“One thing today, another tomorrow”: the Julia Salazar Story

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the second of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice will be published on the Internet Archive in a 15-page version and a 41-page version, the longest one, both of which should be processed at a later point. I have changed the link to part 1 to apply to the reprinted version on this blog, instead of the one in Dissident Voice. A Berniecrat who  is often critical of social democrats, although he is imperialistic, quoted a recent Intercept reporter finding that the rent strike happened in 2014 but not in Harlem even though Salazar claimed it was still part of Harlem. Still, it said 2013 elsewhere, so there are still problems with her personal narrative here.

In Part 2, I build upon what I talked about in Part 1, when I analyzed the candidacy of Julia Salazar, called Salazar in this article, what a “socialist” running on the “Democrat line” meant. In this article I focus on her life, not by telling it in minute detail but briefly looking at her background and pointing out inconsistencies. As Josh Varlin of the Trotskyist WSWS (World Socialist WebSite) even remarked very recently, “Salazar’s misrepresentation of her past is, however, politically significant” because “Salazar’s political evolution is far from run-of-the-mill” since she was “extremely active in right-wing politics until just before her entry into pseudo-left politics.”

On April 18, Salazar began her campaign for the New York State Senate, specifically for District 18 in North Brooklyn, announcing it at Bushwick’s Maria Hernandez Park, and recently winning the Democratic primary by a large margin, beating Martin Dilan, who was funded to the hilt by the real estate body. With this, she is virtually guaranteed a win in November because there is no Republican or Independent running against her. She defines herself on one of her twitter handles as a member of the New York City Democratic “Socialists” of America (DSA) chapter and UAW (their National Writers Union), with some supporters calling her a “community organizer.” Since then, some have raised questions about her identity and her “personal narrative,” as she has presented it in her campaign even though she has strongly declared she was not campaigning on identity. [1] She is like other millennials who fibbed parts of her past as Eve Fairbanks wrote in a recent BuzzFeed article.

The questions about Salazar begin with her origins. It is clear that she was born in Miami in December 1990, evidenced by the fact that her parents had paid for a second mortgage three years earlier. It is also clear that she grew up in a family which was politically conservative, with a Colombian-born father, Luis, a cargo pilot, and her New Jersey-born mother of Italian descent, Christine, a flight attendant. However, she could not get her story straight about her family: sometimes she called them secular, while other times she called them Catholic or partially Jewish. Nonetheless, it seems evident that at least part of her family was Catholic as she had admitted to a DSA podcast that she was baptized Catholic, growing up in South Florida.

The first part of her origin story is that she was a “proud” Columbia immigrant, as her campaign website and her Our Revolution bio once described her. This part of her story quickly ended, as she fell back to the claim that she was a “proud daughter of an immigrant father” or “a Colombian-American from an immigrant family.” [2] But this is definitely stretching the reality, as her father was a U$ citizen before she was born, putting into question that she immigrated to the U$ with her family “when she was very little,” and that her family moved to the U$ when she was a baby.

She already had admitted to the New York Times the deception behind calling herself an immigrant, saying: “I’m not an immigrant myself. Rather, I have always felt a deep connection to my father’s immigrant experience because of the time I spent without family in Colombia at such a young age. We were back and forth, literally, constantly. My earliest memories are of Colombia.” Salazar’s mother, born in 1957, does recall varied visits to Colombia, even stating that “the Colombian culture was a huge part of our family” while her slightly older brother, Alex, who is currently a mango farmer in Florida, confirmed “a pair of trips to Colombia” during “their childhood for short visits,” but said that “we weren’t an immigrant family. It was never something even considered.” With her father being Colombian-born, this would mean that she would be effectively half-Colombian, but considering that her mother was White, this proves false her assertion in 2017, before she became a candidate, that “my own immediate family are people of color who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia, and most of my family still lives there.”

This is even the case as she has said that she looks “practically identical” to her father and less like her white mother, but is sometimes “white-passing or perceived of as white by some.” While she may be right that “immigrant stories are rarely straightforward or unidirectional” and that she has “family in both countries, and I feel a part of both,” while she may be “referring to going there more than we went anywhere else” and she “embraced the Colombian culture,” according to her mother, this doesn’t account for her inconsistencies and distortions.  As such, her claims that she “never misrepresented my history, and attempts to construct a narrative where I was dishonest about my birthplace to reporters…are malicious and false” are faulty. This is not totally unprecedented: those who are second-generation (children of an immigrant or immigrants), see themselves as attached to the culture of their parent or parents’ birthplace, even if they aren’t born there.

Connected to her claimed immigrant identity was her claim that she was working-class. She had said that her mother “really struggled to support me and my brother financially as a single mother” and that  both of her parents “came from a working class background.” It is clear that she was largely raised by her mother, supporting her contention on that count. However, her brother, Alex, has said that their family was “middle class, or upper middle class” when living in Jupiter, a “small beach town” north of West Palm Beach, which Salazar has countered by saying that Alex’s memory on this subject was faulty. In contrast, Salazar’s mother said that while she and her children lived in a nice house, she sometimes financially struggled, especially after divorcing with her husband (when Salazar was six years old in 1996), with Luis, saying:

If I could make it look easy for my kids, I did. I thought that economic hardship was not a burden that kids that were going through a divorce needed to experience.

Beyond this, it is clear that Christine raised both Salazar and Alex, getting only a portion of her husband’s money “through alimony and child support,” growing up in a large house but at times “had to push hard to make ends meet.” Without even using the story in the Daily Mail, a horrid right-wing tabloid, which also seems to raise questions about her claims of a working-class background but just depends on her brother as a source, there are some indications that she is fibbing her story.

She admits that at times her parents collectively earned $100,000 in a year, although she has said this wasn’t always the case, with her brother saying, rightly, that you would have to “have a pretty wide definition of working class,” saying that they lived “a comfortable life.” Even if we accepted that she grew up working class,  her mother did not have a college degree for only two years after divorcing her husband, graduating with a degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. Furthermore, let’s say we accept the contention of Salazar’s mother that Salazar is from the “you work your ass off class,” and that “she really wants to help others. The people of Brooklyn…if she gets elected, she will be their advocate,” it seems evident that she was more likely middle-class than working-class, especially since her mother was working-class but her father was solidly middle-class.

Additionally, she had a trust of $600,000, which some like Zionist Yair Rosenberg, have taken to indicate that Salazar was a trust-fund kid, because, when her father died in 2009 he left a “house and considerable retirement savings.” While she and her campaign have said that a relative manages the account and she has received nothing from the trust fund, it is hard to believe she has not been given at least something.

Apart from her claimed immigrant and working-class identity was her claim of Jewish ancestry. She has said that “my father was of Sephardic Jewish heritage,” that she had “some Jewish family,” and “a Sephardi surname.” But, even her mother, who is supportive of her daughter’s campaign, has said that neither her family nor her divorced husband’s family were Jewish, claimed to say that the latter family had a “Sephardic background” which Salazar had been curious about, adding that this is “where her interest stems from.” This interest reportedly began in 2009, when she was age 18, after graduating high school, when her father died of prostate cancer, with a funeral in a Catholic church in Ormond Beach, Florida, when she claims she began “exploring her Jewishness,” telling the New York Times that she was spurred to “search for meaning in my father’s death,” saying that “a lot of mysteries I wanted to solve,” focusing on her family history (on her father’s side), with claimed roots in the Sephardic (also Sephardi or Sephardim) “community expelled from medieval Spain” which converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, with most of them settling in the Ottoman Empire and others immigrating to parts of Europe and the Americas. But her claim to Jewish ancestry is questionable.

A Colombian genealogist, Maria Emilia Naranjo Ramos, looked into the family history of Salazar, determining that her ancestors included a central banker, business people, and civic leaders, while being recognized throughout the “generations by their commitment and generosity towards their community,” serving as Catholic elites, which Salazar called “pretty cool.” [3] Furthermore, they have been “Catholic in their tradition and for many generations,” with no evidence, as of yet that they are “possibly Sephardic.”

As the Spectator, which is very critical of Salazar, has said, Salazar’s family “may well have descended from conversos, Sephardic Jews who retained some connection or awareness of their origins after forced conversion.” Salazar threw this all away by stating that “this genealogy does not make me Jewish,” putting into question if she was exploring “her Jewishness” or her “Jewish roots” after her father’s death or not. As such, her claim to Jewish ancestry is still a tall tale, as the only person who could have told her about it was her father, with her mother saying that: “she’s the one who sought out her family history…I believe that was a discussion that Julia had with him about the family history in Iberia. But he would always say that he was born and raised in Colombia but his family was Iberian.”

This connects to another part of her identity: her claim to the Jewish faith. She has told her fellow activists of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) that she was “a Jew of color…a Colombian American and…Jewish.” [4]

With this, her Jewish beliefs would fall within the category of the JFREJ’s description of “mixed-race Jews whose ancestors include many kinds of non-European peoples, and both white people and People of Color who have chosen (or whose parents, grandparents or ancestors have chosen) to become Jews through conversion,” with her declaring to be within the latter group. Some have focused on her tattoos with disdain, declaring she is “not” Jewish, stating that Leviticus 19:28 (with varied translations) says you cannot make gashes in your flesh “for the dead” or any “marks” on yourself. However, as Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote in HuffPost, in Judaism “there is no blanket prohibition on tattoos” and as a Jewish Reform website plainly states, “after the Holocaust, many in the Jewish community became even more opposed to tattoos…[but] in recent years, tattoos have become more common in the Jewish community…the Jewish community might still be divided over tattoos…we don’t exclude people in our communities from that care simply because of markings on the skin.”

As such, having a tattoo does not automatically exclude you from being Jewish. Whether she read a lot, reading the bible and apologetics and Torah, she had admitted that she didn’t have a “bat mitzvah, or a confirmation, or any of that sort of thing.” It would not be until 2012 or 2013 when she claimed to undergo a conversion to Judaism, with some saying she was a conservative Christian before then even though she talked about events at Hillel. Not only is the length of her Reform beit dein conversion  in question, with some courses saying it was two months and others saying five months, but she has no record of it and the person named Daniel Crane was not “an ordained rabbi, and therefore could not yet lead conversions while Salazar was a student,” putting her conversion into question.

In the end, as one recent article in New York magazine noted, she chose to “identify and live as a Jew in 21st-century New York City amid a rising population of adults with fractional Jewish ancestry,” finding a Jewish community in college, which is true despite the fact it is an open question, despite what her classmates said in the Forward, whether she converted at all! Benjamin “Ben” Norton, Salazar’s friend, may be right that “whether or not she converted late in life is irrelevant” and that “the people challenging her blood purity and tracking her family history are bigots.” Even so, this does not include well-intentioned criticism, which this article falls into or the genealogist who looked at her family history, at minimum.

Fast forward to August 2009. She began attending Columbia University, after she had reportedly worked in the service industry for years, specifically at a grocery store, as a housecleaner, and as a barista, drinking “very hot coffee” on her short breaks.” She was also a registered Republican with conservative views, graduating Jupiter High School at the top of her class, but did not vote in the presidential election in 2008. Moving to New York City, Salazar would attend an Ivy League school, “an institution with an immense amount of wealth” as she would later describe it, where she would study history, psychology, and have a concentration in Jewish studies. Reportedly while in college she would work as “a nanny and house cleaner,” supporting herself through school, working for “30 hours a week…on the Upper West Side, using the income to pay rent and other expenses not covered by her scholarship” and financial aid, giving her “class consciousness.”

Her “political evolution” would be slow. During her campaign she would claim she was a “community organizer” in New York City for “nearly a decade” or have a “decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany.” [5]

This raises a red flag of concern since it would mean, at most, she would have to be politically active since 2007 or 2008. If it was not exactly a decade, this would still be a problem as her right-wing phase of her life lasted until 2015 at least, evidenced by the fact that in 2010 she registered with the Independence Party of New York, supposedly mistakenly thinking she was an unaffiliated voter even though it is possible this wasn’t a mistake considering that the party is center-right and “populist, and began going to Hillel the same year, even going to Jewish services with friends. The following year, when she began to reside continuously in New York, she would be arrested on “allegations of fraudulently attempting to access the bank account of Kai Hernandez, a family friend and then-wife of baseball star Keith Hernandez,” a bizarre case which would drag on for four years, ending in 2017 with a settlement in Salazar’s favor, settling for $20,000 since the person she was suing was dying of cancer. More importantly, in 2011, she would begin to dip her toe into politics by starting a “Columbia United for Israel” chapter at Columbia that year which never became an official group because she wasn’t deeply invested in it and Columbia didn’t allow it, never moving beyond a relatively inactive Facebook group.

The following year, in 2012, she would become the President of a group fighting against reproductive rights on Columbia’s campus: Columbia Right to Life (CRL), possibly beginning to be sent emails from them in 2011. Specifically the group would fight to ensure that “a fund for abortion services would not be paid for by Columbia students,” and she would lead the Support for Pregnant Students Initiative, serving as the “public voice” of the group on campus, and be angry at the Columbia Spectator for “manipulating” the words of CRL members, showing their “bias.”  She would even, later that year, write in the Spectator an op-ed where she declared that “it is unacceptable for the University to provide support for students to have abortions while simultaneously failing to provide resources to accommodate those who keep their baby…With Columbia’s influence, we have the opportunity to help pregnant women, and thus live up to the progressive values of social justice, autonomy, and women’s health that we proclaim.”

There was understandable backlash, as her fellow students told her about abortion, changing her views after “honest conversation[s],” regretting the views she took then. Even so, despite her claim that the group didn’t have a significant impact, the fact is that she was positively described by Public Discourse the following year, when she ended her involvement, and the group seemed to somewhat achieve its goals.

In 2012, she was part of a Christian Zionist organization: Christians United for Israel (CUFI). She appeared on Glenn Beck’s show, The Blaze, and was in San Antonio for a summit of CUFI. Before she spoke, she smiled in disbelief at reported “anti-Israel” lyrics by a Palestinian rap group (singing in Arabic) and shook her head, shaking her head again in a similar manner when the other guest talked about Palestinian “hate speech” being an issue for Christians. About 4 minutes into the video, the segment in which Beck interviews her begins. She goes on a pro-Zionist screed, stating that “anti-Israeli” professors were in the “Middle Eastern, Asian Languages and Culture…using the classroom as their podium to spread lies about the state of Israel, to de-legitimize the state of Israel, and to spread propaganda to Columbia students” and declaring that CUFI’s goals were to “educate the community about the truth about Israel…Palestinian Authority….Hamas…[and] Ahmadinejad.”

She would later add on a DSA podcast that the “Glenn Beck appearance was concurrent with me first learning about what CUFI was,” and saying the interview was in January 2012 when “CUFI sponsored me to go to San Antonio for their conference,” with her being told an hour beforehand and she spoke on the show. In August of the same year, she met with IDF soldiers “patrolling the Israel-Lebanon border,” in a trip organized by CUFI, which reportedly did not establish a chapter at Columbia. On this trip her views of the murderous Zionist apartheid state, often called “Israel,” were reportedly changed, when she visited the West Bank and met with Palestinians there, even reportedly keeping in touch with a Palestinian in the U$ who had “grown up in West Bank and lived through the second intifada.” It is also worth noting that sometime during her time on campus she was part of a humanitarian imperialist organization: Amnesty International, claiming it did not mesh with “very hawkish views on foreign policy, social issues or on poverty,” which has some truth to it, but ignores the long-standing connection of Amnesty with the murderous empire.

It was the year following, in January, that she reportedly engaged in a rent strike. As she tells the story, after “shivering through a winter without heat,” she organized a rent strike among fellow tenants at her apartment building (reportedly in Harlem), run by a “notoriously abusive landlord” who neglected tenants, calling for the landlord to “make repairs and turn on the heat in the winter” and they won some concessions in a housing court, as a result. As such, the management company raised rents through the roof, leading Salazar to be displaced and say she began to think about systemically changing such problem. There have been some questions of whether the strike happened again which is complicated because the address where she lived may not be publicly available.

We do know that the same year, she would make a brief visit to Florida, and from then to 2017, considerable “documentary evidence, including tax and payroll records…reflect earnings in New York and are directed to her at residential addresses in New York, and including her residential leases, bank and health insurance records, rent and mover’s bills, and travel records.” Her testimony in the Dilan v. Salazar case was corroborated by a roommate who had lived with her “in various apartments in New York since September 2013 and that Salazar was never away for more than one or two weeks.” This is complicated by the fact that she told her friend Katie Helper in Teen Vogue that she organized the strike in early 2014 even though Gothamist clearly indicates it happened in 2013. Which is an open question whether the strike happened at all!

In the spring and fall semesters of 2013, her Zionist views would be reinforced. In the spring semester, she would help found the J Street U chapter at Columbia, clearly supporting the two-state solution and organizing meetings for the group, including opposing the idea of “Apartheid Week” regarding the Zionist state. [6]

In that same semester, she would also be fine with inviting liberal Zionists to campus, seemed to favor those from Peace Now and Haaretz and asked in one message: “is anyone else a little disturbed by the similarity between Palestinians referring to this as “Nakba” and its mockery (intentional or not) of the Jewish use of the word “Shoah” (both literally meaning “catastrophe”)? I find it to be a little too close for comfort.” By the fall semester, she would be the co-president of the chapter and a WZO (World Zionist Organization) campus fellow, who was, politically, a liberal Zionist who seemed to want a coordinated response to address SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) actions.

Near the end of that semester, she would meet David Keyes, now Netanyahu’s spokesperson to foreign media, then a “human rights activist,” a second time at a coffee shop, and, by her recollection, be physically assaulted by him in his apartment. Years later, in 2016, she would have a Facebook post about the incident, deleting it after the Times of Israel picked up on the story.  Regardless of Salazar’s other inconsistencies and distortions, it is wrong to think that she is lying on this topic either by engaging in victim-blaming or other efforts as a prominent Wall Street Journal reporter, Shayndi Rice, shared a similar story, and ten more women have come forward with similar stories.

The following year, in February 2014, she would write her second-op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, which described her as “a Columbia College senior majoring in Middle Eastern history and Jewish studies. She is a co-chair of J Street CU and a member of Columbia/Barnard Hillel.” This goes against what she told a DSA podcast: that she led the chapter “until the very beginning of 2014, January of 2014, which was when I disengaged for the group essentially over the question of BDS and support for BDS,” raising the question of when she left the group. In her op-ed, she would lend her support to the corrupted two-state solution, saying that “there is a growing constituency of us who refuse to tolerate the injustice of the status quo…Advocating for pragmatic solutions to these issues is imperative because they are an essential part of any two-state agreement. Through practicality, we can turn our frustration into strategic activism. We can lead our community to promote a just solution to the conflict, before peace escapes us.” This shows that she hadn’t abandoned her Zionism by then, and as the Gotham Gazette put it, she would join “the Israel/Palestine activism scene as a member of J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace.”

Around the same time she also became involved with IfNotNow, a group that “wants American-Jewish institutions to become more aware of Israel’s occupation of territory Palestinians consider their homeland, while protesting the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict,” which she would criticize herself the following year. She also would write her first article for Mondoweiss, about being denied entry into the Zionist state and saying she “was raised with the delusion that Israel was a safe haven for me, perhaps even the only safe place for Jews” which Vox says implies she was raised as a Jewish child although she was not. By April 2014, she would be part of a debate on Columbia University about the “academic boycott of Israel.”

In May 2014, Salazar would leave Columbia University but would not graduate. This has led to some controversy because she said under oath in the Dilan v. Salazar that she graduated and her website seemed to imply this was the case, even seeming to imply graduation when she donated to the university in later years and on her academia.edu account, which shows her interests, with the same being the case for her Scribd or Quora accounts. As such, Citizens Union and the Brooklyn Young Democrats withdrew their endorsement of her as a candidate. As she tells the story, after college she went to Jacobin reading groups, with the first meeting about the Global South, and began reading Karl Marx, even though she has also said that she began reading Marx while in college. So, this is disputed.

The same goes for her identification as a socialist, telling a DSA podcast at one point that she was a socialist in 2013 and at another time that in 2014 she first identified as socialist. The following year, she would write another article for Mondoweiss, noting her presence in If Not Now, a group of U$ Jews organizing in Brooklyn and “seeking to protest Jewish communal organizations’ complicity in the violence” in Gaza by Zionist armies and opposing the “brutal” occupation of Palestine,” but also had strong criticism of the organization and of J Street, later partying with those like Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, Rania Khalek, Michael “Mike” Prysner, Nathaniel Wallace, and Jan Ritch-Frel and Michael Prysner, where they all watched the Democratic presidential debate. The latter basically rather shows her left-leaning views at the time, with the same applying to her friendship with Ben Norton, who is not as radical as one might think at the time.

By 2016, the year she would attend the Big Eddy Film Festival in Narrowsburg, New York, she would be in Nashua, New Hampshire “with her union, the United Automobile Workers,” which she is said to have organized for “during a contract dispute at Barnard College, on Election Day.” She said that it was also a get-out-the-vote campaign, adding that “collectively, we all felt certain that Hillary Clinton would win. When the results came in, it was really, really devastating…My heart hasn’t stopped racing since that moment, basically.” She later told the Gazette that “the Trump Administration has motivated more people, myself included, to shift our focus to trying to effect change as much as we possibly can at the city and state level, where we have more control, where we can effect change in a practical sense and also do harm reduction in response to federal policies across the board.”

The same year she began working with the JFREJ “on anti-police brutality initiatives,” after seeing them at Black Lives Matter protests. [7] She would also write her third article for Mondoweiss, talking about a Black Lives Matter platform which called the Zionist state an apartheid entity oppressing Palestinians and the response by Jewish organizations to it, and would become “rank-and-file DSA member” in the summer.

The year after that, 2017, she would serve as the senior editor of a blog called Unruly: A Jews of Color, Sephardi & Mizrahi Caucus Blog and would be a full-time staff organizer in the JFREJ, while being a member of the National Writers Union (UAW Local 1981) and an active DSA member. In January of the same year, she attended the Women’s March in NYC, leading a “contingent of progressive Jewish marchers,” seeing the march as “as an opportunity to build our community’s unified resistance against Trump’s oppressive policy proposals” and saying that despite clumsy messaging, it was “a good-faith effort to do something here that will mark an historic defiance against the hate and discrimination that Trump represents.” She would not cancel, as revealed in the Dilan v. Salazar case, her Florida voting registration until July 2017, and then become a registered voter in New York.

Then, in 2018, this year, she would write an article in Jacobin about the NYPD’s police brutality, then started supporting and volunteering for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign. She would be convinced by some of her friends in the NYC-DSA, like Michael “Mike” Kinnucan (her deputy campaign manager), Nick Rizzo, and Bianca Cunningham, and maybe that assistant editor of Jacobin, Alex Press, who moved into the area in 2017. She would finalize her decision by March and begin running in April, with a kickoff the following month. Of these individuals, Rizzo was a major factor, described in April 2016 by Bedford & Bowery as a politician who “shares some concerns with the Brooklyn hipster constituency…and like many liberal-minded people of our generation, he also cares a great deal about issues of equality…and is frustrated with…the establishment.” He would call himself a “Bernie supporter” who barely saw “any possibility of Trump winning,” adding, worryingly, that: “…it’s actually better for all of us to have a functioning two-party system…Competition is essential for a democracy” and that he would vote for Hillary Clinton if she was the Democratic nominee and saying he was in favor of tipping. Since then, his views on Twitter, such as thinking that “Millennials” and Generation Z will bring “the change”, being dedicated Democrat and nationalist who seems to like assessments by Trotsky, shows that what he said in 2016 still matters.

Whether we believe Salazar or not, support or oppose her, her personal narrative, which was muddled by her inconsistencies and distortions, matters as she is a figure in the public eye, not only putting doubt on her ability to carry through for Brooklynites (as a “new hope”) in Albany but in the DSA itself. It is hard to see if she will be “an advocate for the underdog,” as her mother describes her. In the end, while thinking people should be critical of progressive icons like Salazar, any tendency to ally with reactionaries or promote their narratives to engage in such criticism undercuts any efforts to create a better world.


Notes

[1] If you would like the links to the tweets I am referring to, please email me.

[2] She explained this change to Stephen Miller of Fox News by saying that she does not “personally manage” her campaign website, blaming a staffer and lack of coordination on her “first-time team,” admitting to being “unknowingly unclear on this,” adding that her busy campaign was also to blame. How can you expect a well-organized and coordinated campaign if you are blaming your staff?

[3] This is where New York magazine gets into weird territory: they declare that because Salazar’s ancestors were elites in Colombia who had a role in public life, that this “legacy of financial well-being and achievement carried over from Colombia to Salazar’s early family life in Florida, where she was born” because…Salazar’s brother said so! This is pretty weak, since it is no guarantee that just because your ancestors are wealthy you will also be wealthy.

[4] The quote “lower my expectations” which is used in this article comes from this video. I did my best to transcribe the video:

I hope I am not alienating anyone but I am also not into vartora [?]. I’m not equipped to do that either. But, I am a Jew of color. Many people aren’t familiar with this term but I’m a Colombian-American and I’m also Jewish. And Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the movement that many of us are in has empowered me to say that proudly. Growing up I was told to lower my expectations by society. I immigrated to this country with my family when I was very little. In Colombia, my mom raised me as a single mother, she didn’t have a college degree. We really struggled. I started working in a grocery store when I was 14, I worked in the service industry from high school, and as a domestic worker in college. And it was that experience that while early on, you know [cuts off].”

[5] The full quote from her page is: “as a member of the Bushwick community, she has been a tireless advocate for her neighbors and fellow tenants. Julia’s decade of experience as a local community organizer has brought her from the streets of Bushwick to the halls of Albany. She has protested, picketed, lobbied, and organized to achieve a more just New York. From working with her neighbors to fight for their legal right to safe housing to demanding criminal justice reforms at the city and state levels, Julia has been at the forefront of campaigns for social justice in New York.”

[6] WZO, which was founded in 1897, wants to “serve as the umbrella organization for the Zionist movement” and be a “symbol and a founding institution of Zionist political thought and action.” It also pumps millions into new illegal settlements in the West Bank. In an article she co-wrote with Max Blumenthal, she would describe J Street, talking about “liberal pro-Israel students” in the organization, adding that “J Street U [is] the campus arm of the liberal pro-Israel organization, J Street.” J Street has directly attacked BDS and it also “rejects the return of Palestinians to lands and homes.”

[7] For the discussion of whether JFREJ is a Zionist organization, please email me. She may have also worked with CodePink as there is a page for a “Julia Carmel.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Kim-Moon summit in Pyongyang: was there “modest progress” or “great strides”?

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness.

Bourgeois media have been full of venom about the recent meeting between the leaders of both Koreas, Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-In, in Pyongyang.[1] At the same time, the orange menace declared on his free-wheeling twitter that the results of the meeting, which include Kim agreeing to allow nuclear inspections, permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad “in the presence of international experts” coupled with no new “Rocket or Nuclear testing,” remains of U$ imperialist foot soldiers returning back to the U$, and both Koreas filing “a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics,” he found “very exciting.” In contrast, neocon Lindsey Graham declared that while the DPRK has “stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearisation” and Marco Rubio, a pawn of reactionary Cuban expats, claimed that Kim is working on a “propaganda coup” while criticizing inter-Korean cooperation showed their imperialist tendencies. Rubio, Graham, and many others (who lead the capitalist “two-party” beast) don’t even want  a possibility of detente between the U$ and the DPRK, which the orange menace still seems to believe is possible, calling Kim “calm,” leaving open the possibility of another meeting with Kim. This brings us to the real question at hand: what did the agreement between Kim and Moon say and what does it mean for peace on the Korean Peninsula?

In order to promote further understanding and knowledge of inter-Korean negotiations, I have uploaded an unofficial translation of their agreement, by Korea Times, to my personal WordPress. [2] With that, I reprint the agreement in its entirety within this article, analyzing specific sections with informed analysis. The first two paragraphs introduce the document, talks about what has been accomplished since the Panmunjeom Declaration in April 27th of this year:

Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea and Kim Jong-un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held the Inter-Korean Summit Meeting in Pyongyang on September 18-20, 2018.

The two leaders assessed the excellent progress made since the adoption of the historic Panmunjeom Declaration, such as the close dialogue and communication between the authorities of the two sides, civilian exchanges and cooperation in many areas, and epochal measures to defuse military tension.

Such a statement is undoubtedly positive, as it shows that Moon and Kim are on the same page, working to unite the Korean nation together. It connects to the fact that both Moon and Kim spoke before 150,000 Koreans at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, at a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding, saying their meetings will usher in a new era of peace. If what BBC says it to believed, the DPRK even revised the event to accommodate their visitors from the ROK (Republic of Korea). Moon’s speech before the crowd is a big deal because he is the first ROK leader to speak before an audience in the North. In his speech, “interrupted by thundering applause” as the New York Times described it, he praised the Korean people’s courage for overcoming the famine in the 1990s, Kim’s effort to rebuild the economy, and told the crowd that “we Koreans are exceptional, we are tenacious, we are peace-loving, And we must live together.”

The two leaders reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and cooperation, and firm peace and co-prosperity, and to make efforts to realize through policy measures the aspiration and hope of all Koreans that the current developments in inter-Korean relations will lead to reunification.

The two leaders held frank and in-depth discussions on various issues and practical steps to advance inter-Korean relations to a new and higher dimension by thoroughly implementing the Panmunjeom Declaration, shared the view that the Pyongyang Summit will be an important historic milestone, and declared as follows.

These words show that both leaders agree with the need to unify the Korean nation and increase relations between north and south. Perhaps not only can that the Panmunjeom Declaration be historic, but this statement can be a historic milestone too! Perhaps one could say it is a “landmark” in inter-Korean ties.

1. The two sides agreed to expand the cessation of military hostility in regions of confrontation such as the DMZ into the substantial removal of the danger of war across the entire Korean Peninsula and a fundamental resolution of the hostile relations.

This is also a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, refuting the objectives of U$ imperialists to continue to treat the DMZ as a war zone and engender tension across the peninsula itself. Following this are two objectives for how to accomplish this goal:

① The two sides agreed to adopt the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the Pyongyang Declaration, and to thoroughly abide by and faithfully implement it, and to actively take practical measures to transform the Korean Peninsula into a land of permanent peace.

② The two sides agreed to engage in constant communication and close consultations to review the implementation of the Agreement and prevent accidental military clashes by promptly activating the Inter-Korean Joint Military Committee.

The text of the “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain” has not been broadly released, with media reports calling it a 55-page military agreement aiming to ease border tensions. As the LA Times described it, the agreement would create “a border buffer zone,” remove “landmines from the demilitarized zone,” create a “no-fly zone along the DMZ” and shut down the “11 guard posts” along the DMZ itself. The actual agreement, as posted by the soft anti-DPRK organization, which calls itself humanitarian, the “National Committee on North Korea” (NCNK) shows the agreement as only 17 pages long, but still important nonetheless.

2. The two sides agreed to pursue substantial measures to further advance exchanges and cooperation based on the spirit of mutual benefit and shared prosperity, and to develop the nation’s economy in a balanced manner.

① The two sides agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony within this year for the east-coast and west-coast rail and road connections.

② The two sides agreed, as conditions ripe, to first normalize the Gaeseong industrial complex and the Mt. Geumgang Tourism Project, and to discuss the issue of forming a west coast joint special economic zone and an east coast joint special tourism zone.

③ The two sides agreed to actively promote south-north environment cooperation so as to protect and restore the natural ecology, and as a first step to endeavor to achieve substantial results in the currently on-going forestry cooperation.

④ The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of prevention of epidemics, public health and medical care, including emergency measures to prevent the entry and spread of contagious diseases.

For the DPRK, especially, this is important, as these principles, if implemented, could tie the Korean people even closer together and tie the the North and South together not only economically but medically and environmentally on a mutual basis. The only problem that could develop with is the entrance of ROK capitalists into the North, leading to further exploitation of the proletariat. As the Associated Press put it in their article, Moon brought some of “South Korea’s most powerful business tycoons to Pyongyang” which some observers claimed was boosting Kim as he works to show “his citizens that he’s pivoting to economic improvement and… raising his impoverished nation up to South Korea’s level.” An article in Korea Herald specifically says who these capitalists are: “the chiefs of the country’s three-biggest family-run conglomerates — Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo and 14 others.” The same article says that the prospects of “possible projects in the North appear to have grown slightly more positive in the [ROK] business community.” While a special economic zone or tourist project would theoretically limit these capitalists, their power and influence would not only affect the country as a whole, but they would likely not just be restricted to those specific areas. At the same time, other capitalists are cautious, as the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid aligning with the revisionist CPC, blared, quoting Kim Dong-man of the ROK-based Bogo International as saying “North Korea expects economic support from South Korea and the US in return for its denuclearization activities. However, we need to see more action, not promises or goodwill, to spend our money on a land that still faces international sanctions,” a real estate agent in Dandong (a city which borders the DPRK) named Zhang Xu who claims to speak for the “people” there: “people in Dandong have heard too much ‘good news’ and ‘good signals’ too many times, but business with North Korea remains stalled as the international sanctions are still in place. Though the declaration is a good signal, it is still far from real action, and the investment and trade environment in North Korea will not change until the US lifts its sanctions.” Finally, they quote a customs official in Hunchun: “what we care about most is when will the sanctions be removed, especially those relevant to aquatic products and restricting labor from North Korea” and Li Shenglin, head of the Linfeng Trade Company, based in Dandong, as saying “US President Donald Trump needs peace on the Korean Peninsula as a political asset for his mid-term election and he needs support from Kim,” adding that China needs the DPRK to have a more “favorable environment” for “investors,” another name for capitalists. Despite the article saying that “ordinary” people or residents will be quoted, they are only mentioned briefly, only quoting capitalists instead!

3. The two sides agreed to strengthen humanitarian cooperation to fundamentally resolve the issue of separated families.

① The two sides agreed to open a permanent facility for family reunion meetings in the Mt. Geumgang area at an early date, and to promptly restore the facility toward this end.

② The two sides agreed to resolve the issue of video meetings and exchange of video messages among the separated families as a matter of priority through the inter-Korean Red Cross talks.

This is another positive step, making it clear that the union of the two Koreas is even more permanent than it is currently. Some media were allowed in the DPRK apparently on restricted terms, like the the team from National Pentagon Radio (NPR), including Mary Louise Kelly, the college-educated host of All Things Considered who has been in the bourgeois media since the 1990s, and Becky Sullivan, the producer of the same show. Kelly, who wrote the NPR article, complains about renting an armband to show herself as a foreign journalist and seems to be unaware of her Orientalist views.[3] Even Michael Palin, formerly of the UK- based Monty Python comedy group, went to the DPRK with The Guardian lamenting that he only saw the country as “strange” but not “sinister,”  as they treat it as some repressive, horrible place. They note that while Palin grumbled about “the lack of internet [and] absence of phone signal,” the obvious results of UN (and U$) sanctions, “marvelled at the extravagant underground train stations and the extraordinarily robotic, choreographed movements of the traffic police…got a head massage at a state-run health complex…and was shown the centre where table tennis players practise.” In the meantime, the DOJ in the U$ has accused someone supposedly from the DPRK, named “Park Jin-hyok,” of hacking Sony Pictures in 2014, with BBC only supporting his existence because the FBI said so, which is a low source of “evidence,” making it a joke. [4] As William Blum said in his recent anti-empire report, “a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.” The same applies to this supposed person.

4. The two sides agreed to actively promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields so as to enhance the atmosphere of reconciliation and unity and to demonstrate the spirit of the Korean nation both internally and externally.

① The two sides agreed to further promote cultural and artistic exchanges, and to first conduct a performance of the Pyongyang Art Troupe in Seoul in October this year.

② The two sides agreed to actively participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games and other international games, and to cooperate in bidding for the joint hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympic Games.

③ The two sides agreed to hold meaningful events to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the October 4 Declaration, to jointly commemorate the 100th anniversary of the March First Independence Movement Day, and to hold working-level consultations toward this end.

Such cultural and artistic exchanges are another attempt to tie the two Koreas together. This is manifested perhaps even by Kim himself trying to do the “baby hearts” gesture which is popular on Instagram with those in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. [5] The DPRK is not isolated, as we should remember. Recent KCNA articles noted that Kim, received supportive letters from the leaders of Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, on the country’s 70th anniversary, to give a few examples.

5. The two sides shared the view that the Korean Peninsula must be turned into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, and that substantial progress toward this end must be made in a prompt manner.

① First, the North will permanently dismantle the Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch platform under the observation of experts from relevant countries.

② The North expressed its willingness to continue to take additional measures, such as the permanent dismantlement of the nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon, as the United States takes corresponding measures in accordance with the spirit of the June 12 US-DPRK Joint Statement.

③ The two sides agreed to cooperate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Turning the Korean Peninsula into an “island of peace” which is free from nuclear weapons is a laudable goal. The dismantling of a missile site is one thing, but the fact that thee DPRK is willing to permanently destroy its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon is a powerful concession. It is in the court of the U$ to see if they will take “corresponding measures” or maintain their current adamant position of imperialist arrogance. With the U$ (from the mouth of Pompeo) saying that it wants to complete denuclearization by January 2021, this leaves open the possibility of detente at a time, possibly with a second meeting with the orange menace. However, this is complicated by the fact that the orange menace may tell the UN Security Council next week that countries should crackdown on Iran (where there are ruminations of new negotiated nuclear and missile treaty, even in The Daily Beast), among other countries which reportedly violate UN “decrees against nuclear proliferation” as USA Today recently stated. And no, Pompeo, the U$ is not “most generous nation in the world” as you so recently declared, but is rather a bringer of global death, destruction, and unmitigated chaos as bloody imperialists!

