgeois media. He ends by saying that “Taibbi should know better than to trust the establishment media within this imperial club to define who should be labelled a dictator.”

Taibbi’s article is even worse (do not read this unless you really want to) than Emersberger makes it out to be. It is titled “Two Vile Names, One Sweetheart Deal: Goldman Bails Out Maduro” with the subtitle “The Vampire Squid rescues an infamous autocrat.” For a magazine like Rolling Stone which has basically lost most if not all of its credibility from the fake rape story to other problematic stories, it is not a surprise that he wrote this op-ed. His short piece makes it seem that Goldman Sachs AND Venezuela’s government are “amoral and corrupt institutions.” This is utterly false. While he makes a valid point that Goldman Sachs is the “symbol of international predatory capitalism,” he seems to miss the point that Venezuela is bad straits because of the murderous empire. He does call Maduro an “infamous left-wing dictator” but he also calls the government of Venezuela “authoritarian,” citing sources such as the New York Times, Forbes (which Taibbi admitted years earlier was “very bank-friendly“), The Telegraph, New York Post, Miami Herald, Times of London, and so on.

That’s not all. He seems to mock the idea that Venezuela’s problems are part of a US “economic war” and calls the government of that country “Maduro’s regime,” even though he is only one figure in the government. He then goes on to mock Goldman Sachs as well,and almost “legitimize” the protests against Venezuela’s government by saying “More than 50 people have died in protests over the past two months, with many more injured and arrested.” He also claims that Maduro’s action represents the “ultimate in cynicism, and one likely to have dire consequences for a country already on the brink.” He then snarls at this attempt by the Venezuelan government to save itself…

It’s a good thing Karl Marx is dead, because otherwise this metaphysical mind-loop of a news story would make his head explode. Is this a corruption of capitalism, a corruption of socialism, both, or neither? Maduro himself would probably say this transaction is a perfect example of the “savage capitalism” he says he despises.

Again, this should be no surprise coming from a man such as Taibbi who cannot seem to think beyond capitalism in any way, shape, or form. Saying he is glad Marx is dead is anti-communist in the fullest extent, there is no doubt. As a result, he probably has NOT read the Communist Manifesto and hence does not know this part of the manifesto:

…the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In each of these moves they bring to the front, as the leading question in each case, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time…they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of democratic parties of all countries.

In my interpretation, countries such as Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, the DPRK, Zimbabwe, and Cuba would fall into a “revolutionary movement” which can be expanded to cover revolutionary governments. Hence, it would be a duty of comrades to engage in international solidarity with these states and any others that stand “against the existing social and political order of things” which does NOT include the snivelly “good” Kurds.

Of course, as Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie, represented by Goldman Sachs in this case, as the need of gaining an expanding market for its products and hence must “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” Hence, countries like Venezuela, that resist US and Western imperialism, are not unaffected by global capitalism, so they end up making agreements like this one with Goldman Sachs for their survival. While some may cringe, rightly so, as the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Taibbi who you (should) love to hate

A skimming of his Rolling Stone contributor’s profile shows him as “pro-Democrat,” favoring the milquetoast “resistance” of Trump in more ways than one, especially by embracing the whole “Russiagate” cloud of nothingness which is a distraction from the other horrible events instigated by the Orange Menace. Furthermore, he seems to think Vladimir Putin is a horrible, nasty person, again, embracing the Russia hysteria, along with giving social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders accepting him as “genuine.”

But there is more to Taibbi than that. Tarzie referenced this interview of Taibbi by the libertarian Reason back in 2007. Within this, Taibbi shows that he is a horrid libertarian and supportive of the capitalist system, along with not understanding socialism:

…I think Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I believe in the federalist model; I believe that states should be able to make their own drug laws. The more democracy you have, the more people can make decisions for their own communities, the more freedom people have…There’s more on-the-ground energy for Ron Paul than there is for the rest of the candidates combined…It’s [the war machine] not capitalism at all. It’s more like an authoritarian socialism. It’s forcibly extracting money from the customers and distributing the profits to companies that aren’t selected by market choice but government fiat. Critics call it the free market, but it’s not that at all…America is about getting the government off your back, a reprieve from having your life interfered with, and we keep forgetting that.

With this, not only he endorsing the capitalist ideology but he is also embracing the idea of American exceptionalism as some call it. Basically he is not OK with progressive efforts to stand against fast food industries or even moves that increase government control in a way to help people’s lives. Of course such governments are usually not socialist and these measures are reformist, but they are not inherently “evil” or “bad.”

There are further viewpoints of Taibbi which are repugnant. For one, he admires Andrew Breitbart to an extent, apart from accepting the story of Trump-Russia collusion he thinks that the Attorney General would be “better” if there is a “career investigator, career law enforcement official in that job” which denies the fact that such individuals are just part of the capitalist system, moving it forward. This so-called “award-winning journalist” buys into the Sanders deception, describing him as a politician who is “completely honest….really interested in…standing up for regular working people” even though he has not done this just like other bourgeois progressives, praising the DOJ as having “political” and “talented and aggressive lawyers”and called Molly Crabapple Klein Crapple a “great artist” even though she doxxed someone [1] for supporting Russian intervention in Syria (which was done with the approval of the Syrian government unlike US-led coalition efforts). Crapple also supported white nationalist Weev/Andrew Auernheimer as OLAASM has pointed out on varied occasions (see here and here). Hence, this endorsement by Taibbi is disgusting to say the least.

This is only scratching the surface of his beliefs. He also grumbles about the “government interfering in a market process” (why is this bad?). Even more than that, he whitewashes slavery as the driving force of US capitalism:

You know, America used to be—especially the American economy was built upon this brick-and-mortar industrial economy, where we had factories, we built stuff, and we sold it here in America, and we exported it all over the world. That manufacturing economy was the foundation for our wealth and power for a couple of centuries…whereas the old manufacturing economy had the sort of negative effect of spreading around to the entire population

As Edward Baptist writes in The Half Has Not Been Told (scholarship which was started by Eric Williams in his book Capitalism and Slavery), slavery was tied to every aspect of the US economy, with almost a million enslaved laborers moved from the “Upper South” (like Maryland) to “Deep South” (Georgia and Louisiana) in coffles. Furthermore, the industrial workers in the North were making products out of cotton, the same cotton that enslaved laborers had worked all day to pick from fields under the whip of the White slavemaster who whipped them if they disobeyed. Hence, Taibbi is acting like slavery was not part of this, or even mentioning indigenous genocide as a further foundation for settler colonialism in the United States as the “enlightened” empire grew with its tentacles reaching across the continent.

There are other aspects of Taibbi that make one cringe. He seems to accept the “goodness” of corporations in and of themselves, endorses some austerity (“if someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there”), and strangely called Mitt Romney “a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky,” bemoaning the “roots of the radical economic changes” despite the fact that he is using the word radical incorrectly while portraying Romney in a weird way. He is also a person who has said that “private equity firms aren’t necessarily evil by definition” and seems to have a soft spot for “businesses that were America’s original industrial cornerstones” whatever that refers to.  Apart from endorsing the Occupy movement despite its bourgeois nature (as we all know by now), he calls the high-ranking people at Bank of America “not bankers or capitalists, but a class of person that was never supposed to exist in America: royalty.” Again, his lack of class analysis and any semblance of radicalism means that he makes bizarre and worthless statements like that which are of no use to anyone. The same goes for his declaration that “we’ve just got to get the right people in the right jobs” if that will really change anything at all.

