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.

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Dream on!: Bernie’s imperialist monster…in 2022

Samples from recent tweets that show Bernie’s imperialist positions, which are not easy to find. They include human rights imperialism (Oct 24 tweet in upper right), implying that U$ alliance with Saudis will continue (Oct 25 tweet), talks about the “sacrifices” of imperialist footsoldiers (Nov 11 tweet), war criminal George H.W. Bush is “honorable” (Dec 1 tweet), implying that imperialist WWI was an “honorable” war (Nov 11 tweet), condemning “acts of violence” and “appeals to violence,” a common progressive position of weakness (Oct 24 tweet), and declaring that the orange menace “admires” all “authoritarian[s]” he meets, which is in and of itself an imperialist position (Oct 18 tweet)
In 2016, in the second post on this blog, I mentioned how Black bourgeois figure, Ta Nehisi Coates criticized Bernie for not supporting reparations and he continued to smear socialism. Later that year, I drew up a speech where Bernie spoke to a group named “Capitalists for Bernie,” perhaps making him too honest! I also mentioned him briefly in a post about the Saudi-U$ imperial interrelationship. Finally,  in 2017, I described him as an imperialist worth despising. The proposed speech and 2017 article are used for many of the sources in this article, but I also added new sources as well, some from the ideas posted on the Twitter hashtag #SandersTheImperialist, from Bernie’s Twitter feed, and links from the “political  positions of Bernie Sanders” wikipedia page, as well, for further resources. This post is based on the idea that Bernie won the 2020 elections (very unlikely) and was inaugurated U$ president in January 2021. It does not fully show what Bernie’s murderous empire would be like, but tries to focus on the dark side of Bernie, not the side usually promoted by his boosters. Perhaps another scenario will be posted n 2019. Here it goes!

Welcome to SandersTV. I’m your host, Linda Kruneig. Today, January 31, 2022, we will be recalling the accomplishments of our leader riding the white steed of justice, the immutable Bernie Sanders, the non-Marxist president of these great United States  (and not a socialist), where the red, white and blue shine like the reflection of ruby diamond.

Last year, there were many wonderful accomplishments.

Public college is tuition-free and openly accessible, paid for by seized Russian assets (not the financial transaction tax as had been proposed before) after Robert Mueller gave the result we all wanted, when it comes to Russia, and the rascal was pushed out of office. [1] While the student loan debt continues, people can refinance their loans, universities can keep their costs down, which is great for …

[teleprompter explodes. Static]

[a technician tells her:] Ma’am, we have lost the broadcast! We can’t control it anymore!

Why can’t hackers deal with their own problems! I’m so glad that Bernie hit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London with a drone missile, killing the pesky Assange. Wikileaks needed to be dealt with since they were…

[Mic cuts out. Feed changes color, a video begins playing, from an unknown source]

SandersTV viewers, this broadcast has been hijacked by the Anti-Capitalist Liberation Unit (ACLU). We are here to tell you the truth about President Bernie Sanders, a person who has sold out this country to the capitalist class. Derivatives are going wild, causing huge economic fluctuations, Africa continues to be a market for exploitation by U$ capitalists, and the “fair trade” initiatives proposed by the current U$ government are really protectionist claptrap. [2]

Ms. Kruneig talks about “accomplishments” in education. She does not want you to remember how the chipping away of public education continues in the U$, expanding the Race to the Top Program (RTTT) and “reforming” No Child Left Behind to allow for more ranking of schools on spurious factors. [3] She also doesn’t want to remind us to how this administration has given more rights to corporations when it comes to control over content. We remember how Bernie never objected to the Mickey Mouse Protection Act or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and will never forgive him for that. [4]

There is more than this, that those Berniecrats will never tell you, because it would turn the populace against them. Apart from lobbing insults at the late Hugo Chavez, calling him a “dead communist dictator” and voting to open up the Gulf of Mexico to more oil drilling with the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement. The gun industry has been cheering since January 2021 with lax gun laws and further protections of gun manufacturers, even with changed positions over the years. [5] Those capitalists must be smiling with glee, knowing what issues he is focusing on. In tandem with that, Bernie has brought back Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, who has kept in place harsh anti-drug laws and has strongly opposed marijuana legalization efforts, breaking up marijuana dispensaries, despite past statements by Bernie supporting decriminalization and legalization. [6] This has also been part of an effort to convert private prisons to public prisons, keeping in place mass incarceration within the U$ and the racist criminal “justice” system, in part thanks to a law he voted for in 1994. Sure, cash bail and mandatory minimums have been ended, but  the federal parole system has been reinstated, further institutionalizing the prison system in this country. We remember that Bernie once said that white people don’t know what its like to  be in poor communities, experience police brutality, even as he called for reforms, which have manifested themselves today in body cameras which keep in place the necessary status quo since cops than turn them on and off.

Even worse of all, uranium has been shipped to poor communities, like with Sierra Blanca in the 1990s, a clear case of environmental racism, with his wife as a Commissioner on the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission. [7] There was a victory in closing the Guantanamo Bay Prison (Gitmo) but they have just been moved to a maximum security prison in Utah, where no one will say  a word. The current U$ government seems to believe that it must do “everything we can to protect our democracy and work with allies to do the same,” even though there is no democracy in the U$ and hasn’t been since 1776.

Worst of all, Bernie has continued on the Zionist trajectory of the U$ government. We know that he believes in a  modified form of Zionism, Labor Zionism to be exact, and also that he would never turn his back on AIPAC, supporting further treaties with the murderous Zionist state. [8] The never-ending “peace process” for an unattainable “two-state solution” will go on as Palestinians are killed and the U$ gives the green light, while the Zionists will be allowed to illegally occupy the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. He also strongly opposes the BDS movement, despite the fact he opposed an anti-BDS bill in Congress years ago. This is no surprise for a president who engages in “selective and effective” drone strikes or has supported Arab monarchies (like the Saudis, which Bernie once called “despotic“) fighting as U$ proxies “against” Daesh, which came about thanks to the U$, in the place of U$ troops, for the attainment of imperial goals. [9] They are even supported by U$ airstrikes! The thousands upon thousands of private mercenaries remain across the Mideast, doing the bidding of the murderous empire. The “good” Kurds continue to be armed to serve as imperial pawns, the “Iran deal” was restored with the threat of possible sanctions kept in place to supposedly stop a nuclear weapon, there has been an “honorable” withdrawal from Afghanistan which has kept in place private mercenaries, and the security/intelligence apparatus has been expanded! [10] As such, mass surveillance is still the name of the game, coupled with the claim of making the U$ military “strong.”