This also connects to another article in the Global Times, focusing on Pyongyang specifically, noting that the DPRK “draws Chinese people’s curiosity by reminding them of the old days” but that is apparently changing, as part of an eight-day trip there. Specifically, they describe a Ragwon Department Store selling Panasonic 60-inch LCD TVs and “Merries baby diapers,” which they say was not crowded, adding that the country’s  exchange rate is not the same for those living in the DPRK and foreigners. They also say that “food consumption prices in Pyongyang are almost the same as that in Beijing, even a little higher,” noting that electric appliances have similar price, and that since 2004 it has been decreed that “foreign cash” cannot be circulated in the DPRK but must be exchanged for won “at appointed locations.” The article goes onto say that “on the streets of Pyongyang, you can see 1960s trucks along with the latest Land Rover. Citizens talk on mobile phones under the slogans and posters…even though the country might be known for conservative people, poverty and low levels of education, there are expensive restaurants and the city is extremely clean.” Clearly, they have some perceptions of the country before even going in. After a 54-year-old worker at the Kim Jong-suk Silk Mill told Global Times that those in the DPRK “are not like those capitalist countries, in which people cannot live without money,” the article goes onto describe a “vegetable farm in the Sadong district of Pyongyang…feeding the capital city with vegetables,” with 70% of their production purchased by the government and 30% distributed to farmers. The head of the farm was quoted as saying that “in 2017 the average income was 800,000 to 900,000 won. We don’t have many places to spend money, because the medical care is free, school is free and even the housing is free. So we only use the money to buy some necessities.” The article goes onto talk about the “country’s strong urge to modernize” and notes that DPRK officials never mention “reform and opening-up,” but says that “North Korea has become more relaxed and friendly than before…Anti-US books and posters are disappearing,” and  that “a wealth imbalance still exists in the country.” Whether the latter is true or not, it is clear that the DPRK is likely to move in the direction of China with its “opening up” but it is doing it slowly at its own pace.

6. Chairman Kim Jong-un agreed to visit Seoul at an early date at the invitation of President Moon Jae-in.

Like other parts of the agreement, this promise to visit Seoul shortly, which no leader of the DPRK has ever engaged in, is something Fred Kaplan of Slate called “not unlike Nixon’s sit-down with Mao.” With this, it is no surprise that Kim is becoming more and more popular in the South as a result of rapprochement, showing that Koreans are more ready for peace than ever before. Additionally, it is not a stretch of the imagination that Kim would say that “it’s not too much to say that it’s Moon’s efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected.” While detente between the U$ and DPRK would be the start of ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula, loosening the claws of U$ imperialism around the DPRK, it brings with it dangers.

Recently, Pompeo, in an interview with Laura Ingraham, said that he was “we’re making the progress that we need” on the DPRK nuclear negotiations but also said something far more revealing: he said that Russia has been “aggressive” toward the U$ and that it needs to be pushed back and restrained, but in the long term: “if you’re looking at the things that threaten American livelihoods, that put America truly at risk of its continued economic growth, China…presents the far greater threat to the United States.” This is the grand strategy of the current U$ imperial administration, which some have talked about before in alternative media: focus efforts against China, perhaps trying to pull China and Russia apart, turning them against each other. So far, this has not been successful, but since Russia is not some valiant anti-imperialist state, but rather a nationalist one with a capitalist economy and a vibrant bourgeoisie (which some call “oligarchs” without applying the same label to the U$), it is possible to see it pulling back from commitments in Syria, and possibly other states as well as evident from its weak response to the recent Zionist aggression in Syria. Let us not forget that China and Russia have voted for 20 U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions focused on the DPRK since they began in July 2006. They have made no effort to even vote against these measures, despite the fact they have permanent veto powers. This shows that neither the Chinese or Russian states are friends of the Korean people since the UN sanctions (coupled with the unilateral ones of the U$) have caused untold hardship for the people of the DPRK and held back the country’s development, which could have allowed it to have more expanded cell phone and internet service by this point. The same is the case with Cuba, where the financial blockade as imports of technology are restricted, also stunting its development.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.

In the end, while we should remain critical, especially of the prominent entrance of capitalists from the ROK, and possibly those from other elements of the imperial core, along with increased numbers from China, this is a process which is up to Koreans themselves, who have a right to determine their own destiny.


Notes

[1] Take long-time Slate columnist Fred Kaplan who grumbled that there weren’t enough concessions from Kim, with the declaration between Kim and Moon demands “a certain amount of denuclearization on the part of the United States.” After asking a former Bush National Security Adviser for his thoughts, he paints the orange menace as dumb and uninformed, declaring that the declaration between the Moon and Kim sets the terms for the “surrender” of the U$, showing his imperialist mindset. Alex Ward of Vox, a liberal cesspool, declare that the agreement was “extremely vague,” will be “bad” for the U$, call Kim a “dictator” (normal-speak in such media), review the agreement made between Moon and Kim, and declaring that the summit could “potentially weaken US-South Korea ties in the future,” acting like this somehow bad even though it isn’t. The same is the case in a video by The Guardian, which prominently features right-wing, anti-DPRK forces in the Republic of Korea, calls Kim a “dictator,” while declaring that the country is poverty-striken and people “repressed.” The Associated Press fell in line, claiming that the Kim-Moon “joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for,” and a “propaganda set piece” in a second story which quotes many anti-DPRK experts, verging on calling the DPRK racist! At the same time, the LA Times, said in what an uninformed reader would think is “fact”: that the DPRK “has been brought to the negotiating table by crippling U.N. sanctions” which clearly denies that these sanctions are murderous against the Korean people and the New York Times seemed concerned that Kim’s “commitments fell far short of what American officials have demanded,” seeming concerned it “unclear what else he [Kim] may demand” of the U$, seeming to miss that the imperialists are demanding the surrender of the DPRK to the U$ imperialists without offering much in return. However, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones even said that “modest progress” was made, while CBC said that the meeting between Kim and Moon has “accompanied by real progress at the negotiating table” and Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which often blasts terroristic messages to the world, was also optimistic. It is funny that the New York Times would say this because Fred Kaplan of Slate seemed to have a clear idea of Kim’s goals: “a relaxation of tensions, investment in his impoverished country (including the suspension of sanctions), a withdrawal of U.S. military forces from the peninsula (which is what he ultimately means by an end to America’s “hostile policy”), and the splintering of the U.S.-South Korean alliance—all, preferably, at no cost to his regime.” While this is phrased in a way that is Orientalist and imperialist, this is a better recognition of the goals of Kim than the New York Times! This paragraph derives from the following sources: Fred Kaplan, “Close, but No Denuclearization,” Slate, Sept 19, 2018; Alex Ward, “North and South Korea just signed a major agreement. It may be bad news for Trump,” Vox, Sept 19, 2018; GuardianNews, “Why are Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in’s hugs controversial?,” YouTube, Sept 19, 2018; Associated Press, “Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if U.S. takes steps too,” Politico, Sept 19, 2018; Jonathan Gatehouse, “Progress at Korea peace talks overshadowed by gloom facing both leaders back home,”CBC, Sept 19, 2018; Robyn Dixon, “U.S. praises North Korea’s offer to shutter missile site and extends invitation for more high-level diplomatic talks,” LA Times, Sept 19, 2018; Foster Klug, “Summit may be the grand theater Kim needs to show his people,” Associated Press, Sept 19, 2018; Kevin Drum, “North and South Korea Make Modest Progress in Latest Talks,” Mother Jones, Sept 19, 2018; Chae Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, “North Korea’s New Nuclear Promises Fall Short of U.S. Demands,” New York Times, Sept 19, 2018; “North Korea’s Kim agrees to ‘dismantle’ key missile test sites,” Al Jazeera, Sept 19, 2018.

[2] There is even a website for the summit hosted by the ROK, schedule of Moon‘s day 1 and day 2 in Pyongyang, motorcade through Pyongyang, Moon departing for Pyongyang, results of inter-Korean talks, instructions for envoys going to Pyongyang, and other briefings, along with other information, here, here, and here. The agreement does not seem to be posted on any English sites of official DPRK media, like KCNA or Rodong Sinmun. Perhaps it is posted in Korean.

[3] Mary Louise Kelly,  “What It Looks Like Inside A Classroom In North Korea,” NPR, Sept 20, 2018; Mary Louise Kelly, “101 Ways To Thwart A Reporter In Pyongyang,” NPR, Sept 21, 2018; Lucy Managan, “Michael Palin in North Korea review – a soothing look at a despotic regime,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018. Links for the NPR articles are retained here only because it is an example of their orientalist mindsets, and because the second NPR article has photographs.

[4] Alistair Coleman, “North Korea claims NHS and Sony hack suspect ‘doesn’t exist’,” BBC News, Sept. 14, 2018.

[5] Elle Hunt, “Kim Jong-un all fingers and thumbs in bid for Instagram diplomacy,” The Guardian, Sept 21, 2018.

Mnangagwa’s “victory” benefits Zimbabwe bourgeoisie, spells doom for proletariat

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some things have changed since this was published and I am currently keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe deemed Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF the official winner of the county’s July 30th elections, by a small margin, garnering 50.8% to 44.3% gained by Nelson Chamisa of the MDC, a party long backed by Western capitalists since its formation in 1999. As one would expect, Chamisa declared that the election itself was illegitimate. Chamisa, after this decision was made, was told to accept defeat. Some, like Jonathan Moyo, who could be said to be a stalwart Robert Mugabe supporter, have followed suit, declaring on his freewheeling Twitter account the election to be stolen, and supporting the position of Chamisa, going so far as to say that there is an “imperial executive presidency” in place. Apart from Moyo’s antics, this “victory” for Mnangagwa is not good for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As I noted in my last article on the subject [also reposted on this blog], the Zanu-PF and MDC had political platforms that were relatively similar, with the victory of either party benefiting “the hungry Western bourgeoisie while hurting the Zimbabwean proletariat,” adding that not only did Chamisa prematurely declare victory but the Zimbabwean police engaged in an effort of control against MDC protesters. Furthermore, the mismanagement of the economy by the bourgeoisie of Zimbabwe combined with the overwhelming effect of Western sanctions, with the U$ sanctions still remaining in place currently, will lead to political change that benefits Western capitalists, with undoubted neoliberal destruction. The county is caught in the “conflict between Chinese and U$ capitalists” as I wrote before, arguing that Mnangagwa “would try to balance the capitalists from each country” with the Chinese wanting “more integration of the global capitalist system.”

A few days ago, Gregory Elich, an anti-imperialist writer, wrote an article titled “Zimbabwe on the Path to Neoliberal Ruin” which talks about the recent developments in Zimbabwe. In the article he noted that with the defeat of the MDC’s court challenge, the results of last years coup have been cemented, noting that apart from the question of electoral fraud, “the very basis for the election was illegitimate, as Mnangagwa would never have been a candidate in the first place had it not been for the military coup.” Even one director of HRW in Southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, admitted that the chief justice of Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court, Luke Malaba, “ruled that Robert Mugabe voluntarily resigned & @edmnangagwa lawfully took over. He did not seek primary evidence to ask Mugabe to say whether he voluntarily step down or was forced out.” As such, Mugabe, who recently congratulated Mnangagwa but declared he would not support him in the election rather throwing his support to the MDC, recognized this when he called it an unquestioned coup. As for Elich, he also noted that after the outbreak of violence aimed at the MDC, the U$ State Department basically called “upon the MDC to accept defeat with graciousness” which they never would have done if Mugabe was President, adding the similarity between the party platforms of the MDC and Zanu-PF, further saying that “there were certain advantages to be gained from a victory by the ruling ZANU-PF” since Mnangagwa is “better situated to garner sufficient legislative backing to enact neoliberal measures, whereas ZANU-PF parliamentarians might prove more resistant to Chamisa’s efforts to pass the same type of proposals.” He concluded by talking about U$ and European worries about there not being “peaceful stability” in the county before investing, but that “if tensions settle, the future looks bright for Western corporations wishing to invest in Zimbabwe…Mnangagwa sees the way out as surrendering much of his nation’s sovereignty and redirecting the economy to serve the interests of Western capital.” The latter would happen, he writes, by engaging in privatization, opening the economy more to the West which began with limiting the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act. This law is an “official affirmative action programme,” begun in 2008, that is conducted by the Zimbabwean government “in order to right historical inequalities between the races in Zimbabwe,” and it stipulates “that foreign investors could own no more than 49 percent of businesses in various sectors.” The current Zimbabwean government limited it to only diamond and platinum mining! They also have restructured the economy with the help of Western capitalists, perhaps chipping away at the vaunted land reform program as well. Elrich ends by noting that the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is worried by recent developments, the current junta ruling the country will “resort to violence to ensure that they continue to rule” and that there is currently “no significant political force on the scene that is philosophically inclined to steer the nation away from the shoals of neoliberal demolition.” This seems evident despite claims of legitimate resistance. It is worth noting that the ZCTU seems to have allied itself with the opposition, with the late Morgan Tsvangirai a former secretary and the fact that they were a major force against the ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme) adopted by the Zanu-PF government and implemented from 1991 to 1995, leading to the formation of the MDC in 1999. Their moderate efforts are only aimed at certain individuals in the government, which is coupled with social-democratic, if you can call it that, objectives of a “powerful, effective, democratic independent and united trade union movement in Zimbabwe,” gaining “trade union rights and privileges,” protecting and defending workers, advancing “educational, political and economic knowledge,” opposing “splinter trade unions,” act as a channel of communication for laborers, cooperating “wherever possible with Government, cooperatives, progressive organizations and any employers’ organization” and claiming they represent the Zimbabwean proletariat. Is it any surprise then that the U$ government, under the auspices of NED’s “Solidarity Center,” pumped over $2 million into the Zimbabwean labor movement from 2014 to 2017, more than half of which went to support the ZCTU?

Elich is on the right track but does not fully get the picture. There have been efforts seemingly to break up state companies, court White farmers who were evicted and replaced with Black farmers as part of the land redistribution program begun in the 1990s, going after Mugabe’s properties, and threats by the Zanu-PF to raise presidential term limits to reduce any future Nelson Chamisas. [1] Western capitalists are glad to see this new opportunity. Already, before the election, Mnangagwa met with the U$ ambassador and later with a top German economic adviser after the election. Apart from calls to remove bond notes to “kickstart” the economy, Zimbabwe may begin to resemble Kenya, where the President there, Uhuru Kenyatta, “called for the establishment of a new framework of cooperation with Britain as it exits from the European Union early next year,” saying that Kenya and UK imperialists need an even stronger relationship! With this incoming neocolonialism, which some strangely qualify as “commercial colonialism,” the British are right out in front. Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the UK, recently hailed Mnangagwa and his “commission of inquiry into the violence that rocked Harare on August 1,” declaring that what is happening now is “an opportunity for Zimbabwe…I look forward to Zimbabwe being able to grasp this opportunity for the future,” adding that the commission “is a very important signal from him about the Zimbabwe he wants to see for the future, and the Zimbabwe that is taking opportunities for the future of its people.” This is a major indicator that the British capitalists are ready to expand their roots into Zimbabwe once more. Around the same time, the Germans pledged to “open lines of credit for Zimbabwe and deepen bilateral relations,” discussing issues of farmers compensation with them as well. With these German and UK capitalists salivating and wanting to return to the “untapped” market of Zimbabwe, let us not forget about the land program that is being chipped away more and more. The bigoted tabloid, The Daily Mail, of all places, admitted back in 2011 that prior to the introduction of the Zimbabwean policy where white-owned farms were seized and handed over to black workers, “whites controlled about 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s arable land despite making up less than 1 per cent of the country’s population.” That is a situation these capitalists want to return to, to dominate the political scene once again.

With the governments of Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) all praising Mnangagwa, a number of whom were outspoken against Mugabe, it is clear that the neoliberalism that the current Zimbabwe government embodies is not unique to itself. Lest we forget that Mnangagwa is a person who “humbly request[s]” bankers to help make the country’s economy grow,  is about as weak as it can get. Even with this pandering to the West, there may still be some Western hostility, possibly embodied by the U$ since it has not made such offers to Zimbabwe that mirror those of the UK and Germany, yet. One Reuters article acnowledged this, noting remarks by Mnangagwa spokesperson George Charamba, and adding that “as Zimbabwe became increasing isolated under Mugabe, it turned to China to help prop up its economy,” and noting that “Zimbabwe had good relations with southern African governments and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) states.” [2] Additionally, the Washington Post editorial board blared on August 31, in a hideous rant titled “How Zimbabwe missed its chance for change” that: “Mr. Mnangagwa has lost an important opportunity to pull Zimbabwe back from economic and political destitution, where it was left at the conclusion of Robert Mugabe’s long misrule. The country deserves better, much better. Mr. Mnangagwa raised hopes when he took power last November after Mr. Mugabe…was removed from power…The election to succeed Mr. Mugabe was also different…These are the real stakes: whether Zimbabwe can cast off the burdensome legacy of Mr. Mugabe’s 37 years at the helm. Systemic change is extremely difficult. But without it, the country will remain mired in economic and political misery.” This is utter absurdity, showing not only the utter racism of the Washington Post but their imperialist outlook which paints Mnangagwa, despite his dedication to neoliberalism, as “not good enough”! All of this is connected to a recent story about reported deployment of a “new generation of surface-to-air missiles (SAM)” by the Chinese in the country. Whether true or not, the fact is that the Chinese are fully willing to have economic relations with Zimbabwe despite the fact that the country is ruled by a government led by those installed in a military coup, reinforced by the recent election, whether it was legal or not.

With this, I am reminded of a recent article by Amber B. about rising imperialists and the ongoing power of U$ imperialism. She wrote that there is “a high-tide of inter-imperialist tension and rivalry over control in strategic political and economic areas throughout the Third World,” and noted, specifically about China, that like Russia to which the U$ sees as a “threat to its survival,” it is a “power capable of dislodging amerikan imperialist hegemony from strategic markets.” In the case of Zimbabwe this may be the case, with China, which promotes Western companies building products in their country, Africans working for Chinese companies, new Chinese-built projects in Africa, and strengthened ties with varied African leaders, to give a few recent examples. There is also the annual (and upcoming) Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit which will be held in Beijing from September 3 to 4. There is a direct connection to this gathering, in the case of Zimbabwe. Around the same time, the Zimbabwean party paper, The Herald, quoted Mnangagwa as declaring that “policies in the past were constraining economic development” and that there need to be efforts to “improve the environment in the economic sphere” including limiting the indigenisation law, which he grumbled was “constraining the flow of capital in the economy,” adding that “we have done a lot in removing the archaic legislation that was constraining economic growth in our country…everyday we are improving our competitiveness in the region and internationally in terms of attracting investment into the country.” The same article noted that he was expected to hold bilateral discussions with President Xi Jinping, and said that China has committed itself “to ushering in a new blueprint to explore opportunities for future mutual development, and to contribute to promoting world peace, stability and the development of Africa and China” as they described it, of course. This was echoed in the South China Morning Post which added that, at this summit, “China has doubled its financial aid and investment pledges to Africa…Xi said the financing would be in the form of government help as well as investment and funding by institutions and companies…Xi also announced that China would waive the debt of the poorest African countries that have diplomatic ties with Beijing.” The article also noted that while many have been concerned that China’s growing presence in Africa may lead countries to “struggle to repay the Chinese debt used to build expensive infrastructure projects,” Xi defended the belt and road plan, declaring that “China was not pursuing “political self-interest” in its investments in Africa.” It was also noted that “Chinese companies were also encouraged to make at least US$10 billion in investment in Africa in the next three years, Xi said…Africa is growing in strategic importance for China, with the People’s Liberation Army opening its first overseas naval base in Djibouti last year. Xi said China would set up a China-Africa peace and security fund and continue providing free military aid to the African Union…Cheng Cheng, a researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said Africa’s growing population and expanding middle class made it a huge market for Chinese exports.” Basically, this means that China is aiming for a market across the continent for its products and more places that Chinese capitalists can “safely” put their capital. At the same time, the Chinese are strongly opposing trade protectionism and “anti-globalization” so you will not see them waving the red flag, standing in solidarity with the global proletariat. Rather, you will see profit-driven SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) expanding abroad, giving more of a foothold to China’s version of capitalism than previously.

China’s form of social-imperialism, involving good relations with Japanese capitalists, as Amber B. describes it in her article, needs further study. It involves countering Chinese media narratives that “debunk” Western media narratives while posing China as knights in shining armor with a peace offering. I wrote about revisionist China in a two-part series for my subreddit, rwcc (Revisionism with Chinese Characteristics), trying to counter revisionist narratives and show the reality of the country. While saying this, I agree with Amber B. that we must take provocations between China, Russia, and the U$ seriously, as this is “the reality of inter-imperialist conflict in the era of moribund capitalism-imperialism,” with our tasks to oppose escalation, “carry out Lenin’s program of revolutionary defeatism” and to count on comrades across the world, as U$ imperialism fades, to “thwart the rise of their “own” expansionist and imperialist states” whether they are Russia, China, or another emerging power, with the main responsibility to “turn struggle inward, and to confront the threat of imperialist world war with revolutionary war.” As I said in my previous article, it is clear that not only are hard times ahead for the Zimbabwean proletariat. The turning point for Zimbabwe is over and it has not turned out well for the Zimbabwean proletariat. As Ahmed Sékou Touré, the long-time president of Guinea who seemed to soften up on the West starting in the 1970s, said in 1962, “the relation between the degree of destitution of peoples of Africa and the length and nature of the exploitation they had to endure is evident. Africa remains marked by the crimes of the slave-traders: up to now, her potentialities are restricted by under-population.” [3] The latter is the case for Zimbabwe. As such, it, along with a correct analysis of the current geopolitical atmosphere rooted in revolutionary theory should be the basis of our understanding of the world, allowing us to stand with the proletariat oppressed across the world and against the concentrations of imperialist power.


Notes

[1]  Siobhan Heanue, “New Zimbabwe Government courts white farmers ejected by Mugabe,” ABC (AU), Aug 30, 2018.

[2] Joe Brock, “Zimbabwe says ‘hostility of the West’ putting off renewed investment,” Reuters, Aug 21, 2018.

[3] Quoted by Walter Rodney on page 95 of his book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, which derives from a 1958 book of his speeches published by S.O.P. Press and his Toure’s 1963 book, The Doctrine and Methods of the Democratic Party of Guinea.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” in the U$

Note: The following article is reprinted from Dissident Voice. This is part 2 of an article series on there called “a “sudden bout of atypical decency”?” I have engaged in some editing of my own here in this version. I made one change, apart from slimming down footnote 2, which I feel ashamed to admit and sick to my stomach: I accepted a form of censorship just so Part 2 could be published. It is in paragraph 9. I removed a whole section because they have a different conception of speech. The exchange I had is noted below this article.* I have added in another two lines in this version of the article about speech as well, which is similar to those I proposed as a compromise with their view, but this was rejected, since I apparently wrongly perceived  their position, leading to more email negotiating as you could call it. After I made this change, the editor told me: “Thank you, LC.  DV has published your submission…It would be a good idea for you to go over it and make sure I didn’t miss anything and that everything is in its proper place. The title of Part 1 had to be cut because of its length (if you were wondering) and I’d suggest it looks better with the subtitle. For Part 2 the title you submitted was used but the subtitle is the main title in Part 1. DV does that so that there is no confusion if Parts 1 and 2 show up in a search with the same title. (Just explaining in case you were curious about the titles.) All the best and here’s hoping DV will hear from you again sooner rather than later. In the meantime have a great school year.” Yes, I am going to school again, that is true. But, apart from that, I will submit to Dissident Voice again, but won’t let myself get in a situation like this again, knowing Dissident Voice’s bounds. As always, I look forward to your comments on this article, as I may be faulty in my views when it comes to these matters.

In part 1, I talked about the power of social media giants and claims of “free speech” on their platforms. Again, I am referring just to the U$, as I am most familiar with the debate on “free speech” there. In the future I may expand this analysis to other capitalist countries.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is so ingrained that Nadine Strossen, a former president of the ACLU, can spout on The Real News about a “we the people” government in the U$, while declaring that government regulation through net neutrality and antitrust laws, along with consumer pressure, and “free speech” (or counter speech) can stop the bigots in their tracks. This is a laughable notion from a person who says porn should be tolerated (not restricted or banned), is currently a contributor for the Federalist Society, criticized campus speech restrictions, and was a friend and fan of Antonin Scalia! She also, infamously, defended the actions of former ACLU president Anthony Romero, who had agreed to “screen the organization’s employees against terrorist “watch lists”…in order to qualify as an officially approved charity for federal employees,” advising the “Ford Foundation to “parrot” the Patriot Act in formulating controversial new restrictions on the speech of its grantees,” and trying to impose “very broad confidentiality agreement and technology rules on ACLU employees,” as argued by former ACLU board member Wendy Kaminer, who also harshly criticized the organization for its policies on civil liberty. As The Onion joked in one article, when Strossen was president, the ACLU declared that it would “”vigorously and passionately defend” the Georgia chapter of the American Nazi Party’s First Amendment right to freely express its hatred of the ACLU by setting its New York office ablaze on Nov. 25.” That’s how ridiculous the ACLU is, without a doubt.

Last year, the Supreme Court held, in Packingham v. North Carolina, that a North Carolinian law that restricted access of sex offenders to social media violated the First Amendment. More than that, this case, which was the first major case on the topic since the Reno v. ACLU case in 1997, opens the floodgates for “free speech” to apply to the internet as the latter is considered analogous to a public forum, perhaps leading to further jurisprudence.  But more than being a supposed victory for “free expression,” which was likely cheered on by the ACLU, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion raises the question of what parts of the internet would fall under First Amendment protection.  In this opinion, followed by a blistering dissent from Samuel Alito, Kennedy, clearly a tech optimist, wrote that the First Amendment is a “fundamental principle” meaning that “all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” adding that this now applies to cyberspace, including social media, with users engaging in a “wide array” of “First Amendment activity” that is “legitimate” and “protected.”

He added that the digital age has a “vast potential to alter how we think, express ourselves, and define who we want to be” which can quickly change, while implying that the First Amendment may offer some protection for access to social media and the internet. As for social media, he argued that it not only allows “users to gain access to information and communicate with one another about it on any subject that might come to mind” but that it is the “modern public square” that, in his view, allows for people to explore “the vast realms of human thought and knowledge…mak[ing] his or her voice heard.” This is clearly an optimistic view of social media which often is filled with utter and mundane garbage. I think social media includes many more pictures of people showing off their dogs, newborn babies, and silly cat videos, than those who engage in discussion that opens “human thought and knowledge.” What is Kennedy smoking here?

With this decision, the arguments of those like the ACLU that want “an uncensored Internet, a vast free-speech zone,” the EFF that wants “sufficient legal protections for users and innovators,” and Strossen, are clearly boosted. Still, this does not mean there will be “free speech” on the internet anytime soon. While the general conception is that “anyone can say anything online,” this is not only changing but it is inaccurate because intimidation is not protected speech on the internet, along with inciting violence, making threats of violence, privacy invasion, defamation, copyright infringement, inciting a riot or inducing lawbreaking, “fighting words,” false advertising, and disrupting school activities, to name a few. While some say that the First Amendment asserts that that one can express themselves “without interference or constraint by the government,” the fact is that a government can “place reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as those that restrict the time, place, and manner of the speech.”

Some have tried to use the Packingham decision to declare that there should be “free speech” on the internet. Others, like White nationalists and Neo-Nazis, have gone even further to draw a parallel between private shopping centers and social media platforms! If this connection was to be made, which is a remote and absurd possibility, those on social media would not be able to “unreasonably intrude” on the private property rights of these platforms, having to “reasonably exercise” their rights while their ideas would not be allowed to have “free rein.” Additionally, their words and actions would have to be deemed peaceful, orderly, and not disturbing the functioning of these platforms, with the latter allowed to restrain the “time, place, and manner” of user’s speech. They could be prohibited from imposing “blanket and total prohibition on the exercise of First Amendment activities” of users but they would also be allowed to restrict those engaging such speech so they did not obstruct or unduly interfere with “normal business operations” or does not impede, distract, or interfere with the business itself.

Furthermore, anyone who engaged in substantial damage or physical obstruction of social media could be restricted or banned, along with being prohibited from annoying and harassing individuals. At the same time, while users could have the right to “freedoms of speech and religion” they could also be restricted if there was a public space where they could use their rights apart from social media, and by the fact that the U$ Constitution provides no protection or redress from a private person or corporation, with the 1st and 14th Amendment not applying to action “by the owner of private property used only for private purposes.” This is not what the bigots would want! Even with these interpretations, Twitter could still say it is a private sector company, which requires users to abide by their rules. Additionally, it is worth noting that these social media platforms are not public since the “supposed public square is actually a small group of digital platforms owned by an even smaller group of giant transnational corporations,” a fact that should be obvious. [1] Even Mozilla, which says that “the principle of free speech is a foundation of Western democracy” admits that “free speech gets more complicated in private spaces – that is, spaces not owned by the government…private businesses have every right, legally, to refuse service to individuals who don’t adhere to their stated policies.”

Jimmy Dore and others have said the First Amendment should be applied to Facebook (and other social media) because they see it as a public space and have also said that such outlets should be public utilities. Now, in order to be a public utility, these social media companies would have to be classified the same as other companies providing “a service to the public such as transport, energy, telecommunications, waste disposal, or water and any other public goods and services.”  The question arises: are companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to give a few examples, public service corporations that engage in operations that “serve the needs of the general public or conduce to the comfort and convenience of an entire community,” which currently includes “railroads, gas, water, and electric light companies”? Well, we know they are clearly private companies with operations which are “executed by private individuals,” comprising some of those in the corporate (or private) sector which is “responsible for the allocation of the majority of resources” within a capitalist economy.

Now, to be a public service company, they would have to “provide a service to the public” which includes “transport, communications and the like.” These social media platforms likely would fall into the category of public service company rather than a public service corporation because they do not necessarily serve the needs of the general public or conduce convenience or comfort of an entire community. Instead they gather private information and make it public, selling it for profit, having great power over people’s lives. Likely such efforts to make social media a public utility will fall flat because the U$ government is legally obligated to “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation” even with other provisions on civil liability.

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past. The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconscionable atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, apart from Rwanda, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, including Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay peoples, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but this likely will not occur because a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. As a result, such denial of horrors is a way to support existing capitalist narratives. The situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system. Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that recognizes the “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (Article 18) and “right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19) is limited by the fact that everyone can be subject to legal limitations to secure respect and recognition for freedom and rights of others, along with meeting “the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society” (Article 29). [2]

There are many laws across the world when it comes to speech, with some countries trying to experiment different levels of censorship online, irking those who defend the bourgeois conception of “freedom of speech,” with some even bringing in anti-communist rhetoric to complain about “the lack of transparency found in Soviet-style governance structures” disappearing in Eastern Europe. Some, like the horrid organization, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) have declared that “the best antidote to tyranny is free and spirited debate, not suppression of speech,” which Jimmy Dore basically expressed on his show, while others like HRW or The Guardian complain about the “Great Chinese Firewall” and challenges “journalists, bloggers and dissidents” have to undertake. This has led to a list of “enemies” of the internet and efforts to break through claimed “closed societies” (one organization gives the examples of Iran and China), believing that making these societies “open” will bring goodness to the world. This id despite the fact that the internet has “been a revolution for censorship as much as for free speech” as The Guardian admitted back in 2008, which anyone with sense would recognize.

The majority of those in the Western Left are indoctrinated to think they are free, leading them attack other leftists across the world who holding power as noted by Andre Vltchek. However, his analysis is faulty since he incorrectly describes China, part of the revisionist triad (the other two countries in this triad are Laos and Vietnam), as communist when it has actually been on the capitalist road since 1976, with a form of state-supported form of capitalism which is different from that of the West, and saying that Russia’s policy is “clearly anti-imperialist” when it is actually just nationalistic.

Clearly, some individuals have more of an ability for speech than others. As the subreddit of /r/communism puts it rightly, which I still agree with even though I was ousted as a mod after I began criticizing China as capitalist rather than saying it is socialist (consensus of the subreddit’s mods), “speech, like everything else, has a class character, and that some speech can be oppressive.” This is something those who believe in the bourgeois conception of “free speech” cannot and will not acknowledge. In the capitalist society of the U$ this manifests itself by capitalists like Robert Mercer, the Koch Brothers, George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and many others, having the ability to publish and project their speech more than those on meager budgets. Basically, this means that ordinary people, the proletariat, have no influence (or power in) on the decision-making and politics of the U$ despite all rhetoric claiming they have such influence. How this manifests itself in the world of “free speech” is it means that those capitalists who are hatemongers can spread their horrid message far and wide while those who try to counter them get less exposure. [2]

We do not have to give such speech “respect” as some have declared we should, since there is the idea of the heckler’s veto, where a public event is canceled or suppressed due to “interruptions, protests, or violence” or the threat of such actions, one of the many tools, apart from de-platforming (not by social media outlets, but literally in person or by organizing against them online) which can be used to fight against bigoted or otherwise detestable individuals. In the end, there should be criticism (and efforts to counter) corporate control over information but this does not mean we have to defend hateful speech. Instead, those who speak truth to power, especially on the political Left, should be vigorously defended. As Michael Parenti once put it, “democratic victories, however small and partial they be, must be embraced…We need to strive in every way possible for the revolutionary unraveling, a revolution of organized consciousness striking at the empire’s heart with the full force of democracy, the kind of irresistible upsurge that seems to come from nowhere while carrying everything before it.” Victory to the proletariat! A socialist world is possible!


Notes

*First message from DV editor at 3:23 AM on Sept 1  which confused me:

Hi, LC,

I’ve gone over Part 2 and it’s ready for publication apart from this sentence:

The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is taken by some to an extreme, like Noam Chomsky, who defends the speech of holocaust deniers for “civil libertarian” reasons, opposing existing (and justified) laws that criminalize Holocaust denial across Europe, including Germany, saying that it is a violation of their inherent “liberties” even though it is actually an effort to prevent those from spreading lies about the Holocaust, a terrible period in Germany’s past.

Holocaust is defined as the destruction or slaughter on a mass scale (especially by fire or nuclear war) which means what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki were holocausts; they, too, were targeted deliberately for annihilation.  Synonyms include ethnic cleansing (which the Palestinian people are well familiar with) and, of course, there’s genocide, etc.

We can start with the Original Peoples of North America and move on to the present day.  If these horrors are all out there for discussion, then so too should the events that occurred during WW 2 in Germany and Poland.  We don’t hear of people being charged because they denied the Roma holocaust, do we?  According to Romani scholar, Ian Hancock, over 1.5 million Roma were killed in Germany and Poland during this time; unfortunately, the total will never be known because (a) most were illiterate and signed their names with an “x” and (b) countless were shot on sight in Europe without ever reaching Germany.  Is it illegal to discuss their deaths?  And what about Rwanda?  I could go on.

When I hear from you with respect to this sentence, I will publish it.

My reply at 9:35 AM on Sept 1:

I agree with you that the Holocaust is only one of many horrible crimes in human history, one of the many genocides. I would like the sentence to stay if possible. I don’t know what you are asking me here. Is it that you think I should clarify this sentence, remove it, or what exactly? If it is something to add, I would be willing to say in a new sentence after this one:

“The Holocaust during World War II was not unique to human history: the unconcisble atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, genocide of indigenous peoples of the Americas, the ongoing genocide of Palestinians, and the genocide in Rwanda, count among the worst horrors of humanity. As it is not illegal to discuss the deaths of these horrors, it is also not illegal to discuss the deaths during the Holocaust, which number in the tens of millions, as high as 17 million if all victims of persecution are counted as argued by Donald Niewyk, of Jewish, Soviet POWs, Polish, Romani, disabled, Jehovah’s witnesses, and gay people, to just name a few of those deemed undesirable by the Nazis. Perhaps denial or support of these horrors of human history, apart from the Holocaust, should be criminalized, but it not usually the case, with a good number of individuals still support the aforementioned horrors, sometimes gleefully. This is often to support existing capitalist narratives and the situation will only be changed if there is a new, alternative narrative, perhaps only possible under a new system.”

A message from DV’s editor on Sept 2nd at 6:33 PM, implying that all events (including the Holocaust) should be “open to debate” and that laws prohibiting Holocaust denial are apparently bad, while also bringing up the fake idea of the fire in the theater excuse about free speech, an analogy which is TOTALLY false, as I remember reading in A People’s History of the Supreme Court:

I am not asking you to do anything.  I’m saying that DV prefers not to publish it.  And the sentence that you propose doesn’t speak to DV’s concerns.  What happened in Germany and Poland is the only event in history that cannot be discussed without fear of legal repercussions.  How and why did this happen?  Yet the deaths of the Roma, which occurred at the same time frame, are out there for discussion and anything else. You don’t see a problem with this?  You go on to list several other events that could be criminalized.  This is very problematic.  Free speech is not meant to be a slippery slope.  Once some speech is criminalized, where does that criminalization end?  DV supports free speech within bounds of common sense, not by disingenuously starting a dangerous riot by screaming “bomb” in a packed theater, for instance. Historical events should be open for discussion, debate, all of them. If they are not, why not? I would suggest you take a look at that initial sentence again.  DV will not be publishing it nor the addition as they are now. Other than that, it is ready to go.

The editor sent another at 6:34 PM about the “topic of that sentence,” which I will not quote entirely as it gives out personal information. I will quote the parts that do not involve such information where the editor said “I think you’ll find that it would be ready for publication once the topic of that sentence had been dealt with.  I have just sent you an email re same.” I replied to this saying at 10:06 PM that same day “Yes, I saw that email and am responding to it shortly.”

My final message at 11:04 PM, after composing the email and trying to watch Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, in which I accept getting rid of the “offending” line, begrudingly. Note that I am NOT disagreeing with my previous position here, just agreeing with her general point even though I still hold fast by my original views:

I agree with you that historical events should be open for discussion and debate. I also understand DV’s position on speech and as such, I am willing to strike the initial sentence (and the one I proposed) from the article so that it can be published since the rest of the article is acceptable. I would rather replace it with the following: “The bourgeois conception of “free speech” is broadly held across the Western World.” Then the rest of the paragraph follows that.

– LC

[1] Paul Blumenthal, “The Problem Isn’t Alex Jones’ Free Speech, It’s Digital Platform Monopolies,” HuffPost, Aug 11, 2018

[2] I would say that the U$ is standing against the principle outlined in the UN’s Millennium Declaration that “men and women have the right to live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression or injustice. Democratic and participatory governance based on the will of the people best assures these rights,” the Vienna Declaration saying hat “the speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is a priority task for the international community” and violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which says that states “condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races…condemn all propaganda and all organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination…[and] shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law.” The U$ is also clearly violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) which says that “freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” and especially the provisions that prohibit “any propaganda for war” or any “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Social media giants, “free speech,” and the control of information

Note: The following article is reprinted from Dissident Voice. This is part 1 of an article series on there called “a “sudden bout of atypical decency”?” The senior editor there made me remove the words “the orange menace” because it was apparently “name-calling,” later adding that “with respect to name-calling, DV does not have a “policy”, per se.  Over the years we’ve tended to avoid the most offensive….On reflection I was being a tad picky, sorry…With respect to Donald Trump, regardless of what people think of him, he won the election and is the President of the United States.  He ought to be referred to as such. (And certainly he’s been called a lot worse than the orange menace!)”  In a later communication I said that “yes, legally you can say Trump won the election, I will grant you that” although the Electoral College muddies the idea of “winning.” Anyway, I replaced the term “orange menace” with the words “the current sitting US President” as I refuse to use his name. I removed the whole first footnote I had put together, preserved in this version, writing instead: “There were many articles on this subject, so it is hard to pick just a few, but I would say that the articles on Boing Boing, Washington Post, The Verge, New York Times, Washington Examiner,  Reason.com, The American Conservative, and Rolling Stone were most informative on this subject. For those that want he full list of sources I used to make this determination, you are free to email me, and I will send you the list of sources I’m talking about here.”I also had to cut down the 2nd footnote to the first two sentences, used here, but the whole footnote is reprinted here. I also had to edit down footnote 4 for Dissident Voice, but I have included the whole footnote here. I added in some editing of content of my own into this version of the article as well, as the original version I submitted has some errors. Still, I publish here the copy of the article with bolded words I was pressured to remove. I have since learned that David Zurawik is apparently the Sun’s only media critic. I still stand by calling him an “oft” critic, however, as he does write about this subject often.