Taibbi and the past

To close out this article I’d like to look at a few articles looking at Taibbi’s past. The first is a 2010 Vanity Fair article titled “Lost Exile” focusing on the death of a Russian newspaper of the same name co-edited by Taibbi and Mark Ames (who now works for PandoDaily). The article notes that both of them would “prove the hardest-partying Moscow media celebrities of their time” and end up embodying post-Soviet Russia’s “hedonism.” It also claims that Taibbi was a “born journalist” but a person who speculated about a possible “connection” between “apartment-building bombings and Putin’s ratcheting up of the Chechen War” which is used by anti-Putin individuals to this day. The article goes onto say that Taibbi has earned a “reputation as the premier bullshit detector and absurdist on the campaign trail” among many, with some saying like Hunter Thompson he also hated politicians. Later, in response to the writer of the story asking Taibbi questions, he grew increasing agitated after they called his book crap, throwing his coffee over their face, which is actually a bit hilarious.

Farther back are a set of articles in 2005. One claims he has a “fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress” while others criticize his article for the New York Press titled “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope” panned by organizations and politicians as “hate speech,” “ugly,” and “disgusting.” Maybe this isn’t a surprise for a person who is an “expatriate-journalist-turned-New-York-writer” who “identified with Russia and its writers Nikolai Gogol, M. Saltikov and Leo Tolstoy” growing up, while “Taibbis popularity” rose that year.

Taking all of this into account, Taibbi no doubt has a developed ego which supports his self-promotion on places like Democracy Now! and other places. In those secluded areas, no one dare questions him. He is part of, as some have put it, the “Celebrity Left” or the professional left, individuals who are in a sense “above” others, in terms of criticism and status. Some, like Charles Davis (“Chuckles”) only aspire to this level, while others like Ta-Nahesi Coates and Snowden are already at this level.

Concluding thoughts

There really isn’t much else I’ll say about Taibbi at this time. Some may say that an article like this is unnecessary. I disagree. I think it is important to criticize public personalities like this. Too often, these people are barely criticized and given a free pass. That is not OK under any circumstances. Everyone, including this writer should and can be criticized, but fairly and justly. Self-criticism is important for radical and revolutionary politics as the Black Panthers realized, as did Mao and students of Maoist thought. Perhaps I’ll write another criticism of Glenn Greenwald next (or even “The Intercept”), or about some international issue. But for now, I think this article will stand. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Notes

[1] The person who this seems to refer to is a woman named Taryn Fivek, a deserving comrade. Tarzie seems to have a beef with her. He first accused her of “smearing for Soros” calling her a “Twitter nuisance, shameless liar and justifiably failed citizen journo” (along with “outright troll”) and wanting to shut down debate on this topic of Soros’s influence on “the Left” in his view. He seems to have forgotten these later tweets (standing by his flawed analysis in another post), showing that Tarzie is having problems of his own with analysis without much of a basis:

Later, on Tarzie’s blog, one user describes Fivek is a “self professed red who I’ve not really known but from time to time posted at the same places…she wrote a book under a pseudonym (Emma Quangel) which was essentially a direct attack on Molly Crabapple. Crabapple responded by doxxing Fivek” and that in the fallout of this, someone said that she should “monetize it, leading to whatever this nebulous cesspits” and told Tarzie, “knock this stupid transparent bullshit off because we really don’t need this right now. You can, you know, actually work a job instead of hustling mentally ill people on the internet. And if you actually can’t see through the bullshit start reading everything here to start.” Tarzie responded by saying that “Fivek doesn’t need Hopkins because she knows better” and what she is doing looks “like a paid performance.” Hence, he is still stuck in the mud of Fivek. For a person who defended Fivek and then turns on her for saying the “wrong” things about Soros is cruel and pathetic. This is where Tarzie is wrong. He may have good analysis in other realms, but on Fivek he is completely and utterly wrong. Hence, I’d rather stand with Fivek than with Tarzie, with some saying she supports white nationalism (or something) although I have seen no evidence to support that claim whatsoever.

Is “The Simpsons” dead or zombiefied?

Lisa talking to the producer of the Itchy and Scratchy Show (S8e14).

As reader may know, I’m an avid fan of animated sitcom, the Simpsons. I’ve cited it on this blog when mentioning that strange “human rights watcher” guy and how the show has mocked Apple (and addiction to online games) by calling it “Mapple,” the character of “Steve Mobbs” (Steve Jobs) declaring to Homer that he must “submit” to Apple’s control, and Bart dispelling the idea that Mobbs is a “genius,” saying he is self-absorbed while stirring up people’s homophobic urges. I’ve also cited the Simpsons as an example of better politics than Star Wars, Simpsons episodes about Cuba, the episode called “Simpsons Tide” as a comparison for recent Russophobic attacks on the Trump Administration, and mentioned it at the end of an article about the immigrant proletariat in the United States. This is only scratching the surface as my twitter account shows. By the time this is published, there will soon be another episode in the works, which isn’t worth watching. As it stands now, The Simpsons is going into the latter half of its 28th season, with plans of it continuing until Season 30, as announced last fall. I’m not trying to advocate on behalf of the Simpsons here, but look into this topic with a clear mind, since this show can be relevant culturally and politically, so this analysis is justified. This post aims to answer the question, is show dead and/or does it constitute the “Zombie Simpsons” as those over at Dead Homer Society argue?

Definitions and establishing terms

Before proceeding it is best to set forward a number of definitions. For the word dead, the Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as “no longer living; having died…naturally without life; inanimate…lacking positive qualities…without feeling…barren…time of greatest darkness, most intense cold…was alive but is no loner so.” As for zombie, the same dictionary defines it as “…a corpse…brought to a state of tracelike animation and made to obey the commands of the person exercising the power…a person considered to like a zombie in listlessness, mechanical behavior…a weird, eccentric, or unattractive person.”

The general agreement is that there was a “Golden Age” of the Simpsons. [1] Some say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 8, others say Seasons 3 to 8, some say Seasons 4 to 10, and then there are those that say it lasted from Seasons 1 to 10, or maybe 11. [1] So, the term is very loose. This is why some media critics say it is a “fool’s errand to pinpoint when and how modern-day Simpsons diverged from its golden age,” while others say that the term is misleading because while it was “an extraordinary, even masterful thing,” over those years, it could be an overstatement even if the show would be, arguably, by seasons 10 and 11,in a “gaping valley [and]…never get anywhere near those heights again.” Then there are those who say that the show has not “overstayed its relevance” and that the show still holds up, with a “New Renaissance…and then a Postmodern period where they got self-reflexive about their own legacy.” While you could argue this has a bit of validity, it almost implies that the show was never off, its character didn’t change, whether it because of episodes like “The Principal and the Pauper,” or otherwise. [2]

You know the show has changed when it has averaged at approximately 5.53 million viewers per show since Season 21, until Season 28 (as of Feb. 25), but before then, during the “Golden Age” (Seasons 1 to 7 for this computation) the show averaged at 19.88 million viewers per show, much more. [3] This below chart shows the decline in viewership over the years, of the show. Despite the slight increase in viewership from seasons Seasons 12 to Season 14, it dropped again by the end of Season 15.

simpsons-chart
For the first star, Season 8 on Wikipedia has incomplete data on viewership, but it is used in this analysis anyway. For the second star, data on viewership in the 27th and 28th seasons stops at the episode titled The Cad and the Hat.

The Simpsons has been written about critically in The Psychology of the Simpsons, The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer, and Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation, to name a few. I may look at those books more in the future, but for now, I’ll propose my own analysis. There may be spoilers ahead, just as a word of precaution.

The Simpsons is a show that shows that cartoons aren’t just “a bunch of hilarious stuff” without messages, as Bart quipped in one episode. The information available at The Simpsons Archives shows, that there can be many interpretation of the episodes. Some say that fat, incompetent Homer is seen by some as a “homophobic hero” while others point to the show’s criticisms of consumerism (also see here) environmental destruction, and religious belief (also see here and here). Beyond this, some talk about allusions in the animated sitcom, masculinity, mocking the advertising of beer companies with “Duff Beer,” poking at the “ideal” nuclear family which the Simpsons family stereotypically represents, its satirical qualities, and ethics, among other subjects.