The Sanders administration has not positively treated Cuba’s government, supporting so-called “democratic” opposition, with more money to USAID and NED to cause even more destabilization, leading to a government like that of Batista to take power again! We stand in solidarity with the noble Cubans resisting this assault. There has even been efforts to extradite black liberationist Assata Shakur and destabilize the government of Syria, wanting to oust the duly-elected leader, Bashar Al-Assad, with support of the Syrian “rebels” who are often religious reactionaries who will turn the country into a living hell, although he does not want a “broad war.” While we have our criticisms of the government there, we also oppose all U$ meddling across the world. The same applies to our opposition to U$ destabilization in Venezuela (also see here, here, and here), where the government is still holding on, bit by bit, and the DPRK, where sanctions remain in place, as does U$ meddling to undermine the government, opening up new markets for the bourgeoisie! Let us also not forget Bernie’s words that “when I talk about Democratic socialist, I’m not looking at Venezuela. I’m not looking at Cuba. I’m looking at countries like Denmark and Sweden,” a clear imperialist position. Even with our criticism of the Chinese revisionists, we do not support U$ meddling there, where the current administration has engaged in, going back on the word of Bernie to avoid a cold war with China, with the promotion of protectionism, working to beat them at their own game, calling out their reportedly “unfair” trade policies,” and voting for the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2000, which gave millions of dollars to support Tibetan anti-communist resistance, support NED initiatives to foster democracy in China, and for more intelligence on their dealings. [11]

Lest us remember that Bernie in 2000 voted against normal trade with China, voted for, in a number of different roll calls, throughout the year, a law which gave millions upon millions of dollars to support destabilization in China, voting for in one roll call then another, a law that provided millions more to continue to destabilize the country. Additionally, Bernie, in 2005, voted in one roll call after another, for a law to fund Tibetan anti-communist development and resistance, voted in 2007 twice, at one time and then another, for a bill that similarly destabilized China, and in 2009 again voted to fund Tibetan anti-communist resistance as part of a  a consolidated bill showed. The same year he also did not object to a law that gave millions to distribute propaganda concerning the environment, governance, transparency, and corruption within Chinese borders!

If that isn’t bad enough, let us remember how Bernie has opposed reparations for Black folks in the U$ and that as Bruce Dixon said rightly many years ago, Bernie’s ideas, stop “at the water’s edge, as he endorses apartheid in Israel, the Pentagon budget and the global empire of hundreds US bases and vast military industries that eat half the nation’s wealth annually,” making Bernie no friend of the poor anywhere outside the U$ (or inside it). So much for a person (Bernie) who once said he was “kind of conservative on getting involved in all kinds of wars abroad” and admitted he is “not a pacifist but…always understood war is the last recourse,” understanding the cost of war.

The F-35 program continues in Vermont, while the petty bourgeoisie (small business) have been supported, including for-profit cooperatives, and guest worker programs have been stopped in order to “assist” U$ workers, dooming migrants, a racist move, wanting closed rather than open borders. [12] Sure, there are no “dumb” wars, but imperialism continues with no closures of U$ bases anywhere in the world. Bernie not surprisingly seems Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin as “authoritarian,” even though neither are because of different government structures in each country, again an imperialist position.

You can talk about Bernie’s socially democratic positions all day but that does not change the fact that he is an imperialist.

End of transmission.

[show restarts]

Thank god, my show is back! Anyway, I think that is all the time we have today. Join us next time when we cover how the U$ is criticizing the Saudis for their actions in Yemen,  and how to get a signed book by Bernie himself. To all, good night.


Notes

[1] This draws from “Sanders: Make College Tuition Free,” May 19, 2015; “Sanders: Make Public Higher Ed Tuition-Free, Reform Loans, Protect Pell Grants,” Apr 13, 2015; “Sen. Bernie Sanders on The O’Reilly Factor,” Mar. 14, 2014.

[2] See his votes to deregulate derivatives in October and December 2000. He also voted for an extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which offers “incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.”Also see criticisms of AGOA from U.S. News & World Report, Public Citizen, and CEPR. By “fair trade” I am referring to his votes against a “free trade” agreement with South Korea, and the Export-Import Bank.

[3] See Bernie’s votes for No Child Left Behind’s first iteration back in 2001, then later changing his mind. Also see “Fair Funding for Schools,”Jun 3, 2012; “Vermont Wins Education Grant,” Dec 20, 2013; “Obama’s Race To The Top Drives Nationwide Wave of School Closings, Teacher Firings,” Jan 10, 2013.

[4] See the votes on the Mickey Mouse Protection Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

[5] See “Congress Passes New Legal Shield for Gun Industry,” a 2005 New York Times article about a law Bernie voted for, called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. He also voted against the Brady Act, made a statement I made about difference between guns in Vermont and shootings in Chicago which was a “dog whistle” that parroted points from the NRA. He even told Playboy that background checks won’t solve the problems we have with guns in America and believed that protecting gun manufacturers is as right as protecting those who make hammers. Also see “Bernie’s Big Break With the Left on Guns.”

[6] Bernie supported the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for an Attorney General, whom made some harsh statements opposing marijuana legalization and so on, while Bernie has also said that people who do hard drugs should be punished to the full extent of the law.

[7] See “The Texas-Vermont-Maine Nuclear Dump: Bringing Environmental Racism Home,” “Texans defend Sierra Blanca community against nuclear waste disposal, 1996-1998,” “Sanders to Sierra Blanca: Drop Dead!,” “Don’t Trust Bernie Sanders,” ““What About Sierra Blanca, Bernie?” From Radioactive Waste on the Rio Grande to Reparations,” “Sanders & Sierra Blanca Legislation,” “What You Should Know About Bernie Sanders And A Controversial Proposal To Bring Toxic Waste To Sierra Blanca.”

[8] He supported Israel in a resolution in summer 2014 and didn’t object to the United States-Israel Partnership Act of 2014. Also see articles in Forward, CNN, HuffPo, Mondoweiss, and a tweet  on the subject.

