From Citizen Kane to Citizen Four: Reviewing One Hundred (Mostly) Hollyweird films

This image is meant show some of my favorite films which I reviewed. There are many others I didn’t include here, but would also add them to my favorite films as well. I added a photograph from  /r/socialism of Che Guevara with a camera as well. The film images are from: pre-code.com for The Miracle Woman (bottom left corner), BFI for photo from American Madness (middle top), Cinema Shame for photo from Citizen Kane, which was referenced in a Simpsons episode when Sideshow Bob runs for mayor and “wins”, and WSWS (annoying and disgusting Trotskyists) for a photo from The Young Karl Marx, from WSWS, with a pretty positive review of the film, ending with “if the film, despite its weaknesses, encourages young people to study Marxism, it will fulfill an important task” which I’ll agree with.

I know its been over two months since I’ve posted on this blog, but perhaps this post will explain why I have not written, at least to some extent. I see no need to address any recent Twitter conversations either, as those will stay on the rotting Twittersphere. I have, for the last two month, been reviewing film after film, to come to a list of 100 (mostly) Hollyweird films to review, which begins with a radical analysis. This post will reprint the preamble and preface to this 167-page-review of films, which will set a foundation for reviewing other films in the future, going beyond any possible “good socialist/communist films?” like those listed on /r/socialism four years ago. [1] I can assure you that the next films I look at will be much more diverse, without question, as I’ll probably rewatch some of Kurasawa films, like The Bad Sleep Well, others by Peter Watkins, like Punishment ParkThe War Game, Privilege, along with a slew of Soviet films, like The Cigarette Girl from Mosselprom, to name a few. As always, comments are welcome.

Preamble

Most of these reviews come from reviews on my IMDB account, LCMovieCrusader, many of which have spoilers, but not all. A small select group of reviews come from my WordPress blog, specifically for Woman Walks Ahead, Black Panther, Paths of Glory, Sorry to Bother You, Blackkklansman, A Hologram for the King, Back to the Future, Black Hawk Down, Citizen Four, Free State of Jones, and Forrest Gump, some of which have been expanded to create a more complete review. Also included are two combined reviews, specifically looking at the six Star Wars films (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), with possible review of other Star Wars genre films in the future, which come from my WordPress blog. Of those from IMDB, for two films I wrote multiple reviews: Arrival and Contact. Interestingly, the two reviews of Contact were allowed through by IMDB (which is owned by Amazon) but those of Contact, in which I called the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, an utter racist, were censored. Even so, they are contained within this collection of one hundred films, with a second compilation of films to come in the future, but I cannot give a specific date. I will, of course continue my readings of varied Marxist authors as well. With that, I hope you enjoy this collection of film reviews! Previous editions of this publication, in Volume 1 have included: “Longstanding Ties And Laotian Revisionism,” “A History of Protests Against Revisionism in the USSR,” “Exposing the Revisionist Deception Part 2,” “Exposing the Revisionist Deception Part 1,” and one focused on Julia Salazar. Previous editions in volume 2 focus on Julia Salazar with a long version of an article and a 15-page version. Originally this was called “reviewing one hundred Hollyweird films” but that it was revised to take into account that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Dodes’ka-den, and the Young Karl Marx are foreign films.

Preface

Note: This section is partially taken from the post on my blog on October 18, 2018 (“The “Great White Hope” and the spread of U$ capitalist hegemony”) and includes my own analysis in the reviewing of 100 films to follow.

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 cultural hegemony of capitalist ideology continues to permeate through our society. 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. That brings us to this review of 100 films, mostly from Hollyweird. This serves as a bit of bridge between the last article on my blog in February to the present, as I have been relatively busy with my own studies. While I admit that my views of Marxism are relatively fragmented, I am learning all the time, more and more, and will continue to engage in self-criticism of the old articles on my blog to make sure I am saying the right things and that there are no errors or viewpoints that I said in the past which I now longer agree with. That being said, enjoy the following guide to 100 films, which starts with a table of contents, then has 161 pages of reviews.

Table of contents

• Looking into socially-conscious films…………….. page 7
1. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: A great film in its own right…………….. pages 7-10
2. American Madness: Socially-conscious and more than a “balanced drama”…… pages 10-12
3. Forbidden: Powerful drama but very depressing…………….. pages 12-13
4. Platinum Blonde: A romance with strong social commentary…………….. pages 13-15
5. The Miracle Woman: One of Capra’s best—a biting criticism of religion………pages 15-16
6. The Power of the Press: The power of the press strikes again! …………….. pages 16-17
7. The Strong Man: A silent film but still powerful…………….. pages 17-18
8. It Happened One Night: Enjoyable comedy with social commentary…………pages 18-20
9. The Hate U Give: A relevant film for our times…………….. pages 21-22
10. All Quiet on the Western Front: A strong antiwar film for the ages……………..pages 22-24
11. The Young Karl Marx: A wonderful movie to be remembered…………….. pages 24-25
12. Paths of Glory: An antiwar film? …………….. pages 25-26
13. Roma: Terrible movie supposedly about “class in Mexico”…………….. pages 26-27
14. Sorry to Bother You: A wonderful anti-capitalist film…………….. pages 27-30
15. Citizen Kane: Classic movie that wasn’t what I thought…………….. pages 30-31
16. It’s a Wonderful Life: Another one of Capra’s classics…………….. pages 31-33
17. If Beale Street Could Talk: A timely 1970s romance critical of racism…………pages 33-34
18. The Time Machine (TV Movie): Conveys a powerful anti-war message…………pages 34-35
19. Fahrenheit 11/9: Some positive parts but overall mixed feelings……………….pages 35-36
20. Roger & Me: From smarmy rich people to suffering Michiganians……………..pages 36-38
21. Soylent Green: From knowledge to commodity…………….. pages 38-40
22. Into the Wild Green Yonder: A strong finish to the series of Futurama straight-to-DVD movies…………….. pages 40-42
23. Colette: A feminist movie, perhaps? …………….. page 42

• Delving into the world of sci-fi…………….. page 42
1. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Interesting take on time travel…………….. pages 42-43
2. Thrill Seekers: One of the best time travel movies I have watched in a while……pages 43-44
3. Just Imagine: Better than other science fiction movies but still weak…………….pages 44-45
4. Somewhere in Time: Sad but another interesting depiction of time travel………pages 45-46
5. Contact: An enjoyable movie, disturbing takeaway…………….. pages 46-48
6. Contact: Enjoyable but highly problematic…………….. pages 48-49
7. The Time Machine: Exciting but protagonist is self-serving…………….. pages 49-50
8. The Time Traveler’s Wife: An interesting take on time travel…………….. pages 50-51
9. Arrival: Thoughtful, unlike other Alien-Human Contact Films…………….. pages 51-52
10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Riveting movie about human-alien con-tact……………..pages 52-53
11. Turn Back the Clock: One of the best time travel movies ever made……………pages 53-54
12. Twelve Monkeys: Has some promise but still lackluster…………….. pages 54-56
13. Multiplicity: Interesting concept but not a strong movie…………….. pages 56-57
14. The Terminator: White masculinity and a shoot ’em up…………….. pages 57-58
15. Terminator 2: Judgement Day: Another annoying Hollyweird shoot ’em up……page 58

16. Cosmopolis: A strange, bizarre movie…………….. pages 58-59
17. Spy Kids 4-D: All the Time in the World: Ok action movie, but not a comedy…..pages 59-60
18. The first collective review of the Star Wars movies: is it fascist?……………..pages 60-77
19. The second collective review of the Star Wars movies: is it anti-fascist?………pages 77-80
20. Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Predictable drama which is only passable………..pages 80-82

• Analyzing dramatic films…………….. page 82
1. Untamed: A compelling drama that marked Crawford’s first starring role………pages 82-84
2. If You Could Only Cook: A riveting romantic drama…………….. pages 84-86
3. The Bitter Tea of General Yen: A compelling drama with “interracial tension,” even with yellowface? ……………..pages 86-88
4. I’ll Never Forget You: A romance & interesting time travel movie…………….. pages 88-90
5. Repeat Performance: A romance movie but also about time travel…………….. page 90
6. Berkeley Square: Only a somewhat interesting film…………….. pages 90-91
7. The Shining: Classic Drama and Horror Movie…………….. pages 91-92
8. A Hologram for the King: addressing class and racial elements in Saudi society ………..Pages 92-94
9. Mary, Queen of Scots: A “feminist” period drama? …………….. pages 94-95
10. Bender’s Big Score: A compelling animated drama…………….. pages 95-97
11. The Beast with a Billion Backs: Robots, heaven, and existential questions………pages 97-99
12. Momento: Nolan explores the depths of memory…………….. pages 99-101
13. Possessed: From the factory to the big city…………….. pages 101-102
14. Safe in Hell: A riveting pre-Code drama…………….. pages 103-105
15. Frankenstein: A “marauding” monster and the “madness” of science………pages 105-107
16. The Phantom President: From musical comedy to political satire……………pages 107-109
17. Trouble in Paradise: From petty thievery to enveloping romance……………pages 109-110

• Laughing with/at Hollyweird…………….. page 111
1. For the Love of Mike: A funny movie but not as strong as others I have seen………page 111
2. Happy Accidents: Enjoyable comedy with social commentary…………….. pages 111-112
3.Click: A great comedy…………….. pages 112-113
4. High Anxiety: Not as funny as other Mel Brooks films but still good…………pages 113-114
5. The Meaning of Life: Funny, witty, satirical, and relevant…………….. pages 114-116
6. That Certain Thing: Funny but also too weak for my taste…………….. pages 116-117
7. The Crimson Permanent Assurance: Funny opening to “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life”…………….. pages 117-118
8. Big News: A comedic talkie about the news business…………….. pages 118-119
9. Jaberwocky: An absurdist comedy for the ages…………….. pages 120-121
10. The Simpsons Movie: Witty and funny, harkens back to Golden Age of The Simpsons …………….. pages 121-124
11. Bender’s Game: A funny film which is more than a story of a “fantasy world.” …………….. pages 124-126

• The superhero genre strikes again!…………….. page 126
1. Doctor Strange: Interesting beginning, horrible last half…………….. pages 126-127
2. Wonder Woman: Interesting concepts but overall a terrible movie……………pages 127-128
3. The Avengers: Another annoying superhero movie…………….. pages 128-129
4. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Perhaps even better than Ant Man (2015)…………pages 129-130

5. Ant-Man: Superhero movie but not like the others…………….. pages 130-131
6. Deadpool: Not the typical superhero film…………….. page 131
7. Deadpool 2: Funny, parody of superhero genre…………….. pages 131-132