Recently, there has been much talk about “free speech” in light of Alex Jones’s Infowars being cast out in a seemingly organized campaign of censorship by social media platforms, such as YouTube, Spotify, Pinterest, Facebook, and Apple, which some called “the great de-platforming of Alex Jones.” Unsurprisingly, Jones has decried it as “censorship” and abridging his “free speech.” Those who support such actions of these platforms include liberal Amanda Marcotte of Salon who said that it was a “sudden bout of atypical decency and common sense” in fighting against “disinformation” and Mike Snider of USA Today noting that “free speech is a principle that businesses often choose to follow, but aren’t bound to.” [1]

Similarly, Christine Emba blares in the Washington (Amazon) Post that the social media companies were within their rights and did “nothing wrong,” as they are not obliged to “host your speech on their platforms…[or] promote your content” and The Economist, a magazine that represents the interests of the British bourgeoisie, declaring that these companies are “not the state,” meaning they are able to “write their terms of service as they wish and police posts as they choose.” Following in suit was Hartford University Professor Adam Chiara, who declared that “tech companies are private…they have the right to decide what content goes on their platforms…social media platforms own the access to his [Jones’s] audience, and they have every legal and moral right to cancel it.” Also, T.C. Sottek of The Verge wrote that InfoWars was hypocritical because it still claims the right to purge “objectionable” content from their website, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones writing that “…if no one else on the planet feels like giving him [Alex Jones] a soapbox to extract money from gullible conspiracy theorists, that’s fine with me.”

Furthest in this viewpoint was David Zurawik, an oft media critic for the Baltimore Sun, who openly applauded the action against Jones: “finally, the giants of digital media are showing some social responsibility…It is long overdue…it is a step in the right direction…Here’s hoping the crackdowns continue.” Even the libertarians of Reason.com jumped on board, while they expressed some reservations about selectively “policing” harmful speech and claimed that conservatives “need to worry,” arguing that “private companies are under no obligation to provide a platform” to those like Jones and that “Facebook, YouTube, and other media…have a right to dictate the contours of permissible speech on their sites and to enforce those standards…No one seriously disputes this…There’s no God-given right to be on Facebook or Twitter.” Even some in the ACLU seemed to accept the power of these social media platforms, only asking for transparency and “protections…against misuse” with nothing much more.

On the other side was Cory Doctrow, co-editor of Boing Boing, who argued that the “online world has almost no public spaces…and a tiny handful of incredibly large, powerful companies control the vast majority of our civic discourse online,” with Harvey Silvergate of NY Daily News adding that “when the haters are allowed to expose themselves through their words, we are all safer for knowing who they are and who, over time, they morph into,” saying the current debate over the actions against Jones is really “about what it means for our society if a few tech companies should be able to decide for everyone what information is available.” At the same time, Black Agenda Report’s Margaret Kimberley quipped that “there is no reason for anyone on the left to cheer Jones being censored. The move against him will be used to defend further censoring of left wing voices…His absence helps no one except the intelligence apparatus.”

Even, Matt Taibbi, a piece of bourgeois trash for other reasons (like not supporting reproductive rights while smearing Venezuela and Karl Marx), wrote in Rolling Stone that there is a “union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors” and that “the sheer market power of these companies over information flow has always been the real threat. This is why breaking them up should have long ago become an urgent national priority” while admitting that “there was no First Amendment issue with the Jones ban.” Beyond the views of The Economist, Reason.com, some ACLU members, Marcotte, Snider, Emba, Chiara, Sottek, Drum, Sottek, Zurawik, Doctrow, Silvergate, Kimberley, and Taibbi, many others expressed their views on the actions against Jones, a number of whom worried about “free speech” and power of these social media platforms over people’s lives. [2]

Taking all the views mentioned in the last paragraph into consideration, we don’t need number of Loyola University academics or David Pozen of Columbia Law School to tell us that social media has become an important “one stop shop” for many, allowing the internal rules, a form of private regulations, of these platforms to shape the existing public discourse. Undoubtedly, huge social media giants, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Pinterest, Instagram (owned by Facebook), and Tumblr (owned by Yahoo), have control of vast amounts of information. [3] Amazon has a related role with its web services controlling “roughly 40 percent of the cloud market, running the backend for Netflix, Pinterest, Slack and dozens of other services with no visible connection to the company,” showing the reach of their “server empire.”

Additionally, a recent study by Gallup showed that the populace of the U$ not only opposes news personalized toward them, but the role of the companies as gatekeepers of content, with companies having to disclose why they have selected certain content for users. However, these companies, legally, have the right to determine the speech that is allowed on their sites. As such, Ron Jacobs, a writer for CounterPunch, is right: while the action against Jones “may effect the ability of leftist and anarchist groups and individuals to provide content and share events on these corporate platforms” it isn’t right to support “those liberals and leftists who think they need to defend Alex Jones” since the latter should not “have unfettered access to spout his outright lies and hate,” and, I might add, those on the Left are under no obligation to protect the speech of bigots, war criminals, or otherwise detestable people. Jacobs concludes, correctly, by saying that “free speech will be further limited to those who can afford to pay for it…[with] propagandists funded by wealthy…millionaires and billionaires…strengthen[ing] their control over the so-called free press,” meaning that we should let “Alex Jones fight his battles without our help.” Such societal dynamics mean that certain people have more privilege to speak than others.

Without a doubt the Left is on the chopping block, but this is due to Russiagate and efforts by social media giants to pander to the Right, which dominates the political scene in the U$. After all, when Twitter was in “hot water” since it had not fallen in line with other social media giants on efforts against Jones, its CEO, Jack Dorsey, did his first interview on the subject with right-wing loudmouth*, Sean Hannity! [4] While the social media network temporarily suspended Infowars for seven days, Alex Jones still continues to spout unflinching support for the orange menace* including anti-immigrant racism, anti-socialism, anti-vax nonsense, and harping on the “censorship” card, even tweeting cartoons of notoriously anti-Left cartoonist Ben Garrison* to support his “case.”

According to news reports, Jones made direct appeals to the orange menace* to make “censorship” a big issue in the upcoming election and deal with purported (by him) “Chinese infiltration” of the Democratic Party and tech industry. Such claims of censorship by Jones and others ring a bit hollow as the right-wing in the U$ has their ready propaganda network of video platforms, social media sites, and even dating apps! [5] Alex Jones can be promoted there, apart from his Twitter account which still has over 895,000 followers. So, he isn’t going anywhere.

When Senator Chris Murphy says that “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it” conservatives are not really the target despite Don Trump, Jr complaining about “Big Tech’s censorship campaign” is about “purging all conservative media,” and wacked out conspiracist David Icke decrying censorship.**

Sure, some fascists, apart from Jones, have been removed from social media, like the hideous Proud Boys or Milo Yiannopoulos (for harassing Black actress Leslie Jones), while some liberal groups like Media Matters, Share Blue, and American Bridge have called for social media platforms to take more action against the right-wing. [6] The conservative narrative of themselves as victims of social media censorship is only strengthened when those like Marcotte of Salon, quoted earlier in this article, say that journalists (and social media outlets) should serve as “gatekeepers” against conservatives!

Instead, it is the Left that is under attack by these outlets. Just look at the permanent removal of the Haiti Analysis on Facebook, the temporary de-publishing of TeleSur English‘s page on the same site, with the same happening to Venezuela Analysis, the takedown of an Occupy London page which had “pro-Palestinian posts,” censoring the alternative media outlet SouthFront out of existence, and Facebook’s deletion of pages which had up to 40 million followers, including a number of alternative media outlets. Yet another example is when an episode of Abby Martin’s The Empire Files (currently targeted by U$ sanctions on Venezuela) on YouTube, which highlighted military violence of Zionists, was “blocked…in 28 countries for supposedly violating “local laws,”” possibly due to the participation of the stalwart Zionist group, the Anti-Defamation League, in “YouTube’s flagging system” since the group “considers actions tied to Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment…and opposition to Israeli occupation as racism.” Also YouTube banned a video showing a boy murdered by Zionist soldiers, Google downranked and alternative website named Dandelion Salad, Facebook began ranking news sources by their “truthworthiness” with the help of establishment organizations, and social media giants meeting about “information operations” for the upcoming midterm elections in the U$. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are now even going after Iranians whom they declare are “government trolls,” another act of censorship. This isn’t surprising since Facebook is, as one should note, letting the Digital Forensics Lab of the Atlantic Council sort through content, leading to a further crackdown on the left.

Such an attack on the Left could possibly intensify for a number of reasons: if these social media companies adopt the Chinese or European models of net regulation, the former being easily accepted by more tech companies every day and if the U$ government is successful in forcing Facebook to help break the end-to-end encryption of their voice calls in messenger in order to supposedly fight the MS-13 gang. [7]  Twitter’s policy of ranking tweets and search results in an effort to downgrade those they deem “bad faith actors,” like the Russians perhaps, “who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation,” and the uneven moderating on Facebook doesn’t help matters. The same applies to the removal of accounts by Twitter following the indictments of 12 Russians by Robert Mueller and an effort to target so-called “fake” accounts, and Reddit removing 944 “suspicious” accounts which they claimed were tied to the Russians even though they had little impact.

Most worrisome is YouTube working with establishment media organizations to promote “quality journalism” with breaking news highlighting videos from CBS, Fox News, the New York Times, and CNN, to go by their examples, while YouTube is also showing information from “third parties” (so-called “information cues”) from sites such as Encyclopaedia Brittanica and Wikipedia on “a small number of well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation” or those that are the “center of debate.” The latter effort by YouTube to link to Wikipedia, which wasn’t informed about the initiative beforehand and expressed their concerns about content scraping, to counter “misinformation” and define certain media outlets is uneven.

Looking at Wikipedia links on the videos of the Channel News Asia, TeleSur, TeleSur English, RT, SABC Digital News, and Al Jazeera, they are all described as “funded” by specific governments. However, for BBC, it is only called a “British broadcast service,” not that it is directly funded by the British government! Additionally, videos on the CNN, Bloomberg, ABC News, Vice News, Vox, Fox News, MSNBC, Washington Post, National Geographic, and The Guardian channels have no links to third-party websites even though they are funded and owned by corporate entities! Hence, this effort by YouTube will, without a doubt, disadvantage outlets like TeleSur and RT, which buck the general narrative of the corporate media, as it will assist in imperialist propaganda about those outlets.

And no, YouTube, TeleSur is not funded by “the Latin American government” as it says below every single video from their two channels (TeleSur and TeleSur English), a racist conception that denies the reality in the region, as this news organization is funded jointly by the Cuban, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Uruguayan governments.

Such actions by YouTube and many other major social media platforms are led in part by what Hiroyuki Hamada rightly called the “Putin panic, an epidemic spewing hatred against anything Russian” while ignoring that “Russia was subjected to political and economic intervention by the US in the 90s” with the U$ backing Boris Yeltsin who helped rip apart the country’s social fabric.

Currently, the U$ is waiting for “Russia to jump on its Pearl Harbor or a 9/11,” with such a panic being an “obvious scheme of imperialism” leading to war. As such, as he rightly notes, “we must not be a voice for the capitalist lords nor for the hitmen…we must reach out to people like us in Russia, China, Syria, Iran, and other peoples of the planet, and people like us in our communities, with messages of peace, sharing and mutual respect.” As such, not only should there should be support for those on the Left who have been censored on these social media platforms but there should be local and international connections in the way that Hamada describes, in order to counter the general narrative spread in capitalist societies.


Notes

*In the Dissident Voice version I changed this sentence to read after the word “with” to say: “Sean Hannity, who can accurately be described as a right-wing loud-mouth” after I was told to not use the word “orange menace.” I also changed the last sentence to read, after the word “cartoons” to: “drawn by Ben Garrison, whose drawings notoriously smear the Left”

**The Dissident Voice editor was weirdly puzzled by this one, and I agreed to the change, which broke it into two sentences, actually weakening my original point, looking back (so perhaps that change was a mistake)!: “Recently, Senator Chris Murphy infamously wrote on Twitter that “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.” Despite Don Trump, Jr complaining about “Big Tech’s censorship campaign” is about “purging all conservative media,” and conspiracist David Icke decrying censorship, conservatives are not really the target of these proposed measures.”

[1] Amanda Marcotte, “How did Alex Jones become possible? Because we tolerated “lesser” lies for too long,” Salon, Aug 9, 2018; Cory Doctrow, “Inside the triumphant Alex Jones banned everywhere story is a worrying nuance about free speech and platform dominance,” Boing Boing, Aug 8, 2018; Mike Snider, “Why Facebook can stop Infowars and not break the First Amendment,” USA Today, Aug 9, 2018; Christine Emba, “Farewell, Infowars. You won’t be missed,” Washington Post (opinion), Aug 8, 2018; Harvey Silvergate, “Alex Jones belongs in the light,” NY Daily News, Aug 8, 2018; Michelle Lou, “Facebook Removes Alex Jones And InfoWars Pages,” Huff Post, Aug 6, 2018; Adam Chiara, “Tech giants are right to purge Alex Jones from platforms,” The Hill, Aug 7, 2018; T.C. Sottek, “Infowars passionately defends the right to censor Infowars,” The Verge, Aug 7, 2018; Lydia O’Connor, “Twitter CEO Gives Interview To Conspiracy Theorist About Refusing To Ban Conspiracy Theorists,” HuffPost, Aug 8, 2018; Valentina Palladino, “InfoWars app will stay in the iOS App Store—here’s Apple’s reason why,” Ars Technica, Aug 9, 2018; Will Sommer, “Hannity Praises Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for Not Caving to Liberals,” The Daily Beast, Aug 8, 2018; Molly Roberts, “Alex Jones loses his empire — but not because he’s a liar,” Washington Post, Aug 7, 2018; Sheera Frenkel, “Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech,” New York Times, Aug 7, 2018; Kate Conger, “Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech,” New York Times, Aug 7, 2018; Jack Nicas, “Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech,” New York Times, Aug 7, 2018; Helen Holmes, “InfoWars Pinterest Is a Bizarre Clash of Form and Content,” Aug 7, 2018; Holly Scheer, “The InfoWars Bans Aren’t About Alex Jones, They’re About Big Tech’s Control Over What We See,” The Federalist, Aug 7, 2018; “Are Facebook and YouTube quasi-governmental actors?,” The Economist, Aug 7, 2018; Vivian Kane, “Alex Jones’ Supporters Still Don’t Understand What “Free Speech” Means,” Mary Sue, Aug 8, 2018; Itay Hod, “Alex Jones Is Running Out of Platforms to Boot Him: Add MailChimp to List,” The Wrap, Aug 7, 2018; Daniel Chaitlin, “WikiLeaks points to Democrats after InfoWars takedown, warns it could be ‘next’,” Washington Examiner, Aug 7, 2018; Shoshana Wodinsky, “Apple and Google haven’t banned Infowars apps, and their downloads are booming,” The Verge, Aug 7, 2018; Kevin Drum, “Net Neutrality and Alex Jones,” Mother Jones, Aug 7, 2018; Joseph Curl, “What suppressing Alex Jones really means,” Washington Times, Aug 7, 2018; Tim Hains, “Alex Jones to Donald Trump: You Need To Blow The Whistle On Chinese Communist Infiltration Of Silicon Valley, Democratic Party,” Real Clear Politics, Aug 7, 2018; Robby Soave, “Banning Alex Jones Isn’t About Free Speech—It’s About the Incoherence of ‘Hate Speech’,” Reason.com, Aug 7, 2018; David Zurawik, “Finally, digital giants showing some social responsibility,” Baltimore Sun, Aug 7, 2018; Stephany Bai, “The First Amendment and Social Media: The Rules Just Don’t Apply,” Teen Vogue, Dec 29, 2017; David Harsanyi, “Social Media Giants Shouldn’t Be Arbiters of Appropriate Speech,” Reason.com, Aug 10, 2018; Tyler Durden, “Free-Speech Monopoly – The Game Is Rigged,” Zero Hedge, Aug 11, 2018; Carry Welder, “Americans Are Begging the Government and Corporations to End Free Speech,” The AntiMedia, Aug 8, 2018; Peter Van Buren, “I Was Banned for Life From Twitter,” The American Conservative, Aug 9, 2018; Matt Taibbi, “Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship,” Rolling Stone, Aug 2, 2018; Casey Newton, “How Alex Jones lost his info war,” The Verge, Aug 7, 2018.

[2] At the same time, left-leaning comedian, Jimmy Dore, posted many YouTube videos on the topic, with him and his guests rightly criticizing corporate control of social media, arguing that social media should be public utility, and defending (especially by Jimmy himself) the right of Alex Jones to speak, sticking to the free speech absolutist line, even defending the ACLU’s stance of defending the speech of horrid bigots. To the credit of Jimmy and his guests, they are right that Russiagate can be used to silence the Left, while criticizing U$ wars and the corporate press. Also, there was Caitlin Johnstone, who was temporarily banned from Twitter for calling for John McCain to “die already,” who decried what she described as the “coordinated corporate censorship of Alex Jones’ notorious Infowars franchise across multiple online platforms,” saying that “in a corporate system of government, corporate censorship is state censorship, and censorship is never a friend of the left,” and adding in another post that when InfoWars was banned, it was apparently “circulating a petition with tens of thousands of signatures calling on President Trump to pardon WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.” There she reasserted that in the current system of government of the U$, “there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power,” meaning that “corporate censorship is state censorship” with ordinary people in the U$ having “no effective influence whatsoever” and that the Left is next on the chopping block. Some of those on the right-wing also expressed outrage, like Zero Hedge which talked about the power of such platforms, but then incorrectly claimed that this was due to the Left, further saying that conservatives are seen as the “enemy” while delving into conspiracies rooted in anti-Semitism of the Cold War era by groups like the John Birch Society and casting Jones as some warrior against elites rather than a right-wing propagandist even worse than the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs of the world. Sites like Zero Hedge are the ones who engage in racist language about China, I would even acknowledge as a person China’s capitalist road, which is not socialist as some assert.In a more moderate form was the words of Peter Van Buren, who was permanently banned from Twitter,apparently “shocked” that America was apparently becoming like Iran (not true), while adding that “corporations have always done as they please with speech” and complaining about the ACLU apparently not being as free speech absolutist as in the past, while commenting that “handing over free speech rights to an entity whose core purpose has nothing to do with free speech means it will inevitably quash ideas when they conflict with profits…Corporate censorship is at the cutting edge of a reality targeting both speakers…and listeners.” At the same time, Wikileaks also warned that it would be next in line if “political pressure can be used to censor publishers.”

[3] Some, like Reuters, define social media giants as only encompassing Facebook, YouTube (owned by Google), Twitter and Microsoft. But there are many more, as noted by LifeWire and DreamGrow, like LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Pinterest, Tumblr (owned by Yahoo!), Snapchat, Reddit (mainly owned by Advance Publications), Flickr (owned by SmugMug), Swarm (owned by Foursquare), Kik (owned by Kik interactive), Periscope (owned by Twitter), Medium (owned by A Medium Corporation), Soundcloud (owned by SoundCloud Limited), Tinder (owned by IAC (InterActiveCorp)), WhatsApp (owned by WhatsApp Inc.), Slack (owned by Slack Technologies), Musical.ly (owned by Tik Tok, Chinese company), Meetup (owned by WeWork), and Peach (“a tiny journaling service of Byte, Inc” according to their terms of use). Others, most of which are not for English speakers but for those of other languages, include Weibo (owned by Sina Corp), Ask.Fm (owned by Noosphere Ventures), VK (owned by Mail.Ru Group), Odnoklassniki (owned by Mail.Ru Group), and Qzone (owned by Tencent Holdings Limited). For more about Amazon’s Web Services, see Russell Brandom, “Using the internet without the Amazon Cloud,” The Verge, Jul 28, 2018.

[4] Also consider a recent post by the Twitter company saying that “while we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we prohibit targeted behavior that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others” saying they have certain rules, policies and enforcement options in place for a safe environment, while working to “Twitter better for everyone” admitting they have a role to play in society and a “wider responsibility to foster and better serve a healthy public conversation.” As for Apple, which has avoided “content controversies that ensnare its peers,” it still offers the InfoWars mobile app in its App Store even after removing many of Jones’s podcasts, saying they support “all points of view being represented” in their online marketplace. Additionally, the App is still in the Google Play store as well! This has led to an increase in “popularity” of the App, but only because other avenues to see the content are unavailable, leading individuals to go to such places as an outlet. On a related note, it seems clear that “Google’s YouTube is probably the most explicit about what is and is not allowed” with published community guidelines, even though there is still room for interpretation. The above information is extracted from Daisuke Wakabayashi, “Gatekeepers or Censors? How Tech Manages Online Speech,” New York Times, Aug 7, 2018, Casey Newton, “Twitter’s fear of making hard decisions is killing it,” The Verge, Aug 17, 2018, and Avery Anapol, “Twitter CEO on decision not to ban Alex Jones: ‘He hasn’t violated our rules’,” The Hill, Aug 7, 2018 to name a few.

 

[5] Brandy Zadrozny, “Right-wing platforms provide refuge to digital outcasts — and Alex Jones,” NBC News, Aug 9, 2018. This article lists Mike Adams’s Real.Video (like YouTube), Andrew Torba’s Gab.ai (like Twitter), Codias (like Facebook), Conservapedia (like Wikipedia), Hatreon (like Patreon), TrumpSingles (like Tinder), and Rebel Media (like YouTube) as examples. And that’s not counting right-wing media sites like The Daily Caller, Drudge Report, Fox News, Newsmax, The Blaze, One America News Network, National Review, The American Conservative (more critical of U$ imperialism than other outlets), The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, The Daily Wire, Gateway Pundit, The Federalist, TownHall, Breitbart, Hot Air, Instapundit, and Red State, along with talk radio shows and various others!

 

[6] Jim Hoft, “Top Far Left Organizations Bragged About Working with Facebook and Twitter to Censor and Eliminate Conservative Content,” The Gateway Pundit, Aug 20, 2018; Rob Shimshock, “Twitter Suspends Libertarian Commentator Gavin McInnes And His Activist Group,” The Daily Caller, Aug 11, 2018; Keith Wagstaff, “Twitter suspends Proud Boys and Gavin McInnes,” Mashable, Aug 10, 2018. And, no, these are NOT “far left” organizations, that’s what Jim Hoft gets wrong, like many people on the Right, who think that liberal organizations are more left-leaning than they actually are in reality!

[7] Daniel Taylor, “Free Speech Under Fire: Globalists Bet On Chinese Dominating the Internet’s Future,” Old Thinker News, Aug 13, 2018; Xeni Jardin, “Feds ask court to force Facebook to break Messenger’s end-to-end voice encryption for MS-13 gang probe,” Boing Boing, Aug 17, 2018; Sam Haysom, “Undercover footage exposes Facebook moderators’ disturbing policies,” Mashable, Jul 18, 2018; Bruce Haring, “Twitter Account Purges Continue As Service Cuts Guccifer 2.0 And DCLeaks,” Deadline, Jul 14, 2018; April Glaser, “YouTube Is Adding Fact-Check Links for Videos on Topics That Inspire Conspiracy Theories,” Slate, Aug 14, 2018; Lucas Matney, “Reddit has banned 944 accounts linked to the IRA Russian troll farm,” TechCrunch, Apr 11, 2018.

The specter of DPRK-U$ detente and what it means for the world

Kim and the orange menace shake hands at the June 12th Singapore summit.

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org, with changes of some links to this blog and text itself for reasons of smoothness.

Last month, I wrote a criticism, on this very website [anti-imperialism.org], of the orange menace’s letter which canceled one-on-one talks with Kim Jong Un, the DPRK’s elected leader, whom has held the ceremonial title of “supreme leader,” and commander of the Korean People’s Army, since December 2011. [1] Since then, the letter has become old hat, with the one-on-one talks on June 12 at a hotel located on Singapore’s Sentosa Island. Perhaps, the letter from the orange menace was a warning shot across the bow, supposed to say who was in “control.” With the summit, Pence, Bolton, and others within the U$ government which didn’t want the summit, were marginalized. The giddy liberals, like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson or former CIA director John Brennan were likely annoyed, as were those on news stations like MSNBC, unable to contain their hatred for the people of the DPRK, especially for Kim himself, calling him a “murderous dictator” who had “gulags” time and time again. As I wrote last month, “Kim and the DPRK have the upper hand here, not the imperialists, showing the DPRK are in a strong position, at an advantage.” As Amber B. recently wrote [on anti-imperialism.org], criticizing the left-opposition of the orange menace by groups such as the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and Refuse Fascism, instead of focusing on the orange menace, only a figurehead of the moment, as the primary enemy, it is better to “highlight the innumerable ways his administration works in perfect continuity with amerikan imperialism in general,” while understanding his peculiarities, but not giving them primary importance. With this, the following article aims to highlight the anger from sectors of the bourgeoisie on the summit, the results of the summit itself, how it fits into the broader framework of U$ imperialism, and what it means for the world as a whole.

In order to highlight the reactions and results of the summit, it is best to reprint the joint statement by Kim and the orange menace which was posted on the websites of Explore DPRK and Rodong Sinmun. The statement which was released on June 12 is as follows:

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Donald J. Trump, president of the United States of America, held the first historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new DPRK-U.S. relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new DPRK-U.S. relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump state the following:

1. The DPRK and the United States commit to establish new DPRK-U.S. relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The DPRK and the United States will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The DPRK and the United States commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the DPRK-U.S. summit, the first in history, was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for opening of a new future, Chairman Kim Jong Un and President Trump commit to implement the stipulations in this joint statement fully and expeditiously.

The DPRK and the United States commit to hold follow-on negotiations led by the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the DPRK-U.S. summit.

Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America have committed to cooperate for the development of new DPRK- U.S. relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

One can say it is positive that both sides agree on establishing new relations which will contribute to “peace and prosperity,” build a “lasting and robust peace regime” on the Korean Peninsula, and will work together to recover POW/MIA remains. The same can be said for implementing the summit’s outcomes, and planned cooperation tied with “the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.” The DPRK itself is compelled by the agreement to work for “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and reaffirm the ROK-DPRK Panmunjom Declaration, while the U$ is committed “to provide security guarantees to the DPRK.” Still, it is going too far to say that this is a “pretty comprehensive document” as the orange menace declared recently. Rather, it is much more moderate, even if we take Kim’s words that the past will be left behind and that the “world will see a major change.” It is also an agreement which is  supported by 51% of those in the U$, a strong showing of the populace for peace.

Recent developments have raised questions about the specter of detente, with papers like the New York Times declaring that the DPRK “ruined” negotiations and The Atlantic declaring that the road for denuclearization will not be an easy one. [2] Basically, the DPRK is asking for concessions from U$ imperialists in exchange for denuclearization, criticizing unilateral and irreversible denuclearization pushed by Pompeo (and neo-cons) most recently in his meeting with high-level DPRK officials, such as key Workers’ Party of Korea official Kim Yong Chol, whom have called for a phased approach toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula rather than “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation” (CVID) demanded quickly by the U$. As such, the DPRK said the talks with Pompeo, whom declared that both sides had made progress on “almost all of the central issues,” were regrettable, while Chol said that “the more you [Pompeo] come, more trust we can build between one another.” This could indicate differences within the DPRK’s leadership on how the U$ should be approached.

The full statement from the DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 7 showed the rightful criticism of the U$. It says that while they expected “that the U.S. side would bring itself with a constructive proposal which would help build up trust true to the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” with the DPRK putting forward “constructive proposals to seek a balanced implementation of all the provisions of the Joint Statement,” including putting in place “multilateral exchanges for improved relations between the DPRK and the U.S., making public a declaration on the end of war first on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement to build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, dismantling the test ground of high thrust engine to make a physical verification of the suspension of ICBM production as part of denuclearization steps and making an earliest start of the working-level talks for recovering POW/MIA remains.” Kim even wrote the orange menace a personal letter out of respect. However, the U$ imperialists demanded that the DPRK comply with the demand for unilateral denuclearization which “run[s] counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks,” never mentioning the issue of “establishing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war,” instead saying they would backtrack on ending “the status of war under certain conditions and excuses”! This seems to follow efforts of previous administrations, with the suspension of the war games something that could be reversed. The foreign ministry adds that the DPRK was naive to think that the U$ would “come with a constructive proposal which accords with the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks,” and notes that while the DPRK in the last few months “displayed maximum patience,” watching the U$ and initiating many “good-will steps,” this was misunderstood by the U$. They further commented that such imperialists are “fatally mistaken” if they think that “the DPRK would be compelled to accept, out of its patience” the imperialists’ demands. The statement closes by saying that “the U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.” So, the negotiations and burgeoning detente will continue, but tensions are rising to the surface, even if the orange menace really does give Kim a CD with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as some bourgeois media are alleging.

Since the summit: the U$ and DPRK’s response

What has happened since the summit is important to recall. Positively, the U$ ended military drills, also called “war games,” with the ROK, with the orange menace rightly calling them “inappropriate” and “provocative” while even floating the withdrawal of U$ troops from the ROK. However, this could be part of his strategy to make a mark globally, or to force concessions out of Japan and ROK through his measures. [3] At the same time, military drills could even be “used again to threaten Pyongyang once it doesn’t proceed with the denuclearization as Washington wants” as the Global Times posited. This is no surprise however, because there is a clear trend of imperial arrogance under the current administration, exemplified most poignantly by Nikki Haley in response to social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders, telling him that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America. The Special Rapporteur wasted the UN’s time and resources, deflecting attention from the world’s worst human rights abusers and focusing instead on the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”

The U$ imperialists have been holding a tenacious line. Hawkish John Bolton declared that discussions between the DPRK and U$ (including Mike Pompeo) would continue, putting the onus on the DPRK, saying that denuclearization can happen within a year (or even 2 ½ years), with an undefined program with “asks” mentioned by Bolton and unnamed U$ officials, perhaps numbering as many as 47 as TASS reported recently. [4] The orange menace claimed this would include consultations with the ROK, Japan, and China. At the same time, there are some talk of a second summit between Kim and the orange menace, possibly at the UN General Assembly’s annual session beginning in September, even though there are efforts to put stumbling blocks in place. Of course, people like Pence claim that the “success of this summit and the progress that we’ve made is a direct result of President Trump’s steadfast leadership, and the courage of one American family” referring to Otto Warmbier’s family. The orange menace unconsciously, since he is a political amateur, as the Koreans said at the past, has disrupted, in another attempt to put his “mark” on history, the imperial Orientalist narrative on the DPRK by saying that people in the country “love” Kim with a “fervor,” and that the people in the country are hard-working and industrious. He also said that “I believe it’s a rough situation over there [in the DPRK]. It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.” [5] Even with this, the imperial hostility toward the DPRK continues.

It is good to see the orange menace admitting that calling Kim “rocket man” was foolish. However, disgustingly he claimed it was part of his strategy to “earn” Kim’s “respect”! This seems like a horrible strategy which was not worth the cost! Detente could have been started much earlier. The current imperial strategy however is a bit confused as the orange menace extended the “national emergency” for the DPRK for another year, saying it constitutes an “extraordinary threat” to the U$, allowing economic sanctions to remain in place! Further disjunction is evidenced by the orange menace’s claims that he had “good chemistry” with Kim, who he called a “very smart guy,” “tough guy,” “great negotiator,” and “very talented” as one of very few to run a “tough country,” but nodded to the Orientalists by saying that Kim has engaged in “very bad things” even as he said that “so have a lot of other people that have done some really bad things.” This is another crack in the imperialist narrative. Let us be clear that Kim outmaneuvered the orange menace, who depends on advisers like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, while Kim serves as the guiding force of the DPRK, far from what those in the West call a “dictator” with venom on their lips. The orange menace is falling on his own sword by playing up the summit’s results. Of course, no one would even dream of considering denuclearization of the U$!

Since the summit, Kim and the DPRK leadership has taken a strong stand. If Bolton is to be believed, Kim told the orange menace on June 12 that he was different than Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. [6] While some say that the exact details of what the orange menace and Kim talked about is not known, Rodong Sinmun described the meeting as an “epoch-making meeting…[with] a candid exchange of views on the practical issues of weighty significance in putting an end to the decades-long hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S.” It also says there was “a comprehensive and in-depth discussion over the issues of establishing new DPRK-U.S. relations and building a permanent and durable peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula at the talks” with Kim praising “the president’s will and enthusiasm to resolve matters in a realistic way through dialogue and negotiations, away from the hostility-woven past…[and that] the two countries should commit themselves to refraining from antagonizing each other out of mutual understanding, and take legal and institutional steps to guarantee it.” Additionally, “Kim Jong Un invited Trump to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and Trump invited Kim…to visit the U.S.” This having been the case, people have sent Kim congratulatory letters, while he has met with Xi Jinping, who represents the Chinese revisionists, and with Moon Jae-in, negotiating to have continued reunions of families separated by the Korean War, leading even a common revisionist, Roland Boer, to float the idea of Nobel Prize for Kim and Moon. There have also been meetings between high-ranking DPRK and ROK generals. Most importantly for the Korean people is Kim’s public appearance at a Sinuiju province cosmetics factory in which he said “it is important to completely eliminate manual labor and modernize production processes,” by bringing in automation. [7] He also said he “always hoped for a visit to the cosmetic factory in Sinuiju…They are famous for producing cosmetics with a spring scent,” and was also “proud of the factory’s production levels, but encouraged workers to continue excelling” as one article noted. We can debate automation of the workforce, but Kim clearly cares about his people while the orange menace does not care one bit, a fact the DPRK is undoubtedly aware of.

Then we get to claims of increased nuclear production in the DPRK’s facility in Yongbyon from 5-6 unnamed “U.S. officials,” a supposed report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and most “strongly” from commercial satellite imagery, displayed by anti-DPRK “watcher” website, 38 North, a project of the Henry L. Stimson Center, whose “partners” include many foundations and imperial groups. The center is also, as it should be noted, funded by the capitalist governments of Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, UK, and U$, along with various private individuals, corporations, and foundations. [8] The imagery used by 38 North comes from a Pleiades satellite run by the French subsidiary of Airbus Defense and Space, called Airbus DS Geo SA, a global business which bills itself as an “international pioneer in Earth observation services.” As it turns out, Airbus Defense and Space is a subsidiary of the aerospace company, Airbus, over a quarter of which is owned by the capitalist French, Spanish, and German governments, according to page 108 of the organization’s most recent annual report. That doesn’t sound like an unbiased source at all! I am reminded of a recent article by Melinda Laituri in The Conversation, where she writes that

Satellite images…are captured through remote sensing technologies…without physical contact or firsthand experience. Algorithms refine these data to describe places and phenomena on the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere…I think it’s important for people to understand the limitations of this technology, lest they misunderstand what they see…But there are some caveats that anyone working with satellite images – or viewing them – should consider. Satellite images are only as good as their resolution. The smaller the pixel size, the sharper the image. But even high-resolution images need to be validated on the ground to ensure the trustworthiness of the interpretation. Should we question the images we see? Whose view of the world are we seeing? One example of the misuse of remotely sensed data was in 2003, when satellite images were[falsely] used as evidence of sites of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq…processing satellite images is computationally intensive. At best, satellite images are interpretations of conditions on Earth – a “snapshot” derived from algorithms that calculate how the raw data are defined and visualized. This has created a “black box,” making it difficult to know when or why the algorithm gets it wrong…Through platforms like Google Earth and Earth Explorer, satellite images are increasingly available to not only researchers and scientists, but to people around the world…maps derived from satellite images are constructed by those who may not be very familiar with the site. Mappers have an important responsibility when representing other people’s places. Maps derived from satellite images without local context – like street names or information about vegetation types – tell incomplete stories. Building footprints can be digitized, but only locals can identify the purpose of that building. Imaginary lines, like country boundaries, don’t show up on remotely sensed images. As satellite images become more ubiquitous, we should reflect on where they come from, how they are created, and the purpose for their use.

Keeping that at mind, we should not, for one second, accept the claims made by the DNI, unnamed U$ officials, and even the interpretation of satellite imagery at face value. As Stephen Lendman, who I’ve cited before, writes, even 38 North can’t confirm if the work it says occurred, “continued after the June 12 Kim/Trump summit” after the summit or not! So, this makes their article totally worthless, a piece of junk which should be incinerated in the closest furnace, without polluting the air of course.

Capitalism coming to the DPRK?

There are signs of possible shifts. Kim met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on June 11, saying he would “learn a lot from the good knowledge and experience of Singapore in various fields in the future,” adding that issues of bilateral relations and increased “wide-ranging exchange and cooperation” was encouraged, while Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Singaporean Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung went to the DPRK. This raises the question: is capitalism coming to the DPRK as part of the detente with U$ imperialists?

We know that a four-minute short, created by the National Security Council, was shown to Kim, along with the capitalist media later on, with a voice over thundering that “Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity. A new story. A new beginning. Out of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny.” [9] This video “shows scenes of high-tech societies and everyday America, contrasted with images of traditional and contemporary Korean life, spliced with shots of rockets and North Korean militarism” as one bourgeois news outlet puts it. As the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which is not anti-imperialist in the slightest, describes it, the video serves “as a kind of hyper-capitalist real estate pitch, complete with beachfront property and speedboats and babies.” There’s also the fact that the orange menace, who says the video was shown in English and Korean, claims it was “loved” by Kim and eight Korean representatives. If he and other top DPRK officials liked the video, which we can’t be completely sure about unless we take the word of the orange menace at face value, it is somewhat worrisome considering the capitalist nature. Even so, it wouldn’t mean that the country is moving in a capitalist direction. In fact, it could mean they see it more broadly without abandoning the country’s social model.