[9] Please see “democratic socialism in the United States,” a statement on the war power resolution, calling for a Saudi demand for U$ ground troops offensive, calling for Arab nations to “step up the fight against [the] Islamic state,” a statement on Iraq and Syria, a statement on Iraq, a HuffPo article, and a YouTube video. All these positions were taken even though he symbolically voted against the Iraq War in 2002. Not only did Bernie vote in favor of “peacekeeping operations” in Kosovo and in favor of missile strikes against Yugoslavia, but he said on the House floor that “I have supported the NATO bombings of military targets” in Bosnia, even though he lost some supporters by endorsing the destruction of Yugoslavia in a 78 day bombing campaign which drenched Serbia in depleted uranium. The  war would be important in setting a precedent for the wonderful humanitarian imperialists, as used in the Libyan war of 2011 due to the creation of a humanitarian pretext for intervention in Bosnia, that it was just part of a  way to create favorable conditions for corporate profit-making. As such, such humanitarian imperialism, is basically about maintaining its imperial dominance, with the humanitarian guise part of a broader propaganda offensive, with a similar approach used in the Libyan war. Bernie also voted for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, which was about supporting anti-Saddam Iraqis, and signed by Bill Clinton into law. This law was used by Senator Sam Brownback to advocate for bringing capitalism to Iran and to argue for the Iraq War in 2003, even by George W. Bush himself that year, with the preamble to the 2002 bill for the Iraq war’s authorization, citing the law! Additionally, May 1993, Bernie voted for the use of US troops in Somalia, in 1999 justified the brutal US bombing in Bosnia, voting to use US ground troops in 1995, and quoted a member of the German Green Party, Joschka Fischer, in favor of the campaign, arguing that “[this bombing] means standing up against genocide…If we accept Milosevic as a winner, it would be the end of the Europe I believe in” and after someone said he “sold out” he declared “what do you do to a butcher who has lined up people and shot them?” and then said “I don’t know what to do, but I’ll tell you what I am doing, what I am trying to do,” later adding he was “on the phone…with the White House” to help negotiate a settlement. Sanders also voted to confirm Harold Koh as Legal Advisor for the US State Department, a Reagan lawyer who infamously declared that drone killing was legal, a position that Koh took after confirmation but Sanders never expressed an objection to.

[10] Not only did Sanders vote in favor of the imperial Afghan war in 2001 but in 2011 he said that we couldn’t withdraw all of our troops immediately and that U$ soldiers were are doing a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances. He also voted to expand the intelligence apparatus, in a law that created the position of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and many other anti-terror institutions, defended the Department of Homeland Security when it was at its weakest from those who wanted to deny it funding and voted to give it funding. He also told  Yahoo! News said that surveillance of “potential terrorists” is ok.

[11] The voting record on bills of interest, noted in Table A-2 on the site of the State Department, shows Bernie’s record.

[12] See “Bernie Sanders criticizes open borders at Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” “Bernie Sanders H1B skeptic,” Bernie Sanders calls immigrants “silly, tribal and economically illiterate,”  and Bernie’s comments on “open borders.”

“Confused and capricious”: U$ imperialists re-calibrate destabilization of Syria?

As I said on Twitter, this map shows the Syrian government (“Assad regime”) holding “onto much of Syria except for the Kurds in the east, Syrian rebels (“opposition”) in the North along with “Turkish and revel [sic] forces” (referring to the “Free” Syrian Army) and scattered Daesh (“Islamic State”) remnants.” There are other maps, I’ve seen, like one shown by BBC News, but they show the same thing. This map probably simplifies events in Syria a bit too much, tying into existing imperial propaganda it does give one a general idea of what is happening.
This article was reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some changes have been made, but they are only in light of recent events. In light of some comments on Twitter, some (like @commieposting) have criticized how I describe the Kurds in this post, saying I should name the specific Kurdish groups which the U$ backed, previously. That is a valid point, and as such, I have updated the post to specifically name those groups.

For days now, the bourgeois media has been buzzing about possible withdrawal of all U$ troops from Syria, which are said to number 2,000 people, due to the official dictate from the orange menace on December 19th, as noted by Amber B. on this very blog in a recent post. The orange menace’s dictate came in his free-wielding Twitter declarations that Daesh was “defeated” in Syria (with the U$ “victorious”), that he made a concession to stay in Syria while claiming that the U$ is doing the work of Russia, Iran, Syria & others” who are the “local enemy” of Daesh (who are “not happy about the U.S. leaving”), while stating the U$ should not be the “the Policeman of the Middle East,” all of which appeals to his dedicated base of rabid nationalists even if much of this is filled with lies by omission and mis-truths. This was clear from White nationalist Stephen Miller (one of the advisors to the orange menace), declaring to CNN hosts, “are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries? ISIS has been defeated…if ISIS wants to retrench and regrow and reorganize, it’s going to be up to those countries to defeat their enemy” while others said U$ national interest is served by redeployment of troops from Syria elsewhere. [1] More worrisome were the tweets from the Chief Spokesperson of the Pentagon, Dana W. White, who declared that the U$ military campaign, officially said to be against Daesh but really meant to destabilize Syria, “is not over” and that “we have started the process of returning U.S. troops home from #Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign…We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” leaving the door open to further imperialist meddling. With this, the question remains: are U$ imperialists re-calibrating their methods for destabilizing Syria? Regardless of the answer to that question, what do these new developments mean for the world at-large, especially the people of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the panoply of other Middle Eastern countries, many of which have a U$ presence?

As Amber B. put it in the aforementioned post, the dictate by the orange menace “caused an uproar among legislators and the brass,” who were apparently caught off-guard by this announcement. Not only were neo-cons in Washington, like Eli Lake, Lindsay Graham (who wants to somehow change the mind of the orange menace), Max Boot, and Marco Rubio, pushing for further U$ involvement, but so were so-called “experts,” ravenous liberals like Killary, Medhi Hasan, Victoria Nuland (of Ukraine overthrow fame), Chris Coons, and Bob Menendez, libertarians like “ironic” Justin Raimondo or Maj. Danny Sjursen, who declared that “Assad is undoubtedly a monster,” and varied other politicians, all of whom are utter imperialists. Apart from the editors of the National Review declaring that U$ intervention in Syria should continue because the U$ has gained “valuable territorial leverage” and there is “work left to be done” in order to continue destabilization of Syria, even as they admit that Russia’s intervention in Syria has “been an unmitigated success,” Brian Kilmeade of Fox News angrily attacked the action by the orange menace. [2] At the same time, warmongers like Carl Bildt complained about their voices being overruled/ignored, Ian Bremmer cried like a wolf struck with an arrow, howling in pain, saying that “Assad has won…Obama’s gone, Assad is still there. It is embarrassing to admit that Assad has won,” then continuing with his typical imperialist rhetoric. Even NGOs like Refugees International and Mercy Corps seemed to support continued U$ imperial presence in Syria.