• Trash/weird/other films…………….. page 132
1. Back to the Future: Capitalist hegemony and time travel for white racists……pages 132-134
2. Forrest Gump: A white male sexist fantasy…………….. pages 135-137
3. Black Panther: Terrible counterrevolutionary film…………….. pages 138-139
4. Black Panther: Counter-revolutionary trash…………….. pages 139-142
5. Blackkklansman: Copaganda “at its finest”…………….. pages 142-146
6. Hyperfutura: Some interesting concepts but overall a piece of trash…………pages 146-147
7. Joy: Triumph of capitalism and capitalist feminism? …………….. page 147
8. The Fisher King: A problematic magical fable…………….. pages 147-148
9. Eye in the Sky: Good acting but weak “ethical dilemma”…………….. pages 148-149
10. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: An odd, strange film…………….. pages 149-150
11. Woman Walks Ahead: A “pro-indigenous” film which is actually anti-indigenous …………….. pages 150-151
12. Free State of Jones: Another white savior movie…………….. pages 151-154
13. The Meg: Worst movie ever…………….. page 154
14. Ladies of Leisure: A solid movie but weaker than Capra’s other works……………page 155
15. First Man: A powerful movie which had unnecessary criticism…………….. pages 155-156
16. Half Nelson: Strange but depressing…………….. pages 156-157
17. Rain Man: Autism, Aspergers, and Rain Man…………….. pages 157-158
18. Room: Haunting but rewarding? …………….. page 158
19. Snowden: Annoying, boring film…………….. pages 158-159
20. A Streetcar Named Desire: A classic film…………….. pages 159-160
21. Manchester by the Sea: Well-acted, un-sympathetic protagonist…………….. page 160
22. Dodes’ka-den: Strange but interesting…………….. pages 160-161
23. Hanna: Action, shooting, and gore…………….. pages 161-162
24. Old Man & the Gun: Slow-paced movie showcases Redford’s last role………pages 162-163
25. Black Hawk Down: a pro-military narrative to attack…………….. pages 163-165
26. Citizen Four: Snowden and the allure of Hollyweird…………….. pages 165-167

Notes

[1] Specifically on /r/socialism, the following films were recommended: Ten Days That Shocked the World, Revolution Will Not Be Televised, South of the Border, A Place Called Chiapas, Walter Defends Sarajevo, Battle of Neretva, Che (2008), Strike, Battleship Potemkin, Ich war Neunzehn (1968), Boxhagener Platz (2010), The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Der Rat der Götter (1950), A Motorcycle Diary, Weekend, Tierra y Libertad, Patagonia Rebelde, Grin Without a Cat, Le Joli Mai, The Fall of Berlin, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, La Chinoise, and Rol. Then, Wikipedia, in its “list of films about socialism” lists the following: Capitalism: A Love Story, Che, Sicko, Lights in the Dusk, The Wind That Shakes The BarleyReds, Winstanley, The Working Class Goes to Heaven, Modern Times, October: Ten Days That Shook the World, Strike, and Battleship Potemkin.

 

Advertisements

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

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

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

Table of contents

 

 

 

 

Focusing on substantive policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

Three years of the Leftist Critic and many more to go!

It has been a wild ride these past three years. In this post I aim to summarize what I’ve written since then, year by year, post by post.

Today is exactly three years since my first post on this blog, on January 18, 2016, titled “Imperialism besets Iran.” I focused on how Western imperialism was subverting Iran, which I would later refine in later years. Only ten days later I would churn out another, criticizing Black bourgeois personality, Ta Nehisi Coates. In the months to follow, I would criticize those who falsely called Star Wars “fascist,” write about some goof on Twitter, focus on surveillance in U$ society, and imagine a speech Bernie Sanders would give to his capitalist friends, working to tell the reality about this imperialistic social democrat. Following this, there would be articles posing an imagined scenario if Cuba was to be taken over by imperialists, highlighting the revolutionary history of Cuba, and saying that Iran was at the crossroads. Later I would pen two articles about celebrity whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying he was deceptively perceived and focusing on his ties to the CIA. Through the rest of the year I wrote on many more subjects. I countered those who said that the murderous empire was “bumbling,” criticized the corrupted nature of Saudi society and the inter-relationship with the empire, and wrote varied articles on Cuba. The latter focused on the legacy of Fidel Castro in fighting U$ imperialism, and asking where Cuba stood in the world as a whole. At the same time, I directly turned my focus to those who thought that the orange menace (Trump) was somehow good, and noting imperial propaganda. I also asked if Star Wars was really anti-fascist and concluded that it was not and wrote my first article on Soviet history.

In the following year, 2017, I expanded on my ideas and became even more strident. Apart from guessing the possible agenda of the upcoming U$ administration, I highlighted my efforts to write more about Soviet history, and criticized bourgeois peace activist David Swanson while tying in the story of the Soviets. If that wasn’t enough, I also wrote about Obama’s horrible and imperialist legacy, criticized the orange menace in his first days in office, and critically looked at the social democrat on the pedestal, Bernie Sanders. In these first few months of the year I directly stabbed at what some now call “Russiagate,” laughing at those who thought the orange menace was colluding with them, while criticizing the strategy of the orange menace to “fight” Daesh. On a related note, I wrote about armed resistance and gun control in the murderous empire. Like the previous year, I went even more international, focusing on topics away from the murderous empire, with a four-part series on Zimbabwe:

  1. “It is homeland or death”: From British colonialism to the Zimbabwean liberation war
  2. “It is homeland or death”: Final days of Zimbabwe’s liberation war and post-independence
  3. “It is homeland or death”: Breaking the neo-colonial chains in Zimbabwe
  4. “It is homeland or death”: The Zanu-PF on the rise once again!

In retrospect, I feel that my analysis of bourgeois nationalism in Zimbabwe could have been stronger, but I was mainly relying on Stephen Gowans as a basis for my argument while I would do more research outside that if I had to write it again. Perhaps if I had done that I could have realized that there would be a coup and/or disputing factions within the government itself.

As the year went on, I criticized the “Muslim ban” of the orange menace, while highlighting elections of deputies of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the unicameral parliament of Juche Korea, my first article on the country and focusing on a conference hosted by Iran in solidarity with the Palestinians. Additionally, I turned back to U$ imperialism, writing a biting criticism of H.R. McMaster, criticizing the naked act of aggression against Syria which manifested itself as a cruise missile strike, new posts on varied subjects, and asking if the Simpsons was dead or “zombified.” That wasn’t all. In light of the March for Science that year, I noted the role of science in capitalist society, criticized the proposed murderous sanctions on Juche Korea, and again laughed at the claim that there was a connection between the orange menace and the Russians. In later months, I wrote yet another criticism of Snowden, directly poked a hole in the myth that the Kurds are “revolutionary,” highlighted the wonders of the healthcare system in Juche Korea, and countered yet another reactionary leftist: Matt Taibbi. I did the same, in terms of other criticism, of Naomi Klein, a person who really is full of herself and is a brand.  Again, I focused on the conflict in Syria once again. I noted how U$ imperialism was “reipositioning” itself there and laughed at those pathetically trying to criticize my post on the “revolutionary” Kurds.

During the rest of the year, I wrote about the orange menace, murderous empire and bigotry in one post, and the case of Dennis Rodman in Juche Korea in another. As the year came to a close I wrote a flurry of articles about Zimbabwe, arguing that there was a counter-revolution occurring after Mugabe was ousted:

Then we come to last year, 2018. As the year began, I wrote an article analyzing the New Years speech by Chairman Kim Jong Un, accompanied by an article, later that month, arguing that Syria was fundamentally a socially democratic state, not a socialist one as  Stephen Gowans had argued. That wasn’t all. I wrote an article again criticizing reactionary leftists, this one focused on another celebrity whistleblower, Chelsea Manning who is sadly anti-communist and “anti-authority.” The same month I penned a number of other articles, one noting that the Zionist state inherently was an apartheid state, and importantly poking a hole at the imperialist myths about Juche Korea, saying that the state is democratic and does not have a “dynasty.” This was followed by an article, which  I wasn’t originally planning on, focusing on inherent capitalist violence in the murderous empire, “gun control” and armed resistance.

Since then, I wrote a 4-part series on the problematic U$ (and Western-backed) Kurds:

I then turned to a criticism of a television series I still like very much, The Simpsons, and connected it to Gramsci’s ideas on hegemony.

On another topic, I had a series of articles on Juche Korea or the DPRK which focused on Juche Korea’s non-isolation, the DPRK’s support of Venezuela, Mansudae Overseas Projects spreading the ideals of Juche across the world, the DPRK supporting socialist Cuba, the DPRK-Iran alliance, the DPRK’s support for Palestinian liberation, the DPRK-Syria alliance, and support of the Sandinistas by the DPRK. I also criticized when the orange menace canceled the one-on-one summit he was going to have with Kim Jong Un in a letter, siding with the reactionary imperialists. Later, in the aftermath of Kim’s meeting with the orange menace, I talked about possible detente between the U$ and DPRK, which still seems a long while off. In August I wrote while the victor of the Zimbabwean elections were being decided, noting how the proletariat of Zimbabwe will get effected by what happens.

Apart from this, I also gave suggestions for places fellow comrades can submit articles, wrote about a foundational aspect of Marxism, dialectical materialism, and talked about the writings I’ve put together which have been published on other websites. I also did a short post about “human rights” and imperialism. Additionally I published a two-part series about “free speech” in the U$, the first part about social media giants and the second part about the problems with bourgeois conception of “free speech.”

Later on in 2018 I focused on Zimbabwe once again and a new Kim-Moon summit, looking at the document published and what it meant. Both were important to recognize as a person, like myself, who is an internationalist. I also focused on the so-called socialist, Julia Salazar in a two-part article reposted on here (see part 1 and part 2)  but originally published on Dissident Voice, which criticized the DSA and this so-called socialist.

As the year winded down, I posted very infrequently on this blog, only writing two posts, while I mainly focused on interactions on Twitter and Reddit. The first of these posts was about the spread of capitalist hegemony, criticizing films by Zemeckis, while also praising films like Sorry to Bother You, critically looking at Dear White People, and other “black films.” The second these was not until two months later, focusing on re-calibration of U$ destabilization in Syria after the posited U$ withdrawal from the country by the orange  menace which is setting the stage for Turkey becoming a mercenary of the empire. I also did a post posing a scenario of Bernie’s imperialist monster in 2022. Additionally, at the beginning of the new year, 2019, I wrote a post criticizing someone who tried to defend certain Kurds, specifically those in Syria, with one of my best titles ever: “Systemic Dolackian Disorder: U$ imperialism and the Kurdish dilemma.”

In the meantime, I am going through the rest of the posts on this blog as a matter of self-criticism, a process which is taking a long time.

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.”

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

Reprinted from anti-imperialism.org. Some things have changed since this was published and I am currently keeping a close eye on developments in Zimbabwe. This article was revised, with an eye to self-criticism, on August 22, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

Hi, LC,

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

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

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

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

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

My reply at 9:35 AM on Sept 1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– LC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

“Human rights” and the narrative of imperialism

With the orange menace saying he wants to make “America great  again” (as opposed to Andrew Cuomo of New York accurately saying that “we’re not going to make America great again, America was never great”) while acknowledging that the U$ is not “making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” due to the trade war with China, and the Zionists hail the U$ for ending funding of the UN Human Rights Council, it is worth looking at how the U$ measures up compared to a number of countries, revisionist or not, some of which are in the crosshairs of U$ imperialism.

The UN’s Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a page showing compliance of countries with their treaties.It includes a number of UN organs underneath it like the Human Rights Council (HRC), Universal Periodic Review (undertaken by the HRC, which has its own special procedures), human rights treaty bodies, and other organs. The HRC is the same council that the Bush Administration quit in June 2008, while the Obama Administration reversed this, but then the current imperial administration reinstated the Bush era policy because of the criticism of Zionists.