For the purpose of my analysis, the show is divided into three eras: the Golden Age (Seasons 1-8), the Silver Age (Seasons 9 to 12), and the Bronze Age (Seasons 13 to 28, possibly 30). For the Golden Age, there were varying showrunners, or head writers, ranging from season to season:

  • Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, & Sam Simon (Seasons 1 and 2)
  • Al Jean & Mike Reiss (Seasons 3 and 4)
  • David Mirkin (Seasons 5 and 6)
  • Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein (Seasons 7 and 8)
  • Mike Scully (Seasons 9 to 12)
  • Al Jean (Seasons 13 to present)

Hence, you could call the “Silver Age” the Mike  Scully era and the “Bronze Age” the Al Jean era.

Originally, when I thought of writing up this analysis, I was going to go through each Season and pick some of my favorite episodes, apart from its politics, however that is not sufficient for the task at hand. Instead, it is best to highlight the changing nature of the show from each era to the next. Let me make clear that I’m not trying or attempting to be nostalgic here either, it is just that the show has changed over time.

The Golden Age of the Simpsons

In Season 1, the show began with a bang, after 49 animated shorts on The Tracy Ulman Show. The pilot episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, introduced the Simpsons family to American audiences, showing Homer, his wife Marge, and their child Maggie. Without going into a summary, the episode not only pokes at uptight Americans through the developing anti-authority nature of their son, Bart, but illustrates the class dynamics in society. Homer wants to “keep up the Joneses” and prove his worthiness “as a man” by getting a job as a mall Santa, as his ruthless boss, Mr. C. Montgomery Burns of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, refuses to give his workers a Christmas bonus. The latter shows that workers, the proletariat, are under the thumb of the big capitalists, that want to cut costs so they can profit off the back of wealth created by laborers. Finally, the losing dog, Santa’s Little Helper, for which he bets $13 dollars, Marge and Lisa, Homer and Marge’s daughter, say is the  “best gift of all,” and brings the family together, reasserting his role as “man of the house.”

While it worth recounting the first episode, it is best to categorize the episodes into categories to show the social, personal and political themes among the seasons. Even though the first season was still the show in development, it began touching on many  themes, along with being insightful and often funny.

Bart celebrates his victory over Nelson Muntz (“Bart the General”)

The first of these themes is Bart opposing the constraints of the schoolyard while also trying to maintain his “rebellious” social standing:

  • In Bart the Genius, he sprays graffiti mocking Principal Seymour Skinner of Springfield Elementary, utters the phrase “eat my shorts” which will later become his catchphrase, cheats on a test giving him a ticket into “higher” schooling and learning in which he cannot thrive since he isn’t really a genius at all and was “faking it.” By the end of the episode, everything is “back to normal” in the Simpson home.
  • In one episode, Bart leads kids to fighting back against those who bully him (Bart the General), with the episode even touching on the seriousness of war
  • Bart’s attempts to assert his “rebellious” social standing, the beginning of criticism of TV comedians/showbusiness with the introduction of Krusty the Clown, and the town defending its own insular identity after Bart decapitates the Jebeddiah Springfield statue in the center of town are manifested in The Telltale Head.
  • The next three episodes focus on Bart’s rebellious nature (The Crepes of Wrath), the Cold War tensions between Albania and the United States which results in this argument between Lisa and Adil
  • Bart shows that he wants to succeed enough to get a passing grade by working with the stereotypical nerd Martin Prince (Bart Gets an “F”)
  • Bart’s cruel nature toward his sister which he eventually apologizes for (Bart vs. Thanksgiving)
  • Bart trying to be a daredevil with the infamous (and hilarious) scene by Homer trying (and failing) to jump the Springfield gorge (Bart the Daredevil)
  • Bart’s mischievous antics and Homer trying to relieve himself of the pressure of Marge’s “hideous” sisters Patty and Selma (Principal Charming)
  • Bart recognizing emotional pain he can cause people (Bart the Lover)
  • In Radio Bart, he manipulates the town with his microphone, but the worthlessness of a funding campaign by celebrities which mimics “We are the World,” and that you should be careful what you wish for, with Bart saved after a massive digging effort with the wishing well as dangerous as ever.
  • Bart having a taste of authority with Lisa becoming rebellious but coming back to her usual self with the help of Bart (Separate Vocation)
  • Bart learns the ins and outs of love as he ruins Milhouse’s budding relationship with Samantha Stankey (Bart’s Friend Falls in Love)
  • Bart recognizing the importance of love with his admiration of Laura Powers which doesn’t go as he planned (New Kid on the Block)
  • another about Bart becoming famous for catchphrase (“I Didn’t Do It”) which shows the roughness of show business (Bart Gets Famous)
  • one about Bart becoming Burns’ heir until he refuses to fire his father from his job
  • Bart helps his nemesis, Skinner, get his job back (Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song)
  • Bart “acting bad” attracts the daughter of Rev. Lovejoy, Allison, but it doesn’t go as he planned (Bart’s Girlfriend)
  • Bart pranks an Australian boy, sparking an international controversy (Bart vs. Australia)
  • Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars which he comes to regret and tries to get it back
  • Bart fails in his shoplifting, leading to his punishment by Marge for his behavior (Marge Be Not Proud), which the Dead Homer Society did not like
  • Bart travels the open road with Milhouse, Nelson, and Martin, with them stranded out there (Bart on the Road)
Mr Burns looks down, watching over the crowd gathering in front of the nuclear plant in protest. They are listening to then-“safety” advocate Homer, with his role as obviously an ironic one since he is often a buffoon (Homer’s Odyssey)

The next category focuses mocks corporate propaganda, control, and/or focuses on struggles of those working in the nuclear plant, especially Homer:

  • In Homer’s Odyssey, shows that Bart continues to be disobedient, pokes at propaganda for nuclear power, and establishes Homer’s story, as he goes from being an incompetent buffoon to becoming safety inspector at the Nuclear Plant after his wide-ranging campaign for safety across the town of Springfield, cementing his job for the rest of the show. You could say that Mr. Burns made a concession to the protesters campaigning for safety by hiring Homer, which not gave Homer a job and saved Mr. Burns from scrutiny of the plant’s safety.
  • In There’s No Disgrace Like Home, which focus on family problems, introduce the Itchy and Scratchy show which mocks “Tom and Jerry,” the corrupt (and incompetent) police force in the town.
  • Homer rising up the executive ladder in the nuclear power plant by deceit and deception with hair growth product which he falsely paid for on the company health plan (Simpson and the Deliliah), showing that what Frank Grimes says many episodes later rings true while also showing that Marge will stand by him even as Homer is demoted to old job by the end of the episode, and that people discriminate against those who are bald, not taking them seriously.
  • The first episode of the season, Stark Raving Dad, shows the regimented, corporate control of the workplace for which Homer is targeted for wearing a pink shirt and put in a mental institution where he meets a man who claims to be Michael Jackson (this character is the guest appearance of Michael Jackson), who cheers up Lisa.
  • Krusty the Clown’s Jewish roots, perhaps poking at the number of Jewish comedians within Hollywood (Like Father, Like Clown)
  • corporate consolidation and the unforgettable daydream of Homer about the “Land of Chocolate,” with the power dynamics returning to “normal” when Mr. Burns buys his plant back from the Germans by the end (Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk)
  • Kamp Krusty is one of the best episodes to date, not only highlighting Krusty the Clown’s cost-cutting measures to “save” money and his fraudulence in that regard, but the naivety of Marge and Homer about the camp, along with the infotainment aspect of the news media represented by Kent Brockman’s report about the situation
  • Homer starting his own snowplowing business, Mr. Plow, moving up to the status as part of the petty bourgeoisie which doesn’t last very long at all.
  • the sleaziness of corporate spokespeople (Marge vs. the Monorail),
  • shifty lawyers like buffoon Lionel Hutz and the power of the capitalist class in the courtroom (Bart Gets Hit by a Car)
  • a strike of the workers at the Springfield nuclear plant with Homer elected as head of the union (Last Exit to Springfield)
  • the sometimes redeeming aspects of showbusiness, at least for Krusty (Krusty Gets Kancelled)
  • While Homer’s Barbershop Quartet basically parodies the Beatles
  • wonderful episode that makes fun of “feel good” therapists (Bart’s Inner Child)
  • the allure of gambling for Mr. Burns and the town as a whole, with the title parodying the full title of Dr. Strangelove ($pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
  • Bart realizes he needs to testify, showing that Quimby didn’t beat up a waiter, going against everyone’s conceptions about the Quimby family, and that it was the waiter’s fault (The Boy Who Knew Too Much)
  • Springfield hosts a film festival with Hans Moleman’s funny short, “Man Hit By Football,” an insightful movie by Barney, and a propaganda film by Mr. Burns which everyone hates (A Star is Burns)
  • The Radioactive Man movie is filmed in Springfield, and the project quickly goes into disarray
  • In Scenes from Class Struggle in Springfield, Marge and Lisa try to enter the high life of Springfield but it is shortilived
  • Bart gets Krusty the Clown fined by the IRS and tries to make it up to him (Bart the Fink)
  • Bart unwittingly bankrupts the studio that produces Itchy and Scratchy (The Day the Violence Died)
The best visual and non-spoken line of Lisa’s Substitute. A powerful image when put in context.