At the same time, it is significant that the foreign affairs minister of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, was impressed with what he saw in the DPRK on his visit. As he recounted:

…I come back very impressed…my views have also altered based on what I saw, heard, and (after I had) spoken to people. Clearly, the government has been hard at work all these decades to upgrade their infrastructure. I also got to experience the rugged, disciplined, determined, self-reliant society. They know they have had enormous challenges for well-nigh a century in North Korea. But they are proud of themselves and of their identity, and I can see there is that determination to move on, get ahead and to progress. So the society itself is a very impressive society and a city in its own right. Despite these maximal sanctions, what you have is a society that has continued to invest itself and continuously trying to upgrade people and their skills and the services they provide to their citizens. Now, can you imagine if peace finally comes, and North Korea is allowed to open up to the world and gain access to technology, capability, skills and markets. I think the sky is the limit for their people. If a breakthrough is achieved during the summit in Singapore, if peace comes, there will be a bountiful harvest. Primarily of course, with the Korean peninsula but also the rest of us, including Singapore as well. [10]

The question remains: who will collect this “bountiful harvest”? Will it be the Korean people or capitalists, Chinese, ROK, Japanese, Singaporean, and U$, spreading their wings and planting themselves in the North? If the latter is the case, then it will be a sad day for the forces fighting global imperialism. If the former occurs, which is something all those who care about justice should push for, then this would be a great relief for Korean people. We already know that 80% of ROK trading companies want to take part in development projects in the DPRK after international sanctions are lifted and are asking for better cross-border exchange. [11] Additionally, the national assembly of the ROK has seen an “increase in the number of bill proposals by legislators pushing to bolster economic exchanges with North Korea,” with many focused on inter-Korean railways and other economic exchanges. We also know that the U$ may be interested in negotiations with the DPRK because of large “deposits of rare earth elements (REEs)…potentially worth billions of US dollars” at a time that the DPRK “may be on the cusp of being integrated into a vast supply chain via an Iron Silk Road, with the Russia-China strategic partnership simultaneously investing in railways, pipelines and ports in parallel to North-South Korean special economic zones (SEZs), Chinese-style” as Pepe Escobar, favorable to Chinese revisionism, wrote recently. Furthermore, the orange menace and certain U$ imperialists want the summit in order to further “U.S. capitalist interests in Asia.”

It also seems that the DPRK is preparing itself even more for the world spotlight. One traveler from New Zealand, calling himself Indigo Traveller Nick, described Pyongyang as “impeccably clean,” thanks to efforts by locals, with grand metro stops, a fascinating but brutal war museum about the Korean war, feeling invisible as a foreigner, and having relative freedom for footage except for taking images of statues of current or former leaders. [12] He also claimed that those in rural regions of the country “looked like they walked straight out from a 1940s film,” reminiscent of the Soviet Union. He ended by calling it the “most unique and fascinating country” he had ever visited. On a related noted, the country is also connected culturally and linguistically to the south, with both countries sharing the same unofficial national anthem, “Our Wish is Reunification.” At the same time, a 42-minute video of the summit and visit of Kim and other top DPRK officials to Singapore was proudly broadcast on Korean Central Television (KCTV), including a “glittering Singapore skyline,” with Kim approving of Singapore as “clean and beautiful.” This would seem at least somewhat worrisome since Singapore is, as the bourgeois media has argued, a “prosperous capitalist nation,” only being “prosperous” for the capitalists.

The Russians are key in future developments in the DPRK, since they play a part in the search for a solution to the woes of the Korean Peninsula. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov is noted as saying in mid-June that they “seek economic cooperation with South Korea, which is our second largest trading partner in Asia after China,” while there would be high-level talks later in the month, focusing on “further development of Russia-South Korea relations in political, trade and economic, and humanitarian spheres.” [13] This is connected with the idea, posed by ROK president Moon Jae-in, that there be a Trans Korean Maine Line which can be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway, which can benefit both Koreas and Russia, connected with having a gas pipeline from Russia connecting the two Koreas, along with electric lines as well, possibly even connecting with Japan. Moon also said, elsewhere that the DPRK can be part of negotiations with Russia “after permanent peace is established in the region.” An outlet of the Vietnamese revisionists, VN Express, reported on the topic as well, noting that between the ROK and Russia, there was hope “that reduced tensions with Pyongyang will open up opportunities for economic and infrastructure projects that would directly link South Korea with Russia through North Korea” with an area of common interest being “railway projects,” with current development “of a railway link between the Russian eastern border town of Khasan and the North Korean port of Rajin.” The DPRK clearly realizes the value of Russia as well, with Kim touring a military site in a Russian-made Lada Priora, a car produced by a large automaker in Russia, AvtoVAZ, which is majority-owned by the French car company, Renault.

China, which is revisionist and connected to global capitalism, has a similarly strong role in the events in the country itself. There are indications that any transformation in the DPRK will be based on what has happened in China since 1978, not on what has happened in the U$, engaging in economic reconstruction with any capitalistic opening limited to SEZs. [14] The Chinese state media claims that the DPRK’s cosmetic industry will gain from capitalistic Chinese investment, building upon existing connections to Chinese cyberspace. With all of this, the DPRK’s leadership increased the country’s ties with China, with the Chinese hosting a banquet for Kim on June 19, with talks in the following days, returning after the talks, on June 21. Interestingly, he visited, with his wife Ri Sol Ju, “the Beijing Municipal Track Traffic Control Centre,” learning the details and asking pointed questions, adding that “he admires at the high-level automation and good combined control system of the centre, he hoped that the centre would further develop into a world-level traffic control centre and make greater progress.”

There have also been rumblings about the “erasing” of anti-imperialist propaganda in the DPRK, which claims it was “replaced” by other propaganda celebrating Korean unification and not as critical of the U$. [15] A tour manager of Young Pioneer Tours named Rowan Beard, Peter Ward of NKNews, and a researcher at the ROK’s Korea Institute for National Unification named Hong Min, along with some other so-called “experts” said this was the case. Additionally, AP reported that the annual anti-imperialist rally to mark the start of the Korean War, or the Great Fatherland Liberation War, is not occurring this year. Of course, this is reporting on the outside, looking in, so what they are saying is likely distorted. It is clear that Rodong Sinmun is still celebrating the “socialist public health system in the DPRK,” writing on June 25th that this system is “symbolic of the advantages of Korean-style socialism centered on the popular masses, where the working masses are masters of everything and everything in society serves them.”

Clearly, the stage is set for some sort of capitalist opening in the DPRK. There are already some SEZs and other market mechanisms, as allowed by the country’s constitution, but these seem to be limited within the country itself. It is not known how much the country will “open” up, but if it is as much as China, this could be deleterious to the Korean people in the North by hurting any efforts for socialist construction in the country. Whatever is in store in the months and years to come, Russia, China, and the ROK will be key players, as will the DPRK. Perhaps Japan will be part of the equation, as will the U$, but the result of the detente will determine what the role of U$ imperialists will be going forward. The DPRK could also follow the model of Vietnam, which those like Pompeo hope for, as he recently said in Hanoi that “I say all of that because it’s important, but I hope that the United States, that one day we can share the same relationship with North Korea [that we have with Vietnam].” He added at a press conference in Japan that “in light of the once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong Un. President Trump believes your country can replicate this path. It’s yours if you’ll seize the moment. The miracle could be yours. The choice now lies with North Korea and its people.” Whether that comes to pass, the fact is that the DPRK will adapt to the new surroundings, as has done since September 9, 1948, when the country was founded, with its efforts to play the Soviets and the Chinese off each other, especially after the 1960s, until the end of the Cold War in 1991, leading to some criticism from certain parts of the world.

The warmongers continue their assault: liberals and corporate media

While the orange menace rattles on about “fake news” from NBC and CNN, saying that there should be “negotiating in good faith” by both sides, with war and “potential nuclear catastrophe” involving the DPRK averted, he poses himself as a “courageous” individual for making “peace.” At the same time, Bruce Cumings, a liberal bourgeois historian, has said that this summit “frees Trump from Washington establishment thinking, and create[s] a real possibility of peace in Korea.” Not everyone sees it that way: liberals and much of the corporate media is opposed to detente between the DPRK and the U$ since they want the detente to fail.

This attitude is evident without question. On June 12, Ankit Panda of The Daily Beast declared that during the meeting Kim “got the better end of the bargain” and that the DPRK gained an “important propaganda coup.” [16] The same day, The Guardian blared that Kim “won” the summit, gaining “bolstered status and diplomatic leverage,” even saying that the war games were positive! Others, like William Rivers Pitt of Truthout, went into the bizarre, calling Kim a “dangerous menace” who was a “fascist” like the orange menace! This wasn’t much of a surprise considering that others like Tony Schwartz (former ghostwriter for the orange menace) and Rebecca Gordon of TomDispatch fell in line, saying that the orange menace was moving closer to “enemies” of the empire. They “proved” this by citing the orange menace’s comments that Kim is a “tough guy” who is “smart” and a “great negotiator,” while saying, some time ago, in response to typical bourgeois criticism of Putin, “what do you think, our country’s so innocent?” The latter statement alludes to imperial violence since 1776 while such violence continues unimpeded! By contrast, progressive “luminary” Amy Goodman was more positive on the summit, saying that there should be unification behind “peace movements that are driving this diplomatic opening.” The same was the case for Tom Shorrock, who called Kim a “dictator,” who was also positive, especially criticizing corporate pundits.

A number of radical and alternative commentators exposed the true nature of the warmongers. Some wrote that the summit was “filled with the sorts of reality-television antics we’ve come to expect from the U.S. leader,” but also said that those Democrats who were Clintonites or Obamaesque, “struggled hard to express principled disagreements with the White House over a rapprochement with Pyongyang,” using a “laundry-list cliché of complaints,” with the orange menace “incapable of doing any good unless he’s applying a language of pressure, sanctions and veiled threats using acceptable language.” Even the Greanville Post, an alternative media outlet which is favorable to revisionism, pointed out that Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, the U$ House Minority Leader, did not like the moderate concessions by the orange menace to Kim, wanting more brinkmanship, not wanting a “genuine and durable peace” on the Korean Peninsula. The union-funded publication, In These Times, said something similar, noting that Koreans were optimistic about the summit, while those like Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, liberal cesspool Vox, Hallie Jackson of MSNBC, and King Russophobe Adam Schiff, among other establishment liberals, as some call them, were up in arms, with even social democratic imperialist Bernie Sanders praising the summit! This was not unusual. The bourgeois media made the faulty assumption for weeks leading up to the summit (and since) that “North Korea cannot live without nuclear weapons” and do not take one second to “understand North Korea’s strategy in regard to nuclear weapons,” not recognizing that the DPRK was ready and willing to negotiate openly with the U$ back in 2013, but the U$ refused to negotiate. This same media seemed to be more concerned about Kim than the orange menace, which has thousands more weapons possibly at his (and his government’s) disposal, 1,650 strategic nuclear warheads on ICBMs and 180 tactical nuclear weapons at bomber bases in Europe, a much greater threat to the world as a whole. After all, while the orange menace is the person followed by the “football”, the imperialists have granted themselves all “rights” to use nuclear weapons as they see fit. Such warmongers easily align with the military contractors whose stocks took a dive as Kim and the orange menace signed an agreement on June 12, as their dreams of “yet another catastrophic U.S.-led military conflict” seem to have faded away.

Black Agenda Report was spot on in their criticism of such warmongers. Margaret Kimberley said that the Democrats “are left with nothing except attacking Trump from the right” because they fundamentally “like war, interventions and United States hegemony” as “true believers in imperialism.” They are not at all, as she notes, progressive, instead supporting “America’s professed right to invade and intervene in the affairs of countries all over the world,” upholding the U$ as the global police force, not supporting any “sovereignty and equality among nations.” Ajamu Baraka similarly wrote about how any move “toward normalizing relations between the United States and North Korea” was derided by Democrats, along with others from NPR, MSNBC, and CNN, who do not realize that this process, is, for the Korean people, about de-colonization. He also said that ultimately the orange menace will fall in line and misread the Koreans since “peace, de-colonization and national reconciliation for Korea are counter to U.S. interests,” meaning that there must be a demand upon the empire to get out of Korea, supporting a process to make that occur. Of course, the Democrats who stake out “a position to the right of John Bolton on the summit” cannot be trusted to make this happen, with even the Poor People’s Campaign, launched in May 2018, having little to say on the topic. In contrast, the newfangled Black Alliance for Peace has adopted the strong position of: “not one drop of blood from the working class and poor to defend the interests of the capitalist oligarchy.”

This leads to a further conclusion: that the “Democratic Party establishment and its media surrogates,” which some claim are MSNBC and CNN, are not part of the “Left” anymore. After all, these forces have called for increased pressure on Russia and the DPRK while they support a full-fledged proxy conflict in Syria and the murderous Zionist apartheid state, making common cause with neo-cons, the military establishment and multinational capitalist combines. This is part of what Amber B. described on this website [anti-imperialism.org] back in June: that Democrats are intensifying their rightward shift “in the midst of a new looming crisis in imperialism, critiquing Trump for overseeing a declining u.$. empire, de-escalation with N. Korea, an Assad victory in Syria, and defeat on virtually every front of soft power available to the u.$.” This is connected to a new predicament and threat of inter-imperialist war, necessitating greater unity among revolutionary forces in order to defeat “the u.$. in all conflicts and colonial holdings, in and outside north amerika, and ultimately of taking power.” Such unity requires, as Amber B. noted correctly, that the direction of U$ imperialism belongs to a greater authority: “the whole constellation of relations of moribund imperialism, settler and neo-colonialism, and inter-imperialist rivalry.” This means that “unless and until the u.$. state is overthrown, its ruling classes suppressed, its sovereignty over captive nations ended, then amerikan imperialism will continue, till total victory or total ruin, no matter who is in power.” Looking at the changes of power since 2000, from Clinton to Bush II in 2000, from Bush II to Obama in 2008, from Obama to the orange menace in 2016, as a small example, there has been imperial continuity manifested in the Afghanistan war, extraordinary rendition of any suspected “wrongdoer,” the developed mass surveillance system, the dungeons of mass incarceration, maintaining the Guantanamo Naval Base, and the overall warfare readiness of the empire, with interspersed wars, terroristic drone strikes, expanding bases, and covert (and overt) activity.

What does the summit mean for the world?

On June 12, in the flurry of news on the topic, the New York Times took a typical Orientalist perspective but still admitted that “for the first time since 1953, the door has been opened to peace on the Korean Peninsula.” But there is more than just a door that has been opened. A whole new opportunity and paradigm is possible, with those such as Kim, very-popular ROK president Moon Jae-In, and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, key players in such negotiations, which can be said to be part of “serious peace talks,” with ending the state of war giving the Korean people “space they need to deal with their own division,” leading to future democratic change. Even the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union praised the summit, saying it signals “a new era in which peace on the Korean Peninsula is possible” while they worried that the agreement was not concrete enough, saying that the conclusion “peace treaty by all relevant sides and a non-aggression pact between the U.S. and North Korea are needed as steps towards creating a Korean peace regime.” This union was also concerned that the comments by the orange menace about “prosperity” in the DPRK is “predicated on private investment and the capitalist opening” of that country’s economy, a process that “does not involve workers’ participation, [and] has the potential to lead to the expansion of labour rights violations and increase in economic and other forms of inequality.” In the meantime, the murderous empire has no intention to operate “within the rule-based international order designed to govern relations between states and between people and governments” evidenced by the withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council because it criticized Zionist oppression. Bolivian President Evo Morales rightly described that this event was the most recent evidence that the U$ is “an interventionist, coup-mongering state, and a violator of the people’s right to life, especially of the poorest…[and] an accomplice of Israel, that massacres civilians, and [the U$] today incarcerates innocent children that cross its border.” The empire is, as he noted, with all its unilateral actions since 2017, “the worst threat for world peace, human rights, and Mother Earth.”

As the Chinese revisionist leadership and DPRK leadership increase their ties, there is talk of a railway going from China into the DPRK, with the revisionists not letting up on supporting murderous sanctions on the Korean people. [17] This could complicate matters for the orange menace as it increases the leverage of Xi Jinping in the trade war between the U$ and China, with the Chinese restraining their criticism of the orange menace. This trade war, whether it leads to a shooting war or not, allows Xi (and the Chinese revisionists) to disrupt possible negotiations between the DPRK and U$. As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “what matters is how China and the US cooperate. Let competition drive cooperation,” showing they operate within the capitalist model. Let us not forget that Kim arrived on an Air China jet in Singapore, undoubtedly a symbolic move without question, showing that China “brought him there and back.”

Still, the DPRK is not a Chinese colony. Rather, the DPRK decides its own policy, with Kim outmaneuvering the imperialists, with the U$ adopting the freeze-for-freeze policy, in the simple agreement on June 12 which did not have “any decisive or concrete details,” proposed by the Russians and Chinese, and more recently endorsed by the DPRK itself. Such independent policy has led the ROK has made some concessions even though their military remains wary. In a recent KCNA article describing the summit, it was clear that the Koreans were pursuing their own path, treating the U$ respectfully, while still holding a strong line. This independent policy was recently showcased in the president of the Presidium, the leading body of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), Kim Yong Nam, congratulating Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador upon his election as president of Mexico (by a landslide), saying that it is “an expression of the Mexican people’s trust and expectation,” while adding that he wished Obrador “good health and great success in his responsible work, expressing belief that the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries would develop onto a new higher stage in line with the aspiration and desire of the two peoples.” Whether Obrador can challenge existing capitalist orthodoxy is an open question, but the Mexican people got a long-needed change and social movements in the country can push Obrador to move the country in a progressive, even radical, direction. On the topic of the DPRK’s independent policy, one should also point out the favorable relations they hold with socially democratic Nicaragua, the secular socially democratic state of Syria, socially democratic Venezuela, Islamic nationalist Iran, socialist Cuba, and support for Palestinian liberation without question.

The former colonial master of Japan has been broadly left out of discussions, becoming a bystander, even though it will eventually have to conform. [18] The DPRK has said already that Japan will be ignored as long as it continues efforts to boost its military readiness and large-scale military drills, that the anti-DPRK policy of the government must be scrapped, and replaced with “sincerity toward Peace.” Other countries have been more positive. The Iranians, with Mohammad Bagher Nobakht of the Iranian government saying that “we are facing a man who revokes his signature while abroad,” who warned Kim of the U$ duplicity, were positive about the summit, with Iranian Ambassador to London, Hamid Baeidinejad saying that “one positive aspect of the agreement between the US and North Korea is that the possibility of war and military conflict between the two sides, escalated by Trump’s bellicose remarks, which could have affected South Korea, Japan and China, and had caused great concern, has now been reduced.” More specifically, the Japanese, ROK, and Chinese were pleased. But neo-cons like Marco Rubio, David Purdue, Brett Klinger (former CIA, Heritage Foundation), and conservative analyst Brit Hume were fuming while Lindsey Graham and Cory Gardner were more optimistic. Even the chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, Mac Thornberry, supports ending the war games, while he still supports a strong imperial presence in the ROK. The Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Brian Schatz, Chris Murphy, and Steve Cohen, sided with the neo-cons, as one would expect.

It remains to be seen if future negotiations will focus on “eliminating Washington’s regional nuclear umbrella…[or] pulling US troops out of South Korea.” Even if this is the “beginning of a different sort of diplomatic process” as some say, even some bourgeois analysts grumble that “North Korea is not going to jump into our alliance network anytime soon, but the Singapore summit may give it the opportunity to move out of China’s orbit,” seeing a possible future ally of the empire, not realizing the interconnections of the DPRK and China or their shared history. [19] Then there’s the question of possible sanction relief, which the U$ seems to be holding out as a possibility but only once the DPRK unilaterally and completely disarm its nukes, which they aren’t prepared to do without major concessions by the imperialists first, a justified response. The DPRK wants to protect and expand the standard of living of the people within the country, but will not dismantle its nuclear industry since “nuclear technology can be used to generate electricity and is a prestige item for the North generally.” While it is hard for some to see “coherence in Trump’s bellicose policies towards Iran and North Korea,” the fact, as one analyst noted, is that “any increased popularity Trump would gain from a war now would invariably diminish by the time he’s up for reelection. Thus, for Trump, commencing war two years later, just before the presidential election, would make far more sense. Republicans, independents and even some Democrats would rally to the flag and be more likely to vote him back into office.” Furthermore, as Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, noted, the orange menace is not “causing chaos in the imperial Big House because he wants to hasten the demise of U.S. imperialism” but rather he is trying to “stamp his orange imprint on history,” not knowing what he does, while he aligns closely with the Zionists and Gulf autocrats.

I tend to disagree with Ford’s comment that the orange menace doesn’t know what he is doing. There seems to be precise calculations for what he is doing. Sure, he is trying to imprint on history, but his snap analysis, manifested by his comment in Canada that “they say you know you’re going to like somebody in the first five seconds – you ever hear of that one? Well, I think I’ll know very quickly whether or not something good is going to happen. I also think I’ll know whether it will happen fast” about Kim, adding that “I’ll be on a mission of peace. In my heart, we will be carrying the hearts of millions of people, people from all over the world. We have to get denuclearization, we have to get something going.”” While this is utter hogwash, there is rationality to his method. At times, the administration is just trying to push the envelope, while other times his statements serve as a distraction from pressing matters. It all fits within the framework of U$ imperialism which broadly continues on the path set by Bush II and Obama, with even further venom spewed toward Venezuela, Cuba (to a lesser extent), Russia, and China. And no, the summit between Kim and the orange menace, even with its antics of those like reactionary Dennis Rodman, was not a distraction from the meeting of some elites, like Henry Kissinger and 130 others, at Bilderberg. Rather, the bourgeois media would just not cover the Bilderberg meeting, regardless of whether the Kim-orange menace summit occurred. This isn’t because of some magic conspiracy, but rather because the summit was more jazzy, fitting with the bourgeois media model than a “boring” and secretive Bilderberg summit, as they would likely describe it.

What is in the cards in the coming days is a summit between Vladimir Putin and the orange menace on July 16 in Helsinki, which is already being panned by bourgeois media and their Russophobic allies here, there, and everywhere!. [20] This summit would undoubtedly be modeled the same way as the summit between Kim and the orange menace. In the process, anti-imperialists must push the U$ for concessions on reducing military pressure, while having no illusions about the Russians, who are nationalistic and wedded to capitalism, with their own bourgeoisie which is willing to work with the U$ as needed.

The specter of detente between the DPRK and U$ scares the liberal and neoconservative imperialists who would like a state of war on the Korean Peninsula, posing the DPRK as a “threat” to global humanity even though the murderous empire is the real threat. This is evident in the fact that this empire has over 266 times more nuclear weapons than the DPRK! [21] At the same time, those imperialists in the corner of the orange menace see this as an opportunity to “flip” the DPRK into the U$ imperial umbrella. What comes next is in part up to the DPRK and U$ negotiators, but can also be influenced by the proletariat in the DPRK, ROK, China, and Russia, along with long-standing movements such as the peace movement. In the end, we should remain critical while rejecting Orientalist propaganda aimed at the Koreans and not being dismissive of the detente, realizing the potential of a peaceful Korean Peninsula for those occupying it, those in the countries surrounding it, and the world at-large.


Notes

[1] In 2012, he also became the Chairman (called “First Secretary” from 2012 to 2016) of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission (called the National Defence Commission from 2012 to 2016), Chair of the Central Military Commission, and a member of the Politiburo’s presidium which is led by Kim Yong Chol.

[2] Uri Freedman, “America’s Moment of Truth With North Korea Is Coming,” The Atlantic, July 10, 2018; Reuters Staff, “North Korea says resolve for denuclearisation may falter after talks with U.S.: KCNA,” Reuters, July 7, 2018; Matthew Lee and Andrew Harnick, “North Korea Says Talks With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Were ‘Regrettable’,” AP (reprinted by Time), July 7, 2018; Rozina Sabur, “Mike Pompeo arrives in Pyongyang to press for commitment to denuclearisation,” The Telegraph, July 6, 2018; Hyonshee Shin and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea slams ‘gangster-like’ U.S. demands after satisfied Pompeo leaves,” Reuters, July 6, 2018.

[3] Wang Peng, “US move to suspend military drills with South Korea a calculated move,” Global Times, June 19, 2018; “President Trump Says North Korea Has Returned the Remains of 200 U.S. Soldiers,” Time, June 21, 2018.

[4] Stefan Becket, “Bolton says U.S. could dismantle North Korean arsenal “within a year”,” CBS News, July 1, 2018; Elise Labott, “US and North Korean officials met Sunday to discuss implementing agreement between countries,” CNN, July 1, 2018; Mike Allen, “Scoop: Trump may hold Round 2 with Kim Jong-un in NYC,” Axios, July 2, 2018; Ian Kullgren, “Bolton downplays North Korea weapons report,” Politico, July 2, 2018; Julia ManChester, “Pence on Trump-Kim summit: ‘It takes courage to make peace’,” The Hill, June 13, 2018; Phil Stewart, “U.S. to give North Korea post-summit timeline with ‘asks’ soon: official,” Reuters, June 24, 2018; “Trump: North Korea ‘total denuclearization’ started; officials see no new moves,” Reuters, Jun 22, 2018. In his interview with ABC News, as noted in the June 12 article titled “President Trump sits down with George Stephanopoulos: TRANSCRIPT,” he said that “we have the framework of getting ready to denuclearize North Korea…We’re going to work with South Korea. We’re going to work with Japan. We’re going to work with China…They’re [Korean] gonna start immediately. They really already started. They blew up a site, which was the real deal site that was their big site, they’ve blown it up…We stopped playing those war games that cost us a fortune…they’re very expensive…His [Kim’s] country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor. They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people — that they’re so hard working, so industrious…We’re starting from scratch. We’re starting right now, and we have to get rid of those nuclear weapons…there are reasons he [Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il] didn’t because he was let down by the United States, but that’s irrelevant…In the past we’ve tried, but it never worked out and it never did work out. And it was embarrassing actually to the United states and to our leadership…He trusts me, I believe, I really do. I mean, he said openly, and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows that no other president ever could have done this.”

[5] Morgan Gsalder, “Trump: North Koreans love Kim,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Collum Borchers, “Trump’s refreshing admission that he felt ‘foolish’ when taunting Kim Jong Un,” Washington Post, June 13, 2018; AP, “Trump flips on North Korea, declaring country still an ‘extraordinary threat’,” The Guardian, June 23, 2018; “Trump touts ‘great chemistry’ with Kim Jong Un,” AOL News, June 24, 2018; Lisa de Moraes, “Donald Trump Defends “Great Negotiator” Kim Jong Un Who Bret Baier Calls “Killer”,” Deadline, June 13, 2018; Steve Holland, “Trump defends policies on border, North Korea in visit to Las Vegas,” Reuters, June 23, 2018. Even the orange menace has doubted, there will problems of this strategy, saying “I think he’s going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse” as noted in Dylan Stableford’s June 13th article in Yahoo! News titled “’Sleep well tonight!’: Trump promptly declares North Korea no longer a nuclear threat.”

[6] Stefan Becket, “Bolton says U.S. could dismantle North Korean arsenal “within a year”,” CBS News, July 1, 2018; Ian Kullgren, “Bolton downplays North Korea weapons report,” Politico, July 2, 2018; Krishnadev Calamur, “No One Knows What Kim Jong Un Promised Trump,” The Atlantic, Jul 2, 2018; “Date set for reunions of war-separated Korean families,” DW, June 22, 2018.

[7] Tom O’Connor, “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Wants to ‘Completely Eliminate Manual Labor’,” Newsweek, July 2, 2018; Kim Myong-song, “Kim Jong-un Visits Chinese Border Region,” Chosun, July 2, 2018; “Kim Jong Un visits cosmetics factory in special economic zone near border with China,” Straits Times, July 1, 2018.

[8] Kanga Kong, “North Korea Ramps Up Nuclear Effort Weeks After Trump Summit,” Bloomberg, July 2, 2018; Courtney Kube, Ken Dilanian and Carol E. Lee, “North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials,” NBC News, June 29, 2018; Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, “North Korea working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear program, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, June 30, 2018; Jonathan Cheng, “North Korea Expands Key Missile-Manufacturing Plant,” Wall Street Journal, Jul 1, 2018; Frank V. Pabian, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. and Jack Liu, “Infrastructure Improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility,” 38 North, June 26, 2018.

[9] Kate Simmons, “Creator of the Trump-Kim ‘Movie Trailer’ Steps Forward,” Newser, June 13, 2018; Alana Abramson, “National Security Council Says It Created That Video President Trump Showed Kim Jong Un Before the North Korean Summit,” Time, June 13, 2018; Euan McKirdy, “Destiny Pictures founder claims mistaken identity, distances himself from Trump video,” CNN, June 14, 2018; Julian Borger, “’Harebrained’: National Security Council owns up to widely derided Trump video,” The Guardian, June 13, 2018; Tim Hains, “Scott Adams: Trump Video Message To Kim “Might Be The Best Thing Anybody Ever Did In A Negotiation, Period”,” RealClearPolitics, June 12, 2018; John Hindertaker, “The Kim Destiny Pictures Video: Brilliant or Stupid? [Updated],” PowerLine, June 13, 2018.

[10] Leong Wai Kit, “’I come back very impressed’: Vivian Balakrishnan on trip to North Korea,” Channel News Asia, June 9, 2018.

[11] “Bulk of S. Korean trading firms want to take part in N. Korea projects: poll,” Yonhap News, June 17, 2018; “Parliament sees more bill proposals for inter-Korean economic exchanges amid warming ties,” Yonhap News, June 10, 2018.

[12] “Inside North Korea: Kiwi’s ‘surreal’ trip to the secretive nation,” New Zealand Herald, June 25, 2018; Ben Westcott and Stella Ko, “North Korea state media airs unseen video from Trump-Kim summit,” CNN, June 14, 2018.

[13] “Russia, South Korea to discuss economic cooperation, Korean Peninsula issue,” Xinhua, June 20, 2018; “Putin tells Moon: We’ll keep working for Korean peninsula peace,” Reuters, June 22, 2018.

[14] Cynthia Kim and Christian Shepard, “North Korea seen looking to China, not U.S., for help in any economic transformation,” Reuters, Jun 10, 2018; Cao Siqi, “North Korean cosmetics firm gains attention from Kim’s factory visit,” Global Times, Jul 3, 2018.

[15] Andreas Illmer, “North Korean propaganda changes its tune,” BBC News, June 23, 2018; Eileen AJ Connolly, “North Korea erasing most anti-US propaganda,” New York Post, Jun 23, 2018; “North Korea to erase anti-U.S. propaganda,” BlackListed News, June 24, 2018; “North Korea media tone down anti-US rhetoric,” Financial Times, accessed June 25, 2018; Cha Song Ho and Eric Talmadge, “In sign of detente, North Korea skips annual anti-US rally,” Washington Post (reprinted from AP), June 25, 2018.

[16] Ankit Panda, “Trump’s Singapore Summit Was a Bust—for the U.S.,” The Daily Beast, June 12, 2018; “The Guardian view on Trump in Singapore: a huge win – for North Korea,” The Guardian, June 12, 2018; William Rivers Pitt, “Winning the News Cycle: Trump’s Made-for-TV Singapore Summit,” Truthout, reprinted in Information Clearing House, June 13, 2018; “Trump Dismisses Kim Jong Un’s Atrocities: ‘He’s a Tough Guy’,” The Daily Beast, June 14, 2018.

[17] Liu Caiyu, “North Korea deserves trust as Kim shows resolution on China trip: analysts,” Global Times, June 21, 2018; “As Kim Visits China, Xi Flaunts Bargaining Chip in Trade Dispute,” Bloomberg News, June 19, 2018; Deng Xiaoci, “FM urges US to cooperate on trade, N.Korea as Pompeo visits China,” Global Times, June 14, 2018; Moon of Alabama, “The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit – Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement),” Information Clearing House, June 14, 2018.

[18] Akira Kimura, “Trump-Kim summit leaves Japan struggling with outdated strategy,” Global Times, Jun 14, 2018; “North Korea says to ignore Japan until it scraps military drills, other measures,” Reuters, June 25, 2018; “Iran spokesman warns Kim about nuclear agreement with Trump,” AP, June 12, 2018; Julia Manchester, “Dems rip Trump concessions, ’embarrassing’ rhetoric with Kim,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Brian Murphy and Shibani Mahtani, “With some reservations, East Asian countries welcome the Trump-Kim summit,” Washington Post, June 12, 2018; Ellen Mitchell, “GOP senator ‘troubled’ by Trump announcement to halt US-South Korean military drills,” The Hill, June 12, 2018; Paul LeBlanc, “Fox News Analyst Calls Trump Handshake With ‘Thug’ Kim Jong Un ‘Disconcerting’,” Newsweek, June 12, 2018; Eli Stokols, “Republicans remain skeptical despite Trump’s boasts of breakthrough with North Korea’s Kim,” LA Times, June 12, 2018; Ellen Mitchell, “House GOP chairman backs Trump’s move to halt military exercises with South Korea,” The Hill, June 13, 2018.

[19] Christopher Steintz, “The Trump-Kim summit advances a unique rapprochement,” The Hill, June 13, 2018; “Pompeo: No Sanctions Relief for Pyongyang Until After Denuclearization,” The Daily Beast, June 13, 2018; Sharon Marris, “Confusion As North Korea Says US Will Lift Sanctions,” Information Clearing House (reprinted from Sky), June 13, 2018; Jeffrey Sommers and Peter Paik, “A Blow to Interventionists, as US and North Korea Move Toward Peace,” CounterPunch, June 13, 2018; Alana Abramson, “President Trump Says It’ll Take Him 1 Minute to Figure Out If Kim Jong Un Is Serious About Peace,” Time, June 9, 2018; Matt Agorist, “As Media Hypes Trump-Kim Summit, The Real Rulers of the World are Secretly Meeting at Bilderberg,” Activist Post, June 7, 2018; Steve Geimann, “Dennis Rodman to Cheer ‘My Friends’ Trump and Kim in Singapore,” Bloomberg News, June 9, 2018; Jennifer Epstein, Toluse Olorunnipa, and Jennifer Jacobs, “Trump, Kim Planning One-on-One Talk at Start of Summit,” Bloomberg News, June 9, 2018.

[20]John Wagner, Anton Troianovski and Philip Rucker, “Trump and Putin will meet July 16 in Helsinki, Washington and Moscow announce,” Washington Post, June 28, 2018; Philip Giraldi, “Will the Real Donald Trump Please Stand Up?,” Unz Review (reprinted in Information Clearing House), Jun 21, 2018.

[21] This comes from information compiled by the Arms Control Association in June 2018, and the Ploughshares Fund in July 2018. If we include all nuclear weapons of the U$, including the 2,500 said to be “retired” but are still intact, then the U$ has over 436 times as many nuclear weapons, having 6,500 while the DPRK, according to a January 2018 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “have produced sufficient fissile material to build 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, and that it might possibly have assembled 10 to 20 warheads,” adding at the end of the article that “as far as we can assess…North Korea might have produced sufficient fissile material to hypothetically build 30 to 60 nuclear weapons (if it used all the material), but only assembled perhaps 10 to 20 warheads, if even that many.” This is where the number of 15 comes from the Arms Control Association and Ploughshares Fund, which seem to have averaged the numbers 10 and 20 together. As such, the nuclear superiority of the murderous empire might be even more! Both of these organizations are undoubtedly bourgeois without question, but even using their numbers it shows nuclear superiority of the murderous empire. The amount of nukes held by the DPRK is small, as Russia and the U$ hold 92% of the world’s nukes! So the complaints of the imperialists, and even revisionists like those in Laos, China, and Vietnam on this topic is laughable, as they do not recognize this glaring disparity!

Dialectical materialism: the foundation of Marxism

The cover of Josef Stalin’s book, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, which is quoted in this article. This is honestly the only semi-decent photo I could find when looking up “dialectical materialism” through a search engine (not Google)

The concept of “dialectical materialism” is important for understanding the world as it currently stands. While commonly used websites express some of the meaning, a general idea can be more accurately garnered from the Marxists Internet Archive, defining the concept as a “way of understanding reality; whether thoughts, emotions, or the material world…[a] methodology [that] is the combination of Dialectics and Materialism…[serving as] the theoretical foundation of Marxism.” This article aims to explain this important concept, which Curry Malott of the PSL’s Liberation School calls a “theory that grasps how many of the competing social forces driving the movement of society are often hidden or mystified, and that gives us a way of uncovering them.”

Defining the concept of dialectical materialism

In order to define the concept, it is best to look at the text itself. The concept was implied in Frederich Engels’s 1883 book, Dialectics of Nature, in which he writes about the eternal cycle, through which matter moves, and dialectics, while also saying that “it is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself.” It was also expressed by Engels in his 1886 book Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, in which he wrote that “with each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, it has to change its form; and after history was also subjected to materialistic treatment, a new avenue of development has opened here, too.” He added in later chapter that the “dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world…[a] materialist dialectic…[has been] for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon.” Others say the concept came from Anti-Dühring or German Ideology. Regardless, the fact is that dialectical materialsm was not fully defined as a concept until later. In 1895 it was mentioned by G.V. Plekhanov whom defines the concept:

…Modern dialectical materialism does not ignore…the influence of geographical environment on the development of society. It only ascertains better in what way geographical factors influence “social man.” It shows that the geographical environment provides men with a greater or lesser possibility of developing their productive forces, and thereby pushes them, more or less energetically, along the path of historical progress…Dialectical materialism reveals that such an argument is unsatisfactory, and that the influence of geographical environment shows itself first of all, and in the strongest degree, in the character of social relations, which in their turn influence the views of men, their customs and even their physical development infinitely more strongly than, for example, climate. Modern geographical science… fully agrees in this respect with dialectical materialism. This materialism is, of course, a particular case of the materialist view of history. But it explains it more fully, more universally, than could those other “particular cases.” Dialectical materialism is the highest development of the materialist conception of history…Modern dialectical materialism is incomparably more fruitful in this respect. It is of course a particular case of the materialist view of history but precisely that particular case which alone corresponds to the modern condition of science…Modern dialectical materialism cannot discover the mechanical explanation of history [an editorial note says that “Plekhanov’s statement is radically at variance with the basic principles of Marxist-Leninist dialectics. Dialectical materialism has never aimed at reducing all natural and social phenomena to mechanics, at giving mechanical explanations of the origin and development of species and of the historic process. Mechanical motion is by no means the only form of motion”]…Dialectical materialism says that it is not the consciousness of men which determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness; that it is not in the philosophy but in the economics of a particular society that one must seek the key to understanding its particular condition.