Going back to the OHCHR’s page, I went through the 18 treaties listed on the page and put them into a spreadsheet in order to compare these countries. Not surprisingly, this shows that the U$ is lacking. Of the 18 treaties, the U$ has only ratified or acceded to five! [1] Even if you count the treaties that the U$ has only signed but not acceded to or ratified, that would only bring the total to nine. By this measure, that the U$ has only agreed to 50% of the treaties. This drops to about 30% when it is lowered to the more accurate number of five, covering only treaties ratified or acceded to. What about other countries? The DPRK is not much better when it comes to approval of human rights treaties, unfortunately. They have only ratified or acceded to six treaties:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Of these treaties, the U$ has still not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (only signed it), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (only signed it), Convention on the Rights of the Child (only signed it), or the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (only signed it). So, in this way, you could say that the DPRK has an upper hand when it comes to human rights. However, other countries do even better than the U$ by far. This is partially due to the fact that while the DPRK can be said to be anti-imperialist, the concept of Juche, as it is implemented currently, is clearly revisionist. This leads to clear distortions. Still, the fact that even the apartheid Zionist state has ratified more human rights treaties than the U$ (nine compared to to the U$’s five), is actually pretty pathetic.

Cuba is one of those countries. It has ratified or acceded to eight human rights treaties and signed three of them. [2] While it also revisionist to an extent like the DPRK, it has retained more socialist elements than the DPRK one could say, with a society which is even more open and participatory. That means that Cuba has agreed, whether by ratifying (or acceding) or signing, to about 60% of the human rights treaties (specifically 11) noted by the OHCHR. That is relatively impressive.

Some may ask about the revisionist triad, consisting of China, Vietnam, and Laos, which largely operate on a similar model with a market economy, state ownership, and are clearly on the capitalist road. They are not engaging in any sort of New Economic Policy reminiscent of the Soviets as they do not see their path as a “strategic retreat” as Lenin clearly saw it [3], rather claiming it will bring them toward socialism, even though they are actually very much on the capitalist road, not getting off it anytime soon! As I noted on Reddit, NEP clearly had its downsides, admitted by bourgeois analysts, leading to its end in 1928 due to Josef Stalin’s action to stop it. As such, it seems strange to act like China since 1978 has engaged in its own form of NEP, an idea advocated by Deng, because the conditions were different, as China by 1978 was in a much better position than Soviet Russia in 1921. The same applies to Laos after the New Economic Mechanism began in 1986,or Vietnam after Đổi Mới (Renovation) began the same year. [4] For China, the main player in this revisionist triad, it has ratified or acceded to seven treaties, and signed two treaties, overlapping a bit with Cuba in these realms. However, China never ratified or acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance or Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the first of which Cuba had signed and ratified, and the second of which Cuba has only currently signed. This means that Cuba has a better record than China in this realm, with China only ratifying or signing half of  the human rights treaties noted by the OHCHR. Most  worrisome is the fact that China has not ratified or acceded  to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families considering that that “almost 269 million internal migrant workers are moving from rural areas to the country’s growing cities”! This is a convention that states that

…States Parties undertake, in accordance with the international instruments concerning human rights, to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction the rights provided for in the present Convention without distinction of any kind such as to sex, race, colour, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or other statusMigrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of origin. This right shall not be subject to any restrictions…No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to hold opinions without interference...No migrant worker or member of his or her family shall be arbitrarily deprived of property, whether owned individually or in association with others… Migrant workers shall enjoy treatment not less favourable than that which applies to nationals of the State of employment in respect of remuneration.

Such migrants are needed to keep the state-sponsored capitalist mode of production in China humming along as Minqi Li recently told The Real News,  so that is likely why this convention was not even signed by China. Clearly, there is class conflict in China. This was recently noted by RedSpark which wrote about how a solidarity group in Shenzhen was attacked by Chinese police, a group standing in solidarity with a “worker’s struggle in Shenzhen demanding real representation and right to organize,” rallying “under the banner of Marx, Lenin, and Chairman Mao.”

What about Vietnam and Laos? Well, Laos ratified or acceded to eight treaties, and signed two treaties. That would actually give it an even better track record than China, but not as good as Cuba. As for Vietnam, it ratified or acceded to nine treaties, giving it the same track record as China.

Then there are three countries which really stand out in this realm: Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, all of which are social democracies, like Syria. Venezuela has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties and signed three. Of these, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, were ratified or acceded to during the time Hugo Chavez served as the president of Venezuela (from 1999 to 2013). Additionally, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was signed in 2013, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was signed in 2011, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was signed in 2011, and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was signed in 2008.

Bolivia, signed just as many treaties! In fact, Bolivia ratified or acceded to all 18 treaties. Of these treaties, six of which of them have been ratified since 2006 when Evo Morales became President and his Movement of Socialism came into power, still holding majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Those six treaties are:

  1. Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2006
  2. International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2008
  3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  4. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2009
  5. Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2012
  6. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure in 2013
  7. Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2013

Even The Guardian, which grumbled about the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of Bolivia ruling (in December 2017) that all public offices, including the presidency have no term limits, meaning that Morales can run for a fourth term in 2019 and all the actions thereafter, noted the accomplishments of Bolivia (and then proceeded to trash the country in typical imperialist fashion) [5]:

Morales, 58 – an Aymara former coca grower – was elected in 2006. The country’s first indigenous president, his 2009 constitution refounded Bolivia as a “plurinational state”. A partial nationalisation of Bolivia’s oil and gas helped create a middle class from scratch. Bolivia is Latin America’s fastest-growing economy; 53% of its legislators are women and a fifth are under 30. “From being a republic of classes, castes, skin colours, Bolivia today has become a country that by law has to be inclusive,” said Valeria Silva Guzmán, 27, a Mas congresswoman. Through slashing school truancy, infant and maternal mortality, and old-age poverty, she argued, Morales has “definitively changed the everyday reality of Bolivians”.

Of course, there is more to discuss about Bolivia, but this is a good start.

Finally, there is Nicaragua. It has ratified or acceded to 14 treaties, eight (more than half) of which were signed while the Sandinistas were in power from 1979 to 1990 and again from 2006 to the present. These include:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1980
  • Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1980
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1981
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007
  • Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2009
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010

And that concludes this post, which provides a starting point for writing about all of these countries in the future.

Notes

[1] Specifically the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. As for those that were only signed, this applies to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

[2] Specifically it has ratified or acceded to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Rights of the Child; International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It has signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

[3] In October 1921, Lenin told the Second All-Russia Congress Of Political Education Departments that “our New Economic Policy signifies that, having sustained severe defeat on this point, we have started a strategical retreat…in attempting to go over straight to communism we, in the spring of 1921, sustained a more serious defeat on the economic front than any defeat inflicted upon us by Kolchak, Denikin or Pilsudski. This defeat was much more serious, significant and dangerous…Concessions to foreign capitalists…and leasing enterprises to private capitalists definitely mean restoring capitalism, and this is part and parcel of the New Economic Policy…We must not count on going straight to communism. We must build on the basis of peasants’ personal incentive…we must undergo this training, this severe, stern and sometimes even cruel training, because we have no other way out.” Later on, in February 1922 he noted that “we are still alone and in a backward country, a country that was ruined more than others, but we have accomplished a great deal,” adding the next month the Soviets are, too, “acting as merchants” and later that “economically and politically NEP makes it fully possible for us to lay the foundations of socialist economy.” Apart from this, he easily explained it through 1921 and 1922  as a clear transitionary period, but a strategic retreat,even admitting in November 1921 that “we have retreated to state capitalism, but we did not retreat too far” and at other times it led to capitalist relations. This is NOTHING like what happened in China after 1978 or even Laos and Vietnam, as the conditions could not totally account for such action, especially since the Laotian civil war had ended in 1975, with the same being the case for Vietnam, meaning they had 13 years to develop an economic plan.

[4] As the UN Described it, in a positive tone, “in 1986, the Fourth Party Congress launched the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) to boost all economic sectors through indicative planning and economic liberalization, including a shift toward market determination of prices and resource allocations, decentralization of control over industries, progressive privatization and deregulation to promote trade and investment. Following the adoption of the New Economic Mechanism, the macro-economic situation in the country improved considerably. The macro-economic policy changes have had a strong impact on the development of the urban areas.” The same positive tone was expressed by AESAN. As Social  Watch noted, “in December 1986, the [Vietnamese] government mandated the Doi Moi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one. The current trend shows growing inequality between the rural and urban population, and between the rich and the poor. Privatisation and liberalisation increased the social gap in the access to basic social services in general and to education and health in particular, and increased the vulnerability of the rural poor. In December 1986, the government mandated the DoiMoi (open door) policy, shifting from a centrally planned economy to a market oriented one, inside the framework of state regulations. The main thrust of the Doi Moi is to promote a multi-sector economic system, emphasising the state sector while encouraging the private sector. To achieve economic integration, the open door would be implemented gradually in order to stabilise the political and social situation…Poverty is still mainly a rural problem in a country where some 80% of the population live in rural areas, and two-thirds of them remain largely dependent on agriculture for a living.”

[5] Lawrence Blair, “Evo for ever? Bolivia scraps term limits as critics blast ‘coup’ to keep Morales in power,” The Guardian, Dec 3, 2017.

A Turning Point for Zimbabwe

This article was published on anti-imperialism.org today and has been reprinted here. There have been some recent stories worth noting: Chinese observers have endorsed the country’s elections while condemning the MDC, showing that the revisionists are still supportive of the existing government in Zimbabwe and ZEC’s website was hacked earlier today. Additionally, Mnangagwa has called for “calm” in Harare as Reuters (“Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa calls for calm amid Harare clashes”) reports, the AP has been actively following this story, and the MDC has condemned the Zimbabwean Army’s response to clashes in Harare (“Zimbabwe opposition leader spokesman says army action unjustified”). Other stories talked about election results so far, and the U$ Embassy in Zimbabwe declaring that “We urge leaders of all parties to call for calm…We further urge the Defense Forces of Zimbabwe to use restraint in dispersing protesters,” and saying they were “deeply concerned” by what has happened in Harare. This story will continue to develop as results for the presidential elections will be released tomorrow.

On July 30, the Republic of Zimbabwe held its presidential elections. The turnout of the Zimbabwean population was, as a Zanu-PF party outlet, The Herald, reported, summarizing the announcement of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), an average of 75%. Clearly, Zimbabweans wanted to express their voice, even as officially, at least, a small percentage were “turned away for reasons such as not having valid identity cards, defaced identity cards and not appearing on the voters’ roll.” The Zimbabwean bourgeoisie lauded the elections, with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) saying they were happy with how the elections were conducted and wanted them credible so “the re-engagement that we have with the rest of the world continues” as the CZI president, Sifelani Jabangwe declared. Additionally, the CEO Africa round table also praised the elections, saying they significantly boost confidence. [1] In some ways, much has changed since I last wrote about Zimbabwe.

In this election there are two contending parties: the Zanu-PF, a party which has led the country since Zimbabwe’s independence from British rule in 1980 and the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change), long the favorite of Western imperialists, with the biggest faction in this recently formed alliance (formed last year) being the MDC-T or Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai. The bourgeois media in the imperial core uniformly side with the MDC’s concerns about an “unfair” election, which has been watched by all sorts of election observers from the imperial core, especially their claims of Zanu-PF “rigging” or that the MDC magically won the presidential election, while not siding with the Zanu-PF’s claim that the MDC is inciting violence. [2] Additionally, there have been ruminations that “the military would have a strong influence over the way people voted” in the country, as declared by one think tank. Regardless, Zimbabweans  voted in over 10,000 polling stations for 210 parliament members and over 9,000 councilors, with over 20 presidential candidates, with results from these votes announced on August 2. The results were originally to be released on August 4 but complaints by the MDC pushed it to August 2. The bourgeois media also claim that the vote may be close between the top two presidential contenders, since a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to win outright, leading to the possibility of a run-off election on September 8.