Another major theme in the show is Lisa’s intelligence being undermined often while she also tries to impress people:

  • the importance of jazz as an art to express one’s emotions is manifested in Lisa’s saxophone playing (Moaning Lisa)
  • One of my favorite episodes, other than Bart the Daredevil, Itchy & Scratchy & Marge, Bart Gets Hit By a Car, Three Men and a Comic Book, and Blood Feud, to name a few, is Lisa’s Substitute, which I just rewatched. This episode shows Lisa’s fragile nature but also how she wants to be valued for her intelligence, admonishing her father for his aloofness and seeming “uncaring” nature, while she makes up with him by the end. Also, in a sub-story, Bart doesn’t get all he wants either as he thinks his popularity will push him forward to be class president, when everyone but him treats it like a joke, showing that his “popularity” is only constructed, not real, almost a facade, in a sense.
  • Episodes such as Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington show Lisa as a person who stands up for what’s right
  • Lisa trying to impress people with her “beauty” before she realizes it is a scam to promote Laramie Cigarettes, yet another poke at corporate advertising like “Duff Beer” (Lisa the Beauty Queen)
  • There’s also Ralph Wiggum’s short-lived relationship with Lisa (I Love Lisa)
  • One great episode about gender roles in society (Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy)
  • Lisa faces a rival in class, Allison Taylor, which angers her so much he compromises her values, but this doesn’t matter because Ralph wins for his Star Wars action figures (Lisa’s Rival)
  • Lisa’s cruel tricks on her brother and Homer swearing off beer for a month (Duffless)
  • Lisa is thrown into a tizzy when the teachers go on strike (The PTA Disbands)
  • Lisa becomes sad about the death of Bleeding Gums Murphy, but plays with his ghost in the clouds (‘Round Springfield)
  • After a trip to see a cute lamb, Lisa decides she cannot eat meat anymore and becomes a vegetarian, working to stick to her view (Lisa the Vegetarian)
  • Lisa discovers the real truth behind the founder of Springfield and works to try and reveal it (Lisa the Iconoclast)
  • Lisa leaving behind her “nerdy” self to fit in with those on the beach (Summer of 4 Ft. 2)
Bart, Lisa, and Maggie subdue the “Babysitter Bandit” (Some Enchanted Evening)

In a sort of related theme, there’s family togetherness as manifested in these episodes:

  • family togetherness (The Call of the Simpsons)
  • Homer’s ineptness in letting the “Babysitter Bandit” get away who the Simpson children had bound up to protect themselves in a “Home Alone” style (Some Enchanted Evening)
  • Santa’s Little Helper becoming more part of the family than before while mirroring Bart’s school troubles at the beginning of the season (Bart’s Dog Gets and F)
  • love of family and togetherness (Lisa’s Pony and Saturdays of Thunder)
  • family is more important than gambling by far (Lisa the Greek)
  • Herb forgiving Homer for ruining his auto business in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” while showing that people can be forgiving even after people have been cruel to them in the past (Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?)
  • Selma trying to test her maternal instincts as Lisa gets drunk for the first time in the show, which is pretty hilarious to say the least, after Homer eats a spoiled sandwich which he treats like a person (Selma’s Choice)
  • tensions between Bart and Homer getting a boiling point (Brother from the Same Planet)
  • Homer tries to connect with Bart by getting him an elephant (Bart Gets an Elephant)
  • Abe Simpson falls in love with Marge’s Mother (Lady Bouvier’s Lover)
  • The Simpsons family is brought together by the vacation at Itchy & Scratchy Land
  • Lisa and Bart face each other on the ice, but it ends with an unexpected twist (Lisa on Ice)
  • Abe and Homer Simpson worth together to produce a tonic (Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy)
  • The story about Maggie’s birth, which brings the family together (And Maggie Makes Three)
  • Homer has to ask Patty and Selma for a loan, which he tries to keep secret from Marge (Homer vs. Patty and Selma)
  • The Simpson kids are put in the custody of the Flanders Family, with Homer and Marge having to save them from being baptized (Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily)
  • Mona Simpson, Homer’s Mother, makes her debut in the series, with the backstory her her escape as a hippie in 1969 explained (Mother Simpson)
  • Selma marries Troy McClure, a reality show personality, but it doesn’t go as she thought it would (A Fish Called Selma)
Marge plays Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (A Streetcar Named Marge)

One related theme is Marge being devalued, just like Lisa:

  • Homer seems to fall into the role of Marge as a mother (Homer Alone)
  • Others focus on how Marge is not being valued at home, threatening Homer’s social standing in the family, and mocking Ayn Rand’s ideas directly, represented by the daycare provider (A Streetcar Named Marge)
  • Marge getting her first job of the series other than homemaker as a worker at the nuclear plant (Marge Gets a Job)
  • the importance of Marge in the town’s social life (Marge in Chains)
  • Marge as an outlaw with Ruth Powers (Marge on the Lam)
  • Secrets of a Successful Marriage focuses on marital tensions between Homer and Marge, with the latter forgiving him
  • Marge has to come to grips with her secret fear of flying
  • Marge gets a job as a police officer, which seems to “threaten” Homer’s manhood (The Springfield Connection)
Homer dances with Princess Kashmir in Homer’s Night Out.

