Analyzing the State of the Union and Responses: A Critical Response

What Lenin told comrades at Sverdlov University, the “first higher school in the USSR for training party cadres and workers in the soviets,” on July 11, 1919 about the U$ when talking about the state as an entity.

This is an expanded version of what I wrote on /r/fullstalinism last night, to which no one responded, which is part of the reason I am posting it here. Any errors in that post have been corrected here.

Table of contents

 

 

 

 

Focusing on substantive policy

Let’s start with the State of the Union itself by the orange menace. The whole first part is tooting his own horn of “accomplishments,” a sorta call for bipartisanship, and clear jingoistic claptrap to “choose greatness” for the U$, along with pointing out how he favored the capitalist class (with his tax cuts, removal of estate tax, etc). He also applauded, like Obama, that the U$ is “number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world” and U$ global hegemony. Of course, he also sneered at “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” basically saying investigations of him are tantamount to war. He again tooted his own horn on past “criminal justice reform,” told the story of a guest he invited, called for bipartisan unification against undocumented immigrants by saying it is a “moral issue” while making his typical legal/illegal distinction with undoubted dog whistles, saying he is fighting the “political class”…by being racist? After a long racist rant against immigrants, coupled with praising racist anti-immigrant structures like ICE, he called for a wall on the U$-Mexico border, touted “economic progress,” and had Democrats join in the jingoism by chanting “USA! USA! USA!”…which is somehow supposed to be “resistance.” He then pivoted to his trade war with China, aimed at punishing them, continuing inter-imperialist confrontation with China, followed by talking about his new NAFTA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the USMCA) replacing NAFTA, and pushing Congress to legalize trade war (“I am also asking you to pass…[a law] so that if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, we can charge them the exact same tariff on the exact same product that they sell to us”). After that, he talked about infrastructure, lowering cost of prescription drugs and healthcare costs, efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, and fight against childhood cancer, although these were broad pronouncements without a plan outlined. After giving another story, he advocated for “School Choice for Americans’ children” (clearly a pro-charter school bill), included a proposal for “nationwide paid family leave” in his budget, an effort to ban late-term abortions (currying to evangelicals), and efforts to expand the U$ military…and strengthen NATO.

It is no surprise what followed this was defending the U$ withdrawing from “a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capability,” which allows the U$ to build more nuclear missiles…starting a new arms race with Russia! He then brought up minor successes in the detente with the DPRK, saying that there would have been “a major war with North Korea” if he had been elected (a possibility due to Democrat warmongering), that the work “remains to be done” will begin when he and Kim Jong Un “meet again on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam.” What followed this? Further recognition of the illegitimate president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó, declaring that the U$ condemns “the brutality of the Maduro regime” and it’s policies. This endorsement, again, of the coup attempt in Venezuela, was followed by his sneering at what he claimed were “new calls to adopt socialism in our country” (not true), again asserting jingoism, and declaring that “America will never be a socialist country” even though there is no prospect of this at all.

After this he embraced the relocating of the U$ embassy in Jerusalem, further supporting Zionist claims. And while he said that “great nations do not fight endless wars,” praising past “efforts” to fight Daesh, he only focused on ending one war…which is not in the Mideast…in Afghanistan. After vowing continued “anti-terror” action (despite the fact there are indications that the U$ may be collaborating with Daesh to “approach the strategic bordering regions with Iran” and that “the US is planning long-term presence in al-Tanf region [of Syria] to maintain security of terrorists”), he sneered at “the radical regime in Iran,” and praised his withdrawal from the Iran deal supported by moderate U$ imperialists, while also claiming that the Iranian government is anti-Semitic and incorrectly saying the religious reactionaries (Principalists) are in control of Iran, as it is more the pro-Western reformists represented by Rouhani. He then transitioned to condemning anti-Semitism, talking about the horrible shooting in Pittsburgh (not recalling the shooter was a supporter of him), praised a Holocaust survivor wgich was followed by telling another story. He then ended with another jingoist call, calling for great unification of everyone together.

This brings us to the the Democratic response by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams. She also harps on jingoism, declaring that those in the U$ “live in a nation where opportunity is possible,” saying she loves “our country and its promise of opportunity for all” and that “together, we are coming for America, for a better America.” While she rightly condemned the shutdown engineered by the orange menace, she does not seem to understand its significance of the problem with the Democratic position. This is clear as she too makes a call for bipartisanship, working to realise American dreams, condemning what she calls the “timid” administration response to gun violence (not accurate as it was more pro-gun than “timid”) and appealing to those who want to be in the petty bourgeoisie (“middle class”). Apart from focusing on economic issues within the U$, saying we “owe more to the millions of everyday folks who keep our economy running,” she also says that “Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders” which is a racist position. Furthermore, she appeals to jingoism with talk of the U$ as a “great nation” (sounds like the campaign slogan of the orange menace), has typical liberal points of taking “action on climate change…defend[ing] individual liberties with fair-minded judges…[and] the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote.” While you can say this is positive, the fact it is a jingoist position as she claims the U$ has “free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders – not where politicians pick their voters” which establishes U$ “moral leadership around the globe” (how does the murderous empire have any moral standing at all?).

Her response goes onto whitewash struggles of U$ history (“America has stumbled time and again on its quest towards justice and equality; but with each generation, we have revisited our fundamental truths, and where we falter, we make amends”), makes a bland anti-racist statement about holding “everyone from the very highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds,” and even says that the orange menace should “tell the truth…respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America” (why would you ever trust him to do that?). She then says that “with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together” which sounds like class collaboration, which is never good and helps the bourgeoisie. She again goes with a jingoist call that “America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic” and ends the speech just like the orange menace, saying that “may God bless the United States of America.”

Some might think that the response of social democrat Bernie Sanders would be better, in that he says (rightly) that the orange menace lied. But, he acts like the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie are in the same economic boat…when they aren’t. He does rightly talk about income inequality or even distortions caused by trade wars, along with the infrastructure plan posed by the orange menace, even the anti-immigrant rhetoric, or reproductive rights, he ends up praising the orange menace at one point: “Tonight, Donald Trump correctly talked about the need to address the opioid crisis.” He grumbles that the orange menace did not mention climate change and a number of other topics including the Russophobic charge of “Russian cyberwarfare” (buying into the faulty Russiagate narrative, proving Democrats are the new McCarthyites and adding to a recent sentiment by Richard Burr (a Democrat): “Based on the evidence to date…we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia”), the war in Yemen, and then throws a bunch of poll numbers. Not sure what those percentages are supposed to do other than overwhelm us with unnecessary information, but it is followed by a need to fight the “billionaire class” (what he should say is the capitalist class) by…building up the petty bourgeoisie…how the hell would that work?

Further comments

The responses by Abrams and Sanders should be no surprise. As the managing editor of Black Agenda Report recently put it about a house bill aimed to cripple the Green Party (in his opinion), he wrote that “Democrats are a capitalist party, they are a government party, and this is how they govern.” What he is writing about is only part of the bill (Title V), but it still important to highlight. It also should be no shock that neither Sanders nor Abrams even mentioned Venezuela in their responses. A similar perspective was given by the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford, who wrote that “for the entirety of the 21st century the Lords of Capital have offered nothing but deepening austerity and endless war to the “home” populace of the imperial countries,” adding that despite what the orange menace said, “there are no organizations of socialists even remotely positioned to threaten the rule of the Lords of Capital in the U.S.” He further said, rightly, that “This is what passes for “socialism” in the U.S., and although such programs are not designed to overthrow the rule of capital,” saying that the orange menace he calls a “billionaire arch racist…littered his remarks with vague references to repairing “crumbling infrastructure,” lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and a promise to sign a bill for nationwide paid parental leave after childbirth,” saying this all “just hot air for the occasion.” He also noted that while the orange menace bragged about huge military spending, “Democratic leadership is just as wedded to war and austerity as Trump and his Republicans…the Democrats are running on a “we are not Trump” platform, the same as Hillary Clinton did the last time around,” claiming that Bernie “slammed into Trump’s fantasy world like a growling gray bulldozer” even though this is an utter joke. He ended by saying that “much of the phony left has found common cause with Trump in the crime” of supporting the coup in Venezuela (only citing Ro Khanna, Ilhan Omar and Tulsi Gabbard as condemning the coup), adding that “it is possible that AOC will grow an internationalist consciousness, without which one is no socialist. But it’s way too late for 77 year-old Bernie Sanders…The real resistance can only be nurtured outside the Party. Bernie Sanders’ job…is to explode the Democrats by running on a platform that supermajorities of people support – and to be publicly crucified for it.”

We then get to the resident revisionist of Black Agenda Report, Danny Haiphong, wrote in a recent article, “the so-called Democratic Party “resistance” to Trump has largely been silent on the issue of Venezuela. Self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have declined to comment on whether the Trump Administration is in fact waging a coup against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro” while also noting that “just days before Washington set the attempted coup into motion, the Democratic-controlled House voted for the NATO Support Act…[including] Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of the “progressive” Democrats voted “yes” to NATO.” He praised “Tulsi Gabbard, Bernie Sanders, and Ilhan Omar” as voicing “any kind of opposition to the Trump Administration’s coup against Venezuela from the Democratic wing of the ruling class. None of them have mounted a challenge to the power of NATO over U.S. imperial policy.” His article ended by saying that “Democrats have moved so far to the right that its so-called “resistance” to Trump has done little except provide vital assistance to the empire. Even the most progressive-sounding of the Democratic Party brass has sworn its allegiance to NATO and the endless aggression that the U.S. imperial state wages around the world.” Haiphong generally makes good points, but not when it comes to Sanders opposition to the coup. This is proven by his statement on January 24 on Venezuela which endorses the reasons for the coup but not the coup itself, which is utterly disgusting:

The Maduro government in Venezuela has been waging a violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society, violated the constitution by dissolving the National Assembly and was re-elected last year in an election that many observers said was fraudulent. Further, the economy is a disaster and millions are migrating. “The United States should support the rule of law, fair elections and self-determination for the Venezuelan people. We must condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters and the suppression of dissent. However, we must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups – as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries; we must not go down that road again.

You can grumble about Boots Riley all you want, when he said that Maduro did “fucked up shit” (I’ve been planning a follow-up to this set of tweets on there) without explaining what he meant (he says he will do so when the coup attempt is over), but that is nothing in comparison to Bernie’s literally imperialist statement. “Shock therapy” as it is called, may be on the agenda if Guido takes power, if Ben Norton’s article on the subject has any validity or whether Rosneft (a Russian oil company) is right that turmoil in Venezuela is “only temporary.” Haiphong was right that “black, working and poor people can expect no relief from Democrats, who will continue to divert the nation’s resources to foreign wars and coups.”

You can praise Omar, noted earlier, who said that “a US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue,” Ro Khanna for saying that “the US should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict. Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican’s efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse,” or Tulsi Gabbard for tweeting that “the United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders–so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.” You can say, sure, these are noble sentiments. But saying the Venezuelan people should “determine their future” still opens the door to U$ imperial subversion, which might not be a coup or what happened during the Iran-Contra scandal, but is terrible regardless. No doubt it is better than what Occasio-Cortez, who has branded herself as “AOC,” declared to Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “What we need to realize is happening is this is an issue of authoritarian regime versus democracy. In order for him to try to dissuade or throw people off the scent of the trail, he has to really make and confuse the public. And I think that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.” [1] Did she miss (or ignore) the recent evidence revealed by the Venezuelan government which “showed evidence of the plan of attempted coup d’état carried out by the rightwing against constitutional President Nicolás Maduro, with the participation of the governments of the United States and Colombia”? What AOC says clearly amounts to an imperialist endorsement of the coup, going even further than Bernie, showing that the neo-progressives in Congress will be the saviors of nobody anywhere. [2]

Then there is the budget of the orange menace. Vox, an annoying liberal website which brings no value to the world, summarized the budget in a recent article titled “Trump’s 2019 budget: what he cuts, how much he cuts, and why it matters.”  What did they show? That, based on an analysis from a “centrist, pro-balanced budget group,” that there will be “$1.75 trillion in new spending and tax cuts, $3.7 trillion in deficit reduction that’s overwhelmingly the result of spending cuts, $800 billion in reduced spending on wars and disaster recovery, and $300 billion in savings due to lower interest payments on less debt.” More specifically, there will be a cut of over 40% to non-military spending, including cuts to the EPA (33.7%), State Department, Head Start, supposed “law enforcement” by the FBI and DOJ, NIH (National Institutes of Health), and NSF (National Science Foundation). There will also be subsequent sizeable cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers (22.2%), the Labor Department (21.4%), Medicare (7.1% cut by 2028 due to “reforms”), “Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies by 2028” (22.5%), SNAP/Food Stamps (27.4%), Section 8 Housing assistance (20.1%), transportation spending (28.6%) while boosting defense spending by $777 billion over the next ten years. If that isn’t enough of a giveaway to the bourgeoisie, the individual and estate tax provisions of the GOP’s tax bill last year will be made permanent, while there will be $199 billion allocated “over 10 years for a new infrastructure program meant to generate $1 trillion through private partnership spending.” This budget would also screw students by eliminating “loan forgiveness for students who go into public service” and “subsidized Stafford loans” while establishing a “new, unified income-based repayment plan for student loans” under which those borrowing would need to “pay 12.5 percent of their discretionary income every month and have their balance forgiven after 15 years (for undergraduate debt) or 30 years (for graduate school debt),” which supposedly saves billions, but does this really help students at all?

Additionally, is it any mistake that the orange menace called one of the country’s “greatest strides” being “abolition of civil rights”? [3] I would say not.

With that, I end this post and look forward to your comments.


Notes

[1] Her statement to ABC News (“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez welcomes Trump’s ‘socialism’ jab, says he’s ‘scared'”) didn’t make it better, when she added that she thought the orange menace condemning socialism was “great. I think he’s scared I thought it was fabulous because it shows that we’ve gotten under his skin. He sees that everything is closing in on him. He knows that he’s losing the battle of public opinion when it comes to the substantive proposals that we’re advancing to the public. And frankly he has no substantive proposals to counter, he has no vision for this country. Everything is about what he doesn’t want, everything is about the bogeyman.” The same can be said of what she told another MSNBC host (as noted by a Salon article titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Trump for slamming socialism in State of the Union address”), Rachel Maddow, another Russophobe: that “I think that the president was unprepared. I don’t think that he did his homework. We’ve seen State of the Union addresses delivered by many presidents, Democrat and Republican. They almost always have substantive policies that are offered. I agree with Sen. Klobuchar there that there was no plan. There was no plan to address our opioid crisis, there was no plan to address the cost of health care, there was no plan to increase wages. I had to ask myself: ‘Is this a campaign stop or is this a State of the Union?'” There is some validity there, but to say that the orange menace was unprepared plays into the idea he is bumbling, which is an utter lie.

[2] This should be no surprise because as a February 4th article in Politico (“‘There Is Going to Be a War Within the Party. We Are Going to Lean Into It.’”) noted, those who work for AOC (which the article says is part of “the closest thing to a new celebrity Congress has had in years”) believe that “radical conservatives in the Democratic Party” are holding them (and the Democrats) back, and that “There is going to be a war within the party. We are going to lean into it” as the head of a group called the Justice Democrats that AOC is part of, the same group that once were a bunch of Berniecrats. The article says that this group wants to overturn the whole Congress, legislatively, with a whole bunch of people like AOC, with one person calling her rise “a Cinderella story, a bartender who goes against the machine and wins,” with the Justice Democrats among the “various groups that emerged in big numbers out of the 2016 election, including Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible, Brand New Congress, Swing Left and the Sunrise Movement, just to name a few.” The power of AOC is not as strong as it would seem, as Pelosi said thatthe Green New Deal (a green capitalist plan) will be “one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive. The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” (as noted in a CNN article titled “Nancy Pelosi just threw some serious shade at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘Green New Deal'”). She also said, in the Politico interview (“‘Too hot to handle’: Pelosi predicts GOP won’t trigger another shutdown”) which CNN linked to, that another shutdown by the GOP would be “too hot to handle,” adding that the speech of the orange menace is “theatrics, this is not government. We just take this in stride” (not realizing her own theatrics like leading people to say USA! USA! USA! as was acknowledged by a recent article in Business Insider titled “The most powerful moment at the State of the Union was a win for Democrats that Trump had no control over”) also defending King Russophobe Adam Schiff, saying that “we honor the institution in which we serve, the Congress of the United States. I hope he would honor it, too.” By the end of the article she says that she prays for the orange menace “all the time. And I say to him, ‘Mr. President I would never ask you to do anything that is not in your interest,’” which is pretty disgusting. I would say it is justified to criticize CNN for featuring “former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in a [upcoming] town hall” despite his low support at the present.

[3] William Cummings and John Fritze, “President Trump’s gaffe touts ‘abolition of civil rights’ at National Prayer Breakfast,” USA Today, Feb 7, 2019.

Advertisements

Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma

One of the newest developments in what has happened in recent days

Two days ago, on January 4th, an article by Pete Dolack, who describes himself as an “activist, writer, poet and photographer,” but likely leans toward anarchism, was published (if you want to read such garbage) in CounterPunch, a reprint of a post on his own personal blog, Systemic Disorder, on January 1st. There’s no need to rehash what I noted on Twitter, where I interacted with a number of fellow users, beginning my criticism of his argument and giving me the thought of writing this post. Without further adieu, the article begins, structured with quoting directly from the article and responding to it.

Dolack’s comment #1:

Lost in the discussions of Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of United States troops from Rojava is the possible fate of the democratic and cooperative experiment of the Syrian Kurds. Threatened with annihilation at the hands of Turkish invaders, should we simply wipe our hands and think nothing of an interesting experiment in socialism being crushed on the orders of a far right de facto dictator?

My response: I don’t think the fate of the Kurds was “lost” in discussions about the “withdrawal” from Syria. As I noted in my article on the subject late last month, “it is clear now that the proposed U$ withdrawal from Syria is a cover for further Turkish involvement in Syria, with the Turks now becoming the mercenaries of empire” while noting an article in November 2018 reporting that “the Emirati and Saudi military forces arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria (“Rojava”), were stationed with U$ forces, supporting their “tasks with huge military enforcements as well as heavy and light weapons,” while also meeting with Kurdish officials.” Adding to this, I question the assessment that the announcement was “abrupt” as that implies there was no strategy behind it. I am not sure, personally, if the orange menace does any strategizing of his own, but it is clear that his advisors do, so I think this was part of a planned effort to make other countries, like the Saudis, Emiratis, and Turks, do the dirty work of the U$ imperialists. It is not unprecedented. I also question how “socialist,” “democratic,” or “cooperative” the Kurds are, but since Dolack mentions that later in the article, I will address that later on.

Dolack’s comment #2:

Most of the commentary I have seen from U.S. Leftists simply declares “we never support U.S. troops” and that’s the end of it; thus in this conception President Trump for once did something right. But is this issue really so simple? I will argue here that support of Rojava, and dismay at the abrupt withdrawal of troops on the direct demand of Turkish President and de facto dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is not at all a matter of “support” of a U.S. military presence.

My response: Some may be openly saying that the orange menace did something right, I don’t doubt that. But, of the commentaries I’ve read, in Black Agenda Report (also see here) and anti-imperialism.org, there seems to be a strategy to push the orange menace to do more, similar to the strategy to push for more U$ concessions  to the DPRK in the delicate detente between the two countries still hanging in place. I will concede, that sure the issue is not simple. But, one could support these Kurds and not support U$ military presence, it is altogether possible. However, supporters of “Rojava,” like Dolack, seem to not understand this at all. I would also say, as an additional comment, that Dolack’s statement that Erdogan is a “de facto dictator” is too moderate, as he is rather an autocrat and representative of the Turkish bourgeoisie, which has been trying to cultivate better relations with the Russian bourgeoisie.

Dolack’s comment #3:

The world of course is accustomed to the U.S. government using financial and military means to destroy nascent socialist societies around the world. But the bizarre and unprecedented case — even if accidental — of an alternative society partly reliant on a U.S. military presence seems to have confused much of the U.S. Left. Or is it simply a matter of indifference to a socialist experiment that puts the liberation of women at the center? Or is it because the dominant political inspiration comes more from anarchism than orthodox Marxism?

My response: Sure, the world recognizes such power of the U$ government. I would add, as is evidenced in the writings of the late William Blum in Rogue State, that the societies do not have to be “socialist” for military and financial means to be used against them. I will also grant that there has been confusion on the Left, but I would say it is more on the issue of opposing U$ imperialism, not the fact that a so-called “alternative society” is “partly reliant” (much more than partly) on U$ military presence. There is, clearly, no problem with putting “liberation of women at the center,” but it is wrong to say that it is a socialist experiment, not because the “dominant political inspiration” is more anarchist in origin than Marxist. Rather, it is clear in the society itself and the alliances they had made, as I noted in my article in late December:

…these Kurds (part of “Rojava”) thought that the U$ would champion their cause, failing to understand that the U$ establishment acts “purely in its own interests”…those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan…there are questions about how “revolutionary” or “progressive” these vaulted Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are since the SDF said they wanted “to be part of America,” possibly clearing the way for Turkey’s occupation. The Emergency Committee for “Rojava” goes even further in their pro-imperialist orientation, calling the withdrawal of U$ troops a  “betrayal” and calling for military, economic, and political assistance, thinking that the U$ imperialists are somehow humanitarian saviors…those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold…that the world is restless and that the “death of the capitalistic method of production” means, simply, “resolution of society into simpler forms…a new and better order of things,” since the current society is “morally bankrupt”

I went onto add that even if we grant that their social contract seems democratic, with varied rights, many of which seem bourgeois in nature (i.e. freedom of speech, equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum), it also flat-out endorses private property, declaring that “everyone has the right to the use and enjoyment of his private property” because there is “no one shall be deprived of his property except upon payment of just compensation, for reasons of public utility or social interest, and in the cases and according to the forms established by law.” I went onto add that while the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic, it does not include “a proposal for a planned economy” or prohibit “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. More on this will be talked about later.

Dolack’s comment #4:

Let’s think about World War II for a moment. Was supporting the war against Hitler and Mussolini’s fascist régimes simply a matter of “supporting” U.S. troops? The victory over fascism likely could not have been won without the herculean effort of the Soviet Union once it overcame the initial bungling of Josef Stalin and the second-rate commanders he had put in charge of the Red Army after purging most of the best generals. To say that the Soviet Union won World War II is no way is meant to denigrate or downplay the huge sacrifices borne by the Western allies. That Western effort was supported by communists and most other Leftists. The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) were staunch supporters of the U.S. war effort — party members well understood what was at stake.

My response: First of all, there were tensions in the CPUSA. In March 1944, William Z. Foster and Sam Darcy were part of those who opposed the direction of the CPUSA pushed by Earl Browder with a changed name to the Communist Political Association (CPA), supported by  a majority of those gathered at the time, with Foster keeping his criticism within the central committee of the party, but Darcy conducting “broader agitation” including “circulating a letter to party members” and apparently writing on the issue for the “bourgeois press” which led to his expulsion from the party by Foster! Later that year, in May 1944, Earl Browder’s proposal was taken up by Foster, and the CPUSA voted to adjourn itself. The following year, in April 1945, an article which appeared to show “intimate familiarity of details with the American party’s internal political situation that (correctly) indicated to careful American readers a Moscow source of origin of the document,” led to an uproar in the CPA . The publication of this article prompted an uproar in the CPA, “as factional fighting was unleashed between those favoring a return to the previous “party” form of organization (lead by William Z. Foster) and those in favor of continuing the “new course” initiated by Browder.” What followed was Browder, in June, defending the “wartime policies” advocated by him as head of the CPUSA, which included “the need to establish a Second Front in Europe…support[ing] the Roosevelt administration against an alliance of Republican and conservative anti-Administration forces who were empowered in the rightward-tilting Congressional elections of 1942” and guiding the labor movement “to compliant support of the Roosevelt administration in matters of its personnel or policies,” rejecting the charges that he was revisionist. I could go on, noting further speeches by Browder (including those in 1946 defending himself after he was expelled). The reason I mention this is that the CPUSA was internally compromised and revisionist, meaning this should not be used as a valid comparison to what is happening now in regards to those Kurds in “Rojava.” There was a worldwide war occurring, and, sure, CPUSA members, like many leftists “were staunch supporters of the U.S. war effort” as they knew “what was at stake” but also they may too have been swept up by the euphoria and nationalism for war itself. Yes, Dolack is right that”the victory over fascism likely could not have been won without the herculean effort of the Soviet Union” but it shows his true intent that it the Soviets “overcame the initial bungling of Josef Stalin and the second-rate commanders he had put in charge of the Red Army after purging most of the best generals,” a clear anti-communist charge which could as easily be found in any of the books by Robert Conquest. Even worse is his sentence that declaring that he is not denigrating or downplaying “the huge sacrifices borne by the Western allies” when saying that “the Soviet Union won World War II” which is a cop-out which actually ends up downplaying the effort of the Soviets. If the Soviets had sat out the war, then the Western allies would have never been able to defeat the Nazis. Perhaps if they had joined the Soviets years later to defeat the Nazis when they were weaker, the Holocaust could have been avoided, but instead they wanted to twiddle their thumbs as people died and keep their cash flowing into the Nazi coffers (especially in the case of the British bourgeoisie), while holding a strong anti-Soviet position.

Dolack’s comment #5:

In contrast, the main U.S. Trotskyist party, the Socialist Workers Party, dismissed the war as an inter-imperialist dispute. That may have been so, but was that the moment to make a fetish of pacifism or of an unwillingness to be involved in any way in a capitalist fight? We need only think of what would have happened had Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo triumphed in the war to answer that question. Backing the war effort was the only rational choice any Leftist not blinded by rigid ideology could have made. It is no contradiction to point out the CPUSA took the correct approach even for someone, like myself, who is generally strongly critical of the party.

My response: Of course the Trotskyists would hold that position, without siding with the Soviets against the Nazis if they truly believed what they said. But, they did not, and as always, the Trotskyists end up supporting the global bourgeoisie. We don’t need to “think what would have happened” as that has already in bourgeois media and engaging in such speculation will get us nowhere. So the CPUSA were not “blinded by rigid ideology” but the Trotskyists were? That doesn’t make sense. It is perhaps better to say neither was “blinded” by their beliefs as that almost makes them out to be mindless zombies rather than human beings. Rather it is better to criticize the approach of the Trotskyists rather than engage in such word games as Dolack does. He can say that the CPUSA “took the correct approach” but from what I have previously mentioned about the organization being internally compromised and led by a clear revisionist, Earl Browder, who allied the party with the Democrats and tried to get the proletariat to follow along (without question) the direction of policies of the Roosevelt Administration, it seems clear they could have charted another strategy. Perhaps they could have backed the Soviet effort, rather than the U$ war machine, against fascism.

Dolack’s comment #6:

Shouldn’t we listen to the Kurds? To bring us back to the present controversy, we might ask: What do the Kurds want? The Syrian Kurds, surrounded by hostile forces waiting for the opportunity to crush their socialist experiment, made a realpolitik decision in accepting the presence of U.S. troops, and a limited number of French and British troops. The dominant party in Syrian Kurdistan, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is strongly affiliated with the leading party of Turkey’s Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has been locked in a decades-long struggle with successive Turkish governments.