Basically, he is saying that dialectical materialism ascertains how the geographical environment influences humans by providing them with a possibility of “developing their productive forces” and that it influences social relations which influence people’s views, customs, and physical development even more than the climate. He is also saying that this concept posits that the “social being” of humans determines their consciousness and that in economics of a society, rather  than philosophy, one must “must seek the key to understanding its [society’s] particular condition.”

Two years earlier, G.V. Plekhanov used the term “dialectical materialism” but only said that this concept works to “overcome idealism” and that its task  was “determined in advance.” More than Plekhanov, Vladimir Lenin defined the term, which is important since he was able to put it in action as a successful Russian revolutionary who led the Soviet Union for many years.

In 1908, Lenin became aware of dialectical materialism, apart from his writing about “the conceptions of many modern scientists and of their metaphysical (in the Marxist sense of the term, i.e., anti-dialectical) views” the same year, remarking on A. Deborin’s book, Dialectual Materialism. Reprinted below are the comments on dialectical materialism from Deborin himself:

As a world outlook, dialectical materialism provides an answer—not an absolute one, of course—to the question of the structure of matter, of the world; it serves as the basis of a most brilliant historical theory; on the basis of dialectical materialism, politics and morality become in a certain sense exact sciences. Being foreign to all dogmatism, dialectical materialism—correctly understood, of course—introduces everywhere a fresh stream of theoretico—cognitive criticism. In this article we intend to call the reader’s attention only to the theoretico-cognitive aspect of dialectical materialism, which in this case does not, as a method, as a guiding principle of investigation, provide absolute solutions to problems, but primarily assists in their proper framing. As a theory of knowledge, dialectical materialism falls into a formal, or logical, part and a real, or material, one…Categories, i.e., pure universal concepts, such as time, space, or causality, are, from the point of view of dialectical materialism, logical definitions, on the one hand, and real forms of things, on the other….Dialectical materialism attains the “absoluteness” and universality of cognition by declaring the forms to be universal, objectively realperceptions.” On this rests the possibility of mathematical, or “geometrical” if you will, i.e., exact, cognition of reality. “Geometrical” space and “pure time” are universally real perceptions, and constitute the premise for the “mathematical” cognition of the sensuous world….But at the same time dialectical consciousness shows an ability to rise to the “conception” of nature as a “whole,” to the conception of the necessity, of the inherency, of the universal order of nature….Man cognises to the extent that he acts on, and he himself is subject to the action of, the external world. Dialectical materialism teaches that man is impelled to reflect chiefly by the sensations he experiences as he acts on the external world….Proceeding from the consideration that it is possible to dominate nature only by submitting to her, dialectical materialism calls upon us to coordinate our activity with the universal laws of nature, with the necessary order of things, with the universal laws of development of the world….Dialectical materialism puts material substance, the real substratum, at the basis of being. It has looked upon the world “as a process, as a substance, which is developing continuously” (Engels). The metaphysicists’ immutable and absolute being becomes mutable being. Substantial reality is recognised to be mutable, and changes and movements are recognised to be real forms of being. Dialectical materialism overcomes the dualism of “being” and “not-being,” the metaphysically absolute antithesis of the “immanent” to the“transcendental,” of the properties of things to the things themselves. On the basis of dialectical materialism, it becomes possible scientifically to connect the thing-in-itself with phenomena, and the immanent with the transcendental, and to surmount the incognisability of things-in-themselves, on the one hand, and the “subjectivism”of qualities, on the other, for “the nature of the thing,” as Plekhanov observes with very good reason, manifests itself precisely in its properties.”…From the point of view of dialectical materialism, the thing-in-itself is an object such as it exists in itself, and “for itself.”…Only on the basis of dialectical materialism, with its recognition of the external world, is the possibility presented of building a purely scientific theory of knowledge. He who rejects the external world also rejects the cause of our sensations and arrives at idealism. But the external world is also the ||principle|| of uniformity…Dialectical materialism by no means predetermines the question of the structure of matter in the sense of an obligatory recognition of the atomistic or corpuscular theory, or of any… And if the new theories of the structure of atoms are triumphant, dialectical materialism will not only not be confuted but, on the contrary, will be most brilliantly confirmed…hence, together with matter, also dialectical materialism, which considers matter as the sole  reality and the only suitable ||tool|| for systematising experience….To sum up. From the formal aspect, dialectical materialism, as we have seen, makes universally obligatory and objective cognition possible thanks to the fact that, from its point of view, the forms of being are also forms of thinking, that to every change in the objective  world there corresponds a change in the sphere of perceptions. As for the material aspect, dialectical materialism proceeds from the recognition of things-in-themselves or the external world or mailer. “Things-in-themselves” are cognisable. The unconditional and absolute is rejected by dialectical materialism. Everything in nature is in the process of change and motion, which are based on definite combinations of matter. According to dialectics, one “form” of being changes into another through leaps. Modern theories of physics, far from disproving, fully confirm the correctness of dialectical materialism.

In summary, Deborin says that dialectical materialism provides an answer to the structure of matter (what all material things are made of, occupying space and perceptible to the senses in some way) of the world and the basis of the “most brilliant historical theory,” being Marxism of course, assisting by properly framing problems. Categories like time (indefinite or unlimited duration in which things are considered to be happening in the past, present, or future; the entire period of existence of the known universe), space (three-dimensional, continuous expanse which extends in all directions and contains all matter), and causality (interrelation of cause and effect, connected with the principle that nothing happens or exists without a cause) are defined using “correct reasoning”  with “valid induction or deduction,” while the “real forms” of these things (distinguishable entities) take on universal forms (shape, outline, or configuration of something). [2] As such, this rests on possibility of an exact perception (mental grasp of objects, qualities, and other aspects, by the main senses; comprehension; awareness) of reality with space and time being real (existing or happening as in fact, being actual or true), which contributes to one’s perception, in the broadest sense, of the “sensuous world.” Dialectical materialism, as he puts it, also shows the ability to conceive nature as a whole which has a universal (present, occurring everywhere or in all things) order, with humans subject to the action of the external world, and can only “dominate nature only by submitting to her” meaning that humans must “coordinate our activity with the universal laws of nature, with the necessary order of things, with the universal laws of development of the world.” Furthermore, it puts “material substance…at the basis of being,” looking upon the world as a developing process, with changes and movements all the time. There is further a dualism (theory that the world is composed of two basic entities: mind and matter) of being or not being, meaning it becomes possible to scientifically “connect the thing-in-itself with phenomena,” with the “thing-in-itself” existing as “an object such as it exists in itself, and “for itself”” [3] With this, it is possible to build “a purely scientific theory of knowledge,” recognize the “cause of our sensations,” and reject idealism, while not predetermining “the question of the structure of matter.” He writes that this concept considers matter as “the sole reality and the only suitable” way  for “systematising experience” on Earth for humans and nature. As such it makes “universally obligatory and objective cognition possible” since it means that “forms of being are also forms of thinking” since “every change in the objective  world…corresponds [to] a change in the sphere of perceptions.” In terms of the material aspect, it “proceeds from the recognition of things-in-themselves,” rejecting the “unconditional and absolute” since everything in “nature is in the process of change and motion, which are based on definite combinations of matter,” with one form of being changing into another “through leaps.”

We then get back to Lenin. In 1908, he wrote about the “spirit of dialectical materialism” and Engels’s meaning of the term. In the same publication, Materialism and Empirio-criticism, he wrote that

…dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another, which is to us apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth. However bizarre from the standpoint of “common sense” the transformation of imponderable ether into ponderable matter and vice versa may appear, however “strange” may seem the absence of any other kind of mass in the electron save electromagnetic mass, however extraordinary may be the fact that the mechanical laws of motion are confined only to a single sphere of natural phenomena and are subordinated to the more profound laws of electromagnetic phenomena, and so forth—all this is but another corroboration of dialectical materialism… The “essence” of things, or “substance,” is also relative; it expresses only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects; and while yesterday the profundity of this knowledge did not go beyond the atom, and today does not go beyond the electron and ether, dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature gained by the progressing science of man. The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature’s existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism.

Bascially, Lenin is saying that dialectical materialism insists on no absolute boundaries in nature, with matter moving from one state to another, transforming, with the laws of motion and “electromagnetic phenomena” corroborating this concept. He is also saying that the essence of things, or its substance, is “relative” in that it expresses “only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects.” He also says  that dialectical materialism insists on the “temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature” which has been gained so far, with this concept distinguished from “relativist agnosticism and idealism.”

In 1914 he broached this subject once more. He wrote that the elements of dialectics are firstly, “determination of the concept out of itself,” secondly “the contradictory nature of the thing itself…[and] the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon,” later expanded by Mao Tse-Tung, and thirdly “union of analysis and synthesis.” More specifically, he defines the elements of dialectics to be:

  1. objectivity of consideration”
  2. “entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.”
  3. development of this thing [or]…phenomenon…[with] its own movement, its own life”
  4. “internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing”
  5. “the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites
  6. “the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.”
  7. “the union of analysis and synthesis—the break-down of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.”
  8. “the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, process, etc.) is connected with  every other
  9. “the unity of opposites [and]…the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other”
  10. “endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.”
  11. “endless process of the deepening of man’s knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence”
  12. “from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal
    dependence to another, deeper, more general form.”
  13. “the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation)”
  14. “the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content”
  15. “transition of quantity into quality and vice versa

Lenin mentioned the term “dialectical materialism” in another work the same year, but only talked about it in terms of dialectics and materialism, not the concept itself.

The following year, 1915, Lenin wrote about this topic again, saying that:

the splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the “essentials,” one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics…the correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)…The identity of opposites…is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their “self-movement,” in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites… The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects…Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes) etc…Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as in a “nucleus” (“cell”) the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general. And natural science shows us (and here again it must be demonstrated in any simple instance) objective nature with the same qualities, the transformation of the individual into the universal, of the contingent into the necessary, transitions, modulations, and the reciprocal connection of opposites. Dialectics is the theory of knowledge of (Hegel and) Marxism…Dialectics as living, many-sided knowledge (with the number of sides eternally increasing), with an infinite number of shades of every approach and approximation to reality (with a philosophical system growing into a whole out of each shade)—here we have an immeasurably rich content as compared with “metaphysical” materialism…From
the standpoint of dialectical materialism, on the other hand, philosophical idealism is a one-sided, exaggerated…development (inflation, distension) of one of the features, aspects, facets of knowledge, into an absolute, divorced from matter, from nature…Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly  approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed…into an independent, complete, straight line, which then…leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes). Rectilinearity and one-sidedness, woodenness and petrification, subjectivism and subjective blindness—voilà the epistemological roots of idealism. And clerical obscrutantism (= philosophical idealism), of course, has epistemological roots, it is not groundless; it is a sterile flower undoubtedly, but a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge.

Six years later, in 1921, Nikolai Bukharin, wrote on this topic. He sided with Josef Stalin and Soviet power from 1923 to 1928, while also serving as an editor of Pravda from 1918 to 1929, expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1929 for his anti-Soviet thoughts, and tried in 1938 in one of the Moscow trials. Even so, he is considered a person who had a tireless dedication to “theoretical economics…and he was…one of the principal theoreticians of the Bolshevik Party.” He devoted chapter 3 of his 1921 book, Historical Materialism: A System of Sociology, to dialectical materialism, writing that:

In our consideration of the question of the human will, the question whether it is free, or determined by certain causes, like everything else in the world, we arrived at the conclusion that we must adopt the point of view of determinism. We found that the will of man is not divine in character, that it depends on external causes and on the conditions of the human organism. This brought us face to face with the most important question that has troubled the human mind for thousands of years – the question as to the relation between matter and mind…Let us try to consider it from as many standpoints as possible. First of all, we must bear in mind that man is a part of nature. We cannot know for certain whether other more highly organized creatures exist on other planets, although it is probable that such do exist, for the number of planets seems endless. But it is clearly apparent to us that the being called “man” is not a divine creature, standing outside of the world, projected from some other, unknown, mysterious universe, but, as we know from the natural sciences, he is a product and a portion of nature, subject to its general laws…we know that man has sprung from other animals, and that, after all, “living creatures” have been in existence on earth only for a time. When the earth was still a flaming sphere, resembling the sun today, long before it had cooled, there was no life on its surface, nor thinking creatures of any kind. Organic nature grew out of dead nature; living nature produced a form capable of thought. First, we had matter, incapable of thought; out of which developed thinking matter, man. If this is the case – and we know it is, from natural science – it is plain that matter is the mother of mind; mind is not the mother of matter…”mind” does not appear until we already have matter organized in a certain manner…Man’s brain, a part of man’s organism, thinks. And man’s organism is matter organized in a highly intricate form…it is quite clear from the above why matter may exist without mind, while “mind” may not exist without matter. Matter existed before the appearance of a thinking human; the earth existed long before the appearance of any kind of “mind” on its surface. In other words, matter exists objectively, independently of “mind”. But the psychic phenomena, the so called “mind”, never and nowhere existed without matter, were never independent of matter. Thought does not exist without a brain; desires are impossible unless there is a desiring organism…[as such] psychic phenomena, the phenomena of consciousness, are simply a property of matter organized in a certain manner, a “function” of such master…Now man is a very delicately organized creature…the state of “mind” of the consciousness, depends on the state of the organism…[there is] the dependence of consciousness on matter, or in other words, “of thought on life”…We have seen that psychical phenomena are a property of matter organized in a certain manner. We may therefore have various fluctuations, various forms of material organization, and also various forms of mental life. Man, with his brain, is organized in one manner…a true consciousness…On earth, this consciousness appears only when matter has been organized, as in the case of man, with his most complicated instrument, the brain in his head. Thus, mind cannot exist without matter, while matter may very well exist without mind; matter existed before mind; mind is a special property of matter organized in a special manner...It is not difficult to discern that idealism…is simply a diluted form of the religious conception according to which a divine mysterious power is placed above nature, the human consciousness being considered a little spark emanating from this divine power, and man himself a creature chosen by God. The idealistic point of view, if pursued to its conclusion, leads to a number of absurdities, which are often defined with a serious face by the philosophers of the ruling classes…Of course, the senile bourgeoisie, now drooling about God like a soft-brained old man, regards materialism with hatred. It is easy to understand that materialism necessarily will be the revolutionary theory of the young revolutionary class, the proletariat…But we have seen above that idealism involves an admission of the independence of ideas from the material, and of the dependence of these ideas on divine and mysterious springs. It is therefore obvious that the idealist point of view involves a downright mysticism, or other tomfoolery, in the social sciences, and consequently leads to a destruction of these sciences, to their substitution by faith in the acts of God or in some other such conception…Human society is a product of nature. Like the human race itself, it depends on nature and may exist only by obtaining its necessities from nature. This it does by the process of production. It may not always do so consciously; a conscious process is possible only in an organized society, in which everything proceeds according to a plan. In unorganized society, the process goes on unconsciously…the spiritual life of society must necessarily depend on the conditions of material production, on the stage that has been attained in the growth of the productive forces in human society. The mental life of society is a function of the forces of production… Materialism is therefore in a position to explain the phenomena of “mental life” in society, which idealism cannot, for idealism imagines “ideas” developing out of themselves, independently of the base earth…Even a hasty glance at nature will at once convince us that there is nothing immutable about it…The race and appearance of men are subject to change with everything else in the world…Evidently, that there is nothing immutable and rigid in the universe…Matter in motion: such is the stuff of this world…The world being in constant motion, we must consider phenomena in their mutual relations, and not as isolated cases. All portions of the universe are actually related to each other and exert an influence on each other. The slightest motion, the slightest alteration in one place, simultaneously changes everything else. The change may be great or small – that is another matter – at any rate, there is a change…All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundingsIn the first place, therefore, the dialectic method of interpretation demands that all phenomena be considered in their indissoluble relations; in the second place, that they be considered in their state of motion…everything in the world is in a state of change, and indissolubly connected with everything elsewhile we may not always observe growth, there is always motion and alteration, though it may end in destruction or dissolution...It follows, in the first place, that we must consider and investigate each form of society in its own peculiar terms. We cannot throw into a single pot all epochs, periods, social forms…In the second place, each form must be studied in its internal process of change...In the third place, each form of society must be considered in its growth and in its necessary disappearance, i.e., in its relation with other forms...The basis of all things is therefore the law of change, the law of constant motion…The transformation of quantity into quality is one of the fundamental laws in the motion of matter; it may be traced literally at every step both in nature and society…Revolutions in society are of the same character as the violent changes in nature….They are prepared by the entire preceding course of development

In 1931, Bukharin, whom had  fallen out of favor in the Soviet Union, again wrote on the topic of dialectical materialism, saying that “the crisis of present-day capitalist economy has produced a most profound crisis in the whole of capitalist culture; a crisis in individual branches of science, a crisis in epistemology, a crisis in world outlook, a crisis in world feeling.” To this, he added that

…both theory and practice are the activity of social man. If we examine theory not as petrified “systems,” and practice not as finished products–i.e., not as “dead” labour petrified in things, but in action, we shall have before us two forms of labour activity, the bifurcation of labour into intellectual and physical labour, “mental and material,” theoretical cognition and practical action…In actual fact we have in every class society divided labour and, consequently, a contradiction between intellectual and physical labour–i.e.. a contradiction between theory and practice. But, like every division of labour, here too it is a living unity of opposites. Action passes into cognition. Cognition passes into action. Practice drives forward cognition. Cognition fertilises practice…Practically–and, consequently, epistemologically–the external world is “given” as the object of active influence on the part of social, historically developing man. The external world has its history. The relations growing up between subject and object are historical…For, if the objective world is changed through practice and according to practice, which includes theory, this means, that practice verifies the truth of theory; and this means that we know to a certain extent (and come to know more and more) objective reality, its qualities, its attributes, its regularities…Cognition, considered historically, is the more and more adequate reflection of objective reality. The fundamental criterion of the correctness of cognition is therefore the criterion of its adequateness, its degree of correspondence to objective reality…Production is the real starting point of social development…just as development in natural history changes the forms of biological species, the historical development of society, with the movement of productive forces at its foundation, changes the socio-historic forms of labour, “social structures,” “modes of production,” together with which there changes the whole ideological superstructure, up to and including the “highest” forms of theoretical cognition and reflective illusions… In complete opposition to this comprehensible development, young Socialism is arising–its economic principle the maximum of technical economic power, planfulness, development of all human capacities and requirements its cultural-historical approach determined by the Marxist outlook: against religious metaphysics advancing dialectical materialism: against enfeebled intuitive contemplation, cognitive and practical activism: against flight into non-existent metempirical heavens, the sociological self-cognition of all ideologies: against the ideology of pessimism, despair, “fate,” fatum, the revolutionary optimism which overturns the whole world: against the complete disruption of theory and practice, their greatest synthesis: against the crystallisation of an “elite,” the uniting of the millions. It is not only a new economic system which has been born. A new culture has been born. A new science has been born. A new style of life has been born. This is the greatest antithesis in human history, which both theoretically and practically will be overcome by the forces of the proletariat–the last class aspirins to power, in order in the long run to put an end to all power whatsoever.

In 1937, Mao Tse-Tung (called this using the Wade–Giles romanticization system for Mandarin Chinese, often called “Mao Zedong” in the West) wrote on this topic in his well-known essay, “On Contradiction“:

The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics…Lenin often called this law the essence of dialectics; he also called it the kernel of dialectics… Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe, the metaphysical conception and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks…the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it…As a matter of fact, even mechanical motion under external force occurs through the internal contradictoriness of things. Simple growth in plants and animals, their quantitative development, is likewise chiefly the result of their internal contradictions. Similarly, social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes. Countries with almost the same geographical and climatic conditions display great diversity and unevenness in their development. Moreover, great social changes may take place in one and the same country although its geography and climate remain unchanged…Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new…materialist dialectics…holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes… The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end…The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist. Contradiction is the basis of the simple forms of motion (for instance, mechanical motion) and still more so of the complex forms of motion…the universality of contradiction [manifests itself]…on mechanics [as] action and reaction…in physics [as] positive and negative electricity…in chemistry [as] the combination and dissociation of atoms…[and] in social science [as] the class struggle…In war, offence and defence, advance and retreat, victory and defeat are all mutually contradictory phenomena. One cannot exist without the other. The two aspects are at once in conflict and in interdependence, and this constitutes the totality of a war, pushes its development forward and solves its problems…Contradiction is present in the process of development of all things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction… the contradiction in each form of motion of matter has its particularity…Every form of society, every form of ideology, has its own particular contradiction and particular essence…Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different methods…There are many contradictions in the course of development of any major thing…In studying a problem, we must shun subjectivity, one-sidedness and superficiality… In studying the particularities of the contradictions at each stage in the process of development of a thing, we must not only observe them in their interconnections or their totality, we must also examine the two aspects of each contradiction… It can thus be seen that in studying the particularity of any kind of contradiction–the contradiction in each form of motion of matter, the contradiction in each of its processes of development, the two aspects of the contradiction in each process, the contradiction at each stage of a process, and the two aspects of the contradiction at each stage–in studying the particularity of all these contradictions, we must not be subjective and arbitrary but must analyse it concretely. Without concrete analysis there can be no knowledge of the particularity of any contradiction…contradiction exists in and runs through all processes from beginning to end; motion, things, processes, thinking–all are contradictions. To deny contradiction is to deny everything. This is a universal truth for all times and all countries, which admits of no exception…in capitalist society the two forces in contradiction, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction…But in another situation, the contradictions change position…Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to funding [finding?] its principal contradiction…while we recognize that in the general development of history the material determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also–and indeed must–recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base…Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly; we must oppose the theory of even development or the theory of equilibrium…no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation…There are two states of motion in all things, that of relative rest and that of conspicuous change. Both are caused by the struggle between the two contradictory elements contained in a thing…In identity there is struggle, in particularity there is universality, and in individuality there is generality…We may now say a few words to sum up. The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the metaphysical world outlook. It represents a great revolution in the history of human knowledge… In studying the particularity and relativity of contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions and to the distinction between the principal aspect and the non-principal aspect of a contradiction; in studying the universality of contradiction and the struggle of opposites in contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the different forms of struggle.

With that, we can move onto what Mao wrote the following year in an essay titled “Dialectical Materialism.” Within it, he said that

All philosophical theories have been created by men belonging to a definite social class. The ideas of these men have moreover been historically determined by a definite social existence. All philosophical doctrines express the needs of a definite social class and reflect the level of development of the productive forces of society and the historical stage in men’s comprehension of nature…The distinguishing characteristic of Marxist philosophy — i.e., dialectical materialism — is its effort to explain clearly the class nature of all social consciousness (including philosophy). It publicly declares a resolute struggle between its own proletarian nature and the idealist philosophy of the propertied class. Moreover, it subordinates its own special and independent tasks to such general tasks as overthrowing capitalism, organizing and building a proletarian dictatorship, and edifying a socialist society… Idealism considers spirit (consciousness, concepts, the subject) as the source of all that exists on earth, and matter (nature and society, the object) as secondary and subordinate, Materialism recognizes the independent existence of matter as detached from spirit and considers spirit as secondary and subordinate…The recognition that matter exists independently and apart from consciousness in the external world is the foundation of materialism… Marx, Engels and Lenin all explained materialist dialectics as the theory of development… Materialist dialectics is the only scientific epistemology, and it is also the only scientific logic. Materialist dialectics studies the origin and development of our knowledge of the outside world. It studies the transition from not knowing to knowing and from incomplete knowledge to more complete knowledge; it studies how the laws of the development of nature and society are daily reflected more profoundly and more extensively in the mind of humanity. This is precisely the unity of materialist dialectics with epistemology… The very first condition for belonging to the materialist camp consists in recognizing the independent existence of the material world, separate from human consciousness — the fact that it existed before the appearance of humanity, and continues to exist since the appearance of humanity, independently and outside of human consciousness. To recognize this point is a fundamental premise of all scientific research… The first fundamental principle of dialectical materialism lies in its view of matter…principle of the unity of the world…Dialectical materialism…considers that rest or equilibrium are merely one element of movement, that they are merely one particular circumstance of movement…The causes of the transformation of matter is to be found not without, but within. It is not because of the impulsion of external mechanical forces, but because of the existence within the matter in question of two components different in their nature and mutually contradictory which struggle with one another, thus giving an impetus to the movement and development of the matter. Dialectical materialism investigate the development of the world as a progressive movement from the inorganic to the organic, and from thence to the highest form of the movement of matter (society). What we have just discussed is the theory of the movement of the world, or the principle of the development of the world in accordance with dialectical materialism. This doctrine is the essence of Marxist philosophy. If the proletariat and all revolutionaries take up this consistently scientific arm, they will then be able to understand this world, and transform the world.

Finally there is Josef Stalin, writing an essay in 1938 titled “Dialectical and Historical Materialism.” Since he covered similar ground to Mao, this makes him effectively his ideological contemporary, as you could call it. In this essay, Stalin writes that

Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic. Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history…Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse, to debate….This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result of the interaction of opposed forces in nature. In its essence, dialectics is the direct opposite of metaphysics…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things, phenomena are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that nature is not a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development, where something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away…dialectics does not regard the process of development as a simple process of growth, where quantitative changes do not lead to qualitative changes, but as a development which passes from insignificant and imperceptible quantitative changes to open’ fundamental changes’ to qualitative changes; a development in which the qualitative changes occur not gradually, but rapidly and abruptly, taking the form of a leap from one state to another; they occur not accidentally but as the natural result of an accumulation of imperceptible and gradual quantitative changes. The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development should be understood not as movement in a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred, but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher…Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a “struggle” of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions…If there are no isolated phenomena in the world, if all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent, then it is clear that every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated not from the standpoint of “eternal justice” or some other preconceived idea, as is not infrequently done by historians, but from the standpoint of the conditions which gave rise to that system or that social movement and with which they are connected…Marx’s philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multifold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a “universal spirit”…Marxist philosophical materialism holds that matter, nature, being, is an objective reality existing outside and independent of our consciousness; that matter is primary, since it is the source of sensations, ideas, consciousness, and that consciousness is secondary, derivative, since it is a reflection of matter, a reflection of being; that thought is a product of matter which in its development has reached a high degree of perfection, namely, of the brain, and the brain is the organ of thought; and that therefore one cannot separate thought from matter without committing a grave error…Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice…whatever the character of the relations of production may be, always and in every system they constitute just as essential an element of production as the productive forces of society…the productive forces are not only the most mobile and revolutionary element in production, but are also the determining element in the development of production…Five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist.

A rough definition of dialectical materialism

Combining the ideas of Engels, Plekhanov, A. Deborin, Lenin, Bukharin, Mao, and Stalin, we can come to a rough definition of dialectical materialism, serving as a distinguishing characteristic of Marxist philosophy by attempting to explain the class nature of all social consciousness, which is a sharp weapon for the proletariat. Before giving a definition, it is worth saying that it overcomes idealism and stands opposed to the ideas of metaphysics. Mao adds that one should recognize the recognizing the reaction of mental on material things, social consciousness on one’s “social being” and the superstructure on the economic base in society, and that one must have a strong concrete analysis since, if the proletariat and all revolutionaries can take up this concept, they can understand and transform the world. [4] The definition I have come up with, from combining the thoughts of each of these theorists, to give a general idea of the term itself, due to its importance in class struggle against the bourgeoisie, as as follows:

This concept frames problems by defining of time, space, and causality (interrelation of cause and effect), using valid deduction or induction and correct reasoning. The real forms (shape, outline, or configuration of something) these things, or distinguishable entities, take on, are universal in that they exist or happen in reality. This concept also posits that these things, and others have internal contradictions (things are contrary/opposition to each other), one of which has a major role, like tensions between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, and are dualistic, with a temporary/ transitory/conditional unity of opposites and inter-relation of things to each other. Furthermore, matter (what all material things are made of, which occupy space and are perceptible to the senses), which objectively exists apart from consciousness, has organized itself in a certain way with perfection and intricacy, as manifested in the “mind” of beings such as humans. As such, while the mind cannot exist without matter, matter can exist without a mind. While, this mind-matter distinction is present, the world is always changing and developing, with matter moving through an eternal cycle, with no absolutes, with forms changing from one into another since nothing is rigid or immutable. In such a universe, all matter and the Earth, for example, are in constant motion or movement, with all portions of the universe inter-related, exerting an influence on each other. As a result, no one object or thing is independent from its surroundings, with everything connected to everything else, with all phenomena are interconnected and interdependent. As for humans, they have the ability to conceive nature as a universal, in that it occurs everywhere or in all things, with humans as part and products of nature. For example, a geographical environment influences humans and social relations, a person’s will depends on external factors and internal conditions within a human, while appearance and race of humans can change over time. Additionally, human society, the highest form of matter’s movement, is a product of nature, with a conscious process occurring in societies which are organized, and nothing in the world developing absolutely evenly. As a result, every social system and every social movement in history must be evaluated from the standpoint of the conditions which gave rise to that system or that social movement and with which they are connected. At the same time, this concept means that the world and its laws are fully knowable, since we know objective reality to a certain extent, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, disclosed by efforts of science and practice. This means that we need to understand development of a thing, by studying it internally and in its relations with other things, with each thing interrelated with and interacting with the things around it. In sum, human knowledge follows a curve or a spiral which can be transformed into an independent, complete, and straight line.

This is much more simple than what Sandino Morazan wrote in Anti-Conquesta, which defines itself as the “Communist Party of the Latin American and Caribbean Diaspora…[which is] dedicated to exposing and fighting the capitalist-imperialist system…[providing] analysis of the region’s current events and history from a communist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, Third Worldist and pan-Latin American perspective.” Morazan wrote that the biggest error, of too many, is failing to “properly study Marx’s writings and those of his ideological successors,” instead relying on “solely on watered-down interpretations by bourgeois “scholars” who misread Marx and have never done anything tangible for the world.” He continue by summing up dialectical materialism as “an approach to understanding and changing objective reality, both in nature and society.” He then defined the concept itself. [5]

Proof of dialectical materialism

After defining this concept, it is important to provide proof in the world (and universe) as a whole, when it comes to human and animal actions. It is because, as Stalin pointed out in 1938 (as quoted earlier in this article), the application of the principles of dialectical materialism to social life, to a study of society and its history, is historical materialism, basically a subset of dialectical materialism. That will be covered in a later article in detail. With this, we begin the proof!

In humans, the inner ends of the eyebrows are raised, a “thing” which is part of the human body, and corners of the mouth are depressed when a person is suffering from anxiety or grief. [6] The same is the case for different muscles which come into action due to other emotions. This shows the inter-relation of things to each other. This is especially the case since muscles are connected in intimate ways, with “sympathy between ears and eyes,” which can be said to constitute the “unity of opposites,” as ears and eyes have different (but related) functions, which is part of dialectical materialism. At the same time, the closest relatives of humans, apes, have similar facial muscles, this means that it is “very improbable” that these muscles, for humans, serve exclusively for expression. Not only does this show interconnection of beings, apes and humans in this instance, but it means that nothing is rigid, immutable, or has an absolute. As Charles Darwin put it, “as long as man and all other animals are viewed as independent creations, an effectual stop is put on our natural desire to investigate as far as possible the causes of Expression.” As such, humans and other animals (and all animal life on Earth, along with in the universe as a whole) are not “independent creations” but are part of nature, inter-dependent and interconnected with each other. Furthermore, movement of body features of humans to express emotions are the same across races, while “conventional expressions or gestures” may be different. With this, it is clear that humans, and their social relations, are influenced of their geographical environments. Darwin further writes, in his 1872 book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals that

Certain complex actions are of direct and indirect service under certain states of mind, in order to relieve or gratify certain sensations, desires, etc…certain states of the mind lead to certain habitual actions…when the sensorium [parts of the brain that receive, process and interpret sensory stimuli] is strongly excited, nerve-force is generated in excess and in transmitted in certain definite directions, depending on the connection of the nerve-cells, and partly on habit. [7]

This shows the inter-related nature of the parts of the body, with nothing independent of its surroundings. As for other animals, they have similar strong behaviors. When a dog approaches another strange dog or human in a hostile frame of mind, he walks stiffly and upright, with a slightly raised head, a tail which is erect and rigid, with hairs along the neck and back bristling, and pricked airs directed forward, with a fixed stare toward his enemy, with the intention to attack. In preparation of such a move, a dog puts out a growl, with uncovered canine teeth. [8] This shows the awareness of other beings by the dog, the connection of the realities of different beings. Similar to the dog, a cat, when it is threatened by a dog, arches its back, erects its hair, opens its mouth and spits, intending to attack its enemy. As Darwin adds elsewhere, the “power of intercommunication is…of high service to many animals,” between their own species, and evidently with other species.

There are other instances of inter-relation between parts of the human body. Secretions of the alimentary canal and certain glands, like the liver and kidneys, are “effects by strong emotions.” [9] At the same time, the vaso-motor system, regulating the diameter of small arteries, is acted upon by the sensorium, including when a human blushes from shame.

That’s enough summarizing of Darwin’s work. We can move onto Riane Ensler’s The Chalice and the Blade in which she describes the uniqueness of humans and their power over the little blue planet (Earth):

Of all the life-forms on this planet, only we can plant and harvest fields, compose poetry and music, seek truth and justice, teach a child to read and write—or even laugh and cry. Because of our unique ability to imagine new realities and realize these through ever more advanced technologies, we are literally partners in our own evolution…yet [our]…species…seems bent on putting an end…to its own evolution…[and] that of most life on our globe, threatening our planet with ecological catastrophe or nuclear annihilation. [10] Clearly, there is a conscious process occurring here, as in all organized societies, as posited as part of dialectical materialism.

In terms of human knowledge following a curve or a spiral, this relates to what Eisler talks about: a cultural shift from ancient societies when there were societies which were not “male dominant, violent, and hierachic” to those which were the opposition, worshiping the power to “take rather and give life,” establishing and enforcing domination. She also writes that the way “we structure the most fundamental human relations…has a profound effect on every one of our institutions…our values, and…the direction of our cultural evolution, particularly whether it will be peaceful or warlike.” As such, this connects to the concept of dialectical materialism.

On a related note, is the difference of language among humans, as noted by David Crystal. Indigenous peoples are not disabled by their language when they use it within their own community, even though some thought, in racist terms, that such peoples only spoke “simply” and Europeans spoke more complexly. [11] At the same time, for all humans, language is used for emotional expression, social interaction, controlling reality, recording facts, instrument of thought, or expression of identity, showing that language is not static, which is important as its formal properties, such as “word order and sentence sequencing” constitute the medium through which our “connected thoughts can be presented and organized.” Such a reality fits with dialectical materialism completely.

What about the claim that human society is part and product of nature? Well, in the long perspective of world history, humans are newcomers to the historical scene, since life on Earth reaches back 3 billion years, with birds and mammals appearing about 130 million years ago, with modern humans (homo sapiens) not appearing until 250,000 years ago, at most. [12] Furthermore, humans descended from ape-like species, with the home of early hominids being equatorial Africa and quickly spreading across the world, with the ability of humans to adopt themselves to environmental changes of the ice ages of the Pleistocene era serving as a “crucial factor” in their survival and in their ability to dominate other species in the years to come. It would not be until 8,000 BCE that humans would begin to “select, breed, domesticate and cultivate various species of plant and animal.”

This brings us to another claim about humans, as posited by dialectical materialism: that appearance and race of humans can change over time. The former is undeniably the case. This is because, as the Smithsonian Institution put it, on their page about human origins:

For millions of years all humans, early and modern alike, had to find their own food. They spent a large part of each day gathering plants and hunting or scavenging animals.  Then, within just the past 12,000 years, our species, Homo sapiens, made the transition to producing food and changing our surroundings. We have been so successful that we have inadvertently created a turning point in the history of life on Earth.

Apart from that, scientists discovered that just in the last hundred years, humans have become taller, but also fatter and live longer than any time in human history, with these changes due to differences in “nutrition, food distribution, health care and hygiene practices.” With this, it is no surprise to say, with certainty, that human evolution is not over. Apart from these changes over the past 100 years, the human brain has changed over time, as noted by John Hawks, University of Wisconsin–Madison anthropology professor, in Scientific American:

…Across nearly seven million years, the human brain has tripled in size, with most of this growth occurring in the past two million years…For the first two thirds of our history, the size of our ancestors’ brains was within the range of those of other apes living today…The final third of our evolution saw nearly all the action in brain size…From here the species embarked on a slow upward march, reaching more than 1,000 ml by 500,000 years ago. Early Homo sapiens had brains within the range of people today, averaging 1,200 ml or more. As our cultural and linguistic complexity, dietary needs and technological prowess took a significant leap forward at this stage, our brains grew to accommodate the changes. The shape changes we see accentuate the regions related to depth of planning, communication, problem solving and other more advanced cognitive functions. With some evolutionary irony, the past 10,000 years of human existence actually shrank our brains. Limited nutrition in agricultural populations may have been an important driver of this trend. Industrial societies in the past 100 years, however, have seen brain size rebound, as childhood nutrition increased and disease declined. Although the past does not predict future evolution, a greater integration with technology and genetic engineering may catapult the human brain into the unknown.

What about the change in race of humans over time? It is already clear that a human’s melanin is responsible for a person’s skin color or pigment. At the same time, the skin color given to a person, through their melanin, is “primarily determined by genetic inheritance” but can also be altered by sunlight. As Dennis O’Neil of the Behavioral Sciences Department of Palomar College in San Marcos, California notes:

Human skin color is quite variable around the world.  It ranges from a very dark brown among some Africans, Australian Aborigines, and Melanesians to a near yellowish pink among some Northern Europeans. There are no people who actually have true black, white, red, or yellow skin.  These are commonly used color terms that do not reflect biological reality. Skin color is due primarily to the presence of a pigment called melanin, which is controlled by at least 6 genes. Both light and dark complexioned people have melanin. However, two forms are produced–pheomelanin, which is red to yellow in color, and eumelanin, which is dark brown to black.  People with light complexioned skin mostly produce pheomelanin, while those with dark colored skin mostly produce eumelanin.  In addition, individuals differ in the number and size of melanin particles….Hair color is also due to the presence of melanin. Melanin is normally located in the epidermis, or outer skin layer.  It is produced at the base of the epidermis by specialized cells called melanocytes. These cells have photosensitive receptors, similar to those in the eye, that detect ultraviolet radiation from the sun and other sources.  In response, they produce melanin within a few hours of exposure…Before the mass global migrations of people during the last 500 years, dark skin color was mostly concentrated in the southern hemisphere near the equator and light color progressively increased farther away, as illustrated in the map below.  In fact, the majority of dark pigmented people lived within 20º of the equator.  Most of the lighter pigmented people lived in the northern hemisphere north of 20º latitude, where ultraviolet radiation is much less intense on average.