A related theme is Homer trying to maintain his middle-class standing and status as a male rolemodel, “man of the house” for his children:

  • seductions of another man pulling Marge in but she still comes back to Homer, showing their lifelong bond, while Homer’s role as an effective “male role model” is clearly shown as a facade (Life on the Fast Lane)
  • This bond is challenged in Homer’s Night Out, which some people as I know from watching some YouTube video which claimed to tell the “worst Simpsons episode,” did not like, in which Marge doesn’t like the picture of Homer with Princess Kashmir because it says that Homer doesn’t respect women, which he makes up by the end of the episode.
  • an episode about Homer dancing for attention (Dancin’ Homer)
  • a golf competition to maintain his middle-class status (Dead Putting Society), poking at how many see the “American Dream” as something that should continually strive to
  • Homer’s drunkenness, selfishness, and working to maintain his marital ties (The War of the Simpsons)
  • When Flanders Failed shows that Homer has a redeeming quality despite the fact that he is still envious of the Flanders Family for seemingly being “better off” than the Simpsons.
  • Homer’s ineptness “saving” the day showing him an imbecile, “gaining” him a phrase and “entry” in the visualized dictionary, with this episode showing more about who Homer is as a person (Homer Defined)
  • Homer being tempted by pretty woman, Lureen Lumpkin, while also parodying country music effectively (Colonel Homer)
  • the cruelties of Homer’s treatment of Bart by not letting him see the new Itchy and Scratchy movie (Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie)
  • The one about Homer going to college (Homer Goes to College) is one of my favorites. I say that not only because it includes the great scenes about the mystery box but it shows how Homer doesn’t care about school at all, basically treating it like an utter joke. While I personally wasn’t that type of student, I did watch this one again after graduating last year, so it still has holding power.
  • Homer proves himself as a father figure (Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood) after Bart becomes a junior camper, saving the day by bringing a Krusty map with him, eating at a restaurant on an offshore oil rig
  • Homer resisting his exact doppleganger, Mindy Simmons, and staying with Marge (The Last Temptation of Homer)
  • There’s the episode which seems to be the Simpsons version of Clockwork Orange, with Homer and others becoming a vigilante (Homer the Vigilante)
  • Homer helping Apu out after getting him fired, showing the former to be an utter jerk (Homer and Apu)
  • Homer going into space as an astronaut “by default” after Barney drank non-alcoholic champagne, along with the infamous line by Kent Brockman “welcoming our new insect overlords” showing him to be too hasty and sensationalized nature of the news media (Deep Space Homer)
  • Homer breaking from his usual routine of disliking Flanders to treating him as a friend, which Ned eventually detests so much to separate himself (Homer Loves Flanders)
  • When Homer is falsely accused of molesting a woman, he tries to defend himself, but the sensationalized media treats him like a perpetrator until someone unexpected comes to try and prove his innocence (Homer Badman)
  • Homer becomes the leader of the Stonecutters, but not everything goes the way that he would have expected it (Homer the Great)
  • Homer becomes a clown but runs into trouble with the mob (Homie the Clown)
  • Homer becomes fat to avoid getting on the plants exercise program and barely saves the town from catastrophic meltdown (King-Size Homer)
  • Homer brings together a baseball team as school rules clampdown (Team Homer)
  • Homer takes the role of Smithers, leading Mr. Burns to become self-reliant (Homer the Smithers)
  • Homer traveling with a music festival (Homerpalooza)
Sideshow Bob is arrested for his tomfoolery, mainly with framing Krusty for a crime he didn’t commit, and vows revenge on Bart (Krusty Gets Busted)

Then there’s the running villain throughout the series, Sideshow Bob, along with other related themes like the evilness of Mr. Burns and funny “horror” episodes:

A classic poster from Itchy & Scratchy & Marge which shows how people are misled in their thinking about cartoon violence.

There’s others that poke at social conservatives, shifty lawyers, morals, and much more, along with those that provide necessary background. These include poking at a socially conservative response to cartoon violence (Itchy & Scratchy & Marge), about living life to the fullest (One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish), and stealing from the cable companies contrasting with morals Lisa professes (Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th commandment). Others focuson how wealth can come and go in flash and provides commentary on the failing “big three” automakers in Detroit (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?), inheritance of money and discrimination of the elderly (Old Money), importance of artistry and artistic impressions even if they aren’t popular, showing that everyone is a human being regardless of class (Brush with Greatness), and helping out those in need even if they have a higher status than you (Blood Feud). More beyond this focus on the importance of sharing rather than infighting over material goods (Three Men and a Comic Book), the power of the mob in society (Bart the Murderer), Moe’s shifty, selfish nature (Flaming Moe’s), the relation of dogs to humans who can brainwash them for their own interests (Dog of Death), and how people are false religious figures, heretics, like Homer in once case (Homer the Heretic). Some episodes are heartwarming, talking about Lisa’s First Word, while others Homer’s horrible eating habits causing him to have a heart attack and necessary surgery (Homer’s Triple Bypass). Then there’s others about Otto’s shifty behavior is noted, while highlighting his important role in the community as a bus driver for the schoolchildren (The Otto Show), a creative, well-written show about cartoon writers (The Front), and the town coming together as “Bart’s Comet” threatens the town, the Springfield community working to get their beloved lemon tree back (Lemon of Troy). 22 Short Films About Springfield is be one of my favorite episodes because it connects the stories of other Springfieldians, telling the story of many minor characters who don’t get much airtime. Another great episode is one against animal cruelty episode which shows that whacking snakes should be condemned, with Lisa morally on the right side with Bart helping her (Whacking Day). There’s also one which shows the faultiness of anti-immigration measures (Much Apu About Nothing), and the Simpsons moving to Cypress Creek with the James Bond villain Hank Scorpio (You Only Move Twice). Tacked on are the flashbacks about Homer and Marge (I Married Marge and The Way We Was), three which are “clip shows” (So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show, Another Simpsons Clip Show, and The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular), one which is a flash forward about Lisa’s Wedding (this is not canon).

Flanders snaps for the first time in the series, calling out Marge, Bart, Lisa, Moe, Krusty the Clown, Lenny, and Homer for “treating him badly” showing that he has bottled up rage, a problem seemingly solved by the end of the episode (Hurricane Neddy)

When we get to season 8, there are episodes about Homer boxing and failing (The Homer They Fall), Mr. Burn’s half-witted brother Larry (why?) (Burns, Baby Burns), Bart working at a local burlesque house angering the uptight people in Springfield (Bart After Dark), division in the Milhouse family (A Milhouse Divided), Lisa dating Nelson (Lisa’s Date with Density), Flanders showing that he has been repressing uncontrollable rage since childhood (Hurricane Neddy), and Homer realizing after a long journey that Marge is his soulmate (El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes parodying the X-Files (The Springfield Files), Marge getting in the business of selling pretzels, becoming petty bourgeois (The Twisted World of Marge Simpson), Mr. Burns and Homer facing off when trapped in a cabin the woods (Mountain of Madness), parodying Mary Poppins (Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious), and showing the desperate nature of some cartoon shows to create a new, unnecessary character to raise viewer interest (The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show). Then there’s the classic one that counters Homer’s homophobic tendencies (Homer’s Phobia), Sideshow Bob returning on the scene (Brother from Another Series), Lisa’s babysitting reputation ruined by Bart which isn’t the best episode (My Sister, My Sitter), commentary on prohibition of alcohol (Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment), the relationship between Skinner and Edna (Grade School Confidential), and the Simpsons abandoning Santa’s Little Helper (The Canine Mutiny). Apart from the non-canon Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase, Lisa’s stint in military school (The Secret War of Lisa Simpson), showing that Mr. Burns is evil even if he tries to do “good” (The Old Man and the Lisa), and possibly In Marge We Trust are reputable episodes. While some may disagree, I think that Homer’s Enemy is one of the more brilliant episodes because it shows how hard-working people would feel if they met Homer, who is lazy, takes breaks whenever, and doesn’t respect his boss in a sense even though he is a good family man. It could also be said that Frank Grimes, a hard-working individual, also represents those who don’t like the Simpsons show, facing up with the fans, but it is also true that what Grimes says in criticism of Homer is basically correct, with a few exceptions. Saying all of this, I don’t think it is right for those at the Dead Homer Society to put Season 8 within the “Mayday, Mayday, we’re going down!” category, meaning that it is part of the Simpsons decline.