My response: Dolack’s point about the struggle with Turkish governments by the PKK is accurate. But, there is a major problem with his reasoning: there is no one group representing the Kurds. Paul Davis, a former spook (for U$ Army Intelligence) wrote about this in a prominent Kurdish publication, Kurdistan 24, which Dolack somehow missed even though it was written many months ago in late November. He noted, summarizing a recent panel discussion perhaps in a European country, that there is debate about whom speaks “for the Kurds,” with scholar Ismail Beşikçi, saying that while “50 million Kurds live within the confines of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria,” arguing that the “world has not seen fit to recognize a Kurdish state” because while “Palestinians present a united front while the Kurds remain divided.” While the topic of lacking Kurdish unity “was only briefly addressed,” Davis added that it is incumbent on the Kurds to find someone who will “speak for them” with two names standing out: imprisoned Abdullah Öcalan (whom “most countries consider…a terrorist”) and Masoud Barzan, the latter of whom “has the international recognition and standing to present the Kurdish desires to the world.” He ended his article by saying that “before the Kurds can begin to decide who will lead Kurdistan, there must be a Kurdistan. Once a nation becomes a reality, the citizens can start to play politics…There must be a Kurdish awakening and a single voice – be it Barzani or another – to deny the world the option of ignoring the Kurds.”

As such, how we say with certainty what “the Kurds” want? What Kurds are we talking about? Those in Syria, Iraq, Iran, or Turkey? Are they part of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie? The latter comes from an insightful comment by commieposting on Twitter: “what these people [like Dolack] all do is attempt to hide and obscure the fact that the kurdish nation is divided like any other – divided as proletarians and bourgeoisie.”

That brings us back to Dolack. When he says that the  Syrian Kurds are “surrounded by hostile forces waiting for the opportunity to crush their socialist experiment” this assumes that the governments of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria are all hostile, when only one of those (Turkey) is actively hostile. While other maps are helpful, like the one from liveuamap, the one from the Carter Center clearly shows that the Syrian government is in no position, even if they  wanted to, to be hostile to the Kurds. Additionally, this means that the Kurds collectively did not make the “realpolitik decision in accepting the presence of U.S. troops, and a limited number of French and British troops” but rather that was the move of the Kurdish leaders, led by, as he admits, “the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is strongly affiliated with the leading party of Turkey’s Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).” Interestingly, he does not recognize the contradiction: how progressive is “Rojava” (composed of the Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin regions) if the levers of power are in control by the PYD with no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region in 2017, even as one New York Times reporter dumbly, in 2015, declared that there was “no hierarchy” in Rojava, a clear lie born from their fantastical imagination.

Dolack’s comment #7:

The preceding sentence is something of a euphemism. It would be more accurate to say that the Turkish government has waged an unrelenting war against the Kurdish people. Ankara has long denied the existence of the Kurdish people, banning their language, publications, holidays and cultural expressions, and pursuing a relentless campaign of forced resettlement intended to dilute their numbers in southeast Turkey. Uprisings have been met with arrests, torture, bombings, military assaults, the razing of villages and declarations of martial law. Hundreds of thousands have been arrested, tortured, forcibly displaced or killed. Turkish governments, including that of President Erdoğan, do not distinguish between “Kurd” and “terrorist.” The PKK’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has been held in solitary confinement since his abduction in Kenya in 1999, an abduction assisted by the U.S. Successive U.S. governments have capitulated to Turkey by falsely labeling the PKK a “terrorist” organization and have actively assisted in the suppression of Turkish Kurds. Can it really be possible that Syrian Kurds are somehow unaware of all this? Obviously not.

My response: There is no doubt that the Turks have engaged in a long-standing effort of suppression of  the Kurds. However, Dolack is downplaying the U$ role here. For one, there may be a connection of the Kurds to what was happening in Iran, as was briefly mentioned in an article I wrote back in May 2016, noting that the U$ and these Kurds have a “close relationship” which manifests itself in military strikes, adding that one could speculate the the U$ government was covertly working with “Kurdish [drug] traffickers to destabilize Iran.” [1] One article I linked to, on Narconon, speculated on Kurdish involvement, noting “Iran lies directly in the path of the world’s largest flow of heroin…Ethnic Kurds populate much of the Iran-Turkey border areas and are thought to be heavily involved in the movement of drugs across this border. They then control some of these shipments all the way to Europe.”

There is more than this. Back in 2016, an article in Vox of all places predicted the end of the alliance between the forces of “Rojava” and the U$, saying that their interests will diverge, adding that “the United States has had a longstanding relationship with Iraq’s quasi-autonomous Kurdish minority, who benefited from the American-led no-fly zone over Iraq after the 1990s Gulf War and from Saddam Hussein’s downfall in 2003” and that while the alliance has “worked well” it was an “alliance of convenience” as the U$ wants to, in his distorted view “defeat” Daesh while the Kurds in Iraq and Syria are “mostly focused on protecting their own populations and territory.” [2] The article goes onto say that “the status of the Kurds in post-Saddam Iraq has never totally been settled” since they  demanded “a significant degree of autonomy after his fall, including their own regional government and military” but they also, in June 2014, seized oil-rich Kirkuk, which a  number of Iraqis seeing this as “an unconstitutional power grab.” It also states that since 2012, when “Rojava has essentially functioned as an independent” they have been  natural allies of the U$ as they “fight ISIS, oppose Assad, and aren’t mixed up with jihadists” but they also cause tension with Turkey, who is worried “that Syrian Kurds would inspire Kurdish nationalism in Turkey” leading Turkey to be “deeply hostile to any independent or autonomous Rojava.” Even so, this article declares that the Kurds in Syria don’t “share America’s goals or vision for the region. Kurdistan is not America East” although some recent comments by Kurdish groups like YPG indicate they see it, in a sense, that way. The article ends by saying that “the Kurds are political actors with their own interests and concerns, which they will pursue even if Washington doesn’t like it,” but this again ignores the past history between the Kurds and the U$.

Stephen Zunes, of all people, a person who downplays the role of foreign money, specifically from the U$, and has tried to smear the former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, among other horrible positions, provides some of this history. He defines the Kurds wildly as a nation of over 30 million people “divided among six countries, primarily in what is now northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey and with smaller numbers in northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran and the Caucuses. They are the world’s largest nation without a state of their own.” [3] He notes how their “struggle for self-determination has been hampered by…rivalry between competing nationalist groups, some of which have been used as pawns by regional powers[and] the United States.” He  further notes that while at the 1919 Versailles Conference ,Woodrow Wilson,  a liberal imperialist “unsuccessfully pushed for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan,” that policy since then has been terrible. For instance, he recalls how in the mid-1970s, in conjunction with the autocratic Shah, the U$ goaded Kurds in Iraq to launch an “armed uprising” against the Iraqi government “with the promise of continued military support” but then the U$ abandoned them as “part of an agreement with the Baghdad regime for a territorial compromise favorable to Iran regarding the Shatt al-Arab waterway” resulting in the Iraqi Army  marching into Kurdish areas, slaughtering thousands, with Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, dismissing any humanitarian consequences, by coldly declaring that “covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” In the 1980s, Iraqi Kurds rose up against the Iraqi government (then led by Saddam Hussein) again, led by the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which was, at  the time supported by the U$ through agricultural, economic, and military support,  with the U$ looking the other way as many of these funds “were laundered by purchasing military equipment despite widespread knowledge that it was being deployed as part of Baghdad’s genocidal war against the Kurds.” This went to such an extreme that in March 1988 after the Iraqis attacked Kurdish town of Halabja, killing thousands, the U$ leaked phony intelligence in order to claim that Iran “was actually responsible.” [4] This incident in 1988 was not isolated, with clear proof other other attacks by Iraq in 1986 and 1987, and even an effort by Senator Clairborn Bell to put pressure on the Iraqi government but this was killed by the Reagan Administration, which wanted to “continue its military and economic support of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”  Later on, the U$ conquest of Iraq shamelessly used “suffering of the Kurdish people under Saddam’s rule…as an excuse” for bloody imperial intervention.

After the destruction of much of the air force of Iraq in 1991 by the Gulf War, there was “strict enforcement of a “no-fly zone” covering most Kurdish-populated areas in northern Iraq,” meaning that Iraq no longer “had the capacity to engage in such large-scale repression,” in Zunes’ opinion, which kinda ends up supporting imperialist intervention. Anyway, as a result, as the Shiites rebelled in Southern Iraq later that year, the Kurds made major advances, seizing a number of towns, reversed “by a brutal counter-attack by Iraqi government forces.” And while George H.W. Bush told the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam, U$ forces “did nothing to support the post-war rebellion and stood by while thousands of Iraqi Kurds, Shiites, and others were slaughtered” and furthered the injury by excluding “Iraqi helicopter gunships from the ban on Iraqi military air traffic…[which proved] decisive in crushing the rebellions.” Some suspect,he wrote this happened because “the Bush administration feared a victory by Iraqi Kurds might encourage the ongoing Kurdish uprising in Turkey, a NATO ally,” which blocked more than “100,000 Kurds from entering their country, thereby trapping them in snowy mountains in violation of their obligations under international humanitarian law to allow the fleeing civilians sanctuary.” As such, U$ forces ” operating out of its bases in Turkey and with the assistance of a dozen other countries, began air dropping emergency supplies, soon followed by the deployment of thousands of troops into northern Iraq to provide additional aid and to construct resettlement camps” which continued into 1996. Soon enough the U$, Great Britain and France, “unilaterally banned the Iraqi government from deploying any of its aircraft in northern Iraq above the 36th parallel with the stated goal of enforcing UN Security Council resolution 688” putting in place a no-fly-zone of “dubious legality” which at first received “widespread bipartisan support in Washington and even among human rights advocates as an appropriate means of preventing a renewal of the Iraqi government’s savage repression of the Kurdish people.” However, this zone itself did not “protect the Iraqi Kurdish populations from potential assaults by Iraqi forces, which…had pulled back and were focused on post-war reconstruction and protecting the regime in Baghdad” and seeing this zone evolve into “an excuse for continuing a low-level war against Iraq, France soon dropped out of the enforcement efforts.” Then in August 1996, using the ” factional fighting broke out between the PUK and the KDP in Iraqi Kurdistan” as an excuse, President Bill Clinton “ordered a series of major bombing raids and missile attacks against Iraq” which garnered widespread bipartisan support even though “most of the U.S. strikes took place in the central and southern part of Iraq–hundreds of miles from the Iraqi advance.”

From this, the “mission creep” began as U$ forces “patrolling the no-fly zone gradually escalated its rules of engagement” originally justifying use of force “challenge Iraqi encroachments into the proscribed airspace,” then to include “assaults on anti-aircraft batteries that fired at allied aircraft enforcing the zone” or when”anti-aircraft batteries locked “their radar toward allied aircraft, even without firing.” This meant that by the end of the decade President Clinton was “ordering attacks on additional radar installations and other military targets within the no-fly zone, even when they were unrelated to an alleged Iraqi threat against a particular U.S. aircraft.” As such, when  Bush II came to power, targeting was further expanded, with “the U.S. attacking radar and command-and-control installations well beyond the no-fly zones” and by 2002, “U.S. air strikes against Iraq were taking place almost daily.” This all meant that “rather than an expression of humanitarian concern for Iraq’s Kurdish population, the no-fly zones became instruments to legitimize U.S. attacks against Iraq” and they ended up, during their 12 years of operation (1991-2003) to kill “far more Kurds” than the Iraqi government! The U$ support for these Kurds was clearly further insincere because of the “strong U.S. support for the Turkish government in its repression of its own Kurdish population” (which could happen again), with the U$  remaining silent during the 1990s “regarding the Turkish government’s repression,”  selling the Turks billions of dollars in armaments  in the 1980s and 1990s as “the Turkish military carried out widespread attacks against civilian populations.” These attacks were so extensive that “over 3,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed and over two million Kurds became refugees” with 3/4 of the weapons of U$ origin. The U$ government even defended “periodic incursions into the safe haven by thousands of Turkish troops as well as air strikes by the Turkish military inside Iraqi territory.” And to go back to Ocolan, which Dolack seems to revere, the U$ government first “successfully pressured Syria to expel PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan” in 1998 and then in February 1999, the U$ (likely CIA) “assisted Turkish intelligence agents in locating Ocalan in Kenya, where he was kidnapped, brought to Turkey and initially sentenced to death, though this was later commuted to life in prison”! With that, why would any Kurd trust the U$? Clearly, this indicates  to me that something else is going on, that the Kurdish bourgeoisie are clearly out for themselves and act like they have “forgotten” their history.

Zones ends his article by noting that the “PKK resumed its armed struggle in 2004,” that  Kurds in Northern Iraq “formally gained unprecedented rights as a result of the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003” and have “evolved into a de facto independent state” while also noting that “government corruption is widespread in Iraqi Kurdistan and opposition activists are routinely beaten, tortured, and killed,” even though it is a place that at the time of his writing (2007), hosted “thousands of American troops, diplomats and businesspeople.” He also noted  how the U$ backed an “Iranian Kurdish group known as PEJAK, which has launched frequent cross-border raids into Iran, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Iranians.” He ended the article in calling for “greater American leadership” in telling the Kurds in Northern Iraq to “crack down on PKK military activities inside their territory,” the U$  severing their “ties to the PEJAK,” telling the Turks to “honor Iraqi sovereignty and cease their attacks against suspected PKK targets inside Iraqi territory,” along with a number of other policies. [5]

But that isn’t the whole story, apart from Western treachery. One writer even said that “every human disaster can be counted as a political step forward in the Kurds’ pursuit of their historical entitlement to statehood,” adding that “whenever possible they expand the territory they control – taking over oil and gas reserves in adjacent areas – and assert greater authority over their own heartlands,” while also noting that while “in theory they are fighting to create a unitary state in all of Kurdistan, a territory whose borders are undefined but that in some Kurds’ imaginings stretches all the way from deep inside Iran to the shores of the Mediterranean.”This same person added that “across their four main ‘host’ countries, though, the Kurds are internally divided over strategy” with some seeking a “seek a single Kurdish nation-state; others prefer autonomy within the state they inhabit; others would be content with recognition of their rights as a minority in a truly democratic state,” with many seeming to “internalised the post-Ottoman borders, embracing their separate identities as Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish or Iranian Kurds,”  meaning that they “can’t make significant headway in their pursuit of greater freedom without the aid of an external power” with aid that has “whether from the US, Iran or the Soviet Union and Russia…always been part of a strategy in which the Kurds are merely instrumental.” [6] This, still, is only part of the story.

A search on the website of the U$ Department Office of the Historian, which has previous diplomatic documents ranging throughout U$ history online, does not paint a pretty picture. One of the earliest mentions of Kurds is in 1866, with one document recording that the mountain region of Syria is “inhabited by Kurd and Turcoman tribes” with another in 1885 condemning the “outrage perpetrated by the Kurd, Moussa Bey, upon the American citizens, Messrs. Knapp and Reynolds.” The next mention of value, apart from those condemning any “further outrage by the Kurd tribe they will be hanged” (1905) and “Kurd accomplices” who “await attack” (1906), is the rough description of “Kurdistan” in 1904:

The home of the Kurds or “Kurdistan” is an indefinite geographical expression, but may be roughly understood as beginning at Mount Ararat on the north and stretching south to where the mountains fade away into the plains of Mesopotamia above Bagdad, say, 300 miles; the width of the region may be measured by the distance between Lake Urumia in Persia and Lake Van in Turkey—something like 100 miles; the area of this region is as large as the State of South Carolina. It disregards imperial boundaries, as its inhabitants disregard imperial laws and orders; it extends into Persia or Turkey according to the pleasure and habits and wanderings of these wild people. Notwithstanding the strict laws that require passports to enter Turkey or Persia, the Kurd relies with confidence and success upon his rifle and scimitar rather than upon paper and seals and visas, and so crosses indifferently into either territory to commit crimes, or to escape the consequences of his crimes. This is the Kurd, the creature we have to deal with in this case.

This is a crude understanding of the Kurdish people, and likely a bit racist (calling them “the creature”), but the pictured size of “Kurdistan” which disregards borders, with the people themselves crossing borders without problems still rings true.

Then, after a mention of the “Kurd and Turkish population of Armenia…massacring Armenians with the connivance and often assistance of Ottoman authorities,” seeming to implicate them in the Armenian genocide, we can fast forward many years. In 1945 and 1946, U$ diplomats worried about Soviet support of “Kurd agitation” which would weaken U$ allies (Iran and Turkey), putting them under threat. The British shared this concern as well, with one diplomatic document saying that the “British Chargé d’Affaires [was] also concerned with free movement Barzanis and Soviet Kurd political agents from USSR to Iraq through Iranian Kurdistan.”

With that, we move onto 1962. One diplomatic cable in 1962 noted that a Kurdish officer made a “strong plea for US support of revolution movement” saying that most Communists have been removed from the KDP, cooperate with “conservative Arab Iraqi elements and bring Iraq back into Baghdad Pact” if the U$ wishes,and give the U$”full information on internal political or military developments in Kurdistan or Arab Iraq.” Noting the viewpoint of Mulla Mustafa (also known as Mustafa Barzani), he said that the Shah of Iran would like Kurdistan as an “autonomous republic” while adding that they maintain “regular contact with the UAR” and the Soviets in Baghdad whom they  are not willing to burn bridges with “unless they have assurances USG will support their movement.” The cable went onto say that “Israel has offered assistance to Kurds in Europe but this refused…because they fear Israel might purposely reveal information and “movement” would be harmed throughout Arab countries,” and noting that Barzani  would rather “cooperate with West rather than with USSR” who he did not trust. As such, the Kurds were hoping for a change in U$ policy, which was that “Kurdish problem in Iraq [is] an internal matter which should be resolved internally” while they also “believe the future well-being of Kurds in Iraq, as well as those in Iran and Turkey, is inseparably tied to the well-being of the countries in which they reside.” One year later, a paper noted JFK’s  desire to do all they can to “help Iraq and thus consolidate its break with the Soviets,” which would, by  extension, possibly imply assistance to the Kurds.

Then we go to 1966. A diplomatic message said that rather than giving a “congratulatory message” to the Iraqis “on thwarting of coup” that should rather, among other aspects, give “congratulations on GOI [government  of Iraq] political program for Kurds and on gaining Kurdish acceptance, and…hope that settlement will be implemented promptly, consistently and in good faith by both GOI and Kurds.” They also  speculated the coup attempt may have been related to the “June 29 announcement of Kurdish settlement.”

By the 1970s, there would be a lot of action in efforts to assist Kurds, specifically those in Iraq. One of these was to, in 1972 or 1973, provide $3 million dollars to “assist Mulla Mustafa Barzani and the Iraqi Kurds in their resistance against the Bathi Iraqi regime” along with “roughly $2 million in supplies…to be delivered via CIA channels.” In 1972, the Shah of Iran said he was “afraid the Soviets would establish a coalition of the Kurds, the Baathists, and the Communists,” suggesting to Henry Kissinger  that “Turkey needs strengthening…[and that] Iran can help with the Kurds.” According to the  memoirs of Kissinger (Years of Renewal, pp. 582–3), during this same conversation, President Nixon agreed that “without American support, the existing Kurdish uprising against the Baghdad Government would collapse” and that U$ participation “was needed to maintain the morale of such key allies as Iran and Jordan” even though “no record of this conversation was found.” Other cables noted millions in contributions to the “Kurdish cause” while also saying in 1973 that “the Kurds, who make up about 30 percent of the Iraqi population…are in a chronic state of revolt.” They also added that these Kurds “are part of the some 5–6 million Kurds located in contiguous areas of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey” with thee ultimate goal of “an independent Kurdish state, but the Iraqi Kurds will settle, for the moment at least, for autonomy within a unified Iraqi state as long as they also share in the central government.” The following year, the U$ government said it opposed an “autonomous” Kurdish government, saying it “escalate the situation well beyond our covert capabilities to contribute meaningfully”and that disclosure of U$ involvement would send a signal to the Soviets, “affect U.S.-Turkish relations,” and would be viewed a certain way by Arabs. They also declared that such a state “could be considered tantamount to aggression against Iraq,”  while noting that the Shah sees benefit, like the U$, “in a stalemate situation in Iraq in which the Ba’ath government is intrinsically weakened by Kurdish refusal to relinquish its semi-autonomy.” They concluded that they hoped to signal to Barzani, by giving “more funds and supplies.” that the U$ is “till sympathetic and friendly to his predicament and prepared to continue to help on a scale which can be kept covert, but that we cannot play a prime role in the new ballgame.”

Then we get to 1975. That year there was talk about approaching the Iranians to “determine how Iran intends to handle its future relationship with the Kurds” since, as it was argued, the “the Iranian and the U.S. Governments will face [a problem] in the U.S. and elsewhere if there is a massacre and Barzani charges that he has been let down.” They further argued that “the plight of the Kurds could arouse deep humanitarian concern”while it could also “create an impossible situation if we were to be working at cross purposes with Iran.” It was that year that U$-backed Iranians withdrew their “support of the Iraqi Kurds” leading the rebellion by these Kurds, which had started a year before, to collapse, with “hundreds of thousands…[fleeing] the country to refugee camps, mainly in Iran.”

One more cable is worth mentioning. It is in 1978. It says that while Communists and Kurds are represented in the Iraqi government it is “essentially cosmetic” as the opposition, “be it Communist, Kurd, rival Baathist, or military—seems to be in disarray, unable to mount an effective challenge to Saddam or alter the present governmental or political structure.” There are a number of other results as well, for those who are interested in pursuing this search further.

Many years later, in 1998, representatives of the KDP and PUK met in Washington, D.C. to sign an accord (the Washington Agreement) to resolve their issues, which has not been fully implemented, with ongoing negotiations and discussions. By 2002, the Kurds were warning that Saddam would  respond to U$ attack by “by deploying weapons of mass destruction as he has done in the past” while also saying that overthrow of Saddam ” would serve justice for the man who has harmed them for decades,” both of which fed into the drive for a full-out war. [7] A few years later, Najmaldin Karim, the  former president and founder of the Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI), complained that imperial planners of the Iraq Study Group were ignoring “Kurdistan,” noting that even Turkey and Russia have set up consulates in this region of Iraq. How did he promote the region? He said it  had “a peaceful, thriving economy” and that”Iraqi Kurds are massively pro-American”  adding that the Kurds are “America’s closest allies in Iraq,” claiming that the U$is embarrassed of its previous betrayals of the Kurds. He went further to endorse the “proposal promoted by Senator Joe Biden and…Leslie Gelb” which would balkanize the country into a Shia, Sunni, and Kurd region. How does he not see a problem with this?

This brings us to an open question: who is the WKI? We know that they are people who promote those who advocate for the “Kurdish cause” including those who want continued U$ intervention in Syria, to create “a safe haven,” critical of the “autocratic Turkish nation-state,” and those who are part of the Kurdish government in northern Iraq (KRG) who boast about their connections in Washington, D.C., and to the “Kurdistani diaspora,” including to the bourgeoisie in the energy sector (specifically oil & gas). They also, helpfully list all the “Kurdish parties,”or at least the ones they point in that category. This organization, which was founded in 1996, defines itself, basically as the one-stop-shop for “Kurd-related issues,” and has been promoted by the KRG. They have such a connection that Karim became the Governor of Kirkuk (from 2011-2017)!  Sourcewatch tells a little more. While their page for the organization doesn’t show anything in particular, there are clear connections of former and current individuals of WKI to the NGO world, AIPAC, the U$ government (like the CIA and State Department), American Enterprise Institute, anti-Soviet causes, and outright advocacy for the overthrow of Saddam, in line with imperial interests.  Clearly, these people have an agenda which meshes with the murderous empire, making one skeptical of existing efforts for Kurdish nationalism without question.

Dolack’s comment #8:

Surrounded and blockaded by Turkey, an oppressive Syrian government, Islamic State terrorists and a corrupt Iraqi Kurdistan government in alliance with Turkey, the Syrian Kurds of Rojava have made a series of realpolitik choices, one of which is to accept a U.S. military presence in the territory to prevent Turkey from invading. That in the wake of the announced U.S. withdrawal Rojava authorities have asked the Syrian army to move into position to provide a new buffer against Turkey — despite the fact the Assad father and son régimes have been relentlessly repressive against them — is another difficult decision made by a people who are surrounded by enemies.

My response: This is getting into pro-imperialist territory fast, declaring that the Syrian government is “oppressive” and acting like they are all surrounded by enemies, the same thing that the Zionists say all the time as they cry for U$ assistance. There is a major question if “U.S. military presence in the territory [would]…prevent Turkey from invading” as I will discuss below, in response to another one of Dolack’s comments. But to say that negotiating with the Syrian army is hard because of repression by the Syrians, also moves into pro-imperialist territory, as the Syrians don’t want a Turkish invasion either, evidenced by the recent agreement between the Syrian government and the YPG. More on on the Syrian government role will be addressed later in this piece.

Dolack is  basically making the same argument as Noam Chomsky, that a “small US troop contingent in the Kurdish region serves as a deterrent to a likely Turkish invasion, extending their criminal assault against Kurds in Turkey itself and the regions of Syria they have already occupied,” even though this is clearly an imperialist position, as much as embattled French President Emanuel Macron telling Vladimir Putin that the Kurds must be protected at all costs. Cries from those like Dolack along with dedicated imperialists have led the orange menace to say that Syrian Kurds (the ones the U$ supports) will be protected by the U$, while also claiming that some Kurds sell oil to Iran, but apparently not those in Syria. His comments were echoed by Pompeo who said that the orange menace stressed “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds” as U$ forces are re-deployed from Syria to Iraq. After all, as his trip across the Mideast will declare load and clear that “the United States is not leaving the Middle East,” continuing efforts of imperial stabilization.

Dolack’s comment #9:

To ignore what the Kurdish people, in attempting to build a socialist, egalitarian society, have to say are acts of Western chauvinism. It is hardly reasonable to see the Syrian Kurds as “naïve” or “puppets” of the U.S. as if they are incapable of understanding their own experiences. And Turkey’s invasion of Rojava’s Afrin district, which was disconnected from the rest of Rojava, resulting in massive ethnic cleansing, should make clear the dangers of further Turkish invasions.

This is where Dolack, as I said on Twitter yesterday, basically said that opposing U$ troops in Syria is racist as is apparently ignores what “the Kurdish people” are “attempting  to build.” So, should we ignore the fact that the Kurds in Rojava are  not even politically united or that the PKK recently attacked a Turkish military base, raising the question if they are trying to goad the Turks into attacking? There is no doubt that the Turks want to engage in a form of ethnic cleansing and wipe out these Kurdish people, or at least incapacitate them, likely with U$ assistance. These Kurds, specifically their leaders, are active participants and clearly aware of their role, even while they do not remember (or have conditioned themselves to forget) the clear U$ history of betraying the Kurdish people in the past. The U$ imperialists see them as puppets which they can discard when they are “down with them,” even though they are still human beings who are not playthings, who have every right to determine their own way forward…

Dolack’s comment #10:

The Kurdistan National Congress, an alliance of Kurdish parties, civil society organizations and exile groups, issued a communiqué that said, as its first point, “The coalition forces must not leave North and East Syria/Rojava.” The news site Rudaw reports that Islamic State has gone on the offensive since President Trump acquiesced to President Erdoğan’s demand, and quotes a spokesperson for the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces as saying that “More than four million are exposed to the danger of massive displacement, escaping from possible genocide,” noting the example of Turkey’s brutal invasion of Afrin.