Those two contenders are Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Zanu-PF, installed on November 24 of last year after the military coup in Zimbabwe, which ousted the “father” of Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), from November 14 to 21. Mnangagwa is described by British imperialist BBC as promising “to deliver jobs and is seen as open to economic reforms.” His opponent is Nelson Chamisa of the MDC-T, a lawyer and pastor, who would be the youngest president in Zimbabwe’s history. He is described by BBC as promising to “rebuild the country’s devastated economy” while also promising to introduce “a high-speed bullet train” and bring the Olympics to the country. The presidential manifestos of both, displayed by the Zanu-PF party paper, The Herald, show clear similarities without question, which is concerning. The Zanu-PF’s manifesto calls for transforming the country into a “middle-income economy” by 2030 with aggressive focus on opening up “the country for business” to the world, while gaining further foreign direct investment (FDI) (i.e. foreign capital) and domestic capital. This would be coupled with claims of improved health service in the country. Similarly, the MDC-T’s manifesto calls for enabling “economic growth and job creation” with a “pro-job economic recovery” which includes “large scale investment in domestic manufacturing and agriculture.” This would also include a “fully functionary basic health delivery system,” among other aspects. On a related note, the MDC Alliance’s manifesto calls for the “construction of a nominal 100 billion dollar economy” over a period of five years and a new health insurance plan. Finally, the manifesto of another opposition party, the CODE (Coalition for Democrats) calls for “double-digit economic growth,” making Zimbabwe a low-cost efficient producer, “reforming” the sector of state enterprises, while working for debt forgiveness, and having a different health system. Bloomberg, in their summary in late July, said that Mnangagwa is trying to show his “commitment to rebuilding the battered economy, attracting foreign investment and tackling corruption.” They added that in the case of Chamisa, he has been able “to make inroads into parts of rural Zimbabwe that were previously no-go areas for the opposition” since Mugabe’s ouster, with the former pledging to “build new roads, rail links and other infrastructure, improve the education and health-care systems and revive the economy if elected.”

Since the coup in November 2017, it is clear that either Zanu-PF or MDC victory will benefit the hungry Western bourgeoisie while hurting the Zimbabwean proletariat. The MDC-T is a predecessor of the original MDC formed by the late Morgan Tsvangirai in September 1999 and has been backed by Western money ever since, only winning decisively in elections in 2008, leading to a short-lived shared government between the MDC and Zanu-PF until 2009. As for the Zanu-PF, its imperialist faction is currently in power, with those who were a group of dedicated Zimbabwean nationalists who positioned themselves as anti-imperialist purged out of the party or abandoning the party all together, with huge walkouts from Mnangagwa’s rallies and the National Patriotic Front (NPF) going on stage with Chamisa. [3] At the same time, Mugabe, in a surprise press conference on July 29, said he would not support the Zanu-PF, the ones whom he described as tormenting him, feeling that Chamisa of the MDC-T was the only choice to remove what he described as a military government, bringing the country “back to constitutionality,” an assessment which could influence Zimbabweans in their election. This was not a direct endorsement but rather Mugabe felt that Mnangagwa could only be defeated by Chamisa, who he likely voted for and having a “realistic chance of winning,” to use a quote from Bloomberg, while embracing the existing process, not making some secret deal as Mnangagwa declared with venom on his lips for Mugabe and all he stood for. Having a party stalwart like Mugabe abandon the Zanu-PF, angering The Herald (which spread lies about Mugabe supporter Jonathan Moyo by saying he had “dumped” Mugabe) of course, is a big deal which could change the results of the election. Mugabe also talked about varied other topics, like the fact that he was deposed in a military coup, that his wife Grace should be left alone by the media, and telling the history of the Blue House in Harare where he is living, noting it was built by Yugoslavians, originally supposed to be in the Chinese style to honor the Chinese support in the liberation struggle but this did not happen, leading to a weak form of construction.

As it currently stands, Mnangagwa is hopeful of victory and Chamisa has prematurely declared victory even before the results have been announced! [4] On July 31, results of elections were published in The Herald, deriving from information released by the ZEC, noting that the 102 “duly elected members of the National Assembly,” 73 were from the Zanu-PF (about 72%), 28 were the MDC (less than 28%), and 1 was of the NPF (less than 1%). This is extracted from the results, released so far, which have been posted by the ZEC’s website. If the results reported by The Herald reflect the reality on a nationwide scale, Mnangagwa would win in a landslide, with no runoff election in September. On August 1st, as summarized by AP, the ZEC announced that for the 210-seat Zimbabwean parliament, the Zanu-PF won 109 seats, the MDC gained 41 seats, and 2 seats were won by smaller parties, with “58 seats…yet to be declared.” As Reuters described it, the Zanu-PF “swept most rural constituencies by large margins” while the MDC “won in urban centers.” This goes against the pre-election assessment by pro-imperialist outlet, Quartz, which summarized a poll of AfroBarometer (funded by Western imperialists like NED, the U$ State Department, the Swedish government and varied capitalist-run foundations), saying that undecided voters numbered up to 20% and hoping the British (former colonialists) will come to the “rescue.”

Not long after this announcement by the ZEC, gunfire filled streets of Harare with soldiers coming in to disperse those “who had clashed with police” after those individuals burned “cars and threw rocks.” This followed Chamisa accusing “the ZANU-PF of trying to rig the results.” The streets were cleared by police, including some in riot gear, assisted by helicopters and armored personnel carriers, with police reportedly firing on crowds “with guns, water cannons and tear gas.” Of course, Mnangagwa accused Chamisa and the MDC of inciting violence by “already declaring he had won the election.” Be that as it may, the efforts by Zimbabwean police is clearly an attempt to maintain control, possibly to maintain military rule since the country’s army was deployed on the streets of Harare, with at least three civilians killed in the clashes. At the same time, it is highly likely the MDC stoked the protests in order to ensure that the election is not seen as “free and fair” by the West. [5] The latter manifested itself most recently in a EU observer mission grumbling about the “delay in announcing the results of the presidential race” and saying that “a truly level playing field was not achieved” with the election, declaring there was “misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behavior by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media,” while they admitted that “the election campaign and voting were largely peaceful.” Such assessments are important as it could determine if Western sanctions, which began in the late 1990s, remain imposed on Zimbabwe. While this is happening, civil society groups, traditionally backed by Western imperialists, are “working on a court application to force the electoral commission to get all polling stations to publish results,” basing this off the position of the MDC. [6]

Regardless of who wins, it is clear that the economy is in turmoil in part from mismanagement by the Zimbabwean national bourgeoisie, but mainly from Western sanctions targeting the country’s economy after an effort to redistribute the country’s White-owned farms to the Black masses, angering Western capitalists without end! Clearly, the West will allow political change if it benefits Western capitalists, with the Zanu-PF and MDC having pro-imperialist positions meaning that these capitalists win no matter what. While Robert Mugabe and his supporters in the Zanu-PF had their problems, they were a clear firewall against Western imperialism in Zimbabwe, which was even noted by a hostile South African broadcaster, SABC, back in the day. Now, that firewall is gone and the country is open to imperialist viruses. As such, no matter who wins, the Zimbabwean proletariat are losers and while new economic structures, not by the unfortunately useless Zimbabwean Communist Party should be created they should built on the Zanu-PF’s work so far while directly challenging and obliterating the nationalist Zimbabwean bourgeoisie.

Looking forward, while looking back at the past, it is much more productive to be critical without accepting the imperialist narrative of Zimbabwe wholesale as some on the Left have done to the peril of global proletariat. [7] As such, it is important to point out that the murderous empire wants capitalism without question. This was expressed by Mike Pompeo on July 30 of this year, declaring in a speech about new imperial policy in the Indo-Pacific to the U$ Chamber of Commerce’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum: “the U.S. Government doesn’t tell American companies what to do. But we help build environments that foster good, productive capitalism. We help American firms succeed so that local communities can flourish, and bilateral partnerships can grow.” Additionally, one should consider what Michael Parenti wrote back in 2014, that not only do we not “really know how very rich the very rich really are” but we also “don’t really know how poor the very poor really are” with the poorest 50 percent having vastly more than the “accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent” with many of those having “next to nothing.” As Danny Haiphong, favorably to Chinese revisionism, even recently wrote, “the US ruling class privately owns the most ruthless form of imperialism to date. For the last forty years, the concentration of wealth and profit in the hands of ever fewer numbers of capitalists has been achieved through an all-out assault on the concessions won by workers and oppressed people over the last century.” This is bound to be expanded to the Zimbabwean proletariat without question with expanded neoliberal destruction.

There is another aspect worth noting: conflict between Chinese and U$ capitalists. Zimbabwe has taken a “look east” policy, meaning they have favored China over the U$, especially since the 1990s, with good relations with China since 1980. This was due to the fact that during the liberation struggle against the British colonialists and their White settler descendants. If either* Mnangagwa or Chamisa wins, the country could easily shift toward the orbit of U$ capitalists, but likely more in the case of Chamisa than Mnangagwa, who would try to balance the capitalists from each country. This is important because Xi Jinping of China recently went on a tour of Africa, pledging to defend the “multilateral free trading system,” cemented in the IMF, World Bank, and WTO, while also trying to expand Chinese investments and “infrastructure loans.” After all, they were fine with the horrid TPP (and its successor, the CPTPP), wanting more integration of the global capitalist system!

While this story is a developing one, with the reality clear on August 2 and the days afterward, it is clear that not only are hard times ahead for the Zimbabwean proletariat but this election can said to be a turning point for Zimbabwe as a whole, without question.


Notes

[1] In the same article, The Herald boasted of the policies which have benefited the Zimbabwean bourgeoisie since November 2017 and in recent days, weakening the gains made under Mugabe: “Due to the encouraging performance of companies since January, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been overwhelmed by applications for foreign payments as firms seek to retool and boost their operations. Government has also announced a raft of policy changes such as the amendment of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act to attract foreign investment and has since scrapped the prior need for foreign-owned investors to hold 49 percent in business ventures they initiate while locals got 51 percent save for the diamond and the platinum sectors. The Diamond Policy, which will spell out a number of issues regarding the sector is under consideration. Immediately after that, a Platinum Policy, with similar aspirations, would also be created. Statistics show investment approvals between January and June 30 this year, are over $16 billion. The indications are investment inquiries through the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) are likely to increase tremendously after this week’s harmonised elections.”

[2] Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe says election is clean; opposition is skeptical,” AP, Jul 31, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s MDC Alliance says Chamisa beat Mnangagwa,” BBC News, Jul 31, 2018; Mel Frykberg, “Military may have made impact on Zimbabwe elections – legal think-tank,” African News Agency, Jul 31, 2018; Tom Embury-Dennis and Harry Cockburn, “Zimbabwe election LIVE: Two main parties claim lead amid accusations of ‘deliberate delays’ in first vote since ousting of Robert Mugabe,” The Independent, Jul 31, 2018; MacDonald Dzirutwe and Joe Brock, “Zimbabwe opposition accuses commission of delaying poll results,” Reuters, Jul 31, 2018; Susan Njanji and Fanuel Jongwe, “Tension mounts as Zimbabwe opposition claims election victory,” AFP, Jul 31, 2018; Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe polls close, counting begins in pivotal election,” AP, Jul 30, 2018; “Zimbabwe Election in Some Cases ‘Totally Disorganized’: EU,” Reuters, Jul 30, 2018; Hamza Mohamed, “Zimbabwe elections: Voters cast ballots in landmark polls,” Al Jazeera, Jul 30, 2018; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe opposition leader: ‘We will have a new president … it will be me’,” The Guardian, Jul 27, 2018; “Zimbabwe opposition accuses commission of delaying poll results,” Reuters, July 31, 2018; “Factbox: Zimbabwe’s voting system,” Reuters, Jul 31, 2018; “Zimbabwe presidential election results expected from Thursday: electoral commission,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018.