Beyond the Golden Age

With Mike Scully coming to the fore in Season 9, the beginning of the Silver Age which lasted to Season 12, the Simpsons began its decline. Some, like the Dead Homer Society which was mentioned earlier, say that by Season 12, the Simpsons became the “Zombie Simpsons,” without a pulse. Instead of going into detail about this in the main text, I think it is best to put what I wrote into a footnote. [4]

Homer finds his mother dead in Mona Leaves-a.

With the end of the Silver Age or Mike Scully era, there was the inauguration of the  Bronze Age or Al Jean era, lasting from Seasons 13 to Season 28 (present). Since the Simpsons went downhill for so many episodes, it isn’t worth mentioning all the bad episodes. Instead, I’ll just put some of them in a footnote. [5] Even if there are some that are redeemable like She of Little Faith, Moe Baby Blues, My Mother the Carjacker, and  Mona Leaves-a. There are a number of episodes I listed in in footnote 5 which are “passable” but not redeemable. Hence, these episodes should not be taken as an indication that the Bronze Age episodes were “good” or “brilliant” but that there are some better than others. Then we get to The Simpsons Movie which is redeemable because many of the writers from the Golden Age came back to work on the movie, making it much better than the seasons up to that point.

A defense of the Simpson “Golden era” and why the current show stinks

The Dead Homer Society is completely right. The show has become inanimate, barren, cold, listless, mechanical, and weird. It has become a “Zombie Simpsons.” Even the Consequence of Sound site, in listing the “top 30” episodes of the series, chooses episodes that ALL fall within the Golden Age of the Simpsons (Season 1-8), calling the other seasons “bad” by comparison. Roughly the same goes for the “10 Most Heartfelt Moments” although they choose one from Season 12. Many YouTubers I’ve watched put it perfectly: the show has become hollow and run out of ideas, what you could call stale.

Recently, I watched a list of YouTube videos listing the movie references across the Simpsons history. There is no doubt that the Treehouse of Horror, even into the Silver and Bronze eras, continues to pay homage to cinema, but beyond that, there is much more. [6] Even the Simpsons Movie has its share of movie references. The tribute to cinema is rich in the early seasons. In the Treehouse of Horror episodes from Season 1 to 6, they hit many of the classics. [7] Looking at these movie tributes, there is an average of over seven per episode, which may even be low since many more likely exist:

Some of the classics featured in these episodes include: Frankenstein (1931) and Poltergeist (1982) [Treehouse of Horror I]; Robocop (1987) and The Thing With Two Heads (1972) [Treehouse of Horror II]; A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Gremlins (1984) [Treehouse of Horror III]; The Birds (1963) and Fantasia (1940) [Treehouse of Horror IV]; Jurassic Park (1993) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) [Treehouse of Horror V]; A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Predator (1987) [Treehouse of Horror VI]. And lots of references to The Twilight Show.
These references continue throughout the Simpsons’ Golden Era [8], with an average of x cinema references in Seasons 1 to 8:

I could go on and mention the interviews with the voice actors from the Simpsons which I watched recently or a host of other videos here, but it should be clear to any reader with some sense that the Golden Era of the Simpsons was the best they have offered, much better than episodes in the Silver or Bronze eras.

A Conclusion

I could go on with this, but I think you get the point. While I still think that The Simpsons can be cited, I personally refuse to watch any episode made after Season 13 ever again, and encourage those fans of the Simpsons to do the same. There is no reason to watch something which is dead and has no pulse. Why not take heed from what Bart says in Itchy & Scratchy and Marge when asked about watching the rest of the “cute cartoons” by Marge: “Nah…Maybe there’s something else to do on this planet.” Other than that, with the Simpsons going to Season 30 and beyond, it is worth watching episodes in the Golden Age or Silver Age (cumulatively up to Season 12), but anything beyond that is not worth anyone’s time. That’s the reality. I know that some may have found this post unnecessary but I think it needs to be discussed. I look forward to your comments as always.

Notes

[1] Dead Homer Society Manifesto; Rob Hunter, “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “The Goldener Age of The Simpsons“; Rob Hunter, “Golden Age Of The Simpsons: The Greatest Show of All Time“; Pop Matters, “The Complete Tenth Season“; Empire Online “The Simpsons Movie Review,” BBC, “The Simpsons: 10 classic episodes“; “What Do White Supremacists Think Of The Simpsons?“; “Best. Episodes. Ever. ‘The Simpsons’: Seasons 1-10“; “What is your ‘golden age’ of Simpsons, season-wise?,” The Simpsons subreddit; “Why Season 8 Is A Part of the Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “TruthMedia Review: The Simpsons: Golden Age“; “The Golden Age of The Simpsons“; “Simpsons: The Golden Age“; “The 40 Best Songs in The Simpsons History“, Paste Magazine; “‘The Simpsons’ Take on Climate Change,” Yale Climate Connections.

[2] The link to never off is a forum where one user says that “to me its not so much one episode that ends the Golden Age really, its more like the flow and feel of the season that determine it. The tenth season overall just felt off compared to past years. On my list I like to separate the show into three simple Ages: The Golden Age (1-9), The Bronze Age (10-12), and The Silver Age (13-26).”

[3] The exact numbers are 5.533676767676767225 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 21 to season 28, 19.889416215144713675 for the average of millions of viewers for seasons 1 to 7. The most recent episode to surpass 20 million viewers was “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass” in 2004, THIRTEEN YEARS ago.