My response: That announcement by the Kurdistan National Congress is no surprise, as they are sticking with their previous policy of wanting U$ support, which is actually an ahistorical decision. It also does not surprise me that, if the reports he noted are true, that “Islamic State has gone on the offensive since President Trump acquiesced to President Erdoğan’s demand” since Daesh (another name for the “Islamic State”) is supported either directly or indirectly by the United States itself! At the same time, as I said in my article in late December, the story that the orange menace acquiesced to Erdogan is too simplistic, that there is something more going on, some sort of planning by the advisors of the orange menace. I also do not doubt that there would be “danger of massive displacement.” However, the way the SDF frames this, as does Dolack, almost sets the stage for a “humanitarian” intervention in Northeast Syria to “protect the Kurds” which all should oppose.

Then  Dolack quotes from “someone on the ground” in “Rojava” itself, which he does not link to, but I will. It has been reprinted many places and was written by a self-declared anarchist. Although he admits that he is “not formally integrated into any of the groups here” and is basically just an observer, Dolack gives him this magical legitimacy. He does make valid points that the decision by the orange menace to “withdraw” from Syria is not antiwar or anti-imperialist, as it “will not bring the conflict in Syria to an end,” and even  is right it does give “Erdoğan the go-ahead to invade Rojava and carry out ethnic cleansing against the people who have done much of the fighting and dying to halt the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)” while the orange menace “aims to leave Israel the most ostensibly liberal and democratic project in the entire Middle East,” all of which “will come at a tremendous cost.” But then he says that it doesn’t matter “where US troops are stationed [because] two thousand US soldiers at issue are a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of armed fighters in Syria today. They have not been on the frontlines” saying that “what matters is that Trump’s announcement is a message to Erdoğan indicating that there will be no consequences if the Turkish state invades Rojava.” He rightly criticizes Medea Benjamin, while declaring “it makes no sense to blame people here in Rojava for depending on the United States when…anyone like her has done anything to offer them any sort of alternative,” and then his  article  goes on.

It here that we must recall the role of the SDF, YPG, and its associates in destroying Raqqa, dooming the civilians that lived inside. The city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of Daesh, was declared “liberated” by these forces in October of last year, much of which was destroyed, with these forces turning their eye to “Deir ez-Zor, an oil-rich region in Syria,” engendering further conflict while the result for children, and undoubtedly others, will be the ensuing psychological damage of bombs and beheadings for years to come. The city was, as one Russian general put it, repeating the fate of Dresden in  1945, which “was erased in the British-American bombarding,” even as then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embraced  this bloody “liberation.” SDF, in conjunction with the U$-backed coalition, made the city a living hell, with great civilian harm, from actions of the coalition due to a”reliance on air and artillery strikes ahead of more cautious ground advances” while “the largest weapons wielded by the SDF were 120mm mortars.” [8] This manifested itself in the fact that bombs, missiles and artillery shells, which were “fired from afar and usually targeted based on intelligence from local proxy ground forces…rained almost continuously into Raqqa.” Even worse, the civilian reception centers set up by the SDF on the outskirts of the city, where civilian “survivors were able to speak freely about their harrowing experiences” was a sham as there was “little or no official record kept of their testimonies about the toll of fighting and bombing inside the city”! That wasn’t all: the SDF and U$-backed coalition gave conflicting messages to Raqqa’s civilians, sometimes telling them to leave, other times telling them to stay, with the question of how “the SDF was able to differentiate populations in the city.” As such, there were obvious concerns the “Coalition and its SDF allies are not taking enough care to protect civilians.” As one report in New Eastern Outlook added, thanks to “massive US air strikes in support of their ground allies, the Kurds, the United Nation estimates that 80 percent of Raqqa is uninhabitable now, raising a crucial question of who was the city won for and who will be placed there after Daesh has been forced to flee and re-locate?” The article further asked how the destroyed city will “return to local governance and leadership and that the city’s residents now have a chance to control their own future,” given that the city “has nothing, neither standing buildings nor residents, that the local authorities will be managing or governing,” and that there is “nothing for them to return to.” It was further noted that the predominantly Sunni Arabs distrusted their so-called “liberators,” while  they doubt “if international aid would ever reach them to facilitate such large scale rehabilitation” which is justified because the YPG abandoned the city of Kobani after their victory in 2015, meaning that “the city was completely destroyed and remains in tatters even after two years.” This is something that Dolack will, of course, not mention at all, because  it makes clear that the YPG, SDF, the U$-backed coalition, and their associates have blood on their hands, specifically the blood of civilians, obviously meaning that war crimes have been committed without question.

Dolack’s comment #11:

None of this means we should forget for a moment the role of the United States in destroying attempts to build socialism, or mere attempts to challenge U.S. hegemony even where capitalist relations are not seriously threatened. Certainly there is no prospect of a U.S. government supporting socialism in Rojava; experiments in building societies considerably less radical than that of Rojava have been mercilessly crushed by the U.S. using every means at its disposal. That the project of Rojava, for now, has been helped by the presence of U.S. troops is an unintentional byproduct of the unsuccessful U.S. effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. At the same time of the expected pullout from Rojava, U.S. troops will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are unambiguously occupiers.

This is a backward way of justifying U$ presence, saying it is bad elsewhere (Iraq and Afghanistan) but good in Syria? That is a twisted perspective. Is it right then that the SDF raced to seize oil-rich parts of Syria, including the “Al-Omar oil field in eastern Syria” or that U$ continues to deliver arms and ammunition to the SDF? Is it also right that the U$ army has “set up a sum of fourteen military bases for its ground troops in different parts of Iraq, including the Iraqi Kurdistan region”? Because Dolack sounds like he is saying this is right. Perhaps Dolack forgets that Rojava would not be possible if it was not for the West, as I have noted in the past. They came about thanks to the turmoil caused by the unrest in Syria, with many efforts at imperial destabilization of the county under way.

Dolack’s comment #12:

Even if the analysis is overly mechanical, cheering the withdrawal of troops is understandable, given the imperialist history of U.S. aggression. Less understandable is support for the bloodthirsty Assad regime. “The enemy of what I oppose is a friend” is a reductionist, and often futile, way of thinking. The Ba’ath regime of Hafez and Bashar Assad have a long history of murderous rampages against Syrians. The United Nations Human Rights Council reports “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture, including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” Amnesty International reports that “As many as 13,000 prisoners from Saydnaya Military Prison were extrajudicially executed in night-time mass hangings between 2011 and 2015. The victims were overwhelmingly civilians perceived to oppose the government and were executed after being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance.”

My response: When you see the words “Assad brutality in the service of neoliberalism” beginning this section of Dolack’s  article, you know it is going to be a crapshoot. Clearly, Dolack is working to justify  his argument that “Rojava” is completely surrounded by enemies. He does admit that “cheering the withdrawal of troops is understandable, given the imperialist history of U.S. aggression” which is a valid point, but he is also trying to sneer at the left. He then declares “support for the bloodthirsty Assad regime” is not understandable, declaring that “the Ba’ath regime of Hafez and Bashar Assad have a long history of murderous rampages against Syrians.” As a person who is openly willing to be more critical of the Syrian government as it clearly represents the Syrian bourgeoisie and is, at best, progressive, I was interested to see what sources he used: the UN Human Rights Council report and Amnesty International. Clearly, he is forgetting the behind the mask of human rights organizations, they “are promoting the war agenda of western and regional governments. Some are worse than others.”As for this specific report, it turns out it was totally fabricated with the U$ government basically trying to say that Assad is Hitler. What about the UN Human Rights Report? Well, you have to be skeptical when this report, from 2011, when it was based on “interviews with 223 victims and witnesses, but observers were not allowed access to the country,” which American Thinker endorsed with little comment. It makes, as such, no sense that this report is given even a shred of credibility.

Dolack’s comment #13:

Enforced monoculture agriculture was imposed on the Kurdish regions of Syria by the Ba’ath régime, with no economic development allowed. These areas were intentionally kept undeveloped under a policy of “Arabization” against Kurds and the other minority groups of the areas now comprising Rojava. Kurds were routinely forcibly removed from their farm lands and other properties, with Arabs settled in their place. Nor should the Assad family rule be seen in as any way as progressive. Neoliberal policies and increasingly anti-labor policies have been imposed. The spark that ignited the civil war was the drought that struck Syria beginning in 2006, a disaster deepened by poor water management and corruption.

My response: While I could say, yes, this whole section has a degree of credibility, I am skeptical because Dolack cites no sources whatsoever for this information. I would agree that “neoliberal policies and increasingly anti-labor policies have been imposed,” sure, but at the same time, the relationship between the Western and Syrian bourgeoisie has definitely broken since 2011. I am not sure Gowans is right when he says the U$ has been scheming against Syria since the 1960s, but there sure was some hostility before 2011, with the relationship obviously tenuous at times. Now, I have also heard the theory that “the spark that ignited the civil war was the drought that struck Syria beginning in 2006, a disaster deepened by poor water management and corruption” but that almost would be too easy of an explanation. Additionally, this conception acts like this is a civil war when it is really an attack on the Syrian government by the U$, devolving into a proxy war of sorts between varied forces.

Dolack’s comment #14:

Political scientists Raymond Hinnebusch and Tina Zinti, in the introduction to Syria from Reform to Revolt, Volume 1: Political Economy and International Relations, provide a concise summary of Assad neoliberalism. (The following two paragraphs are summarized from their introduction.)

Hafez al-Assad became dictator, eliminating Ba’athist rivals, in 1970. He “constructed a presidential system above party and army” staffed with relatives, close associates and others from his Alawite minority, according to professors Hinnebusch and Zinti. “[T]he party turned from an ideological movement into institutionalized clientalism” with corruption that undermined development. In turn, Alawite domination bred resentment on the part of the Sunni majority, and a network of secret police and elite military units, allowed to be above the law, kept the regime secure. Over the course of the 1990s, widespread privatization drastically shrank the state sector, which earned Assad the support of Syria’s bourgeoisie.

Upon Assad’s death in 2000, his son Bashar was installed as president. Bashar al-Assad sought to continue opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital. In order to accomplish that, he needed to sideline his father’s old guard and consolidate his power. He did, but by doing so he weakened the régime and its connections to its base. He also altered the régime’s social base, basing his rule on technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class. Syria’s public sector was run down, social services reduced, an already weak labor law further weakened and taxation became regressive, enabling new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.

My response: While I am glad that Dolack, for once, this is clearly an “Assad is a dictator” type of book. One of the endorsements of the book on the Syracuse University Press website comes from David W. Lesch, who wrote a book titled Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad. Uh-oh. Additionally, on the Amazon website, the book is described as providing “insightful snapshots of Bashar al-Asad’s decade of authoritarian upgrading provide an indispensable resource for understanding the current crisis and its disastrous consequence.” Yikes! So we already know this is getting bad when Hafez al-Assad is described by Dolack as a “dictator” who eliminates “Ba’athist rivals” with no mention of his participation in the 1963 or 1966 coups, which allowed him to rise up the government structure, and alluded to the 1970 coup, also called the “Corrective Movement.” If we took Dolack’s summary at face value, then Assad constructed a presidential system based on patronage, which led to resentment from the majority Sunnis and a  “network of secret police and elite military units…kept the regime secure.”Additionally, we would conclude that over the 1990s, “widespread privatization drastically shrank the state sector, which earned Assad the support of Syria’s bourgeoisie.” Just taking from sources cited on the Wikipedia page of Hafez al-Assad, all of which is negative, we learn that the state was nationalistic, militaristic, secular and apparently “socialist” (not really), focusing on “domestic prosperity and economic independence,” despite accused horrors. [9] So, perhaps he is right about privatization efforts which increased the power of the Syrian bourgeoisie, but it is wrong to paint Syria as some ghoulish place commanded by an all-powerful monster. As such, I have to say his words “are acts of Western chauvinism,” just like he accused the “Left” of doing to his “beloved” Kurds.

Dolack’s comment #15:

Upon Assad’s death in 2000, his son Bashar was installed as president. Bashar al-Assad sought to continue opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital. In order to accomplish that, he needed to sideline his father’s old guard and consolidate his power. He did, but by doing so he weakened the régime and its connections to its base. He also altered the régime’s social base, basing his rule on technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class. Syria’s public sector was run down, social services reduced, an already weak labor law further weakened and taxation became regressive, enabling new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.

My response: Again, there is the perception as Bashar al-Assad as a ghoul, being “installed as President” (the CIA can do that not a small country like Syria), sidelining “his father’s old guard and consolidate his power,” which weakened the base of his “regime,” which was now based on “technocrats and businessmen who supported his economic reforms and concomitant disciplining of the working class.” What was this all for? Well, if we take him at face value, then Bashar al-Assad “continue[d] opening Syria’s economy to foreign capital,” ran down the public sector of Syria, reduced social services, weakened the labor laws, made taxation regressive, while also enabling “new private banks and businesses to reap big incomes.” To take from a liberal paper, they echoed the same thing, saying that Assad’s “Syria would be modern and technocratic, a new model for the Middle East,” saying he wants approval from the “West, from educated Damascenes, from the artists and the intellectual class,” quoting an unnamed Syrian intellectual,while also noting that when he came into power, he “allowed private ownership of banks. The government even granted a license to the country’s first independent newspaper” until this bourgeois openness was ended. [10] The same article also said that early on, “syria had been an unofficial partner of the United States, even covertly torturing suspected militants” but after 2003, the “Bush administration began hinting that Syria could be the next candidate for regime change,” while adding that “Assad took pleasure in toying with the West” and that he spent his first time in office refining the economy policy, “privatizing the old state-run industries without actually creating any new competition. It was gangster capitalism cloaked in neoliberal free-market rhetoric.” There are other parts of the article which are questionable on their merit, which I will not mention here. One commentary in the horrid Guardian said in 2008 that there was openness by the Syrian government toward certain Western  countries, like France (the former colonizers of Syria), the ongoing problem of the Muslim Brotherhood violently opposing the government, and a continuing “seesawing relationship with the US,” even quoting him as saying “when our interests have matched, the Americans have been good to us. When the interests have differed, they wanted us to mould ourselves to them, which we refused.” [11] Whose interests is he talking about? That of the Syrian bourgeoisie. Additionally, other articles noted that he had promised “a China-style economic liberalization whose very success would mitigate the need for political reform” while some “analysts” grumbled that because of the country’s turmoil there is no chance it “could be democratic,”not recognizing the role of the West in creating such a situation! [12]

Dolack’s comment #16:

[The Assad family is] Not exactly friends of the working class, and a strong contrast to the system of “democratic confederalism” as the Rojava economic and political system is known.

My response: While I’ll agree, sure, they represent the Syrian bourgeoisie, it is wrong to point out how they currently stand diametrically opposed to U$ imperialism at  this current time? I don’t see”Rojava” as any better. In fact, I’d argue it is worse as it allows imperialists an “in” into the country itself, which is dangerous for all living in the region, as it will undoubtedly lead to further violence. I have written about this in the past, saying that Syria is socially democratic, but I am currently going through my articles as an exercise in self-criticism. Once that article specifically is looked over, I will link it here.

Dolack’s comment #17:

Clandestine organizing had been conducted among Syrian Kurds since a 2004 massacre of Kurds by the Assad régime; much of this organizing was done by women because they could move more openly then men under the close watch of the régime. Kurds were supportive of the rebels when the civil war began, but withdrew from cooperation as the opposition became increasingly Islamized and unresponsive to Kurd demands for cultural recognition. Meanwhile, as the uprising began, Kurdish self-protection militias were formed in secret with clandestine stocks of weapons. The drive for freedom from Assad’s terror began on the night of July 18, 2012, when the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) took control of the roads leading into Kobani and, inside the city, people began to take over government buildings.

My response: You know that Dolack is working extra hard to justify “Rojava” when this section of his article begins with the title “Building political democracy through communes” which makes me think of the criticism of Marx and Engels of those who advocated for communes  in the 19th century, the first people who called themselves socialist. For him, sure that is great that “clandestine organizing had been conducted among Syrian Kurds” since 2004, mainly by women rather than men. Count me skeptical that there was a “2004 massacre of Kurds by the Assad régime” based on the previous information he has presented. To say that “Kurds were supportive of the rebels when the civil war began,” is troublesome, because these “rebels” ended up, unlike these Kurds, being literal pawns, but it makes sense they broke from these individuals. Also, what is “Islamized”? I don’t think that is even an actual word, making me think he is clearly being Islamophobic here  and not accurate to what happened. Furthermore, saying that “Kurdish self-protection militias” were secretly forming and had “clandestine stocks of weapons” brings up a whole number of questions, including: where did these weapons come from? Then, in a part that sounds like it could have been written in the New York Times, he says  that these Kurds began their “drive for freedom from Assad’s terror…on the night of July 18, 2012” when a YPG unit “took control of the roads leading into Kobani and, inside the city, people began to take over government buildings.” Based on what I noted about Kobani later, that they eventually abandoned the city after “liberating” it in 2015, I wonder if this fantastical story is completely  true. Did the people of Kobani want to be “liberated” in this manner? We know that Kurds from Northern Iraq came to fight alongside the YPG in 2015, which was allowed by the  Turks  and U$ but the Syrians denounced, during the siege of Kobani, and that the siege ended with “liberation” after 112 days of fighting. The siege itself damaged infrastructure and destroyed much of the town of Kobani, 70% of which had been destroyed! [13] Even one favorable article in The Atlantic in October 2016 stated that since the siege ended, “reconstruction has barely begun to compensate for the havoc wrought on the city by both ISIS artillery and coalition airstrikes…Herculean efforts have cleared the streets, but water and power have yet to be restored. Although commerce is trickling back to life…more than half of the residential structures still standing are little more than blown out concrete shells. Yet the spirit of the people endures: Some now use defused ISIS rounds as ashtrays and flower pots.” A terrible sight indeed!

Dolack’s comment #18:

What the Syrian Kurds have created in the territory known as Rojava is a political system based on neighborhood communes and an economic system based on cooperatives. (“Rojava” is the Kurdish word for “west,” denoting that the Syrian portion of their traditional lands is “West Kurdistan.”) The inspiration for their system is Murray Bookchin’s concept of a federation of independent communities known as “libertarian municipalism” or “communalism.” But democratic confederalism is a syncretic philosophy, influenced by theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein, Benedict Anderson and Antonio Gramsci in addition to Mr. Bookchin but rooted in Kurdish history and culture.

My response: The way is framed is obviously a method for which we are supposed to cheer. Saying that their system is based on “Murray Bookchin’s concept of a federation of independent communities known as “libertarian municipalism” or “communalism”” is an indication to me that something rotten is going on. Bookchin was a dedicated anti-communist, who disliked Marxism, and thought that the best place to change “the structure of society” is at the municipal level, being a clear anarchist. To take from an article which is favorable to him in ROAR magazine, it states that Bookchin felt that capitalism’s fatal law was not exploitation of the proletariat, but “in its conflict with the natural environment,” while also advocating his idea of “libertarian municipalism” as the “key to making anarchism politically and socially relevant again,” with these ideas influencing Öcalan. Of course Bookchin was flattered, telling Ocalan in 2004: “My hope is that the Kurdish people will one day be able to establish a free, rational society that will allow their brilliance once again to flourish. They are fortunate indeed to have a leader of Mr. Öcalan’s talents to guide them,” basically endorsing the effort.

At the same time, it is a bit laughable to say that the philosophy of “Rojava,” if you can call it that, is “influenced by theorists such as Immanuel Wallerstein, Benedict Anderson and Antonio Gramsci in addition to Mr. Bookchin but rooted in Kurdish history and culture.” I say that because Wallerstein was a committed Marxist, who developed the world-systems theory (dividing of the world into the core, periphery, and semi-periphery) and Gramsci, as  I remember, defended the Soviet state as socialist. As for Benedict Anderson, this is the bourgeois scholar wrote his book, Imagined Communities, and may have mentioned capitalism in his works, but clearly is not a Marxist.  So,  with this, Dolack does not know what he is talking about, when it comes to this topic.

Dolack’s comment #19:

Political organization in Rojava consists of two parallel structures. The older and more established is the system of communes and councils, which are direct-participation bodies. The other structure, resembling a traditional government, is the Democratic-Autonomous Administration, which is more of a representative body, although one that includes seats for all parties and multiple social organizations.

My response: If we accept this at face value, it seems like a system which would engender  too much conflict. Would it not be better to have one structure rather than two? More than anything, it would seem that this would lead to utter confusion. As such, there is clearly hierarchy despite what that starry-eyed New York Times reporter thought in 2015. Additionally, this obscures the fact that “Rojava” has a proletariat and a bourgeoisie.

Dolack’s comment #20:

The commune is the basic unit of self-government, the base of the council system. A commune comprises the households of a few streets within a city or village, usually 30 to 400 households. Above the commune level are community people’s councils comprising a city neighborhood or a village. The next level up are the district councils, consisting of a city and surrounding villages. The top of the four levels is the People’s Council of West Kurdistan, which elects an executive body on which about three dozen people sit. The top level theoretically coordinates decisions for all of Rojava.

My response: Sure, we can praise  this approach, saying it pure democracy and that the People’s Council of West Kurdistan, “which elects an executive body on which about three dozen people sit…theoretically coordinates decisions for all of Rojava” but this ignores underlying problems in “Rojava.” For one, in the push for “equal political representation of all ethno-religious components” like Christians, Arabs, and Kurds, it resembles “sectarian quotas adopted in Lebanon and Iraq,” with questions arising how terms like “peoples and communities” are defined. As such, as argued by someone who is partial to “Rojava,” instance on such boundaries “betrays the libertarian transnational aspirations” and leads to a further contradiction from the “authority bestowed upon tribal leaders”! [14]

Dolack’s comment #21:

Integrated within the four-level council system are seven commissions — defense, economics, politics, civil society, free society, justice and ideology — and a women’s council. These committees and women’s councils exist at all four levels. In turn commissions at local levels coordinate their work with commissions in adjacent areas. There is also an additional commission, health, responsible for coordinating access to health care (regardless of ability to pay) and maintaining hospitals, in which medical professionals fully participate. Except for the women’s councils, all bodies have male and female co-leaders.

My response: I see how this system would seem attractive,  democratic, and progressive, including that “except for the women’s councils, all bodies have male and female co-leaders.” However, the PKK deals with dissent harshly, going against anyone who criticizes their beloved Ocalan. Additionally, while the PKK has renounced “demands for an independent Kurdistan,” it would be wrong to “ignore the ongoing military expansion of the territories controlled by the Kurds, whose outcome means the de facto fragmentation of Syria along new borders.” At the same time, as noted elsewhere in this piece, the charter of “Rojava” officially enshrines private property along with “a provision that safeguards the privileges of landowners, while encouraging them to invest in agricultural projects sponsored by the Rojava authorities” which hilariously runs counter to Bookchin’s views “on how libertarian municipalism is expected to replace private property.” [15] So much for their “philosophy”!

Dolack’s comment #22:

At least 40 percent of the attendees must be women in order for a commune decision to be binding. That quota reflects that women’s liberation is central to the Rojava project on the basis that the oppression of women at the hands of men has to be completely eliminated for any egalitarian society to be born. Manifestations of sexism, including male violence against women, have not magically disappeared. These may now be socially unacceptable, and more likely to be kept behind closed doors, but the system of women’s councils attached to the communes, and councils at higher levels, and the self-organization of women, has at a minimum put an end to the isolation that enabled the toleration of sexist behavior and allowed other social problems to fester.

My response: I can see why one would cheer this quota of women which must be present “in order for a commune decision to be binding” and you could say that “women’s liberation is central to the Rojava project.” However, the fact is that he has to admit that “manifestations of sexism, including male violence against women, have not magically disappeared” but that is now only “socially unacceptable, and more likely to be kept behind closed doors,” with women in this positions “at a minimum put an end to the isolation that enabled the toleration of sexist behavior and allowed other social problems to fester.” That seems utterly weak and pathetic. How is this really progress? It seems like one step forward and one step back at the same time.

Dolack’s comment #23:

A system of women’s houses provides spaces for women to discuss their issues. These centers also offer courses on computers, language, sewing, first aid, culture and art, as well as providing assistance against social sexism. As with peace committees that seek to find a solution rather than mete out punishments in adjudicating conflicts, the first approach when dealing with violence or other issues of sexism is to effect a change in behavior. One manifestation of putting these beliefs into action is the creation of women’s militias, which have played leading roles in battlefield victories over Islamic State.

My response: We can all clap and say this is feminist and all, even progressive by fining solutions to problems “rather than mete out punishments in adjudicating conflicts” and that “creating women’s militias” is affecting a change in behavior. This is easily countered by Andrea Glioti’s in-depth piece, which is a bit partial to “Rojava” where he notes that “militarisation of women and society at large is an alarming trend enforced through conscription and sanctioned by the social prestige enjoyed by the fighters’ families”! [16] He also says that women become worthy of respect “as long as they turn into men of arms and sacrifice themselves on the battlefield” and that while “some would defend this militarised system of values with the current need to defend Rojava…even minors…[are] forcibly enlisted to ensure the survival of a social utopia”! He further adds that European leftist solidarity groups, “cherry-picked the so-called Rojava revolution”and how they portrayed it in their media.

Dolack’s comment #24:

The basis of Rojava’s economy are cooperatives. The long-term goal is to establish an economy based on human need, environmentalism and equality, distinctly different from capitalism. Such an economy can hardly be established overnight, so although assistance is provided to cooperatives, which are rapidly increasing in number, private capital and markets still exist. Nor has any attempt to expropriate large private landholdings been attempted or contemplated.

My response: Despite the fact that this section of the article is titled “Building a cooperative economy based on human need” he interestingly begins to point out the limitations of “Rojava” which paradoxically begins to put into question if there is “socialism” or if this entity constitutes a “socialist experiment,” democratic and cooperative experiment and is “socialist, egalitarian” as he declared earlier in the article. If we are saying that the economy’s basis is “cooperatives” and that it has a long-term goal which is “an economy based on human need, environmentalism and equality” then why is the economy undeveloped enough to only have “assistance is provided to cooperatives” while “private capital and markets still exist.” Furthermore, why has there been no attempt to “expropriate large private landholdings”? What kind of socialists are they? The answer is they are clearly not socialist or radical, but are only seen that way.

Dolack’s comment #25:

Given the intentional under-development of the region under the Assad family régime, the resulting lack of industry and the civil-war inability to import machinery or much else, and the necessity of becoming as food self-sufficient as possible due to the blockade, Rojava’s cooperatives are primarily in the agricultural sector. There is also the necessity of reducing unemployment, and the organization of communes is seen as the speediest route to that social goal as well.

My response: On this count, I will not go with his claim that there was “intentional under-development of the region under the Assad family régime,” as he has not provided any sources to support that. Perhaps, there is a point that there is a “lack of industry and the civil-war inability to import machinery or much else,” and sure, it makes sense that in an effort to become “food self-sufficient” that the cooperatives of “Rojava” are “primarily in the agricultural sector.” And sure, reducing unemployment and “organization of communes” can be seem as important. However, this again obscures the fact that there is division in this society between the bourgeoisie, who are divided among their varied parties, and the proletariat, the masses within “Rojava.” The fact that class is not incorporated into his analysis, corrupts the whole article itself, making it like glass changing temperatures too fast: it develops cracks.

Dolack’s comment #26:

The practitioners of democratic confederalism say they reject both capitalism and the Soviet model of state ownership. They say they represent a third way, embodied in the idea that self-management in the workplace goes with self-management in politics and administration. Since their liberation from the highly repressive Assad régime, Rojava agriculture has become far more diversified, and price controls were imposed.