[3] “Zimbabwe: Scores Abandon ED Rally,” The Standard, July 29, 2018; “UPDATE 3-Zimbabwe’s Mugabe backs opposition on eve of election,” Reuters, July 29, 2018; Kim Sengupta, “Zimbabwe election campaign takes dramatic turn as Mugabe turns against his own party,” Yahoo! News, July 29, 2018; Farai Mutsaka, “Zimbabwe’s Mugabe emerges, rejects ruling party in election,” AP, July 29, 2018; Brian Latham, “Here Are the Leading Candidates in Zimbabwe’s Historic Presidential Race,” Bloomberg, July 24, 2018.

[4] Everson Mushava, “Chamisa, ED in final showdown,” NewsDay, Aug 2018; Sisipho Skweyiya, “Zimbabwe’s jobless generation hopes election will mark a change,” July 2018; Fanuel Jongwe, “Tension mounts as Zimbabwe opposition claims election victory,” AFP, Jul 31, 2018; Jason Burke, “Zimbabwe opposition leader: ‘We will have a new president … it will be me’,” The Guardian, Jul 27, 2018; “Violence in Zimbabwe after ruling ZANU-PF announced as winner of election,” AP, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa says Harare violence meant to disrupt election,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka, “Riots shake Zimbabwean capital as election results delayed,” AP, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe police requested army help to quell post-election protests: spokeswoman,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; MacDonald Dzirutwe and Joe Brock, “Three killed as Zimbabwe troops, protesters clash after vote,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe ruling party has two-thirds majority in parliament: official results,” Reuters, Aug 1, 2018; “Zimbabwe’s ruling party wins most seats in parliament. But was election fair?,” AFP, Aug 1, 2018; David B. Moore, “Zimbabwe is getting ready for a very close election and a test of its democratic future,” Quartz, July 24, 2018.

[5] MDC involvement was acknowledged in the August 1 story in Reuters (“Three killed as Zimbabwe troops, protesters clash after vote”), saying that “the unrest started soon after Nelson Chamisa, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), declared that he had won the popular vote…“I was making a peaceful protest. I was beaten by soldiers,” said Norest Kemvo, who had gashes to his face and right hand. “This is our government. This is exactly why we wanted change. They are stealing our election” [a common claim of the MDC]…Chamisa’s spokesman, Nkululeko Sibanda, told reporters the army’s reaction was unjustified. “Today we saw the deployment of military tanks and firing of live ammunition on civilians for no apparent reason” [it wasn’t for “no reason”]…“We are tired of them stealing our votes. This time we will not allow it, we will fight,” said a protester who wore a red MDC beret in central Harare…“The strategy is meant to prepare Zimbabwe mentally to accept fake presidential results. We’ve more votes than ED. We won the popular vote (and) will defend it,” Chamisa said on Twitter.”

[6] “CORRECTED-Zimbabwe group preparing election court action, opposition says,” Reuters, July 31, 2018.

[7] One example is Horace Campbell, recently interviewed by the progressive alternative news outlet, The Real News. He is a person who, as I noted in a YouTube comment, “favors the Western-backed MDC and doesn’t like Mugabe,” accepting “imperialist narrative in this case,” while I added that “if sanctions are lifted and the country opens for business (to the Western bourgeoisie) the latter especially would hurt the Zimbabwean proletariat. Still, Campbell is right that neither party wants to economically empower the people and that the economic programs of both parties are similar! He also makes good points about organizing new structures and other voting across the African continent. I don’t think that Mugabe “liquidated” the working class but rather sided with the peasants.” The last sentence is not included the anti-imperialism.org, probably not included by accident.

*says “whther” in the anti-imperialism.org rather than the words “if either”

“Relations of friendship and cooperation” between the DPRK and the Sandinistas

As noted by KCNA, “Choe Ryong Hae, vice-chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, left Pyongyang by air on January 6 [2017] to attend the presidential swearing-in in Nicaragua. The special envoy of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, was seen off by Ri Su Yong, member of the SAC of the DPRK, Ri Kil Song, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and Cuban ambassador Jesus Aise Sotolongo.”
This article was arrived, with an eye toward self-criticism, on August 23, 2019.

In 1979, Nicaragua established diplomatic relations with the DPRK, shortly after the Sandinista movement, called Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) took power in the country. [1] In 1985, the Koreans were giving the Sandinistas aid including a small number of advisers, patrol boats, artillery, trucks, with the CIA thinking there was a larger “supply relationship” between the two countries. Two years later, in September 1987, the South Korean National Democratic Front or Hanminjon, which favored the DPRK, visited Cuba and Nicaragua. This was one year after Daniel Ortega, traveled to Pyongyang, and was followed by, in 1988, Nicaragua being a “handful of countries to boycott the 1988 Seoul Olympics.” Sadly, in 1990, the Sandinistas were voted out of office, undoubtedly do to the U$ aggression against the country, and the embassy of the DPRK in the country closed in 1995. When Ortega was re-elected in 2006, “he re-established Nicaraguan relations with North Korea” and in January 2017, a delegation from the DPRK headed by Choe Ryong Hae “attended the inauguration of Daniel Ortega for his third term as President of Nicaragua,” showing there deep connection. [2]

However, this alone does not tell the full story. On August 24, 1979, the DPRK and Nicaragua agreed to “establish diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors.” [3] Three years later, the foreign minister of the former, Li Chong Ok, arrived in Managua “for a three-day visit to discuss widening his Government’s aid program to Nicaragua.” But there was more. Not only did Daniel Ortega come to Pyongyang in 1983 (and 1986) along his brother Humberta Ortega, Defense Minister, in 1984, but Sandinistas trained in the DPRK (also in Cuba and the Mideast) like Costa Rican-born revolutionary, Plutarco Hernandez, who has also studied at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. Arms shipments to Nicaragua from the DPRK, Cuba, and Eastern Europe increased in 1989 as Soviet aid waned. At the same time, this state of “socialist orientation” in Nicaragua, or a “gain for Marxism-Leninism” as others called it, had an ambassador in the later 1980s from the DPRK there named Adolfo Moncada (there was also an ambassador from the ROK). They also joined the DPRK in a boycott of the ROK Olympics in 1988 since they had refused to hold it in the northern half of Korea! It is also worth noting that Daniel Ortega met personally with Kim Il Sung in May 1983. Nicaragua received much more Soviet aid from 1983-1987 than any time prior as Somoza was in power before 1979. Even with this, the Soviets had their demise but the Koreans stuck with them, and received gifts (in 1982) from the Nicaraguan government, one of which is “an upright grinning alligator, holding out a wooden tray of cocktail glasses…with a matching ashtray” which sits in the International Friendship Exhibition Hall on Mount Myohyang in the DPRK. In 1984, the Nicaraguans visited “North Korea and the Soviet Union in search of arms supplies” to fight the U$-backed Contras off once and for all.

Sadly, in 1990, the Sandinistas lost in elections that Fidel Castro reportedly warned (as claimed by a conservative author) the Sandinistas against engaging in at all. [4] If Fidel said that, it would be because he recognized that there would be manipulation at work, creating a Western “democracy” in Nicaragua, since the Contras had wanted the elections, meaning that the country was no longer the “hub of the revolutionary wheel in Central America” and a “base for leftist insurgency” in the region, for Cuba and the Soviets, as the CIA declared in 1981, the same year that the DPRK pledged to build “3 industrial plants, 3 hospitals, and 3 educational centers..in Nicaragua free of charge”! While the Sandinistas turned over electoral power to their enemies, the loose alliance of parties called the National Opposition Union/Unión Nacional Opositora (UNO), led by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro “courageously,” their defeat was horrible for the Nicaraguan people. As a result, Chamorro ended “ended 11 years of rule by Ortega’s Sandinista Front” (1979-1990), and relations between the DPRK and Nicaragua were soon suspended, with UNO pledging to “end the war and the military draft, privatize State-controlled concerns and return confiscated land and property to its owners.” UNO would not have the widespread support the Sandinistas had, not at all, with the country in ruins after the victory of UNO in the elections, and the decentralization of the government, bringing “the police and military under civilian control…cut[ting] the military’s numbers.” Still the country was “thwarted by unpleasant realities – poverty, hunger and continued US interest in the region,” resulting in the UNO making more and more compromises.

In the years to come, Nicaragua went through tough times. In 1996, Daniel Ortega campaigned under the FSLN manner, saying he was “a social democrat in favour of a free-market economy” (a concession to the bourgeoisie) and “a government for everyone” while Mr. Aleman, a conservative, called for “a departure from the [supposedly] authoritarian and inefficient rule of the Sandinistas” and criticized the current government “for the country’s serious economic problems.” With Aleman viewing Sandinista “confiscations as thefts, the Sandinistas defended them as legitimate redistribution of wealth from the dictatorial regime of Mr. Anastasio Somoza they fought against.” During the presidential race, “Mr. Aleman declared himself the winner in the presidential race but Mr. Ortega refused to concede defeat and charged that there were irregularities in the vote count” even as observers said it was “fair” with the FSLN remaining “the single largest party with 36 seats while the three-party Liberal Alliance captured a total of 42 and, with the support of other conservatives, patched together an absolute majority in the 93-seat legislature.” Aleman, when he took power, “proposed a “national pact” to favour “reconciliation” and economic progress to pull Nicaragua out of its widespread poverty.” Aleman would eventually siphon “some US$100 million from government coffers, which may be chump change where you’re from, but not in Nicaragua” and in 1998, “Hurricane Mitch savaged the country…killing 4000 people and destroying a surreal 70% of the infrastructure” and the next president, “Enrique Bolaños…put Alemán in jail…but it was too late, in a way.” In 2001, Ortega tried again under the Sandinistas, saying that he vowed to follow “market-based policies” (a move to entice some of the bourgeoisie) and “seek good relations with the United States.” Even so, some “U.S. officials expressed concern about his party’s past ties with terrorists and its past socialist policies” while the candidate of the Liberal and Constitutional Party for President, “Mr Enrique Bolaños promised to continue the free-market policies of outgoing President Arnoldo Alemán.” Again, Ortega alleged that there were irregularities and “questioned the turnout recorded by the electoral council, which was much higher than the usual” but the OAS said it was ok. This time, Ortega “conceded defeat in the presidential elections to the Liberal and constitutionalist party (PLC) candidate, in his third consecutive election loss.” In December 2001, Ortega announced that FSLN members would “take their seats in Congress on 9 January 2002” which resolved “the impasse over the composition of the new Parliament” and on January 10, Mr. Enrique Bolaños became the president of Nicaragua itself.

“Supporters of Daniel Ortega celebrated yesterday in Managua, Nicaragua” on November 7, 2006, AP Photo printed in New York Times.