[4] Season 9 began badly. It began with the worthless and horrible “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” which was not only unfunny but it has no point, it is just about Homer being mad at New York despite the fact that the whole situation (his car ending up in New York) was caused originally by his drunkenness. The Principal and the Pauper was even worse, declaring that Principal Skinner is a fraud which not only guts previous storylines in the Golden Age about his time in Vietnam but it says that the audience dedication to this character is worthless. As I remember from one YouTube video, some say that it is with this episode that the Simpsons “died” in their view. I would venture to say that due to this, the episode is not canon in my view. Other episodes revolve around the destruction of Lisa’s Sax (why?), Homer getting a gun (The Cartridge Family), Homer’s favoritism to Bart on a neighborhood football team (Bart Star), Apu getting married (The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons), Lisa the Skeptic about a marketing company conning the town’s residents, and Realty Bites about Marge becoming an honest realty broker. While some of those are passable, the Miracle on Evergreen Terrace involves the Simpsons conning the town out of money, there’s yet another clip show (All Singing, All Dancing), the Simpsons get their house back from carnies (Bart Carny), well-intentioned criticism of cultish religions like Scientology (The Joy of Sect), parody of the Lord of the Flies (Das Bus), The Last Temptation of Krust about Krusty changing his comedic style, and one about Moe burning down his bar for insurance money (Dumbbell Indemnity) (not as strong as it could be). The season partially redeems itself with Lisa the Simpson which shows that only men have the defective “Simpsons Gene,” Homer making a fool of himself in Simpsons Tide with the wonderful gif of the marching Lenin and the return of the Soviet Union, Mr. Burns screwed over, ultimately, by the Cuban government (The Trouble with Trillions), one about kid’s news shows (Girly Edition), Homer becoming an over-enthusiastic commissioner of waste management (Trash of Titans), and climbing a mountain as a commercial promotion (King of the Hill). Then there’s four other episodes which I can’t recall their specifics too well, so I have a feeling they bring the season down (This Little Wiggy, Lost Our Lisa, and Natural Born Kissers). Season 10 is also a bit lackluster. There’s one about Lisa trying to become popular but strangely (Lard of the Dance), Homer’s strange, in-practical inventions (The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace), raising destructive lizards (Bart the Mother), Homer living with celebrities (When You Dish Upon a Star) (why?), Homer figuring out his middle name and trying to “live like a hippy” (D’Oh In the Wind), and Lisa cheating on a test with Skinner and Chalmers deceiving her (Lisa Gets an “A”). Even worse, there are ones where Homer is cruel to his father, causing his kidneys to burst (Homer Simpson in: “Kidney Trouble”) which is considered non-canon, Homer serving as a body guard for Mayor Quimby (Mayored to the Mob), an unnecessary trip to Las Vegas which adds nothing to the storyline (Viva Ned Flanders), Bart telling the town about secrets of its citizens (Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken), a worthless episode about the Superbowl (Sunday, Cruddy Sunday), and Homer weirdly changing his name to “Max Power” (Homer to the Max). If that isn’t enough, there are episodes about weird Valentine’s Day gifts (I’m With Cupid), Marge becoming an aggressive driver (Marge Simpson in: “Screaming Yellow Honkers”), Homer showing he doesn’t care about Lisa by building a cell phone tower in her room (Make Room for Lisa), Homer becoming a lazy truck driver (Maximum Homerdrive), the Simpsons version of Bible stories (Simpsons Bible Stories), Homer’s junk which people think is art (Mom and Pop Art). Other episodes this season focus on Bart working in the Springfield Retirement Home (The Old Man and the “C” Student), Mr. Burns trying to gain the town’s admiration (Monty Can’t Buy Me Love), the smartest people running the town in a temporary and short-lived “utopia” (They Saved Lisa’s Brain), and the Simpsons traveling to Tokyo in a strange vacation (Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo). We then come to Season 11. There’s a mediocre episode about films (Beyond Blunderdome), another about Bart becoming smart, even a “conspiracy theorist” (Brother’s Little Helper), Homer becoming a food critic (Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?), Homer and the Simpsons growing “Tomacco” a cross-between Tomatoes and Tobacco, a sort of GMO in a sense (E-I-E-I-D’Oh), Homer becoming a local celebrity (Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder), showing that lots of children are bad apparently, an episode which is pretty weak (Eight Misbehavin’), Homer’s gang fighting with another gang of the same name (Take My Wife, Sleaze), and Homer trying to “save” the town from destructive toys (Grift of the Magi). Other episodes result in Lisa becoming the head of the family (Little Big Mom), Bart becoming a faith healer (Faith Off), the Simpsons in charge of Mr. Burns’s mansion (The Mansion Family), Homer and Bart involved in horse racing (Saddlesore Galactica), Maude dying because of Homer (Alone Again, Natura-Diddily), Homer as an incompetent missionary (Missionary: Impossible), Moe changing his appearance (Pygmoelian), and the often cited (because of Trump) non-canon Bart to the Future. Other episodes, such as Days of Wine and D’oh’ses, Kill the Alligator and Run, Last Tap Dance in Springfield, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge, and non-canon Behind the Laughter are as lackluster as the others in this. The last season within the Silver Era, Season 12, isn’t any better. There are episodes about Homer becoming a rocker in a divided Springfield (A Tale of Two Springfields), Krusty the Clown meeting his daughter Sophie (Insane Clown Poppy), Lisa trying to join “Dirt First” by camping in a redwood scheduled to be cut down (Lisa the Tree Hugger), Homer becoming Mr. Burns’s personal jester (Homer vs. Dignity), the bizarre The Computer Wore Menace Shoes which I would consider non-canon, the Simpsons conning people (The Great Money Caper), and children snowed into the elementary school (Skinner’s Sense of Snow). Beyond this, Homer is supposedly “dumb” because a crayon is lodged in his brain, which again seems to cut at the story of Homer established in previous episodes and is a bit cheap (Homr), Marge vouches for a prisoner (Pokey Mom), Bart and Milhouse taking over the comic book store in the “Worst Episode Ever,” and Homer becomes a tennis star (Tennis the Menace). In another bad plot, Sideshow Bob works to hypnotize Bart to kill Krusty on air (Day of the Jackanapes), the partially satirical pro-military songs by the boy band of Bart, Ralph, Nelson, and Milhouse (New Kinds on the Blecch), Homer’s worthless hunger strike (Hungry, Hungry Homer), bullying of Lisa (Bye Bye Nerdie), an unexpected safari for the Simpsons (Simpsons Safari), and Lisa getting into a relationship (Trilogy of Error). Then there’s Ned’s plan to open an amusement park (I’m Goin’ to Praiseland), Homer trying to recover from an injury (Children of a Lesser Clod), and other Simpsons version of certain “tall tales” (Simpson Tall Tales).