Not surprisingly, there has been a number of ill-informed takes by “good, decent liberals“: that the withdrawal is a “corrupt Russian plot” (despite the fact that another meeting between the orange menace and Putin likely will not happen), that “mass murderers” are emboldened, that the withdrawal is a “give-away to Russia in Syria” or part of an “alliance with Putin,” somehow shows that Trump is a “puppet” of Russia, that there is no clear plan or that the orange menace cares about his supposed investments in Russia and Turkey. While the last one could have some credence, the orange menace is not only out for himself, but represents the face of U$ imperialism, so, these reasons are reductive and are Russophobic approaches to what is happening in the world, tying into media narratives that promote this perspective. [3] You will never see liberals making the valid point Marx made to the International Workingman’s Association in London, that “…no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade,” or any “improvement of machinery…appliance of science to production…[or] contrivances of communication,” will do away with the miseries of the working class (which he called the “industrious masses”). The point about imperialism, which is implied in this statement is what I refer to here, is that it will not do away with the working class’s troubles. The reason liberals or progressives will not make this point is that they float underdeveloped theories like “intersectionality” which does not pose class as a central component of oppression, leading to a distorted view of the world. In the process of criticizing such theories, one can avoid the petty-bourgeois sloppiness Lenin criticized in 1918, when criticizing left-communists, adding that is important for Marxists to “give a coherent and complete exposition of the principles underlying one’s views and tactics,” a process which is championed and done on a regular basis on sites such as this one.

This undoubtedly raises the question of whether this dictate “will survive the row it has unleashed.” The question of whether this dictate will survive is also questioned by the fact that varied administration officials have declared in the past year that U$ troops will remain in Syria (specifically to counter Iran), even as Rand Paul and Mike Lee support the decision by the orange menace, as does Ron Paul, who praised the decision, telling the orange menace not to “buckle” under pressure. [4] As Amber B. put it, this decision serves “as further evidence for a profoundly confused and capricious imperialist mandate.” But that does not mean we should buy into the idea that the U$ imperialists are bumbling fools like Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, as left-journalist of Pierre Omidyar’s plaything (The Intercept) Jeremy Scahill declared at one time. It is worth noting that even oft-writing revisionist Stephen Gowans, the person who thinks that Syria is a “non-Marxist” socialist state, declared that the “announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the drawdown of US occupation forces in Afghanistan…more likely reflect the adoption of new means of achieving longstanding US foreign policy goals” with a policy “based on shifting the burden of maintaining the US empire increasingly to allies and private soldiers bankrolled by oil monarchies,” a clearly valid point.

As such, to recall what Amber B. said, we should remember Lenin, recognizing that “in the absence of an anti-war movement, we must build the conditions for turning imperialist war into revolutionary civil war.” This refers directly, to what Lenin wrote in 1915: that a “revolutionary struggle against the war” is empty and meaningless unless it means “revolutionary action against one’s own government even in wartime.” What does this mean? Lenin explains this means not only desiring the defeat of one’s government, but “facilitating such a defeat,” with the conversion of an imperialist war into a civil war developing out of “a number of diverse phenomena, aspects, features, characteristics and consequences of the imperialist war.” Ultimately that would allow the “proletariat to take advantage of the difficulties experienced by its government and its bourgeoisie in order to overthrow them,” but that cannot happen “without desiring the defeat of one’s own government and without contributing to that defeat.” Currently, it would be absurd to say the U$ or any Western country is on the verge of revolution, as many seem to be caught in the thick imperialist and capitalist fog of deception.

Having said all of this, it is worth noting some positive developments: that the major U$ operation in Syria (officially against Daesh) planned before the announced withdrawal will be canceled, that the U$ is planning to close the “Al-Tanf base near the Syrian border with Jordan,” and that John Bolton’s decision to expand the U$ goals in Syria to force Iranian forces to “eventually withdraw” was a failure, another defeat for the hardened imperialist. [5] Even so, the Pentagon is reportedly negotiating to “keep U.S. air power in the fight over Syria.” This means, as should be evident, imperialism, like capitalism, is very adaptable, with increasing “coordination between the monopoly capital and the state within core nations,” with monopoly capitalism involving exporting capital in order to “seek additional surplus value,” and the key feature of such imperialism involving “exporting class struggle and civil war to the peripheral regions.” The latter is the case not only in Syria, but manifests itself in the ongoing deadly armed conflicts in Mexico (drug war since 2006), Iraq (since at least 2003), Afghanistan (since 1978), and Yemen (since 2011). It also includes the smaller ongoing armed conflicts across much of eastern, central, and northern Africa, the Mideast, central Asia, East Asia, along with others scattered in parts of Europe and Latin America.

More possible than not, this call for a withdrawal is part of a re-orientation of U$ policy with Turkey tasked with balkanization of Syria, even as the Chinese revisionists don’t see this as a big deal. This handing of the baton to Turkey is evidenced by the fact that on Tuesday, the U$ State Department approved a sale of a $3.5 billion Patriot missile system, including 140 missiles and related equipment, to Turkey which recently decided not to pursue buying S-400 missiles  from Russia. [6] Additionally, on December 4th, two top State Department officials met with the Turks, where they discussed “promotion of stability and security in Syria.” Some, like cordeliers on Twitter, have further argued that that this withdrawal will “provide useful cover for a NATO proxy war managed by Turkey,” while headchoppers of Daesh are rolled into “rebel” militias, and a transition to a new phase of U$ proxy wars in the Mideast. It is even possible that the Zionists will have a role in this new strategy as Netanyahu pledged, in response to the decision of the orange menace, that “we will safeguard the security of Israel and protect ourselves from this arena” and that AIPAC declared that Iran and Hezbollah be “prevented from exploiting this development to further destabilize the region and threaten our allies,” with steps by the U$ to “counter the mounting aggression of Iran and its terrorist proxy Hezbollah.”

There is also an open question of whether Russia will be part of the partition of Syria considering they are one of the three “self-appointed guarantors of the Syrian peace process,” apart from Turkey and Iran, with Russia recently further downscaling its military presence by cutting military flights within Syria from more than hundred per day to fewer than four every week! [7] All three are part of a committee “due to write a new constitution for the country,” which could pave the “pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a possible peace process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.” While this could have some positive results, it doesn’t seem right for these countries to re-write a constitution which should be solely written and drafted by the Syrian people! Even so, the Syrian government seems willing to accept the process, which agreed with the Syrian opposition on members which represent “civil society.” Considering the principle established by Marx that “existence and thereby the collisions…between these classes are in turn conditioned by the degree of development of their economic position, by the mode of their production and of their exchange determined by it,” it raises the question: who will these civil society members represent?

There was also a theory posed by a recent AP article: that the orange menace decided to withdrawal from Syria based on a telephone call with Erdogan on December 14th. [8] This supposes that everyone of the orange menace’s advisers agreed with Erdogan’s assessment of Daesh, then the orange menace magically agreed to pull out troops. Taking this at face value, Moon of Alabama says that the orange menace did not not “capitulate” to Erdogan but “was finally given a chance” to withdrawal and “grabbed the opportunity”which Erdogan was not ready for, with other articles acting like the orange menace achieved his objective of withdrawal he has wanted since he was inaugurated. [9] They say that Erdogan was caught off guard because while Turkey has planned to “occupy a 10 mile deep strip along the Syrian-Turkish border,” 50,000 to 100,000 troops would be needed to occupy “all of east Syria northward of the Euphrates” which would be opposed by armed Kurds (those within “Rojava”) and a hostile Arab population. While this is convincing, considering Turkey recently said they would delay their military offensive into Syria’s territory, I have a sense something more is going on. This is because 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, which some are annoyed with. On November 22, Middle East Monitor reported 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. This brings us, logically, to the Kurdish question in Syria.