In November 2006, there were parliamentary elections, for the National Assembly, were held in Nicaragua. The main issue in the 2006 election was “the economy and how to deal with poverty in one of the poorest countries in the Americas where over 80 per cent of the population lives on less than two dollars per day” with Ortega of the FSLN pledging to end “unbridled capitalism” while increasing foreign investment as part of a plan to reduce poverty in the country. His plan included establishing development banks for agriculture and small businesses, the latter leading to a petty bourgeoisie, while the “conservative camp was deeply divided” and the “Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS)…promised to build 10 000 houses per year.” In an election were almost 67% of the registered voters turned out to the polls, “the FSLN came in first with 38 seats while the PLC won 25. The ALN finished third with 22 seats and five seats went to the MRS (see note).” The following year, 2007, on January 10, Mr. René Núñez Téllez of the FSLN was elected as the “new Speaker for a two-year term” and Mr. Ortega was sworn in “as President of the country on the same day”! This victory led to renewed relations with the DPRK,

In 2007, the DPRK was on a roll, as it had by that point “normalized relations with most of europe, most of asia…most of africa, and much of latin america…and australia and canada and [the]…UK as U$ diplomats grumbled. In May, Ortega re-established “formal diplomatic relations with North Korea and rejected criticism of the Asian country’s nuclear weapons program,” approving the “credentials of North Korean Ambassador Jae Myong So.” Ortega said that “It isn’t right, it isn’t fair” that some countries in the world “arm themselves then want to prohibit others from arming themselves in self-defense.” [5] This is to be applauded as we cannot forget that the DPRK helped “the regime of the oppressed Nicaragua with medicines and medical assistance” during the 1980s. As one conservative writer groaned, “Daniel Ortaga never forgets a comrade” and quoted a press release from KCNA (seemingly), noting that Ortega argued that “the DPRK’s access to deterrent for self-defence is a clear manifestation of the independent stand and this greatly encourages us…stressing that the Songun policy of Kim Jong Il is very just” while he also “affirmed the will to further develop the friendly relations between the two countries and strengthen cooperation in the international arena.” Ortega also said that “we’re going to strengthen relations.” One month before, in April, the DPRK re-established relations with Myanmar (also called Burma), which “had been suspended since 1983 after an explosion in Yangon, the capital of Burma, during a visit by South Korean ruler Chun Doo-Hwan” was blamed on the DPRK even though Pyongyang said that “the South Korean leader himself had orchestrated the incident.” In August of the same year, Nicaragua began building its ties with Iran, calling the U$ a “terrorist nation” (condemning the U$ invasion of Iraq and Bush II as a “world tyrant”) with Iran ready to invest nearly $500 million in Nicaragua, build a “new hydroelectric project, invest in a new port [,] and build 10,000 new houses,” with this alarming Iran haters in the West, who were also shocked by the new warm relations with Venezuela since the country joined ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas), a political-economic alliance created by Venezuela. Ortega also said at the time that “world trade was dominated by the tyranny of global capitalism” which is true while many Nicaraguans seemed to favor the U$, with which Nicaragua had normalized relations. Still, the country had ended “a long neoliberal period that had…failed to kickstart the country’s economy” and the energy crisis in the country was “seemingly solved via a deal with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez,” with a government which is “dedicated to social justice and peace” in power. There are no more “severe conditions” like the ones that UNO and U$ aid polices produced.

By 2009, Ortega was fiery as ever. In November, he lashed out at the U$ for “criticizing Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programs,” and asked, before the UN General Assembly, “what right the United States has to question a country that is seeking nuclear development for peaceful – or even military – purposes” and added that “the best path for humanity is for nuclear weapons not to exist, and he called on the United States to take the first step in nuclear disarmament.” [6] The U$ propaganda outlet of the Cold War era, Voice of America (VOA) grumbled that “Mr. Ortega has a long history of opposing the United States.” The following year, Ortega received Kim Hyong Jun at his house in Managua for one hour, the foreign minister of the DPRK and discussed “strengthening ties between the two countries,” with this Kim in “Nicaragua…as part of a three country tour of the Americas that also includes visits to Cuba and Venezuela” and he told Ortega that “Kim Jong Il sends his fond greetings.” The state media of Nicaragua responded by saying that the DPRK was a “brother nation” that the latter “demonstrated “solidarity and cooperation” with the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s.

In 2011, there was another set of elections for the “90 directly-elected seats in the National Assembly” with the Sandinistas, which had implemented “a series of programmes aimed at providing the poor with microcredits, farm animals and transport subsidies…[and] provided a US$ 33 monthly bonus for government workers” since the election in 2006, some of which undoubtedly grew the country’s petty bourgeoisie. While the “country’s Constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms” Ortega filed a suit in 2009 “before the Constitutional Chamber of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court, arguing the presidential term limit violated his constitutional rights” and not long after “the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the President,” a ruling which was “subsequently approved by the Supreme Electoral Council,” allowing Ortega to seek another term. Ortega, challenged by “Mr. Fabio Gadea Mantilla’s Liberal Independent Party (PLI) and former President Arnoldo Alemán’s PLC” said they would “fight corruption” and “restore rule of law and democracy to Nicaragua.” The Sandinistas, who argued that “no previous government had helped the people as the FSLN had” and Ortega who “promised to reduce poverty and illiteracy” were victors, with the final results giving “62 seats to the FSLN and 26 to the PLI. The PLC took the remaining two seats. In all, 37 women were elected” and in the presidential elections “Mr. Ortega was re-elected with 62 per cent of the votes” with the opposition “alleging fraud” but this was rejected. On his victory, Raul Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela “extended their congratulations” for Ortega, whose campaign “enjoyed popular support, particularly for his vast social aid programs,” while the “political opposition in Nicaragua” was “fractured and struggled to gain momentum behind any one candidate during the campaign,” with Ortega building a “strong base of support among the poor with the roll out of social welfare programs, providing subsidized food, clothing, health services and education programs.”

FSLN supporters celebrate after 2011 presidential election in the streets of Managua. AFP photo.

In 2012 and 2013, Ortega was moving along, as so was Nicaragua. Some said, rightly, that he was making “great strides towards making health care, education, and work more accessible to the masses” noting that “unemployment is now just 5%” even though underemployment was still high,” but that due to readily available “education and health care…there is much hope for Nicaragua’s future.” [7] It was noted that “Nicaragua still has a long way to go,” since the “main source of work” in the country “remains agriculture and sweat-shop style labour” and education is widely available but “many students cannot afford to go to school when their families need money to make end’s meet.” Still, good efforts have been made! The following year, in July, a Nicaraguan foreign delegation went to the DPRK, showing the strong connection between the countries.

In 2014 and 2015, Nicaragua and the DPRK moved together. In October of 2014, the DPRK supported Nicaragua’s recommendation to take “practical measures to provide safer working conditions, suitable for its citizens” at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process of the UN Human Rights Council which “provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries” and to fulfill “their human rights obligations.” In fact, of the 268 recommendations, 113 enjoyed the support of the the DPRK government, 4 were “partially accepted,” 58 were “noted,” 10 were not supported, and 83 were rejected on the grounds they “seriously distorted the reality of and slandered the country.” [8] This meant that about 65% of the recommendations, 175 of them, were accepted. If you remove the 83 horrid ones, which distorted the reality of the country and slandered the Koreans, as those recommendations are not legitimate, then of these 185 recommendations, then 95% of the legitimate recommendations were accepted either fully, partially, or noted by the government itself, which is quite impressive, considering that these recommendations come from countries which are broadly bourgeois. The following year, Nicaragua took a strong stand. They said they would not join the Paris agreement because, in the words of the lead envoy, Paul Oquist, “we’re not going to submit because voluntary responsibility is a path to failure. We don’t want to be an accomplice to taking the world to 3 to 4 degrees and the death and destruction it represents.” This response was, and is, totally understandable. However, with the DPRK ratifying the Paris Accord on November 4, 2016, Nicaragua did the same, acceding to it on October 23, 2017. This leaves, of the countries that signed the agreement, specifically Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Russia, South Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen, along with the U$, which delivered the official notice to withdrawal on August 4, 2017 with earliest withdrawal date being November 4, 2020, as the only ones that have not ratified the agreement. Some have criticized the accord, like James Hansen, of being fraudulent for no binding mechanisms, saying in December 2015 “it’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.” At the same time, some bourgeoisie have noted the agreement has the assumption that major polluters “will somehow drive down their carbon pollution voluntarily and assiduously without any binding enforcement mechanism to measure and control CO2 emissions at any level from factory to state, and without any specific penalty gradation or fiscal pressure…to discourage bad behaviour,” which is unlikely.

2016 was another year of victory for the Nicaraguan people. The Sandinistas won “70 of 90 seats at stake in the 92-member National Assembly” and the “Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), which allied with the FSLN in the outgoing legislature, took 13 seats” with these elections following the “dismissal of 28 opposition members” and hence were “boycotted by the opposition.” For the third consecutive term, thanks to a 2014 constitutional amendment which “allowed for indefinite presidential re-election,” Ortega was re-elected and his wife, “Ms. Rosario Murillo, became Vice President” with both sworn in “on 10 January 2017.” During the campaign for this election, the Sandinistas promised to “work for peace, stability and the security of Nicaraguan families” and during this election, a “50-per cent quota for each sex, introduced by the 2012 amendments to the electoral law, was applied for the first time,” with 42 women elected, which was “up from 37 in 2011.” Article 147 of the Constitution says that “those related to the president either by blood or affinity” cannot be “a candidate for president or vice president” but lawmakers differ “over the definition of the affinity relationship.” Affinity, as defined in the fourth edition of the Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is a relationship through marriage or a “close relationship” and connection. This would seem to disqualify Ortega and his wife. Other dictionaries call it a “natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship” or an “inherent similarity between persons or things.” However, the Nicaraguan government has a valid point, saying that the Constitution of Nicaragua only “prohibits only blood relatives — like two siblings, or a parent and a child — from being on the same ticket” but not those who are married, with Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, crediting the “Sandinista revolution for opening the doors to her candidacy as a woman.” [9] It is worth noting that in the most recent constitution, in 2014, a bit different from the 2005, 1987, or 1974 Constitutions, says that:

“Independence, sovereignty, and national self-determination are inalienable rights ofthe people and the bases of the Nicaraguan nation.” (Article 1)

“Nicaragua is an independent, free, sovereign, unitary and indivisible State. It is organized as a democratic and social state based on the rule of law which promotes as superior values the protection of the dignity of the people through the legal order, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, social responsibility and, in general, the primacy of human rights, ethics, and the common good” (Article 6)

“All individuals are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection. Thereshall be no discrimination based on birth, nationality, political belief, race, gender, language, religion, opinion, origin, economic position or social condition” (Article 27)

“Nicaraguans have the right to freely express their convictions in public or in private, individually or collectively, in oral, written or any other form” (Article 30)

“All persons shall have the right to have their physical, psychological and moral integrity respected. No one shall be subjected to torture, procedures, punishments, or inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment. Violation of this right constitutes a crime and shall be punished by law.” (Article 36)

“No one shall be detained for debts. This principle does not limit the mandates of competent legal authority for the non-fulfillment of alimony duties. It is the duty of all national or foreign citizens to pay their debts” (Article 41)

“Unconditional equality of all Nicaraguans in the enjoyment of their political rights, in the exercise of these rights, and in the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities, is established; there exists absolute equality between men and women” (Article 48)