My response:  You can say it is good that they reject capitalism, but it is dangerous that they reject the “Soviet model of state ownership,” as such a model could actually help them. Instead, they declare they want “self-management in the workplace goes with self-management in politics and administration” which seems like a situation which is bound for conflict and division which makes unification hard to come by. Once again, he has to just imperialist rhetoric to talk about “liberation from the highly repressive Assad régime.” Even, taking his words at face value again, the agriculture of “Rojava” has diversified and price controls have been imposed, these are utter reforms, something that could be expected of a social democratic government in Europe, not a socialist government, to be completely frank.

Dolack’s comment #27:

Cooperative enterprises are not intended to be competitive against one another. Cooperatives are required to be connected to the council system; independence is not allowed. Cooperatives work through the economics commissions to meet social need and in many cases their leadership is elected by the communes. The intention is to form cooperatives in all sectors of the economy. But basic necessities such as water, land and energy are intended to be fully socialized, with some arguing that these should be made available free of charge. Because the economy will retain some capitalist elements for some time, safeguards are seen as necessary to ensure that cooperatives don’t become too large and begin to behave like private enterprises.

My response: You can say that they are not intended to be competitive, but they will still participate in the global capitalist system anyway. And sure, there can be an intention to “form cooperatives in all sectors of the economy.” However, if basic necessities are not yet “fully socialized,” or “made available free of charge” which only “some” want, this again raises the question as to how “radical” this whole project is. Most laughable of all is the fact “the economy will retain some capitalist elements for some time,” leading to safeguards “to ensure that cooperatives don’t become too large and begin to behave like private enterprises.” Again, like most of these comments about Rojava’s social structure, I am taking this at face value, and saying that if this is the case, it sounds like something a social-democrat-imperialist like Bernie Sanders would want rather than a real socialist.

Dolack’s comment #28:

We need not indulge in hagiography. There are, naturally, problems and contradictions. Private ownership of the means of production is enshrined in documents espousing socialism and equality, and large private landholdings, with attendant social relations, will be untouched. It is hardly reasonable to expect that a brand new economy can be established overnight, much less in a region forced to divert resources to military defense. Nonetheless, capitalists expect as much profit as can be squeezed out of their operations, an expectation decidedly at odds with goals of “equality and environmental sustainability.” In essence, what is being created is a mixed economy, and the history of mixed economies is fraught with difficulties. Another issue is that Rojava’s authorities, connected with the dominant Democratic Union Party (PYD), can be heavy-handed, including the closing of the offices of the opposition Kurdish National Council on questionable legal grounds.

My response: I found this section very interesting. Dolack is admitting that “Rojava” enshrines “private ownership of the means of production…in documents espousing socialism and equality” and that “large private landholdings, with attendant social relations, will be untouched”! Golly, even the Soviets during the New Economic Policy (NEP) wouldn’t have allowed that. Sure, he makes a good point that “it is hardly reasonable to expect that a brand new economy can be established overnight,” but they have had since 2012 to tinker with the economy of the region, if they wished (although they are blatantly violating the sovereignty of Syria), yet, they still do not have a socialist economy. He even says that what is being created “is a mixed economy, and the history of mixed economies is fraught with difficulties” and that “Rojava’s authorities…can be heavy-handed, including the closing of the offices of the opposition Kurdish National Council on questionable legal grounds”! So, how are they democratic or socialist again? I just don’t understand how they are socialist or democratic when this is going on. Dolack wouldn’t recognize that  as  he is not a Marxist and as such, any analysis of class goes by the wayside as he tries to hammer his point that “Rojava” is good and you should smile.

Dolack’s comment #29:

Nonetheless, what is being created in northern Syria is a remarkable experiment in economic and political democracy — not only Kurds but other minority groups and Arabs consciously working toward socialism. Why shouldn’t this be supported? The authors of the book Revolution in Rojava, supporters of the project and one of whom fought in the women’s militia, argue that the idea that Rojava’s acceptance of Western aid is a “betrayal” is “naïve,” drawing parallels with Republican Spain of the 1930s. Describing Rojava as an “anti-fascist project,” they note that the capitalist West turned its back on the Spanish Revolution, allowing fascism to triumph.

My response: If this is an experiment, then it has to be a “test or trial of something,” being a process or action undertaken to “discover something not yet known or to demonstrate something known,” to use the definition from the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College  Dictionary. It can also be any “action or  process designed to find out whether something is effective, workable, valid, etc.” If it is remarkable, then it must be unusual or extraordinary, meaning it must be something that is not usual or common, rare, not very usual, or “exceptional” to use definitions of all three words from the same dictionary. If this is all true, and it is “a remarkable experiment in economic and political democracy” then why is it promoted in the main capitalist media like the New York Times (see “The Kurds’ Democratic Experiment”), Financial Times (see Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy”.), Yahoo (see “Syrian Kurds give women equal rights, snubbing jihadists”), Foreign Affairs (see “The Rojava Model”), The Atlantic (see “What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought. The radical, unlikely, democratic experiment in northern Syria”), The Guardian (see “Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?”), Slate (see “Regaining hope in Rojava” and “American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava”), U$ government-owned media like Voice of America (see “Writings of Obscure American Leftist Drive Kurdish Forces in Syria”), and two-bit publications  like Dissent (see “The Revolution in Rojava”), OpenDemocracy (“The Rojava revolution”), and Unicorn Riot (see “Building Autonomy through Ecology in Rojava”)? Due to such promotion, it makes sense to be skeptical of his claims. To then compare “Rojava” to those fighting Spanish fascism is an utter joke, as that means that if they are “anti-fascist” then who are  the fascists? The Turks? The Syrians? The Iraqis? The Iranians? Daesh? Using a term like fascist further muddies the waters.

Dolack’s comment #30:

In the forward to the same book, David Graeber, careful to differentiate the targets of his critique from those who oppose the global dominance of North American militarism, argues…It does seem quite reasonable to hope for a socialist experiment to avoid being destroyed by Islamic State fascism, Turkish ultra-nationalism or Syrian absolutism rather than clinging to dogmatism.

My response: When I see the name David Graeber, a red alert siren goes off in my head, as I know he is the one has sneered at Syria’s government, and has been called by those on Twitter, for his horribleness, “Anarchy Dad.” And, of course, I am blocked by him. Before getting to this quote, I’d like to talk about the quote of Graeber’s that Dolack uses. In this quote Graeber sneers at those who have the “feeling that foiling imperial designs — or avoiding any appearance of even appearing to be on the ‘same side’ as an imperialist in any context — should always take priority over anything else,” showing that he, fundamentally, does not understand international solidarity. Also, it is an evident straw man he constructed on his own, allowing him to declare that this attitude, he manufactured only in his head, “only makes sense if you’ve secretly decided that real revolutions are impossible,” saying that “a genuine popular revolution” is occurring in “Rojava” which should be “success could be a beacon and example to the world.” Graeber sneer continues at “a bunch of white intellectuals” who don’t want to “sully the purity of their reputations by suggesting that US imperial forces already conducting airstrikes in the region might wish to direct their attention to the fascists’ tanks” because they don’t take the position he wants. What “world” is he talking about? The  capitalist world? Because they will accept these Kurds with open arms if they serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. The phrasing of this makes me even more wary.

Now onto Dolack’s comment. He claims that Graeber is “careful to differentiate the targets of his critique from those who oppose the global dominance of North American militarism,” although I would say he is sloppy and nasty, not careful! Clearly, Dolack does not know what the world careful means, something which I do not need to define. Of course, in the last sentence, Dolack is optimistic in hoping that “Rojava,” which he still claims is a “socialist experiment,” may be able to “avoid being destroyed by Islamic State fascism, Turkish ultra-nationalism or Syrian absolutism rather than clinging to dogmatism.” This jumble of words shows his utter confusion. Sure, Daesh is terrible, but it could be a step too far to call them fascist. I would just call them religious reactionaries at the very least. As for the Turks, I would call them neo-Ottoman marauders. As for the Syrians, I would call them a progressive force that is nationalist, with a bourgeoisie which is currently taking an anti-imperialist position.


Notes

[1] Tim Arango,”Sinjar Victory Bolsters Kurds, but Could Further Alienate U.S. From Iraq,” New York  Times, Nov 13, 2015; Morgan L. Kaplan, “Why the U.S. backed the Kurds,” Washington Post, September 9, 2014.

[2] Zach Beauchamp, “America’s Kurdish problem: today’s allies against ISIS are tomorrow’s headache,” Vox, Apr 8, 2016.

[3] Stephen Zunes, “The United States and the Kurds,” Common Dreams, Oct 26, 2007.

[4] As an article in Foreign Policy noted, “by 1988, U.S. intelligence was flowing freely to Hussein’s military. That March, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq.” I mentioned this on Twitter, asking “So much for the U$ as “allies” of the Kurds. Did the SDF, PYD, and others not remember this?” That is still a valid question.

[5] Yet, the U$ criticized MEK for “helping Saddam brutally put down a Kurdish rebellion in the early 1990s, and of launching numerous attacks inside Iran.”

[6] Joost Hiltermann, “They were expendable,” London Review of Books, Nov 17, 2016. Reviewing Gibson’s book, summarized here. Also see William Safire’s “Mr. Ford’s Secret Sellout,” New York Times, Feb 5, 1976. Also see this analyzing U$ foreign policy and the Kurds from the 1950s to 1970s.

[7] Scott Peterson, “Kurds say Iraq’s attacks serve as a warning,” Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 2002;  Najmaldin Karim, “A 1991 Kurdish Betrayal Redux?,” Washington Post (opinion), Dec 2, 2006.

[8] Samuel Oakford, “They’re Still Pulling Bodies Out of ISIS’ Capital,” The Daily Beast, Mar 12, 2018.

[9] Halla Dayab, “All in the family: Building the Assad dynasty in Syria,” Al Arabiya English, Nov 28,2014; Anthony Shadid, “In Assad’s Syria, There Is No Imagination,”  PBS, Nov 8, 2011.

[10]  Annia Ciezadlo, “Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer,”The New Republic,Dec 19, 2013.

[11] Peter Beaumount, “No longer the pariah President,” The Guardian, Nov 15, 2008

[12] Anthony Shadid, “In Assad’s Syria, There Is No Imagination,”  PBS, Nov 8, 2011; Aron Lund, “Syria’s Phony Election: False Numbers and Real Victory,”Carnegie Middle EastCenter, Jun 9, 2014.

[13] Patrick Cockburn, “Isis in Kobani: US resupplies Kurdish fighters by plane – then Turkey allows reinforcements through its border,” The Independent, Oct 20, 2014; “Syrian Kurds ‘drive Islamic State out of Kobane’,” BBC News, Jan 26, 2015; Liz Sly, “Syrian regime denounces Turkey for allowing foreign fighters to enter Kobane,” Washington Post,  Oct 30, 2014; Nick Palton Walsh, “Syrian town tries to rise from ashes after ISIS defeat,” CNN, May 5,  2015; Si Sheppard, “What the Syrian Kurds Have Wrought,” The Atlantic, Oct 25, 2016.

[14] Andrea Glioti, “Rojava: A libertarian myth under scrutiny,” Al Jazeera, Aug 5, 2016.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

The “Great White Hope” and the spread of U$ capitalist hegemony

As I continue to learn more about the world around me, becoming more a fire-breathing Marxist, by reading more Marxist theory and applying it to the world as it exists, I’ve been watching a number of new (and old) films, and listening to music, specifically the whole playlist of the Black rhythmical genius, Gil Scott-Heron, which I updated last year on my faltering YouTube channel. While I will write about control of information by social media outlets in this post, I will explain how films made by Hollyweird push forward a certain ideology, which fits with their evident collaboration with the CIA and the Pentagon, another form of their propaganda hoisted onto the masses. As fellow Marxist thinker Michael Parenti rightly put it in his book, Dirty Truths, “the mass media are class media,” although there is more at play than just that, in a time when “human rights” are distorted in the name of imperialism. In this post there are spoilers, but I doubt most readers people will watch these movies, apart from Sorry to Bother You. In order to fully address this topic, I have divided this article into seven sections:

And then we get to the first section of this article, which gives one a basis in Marxist theory, allowing for entrance into this topic at an informed position.

Hollyweird and cultural hegemony

Hollyweird, as conservatives and Gil Scott-Heron prominently call it, and its profit model fits right into Antonio Gramsci‘s conception of cultural hegemony. He argued that “organic” intellectuals organize relationships to benefit the dominant class (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat), trouncing the “traditional” intellectuals who hold a “long-time monopoly on religious ideology, bonded to schools, education, morality, and other societal values.” For both the bourgeoisie and proletariat, they choose specialized individuals who organize relationships to benefit their class, specifically consisting of “organic” and “traditional” intellectuals, with the former type often being nationalistic. Both types of intellectuals operate in what Gramsci called the two levels of society, also called the superstructure: civil society and political society, with the dominant group (either the bourgeoisie or proletariat) exercising hegemony over society and/or through the state, with their deputies, the intellectuals, trying to garner “spontaneous” consent given by the masses to the general direction the dominant group has “imposed on social life.” In my previous article on cultural hegemony, I argued that the producers of The Simpsons constituted organic intellectuals, as they are not those who “serve as organizers of “masses of men,” “confidence” in their business, consumers in their product, and so on.” This is because the latter group would constitute the so-called “captains of industry” or the  capitalists themselves, allowing PR people to serve as such organizers and gain “confidence” in their business (and brand). Rather, organic intellectuals enforce the hegemony of those above them, with a particular division of labor while the bourgeoisie dominates, subjugating and “liquidating” antagonistic views, with these intellectuals possibly coming from private associations. At the same time, the organic intellectuals of the proletariat can come from political parties or other institutions of a proletarian nature. Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, Kim Il Sung, Thomas Sankara, and many others, would be examples of such organic intellectuals in the annals of human history who have been on the side of the proletariat. However, there are likely no “traditional” intellectuals among the proletariat, as they mainly serve as clergy and other religious figures. As it stands today in our capitalist world, those who exercise the dominant ideology through social institutions, such as banks, universities, TV stations, newspapers, film studios, police departments, courts, prisons, legislatures, and private associations, to name a few, are the bourgeoisie, working to “socialize people to consent” to their dominance. This is done in order to ensure that the masses accept the “beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values and moral norms” of capitalism itself, keeping the bourgeoisie in power, in control.

You may ask, how does this relate to Hollyweird? Well, with producers in Hollyweird, whether in film, TV, or some other form of media, constituting “organic” intellectuals, they are cementing relationships which benefit the bourgeoisie and enforce capitalist hegemony. However, while Elon Musk can be called a visionary and a “thought leader,” he is just a capitalist out for the bottom line, not an “organic” intellectual. Those who are intellectuals, in this case, are the deputies of the bourgeoisie, not the bourgeoisie itself.

The “Great White Hope”: Looking at Back to the Future and Forrest Gump

Some recent films I have watched directly enforce this hegemony. The first one I will cover is the cult classic, Back to the Future, a 1985 sci-fi film directed by Robert Zemeckis, a Chicago-born White male who came to be known as a person who was “well attuned to the nuances of framing and camera movement…fluent and innovative in the visual language of the movies” or what IMDB calls a “whiz kid with special effects.” [1] However, Zemeckis would not be the “organic” intellectual, but rather the movie’s producer, Steven Spielberg would serve this role, although Zemeckis would later end up in this role as he was also a producer during his career, along with being a writer and editor at other points. The movie’s plot is simple: Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) is a White male 17-year-old who doesn’t care about high school, with the strict school administrator, Mr. Strickland (played by James Tolkan), hating his guts. He accidentally gets sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his friend, “mad scientist” Doc. Emmett Brown (played by Christopher Lloyd), a White guy who kinda looks like Bernie Sanders. The movie is racist almost from the start: the uranium Doc. Brown bought for his time machine is from “Libyan terrorists” whom he paints as a bunch of goofs, but shoot him down in front of Marty, in a mall. Later, when Marty travels back to 1985, after succeeding in his time traveling mission, the Libyans crash their minivan into a shack, which lights up in flames, killing both “Libyan terrorists.” This is talked about by the late Jack Shaheen (of Lebanese descent) in his wonderful book, Reel Bad Arabs, which was later turned into a short film. While I don’t remember exactly what he wrote in his entry for the movie, as I don’t have the book in front of me, I do remember him talking about this main racist element in the movie.  The dumb thing about this early onset racism in the movie as there is nothing which necessitates the “terrorists” be Libyan. They could have been angry, White men, just as easily! But, the producers and writers decided they should be Libyan, possibly because they were painted as “terrorists of the week” by the media,but also shows their inherent racism within their thinking.

This is compounded by the setting of the movie itself: a literal White person’s fantasy. There is only one prominent Black person in the whole film, Goldie Wilson, played by Donald Fullilove. [2] Everyone else is White, literally. When Marty goes back to 1955, it is worse: Goldie, who was the town’s mayor in 1985, is a janitor in a restaurant, ordered around by an angry White boss. Every other character is White. Basically, this means that Goldie is a token individual, made to make you think the town is diverse, when it is not at all, and is presumably in the Midwest. Not surprisingly, the audience is obviously supposed to sympathize with Marty, a sort of “down and out” individual who is middle-class, who is portrayed as “cool”  for riding a skateboard (and fashioning one in 1955), and playing an electric guitar. The rest of the movie goes on with Marty  bringing his parents back together and the “bad” White guy, Biff (played by Thomas F. Wilson) becoming a literal servant to Marty’s parents, who are much better off, in changed 1985. Women in the film are basically second fiddles to the men, either trying to woo them (or fall in love with). Lorraine, Marty’s mother (played by Lea Thompson) tries to do this when flirting with Marty after he messes with the timeline of his parent’s first meeting. Other women are apparently interested in “bad boys” like Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer (played by Claudia Wells), in 1985, or are just in the background. Basically, the film is a White male fantasy, plain and simple, almost nostalgic of the 1950s and arguably sexist in how it plays out, as women don’t seem to have any strong will, just succumbing to men. Is there any surprise that Ronald Reagan Raygun (as Gil Scott-Heron calls it), loved the movie, especially after the joke referring to him by Doc. Brown, and incorporated a nonsensical line from the movie into his 1986 State of the Union Address? I have a fondness for time travel, and that part of the movie is interesting, which may be part of the reason I like Futurama, the time-traveling episodes of The Simpsons, and other shows. Still, this does not distract from this movie’s message: a nostalgia for a repressive time, the 1950s, as a part of a White male adventure of absurdist proportions. After watching a series of videos on YouTube, along with the parodies of Back to the Future by Family Guy and American Dad, I see no reason to watch the other two movies in the series, which plan to be even dumber, and be, like this one, over-hyped. As Black hip-hop group Public Enemy says in their 1988 hit song, Don’t Believe the Hype, although they are talking about lies about Black people in the media.

Now, onto Forrest Gump, a 1994 film which was also directed by Zemeckis, but produced by Wendy Finerman (a White Jewish woman), Steve Tisch (a White  Jewish man), and Steve Starkey (a White man who often produces Zemeckis’s movies). Like Back to the Future, this is also “Great White Hope,” meaning that it is a White male fantasy. The movie follows one major character, Forrest Gump (played  by Tom Hanks), a middle-class White boy born in Louisiana, who tested below the IQ level, only getting into a public school after pleading by his mother (played by Sally Field). There is undoubted racism flowing through parts of the movie, like the fact that Forrest was named after Gen. Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the KKK. As for Forrest, he ends up going to college on a football scholarship at University of Alabama, then enlists in the Army in 1963, fighting in Vietnam before he is wounded and goes back home. Despite the previously mentioned bout of racism, Forrest does, while in the Army, become friends with Bubba Blue (played by Mykelti Williamson), a Black man who can apparently talk about nothing but shrimp, and dying in Vietnam. Forrest later forms a shrimping company with his former commander from Vietnam, Lt. Dan Taylor (played by Gary Sinese). On the one hand, the movie has the positive of criticizing the horrible IQ test, saying that it is not bad to be weird, and points to the physical horrors U$ soldiers who fought in Vietnam had to endure once home (evidenced by Lt. Dan, who is crippled and in a wheelchair). However, apart from the absurd putting of Forrest Gump into archival footage to make it seem like he was there, which takes up a number of scenes in the movie where he meets with at varied Presidents (such as Kennedy and Nixon), talk show hosts, and others. This is compounded by the ridiculous idea that Elvis got his moves from Forrest or that Forrest unintentionally revealed the Watergate scandal. Apart from this, there are a number of other problems.

For one, the movie has what I’ll call a Male Savior Complex. What I mean is that Forrest works to “save” Jenny Curran (played by Robin Wright), with Jenny seeming to be wild and out of control, having a rough life, while Forrest does well, going from being a football star (in college) to an Army Brat, then a ping-pong player, and the head of a shrimping business. Basically, Forrest goes from being middle-class to becoming a millionaire (after investing in Apple Computer), meaning that he is a capitalist by the end of the movie, who is also a “good” philanthropist. While Jenny resists him for much of the movie, leading her own life, she eventually gives up and marries him, perhaps symbolic of the “self-made” man (Forrest) triumphing over the “excesses” of the 1960s (Jenny). Clearly this shows that the film is sexist, falling into line with patriarchal and traditionalist values. Forrest basically preys on Jenny for much of the movie, trying to get her to “love him,” and that apparently works by the end, a disgusting turn of events. The film tries to get you to sympathize with former creep and rule follower Forrest, a White straight man who is strongly traditionalist in his action (and thinking), after Jenny dies, perhaps because she was “conquered” (as opposed to the dynamic in the Oliver Goldsmith’s play, She Stoops to Conquer), leaving Forrest and his son remaining.

There are a number of other problematic elements. While the movie shows the horror of the Vietnam war in that it is bloody and brutal, it does not seem to take an antiwar position like Apocalypse NowThin Red Line, Catch-22, Full Metal Jacket (in a unique way), Gallipoli (antiwar to an extent), and Platoon, to give a few examples. Also Forrest is completely obedient of all orders while in the Army, which Lt. Dan himself makes fun of after the war is over, and seems to genuinely love the U$ capitalist system, never taking any efforts to resist it whatsoever. There are other elements of the movie which I have not mentioned here, but the general idea put forward is that anyone can make it in the U$, even though this idea is utterly false since class mobility doesn’t really exist within the U$. As I said earlier, this a Great White Hope. What I mean is that it does not offer a diverse world as one that is held up as a positive. For a movie that is famous for phrases like “Run, Forrest Run!” and “Life is like a box of chocolates, you don’t know what you’ll get,” it is important to recognize its clear reactionary streak. This should be obvious to anyone as apart from the racism in certain parts, strong sexism, and nationalism, the peace movement is made fun of as an utter joke where people don’t know what they are saying. When Forrest speaks in front of them in a rally, he is still treated like a good symbol even though he is wearing his uniform with a Medal of Honor. This even turns Jenny, then a peacenik, on, for some reason, which doesn’t make much sense. Even worse is the scene about the Black Panther Party (BPP), which are treated as a bunch of male chauvinists who condone men hitting women to “discipline” them. There was undoubted problems with sexism within the BPP, but they did work to counter this, and stand against abuse of women, so the scene of him encountering a bunch of angry Black nationalists is an utter joke without question. That’s all I can remember for now. But, the movie is pretty terrible for all the reasons I have explained. As such, Forrest Gump undoubtedly spreads the capitalist ideology, yet more evidence of cultural hegemony.

Such sexism in the Forrest Gump and Back to the Future is not unique. Just take songs by the Beach Boys as one example. Sure, you could say some of them have good beats, but many are about a male urge for a new (or maintained) romantic relationship with girls like as exemplified in their songs “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann,” “Kokomo,” “I get around,” “God Only Knows,” and “Surfer Girls.” Also, the idea of a monogamous marriage is reinforced in some of those songs. In this, you could say the sexism is integrated into the songs in that it is all about male urge for something which, if woman don’t reciprocate as they are “supposed to” (by societal standards), it will lead to male anger, although that is not expressed in their songs. You could say this male urge is also sprinkled throughout early songs of The Beatles as well, while their later songs were more diverse in topics.

An antidote?: From Sorry to Bother You to Black Panther

This brings us to Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, a film which really blew me away in its wonderfulness. The film is strongly anti-capitalist, directly talking about exploitation of the proletariat, racism, sexism, and the like. The main character, Cassius “Cash” Green (played by Lakeith Stanfield), is a black man living in present-day Oakland who is renting a room with his uncle, and living with his girlfriend Detroit (played by Tessa Thompson), who works as a sign-twirler. In order to live there, Cash gets a job as a telemarketer for RegalView, where he learns to cultivate his “white voice,” which brings in the money, catapulting him to “power caller.” In the meantime, his fellow comrades (like Salvador “Sal” played by Jermaine Fowler, and varied others) who also work at the company, are trying to organize themselves against their horrible work situation. In almost an act of betrayal, Cash goes to a higher level, where Worry Free, a company which uses literal slave labor, is the main client. He is still a telemarketer, but he is selling capitalists (and governments) the use of WorryFree’s slave labor and weapons, with Langston (played by Danny Glover), a black man with one eyepiece, looking a bit like the monopoly man, as his mentor of sorts. While Cash rises to this level, the workers are striking in front of the building every day, with police having to literally club them out-of-the-way so Cash and other “power callers” can get to work. Undoubtedly, this causes strain and Cash and Detroit’s relationship, leading Detroit to stand up for herself and leave him. This is unlike Back to the Future or Forrest Gump, which are sexist for reasons I have previously explained, a positive to say the least. Detroit does end up going out with the union organizer, Squeeze (played by Steven Yeun) and while she and Cash do come back together, the fact that she drew a line in the sand, standing up for herself in such a manner, is undoubtedly feminist, bucking the general trend of Hollyweird. It is no coincidence that Detroit is most radical throughout, as part of The Left Eye, a group graffiting WorryFree’s posters. This is despite some complaining that the film does not pass the Bechtel Test, when a “feminist piece of media must…have at least two women in it, who…talk to each other, about…something other than a man.” Even through this film does not pass this test, it does not mean it cannot still be a strong and powerful, worthy of praise, despite this shortcoming.

As the film goes into its last stretch, when Cash goes to a party hosted by Steve Lift, the CEO of WorryFree, the capitalist plan is revealed: to turn workers into half horse, half people hybrids (called “equisapiens”) which will be more obedient, by having them snort something that looks like cocaine but is not cocaine. Cash is chosen to as what Lift calls a deceptive “Martin Luther King” of these hybrids who will keep them in line. More likely, Cash would mirror the role of Curtis, a White man, in Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer, who leads the people in a rebellion on the train which turns out to be a ruling class mechanism of population control. That movie is touted as anti-capitalist by some, and while class is a major factor of the movie, it falls short just like Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which features a story of capitalists who live in a bubble outside Earth while the masses suffer on the decaying Earth below. Back to the film. Cash is disgusted by Lift’s creation of these beings, but Lift says it just standard capitalist practice. After he leaves his phone behind at Lift’s McMansion, which records equisapiens being abused by Lift, he shares this video on reality show and other networks…but it just ends up with WorryFree’s stock rising! With all seeming to be lost, the union of workers makes one last stand in front of RegalView, with Cash calling on the equisapiens to help as the police beat up the protesters, with these beings freeing Cash and his comrades Squeeze and Sal. With this victory, it seems that everything has returned to normal, with the capitalists suffering this defeat, but Cash turns into a equisapien. He, in the credits, leads a group of equisapiens to Lift’s McMansion, telling him the phrase of “sorry to bother you” used in his telemarketing, attacking Lift to get revenge for the horribleness he has brought upon the world.