We know that generally, 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.” Amber B., in the aforementioned article linked at the beginning of this piece put it well: that while there is some truth in the fact that U$ withdrawal is “an effective abandonment of the progressive Kurdish forces,” the Kurdish people can only resolve their problems on their own, and as such,  we should condemn those, like Debbie Bookchin (daughter of noted anarchist Murray Bookchin), a branch of the Democratic “Socialists”of America (actually social democrats), self-declared anarchist Noam Chomsky who advocates for U$ presence to “deter an attack on the Kurdish areas,” and the NYC Socialist Rifle Association, to name a few, who have “substituted genuine internationalism for mindless propaganda work for competing imperialist powers.” As such, those who criticize these Kurds in “Rojava,” like the YPG,  SDF, and PYD, for their alliance with U$ imperialists are not stooges of Erdogan as some have dumbly claimed. This is due to the fact 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! Of course, those in “Rojava” are no Marxists, as they do not hold, as Eleanor Marx (Karl and Jenny Marx’s daughter) and Edward Aveling 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.”

Maybe they even hold the latter about society, with social contract seeming democratic with federalist system including legislative, executive, and judicial branches, professed equality in “persons and communities,” a right to live in a healthy environment and express certain rights (“ethnic, cultural, linguistic and gender”), freedom of speech except that which can be restricted, with a policy of interference and admitting their integral nature to Syria, which met some  “fundamental requirements of Western international backers opposing the Syrian regime,” as Chatham House declared in 2016. While there are some other rights given, like equality in gender, worship, assembly,  political participation, seek political asylum, it also endorses private property: “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.” While the economy of “Rojava” seems social democratic in “directed at providing general welfare and in particular granting funding to science and technology,” aimed at “guaranteeing the daily needs of people and to ensure a dignified life,” with monopoly prohibited, along with “labor rights and sustainable development…guaranteed,” but does not including a proposal for a planned economy. This is coupled with no prohibition of “extractive processes, management, licensing and other contractual agreements related to such [natural] resources” by corporate entities. As such, it raises the question how progressive “Rojava” (composed of three regions: Jazira, Euphrates, and Afrin) is, after all, since the levers of power seems to be in control by the PYD (also noted by a Reuters article in 2017 which noted that there was no voting in Arab-majority areas in the region) even though the New York Times declared, in 2015, there was apparently no hierarchy.

Articles in bourgeois media have added that France, Germany, and the UK still are openly siding with these Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), recently engaged in bloody (and horrible) battles, who control “roughly one quarter of Syria,” an area which is “rich in farmland, oil and water” (which BBC News admitted allowed the U$ to “indirectly” control “half of Syria’s strategic resources – including many oil fields and dams, and much of its most fertile agricultural land”), a possibly strong “bargaining chip” in negotiations with  the Syrian government. [10] They also note that some Kurdish leaders are admitting that “relying on the Americans is always a failed experience, at the very least for Kurds,” and others saying, without recognizing the fact the West has allowed “Rojava” (which has only existed since January 2014) to exist, “the whole world is taking the view that the Kurdish cause can be bought and sold.” This all feeds into sob stories, like those fed to people like Richard Engels of NBC News, that U$ troops in Syria (officially special forces) are “distraught, upset, morally disturbed by having to tell their kurdish allies in Syria that…their promises of defense won’t be kept,” acting like we should feel sorry for imperialists.

When it comes to the Kurds, especially YPG/SDF/PYD, it is worthwhile to recall a number of posts I made on the subject. Most of the posts I have written on the Kurds in the past year have focused on the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the defeat of their ill-thought referendum, while also highlighting how the creation of an ethno-state called “Kurdistan,” spanning northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along with parts of Turkey and Iran, would “assist Zionist expansionism, Saudi expansionism, and Western imperialism in dividing up the region,” while also not beneficial for anyone in the Mideast. In the last article linked when I said that the Kurds were an ethnicity, not a nation, I was countering the notions that such an ethno-state was workable, even as I am not sure I agree with my conclusions at the time that Kurds should just work within existing political systems in Syria and Iraq. So, in some ways, my views are changing, but I still remain a critic of the current trend toward Kurdish nationalism, while recognizing what others say about self-determination. At the present, the question of creating a state named “Kurdistan” is mute as the Kurds are effectively divided into two parts: those in “Rojava” (eastern Syria) like YPG/SDF/PYD, and those in Northern Iraq under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which exists as a semi-autonomous area within Iraq. It also worth noting that the Syrian Communist Party recently denounced the “occupation of the US and Turkey,” along with an “emphasis on solidarity with the resistance of Afrin to the Turkish occupation. They also, last month, at a meeting of communist and workers parties in Greece, that

…fundamental contradictions of global imperialism, identified by Leninism, increasingly rage [including]…contradiction between work and capital, whose catastrophic effects are evident not only in the capitalist states of the parties…The situation of a large number of hard-working people in capitalist centers and in many ways falls short of what they had been in the first half of the twentieth century…The contradiction between imperialist capitalist centers and capitalist states [is clear]…The most blatant examples of such a policy of…imperialist aggression are found in the case of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria, all of which have been subjected to direct military or imperialist aggression or through the agents of imperialism with the open support of the imperialist countries…The contradiction between the imperialist centers, that is, the contradiction between the financial monopolies and the governments they represent in order to distribute the riches of the total imperialist plunder of the world…All the progressives in the world are aware of the disastrous consequences of a comprehensive and destructive war as they work against the threat of multiple forms of war…To remove the danger of war, imperialism must be dropped…The changes in the international arena also indicate an increase in the role of national liberation movements as a component of the global revolutionary process. National resistances, which are objectively part of the national liberation movements, regardless of the ideology prevailing in this or that faction, have dealt a serious blow to the expansionist tendency of imperialism and its agents…This is what Syria is doing in its courageous response to the ferocious attack by the Atlantic imperialism and its agents and the continuing aggression of Zionist Israel…Syrian communists engaged in the major battle to defend their homeland, along with other national forces…At present, our party believes that the most important goal facing our people is to liberate its territory under the yoke of imperialist occupation, as well as to strenuously oppose the projects that are embroiled in imperialist circles and aimed at dividing Syria…The Syrian Communist Party is characterized by linking the economic and social struggle with the general political struggle. Our Syrian Communist Party is fighting for a complete break with liberal economic trends in defense of national production and the interests of the struggling masses…The circumstances of the imperialist onslaught and the intensification of the contradictions of imperialism require the intensification of the global communist and labor movement and the strengthening of coordination between their factions in order to effectively confront imperialism and then overthrow it. These circumstances also indicate the need to form a united global front between the revolutionary labor movement and national liberation movements.