[5] See “The Parent Rap“, “Homer the Moe“, “Brawl in the Family“, “Sweet and Sour Marge“, “Jaws Wired Shut“, “Half Decent Proposal“, “The Bart Wants What It Wants“, “Blame It One Lisa” (the one that Brazil hated), “Weekend at Burnsie’s“, “I Am Furious (Yellow)“, “Little Girl in the Big Ten“, “The Frying Game” (about that dumb “Screamapillar”), and “Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge” in Season 13, “How I Spent My Stummer Vacation“, “Large Marge“, “Helter Shelter“, “The Dad Who Knew Too Little“, “The Great Louse Detective” (cheapens Frank Grimes’s story), “Pray Anything“, “Barting Over“, “A Star Is Born-Again“, “Mr Spritz Goes to Washington“, “The Strong Arms of the Ma” (Marge has moved so far from her original self this isn’t even funny), “Three Gays of the Condo“,  “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?“, “Old Yeller Belly“, “Bart of War” in Season 14. “The President Wore Pearls“, “The Regina Monologues“, “The Fat and the Furriest“, “‘Tis the Fifteenth Season“, “Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays“, “I (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot“, “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife“, “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore“, “Smart and Smarter“, “Co-Dependents Day“, “The Wandering Juvie“, “My Big Fat Geek Wedding“, “Catch ‘Em if You Can“, “The Way We Weren’t” (seems to mess with the previous flashback episodes in the Golden Age of the Simpsons and is a bit hard to believe) in Season 15. “All’s Fair in Oven War“, “She Used to Be My Girl“, “Fat Man and Little Boy“, “Midnight Rx“, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass“, “Pranksta Rap“, “On  A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister“, “Goo Goo Gai Pan” (pathetic jokes about China within), “Mobile Homer“, “The Heartbroke Kid“, “A Star Is Torn“, “Home Away from Homer“, “There’s Something About Marrying” in Season 16. “The Bonfire of the Manatees“, “The Girl Who Slept Too Little“, “Milhouse of Sand and Fog“, “The Last of the Red Hat Mamas“, “The Italian Bob“, “Homer’s Paternity Coot“, “We’re on the Road to D’ohwhere“, “The Seemingly Never-Ending Story“, “Bart Has Two Mommies“, “Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife“, “Girls Just Want to Have Sums“, “Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play” in Season 17. “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife and Her Homer“, “G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)“, “Moe’N’a Lisa“, “Ice Cream of Margie (with the Light Blue Hair)“, “Kil Gil, Volumes I & II“, “The Wife Aquatic“, “Springfield Up“, “Yokel Chords“, “Rome-Old and Julie-Eh“, “Homerazzi“, “The Boys of Bummer“, “Crook and Ladder“, “24 Minutes” (self-promotion of 24 on FOX, a bit cheap) in Season 18. “He Loves to Fly and He D’ohs“, “The Homer of Seville“, “Midnight Towboy“, “I Don’t Wanna Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (almost seems like a parody of Scorpio but isn’t), “Little Orphan Millie“, “Husbands and Knives“, “Funeral for a Fiend“, “That ’90s Show” (messes again with the timeline in the Golden Age years of Marge & Homer’s relationship), “The Debarted“, “Dial “N” for Nerder“, “Smoke on the Daughter“, “Papa Don’t Leech“, “Any Given Sundance“, “All About Lisa“, “Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes” in Season 19. “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble“, “Dangerous Curves” (again messing with the timeline of Marge & Homer’s relationship in weird ways), “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words“, “The Burns and Bees“, “Lisa the Drama Queen“, “How the Test Was Won“, “Gone Maggie Gone“, “In the Name of the Grandfather“, “Wedding for Disaster“, “Father Knows Worst“, “Four Great Women and a Manicure“, “Coming to Homerica” (does not measure up with the episode in the Golden Ages, “Much Apu About Nothing” which is strongly against restrictions on immigration) in Season 20. “Homer the Whopper“, “The Great Wife Hope“, “The Devil Wears Nada“, “Rednecks and Broomsticks“, “O Brother, Where Bart Thou?“, “Thursdays with Abie“, “Million Dollar Maybe“, “Boy Meets Curl“, “Postcards from the Wedge“, “Stealing First Base“, “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed“, “American History X-cellent“, “Chief of Hearts“, “Moe Letter Blues“, “The Bob Next Door“, “Judge Me Tender” in Season 21. “Elementary School Musical“, “Loan-a Lisa“, “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life“, “The Fool Monty“, “The Fight Before Christmas“, “Donnie Fatso“, “Mom’s I’d Like to Forget“, “Flaming Moe” (very different than the much better Flaming Moe’s in Season 3), “Angry Dad: The Movie” (cheapens the show in a major way), “The Scorpion’s Tale“, “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream“, “Love is a Many Strangled Thing” (this episode is horrible in so many ways, especially how Bart tortures his father…how is this supposed to be funny?), “The Great Simpsina“, “The Real Housewives of Fat Tony“, “Homer Scissorhands“, “500 Keys“, and “The Ned-liest Catch” in Season 22. “The Falcon and the D’ohman” (this episode is a bit 24-ish and more ridiculous in its plot than funny), “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” (basically a Teddy Roosevelt promotion), “Replaceable You“, “The Food Wife“, “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants“, “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution” (features Joan Rivers which you know is a bad sign), “Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson“, “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches“, “At Long Last Leave” (seems strange since they could have kicked out the Simpsons earlier, but why now? Are the townspeople that rash?), “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart“, “How I Wet Your Mother” (parody of Inception but almost a promotion of it too), “Them, Robot“, “Beware of My Cheating Bart“, “Lisa Goes Gaga” (one of the worst episodes yet, basically is a promotion for Gaga’s total bullshit, buys into the whole fad then, shows the town’s people to be very weak. This episode should have never been made) in Season 23. “Moonshine River” (to like this, you have to like Season 19 and onward), “Adventures in Baby-Getting“,  “Gone Abie Gone“, “Penny Wiseguys“, “The Day the Earth Stood Cool“, “To Cur, with Love” (reportedly this was one of the least watched episodes of the series), “Homer Goes to Prep School“, “Changing of the Guardian“, “Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing” (only seems good if you like Moonshine River), “Hardly Kirk-ing“, “Gorgeous Grampa“, “Dark Knight Court“, “What Animated Women Want“, “Whiskey Business” (too many stories intersecting in one episode, too busy), “Fabulous Faker Boy“,  “The Saga of Carl” (an unnecessary episode with a mediocre storyline) in Season 24. “Homerland“, “Four Regrettings and a Funeral“, “Yolo“, “Labor Pains“, “The Kid is All Right“, “Yellow Subterfuge“, “White Christmas Blues“,  “Steal This Episode“, “Married to the Blob“, “Specs and the City” (supposed to parody Google Glass but it isn’t funny), “Diggs“, “The Man Who Grew Too Much“, “The Winter of His Content“, “Luca$“, “Pay Pal“, “The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” in Season 25. “The Clown in the Dumps“,”The Wreck of the Relationship” (this episode is a total joke which is not portraying it positively), “Super Franchise Me“, “Opposes A-Frack” (good criticism of fracking but not really funny at all, basically a polemic), “Blazed and Confused” (a bit strange and weird, how is this funny?), “Bart’s New Friend“, “The Musk Who Fell To Earth” (basically an unmitigated promotion of Musk like the episode about Gaga), “Walking Big & Tall“, “The Princess Guide“, “Sky Police” (while the Sky Police tune is ok, the rest of this episode is horrid), “Waiting for Duffman“, “The Kids Are All Fight” (another worthless flashback episode), “Bull-E” in Season 26. “Cue Detective“, “Puffless“, “Halloween of Horror“, “Friend With Benefit“, “Lisa with an “S”” (supposed to say show business is bad, but really is a lackluster episode like Friend With Benefit, or any of the other mentioned her), “Paths of Glory” (why would Homer and Marge think Bart is a sociopath and then trust a test saying he is one?), “The Girl Code” (thinking back to this one, it is a strange one with a bizarre plot), “Teenage Mutant Milk-caused Hurdles” (its almost like they want to force older Lisa and Bart on us), “Much Apu About Something” (this is kinda of cheap), “Love Is in the N2-02-AR-CO2-Ne-He-CH4” (its good Frink has more of a role, but this is really stretching it), “Gal of Constant Sorrow“, “The Marge-ian Chronicles“, “The Burns Cage” (this episode in trying to “reveal” that Smithers is gay (which we all know) not only doesn’t do that but it has a weak plot), “How Lisa Got Her Marge Back“,  “Fland Canyon” (this one makes me very mad because it makes it seem that Lisa has only been a vegetarian for two years or less which cheapens Lisa the Vegetarian), “To Courier With Love“, “Simprovised“, “Orange is the New Yellow” (this episode has to be one of the worst EVER. It not only is not funny but its “parody” element is weak and tasteless) in Season 27. “Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus” (this episode is not funny at all and is a weak story), “Friends and Family“, “The Town” (a very pathetic “criticism” of Boston which actually turns into a promotion), “Trust But Clarify“, “There Will Be Buds“, “Havana Wild Weekend” (thinking about it, this episode is pretty horrid and makes Cuba look even worse than in “Trouble for Trillions”), “Dad Behavior“, “The Last Traction Hero” (a strange story which makes the connection between Marge and Homer seem non-existent when it isn’t), “The Nightmare After Krustmas“, “Pork and Burns” (Spider Big returns and a they adopt a minimalistic style of living but not really), “The Great Phatsby” (one of the most horrible as it not only is unfunny but there is really no reason we should sympathize with Mr. Burns), “Fatzcarraldo” (this episode seemed passable, in reality it really isn’t, its the same as the others), “The Cad and the Hat” (this episode was cheap and pathetic about “guilt”), “Kamp Krustier” (this is no squeal to Kamp Krusty, it is horribly written, not funny, and shows how the show is not worth watching), “22 for 30” (The Simpsons tries to make an episode like a basketball show but it fails miserably), “A Father’s Watch” (A plot which makes little sense and is not funny), The Caper Chase (an episode which is supposed to poke at Trump University I guess but it isn’t even worth watching at this point), and many more. As for ‘Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky, Bart-Mangled Banner, Margical History Tour, Fraudcast News, Thanks God It’s Doomsday, See Homer Run, My Fair Laddy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore, The Monkey Suit, Please Homer, Don’t Hammer ‘Em, The Haw-Hawed Couple, Little Big Girl, Marge Gamer, Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind, E. Pluribus Wiggum, Apocalypse Cow, Lost Verizon, Mypods and Broomsticks, Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe, The Color Yellow, To Surveil with Love, A Tree Grows in Springfield, Barthood, they are passable but not redeemable.

[6] See “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 4“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 5“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 6“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 7“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 8“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 9“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 10“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 11“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 12“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 13“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 14“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 15“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 16“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 17“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 18“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 19“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 20“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 21“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 22“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 23“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 24“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 25“; “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Movie References Part 26.”

[7] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema – Treehouse of Horror” for information used in the chart.

[8] See “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 1“; The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 2“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 3“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 4“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 5“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 6“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 7“; “The Simpsons Tribute to Cinema: Part 8.”