In this way, Sorry to Bother You is optimistic about fighting capitalism, having no White savior models or anything like that. As such, the film’s producers, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy, Charles D. King, George Rush, and Forrest Whitaker, can be said to be organic intellectuals. While they are not serving as deputies who are pushing capitalist ideology on the masses, they are not necessarily from the proletariat either. The movie, which has garnered $17.5 million as of October 11th, has made a profit of about 547%, as the budget for production was only about $3.2 million! Hence, as such, it is still a capitalist product which was distributed by capitalist Larry Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures domestically. Comcast’s Universal Pictures (due to the fact the Universal’s direct owner, NBCUniversal is owned by Comcast) and a Universal Pictures’ subsidiary Focus Features distributed it internationally. Still, the film clearly bucks the overall capitalist ideology, going beyond a criticism just of the orange menace, but of the system as a whole, even talking about the idea of false consciousness throughout. One could say the same of a film like Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, which lost money. As a summary, in that film, the main character, Allie Fox (played by Harrison Ford) criticizes consumerism and believes a nuclear war is imminent, brings his family to Belize, where they try to create a utopian civilization based around an ice machine he builds, but this is later destroyed and his family is basically left destitute, traveling on a boat through the jungle. There is much more than that, but this is still a good summary starting point. Additionally, a film like V for Vendetta, critical to an extent of the current capitalist system, was distributed by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of WarnerMedia, which has been owned by AT&T since earlier this year.

A discussion of Sorry to Bother You connects to two other films this year which prominently feature Black characters: Black Panther and Blackkklansman. The first film has been broadly seen by Black people as a positive and praised as being “progressive.” If we count up the amount of money needed to produce the film ($200 million) plus that which it cost to market it ($150 million), especially in the U$ but also in “certain western Euro markets like Italy, Spain, Germany, and over in Japan,” the film made a total 384% profit, considering that it grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide. Now, this film, has been praised as having “a story that has far more going for it than branding” with “groovy women and Afrofuturist flourishes,” “the first film in the Marvel cinematic universe to center on a superhero of color,” a movie with “a proud Afrocentric twist, featuring a nearly all-black cast” and celebrates “Black Power…in such a mainstream fashion,” and has a broader message. [3] Others call it an “epic that somehow manages to simultaneously be a comic-book blockbuster, a pulsating espionage thriller and an Afro-futurist family saga,” that the film draws “on elements from African history and tribal culture, as well as contemporary and forward-looking flourishes,” and a “rousing Afrofuturistic adventure” which “blow[s] you away with thunderous effects and also tackle ethnic and gender issues, crush racial stereotypes, celebrate women and condemn Trump-era notions of exclusionism.” Beyond that, Time claimed the movie had “revolutionary power,” Carvell Wallace called it a “defining moment” for Blacks in the U$ while reactionary leftist Shaun King called it an important “cultural moment,” historians said it taps into 500 years of Black history, while it got other praise as a “cultural touchstone,” is “revolutionary” somehow, with viewing parties for the film supported by celebrities here, there and everywhere as noted in The Root, The Guardian, and EW.

Not surprisingly, the hype about this film is totally wrong. There have already been questions about if the film is Islamophobic, with others saying Black resistance is liberalized to comfort White people and that the film is plainly counter-revolutionary. These perspectives are not wrong. The film not only adheres to “at least some dubious Hollywood conventions,” as stated by the New York Times, but it is “still a superhero movie,” as stated by Variety, a movie which “never veers beyond the most conventional contours of modern-day movie action,” as admitted by the Washington Post. Should it be any surprise that the film centers on a “militaristic monarchy” called Wakanda, which people claim is “fair and democratic,” which is a faulty statement without question. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report put it well: the movie focuses a “black royal family” and doesn’t show “real people the power they have over the real world.” Christopher Lebron adds to this, writing that the movie

…depends on a shocking devaluation of black American men…N’Jobu…soon understands that his people have the power to help all black people, and he plots to develop weapons using vibranium to even the odds for black Americans…[but] T’Chaka, however, insists N’Jobu has betrayed the people of Wakanda. He has no intention of helping any black people anywhere; for him and most Wakandans, it is Wakanda First…[not having] a vision of global black solidarity…[and using] Wakanda’s privilege to emancipate all black people…[the] contest between T’Challa and Killmonger that can only be read one way: in a world marked by racism, a man of African nobility must fight his own blood relative whose goal is the global liberation of blacks…A white man who trades in secrets and deception [the CIA man] is given a better turn than a black man whose father was murdered by his own family and who is left by family and nation to languish in poverty. That’s racist…Perhaps Killmonger’s main dream to free black people everywhere decisively earns him the fate of death…Black Panther is a movie about black empowerment in which the only redeemed blacks are African nobles…Black Panther is not the movie we deserve.

Abdul Alkalimat adds to this in his review, writing that the film is a “replay of the conflict of the 1960s between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism, the US organization of Karenga and the Panthers of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale” with the king of Wakanda, cultural nationalist, being friends with the CIA, while the revolutionary is a “sort of gangster living a Fanonian fantasy that violence will change the world. He too is the son of a member of the royal family.” He adds that the film is a “commercial hodgepodge of references to other popular films,” ranging from James Bond, Star Wars, the Hobbit, Fast and Furious, and Stargate, concluding by saying that “a movie like this has the bait to pull us in like fish about to be hooked by the system…This film is dangerous and we must be vigilant against culture used to control and oppress.” Paul Street can have the final word here. He argues that the movie is “stealth ruling-class propaganda,” as part of the manufacture of consent by Hollyweird and the broad entertainment media  in the U$, because for one, Wakanda is “run by smart, warm, attractive, and benevolent Black royals” but is not a democracy but a hereditary monarchy which is “wedded to absolutism, aristocracy, and tribalism,” with everyday people being “backdrops at best.” He further adds that while “Wakanda could have used its great power to help Black Africa and the Black diaspora abroad,” they decided to keep “the country hidden behind its cloaking devices, keeping the wonders of a vibranium-enriched life…for itself.” The article goes onto say that  since Killmonger (T’Chaka’s cousin) is from Oakland, the script writers undoubtedly knew about the Black Panthers, a person who wants to “turn Wakanda into an open revolutionary agent of Black liberation by all means necessary” and export revolution (Street says like Che Guevara and Trotsky, but Trotsky never did this), but that he has “become every bit as evil as – the amoral equivalent of – the racist oppressors he hates.” This means that there are “no warm, attractive, and inspiring advocates of Black pan-African revolution…only the cold and repellent Killmonger,” meaning that this movie is another “Hollywood update of white America’s longstanding distinction between the good Black and the bad Black” with good Black pursuing “moderate ends in dignified and polite ways” and the bad Black “angry, violent, and undignified,” wanting to “wage war on the white oppressors.” In the case of he movie, T’Challa is equivalent to “Booker T. Washington, Sidney Poitier, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Eric Holder, and…Barack Obama” while Killmonger is equivalent to “Toussaint Louverture, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Bigger Thomas, Malcolm X, Jeremiah Wright, Huey Newton, and the nightly urban crime reports all wrapped up together.” Not surprisingly is that T’Challa gets the “kindly white veteran CIA agent named Everett K. Ross,” which means the movie falsely portrays the CIA as a “friend of an independent and strong African state,” with the movie (despite some exceptions), absurdly portrays the “white senior CIA agent as a friend of an independently developing and autonomous Black African state.” The movie ends with saying global capitalism is good with the “CIA agent smiling as he watches his friend T’Challa tell the United Nations that Wakanda is joining the international community,” and then a teaser “after the full credits, when we see a forgotten white Marvel superhero…emerge from a Wakandan hut.” His article ends by asking: “Did you expect something different and more radical from Hollywood? Why?” He is right to ask this.

The movie also has another purpose: to connect with other superhero movies, getting people hooked another one of Marvel’s Hollywoodized comics. That was the goal of a movies like Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Ironman, X-Men, and Hulk, and many others. [4] Once everyone is introduced in their own specific movies, then they can make movies where all of them fight together against a “common” enemy. Yet another product which is spread to the masses which reinforces capitalist ideology.

Spike Lee, “respectable” Black politics, and capitalist ideology

With this, it is worth talking about Blackkklansman. A good starting point is Boots Riley’s well-thought criticism of the movie, engaging in what he calls a “political critique of the content of and timing of the film,” even though Spike Lee hugely influenced him and he holds the latter “in highest respect as a filmmaker.” He even says that having a story not being true is not necessarily a problem it is “being pushed as a true story and…its untrue elements that make a cop a hero against racism” with false parts trying “to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression.” He goes on to write that the

…real Ron Stallworth infiltrated a Black radical organization for 3 years….where he did what all papers from the FBI’s…COINTELPRO…[working to] sabotage a Black radical organization whose intent had to do with at the very least fighting racist oppression…Ron Stallworth was part of COINTELPRO. COINTELPRO’s objectives were to destroy radical organizations, especially Black radical organizations…when White Supremacist organizations were infiltrated by the FBI and the cops, it was not to disrupt them…It was to use them to threaten and/or physically attack radical organizations…There was no bombing that Stallworth or the police thwarted…That was made up for the movie to make the police seem like heroes. There was no cop that got recorded and/or arrested due to saying things at a bar while drunk about how he’s ok with shooting Black folks…This was put in the movie to make Ron and the rest of the police look like they were interested in fighting racism, like they don’t all protect whatever racist and abusive cops are in there. This is a scene where the whole police force…work together with the fictional Black radical love interest to set the one racist cop up. Never happened…His partner that did the physical infiltration of the Klan was not Jewish and did not look Jewish to other people…If you really went up to Kwame Ture and asked him what we should do right now—as Ron Stallworth does in the film—he would have said what he usually said: “Study!!!” But, it made the Black radical group look more dangerous to have Ture say something that sounded like he was calling for armed insurrection…Ron Stallworth looks like a hero, and so does his partner and the police force…Everything else is simply unverifiable stuff that ex-cop Ron Stallworth wrote in his memoir…the radical girlfriend says that she’s not down with him being a cop, then Stallworth…says that he’s for the liberation of his people at the same time as being a cop. All the fake stuff we just showed him go through argues his point for him. And then they hear something, and go, guns drawn, to investigate. They go down the hall together with the signature Spike Lee dolly…Cops and the movement against racist oppression united. This is the penultimate shot before the film goes to news footage of current White Supremacist attacks…for Spike to come out with a movie where story points are fabricated in order to make Black cop and his counterparts look like allies in the fight against racism is really disappointing…Spike Lee’s, Chiraq, plays into that myth [of black-on-black violence], and how that myth is used against movements for social justice…By now, many folks now know that Spike Lee was paid over $200k to help in an ad campaign that was ‘I aimed at improving relations with minority communities. Whether it actually is or not, BlacKkKlansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign.

After reading this review, I think Boots Riley got it completely right. I did watch the movie myself and thought it was relatively good, but I think his criticism is completely valid. It really did positively portray the cops as “good” for fighting racial justice, specifically as those fighting White supremacists which was stopped by the “bad” police captain who made him destroy all the records. Stallworth is painted as the “hero” who revealed this story, keeping the records of the action. This is despite the fact that he literally participated in White supremacist meetings (via his White colleague) and did nothing to actually break up the group. Even if we accept the movie gospel, he stopped a bombing, but the group continued on. Additionally, while a few White supremacists were killed when the bomb went off in front of their car, they obviously recovered from this, with no effort to break-up the group. The connection to current events, with live-TV images of what happened in Charlottesville, the orange menace, and others, was obviously meant to relate it to the present. The cops were portrayed as positive and “revolutionary” which is an utter joke which doesn’t recognize the role of the cops. Does Spike Lee forget the nature of the cops in his other movie, Do the Right Thing, the nature of Black revolutionaries in Malcolm X, another movie he made? It seems he has, instead making absurdist movies like Blackkklansman and Chiraq, the latter which is like a Shakespearean play with militaristic themes and supposed feminism which reduces men to literally being only about sex, which is just not true as it doesn’t recognize the power they actually hold in society as a whole. The only positive of Blackkklansman is it does not have a white savior element which is shown in Free State of Jones (symbolized by a poor White farmer named  Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey) and Selma (symbolized by LBJ), Lincoln (symbolized by Lincoln), and a “respectable” Black man like Cecil Gaines (played by Forrest Whitaker) in The Butler. [4] The last of those films is one of the worst, including a scene where the Cecil’s son, Louis, becomes a Black Panther and he angrily denounces the BPP as being horrible. Sadly, Cecil’s other son, Charlie, dies in Vietnam, and Louis leaves the BPP after they become “violent.” Of course, Cecil, who worked in the White House as a butler from 1957 to the 1980s (from Eisenhower to Reagan), it is not until the end of his time there that he advocates for advancement and equal pay for the Black staff. He only resigns when Reagan doesn’t support sanctions against apartheid South Africa, not anytime before then, later joining an anti-apartheid protest, and of course, celebrating Obama’s victory in 2008. What else would you expect from someone as much into Black respectability politics, growing up as a “house negro” in his early life on a White plantation in Macon, Georgia, in the 1920s and 1930s, as him? His son, Louis, by contrast, is the one who joined the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) where he  engages in a sit-in at a segregated diner, goes on a freedom ride  in Birmingham, participates in the Birmingham Children’s Crusade in 1963, participates in the voting rights movement in Selma in 1965, and runs for a seat in Congress. This is while Cecil just stands by.

There a few other films I’d like to mention here, apart from 12 Years A Slave which is an interesting story to say the least. Spike Lee’s Blackklansman does not focus on race and class which abundantly clear in Fences (based off August Wilson’s novel), police brutality inherent in Fruitvale Station (even with its problems), and about anti-racist activism on campus in Dear White People (in the first season of the show and the movie of the same name). The last media is one of the most interesting, as it slaps racism right in the face, with much discussion about identity either through:

  • the Black rabble-rouser (symbolized by Samantha “Sam” White, played by Logan Browning)
  • the Black gay man who becomes a journalist of sorts (symbolized  by Lionel Higgins, played by DeRon Horton)
  • the respectable Black man who becomes student president (symbolized by Troy Fairbanks, played by Brandon B. Bell)
  • the White anti-“PC” student (symbolized by Kurt Fletcher, played by Kyle Gallner)
  • the White male “ally” [only in the TV show](symbolized by Gabe Mitchell, playedby John Patrick Amedori)
  • the resentful Black woman who wants to be “respected” (symbolized  by Collandrea “Coco” Conners, played by Antoinette Robertson)

And all the rest. I only say the first season and movie as those are the only ones I have watched presently. There are undoubtedly elements lacking, but the situation of a mostly White university which portrays itself as “diverse” is something which can be universally  recognized by many in U$ universities as a whole, so it has power in that way.

To sum up this section, Spike Lee is clearly, as it currently stands, serving his role within the framework of cultural hegemony that Gramsci outlines, perhaps serving as an organic intellectual, or even if not, as a conduit for spreading capitalist ideology to the masses which will weaken any efforts to make the world a better place, especially those who skew to more radical and revolutionary solutions, which are sorely needed.

Some comments on Paths of Glory, varied films, and animated sitcoms

The final film I will talk about in-depth here is Paths of Glory, a film where Kirk  Douglas plays a French general (and former lawyer) who defends three soldiers from “cowardice in the face of the enemy,” in an effort to save their (and fellow soldiers) lives from a fruitless charge across no-man’s land to their deaths. While the film is undoubtedly antiwar in that it shows the horror of war, the absurdness of a trial against these three individuals which is meant to just protect the commanders, and their eventual death by firing squad to restore “order.” The latter makes the film pessimistic as the war (in this case WWI) continues on, with the soldiers portrayed as sexist beasts (at the end of the film) toward a captured German woman, who are entranced by her when she begins to sing. At  the same time, it makes a point that following orders  is not always good, as those who didn’t follow orders and stayed in their trenches are saved from slaughter. The commander who ordered the charge to take “Ant Hill” which killed half of Douglas’s soldiers is sacked, but the person who sacked him  does not understand Douglas’s anger, offering him the sacked commander’s job. It is a film very different from other antiwar films, so it is unique in that way. It is unlikely a film like this would be made today.

There were some other movies I have watched recently like The Bullet Train, Woman Walks Ahead, The Syrian Bride, and Chappaquiddick. But, I can’t really say much on most of those. I will say that Woman Walks Ahead is a bit of a white savior story which obviously distorts history (once you look into the actual story). It makes one of the main characters, a white woman named Catherine Weldon, played by Jessica Chastain, out to be a goof when she was actually an advocate  for indigenous peoples. It also devalues all those who are said to be part of the Lakota people, rather than calling it the racist name of “Sioux” which was pinned  on them by the French, except for Sitting Bull (played by Michael Greyeyes), which could be said to be an unfortunate oversight, but it also yet another way to erase indigenous people and their fight against U$ imperialist killers, with Sam Rockwell, the stuckup colonel, Silas Grove, getting a prominent part. This, undoubtedly supports the dominant capitalist hegemony, with the producer and director, along with anyone below them, and the movie studio itself, complicit in this without a doubt.

Finally there are animated sitcoms, like South Park, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and The Simpsons, which was created by Matt Groening. As I have argued on this blog in the past, the latter animated sitcom has gone way downhill, so much so that it is a zombie form of its original self. The former show has done so as well, or perhaps it was always bad. I recently watched two recent episodes in the show’s 22nd Season (“The Problem with Poo” and “A Boy and a Priest”), to see if anything had changed. Of course, it hadn’t. The latter show involved a literal piece of shit (called “Mr. Hanky”) being pushed out of the town of South Park for his discriminatory sayings, then moving to Springfield, with a hashtag at the end of the show saying “#cancelthesimpsons.” Most commentaries I read on this seemed to take it as a joke, because Parker and Stone support “artistic” freedom or the bourgeois conception of “free speech” which mocks efforts to be “politically correct” or PC. As I understand it, efforts to be “PC” are meant to help disenfranchised and disempowered groups, but they are led by liberals, whom do not recognize the overall context of what they are doing. As such, the efforts are mainly rhetorical, not about changing structures of power and oppression, which is the main problem with “PC” efforts, as they currently stand, which can easily be integrated into the capitalist system.

Back to South Park. I personally feel that the call to “#cancelthesimpsons” is clear trolling because in the other episode I noted there (which happens to be the episode played the week before), a message flashes on-screen at the end of the episode saying “#cancelsouthpark,” which is apparently part of a sort of marketing campaign by Comedy Central and by the show itself. As such, the message in the first episode I talk about here cannot be taken as a serious effort to cancel The Simpsons. Rather, it is an act of camaraderie between shows that now both see themselves as anti-“PC,” although in very different ways, which is becoming the name of the game for a number of people in the same position and strongly trumpeted by those on the “right.”

Closing remarks

The cultural hegemony of capitalist ideology continues to permeate through our society, whether you watch animated sitcoms like Futurama, The Simpsons, or American Dad, watch a movie in a theater, or see an ad on a bus. [5] It cannot be escaped as much as we may see ourselves as “immune,” but it becomes part of our mind, as we recognize the corporate brands which populate the landscape and then begin to accept the state of the world as it stands today. There must be efforts to fight back against such an ideology, something  which doesn’t require uniting with the “right” as some have proposed. Rather it involves countering capitalist ideology wherever it stands, working to build a better and more fair world which is free from profit and decadence, without falling into the traps of those who  emphasize electoral contests like the DSA, Socialist Alternative, and the Berniecrats, putting those who do this on the road to revolution, standing with the proletariat across the world, regardless of what country they currently reside.


Notes

[1] David Kehr, “FILM; ‘Cast Away’ Director Defies Categorizing,” New York Times,Dec  17, 2000.

[2] According to IMDB’s listing, Henry David Waters, Jr., who played Martin Berry, seemed to be the only other actor of color in the whole movie.

[3] Manohla Dargis, “Review: ‘Black Panther’ Shakes Up the Marvel Universe,” New York Times, Feb 6, 2018; Peter Deburge, “Film Review: ‘Black Panther’,” Variety, Feb 6, 2018; Joe Morgenstern, “‘Black Panther’ Review: An Epic to Pounce On,” Wall Street Journal, Feb 12, 2018; Jimi Famurewa, “Black Panther Review,” EMPIRE, Feb 6, 2018; Ann Hornaday, “‘Black Panther’ is exhilarating, groundbreaking and more than worth the wait,” Washington Post, Feb 9, 2018; Peter Travers, “‘Black Panther’ Review: Marvel’s History-Making Superhero Movie’s a Masterpiece,” Rolling Stone, Feb 6, 2018.

[4] Free State of Jones, however, has its positives in that it follows the struggle for Black rights across a historical timeline from during the Civil War until afterwards into the Reconstruction, which few movies I’ve seen before have done. Despite the White savior element, this did introduce me to the real story, as noted by the Smithsonian:

…in Jones County, Mississippi…Newton Knight, a poor white farmer…led an extraordinary rebellion during the Civil War…[leading a] company of like-minded white men in southeast Mississippi…overthr[owing]…the Confederate authorities in Jones County and raised the United States flag over the county courthouse in Ellisville. The county was known as the Free State of Jones…After the Civil War, Knight took up with his grandfather’s former slave Rachel; they had five children together. Knight also fathered nine children with his white wife, Serena, and the two families lived in different houses on the same 160-acre farm. After he and Serena separated—they never divorced—Newt Knight caused a scandal that still reverberates by entering a common-law marriage with Rachel and proudly claiming their mixed-race children…The Knight Negroes, as these children were known, were shunned by whites and blacks alike. Unable to find marriage partners in the community, they started marrying their white cousins instead, with Newt’s encouragement. (Newt’s son Mat, for instance, married one of Rachel’s daughters by another man, and Newt’s daughter Molly married one of Rachel’s sons by another man.) An interracial community began to form near the small town of Soso, and continued to marry within itself…There was some very modest cotton production in the area, and a small slaveholding elite that included Newt Knight’s grandfather, but Jones County had fewer slaves than any other county in Mississippi, only 12 percent of its population. This, more than anything, explains its widespread disloyalty to the Confederacy, but there was also a surly, clannish independent spirit, and in Newt Knight, an extraordinarily steadfast and skillful leader…[Knight’s] views were not unusual in Jones County. Newt’s right-hand man, Jasper Collins, came from a big family of staunch Mississippi Unionists. He later named his son Ulysses Sherman Collins, after his two favorite Yankee generals, Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman…Although he was against secession, Knight voluntarily enlisted in the Confederate Army once the war began. We can only speculate about his reasons. He kept no diary and gave only one interview near the end of his life, to a New Orleans journalist named Meigs Frost. Knight said he’d enlisted with a group of local men to avoid being conscripted and then split up into different companies. But the leading scholar of the Knight-led rebellion, Victoria Bynum, author of The Free State of Jones, points out that Knight had enlisted, under no threat of conscription, a few months after the war began, in July 1861. She thinks he relished being a soldier…In October 1862, after the Confederate defeat at Corinth, Knight and many other Piney Woods men deserted from the Seventh Battalion of Mississippi Infantry. It wasn’t just the starvation rations, arrogant harebrained leadership and appalling carnage…Returning home, they found their wives struggling to keep up the farms and feed the children…In early 1863, Knight was captured for desertion and possibly tortured. Some scholars think he was pressed back into service for the Siege of Vicksburg, but there’s no solid evidence that he was there…On the night of October 5, Major McLemore was staying at his friend Amos Deason’s mansion in Ellisville, when someone—almost certainly Newt Knight—burst in and shot him to death. Soon afterward, there was a mass meeting of deserters from four Piney Woods counties. They organized themselves into a company called the Jones County Scouts and unanimously elected Knight as their captain. They vowed to resist capture, defy tax collectors, defend each other’s homes and farms, and do what they could to aid the Union…In March 1864, Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk informed Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, that Jones County was in “open rebellion” and that guerrilla fighters were “proclaiming themselves ‘Southern Yankees.’” They had crippled the tax collection system, seized and redistributed Confederate supplies, and killed and driven out Confederate officials and loyalists, not just in Jones County but all over southeast Mississippi…That spring was the high-water mark of the rebellion against the Rebels. Polk ordered two battle-hardened regiments into southeast Mississippi, under the command of Piney Woods native Col. Robert Lowry. With hanging ropes and packs of vicious, manhunting dogs, they subdued the surrounding counties and then moved into the Free State of Jones. Several of the Knight company were mangled by the dogs, and at least ten were hanged, but Lowry couldn’t catch Knight or the core group. They were deep in the swamps, being supplied with food and information by local sympathizers and slaves, most notably Rachel…After Lowry left, proclaiming victory, Knight and his men emerged from their hide-outs, and once again, began threatening Confederate officials and agents, burning bridges and destroying railroads to thwart the Rebel Army, and raiding food supplies intended for the troops. They fought their last skirmish at Sal’s Battery, also spelled Sallsbattery, on January 10, 1865, fighting off a combined force of cavalry and infantry. Three months later, the Confederacy fell…The third act of the film takes place in Mississippi after the Civil War. There was a phase during early Reconstruction when blacks could vote, and black officials were elected for the first time. Then former Confederates violently took back control of the state and implemented a kind of second slavery for African-Americans. Once again disenfranchised, and terrorized by the Klan, they were exploited through sharecropping and legally segregated…Ross thinks Knight’s character and beliefs are most clearly revealed by his actions after the war. He was hired by the Reconstruction government to free black children from white masters who were refusing to emancipate them…In 1876, Knight deeded 160 acres of land to Rachel, making her one of very few African-American landowners in Mississippi at that time…In the film, Marsh and Blaylock appear briefly in a courthouse scene. For the two of them, the Knight family saga has continued into the 20th century and beyond. Their cousin Davis Knight, who looked white and claimed to be white, was tried for the crime of miscegenation in 1948, after marrying a white woman. The trial was a study in Mississippian absurdity, paradox, contradiction and racial obsessiveness. A white man was convicted of being black; the conviction was overturned; he became legally white again.

[5] This could be expanded with idea from, as some would say by Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, but probably more powerfully through Michael Parenti’s Profit Pathology and Other Indecencies, The Culture Struggle, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News Media, and  Make-Believe Media: The Politics of Entertainment. I haven’t read any of those books yet, just Parenti’s God and His Demons, Superpatriotism, Democracy for the Few, and the Assassination of Julius Caesar. Parenti’s other books are: The Sword and the Dollar: Imperialism, Revolution, and the Arms Race, Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America, Against Empire, Dirty Truths, Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, America Besieged, History as Mystery, To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, The Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond, Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader, The Face of Imperialism, and Waiting for Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life, along with varied articles.

The Significance of Julia Salazar running as a “Socialist” Democrat

The following was reprinted from Dissident Voice. It is the first of the two-part article on the so-called “socialist” Julia Carmel Salazar. A version of this article before its editing by Dissident Voice has been published on the Internet Archive.

On September 13, Julia Carmel Salazar won the Democratic primary against Martin Dilan, becoming the State Senate candidate for North Brooklyn’s District 18 (shaped like a praying mantis). Apart from the many dark times in her life, especially her right-wing period between 2008 and 2014, covered in Part 2 of this article, there are many other factors revolving around her role as a “socialist” of the NYC-DSA running in a Democratic primary. This article aims to talk about those factors and the significance of her candidacy, with her almost-assured victory in November, beyond Ben Beckett’s hot takes in Jacobin that her victory on September 13 “felt good” and that she was “attacked” in her supposed effort to build a “policy base that a new voter self-identity can be anchored in.”