“Citizens have the right, individually or collectively, to petition, denounce irregularities and make constructive criticism to the Powers of the State or to any authority, to obtain a quick resolution or response and to have the result communicated in the time period established by the law.” (Article 52)

“The State shall give special attention in all its programs to the disabled and to the relatives of those killed or victimized by war in general.” (Article 56)

“Nicaraguans have the right to truthful information. This right comprises the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas, be they spoken or written, in graphic or by any other chosen procedure.” (Article 66)

“The labor of Nicaraguans is the fundamental means to satisfy the needs of society and of persons, and is the source of the wealth and prosperity of the nation. The State shall strive for full and productive employment of all Nicaraguans under conditions that guarantee the fundamental rights of the person.” (Article 80)

“Full labor union freedom exists in Nicaragua. Workers shall organize themselves voluntarily in unions, which shall be constituted in conformity with that established by the law.” (Article 87)

“The State has the obligation to enact laws intended to promote actions to ensure that no Nicaraguan shall be the object of discrimination for reasons of language, culture or origin” (Article 91)

“The principal function of the State in the economy is to achieve the sustainable human development in the country; to improve the living conditions of the people and to realize a more just distribution of wealth in the pursuit of a good life. The State must play the role of facilitator in the production sector which creates the conditions which allow the private sector and the workers to pursue their economic, productive and labor activities in a framework of democratic governance and full legal certainty, so that they may contribute to the economic and social development of the country.” (Article 98)

“The natural resources are national patrimony. The preservation of the environment, and the conservation, development and rational exploitation of the natural resources are responsibilities of the State; the State may sign contracts for the rational exploitation of these resources in a transparent, public procedure when required by the national interest” (Article 102)

“Free health care is guaranteed for the vulnerable sectors of the population, giving priority to the completion of programs benefiting mothers and children. Specific family and community health programs shall be developed” (Article 105)

“The land reform is the fundamental instrument for the democratization of ownership and the just distribution of land; it is a means constituting an essential part for the global promotion and strategy of ecological reconstruction and the sustainable economic development of the country” (Article 106)

“The public officials are accountable to the people for the proper discharge of their functions and must inform them of their official work and activities. They must pay attention and listen to their problems and try to solve them. Public functions must be exercised for the benefit of the people.” (Article 131)

“Legislative Power is exercised by the National Assembly through delegation and by the mandate of the people. The National Assembly is composed of ninety members (diputados) and their alternates elected by universal, equal, direct, free, and secret suffrage through the system of proportional representation. In accordance with what is established in the electoral law, twenty national members are elected and seventy members in the departmental and autonomous regions.” (Article 132)

“The election of the President and Vice President of the Republic takes place by universal, equal, direct, free and secret vote. Those who receive a relative majority of the votes cast shall be elected.” (Article 146)

The same year, the U$ Congress passed a bill to sanction Nicaragua, passing the House but not the Senate luckily for Nicaraguans. Additionally, Nicaragua expelled three U$ government officials in the country “on temporary assignment,” possibly related to these sanctions. [10] Relations with the DPRK were strong without question. In September, Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the SPA, took “part in the 17th NAM Summit as head of a DPRK delegation” where they “met heads of state of different countries in the period of summit” and met with, on the side, “the prime minister of Uganda, the vice-president of El Salvador, the vice-president of Nicaragua and the vice prime minister of Vietnam who doubles as its foreign minister.” In November, member of the Presidum of the WPK’s political bureau, Choe Ryong Hae “met the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua” and led a “DPRK state and party delegation on a visit to Cuba to mourn the demise of Fidel Castro Ruz, the supreme leader of the Cuban revolution” as Rodong Sinmun described him. The same month, Kim Yong Nam “sent a message of greeting to Daniel Ortega Saavedra upon his reelection as president of Nicaragua” and expressed the “belief that the traditional relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries would grow stronger in keeping with the requirement of the new era” and wished “the Nicaraguan president bigger success in his responsible work for the development of the country and the well being of the people.” [11]

Sandinista supporters “flock to the streets of the capital to celebrate” in November 2016. AFP or AP photo.

Then we move onto 2017. Some declared that Nicaragua was a “poor country” and an “agricultural nation” with a growing industry of tourism, which was bound in bourgeois conceptions. [12] At the same time, the murderous empire bared all its teeth. There were threats that Nicaragua would be sanctioned for supporting Venezuela, with such sanctions imposed by the U$ Treasury Department in November on certain individuals, which the UK supported, even though this would hurt Nicaragua’s economy without question. Luckily, the Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) failed in the U$ Senate after passing the House “without question”! This showed the true side of liberals, like Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Dick Durvin of Illinois, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Albio Sires of New Jersey, who sided with conservatives, like Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, David Perdue of Georgia, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. Cruz decried the “Ortega regime,” painting it as some tyrannical monster who is helping a “ruling elite” and allying with “anti-American regimes,” Leahy declared that Ortega had “subverted the institutions of democracy” for his own benefit, Menedez said that the U$ must “restore public confidence in democratic institutions,” Durbin said that “Nicaragua and Venezuela have tragically gone backwards” unlike the rest of Latin America, and Capito declared that the U$ has a “very long history of supporting human rights and protecting democracy around the world.” Of course, such imperialist rhetoric showed that all of them just spoke for the empire through liberal and conservative prisms.

In 2017, Nicaragua also gained further ties with Taiwan, with the two countries signing a defense agreement in September. [13] The U$ also declared it would, in January 2019, end the “special status given to 5,300 Nicaraguan immigrants that protects them from deportation.” Additionally, Freedom House released a blistering, anti-communist review of Nicaragua having words like “unchecked corruption,” “electoral fraud,” “subservient,” “largely politicized,” “retaliation,” and “democratic deterioration,” to name a few, but admitting that the

constitution provides for a directly elected president, and elections are held every five years…the constitution provides for a 92-member unicameral National Assembly…Legislative elections are held every five years…Ortega retains significant popular support, thanks to his adept management of a booming economy and support for social programs…half of each party’s candidates for mayoralties and council seats must be women…Religious freedom is generally respected…Academic freedoms are generally respected…Private discussion is usually free…Access to the internet remains unrestricted, and many people speak their minds freely on social networks…Although nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active…The constitution and laws nominally recognize the rights of indigenous communities…Governmental and nonstate actors generally respect travel, residence, and employment choices….The 2012 Comprehensive Law against Violence toward Women…codified femicide and establishes sentencing guidelines for physical and psychological abuses against women

The same year, Nicaragua, along with Argentina and Cuba, commemorated “the first anniversary of the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro,” but, as some worried, “Nicaragua’s close relations to Cuba, Russia and Iran could hurt it in the Trump era…the situation obviously could become complicated.” Still, this solidarity should be applauded. Sadly, in September 2017, Nicaragua condemned the DPRK for missile launches, saying:

the Republic of Nicaragua expresses its deep concern and condemnation of the incessant launches of ballistic missiles and the Sixth Nuclear Test by the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. We condemn all types of Nuclear Tests or Tests by any Nuclear Weapons State, we urgently call for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the abandonment of the Nuclear Programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, in accordance with the Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. We urge the Parties involved to return to the Path of Dialogue and Negotiation, which will allow us to develop and find a peaceful solution as soon as possible, to build Peace, Stability, Security, Welfare, Development and the Reunification of the Great Korean Peninsula.

Still, this is a broad condemnation with no hard feelings toward the DPRK. It is unfortunate that Nicaragua felt it had to make this statement. Perhaps it is partially due to their economics. In June of that year, the U$ State Department in their Investment Climate Statement thundered that the government was “actively seeking to increase economic growth by supporting and promoting foreign investment” and added that the government emphasized “it pragmatic management of the economy through a model of consensus and dialogue with private sector and labor representatives.” The statement went onto say that a “key draw for investors is Nicaragua’s relatively low-cost and young labor force,” noted that Nicaragua is “a party to the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR)” and has a strong “trade relationship with the United States.” It was also noted that Nicaragua currently “offers significant tax incentives in many industries” which include “exemptions from import duties, property tax incentives, and income tax relief” and a well-established “free trade zone regime.” After grumbling about “weak governmental institutions, deficiencies in the rule of law…extensive executive control,” and transparency, the statement also said that the Nicaraguan government actively worked to “attract foreign direct investment as one of its primary tools to generate economic growth and increase employment” and noted that not only do “foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity” but the “Government of Nicaragua does not formally screen, review, or approve foreign direct investments.” Even the 28,000 property owners whose land was seized by the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s was last compensated in August 2015, while Ortega said that “the government will not act to evict those who have illegally taken possession of private property without discrimination for the nationality of the owner.” The statement said that “Nicaragua is a highly-dollarized economy” and added that Ortega “used funds provided by Venezuela through…ALBA…to increase the role of the state and quasi-state actors in the economy” and noted that “the government owns and operates the National Sewer and Water Company (ENACAL), National Port Authority (EPN), National Lottery, and National Electricity Transmission Company (ENATREL). Private sector investment is not permitted in these sectors,” saying importantly that “Nicaragua does not have a privatization program.”

While Nicaragua condemned the missile tests of the DPRK, the relationship between the two countries was still strong. In January 10, Choe Ryong Hae, special envoy of Kim Jong Un, attended the swearing in of Daniel Ortega in Managua, and met with the presidents of Venezuela (Nicholas Maduro) and Bolivia (Morales Aima), and Cuban first vice-president on the sidelines. [14] In his inaugural speech, as summarized by Rodong Sinmun, Ortega said that “Nicaragua has smashed the U.S. aggression and interference and achieved the reconciliation and unity,” declaring that “his country would develop the friendly relations with the world progressive peoples respecting its sovereignty” and Hae, afterwards “congratulated him on his reelection and expressed support and solidarity with the cause of the Nicaraguan people” and was subsequently invited to “a reception given by the Nicaraguan government that day”! Again, the relationship between the two countries is undeniably strong. The same year, the Cubans attended the inauguration of Ortega, who is part of the Latin American left, strongly praising the country and its leadership as they are dedicated allies.

Nicaragua and DPRK flag pin

Oxfam, a bourgeois organization on the whole, admitted on their page on Nicaragua that the country is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, having “more than six million inhabitants” and a predominantly young and female population, which is largely “concentrated in urban areas” while “indigenous and ethnic minority groups make up about 15 per cent of the population.” They admitted that a the “socio-political revolution that took place in Nicaragua during the 1980’s was an inspiration for change throughout the world,” adding that at the time “Nicaragua was on the verge of delivering a fairer political system thanks to the social movers of the time” but that now, the country “is saddled with debt and the second poorest in America.” You could say that is the case, however, there have been great advances since 2006. Recently, Nicaragua gained a victory with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling favorably in an environmental dispute, with the court only ruling that Nicaragua had to pay less than half a million US dollars, lower than the 6.7 million demanded by Costa Rica, “on the maritime delimitation between Nicaragua and Costa Rica in the Caribbean Sea” with this money being “environmental reparations for damage caused by Nicaraguan soldiers between 2010 and 2013” on Portillos Island where 300 ancient trees and a channel was dredged near a river, establishing a military camp. Initially the Costa Ricans wanted “compensation of US$6.1 million, which included the salaries of public servants who worked in the area and the cost of equipment maintenance,” but this was not accepted by the court, with the curt instead read to rule “on a maritime border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the territorial border north of the Portillos Island on Friday afternoon.” The representative before the ICJ for Nicaragua, Carlos Arguello, aid it was unfortunate that that the two countries could not “reach an agreement,” saying that Ortega was willing to “compensate Costa Rica, but not for the requested amount,” noting that the “costs of the trial exceeds the amount determined by the court as reparations.”