There is also a revisionist counterpart as well, but recent statements of it are hard to find.

For the purposes of this post, I refer back to the articles I wrote last year on the topic, apart from one where I countered deluded reddit critics or other scattered mentions in varied other articles I wrote in 2016 and 2017. While opposing Turkish invasion of Syria, I argued that Turks and certain Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are assisting U$ imperialist objectives, adding that “Rojava” itself is an illegal entity, questioned when self-determination can be used (an argument I am not sure I completely agree with now), and that there are by Western standards, two types of Kurds: the “good” ones that ally with the West (YPG/SDF/PYD) and the “bad” ones that ally with the Syrian government. I also added that “the Syrian government (and people) will continue to be in a precarious situation until the end of the conflict and withdrawal of Western imperialism from the region. The best we can do is pledge solidarity with those fighting the mercenaries of imperial conquest, not only Daesh but the “rebel” forces and “good” Kurds [YPG/SDF/PYD], and all of those standing against global capitalism, even with our respective critiques,” which is still a valid position. Once again, while dated, I would say my two-part series on “Rojava” for Dissident Voice, while without its problems, still is relatively sound in pointing out that such a nation is an illegal entity and how Western imperialism has made its existence possible, making both articles still relevant.

There is no doubt that the Turkish government is strongly anti-Kurd to the point of being genocidal, despite the fact that those who run “Rojava” declared that “we have always wanted to develop a relationship of friendship and neighborliness with Turkey,” but that does not mean U$ presence will save them. Besides, the Syrian government still welcomes the Kurds despite their (specifically the YPG/SDF/PYD) past alliance with the U$ and other Western countries, so I could easily envision a Syrian-Kurdish alliance against the encroaching Turks. One recent article poignantly added that “up to now the Kurds had been prepared to rely on any foreign country, including Israel, to provide them with independence, rather than remaining loyal to Syria,” but saying at at the same time that “the Syrian Army will definitely collaborate with the Kurds to quash ISIS…between two fires on each side of the Euphrates,” adding that “the Kurds are weaker than ever and may well have lost the privileged position they had under US protection,”confirming that when faced with U$ interests, “all partnerships and alliances are dispensable.” Some imperialists, and deluded leftists, will easily, as the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) are killed by Turkish bombs (which are supplied by the U$), declare “remember the Kurds!” just like imperialists cried about “remember the Maine!” after the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Texans after the surrender of the Alamo (“remember the Alamo!”) or U$ soldiers, recalling how British cavalry at the 1778 battle in Camden had attacked surrendering U$ soldiers during the Revolutionary War, cried  “remember Buford!” as they shot down surrendering Redcoats in later battles.

To take from the same Moon of Alabama article I mentioned earlier, while the Turkish army could engage in a large occupation of northeast Syria, it would “cost a lot of casualties and financial resources,” with those writers arguing they would only invade if Russia and Syria “fail to get the Kurds under control.” The same article, which makes the mistake of calling the Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD) “anarcho-Marxist,” does note that Kurdish leaders of “Rojava” are currently making the same demands Damascus previously rejected before Turkey destroyed Afrin, while also saying that the paltry sum of British and French forces numbering in the thousands, along with those contributed by other members of the coalition of African, European, Middle Eastern, and American countries reportedly “fighting Daesh,” will likely not stay in Syria without U$ support. However, other articles posited that “a continued presence of allied troops working with local Syrians might compel the U.S. to contribute air” which is a distinct possibility. [11]

On a related note, there has been another development: the departure of Jim Mattis (effective February 28, January 1, 2019), the head of the Pentagon, who advocated for a more “muscular U.S. role in the Mideast,” who wanted continued U$ presence in Syria and Afghanistan, to be replaced by Patrick Shaheen, who favored the space force proposed by the orange menace and has ties to the arms trade between Turkey and the U$, rather than other candidates for the job. [12] For similar reasons, Brett McGerk, the special presidential envoy on the anti-Daesh coalition, recently quit (resignation effective at the end of the year), reportedly writing in an email to his staff that the orange menace’s decision was a “shock” which left “our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered…I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity.” One imperial correspondent, Jonathan Marcus of BBC News, who called Mattis “much respected,” feared an “unplanned” withdrawal from Syria, and talked about a changing world with rising China (fitting with the new “Africa strategy” unveiled by John Bolton) and “resurgent” Russia, growled that “President Trump seems to be charting his own erratic course through an ocean of reefs, rocks and monsters without any strategic map to guide him.” Interestingly, the same article had a map that showed strong Syrian government control up to the Euphrates, coupled with strong Kurdish control (YPG/SDF/PYD) in eastern part (east of the Euphrates), Syrian rebels and “Jihadist forces” near border with Turkey, as is Turkish military and Turkish-backed rebels, Syrian rebels in the South, and some scattered Daesh pockets, which made his argument a joke. It also should be no surprise that liberal imperialists literally defended Mattis, an “ingrained imperialist” who changed the Pentagon’s mission, was fired by Obama for being too hawkish toward Iran, and opposes the withdrawal of half of the U$ troop presence from Afghanistan (a moderate measure), just as they held worthless rallies to “defend” Robert Mueller earlier this year.

Of course, liberals were baffled by Mattis’s resignation, calling him either a coward, feeling sad about a “loss” of imperial prestige, or pathetically claiming that Putin “applauded” when U$ said they were leaving Syria (despite the fact that he cast doubt on the planned withdrawal). If what is said by the bourgeois media is true, it almost seems that Mattis, a high-ranking officer, used his resignation (which he wrote in September, as the story goes) almost as a form of blackmail to prevent the orange menace from calling for a withdrawal from Syria. If so, that is a frightening use of military power over civilian power, which should be undoubtedly criticized.

Even saying all this, it will be a quandary that Mattis is the one whom will approve the plan for the withdrawal of U$ troops, and once that happens “U.S. troops will begin leaving Syria with the expectation that they will all be out 30 days later.” [13] As such, the U$ troops would be no longer assisting a “Kurdish-led force that now numbers more than 50,000 and is about 40 percent Arab,” with reportedly only 20% through the U$-led “training process.” The Kurds (YPG/SDF/PYD), in this case, are those directly at the front-lines as only four U$ soldiers have been killed, by official counts, since the beginning of the U$ deployment in Syria itself!