With some media outlets calling her a “Latina democratic socialist” (Gothamist), “young and Latina, poised and progressive, and a democratic socialist” (New York Times), or a “Jewish Latina democratic socialist candidate” heading a “burgeoning progressive Jewish revolution” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) who sits among the “young progressive women” Michelle Goldberg recently wrote about in the New York Times, there are undoubtedly many articles about her positions. These media outlets see her as more than a “jumped-up nobody running for a state senate seat in Brooklyn,” allowing her campaign to become a runaway national story. She is described as a “socialist” (or as some call it “suddenly socialist”) and a DSA member, calling herself “an advocate, a tenant, a feminist, a democratic socialist, a union member.” [1]

She stands for universal rent control, tech-utopism, ending vacancy decontrol, abolishing ICE, single-payer healthcare usually described as Medicare For All, ending cash bail, fixing the subway system (and mass transit), ending “policies aimed at eliminating mass incarceration,” money for affordable housing, free tuition at CUNY and SUNY schools, and immigrant rights, while favoring reproductive rights and unions. These are socially democratic positions which aren’t necessarily “socialist.” She also endorsed the call for BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions), which held by NYC-DSA, while criticizing the two-state solution. [2]

This position on Palestine is part of the reason for the negative articles in the Daily Mail, Forward, and the Tablet, most prominently, and was likely pushed by Zionist agents and perhaps the real estate industry, connected with her gender, as I have pointed on Twitter as a person who is critical of Salazar. Some, like Ryan Grim of the Intercept, Pierre Omidyar’s plaything, have said that after Salazar’s victory, “Big winners tonight appear to be: Tablet, Page Six and the Daily Mail, who get to keep writing about @SalazarSenate18 for the foreseeable future.” That has validity except it misses the significance of her candidacy.

As Salazar said at one point:

My vision is for a more caring society in which nobody is denied what they need to thrive based on income, on property, on capital. This is not what is going to happen the day I’m elected to the state Senate — that would be cool though. I’m realistic, but without that vision, this is pretty much a futile exercise.

This “cool” factor, where she says she would be “fine” if her victory led to “the end of capitalism” (which it obviously won’t), plays into the fact that her campaign headquarters in Bushwick sits near a “hipster” shop, with scores of volunteers (many of whom are DSA members) canvassing in “friendly political territory,” and receiving a huge amount of campaign donations after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another “socialist” running in the Democratic Party, endorsed her, while Radix Media printed her posters. As The Intercept even admitted: “Salazar’s road to Albany might be made easier by the same counterintuitive factor that helped propel Ocasio-Cortez to victory: gentrification,” with this being the case because “white transplants…tend to support Bernie Sanders-type universal programs.”

This reality was evident from The New Yorker’s photos of a victory party for Salazar on September 13 in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which included a smattering of people of color, but more white men and women than anything else. The New Yorker addressed this directly in their article, writing that “the crowd [there] whose arrival often heralds gentrification—the young bearded types at the party—had worked on the campaign…The hipsters who come to the neighborhood for the “right reasons,” as [Tasha] Van Auken [Salazar’s campaign manager] put it, are actually working to keep older residents safely in their homes.” At the same time a BuzzFeed article noted that the supporters of Salazar, “certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party…didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit,” meaning they were more like Salazar than they would admit off the bat.

This connects to what her former opponent, Dilan, called her: a gentrifier who recently moved into the area even though she opposes gentrification and she has lived in the same apartment in Bushwick for years. As one strident critic of Salazar put it recently, the campaign’s winning strategy was to target a gentrifying district, then use the “DSA as footsoldiers to turn out the white voters.” This effort, which reportedly included knocking on 100,000 doors, was a success in getting her elected, allowing her to integrate even more people into the faltering Democratic Party, which would make the head of the party smile even as they grumble about her viewpoints.

It is evident that Salazar is trying to portray herself as “hip,” with some saying that she “transformed, seemingly overnight, from an extreme right-wing Republican Right-To-Life Zionist zealot to a trendy BernieCrat. She needs to offer a plausible account of how this happened.” This is evident from the fact that she may be vegan (or perhaps vegetarian), tweeted a quote from Howard Zinn, is blocked on Twitter by Rosanne Barr, she has been called a “tattoo-wearing socialist” for her tattoo of a “large black and white rose” near her left shoulder and another of plane on her right arm which The Nation calls “a memento of her father, whose death when she was 18 “shaped [her] life,”” the look of her campaign headquarters, being interviewed by those of Chapo Trap House (a “leftist” podcast which almost verges on being anti-communist), and her long hair. It is also expressed through her “hot takes” on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, legalizing marijuana, misogyny, libertarians, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, and protest chants. With this, it is no surprise that the UAW has called her a “UAW sibling.” Also her reported “faith in humanity based on…the observation and the belief that as humans we don’t just operate selfishly, you know, that we can actually be in solidarity with one another, and not just with our people,” as she noted in a DSA podcast, it is part of this portrayal as well.

She also has garnered an unusual constituency for a politician which is “emerging as a force in electoral politics…because of the growing political threat against their industry”: prostitutes, whom many outlets like to call “sex workers” claiming that they are just like other workers, by supporting the decriminalization of prostitution and attending “sex worker advocacy meetings.” The Intercept even did a whole article on the subject, declaring that she is “shaping her policy by consulting the sex work community, is one of the first candidates to definitively support those workers, including by proposing concrete steps toward decriminalization. In that article, she told the reporter that “sex workers are workers and they deserve to be treated with dignity, including protections and decent working conditions, rather than the abuse and criminalization that they currently face. I’m dedicated to defending workers’ rights, reforming our criminal justice system and ending exploitation, and we know that criminalization puts everyone in sex work at risk rather than protecting them.” As a result, she stands against those feminists who are rightly critical of prostitution and rather with the so-called “sex worker lobby” which is probably the lobby for the sex industry.

This would be the case because those glad with Salazar’s position include Melissa Gira Grant (who doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of masculine social dominance” on her book on “sex work”) and the Red Umbrella Project (part of a group that is a front for pimps). Grant was so glad with Salazar’s position that she wrote an article in The Appeal, a project of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), which is an affiliate of the Tides Foundation, a major funder of bourgeois environmental groups, like 350.org, with Warren Buffet’s NoVo Foundation as one of the biggest funders of Tides. In her article, Grant declared, not surprisingly, that Salazar’s campaign has “provided a platform for sex workers to do some of that educational work [on prostitution], while offering a template for how the decriminalization fight could play out in other cities and states,” adding, in a joyful manner, that “her support for sex workers’ rights is unusual for a person running for office.”

As Matthew Maavak has written, “a civilization where women and children are sexually commoditized is one in terminal decline,” a thought which is connected to what Tanner Stenning has written: “if we’re to proceed in defending sex workers, let’s start by acknowledging at least this much: likeliest the vast majority would not choose sex work were the circumstances different.” This is further informed by what has been written in Feminist Current: that “prostitution endlessly erects the very patriarchal divisions between women that it allegedly destroys…As long as prostitution exists women and men will never be free from patriarchy,” that “under the narrative of “sex work” there can be no vulnerable person,” and that “pro-sex trade voices are…ubiquitous” to such an extent that the New York Times has done articles on the subject. The same publication also talked about the gentrification of prostitution, murders of prostitutes in New Zealand where prostitution has been decriminalized, certain people discounting rape of prostitutes, and trying to de-platform Chris Hedges for taking a strong anti-prostitution stand in his Truthdig columns.

While prostitutes have flocked to Salazar’s campaign, Trotskyists have endorsed her, with Socialist Alternative declaring that her campaign’s door knocking “is seen by many workers and youth as an important vehicle to fight back,” but adding that “many DSA members want to build mass movements outside the electoral arena…a broader struggle to transform the party,” while adding that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” Still, they support Salazar, saying her efforts are positive and are “generating support for many important issues that won’t be won without struggle…A Salazar victory will be a…clear indication of the growing momentum for socialist ideas.” Not so sure about that.

Additionally, the Brooklyn branch of the ISO (International Socialist Organization), a Trotskyist organization, also issued their support for Salazar, declaring their full support of her from “a nightmarish series of attacks…[a] steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right-wing media outlets” and urging those “progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background…to [not] equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us.” Apparently standing on the side of solidarity means to mimic her followers by not questioning her. Even Niles Niemuth of the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party, a candidate in Michigan, was quoted in the party’s website, the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as saying that:

The DSA, which is a faction of the Democratic Party, not an independent party, promotes the fiction that the interests of workers can be secured without a frontal attack on the domination and wealth of the corporate and financial elite. It advances the lie that workers can win their rights through the instrument of the Democratic Party—a right wing, pro-capitalist party.

On that point he may be right although Trotskyists have a distorted worldview which benefits the global bourgeoisie. Salazar may  use words like capitalism and capital, while calling herself a socialist and declaring that her campaign was something “revolutionary,” but she also has a progressive feel, with her website saying: “Julia is the leader we need to make New York City a safer, more just, more welcoming place for everyone” and saying that the “abolition of private property” is not “realistic.” While she seemed to differentiate “democratic socialism” and “progressivism,” in an interview for Jacobin, saying the former means “to have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of….a society in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need not just for basic survival but to thrive” and that the latter might “advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings,” her talk on the campaign trail, saying she speaks for the Latinx community, drawing strength from “the long history of Jewish social justice and Latinx social justice organizing” wants to make New York a “progressive beacon” or that she wants a “true blue New York,” that she is part of a “movement” winning over the “machine,” tells a different story.

It is doubtful that her ideas will “bring us closer to a truly socialist economic system,” as she claimed her campaign was part of, since, as In These Times writes, “democratic socialism itself has always been a heterodox term, encompassing everyone from ideological Trotskyists to New Deal Democrats.” They also note that “DSA isn’t keen to enforce a strict definition of “democratic socialism,”” possibly meaning everything from “taking public goods like healthcare off the private market…to worker-ownership of the means of production.” The DSA, with a chapter in NYC, also doesn’t want to play as a “spoiler in general elections” but would rather endorse “the most progressive candidates from other parties in primaries, while also running their own, further-to-the-left candidates in local Democratic races that are safely progressive.” Salazar can warn of ideas “becoming diluted when they leave the Left and enter the mainstream, province of politicians and political expediency,”  and even admit that “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.”

Still, she says that “it would be great if we could all avoid the Democratic Party line…but if I were to try to do that in this district, I highly doubt people would notice much less vote for a third-party candidate in the general election.” Yet wanting to be part of a “progressive wave,” being a person supposedly with “class politics and a materialist analysis,” will not get her the “socialist movement” that she claims she is part of. This is because she cannot be for a Bernie-style “political revolution” while being a “fiery progressive” who is still socialist and is building a “movement.” Talking in Bernie-like language will just end up with her followers, after her victory, being swallowed into the Democratic Party. This is evident by the fact that there is a fundraiser for her on Act Blue, which calls Salazar “a dedicated community leader running in the Democratic primary for New York State Senate…committed to running a campaign by and for the people, sustained by grassroots donations from supporters like you,” a Democratic PAC which is independent of the Democratic Party and is part of “blue” Democratic brand. This is even the case if the words were written by her campaign, as they also publicized their efforts as “all grassroots.” It is also doubtful that while her victory will make her supporters gleeful, it will not be a “victory for workers” as she declared in her victory speech on the night of September 13.

The numerous individuals and groups who have endorsed her seem to question how grassroots her campaign was, especially considering the number of out-of-state donors (35% of her donor base). Her website lists Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilman Jumaane Williams, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Working Families, New York Communities for Change, DSA, CWA, CODEPINK, Make the Road Action, Citizen Acton of New York, New York State Immigrant Action Fund, Carlina Rivera campaign, OUR Revolution, NYC DSA, NYC Kids PAC, New King Democrats, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network, New York Progressive Action Network, New York Professional Nurses Union, The Jewish Vote, Amplify Her, Streets PAC, Grassroots Action New York, Women of Color for Progress, UAW, and The People for Bernie as endorsing her campaign. Even, the Zionist Tablet has written that “Salazar’s election [victory] would be a breakthrough for the city’s Jewish left: proof that their institutions can become a pathway to formal political power, that anti-Zionist Jews can win high-profile elections, and that big things are possible when communities grow ravenous for some kind of change.”

She has also been supported by those from the ACLU, progressive “socialist” Lee J. Carter, Insurrection magazine (which she once published for in an article about virtual reality), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of socially-democratic Jacobin, progressive” Democrats like Cynthia Nixon and Zephyr Teachout, along with the typical support from Berniecrats and DSA people, Democratic honchos, uptight White liberals in suits and “socialists” like Benjamin Norton. Most worrisome is that Linda Sarsour is an active supporter of her (and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign as well) campaign. Sarsour is a Berniecrat once recognized as a “champion of change” by Obama’s admin, along with also smearing Syria’s government, calling for that government’s overthrow and saying it is oppressing Syrians. Sarsour also defended head-chopping Saudis (even if she doesn’t “support” them), acts like she critical of the Zionist state but made sure there were no BDS or anti-Zionist signs at the Women’s March in DC, and supports the Zionist state’s existence, making it clear she is not really what she claims to be. [3]

With all the distortions of Salazar’s personal message caused by her inconsistency, some progressives who would be prone to support her ideas have decided to not do so, like Dave Weigel. The Salazar campaign’s “voter protection teams” won’t protect them from this form of defection, with the same applying to their get-out-the-vote efforts, with the former organized perhaps because of expected voter suppression in the district which happened on September 13.

Before her victory, one article in Vox stated that “if she wins, it’ll be more evidence that socialists in general and the DSA in particular are forces to be reckoned within the Democratic Party. If she loses — well, then the DSA will be the socialists who couldn’t even win an election in Bushwick.” Her campaign positions were clear in a smoothly-made campaign ad (the production and creation which may have violated FEC regulations) by Means Production, an entertainment company, which is less than three minutes long. It includes a Reaganesque refrain that it is “morning again in Brooklyn” (repeated three times in the video) while the video itself, worryingly, declares her campaign will deliver “moral clarity” (or “common sense” as it is put elsewhere) but not “radical ideas.” Salazar herself also only gives unnamed “corporations” & the “real estate body” as the problem without even uttering the word capitalism in the video itself!

Wanting a “more caring society” does not make you socialist either, not because of some non-existent “purity test” but rather that any progressive could say the same exact thing. As one person in Left Voice asked:

Why couldn’t someone like Julia Salazar run as a socialist, putting the hundreds of DSA members who are canvassing into dialogue with those who are disillusioned with the two-party system? Why can’t the anti-establishment feeling be put in the service of joining a movement against the parties that have sold out the working class and oppressed them again and again? She may not win the election, but the DSA will have spread socialist ideas and about working class independence from capitalists. And besides, it’s not unheard of for an independent socialist to win an election.

Not sure why she didn’t go that route. Doesn’t seem right, as it would be better to build structures independent of the Democratic Party instead. Some may have a point that the DSA is currently being opportunist by allowing her in their ranks or claiming she is spouting a form of Zionism like Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, but there is more happening than that.

On a connected note, it is worth discussing the NYC-DSA. It is a chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a group declaring on its homepage that “working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few” but then just fights for “reforms that empower working people,” including decreasing the “influence of money in politics…empower[ing] ordinary people in workplaces and the economy [and] restructur[ing]…gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable,” followed by a broad “commitment to democracy.”  This may sound nice, but their “free, democratic and humane society” includes a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms” which sounds horrifying because the latter element means such a society would have capitalist elements!

On another page they declare that “the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few which changes in government and economic structures,” adding that they do not want “all-powerful government bureaucracy” and claiming that “worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives” would allow social ownership, while also favoring “as much decentralization as possible.” So, they aren’t bringing on the Soviet Union, even though they favor central-planning, which they also just call “democratic planning” which would include, you guessed it, “market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.”

The group then goes into the land of anti-communism, declaring that “socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states,” even saying that they “applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc,” despite the fact the countries are now worse off, and claiming they are also against “ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism.” Even worse, they favor government regulation, tax incentives, and unions to “control” corporations, while favoring a “combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work,” and using social democratic efforts in Sweden, Canada, France, the U$,and Nicaragua, as “examples” going forward! After they say that the DSA “must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses,” they support fighting within the Democratic Party, writing: “…many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing…The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts…We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.” What a disgusting set of words!

Finally, there is the page about their history, written by Joseph M. Schwartz (active in the DSA since the beginning), proclaiming that they “made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split.” It also says that they “helped popularize the vision of an ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to recently incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign,” even welcoming those who “believe in the possibility of independent electoral work inside or outside the Democratic Party ballot line.” This history shows that in 1972 their predecessor, with Michael Harrington (who believed that the Left could take over the Democratic Party) as a major figure, supported those in the ““new politics” left-liberals in the McGovern wing of the Democrats,” while in the later 1970s they supported a progressive “Democratic Agenda,” building progressive Democratic coalitions in the 1980s, founding the DSA in 1982.

The history then complained that “the collapse of communism in 1989 proved less of an immediate boon to democratic socialists than many of us had hoped. Those who had suffered in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union did not embrace socialism with a human face, but rushed headlong into the embrace of a mythic, free market capitalism.” They thought they would benefit from that? Jeez, they do not understand capitalism or the problem with the Soviet Union’s dissolution, which can be grasped even by those critical of the country, especially after 1956 when it entered its revisionist period.

The history continues on, saying that the group then called for a single-payer healthcare system in the early 1990s to counter the Clinton health plan, opposed Clinton’s welfare reform, opposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars early on, called for a “truly progressive tax system” in the early 2000s, joining the Occupy movement from day one, supporting Black Lives Matter, “and fighting against mass incarceration and for equitable urban public education” in more recent years. As an obvious tie into the Democratic Party, the history recalled “DSA’s decision in late 2014 to make its number one priority the movement to support Bernie Sanders running for president. DSA took the position that for maximum exposure and effectiveness, Sanders should not only run, but should run in the Democratic primaries,” even as they admitted that “Bernie’s New Deal or social democratic program did not fulfill the socialist aim of establishing worker and social ownership of the economy” but it apparently seemed “sufficiently radical and inspiring.”

And now they boast that they are “the largest socialist organization in the United States since the Communist Party before its implosion in 1956 after the [false and traitorous] Khrushchev revelations about Stalin” and then declare that “we also are committed to working in coalition with forces that oppose both right-wing rule and the dominant national corporate wing of the Democrats. We want to continue Sanders’ “political revolution” by broadening out that political trend to include a stronger base within the labor movement and, most importantly, among progressive organizations rooted in communities of color. If we take up those challenges, DSA may be able to sustain the most important socialist presence in U.S. politics since the Debsian Socialist era of 1900 to 1920.”

Once again, this positioning makes them the perfect sheepdogs for the Democratic Party, clearly as social democrats not as socialists which they call themselves, while they could very easily be using that same energy on building independent structures! Then, again, this is unlikely to happen as no Marxist theory is even mentioned on any of these pages at all, showing superficiality of their ideas. [4]

With this, we get back to NYC-DSA. It is currently an entirely member funded group that is run by more than 3,500 members, saying on its homepage that they are “socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships,” adding that they want to “work together to develop a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for achieving a transition to democratic socialism in America,” calling for people to help them build a better world. Another page on their website declares their further aims:

a society free of all oppression with a democratically-run, ecologically-sustainable economy…Our goal is a socialist world….A transformation on this scale will require socialist parties and powerful social movements. The goal of NYC-DSA is to move us closer to achieving this transformation…Campaigns for reforms that would improve working-class and oppressed people’s lives are key to our ability to organize this base…ultimately it will take a political revolution and massive social transformations to make the lasting changes we are fighting for…Socialists have learned through decades of fighting for reforms that the capitalist system serves the interests of the ruling class. It is designed to meet their needs and insulate their power from threats from below. Our strategy therefore is different from the liberal one. We work to organize millions of people into democratically-led movements that take militant action against bosses and politicians…We believe that the fundamental transformations we are seeking are in the broad interests of all working-class and oppressed people, and our work is focused on organizing among this base…We must pressure Democrats to obstruct Trump’s agenda. Mass demonstrations against Trump’s actions will also be a regular feature of the next few years…The prospects for winning reforms in the interest of working-class and oppressed people at the city-level would seem to be more promising…the city Democratic Party is divided into three factions, undermining its ability to pass progressive reforms…Because the mayoral and other citywide elections this year appear to be uncompetitive and none of the candidates present a strong progressive vision for the city, we should not take a position on these races. This frees us up to focus our electoral work on a few key City Council races. In general, after full discussion, we will support the most viable progressive candidate who will use their office as a ‘bully pulpit’ to help build social movements in NYC. We will especially look to find candidates willing to run as democratic socialists…It is critical that all of this work is done with an eye towards building an electoral apparatus — which includes fundraising, canvassing, research, and volunteers — independent of the Democratic Party and corporate money….As NYC-DSA we also call on the National Convention of DSA to vote to disaffiliate from the Socialist International (SI). The SI is not helping to build an international socialist movement — its member parties work around the world to roll back welfare states and impose austerity.

While this is a bit better than the DSA, it still falls into using the “Democratic Party line,” as Salazar called it. To recall what Salazar herself said, quoted earlier in this article: “the two-party system de facto disenfranchises people, and I can’t see the Democratic Party ultimately being a vessel for the democratic socialist revolution, so it would be silly and shortsighted for democratic socialists to put a lot of effort and resources into that project.” We then can recall what Jimmy Dore, a progressive comedian who recently declared that “if they play the national anthem at work & make you stand and salute, that’s not patriotism, that’s fascism. That’s what they do in North Korea” (which you could call liberal fascism) and who doesn’t like corporatists but voted for Obama twice (which is a conundrum), said about the Democrats (as he does often). He argued that they caused the repeal of Glass-Steagall, crash of the economy, banks to get bigger, cops to crack heads at Occupy protests, not stop unions from being taken away from teachers in Wisconsin, joined with the current U$ president and McConnell to fast-track lifetime appointments of judges, worked with GOP to deregulate Wall Street again and have the biggest Pentagon budget in U$ history (717 billion dollars), take fossil fuel money, and have a new DNC rule that to run as a candidate in the Democratic Party, head of DNC gets to decide whether the candidate is sufficiently loyal to the party.

He also said that Democrats have been in decline for decades, that superdelegates are still there but just don’t vote for the President in the first-round, that many people associate with Democrats because they are an “inferior good” and that there is “no way they will allow progressives to take over the party.” But ultimately Jimmy Dore and his guests stuck with the Democrats, while one admitted that progressive victories could be sapping energy that could be used to create a new political party, but another said” right now that is not an option,” echoing what Salazar said. It is this defeatist attitude which is part of the problem.

Ultimately there is one major problem with Salazar’s candidacy, as is the case with Ocasio-Cortez.  It sucks grassroots energy into electoral politics like a vacuum cleaner bringing in loads of dust. [5] The same could even be said of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, running as part of the Trotskyist Socialist Alternative grouping.

Specifically in the case of Salazar, Ocasio-Cortez, and many others, their energy would be sucked into the Democratic Party. Even Socialist Alternative, which endorsed Salazar, admitted this, declaring that “it’s essentially impossible to rip the Democratic Party as a whole from its corporate leadership. To win far-reaching change a new mass workers party will be needed.” This seems to be embodied within the Party of Communists – USA (PCUSA), which declares that “the Republican and Democratic Parties represent and work for the basic interests of capital, the large stock-holders of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler…The PCUSA proposes a realistic policy that is neither sectarian nor set in stone nor just latches on to the Democratic Machine.”

As such, it is clear that DSA does not fulfill this goal. Rather, they are sending more people to their spiritual deaths, not through spending “more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift” as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in 1967, as they will be swallowed into the Democratic machine just like that Futurama episode where a beast takes in people’s life essence, expanding its ego to absurdist proportions. Some can try to be “super” progressive within the Democratic Party, but eventually those people will crack sooner or later like Ocasio-Cortez did when she could not explain what the “occupation of Palestine” meant, later declaring that “I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I’m a proponent of the two state solution. For me, this is not a referendum on the state of Israel.”

No matter what happens to Salazar ultimately, whether she wins in November or not, her candidacy serves an ultimate purpose to the corporatist leadership of the Democratic Party: it keeps the party alive and breathing, allowing it to support rampant imperialism, the actions of the current U$ administration, and continue to shaft the proletariat, among reinforcing efforts to enact their capitalist ideology. As such, while one could, without much thought, praise Salazar for her reformist ideas, there should be a more determined effort to create structures and institutions which exist outside the two-party system, allowing for a focus on more productive endeavors than just participating in elections.


Notes

[1] Salazar defines socialism as about “fighting to build a society in which everybody can live in dignity and have the resources to live as equitably as possible [and to have] the resources that we need not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It’s about empowering workers as far as my own theory of change…empowering the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society.” She then told Teen Vogue that “being a democratic socialist means fighting to build a society in which everyone is cared for and has the resources that we need to not only to survive but to thrive in our society. It means that everybody will truly have autonomy and control over their own destinies. I think that part of the vision of fighting for a society in which everyone is able to thrive and has control of their own destiny means acknowledging gender inequality and patriarchy in our society. It requires working to dismantle patriarchy and to counteract gender inequality and fight for a society in which women and gender nonconforming people are no longer oppressed systemically.”

While that is nice, it doesn’t really sound “socialist” to me. The fourth edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it on page 1360 as “any of the various theories or systems of ownership and operation of the means of production by society or the community sharing the work and products” and as “the stage in society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist age, in which private ownership of the means of production and distribution have been eliminated.” The first definition is the one I’d like to focus on, rather than the second one as the U$ is still strongly in a capitalist society despite the goofs that say it is “post-capitalist.” Nothing about building a fairer society, which Salazar says she is for, is about moving toward society or the community owning the means of production. Cuba and the DPRK, arguably, rather than the revisionist triad (Laos, Vietnam, and China), fall within the second stage, but how much they do this is obviously up for debate.

[2] When interviewed on a DSA podcast, Salazar seemed to differentiate the societies of the U$ and the Zionist state, saying that “I think that both American and Israeli society are in crisis as a result of hyper-militarization of our societies, and our law enforcement, our government institutions that are ostensibly supposed to protect us. The effects are obviously felt vastly disproportionately by one part of population. And obviously in the US, it’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans and people of color, but most obviously Black Americans, and we know it’s rooted in a hideous legacy of slavery. Whereas in Israel and Palestine, it’s rooted in a history of inequality that’s been there since the establishment of the state. I see it as a product of having a hyper-militarized police force in a society that has been and often still is taught a pretty racist narrative.” While that has validity, the history of inequality has been there since the founding of the U$. This is a statement which is ignorant without question, not realizing the parallels between the two countries and the racist, sexist, and classist [I probably shouldn’t have used that word] history of the U$ since its founding, as a state, in 1783 and as an independent entity in 1776.

[3] See more of Sarsour’s tweets on “Syria,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” “Palestine,” “apartheid,” “Saudi Arabia,” with tweets on the Saudis acting like she is critical when she has defended them in the past.

[4] Some have argued that the DSA wants socialism but that “trying to transform the imperialist core through electoral means reflects a lack of theoretical understanding of what building socialism necessarily entails,” adding that the “lack of emphasis on decolonizing (which necessitates the complete destruction of the settler colonial state) shows little practical understanding of what socialism would look like once that building process kicks off.” That opinion has validity, although it still doesn’t seem that they want socialism, but rather want a form of social democracy instead!