As for race, the dominant position in scholarship is that the concept of race is a “modern phenomenon, at least in Europe and the Americas” while some scholars think that racism, “even absent a developed race concept, may have existed in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.”

This brings us to a number of other claims about humans, which are posited by dialectical materialism. Within the Aristotelian traditions, for one to “act in accordance with nature means to take into account the real definition of each thing when dealing with it,” which connects with the idea of nature as universal conceived by humans. As for a person’s will depending on external factors and internal conditions within a human, I turn to German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. [13] This is because he coined the term “will,” saying the closest we will ever come to having a direct experience of a manifestation of cosmic energy is our own act(s) of will, which we experience from within the “otherwise inexplicable go, drive, force, energy” which is “instantiated in physical movements.” It is something, as he puts it, with no personality, mind or intelligence, no aims or goals.

And what about the claim that the mind cannot exist without matter? For one, it is clear that everything humans experience are made of molecules, with humans made up of 7 octillion atoms which are “mostly empty space” but never touch each other. Secondly, every atom in in a human body is billions of years old, meaning that humans are basically stardust as some have been saying for years, and are carbon-based lifeforms. [14] At the same time, much of the control of a person’s action comes from the unconscious part of the brain. With this being the case, since stardust, or even carbon, is a form of matter, it means that matter forms the mind.

A related claim is that matter can exist without a mind. This is undeniably the case since water is needed for the human body to function properly, constituting a form of matter, apart from the mind:

…Water is of major importance to all living things; in some organisms, up to 90% of their body weight comes from water. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. …the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%…Water’s “stickiness”…plays a part in our body’s ability to transport these materials all through ourselves. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream. No less important is the ability of water to transport waste material out of our bodies.

What about the claims that no one object or thing is independent from its surroundings, with everything interconnected and interdependent, interacting with the things around it? For humans, this is clear. Just look at the 1993 book, The World’s Best Anatomical Charts. The first page, on the muscular system, shows muscles working together. The same is clear on the next page, on the skeletal system. This is similarly the nervous system, the lymphatic system, and the digestive system, with other systems, like the respiratory system, concentrated in specific parts of the body, not the body as a whole. This relates to what Carl Sagan wrote in Dragons of Eden about organisms, mammals, and humans on Earth and gives a warning, talking about an ever-changing world:

Most organisms on Earth depend on their genetic information, which is “prewired” into their nervous systems, to a much greater extent than their extragenetic information…for humans, and indeed for all mammals, it is the other way around. While our [human] behavior is still significantly controlled by our genetic inheritance, we have, through our brains, a much richer opportunity to blaze new behavioral and cultural pathways on short time scales…human beings have, in the most recent tenth of a percent of our existence, invented not only extragenetic but extrasomatic knowledge: information stored outside our bodies, of which writing is the most notable example…we live in a time when our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. While the changes are largely of our own making, they cannot be ignored. We must adjust or adapt and control, or parish. [15]

He also writes, later on, that the workings of the brain, which is sometimes called the mind, is the consequence of the action “of the components of the brain, severally or collectively,” with some processes being the function of the brain as a whole.

With these claims of dialectical materialism proven, it brings us to a number of other claims: that the world is always changing and developing, forms changing from one into another, with all matter, across the universe, and on Earth, in constant movement or motion. Sagan addresses this in his first chapter, writing about how the Earth is “very old” and humans “very young,” proceeded by an “awesome vista of time,” adding that

…we are able to date events in the remote past. Geological stratification and radioactive dating provide information on archaeological, paleontological and geological events; and astro-physical theory provides data on the ages of planetary surfaces, stars, and the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as an estimate of the time that has elapsed since that extraordinary event called the Big Bang—an explosion that involved all the matter and energy in the present universe. The Big Bang may be the beginning of the universe, it it may be a discontinuity in which information about the earlier history of the universe was destroyed. But it is certainly the earliest event about which we have any record. The most instructive way to express this cosmic chronology is to imagine the fifteen-billion-year lifetime of the universe…since the Big Bang…compressed into the span of a single year. Then every billion years of Earth history would correspond to about twenty-four years of our cosmic year, and one second of that year to 475 real revolutions of the Earth about the sun…[under this model] the Earth does not condense out of interstellar matter until early September; dinosaurs emerge on Christmas Eve; flowers arise on December 28th; and men and women originate at 10:30 P.M. on New Year’s Eve. All of recorded history occupies the last ten seconds of December 31; and the time from the waning of the Middle Ages to the present occupies a little more than one second…it is clear that what happens on and near Earth at the beginning of the second cosmic year will depend very much on the scientific wisdom and the distinctly human sensitivity of mankind. [16]

This shows that the concepts inherent to dialectical materialism saying that all portions of the universe inter-related, exerting an influence on each other, and that time is universal since it exists or happens in reality are accurate. This also relates to what he writes later: that the contention that half or more of the brain is unused is false, with the reality, being, instead, that there is “localization of brain function,” with brain sites concerned with balance, thermal regulation, appetite, blood circulation, breathing, and precision movements, with certain parts of the brain more important than others. [17] In terms of fish, sharks are the smartest of all, consistent with “their ecological niche,” Sagan writes. He also writes about possible civilizations on other planets, if they even exist. He says, on page 230, that the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way depends on many factors, but that their evolutionary path would be different from that which is taken on Earth. Hence, the universe does not have a static nature.

This brings us to a number of other claims, of dialectical materialism: that nothing in the world develops absolutely evenly, and that things have internal contradictions (and are dualistic). On the first claim, this should be profoundly evident. As The 21st Century Atlas notes, just by looking at its world maps, on page after page, there are different geographical environments across the world, including different bodies of water and mountain ranges, plateaus, and other natural features. [18] There are also over 190 countries, numerous different time zones, varied overseas territories/dependencies of certain countries (Australia, New Zealand, UK, U$, France, Denmark, Portugal, Netherlands, and Norway), differing international organizations, broad language and religious distribution. Clearly, nothing in the world can develop evenly with these factors! In terms of things having internal contradictions and being dualistic, consider an atom. It has electrons, negatively charged, protons with a negative charge, and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom itself. As such, protons and electrons repel each other, serving as a contradiction, while neutrons are “electrically neutral” meaning they do not have a charge, with protons and neutrons much larger than electrons. In terms of one contradiction taking precedence over others, this would be the case in the atom’s nucleus, which consists of much of the atom’s mass, since it “carries a positive electrical charge” and electrons move around outside the nucleus.

That brings us to a number of other claims. The first of these is that forms of time, space, and causality become universal when they exist or happen in reality. Carl Sagan tackles this straight on another of his books, writing that

We live in an expanding Universe, vast and ancient beyond ordinary human understanding. The galaxies it contains are rushing away from one another, the remnants of an immense explosion, the Big Bang…our own Universe is about 15 billion years past its origin, or at least since its present incarnation, the Big Bang…Our Universe is composed of some hundred billion galaxies, one of which is the Milky Way. “Our Galaxy,” we like to call it, although we certainly do not have possession of it. It is composed of gas and dust and about 400 billion suns…the Universe is expanding; all the galaxies are running away from each other…if it [the Universe] contains a great deal of matter, the gravity exercised by all this matter will slow down and stop the expansion. An expanding Universe will be converted into a collapsing Universe…if there is not enough matter, the expansion will continue forever. [19]

This connects us to another other claims of dialectical materialism: that the world and its laws are fully knowable, since we know objective reality to a certain extent. These scientific “laws,” which some don’t like to call laws, including, but not limited to: Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation (called Law of Gravity for short), Law of Conservation of Mass, Law of Constant Composition (also called the Law of Definite Proportions), Newton’s Laws of Motion, Hubble’s Law of Cosmic Expansion, Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, Laws of Thermodynamics, and have a basis in the universe. Related to this is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Archimedes’ Buoyancy Principle, the Big Bang Theory, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, since none of these are scientific laws.

Stephen Hawking mentioned this in a Brief History of Time, saying that there are laws telling us how the universe changes with time and it is “equally reasonable to supposed there are also laws governing the initial state.” [20] Even without a unified theory for the entire universe, laws still govern the universe as a whole, with the universe having a beginning and an end as implied by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, with Einstein never believing the universe was “governed by chance.” With this, one can see that no things in the world (or universe) are unknowable, only that there are things which are as yet not known, disclosed by efforts of science and practice.

Concluding words

While none of those mentioned so far is Marxist, their ideas prove the reality of dialectical materialism in the world today! In sum, dialectical materialism can clearly be applied to human society. What comes next is a discussion of historical materialism, inter-related and connected to dialectical materialism, as noted earlier.


Notes

[1] It is more than how dictionary.com and Wikipedia/New World Encyclopedia define it: as a Marxist theory or expression of Marxism, saying that Marxism is a “materialist worldview with a dialectical method” which maintains “the material basis of a reality constantly changing in a dialectical process and the priority of matter over mind.” Others, particularly the thefreedictionary.com, encyclopedia.com, infoplease, and culturalstudiesnow declare it is the “Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites” which arise from internal contradictions, that it is inter-related to historical materialism (Marxist theory holding that social institutions and ideas develop as the “superstructure of a material economic base” as dictionary.com says), that the term was coined by “G. V. Plekhanov, the Russian Marxist…in an article published in 1891,” that it is “meant to provide both a general world view and a specific method for the investigation of scientific problems” since it  believes that “everything is material and that change takes place through the struggle of opposites” or that it “drives social change through the reciprocal relations between contradicting social factors, factors which have to do first and foremost with material considerations of economy and class, with ideology is a product of these considerations.”

[2] Page 284 of Webster’s New World College Dictionary (fourth edition), defines cognition as “the process of knowing in the broadest possible sense, including perception, memory, and judgment” and  the “result of a process; perception, conception.” I have combined both definitions above. The phrase “defined using “correct reasoning”  with “valid induction or deduction,” used above derives from page 844, of the same book, for “logical,” but in the text Deborin used the term “logically.” The phrase “what all material things are made of, occupying space and perceptible to the senses in some way” derives from page 888 of the same book, which defines matter, also saying that “in modern physics, matter and energy are regarded as equivalents.” The phrase “interrelation of cause and effect, connected with the principle that nothing happens or exists without a cause” derives from page 233 of the same book in a definition for the word, causality. The phrase “three-dimensional, continuous expanse which extends in all directions and contains all matter” derives from page 1372 of the same book in a definition for the word, space. The phrase “indefinite or unlimited duration in which things are considered to be happening in the past, present, or future; the entire period of existence of the known universe” derives from page 1499 of the same book in a definition for the word, time. The phrase “existing or happening as in fact, being actual or true” derives from page 1193 of the same book in a definition for the word, real. The phrase “distinguishable entities” derives from page 1488 of the same book in a definition of the word, thing. The phrase “shape, outline, or configuration of something” derives from page 555 of the same book in a definition of the word, form. The phrase “present, occurring everywhere or in all things” derives from page 1563 of the same book in a definition of the word, universal. The phrase “mental grasp of objects, qualities, and other aspects, by the mans of senses; comprehension; awareness” derives from page 168 of the same book in a definition of the word, perception.

[3] The phrase “theory that the world is composed of two basic entities: mind and matter” derives from page 439 of Webster’s New World College Dictionary (fourth edition), in the definition of the word, dualism.

[4] This connects to Stalin’s contention, deriving from other Marxist theorists, that there are five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist. The latter is hopefully on the way! Also Bukrarin, as quoted above, says that “we must consider and investigate each form of society in its own peculiar terms. We cannot throw into a single pot all epochs, periods, social forms…each form must be studied in its internal process of change…each form of society must be considered in its growth and in its necessary disappearance…in its relation with other forms…Revolutions in society are of the same character as the violent changes in nature….They are prepared by the entire preceding course of development.” Stalin, as quoted above, says that “historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history.”

[5] For this approach, in his view, materialism means a “philosophical view where matter is the primary and determinant substance in the natural world” with all “things, including ideas and consciousness, are a result of interactions between matter,” maintaining that “interactions between material substances in reality determine ideas and consciousness,” guided by “science and objective reality.” As for dialectic, it is a “philosophical method of understanding the way things are and how they change” which was for Marx and Engels, adopted from “their ideological predecessor, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel” and updated with a “materialist understanding of reality.” The dialectic is basically grounded in “scientific principles applied in quantum mechanics and astronomy,” maintaining that “all things that exist in the universe are interconnected processes in constant motion,” meaning we live in a universe of processes, not “things.” Furthermore, he adds that a “dialectical approach to studying human development recognizes that humans are extensions of nature and are constantly evolving and changing based on their material conditions,” meaning it is “ideologically bankrupt to create universal value judgements about humans while different standards of living exist.” Connected to this are “three central laws of the dialectic” which are “unity of opposites…passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes…[and] the negation of the negation.” The first of these means that “all processes that exist in the universe contain two contradictory elements that form a larger totality…[which] are diametrically opposed to one another, they are also co-dependent on each other” which in a “dialectical relationship between polar opposites, one element is dominant over another.” The second of these means that “when one component of a particular process increases in quantity and becomes the dominant component, a qualitative shift occurs in the totality of the process.” The last of these “explains the cycle of development that all processes undergo,” maintaining that when “all processes come into being, wither away and later come back in a new, higher and evolved form.” He then adds  the importance of the combination of dialectics  and materialism into a concept called dialectical materialism, which “Marx and his ideological successors” applied to society specifically, developing the idea of historical materialism. As such, he divided the “entirety of human history into six eras: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism and socialism,” with a “change in material conditions gives rise to increased conflict between two opposing classes,” within each era, with the last era the one to come. He ends by writing that: “Materialism demonstrates that changes in material conditions lead to social revolutions, forcing society into new eras of struggle between two contending classes. This has been the case in all preceding eras of society…the dialectic explains the nature of these societal changes, especially as it relates to their composition and motion…The dialectical law of the unity of opposites also explains how within each era of society, two diametrically opposed classes are dependent on each other…the dialectical law of the negation of the negation explains how humans are and have been transitioning from communalism to class society (slavery, feudalism, capitalism) to socialism and communism…In summation, dialectical materialism is the science of Marxism that produced the theory of historical materialism, which serves as a guide to what’s possible for humanity. Ultimately, it is a guide for carrying out global revolution and liberating the workers and oppressed peoples of the world, especially in the Third World.”

[6] Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965, originally published in 1872), pp 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17.

[7] Ibid, pp 28-29.

[8] Ibid, pp 51, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61, 63, 64. Pages 52 and 54 show a dog in this state, with 58 being the same for the cat.

[9] Ibid, pp 68, 69.

[10] Raine Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (New York: HarperCollins, 1988, paperpack edition), pp xiii-xiv, xvi, xvii, xviii, xix.

[11] David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1987), pp 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

[12] The Times Concise Atlas of World History (ed. Geoffrey Barraclough, Maplewood, NJ: Hammond Incorporated, 1982), pp 2, 4, 6.

[13] Bryan Magee, The Story of Thought: The Essential Guide to the History of Western Philosophy (New York: Quality Paperback Bookclub,1998), pp 140-141.

[14] Brian Clegg, “20 amazing facts about the human body,” The Guardian, Jan 26, 2013; S.E. Gould, “Why Are Humans Made Of Carbon? Chemist Points To Electrons, Molecular Bonds,” HuffPost, Nov 13, 2012.

[15] Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (New York: Random House, 1977), pp 3-4, 7.

[16] Ibid, pp 13, 17. The whole chapter is pages 13-17, with a number of graphics, including one of the “cosmic calendar” on page 15.

[17] Ibid, pp 30-31, 33, 38.

[18] The 21st Century Atlas (Italy: Trident Press International, 2000), pp 22-47.

[19] Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium (New York: Random House, 1997), pp 45-46, 51.

[20] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam Books,1988), pp 9-10, 12-13, 29, 34, 56, 115,144, 175.

U$ imperialists torpedo opportunity for “positive changes” on Korean peninsula

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Written on May 24, 2018.

As you’ve probably heard by now, the orange menace, as I call him, wrote a letter to Kim Jong Un, ending the upcoming one-on-one summit with Kim in Singapore. This summit was even supported by a wide swath of the U$ public, even though many have Orientalist mindsets since they don’t trust the DPRK to be genuine. While the orange menace praised treatment of three U$ prisoners in the DPRK as “excellent,” this didn’t keep him from spouting lies in his recent letter to Kim, who welcomed the summit, showing his is more than a strongman but is the top imperialist in the world, leading forward U$ hegemony. Canceling this summit is, without a doubt, the art of the dealbreaker. This article aims to analyze the letter of the orange menace to Kim, line by line.

After his pleasantries in calling Kim by his proper title, the letter took a tone which seemed paternalistic, or at least demeaning:

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that that meeting was requested by North Korea, but that is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you.

For one, it is important to recognize that the meeting was requested by the DPRK. It is not “totally irrelevant.” It shows that Kim Jong Un and the Korean leadership, led by the Workers’ Party of Korea which “may contain many revisionist tendencies and factions” as recently here by Amber B, are the ones whom are working to keep the U$ in “its place, cowed by the superior determination of the Korean people,” with embarrassed imperialists waiting on them. It also reinforces the role of the DPRK, which has attained a strong position, successfully delinking itself “from the world capitalist economy” and proving itself as a “fully sovereign and independent state,” serving on the “frontline of the struggle against imperialism and a vanguard of all Third World movements with tendencies to delink from the parasitic way the global economy is run” as argued by Abdelraheem Kheirawi of FC Apatride UTD in the pages of this website. There’s no need for those commemorative coins of the Singapore summit, which were minted, anymore!

The letter goes onto say that:

Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have a long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.

This represents a fallacy: that Kim displayed “anger” and “hostility” toward the U$. On the one hand, the letter could be referring to a comment from DPRK vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-hui responding to U$ Vice-President Mike Pence’s tweet, in which he wrote that “as @POTUS Trump made clear, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.” Son-hui’s comment that Pence is engaging in “ignorant and stupid remarks” which gush “out from the mouth” and that he is a “political dummy” since he is trying to “compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them” is accurate. The same goes for her comment that other high-level politicians in the U$ know “too little” about the DPRK, comparing it to Libya, and that Pence does not recognize “terrible consequences” of what he said, that the U$ will “taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now” as a result. Even with that, the statement is still not from Kim himself. After all, let us not forget that the orange menace threatened Kim with the fate of Gaddafi, saying that the U$ “went in and decimated him…we did the same thing with Iraq. That model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely,” saying there will be “absolute decimation” if a deal isn’t reached! With this, it is no surprise that the first Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, Kim Kye Gwan, said they were reconsidering the summit, criticizing the comments of U$ National Security Advisor John Bolton, whom they were repulsive toward, saying they will not unilaterally abandon their nuclear weapons. Perhaps he even tanked these talks from the beginning. After all, the White House has declared that the U$ will continue “the maximum pressure campaign that’s been ongoing” against the DPRK if the talks don’t happen. The criticism of Bolton, whom apparently wanted a possible deal with the DPRK to go before the U$ Senate, may have posed a “serious hurdle” for the orange menace, but they were right to criticize Bolton! [1]

Perhaps there is a political calculation at work here. On May 20, the New York Times reported, as summarized by The Hill, that the orange menace asked “aides if he should move forward with the planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un… over fears that he could be politically embarrassed” and that the orange menace he was “surprised and angered by a recent announcement from North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator that North Korea would be unwilling to trade its nuclear weapons for economic aid,” showing he is a political novice. Aides were also quoted, anonymously, as saying they were “concerned about the president’s understanding of North Korea’s nuclear program and what is needed to ensure denuclearization.” Then a couple days later, it was reported that the orange menace publicly questioned if the summit would happen at all! [2]

Getting back to the claim in the letter that Kim stated something toward the U$ with “tremendous anger and open hostility,” Rodong Sinmun lists Kim’s last activity as guiding the 1st Enlarged Meeting of the 7th Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Otherwise, Rodong Sinmun criticizes the U$ interference in Venezuela. The DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pyongyang Times, nor KCNA list any recent statements by Kim about the summit or the U$! In fact, the most recent article of KCNA on Kim notes how he is inspecting Koam-Tapchon Railways which were recently completed in the county. [3] As such, the orange menace is clearly lying on this point, without question. The only article that mentions the summit, implicitly, is an article by Kim Rye Yong in the Pyongyang Times titled “it is needed to see DPRK-US dialogue squarely” in which Yong writes that the DPRK is out ahead:

The international community is supporting the DPRK’s effort to promote détente on the Korean peninsula and build a fine future.

Kim Jong Un, chairman of the DPRK State Affairs Commission, has raised the profile of the DPRK as a world-level strategic state and safeguarded peace and stability on the peninsula and beyond by displaying outstanding wisdom, matchless courage and extraordinary political acumen.

With a strategic determination to put an end to the bitter history of the relationship between the DPRK and the US, he met US State Secretary Pompeo in Pyongyang and took a series of crucial and generous measures to seek peace and stability on the peninsula and in the rest of the world.

Foreign media attribute the current tendency towards dialogue to the DPRK’s great strength and positive efforts.

The courageous decision of Kim Jong Un and the proactive efforts of the Workers’ Party of Korea have brought a peaceful environment to the Korean peninsula, Kazbek Taysaev, secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, said as he addressed a joint seminar of Russian political parties and organizations. The rapid development of the DPRK makes the world community better understand the greatness of the Korean leader and the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, he added.

While north Korea is leading the current situation, the US is following it, Canadian newspaper Toronto Star said. What is noteworthy is that north Korea emerges victorious in the long-standing confrontation and the US and its allies are on the defensive in their approach towards north Korea, it noted, adding that it is not a big country but it is a military power and centre stage.

“Compared to the US boasting of its economic and military capabilities, the DPRK is a small country in terms of territory and population,” Nigeria-based African Regional Committee for Friendship and Solidarity with the Korean People said on a website. “But the DPRK is led by Kim Jong Un endowed with outstanding strategy and courage and has an army and people committed to their cause.”

Such being the case, some are arguing that the thaw on the Korean peninsula is a result of the US’ “hardline diplomacy” and “sustained pressure”. This is of no slight help to the development of the situation on the peninsula. Rather it hurts the atmosphere for the DPRK-US negotiations.

Explicitly, the current situation is not a passive response to any pressure but an active shift effected by the peerless political acumen and strategic decision of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

To have a proper view on the current peninsula situation is indispensable for promoting global peace and stability.

It is here, we must remember not only the past U$ atrocities, like germ warfare, but recall the new strategic line of the DPRK, which focuses solely on the country’s planned economy, with a number of actions including ending weapons testing, a statement against “first strike” of nuclear weapons (only using them in self-defense) which is consistent with previous policy, and working to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. [4] This means that the DPRK has committed itself to a no-first use commitment, although Ellsberg, in his book, The Doomsday Machine, says on page 333, that any nation making a “threat of first use of a nuclear weapon…is a terrorist nation,” listing the U$, the murderous Zionist apartheid state, Russia, Pakistan, and the DPRK as examples, which seems to be conflating all of these together. In fact, the DPRK would not qualify in this category, with the U$ and Zionists, being the real terrorists without question, especially with recent repression by the Zionists against Palestinians.

The letter then says that:

You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

Let us not forget that the DPRK has made the initiative in the realm of disarmament, showing they are fully serious and committed, while they do not, rightly, want to accept “universal disarmament.” There have been journalists from the ROK who visited the dismantling of the Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site on May 24th, which was destroyed by “impressive” explosions, as one journalist on the scene described it, while he retained his Orientalist mindset. [5] This was something that the orange menace once called “smart.” Beyond that, the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK recently issued a statement explaining what happened when the Punggye-ri site was dismantled before the eyes of the world:

True to the decision of the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK held a ceremony for completely dismantling the northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK on May 24 Juche 107 (2018), to ensure transparency of the discontinuance of nuclear test.

Dismantling the nuclear test ground was done in such a way as to make all the tunnels of the test ground collapse by explosion and completely close the tunnel entrances, and at the same time, explode some guard facilities and observation posts on the site.

It has been confirmed that there were neither leakage of radioactive materials nor any adverse impact on the surrounding ecological environment.

Complete closure of the area surrounding the nuclear test ground will come on the heels of successive removal of all ground observation facilities, research institutes and structures of guard units, and withdrawal of staff concerned.

It has been confirmed by local and international reporters that two tunnels at the nuclear test ground were ready for use for carrying out very powerful underground nuclear tests at any time.

The dismantling of the nuclear test ground conducted with high-level transparency has clearly attested once again to the proactive and peace-loving efforts of the DPRK government being made for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and over the world.

The discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process moving towards global nuclear disarmament, and we will continue to join hands with the world peace-loving people in building a nuclear-free peaceful world, a new independent world where the dream and ideal of humanity are realized.

With this, it is no surprise that the leadership of Russia and China endorsed the meeting between the orange menace and Kim, as did revisionist Laos. In the meantime, DPRK diplomats visited China, undoubtedly to talk about the summit, in part, among other issues. This is despite the fact it seemed unlikely that the DPRK would fare better than Iran, a deal torpedoed by the U$ with the European capitalists barely hanging on, while the Iranians continue to suffer.

Since the negotiations on the meeting, the U$ apparently led some B-52 bombers to change their flight plans to not fly over the Korean Peninsula, but they haven’t given up anything else since the “USS Milius, one of the U.S. Navy’s most advanced guided missile destroyers, arrived in Japan…to reinforce defenses against any ballistic missile attacks by North Korea, or anyone else in East Asia” on May 22nd! Some have even pressured the current U$ administration to “confront the North Korean leader about his country’s aggressive hacking strategy,” a “fact” which is “proven” by the U$ intelligence establishment itself and accepted by the bourgeois media as “real” even though it is clearly fanciful considering that the DPRK only has an intranet, and no internet, making such hacking physically impossible and counterproductive.

It is here I recall what Daniel Ellsberg, the person who famously provided the Pentagon Papers to the bourgeois press, in 1971, showing the lies and deception during the war in Vietnam wrote in his recent book, The Doomsday Machine. Keep in mind that Ellsberg has, like former CIA consultant (and bourgeois scholar) Chalmers Johnson who wrote on the U$ empire in his four-part Blowback series, internalized many anti-communist ideals, believing that Josef Stalin was a “dictator as ruthless as Hitler” with the Soviet Union, in the post-war period, ruled “by a single party more cohesive and competent than the Nazi Party,” occupying half of Europe and having tremendous military strength. [6] Being a nuclear war planner for years, he discovered that between 275 million would be killed by nuclear war with the USSR and China immediately and 325 million over 6 months. He also found, horrifyingly, that basic elements of nuclear war have not changed, with nuclear weapons on “hair-trigger alert,” a continued first-use policy of the U$, and that U$ presidents have used nuclear weapons in many crises as a threat, like a “gun…pointed at someone in a confrontation, whether or not the trigger is pulled.” Ellsberg also says that the “hand” which can launch nuclear weapons has “never been exclusively that of the president, nor even his higher officials,” a policy going back to Eisenhower. This is coupled with false alarms and “catastrophic dangers” concealed from the public, which could result in nuclear war, as shown in the 1964 Hollyweird movie, Fail Safe, where a computer error leads to a nuclear bomb being dropped on Moscow and subsequently one on New York City, killing the President’s wife! He also writes that there was a doomsday machine in the “form of pre-targeted bombers on alert in the Strategic Air Command (SAC)” beginning in 1961, which expanded from there. After talking about his own personal experience as a nuclear war planner, he notes that nuclear warheads arrived in Taiwan and the ROK in 1958, along with in Japan  in the 1960s, a violation of the Japanese Constitution, and the safeguards were circumvented which allowed the U$ Air Force to easily launch nuclear weapons! This was connected to the fact that varied commanders in the Pacific, part of the Commander in Chief of Strategic Arms Command (CINCSAC), could launch nukes on their own authority “without the immediate prior involvement of the president”! At the same time, CINCSAC wanted to, if there was a nuclear war, nuke China even though there was the Sino-Soviet split, so they could gain their glory and be “part” of the “action.” By 1961, there were thousands of pre-planned nuclear targets which put “every city in the Soviet Union and China” in the crosshairs with at least one warhead “allocated for every city of 25,000 people or more in the Soviet Union” alone! Ellsberg writes that he was shown, in spring 1961, calculations of a computer model showing the effects of nuclear war launched by the U$:

…275 million would die in the first hours of our [U$] attacks and 325 million would be dead within six months…[not including] wounded and sick…this was for the Soviet Union and  China alone…another hundred million or so would die in Eastern European satellite countries…many[of the U$ nuclear weapons were aimed at]…air defenses and military  installations near cities…[with] subsequent bombers..dropped megaton weapons on radar stations, antiaircraft installations, and surface-to-air sites…in Eastern Europe [such as Albania]…most warheads in Eastern Europe, as elsewhere, were ground-burst, maximizing fallout. Fallout from our [U$] surface explosions in the Soviet Union, its satellites, and China would decimate the populations in the Sino-Soviet bloc as well as neutral nations bordering these countries…as well as Japan and Pakistan…fallout fatalities inside our Western European NATO allies from U.S. attacks against the Warsaw Pact would dependent on climate and wind conditions.

The total death count, he recalled, from U$ attacks was “in the neighborhood of six hundred million dead,” mostly civilians, generally inflicted in a day or two, the others over a six month period. Ellsberg then described a graphic showing death counts from a nuclear war with the Soviets and Chinese as a “depiction of pure evil.” Still, he admits that the total death count estimated in spring 1961 was a “fantastic underestimate” as it does not include fires caused by nuclear blasts, was was the case in Hiroshima, as John Hersey put it in his book of the same name. Still, in order to make sure that the nuclear missiles remained, a “missile gap” with the Soviets was imagined, lampooned in Dr. Strangelove, after the Soviet Doomsday Machine is activated by a nuclear missile hitting Soviet missile silo, as a “mindshaft gap.” Other parts of the book note how close the U$ and USSR came to war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, with continued nuclear plans to kill millions of people with presidents objecting privately but never publicly which allowed the plans to continue, with a constant goal to decapitate the whole Soviet command system. The latter was at first only a private goal, then became part of the U$’s public anti-Soviet foreign policy. There were also nuclear threats by the U$ throughout the Nixon administration, especially in regards to Vietnam. He ends with some recommendations, saying the U$ and Russian (called “Dead Hand”) doomsday machines must end. For the U$, this involves a no-first-use policy, hearings on war plans, eliminating ICBMs, and giving up hegemony based on premise of nuclear weapons, among other aspects, even as he accepts some use of nuclear weapons to “deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies”!

With this, there is no reason in the world that the DPRK should ever trust the U$ at face value, especially not in its current imperial posture!

I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only the dialogue that matters.

This seems like a strange statement as they likely have never talked directly, even on the phone to each other, which Kim wanted to do with Obama during his presidency, as Dennis Rodman told the bourgeois media when he returned to the U$ after a trip to the DPRK, but it was rejected at the time. Kim has made varied references to a DPRK-U$ dialogue, the first on April 10 as Japan Times said at the time, but that is not his main concern. Rather he is concerned with improving the living standard of the Korean people, hence the new strategic line. Such dialogue between the U$ and DPRK was not very well developed. What I mean is that just last year, the U$ was utterly hostile in its rhetoric toward the DPRK, while this year, since Kim started his effort for inter-Korean cooperation, rhetoric improved, but there still continued to be a strong hardline, especially with people like Pompeo and Bolton as the advisers of the orange menace!

Some day, I look very much forward to meeting with you.

So the orange menace leaves open the door, but is this an empty promise? I am reminded here of a recent article in MintPress News by Mel Gurtov, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, who wrote that not only is the DPRK “not going to give up its principal bargaining chip and strategic deterrent in advance of receiving incentives” but they have “always demanded are security assurances and an end to “hostile” US policies,” wanting to know that they will not be attacked by the U$, and that they want “a road map to normalization of relations with the US…But…security comes first.” He further added that while “Trump has treated Kim with respect and even exaggerated politeness, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has had two apparently upbeat meetings with Kim,” there have been “ominous signs of trouble” from Bolton, a continued “US-South Korea exercise called Max Thunder” which is a “two-week drill involving B-52 bombers and F-22 Raptor fighter jets.” But he ended by with a recommendation:

…the barrage of criticism leveled exclusively at the North Koreans is unwarranted, and reminiscent of Cold War propaganda. Their views are being dismissed by one and all as typical of their trickery and deceit, when in fact they are well known. Wishful thinking is no substitute for a careful engagement strategy. Next time, the US side should better inform itself of the North Korean perspective and priorities, and listen when an adversary says that trust building requires a long-term process.

Of course, this will not be heeded by many, including giddy liberals who didn’t even want a one-on-one meeting, like former CIA director John Brennan or Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson. [7] Robinson, not surprisingly, was confused by the meeting, declaring the country “brutal,” “secretive,” and run by a “dictator” who “oppresses” his people. At the same time, the apologists of the orange menace think that he is “right” and “knows” what he is talking about, even though he doesn’t. The Korean people were optimistic, feeling they are turning a new page of history, but the U$ imperialists, of course, don’t feel this way at all! As Whitney Webb put it recently, “attempts to sabotage the Korea peace talks may also find support from elements within the U.S. government and military…[and] U.S. weapon manufacturers.” With the orange menace pulling out of the summit with Kim, he has allied himself with them, without a doubt!

In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.

While this is positive, the language of the orange menace is overly flowery and is what deluded liberals would undoubtedly call “childish” with phrases like “beautiful gesture” which seems a bit over the top. But, really, the orange menace is trying to appeal to his base, with 30-40% of the U$ populace still giving him support as varied polls in Gallup, Pew Research, and elsewhere indicate. After all, he can use this as a point to rally for re-election, declaring that he, the “great” president, released the prisoners. Also, they were not “hostages” but prisoners. He is in a sense, trying to equate those released to the Iran hostages held for 444 days as the Carter Administration refused to meet reasonable Iranian demands, and pose himself as Reagan, not Carter, of course.

If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.

Kim may write the orange menace, or the message may go through other intermediaries. Of course, the DPRK wants the sanctions to be lifted, a peace treaty, and security guarantees. It is good the orange menace is keeping the door open, but he is still acting like the onus is on the DPRK, rather than the U$ which took a hardline and this drew the Koreans away, not surprisingly, as they remember their history! They will not be fooled or hoodwinked. The U$ is not blameless for the canceling of this summit, but rather holds all the blame and the DPRK, defending its sovereignty and dignity, holds no blame whatsoever.

The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.

This statement echoes his view that Kim would be able to stay as the head of the DPRK, declaring that “he’d be running his country. His country would be very rich,” without, of course, giving any specifics whatsoever of such “security guarantees.” [8] He also forgets that as Han Park, a “former unofficial US-North Korean negotiator” noted, the DPRK does not “want to be a small South Korea. They want the money, but not through capitalist, private-ownership means whatsoever. They don’t want to be like East Germany.” This is what the orange menace thinks they want, but they don’t want this at all. Still, some say the DPRK looks “remarkably similar to the Southeast Asian nation in 1986, when its Communist neighbor [Vietnam] undertook “Doi Moi” reforms to tiptoe toward capitalism.” [9] This is a worrisome sign, if a path similar to that of Vietnam, which recently rolled over and accepted the CPTPP, a trade agreement which benefits the global bourgeoisie and hurts the proletariat, being pursued, to say the least.

This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history.

While at some level it is sad for the Koreans, on another it is a defeat for the orange menace, as it makes the diplomacy of the orange menace look unorganized. It could provide ammunition for the Democratic Party domestically, while it also shows that Kim and the DPRK have the upper hand here, not the imperialists, showing the DPRK are in a strong position, at an advantage.

In the days to come, it is likely that inter-Korean cooperation will continue, while the DPRK will continue its internationalist path of non-isolation by working to connect itself with the world, even if it doesn’t engage in an “opening up” like the revisionists in Laos, Vietnam, or China, which has created a domestic bourgeoisie in each and turned these countries into revisionist havens for Western capitalists. Instead, the DPRK will undoubtedly pursue an independent policy like that of Cuba, standing in solidarity (and supporting) countries under imperialist attack like Venezuela and working to spread the ideals of Juche worldwide with their continued comradely efforts.

Long live the Korean proletariat!

Solidarity with the DPRK against U$ aggression!

Socialism, not capitalist mayhem!

Another world is possible!


Notes:

[1] Julian Borger, “Trump faces North Korea dilemma after Bolton infuriates Pyongyang,” The Guardian, May 17, 2018; “Bolton: Korea Deal Should Go to the Senate for Approval,” Red State, May 13, 2018. Reportedly, the strikes in Syria (another bout of imperial aggression), as noted by Jesse Johnson in an April 15th article in Japan Times, titled “As Kim-Trump summit approaches, Syria strikes evoke memories of Gadhafi’s gruesome fate for North Korea” were meant to “serve as a stark reminder to North Korea of the 2011 U.S.-led intervention in Libya that ended in the gruesome execution of its leader.”

[2] “Trump says meeting with DPRK’s Kim may be delayed,” Xinhua, May 23, 2018.

[3] “Kim Jong Un Inspects Completed Koam-Tapchon Railways,” KCNA, May 25, 2018.

[4] Robert Carlin, “Kim Jong Un’s New Strategic Line,” 38 North, Apr 23, 2018; Ruediger Frank, “The North Korean Parliamentary Session and Budget Report 2018: Cautious Optimism for the Summit Year,” 38 North, Apr 19, 2018; Jin Qianyi, “North Korea halts nuclear program in preparation for economic gains,” Global Times, Apr 15, 2018.

[5] “Trump Thanks North Korea for ‘Smart’ Move to Dismantle Test Site,” Bloomberg, May 12, 2018; “Statement of Nuclear Weapons Institute of DPRK,” KCNA, May 24, 2018;”DPRK receives list of S. Korean journalists to cover nuke test site dismantling,” Xinhua, May 23, 2018; Lin Xin, “Moon visits US amid uncertainty over Trump-Kim summit,” Global Times, May 22, 2018; Barbara Starr and Jeffrey Cohen, “US B-52 bombers changed flight plan after North Korea threatened Trump summit,” CNN, May 18, 2018; Eric Geller and Martin Matishak, “Trump pressed to put hacking on North Korean summit agenda,” Politico, May 19, 2018; “Leaders of South Korea and US discuss Pyongyang over phone,” TASS, May 20, 2018; “N. Korean diplomat arrives in China,” Yonhap News Agency, May 19, 2018; Tim Kelly, “U.S. bolsters Asia ballistic missile defense as Trump-Kim summit nears,” Reuters, May 22, 2018.