At the present time, there is a Nicaraguan embassy in ROK (which recently signed a free trade agreement with “Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama…with hopes of increasing exports of cars, steels and cosmetics”) and the Nicaraguan legislative system is churning along. In February of this year, Ortega rejected the exclusion of Venezuela from the Summit of Americas in Peru in April, saying that “We hope that these obstacles can be overcome, those vetoes that are being applied to Venezuela by closing the space to participate in a table where all the countries of our America will be. Precisely if there is a problem is when you have to get to that table, to those places, because it is the place where you can talk about these issues and find a solution. Now they have taken the decision to exclude Venezuela from that meeting, that does not make sense, it does not have logic and it breaks away from the principle of respect for the charter of the United Nations and all international norms.” Ortega was also quoted as saying that “this is not good logically for the region, we hope that this veto being done to Venezuela can be overcome,” and noted that even the Ecuadorean government (now clearly reactionary), “also rejected the exclusion of President Maduro from the summit,” while the governments of “Cuba, Uruguay, and Bolivia have already expressed their opposition to excluding Venezuelan from the summit.” The country is also proposing measures to “regulate social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, among others)” because as vice president Rosario Murillo put it, “we’re in social media and we can be negatively influenced through these social networks, the Internet, because we receive this information from other realities and other countries,” which has led some to cry “totalitarian” while they don’t recognize that “freedom of information” in a broad, unregulated form benefits the capitalist class as it allows them to subvert anyone who opposes the global capitalist system by infiltrating their countries. [15] For this reason, the move forward in Nicaragua should be strongly supported by comrades.

In the years to come, the relationship between the DPRK and Nicaragua will undoubtedly remain strong, helping both countries serve as part of an anti-imperialist front even as Nicaragua is socially democratic while the Koreans champion Juche ideology.


Notes

[1] “North Korea and the World” project by the East-West Center and the National Committee on North Korea (NCNK). As Manuel S. Marin wrote on page 211 of Opus Dei: A Templar’s Credo for the Advent of the City of God in the City of Man, “North Korea would probably assign its resources to something else, if it didn’t have to fear the United States,” which is important to remember.

[2] Eric Talmadge, “Senior North Korean leader to attend Nicaragua inauguration,” AP, Jan 6, 2017. This article said that “a senior North Korean delegation left Pyongyang on Friday to attend the inauguration of Nicaragua’s newly elected President Daniel Ortega. Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is heading the delegation as a special envoy…Choe, sent off by an honor guard, departed Pyongyang on Friday morning’s scheduled Air Koryo flight to Vladivostok. He was expected to travel via Moscow and Cuba before arriving in Nicaragua. North Korea and Nicaragua opened diplomatic relations in 1979.”

[3] Reuters, “North Korean in Nicaragua,” New York Times (reprinted in), Mar 15, 1982; “North Korea‐Nicaragua Tie,” New York Times, Aug 24, 1979; Dae-Ho Byun, North Korea’s Foreign Policy: The Juche Ideology and the Challenge of Gorbachev’s New Thinking (US: Research Center for Peace and Unification of Korea, 1991), p 108; Robert S. Leiken, Why Nicaragua Vanished: A Story of Reporters and Revolutionaries (US: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), pp 65, 119, 204; CIA, Directorate of Intelligence, Directory of the Republic of Nicaragua: A Reference Aid (Washington, D.C.: CIA, Aug 1, 1998), p 50; Danielle L. Chubb, Contentious Activism and Inter-Korean Relations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), p 230; Wayne Limberg, “Soviet military support for third-world Marxist regimes,” The USSR and Marxist Revolutions in the Third World (ed. Mark N. Katz, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp 53, 64, 151; Charles K. Armstrong, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992 (US: Cornell University Press, 2013), pp 209, unknown page; Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution: The Movement that Remade America (US: Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp 242, 251; Robin Road and John Cavanagh, “Don’t Neglect the Impoverished South,” Diversity and U.S. Foreign Policy: A Reader (ed edited by Ernest J. Wilson III, US: Psychology Press, 2004), p 63; Timothy C. Brown, pro-Contra book titled When the AK-47s Fall Silent: Revolutionaries, Guerrillas, and the Dangers of Peace (US: Hoover Institution Press, 2000), pp 28, 45, 91; AP, “Nicaragua Aide Seeks Arms in North Korea,” New York Times (reprinted in), Apr 4, 1984. Other states listed in 1986, in Katz’s book, as having “socialist orientation” were Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Benin, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Mozambique, “South” Yemen, Congo, Grenada (until 1983), and Afghanistan. Unknown page Armstrong’s book says that the DPRK sided, in Angola, with the FNLA against the MPLA meaning that they, were in effect siding with the U$ against the Soviets. The FNLA was armed and trained in Zaire by Chinese instructors, and helped by the Romanians. Other pages of his book say that the DPRK built a presidential palace for the president of Burundi in the “late 1970s” and became a major source of assistance for Guyana after 1976 when the country had a falling out with the Soviets and Cubans, giving “assistance in industry, agriculture, education, and military equipment” but these relations did not last “long enough to survive Burnham’s death in 1985.” It was also said in this book that the DPRK established relations with Iran in 1974, under the Shah, and then after the Iranian Revolution strongly allied with the new government.

[4] Giancarlo Soler Torrijos, In the Shadow of the United States: Democracy and Regional Order in the Latin Caribbean (US: Universal-Publishers, 2008), pp 114, 116, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123; Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner, “Conclusion,” The Foreign Policies of the Global South: Rethinking Conceptual Frameworks (ed. Jacqueline Anne Braveboy-Wagner, London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003), p 183; Matthew M. Aid, “Sins of Omission and Commission: Strategic and Cultural Factors and US Intelligence Failures During the Cold War,” Intelligence and Strategic Culture (ed. Isabelle Duyvesteyn, US: Routledge, 2013), p 55; Stephen M. Walt, Revolution and War (London: Cornell University Press, 2013), p 379; Mattias Gardell, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and The Nation of Islam (US: Duke University Press, 1996), p 205; Fatima Nduka-Eze, Joe Garba’s Legacy: Thirty-Two Selected Speeches and Lectures on National Governance, Confronting Apartheid and Foreign Policy (US: Xlibris Corporation, May 2, 2012), p 386; Jeff Goodwin, No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p 289; Howard J. Wiarda, “Crises of the Castro Regime,” Cuban Communism (8th Edition, ed. Irving Louis Horowitz, US: Transaction Publishers, 1995), p 783; Thomas H. Hendrikson, Using power and diplomacy to deal with rogue states (US: Hoover Institution, 1999, first printing), pp 15, 16; “Nicaragua Re-Establishes North Korea Ties,” The Panama Investor Blog (reprinting from Newsmax), May 19, 2007; Lonely Planet, “History” of Nicaragua, accessed Mar 15, 2018; MapsOfWorld, “History of Nicaragua,” accessed Mar 15, 2018; “History Of Nicaragua,” HistoryWorld, accessed Mar 15, 2018. The Nation of Islam, at the second Mathaba conference in the later 1980s, had delegates from “Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Uganda, Ghana, and North Korea” along with delegations from the FMNL-FDR in El Salvador, M19 in Colombia, IRA, Moro National Liberation Front in Philippines, ANC, Pan-African Congress, Aborgines in Australia, indigenous people from the U$ and Canada, and blacks and Chican@s from the U$!

[5] “Nicaragua Re-Establishes North Korea Ties,” The Panama Investor Blog (reprinting from Newsmax), May 19, 2007; Trevor London, “Nicaragua and North Korea, Comrades Again,” May 27, 2007; Joachim Bamrud, “Nicaragua Building Ties With Iran,” Newsmax, Aug 15, 2007; Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah, The Political History of Ghana (1950-2013): The Experience of a Non-Conformist (US: AuthorHouse, 2014), p 382; Lonely Planet, “History” of Nicaragua, accessed Mar 15, 2018; INTUR, “History and Culture” of Nicaragua, 2018; “Nicaragua embraces North Korea,” North Korean Economy Watch, May 18, 2007.

[6] “Nicaragua’s Ortega Lashes Out at US,” VOA, Nov 1, 2009; “Nicaragua Strengthens Ties With North Korea,” The Tico Times, Oct 1, 2010; Larisa Epatko, “Nicaragua’s Ortega Projected to Win Third Term, Opens Door to Long Rule,” PBS, Nov 7, 2011.

[7] “A Brief History of Nicaragua,” The Giving Lens, Jan 14, 2012; Virginie Grzelczyk, North Korea’s New Diplomacy: Challenging Political Isolation in the 21st Century (US: Springer, 2017), p 82.

[8] The countries which posed resolutions the DPRK didn’t support included Italy, Chile, Mexico, Hungary, Belgium, Mexico, Botswana, Australia, Greece, and Germany. The countries that posed recommendations which were rejected on the grounds they “seriously distorted the reality of and slandered the country,” 70 (about 85% percent) of which were countries in Europe and North America. The other 13 (15% percent) were scattered across the globe, but mostly in East Asia and Latin America, with only two in the Mideast and Africa.

[9] Frances Robles, “Wife and Running Mate: A Real-Life ‘House of Cards’ in Nicaragua,” New York Times, Oct 30, 2016; Holly K. Sonneland, “Update: Five Things to Know ahead of Nicaragua’s General Elections,” Americas Society/Council of the Americas, Aug 2016.

[10] Felicia Schwartz, “Nicaragua Expels Three U.S. Officials,” Wall Street Journal, Jun 17, 2016.

[11] KCNA, “Blessings sent to new Nicaraguan president,” Pyongyang Times, Nov 11, 2016. Similar translation here to the one cites in the text.

[12] Tim Lambert, “A Short History of Nicaragua,” localhistories.org, 2017; “Sen. Cruz: ‘The U.S. Stands With the People of Nicaragua’,” Press Release, Dec 22, 2017

[13] Elizabeth Shim, “Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen meets with leaders of Honduras, Nicaragua,” UPI, Jan 10, 2017; AAP News, “Nicaragua, Taiwan sign defence agreement,” Shepparton News, Sept 3, 2017; Reuters Staff, “U.S. to end protected status for Nicaraguan immigrants in 2019,” Reuters, Nov 6, 2017; Freedom House, profile of Nicaragua, “Freedom in the World 2018” page, accessed Mar 15, 2018; U$ State Department, “Nicaragua,” 2017 Investment Climate Statements, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Jun 29, 2017, accessed Mar 16, 2018.

[14] KCNA, “Special envoy to attend new presidential swearing-in in Nicaragua,” Pyongyang Times, Jan 9, 2017; KCNA, “Kim Jong Un’s special envoy visits Nicaragua and Cuba,” Pyongyang Times, Jan 16, 2017.

[15] “South Korea signs free trade deal with Central America as first in Asia,” The Straits Times, Feb 21, 2018; “S. Korea, five central American countries to discuss cooperation,” Yonhap News, Feb 19, 2018; Karina Martin, “Nicaragua’s proposed social media controls follow dictatorship handbook,” PanAm Post, Mar 15, 2018. Apparently the “North Korean nuclear problem” was discussed with Nicaragua among other countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama) by ROK on February 19.