[5] One Princeton historian, Matt Karp, who is friends with Salazar, wrote that “if there was anything individually notable about Julia’s run for office, it was the idea that an ordinary person could pick up the mantle to run for state senate, not based on a claim of spectacular virtue, but a commitment to represent the needs and values of the people in her district. Now we see what happens when an ordinary person — bound to the ordinary extraordinary complexities of a life lived outside the confines of a resume — challenges the power of a political elite.” While that has its validity, it also poses her as some progressive shining star on a hill, something she is definitely not, and ignores the real problem with her candidacy is not her personal story or her ideas, but what it means for the political landscape and the faltering Democratic Party, with the same applying to other progressives who run on the Democratic Party line to try and push the party “to the Left,” a task which is an utter waste of time.

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!

“A calamitous defeat”: Is “Kurdistan” a nation at all?

A map reprinted from an alternative website, which links to an article in Global Research saying that Washington sponsored the idea of a “Great Kurdistan.”

Note:  This article was written in late October 2017, so it is a bit dated. This article is the fourth of a four-part series, which never got published on Dissident Voice.

The previous article focused how Western imperialists have granted support to “Kurdistan” over the years. This article poses the question: is “Kurdistan” is a nation at all? This differs from previous analyses of the “Kurdish national question,” but I pursued my own course of analysis in writing this article and others in this series.

As was argued on /r/communism by one user, “from a Marxist-Leninist perspective they are not a nation, they are an ethnicity. To speak of “self determination” for them can only mean “ethnic self determination”, which is a Nazi belief, not a Marxist one.” This in line with users on the same forum agreeing that Kurds are co-operating with U$ imperialism while, at other times, there seemed to be disagreement on the subject.

It is not worth considering whether the referendum was “constitutional” or not, with the former argued by the KRG. Instead, let us consider the views of PRI’s interviewees on the referendum. Most, as is typical of bourgeois media, voiced support, speaking of the “will” for independence, saying that the Kurds “deserve” independence, that people should fight for “our rights,” and hoped for a stronger government. However, one interviewee said that “they [the KRG] pretend democracy, but they are more like dictators.” This in line with the idea that Kurdistan as Qatar’s Al Jazeera declared, that “Kurdistan” is basically a “kind of dream…buoyed by memories of a glorious past” with one person evening saying that “if countries in the region became more democratic and more welcoming of their Kurdish populations, the cries for an independent Kurdistan would quiet down” and the realization that “the country many dream of may not end up as the hoped-for Kurdish utopia.” This is a concern since the Kurds are described as “the largest ethnic group [in that region] without self-determination” and Westerners are coaxed into helping built “stable, democratic institutions,” for the Kurds. [1]

Let us consider that the Barzani family “governs the Iraqi Kurdistan with an iron fist” and is “historically connected to Israel.” Additionally, let us consider the words of the Qatari-backed and pro-terrorist outlet Middle East Eye, only because they even admit that “Kurdistan” in Northern Iraq is a complete and utter mess:

“…following several years of financial crisis and economic mismanagement, Erbil has racked up $30bn of debt, and the meagre salaries of public sector workers are routinely paid late. But the crunch has not been felt by all – cronyism is rife in the fiefdom, and the Barzani family have used their monopoly on power to amass a fortune while ruling over the ..KRG…Following several years of financial crisis and economic mismanagement, Erbil has racked up $30bn of debt, and the meagre salaries of public sector workers are routinely paid late…cronyism is rife in the fiefdom, and the Barzani family have used their monopoly on power to amass a fortune while ruling over the..KRG…That the upcoming referendum is more about President Barzani and the KRG’s elites ensuring their hold on power undermines the aspirations of some of the world’s most discriminated against people”

The same is the case for the neo-con magazine, Commentary, which says that “…the region was never democratic—the freest and fairest election it had was in 1992—and then the leaders simply massaged the process in order to maintain their hold.” They added that Barzani is “officially limited to two terms by the constitution, but got around the problem by extending his second term extra-legally” meaning that the region is “a dictatorship…[since] two ruling families dominate politics and society…Masud Barzani is a dictator.” Beyond this, there are also reports that “Barzani family members alone took 600 billion dollars from the Kurdish people’s oil income and…[the] Talabani side shared 50 % of that oil money, too, which means they made 600 billion dollars to be divided among Talabani sides.” Then there is the words of the alternative site, Moon of Alabama, which sometimes goes off the rails (but not this time), arguing that the recent referendum was more “to do with the beleaguered situation of the illegitimate regional president Barzani than with a genuine opportunity to achieve independence.” They added that “Arabs, Turks, and Persians see the Kurds as a recalcitrant nomadic mountain tribe and stooge of Israeli interests” and that basically “Kurdish independence…would be the start of another decade of war – either between the Kurdish entities and the nations around them, or within the ever disunited Kurdish tribes themselves.” Finally there are the words of Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Parliament’s General Director for International Affairs, who said that “Barzani’s call for independence means further strengthening of ISIL and Tel Aviv, a new anarchy in the region and instability.” This is fundamentally the case.

Still, these realities or the data collected by the Rand Corp, an appendage of the imperial war machine, do not answer the question on whether “Kurdistan” is a nation or not. Sarah Abed, in a series of articles in Mint Press News seems to raise doubts as to whether the Kurds are a nation. In her first article on the subject, she writes that

“Kurdistan—Land of the Kurds—exists only in two spheres. One is on maps sold in bazaars wherever the Kurdish language is spoken. The other is on yellow-red-and-green flags Kurds sometimes wave in the countries where they actually reside (according to maps sold everywhere else in the world).Yet in one of those countries, the Kurds have built themselves a state in all but name”

In the second, she argues that Kurds are even more devious, not even having their own culture, stealing it from others, with the same being the case with their land, with “much if not all of the land in Eastern Turkey that the Kurds claim as their own once belonged to the Armenians.” She goes on to say that Kurds assisted in the 1915 genocide of Armenians and of Assyrians, along with dwelling in cities which were only recently established as theirs “as a means of drawing their eyes away from the oil-rich lands in and around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk.” As a result, large migrations of Kurds into the area often displaced “Assyrians who had far greater legal and historical claims to these lands.” Add to this, she argues, that Kurdistan will be defined by where “Kurds happen to dwell at any given point” and were easily used as a “pawn of U.S. interests” while Kurds began, in July 2014, “systematic disarmament of Assyrians and several other ethnic groups so that it could use their weapons in its own struggle” which left these groups at the mercy of Daesh. She argues that this is a “deliberate ploy by the Kurdish leadership to allow foreign forces to violently cleanse these areas of all non-Kurdish residents and then…retake and “liberate their lands.” She later argues that

“…the Kurds would have a vested interest in claiming Arab, Assyrian or Armenian history as their own…they often resort to destroying any relevant history altogether…Kurds claim that their “Kurdistan” is “multicultural and multireligious,” which is disingenuous when you consider that those additional cultures consist of people now dwelling amongst a Kurdish majority in lands the Kurds took by force. These people will be faced with the prospect of casting meaningless votes on Kurdish independence since, even if they all voted “no,” they would nonetheless be outvoted by the Kurdish “yes” majority…Kurdish history in the 20th century is marked by a rising sense of Kurdish nationhood focused on the goal of establishing an independent Kurdistan in accordance with the Treaty of Sèvres of 1920…The state of Kurdistan has simply never existed…The Kurds have a centuries-long history of persecuting minority groups, having committed genocide against them with alarming frequency…It is important to reiterate that there are many Kurds to whom some of the characterizations presented in this analysis cannot and should not be applied. There are Kurds who have assimilated into their current cultural societies and reject the ideals of the separatist Kurds. Their concerns are mostly political in nature and specific to the nations in which they reside. They are not interested in establishing a united Kurdish country…In fact, these Kurds have faced discrimination from the Kurdish community as a result of their unwillingness to support the establishment of a Kurdish state…The Kurds have gained popularity through effectively marketing themselves to Western audiences as revolutionary, feminist, Marxist “freedom fighters”…Up until recently, Kurds with separatist ambitions were seen in a positive light. But their hidden agenda has now been exposed and their true intentions revealed…To support the Kurds’ demands for autonomy, and the establishment of a federation at the expense of others in the region, is illegal, profoundly illogical, and a violation of human rights”

If what Sarah Abed says has any validity then the Kurds cannot claim they are a nation and hence their claim for independence as a “nation” and a “nation-state” is fundamentally flawed. The Syrians recognize the danger of this, even discussing with the Russians and a PKK leader a number of issues: “the future of the YPG, the future of US bases…in the YPG-occupied areas, and a political solution to the Kurdish question in Syria.” Whether the Syrian state does the same as Iraq in creating an autonomous area within their country for the Kurds is possible. However, considering the fact that they have been under imperialist assault since the 1960s, especially more intense since 2013, it is likely that Kurds will be granted additional rights but not an autonomous area, a concept which could be exploited by power-hungry Western imperialists.

This discussion is nothing new. In 1973, the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party in Iraq wrote a political report titled “Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973.” They noted, in one chapter about the Iraqi revolution, as they called it, talking about the Kurds:

“The Kurdish national movement in Iraq, despite some historical circumstantial errors and reactionary isolationist trends some of which were on openly good terms with imperialism and reactionary circles, is essentially a legitimate national movement so long as it works within the framework of national rights for the Kurdish people within the Republic of Iraq. Autonomous Kurdish rule is realistic and justified…the problem has become very complicated because of foreign interventions, the chauvinistic and dictatorial attitudes of the former reactionary regimes towards the Kurd’s legitimate rights….The Party had to find a solution, theoretical and practical, that would satisfy the national aspirations of our Kurdish masses while protecting the territorial unity of the land and the unity of the national progressive movement without conflicting with the aims of the Arab struggle…the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party often did not behave in the spirit of national unity and sincere alliance with the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party…in spite of all the errors and negative aspects, the peaceful democratic method of the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party in tackling the Kurdish Question has proved to be correct and has yielded significant positive results…After four years of persistent struggle to solve the Kurdish Question peacefully and democratically, the general political, psychological and economic trends of the Kurdish masses are no longer as they used to be before the March announcement. Large sections of our Kurdish people are now finding their lives more secure and peaceful than ever before…The peaceful solution of the Kurdish Question is also another sign of democracy, In addition to its significant aspect in consolidating national unity, political independence and social progress in the country, it has provided the opportunity for the first time to create a democratic climate for our Kurdish people to practice their national rights, political, social and cultural activities on a very large scale.”

This statement does draw into question the story told by the Kurds who want their own nation and fundamentally a new nation-state, showing that the Iraqi government understood, at least at one point, that the Kurds were justified in their push for self-determination. Even Kim Il Sung, in 1971, congratulated the Iraqi people and government on the “successful solution of the Kurd national problem in Iraq,” further saying that “the peaceful, democratic solution of the Kurd national problem is a telling blow to the imperialists and an important measure which makes it possible to strengthen the anti-imperialist people’s front and further intensify the anti-U.S., anti-Israeli struggle in Iraq.”

However, if the Kurds were not a nation, fundamentally and just an ethnicity, then the Iraqi approach at the time would be even more justified. One Marxist writer even pointed out, in 1979, that two important ayatollahs in Iran called Kurdish leaders “agents of Savak, Zionists and corrupt sources,” while Saddam Hussein reportedly was “arming some Kurds to start a revolt within Iran.” Kurds seem to be pawns, now and throughout their history, of Western imperialists. Still, we cannot paint all of them with the same brush. There are Kurds, as I’ve written in the past, who support federalism in Syria, and also support federalism in Iraq. Not all are separatist, wanting to form an “independent” nation.

Whether the Kurds are an “oppressed nationality” is up to the reader. But this writer thinks that is drawn into question considering that certain Kurds have been used for pawns. They gotta serve somebody, and those somebodies are in the West, not in the Mideast. Clearly US imperialism has re-positioned itself to support certain Kurds in Syria, but there is another reality. A new state in the region would be the paradise of capitalists, getting to the level of Cuba before the revolution’s success in 1959. Additionally, they want a nation-state conceived in a bourgeois way, following what Rosa Luxembourg pointed out in 1909, that ““Nation-states” are today the very same tools and forms of class rule of the bourgeoisie as the earlier, non-national states, and like them they are bent on conquest. The nation-states have the same tendencies toward conquest, war, and oppression – in other words, the tendencies to become “not-national.”” Fundamentally, this is a bourgeois concept.

As the Marxist Internet Archive defines it, a nation-state is when a nation combines with a state, with “the state being an instrument of force which is able to dominate the people of a nation, representing the social interests of the dominant class with that nation.” This is not something that should be cheered or supported. Instead, those with sense should support those Kurds who push for the maintenance of federalist systems in their respective countries, Syria or Iraq, oppose the creation of “Kurdistan,” strongly oppose outside interference by the West, and ally with the proletariat in those countries, along with Communist parties in those countries (i.e. Iraqi Communist Party and Syrian Communist Party (Bakdash)) at minimum. [2] This would all be within the right of any ethnicity, but especially those in countries under imperialist attack. While some may argue, rightly, that Syria and Iraq are not socialist states, it is not the job of those in the West to determine how peoples in those countries engage in revolution but it should be up to the people n those respective countries, with those outside offering international solidarity and support if they deem it necessary. In the case of “Kurdistan,” this should not be supported by any thinking comrade, as it will assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region. This is not beneficial for the well-being of those who live in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, or those living in any other area. In the end, what happens next, whether they see the Kurds as a nation or they don’t, is up to any comrade who reads the articles in this series.


Notes

[1] Aliza Marcus and Andrew Apostolou, “Why It’s Time for a Free Kurdistan,” The Daily Beast, Nov. 25, 2015.

[2] The same would also be the case in Iran except that the country does not have a strong and established Left, so that would need to be built from the ground up. The existing communist party, Tudeh, is in exile and seems to, unfortunately, mesh with the criticisms of the country’s government by Western imperialists. If this turns out to be incorrect, then perhaps Tudeh can be useful as a force that can challenge the existing political system in Iran.

“A calamitous defeat”: The Western imperialists and “Kurdistan”

A map of “Kurdistan” from a pro-Kurdish website, showing how its creation would assist Western imperialism due to its tentacles reaching into Syria, Iraq, and Iran, along with Turkey of course.

Note:  This article was written in late October, so it is a bit dated. This article is the third of a four-part series, which never got published on Dissident Voice. Some words were changed.

Continuing from the last article, this article focuses on the support Western imperialists have granted “Kurdistan” over the years.

The Turkish government, predictably anti-Kurdish, is opposed to an independent Kurdistan, along with the U$ officially (under Obama and now under the orange menace), the Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian governments, all feeling it will threaten regional stability at a time that the Syrian war seems to be coming to a close. [1] The only government that seems to fully support independence is the Zionist state (and reportedly the Saudis), seeming to hint that Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be onto something when he recently said that “Barzani is a middleman for Zionists [whose goal is] to disintegrate Islamic countries” and called Kurdistan a “second Israel.” Of course, Russophobic imperialist Chuck Schumer supports an independent Kurdistan, as does a political party in the Western puppet state of Kosovo, the chieftain of the Arab al-Jobouri grouping in Kirkuk, the pseudo “nationalistic” PKK, the Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, and Assyrian Party. Additionally, the traitorous Greek government, which surrendered before the altar of the European Troika, Catalonia, and the Swedish government, which serves the Western imperialists with glee, also voiced their support.

Radicals, even on seem to be divided on the question of an “independent Kurdistan.” Perhaps this is because the Iraqi Communist Party endorsed the referendum, saying that they “recognize the right of self-determination for all peoples, small and large, and their right to express their free will, including the formation of a national state” but that the “restructuring of the federal state…cannot be decided unilaterally by a particular party” and hoping that “hostility between the Arab and Kurdish peoples” is not increased, instead pushing for the unity of the country with no alternative to dialogue.” This measured response, as you could call it, does not necessarily take into account all of the factors at play here, as will be discussed in this article. There has been the use of force by the Iraqi government to maintain control of the “Kurdistan” region. [2] As Andre Vletchek, who is revisionist but often well-spoken, said recently,

“…the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq…is clearly a ‘client’ state of the West, of Turkey and to some extent, Israel. It is shamelessly capitalist, taking land from its own people, cheating them, just in order to pump and refine huge quantities of oil. It treats Syrian refugees like animals, forcing them to make anti-Assad statements. It is turning ancient Erbil into some bizarre shopping mall with nothing public in sight. Its military top brass is mainly US/UK-trained and indoctrinated. And it provokes Baghdad, day and night…If Iraqi Kurds were allowed to have their ‘independence’, the impact on the region would be huge and certainly negative. Baghdad should not allow it, even at the cost of an armed confrontation.”

Adding to this, Kirkuk was transformed from “a majority Turkmen community to a Kurdish one starting in 1991” with the marginalization of the Turkmen winning “little sympathy outside” as their “identity and ethnic rights are completely overshadowed by Kurdish separatists and their foreign partners and lackeys.” Furthermore, it is worth noting that “Kirkuk is no more a part of Kurdish Iraq than nearby Mosul is, and Kurdish rights to Kirkuk has never been part of the semi-autonomous understanding between Iraqi Kurds and Baghdad.” Let us also take into account what James Petras said about the Kurds in the 1990s and more recently:

“In the case of Iraq in the 1990’s, Kurds were sponsored, armed, funded and defended by the US and Israel in order to weaken and divide the secular-nationalist Iraqi republic. Kurds, again with US support, have organized regional conflicts in Turkey and more recently in Syria, in order to defeat the independent government of Bashar Assad. Leftist Kurds cynically describe their imperial allies, including the Israelis, as ‘progressive colonialists’. In brief, the Kurds act as surrogates for the US and Israel: They provide mercenaries, access to military bases, listening and spy posts and resources in their newly ‘liberated (and ethnically cleansed) country’, to bolster US imperialism, which ‘their warlord leaders’ have chosen as the dominant ‘partner’. Is their struggle one of national liberation or mercenary puppetry in the service of empire against sovereign nations resisting imperial and Zionist control?…The Kurdish ‘freedom fighters’, followed ethnic warlords who were funded by the US and Israel, and took over town, cities, oil resources and territory to serve as imperial military bases against the sovereign governments of Iraq, Iran and Syria. In this context, the Kurdish warlords and oligarchs are loyal vassals and an integral component of the long-standing US-Israeli policy aimed at dividing and weakening independent allies of Palestine, Yemen and genuine liberation movements…Kurds, Tibetans, fascist Ukrainian nationalists, Uighurs and other so-called freedom fighters turn out to be military Sepoys for aggressive US incursion against independent China, Iran and Russia. Leftist backers of these dubious ‘liberation movements’ tag along behind the empire.”

There is more beyond what he is saying. The general narrative within the bourgeois media is that the West is annoyed by the “Kurdistan” referendum and that Israel (and the Saudis as is talked about very little) is the only ally an “independent” state in that region has. The reality as noted in part 1 and part 2 of this series, and alluded above, is very different. For one, these Kurds aim to exploit ethnic strains and reinforce the “legitimacy of the Kurdish leadership before a drive for outright independence and any negotiations that might involve.” This is despite the fact that the Turkish government seems ready to “impose further sanctions on northern Iraq over the referendum,” the Iraqi government has put in place an “international flights ban on Kurdish airports” and stopped all “foreign currency transfers to the region” while Barzani hangs onto power beyond his second term which was supposed to end in 2013. As their push for independence seems aimed to “capitalize on their contribution to the war on Islamic State,” Western imperialists are smiling in glee. [3]

An “independent” state in “Kurdistan” would open the door to directly attacking Iran even more than in the past. Considering that Iran is mutually obligated to defend Syria, supports forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, is militarily supported by revisionist China and Russia, while it is a “crucial link in the North South Transportation Corridor (NTSC)” and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), this could destabilize the region to say the least. Even if a “direct American attack on Iran is even more unthinkable than in the past,” covert action is not “unthinkable.” Recently Mike Pompeo, the newly crowned CIA director declared that the CIA will need to “become a much more vicious agency” in fighting enemies, which will inevitably mean, from his own career, supporting Saudi expansionism, undermining Russia, Syria, Juche Korea, and Iran covertly, along with any other entity (or person) that threatens the murderous empire. This is the face of U$ imperialism, manifested by the arrogance of orange menace himself (who some falsely claimed would be “non-interventionist” based on misreading his campaign rhetoric), which seems even more blatant than Obama. The murderous Zionist state is undoubtedly pleased by the number of Zionists currently in the U$ Administration.

It goes beyond Iran. While publicly oil man and U$ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declares that “the vote and the results lack legitimacy and we continue to support a united, federal, democratic and prosperous Iraq…We urge calm and an end to vocal recrimination and threats of reciprocal actions,” the underlying reality is different. Western imperialism would benefit from “further instability in the entire Middle East,” as more ethnic tensions between “Arabs, Kurds or Iranians,” caused by this “divisive scheme,” as Hezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called it, will favor “Israel and the US, helping their weapons-manufacturing factories make a fortune.” Even more so, a new state in “Kurdistan” would hurt Syria, which has seemingly been victorious in the war against Western (and Gulf-backed) terrorist forces, a time when the county begins to rebuild, increase production, research, and investment across the economy, as SANA recently described. The West wants the division of “Iraq into Kurdish and Arab regions, launching a first stage in the process of partition and disintegration,” as the Kurds can easily be used, especially by the US, “against regimes it does not like.” Even more so, considering the seemingly “soft” approach of the Russians to the Kurds as has been evidenced in recent years (which is a bit complicated), an independent state in the “Kurdistan” region could create a wedge between Iran, Syria, and Russia at a time that the latter two countries are working to boost “bilateral relations between the two countries in the field of investment,” including having investment “partnerships with the Russian side in the field of exploring oil and gas.” The latter action benefits the Russian bourgeoisie even as it moves Syria even further out of the Western capitalist orbit.

The “powder keg” of an “independent” state in “Kurdistan,” is relished by Western imperialists who see it as a “romance of a free Kurdistan,” which is opposed strongly by Turkmen and Arab groups. Biden even declared, two years ago that dividing Iraq into three “semi-autonomous regions” (Sunni, Shia, and Kurd) “would have worked” if has been done back in 2006, and idea supported by elements within the US intelligence establishment. This declaration was based in an op-ed in the NY Times he had written in 2006 with Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the elitist Council on Foreign Relations, declaring that this was a good idea:

“…The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group — Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab — room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests. We could drive this in place with irresistible sweeteners for the Sunnis to join in…As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can’t win and we can’t lose…The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements. The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection…things are already heading toward partition…a breakup is already under way” [4]

This op-ed had four other elements but are not of importance here except that are part of an imperialistic, genocidal plan that would have caused chaos in the Middle East some still think is a good idea! Its mind-boggling.

A new state in “Kurdistan” would create “important political and economic problems for the neighboring nations of Turkey and Iran, as well as for the Iraqi central government” as Rand Corp declared some time ago. As some declare that the Kurds “deserve to be allowed to try” to create an “independent” state, which be a client of the imperialist powers, U$ representatives came together in a bipartisan effort to support it, saying that it could serve as a beacon to further U.S. interests in the Middle East,” while the U$ likely still has the five military bases in the region that it set up in July of last year. These imperialists don’t seem to worry that “a free Kurdish state…will cause dissolution of a free Iraq” with that millions of people voting in the referendum that lived in disputed areas, throwing into question if the referendum is legal at all or even valid in the slightest. [5] Lest us forget, as the CIA even admits, there were U$ special forces and CIA peoples in “Iraqi Kurdistan in advance of the opening of the Iraq War in 2003,” with a CIA-trained “Kurdish sabotage team [which] infiltrated regime territory to destroy a railway and 90-car train that supplied the Iraqi V Corps,” and that in 1991, the US and its allies imposed “a no-fly zone in the north that allowed Kurds to enjoy self-rule” while the two Kurdish political parties (KDP and PUK) “co-operated with the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.” [6] This makes no surprise that in recent days these Kurds have met with the Brits, the US envoy, the Germans, the Italians, and the Dutch. Michael Springmann, a former US diplomat, is undoubtedly right that the U$ specifically “encourages the Kurds to rebel against the government of Iraq,” with the US and the murderous Zionist state “doing their best for quite some time now to divide Iraq.” Add to this that Netanyahu has been trying to convince the Western imperialists to openly support the Kurds against the Iraqi army, specifically “lobbying” the Germans, the Russians, the French, and the U$, seeing them as “a deeply pro-Western people who deserve support.” [7] But of course this news obscures that the US and UK support an “independent Kurdistan” with a clause “in the US-framed Iraqi constitution granting Kurds a degree of autonomy” while ethnic cleansing of Turkmen people is undoubtedly occurring.

The bourgeois media and their lackeys seem to peddle the idea that “Kurdistan” as it currently exists is a paragon of “good governance” and an “island of relative peace in a war-torn country since the US-led invasion in 2003” or even openly saying that having the region be independent would be “a significant check on both Iranian and Turkish power.” [8] The reality, especially of the former claim, is different. The NY Times admitted this much in their front-page article on “Kurdistan” on October 1:

“With its troubled economy and dearth of democratic institutions…Kurds…may have set back their national aspirations…[the KRG] lacks…rule of law, free and fair elections, civil society and a legislature with real power to challenge a dynastic executive leadership…Barzani…remains in power two years after his term has expired…the government is a Barzani family enterprise…the Kurdish economy is in dire straits [with low oil prices]…for the Kurdish leadership there is no going back” [9]

Add to this the view of a former Saudi official, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud who argued that “the constitution that they put in place after the American invasion allows for communities in Iraq to call for referenda on whether they are Iraqi or not.” Even Vijay Pershad, who admits he is “a little sympathetic to the fact that the Kurds of this region have a very longstanding claim to some kind of national home,” says that there has been “some [vote] rigging, of course,” and that “Mr. Barzani, in a way to consolidate his own personal power has really put the Kurdish question on the wrong plate.” Another supporter of Kurdish “independence,” a Zionist writing in Haaretz, admitted himself that the idea that “Kurdistan” is a “progressive, democratic and prosperous country” is fundamentally an “illusion” since the region is a mess:

“Masoud Barzani’s term as the elected president ended in 2013, his parliament-appointed term expired in 2015, and two years later he is still in power and shows no signs of quitting. Even if he does eventually step down, the Barzani family controls key institutions and jobs in and out of government,..Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliament was suspended two years ago and since then has met only once – this month, to approve the referendum that was held on Monday…the Kurdish economy…depends on oil…Seventy percent of the Kurdish workforce is employed by the state…in 2014, the economy tanked. Unemployment is probably in the double digits, construction has ground to a halt, and the government has run up debts…Kurdistan has…none of the tools an ordinary government has at its disposal, such as a currency it can devalue or access to international funding…Kurdistan is, in fact, looking more like many of the other “stans”…repressive, corrupt regimes presiding over economies based on oil, gas and crony capitalism” [10]

While the idea of “crony capitalism” is one that is false in that it doesn’t recognize the reality of capitalism (just like the idea of “regulated capitalism” solving the dictatorship of the capitalist class), his observations are valid ones. The Western conception that “Kurdistan” is basically “an island of peace and stability surrounded by sectarian strife and civil wars” is an utter myth with the “Good” Kurds (by Western standards) abandoning “their dream of independence in lieu of establishing Iraq as a federal, democratic republic” in 2005, recognizing that “the United States has no friends in Iraq or Syria except the Kurds,” as one put it. The additional idea as declared by the milquetoast (and bourgeois) “peace” organization, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in 2014, that “the map of the Middle East is on the verge of changing much to the benefit of the Kurds” is more laughable now than ever. Even if Turkey’s ruling party was “ready to accept an independent Kurdish state in what is currently northern Iraq” the same year, doesn’t mean that they will now.