[6] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Broadway, NY:  Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017), pp 2, 6, 11-13, 15, 16, 19, 20, 36-37, 42, 49-50, 53-54, 56, 62, 64, 68, 69, 70, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79, 82, 84, 85, 88-89, 94, 98, 99, 112, 117, 118, 124, 127, 136-137, 138, 139, 140, 142, 148, 153, 169, 185, 192, 203, 205, 211, 213, 215, 218, 265, 271, 299, 301, 305, 311, 312, 313, 334, 340, 342, 345, 349. These are all the pages information was obtained for the discussion of Ellsberg’s book. Also on 350 he talks about the “Soviet empire,” a Reaganite term.

[7] Cody Fenwick, “Ex-CIA Chief John Brennan Reveals How North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘Duped Trump’,” AlterNet, May 10, 2018; Eugene Robinson, “Lord save the world,” Washington Post, May 10, 2018; “North Korea: UN gains ‘unprecedented access’ during visit,” BBC News, May 12, 2018.

[8] Ayesha Rascoe, “Trump: Nuclear Deal Would Be Good For North Korea,” NPR, May 17, 2018; Michael Knigge, “North Korea does not want to be like East Germany,” DW, May 16, 2018; “Trump says “Libya model” not to be repeated on DPRK,” Xinhua, May 18, 2018. As noted in a Washington Post article on May 13, titled “Pompeo says U.S. assuring Kim that it does not seek his overthrow,” Pompeo also said that the U$ did not want to overthrow Kim.

[9] Shuli Ren, “Kim Could Make North Korea Samsung’s New Backyard,” Bloomberg News, May 13, 2018.

Mansudae Overseas Projects spreads the ideals of Juche worldwide

Korean artist examining his work at Mansudae Art Studio. This photograph really shows the workplace well, unlike others. There are other photos of a statue under construction at Mansudae Art Studio and what the outside of the art studio looks like.

In the heart of Pyongyang, in Jongphyong-dong, Phyongchon District, there is what some have called the “world’s biggest art factory” or likely the “largest art production center in the world.” This is the Mansudae Art Studio, which employs 4,000 people (who  are male and female) 800 of whom are artists, with Mansudae Overseas Development Group launched in  the 1970s (Munsadae Overseas Projects or MOP is part of this group) as a subset of the studio, with this subset doing works for varying foreign countries, especially in Africa, while the studio as a whole does many works inside Juche Korea, honoring the accomplishments of the socialist state. [1] The studio’s Italian liaison and representative of the studio to the “outside world,” Pier Luigi Cecioni, described it as “more of a campus than a factory, more of a studio, the biggest in the world.” More specifically, this art studio, founded on November 17, 1959 (Juche 48), has an area of “over 120,000 square meters, 80,000 of which indoor,” occupying an a 30 acre area, as noted by the firm’s English-language website, with Cecioni facilitating “the studio’s international sales of paintings, prints, and smaller works.” The studio itself is divided into

…13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and more than 50 supply departments. The artistic works produced at the Mansudae Art Studio range from oil paintings to bronze sculptures, from Korean Paintings (ink on paper) to ceramics, from woodcuts to embroideries, from jewel paintings (made with precious and semiprecious stones reduced to powder) to charcoal drawings and much more. The Mansudae Art Studio is…a very high-quality art production center. The vast majority of the major artworks of the country have been made by Mansudae Art Studio artists…[most of whom] are graduates of the very demanding Pyongyang University.

Furthermore, artists who work there are members of “state-run studio complexes” with every artist with a “formal ranking,” with the top art institute in the country being “the Pyongyang University of Fine Art with various sections: brush-and-ink, oil, sculpture, ceramics, mural painting and industrial arts.” Young artists who want to go into the university are selected, and “judged sufficiently skilled they will study here,” with a minimum of “five years study,” with a total of “around 150 students a year in the fine art department,” with students, after graduating “are selected by various art studios.” The art looks like “classic Social Realist propaganda,” while abstract painting is prohibited, rightly, “as it is deemed bourgeois and anti-revolutionary,” with a yearbook published every year cataloguing official art production. Artists working at the Mansudae Art Company, whom can be viewed by foreign tourists whom can view “small-scale ceramic sculptures,” work in small studios either with ink or even with oil paint, while other non-artist workers and technicians likely help with woodblocks (a specialty of those in Juche Korea), helping production “at least 4,000 top level original works a year. Employees work a week with eight-hour days and are paid depending on the level of production, with art production, at least in 2011 (Juche 100), taking up 40% of the socialist nation’s budget, showing the importance that is put upon it. The studio produces 80% of the country’s art, with a typical artist producing “30 artworks a year, working four days a week,” with Fridays for community service, and their work critiqued by colleagues. However, as Rodong Sinmun makes clear, there are other art groups, like the Korean Central Fine Art Studio, Pyongyang University of Fine Art and Art Studio of the Ministry of Railways which produce works of significance, such as posters “dealing with the Party’s militant call for conducting a dynamic all-people general offensive to attain the five-year strategic goals with the might of self-reliance and self-development.” After all, just look at the architecture in Juche Korea to show how important art is there.

One oil painter, Ho Jae-song, working for Mansudae, said that “normally artists work from Monday to Friday, but it depends on the individual artists and what they are doing,” with the artists normally visiting “many places to get inspired, pick up information and make studies” with their visit taking “a couple of weeks, even months,” with those who are members of the studio  proud of their work. BBC News even says that “these highly skilled craftsmen, largely anonymous, working for a higher good and not interested in profit inhabit a very different world from artists elsewhere” although they claim, as one would expect from such horrid media, many would not “envy” their work, in their typical propagandistic style. There are claims in bourgeois media that in overseas environments there are “poor working conditions…and the low pay” but this is undeniably slander.

Painters at the Mansudae Art Studio, as noted by Colors Magazine. Two female artists are working on the left, and two male artists on the right.

Of course, bourgeois media  and analysts declare works coming from MOP (and would undoubtedly say the same about the studio as a whole as well) are “propaganda” with a snarl, claiming it runs afoul of UN sanctions, scrutinized by the murderous empire and UN “experts” as bringing in “significant” money for  Juche Korea, with  “large construction operations” led by Mansudae, with contracts drawn with said governments. Whether this is true or not, is unknown, but it shows that imperialists fear the influence of these monuments, some of which are 160 feet tall! Just take the words of a former IMF adviser, Naranhkiri Tith, who declared that Juche Korea is commercializing Angkor Wat (the project there described in the next paragraph), declaring laughably that “I think anything that happens in Cambodia is not normal. That is why Cambodia is called the country of the absurd…North Korea, in my opinion, is another country of the absurd where the government is engaging in smuggling and many other illegal activities to survive.” [2] What the heck does this even mean? The bourgeois media cites clowns like this person all the time, with this being only one example of the Orientalist propaganda spewed by media every day. They definitely won’t mention that in 2013 (Juche 102), a Western named Oliver Laric became “the only individual…to have hired the Mansudae studio to create a private sculptural commission.” The museum in Angkor was the most “ambitious foreign project” for MOP, taking 63 artists, who were flown in Juche Korea, “four months to paint the cyclorama,” with Yit Chandaroat, acting director of museums for Apsara, saying that “Mansudae has great talent and a good reputation in artwork, painting and construction,” which is undoubtedly the case. Even Nicholas Bonner, founder of Koryo Studio in Beijing who has worked with Mansudae for 20 years, said that “I don’t see this museum [in Cambodia] as an attempt to project soft power. Mansudae is a massive studio, and they need to keep working to bring revenue in from inside and outside of the country.” Mansudae’s official overseas gallery, called the Mansudae Art Museum is in “Beijing’s art district 798 Art Zone and has been holding exhibitions since 2009.” The head of this gallery, Zhengtai Ji, argued that “Now more than ever we need avenues like art to create understanding between North Korea and the rest of the world,” which is undeniably the case. Other bourgeois media claims that there is a huge market for artwork from Juche Korea in China. If this is true, which is may because there was a showing of Mansudae artwork in Shenyang in 2015 (Juche 104), it would be a further reason for a studio there.

These Korean workers have constructed monuments across the African continent celebrating “the rise of young, independent African nations” by merging their style of “socialist realism with African nationalism” (some say they have a “Soviet style“) with historical connections between the countries the monuments appear and those which Juche Korea supported national liberation. Currently, 17 African countries have monuments and structures built by these wonderful workers: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of Congo, Senegal, Togo, and Zimbabwe! [3] Asian countries being Cambodia, Malaysia, and the Western European country of Germany. In Cambodia, Mansudae constructed a “multimillion dollar culture and history museum in Angkor Wat” called the Angkor Panorama Museum, which opened in 2016, which will be run jointly by the Cambodians and those from Juche Korea for ten years, then  handed over to Cambodia into its complete control by 2036. As for the African countries, one bourgeois academic, who has an anti-Korea sentiment to his work, even wrote that the monuments “celebrate the rise of young, independent nations” with Mansudae originally having the government of Juche Korea as his client, with the latter company offering “cheap” and “attractive” prices to African governments. He adds that the monument in Namibia (National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against racist South Africans, the monument in Zimbabwe (also called National Heroes Acre) honors the fight against British oppressors, and a monument in Juche Korea (in the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery) commemorates the fight against Japanese colonizers, with the victors “of each of these fights continue to rule the liberated countries and are basing their legitimacy on the independence struggles.” [4] In all, as one bourgeois “watcher” site for Juche Korea noted, “Mansudae Overseas Development Group undertook to build bronze statues, monuments and other works of arts, and fit out buildings and parks in over 70 countries and regions,” claiming it brings in “needed” cash to Juche Korea, not understanding it is done even more for the reasons of international solidarity. This is demonstrated by the statues, listed by the bourgeois Colors magazine, of

  • national heroes in Botswana (2005)
  • Joshua Nkomo in Zimbabwe (2010)
  • Mozambique’s first president, Samora Machel (2011)
  • Angola’s first president Agostinho Neto (2012, with production overseen by “Neto’s wife and daughter”)
  • the Tiglachin Monument for the then-Marxist Ethiopian government (1974)
  • the African Renaissance monument in Senegal (2010)
  • The Unknown Soldier representing Namibians who were killed during the independence war (2002)
  • the Monument to Laurent Kabila in the DRC (2002)

The bourgeois media claims that Juche Korea has taken in $160 million (a number first floated by the anti-Korean Daily NK and repeated by bourgeois media) “in the last ten years thanks to the construction of sculptures and other edifices in countries across Africa,” saying it is a lot because of the country’s “per capita income.” [5] Yet, if we take the most recent estimated GDP (PPP) put forward by the CIA Factbook lets say, taking  it for the sake of argument, being $40 billion, this project would be equal to .04% of that value! That means these projects are chump change generally but still enough to make the work worthwhile, not a big “cash cow” or “cash lifeline” as the bourgeois media likes to describe them, in their lying terms, like they do with everything related to Juche Korea. So, what’s the big deal? It has to do with efforts to restrict this socialist state and limit its influence while capitalism continues to maintain its dominance across the world by strangling it. This is evident by the sanctions of the murderous empire levied by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in August 2017 (along with 15 other entities) against the Mansudae organization and in December 2016 the managing director of MOP, Mr. Tong-chol Kim, who was born on August 7, 1968, and a”Chinese subsidiary in Namibia” called Qingdao Construction. [6] That same year, the UN sanctioned Juche Korea, in an investigation led by one “Hugh Griffiths” who seemed to be anti-Korean (i.e. his statement of “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa”) for Mansudae constructing statues, mainly in Africa, showing that the UN was serving the interests of imperialists and being utter racist, not allowing it to make wonderful socialist realism statues celebrating African liberation. Later in 2016 (Juche 106), the UN “blacklisted Mansudae Art Studio, subjecting it to a global asset freeze and travel ban,” further manifesting imperialist efforts to isolate Juche Korea.

Choi Sang Kyun, head of Gallery Pyongyang, poses with a propaganda poster of Juche Korea that he collected. Photo is courtesy of Reuters and reprinted by The Telegraph. The image here is used  here under the fair use exception to U.S. Copyright law.

With this, it is worth quoting Cecioni, who notes the value of Mansudae to the world: “I consider it very important to let people know that … North Koreans do not make only bombs but also art and are common people.” [7] Clearly, the imperialists don’t want the world to know this, which is why the studio is on the list of sanctions, with some artists going to the “Chinese border town of Dandong.” Cecioni also adds that those who work at Mansudae find “abstract and conceptual art…amusing” because they “don’t see it as necessary.” He also added that artists there “have an enviable position” because, “unlike a Western artist they don’t have to worry about selling their work” since they “have a salary…are recognized and have privileges” and ultimately “seem to live happily, they feel part of something.” That is definitely not the case in the capitalist West. In exclusive interview with horrid Vice, Cecioni told more about Mansudae, from his perspective,20 noting that in January 2006 (Juche 105) he became “the representative of the Mansudae Art Studio in the West” with one of the provisions of the agreement to “organize exhibitions of Mansudae Art Studio works in the West” and he has “returned to Pyongyang a few times, and Korean artists have come to visit in Italy.” [8] He added that

The vast majority of the best artists in the country are at the Mansudae. Practically all its artists have a university or a fine-arts degree. When a student distinguishes himself or herself at the university he or she is invited to join the Mansudae. Also, if an artist distinguishes himself or herself in another center he or she might be invited to join. It is a great honor to enter the Mansudae…From what I have seen, from about late elementary school through high school, in the afternoon, students may attend on a voluntary basis after-school programs and institutions in which they follow their interests which can be musical, artistic, sport, acting, and similar. My impression is that the training becomes really demanding at the university: North Koreans are very good and serious university students… The Mansudae Art Studio has a perhaps unexpected economic autonomy. The money that comes from our sales goes to the Mansudae Art Studio… The artists do not absolutely have big egos, nor are they humble. In a way, among the people I frequent, they all consider themselves equal, even though they are fully aware, in art, that some are better than others and that they have different positions work-wise. Western contemporary art in general does not interest them. In fact I saw them find it literally funny in the sense that they laughed at seeing some works, not with disdain but with true amusement. They are very much interested in classic art…I would not say that the purpose of all DPRK art is its political message. The socialist realism works represent North Korea in a positive light and, in a broad sense, want to inspire the viewers to have positive and patriotic feelings and celebrate, especially with some large sculptures and large paintings exhibited in public places, the leaders. The subjects are often related to work, a subject not common in the West. One particular form of socialist realism art are the posters. They are hand-painted, not printed, and they have political or social messages. Many are aimed against the US, seen as past aggressors or potential aggressors. Besides social realism, landscape paintings are very popular. Also paintings of flowers and nature in general. There are also many portraits, mainly of workers. But then there are so many kinds of art—sculptures, ceramics, embroidery, various kinds of paintings, woodcutting, calligraphy, and some others—that I cannot generalize.

Apart from this, in 2015 (Juche 104), a south Korean filmmaker Onejoon Che made a documentary named Mansudae Master Class, which attracted interest in Western  art circles, which undeniably has an Orientalist tone to it, since in an interview with him, he calls Juche Korea a “dictatorship” and acts like they exploit Africans. [9] Basically, the country is again treated as a “curiosity” in undeniably racist terms.

Even with all of this, Mansudae was able to show their works, in 2007 (and again in 2014) in London, of all places, showing that the imperialist efforts to isolate the country aren’t working in slightest. The same was the case about Mansudae’s exhibition on Australia in 2009 (Juche 98), which was even covered by AP, with a 5-minute-video. Mansudae is following in the tradition of Korean history, with maps of Korea drawn in the 19th century which were “painted with watercolors” and are “wonderfully detailed [and] hand-drawn” maps, with these artists and loyal comrades with the same vibe with their work.


Notes

[1] Caroline Winter, “Mansudae Art Studio, North Korea’s Colossal Monument Factory,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Jun 6, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea’s ‘biggest’ export – giant statues,” BBC News, Feb 16, 2017; Thomas Gordon, “A North Korean art factory is making enormous statues,” Dazed, Aug 6, 2014; Hamish Macdonald, “North Korean embassy hosts art exhibition in London,” The Guardian, Nov 3, 2014; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 19, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2017; “Floral Tributes Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 11, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 28, 2017; “Anniversary of Publication of Kim Jong Il’s Work Observed,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 22, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 29, 2017; “Tribute Paid to Statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jul 10, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2017; “Floral Tribute to Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 17, 2017; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 20, 2017; “22nd Paektusan Prize Sports Contest among Officials of National Institutions Closes,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 9, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Statues of Great Leaders on Lunar New Year’s Day,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 31, 2017; “Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival-2017 Opens,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il on New Year,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 4, 2017; “Floral Tribute Paid to Great Leaders,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 26, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Dec 20, 2016; “Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 18, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Oct 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Sept 12, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Aug 17, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, July 29, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jun 21, 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 27, 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 16 2016; “Floral Tribute to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Apr 11 2016; “Floral Baskets Laid before Statues, Portraits of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 18, 2016; “Floral Tributes Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Feb 11, 2016; “Floral Tribute Paid to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il,” Rodong Sinmun, Jan 2, 2016. In Angola, the studio has constructed the António Agostinho Neto culture center, Cabinda Park, and the Peace Monument along with a basketball stadium and athlete academic center “in the Congo, a government office building, Luba Stadium, and conference halls in Equatorial Guinea.

[2] Patrick Winn, “North Korea propaganda unit builds monuments abroad,” PRI (reprinted from Global Post), Aug 3, 2011; Amy Qin,  “An Art Powerhouse From North Korea,” New York Times, Jan 25, 2016; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph (reprinted in Yahoo! News) Oct 5, 2017; “North Korea’s Mansudae: The propaganda factory,” MSN News, Feb 17, 2016;

[3] Wikipedia, “Mansudae Overseas Projects,” accessed Feb 6, 2018, lists 11 African countries as places with monuments, but also says “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe”; Derek Henry Flood, “Symbolism merges for Mali and North Korea,” Asia Times, Feb 2, 2013; Statues and ammunition: North Korea’s Africa connections,” CNN, Dec. 14, 2017; “North Korea and the World” project by the East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK); Tycho van der Hoog, “North Korean monuments in southern Africa: Legitimizing party rule through the National Heroes’ Acres in Zimbabwe and Namibia,” Masters Thesis summary (archived here), Leiden University, July 1, 2017, full masters thesis (67 pages), accessed February 5, 2018, archived here; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Sebastian Strangio, “N Korea’s multimillion-dollar museum in Cambodia,” Al Jazeera, Feb 22, 2016. VOA claims that Juche Korea has “built statues and markers in at least 15 African countries.” In the full masters thesis, van der Hoog claims he didn’t have time (or ability) to do research in Zimbabwe, but did research in Namibia, which had “old black and white photos of SWAPO officials who were visiting Pyongyang before independence,” further noting that “North Korea not only funded and supplied the liberation movements [in Zimbabwe and Namibia, but], high ranking officials also visited the Asian country and North Korean military instructors were active in the exile camps in Africa, where they trained guerrilla soldiers.” This academic specifically describes the memorials in Namibia and Zimbabwe. One site, says that “as of 2015, Mansudae projects have been built in 17 countries: Angola, Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Germany, Malaysia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Togo, Zimbabwe.”

[4] Other large projects in Namibia built by Mansudae include the “Independence Memorial Museum, the State House and a military museum in Okahandja” while in Zimbabwe, they also built a “grand statue of Joshua Nkomo in Bulawayo,” in Angola they have engaged in “56 construction projects” as one bourgeois scholar points out. It is claimed that Mansudae “has an office in Windhoek” although this relies on the UN report which only took information from 9 African counries, with 43 not submitting “the required National Implementation Reports,” which the bourgeois scholar still thinks gives the report legitimacy! He also claims that “among the African countries that are often mentioned as hosting North Korean laborers are Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya and Nigeria.” They also argue that Juche Korea “may form an inspiration for Namibia and Zimbabwe, and other countries.” One article in bourgeois media says that Other North Korean statues, mostly of African revolutionary leaders, were sold to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Benin and Congo” (Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017).

[5] “Mansudae Overseas Development Group Projects,” North Korean Economy Watch, Jun 23, 2010; “Foreign Currency Earning Constructions in Africa,” Daily NK, Jun 21, 2010; “Korea, North,” The World Factbook, CIA, accessed Feb 5, 2018; Kevin Shieff, “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” Washington Post, Jul 10, 2017.

[6] U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Targets Chinese and Russian Entities and Individuals Supporting the North Korean Regime,” Aug 22, 2017, accessed Feb 5, 2018, it was later reprinted by the US Embassy in Russia; “Notices,” Federal Register, Vol. 82, No. 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; U.S. Department of the Treasury Press Center, “Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities Supporting the North Korean Government and its Nuclear and Weapons Proliferation Efforts,” Dec 2, 2016, accessed Feb 5, 2018; John Bat, “Treasury slaps new sanctions on groups allegedly supporting North Korea,” CBS News, Aug 22, 2017; “Notices,” Federal Register Volume 82, Number 164, Friday, Aug 25, 2017; Bill Gertz, “U.S. Sanctions Chinese, Russians for Illicit Trade With North Korea,” Free Beacon, Aug 23, 2017; “Sanctions on North Korea Inc. Hit Kim’s Secretive ‘Office 39’,” Bloomberg News, Aug 10, 2017; Guandong Hu, “Mine workers, idyllic landscapes, tigers: North Korean artists have made tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang,” Quartz, Nov 14, 2017; Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; Nicola Smith, “Flourishing North Korean art trade in China under threat from sanctions,” The Telegraph, Oct 5, 2017; Reuters, “North Korea’s art market is on the rise despite UN sanctions,” New York Post, Oct 5, 2017; Liu Zhen, “8 ways North Korea evades UN sanctions,” Business Insider (reprinted from South China Morning Post), Sept 19, 2017; Eric Talmadge, “Statue export ban hits at Pyongyang’s soft power, hard cash,” AP, Dec 27, 2016; Salem Solomon, “Sanctioned and Shunned, North Korea Finds Arms Deals in Africa,” VOA, Mar 22, 2017; U.S. hits Chinese and Russian companies, individuals with sanctions for doing business with North Korea,” Washington Post, Aug 22, 2017; Xi En Lee, “North Korea still has plenty of options as it faces new sanctions and a frosty Beijing,” CNBC, Nov 23, 2017; Steve Allen, “4 Ships Banned from All Ports for Violating NKorea Sanctions,” Newsmax (reprinted from AP), Oct 9, 2017; “Kim Jong Un’s personal ‘slush fund’ known as ‘Office 39’ hit by sanctions,” Washington Post, Aug 10, 2017; “North Koreans ban statue exports” (title is totally inaccurate, the UN banned the exports, not Juche Korea), Sun Gazette, Feb 6, 2018. The latter article said that Mansudae “has generated an estimated 38,000 statues and 170,000 other monuments for domestic use and, according to the website of its overseas representative office, it is divided in 13 creative groups, seven manufacturing plants and has more than 50 supply departments.” One Treasury Dept report claimed that “the Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies has been reported to conduct business in countries including Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Benin, Cambodia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Senegal, Syria, Togo, and Zimbabwe.”

[7] Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, Fanny Potkin, “White tiger, dark horse: North Korean art market heats up,” Reuters, Oct 4, 2017; John Russell, “North Korean Art Market Growing,” VOA, Oct 10, 2017; Lawrence Pollard, “North Korea’s biggest export? Giant statues. To African dictators,” PRI (reprinted from BBC News), Feb 17, 2016; David Sim, “Cash-strapped North Korea turns to art to beat sanctions, but all that is about to change,” International Business Times, Oct 4, 2017.

Zombie Simpsons and the cultural hegemony of Hollyweird

From S5E14, “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacey

In 1919, Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist who was imprisoned by the Mussolini’s government, for his beliefs, specifically his anti-fascist actions, wrote that “the capitalists have lost pre-eminence: their freedom is limited; their power is annulled. Capitalist concentration has arrived at the greatest development allowed it, realizing the world monopoly of production and exchange. The corresponding concentration of the working masses has given an unheard of power to the revolutionary proletarian class…They are not dead.” This is the case with The Simpsons, an animated sitcom, in its 29th season, with its viewership sharply declining, which still lives on through “memes on social media that serve as still-relevant social commentary.” [1] In order to analyze how this manifests itself in the Simpsons and the tyranny of Hollyweird, a term I thought came from  Chuck D of Public Enemy, but it seems to be used on a lot of conservative websites but I see no issue with re-appropriating it for something which is evidently much more positive, it is only right to turn to the theories of Gramsci. Later on, this article will use Gramsci’s theories to pose a broader analysis of The Simpsons, which can easily be applied to Hollyweird as a whole. Before anyone criticizes my analysis, I would like to add here as a disclaimer that I read through Gramsci’s works, cited in this article, over a few day period and made the analysis from there. Obviously, this is not all the works of Gramsci, but I did my best to provide a summarized analysis. There is undoubtedly some aspects which I did not address, but I did my best to address all the pertinent aspects. I say this before people get on my case about “missing” something or debating over my interpretation of Gramsci. With that, as always, all comments are welcome.

Summarizing Gramsci’s theories on intellectuals and hegemony

The tyranny of Hollyweird (which usually just includes America’s film industry, but can be said, for this article to include the whole media-entertainment complex), should be analyze on a systemic manner, rather than just focusing on a symptom.

Apart from looking at varied scholars, it is best to look at Gramsci’s writings themselves. In December 1916, when arguing that the proletariat should reject ideology from bourgeois newspapers, he added that these proletariat must “always, always, always remember that the bourgeois newspaper…is an instrument of struggle motivated by ideas and interests that are contrary to his. Everything that is published is influenced by one idea: that of serving the dominant class, and which is ineluctably translated into a fact: that of combating the laboring class…the bourgeois newspapers tell even the simplest of facts in a way that favors the bourgeois class and damns the working class and its politics.” This could easily be applied to Hollyweird. The same could be said of his writing in 1921 that the “entire state apparatus: with its police force, its courts, and its newspapers that manipulate public opinion according to the desires of the government and the capitalists” or his writing in 1925 that in order to

take the working class beyond the limits of existing bourgeois democracy…a conscious ‘ideological’ element is necessary. This entails an understanding of the conditions in which the class is fighting, of the social relations in which workers live, of the fundamental tendencies that operate within these social relationships, and of the development of society (driven by the irreconcilable antagonisms at its heart), etcetera.

Due to the format of the Prison Notebooks on the Marxists Internet Archive, for the rest of this section, I use the Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, which derives from the original text itself.

For Gramsci, two types of intellectuals are created by “every social group” (bourgeoisie or proletariat). The first is a group of intellectuals which have homogeneity and awareness of their function in the capitalist system. [2] At the same time, “capitalist entrepreneur[s]” create the “industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture,” and have technical and directive capacity. This is because they serve as organizers of “masses of men,” “confidence” in their business, consumers in their product, and so on. Most, or an elite among these “capitalist entrepreneur[s]” have intellectual capacities, including the complex “organism of services,” up to the state, with the need to creative conditions “most favorable to their class” or choose specialized individuals to organize their relationships, whom include these intellectuals. Such intellectuals are “organic,” with every class, the  bourgeoisie or proletariat, creating alongside itself, elaborating in the course of its development. The other form of intellectuals is one which is “already in existence” and seemed to represent uninterrupted “historical continuity.” These intellectuals are in the ecclesiastics, who held a long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bonded to schools, education, morality, and other societal values, originally tied to the landed aristocracy, gaining their own privileges over time. These intellectuals are “traditional,” posing themselves an “autonomous and independent of the dominant social group,” whether the  bourgeoisie or the proletariat, but this idealism is not true in reality. As Gramsci puts it artfully, “all men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all  men in society have the  function of intellectuals,” with “non-intellectuals” not existing in society, but a stratum of intellectuals being present, either “traditional” or “organic.” He adds that there are “historically specialised categories for the exercise of the intellectual function,” with assimilation and conquest of “traditional” intellectuals quicker and more efficacious the more the group (bourgeoisie and proletariat) elaborating on their own organic intellectuals. For both types of intellectuals, schools are the “instrument” through which they improve their functions, with complexity of their “intellectual measured” by the number of gradation of specialized schools, with the more extensive the “area” covered by education and varied levels of schooling, the more complex “is  the cultural world.” While, as Gramsci notes, there is a wide base provided for  selection of the “top intellectual qualifications,” it creates vast “crises of unemployment for the middle intellectual strata.” The elaboration of the intellectual strata in “concrete reality” does not come from something abstract but in accordance with “concrete traditional historical processes,” with distribution of different types of school over a territory, with varied aspirations within the intellectual strata determine or give form to “branches of intellectual specialization.” After giving an example of development of rural and urban bourgeoisie in Italy, Gramsci adds that

The relation between the intellectuals and the world of production is not as direct as it is with fundamental social groups but is, in varying degrees, “mediated” by the whole fabric of society and by the complex of superstructures, of which the intellectuals are, precisely, the “functionaries”.

It is here that Gramsci begins to outline his thoughts on hegemony. He first notes that the “organic quality” of varied  intellectual strata and their “degree of connection” with a “fundamental social group” (bourgeoisie and proletariat) and says that a gradation of their functions (and of the superstructures) can be determined. For the superstructure, Gramsci notes that there are two levels: one that can be called “civil society,” which includes institutions which are commonly seen as “private” and that of  “political society” or the “State.” These two levels, he writes, correspond to the exercise of hegemony by a dominant group (bourgeoisie or proletariat) over society and to “direct domination” or command exercised through the State. For the dominant group, intellectuals are their deputies, exercising the “subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government” comprising of “spontaneous” consent which is  given by the masses to the “general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group” with such consent historically caused by prestige and confidence which the “dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.” Secondly, intellectuals exercise their functions through the “apparatus of state coercive power” which enforces discipline on groups which do not consent “actively or passively,” an apparatus which is constituted for the society in  “anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed.” Gramsci closes this chapter by saying his ideas expand the concept of intellectual but is the only way to recognize the reality, adding that the function of “organizing social hegemony and state domination”  gives rise a particular division of labor, with a “hierarchy of qualifications” with intellectual activity needing to be “distinguished in terms of its intrinsic characteristics” with those at the highest level being “creators of the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc.,” and the lowest being administrators and divulges of “pre-existing, traditional, accumulated intellectual wealth.” The chapter ends by saying that in the modern world the category of intellectuals has expanded, with functions justified by the “political necessities of the dominant fundamental group,” with mass formation standardizing individuals psychologically and in terms of “individual qualification.”

Comes from the Selections from the Prison Notebooks, quoted in this article.

In the next chapter, Gramsci expands on whom can be “traditional” intellectuals: they are rural, linked to the “social mass of country people and the town…petite bourgeoisie.” [3] On the other hand, the  urban intellectuals are those who have “grown up along with industry and are linked to its fortunes,” having no autonomous plans, with a job to “articulate the relationship between the entrepreneur and the intellectual mass,” executing production plans of the industrial general staff, which controls varying “stages of work,” while they are very standardized, identified with the “industrial general staff itself.” He adds that every “organic development”of the peasant masses is linked and  depends on movements “among intellectuals.” Specifically, organic intellectuals who come from the “instrumental masses” can influence factory technicians. Gramsci further delineates between “organic” and “traditional” intellectuals. He writes that the political party, for some groups (specifically the proletariat) is a specific way of creating their own organic intellectuals, who directly join the political and philosophical field, while the political party, for all groups, carries out the same function as the State  in political society, welding together intellectuals whom are “organic” (of the dominant group) and “traditional.” Latter political parties carry out this function by fulfilling its  basic function:  of elaborating its “component parts” which are those who have been born and developed as an economic group, turning them into “qualified political intellectuals…leaders and organisers of all activities and functions inherent in the organic development of society.” After explaining how a political party functions with intellectual elements, functioning specifically in relation to the different types of intellectuals, “organic” and “traditional,” the history of traditional intellectuals connected with “slavery in the classical world,”  giving specific examples for how this manifests itself in Italy, England, France, Germany, Russia, he moves onto the U$, specifically relevant for this article, writing that:

…in the case of the United States, [there is] the absence to a considerable degree of traditional intellectuals, and consequently a different equilibrium among intellectuals in general. There has been a massive development…of the whole range of modern superstructures. The necessity of equilibrium is determined…by the need to fuse together in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different forms of culture imported by immigrants of differing national origins. The lack of vast sedimentation of traditional intellectuals…explains…the existence of only two major parties, which could…be reduced to one only…and…the enormous proliferation of religious sects.

After talking about the influence of “negro intellectuals” on the U$ and how the empire could use Blacks to advance imperial interests, he talks about other examples in Latin America, Japan, and China. It is there that the chapter ends.

Gramsci as cited in Davidson’s Antonio Gramsci: Towards an Intellectual Biography (London: Merlin Press, 1977), p. 77.

In his chapters on education, in which he writes that “every intellectual idea tends to create for itself cultural associations of its own,” specialized schools and bureaucracies, the elements of educational institutions, he does not touch on hegemony or the “intellectual strata.”[4] His chapter on Italian history isn’t much different. He does, however, in one section, specifically focus on intellectuals and hegemony, writing

the supremacy of a social group manifests itself…as “domination” and as “intellectual moral leadership.” A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to “liquidate”, or subjugate…a social group can…exercise “leadership” before winning governmental power…it subsequently becomes dominant when it exercises power, but even if it holds it firmly in its grasp, it must continue to “lead”  as well. [5]

He later adds that in the experience of many countries, if peasants move through impulses which are  “spontaneous,” the “intellectuals start to waver” and if a “group of intellectuals situates itself on a new basis of concrete pro-peasant policies,” it draws in more important “elements of the masses.” [6] Later on, he  briefly mentions intellectuals. One example is when he talks about the “intellectual stratum” in northern Italy, another is when he writes that to analyze the “socio-political function of intellectuals, it is necessary to recall and examine their psychological attitude toward the fundamental classes [bourgeoisie and proletariat].” [7] He later that a philosophy which “offers to its adherents an intellectual “dignity”” which differs from old ideologies, and an “educative principle” which interests a sect of intellectuals whom are homogeneous and most numerous, are the ways that “hegemony of a directive centre” asserts itself over intellectuals. When talking about a “homogeneous ruling class” in the Italian Piedmont, Gramsci wrote that this ruling class wanted their “interests to dominate…they wanted a new force, independent of every compromise and condition, to become the arbiter of the Nation.” [8] After summarizing principles from Marx’s Preface to The Critique of Political Economy, he criticized the idea of “passive revolution,” specifically citing “Gandhism and Tolstoyism,” endeavoring to discover its roots in Italian history. In writing a further part of his history of Italy, Gramsci notes that

Although it is certain that for the fundamental productive classes (the capitalist bourgeoisie and modern proletariat) the State is only conceivable as the  concrete form of a specific economic world, this does not mean that the relationship of  means to end can be easily determined or takes the form of a simple schema, apparent at first sight. It is true that conquest of power and achievement of a new productive world are  inseparable, and that propaganda for the other, and that in reality it is solely in this coincidence that the unity of the dominant class–at one political and economic–resides. [9]

He adds on the next page that “intellectuals are the social element from which the governing personnel are drawn.” Later on, in the same book, he adds that the while there can be a distinction between an intellectual strata separated from the masses and intellectuals linked “organically to a national-popular mass” in reality one needs to struggle against deceptions, stimulating the formation of “homogeneous, social blocs” which  birth their own intellectuals, commandos, and vanguard. [10] He also briefly mentions reinforcement of the hegemonic positions of a dominant group, but focuses on the hegemony of the State. In another chapter, he writes about a class “that is international in character” (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat) which guides “social strata which are narrowly national…frequently less than national,” referring to intellectuals specifically. [11] In a section about state power, Gramsci makes, what I believe, is his only use of the term “cultural hegemony” in the Prison Notebooks and likely in the rest of his writings. He writes that

…every State is ethical in as much as one of its most important functions is to raise the great mass of population to a particular cultural and moral level, a level…which corresponds to the needs of the productive forces for development [the bourgeoisie], and hence to the interests of the ruling classes.The school as a positive educative function, and the courts as repressive and negative educative function, are the most important State activities in this sense: but, in reality, a multitude of other so-called private  initiatives and activities tend to the same end–initiatives and activities which form the apparatus of the political and cultural hegemony of the ruling classes…only the social group that poses the end of the State and its own end as the target to be achieved can create an ethical state–i.e. one which tends to to put an end to the internal divisions of the ruled, etc., and to create a technically  and morally unitary social organism. [12]

Adding to this, he writes that if states cannot avoid going through a stage of “economic-corporate privimatism,” then the “content of political hegemony of the new social group” will be “predominantly of an economic order,” with reorganization of the existing structure, and a negative cultural policy. Beyond this are his comments that in a society one or more private associations (which are either natural, contractual or voluntary) one or more predominates, constituting a “hegemonic apparatus of one social group over the rest of the population,” with the basis for the State in “the narrow sense of governmental-coercive apparatus.” [13] Gramsci’s next mention of hegemony is related to political parties. He  writes that

The function of hegemony or political leadership exercised by [political] parties can be estimated from the evolution of the internal life of the [political] parties themselves. If the State represents the coercive and punitive force of juridical regulation of a country, the [political] parties–representing the spontaneous adhesion of an elite to such a regulation, considered as a type of collective society to which the entire mass must be educated–must show in their internal life that they have assimilated as principles or moral conduct those rules which in the State are legal obligations. [14]

In his next book, Gramsci writes about the expanding circle of intellectuals. He notes that the intellectual stratum expands, with every leap forward tied to a movement of the masses who raise their level of culture, extending their influence among the stratum, but there are continually gaps “between the mass and the intellectuals.” [15] Later, he specifically focuses on European culture. He writes that it is the “only historically and concretely universal culture…European culture has undergone a process of unification,” with the cultural process personified in intellectuals. [16] On the next page, he specifically, once again, addresses intellectuals in society:

…The intellectual’s error consists in believing that one can know without understanding and even more without feeling and being impassioned…the intellectual can be an intellectual…if distinct and separate from the people-nation…without feeling the elementary passions of the people, understanding them and therefore explaining and justifying them in the particular historical situation and connecting them dialectically to the laws of history and to a superior conception of the world…one cannot make politics-history without this passion, without this sentimental connection between intellectuals and people-nation…if the relationship between the intellectuals and people-nation, between the leaders and led,the rulers and ruled, is provided by an organic cohesion in which the feeling-passion becomes understanding and thence knowledge (not mechanically but in a way that is alive) then and only then is the relationship one of representation.