This connects to the fear, held by the varied sectors of the bourgeoisie, represented in varied pundits, politicians, and analysts, at minimum, that “Syrian territory occupied by US forces will be returned to the control of Syrian government forces,” even though they claim that areas occupied by the U$ will fall into the hands of terrorists. The withdrawal, the same article posited, saying it will take place in 60-100 days, would more than anything “benefit Syria and Syrians most of all,” allowing Iran to get a benefit, and Russia since it reduces the possibility of conflict with the U$. Iraq will benefit from not having “to commit so many forces to watching the US,” and the “likelihood of an extended Turkish occupation of Afrin and Idlib” may be reduced too, while the Zionists will lose out (after protests over worsening conditions in the proper part of the Zionist state), regretting “loss of access to US airports to use over Syrian occupied territory.” However, the Russian government is skeptical of U$ withdrawal from Syria, which is justified considering that the U$ will “conduct air strikes” in Syria “until the full pullout of troops from its territory,” since the U$ will “conduct air and artillery strikes” in support of their forces! This is a justified skepticism because the U$ could easily get pulled right back into Syria itself, meaning that all options are open. After all, there was talk early this year about Daesh thriving in U$-occupied areas of Syria and the Pentagon planting high numbers of supposed fighters of Daesh.

This brings us to U$ presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Amber B. noted in the aforementioned article at the beginning of this post, nothing is being “done about the u.$. occupation of Iraq,” meaning that this withdrawal could “become just a redeployment, whether by special forces or mercenaries,” even as a “withdrawal from Syrian territory would represent a contraction of the amerikan frontlines, and most definitely serve to weaken their interests overall, but we should not mistake it for “peace” in any sense.” It was further noted that peace “is only something that can truly be won through the elimination of imperialism overall.” What is said is an accurate determination. This is because earlier this month Pompeo spoke with Adil Abd al-Madhi, Iraq’s Prime Minister, about “recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria,” claimed that the U$ will respect Iraq’s sovereignty, that that “the Coalition will continue to work closely with Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS remnants.” As for Afghanistan, as mentioned earlier in this article, there is talk of a withdrawal of half of the U$ troops from that country. While this is a positive development, the U$ imperialists want to “conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States,” meaning their respective bourgeoisie, specifically the U$ bourgeoisie. It is a laughable argument to say that the moderate withdrawal is somehow connected to Putin, as those like Rachel Maddow, a prominent liberal imperialist, have posited, as the U$ imperialists are extremely hostile to the Russians currently, as evidenced by continued sanctions and sending of arms to Ukraine, and there is no way that Putin or any other high-ranking Russian official would have any ounce of influence over the murderous U$ empire. But, there is another element. While it would be a great victory, you could say, if all the U$ troops are withdrawn, over 49,000 wicked mercenaries remain in U$ “areas of responsibility” within the Mideast, more than half of which are currently in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

With that there are some concluding thoughts. To again mention Amber B.’s post, it was argued that the withdrawal from Syria “represents another great slippage in imperialist footing, and we should exploit this to the best of our ability,” adding that “withdrawal from Syria should become a domino effect in our propaganda, and we should demand the further withdrawal of amerikan forces from surrounding countries, and ultimately every outpost of u.$. imperialism.” It was further noted that a struggle lies ahead within the U$ imperialist state, “as its decrepit factions squabble with one another, and we should use this moment of confusion to our advantage,” adding that “our propaganda should not endorse any imperialist faction over another, but underscore the necessity in struggling against them all.” As such, the article concludes, “we should not resign ourselves only to calls for peace, but augment them with the call to fight imperialism.” This is a justified approach, as siding with one imperialist faction would lead to ruin. With that, a piece of Lenin, in 1902, is relevant at this point, saying that liberalism must be analyzed with the “class point of view,” with interests of the autocracy only coinciding with some of the bourgeoisie, leading to some liberal opposition to autocracy, which protects the bourgeoisie from socialism, adding that while “Communists support every revolutionary movement against the existing system,” this does not “imply support for the liberal opposition.” He further added that it was the duty of revolutionaries to “explain to the proletariat every liberal and democratic protest, to widen and support it, with the active participation of the workers,” not acquiescing leadership of such social improvement efforts to liberals. This can be applied to different efforts by the masses to fight imperialism in all its manifestations, regardless of social movements.

In the process of fighting the imperialist beast, one must recall what Engels and Marx rejected in 1879: “people who openly claim that the workers are too ignorant to emancipate themselves but must first be emancipated from the top down, by the philanthropic big and petty bourgeois.” What this means, in practice, is that the working class in the U$, let’s say, is not ignorant and needs our enlightened assistance like we are coming from the upper spirals of an ivory tower. Rather, to recall from that same article, “educated elements” from the bourgeoisie can join the proletariat, but in doing so, they cannot push out or dominate the proletariat in the process of working with them, rather having to “assimilate [to] the proletariat viewpoint,” which is worth remembering. While obviously it is incorrect to say that the working class will not understand political struggle, we can recall, easily, what Lenin wrote in 1899: that certain workers are “backward” in their thinking, even as they will still understand the struggle, and that it is important to recognize the educated or “developed” workers in the class struggle as a whole. In the case of fighting imperialism, this means countering those among the proletariat who hold viewpoints that are pro-imperialist, bringing them into position standing against the U$ war machine in all its imperial manifestations.

The path forward to fight imperialism is up to the masses, supported by those which work  to increase their consciousness, bringing them to a revolutionary posture. Smash the capitalist system! A socialist world is possible! Down with the bourgeoisie!

Notes

[1] Caroline Kelly, “Stephen Miller defends Trump’s Syria withdrawal: ‘Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation spilling American blood?’,” CNN, Dec 21, 2018

[2] National Review Editors, “Stay in Syria,” Dec. 19, 2018; “‘Fox & Friends’ co-host calls out Trump on Syria: ‘Nobody thinks ISIS is defeated’,” The Hill, Dec. 20, 2018; Deirdre Shesgreen, “Trump’s troop withdrawal caps failed US policy in Syria, experts say,” USA Today, Dec. 20, 2018; “Coons: U.S. should not abandon Kurds, leave Syria,” Dover Post, Dec 20, 2018; Eli Lake, “Trump Courts Catastrophe in Syria,” Bloomberg, Dec. 19, 2018; “”Assad has won,” Ian Bremmer says, as Trump recalls troops from Syria,” CBS News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien,  “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Victoria Nuland, “Syria will come back to haunt us,” Washington Post, Dec 20, 2018; David Brown, Gregory Hellman, and Burgess Everett, “Republicans rip Trump’s surprise Syria withdrawal in meeting with Pence,” Politico, Dec. 19, 2018; “Graham plans resolution urging Trump to change mind on Syria,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018.