There is one aspect that many are not admitting: the interconnection of the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. In 2013, as chaos spread across Syria thanks to Western and Gulf-backed terrorists, 20,000 Kurds from Syria streamed into “the Kurdish north of Iraq” with Barzani even saying he would “intervene to protect Syrian Kurds in their fight against jihadists.” [11] As a result, it could be said that support for Kurdish “independence” in the Mideast is meant to fracture the region. Already, as noted in my article on the illegal entity of Rojava, Iranians and Syrians opposed this, but also that Kurds in northern Iraq benefit from black gold undoubtedly:

“…ExxonMobil, along with Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, and BP, showed interest in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a registered branch office in the region, and signed, in 2011, six production sharing contracts “covering more than 848,000 acres” in the region, with Rex Tillerson, the current US Secretary of State, having a role in, as one article put it, “placing the company’s financial interests above the American goal of creating a stable, cohesive Iraq”…The agreements that ExxonMobil made were strongly opposed by the Iraqi government. Even though ExxonMobil pulled out of half its holdings in 2016, like other companies had years before…it would be no surprise that they want to exploit the oil in Syria”

The Kurds realize this and curry favor with Western capitalists. In 2012 alone they had already engaged 49 illegal foreign oil contracts (Production Sharing Agreements) especially in the Zagros Fold Belt region which is rich in black gold, which forced “Baghdad’s hand in finalising the oil law that has been pending for years” reportedly. Add to this that the Turks have many business ties in the region, with “about 1,300 Turkish companies having business ties with the autonomous region” as do the Russians, with the KRG signing a “20-year-long deal with Russia’s Rosneft to cooperate on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons” with the Russian company Gazprom Neft also “currently engaged in three oil projects in the region.”

With all these business ties and instability, there is one question worth asking and ending with, considering something that most will not even consider, as argued in the last article in this series: are the Kurds a nation, envisioned in “Kurdistan,” at all?


Notes

[1] BBC News, “Iraq Kurdistan independence referendum planned,” Jul 1, 2014; Roy Gutman, “Kurds agree to postpone independence referendum,” The Star, Sept. 5, 2014; RFE/RL, “Iraqi Kurdish Leader Calls For Nonbinding Vote On Independence,” Feb. 3, 2016; Mewan Dolarmi, “PM Barzani: Mosul could be liberated within three months,” Kurdistan24, Oct. 31, 2016; The Iran Project, “Iraqi Kurdistan’s ‘Unilateral’ referendum plan only to cause new problems: Iran,” Jun 10, 2017; Rudaw, “Iraqi delegation under Allawi to visit Erbil about Kurdish referendum plan,” Jun 11, 2017. Khamenei said that “Iran opposes holding talks of a referendum to partition #Iraq and considers those who fuel the idea as opponents of Iraq’s independence.” Even the governments of Australia, Germany, Spain, and the UK are wary of an independent Kurdistan. Also Iraq’s Christians are wary of this move for independence, as is the PLO, the Iraqi Turkmen Front. The referendum was temporarily delayed because the Kurds were willing to work with the Iraqi forces to fight Daesh.

[2] David Zucchino and Margaret Coker, “Iraq Escalates Dispute With Kurds, Threatening Military Action,” New York Times, Sept. 27, 2017; David Zucchino, “Iraq Orders Kurdistan to Surrender Its Airports,” New York Times, Sept. 26, 2017.

[3] Maher Chmaytelli, “Iraqi Kurds face more sanctions after calling elections,” Reuters, Oct 3, 2017.

[4] Joe Biden and Leslie H. Gelb, “Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq,” New York Times, op-ed, May 1, 2006.

[5] Nabih Bulos and Tracy Wilkinson, “Iraqi Kurds vote on creating an independent Kurdistan — but big obstacles stand in the way,” LA Times, Sept 25, 2017; Eli Lake, “The Kurdish People Lost a Revolutionary and a Statesman,” Bloomberg View, Oct. 3, 2017.

[6] BBC, “Who are the Kurds?,” BBC News, Mar 14, 2016.

[7] Dan Williams, “Netanyahu lobbies world powers to stem Iraqi Kurd setbacks,” Reuters, Oct. 20, 2017.

[8] Caroline B. Glick, “The strategic case for Kurdistan,” Jerusalem Post, Aug. 31, 2017.

[9] David Zucchino, “Kurds Vote for Independence Only Adds to Their Obstacles,” NY Times, Oct 1, 2017.

[10] David Rosenberg, “Independent Kurdistan Looks Like a Zimbabwe in the Making,” Haaretz opinion, Sept. 28, 2017.

[11] Martin Chulov, “Syrian Kurds continue to flee to Iraq in their thousands,” The Guardian, Aug. 18, 2013.

“A calamitous defeat”: Lenin’s words on self-determination and Zionist imperialism

Lenin speaking before Russian workers.

Note:  This article was written in late October 2017, so it is a bit dated. This article is the second of a four-part series, which never got published on Dissident Voice. I wrote this before I had defined the Zionist state fully as a murderous Zionist apartheid state, but what I say here is still valid.

Continuing from the previous article of this series, which focused on Stalin’s words about self-determination and supporting national struggles, especially in regards to the “Kurdistan” referendum, comes the words of another revolutionary: Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin’s words on self-determination

Lenin, like Stalin, also strongly supported the right of self-determination, in the waning days of the Russian revolutionary fervor which would eventually blossom into the Great October Socialist Revolution, called the “Russian Revolution” in the West, creating the world’s first socialist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) by 1922 after many years of a Soviet/Bolshevik government. In 1913 he said that that the expediency of self-determination is something different from the right itself, saying that this right is important in the “fight against the abscess of nationalism in all its forms.” This is different from the broadly “accepted” definition of self-determination in current political discourse, especially in bourgeois politics in the West. [1] Basically, Lenin was saying that nations had the right to secede and form an “independent national state.” While Stalin, seemed to imply that when a state is “tied up with certain imperialist groups, and…cannot escape the great play of forces that is going on outside,” using Yugoslavia as an example, that it should not be supported, saying that the right to self-determination is not an obligation or duty but rather something that a nation may take advantage of or not, Lenin took a clearer stand.

In 1914, Lenin wrote that “the period of the final victory of capitalism over feudalism has been linked up with national movements” and that there is a tendency of every national movement towards “the formation of national states.” He further made the conclusion that “self-determination of nations means the political separation of these nations from alien national bodies, and the formation of an independent national state,” noted that all sorts of states are “entirely dependent, economically, on the power of the imperialist finance capital of the “rich” bourgeois countries” with such countries beginning to “oppress other nations and to enslave colonies.” In the following chapter of this book, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination, he noted that the “categorical requirement of Marxist theory in investigating any social question is that it be examined within definite historical limits” and having an account taken distinguishing the country from others “in the same historical epoch,” taking into account “historical and concrete state conditions.” In the case of “Kurdistan” in northern Iraq, no state currently exists, and is not technically a nation as the whole nation of Kurds would, if we are to accept the claims of bourgeois scholars, cover the borders of varying countries in the region. Historical context and distinguishing it from other nations is important going forward.

Before getting to that point it worth recalling that the bourgeoisie often assumes “leadership at the start of every national movement,” even while the proletariat has different goals, with absurdity coming into the picture with a “demand for a “yes” or “no” reply to the question of secession” as it leads to “subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie’s policy.” In terms of the current referendum, this subordination has undoubtedly happened, as only two choices were afforded them: Hiyat (no) and Evet (Yes). No other choices were floated. This seems to imply, using Lenin’s wording, that the referendum itself was tailored in such a way to benefit the up-and-coming Kurdish bourgeoisie and not the proletariat. No other choices were offered if one views the ballot, in Assyrian, Kurdish, Arabic, and Turkish, itself. Translating the Turkish wording, the question for the referendum is almost a leading question, imposing, almost hard to say “no” to:

Do you want the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, including the Kurdistan Regional Administration and the contested areas?

This makes it no surprise that by a sweeping margin, the Kurds of northern Iraq voted for independence. Due to that, President Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) declared that the non-binding referendum was “a normal, legal right of our people,” and is about the “about the destiny of a whole people,” which was originally voted on in 2005 in a non-binding measure, one year after the US and UK-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority ended its governance of Iraq. [2] Barzani also bellowed that anyone who opposes the referendum is against the “the peaceful, democratic right of people to express their own decisions about their destiny” and ultimately “against democracy.”

Lenin goes on to say, that in some cases, the masses “resort to secession only when national oppression and national friction make joint life absolutely intolerable and hinder any and all economic intercourse” meaning that, as a result, “the interests of capitalist development and of the freedom of the class struggle will be best served by secession.” He adds that self-determination of a nation is connected to the “self-determination of the proletariat within a given nation,” fighting for equal rights of nations, and a “close, unbreakable alliance in the class struggle of the proletarians of all nations in a given state…irrespective of any reshaping of the frontiers of the individual states by the bourgeoisie.” He even says that to “brush aside the mass national movements once they have started, and to refuse to support what is progressive in them means, in effect, pandering to nationalistic prejudices,” and that there will predictably be “hopeless confusion on the national question” disseminated by “a group of nationalist philistines” who want to split the proletariat. It is an open question if the whole conception of Kurdish independence is meant to create confusion and split the proletariat in the region. This is not beyond question. There will continue to be “bourgeois strivings for national exclusiveness” without a doubt.

As thoughtful individuals and committed comrades, we should also demand freedom of self-determination for oppressed nations, but also want the “fusion of nations…on a truly democratic, truly internationalist basis.” At the same time, Lenin argued that while the “real eradication of national oppression leads to the fusion of nations,” the freedom to secede is “the best and the only political means against the idiotic system of petty states and national isolation.” In the case of “Kurdistan,” it could be argued that the current federalist system, based in Islamic democracy, is “truly democratic,” a fusion of nations. The constitution itself seems to indicate this reality to an extent:

“[Article 1:] The Republic of Iraq if a single federal, independent and fully sovereign state in which the system of government is republican, representative, parliamentary, and democratic…[Article 3:] Iraq is a country of multiple nationalities, religions, and sects…[Article 4:] The Arabic language and the Kurdish language are the two official languages of Iraq…[Article 5:] The law is sovereign. The people are the source of authority and legitimacy, which they shall exercise in direct, general, secret ballot and through their constitutional institutions…[Article 10:] The holy shrines and religious sites of Iraq are religious and civilizational entities…[Article 13:] This constitution is the preeminent and supreme law in Iraq and shall be binding in all parts of Iraq without exception…[Article 14:] Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, origin, color, religion, sect, belief or opinion, or economic or social status…[Article 18:] Iraqi citizenship is a right for every Iraqi and is the basis of his nationality…[Article 20:] Iraqi citizens…shall have the right to participate in public affairs…[Article 22:] Work is a right for all Iraqis…[Article 109:] The federal authorities shall preserve the unity, integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Iraq and its federal democratic system…[Article 117:] This Constitution, upon coming into force, shall recognize the region of Kurdistan…as a federal region”

However, it is not, by reading through the constitution “truly democratic” or even “truly internationalist,” only a little bit of both, so this isn’t the “fusion of nations” that Lenin was writing about one bit.

In 1916, Lenin wrote about self-determination again in two more pieces. In the first, he noted that part of “victorious socialism” was not only achieving complete democracy and bringing about “the complete equality of nations,” but supporting the “right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political secession,” freeing such “enslaved nations” and establishing religions with them “on the basis of a free union.” He further adds that self-determination of nations is feasible with “the domination of finance capital” not possible with simple reforms, with the “fundamental demands of political democracy” actionable under imperialism but only in an “incomplete, in a mutilated form and as a rare exception.” He later adds that “freedom to settle the [national] question of secession by means of a referendum” is not the same with a “demand for secession, for partition, for the formation of small states.” In the case of “Kurdistan,” in Northern Iraq, it falls more under a demand for partition and follows the rhetoric of Lenin on incomplete results of political democracy under imperialism, even though making federation of nations a principle is part of Lenin’s thinking. It is worth remembering that bourgeoisie in oppressed nations always convert the “slogan of national liberation into a means for deceiving the workers” and democratic demands become an “an instrument of the bourgeoisie” for the same goal. In the case of this referendum, it is possible is has become an instrument to deceive the proletariat in this Kurdish region.

In the second piece, Lenin defined annexation. He argued that annexation, which violates a nation’s self-determination, involves the “conception of force…conception of oppression by another nation…and sometimes the concept of violation of the status quo” with the establishment of state frontiers which are “contrary to the will of the population.” After all, it is clear that “that no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.” It is worth this that the Zionists enter the picture.

The Zionists enter the picture

While Lenin and Stalin seem to put support of oppressed people on solid ground, in terms of “Kurdistan” in this instance, Zionist Israel, called the murderous Zionist state in the rest of this article, throws this into question. Undoubtedly, this state and nation, as could call it, has engaged in annexation and national oppression as defined previously by Stalin and Lenin. Most recently reported is that the murderous Zionist state, is planning to annex almost “19 Palestinian settlements and uproot some 125,000 to 150,000 Palestinian people.” This is fundamentally a form of violence. Even Stalin recognized this in 1913, in Marxism and the National Question, 35 years before the illegal creation of the murderous Zionist state, naming Zionism as one of the forms of “crude chauvinism” which swept forward, “threatening to engulf the mass of the workers” with such nationalism only countered with “the tried weapon of internationalism…the unity and indivisibility of the class struggle.” In a footnote, he defined Zionism as a “reactionary nationalist trend of the Jewish bourgeoisie, which had followers along the intellectuals and the more backward sections of the Jewish workers.” He further argued that Zionists aimed to “isolate the Jewish working-class masses from the general struggle of the proletariat.” Some would further argue that the murderous Zionist state is settler-colonialist like the United States and Canada. Regardless, there is no doubt that the murderous Zionist state is “the only country in the world with Judaism as its official state religion” as it abuses its “hold” on Judiasm to demand that all Jews be Zionist although they are under no obligation to hold that position. [3]

The Zionists are strong supporters of an independent “Kurdistan.” With war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu supporting the effort openly, Zionist sympathizer, David Patrikarakos, followed suit, saying gleefully that many in “Kurdistan” see the murderous Zionist state as a model for their “new state,” and that this new state could “check Iran’s growing influence across the Middle East.” He ends his article by declaring that

“an independent or even more autonomous Kurdistan – secular, oil-rich, battle-hardened and pro-Israel – is the perfect ally for Jerusalem in a Middle East…For Israel as a Jewish nation, support for Kurdish independence is a moral imperative; for it as a Middle Eastern state it is a strategic necessity…Israel must hold fast…it must not let the Kurds down.”

Others in the region recognized this reality. MP Mowaffak al-Rubaie of the Shiite National Alliance, In Iraq, argued that the referendum was a step “taken by some racists in Kurdistan will bring instability to the entire region for years to come.”He further added that the Iraqi government “should take decisive, forceful, strong, and practical steps against those who made adventures with the destiny of the people of Kurdistan.” In Iran, Mohsen Rezaei, Secretary of the Expediency Council, added that Kurdish independence is in the “interest of Israel and those who want to expand insecurity in the region,” further adding that countries in the Mideast need to “preserve the territorial integrity of countries and prevent the change of geographical boundaries.”

The ties between the murderous Zionist state and these Kurds is nothing new. While Zionist Daniel Pipes’ think tank, Middle East Forum, declares that the father of Masoud Barzani, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, allied himself “more closely with the United States, Iran, and Israel” by the 1970s, after reportedly getting support from the Soviets, the connection with the murderous Zionist state goes back even farther than that. They date all the way back to 1950-1951, with ties first “facilitated by Iraqi Kurdish Jews, who left Iraq for Israel” but was strengthened when Mossad officers went to northern Iraq so they could aide Barzani. By the 1960s, secret ties grew with Mustafa Barzani leading a war against the Iraqi government as part of a “series of uprisings headed by the Barzani family since the establishment of the modern Iraqi state.” It was during this time that the murderous Zionist state provided “intermittent security assistance and military training to the Kurds” as an “anti-Saddam play” in order to keep Saddam Hussein “distracted as Israel fought two wars against coordinated Arab neighbors.” Recently, Yair Golan, a major general in the IDF who compared the murderous Zionist state to 1930s Nazi Germany, approved of the idea of an “independent Kurdistan” declaring recently to the Zionist and jingoist Washington Institute of Near East Policy that “…looking at Iran in the east, looking at the instability (in) the region, a solid, stable, cohesive Kurdish entity in the midst of this quagmire — it’s not a bad idea,” and recalled, of course, the murderous Zionist State’s “good cooperation with the Kurd people since the early 1960s.” [4] While some say that by the 1970s, the relationship between the Kurds and Zionists “was scaled back” but reports of “Israeli security, medical, and economic aid continue[d] to circulate,” other Zionist applications question this assertion. In a 2013 article in the Zionist rag, Tablet Magazine, it quoted Eliezer Tsafrir, “a former Mossad operative…[who] head[ed] of covert Israeli operations in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1975,” the same year that Saddam fought a “Kurdish rebellion led by Mustafa Barzani.” Tsafrir was quoted approvingly in an article which supported the idea of a Kurdish “dream of independence” because the county could “emerge as an unexpected new ally for Israel in Iran’s backyard.” He declared that

“Under the Barzanis, Jews in Kurdistan did not suffer. On the contrary, they were their friends. Ties with Israel ran deep and began when Mustafa Barzani sent emissaries to Israel through Europe and told us Kurds, like Jews, were ignored by everybody and needed help [including running training camps for Kurdish soldiers]…We decided against it [sending in Centurion tanks] because we thought the Kurds were better off fighting an asymmetrical war…We were in a big hurry to burn papers [before the Iraqis reached the headquarters of the “rebel” Kurds]. I had to get out of there before the Iraqi army turned me into a kebab…I want to be Israel’s first consul general in Erbil”

While his supportive, disgusting Zionist viewpoint is laughable and distorts the reality undoubtedly, what he says makes it clear that the murderous Zionist state sees the Kurds as a reliable ally to achieve their geopolitical aims. Some of the Kurds have clearly reciprocated this. In September 2016, “Kurdish activists” held a memorial service for Shimon Peres, the former prime minister of the murderous Zionist state, who met with Mullah Mustafa Barzani in the Shah’s Iran. The organizer of the event declared that “we want to give a message to Israeli media and foundations, that I am 100% sure we will have independence and relations with Israel. [Peres] previously supported Kurds and was continually defending and supporting our rights. In the 1960s, we had relations with Israel.” As the Zionists also recall, in their own publications, the Kurds reportedly “helped Jewish families…escape to Israel from Kurdistan through the mountains” and Mossad gave assistance to the Kurdish Peshmerga “against Baghdad” with the murderous Zionist state keeping “military advisers at the headquarters of Mulla Mustafa Barzani,” training and supplying “Kurdish units with firearms and field and anti-aircraft artillery in until the 80’s.” [5] Simply put, in the 1960s and 1970s, Israel cooperated with the Shah’s Iran to “fight against its Arab enemies – Iraq, Syria and Egypt,” sending Lt. Colonel Tzuri Sagi to “build up a Kurdish army to fight Iraqi troops in northern Iraq,” which became the Peshmerga, with this general responsible for the “Israeli assassination attempts against Saddam Hussein.” The New York Times even admitted this in their front-page article on the topic last month:

“In the modern era, Kurdish Jews departed en masse for Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, leaving Kurdish civil society so bereft that some recall its leaders still lamenting the Jewish exodus decades later. Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds…have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters…83-year-old Tzuri Sagi, a retired brigadier general, has more reason than most Israelis to root for Kurdish independence…In the winter of 1966, Mr. Sagi’s commanders sent him on a secret mission, via Israel’s then-ally, Iran, to aid Mullah Mustafa Barzani and his peshmerga rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan [and they won]” [6]

If that wasn’t enough, cooperation matured with meetings “between Israeli and Kurdish officials” including Mustafa Barzani’s visits to the murderous Zionist state in 1968 and in 1973, with Israel appealing repeatedly to the United States for “additional support for the Kurds” while Henry Kissinger was US Secretary of State (1973-1977). Since that time, as the Jerusalem Post casually admits, “reports surface about Israeli special ops training Kurdish forces and Mossad agents using the northern mountainous area to launch operations in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.” All signs point to continuing cooperation between the Kurds and Zionists. As Sarah Abed notes, the Kurds are not only “allied with Syria’s fiercest enemy,” but almost all of the major Kurdish political groups in the region have “longstanding ties to Israel” and have engaged in “major ethnic violence against Arabs, Turkmens and Assyrians” by varied accounts. Not only has the murderous Zionist state given the KRG weapons and training prior to its encounters with Daesh but it has floated the idea of using “Kurds and ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government.” More directly, while Benjamin Netanyahu’s open support for an independent “Kurdistan” is at “odds with nearly every other major player in the Middle East,” he sees this as a strategic decision: a “breakaway Kurdistan could prove valuable to Israel against Iran, which has oppressed its own Kurdish population” as the New York Times notes. Additionally, flags of the murderous Zionist state can be “routinely be seen at Kurdish rallies in Erbil and across Europe” and some 200,000 Kurdish Jews are clearly allies of such a state as well. [7]

One commentator, Urooba Jamal, wrote in Telesur English about this very issue. While original support of “Kurdistan” was the idea of a “second Israel” in the Mideast which was meant to “undermine the idea of a united pan-Arab socialist state” by solidifying ties “with non-Arab Muslim actors,” it could also apparently give the murderous Zionist state “cover” for its oppression of Palestinians. Additionally, it would also allow the latter state to increase its ties with this new state in “the areas of agriculture, technology, education and sports.” Jonathan Cook gave even more context. He noted that while “many ordinary Palestinians were delighted” by the Kurdish referendum since they, like the Kurds, in his estimation, “Palestinians have found themselves trapped in different territories, oppressed by their overlords,” the Zionists felt differently. They feel that an independent “Kurdistan” would be a “bulwark against Iran transferring its weapons, intelligence and know-how to Shia allies in Syria and Lebanon.” Also, they would gain because “the Kurds sit on plentiful oil…[and] are keen to sell to Israel,” and such an independent state makes the Oden Yinon’s plan proposed years ago come to fruition with the ‘implosion of the Middle East, breaking apart the region’s key states…by fueling sectarian and ethnic discord.” Once again, it worth noting that “Tehran is…the target of efforts by Israel and its allies” and the unraveling of the map of the region originally drawn by the British and French would likely “lead to chaos of the kind that a strong, nuclear-armed Israel, with backing from Washington, could richly exploit,” furthering pushing the “Palestinian cause” from the list of priorities of the international community.

There is further context worth mentioning. For one, in 2006, Massoud Barzani, declared that “It is not a crime to establish ties with Israel. If Baghdad sets up diplomatic ties with Israel, we will have them open a consulate in Erbil” while the PYD was then, at “against relations with the Zionist state” but is not the same way anymore. This raises the question as the libertarian Antiwar.com argues, what will happen after the referendum since “the logistics of a landlocked independent at least somewhat problematic.” This is important to recognize since Iran fears “Israel’s potentially close relations with Kurdistan,” seeing it clearly as a proxy state, aligning with the declarations by the Washington Institute of Near East Policy that “a Kurdish state in northern Iraq would be a win for Turkey, the United States, and Israel, all regional and international rivals of Tehran” with the Iranian government’s “hardliners” seeing a future “alliance between an independent Kurdistan and Israel against the Islamic Republic.” This would also seem to indicate that the US is in support of an “independent” Kurdistan but perhaps covertly rather than openly. With an independent “Kurdistan,” violence by the Zionists will expand. As Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah argued that these Zionists do not have “correct picture” of the war, declaring that such Zionists “will have no secure place in occupied Palestine.” [8] Still, it worth recalling that if “the West continues to prioritize Iraqi and Turkish interests over those of the Kurds,” then Kurdistan will not stay an ally of the West, leaning toward Iran perhaps, even as “a Western-oriented Kurdistan could present a difficult challenge to Iranian ambitions in the region.” In the end, perhaps Erdogan is right one one regard: “this administration (in northern Iraq) has a history with Mossad, they are hand-in-hand together…Only Israel supports you…An independent state is not being founded in northern Iraq…[instead] a continuously bleeding wound is being opened.”

Notes

[1] Self-determination is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. Online dictionaries define this as the “determination by the people of a territorial unit of their own future political status” (Merriam-Webster), “freedom of the people of a given area to determine their own political status” (American Heritage Dictionary), “the right of a nation or people to determine its own form of government without influence from outside” (Collins English Dictionary), and “the determining by the people of the form their government shall have, without reference to the wishes of any other nation, especially by people of a territory or former colony” (Dictionary.com), to name a few. The UN’s Millennium Declaration in 2000 declares that UN member states should support “the right to self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation.” Some even say that the concept itself is “confusing,” question if state sovereignty should override a desire for self-determination, with a case involving the USSR on this issue as noted in an article published 11 years ago or in other conflicts. One could also take into account the dissenting views on the case in which the International Court of Justice at the Hague voted in favor of Kosovo. The dissenters varied. Some said that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was “unlawful and invalid” and provides an open door for all groups, apart from decolonization efforts, to break apart from states, that the court does not have jurisdiction with a lack of response on the issue from the UN General Assembly. Clearly, there are different “shades of meaning,” as one bourgeois scholar puts it, to the term “self-determination” even as it is widely recognized as a “fundamental principle of international law.” As was declared by the UN General Assembly in December 1960, “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” This idea has involved from the time of Wilsonian imperialism to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which says that “all peoples have the right of self-determination…All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation…The States Parties to the present Covenant…shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right.”

[2] Campbell MacDiarmid, “Masoud Barzani: Why It’s Time for Kurdish Independence,” Foreign Policy, Jun 15, 2017.

[3] The same Pew Research survey notes that funding is skewed toward official religion of Islam in Iraq, that the official state religion of Iraq and Iran is Islam, with Islam only a preferred religion in Turkey. This survey also adds that “In the Islamic Republic of Iran, for instance, all laws and regulations must be based on “Islamic criteria” and the official interpretation of sharia” and that only “three countries – Sudan, Syria and Turkey – favor Islam but do not declare it as the state religion.”

[4] Jonah Mendel, “Israel sees benefits in independent Kurdistan: experts,” AFP, Sept 19, 2017.

[5] United With Israel, “Understanding Kurdistan – The Friends of Israel,” Nov. 27, 2014.

[6] David M. Halbfinger, “Israel Endorsed Kurdish Independence. Saladin Would Have Been Proud,” New York Times, Sept. 22, 2017.

[7] Some reported that the purported movement of “200,000 Israelis of Kurdish origin” to Kurdistan from Israel after independence, with previous motives being the attack of Egypt and Syria, would support the new state. There were some immigration in the past, thanks to the “goodwill” of US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, as well.

[8] Reuters Staff, “Hezbollah says Israel pushing region to war,” Oct 1, 2017. It is also worth recounting a 2003 article in the Jewish Telegraph Agency saying that “the war in Iraq has ended, and the Kurds in the country’s north emerge as one of the war’s great victors, liberating themselves from Saddam Hussein’s oppressive rule and declaring an independent state” with the top leaders of the Kurds “actually Jewish” with possible indications that “the nascent Kurdish country will forge a close alliance with Israel, giving the Jewish state another toehold in the Middle East and access to the oil riches of the Iraqi north.” One Kurdish website also adds that Israel is trying to take advantage of the Kurds by “colonizing Kurdistan,” with the Barzani family taking an “authoritarian” turn, abusing and stealing people’s wealth.