On a related  note, he writes that the “great systems of traditional philosophy and the religion of the the leaders of the clergy,” which conceives the world as one of intellectuals and high culture, systems “unknown to the multitude” and do not influence them directly, but do so indirectly, with these systems influencing the masses as an “external political force, an element of cohesive force exercised by the ruling classes and…an element of subordination to an external hegemony.” [17] Such efforts negatively influence the masses, limiting their thought, limiting their common sense.

Reading through this book, it is clear that scholars have interpreted Gramsci well to say that the state serves as an “instrument of domination that represents the interests of capital and of the ruling class,” with  domination “achieved in large part by a dominant ideology expressed through social institutions that socialize people to consent to the rule of the dominant group,”while  hegemonic beliefs, “dominant beliefs” fundamentally dampen critical thought, and are thus barriers to revolution.” [18] They point out that he viewed the educational institution as “one of the fundamental elements of cultural hegemony in modern Western society,” with hegemony being a form of control exercised by a dominant class, either the bourgeoisie or proletariat, a class which takes into interest those classes and groups over which it dominates, while it has to “make some sacrifices tangent to its corporate interests,” and maintain its “economic leadership besides ethico-political leadership” with the class “situated at one of the two fundamental poles in the relations of production: owner or non-owner of the means of production.” This entails, these scholars argue, that this class executes a “leadership role on the economic, political, moral, and intellectual levels vis-a-vis other classes in the system, coupled with the sacrificing of some of its corporate interests as a fundamental class precisely to facilitate its vanguard role.” Furthermore, they note that Gramsci is arguing that the dominant class, with its hegemony, “exercises a political, intellectual, and moral role of leadership within a hegemonic system cemented by a common world-view…won in civil society through dynamic ideological struggle.” With this, the concept of “cultural hegemony” is derived: that the “beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and moral norms of a ruling class…is accepted as the cultural norm” or dominant, with those who own the with capital assets in society, “TV stations, film studios, newspapers” releasing their media product into society, intending to “reinforce the status quo and keep these asset holders in control.” Others defined this concept as centered around the “domination of a society by a group whose domination comes through control of culture…and the implicit ideology contained within that culture” with the worldview of the dominant group becoming the “worldview of the majority; who see its values as natural and universal values which are good for all.” [19] Regardless, it is clear that the concept of “cultural hegemony” is one that is derived from Gramsci, just like the concept of “labor aristocracy is derived from the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. That doesn’t mean either of these ideas is incorrect or improper, but rather that their origins should be recognized.

It is with this, we move onto the next section of this article, which uses Gramsci’s theories, applying them to a recent debate over Apu and The Simpsons, which directly connects with the overall tyranny of Hollyweird.

Gramsci, Springfieldian stereotypes, and Hollyweird

This is followed by Marge saying “some things will be dealt with at a later date?” and followed by Lisa saying, sorrowfully, “if at all.” This sets the stage for the following post.  The phrasing “don’t have a cow!” on Apu’s signed photograph has said to be a “direct mockery of Hinduism” by some critics.

The concepts posed by Gramsci directly apply to the Zombie Simpsons, a term which I’ll explain later, and Hollyweird as a whole.

Determining who the organic intellectuals are is of utmost importance. Starting with The Simpsons, it seems evident that those at the three White Male producers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening (creator of the show itself), and Sam Simon, would have fulfill this function, as they have homogeneity and awareness of their function in the capitalist system. In order to make sure that conditions which benefit the dominant class are created, capitalists, the “capitalist entrepreneurs” as Gramsci calls them, choose specialized individuals to organize relationships which benefited their class, in this case which are the organic intellectuals. [20] The organic intellectuals can also, by extension, have specialize certain individuals who can serve their interests. This includes, for one,  the show’ss main cast members, three of whom who were White males (Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria, and Henry Shearer) and three of whom were White females (Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith). Secondly, this includes the 127 individuals who have written or co-written Simpsons episodes since the show was released in 1989, along with other individuals like the composers and animators, to name a few.

These producers, organic intellectuals if you will, are dominated by those whom were higher up. Their domination comes from the executives heading 21st Century Fox (which owns FOX), with the world of production mediated through the whole fabric of society by The Simpsons itself, for their sake, creating a “degree of connection” between the organic intellectuals and the bourgeoisie. In case, the section of the bourgeoisie constitutes the executives of 21st Century Fox (and formerly News Corp), symbolized by Rupert Murdoch, who still has a leading role. Such bourgeoisie used the burgeoning news network, FOX, to exercise their hegemony over society, with intellectuals as their deputies, enforcing such hegemony, working to obtain the “spontaneous” consent given by the masses to the “general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group.” Of course, the organization of such hegemony creates a particular division of labor, with a “hierarchy of qualifications” over intellectual activity, even in the structure of The Simpsons where the producers are those whom you could call organic intellectuals. As Gramsci notes, those with the highest amount of intellectual activities are “creators of the various sciences, philosophy, art, etc.,” being the show’s producers in this case, and the lowest could  be said to be the writers or animators but this may not be going far enough down the totem pole. Furthermore, the organic intellectuals of the Simpsons clearly do not come from the “instrumental masses” (or serve the peasants) and, as such, serve the bourgeoisie, part of an effort which continues to “fuse together in a single national crucible with a unitary culture the different forms of culture imported by immigrants of differing national origins,” to use Gramsci’s words. In such a relationship, the bourgeoisie dominates, specifically “antagonistic groups” which it subjugates and “liquidates.” Is The Simpsons such an antagonistic group? Perhaps to a very limited extent, but it also got FOX even more popularity, so the criticism on the show was approved as it brought in needed revenue. [21]

There is a further aspect to these organic intellectuals. As they serve a sociopolitical function, they are taken in by a philosophy, which in the case of the U$ either “conservative” or “liberal” in nature (mostly in The Simpsons, the liberal one won out), giving its adherents intellectual “dignity,” differing from old ideologies, a interesting a sect of intellectuals whom are homogeneous and most numerous. This is not a surprise, as organic intellectuals, are the element from which governing personnel are drawn. All in all, there are varied “initiatives and activities which form the apparatus of the political and cultural hegemony of the ruling classes” with one of these activities undoubtedly being the hosting of TV shows, in the case of media conglomerates, which reinforce such hegemony, ensuring their dominant beliefs take hold on a wide basis in order to keep themselves in control. Obviously, there are gaps “between the mass and the intellectuals” since the intellectual themselves “can be an intellectual…if distinct and separate from the people-nation…without feeling the elementary passions of the people.”

That brings us to the most recent controversy involving the Simpsons and what we can call Springfieldian stereotypes: the case of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a stereotype of a first-generation Indian immigrant who owns a local convenience store in the town of Springfield. Hari Kondabolu, a comedian of Indian descent, released a documentary on this subject last year, titled “The Problem With Apu.” [22] In the film, Kondabolu grapples with his “lifelong love of The Simpsons,” examining how Apu “gave his bullies ammo for years, while contributing to a broader cultural stereotyping,” exploring a “larger deficit in American pop culture,” specifically one that “there have hardly ever been any South Asian characters on television.” His interviewees, the actors and comics, mostly of Indian descent (i.e. their parents were born in India), echo this sentiment, saying this “problem with Apu” came about due to under-representation of South Asians on television in the U$, some of whom say either kids bullied them by calling them “Apu” or doing the same for their parents. [23] Some, like Indian-born actor Kal Penn,  well known for his acting in the Harold & Kumar stoner comedies, says that they hate Apu so much that he won’t even watch the Simpsons series! Others, like actor Utkarsh Ambudkar let the Simpsons producers, organic bourgeoisie, off the hook, by declaring that their subordinates, writers, didn’t mean to cause psychological and emotional problems, but that Apu was created due to  under-representation of South Asians.

There is more than just under-representation, which many interviewees blame as the problem. [24] As Kondabolu argues himself, Apu represents an “America” where no one who is White isn’t wanted and reflecting how “America viewed” South Asians, which creates a bad impression across society. Add to this W. Kamau Bell‘s comments, that  America went through a time when the Simpsons “owned America,” determined conversation, with Kondabolu adding that the show was “edgy at the time.” The systemic nature is partially acknowledged: the film recalls Azaria’s story that the the producers told him to do a stereotypical voice of an Indian, but then there is the story of a writer of The Simpsons, Mike Reiss. He said that Apu was not intended to be a character, saying that making him Indian was a comedy cliche, adding that White writers laughed at his impression. [25] Regardless, the character was OK’d by the producers, like Matt Groening, the organic intellectuals, showing their role in this process, named by Groening himself. Apu’s last name either derives from the sanskrit word for bullshit (as Kondabolu claims) or is “spoonerism” while the first name is based of the protagonist in the Satyajit Ray trilogy of movies. As critic John Powers describes Ray’s trilogy, it tells the story of a young man (Apu) who becomes a multi-dimensional human being in a modernizing India, and  having Apu of the Simpsons named after him, diminishes the latter. Kondabolu’s most powerful point is that Apu stood in for his parents, participating in cultural erasure by eliminating their stories, while the the claim by Whoopi Goldberg, that Apu is a minstrel voiced by a white guy with brown paint, and Kondabolu’s related claim that Apu is the same as Black racist depictions, may be muddying the waters too much. However, it does seem evident that Azaria based the voice of Apu off Peter Sellers in The Party, an offensive interpretation, and an exchange with an irate Indian convenience store clerk, with the documentary saying that a White person doing a stereotype, such as Apu, is usurping culture and is exploitative. [26] Clearly this is fine with White writers like Dana Gould, who wrote for The Simpsons from 2001 to 2008, saying that  some accents are funny to Whites,giving them culpability, admitting that if The Simpsons was done today, “I’m not sure you could have Apu voiced by Hank [Azaria]” while he claims that for writers of the Simpsons, there is no difference between Apu and Mr. Burns. Once again, there are hints are deeper causes: Indian-born comic Aasif Mandvi says that racism in our culture can become so deep rooted that those who are being made fun of think that a racist joke is funny and that making Apu a horrid stereotype was part of broader cultural values. [27] Clearly, Homer was wrong when he said in the 2nd episode of Season 3 that “cartoons don’t have any deep meaning.”

The implications of the most recent Simpsons episode are evident, connecting the imposition of hegemony by the dominant class, in this case the bourgeoisie. The episode, the 633rd of the show, titled “No Good Read Goes Unpunished,” doubled down on the Apu stereotype, “long the sole prominent Indian character on television” even though he was clearly a “racial caricature played by a white man.” [28] In the episode, Marge is creating a book to be more inclusive and feels lost, with Lisa responding Marge’s question by saying that Apu was applauded and inoffensive decades ago, now is deemed “politically incorrect” (a sentiment embraced by show writer Al Jean) adding that “some things will be dealt with at a later date?” and Lisa saying, sorrowfully, “if at all.” This implies that those who criticism the racist caricature deemed “politically incorrect” (with the phrase “politically correct” used by bigots use to give themselves the license to say what they want) and could mean that a future episode will address this more. Not surprisingly, reactionary commentators received the episode well, with Hot Air claiming that the episode “is an apology of sorts, just not the forthright one Kondabolu and his supporters wanted,” that The Simpsons “occupies a more exalted place in American pop culture.” and that “an apology is coming here…but in the plot of some future episode” while Red State said that “the Simpsons are not all that friendly to the right-leaning parts of America…[but has done] something that South Park has already done…draw a line in the sand and declared in one quick segment that…wailing and gnashing of teeth can only have so much of an effect…I’m proud of the folks at The Simpsons,” as part of the “culture war against political correctness.” [29] Perhaps, as some said, the show has “utterly given up on itself…The Simpsons has lost its way…The Simpsons, a show that has been absolutely dreadful since the early 2000s, simply could not be improved upon” with Lisa, the most progressive character of the way, with bourgeois values, but much more left-leaning than any other characters, speaking these lines about Apu, with “years of churning out unfunny episode after unfunny episode seems to have left the writers’ room stubborn and stuck,” with this episode specifically having a  “wandering and weak plot spine.” [30] Others recognized the broader implications, saying that “The Simpsons is, as I stated earlier, an institution…a show that has been permitted to exist for decades following the widely-accepted consensus opinion that its best years are behind it,” with the list of the show’s “extremely white, extremely male list of writers stretch[es] back twenty-nine years.”

The Stereotypes bowling team, The Simpsons.

As such, it should be perfectly evident that the Springfieldian stereotypes are more than just about under-representation, only a symptom of the capitalist system. Rather, they are one of the manifestations of the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, in this case, enforced on the public, which provides their “consent” by passively watching shows such as The Simpsons, accepting the values. [31] This doesn’t take away from the social criticism aired on the show, especially in its earlier years, but it shows the role of the show in the capitalist system, specifically in relation to Gramsci’s theories. The fact that Apu is a stereotype, different from other stereotypes on the show, somehow “worse,” is a point that can  be easily swatted away, as it was by the conservatives at Red State who recently declared that “the show is filled to the brim with stereotypes of all kinds of cultures and sub-cultures, but these were conveniently ignored by those suddenly outraged by Apu after decades of the show being on the air.” [32] This involves making the criticism more wholesome. It is obviously valid to criticize the racist caricature of Apu, since, as one critic notes, “not all demographics are on equal footing in America…The Simpsons is classic Americana…But it does no one any favours to pump life into it long after brain death.” A symptom of the bourgeoisie’s hegemony, exercised by the organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, are the further stereotypes, apart from Apu. One of these is Fat Tony, with the voice over by Joe Mantegna, a negative Italian stereotype manifested as a “violent mobster”whom the show’s writers “never fail to stress the Italian ancestry” and his  “assorted henchmen,” with Fat Tony and his henchmen obviously based on the depiction of mobsters in the three-part Godfather epic, the brainchild of Francis Ford Coppolla. [33]

But, Fat Tony isn’t the only stereotype. Others include Marge the housewife (although there’s a lot to her character), Akira, the Japanese sushi chef, Ling, adopted Chinese child of chainsmokers Patty (a lesbian) and her sister Selma, Bumbleebee Man, Mexican actor/TV personality, Ccoseted and then out gay man Smithers, “redneck” Appalachian Cletus Spuckler and his family, including his wife, Brandine, and their children, Italian chef Luigi, and angry Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie. [34] Of these, four are directly recognized as stereotypes, in the Season 7 episode (pictured above), “Team Homer”: Italian chef Luigi, Angry Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie, “redneck” Appalachian Cletus Spuckler, and sea captain Horatio McCallister. Tellingly, “they were apparently dying to have Apu on their team, but he declined.” Apu is recognized as a stereotype in the show, but not until Season 27 when it is brushed off with the idea that everyone is a stereotype and that people should get over it.

Apart from the stereotypes, there is another symptom, showing how the organic intellectuals enforce the hegemony of the bourgeoisie on society: only one of the Indian  characters portrayed on the show is voiced by a person of Indian descent while the rest are voiced by White people! [35]. Clearly, the show is spreading the perceptions of the White organic intellectuals and their writers onto the populace as a whole. The same is the case for the Black characters in The Simpsons, with the below chart showing that only about 30-35% of the voice actors are Black, with all the others being White! [36]

While noting such stereotypes, it is clear that the problem is deeper than one of just under-representation or even racism: it is about the organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, to use Gramsci’s definition, enforcing the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, making it even  more the dominant ideology. This is further cemented by the patriarchal nature of the show: Homer speaks the most of any character (he has been “always been the most talkative character on the show”), accounting for “21% of the show’s 1.3 million words spoken through season 26,” while “Marge, Bart, and Lisa…combine for another 26%, giving the Simpson family a 47% share of the show’s dialogue” as Todd W. Schneider in “The Simpsons By the Data” points out. [37] He also writes that looking at the “supporting cast, the 14 most prominent characters are all male before we get to the first woman, Mrs. [Edna] Krabappel, and only 5 of the top 50 supporting cast members are women,” with women only accounting for “25% of the dialogue on The Simpsons, including Marge and Lisa, two of the show’s main characters” but if the Simpsons family is removed, then women only account for “less than 10% of the supporting cast’s dialogue.” He adds that “9 of the top 10 writers are male,” reinforced by the fact that The Simpsons is “stocked by Harvard Lampoon alumni and overwhelmingly white and male, [and] is one of the toughest clubs for a comedy writer to break into.” [38]

Some critics say that the show has become effortless, not “tried in years” and “has been on for such a long damn time, well past long enough to lose its own sense of identity.” Taking this into account, it is clear that The Simpsons is becoming less and less able to serve as a medium to spread the hegemony of the bourgeoisie, making their views more and more the “dominant” ideology. In the early 1990s, when it “dominated the pop-culture landscape…[with a] skillful and fearless tendency to jam its thumb in the eye of the American Establishment, by highlighting white male laziness…the crass privileged class… and a whole host of other marks of ignorance,” it was much more effective. But now, it has lost that allure, as it  has become, as one critic write, “the Establishment…becom[ing] lazy and complacent, while also feeling fiercely defensive of one’s legacy,” with the show “still living in the happy past and clinging to its Kwik-E-Mart, not listening while others shout about being in denial.” [39] That doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t spread such hegemony, but that it isn’t as effective as it used to be. This a common trend with many television shows, with “TV ratings for individual shows…broadly declining for over 60 years,” even among shows like Seth McFarlane’s Family Guy or Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Parks, both of which are also animated sitcoms.

This decline in rating has happened as the show has become even more a part and parcel of capitalist mass culture in the U$. This is because the show has changed over time from the “Golden” years (1989-1997), “Silver” years (1997-2001), “Bronze” years (2001-Present) for the worse. As such, The Simpsons has become the “Zombie Simpsons,” without a pulse, with the show becoming “inanimate, barren, cold, listless, mechanical, and weird…hollow and run out of ideas, what you could call stale…There is no reason to watch something which is dead and has no pulse.” [40] Even during the period of the “Golden” years, however, when there were social criticisms, the show only expressed broad liberal values, embracing anti-communism, and throughout the show’s history. As such, it enforced the dominant ideology of the bourgeoisie.

The organic intellectuals of The Simpsons, which in this case are the producers of the show, will continue to release episodes, vapid while “entertaining,” not drawing as much of a crowd as they once did, but still serving the bourgeoisie even though they are doing that as effectively as they did in the past. In the end, one can watch The Simpsons, if they wish, but they should recognize its role in the overall capitalist system, while working to build a another world which is free of capitalism, standing with comrades across the world, building their own revolutionary institutions, as a start.


Notes

[1] David Anthony, “Last night’s Simpsons episode set an all-time ratings low,” A.V. Club,  Apr 28, 2014; Todd W. Schneider, “The Simpsons by the Data,” accessed Apr 10, 2018; “Number of viewers for The Simpsons,” InfoMemory.com, Oct 15, 2013; “Simpsons: Quality and Viewership Decline Trend,” Absent Data, Jun 9, 2017; Joe Otterson, “TV Ratings: ‘Simpsons’ Rises With ‘Treehouse of Horror’,” Variety, Oct 23, 2017; “The Simpsons: Season 27 Ratings,” TV Series Finale, May 23, 2016; “Number of The Simpsons viewers in the United States as of 2017, by season (in millions),” statista, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “US ratings: ‘Simpsons’ returns steady, but with lowest premiere viewership,” The Springfield Shopper, Oct 3, 2017; Niall McCarthy, “30 Years On, ‘The Simpsons’ Isn’t Aging Well [Infographic],” Forbes, Apr 20, 2017.

[2] All information from this footnote onword, unless otherwise noted, derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Formation of Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 514.

[3] All information from this footnote onword, unless otherwise noted, derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Different Position of Urban and Rural-Type Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 1425. Later on, on page 270 he adds that  traditional intellectuals are detaching themselves from regressive and conservative groupings.

[4] All information derives from Antonio Gramsci, “The Organisation of Education and Culture” (ends on page 33) and “In Search of the Educational Principle” (ends on page 43) Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 2643.

[5] Antonio Gramsci, “The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and  Development of the Nation and Modern State in Italy” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 57-58.

[6] Antonio Gramsci, “The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and  Development of the Nation and Modern State in Italy,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 74.

[7] Antonio Gramsci, “The City-Countryside Relationship During the Risorgimento and in the National Structure,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 94, 97; Antonio Gramsci, “The Moderates and the Intellectuals,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 103-104.

[8] Antonio Gramsci, “The Function of Piedmont,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 105. See pages 106114 of the next section after “The Function of the Piedmont,” titled “The Concept of Passive Revolution.”  Also see the section on pages 118 to 120 titled “The History of Europe Seen As “Passive Revolution.””

[9] Antonio Gramsci, “Material for a Critical Essay on Croce’s Two Histories, Of Italy and Europe,” Book  I:  Problems of History and Culture, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 116117.

[10] Antonio Gramsci, “Voluntarism and Social Masses,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 204205, 239 (of “The Transition from the War of Manoevre (Frontal Attack) to The War of Position–In the Political Field As Well” section).

[11] Antonio Gramsci, “Politics and Military Science,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 241. Also see, for future discussion, pages 214217 on military influence within a country (also on pages 229238) and Bonapartism (also see page 228), or Caesarism on pages 219223. Some of the  other instances, not mentioned in the text above, are when Gramsci mentions hegemony in reference to power of the State (“Politics and Constitutional Law” section)  or conflicts between such power and the power of the Church “Hegemony and Separation of Powers” section).

[12] Antonio Gramsci, “The State,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 258259, 263.

[13] Antonio Gramsci, “Organization of National Societies,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 264265.

[14] Antonio Gramsci, “State and Parties,” Book  II: Notes on Politics, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), p 267.

[15] Antonio Gramsci, “Some Preliminary Notes of Reference,” Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis, Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers,11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 334-335. Later he writes, on page 349, that “culture..unifies in a series of strata.”

[16] Antonio Gramsci,”Hegemony of Western Culture over the whole World Culture,” Some Problems in the Study of Philosophy of Praxis, Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis , Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers, 11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 416-417, 418 (the section “Passage from Knowing to Understanding and to Feeling and vice versa from Feeling to Understanding and to Knowing”).

[17]  Antonio Gramsci,”Critical Notes on An Attempt At Popular Sociology,” Book  III: The Philosophy of Praxis , Selections From The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci (ed. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, New York: International Publishers, 11th printing, 1992, originally published in 1971), pp 419420. Also see page 433 on “mass ideology” spewed from the intellectuals, on page 442 about distance between different groups of intellectuals.

[18] Nicka Lisa Cole, “Biography of Antonio Gramsci,” Thought.Co, Apr 12, 2017; Caroline Lee Schwenz, “Hegemony in Gramsci,” Postcolonial Studies @ Emory, accessed Apr 11, 2018; Gene Veith, ““The long march through the institutions”,” Patheos, Apr 18, 2013; Carl Davidson,”Strategy, Hegemony & The ‘Long March’: Gramsci’s Lessons For The Antiwar Movement,” Keep on Keepin’ On, Apr 6, 2006; Kerry Manderbach, “Hegemony, Cultural Hegemony, and The Americanization of Imported Media,” Apr 2012; Teo Ballvé, “Antonio Gramsci: On Hegemony,” May 4, 2011; Valeriano Ramos, Jr., “The Concepts of Ideology, Hegemony, and Organic Intellectuals in Gramsci’s Marxism,” Theoretical Review No. 27, March-April 1982; “Gramsci’s Notion of Cultural Hegemony,” Integral Axis, Oct 14, 2017.

[19] One writer adds that “any counter-hegemonic force will have to overcome the fact that the majority may well assert the values of the status quo as natural values that are good for everyone – even if it’s not in their own interest…Cultural hegemony should be achieved first. Then political power. The hegemony of the dominant group must be fought with a counter-hegemony – to displace their ideology with our own…What we want are a kind of ‘intellectual’ (what Gramsci labels as his organic kind) that concerns itself with actively influencing people and winning people over to the worldview. Leading the charge in the cultural war.” Another writer says that Gramsci divides the superstructure in society into political society (government, military, police, legal system) and civil society (where ideologic content is produced and reproduced…through…media, education system, religion, art, science, the family) with political society dominating “through coercion” and civil society dominating “through consent.”

[20] In this situation there would not be traditional intellectuals, or those whom held a long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bond to schools, education, morality, and other societal values, tied to the landed aristocracy originally, gaining its own privileges over time, with the dominant group aiming too assimilate and conquer the “traditional” intellectuals.

[21] John Ortved, author of The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History, as interviewed in Kondabalu’s documentary, says that FOX was desperate for content, Simpsons seems funny and weird, that Simpsons were huge, everywhere, international phenomenon.

[22] He recently  criticized the recent Simpsons episode discussed at the beginning of this article, saying they have reached “peak whiteness,” that the words from Lisa are “sad,” further adding that “The Simpsons response tonight is not a jab at me, but at what many of us consider progress” and saying that “The Simpsons always critiqued pop culture, mocked hypocrisy & went after broken institutions. I LEARNED FROM THE BEST.”

[23] Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018. Also see the personal narrative titled “What it’s like growing up with a dad like Apu.”  One of the other interviewees, Dr. Vivek Murphy, former Surgeon General, was bullied by a kid who spoke to him with an Indian accent.Kondabolu says that racist impression of Apu led him into comedy, tells his family story, history as a comedian, and that Apu “haunts him,” as he declared “war” on Apu in 2012 when on W. Kamau Bell‘s former show, Totally Biased, saying that Hank Azaria, a White Jewish man born in the Queens borough of New York City, who voices Apu, is a white guy doing an “impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” Even the now disgraced (because his pervy behavior) Aziz Ansari  is interviewed, noting that people insulted his father using the Apu accent, while actor Malulik Pancholy says that if there was an Indian person behind the counter he was afraid that his White friends would do the “Apu thing.”

[24] To take one example, Ambudkar says that while the Simpsons “stereotypes all races” (and peoples) including alcoholics, dead-beat dad, messed up kid, overachieving daughter, Italians, Chinese, and Japanese, the problem for South Asians specifically if that they didn’t have any other representation in such media. In another example, Ansari, who I noted before is basically a perv, asks why a show is called mainstream if it if full of white people.

[25] Kondabolu also interviews Mallika Pao of the Huffington Post, whom Azaria spoke to in 2015 about voicing Apu, saying he had not thought it was racist until he watched Kondabolu’s bit, and hadn’t thought about Apu from a South Asian perspective before that point. Later he interviews his parents, with his mothers saying that she is offended by it, while in a different way than Kondabolu’s generation, with both parents saying they don’t see themselves in Apu (or his family). Kondabolu then goes into more of his backstory in growing up in Queens, like Azaria, near 74th Street, noting that South Asians gather there, but says that if you grow up in U$ you’ll still be called Apu. This connects to his next two interviewees: Shilpa Dave, author of Indian Accents, says that many sequences involving Apu deal with immigration and race, but noted that when something was done in response to a universal norm, it was done in a stereotypical way, and Dr. Vivek Murphy, former Surgeon General, saying that stereotypes last for a while unless people tell their own story.  Later on, Kondabolu adds that there are few choices for the South Asian community, toy are either portrayed as one-dimensional or you let someone else do it, asking “is it better to be clowned or clown yourself?” After some Indian actors and actresses share their experiences, Kondabolu says that while Apu only said “thank you come again” eight times over the Simpsons history, the caricature has haunted Indian children for over a quarter century.

[26] It is here that Sakina Jaffrey defines patanking as being asked to speak in abroad Indian accent, with broad acting, and you do this in front of people. Another of his interviewees, Noureen DeWulf says that there is nothing wrong with an accent but that when an accent is part of a joke about a person, a racist dig, it is problematic.

[27] The documentary then focuses on an episode on Season 27 when Apu’s U$-born nephew, of Indian descent, is voiced by Ambudkar, whom says that the Simpsons asked him to do it, but says that in the end The Simpsons won, with the message to stop complaining, that everyone is stereotyped. Kondabolu  then reads an email from Azaria to him, saying that  the fact that Azaria chooses how he gets to be portrayed is ironic since this is all about misrepresentation of Indians. As the documentary closes, he says it shows that Indians can have exposure in media settings, that undeniable there has been progress  for South Asians over the last decade, that if the Simpsons can’t change then perhaps it should die, saying he will remember Seasons 1-10.

[28] Russell Contreras, “‘Simpsons’ reference to Apu criticism sparks backlash,” AP (reprinted in ABC News), Apr 9, 2018; Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018. While Azaria said in January of this year that “the idea that anybody, young or old, past or present, was bullied or teased or worse based on the character of Apu on ‘The Simpsons,’ the voice or any other tropes of the character is distressing,” this belays the reality: that it has already happened.

[29] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Allahpundit, “Today’s important controversy: “The Simpsons” thinks criticism of Apu is “politically correct”,” Hot Air, Apr 9, 2018; Brandon Morse, “The Simpsons Not Caving to SJW’s Politically Correct Pressure Is the Line in the Sand Society Needed,” Red State, Apr 4, 2018. The reactionaries have this fake idea of a “social justice warrior” or SJW, a concept which they created to demonize progressives. Their viewpoint was embraced by show writer Al Jean who said on twitter that “Respectfully Hank won an emmy for voicing the character in 1998. Only 20 years ago,” and that “no, I’m just saying Lisa’s statement was factual.”

[30] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Carl Kinsella, “The latest Simpsons episode sums up how the show has completely lost its way,” Joe, Apr 9, 2018; Melenie McFarland, ““The Simpsons” just made its Apu problem worse — and proved its creative bankruptcy,” AlterNet (reprinted from Salon), Apr 9, 2018; Yohana Desta, “The Simpsons Still Doesn’t Understand the Problem with Apu,” Vanity Fair, Apr 9, 2018; Michael Cavna, “‘The Simpsons’ responds to criticism that Apu is a stereotype: ‘Don’t have a cow’,” Washington Post, Apr 9, 2018; Steph Harmon, “‘Don’t have a cow’: The Simpsons response to Apu racism row criticised as ‘toothless’,” The Guardian, Apr 9, 2018; Jen Cheney, “The Simpsons’ Apu Response Is What Happens When You’re on the Air for Too Long,” Vulture, Apr 9, 2018; Ryan Parker, “‘Simpsons’ Criticized for Response to Apu Controversy,” The Hollywood Reporter, Apr 9, 2018; Russell Contreras, “‘Simpsons’ reference to Apu criticism sparks backlash,” AP (reprinted in ABC News), Apr 9, 2018; Nicole Drum, “Fans Are Unhappy With How The Simpsons Handled Apu,” Comicbook, Apr 9, 2018; Johnny Lieu,  “People feel let down by ‘The Simpsons’ response to Apu stereotyping,” Mashable, Apr 9, 2018; Dan Snierson, “The Simpsons briefly addresses Apu controversy, causes more controversy,” Entertainment Weekly, Apr 9, 2018; Sean O’Neal, “What can you do about Apu? The Simpsons used to know,” AV Club, Apr 9, 2018; Joshua Rivera, “Does The Simpsons Care About Its Racist Caricatures?,” GQ, Apr 9, 2018; Linda Holmes, “‘The Simpsons’ To ‘The Problem With Apu’: Drop Dead,” NPR, Apr 9, 2018. Others have pointed out that “Apu wasn’t a contested character when the show began, but he is now” (so what), that the show missed the opportunity to acknowledge why “the depiction of Apu and his portrayal by a white man…have been offensive to many members of the South Asian community,” that the show should admit its mistakes, that the portrayal has always been “offensive, it’s just that the people hurt by it didn’t have a voice,” and  that “The Simpsons has not been relevant in years.”Some had deeper criticism, saying that “the suggestion that any change to Apu would rob The Simpsons of its essential spirit” is wrong, adding that the implication of the statement in the episode is “what matters most here is the show’s legacy,” adding that  “The Simpsons has generally earned the benefit of the doubt by being a sharp cultural satire in so many other respects” and that while the show has treated, in their mind, Apu well, becoming a “genuine, multidimensional character with a rich history and inner life.”

[31] In the capitalist system as a whole, “the dominant class” combats the “laboring class,” using facts that favor “the bourgeois class and damn…the working class and its politics,” to build off what Gramsci wrote, specifically talking about bourgeois newspapers. They also, as it is evident,  manipulate “public opinion according to the desires of the government and the capitalists.”

[32] Shuja Hader, “Defending the Apu stereotype again? Maybe The Simpsons has run its course,” The Guardian, Apr 10, 2018; Brandon Morse, “The Simpsons Not Caving to SJW’s Politically Correct Pressure Is the Line in the Sand Society Needed,” Red State, Apr 4, 2018.

[33] “Exhibit A: Examples of Media Bias,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “Shark Tale: The Complete Story,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018; “SHARK TALE – Overview, Argument, & Position Summary,” Italic Institute of America, accessed Apr 10, 2018. The Italic Way adds that the “equal opportunity offender” argument for defenders of the show is weakened “by the fact that the show’s writers take obvious pains to avoid heavy handed characterizations of all groups but Italian Americans.” However, the Italic Way seems to not focus enough on the “several African American characters that are featured…a decadent clown, is depicted Jewish…[and] a convenience store owner is depicted as Pakistani” (actually Indian, not Pakistani) claiming that all of these are “unaccompanied by dialogue or mannerisms which evoke the crudely negative…stereotypes as those heaped on Fat Tony and his gang, proving that the writers of the show are not nearly as bold and daring as they’d like us to believe,” saying the show does not get a pass of approval from them even though Tony and his mob are  limited to only certain episodes. This is a bit distorted as Apu is undeniably a racist stereotype, which is negative, but I see what they are saying. The Italic Institute of America added that the first film in the series, and by extension the two others, “criminalized the history of the Italian American immigrant experience and reaffirmed the belief that criminal behavior is an essential aspect of Italian culture,” creating a “billion-dollar spin-off industry which has spread to every conceivable media outlet in America,” further explained in this 6-page article.

[34] There are some funny ones, however (even with some ageism present for the older individuals), like: a businessman in the failing car industry, Herb Powell, Birch Barlow (parody of Rush Limbaugh),  Homer the drunk/dead-beat dad/working-class slob, Barney the drunk, Bart the bad boy; Dottering grandparents, Abraham “Abe” Simpson and Jacqueline Bouvier; 1960s radical, Mona; civil servant state comptroller Atkins who is of Canadian descent; Dottering Democrat Mary Bailey; Geeks/nerds Benjamin, Doug and Gary; Radio hosts Bill and Marty; Corporate lawyer, the Blue-haired lawyer, Booberella, student Wendell Borton (apparently of Mexican descent), local news anchor Kent Brockman, Marge and Homer’s baby, Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper (the dog), Snowball II the cat, Diabetic Dia-Betty, Blinky, male steward/flight attendant Clancy Bouvier, Sunday school teacher Ms. Albright, old man Jasper Beardly, capitalist Mr. Burns, Capital City Goofball, fat white nerd named Comic Book Guy, jailbird Snake, top scientist Professor Frink, Raphael, Superintendent Chalmers, unemployed father Kirk Van Houten, mentally ill cat owner Crazy Cat Lady, nuclear plant employee Charlie, Christian neighbor Ned Flanders, Sideshow Bob, quack doctor Dr. Nick, incompetent attorney Lionel Hutz, actor/salesperson Troy McClure, country singer Laureen Lumpkin, oil millionaire “The Rich Texan,” corrupt police chief Clancy Wiggum  (part Irish), bartender Moe Szyslak, and clueless police officer Eddie.

[35] Neither Apu’s wife, Manjula, Apu’s brother Sanjay (and his daughter), Apu’s mother, Apu’s cousin Navi, are voiced by those of Indian descent but only by White people. Only Jay, Apu’s nephew, is portrayed by a person of Indian descent, and he only has had two appearances in the show, one on which he voiced by a White person, while the children have no speaking parts.

[36] This isn’t a shock, as Hank Azaria voices 200 characters in all, over the show’s history, with other voice actors likely having comparable numbers! Also take the “Cleveland Show” which portended to be a “black” show: half of the main characters, who are all Black, are voiced by White individuals!

[37] As Schneider, if the Simpsons family is excluded from “the results become a bit less predictable, if not exactly surprising” with Mr. Burns speaking “the most words among supporting cast members, followed by Moe, Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders, and Krusty rounding out the top 5.” Apu, specifically, is listed as speaking 11-12,000 words, even more than Smithers! You could say the same dynamic is at work with Family Guy, which centers around the patriarch, Peter Griffin

[38] Melenie McFarland, ““The Simpsons” just made its Apu problem worse — and proved its creative bankruptcy,” AlterNet (reprinted from Salon), Apr 9, 2018; Carl Kinsella, “The latest Simpsons episode sums up how the show has completely lost its way,” Joe, Apr 9, 2018;  Jen Cheney, “The Simpsons’ Apu Response Is What Happens When You’re on the Air for Too Long,” Vulture, Apr 9, 2018.

[39] In the past, The Simpsons “gracefully and savagely deconstructed the foibles of white America, casting a withering gaze on subjects like gun ownership, right-wing broadcasters, the American school system, police incompetence and both Republicans and Democrats — all the while making charming, absurd and unexpected jokes.”

[40] I recently watched an episode, “Fears of a Clown,” with a storyline about Krusty  redeeming himself. It was emblematic of The Simpsons: it was entertaining but not funny. As Dennis Perkins of AV Club noted (Dennis Perkins, “Bart, Krusty, Marge, and Skinner unsuccessfully vie for our attention in a forgettable Simpsons,” AV Club, Apr 1, 2018), “…a handful of fine seasons can be cobbled together from episodes from the post-classic seasons, and the show is more harshly judged against itself than against any baseline of acceptable sitcom quality…sometimes The Simpsons rolls out an episode that’s so pale an approximation of its best that sticking up for it becomes an exercise in hand-waving and deep, deep sighs…[this episode] is…irrelevant in its hollow echoes of past, actually memorable, episodes. When the book on The Simpsons is finally closed…and the inevitable all-time episode rankings are compiled, “Fears Of A Clown” is one of those installments destined to elicit blank stares, even from die-hard fans. It barely exists…Plotting discipline remains one of latter-day Simpsons’ most dispiriting weaknesses, with the least memorable episodes heaping unrealized A- through C-stories atop each other as if hoping quantity will distract from how little of substance in happening.”