[3] Joel Gehrke, “Russia blesses US troop withdrawal from Syria,” Washington Examiner, Dec. 19, 2018; “Trump Defends Syria Troop Pullout,” Newsmax, Dec. 20, 2018; John Hudson, Paul Sonme, and Anton Troianovski, “Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria marks a win for Putin,” Washington Post,  Dec 20, 2018.

[4] “Shocking Syria withdrawal plan is pure Trump,” CNN Wire, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP,  Dec 19, 2018; Democrat-Gazette staff, “U.S. to withdraw troops from Syria, Trump announces,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Dec. 20, 2018.

[5] Andrew Desiderio, “Trump’s Abrupt Syria Withdrawal Thwarted ‘Major’ Operation Targeting ISIS, Sen. Bob Corker Says,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; Spencer Ackerman and Kimberly Dozier, “Bolton’s Hawkish Syria Plan Backfired, Pushing Trump to Get Out,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 21, 2018; “US will close base in Syria that Russia complained about,” The Hill, Dec 20, 2018. While there is no organized anti-war movement in the U$, there are peace organizations growing in strength. One of those in the Black Alliance for Peace which takes a strong anti-imperialist position, mentioning genocide of indigenous people, “brutal super-exploitation of enslaved African labor” which was used “to amass imperialist wealth,” allowing the U$ to elevate itself “to a world power after the second imperialist war in 1945,” adding that with the recent moves by the orange menace “the ruling-class propagandists” at the major media outlets “have sounded the alarm of pending doom for the empire,” saying that their group doesn’t “praise a U.S. president for ending the illegal subversion, invasion and occupation of a sovereign state that should have never been allowed in the first place by the theoretical representatives of the people who now sit in the U.S. Congress,” leaving the question open if full and rapid withdrawal of U$  forces from Syria will happen. Rather, they demand “demand a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, including the mercenary components referred to as “contractors,” want an end to the “war in Afghanistan with a complete and total withdrawal of U.S. forces,” denounce those who think that “permanent war is both rational and inevitable,” while concluding that “the final resolution of the U.S.-led war in Syria must be determined by Syrians themselves. All foreign forces must recognize and respect the sovereignty of the Syrian people and their legal representatives,” calling for “U.S. out of Syria! U.S. out of Africa! Shut down AFRICOM and all NATO bases! Reallocate the people’s resources from funding war to realizing the human rights of all people, not just the 1 percent!” Veterans for Peace, an older peace organization, takes a straight anti-interventionist position, saying they are pleased by the announcement of withdrawal from Syria, adding that the U$ “armed and trained Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda aligned forces, who are seeking to destroy the secular, multi-religious Syrian state and establish a harsh fundamentalist order of their own,” bombed the “city of Raqqa, Syria, similar to its bombardment of Mosul, Iraq,” adding that a “continued U.S. presence in Syria would only prolong a policy that has been disastrous for all the peoples of the region.” They also hoped for a total withdrawal of U$ troops from Syria, a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and said that “it is time to turn a page in history and to build a new world based on human rights, equality and mutual respect for all. We must build momentum toward real and lasting peace. Nothing less than the survival of human civilization is at stake.” Similarly is the position by the World Peace Council.

[6] Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Matthew Lee and Robert Burns, “US to withdraw all American troops in Syria, official says,” AP, Dec 19, 2018.

[7] Patrick Wintour, “Russia, Turkey and Iran reach agreement on Syria committee,” The Guardian, Dec 18, 2018; “Russia slashes Syria military flights,” AFP, Dec 11, 2018; Edith M.  Lederer, “UN envoy: More work needed on Syria constitutional committee,” AP, Dec. 20, 2018. This connects to article I read boldly declaring that the proposed U$ withdrawal is occurring because “the Syrian Arab Army, which now has Russian anti-aircraft equipment, the best in the world,” meaning “they have no choice but to leave before humiliation.” However, I think this could be too simplistic as it casts the Russians as the saviors.

[8] Matthew Lee and Susannah George, “Trump call with Turkish leader led to US pullout from Syria,” AP, Dec. 21, 2018.

[9] Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay, “In Syria retreat, Trump rebuffs top advisers and blindsides U.S. commanders,” Reuters, Dec. 19, 2018.

[10] Guney Yildiz,”US withdrawal from Syria leaves Kurds backed into a corner,” BBC News, Dec 20, 2018; Gregory Hellman and Connor O’Brien, “Pulling out of Syria: A primer,” Politico, Dec 20, 2018; Layal Abou Rahal, “US pullout leaves Syria Kurds exposed,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; Tom Perry and Ellen Francis, “Syria’s Kurds reel from U.S. move, Assad seen planning next step,”Reuters, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria: World reacts to Trump’s decision to pull US troops out,” Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Sune Engel Rasmussen and David Gauthier-Villars, “Key U.S. Partner in Syria Thrown Into Disarray,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20, 2018; “Syria Kurds say to keep up anti-IS fight unless Turkey attacks,” AFP, Dec. 20, 2018; “Key U.S. ally in Syria rejects Trump claim that ISIS has been defeated,” AP, Dec 20, 2018; Ali Younes, Trevor Aaronson, and Murtaza Hussein, “Syria battle against ISIL far from over, despite US pull-out plan,”Al Jazeera, Dec 20, 2018; Hollie. McKay, “Syrian Kurds allied with US shocked, scared by news of troop withdrawal,” Fox News, Dec 20, 2018.

[11] Robert Burns and Loita Baldor, “Pentagon scrambles on Syria exit amid withdrawal outrage,” AP, Dec 20, 2018.

[12] Paul D. Shinkman, “The Mattis-Trump Partnership Collapses Under Its Own Weight,” U.S. News & World Report, Dec 20, 2018; Shaun Tandon and Thomas Watkins, “US defense chief quits as Trump pulls from Syria, Afghanistan,” AFP, Dec 21, 2018; Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Margaret Talev, “Trump’s Syria Pullout Fuels Confusion With Kurds Left in Lurch,” Bloomberg, Dec 19, 2018; Victoria Bekiempis, “Brett McGurk, the Man Who Built Coalition to Fight ISIS, Quits Over Presidents ISIS Strategy,” The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2018; Jonathan Marcus, “After Mattis, Trump’s foreign policy worries allies,” BBC News, Dec. 21, 2018. On a related note, one Twitter user, @RedKahina, reminded users of how Matt Blumenthal, Ben Norton, and Rania Khalek once propaganda for a partition of Syria by Turkey, a NATO ally.

[13] Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin, “What you need to know about US military involvement in Syria as Trump orders withdrawal,” ABC News, Dec 20, 2018.

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.

Dialectical materialism: the foundation of Marxism

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

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

Defining the concept of dialectical materialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rough definition of dialectical materialism

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

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

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

Proof of dialectical materialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concluding words

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid, pp 28-29.

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

[9] Ibid, pp 68, 69.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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